If women once exercised social and political power, how did they eventually come to lose it? Can the insights of anthropology help us answer that question?
Down through the ages, patriarchy has exercised its power through temples, synagogues, mosques and churches. These are special places where god comes down to earth. Inside, such buildings are dark, womb-like and designed to hold a congregation in such a way that all might feel as one. Although women may be admitted, the earliest congregations were all-male.
In many horticultural societies to this day, the Men’s House is the most impressive building in the village and is the place from which men exercise power over women. In these societies, men believe that owing to their menstrual cycles and capacities for synchrony with the moon, women possess supernatural powers which men can defeat only through trickery and violence.
Patriarchy justifies its despotism by arguing that when women dominated the world, their seat of power was a Menstrual Hut from which men were systematically excluded.