Liberating Life Woman’s Revolution
The question of women’s freedom has intrigued me throughout my life. While at first, I viewed the enslavement of women in the Middle East and in general as the result of feudal backwardness, after many years of revolutionary practice and research I came to the conclusion that the problem goes much deeper. The 5000-year-old history of civilisation is essentially the history of the enslavement of woman. Consequently, a woman’s freedom will only be achieved by waging a struggle against the foundations of this ruling system.
An analysis of mainstream civilisation with regard to the freedom question will make clear that civilisation has been weighted down by ever-increasing slavery. This “mainstream civilisation” is the civilisation passed down from, and in return influenced by, Sumer to Akkad, from Babylon to Assur, from Persia to Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Europe and finally the USA. Throughout the long history of this civilisation, slavery has been perpetrated on three levels: First, there is the construction of ideological slavery (conspicuously, but understandably, fearsome and dominant gods are constructed from mythologies); then there is the use of force; lastly, there is the seizure of the economy.
This three-tiered enchainment of society is excellently illustrated by the ziggurats, the temples established by the Sumerian priest-state. The upper levels of the ziggurats are propounded as the quarters of the god who controls the mind.
The middle floors are the political and administrative headquarters of the priests. Finally, the bottom floor houses the craftsmen and agricultural workers who are forced to work in all kinds of production. Essentially, this model has been unchanged till today. Thus, an analysis of the ziggurat is in fact an analysis of the continuous mainstream civilisation system that will enable us to analyse the current capitalist world-system in terms of its true basis. Continuous, accumulative development of capital and power is only one side of the medallion. The other side is horrendous slavery, hunger, poverty and coercion into a herd-like society.
Without depriving society of its freedom and ensuring that it can be managed like a herd, central civilisation cannot sustain or preserve itself, because of the nature of the system according to which it functions. This is done by creating even more capital and instruments of power, causing ever-increasing poverty and herd-like mentality. The reason why the issue of freedom is the key question in every age lies in the nature of the system itself.
The history of the loss of freedom is at the same time the history of how a woman lost her position and vanished from history. It is the history of how the dominant male, with all his gods and servants, rulers and subordinates, his economy, science and arts, obtained power. Woman’s downfall and loss is thus the downfall and loss of the whole of society, with the resultant sexist society. The sexist male is so keen on constructing his social dominance over the woman that he turns any contact with her into a show of dominance.
The depth of woman’s enslavement and the intentional masking of this fact is thus closely linked to the rise within a society of hierarchical and statist power. As women are habituated to slavery, hierarchies (from the Greek word ἱεραρχία or hierarchy, “rule by the high priest”) are established: the path to the enslavement of the other sections of the society is paved. The enslavement of men comes after the enslavement of women. Gender enslavement is different in some ways to class and nation enslavement. Its legitimisation is attained through refined and intense repression combined with lies that play on emotions. Woman’s biological difference is used as a justification for her enslavement. All the work she does is taken for granted and called unworthy “woman’s work”. Her presence in the public sphere is claimed to be prohibited by religion, morally shameful; progressively, she is secluded from all important social activities. As the dominant power of the political, social and economic activities are taken over by the men, the weakness of the women becomes even more institutionalised. Thus, the idea of a “weak sex” becomes a shared belief.
In fact, society treats woman not merely as biologically separate sex but almost as a separate race, nation or class – the most oppressed race, nation or class: no race, class or nation is subjected to such systematic slavery as housewifisation.
The disappointment experienced due to failure of any struggle, be it for freedom or equality or be it a democratic, moral, political or class struggle bears the imprint of the archetypal struggle for power relationship, the one between woman and man. From this relationship stem all forms of relationship that foster inequality, slavery, despotism, fascism and militarism. If we want to construe true meaning to terms such as equality, freedom, democracy and socialism that we so often use, we need to analyse and shatter the ancient web of relations that has been woven around women. There is no other way of attaining true equality (with due allowance for diversity), freedom, democracy and morality.
But unambiguously clarifying the status of women is only one aspect of this issue. Far more important is the question of liberation; in other words, the resolution to the problem exceeds the importance of revealing and analysing it. The most promising point in the current chaos of the capitalist system is the (albeit limited) exposure of women’s status. During the last quarter of the twentieth-century feminism managed (though not sufficiently) to disclose the truth about women. In times of chaos, the possibility of change for any phenomenon increases in keeping with the level of progress or clarification available; thus, in such times, small steps taken for freedom may amount to leaps forward. Women’s freedom can emerge as the big winner from the current crisis. Whatever has been constructed by the human hand, can be demolished by the human hand. Women’s enslavement is neither a law of nature nor is it destiny. What we need is the necessary theory, programme, organisation and the mechanisms to implement them.
Women’s Revolution: Neolithic Era
Patriarchy has not always existed. There is strong evidence that in the millennia before the rise of statist civilisation the position of women in society has been very different. Indeed, society was matricentric – it was constructed around women.
Within the Zagros-Taurus system, Mesolithic and subsequently Neolithic society started to develop at the end of the fourth glacial period, around twenty thousand years ago. This magnificent society, with its well-developed tools and sophisticated settlement systems, was far more advanced than the preceding clan society. This period constituted a wondrous age in the history of our social nature. Many developments that are still with us can be traced back to this historical stage: the agricultural revolution, the establishment of villages, the roots of trade, and the mother-based family as well as tribes and tribal organisations.
Many methods, tools and equipment we still use today are based on inventions and discoveries most likely made by the women of this era, such as various useful applications of different plants, domestication of animals and cultivation of plants, construction of dwellings, principles of child nutrition, the hoe and hand grinder, perhaps even the ox-cart.
To me, the cult of the mother-goddess in this age symbolises reverence for woman’s role in these great advances. I don’t see it as a deification of abstract fertility. At the same time, the hierarchy based on the mother-woman is the historic root of the mother-concept, by which all societies still respect and acknowledge the mother as an authority. This authority she demands because the mother is the principal life-element that both gives birth and sustains life through nurturing, even under the most difficult conditions. Indeed, any culture and hierarchy based on this acknowledgement cannot help but revere woman. The true reason for the longevity of the mother-concept is the fact that the mother concretely forms the basis of the social being, the human; it is not due to an abstract ability to give birth.
During the Neolithic period a complete communal social order, so-called “primitive socialism”, was created around the woman. This social order saw none of the enforcement practices of the state order, yet it existed for thousands of years. It is this long-lasting order that shaped humanity’s collective social consciousness, and it is our endless yearning to regain and immortalise this social order of equality and freedom that led to our construct of paradise.
Primitive socialism, characterised by equality and freedom, was viable because the social morality of the matriarchal order did not allow ownership, which is the main factor behind the widening of the social divisions. Division of labour between the sexes, the other issue related to this divide, was not yet based on ownership and power relations. Private relationships inside the group had not yet developed. Food that had been gathered or hunted belonged to all. The children belonged to the clan. No man or woman was the private property of any one person. In all these matters, the community, which was still small and did not have huge production capacity, had a solid common ideological and material culture. The fundamental principles sustaining society were sharing and solidarity – ownership and force, as life-threatening dangers, would have disrupted this culture.
In contrast to mainstream society, Neolithic society’s relationship with nature was maintained, both in terms of the ideological and material cultures, through adherence to ecological principles. Nature was regarded as alive and animated, no different from themselves. This awareness of nature fostered a mentality that recognised a multitude of sanctities and divinities in nature. We may gain a better understanding of the essence of collective life if we acknowledge that it was based on the metaphysics of sanctity and divinity, stemming from reverence for the mother-woman.
What we need to understand is this: Why and how was it possible to supersede the matriarchal system of the Neolithic age?
Since the earliest social groupings, there had been tension between woman’s gathering and man’s hunting, with the result that two different cultural evolutions developed within society. In the matriarchal society surplus product was, although limited, accumulated. (This was the start of the economy – not as a concept but in terms of its essence – and it is here that we will find the roots of the different types of economies, such as capitalist and gift economies.) It was a woman, the nurturer, who controlled this surplus. But man (quite possibly by developing more successful hunting techniques) bettered his position, achieved a higher status and gathered a retinue around him. The “wise old man” and shaman, previously not part of the strong man’s band, now attached themselves to him and helped to construct the ideology of male dominance. They intended to develop a very systematic movement against women.
In the matriarchal society of the Neolithic age, there were no institutionalised hierarchies; now they were slowly being introduced. The alliance with the shaman and elderly, an experienced man was an important development in this regard. The ideological hold the male alliance established over the young men they drew into their circle strengthened their position in the community. What is important is the nature of the power gained by men. Both hunting and defending the clan from external dangers relied on killing and wounding and thus had military characteristics. This was the beginning of the culture of war. In a situation of life and death, one must abide by the authority and hierarchy.
The commonality is the foundation on which hierarchy and state power are built. Originally, the term hierarchy referred to the government by the priests, the authority of the wise elders. Initially, it had a positive function. We may perhaps even view the beneficial hierarchy in a natural society as the prototype of democracy. The mother-woman and the wise elders ensured communal security and the governance of the society; they were necessary and useful, fundamental elements in a society that was not based on accumulation and ownership. Society voluntarily awarded them respect. But when voluntary dependence is transformed into authority, usefulness into self-interest, it always gives way to an uncalled for the instrument of force. The instrument of force disguises itself behind common
security and collective production. This constitutes the core of all exploitative and oppressive systems. It is the most sinister creation ever invented; the creation that brought forth all forms of slavery, all forms of mythology and religion, all systematic annihilation and plunder.
No doubt, there were external reasons for the disintegration of the Neolithic society, but the main factor was the sacred state society of the priests. The legends of the initial civilisations in Lower Mesopotamia and along the Nile confirm this. The advanced Neolithic society culture combined with new techniques of artificial irrigation provided the surplus product required for the establishment of such a society. It was mostly through the newly achieved position and power of the man that the urban society which formed around the surplus product was organised in the form of a state. Urbanisation meant commodification. It resulted in trade. Trade seeped into the veins of Neolithic society in the form of colonies. Commodification, exchange value and ownership grew exponentially, thus accelerating the disintegration of the Neolithic society.
The First Major Sexual Rupture
In the vein of the revolution/counter-revolution scheme of historical materialism, I suggest that we term the remarkable turning points in the history of the relationship between the sexes sexual rupture. History has seen two of these ruptures and, I predict, will see another in the future.
In the social ages preceding civilisation, the organised force of the “strong man” existed for the sole purposes of trapping animals and defence against outside danger. It is this organised force that coveted the family-clan unit that the woman had established as a product of her emotional labour. The take-over of the family-clan constituted the first serious organisation of violence. What were usurped in the process, were the woman herself, her children and kin, and all their material and moral-cultural accumulation? It was the plunder of the initial economy, the home economy. The organised force of proto-priest (shaman), experienced elder and strong man allied to compose the initial and longest enduring patriarchal hierarchic power, that of holy governance. This can be seen in all societies that are at a similar stage: until the class, city and state stage, this hierarchy is dominant in social and economic life.
In the Sumerian society, although the balance gradually turned against the woman, the two sexes were still more or less equal until the second millennium BC. The many temples for goddesses and the mythological texts from this period indicate that between 4 000 and 2 000 BC the influence of the woman-mother culture on the Sumerians, who formed the centre of civilisation, was at par with that of the man. As of yet, no culture of shame had developed around the woman.
So, we see here the start of a new culture that develops its superiority over the mother-woman cult. The development of this authority and hierarchy before the start of classed society constitutes one of the most important turning points in history. This culture is qualitatively different from the mother- woman culture. Gathering and later cultivation, the predominant elements of the mother-woman culture, are peaceful activities that do not require warfare. Hunting, which is predominantly taken up by man, rests on war culture and harsh authority.
It is understandable that the strong man, whose essential role was hunting, coveted the accumulation of the matriarchal order. Establishing his dominance would yield many advantages. The organisation of the power he gained through hunting, now gave him the opportunity to rule and to establish the very first social hierarchy. This development constituted the very first usage of analytical intelligence with malignant intentions; subsequently, it became systemic. Furthermore, the transition from the sacred mother cult to sacred father cult enabled analytical intelligence to mask itself behind sanctity.
Thus, the origin of our serious social problems is to be found in patriarchal societies that became cult-like, that is religionised, around the strong man. With the enslavement of women, the ground was prepared for the enslavement of not only children but also of men. A man gained experience in accumulating values through the use of slave labour (especially accumulating of surplus product), his control over and domination of these slaves grew. Power and authority became increasingly important. The collaboration between the strong man, experienced elder and shaman to form a privileged sector, resulted in a power centre that was difficult to resist. In this centre, analytical intelligence developed an extraordinary mythological narrative in order to rule the minds of the populace. In the mythological world composed for Sumerian society (and passed down through the ages with some adaptations), man is exalted to the point that he is deified as the creator of heaven and earth. While woman’s divinity and sacredness is first demeaned and then erased, the idea of man as ruler and absolute power is imprinted on society. Thus, through an enormous network of mythological narrative, every aspect of culture is cloaked in the relationship of ruler and ruled, creator and created. Society is beguiled into internalising this mythological world and gradually it becomes the preferred version. Then it is turned into a religion, a religion into which the concept of a strict distinction between people is built. For instance, the class division of society is reflected in the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from paradise and condemnation to servitude. This legend endows the Sumerian ruler-gods with creative power; their subjects are recreated as servants.
Sumerian mythology knew the story of creation out of the rib of an anthropomorphic god – only, it was the goddess Ninhursag who carried out the act of creation in order to save the life of the male god Enki. Over time, the narrative was changed to benefit the man. The repetitive elements of rivalry and creativity in the myths of Enki and Ninhursag-Inanna had the two-fold function of, on the one hand, demeaning woman and diminishing the importance of her past creativity and, on the other hand, of symbolising the forming of a human that is but a slave and a servant. (I believe that this last mentioned conception of the Sumerian priests has played a role in all subsequent god-servant dilemmas. To determine the truth of this is vital; nevertheless, religious literature either refrains from doing so or rejects the notion out of hand. Is this because theologians feel the need to disguise the truth and hence their interests in the matter?)
The divine identities designed in the Sumerian society are the reflections of the new approach to nature and of the new societal powers; more than that, they are almost deployed for the purpose of conditioning the mind anew. Hand in hand with the decreasing influence of the natural dimension, the societal dimension gains importance; women’s influence gradually decreases; and there are striking developments in the matter of signalising the human being as a subject, as a servant. While the growing political power in society results in the prominence of some of the gods, it also results in the loss of some identities and a significant change in the form of others. Thus, the absolute power of the monarch during the Babylonian phase is reflected in the rise of the god Marduk. This last phase of Sumerian mythology indicates that the threshold of the birth of monotheistic religions has been reached.
In order like this where the man owned the children, the father would want to have as many children as possible (especially male children), for the attainment of power. Command of the children enabled him to seize the mother-woman’s accumulation: the ownership system was created. Alongside the priest states collective ownership, the private ownership of the dynasty was established. Private ownership too necessitated the establishment of fatherhood: fatherhood-rights were required so that the inheritance could be passed on (mainly) to the male children.
From 2 000 BCE onwards, this culture became widespread. Woman’s social status was radically altered. The patriarchal society had gained the strength to make its rule legendary. While the world of the male is exalted and heroised, everything female is belittled, demeaned and vilified.
So radical was this sexual rupture, that it resulted in the most significant change in social life history has ever seen. This change concerning woman’s value within the Middle Eastern culture, we can call the first major sexual rupture or counterrevolution. I call it a counter-revolution because it has contributed nothing to a positive development of society. On the contrary, it has led to extraordinary poverty of life by bringing about patriarchy’s stiff domination of society and the exclusion of women. This tear in Middle Eastern civilisation is arguably the first step in its progressively deteriorating situation, as the negative consequences of this rupture just keep on multiplying as time goes on. Instead of a dual-voiced society, it produced a single-voiced, male society. A transition was made to a single dimensioned, extremely masculine social culture. The emotional intelligence of woman that created wonders, that was humane and committed to nature and life, was lost. In its place has been born the cursed analytical intelligence of a cruel culture that has surrendered itself to dogmatism and detached itself from nature; that considers war to be the most exalted virtue and enjoys the shedding of human blood; that sees his arbitrary treatment of woman and his enslavement of man as its right. This intelligence is the antitype of the egalitarian intelligence of woman that is focused on humanitarian production and animate nature.
The mother has become the ancient goddess; she now sits in her home, an obedient and chaste woman. Far from being equal to the gods, she cannot make her voice heard or reveal her face. Slowly, she is wrapped in veils, becomes a captive within the harem of the strong man.
The depth of woman’s enslavement in Arabia (intensified in the Abrahamic tradition by Moses) is linked to this historical development.
How patriarchal authority became deep-rooted
A hierarchical and authoritarian structure is essential for a patriarchal society. Allying authoritarian administration with the shaman’s sacred authority resulted in the concept of hierarchy. The institution of authority would gradually gain prominence in society and as class distinctions intensified, would transform into state authority. As yet, hierarchical authority was personal, not yet institutionalised, and thus did not have as much dominance over society as in the institutionalised state. Compliance to it was partly voluntary, commitment determined by society’s interests.
However, the process that was set in motion was conducive to the birth of the hierarchical state. The primitive communal system resisted this process for a long time. Respect and commitment to the authority of the alliance were shown only if they shared their product accumulation with the members of society. In fact, the accumulation of surplus product was seen as wrong; the person who commanded the most respect was the one who distributed his or her accumulation. (The revered tradition of generosity, which is still widespread in clan societies, has its roots in this powerful historical tradition.) From the very beginning, the community saw an accumulation of surplus product as the most serious threat to itself and based its morality and religion on resisting this threat. But, eventually, man’s accumulation culture and hierarchical authority did defeat that of woman. We must be very clear that this victory was not an unavoidable, historical necessity. There is no law that states that a natural society must necessarily develop into a hierarchical and subsequently a statist society. There may be a propensity towards such a development, but equating such a propensity with an inevitable, incessant process that has to run its full course, would be a totally erroneous assumption. Viewing the existence of classes as fate has become nothing but an unintended tool for class ideologists.
After this defeat, severe tears appeared in the woman’s communal society. The process of transforming to hierarchical society was not an easy one. This is the transition phase between the primitive communal society and state. Eventually, hierarchical society had to either disintegrate or result in statehood.
Although it did play some positive role in the development of society, its form of socialisation, the alliance between the male powers, provided the strength to hierarchical patriarchy to develop into statehood. It was really the hierarchical and patriarchal society that subjugated women, youth, and members of other ethnicities; it was done before the development of the state. The most important point is how this subjugation was accomplished. The authority to do this was not attained through laws, but through the new morals that were based on worldly needs instead of sacredness.
While there is a development towards the religious concept of an abstract and single god that reflects the values of the patriarchal society, the matriarchal authority of the natural society with its myriad goddesses resists. In the matriarchal order, the essential rules are to labour, produce and provide in order to keep people alive. While patriarchal morality legitimises accumulation and paves the way for ownership, the morality of communal society condemns accumulation of surplus as the source of all wrong-doing and encourages its distribution. The internal harmony in society gradually deteriorates and tension increases.
The solution to this conflict would be either returning to the old matriarchal values or escalating patriarchal power inside and outside the community. To the patriarchal faction, there was only one choice. The foundations for the violent, war-like society based on oppression and exploitation were established. Through this process of conflict the state-phase, the phase of institutionalised authority based on permanent force, was arrived at.
Without an analysis of women’s status in the hierarchical system and the conditions under which she was enslaved, neither the state nor the classed system that it rests upon can be understood. The woman is not targeted at the female gender but as the founder of the matriarchal society. Without a thorough analysis of women’s enslavement and establishing the conditions for overcoming it, no other slavery can be analysed or overcome. Without these analyses, fundamental mistakes cannot be avoided.
All slavery is based on housewifisation
Ever since the hierarchical order’s enormous leap forward, sexism has been the basic ideology of power. It is closely linked to class division and the wielding of power. Woman’s authority is not based on surplus product; on the contrary, it stems from fertility and productivity and strengthens social existence. Strongly influenced by emotional intelligence, she is tightly bound to communal existence. The fact that woman does not have a visible place in the power was based on surplus product is due to this position of hers in social existence.
We need to point out a characteristic that has become institutionalised within civilisational societies, namely, society’s being prone to power relations. Just as housewifisation was needed to recreate woman, society needed to be prepared in order for power to secure its own existence. Housewifisation is the oldest form of slavery. The strong man and his entourage defeated the mother-woman and all aspects of her cult through long and comprehensive struggles. Housewifisation became institutionalised when the sexist society became dominant. Gender discrimination is not a notion restricted to the power relations between woman and man. It defines the power relations that have been spread to all social levels. It is indicative of the state power that has reached its maximum capacity with modernity. Gender discrimination has had a twofold destructive effect on society. Firstly, it has opened society to slavery; secondly, all other forms of enslavement have been implemented on the basis of housewifisation. Housewifisation does not only aim to recreate an individual as a sex object; it is not a result of a biological characteristic. Housewifisation is an intrinsically social process and targets the whole of society. Slavery, subjugation, subjection to insults, weeping, habitual lying, unassertiveness and flaunting oneself are all recognised aspects of housewifisation and must be rejected by the freedom-morality. It is the foundation of a degraded society and the true foundation of slavery. It is the institutional foundation upon which the oldest and all subsequent types of slavery and immorality were implemented. Civilisational society reflects this foundation in all social categories. If the system is to function, society in its entirety must be subjected to housewifisation. Power is synonymous to masculinity. Thus, society’s subjection to housewifisation is inevitable, because power does not recognise the principles of freedom and equality. If it did, it could not exist. Power and sexism in society share the same essence. Another important point we have to mention is the dependence and oppression of the youth established by the experienced elderly man in a hierarchical society. While experience strengthens the elderly man, age renders him weak and powerless. This compels the elderly to enlist the youth, which is done by winning their minds. Patriarchy is strengthened tremendously by these means. The physical power of the youth enables them to do whatever they please. This dependency of the youth has been continuously perpetuated and deepened. The superiority of experience and ideology cannot easily be broken. The youth (and even the children) are subjugated to the same strategies and tactics, ideological and political propaganda, and oppressive systems as the woman – adolescence, like femininity, is not a physical but a social fact.
This must be well understood: It is no coincidence that the first powerful authority that was established was an authority over woman. The woman represents the power of the organic, natural and egalitarian society which has not experienced oppressive and exploitative relations. Patriarchy could not have been victorious if she was not defeated; moreover, the transition to the institution of the state could not have been made. Breaking the power of the mother-woman thus was of strategic significance. No wonder that it was such an arduous process.
Without analysing the process through which woman was socially overcome, one cannot properly understand the fundamental characteristics of the consequent male-dominant social culture. Even awareness of the societal establishment of masculinity will be impossible. Without understanding how masculinity was socially formed, one cannot analyse the institution of the state and therefore will not be able to accurately define the war and power culture related to statehood. I stress this issue because we need to truly expose the macabre godlike personalities, which developed as a result of all later class divisions, and all the different types of exploitation and murder they have done. The social subjugation of woman was the vilest counter-revolution ever carried out.
Power has reached its full capacity in the form of the nation-state. It derives its strength mainly from the sexism it spreads and intensifies by the integration of women into the labour force as well as through nationalism and militarism. Sexism, just as nationalism, is an ideology through which power is generated and nation-states are built. Sexism is not a function of biological differences. To the dominant male, the female is an object to be used for the realisation of his ambitions. In the same vein, when the housewifisation of the woman was done, he started the process of turning males into slaves; subsequently, the two forms of slavery have become intertwined.
In short, the campaigns for excluding women and for manufacturing reverence for the conquering, warrior male authority structure were tightly interwoven. The state as an institution was invented by males and wars of plunder and pillages were almost its sole mode of production. Woman’s societal influence based on production was replaced by man’s societal influence based on war and pillage. There is a close link between woman’s captivity and the warrior societal culture. War does not produce, it seizes and plunders. Although force can be decisive for social progress under certain unique conditions (e.g. through resistance to occupation, invasion and colonialism the way to freedom is paved), but more often than not it is destructive and negative.
The culture of violence that has become internalised within society is fed by war. The sword of war wielded in state warfare and the hand of the man within the family, are symbols of hegemony. The entire classed society, from its upper layers to its lower layers, is clamped between the sword and the hand. This is something that I have always tried to understand: How is it possible that the power held by the woman fell into the hands of the man, who is really not very productive and creative. The answer lies of course in the role force played. When the economy too was taken from the woman, atrocious captivity was inevitable.
The Second Major Sexual Rupture
Millennia after the establishment of patriarchy (what I call the “first major sexual rupture”) women were once again dealt a blow from which they are still struggling to recover. I am referring to the intensification of patriarchy through the monotheistic religions.
The mentality of rejecting the natural society deepened in the feudal social system. Religious and philosophical thought constituted the new society’s dominant mentality. In the same way that the Sumerian society had synthesised the values of Neolithic society into its own new system, the feudal society synthesised the moral values of the oppressed classes from the old system and the resisting ethnic groups from the remote areas into its own internal structures. The development of polytheism into monotheism played an important part in this process.
The mythological features of the mindset are renewed with religious and philosophical concepts. The rising power of the empire is reflected in the multitude of powerless gods that evolved into an omnipotent, universal god.
The culture concerning women that was developed by the monotheistic religions resulted in the second major sexual rupture. Where the rupture of the mythological period was a cultural requirement, the rupture of the monotheistic period was “the law as God commands”. Treating women as inferior now became the sacred command of God. The superiority of man in the new religion is illustrated by the relationship between the prophet Abraham and the women Sarah and Hagar.
Patriarchy is now well established. The institution of concubinage was formed; polygamy approved. As indicated by the fierce relationship between the prophet Moses and his sister Mariam, woman’s share in the cultural heritage was eradicated.
The society of the prophet Moses was a total male society in which women were not given any task. This is what the fight with Mariam was about.
In the period of the Hebrew kingdom that rose just before the end of the first millennium BCE, we see, with David and Solomon, the transition to a culture of extensive housewifisation. Woman under the dual domination of the patriarchal culture and the religious state culture play no public role. The best woman is the one who conforms best to her man or patriarchy.
Religion becomes a tool to slander woman. Primarily, she – Eve – is the first sinful woman who has seduced Adam resulting in his expulsion from paradise. Lilith does not subjugate herself to Adam’s god (a patriarchal figure) and befriends the chief of the evil spirits (a human figure who rejects being a servant and does not obey Adam). Indeed, the Sumerian claim that woman has been created from man’s rib has been included in the Bible. As pointed out earlier, this is a complete reversal of the original narrative – from women being the creator of being the created. Women are hardly mentioned as prophets in religious traditions. Woman’s sexuality is seen as the most wretched evil and has continuously been vilified and besmirched. Woman, who still had an honoured place in Sumerian and Egyptian societies, now became a figure of disgrace, sin and seduction.
With the arrival of the period of the prophet Jesus, came the figure of Mother Mary. Although she is the mother of the son of God, there is no trace left of her former goddess-ness.
An extremely quiet, weeping mother (without the title of a goddess!) has replaced the mother-goddess. The fall continues. It is quite ironic that a mere woman is impregnated by God. In fact, the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit represents the synthesis of polytheistic religions and monotheistic religion.
Whilst Mary too should have been considered a god, she is seen as merely the tool of Holy Spirit. This indicates that divinity has become exclusively male. In the Sumerian and Egyptian periods, gods and goddesses were almost equal. Even during the Babylonian era the voice of the mother-goddess was still heard clearly and loudly.
The woman no longer had any social role bar being the woman of her house. Her primary duty was looking after her male children, the “son-gods”, whose value had increased much since the mythological period. The public sphere was totally closed off to her. Christianity’s praxis of saintly virgin women was in fact a retreat into seclusion in order to find salvation from sins. At least, this saintly, cloistered life offered some deliverance from sexism and condemnation. There are good and strong material and spiritual reasons for choosing life in a cloister above the hell-like life at home. We can almost call this institution the first poor women’s party. Monogamy, which had been well established in Judaism, was taken over by Christianity and sanctified. This praxis has an important place in the history of European civilisation. A negative aspect is that women are treated as sexual objects in the European civilisation because Catholics are not allowed to divorce. With the coming of the prophet Muhammad and Islam, the status of women in the patriarchal culture of the desert tribes improved somewhat. But in its essence, Islam has based itself on the Abrahamic culture; women had the same status during the period of the prophet Muhammad as they had in the period of David and Solomon. As then, multiple marriages for political reasons and numerous concubines were legitimate. Although in Islam marriage is restricted to four women, in essence it is unchanged because owning of harems and concubines became an institution.
Both the Christian and Muslim cultures have become stagnant in terms of overcoming the sexist society. The policies of Christianity towards women and sexuality, in general, are what lie behind the crisis of the modernist monogamous life. This is the reality behind the crisis of the sexist culture in Western society.
This can also not be solved by celibacy as it is demanded from priests and nuns. The Islamic solution, giving priority to male sexual fulfilment with many women in the position of wife and concubine, has been as unsuccessful. In essence, the harem is but a privatised brothel for the sole use of the privileged individual. The sexist social practices of harem and polygamy have had a determining role in Middle Eastern society falling behind Western society. While the restraining of sexuality by Christianity is a factor that has led to modernity, encouraging excessive sexual fulfilment is a factor that has led to Islam regressing to a state worse than the old desert tribal society, and to it being surpassed by the society of Western modernity.
The effect of sexism on societal development is far bigger than we assume. When analysing the growing gap between Eastern and Western societal development, we should focus on the role of sexism. Islam’s perception of sexism has produced far more negative results than Western civilisation in terms of the profound enslavement of woman and male dominance.
Societal servitude is not just a class phenomenon. There is an order of subjugation which is more deeply hidden than the slave-owning system itself. The softening of this truth contributes to the deepening of the system. The fundamental paradigm of society is a system of servitude which has no beginning and no end.
Family, dynasty and state
I have mentioned the intense relationship between the power relations within the patriarchal family and the state. This deserves a closer look.
The cornerstones of dynastic ideology are the patriarchal family, fatherhood and having many male children. This can be traced back to the understanding of political power in the patriarchal system. While the priest established his power through his so-called ability to give and interpret meaning, the strong man established his leadership through the use of political power. Political power can be understood as the use of force when leadership is not adhered to. On the other hand, the power of the priest rests on “God’s wrath” when not abided; it is spiritual power and thus has a stimulating effect. The true source of political power is the military entourage of the strong man.
Dynasty, as ideology and in practice, developed as a result of turning this system upside down. Within the patriarchal order, the patriarchal governance became deep-rooted as a consequence of the alliance between the “experienced old man”, the “strong man” with his military entourage and the shaman who, as the sacred leader, was the forerunner of the priest. The dynastic system should be understood as an integrated whole, where ideology and structure cannot be separated. It developed from within the tribal system but established itself as the upper-class administrative family nucleus, thereby deny ing the tribal system. It has a very strict hierarchy. It is a protruding class, the prototype of power and state. It depends on the man and male children; owning many is important in order to have power. A consequence of this has been polygamy, the harem and the concubine system. Creation of power and state is the dynasty’s first priority. More importantly, a dynasty was the very first institution that ensured its own clan and tribes, as well as the other tribal systems, became accustomed to class division and slavery. In the Middle Eastern civilisation, it has become so deep-rooted that there is almost no power or state that is not a dynasty. Because it constitutes a training ground for power and state, it is continually perpetuated and very difficult to overcome.
Every man in the family perceives himself as the owner of a small kingdom. This dynastic ideology is an effective reason why family is such an important issue. The greater the number of women and children that belong to the family, the more security and dignity the man attains. It is also important to analyse the current family as an ideological institution. If we are to eliminate woman and family from the civilisational system, its power and state, there will be little left to constitute the order. But the price of this will be the painful, poverty-stricken, degraded and defeated existence of woman under a never-ending, low-intensity state of warfare. The male monopoly that has been maintained over the life and world of woman throughout history, is not unlike the monopoly chain that capital monopolies maintain over society. More importantly, it is the oldest powerful monopoly. We might draw more realistic conclusions if we evaluate a woman’s existence as the oldest colonial phenomenon. It may be more accurate to call women the oldest colonised people who have never become a nation. Family, in this social context, developed as a man’s small state.
The family as an institution has been continuously perfected throughout the history of civilisation, solely because of the reinforcement it provides to power and state apparatus. Firstly, the family is turned into a stem cell of state-society by giving power to the family in the person of the male. Secondly, a woman’s unlimited and unpaid labour is secured. Thirdly, she raises children in order to meet population needs. Fourthly, as a role model, she disseminates slavery and immorality to the whole society. Family, thus constituted, is the institution where dynastic ideology becomes functional.
The most important problem for freedom in a social context is thus family and marriage. When the woman marries, she is in fact enslaved. It is impossible to imagine another institution that enslaves like marriage. The most profound slaveries are established by the institution of marriage, slaveries that become more entrenched within the family. This is not a general reference to sharing life or partner relationships that can be meaningful depending on one’s perception of freedom and equality. What is under discussion is the ingrained, classical marriage and family?
Absolute ownership of woman means her withdrawal from all political, intellectual, social and economic arenas; this cannot be easily recovered. Thus, there is a need to radically review family and marriage and develop common guidelines aimed at democracy, freedom and gender equality. Marriages or relationships that arise from an individual, sexual needs and traditional family concepts can cause some of the most dangerous deviations on the way to a free life. Our need is not for these associations but for attaining gender equality and democracy throughout society and for the will to shape a suitable and common life. This can only be done by analysing the mentality and political environment that breed such destructive associations.
The dynastic and family culture that remains so powerful in today’s Middle Eastern society is one of the main sources of their problems because it has given rise to an excessive population, power and ambitions to share in the state’s power. The degradation of women, inequality, children not being educated, family brawls, and problems of honour are all related to the family issue. It is as if a small model of the problems integral to power and state is established within the family. Thus, it is essential to analyse the family in order to analyse power, state, class and society.
State and power centres gave the father-man within the family a copy of their own authority and had them play that role.
Thus, the family became the most important tool for legitimising monopolies. It became the fountainhead of slaves, serfs, labourers, soldiers and providers of all other services needed by the ruling and capitalist rings. That is why they set such importance to family, why they sanctified it. Although woman’s labour is the most important source of profit for the capitalist rings, they concealed this by putting additional burdens on the family. The family has been turned into the insurance of the system and thus it will inevitably be perpetuated.
Critique of the family is vital. Remnants from past patriarchal and state societies and patterns from modern Western civilisation have not created a synthesis but an impasse in the Middle East. The bottleneck created within the family is even more tangled than the one within the state. If the family continues to maintain its strength in contrast to other faster-dissolving social bonds, this is because it is the only available social shelter.
We should not discount the family. If soundly analysed, the family can become the mainstay of a democratic society. Not only the woman but the whole family should be analysed as the stem cell of power; if not, we will leave the ideal and implementation of democratic civilisation without its most important element. Family is not a social institution that should be overthrown. But it should be transformed. The claim of ownership over woman and children, handed down from the hierarchy, should be abandoned. Capital (in all its forms) and power relations should have no part in the relationship of couples. Breeding of children as motivation for sustaining this institution should be abolished. The ideal approach to the male-female association is one that is based on the freedom philosophy, devoted to moral and political society. Within this framework, the transformed family will be the most robust assurance of democratic civilisation and one of the fundamental relationships within that order. Natural companionship is more important than an official partnership. Partners should always accept the other’s right to live alone. One cannot act in a slavish or reckless manner in relationships.
Clearly, the family will experience its most meaningful transformation during democratic civilisation. If a woman, who has been stripped of much of her strength and respect, does not regain this, meaningful family unions cannot be developed. There can be no respect for a family that is established on ignorance. In the construction of democratic civilisation, the role of the family is vital.