Hanging With The Girl-Kings Of One Of The World’s Only Matriarchies
by Mallika Rao / 09/04/2014
Mawlynnong isn’t like the rest of India, or the rest of the world for that matter. Tucked into the jungle of the northeast Indian state of Meghalaya, on the border of Bangladesh, the village is home to the indigenous Khasi people. Theirs is a matrilineal society, where women inherit land, children take their mothers’ names, and men marry into their wives’ family homes. The setting is also unique: lush, and so well-cared for, tourists across India visit to marvel at the lack of trash.
The inherent visual drama of Mawlynnong wasn’t lost on Karolin Klüppel. Last year, the German photographer traveled there to photograph the girls of the village in their homes and outdoors.
In her series “Mädchenland,” or “girl-land,” Klüppel shows her subjects in classically girlish poses. She did this to highlight how adult they actually are. Indeed, the twist on the iconic visual of a child wearing oversized jewelry more fit for her mother — the necklace below is made of dried fish skeletons — is arresting.
Küppel describes the inverse at play as “a completely opposite impression… namely a certain elevation of the girls above childhood, a strong self-awareness and pronounced air of self-sufficiency.”
DID IT ALREADY : HOW WOMEN RULE
Five Things We Know About Societies Run By Women
by Jill Hamilton / 2013/05/10
First, let’s get one thing straight—there are exactly zero societies that are run completely by women. When women have power, they don’t just take over the joint, refusing men an education and paying them 80 cents on the dollar. Nope, instead they do a bunch of girlie junk like keeping everyone happy with shared resources, stable families and good sex. Christopher Ryan, Ph.D., co-author of Sex at Dawn says, “Societies in which women’s status is equal to or greater than men’s tend to be characterized by less conflict, greater social harmony, and higher levels of sexual interaction.” Happier in other words. Let us count the ways.
Matriarchy Is Not The Opposite Of Patriarchy
“In matriarchies, mothers are at the center of culture without ruling over other members of society,” says Heidi Goettner-Abendroth, founder of The International Academy HAGIA for Modern Matriarchal Studies. “The aim is not to have power over others and over nature, but to follow maternal values, ie. to nurture the natural, social and cultural life based on mutual respect.” In other words, if patriarchy is West Point, heavy on the rules and hierarchy, matriarchy is that alternative school where kids call teachers by their first names and play non-competitive games with the parachute.
Marriage Is Less Binding (If It Exists At All)
Contrary to every diamond ad ever, when women have a say in things, they aren’t all that eager to jump into a long, forever marriage. There is a large overlap between the top ten countries with the highest gender income ratio and the highest divorce rates. Women with economic power aren’t forced to stick it out in bad marriages. So they don’t. Among the Khasi of northeast India, matrilocality (the practice of children living with the mother’s family or clan) eliminates economic free fall or a jarring move if parents divorce. “No matter how many times the woman marries, her children will always remain with her,” says Patricia Mukhim, a Khasi and editor of The Shillong Times. “And even if a man abandons a woman he has impregnated, the children are never ‘illegitimate.’”
More Sex, Less Judgement
Empowered women can be, technically, sluttier – that is, they have can sex with a variety of partners of their choosing – but conversely, they’re not treated as “sluts.” Women in the Chinese matrilineal Mosuo society, for instance, get their own private babahuago (flower room) for receiving visits from lovers. No one worries about commitment since any resulting children are raised in the mother’s house with the help of her brothers and the rest of the community. No one’s judging the women harshly, and why should they? Everyone’s too damn happy. Meanwhile, Iceland, considered to be one of the most feminist-friendly countries in the world, banned strip clubs, calling them an exploitative of women.
Fatherhood is Redefined Entirely
In matriarchal societies, men tend to get way more or way lessinvolved in parenting. The devoted dads of the Aka tribe in Africa are within reach of their infants 47% of the time and so dedicated they’ll put a crying baby on their own nipple to pacify it, according to archaeologist Barry Hewlett. And in family-friendly Sweden, 85% of men take paid parental leave. By contrast, among the Mosuo there is a word for “father” but “it’s nothing like our concept of what a father should be,”according to writer Ricardo Coler. “These duties are taken over by the mother or the family. Often, the women don’t know which man is responsible for the pregnancy.” And in at least 18 different South American tribes, there is shared paternity. They believe that each different man’s sperm helps shape a baby and thus, each child has several “fathers.”
The Gulabi gang is a group of female vigilantes that stalk the streets of India dressed in matching pink saris. They target rapists, shady government officials and abusive husbands, and exact their own brand of violent justice on them. The gang was founded in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi, after she discovered a friend was a victim of domestic abuse and that the police were reluctant to get involved. Sampat Pal Devi gathered a group of neighbourhood women, taught them to fight with laathis (bamboo sticks), and led an attack on the alcoholic husband. Since then the group has grown to over 20,000 members over India.
Men commit far more violent crimes than women (about 90% of homicide and robbery offenders in the U.S. are men) but equality can dampen crime. “In more gender-egalitarian societies, there is much less crime by both women and men,” says Jennifer Schwartz of Washington State University, Department of Sociology. “And in those societies, the crime gap between women and men is somewhat larger, that is, women participate even less in crime.” It turns out that not even men like it when a bunch of jerky men are bossing everyone else around. “For most men, [egalitarian] societies are far preferable to those in which a few high-status men dominate everyone else, accumulating resources, power, and available women for themselves,” said Ryan.
Amazons, 5th Century BC
Historians have some disagreement about whether the legendary female society of Amazons ever truly existed. Some theorize that they lived in what is now the Ukraine, some think near Syria. The historical record is spotty, but an archeological dig near the Russian steppes revealed some interesting things. Buried there were women warriors with weapons and armor, and nearby were men and children. This tribe could very well have inverted the basic gender roles that the rest of the world subscribed to, but it is unlikely that they are the Amazons of tale.
Vietnam, AD 40 to 43
One of the most important historical periods in Vietnamese lore is also the only time that the nation has been ruled by a pair of females. Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhi were a pair of Vietnamese siblings who rebelled against the Han Dynasty occupation after Trắc’s husband was killed. They led a revolution to take back the land of Nam Viet from Chinese occupation, after which the pair proclaimed themselves co-queens and ruled the troubled land for three years. Overcome by China in AD 43, Nam Viet was once again absorbed into China. The Trưng sisters committed suicide by drowning themselves in a river to preserve their honor, but today they are some of the liberated country’s most respected historical figures.
Egypt, 1479 to 1458 BC
Ancient Egypt saw a diverse split in the genders of its pharaohs, with both men and women holding the throne for significant periods of time. But it’s telling to learn that one of the greatest periods in the empire’s history came under a woman—Queen Hatshepsut. She was dedicated to expanding her country’s advances in construction, building more structures than any of her contemporaries. She also financed expeditions to foreign lands, one of which led to the transplanting of a grove of myrrh trees in Egypt. She was succeeded by her son, Thutmose III.
Matamba, AD 1626 to 1663
Traditionally, most of the native tribal groups of Africa were run by men. But a very interesting exception came in the 17th century with the rise of Queen Njinga, who lived in what is now Angola. The strong-willed Njinga’s first taste of diplomacy came when her brother King Ngola Mbande sent her to negotiate a peace treaty with the invading Portugese. When Ngola Mbande died in 1624, instead of a traditional successor Njinga declared herself the regent. She then allied with neighboring states to drive out the Portugese. During her reign, she would continue to war with Portugal, even personally leading guerilla strikes on their ships. She died in 1663 and is remembered in modern-day Angola as one of the region’s greatest heroes.
Trobriand Islands, Present Day
One of the most interesting matrilineal societies contains 12,000 indigenous natives of the Trobriand Islands, a series of coral atolls off the coast of New Guinea. The islanders are subsistence farmers, but they’re all under the direction of womenfolk, who pass down inheritance through female lines, rather than male ones. Every year, males of the community are required to make an offering of yams to their sisters and mothers, according to Annette Weiner’s The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea. And babies aren’t created by having sex with men in their religion, but rather by the ghost of an ancestor taking up residence in a woman’s womb. On the island of Orango Grande, in the Bijagos Archipelago, off the coast of Guinea Bissau, there is a matriarchal society where women possess all the power, where they organise themselves into associations which manage the economy, social welfare and the law.
“Bijago matriarch and her family. It is women who impose sanctions, direct, advise and distribute goods, who are respected as the absolute owners of both the house and the land. Here it is the man who has the obligation to dress very well to attract the attention of a woman. Women hold the supreme power of divorce in marriage. Men are turned to only for the tilling of the fields, hunting monkeys and fishing.”
PLACES WOMEN RULE NOW
6 Modern Societies Where Women Rule
by Laura Turner Garrison / July 23, 2012
By standard definition, a matriarchy is a “family, group or state governed by a matriarch.” Anthropologists and feminists have since created more specific classifications for female societies, including the matrilineal system. Matrilineality refers not only to tracing one’s lineage through maternal ancestry, it can also refer to a civil system in which one inherits property through the matriline. This often leads to the division of such societies into matrilineal clans, or “matriclans.” Here are a few notable ones that still exist.
Living near the border of Tibet in the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, the Mosuo are perhaps the most famous matrilineal society. The Chinese government officially classifies them as part of another ethnic minority known as the Naxi, but the two are quite different in both culture and language. The Mosuo live with extended family in large households; at the head of each is a matriarch. Lineage is traced through the female side of the family, and property passed down along the same matriline. Mosuo women typically handle business decisions and men handle politics. Children are raised in the mother’s household, and take her name. The Mosuo have “walking marriages,” in that there is no institution and women choose their partners by literally walking to the man’s home. Couples never live together. Since the child always remains in the mother’s care, sometimes the father plays little role in the upbringing. In some cases the identity of the father is not even known. Instead, the male’s childrearing responsibilities remain in his own matrilineal household.
Living primarily in West Sumatra, Indonesia, at four million people the Minangkabau are the largest known matrilineal society today. In addition to tribal law requiring all clan property to be held and bequeathed from mother to daughter, the Minangkabau firmly believe the mother is the most important person in society. Upon marriage, every woman acquires her own sleeping quarters. The husband may sleep with her, but must leave early in the morning to have breakfast at his mother’s home. At age 10, boys leave their mother’s home to stay in men’s quarters and learn practical skills. Men are always clan chief, but women select the chief and can remove him from office should they feel he failed to fulfill his duties.
“The introduction of Islam in the seventh century a.d. had the long-term effect of superimposing patrilineal institutions upon traditional matriliny. Most Tuareg today are bilateral in descent and inheritance systems (Murphy 1964; 1967). Descent-group allegience is through the mother, social-stratum affiliation is through the father, and political office, in most groups, passes from father to son.”
The Akan are a majority in Ghana, where they predominantly reside. Most still adhere to the matrilineal social structure, despite pressure from the government. The Akan social organization is fundamentally built around the matriclan. Within this matrilineal clan, identity, inheritance, wealth and politics are all determined. All matriclan founders are female, but men traditionally hold leadership positions. Succession to inheritable appointments is still determined by the male’s relationships to the women in his matriclan. Often, the man is expected to not only support his own family, but those of his female relatives.
The Bribri are a small indigenous group of just over 13,000 people living on a reserve in the Talamanca Canton in the Limón Province of Costa Rica. Like many other matrilineal societies, the Bribri are organized into clans. Each clan is made up of extended family, and the clan is determined through the mother/females. Women are the only ones who traditionally can inherit land and also the only ones endowed with the right to prep the cacao used in sacred Bribri rituals.
Much like their Khasi neighbors in the North-East Indian state of Meghalaya, the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Garos pass property and political succession from mother to daughter. The youngest daughter is typically named heiress and her marriage will often be arranged. Sometimes the family may have to physically capture the future husband. Once married, the husband lives in his wife’s house. Should it not work out, the union is dissolved without social stigma. Marriage is not a binding contract, but one is expected to remarry after divorce. . If a Garos woman pursues her own mate, she plays aggressor and the male demurs. Parents must still sanction the union, as any match remotely inter-clan is forbidden.
The Nagovisi live in South Bougainville, an island west of New Guinea. Anthropologist Jill Nash reported Nagovisi society was divided into two matrilineal moieties, which are then divided into matriclans. Nagovisi women are involved in leadership and ceremonies, but take the most pride in working the land entitled to them. Nash observed that when it comes to marriage the Nagovisi woman held gardening and shared sexuality at equal importance. Marriage is not institutionalized. If a couple is seen together, sleeps together, and the man assists the woman in her garden, for all intents and purposes they are considered married.
MUST BE WILLING to SHARE
Residents Of Noiva Do Cordeiro, Almost All-Woman Town, Seek Bachelors
by Simon McCormack / 08/28/2014
According to the Telegraph, they have constructed a society in the southeast part of Brazil that is communal, egalitarian and almost all-female. But some of the women in the town say it would be nice to have a few more dudes in the mix. “I haven’t kissed a man for a long time,” Nelma Fernandes, 23, told the Telegraph. “We all dream of falling in love and getting married. But we like living here and don’t want to have to leave the town to find a husband. We’d like to get to know men who would leave their own lives and come to be a part of ours. But first they need to agree to do what we say and live according to our rules.” There are a few married women in Noiva Do Cordeiro, but their husbands work in cities no closer than 60 miles away and tend to only live in the town on weekends. Both the Telegraph story and other outlets portray the desire for more members of the opposite sex in the town as a desperate plea to men to help them “shoulder the burdens” of everyday life. But judging from what the residents have actually said, that doesn’t seem like what’s going on. “There are lots of things that women do better than men,” Rosalee Fernandes, 49 said. “Our town is prettier, more organized, and far more harmonious than if men were in charge. When problems or disputes arise, we resolve them in a woman’s way, trying to find consensus rather than conflict.” So it appears more like these women have created a society of anarchist anthropologists’ dreams and some of them would like to hang out with guys more, provided they don’t tear the town’s social fabric to shreds.
SIGNS YOU MAY ALREADY BE a WOMAN
If you’re looking for a society run by women, you could be looking at one all around you — or at least the rapid evolution toward one. The potential evidence is everywhere, but before we go into any examples, let’s take a step back and cover a few fundamental points in the debate. There are different ways the term matriarchy is defined, and it can get a little confusing. For example, some people consider matriarchies to mean women are the dominate gender in a society. They make the decisions, they drive the economy and they rule the politics — basically the flipside of patriarchies. But others expect matriarchies to manifest more as egalitarian societies. That means everyone stands on equal footing and works in partnership with one another. Experts who endorse this interpretation believe it’s unfair to assume a matriarchy would look anything like a patriarchy in practice, for the very reasons a distinction can be made in the first place.
Management the Matriarchal Way
Let’s start with the latter definition from the last page. Rather than imagining a matriarchy as a culture where women pin down men by the points of their stiletto heels, picture it as a cultural model where women simply occupy a central role in the society. Everyone is on even ground and decisions are reached by consensus. One excellent example of this is the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra. Around 4 million in number, the Minangkabau are an ethnic group that consider themselves a matriarchy, and this, combined with a philosophy called adat that emphasizes nurturing both people and nature, forms a core tenet of their society [source: Sanday]. How does this work? Women own the land, and it’s passed down matrilineally from mother to daughter. Rather than women moving in with their husbands upon marriage, the men join their new brides’ households. Women are considered central to the community, and older women even more so — they’re regarded as the strongest pillars in the society. The men aren’t oppressed; they’re simply peripheral in familial organization. All the members of a family work for the betterment of everyone else.
But what about a society where females truly do dominate males? According to some, in many parts of the world that’s exactly what’s happening, even in the United States. The theory goes like this: As we’ve transitioned into a postmodern society, women seem more adaptable or more naturally suited for the changes and challenges that evolution involves. Perhaps success is due in part to talents such as social smarts and communication skills which are now more often valued in the workplace than the physical strength and stamina that originally propelled men to the top. Women today hold more managerial and professional jobs than they ever have (50 percent up from 25 percent in 1980). About three quarters of the approximately 8 million jobs lost in the latest recession were lost by men in blue-collar industries such as construction and manufacturing, and white-collar industries like finance. When it comes to growing sectors of the economy, men are leading in only 2 of the top 15 categories — janitorial and engineering [source: Rosin]. In terms of education, women are getting degrees three to two over men. In terms of money, women control more than half the wealth in the United States, and in terms of purchasing power, their control is even greater. Women generally manage some 80 to 90 percent of their families’ buying power [sources: PBS, Pittsburg Post-Gazette].
Whether these statistics are signs of a domineering or egalitarian matriarchy is not yet completely clear. But it does appear that a strong social shift has been occurring and still is. Although a wage gap remains between the genders, women workers are slowly but steadily closing that divide. In the past few decades, women have taken the workplace by storm; they still largely rule the home; and they comprise a huge portion of the consumers pushing the demand side of the market as well. Even if that’s not technically a matriarchy, it certainly doesn’t sound like much of a patriarchy either.
FEMINIST CITY PLANNING
How to Design a City for Women: An experiment in “gender mainstreaming”
by Clare Foran / Sep 16, 2013
In 1999, officials in Vienna, Austria, asked residents of the city’s ninth district how often and why they used public transportation. “Most of the men filled out the questionnaire in less than five minutes,” says Ursula Bauer, one of the city administrators tasked with carrying out the survey. “But the women couldn’t stop writing.” The majority of men reported using either a car or public transit twice a day — to go to work in the morning and come home at night. Women, on the other hand, used the city’s network of sidewalks, bus routes, subway lines and streetcars more frequently and for a myriad reasons. “The women had a much more varied pattern of movement,” Bauer recalls. “They were writing things like, ‘I take my kids to the doctor some mornings, then bring them to school before I go to work. Later, I help my mother buy groceries and bring my kids home on the metro.'”
Women used public transit more often and made more trips on foot than men. They were also more likely to split their time between work and family commitments like taking care of children and elderly parents. Recognizing this, city planners drafted a plan to improve pedestrian mobility and access to public transit. Additional lighting was added to make walking at night safer for women. Sidewalks were widened so pedestrians could navigate narrow streets. And a massive staircase with a ramp running through the middle was installed near a major intersection to make crossing easier for people with strollers and individuals using a walker or a wheelchair. The decision to look at how men and women used public transit wasn’t a shot in the dark. It was part of a project aimed at taking gender into account in public policy. In Vienna, this is called gender mainstreaming.
Gender mainstreaming has been in place in the Austrian capital since the early 1990s. In practice, this means city administrators create laws, rules and regulations that benefit men and women equally. The goal is to provide equal access to city resources. And so far, officials say it’s working. Vienna has adopted gender mainstreaming in a number of areas of city administration, including education and health care policy. But nowhere has it had more of an impact than on the field of urban planning. More than sixty pilot projects have been carried out to date. As the size and scale of these projects increase, gender mainstreaming has become a force that is literally reshaping the city.
Urban planners have been melding mainstreaming and city design in Vienna for over two decades and they’ve gotten it down to something of a science. Before a project gets underway, data is collected to determine how different groups of people use public space. “There are so many questions that need to be asked,” Eva Kail tells me. Kail has been instrumental in bringing gender mainstreaming to Vienna and currently works as a gender expert in the city’s Urban Planning Group. “You need to know who is using the space, how many people, and what are their aims. Once you’ve analyzed the patterns of use of public space, you start to define the needs and interests of the people using it,” she explains. “Then planning can be used to meet these needs.”
Mainstreaming got off the ground in Vienna in 1991 when Kail and a group of city planners organized a photography exhibit titled “Who Owns Public Space — Women’s Everyday Life in the City.” It depicted the daily routines of a diverse group of women as they went about their lives in the Austrian capital. Each woman tracked a different route through the city. But the images made clear that safety and ease of movement were a priority for all of them. It sparked a media firestorm. “Newspapers, television and radio were all covering it and 4,000 people visited,” Kail says. “At the time it was something completely new. But politicians quickly realized it was something people were interested in and they decided to support it.” Soon after, the city green lit a series of mainstreaming pilot projects. One of the first to be carried out was an apartment complex designed for and by women in the city’s 21st district. In 1993, the city held a design competition for the project, which was given the name Frauen-Werk-Stadt or Women-Work-City.
The idea was to create housing that would make life easier for women. But what exactly did that mean? Time use surveys compiled by Statistik Austria, the Austrian national statistics office, showed that women spent more time per day on household chores and childcare than men. Women-Work-City was built with this in mind. It consists of a series of apartment buildings surrounded by courtyards. Circular, grassy areas dot the courtyards, allowing parents and children to spend time outside without having to go far from home. The complex has an on-site kindergarten, pharmacy and doctor’s office. It also stands in close proximity to public transit to make running errands and getting to school and work easier. “What made the project unique was that we worked to define the needs of the people using the space first and then looked for technical solutions,” Kail says. “Very often it is the opposite, where technical or aesthetic solutions determine the end result.”
Following completion of Women-Work-City, city officials turned their attention to Vienna’s network of public parks and commissioned a study to see how men and women use park space. What they found was surprising. The study, which took place from 1996 to 1997, showed that after the age of nine, the number of girls in public parks dropped off dramatically, while the number of boys held steady. Researchers found that girls were less assertive than boys. If boys and girls would up in competition for park space, the boys were more likely to win out. City planners wanted to see if they could reverse this trend by changing the parks themselves. In 1999, the city began a redesign of two parks in Vienna’s fifth district. Footpaths were added to make the parks more accessible and volleyball and badminton courts were installed to allow for a wider variety of activities. Landscaping was also used to subdivide large, open areas into semi-enclosed pockets of park space. Almost immediately, city officials noticed a change. Different groups of people — girls and boys — began to use the parks without any one group overrunning the other.
People have started to pay attention. In 2008, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme included Vienna’s city planning strategy in its registry of best practices in improving the living environment. Vienna’s park redesign project, along with a program to create a gender mainstreaming pilot district, has even been nominated for the United Nations Public Service Award, a badge of honor recognizing efforts to improve public administration. This change hasn’t come without criticism, however. “When we came up with the idea for the exhibit “Who Owns Public Space” a lot of our colleagues thought it was ridiculous,” Kail says. “Everyone we worked with had to give feedback. People said things like, “does this mean we should paint the streets pink?” “Gender can be an emotional issue,” Bauer adds. “When you tell people that up until now they haven’t taken the women’s perspective into account they feel attacked. We still have people asking, ‘Is this really necessary?'” Planners also run the run the risk of reinforcing stereotypes in attempting to characterize how men and women use city space. To distance themselves from this, city officials have begun to shy away from the term gender mainstreaming, opting instead for the label ‘Fair Shared City.’ Whatever its limitations, there’s no question that mainstreaming has left an indelible mark on the Austrian capital. It began as a way to look at how men and women use city space differently. Today, however, mainstreaming has evolved into a much broader concept. It’s become a way of changing the structure and fabric of the city so that different groups of people can coexist. “For me, it’s a political approach to planning,” Kail says. “It’s about bringing people into spaces where they didn’t exist before or felt they had no right to exist.”
by Karen E. Klein / September 10, 2014
In 2009, when Amy Norman and Stella Ma started pitching investors on their San Francisco-based startup, Little Passports , both had young children and Norman was pregnant. The overwhelming majority of the investors they met with were men who wanted to know “if we were running this as a ‘lifestyle company,’” Ma recalls. Investors passed and word got around Silicon Valley that “there’s no way women like this could grow a company fast enough” to satisfy venture capitalists, Norman says. Yet grow it did, to $5 million in revenue five years later. Norman and Ma eventually raised nearly $2 million for their education business, which sells monthly subscription packages to help kids learn about geography. Much of the funding came from a female investor group that saw in the idea potential that eluded many men.
With ‘brogrammer’ culture spreading through the male-dominated world of tech, Little Passports’ experience reflects a contrasting trend: Women are running an increasing number of America’s startups, and they make up a growing share of the angel investors funding them. Today women make up about 20 percent of both the entrepreneurs and investors involved in angel deals, up from single-digits a decade ago, according to the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Venture Research (PDF). Women made up 23 percent of all entrepreneurs seeking angel capital in 2013, up from 9 percent in 2005. There were fewer than 20,000 female angel investors in 2005, but that number increased to nearly 58,000 by last year.
The group that funded Little Passports, Golden Seeds , was founded nine years ago, making it an early female investor group. Managing director Jo Ann Corkran says the group has 300 investors, 72 percent of them women. They are committed to investing in companies that have in top executive positions at least one woman who holds significant equity and decision-making power. All together, members from chapters in New York, Boston, Silicon Valley, and Texas have invested $50 million in 61 companies, Corkran says. The group also holds regular open office hours, giving company founders a chance to meet informally with experienced investors.
There’s no mystery about why women are underrepresented in the investor community, Corkran says. “If you make 77¢ on the dollar and you compound that over a lifetime, you end up with women having a lot less free cash flow.” Corkran is aware of the perception that women aren’t as comfortable with risk, but she doesn’t buy it. “They are as thoughtful and as willing to take a knowledgeable, considered risk as anybody else,” she says. Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and chief executive of Pipeline Fellowship , an angel investing boot camp for women, agrees. Since its April 2011 launch, her program has trained more than 80 women, who have committed over $400,000 in investment. Having started in New York, the group has expanded to Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.
The idea came about after Oberti Noguera attended a gathering of nearly two dozen investors as one of two women in the room. “These people were deciding whether or not to invest and they went around the room saying, ‘Well, my wife and her friends say this,’ or ‘My girlfriend says that.’ I realized then and there that women do not have a seat at the table.” A Silicon Valley pitch-fest at which her all-female team presented to an all-male investor panel provided a further vivid lesson. “We were told, ‘The fact that you’re an all-woman team is too distracting.’ I came out of that realizing that we weren’t taken seriously,” she says. If women are becoming increasingly influential as angel investors, however, they still have a way to go in the venture capital world. Alyse Killeen is an associate at March Capital Partners in Los Angeles, specializing in the fields of health and life science. Last year, she founded a networking and professional development group called Women In Venture . The group has about 18 members, but only two—herself and one other woman—currently hold jobs at venture capital firms. The group’s goal is to provide encouragement and professional development that will help keep women in the field and advance them. Women now make up just 4 percent of venture capital partners. “We want to make it at least 20 percent women,” Killeen says. She feels that along with her efforts, entrepreneurs themselves are pushing advancement for women. Both male and female founders are actively looking for diversity in their investment teams and on their boards and management teams, she says. “We have had a few competitive deals come in because entrepreneurs who could have chosen from between 20 to 30 firms chose us because they wanted to work with a woman investor. It’s like, ‘Listen, all of our engineers look essentially the same, but we believe you can help us recruit women, and that will give us an edge,’” Kileen says. Oberti Noguera is also hopeful, but says she won’t back off any time soon. “I tell people, don’t complain,” she says. “Just raise awareness of the issues and disrupt within the system, while creating our own systems. That’s the way we’re going to make progress.”
YOU FIGHT LIKE a GIRL
Better Identification of Viking Corpses Reveals: Half of the Warriors Were Female
Shieldmaidens are not a myth. A recent archaeological discovery has shattered the stereotype of exclusively male Viking warriors sailing out to war while their long-suffering wives wait at home with baby Vikings. Plus, some other findings are challenging that whole “rape and pillage” thing, too. Researchers at the University of Western Australia decided to revamp the way they studied Viking remains. Previously, researchers had misidentified skeletons as male simply because they were buried with their swords and shields. (Female remains were identified by their oval brooches, and not much else.) By studying osteological signs of gender within the bones themselves, researchers discovered that approximately half of the remains were actually female warriors, given a proper burial with their weapons.
It’s been so difficult for people to envision women’s historical contributions as solely getting married and dying in childbirth, but you can’t argue with numbers—and fifty/fifty is pretty damn good. The presence of female warriors also has researchers now wondering just how accurate the stereotypes of raping and pillaging actually are:”Women may have accompanied male Vikings in those early invasions of England, in much greater numbers than scholars earlier supposed, (Researcher) McLeod concludes. Rather than the ravaging rovers of legend, the Vikings arrived as marriage-minded colonists.” In many ways, this discovery is well-timed with the recent uproar over Thor becoming a title for both sexes instead of an exclusively male name. Fingers crossed this means that pop culture could start including more female warriors than just Sif and Lagertha (from The History Channel’s Vikings, above). Just so long as they’re not wearing boob plate armor. Because, as we’re always re-learning, women have always fought. [UPDATE: Commenter Andrew W. gives a wonderfully precise and informative look at the findings in this comment below, adding some context to the idea of female Viking warriors.]
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“Part of a girl’s puberty ritual among the Khoisan, for example, is a dance called the Eland Bull Dance, where the girl plays the part of the bull, sending out a “wrong sex, wrong species” signal. Meanwhile, the women of the camp dance around her as if mating with the bull, taunting the local men with their complete lack of interest in them. “The message to the males is absolutely clear – you go off, you hunt some eland, and then we’ll see. It’s a sex strike in all but name,” says Power. The Hadza have a similar ritual called “epeme”, linked to symbolic menstruation and the new moon, associated with a mythical heroine who hunts down male zebra and wears their penises.
In a recently completed study, Power found that in a range of traditional societies puberty rituals link menstrual taboos with hunting, lunar phase and “wrong sex” signals in ways that meet the predictions of the sham menstruation and sex strike theory. “It’s wildly improbable that any of that is going to be there by accident,” she says. And there is more evidence in the archaeological record, says Watts. His study of 74 sites in southern Africa dating from more than 20,000 years ago reveals an explosion in the use of red ochre and other red pigments between about 100,000 and 120,000 years ago.”