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They have aspects of a matriarchal culture: Women are often the head of the house, inheritance is through the female line, and women make business decisions.
However, unlike in a true matriarchy, political power tends to be in the hands of males. was not able to dislodge the Vietnamese women from their relatively high position in the family and society, especially among the peasants and the lower classes", According to Chiricosta, the legend of Âu Cơ is said to be evidence of "the presence of an original 'matriarchy' in North Vietnam and [it] led to the double kinship system, which developed there ....
A few people consider any non-patriarchal system to be matriarchal, thus including genderally equalitarian systems (Peggy Reeves Sanday favors redefining and reintroducing the word matriarchy, especially in reference to contemporary matrilineal societies such as the Minangkabau), but most academics exclude them from matriarchies strictly defined.
In 19th-century Western scholarship, the hypothesis of matriarchy representing an early, mainly prehistoric, stage of human development gained popularity.
Conditioning us negatively to matriarchy is, of course, in the interests of patriarchs.
We are made to feel that patriarchy is natural; we are less likely to question it, and less likely to direct our energies to ending it.
Most anthropologists hold that there are no known anthropological societies that are unambiguously matriarchal, but some authors believe exceptions may exist or may have.
In addition, some authors depart from the premise of a mother-child dyad as the core of a human group where the grandmother was the central ancestor with her children and grandchildren clustered around her in an extended family.
A matriarchy is also sometimes called a gynarchy, a gynocracy, a gynecocracy, or a gynocentric society, although these terms do not definitionally emphasize motherhood.
Cultural anthropologist Jules de Leeuwe argued that some societies were "mainly gynecocratic" All of these words are synonyms in their most important definitions.
Possibilities of so-called primitive societies were cited and the hypothesis survived into the 20th century, including in the context of second-wave feminism.
This hypothesis was criticized by some authors such as Cynthia Eller in The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory and remains as a largely unsolved question to this day. Several modern feminists have advocated for matriarchy now or in the future and it has appeared in feminist literature. Radcliffe-Brown argued in 1924 that the definitions of matriarchy and patriarchy had "logical and empirical failings .... Most academics exclude egalitarian nonpatriarchal systems from matriarchies more strictly defined.