Angela Saini in New Humanist:
How many of us haven’t in some idle moment imagined what the world might be like if it had always been run by women? Not that sexual equality isn’t the ideal, but it’s an interesting exercise to mentally erase millennia of patriarchy, start again, and picture life with female interests at its heart. Perhaps we wouldn’t now find ourselves on the brink of nuclear disaster. Maybe religiously motivated terrorism would be unheard of. Or possibly life would be just as it is now, except with the gender roles reversed. Who knows? Imagination is all we have. There is the legend of the Amazons, and Hinduism’s mythical mother goddesses. But throughout the world, as far as anthropologists are aware, a true matriarchy doesn’t exist. If there has ever been one, there isn’t one now. Even in cultures in which women have earned legal equality and positions of power, they are still battling legacies of exclusion, sexual repression and gender stereotypes. Every glass ceiling hasn’t been smashed.
So, our visions of a woman’s world remain in our dreams, resting on the ever-changing parameters of what we perceive female nature and desires to be. If our dreams need a little fuel, there are a handful of real-life societies in which women rule in one way or another. In tribal communities in Meghalaya, India, women rather than men own property and land, and among the Akan people in Ghana and the Ivory Coast there are similar matrilineal patterns, with wealth passed down the female line. But none come quite as close to being matriarchal as one remote, culturally isolated community in south-western China, known as the Mosuo. In this small tribe on the borders of Yunnan and Sichuan, near Tibet, children live in their mothers’ homes, and women practise what has been described by observers as “walking marriage”, choosing any number of sexual partners without commitment. The tribe worships a mountain goddess, named Gemu.