Gynarchy is the term given to Female power over the male, when established on the basis of gender and for no other reason. It refers also to the systems designed to achieve this end, and to the philosophy of those who support it. Its emotional cognate is Gyneolatry, the adoration or worship of Women. Gyneolatry is a matter of instinct; it finds its expression in concepts such as Female Supremacy, chivalry, Female-led relationships (FLR), Femdom, and range of ‘new age’ belief systems that harness ideas of the Earth Goddess and the divinity of the Feminine for various ends.
There can be no such thing as a ‘pure’ Gynarchy unaffected by any of these other categories, but there are differing views as to the appropriate balance of these elements in the ideal Gynarchic arrangement. This absence of a core theme has perhaps hindered the development of a recognised Gynarchic movement, despite the number of people – including plenty of men – who are deeply affected by these ideas and ready to give themselves to such a cause, if a cause can be discerned amidst the confusion.
The global population is bigger than it has ever been; the internet enables millions of people with shared attitudes to find each other; we are more accommodating of different ways of living than we were in the past, and we are exposed to a far greater range of ideas. So, when someone newly seized with the Gynarchic spirit turns to the internet for guidance, why do they find so little of any substance?
There is plenty of Femdom of course, but no Gynarchic Organisations, no creeds to be signed up to. It is not that there is no-one else out there, it is just that things seem to crop up and dwindle away. If i were paranoid i could imagine falling for a conspiracy theory claiming we were being somehow stifled by the patriarchy, but i am not, and i am sure the explanation must lie with us.
It is tempting to assume that Gynarchy is a calculated and deeply considered rational position, but for men at least, the addiction to Gynarchic ideas is principally sexual. It is none the worse for that. Sexual feelings are powerful, inescapable and closely tied to a deep understanding of human nature. For men, the Gynarchic impulse begins when sexual desire for the Feminine expresses itself in the need to elevate and to glorify, rather than to possess and dominate.
Consequently, men are more likely to approach what we might think of as the Queendom of Gynarchy from the border with the neighbouring state of Femdom, but the reputation of Femdom has been undermined by some unwittingly comical institutions, probably borne of embarrassment arising from a lack of any genuine spiritual or philosophical sense of truth underpinning it. If you don’t know why you’re doing it, you gonna feel a fool. Women, by contrast, often approach Gynarchy (if not Femdom) from the other direction, from a rejection of the failures of patriarchal structures, or a general frustration with the shortcomings of the male, possibly to the point of rejecting him altogether (see Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s utopian Herland). So there can still be a gap in expectation, or in understanding, when men and Women try to build a Gynarchic community on the same ground. The founding of Gynarchy will not be an easy task.
To the followers of Gynarchy, the superiority of the Female is self-evident, so they rarely feel the need to defend it except when challenged. For all i know, john norman and his readers may think the same way in the opposite direction. And indeed it is not an argument that can be won, for the meaning of ‘superior’ is blunt, leaving each person free to choose the categories for comparison. Sure, i can make a claim for male superiority on the basis of Olympic records but what would that say about my world-view? Am i superior to a Woman, simply because i am taller?
The fact is, we all have a much richer view of what men are, and what Women are, than of what this one word might mean, so arguments about superiority can only be fruitless. We can only say that the idea of Female superiority is a nuanced and a beautiful thing; the idea of male superiority is blunt, unenlightening, and (frankly) dull.
Chivalry, these days, is thought of as a matter of holding open a door, but in its original state it was a potent code of conduct relating at first to behaviour on the battlefield, but increasingly – as the Middle Ages moved on – to the concept of ‘courtly love’, which featured passionate devotion to the Lady of a quasi-religious character. Knights amended the structure of formal language and began addressing their Ladies in the terms formerly reserved for their overlords. The fact that these ideas can have taken such a hold on a complex and essentially patriarchal culture for several centuries is cause for hope that something similar might yet arise again – although the mechanisms for such cultural change seem as obscure as ever.
Chivalry as a code changed when the society in which it developed changed, but the impulse to Woman worship remained in the succeeding centuries, although the Middle Ages were long regarded with regret as the high water mark of gender relations (see James Branch Cabell’s Domnei, A Comedy of Woman Worship).
To the repressed Victorians, while Female submission seemed to be an acceptable trope of ‘high’ culture worthy of display in the academy to crowds of both sexes [hiram powers’ Greek Slave of 1844, left], the vibrant undercurrent of the glorification of Women tended to be relegated to the lower cultural milieu of the humble illustrator or cartoonist [the perpetually impressive ‘Gibson Girl’ of the 1890s-1910s, right], where it bubbled up with surprising regularity. But then, if you’re being funny, you can disguise your attraction to an idea by pretending to mock it. Perhaps the omnipresent Gibson Girl lasted as long as She did because so many people wanted Goddesses in their world.
But an essential element of medieval chivalry has by this time been lost. The Woman-as-Gynarch is now always presented as an Amazonian figure, worthy of worship apparently because of Her out-maleing the inferior male through achieving a combination of strength and size with appropriately Feminine grace.
It was an undercurrent that was to continue in the succeeding decades. Which led, eventually, to:
Et cetera. It was, of course, missing the point, because it disguised embarrassment at worshiping the Female by superimposing a layer of masculine attributes, heightened by their unexpected and somewhat artificial setting in our striking new heroines. But it is not the worship of Woman-as-She-is. In fact it is my impression that it is in those eras where culture has portrayed Woman as most helpless that Gynarchic ideas seem to thrive.
In the overtly sexual culture of our own times, Gynarchy seems at greater risk than ever of becoming wholly confused with, and swamped by, the cultural wave of Femdom. Femdom is not only about sex, but is generally defined by male fantasy. Put simply, Gynarchy needs to assert at the very least that it does not require its Female acolytes to dress in PVC; if it does not, its true nature will continue to remain hidden from many of those who might otherwise be drawn to it.