The oldest human artifact I have ever held dated from about 3,000 BCE. The small reddish ceramic piece fit easily in the palm of my hand. It came from an area on the southern coast of Ecuador in South America. The small modern day town of Valdivia lent its name to the culture uncovered in nearby archeological sites.
From 9,000 BCE, in one of the earliest settled areas in the Americas, the aboriginal peoples of the Valdivian culture made their living from accessing the abundant food sources available surrounding their fertile river valley settlements adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. Eventually they would cultivate plants, like corn, beans and cassava along with cotton.
They are most remembered, though, for what I got to hold in my hand.
Valdivian Venuses or “pretty ladies,” as the small ceramic figures are known, characterize the culture. One of the earliest known artistic forms of human representation found in our hemisphere celebrated the female form. The differing hairstyles and physical characteristics set each ceramic figurine apart suggesting to some that these pieces represented real individuals.
There are no Valdivian Adonises.
The prominence of the female figure strongly alludes to the centrality of the role of women in early Valdivian village culture. Women’s reproductive power was a central uniting physical, spiritual and creative element of human society from our species’ migration out from the savannahs of Africa through the time when a craftsperson carved the Hohle Fels Venus out of a piece of mammoth ivory in what is now Germany 35,000 years ago and on to the Valdivian era.
At least a rough equality of the sexes seems to have existed until the patriarchal revolution occurred. The rise of large populations before mass communication facilitated the development of centralizing male dominated authority. Mainly men imposed order on their societies by force.
But as the noted columnist and author Gywnne Dyer has stated, “Male domination is not natural, and neither is the equality of the sexes – it all depends. The same goes for whether we are warlike or peaceful, democratic or authoritarian. Change the way we live, and you change the way we behave toward each other.”
Change is certainly occurring. We live in revolutionary times. Those of us with more than a few decades behind us can certainly recognize this. The dramatic feminine surge forward over the past half century cannot be disputed. This certainly does not mean that full equality has been achieved by a long measure.
A look at basic statistics in North America like college degrees granted, however, firmly suggests that it is coming. A US Department of Education 2007 study forecast that in five years from now 60 per cent of all degrees from Bachelors to PhDs and professional degrees will be awarded to women. These figures are already considered too conservative.
As Jonathon Rauch said in a January, 2008 National Journal article Women Will Not Rule Men. But They Will Lead, in the emerging global village, in a world tightly tied together by a media web, maybe we are returning to our roots where equality was and now will be again, truly possible. Power filled women are leading the way.
As Rauch says “If there is a “weaker sex,” it isn’t female.”
All are welcome on Tuesday, March 8th to an International Women’s Day Open House at from 11 am to 7 pm at the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre at 503 Hanson.
Sunday, March 6 – Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Matthew 7: 21-27 .
Tuesday, March 8 – Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras is a Christian carnival day on the eve of Ash Wednesday. Pancakes are often served because of the practice of eating rich, fatty foods on the last night before Lent, a time of ritual fasting, begins.
Tuesday, March 8 – International Women’s Day theme from the Status of Women Canada is ‘Girls’ Rights Matter’ is linked to the United Nation’s theme ‘Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women’.
Wednesday, March 9 – Ash Wednesday is a Christian observance beginning the 40 day Lenten season with the marking of followers with ashes as a sign of penitence.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.