THE TRANSITION TO MALE KINSHIP.
483. McLennan declares: “The fact of consanguinity must have remained long unperceived, as other facts quite as obvious have done.” But we cannot possibly accept any such assertion as this, excepting as referring to the ignorance of the male sex. Again he says: “It will be a curious chapter in history which successfully narrates the progress of the revolution by which the passage from the earlier [female kinship] to the latter [male kinship] systems was effected.” That chapter will be more than “curious;” for every page of it will be found stained with deeds of treachery, brutality, capture, imprisonment, outrage and murder, inflicted upon women.
484. “Where conjugal fidelity was secured by penalties,” he continues, “we should expect to find the system of kinship through males would appear.” The sentence may sound mild, but we have enumerated some of the “penalties” inflicted upon women by men who, in ages past, captured women from their own kindred, and thus established kinship through males (see par. 428). Again he says: “We shall see further on how numerous the known causes are in which the progress [?] to male kinship and the patriachal system was a progress having polyandry for one of its stages. The other main highway of progress [?] must have lain through the system of confining wives [as prisoners to their husbands]¾a system probably established by exogamy and the practice of capturing wives.” [The italics are ours.]
485. Sir George Grey describes what these captures by men mean to the women of the Australian blacks: “Even supposing a woman to give no encouragement to her admirers, many plots are always laid to carry her off, and in the encounters which result from these, she is almost certain to receive some violent injury, for each of the combatants orders her to follow him, and in the event of her refusing, throws a spear at her. The early life of a young woman at all celebrated for her beauty is generally one continued series of captivity to different masters, of ghastly wounds, of wanderings in strange families, of rapid flights,” etc. We need not continue the scene. This is what the system of capturing wives means to young girls and women.
486. We do not agree with McLennan’s reference to polyandry (plurality of husbands), as leading to female, kinship as we have repeatedly shown; polyandry as a general system cannot be proved to have existed. Polyandry never could have exerted any great influence in the development of social conditions,¾if for no other reason than because it is suicidal to the race; it quickly leads to sterility. On the other hand, polygyny began very early in human history,¾with Cain’s immediate descendants, the Bible tells us, and it remains as a very general system among men to this day, and since it does not lead to sterility it greatly increases men’s offspring, and it led to the capture of wives, because of an unequal distribution. These things being so, we claim that this horrible capture of women has been the method by means of which female kinship has been displaced by male kinship.
487. Perhaps we should say that Mclennan makes a lame effort to demonstrate polyandry among the Hebrews, citing in proof the regulation that a man should marry the surviving widow of his brother (Deut. 25:5-10), in case the brother died without issue. We mention the extraordinary view because many other writers have endorsed it, and it has even crept into some commentaries. Herbert Spencer ably confutes the claim, saying in conclusion, “We cannot, then, admit that the practice of marrying a dead brother’s widow implies pre-existence of polyandry, and cannot accept the inference that out of decaying polyandry higher forms of marriage grew up.” With this statement we are in hearty accord.
488. “There could be no system of kinship through males if paternity was usually, or in a great proportion of cases uncertain.” This is a self-evident statement, yet we fear women have never recognized the full force of it. It means in effect this: Male kinship can be perpetuated by only one of two methods, as we have said. The first way,¾by espionage, imprisonment and penalties,¾signifies great cruelty to women. The second method, when it secures kinship through males alone (as recognized in law, or custom), signifies an exploiting of woman’s virtues¾fidelity and truthfulness¾to deprive her of her God-given right.
489. However we look at the matter, then, what McLennan calls “the highway of progress” from female to male kinship, is wet with woman’s tears and blood, and strewn with her shackles and prostituted virtues. What woman can, for a moment, believe that God ever meant that such a transition should have been brought about? Nay, rather, He warned woman against the first step of concession in that direction, when He said to Eve, “thou art turning to thy husband, and he will rule over thee.” There was no provision, in God’s plan, for that sentimentality which talks of the loveliness of that devotion in a young bride which causes her to forsake her kindred to follow her bridegroom¾almost a stranger as yet¾to the ends of the earth. Such devotion is not out of place in the wife who has been long enough married to have proved that her husband is trustworthy. Such devotion in a young bride has landed hundreds of them¾perhaps thousands¾in houses of shame,¾for the “husband” has turned out to be a mere slave trader, or the sort of creature who expects to live off his wife’s earnings, driving her to vice to support him. The natural protectors of the young should not relinquish their task in the case of a trusting bride, until they are satisfied that the bridegroom is trustworthy. This was God’s ordinance in marriage.
490. It is in the laws of succession, particularly, that we see to what an extent male kinship prevails. During the reign of King Edward VI (1547-1553), British civil and ecclesiastical courts combined in the assertion that the son of the Duchess of Suffolk was no kin to his mother. In other ways the same point is made clear. A British woman is not a “parent” of her own child, within the meaning of the law at the present time.
“The system of kinship through females only was succeeded by a system which acknowledged kinship through males also; and which in most cases passed into a system which acknowledged kinship through males only,” says McLennan. Our present civilization is now deeply shadowed by this system, as embodied in civil law. Thanks to the softening influences of Christianity, men are often better than the law, as an offset to the many worse than the law.
491. The system of kinship through males alone is known by the name agnation. McLennan describes agnation, in Roman Jurisprudence, as follows:
“All the children of a married pair were agnates, as well as all the grandchildren through sons, but the grandchildren through daughters were not in the number of agnates. The children of the same father through different mothers were kindred, but the children of the same mother by different fathers were not relations to any legal effect. The sons of brothers were kinsmen, but the sons of sisters, or of brothers and sister, were no relations: for a woman’s children were held to be not of kin to their mother but of their father.”
The pagan argument to establish this, was put by Aeschylus (500 B. C.) in the mouth of Orestes, who killed his mother to avenge his father’s death at her hands: “The bearer of the offspring is not the author of it, but only the nurse. . . It is the male who is the author of its being; while she, as a stranger for a stranger, preserves the young plant for those for whom the god has not blighted it in the bud. And I will show you proof of this assertion; one may become a father without a mother. There stands by a witness of this in the daughter of Olympian Zeus, who was not even nursed in the darkness of the womb.” (Mythology teaches that Athene, or Minerva, sprang full-armored from the head of Zeus, or Jupiter.)
But in due course God sent forth His uncreated Son, “made of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), without male agency,¾an unanswerable argument as to the importance and Divine ordinance of female kinship.