On the Vuvalini
I’ve been stewing over the whole ‘Vuvalini left the male children behind’ thing for about a week and…well…I have a lot to say about it. Particularly the assumption that the culture of the Many Mothers was just as sexist and awful as the hell-pit that Joe created.
The thing is, I’m in the tail end of finishing my masters in cultural Anthropology (with a background in sociology and social anthropology) and I have a particular fascination with gender roles and how they change both over space (different places have different ideas about gender) and time (ditto for historical periods) and the thing is…there has never - as far as we know - been anything that we would call a ‘matriarchy’.
Keep in mind when I say ‘matriarchy’ I mean a culture that devalues men and masculinity and props up a variety of social systems and attitudes used to control men’s autonomy and sexuality - think inverted patriarchy.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been cultures and cultural practices that explicitly value women - particularly when it comes to reproduction and tracing one’s lineage. There are numerous examples of cultures that practice matrilineal descent (you trace your ancestry solely through your mother’s line) and matrilocal marriage (husband moves in with the wife and her family). Avuncular descent can also be mentioned here as well (this is where your main male caregiver is not your father but your mother’s brother). Matrilineal inheritance isn’t uncommon and, heck, there are even examples of cultural norms where married men outright avoid their mother-in-laws to show respect.
Note: I love reading ethnographies about that last one.
And seriously, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Some of the earliest forms of human worship are believed to be earth goddess-oriented. I remember reading a mad max meta where someone thought that the idea of the Vuvalini worshipping a Mother Earth goddess was taking things too far, but seriously? It makes all the sense in the world to me. Especially given their practice of matrilineal descent (“I am the daughter of Mary JoBassa”) and the adoptive motherhood-ish practice of 'initiate mothers’ (Oh God I have so many embarrassingly detailed headcannons about initiate mothers).
Not to mention the Keeper of Seeds and her (personal?) practice of trying and failing over and over to bring back the green. To me, it’s not such a big leap for there to be earth-centred spiritual connotations behind that labour. Yes I know I’m reaching here, but I don’t think I’m reaching too far.
(Hell, even if I’m wrong you KNOW the Dag gonna bring some spiritual heft to her new role).
But does their woman-centred society mean that they were a matriarchy? Them leaving their male children behind would certainly suggest this…but really? That would be the most astounding thing. Because that kind devaluing of masculinity to the point ABANDONING male children has no real basis. Collectively women haven’t done to men what men - collectively - have done to women.
We don’t know why this is. We just don’t. I personally don’t believe it’s because of any inherent sex-based difference: women can be just as vicious and blood thirsty as men. But the fact remains that a matriarchy (at least one that mirrors patriarchy) hasn’t existed. It just hasn’t.
The Amazon myth that I believe is the inspiration behind the Vuvalini is just that: a myth. Using the Amazons to justify the construction of the inverted-patriarchy of the Vuvalini is like saying that dinosaurs MUST hate cities around the pacific because LOOK at what these OTHER giant lizards did when they ran amok!!!!! Seriously, godzillla and the kaiju are just about as real as the Amazons.
Just because a culture has numerous practices that outright benefit (and hell, celebrate) women doesn’t mean that it devalues or hates men and masculinity. That’s not the way it’s panned out.
Now, I don’t really know if George Miller and co. really made the Vuvalini a vicious matriarchy - that’s still kinda murky to me - but if they did I would really be interested in how that kind of society came about. And I’m not saying that to be snarky, I would really like to know. Did the presence of technologies like industrial farm equipment, rifles, and motorcycles change the dynamic somehow? I know that’s a bit technologically determinist, but it’s really the only thing that I can think of.
(And no, I don’t think that living in relatively close proximity to Joe and his ilk would be enough to push the female Vuvalini over the edge. The vast majority of matrilineal and matrilocal societies don’t live in isolation. They routinely interact with patriarchical patrilineal (descent traced through the father) and patrilocal (wife lives with husbands family) cultures. And yes, sometimes those interactions have been violent. But even then, no male dominating matriarchy developed. )
Until such an explanation is plopped in front of me I’m just gonna assume that the 'abandonment of male children’ is a bit more nuanced than what has been suggested. I’m all for recognizing that women are capable of violence (“killed everyone I ever met out here”) and of examining the toll that violence takes not only on the victim (probably mostly men), but also on the perpetrators and bystanders (probably mostly women). I love the Vuvalini, oh I love them so much, but they DID have to do some serious murdering in order to keep their culture going - even before the Green Place went sour (those honey pot traps were not new re: “I remember something like that”).
I want to explore that. I want to explore that post-apocalyptic matrilineal farming and motorcycle riding society populated by sharpshooters who think that 'Furiosa’ and “the Valkyrie” are perfectly normal names (HELL YEAH THEY ARE).
Because that’s plausible to me! But man-hating to the point of gender based child abandonment…isn’t? Both anthropologically and based on their behaviour in the movie. Heck. they just gave Nux and Max bikes after Furiosa vouched for them. Like no big, have our stuff. Yeah, they were suspicious, but after what you’ve seen of Joe and the war boys (ESPECIALLY after that new deleted scene was released HOLY SHIT WHAT THE F-) can you blame them?
So yeah, that’s my take on the biker grannies.