Can you imagine a world in which women run an entire society and men are just there as secondary characters? Or a world where marriage and laws surrounding it doesn’t exist?
Does it sound like a weird, dystopian world to you? Or some kind of feminist heaven perhaps?
Well, it isn’t just some fantasy. It is the world we live in, or at least the world the Mosuo women have created for themselves in Yunnan, China.
The Mosuo are an ancient tribal community of Tibetan Buddhists, living at the foothills of the Himalayas. In their society, fathers don’t exist. Marriage doesn’t exist. Women have as many — or as few — sexual partners as they wish to have, with no judgement.
In fact, most offspring in the Mosuo community would not know their fathers. Mosuo women themselves may not know who the father of their children are. And this is totally fine.
The role of the Mosuo men
Men have little involvement in the upbringing of their children. In fact, the biological fathers have to go and live in their own matriarchal family home.
(The Grandmother, the matriarch, lives with her sons and daughters, along with the children of those daughters, following the maternal bloodline.)
Men do little more than to provide strength, ploughing, building, repairing homes, slaughtering animals and of course, inseminating women with their sperm.
Though they have no responsibility towards their own children, however many they may have, they do have immense responsibility towards the young Mosuo children in their own household.
These may be their nephews and nieces, borne by their sisters, or even younger siblings. They are seen as the household’s second-in-charge, though the final say is still with the matriarch.
Life with Mosuo women
Here, since marriage does not exist per se, men and women practise what is known as a “walking marriage”. What that essentially means is a hook-up, also known as “axia”. The rule of thumb there is when you see a man’s hat hung on the door handle of a woman’s quarters, that is a sign for other men not to enter.
These “axia” arrangements can range from one-night stands to regular occurrences that may deepen into exclusive, life-long partnerships. But still, they don’t live together nor is there any binding agreement of any sort.
As there is no such thing as marriage, the only reason for men and women to be in a relationship is for love or enjoyment of each other’s company. Should they decide to end things, the usual reasons for staying together — for the children, societal or financial reasons — don’t apply.
Pregnancy is the goal
With life centred on the maternal family, motherhood is, unsurprisingly, revered. For a young Mosuo woman, it is their life’s goal.
This is one of the core beliefs of the Mosuo women. However, the rest of the culture is slowly evolving as the younger generation has a different idea of the family structure.
Today, younger Mosuo look to get married and live in their own house, with their nuclear family, breaking away from hundreds of years of Mosuo culture.
Some have left the village and gone on to pursue careers in bigger cities. Will this culture still live in 30 years from now? Who knows?
Singaporean moves to live with the Mosuo women
Though we may look from the outside wondering how this culture can exist in our world, one Singaporean woman has embraced the culture.
Choo Waihong, a former corporate lawyer, left her career in Singapore to travel the world and stumbled upon this community.
“I grew up in a world where men are the bosses,” she says. “My father and I fought a lot – he was the quintessential male in an extremely patriarchal Chinese community in Singapore. And I never really belonged at work; the rules were geared towards men, and intuitively understood by them, but not me. I’ve been a feminist all my life, and the Mosuo seemed to place the female at the centre of their society. It was inspiring.”
A few months after her first trip, and being absolutely taken by the community, Waihong returned. A local teenage girl, Ladzu, offered to teach her the Mosuo language and introduce her to her family.
Waihong’s visits grew longer and more frequent. Later on, Ladzu’s uncle, Zhaxi, offered to build her a house. And thus began her life with the Mosuo.
Today, Waihong shuttles back and forth from Singapore to her new house at Lugu Lake in Yunnan. But in a society where females are the leaders and are empowered to lead, Waihong seems to feel right at home.
What do you think about the Mosuo women and they way they live their lives? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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