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Kihnu: Europe's Last "Matriarchal" Society

Did you know that there is a matriarchal society where women are in charge of everything? Discover Kihnu, a very interesting European island.

The Woman Post | Ariel Cipolla

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The world seems to agree that we live in a patriarchal society. This is because, at least until now, the existing differences between the two genders in many areas have not been settled. For example, women, even today, earn less money than men in the same job positions.

The truth is that this is a generalist view because in some regions they can be completely different. One of them is Kihnu, the last matriarchal society in Europe, which rises to tourism for its feminine power. For those who do not know it, we are talking about a territory belonging to Estonia, on an island located in the Baltic Sea.

There, the inhabitants have a completely different life from the one we are used to. Given this panorama, we decided to find out what are the particularities of Kihnu, what differentiates it from other current societies, and why there seems to be a growing interest in getting to know it.

The Particularities of Kihnu, a European Matriarchal Society

First of all, we must understand what a matriarchal society is. A matriarchy represents societies where a group of women holds political, economic, or religious power in their hands, something that does not necessarily mean contempt for men, but is, literally, the predominance of women in a society (or, in this case, the total absence of men).

Kihnu is the last matriarchal society in Europe. The men are not there: they are engaged in fishing and spend long periods at sea, which is why the women take control of the place, ensuring the maintenance of ancient traditions, having at their disposal a wide variety of tasks to perform. That is to say, they are not in the day-to-day life of the village, so the women are left alone.

This implies that they make all the decisions on the island. In the absence of men, they have to perform different tasks, regardless of gender. For example, they are in charge of fixing the engines of the tractors for the harvests or say mass when the priests are not available. This is a "progressive" vision within the religion itself, which shows that they can do the same tasks as men.

National Geographic reports that they have recently started accepting tourists. Kihnu has four villages with about 700 inhabitants but receives 12 times more tourists than some of the most visited places in the world. Those who visit are looking for an exceptional experience, where they can appreciate the features of a culture diametrically opposed to the one we live in today.

This small territory has managed to endure as a world apart, where women wear wool striped skirts that change according to age and occasion. For example, the younger ones wear a brighter red, while they progressively introduce blue lines as time goes by, so there is an age differentiation.

Kihnu is a land where time does not seem to pass. The women have a very strong sense of belonging and attachment to their ancestors. This can be seen in the celebrations of the local people, who dance and sing in festivities, with ancient music from many centuries ago to honor the ancestors. All this generates that, according to UNESCO, Kihnu is considered an "intangible cultural heritage of humanity."

In addition, as far as natural landscapes are concerned, it is a territory that is really very beautiful. There breathes a very peaceful atmosphere, with windy beaches that are surrounded by virgin forests and brightly colored haciendas. This is, in terms of tourism, a complement to the feeling of feminist culture that floods the place, as it is a place especially visited by women who want to overthrow the patriarchy, but also by those who are looking to relax and get to know a culture that seems to come out of medieval novels.

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The social aspect is also essential on this island. Women's meetings are also frequent, to the point where it is considered a tradition. A weekly café is formed where the old women exchange news. It is very common for them to make some sweet and savory snacks typical of the area and that tourists always want to try.

When the men return from their long journeys, they only stay for a few days. They are perfectly adapted to the women calling the shots, as the men are "mere visitors" in a strongly matriarchal land. However, they are not upset: they feel that the island is thriving and any change in custom could be frowned upon.

Therefore, we can see that there are territories that have a completely different cultural identity from the one we are used to seeing. Especially in this era, where feminist criticism of patriarchal society is increasingly installed in the collective unconscious, other diametrically opposed ways of life can be evaluated, where women dominate society and that does not mean discrimination or violence.

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