The history of the Mosuo details a fascinating story of how a community of women has maintained peace and harmony for nearly 2,000 years. Despite the advances of modern technology and social construct, the Mosuo continue to stick to their humble beginnings and their own farm lifestyle away from the wealthy elite of China’s most populous cities. To put it simply who the Mosuo people are: they are one of the last matriarchal societies in the world.
Located in Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces, the Mosuo resort to traditions and rituals that may seem peculiar for modern-day millennials. One of the defining characteristics of this ethnic group is that women are in charge of their respective households. This means their duties lie in taking care of family members, delegating everyday tasks, making business decisions, financing money, etc. With all this responsibility on one woman’s back, there comes a question as to what the men’s role is in the household.
The Mosuo people are one of the only populations that practice the phenomenon of “walking marriages.” Walking marriages allow for women to have multiple partners without having to live under the same household. When two people decide to engage in a walking marriage, the man must visit the woman late at night and usually stays until sunrise. Women are responsible for raising their children under her household, and uncles are seen as father figures to these young children. Men are allowed to visit their children, granted permission by the head of the household, but are required to return back to their own household doing their assigned chores and activities.
Although the Mosuo society has been labeled as the “women’s world,” the most intriguing part of this social structure is how it draws similarities to the Western world of feminism. It is rare to see women being in positions of power in the workplace as it is perceived as being overly dominant or manly. However, in Mosuo tradition, members of this society have deemed this behavior as normality and not something to be questioned of. Raising children in Mosuo culture is one of the most important aspects of life, and honor is given to women and only women. In other countries, child care is a heavy topic for separated families and most parents push these responsibilities onto each other as children can be seen as a roadblock to success.
A clear indication of why Mosuo people live the way they do boils down to the fact that their ideology is not based on assumptions. Mosuo women are not perceived as powerless figures, but rather independent individuals who are capable of anything they desire. Women are also given the freedom to express themselves openly, and some have taken measures to leave the group to pursue long term relationships and careers. There seems to be a shared understanding amongst Mosuo people that all their practices benefit all members of society. The long-lasting power of the Mosuo proves that unfair treatment against women is a learned behavior and that we can learn a thing or two about the incredible life journey of Mosuo women.