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Dear Matthew Alice:

It's said to be a "man's world," which I truly believe is unfortunate, I mean, obviously unfortunate. Is there an existing society where the roles are culturally the opposite of what goes on here? Where there'd be no question the high status women take on simply and naturally, because they are women? And the men aren't ashamed of feeling and have no need to assert bizarre machismo? Is there a culture living anywhere close to this? And if so how do I get there? I'm 25, I'm a guy, and although there are a million amenities in this country, I think I'm inclined to give it up to live somewhere sane. I ADORE women. Not sexually; it's purely this strange devotion I feel for them. At this point I may sound crazy. I'm not. I realize how this sounds. If I could live on that island where Wonder Woman came from, I'd be humble, happy, and content. I don't understand how men in power can still delude themselves and not give women everything they have.

-- RVC, San Diego

Thought we'd start off the new year with some big questions. Grapple with basic concepts and fundamental notions. Turn life on its head. Or at least kick it in the butt around the playground until it runs home crying to mommy. RVC's question seems a good place to start. My, oh my.

So if Manland, Dudeville, Bubbaburgh just doesn't cut it, where can we go to live in complete peace and harmony, chanting and burning estrogen incense, painting each other's toenails and braiding each other's hair all day? In your dreams, RVC. Pure matriarchies are rare. There are more societies that are matrilineal, in which women wield considerable influence by virtue of giving birth. (And what luck for you that many of them are in the South Seas, Africa, and Australia so you won't have to buy a whole new wardrobe.) But since you have me in the grip of Wonder Woman's Golden Lasso of Truth, I'll say that you're not likely to find your Themyscira or Paradise Island filled with Amazons. But you'll come pretty close if you're willing to live on a mountain in southwest China. And you're in luck. There are package tours!

The Mosuo people, some 30,000+, live along the shores of Lugu Lake (also "Mother Lake" or "Woman Lake") in Yunan Province, not far from "Goddess Mountain." Grandmothers have all the power. They rule not only the family roost in terms of money and property, but also all commerce, farming, and community relations. Men do the heavy lifting and build things, but women tell them how and when to do it. Each town's mayor is a man, but mayors have no duties. Mosuo men, reportedly, spend much of their day sitting around gossiping, drinking, playing games, or watching videos.

There is no formal marriage. When a girl is 17 or so, she gets her own little casita outside her family's main house. There she can entertain whatever gentleman may care to call. If the lady doesn't like what she sees, she keeps the door closed. Men can arrive after sunset and must be back in their own homes before sunrise. The rules don't change even if a lifelong monogamous relationship develops. There is no formal marriage ceremony; children remain with their mothers and become the responsibility of their brothers (the children's uncles). Hubby must return each day to his own home to be cared for by his female relatives. The Mosuo believe that to keep life peaceful, only people related by blood should live together.

The Mosuo are believed to have come from Tibet, but they have no written history, so there's no way to know how their social norms evolved. In the publicity for Lugu Lake, they claim there have been no murders or rapes in Mosuo society in the 50 years that records have been kept. Banishment from his family would be the perp's fate. No man cares to risk that, apparently.

Now that their lifestyle has been publicized, Lugu is a popular holiday destination, and tourism is big business. The "colorful natives" don their "traditional dress" and re-enact "centuries-old rituals," singing and dancing around bonfires for the benefit of leering businessmen hoping to get lucky. Brothels and trinket shops are reportedly popping up on the road to Lugu.

So, RVC, there's one suggestion for you. Of course, you'll have to take your mother and sisters with you if you hope to survive. And if that's not an option, you could always run away with a herd of elephants or water buffalo or rabbits, all of which are female-dominant societies.

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