I'm trying to develop a matriarchal Empire for a story, but the main issue I'm having is that I don't want the women to all be warriors or magically physically stronger etc.
The setting is essentially medieval-esque Europe and Asia, though there are differences that aren't really relevant to this question. The people of this empire are called Fayli. The Fayli have a sex ratio difference of 3:1 in favor of women, so it's quite common for groups of women to all have one husband, though rich nobles often go the opposite way and have several husbands for one woman as a way of flaunting their wealth.
By matriarchy I mean that I want the women to be the diplomats/politicians, the merchants, the crafters, the architects, the religious heads, the scientists, artists/musicians and Queens/Empress...but the main thing is: I don't want them to be physically stronger or better fighters than men. The Fayli empire's armies are still made up of men, the merchant women's bodyguards are men, the miners and field workers and laborers are still men, it's just that those men always answer to women in higher positions or to their wives. As there is such a male/female ratio disparity, very often there are women who never have children, and instead stay with their sisters or move with their brothers to their new home to take care of the children.
Essentially, it'd be:
- Anything that needs strength or manual labor: men.
- Everything else: women.
Men join the woman's household and take their name when they marry, before that they live with their mothers and their extended family. Divorce is generally not a thing for men or women unless no children come of the union, because of religious reasons. Woman often live with their sisters and mother/grandmother and their husbands, sometimes sharing a husband because there's far more woman than men. Children grow up communally in large extended families and it's not shameful to bring children to workplaces.
However...why would it end up this way without women having military power? If you look at how societies historically thrived/gained power, generally it came down to the military, aka, warriors.
So I've seen a lot of posts/articles about matriarchal societies developing and how for them to survive/thrive outside of marginal areas (like where near-matriarchies are found today) that women would need some way of out-fighting the men, as that's where the majority of power historically has come from. However, I personally don't think this would solve the real issue when it comes to matriarchies. The real issue is not biological affinity for fighting, but rather the fact that the population of a society is determined largely by how many women of child bearing age it has.
For example: Two tribes have 50 women and 50 men, one is patriarchal and one is matriarchal. Both of these tribes are vying for the same resources and end up going to war. Tribe patriarchy loses 40 men, tribe matriarchy loses 20 women. Both go home. The next year, tribe patriarchy could feasibly have 50 babies, while tribe matriarchy could only have 30. And, if during that time when tribe matriarchy is all pregnant tribe patriarchy were to attack...then they'd have no way to defend themselves unless the men were to protect them.
It just seems more feasible, from an evolution standpoint, for woman not to be the fighters, so as to preserve their ability to procreate. But if they don't have some sort of magic that will allow them to win a battle against other neighboring patriarchal societies, then is a matriarchy impossible? Our own history would suggest so, as most anthropologists say there's no evidence of an unambiguously matriarchal society, and especially not one that's thrived enough to become an empire.
This is what I'm really struggling with, because I just feel that it's unrealistic for women to make up the whole army of a matriarchy, even with magic fighting powers, but for men to still be in charge of the military it seems unrealistic they'd be fine being at the 'bottom of the totem pole' so to speak. I think I'm just not knowledgeable enough about why patriarchy's developed over matriarchy's in the first place, which is why I posted here.
TLDR: What would make a TRUE matriarchy possible outside of 'magic fighting powers for women'?