The origin of male dominance

Sunday, May 7th, 2006 · 156 Comments »

Over in the Today’s lesson thread, which drifted into a discussion of Dworkin, rape, and male dominance, Mandos made the following comment:

Frankly, whoever rocks the cradle rules the world. Whoever has control over reproduction has a lot of power. Under conditions of noncoercion, women have control over reproduction and hence massive social power simply due to that fact. Men are necessarily peripheral in at least some subtle way. The only society I know of in which marriage does not at all take place (the Moro?) demonstrates this relatively well—as well-off or badly off as it may be, men are still somehow psychologically secondary due to the lack of social control over reproduction.

Did it take rape to create a system in which men are no longer peripheral? This to me is the disturbing question.

What we’re getting to here is the origin of male dominance, which is one of my favorite questions. I’ve been noodling over it for most of my life. What Mandos is saying, I think, is that motherhood gives women automatic power that renders men somewhat peripheral in the natural order of things. And indeed, four out of five anthropologists agree (that’s a joke; actually I think most anthropologists agree). But does that lead to male dominance? And is male dominance inevitable?

To answer the last question first: no, male dominance is not inevitable. And several decades of anthropological work have made it possible to sort out the social conditions under which it arises.

First let’s deal with the issue of men’s peripheral role in the natural scheme of things. The male biological role in reproduction is minimal, and in all known societies the male role in child-rearing is insignificant compared to the female role. Women are primarily responsible for child-rearing the world over. This seems to evoke a compensatory response in men, because in all known societies there are artificially constructed roles and rituals for men that seek to claim a male space that is at least equal in importance to the female role in life. In tribal societies the recurring motifs are primitive and silly to our eyes: men undergo cutting rites at puberty so that they bleed like women; men have special flutes or trumpets or something that only they can use and that magically ensure well-being; men have the special job of singing to the forest/seducing the animals/chanting some joo-joo crap that will bring the powers of the universe into balance. What is striking is just how artificial and frankly unnecessary all these things are for the actual survival of the species. Women are in charge of growing offspring; men are in charge of playing magic flutes. Yet each tribe’s mythos works very hard to inflate the importance of the male role so that it counterbalances the female contribution to life.

One wonders if that’s the origin of religion. After all, we can laugh at the New Guinea highlander with his magic flute that women must never see, but it’s basically the same thing as the Christian preacher in Tennessee who believes it’s God will for men alone to have authority to teach and preach. And just as the Christian preacher believes that if women ever get the power to preach it will destroy the family/cause terrorists to attack us/melt the universe, so the New Guinea highlander firmly believes that if women ever get their hands on those flutes, everything will be just be totally fucked forever.

(At this point some of you may be thinking, isn’t the male role in the hunt adequate to ensure man’s importance alongside woman in primitive societies? Well, no, it doesn’t seem to be, not without some magical mythical embroidering. Note that there are virtually no societies that survive totally on animal food, which is usually the province of men. Humans also eat plants, which women gather or grow, and most humans eat a hell of a lot more plant food than animal food. So there again, women seem awfully central and almost self-sufficient once you get past that sperm thing. Men do invariably elevate their role as hunters to mythic importance, but this importance usually outstrips the actually caloric contribution being made.)

Anyway, this sort of male magic joo-joo is everywhere, even in those societies with relative gender equality. That’s an important point, since it suggests that this need to carve out a male role of mythic importance is not a product of male dominance. It seems more basic than that. In gender-equal societies the male joo-joo isn’t oppressive to women and isn’t considered more important than the female role; it’s just a counterbalance. It gives the males a satisfying sense of their critical importance in the scheme of things, an importance which females derive from their obviously central role in the perpetuation of the species.

On the other hand, in male-dominated societies the male joo-joo (I’m liking this as a technical term) is inflated to vast mythic proportions and includes key provisos about how men are more important than women and must control women. A common mythical refrain is how women used to be in charge but they screwed it up and so men took over.

But how does male dominance really arise? (I’m putting aside the possibility that the myths are true and women screwed up so bad men had to take charge to rescue the universe from disaster.)

Well, the key factor leading to male dominance seems to be stress, by which I mean stress on a group (tribe) to survive. Ecological stress, food stress, competition stress from neighbors. In anthropological surveys the correlation between male dominance and a stressful environment is very, very strong. Gender equality seems to go along with fertile environments with adequate food and peaceful neighbors. Male dominance arises when the group is in a hostile environment with heavy resource competition.

But then: why? Why does stress lead to male dominance, rather than female dominance? Here are some anthropologists’ theories, which are not mutually exclusive:

Marvin Harris thinks male supremacism results from the group’s efforts to secure protein. Populations suffering from a protein shortage practice female infanticide in order to raise more warriors and hunters to compete for animal protein. The resulting shortage in females requires men to steal wives from hostile groups. Polygyny rewards the successful hunter but exacerbates the shortage of women for most men, thus leading to more competition for females. A vicious cycle of violence and warfare is established, along with the demotion of women to beings who are bought, traded, and captured.

Ernestine Friedle thinks male dominance arises when a group is stressed because men are already in control of those aspects of life where the conflict is played out: warfare, land allocation, exchange of goods. It’s a universal among primitive societies that men are the expendable sex — even when men dominate women, males are still considered the ones whose lives can be sacrificed in warfare or the hunt, while women’s lives as mothers must be guarded. Men are also involved in clearing land and distance trading, since these activities are best suited to those members of the group who aren’t caring for small children — i.e., men. In other words, men are already oriented to the front lines and the boundaries, which is where the rubber meets the road if a group comes into conflict with its neighbors. This elevates the male role to supreme tactical and mythical importance in a high-stress environment.

Kay Martin and Barbara Voorhies point out that matrilineal systems are adaptive in peaceful environments, and in fact help perpetuate peace, since related men are dispersed to different villages. But in an environment where the neighbors are hostile, this doesn’t work so well. Instead, paternal-oriented systems are adaptive in that situation: descent through the male line, families revolving around brothers and fathers-sons, women going to live with their husbands’ families. This keeps related men consolidated in one place where they form a strong group to ward off attacks or wage war. Paradoxically this system also foments internal strife, since men compete intrafamily for resources and power.

Peggy Reeves Sanday adds to the foregoing theories the corollary that full-blown male dominance is not an automatic result of stress, but seems to depend on the existing world-view of the group in question. If the group already has a strong role for males in its mythos, it is more likely that male dominance will be the response to stress. But if the group has a very strong female orientation or a thoroughly gender-balanced outlook, the outcome may be different. The male role will probably take on heightened importance, but the women may respond by holding firmly to their own sphere, so that a rough balance is maintained. Alternatively, the women may give ground in theory but maintain control in day-to-day life — a very common phenomenon that Sanday terms “mythical male dominance.” That’s where everybody agrees that men are superior and theoretically in charge, but in actual fact women retain significant social and economic power.

All this anthropology and male dominance and I haven’t mentioned rape once. Sorry, Mandos! Well, rape seems to be part of the toolkit of techniques that men use to dominate women in those societies where the guys are in charge. No, that’s not Andrea Dworkin or Susan Brownmiller; that’s anthropology. The toolkit includes machismo as a social ideal, exclusion of women from special men’s areas, wife-beating, institutionalization or regular occurrence of rape, and raiding other groups for wives. The more of these factors are present, the greater the degree of male dominance. The two most common factors are rape and wife-stealing, both of which are ubiquitous in male-dominated societies and absent from the most gender-equal societies.

At this point I could go off on a million tangents — how many gender equal societies exist or have existed? Do women ever dominate men? (No.) Why not? How does this macro-level social stuff intersect with the micro-level stuff of our individual experience? How do these theories interact with Brownmiller, with Lerner, with evolutionary biology? Where do human societies fit in the broader view of animal reproduction and group behavior? I could keep writing on this for days but that wouldn’t be fun for anybody, so I’ll just throw the floor open to discussion.

Filed under: Feminist Theory, Random Pedantry · Tags:

156 Responses to “The origin of male dominance”

  1. Paul Tergeist says:

    Holy crap, what a story! Male dominance is inevitable so long as the women send the men out to fight the battles and bring home the bacon. Simple as that. Men are THE support system which allows women to reproduce.

    You seem the think it has to be one way or the other but you are wrong AGAIN. It is a symbiotic relationship. The male is generally good for safety and provision for about seven years, after which he is wired to find a (younger, prettier, whatever) mate. Women are simply not useful enough to evolution in any capacity than having babies. Your 63 year-old English mom proves it. She thinks that womanhood means motherhood so she spent 50,000 British Pounds to get preggers.

    Evolution makes men protect the home and requires that women have babies. That’s it. It is the same in 99.9% of all mammals. Get used to it or, if you prefer the male role, try Yanhee hospital in Bangkok.

  2. Paul Tergeist says:

    LEt’s look at it another way. Humans are merely giant rats with opposable thumbs. But just like any other rate, they fight over who gets to mate with the best females and who has to settle for the dregs. The females for the most part choose wealthy, powerful males over other traits. The males choose Jennifer Anniston and Angelina Jolie types for looks and sex appeal. That’s why Brad Pitt gets both of them and I don’t.

    Just because women can reason does not mean they can simply decide to take over the world. There is only a TINY minority of femmes who do not want to be PWNED by a man. It’s good to be the king.

  3. Paul Tergeist says:

    BAHAHAHAHAHAHA! My roomie just walked by and saw the headline. “What’s that male dominance shit?” she says. “This is a feminist blog” I reply.

    “FEMINISTS! The bitches are trying to ruin it for the rest of us. We have ALWAYS been in charge, but now those stupid bra-burners are pissing everyone off, making waves and wearing pants. No man is good enough for them, they all want to marry themselves.”

    Hey, I don’t write the news. I just report it. But I laughed my ass off.

  4. Violet says:

    Paul, are you demonstrating for us the modern pseudo-scientific version of male joo-joo?

  5. KC says:

    I’m afraid I’m inclined to view brute strength as the source of male dominance. Female dependence on male protection is made necessary by male violence.

    As for the anthropological explanations, they all sound pretty circular to me. I recall either George Stocking or Marshall Sahlins (my anthropology days are long ago) laughing at Marvin Harris’s derivation of all sorts of cultural features from protein deficiencies–how did Harris know these ancient people suffered protein deficiencies? Because they ate bugs, and no one would ever eat bugs unless they were desperate for protein because bugs are so icky. Bugs (worms, larvae, etc.) are a far better source of protein than large animals. It is culture that makes them seem unappetizing, probably (IMHO) because women could “hunt” them at least as well as men could.

    The other explanations you cite also seem circular in that they depend on male aggression at least as much as they explain it. Friedle and Martin & Voorhies assume the need to deal with hostile neighbors, which sound to me like aggressive men. Sanday’s idea is explicitly circular–male dominance builds upon pre-existing cultural ideas of strong men.

    It seems to me that the value of male strength in insuring the survival of the human group is overrated. Women who are not carrying small children can defend women who are, and women with weapons are about as capable of fighting off predators as men with the same weapons. It is only one on one, male on female, where the male has a really telling advantage.

    When I think about why men get all the credit when women keep the species going, I generally get around to the question of what would happen if all women finally decided that all men are clingy, boorish, insensitive and lousy lovers and told them to go fuck themselves, literally. This is where the male edge in strength and aggression matters. Men would force themselves on women and the species would survive.

  6. Mandos says:

    I’m generally with KC on the analysis of those theories. I’ve heard some of them before. They explain, at best, how the mythical male juju might turn into ACTUAL juju under certain conditions. But they don’t explain how this turns into dominance and abuse.

    Crucially, well, how many gender-equal societies are there? Not many. Those that are allegedly gender-equal still show one characteristic, as I understand it, in common with unequal societies: control over female sexuality. I mean, they may often be matrilineal/matrifocal/matrilocal, but as I understand it, all (except maybe one) of them pairs males and females in an effort to bring males closer to the center.

    And THAT just places them on a continuum with patriarchal ones: just with a better deal for women, but one that still ultimately requires their cooperation with a particular sexual scheme.

    It’s not hard to see how the mythical male juju can turn into patriarchy. You have a peripheral population trying to convince itself that it’s actually important in the scheme of things. A clever man or two would figure it out, and over time this might spread. The only real center is control over the children, and how do you bring men into that?

    Through men knowing whose children are whose, that’s how.

    You’re not likely to get a society, now that the cat is out of the bag, in which men would agree to become peripheral once more as a group. I mean, it’s kind of like asking mothers to let their babies be randomized in the hospital. And I don’t think even that most feminists would want this, because in this technological world it just leaves women in a different kind of vulnerable position: holding the major burdens of reproduction while men get ahead.

    So I’ve wondered for a long time, how do you strike a compromise?

  7. Violet says:

    KC, I agree with you that there is an underlying cause for all these etiologies of male dominance, which is the self-perpetuating vicious cycle of male aggression. But I think in my effort to simplify for blogging, I may have done an injustice to these anthropologists:

    Friedle and Martin & Voorhies aren’t assuming hostile male neighbors, but stress, which takes many forms. One of them is competition with neighbors for resources, which occurs because of ecology regardless of social structure. One of them is a challenging agricultural environment, which can make the necessity of clearing new land/finding new resources very important.

    Sanday’s argument (well buttressed by research) is that male dominance is more or less likely to arise based on how the pre-existing mythos is formulated, not on a pre-existent male dominance. Primitive mythos take many forms within the range of being relatively gender-equal: in some a Divine Couple are the central figures and males and females are in balance; in some there is a preponderance of female imagery; in some there is powerful male imagery. Some of this is related to the economy of the group: pastoral and hunting groups are animal-focused and favor animal and male imagery, horticultural groups favor female or gender-equal imagery, etc. So, for example, a pastoral or hunting band that encounters stress is primed to develop male dominance. A horticultural group with a powerful female or couple orientation is less likely to develop male domination. Different groups also assign different aspects of nature to male or female responsibility, and if one of those aspects is the thing that goes wrong, that can have an impact on how the stress-mechanism develops.

    The circularity is that while male aggression may be a response to stress, it seems to also perpetuate it in a vicious cycle. So then the stressors and the male dominance become a feedback loop leading to ever and ever greater male control.

  8. gordo says:

    KC–

    I think the fact that men are generally bigger does play a role, but I think pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing play a role as well.

    In primitive societies, late stages of pregnancy and caring for infants virtually disabled women for significant period of time. And there might be periods of 10 years in which a woman would be either pregnant or caring for an infant 90% of the time. So some roles in society naturally became the province of men.

    I don’t know if that’s really an explanation, though. There’s no reason that hunting should be exalted over a role like cooking, or birthing, or gathering firewood.

    However, the case of the Eskimos is interesting in terms of roles and value to society. Mortality rates for men were extremely high. Going whaling in a canoe is risky business. Because men had much shorter life expectancies, they were highly valued from the moment of birth.

    In fact, families who could not care for a newborn and couldn’t find adoptive parents would leave the child outside to die of exposure. But only if it was a girl.

  9. Violet says:

    Mandos, the problem with just assigning male dominance to universal male aggression or paternity anxiety and leaving it at that, is that you need to explain why not all societies are male-dominated.

    The correlation between male-dominance and stress is well-supported. It may seem like a chicken-and-egg question, and in many cases it is, but the transition from gender equality to male dominance has been observed many times, and it’s always a response to stress. This is one reason why male dominance is seen by these anthropologists as not a “natural” state for humans, but a response to environmental factors. The impulse for male dominance may be “natural,” rooted in male testoterone and sexual competition, but something else allows it to become the prevailing social norm.

  10. Mandos says:

    I’ve recently read theories on certain goddessy blogs about ancient matriarchal civilizations—and one can quibble on their interpretation of the data, which seems a tad suspicious to me, but whatever. And I was struck by one side-comment that the men depicted in these alleged matriarchies and their art were hardly “pussywhipped” men, but instead depicted as doing ultra-manly deeds (that women don’t do). Some of which seem indeed quite dangerous.

    If this is true, then the goddessy promulgators of this theory missed an obvious point that maybe The Male Perspective might have been able to elucidate to them: men engage in these things because they have something to prove. Another instance of the Mythical Male Juju. It’s trivially easy, then, to infer a story of the origin of patriarchy from that very fact.

    Indeed, no less than Marilyn French endorses some version of this theory, as I recall, in From Eve to Dawn, the first few chapters. And surprisingly, again if I recall correctly, she even agrees that men are right to want to come to the centre of human life. And other people (her?) have noted that homosociality emerges when men try to find their centre in other men, rather than in what women find their centre in…

    Which brings us to the original topic, which is the social function of rape. Perhaps rape is not the *source* of this, nor maybe is it inevitable, but it’s true that, given all the above, it’s hard not see it as *a* possible mechanism, and maybe even a *highly efficient* mechanism to make sure that men have the option to come to the centre of human living. The question is, is there another mechanism? How could it be implemented? If not fear and dependence, then what is more efficient/effective? Or should men be persuaded that it is better for all of us to accept peripherality and maybe Mythical Juju?

    A homosocial, Robert Bly future?

  11. Mandos says:

    Mandos, the problem with just assigning male dominance to universal male aggression or paternity anxiety and leaving it at that, is that you need to explain why not all societies are male-dominated.

    The correlation between male-dominance and stress is well-supported. It may seem like a chicken-and-egg question, and in many cases it is, but the transition from gender equality to male dominance has been observed many times, and it’s always a response to stress. This is one reason why male dominance is seen by these anthropologists as not a “natural” state for humans, but a response to environmental factors. The impulse for male dominance may be “natural,” rooted in male testoterone and sexual competition, but something else allows it to become the prevailing social norm.

    See, I’m trying to avoid, in this case, starting immediately from paternity anxiety or testosterone or whatever, because that leads to all kinds of trouble, and instead start from the centrality of child-rearing and its social power.

    Thing is, not all societies may be male-dominated as such, but all of them have sexual expectations and mores that at least create the illusion of husbands and fathers. In a matrilocal society, the men go to their wives families. But they are still becoming a part of a woman’s family through the expectation of fatherhood, which requires certain control systems for social mores.

    Vastly more societies use an easy and certain toolbox (relatively speaking) for the same effect, one of whose tools is rape.

    It may be that environmental factors trigger male dominance and feed into it. Like I said, I don’t think it explains this particular form.

  12. Violet says:

    The question is, is there another mechanism? How could it be implemented? If not fear and dependence, then what is more efficient/effective? Or should men be persuaded that it is better for all of us to accept peripherality and maybe Mythical Juju?

    Well, if you want an example of a matrifocal, relatively gender-balanced, rape-free society where men have their own very special magic joo-joo that makes them feel very important without stepping on women, look no further than the Minangkabau of Indonesia. They call themselves a matriarchy, since land and lineage is through the female line, but really they are gender-equal in a separate spheres sort of way. And the special role of men is as the keepers of Adat, the lore and law of their people. They also hold the ceremonial roles and wear nice fancy hats — all those kinds of things that usually go along with male joo-joo. But they don’t actually dominate women at all.

    Rape is abhorred in their culture; actually all male violence against women is abhorred. They regard men of other cultures as beasts. Minangkabau men are strong and respected in their society, but dominating or brutalizing women has no part in their behavior.

  13. KC says:

    I confess complete ignorance of Friedle and Martin & Voorhies and Sanday and their work (heck, I only got through the first 35 comments on Today’s Lesson). Do they actually document a historical pre-stress period relatively free of male dominance? I’d be particularly interested if Sanday can point to a group whose mythos supporting or mitigating male dominance predates the response to stress that it supposedly shaped (as opposed to a mythologized history of the golden age before stress happened). It is also not clear to me that competition between groups as opposed to cooperation (and how did they get to be separate groups anyway?) is the inevitable response to scarcity. And if I have to clear land I’ll take an ox over a man any day. But back when I was reading anthropology only three women had ever written it, so I have some catching up to do.

  14. Mandos says:

    It’s striking to me that there is one type society that no one ever alleges. I mean, people allege matriarchies, gender-egalitarian societies, and of course we all know patriarchies…

    But the one type of society no one ever alleges are ones in which men are socially dominant yet do not seek to control female sexuality. I mean, societies in which men are the councils and the collective deciders, but do not require the allocation of women as resources and rewards.

    Maybe I’m wrong about this nonexistence. But if I’m right, then that’s pretty striking, as I said.

  15. Mandos says:

    Well, if you want an example of a matrifocal, relatively gender-balanced, rape-free society where men have their own very special magic joo-joo that makes them feel very important without stepping on women, look no further than the Minangkabau of Indonesia. They call themselves a matriarchy, since land and lineage is through the female line, but really they are gender-equal in a separate spheres sort of way.

    I’ve heard of them. But despite the inheritance through women, what precisely is their family structure. Is there a father or husband role? I don’t think they were one of the societies where these roles were actually absent. Those are a vanishingly small minority.

    Also, well, now that we believe that it’s all mythical juju, where’s our replacement for that? Men may have a strong role in their community…but it’s only sustainable within a certain kind of mythos. True, material centrality still resides in the social roles of women…

    As soon as men come into property, what happens? Does women’s liberation require that men do not inherit?

  16. Violet says:

    To KC in 13: there are extant societies with gender equality and a gender-equal mythos. Not many, but they’re there.

    But the standard anthro survey also includes societies documented in the past, particularly and most usefully the past two centuries as tribal groups were confronted with stress attendant on Western encroachment, shifting neighbors, etc., etc. That’s where you can see social structures changing: both in the Americas and Africa (especially Africa) there are striking shifts from matrifocal cultures to male dominance in the face of stress. Where groups have been documented over the course of many decades or a couple of centuries, the changes are very clear in how the social structure and corresponding mythos evolve.

  17. Mandos says:

    I checked Wikipedia about them, actually. They do have weddings. The male role has been sublimated to that of the scholarly wanderer, which is a bit better than Keeper of the Juju.

    And in a technological society, however, the scholarly wanderer is quite powerful. Perhaps…too powerful? That has interesting implications too.

  18. Violet says:

    Yes, the Minangkabau marry. They’re matrilocal and matrilineal, so you have that kinship system where the father is committed both to his children and to his sister’s children.

    The freakiest thing about the Minangkabau is that a couple of hundred years ago they adopted Islam — yet they managed to blend it with matriarchy. Men can marry more than one wife, Muslim-style, but the impact of this is completely different than in a patriarchal society. Women own the land and the houses and run the farms: it’s the woman’s home, and her mothers and sisters are the kin group. Men are already rather peripheral, and so if a husband has a couple of wives, basically he’s just on the go a lot. And the women really seem to do a lot of the deciding on who gets married, etc., etc. They seem to have complete control over their sexuality. It’s completely unlike any other Islamic society in the world.

    Peggy Reeves Sanday studied them for 20 years, and her book about them is very interesting. One of the most interesting things, for me, was how much everybody stressed the men’s role in keeping Adat. It seems so obviously compensatory, a way for the men to feel strong and important. But everybody’s very serious about it.

  19. Mandos says:

    Peggy Reeves Sanday studied them for 20 years, and her book about them is very interesting. One of the most interesting things, for me, was how much everybody stressed the men’s role in keeping Adat. It seems so obviously compensatory, a way for the men to feel strong and important. But everybody’s very serious about it.

    Well, like I said, in industrial society, it may be less trivial. And maybe that’s part of why industrial society, despite and even during stress (Rosie the Riveter?), seems to afford women over time more recognition. But without that, when some guy realizes that what he’s doing is trivial juju and where the real power is, well…

  20. Mandos says:

    I mean, take fathers’ right’s activism. I can’t help but see in some of their writing, the whiff of fear: fear of this very triviality and peripherality, characterized both by their anger at not being able to control the situation with their families AND their simultaneous desire to run away from their situation and into some other bitter centrality.

  21. Violet says:

    Oh, sometimes it’s very explicit. I remember back in the 70s reading an article in my grandparents’ Readers Digest by some godbag who was saying that women’s liberation had to be stopped because male dominance was critical to men’s psychic health and hence society. He as much as said that men are biologically surplus, but since we’re here, goddamnit, give us the keys to the kingdom or we will toast your ass.

    One of the ways I like to think about this (and I wish cicely were here, she loves this stuff) is how humans fit into the whole mammal scene. The thing about mammals is that the male role in reproduction is vastly reduced. They become a surplus population, really, and the question each species has to answer (as it were) is “what do we do with the males?” Will they lord it over the females? Live on the edges? Live in bachelor groups? Pair up with one female? Fight each other for a harem? Rotate in and out of female families?

    Well, that’s fun for thinking about deep origins.

    As for what takes the place of male joo-joo — does anything have to? One of the goals of feminism has been to enable women to find meaning in life beyond motherhood; we want a world where everybody can be what they wish. Why isn’t that good enough for men too?

  22. Mandos says:

    Because even if women have life beyond motherhood, they can always retreat to this fundamental centrality. And most women will, probably.

    Why would men be, say, threatened by a phenomenon as marginal as lesbian separatism? Because a lesbian separatist society has all the makings of a functioning, self propagating society lacking only a few drops of sticky goop. A male-separatist society definitely doesn’t—it’s a shadow of what a lesbian separatist society can build on its own, in some profound sense.

    Women alone are nearly complete. Men have to create that completeness somehow. Men’s fundamental fear of women’s liberation is while women may be liberated from motherhood, it’s a choice they can return to, and thus a massive power that they wield.

  23. Violet says:

    I feel bad: just got an email from Cicely an hour old saying she couldn’t post because of trouble with the security (captcha) code. I’ve turned it off for now so she can post.

    We may be inundated with exhortations to buy Viagra and make our girls happy.

  24. Violet says:

    Mandos, that’s very well said — your comment in #22 — and I’ve heard that before. But do you, as a modern educated man, actually feel that way?

  25. Paul Tergeist says:

    From 4: Paul, are you demonstrating for us the modern pseudo-scientific version of male joo-joo?
    -Violet

    Of course not! At least we don’t call it that. Look, before I waste a good try, are ANY of you falling for this in agreement with my analysis?

  26. Mandos says:

    Let me answer your question first by issuing a couple of disclaimers. I don’t know to what extent my own Personal Feeling has been biased or muddled or affected by all the academicky mental circumambulations I’ve done on this topic in my spare time. Secondly, I AM living the life of a younger bachelor non-uncle, and live contentedly doing working creative works. So I am not representative in two directions—I am probably (without being boastful) more actively conscious of this issue than the overwhelming majority of men, whom I doubt think about it much at all, AND at present I lack a stake in it, and have never had a stake in it, actually, and not YET actively wanted one.

    As a Modern Educated Man, I live in an industrial society whose functioning depends on more than just children, even though children are crucial. Therefore, my labour potentially supports this, and potentially supports children who aren’t mine, and thus I’m not as profoundly peripheral as a male member of a primitive society. The complexity of civilizations allows one to find a centrality that is indirectly related to children. (BUT, there’s nothing I do that a woman can’t do…)

    Furthermore, as a Modern Educated Man, I have no doubt that if I wanted to be a husband and father, I could. Most men become this at some point. So I have no rational fear of my own peripherality. Even better, my awareness of feminism has led me to a further reassurance: even most very conscious radical feminists seem to have a man and even children in their lives. Even women who have been hurt badly and have placed the Blame where it might really lie, well, they actually by and large WANT to bring men into this centrality, and are HAPPY when they are able to safely share with men. Political lesbian separatism is at best a fringe even there, and even its many of practitioners seem to use it instrumentally, rather than as a vision of how society should always be.

    So, rationally, there’s nothing for a man to fear in an equal society. It probably wouldn’t peripheralize men to the limited extent of the Minangkabau. Women, by and large, don’t seem to want to do this, even those who rationally should by the way men have treated them.

    But. But (and you know there was one coming), it’s still subtly discombobulating, the sneaking suspicion that this is on the sufference of women, and that one is, to put it most charitably, a luxury good. That males are somehow, in this, fundamentally deficient and expendable, in that they require close association with a woman and her body in order to experience the full range of humanity. I *think*, as I said above (having a devil of a time finding the quote on the web) that Marilyn French said that it would be better of men could find their centrality in what women have done for time immemorial…but how do to that without being implicitly an optional extension of a woman? One who isn’t really, actually threatened with severing…but is nevertheless subtly vulnerable to it.

    (And how do you really know that a feminist’s association with male partnership happens to be equal and not a result of subtle patriarchal conditioning?)

    And that’s why, I think, that when male trolls call feminists “man-haters”, underlying this is the hesitant, desperate question, “Do you *really* think I am expendable?” And when one calls a feminist’s husband “pussy-whipped” when he supports her is an accusation, “You’ve agreed that you’re expendable and you live on her sufferance.”

    And implicit in that sufferance is the seductive, “But she owes it to you.” And in that “owes”, rape.

    Because except in control of women, how are men not better than a luxury good? Even though one is secure in the knowledge that women will usually choose this luxury.

  27. Mandos says:

    And as an aside, if you believe that societies with the Magical Male Juju can be gender-equal, do you think that a post-patriarchal society can have an all-male social club? Would it be meaningful or consistent?

  28. Alon Levy says:

    I’d have responded much earlier, but it’s the first time since my previous reply in the other thread that I have access to the Internet.

    Let me just say that when you put things this way, I don’t come away with the feeling that you’re a fact-hating fanatic, but with the feeling that you genuinely care about how the patriarchy evolved. I may disagree with you about the political value of such an investigation, but I don’t think that you’re engaging in pseudo-intellectual bullshit, which here is what matters – after all, abstract algebra clearly has no political value.

    Now, on to more specific points:

    Because they ate bugs, and no one would ever eat bugs unless they were desperate for protein because bugs are so icky. Bugs (worms, larvae, etc.) are a far better source of protein than large animals. It is culture that makes them seem unappetizing, probably (IMHO) because women could “hunt” them at least as well as men could.

    A while ago I read on Wikipedia that societies develop insect taboos (pun intended) if they have other sources of protein, namely large animals. Now Wikipedia sometimes gets things wrong – I know, I once accidentally inserted a falsehood into a mathematics article – but assuming it’s right on this one, it would be sensible to conclude that if we encounter a new society that eats insects, then it will lack larger game animals.

    And as an aside, if you believe that societies with the Magical Male Juju can be gender-equal, do you think that a post-patriarchal society can have an all-male social club? Would it be meaningful or consistent?

    In principle, it’s evidently possible, because there exist non-patriarchal societies with all-male social clubs.

    In practice, I think what matters is whether it’s possible in the post-patriarchal societies that are likely to spawn in the next few decades, or centuries. In that case, I’m leaning toward a negative answer, since the modern way of weakening the patriarchy seems to be based on inserting women into positions of power, which used to be all-male clubs and are now less and less so. But obviously trends might change, and the experience of non-Western societies may turn out to be different.

  29. cicely says:

    Thanks, Violet..well, this thread has taken off like the proverbial rocket since I wrote this, (after comment no.4) but here it is anyway….(saved to word – hope the layout is ok.)

    Great post, Violet. I need to print it off and thoroughly absorb it. This question has occupied me for eons too. I once had the thought myself that since women create life, and at one time men weren’t even aware of their own role in this, men may have felt a need to compensate so big that they had to have control over absolutely everything else just to have equal importance…womb envy! And there’s that observation by Margaret Mead that in all societies she’d studied, whatever men did, whether it was hunting or cooking and weaving baskets (as in Bali when the musculature of men and women wasn’t all that different), it was regarded by the whole society (apparently) as more important than whatever women did. Interesting.

    (part two)
    A number of comments have reinforced this notion of the male need to feel more important. Also fits in with something else I’ve wondered about which might be related. In studies about a decade ago now, adolescent boys and girls were given written assignments and after they’d been marked they were all asked to explain why they felt they hadn’t done better than however well they had in fact done. A commonality among the girls was that they blamed themselves. ‘I didn’t study enough’, I may have slightly misunderstood the question’ – etc. A commonality among the boys was that they blamed external sources. ‘A loud party next door prevented me studying enough’, ‘the questions were framed in a different way to what I expected’, etc.

    There’s the one I’m sure we’re all familiar with where, although women have the designated role of cooking for the family, all the best chefs in the world were long said to be men. I grew up on that one!

    I’d love to know the actual source of this need, especially as it appears to be catered to to some degree even in relatively egalitarian societies.

    Must be off for my ritual Sunday candlelit bath with Sunday night jazz on the radio….looking forward to reading everyones thoughts tomorrow…

    cicely

  30. cicely says:

    I may have digressed slightly there and since this is not a lively conversation around a table there’s no-one to bring me back on point if so…I’m bringing in male ego – individually and collectively. I’m not sure how it fits in. Need more time to carefully read everyone’s comments and think…

  31. Mandos says:

    Let me just say that when you put things this way, I don’t come away with the feeling that you’re a fact-hating fanatic, but with the feeling that you genuinely care about how the patriarchy evolved. I may disagree with you about the political value of such an investigation, but I don’t think that you’re engaging in pseudo-intellectual bullshit, which here is what matters – after all, abstract algebra clearly has no political value.

    I don’t know where this comes from…

  32. Mandos says:

    By the way, Violet, I’m getting really to like this blog. This is the first time I’ve been able to push this discussion this far without getting into a flamewar.

  33. Alon Levy says:

    A while ago I bashed a part in Against Our Will where Brownmiller says, without providing a single concrete fact, that war, slavery, and other such evils could only arise after men started raping women.

  34. CR says:

    WOW!!!! This is the very best thing I have ever read- this thread. It makes me think of and understand things that I noticed in the world but can’t put it all together. I hope this discussion could continue a little more. There’s so much more that could be said. I am not smart or articulate enough to say them. but you guys are. I hope you all will say more.

  35. CR says:

    And I sure hope this particular thread could manage to stay more or less on subject. It’s such and interesting subject and helps folks to understand better themselves and what they are looking at in the world.

  36. will says:

    Is this a pharmaceutical infomercial for male magic joo joo? Apparently, I need to purchase some immediately. I lack the ability to dominate the women around me.

    Do you sell this magic male joo joo in bulk? How can I get some?

    I will have to come back and read this thread more when I get finished with all chores given to me by my female commanders.

    It would seem that those who control food, shelter and protect naturally get the last word. At its basest level, I can generally win a battle of muscle with many women. As we got to a more modern society, wages and financial issues are more powerful than pure physical strength. But, of course, that still largely means men are more powerful.

  37. Alon Levy says:

    Was the rise of male dominance connected to the decline of hunting-gathering and the rise of agriculture?

  38. KC says:

    Don’t you people sleep?

    Here’s a thesis: Humans, as a species, must reproduce to survive. The human form of mammalian reproduction imposes a huge burden on the individual females of the species, even in a (non-existent) society where males take over all the work of childrearing at the earliest possible moment, pregnancy, birthing and nursing are onerous, unpleasant and/or dangerous. One might think females willingly endure all this as the price to be paid for having sex with males, but — how shall I put this — insemination plays a very small part in female sexual satisfaction. Yet copulation must occur or the species will die out. Fortunately for the species, males are sexually more aggressive and large enough to have their ways with pretty much any female, willing or not.

    But a society based on raw brute force would lack the cohesion and cooperation needed to exploit its environment effectively. It is more adaptive for all members of the society to believe that whatever the males do to fritter away their spare time (hunting, fighting with each other, analytic philosophy, etc.) is so important and essential that it entitles them to sex under whatever circumstances they deem appropriate.

  39. Mandos says:

    That’s an interesting idea except that while copulation doesn’t do all that much for women in terms of pure pleasure, many women still seem to want it. I suspect that the human race would have survived without that story.

  40. KC says:

    And some random responses to comments above:

    Violet said: But the standard anthro survey also includes societies documented in the past, particularly and most usefully the past two centuries as tribal groups were confronted with stress attendant on Western encroachment, shifting neighbors, etc., etc. That’s where you can see social structures changing: both in the Americas and Africa (especially Africa) there are striking shifts from matrifocal cultures to male dominance in the face of stress.

    It must be extraordinarily difficult for a patriarchy-trained observer watching the encroachment of Western patriarchy on tribal groups to separate the effects of the foreign ideas from the effects of the indigenous mythos.

    Mandos said: I mean, take fathers’ right’s activism. I can’t help but see in some of their writing, the whiff of fear: fear of this very triviality and peripherality, characterized both by their anger at not being able to control the situation with their families AND their simultaneous desire to run away from their situation and into some other bitter centrality.

    Father lose control over their families in divorce (assuming that is an accurate description of what happens, which I suspect it isn’t) through the actions of a male-dominated judicial system executing a patriarchal law. Looking at the family courts today one might think they are dominated by women, but that is because family law has very little prestige (because its business always involves women and children). For most of the 20th Century fathers automatically got custody of their kids in divorce. The change to nearly universal maternal custody occurred while the bench and bar were still overwhelmingly male.

    Violet said: As for what takes the place of male joo-joo — does anything have to? One of the goals of feminism has been to enable women to find meaning in life beyond motherhood; we want a world where everybody can be what they wish. Why isn’t that good enough for men too?

    My experience tells me that women who think they will find meaning in life through even unrestricted participation in formerly male activities are in for really serious disappointment. Apart from enabling them to “have” wives and children, male activities have all the meaning of US football games. It is only male joo-joo that makes “life beyond motherhood” look meaningful–the same male joo-joo that makes domestic accomplishment meaningless. To put it less bleakly, I think women have always found meaning beyond motherhood but were unable to share these meanings with other women due to isolation and to male domination of public life.

    Cicely said: And there’s that observation by Margaret Mead that in all societies she’d studied, whatever men did, whether it was hunting or cooking and weaving baskets (as in Bali when the musculature of men and women wasn’t all that different), it was regarded by the whole society (apparently) as more important than whatever women did. Interesting. A number of comments have reinforced this notion of the male need to feel more important.

    I think I’ll claim this comment as evidence to prove my thesis in #38. :)

  41. Mandos says:

    Father lose control over their families in divorce (assuming that is an accurate description of what happens, which I suspect it isn’t) through the actions of a male-dominated judicial system executing a patriarchal law.

    But I was talking about people’s feelings about it. Men who lose control write about it in a certain way. Women who lose control write about it somewhat differently?

    It is only male joo-joo that makes “life beyond motherhood” look meaningful–the same male joo-joo that makes domestic accomplishment meaningless. To put it less bleakly, I think women have always found meaning beyond motherhood but were unable to share these meanings with other women due to isolation and to male domination of public life.

    What activities are you talking about here? Are you talking about participation in, say, astronomy and physics? In business? Are you claiming that all these machinations of industrial society are less meaningful than motherhood?

    I mean, male domination of public life IS that joojoo. Wouldn’t women’s activities then beyond motherhood just be similarly meaningless?

    You’re proposing that men’s lives as men really are profoundly meaningless in at least some way compared to that of women. That analytic philosophy, for instance, is a meaningless pursuit that won’t give women much sense of purpose more than motherhood.

    But the flip side of the coin is that motherhood is part of our animal nature, and you’re claiming that our animal nature is more meaningful than what we do beyond animal acts. Are you?

  42. CR says:

    I’m not commenting about anything you smarty pants are saying. But I wanted to say something.
    Mia Hamm is the leading goal scorer in the world of soccer, both male or female. But no one cares all that much in relation to her male counterparts. The female professional soccer league went kaput last year because they said no one was watching. Yet my lover, who is a mad soccer fan preffered watching female soccer to male because he said that the females play an older form of what he called “honourable’ soccer in realtion to the modern way the males play. He could not understand why any true soccer fan would not love to watch female soccer being played as a pure form of the sport.

    Also, in my own line of work I never let on that I am female becuase the males in my profession carry much more prestige than females. Even when the females are far,far better at times than their male counterparts. Being reclusive and having a name that is undecernable whether it belongs to a male or a female helps me in this. While I don’t pretend to be male. I don’t tell anyone other wise. It’s a mythical male joo- joo at work. But I don’t know how it got that way. Why is it that whatever thing males ( even if it’s something unimportant and silly) are doing is almost automatically more prestigous or more interesting than almost anything the ladies are doing? Not that I am affected too much personally- just noticed it under the sun. In big ways and small.

  43. KC says:

    Mandos said: I mean, male domination of public life IS that joojoo. Wouldn’t women’s activities then beyond motherhood just be similarly meaningless?
    [. . .]
    But the flip side of the coin is that motherhood is part of our animal nature, and you’re claiming that our animal nature is more meaningful than what we do beyond animal acts. Are you?

    I suppose I am. Public life is shaped by male joo joo. Cicely reminds us that public life everywhere assigns more meaning to male activities than to female activities. Seeking more meaning within this framework would seem to require taking on male activities. But what, apart from their place in the male joo joo, makes male activities “more” meaningful than domestic tasks? Wouldn’t we need an “objective” measure–a standard independent of and outside the male joo joo–to contradict or validate the male joo joo? Divine revelation? The mind of Eru? Do you have a better objective standard than importance to the perpetuation of the species?

    I think the question of how meaning came to be male is just another way of asking the original question–what is the origin of male dominance?

  44. Violet says:

    So many interesting comments! Let me course through here and reply to some:

    Mandos in 26 says in response to the modern need for joo-joo –

    As a Modern Educated Man, I live in an industrial society whose functioning depends on more than just children, even though children are crucial. Therefore, my labour potentially supports this, and potentially supports children who aren’t mine, and thus I’m not as profoundly peripheral as a male member of a primitive society. The complexity of civilizations allows one to find a centrality that is indirectly related to children. (BUT, there’s nothing I do that a woman can’t do…)

    All of that makes sense to me for both male and female members of a modern society. Woman As Mother + Male Joo Joo = Everybody Matters may be a necessary equation in primitive societies, but surely in a modern world we can all be beyond that. I’m not a mother and probably never will be, and I actually feel oppressed by the notion that I need motherhood to matter. A modern technological society gives all of us the opportunity to create lives beyond the bare cycle of birth and survival.

    This suggests to me that education and opportunity for all people are the answer to rising above the need for joo-joo.

    But. But (and you know there was one coming), it’s still subtly discombobulating, the sneaking suspicion that this is on the sufference of women, and that one is, to put it most charitably, a luxury good. That males are somehow, in this, fundamentally deficient and expendable, in that they require close association with a woman and her body in order to experience the full range of humanity.

    Okay, so this subtle discombobulation: do you think that’s ineradicable? Among the educated, enlightened men who comment on this blog — is this still the feeling? That deep down you need some joo-joo to correct your “expendability”? I apologize if that sounds dismissive, because I don’t mean it to. We are all humans, we’re all conscious and have big-brains. All of us have profound needs and hopes and hungers. That’s true regardless of our chromosomal arrangement. I am completely sympathetic to the male need to feel “at the center.”

  45. Violet says:

    Mandos in 32:

    By the way, Violet, I’m getting really to like this blog. This is the first time I’ve been able to push this discussion this far without getting into a flamewar.

    Do you mean you personally get flamed? Why? Nothing you’ve said here seems the slightest bit flameworthy. I am curious.

  46. Violet says:

    Alon in 33:

    A while ago I bashed a part in Against Our Will where Brownmiller says, without providing a single concrete fact, that war, slavery, and other such evils could only arise after men started raping women.

    I think we’ve been talking past each other on this point. Brownmiller’s observation that rape enforces male dominance is what I alluded to, and it’s an observation well-supported by anthropology and social science. Brownmiller’s insight that rape isn’t excess lust but actually a mechanism of control is a benchmark in human studies, and has paid tremendous dividends in understanding social dynamics.

    A separate topic is Brownmiller’s theory about rape and the origin of patriarchy. It is always tricky when we’re trying to sort out the etiology of human social structures. What we can say from anthropology is that rape goes along with male dominance in society and warfare, and is absent (virtually) from gender-equal societies, which also are generally peaceful. That’s a clear correlation. These things get bundled together in observed societies: peace/egalitarianism/non-rape, war/male dominance/rape. We can also say from history (see Lerner) that Sumerian slavery arose as an outgrowth of woman-stealing and rape of captive females. We also see in the Sumerian mist a society where women’s rights and freedom are being eroded before our eyes, century by century. Based on these things (and others, I’m simplifying) it is reasonable to conjecture that male sexual power over women is connected to the rise of patriarchy and war and slavery.

    The difficulties are the chicken-and-egg question vis-a-vis rape and male dominance, and the fact that, to me at least, looking for the origin of human social structures in Sumeria is about 100,000 years too late.

    I think that Brownmiller’s analysis of how rape functions as part of the toolkit dominating women is superb, absolutely phenomenal. I think her theory of origins has merit but needs to be pushed back in time, and then cross-correlated with the study of animal behavior, primatology, and anthropology.

  47. Violet says:

    CR in 34:

    WOW!!!! This is the very best thing I have ever read- this thread.

    Okay, well, maybe not the best thing you ever read, but I’m glad you like it.

    It’s a funny thing. I had nothing else to write about so sat down for an hour on Saturday night and just wrote about a subject I know and love. Thought to myself, nobody gives a damn about this stuff except me and other nerds. So it’s cool that people are interested.

  48. CR says:

    I think lots of people are interested. Both for males and females. This subject ties into nearly everything else you guys have been talking about on these blogs. It is the very core of it. It is also non judgmental. It is just trying to get to bottom of things. You could fill very interesting books with this subject. Andit’s funny too. I was giggling about the funny hats and the magic stick. Becuase it made me think of some of the male only clubs that they have in America (like the Elks and VFW etc). And wouldn’t you believe it- all of them wear funny hats. I even remember my Dad getting in trouble by the other men because he wouldn’t wear his funny hat. And he got called in front of the Grand Poo Bah and had to answer to him. The Grand Poo Bah ( big beer belly) had the best funny hat. He had the most bagdes and pins on his.

    The other thing that seems to me to be very male joo- joo is this inexplicable urge to make a commitee for everything, form a heirarchy then regulate whatever it was they needed to form the commitee to control. And of course, also need to make “The Ladies Auxillary”. After all, someone needs to cook the food, answer the phone, and do the paper work. Che rincoglioni- bad language. sorry to offend- not really.

  49. Violet says:

    cicely in 29:

    I’d love to know the actual source of this need, especially as it appears to be catered to to some degree even in relatively egalitarian societies.

    It doesn’t seem mysterious to me. Consider: a group of human animals, all equally intelligent. But half of the group is excluded from the most important thing in the world to a primitive society: the creation and nurturance of life itself. To me it’s not surprising at all that the excluded half of the group would find ways to carve out a meaning for themselves that is equal in gravitas to the baby stuff.

    When the male joo-joo goes far enough it becomes outrageously over-compensatory, as with the Greeks who had so elevated the male role that they regarded the father as the only true parent of the child. The mother had no role in creating life, just in carrying it, dammit! And not just the Greeks: any number of male commenters throughout Western history have rhapsodized on how terribly important the male role is and how silly and unimportant the female role is…

    Feminism would not be necessary if it weren’t for this over-compensating by men.

  50. Violet says:

    I was giggling about the funny hats and the magic stick. Becuase it made me think of some of the male only clubs that they have in America (like the Elks and VFW etc). And wouldn’t you believe it- all of them wear funny hats.

    CR, the hats kill me. That’s what I think of whenever I see a picture of the pope in his mitre. “Ooh, pope-man have heap BIG joo-joo!”

  51. Violet says:

    Alon in 37:

    Was the rise of male dominance connected to the decline of hunting-gathering and the rise of agriculture?

    Most hunter-gatherer groups are actually more one than the other. Groups oriented towards big-game hunting, which is generally the province of men, have male-centered mythos and usually male dominance to some degree. Groups oriented towards plant gathering augmented by small-animal hunting (which men and women can do equally) have a female or couple-centered mythos and are more likely to be gender-equal.

    The animal/plant dichotomy continues on to pastoralism (male-centered) and horticulture (female/couple-centered).

    Plant economies only become male-centered and male-dominated with the development of heavy agriculture, which involves men working the fields and using draft animals.

    However, these are not 100% correlations. There are heavy agriculture societies and hunter societies that are basically gender equal. It’s just that gender equality is far more common with foragers and horticulturalists, and far rarer with big-game hunters and heavy agriculturalists. Obviously in the latter cases, male control over economic production looks like a contributing factor to male dominance. But again we have a chicken-and-egg problem, because hunting societies are also societies usually experiencing food stress, and heavy agriculture may be a response to ecological stress that doesn’t allow people to get by with simple horticulture.

  52. Cassandra says:

    That’s what I think of whenever I see a picture of the pope in his mitre. “Ooh, pope-man have heap BIG joo-joo!”

    me, I’m thinking the originator of the tall mitre wearing was a particularly short pope and cowboy boots hadn’t been invented yet.

  53. CR says:

    Now, Her Majesty has some very cool hats. That’s how you can tell she’s the Queen. She also has a magic stick and a sacred rock. Oh, no that’s not right. She doesn’t have her sacred rock anymore because Scotland called and said they wanted their rock back.

    Humans are a scream.

    Disclaimer. so help me I mean no disrespect. I’m just kidding around.

  54. CR says:

    Way to cause this thread to wander. I’m sorry Violet. The very thing I didn’t want to happen. Just being a shmoe. Very sorry, you fancy types.

  55. cicely says:

    Violet says:

    cicely in 29:

    I’d love to know the actual source of this need, especially as it appears to be catered to to some degree even in relatively egalitarian societies.

    It doesn’t seem mysterious to me. Consider: a group of human animals, all equally intelligent. But half of the group is excluded from the most important thing in the world to a primitive society: the creation and nurturance of life itself. To me it’s not surprising at all that the excluded half of the group would find ways to carve out a meaning for themselves that is equal in gravitas to the baby stuff.

    When the male joo-joo goes far enough it becomes outrageously over-compensatory, as with the Greeks who had so elevated the male role that they regarded the father as the only true parent of the child.

    No, not mysterious or surprising at all. I’m more convinced than I ever was. I think my comment there was a little meaningless. I do that sometimes…like I’m saying ‘give me the absolute proof so I can put this away’, but – enough is enough…

    I think it was when agriculture became much more central that men found this related ‘explanation’ for procreation that suited them rather well and stuck around for a while… The child was in the male seed and the womans belly was merely the field it was planted in.

  56. CR says:

    Just trying to show how people become imprisoned by their respect for the past symbolicly and otherwise. And I am one of the worst people this way, so I’m not judging. Just showing. Humans are vey complex animals, yet also so simple. People attach so much meaning to things sometimes. This is gong to sound strange, but I might even risk my life for that rock, that hat of Her Majesty’s or that magic stick if it ever can down to it. I don’t even know why.

  57. CR says:

    Sorry Miss Cicely, we were writing at the same time. I thought I was all by myself.

  58. Mandos says:

    KC: I suppose I am. Public life is shaped by male joo joo. Cicely reminds us that public life everywhere assigns more meaning to male activities than to female activities. Seeking more meaning within this framework would seem to require taking on male activities. But what, apart from their place in the male joo joo, makes male activities “more” meaningful than domestic tasks? Wouldn’t we need an “objective” measure–a standard independent of and outside the male joo joo–to contradict or validate the male joo joo? Divine revelation? The mind of Eru? Do you have a better objective standard than importance to the perpetuation of the species?

    Let me turn this around. I’m not sure I care to live in a world where the maximum value is survival. Survival for survival’s sake is not acceptable to me. I’m not saying that’s what you’re proposing, but I suggest that it’s basis for valuation of the rest of human life beyond survival and propagation.

    That doesn’t mean that survival is unimportant, Just that it’s not enough. It’s clearly not enough for Dr. Socks either.

    “Contradict or validate the male joo joo.” What function do you propose this serves and what do you think would be the outcome?

  59. Mandos says:

    Okay, so this subtle discombobulation: do you think that’s ineradicable? Among the educated, enlightened men who comment on this blog — is this still the feeling? That deep down you need some joo-joo to correct your “expendability”? I apologize if that sounds dismissive, because I don’t mean it to. We are all humans, we’re all conscious and have big-brains. All of us have profound needs and hopes and hungers. That’s true regardless of our chromosomal arrangement. I am completely sympathetic to the male need to feel “at the center.”

    Well, here’s the thing. In an society in which patriarchy is entrenched, there is no reason for men to feel discombobulated about it or even to think about it. The Patriarch knows he is at the centre, full stop. It is precisely a function of being Modern, Enlightened Men that the psychological conundrum arises in one way or another. When gender roles are unsettled.

    I’m uncomfortable with the notion of inventing some kind of artificial juju just to compensate for it. It would look silly. But no doubt this is behind the whole Robert Blyish mythopoeism that occasionally rears its juju-festooned head.

    Feminism has largely, and maybe even rightly, declared this to be Not Its Problem. But I daresay it is the main source of resistance to feminism among well-intentioned men. Not having recourse to artificial juju, and having bumped the patriarch off his pedestal, where do men go but slink off into the periphery? How are men needed? When, say, Twisty declares that marriage is the central institution of the patriarchy and must eventually be eliminated…well, marriage is also the mechanism by which we confer a little more meaningful juju onto men—maybe precisely because it usurps women’s power. It may not be feminism’s job to provide a replacement, but it can hardly hurt.

    Most men don’t have anything rational and material to fear from the reduction, at least, of patriarchy. I mean, we can say that men have more privilege than women at all classes, but for most men I’m willing to bet the loss of that privilege is not going to have them sleeping in the streets or anything. But there is the risk of losing the psychological centre. You can say that it’s up to men to come up with a replacement in the emancipation of women…but there already is one. It’s called patriarchy.

  60. Alon Levy says:

    We can also say from history (see Lerner) that Sumerian slavery arose as an outgrowth of woman-stealing and rape of captive females. We also see in the Sumerian mist a society where women’s rights and freedom are being eroded before our eyes, century by century. Based on these things (and others, I’m simplifying) it is reasonable to conjecture that male sexual power over women is connected to the rise of patriarchy and war and slavery.

    The problem is that she doesn’t say anything like that, or even acknowledges that there’s a chicken-and-egg problem. All she does is say, without introducing any evidence, that war and slavery could have only arisen after rape did. It’s the same as the difference between historical analyses of the effects of colonialism, and simplistic comments that colonialism is the source of all of the third world’s present problems.

    But what, apart from their place in the male joo joo, makes male activities “more” meaningful than domestic tasks? Wouldn’t we need an “objective” measure–a standard independent of and outside the male joo joo–to contradict or validate the male joo joo?

    Obviously there’s a huge cultural component involved here, but a while ago, one commenter on The Countess mentioned a study that showed that full-time caregivers, including stay-at-home moms and people who care for their elderly parents, had unusually high rates of depression. It seems that people need coworkers, and in general a life outside caring for people. I presume this doesn’t apply to social workers because they have other social workers to talk to, but people who just care for their families appear to have this problem.

    However, these are not 100% correlations. There are heavy agriculture societies and hunter societies that are basically gender equal. It’s just that gender equality is far more common with foragers and horticulturalists, and far rarer with big-game hunters and heavy agriculturalists. Obviously in the latter cases, male control over economic production looks like a contributing factor to male dominance. But again we have a chicken-and-egg problem, because hunting societies are also societies usually experiencing food stress, and heavy agriculture may be a response to ecological stress that doesn’t allow people to get by with simple horticulture.

    Hmmm… so it all boils down to upper body strength, or something like that?

    More to the point, is there any correlation between the patriarchy and high infant mortality? A high infant mortality would require women to bear more children, which would require them to be pregnant more often and hence less economically productive. Does that contribute to patriarchalism, or is it unrelated?

    It’s a funny thing. I had nothing else to write about so sat down for an hour on Saturday night and just wrote about a subject I know and love. Thought to myself, nobody gives a damn about this stuff except me and other nerds. So it’s cool that people are interested.

    It’s always like that, regardless of whether the blogger posts about Hox genes, the use/mention distinction, the origins of the patriarchy, or superstring theory.

  61. Violet says:

    Feminism has largely, and maybe even rightly, declared this to be Not Its Problem.

    Well, yes, but surely we can take off our Feminist Activist hats and just be anthropologists, perhaps from another planet — or perhaps just be human beings thinking about what our species needs to flourish and be happy.

    As long as you stay locked in the history of civilization, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the patriarchy is not the only way for humans to organize themselves. It’s also not the only way for men to be happy. Happiness is a hard thing to measure, but the most joyous societies seem to be those foragers and horticulturalists who have little sex role division and a thoroughly balanced gender outlook. Like the Mbuti, where females are powerful and revered and loved, and men’s special singing joo-joo just seems deeply sweet (they sing to the forest to protect the tribe from the animals and fearsome things). Their lives are shared, women help with the hunt and men help with the babies, and everybody talks things over to make decisions. Even the tension that arises between men and women is dealt with healthily — the males and females play a game of tug of war, and if the women start to lose one of the men will join their side, and if the men start to lose one of the women will join their side.

    Balanced societies like this do exist and have been documented in Africa, Indonesia, the South Pacific, and to a lesser extent in the Americas. They’re not imaginary.

    Of course, most of these societies do not qualify as ‘civilized’ so they seem far from our experience. Civilization is male-dominated not because men are capable of dreaming up civilization and women aren’t, but simply because a) it arises from heavy agriculture, which is usually male-dominated, b) the outwardness and conflict that civilization enjoins through trade and warfare enhance the male role in society, and c) labor specialization favors men economically since anything women do has to be compatible with raising children.

    Ironically, feminism and enlightenment perhaps can bring us back from the male domination of civilization to a more balanced arrangement, one that may have been common in our foraging past. But, you know, without the singing to the forest and the grass huts.

  62. Mandos says:

    Do you mean you personally get flamed? Why? Nothing you’ve said here seems the slightest bit flameworthy. I am curious.

    Yes, I personally get flamed.

    It’s partly, but not entirely, my fault. Early on when I started writing about this kind of thing on internet discussion boards, I was still groping for the right vocabulary in order to express it. And at the time, the most easily available vocabulary to me was Pinkerian EP talk. Because I’m deeply interested in cognition, that’s what was most available to me. Although I still believe that the questions that EP and its predecessors attempt to answer are still worth answering, I appreciate better why some people, especially feminists, are allergic to it.

    But after I dropped the Pinkerian EP talk, it was still difficult to talk about this without getting flamed, because it sounds like What About The Men Talk and Not Feminists Job to think about this. Maybe so, but I think the place of men in the postpatriarchy is a necessary discussion and perhaps the unsettled nature of the question impedes progress.

    Also some people simply demand purely psychologized/socialized/historical explanations. Inferring a story from axioms is just not the table for some peole, because it’s not usually part of the feminist tookit.

  63. Violet says:

    But after I dropped the Pinkerian EP talk, it was still difficult to talk about this without getting flamed, because it sounds like What About The Men Talk and Not Feminists Job to think about this.

    It’s all dependent on context. Asking ‘what about the men’ at Twisty’s is kind of like walking into a Black Panthers meeting and saying, “how can we help white people feel better about themselves?”

    Of course I adore Twisty, and her place is excellent for what it is. I love that blog. But here I guess I’m not so much running a Black Panther meeting as a feminist-informed random pedantry mixed-company discussion board, if that makes sense. I have zero tolerance for anti-feminism, but I’m very interested in how men can fit into a feminist world.

  64. Mandos says:

    Wikipedia says that the Mbuti are not matrilocal and they have a marriage custom via sister exchange and thus I’d expect they still have some (perhaps mild) controls over female sexuality.

    Happiness isn’t everything, like it or not. It’s nice to be loved, but as many people prefer to deny, it’s also nice to be needed. Some people may find dissatisfaction in a happy life, because they aren’t sure they’re needed. As much as contact with civilization may be disrupting some of these putative utopias, the dissatisfied have a way out that may also preserve some of these smaller societies’ beneficial properties.

    Of course, most of these societies do not qualify as ‘civilized’ so they seem far from our experience. Civilization is male-dominated not because men are capable of dreaming up civilization and women aren’t, but simply because a) it arises from heavy agriculture, which is usually male-dominated, b) the outwardness and conflict that civilization enjoins through trade and warfare enhance the male role in society, and c) labor specialization favors men economically since anything women do has to be compatible with raising children.

    The division of labour is what permitted the development of our technological society as I understand it, so…

    Ironically, feminism and enlightenment perhaps can bring us back from the male domination of civilization to a more balanced arrangement, one that may have been common in our foraging past. But, you know, without the singing to the forest and the grass huts.

    …I think it’s more ironic that the implication of all of this is therefore that patriarchy might be a phase required to turn the meaningless juju into something meaningful—the trappings of modern industrial society.

    So the question is, what is that balanced arrangement, without the singing to the forest? If it’s mere equality, how do you deal with the malaise of peripherality?

  65. Mandos says:

    It’s all dependent on context. Asking ‘what about the men’ at Twisty’s is kind of like walking into a Black Panthers meeting and saying, “how can we help white people feel better about themselves?”

    I barely if ever did this at Twisty’s. I’m not that dumb. :)

  66. KC says:

    Mandos said: Let me turn this around. I’m not sure I care to live in a world where the maximum value is survival. Survival for survival’s sake is not acceptable to me. I’m not saying that’s what you’re proposing, but I suggest that it’s basis for valuation of the rest of human life beyond survival and propagation.

    Let me be clear that I believe satisfaction and meaning can be derived from many things in life beyond survival and kids–which you would know the instant you saw my grubby house and the chores piling up around me while I think about this. I am questioning the measure according to which men’s activities are more valued than women’s in every known society and possible alternatives to that measure. I wonder if we have an idea of meaning that is not so soaked in male joo joo as to be unattainable by women, or so fundamentally empty as to be illusory. A scheme of valuation accepted by all members of society that ranks high hats (or analytic philosophy or astro-physics) over childrearing isn’t much help in finding a way for anyone to live a meaningful life.

    Actually, the idea floated in a number of comments that male joo joo is devised to compensate for male peripherality in reproduction implies that the only source of real meaning is reproduction. I don’t buy that either, but I see it as a sign of how complicated the question is.

    It is a privilege to be in a discussion with so many thoughtful and wise people but I can’t keep up. I’m going to read and reread this thread and get back to you later. Goodnight.

  67. Mandos says:

    Actually, the idea floated in a number of comments that male joo joo is devised to compensate for male peripherality in reproduction implies that the only source of real meaning is reproduction. I don’t buy that either, but I see it as a sign of how complicated the question is.

    It’s not really meaning, I think. It’s necessity. At the risk of sounding like Maureen Dowd, Are Men Necessary?

    MRAs have concluded that feminists believe that men are not, and thus conclude that this is a threat.

    That’s I was talking about “centrality” vs “peripherality” most of the time. Survival and propagation is central, but it’s not in itself more meaningful than high art.

  68. Violet says:

    Wikipedia says that the Mbuti are not matrilocal and they have a marriage custom via sister exchange and thus I’d expect they still have some (perhaps mild) controls over female sexuality.

    I just looked at that Wiki article and it’s rather bad. The “sister” exchange doesn’t involve real sisters, and to say that “men exchange their sisters” is just wrong. What happens is that a man who wishes to marry must find a woman of his own clan who will agree to marry a man of the clan that the first man wants to marry into. The Mbuti have complex kinship rules to maintain good relations and balance between clans, and at least one worker has said that their rules are too complex for outsiders to really understand in normal Western terms.

    And since the Mbuti are forest foragers, it’s not like patrilocality involves land or anything.

    Happiness isn’t everything, like it or not. It’s nice to be loved, but as many people prefer to deny, it’s also nice to be needed. Some people may find dissatisfaction in a happy life, because they aren’t sure they’re needed. As much as contact with civilization may be disrupting some of these putative utopias, the dissatisfied have a way out that may also preserve some of these smaller societies’ beneficial properties.

    By “happiness” I meant feeling needed and valued and fulfilled — all those things.

    The balanced societies I mentioned are not utopias, since people quarrel as people always do. But they show a way of human organization that is not patriarchal.

  69. Mandos says:

    So the ultimate question is (esp. for feminism), could what the Mbuti have be global. Is modern civilization going to reach the point where it could be as Mbuti have it, but without the tokenism of the forest-song?

  70. Paul Tergeist says:

    From 26: Because except in control of women, how are men not better than a luxury good? Even though one is secure in the knowledge that women will usually choose this luxury.
    -Mandos

    You were cooking right along until you derived this nonsense somewhere. Then the entire post fell apart. How many women live in homes built by women, with the plumbing, electrical and concrete/rock work done by women? It is not that they cannot do this work, it is that they CHOOSE not to. True, there ARE some women in law enforcement and fire service and a few can actually do their job without assistance from a man. But not many. Men are not a luxury in society and women are not as oppressed as this thread indicates. More young boys are raped and murdered than young girls, although I cannot find those data right now so I cannot prove it.

    Reading this blog one begins to see men as hulking monsters which lurk in the darkness waiting to rape every woman who comes by. Now I have never attempted to rape a woman, but I have roughhoused with some of them and lemme tell you that I usually got hurt, NOT them. I challenge anyone to tell their girlfriend to fight back and then try to rape her. Most of ‘em will hand you your balls and none of the attempts will be successful.

    To everyone after 26: I have decided to defend the idea, in future threads, that male “dominance” isn’t the crime you describe and, in fact, isn’t a crime at all; that anti-feminism is an overblown cause and has been since ‘The feminine mystique’; that whenever feminists band together they do something stupid (prohibition), and that only one in fifty-thousand of you could survive one season in the woods alone with nothing but a knife. If you want to pay my way to accompany you to insure that you don’t cheat, I guarantee that you will ask me to feed you by the third day.

    I will argue that men have not been oppressing women so much as carrying the load for them since time immemorial and that, except for occupying yourselves with trivia, having the occasional baby and being sexually available to as many men as you can get away with, you are basically stealing my oxygen and ruining America with your ‘politically correct’ agenda.

    Lemme see…..what did I leave out? Violet, can you think of anything? CR?

  71. Paul Tergeist says:

    to 68: Forget the Mbuti. They are a bad example of whatever you are trying to explain. http://www.ucc.uconn.edu/~epsadm03/mbuti.html

  72. Alon Levy says:

    So the ultimate question is (esp. for feminism), could what the Mbuti have be global. Is modern civilization going to reach the point where it could be as Mbuti have it, but without the tokenism of the forest-song?

    I don’t think post-patriarchalism is going to look anything like, forgive the term, pre-patriarchalism. What’s likely is that feminism will push more and more women into traditionally masculine jobs, so that the same old values will remain, but become gender neutral. At the end – say, in 200 years – civilizations will not change their views of which occupations are the most valuable, or of what types of violence are acceptable. For example, full-time parents will still be socially disadvantaged, but full-time parenthood will become very rare, with the number of stay-at-home moms decreasing to the current number of stay-at-home dads.

    Now, the reason I’m saying this is that a lot of cultural values seem to be impervious to social changes. I think Chomsky is being an idiot when he trivializes racism and sexism, but he has a point when he says that the modern capitalist system has become increasingly accommodating of feminism without changing in any fundamental way.

    In addition, some of the practices of the Mbuti are things you can only do in a pre-civilized society, or in a recently civilized one. In particular, the tribalism is something that won’t happen in the future unless there’s a nuclear holocaust or a similar disaster fragmenting the world into tiny communities.

    You were cooking right along until you derived this nonsense somewhere. Then the entire post fell apart. (…)

    Where’s Chris Clarke when we need him?

  73. Mandos says:

    Now, the reason I’m saying this is that a lot of cultural values seem to be impervious to social changes. I think Chomsky is being an idiot when he trivializes racism and sexism, but he has a point when he says that the modern capitalist system has become increasingly accommodating of feminism without changing in any fundamental way.

    Bwuh? I don’t ever remember him actually trivializing it for values of trivializing that I fid significant.

  74. The Countess says:

    Violet, I don’t know much about the topic you’re talking about, but it interests me. This is a good discussion. I am enjoying reading it.

    Do you or does anyone else here know if there have been patriarchal societies that were once matriarchal, but eventually reverted back to matriarchy once the stressors were eliminated? I don’t know if such a society exists, but it would be interesting if one did.

    Regarding men’s and fathers’ rights activists, I have often thought that the most stringent believers really fear that they are personally expendable. They tried to maintain power in their relationships with women, and those women were able to reject them without suffering much. Warren Farrell is one men’s rights writer whose prose is full of notions of men feeling as if they are expendable. When those guys whine about “man-haters”, I think they are projecting their own fears of feeling useless and expendable.

  75. CR says:

    I can say one society that was matriarchal in nature, then went to patriarchy then now is in the process of reverting back to matriarchy again. It is in the nation of Liberia in West Africa. They were a relatively peaceful folk with several different tribes. Some of which were matriarchal. The ladies pretty much ran the show and the fellows did fishing, or found other ways to make themselves useful. Then a number of things happened right in a row that caused a horrific civil war to break out. The males all got guns went bananas and that was the end of the matriarchal society. It was terribly stressed situation for 15 or more years. But now things have calmed down and they are only now beginning to go back to more the way it was a little bit. But it is still horrifically stressed out over there and I don’t know if things will ever go back to normal. Interestingly, they just elected Africa’s very first female president/leader to get them out of their mess. They had enough already with the male despots and trusted her. They are Africa’s oldest republic and now they have elected Africa’s first female leader. Wish her well. It’s a nasty job she’s got. Gonna be tough.

  76. CR says:

    Paul, Here you go. I don’t what you left out. But here’s my comments

    About men being a luxury good. I agree wholeheartedly with you that they are not in any way, shape or form a luxury good. And should never, ever think that.

    About the blog making men out to monsters and rapists. I have seen that on other threads- usually when talking about the phenomenon of rape, but I don’t get that so much on this one. It came up a few times, but it could have been worse. I also don’t think rape is central too much to this conversation. It’s a factor among many. But not at the heart of it. At least I don’t think so.

    Male dominance is not a crime. It has been at times in the past, unfortunately. and in some countries of the world it still is rather criminal. And at the very least, it’s kind of peskery.

    As for ladies surviving in the forest alone with only a knife for one season. Paul, you never know what folks have been through. You never know a person’s life. You’d probably be surprised-even awstruck by how much a woman can survive through alone. It’s not such a good idea to underestimate people- not just ladies, but anyone. You never know who you’re talking with on these blogs. Some folks, if you knew what they had been through, would make your hair stand on end.

    That last part about guys carrying the load for women, and woman fooling around with any man they can get away with and having the occational baby. What can i say? You know that isn’t accurate. You’re just being silly and wanting to rile folks up.

  77. CR says:

    Something about high art, if you mean sculpture and painting and what not. That is a wonderful example of joo- joo. Making something way more important than it really is. It is not really a very useful thing under the sun. In the years to come, it has some use to help people understand those who went before. Maybe from a historical perspective. But in and of itself it is not important. Not like math or science or having babies. Even if the apprentiseship to be a fine artist is probably longer than most proffessions. Violet said she hung around artists when she was younger and they seemed to be more educated than her corperate friends. I think it strange because most fine artists I know don’t know too much book learning. Some history and a few other things. But it’s just that it takes so long and so much dedication to be a technically good artist that there isn’t time to learn alot else but your craft.

    But everyone wants to important and matter in some way. And we all gotta make a living.

  78. Paul Tergeist says:

    CR, I like you. You are like fresh air after the smog of the city. Like a clear mountain stream after swimming in sewage. OK, I ain’t Will Shakespeare, but you get the idea.

    I’m betting that this doesn’t get any airtime here:

    http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-recant07.html

  79. Infidel says:

    One guy all alone on a desert island- no patriachy, no matriarchy, no dominance.

    One guy and one girl all alone on a desert island- maybe this, maybe that, close run thing but say it goes the way of dominance and patriarchy- It could have gone the other way. There was a mechanism and it came out patriarchy but the mechanism isn’t necessarily the rule.

    Two guys and one girl all alone on a desert island- apply the one guy/one girl mechanism- the two guys get together and worship the girl but she doesn’t dominate- she climbs up a tree and twitters.

    Five guys and twelve girls neighboring closely sixteen postal workers and a mule- draw your own conclusions but however it turns out you will never really know how it got that way, and even if you grasp and describe the mechanisms precisely it could have turned out another way.

    How is a Jersey bridge operator like a Mbuti?
    Now…how is a Male Jersey bridge operator like a Mbuti? How is a Male Jersey bridge operator like a Male Mbuti?

    In most societies I have knowledge of, getting up in the morning and going to sleep at night are the norm. What time do most rapes occur?

  80. CR says:

    Hi Paul, thank you. I feel important now.
    That story is about a bunch of little kids doing things that are much too grown up for them to comprehend. When they get older, I imagine they’ll be wishing it hadn’t happened. I do not understand the meaning of why you linked to it, though.

    and on a another cheery note that has nothing to do with this thread. Today UN peacekeepers in Liberia got discovered that they were trading UN relief food to little children in return for sex. The UN says it will investigate. Children because they think that the younger they are the less chance of them having any diseases. Isn’t that a lovely story?

  81. Paul Tergeist says:

    I linked it because the girl claimed rape when she hadn’t been. Women yell ‘rape’ but they aren’t always rape victims.

  82. Infidel says:

    Rape victims are always rape victims. Did it take rape to create a system in which men are no longer peripheral?

  83. Paul Tergeist says:

    to 76: The fact is that in America almost no one could wander off into the woods and come out alive after a season. Sure, there a few survivalists who have 50 cases of SPAM in the cellar, but that’s not the same thing. Very few of the old explorers and trappers who ~knew~ what they were doing made it out alive over the long haul. There is just too much stuff that can happen to a person alone. Just spraining an ankle coule be life-threatening.

    My point was that women live in edifices built by men and rely on comforts and necessities that men make. That gives them the time to start blogs which say that men are not necessary and that as soon as women can get rid of them, they will. It isn’t realistic, even for fanatics.

  84. Paul Tergeist says:

    to 82: Well, THIS rape victim wasn’t raped. She lied. Get it? Women sometimes LIE about being raped.

  85. Violet says:

    Paul, an answer to your question in 70: no, please don’t do that. And not in this thread, either, which is what you’re doing in all of your comments past #70. Stop.

    If anyone would like to continue discussing anthropology and the etiology of male dominance, please do so. Ignore the raving lunatic in the corner.

  86. CR says:

    Really, I am also guilty and truelly this wonderful thread wandered so far off into the forest that it is needing a male made compass to find it’s way back again.

  87. Mandos says:

    About men being a luxury good. I agree wholeheartedly with you that they are not in any way, shape or form a luxury good. And should never, ever think that.

    Here’s the thing. We’ve been over this territory before but I think summarizing it again would be useful. Feminists have spent a lot of time perhaps rightly telling women that they do not need a man to be fulfilled or even to do anything at all, as such, except spend a few minutes impregnating them. Most women, feminists included, CHOOSE to have a man with them, but women would be mostly complete without them.

    What do you call something you like but could choose to do without? One of the usual words is “luxury”.

    The fear of many men is that when feminists tell women that they don’t need no man is that, despite the social power and the economic advantages and the exemption from the discomfort of childbearing that men have, men have no special position as men that women cannot also fulfill, but women obviously do. Except generating sticky impregnating goop. And thus there is the fear, in these gender-unsettled times, that men will be more likely to be…set adrift from family life, since there isn’t a special place for them there. As the Countess pointed out, this is reflected explicitly in MRA/FRA discourse.

    So men are the fathers of children and we’ve legally constructed a role, but that role largely has to do with the way we’ve constructed capitalism to make the Male Breadwinner a material advantage to a family as opposed to true liberty. In one way or another, a protection racket, one of whose toolkits is rape. When the protection racket is over, how are men valuable as men?

    That’s the unsettled gender question of our era, and probably the biggest generator of backlash.

  88. Mandos says:

    Another psychological discombobulation: the role that men do have in reproduction, secreting impregnating goop, is in some way a kind of dependent and maybe even creepily parasitic way of being—or at least, I suspect that many men suspect so. People talk about the fact that men cannot imagine the female experience of pregnancy and maybe they’re right…but there is, I think, a male experience of pregnancy and the possibility of pregnancy that women do not have, and that is the bizarre feeling of parasitic dependence on a woman’s body.

    This is commonly called “womb envy” but I think that term is problematic because I suspect it was coined in reaction to Freudian penis envy. It isn’t envy, specifically; it is the more complex feeling akin to helpless dependence or uselessness, which is not analogous to penis envy…

    We can see this as explaining the great lengths men have gone to philosophically and politically denying/usurping women’s power, the proprietary feelings over women’s bodies, the rationalizations, etc, etc.

  89. Mandos says:

    Yet another way of putting this question is whether marriage can survive the postpatriarchy. Marriage as an ideal and the social roles of marriage are the mechanism by which men are allocated to children and are permitted to share some portion of the centrality of women.

    How are men allocated to children in the postpatriarchy, and how would the postpatriarchy consider them needed for children’s development, if in all other matters men and women are replaceable?

    Or is the male state/experience of reproduction-at-a-distance itself sufficient to generate that role, at least culturally and psychologically?

  90. CR says:

    Mandos, Thank you for going over it one more time for me. I understand a little better what you guys are saying. It’s very hard for my pea brain, though. I can’t imagne a world without men. And I think it’s a very lonely thought to even try to imagine. I am in love with a man and wouldn’t want to take another breath of life without him. Yet I am independant financially and otherwise. I just like him. He’s my friend.

  91. Mandos says:

    Re the parasitic dependence. I’ve read more than one account particularly by political lesbians of their belief that antiabortion discourse intersects with “womb envy.” Men identify with the fetus since the fetus is what men have placed there in dependence on the woman. Man and the fetus are both dependent on woman for perpetuation, so scraping out the fetus is equivalent to scraping out the man.

    Or as Mary Daly puts it, a “Mister-ectomy.”

  92. Mandos says:

    Mandos, Thank you for going over it one more time for me. I understand a little better what you guys are saying. It’s very hard for my pea brain, though. I can’t imagne a world without men. And I think it’s a very lonely thought to even try to imagine. I am in love with a man and wouldn’t want to take another breath of life without him. Yet I am independant financially and otherwise. I just like him. He’s my friend.

    It’s a lonely thought but there are women who have, perhaps in valid desperation, have thunk it. Perhaps not a planet without men, but a way of life without them.

  93. CR says:

    But isn’t that chauvanism in reverse? Isn’t that what feminists are trying to get away from? world where one gender takes away the humanity and dignity of the other. And makes them unimportant in the sceme of things. Isn’t feminism about relatve equality of genders? I mean within reason, of course.

  94. Violet says:

    Mandos, in reply to your comments #87, 88, 89:

    I think one answer to this conundrum is, again, to realize that patriarchy is not the only way for humans to organize themselves, nor is it the only way for men to be well-integrated in society.

    Feminism is a reactionary movement: it is a reaction to patriarchy, which I see as a grotestquely out-of-balance system that oppresses one gender and exalts another. The belief in fundamental human equality isn’t reactionary, but the movement to liberate women from male oppression is. And all talk about what on earth can we do “post-patriarchy” seems to carry with it the assumption that patriarchy is the norm and the only way for men to be well-integrated.

    As an antidote, let’s talk about Mbuti again. I’m not trying to idealize these people, but their way of life is interesting because many anthropologists have come to believe that the earliest foraging human societies were probably egalitarian in this way. It’s just what seems adaptive for small bands of primitive hunter-gatherers.

    The Mbuti live, as I’ve said, pretty well-integrated lives. Women are primarily responsible for babies, plant-gathering, and building grass huts, but they help with the hunt. Men are primarily responsible for the hunt, looking for honey, and other “external” things but they help with the babies and the plant-gathering. Men are not socially superior to women. There are no leaders or hierarchy, all decisions are consensual, but someone may be designated as the leader for outsiders’ reference.

    Sex is very open, since the Mbuti live non-private lives. Children engage in sex play from an early age. When girls begin menstruating it’s a big deal, one of the most joyful times in the tribe’s life. The newly menstruating girl/girls are instructed by the adult women in birth control, abortion, fertility, sexual technique, and various other things. If the girl wishes she may have intercourse right away with a boyfriend, and this act is carefully supervised by the adult women. (One imagines they guide the boy and girl through the process.)

    Once teenagers are ready they start humping like bunnies, to put it bluntly. Lots of lovemaking, lots of romance, all that teenage stuff. Parents complain only about the “noise” — as in, ‘they’re at it again!’ Kind of like Western parents complaining about the racket from the kids blasting the stereo. Girls don’t seem to have babies during this pre-marital period, so whatever instruction they receive from the older women apparently works.

    Marriage is a matter of personal choice and family strategy, involving complex kinship rules that keep the far-flung clans in balance. Usually the wife will go to live with her husband’s clan, but not always. Also, the Mbuti are foragers who move around a lot and the families making up each encampment shift with each move, so a couple may move to the wife’s clan for a while, or go with a splinter group, or whatever.

    Marriage is basically a question of sharing a hut, having children together, and sharing a family hunting net. The husband and wife do things for each other (she builds the hut, he hunts the big animals), and they are a “team.”

    Children are the responsibility of the entire band, though of course their parents have the main responsibility. All men are addressed as “father,” all women are addressed as “mother.” And all members of the child’s age cohort are “sister” or “brother.” Mbuti parents’ affection for the children is remarked on by everyone. Fathers are very involved with their children, very affectionate and caring (as are mothers, of course).

    Mbuti couples do quarrel, fight, and fall out of love. Sometimes they hit each other. Divorce may be initiated by either party. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal. Divorce and remarriage seem fairly common.

    The male magical joo-joo comes into play when the group is undergoing hard times or food is scarce. The Mbuti regard the Forest as their god — they address it as Mother, Father, Lover, Friend — and the men sing to it to make good things happen. There is a ceremony for slightly bad times when the women and children stay in the huts and men stay up all night singing their joo-joo to protect their loved ones from the Bad Things. There is a more complicated ceremony for VERY bad times when both men and women act out a whole mythic thing: an old woman, who represents Power and Life and Fate, ties all the men up until they beg to be released and offer her gifts. Once she is satisfied, she releases the men to do their joo-joo. The ceremony seems to symbolize the belief that men are powerful, but ultimately derive their power from women.

  95. Infidel says:

    Did it take rape to create a system in which men are no longer peripheral?
    That is assuming a starting point where man was peripheral. How far back do you have to go to get there?
    Then, using rape, man no longer was peripheral.
    Are you serious?
    Maybe using everything at mans disposal including rape. Everything War, Science, Speech, Dance, Prayer, Picking Flowers, Carving, Burning, Torturing, Healing, Playing, Everything- but only rape for those Men that have no compassion or respect or kindness or those that especially belong at the peripheral place and are passing as core to humanity.

  96. Mandos says:

    Feminism is a reactionary movement: it is a reaction to patriarchy, which I see as a grotestquely out-of-balance system that oppresses one gender and exalts another. The belief in fundamental human equality isn’t reactionary, but the movement to liberate women from male oppression is. And all talk about what on earth can we do “post-patriarchy” seems to carry with it the assumption that patriarchy is the norm and the only way for men to be well-integrated.

    We’re living in a civilization that presumably has a patriarchal character, and we’re talking about how to emerge from it. It’s very hard to discuss realigning the place of men in society without reference to existing institutions.

    It’s next to impossible to do it if patriachy is a very common result of social stress—but never matriarchy. Especially since Stress Happens. Then that to me says something about how these problems must be approached.

    The ceremony seems to symbolize the belief that men are powerful, but ultimately derive their power from women.

    That’s the thing. After patriarchy, you aren’t going to get an easy willingness from men that their power is ultimately a subsidiary of women’s.

    How do Mbuti hold this system together? Are people unconcerned about kinship structures? Are there transgressors? Are their transgressors but they aren’t a problem because they have the opportunity to leave?

    Do I recall you mentioning that there is polygyny? No polyandry?

  97. Mandos says:

    But isn’t that chauvanism in reverse? Isn’t that what feminists are trying to get away from? world where one gender takes away the humanity and dignity of the other. And makes them unimportant in the sceme of things. Isn’t feminism about relatve equality of genders? I mean within reason, of course.

    Interestingly, you might want to read this online article by Andrea Dworkin:

    http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/WarZoneChaptIIID.html

    But the short answer is that some political lesbians view patriarchy as so intractable that it requires a collective solution, a form of women’s nationalism that extends into the physical world itself.

  98. Violet says:

    We’re living in a civilization that presumably has a patriarchal character, and we’re talking about how to emerge from it. It’s very hard to discuss realigning the place of men in society without reference to existing institutions.

    Yes, you’re right. I don’t mean to ignore that. I guess I may just be more optimistic than you. In my own life I know men who are perfectly happy to be members of the team, not the captains. I know marriages where the husband and wife are partners. I know men who think patriarchy is silly and to whom an egalitarian, shared-role society makes perfect sense. I know men who read about, say, the Mbuti and think it “feels” right, “feels” more natural than the patriarchal dominance paradigm. All of these men grew up in the same patriarchal society I did, but they have no more trouble than I do in jettisoning that stuff and arranging themselves psychologically in an egalitarian mode.

    I suppose a question there would be whether such men are subconciously buttressed by the fact that patriarchy does still exist and they benefit from that without even trying.

  99. Violet says:

    On the other hand, I do believe that the impulse towards male dominance may be ever-present and may need to be contained. Men are, after all, male mammals, and sexual aggression and attempts to dominate females are exceedingly common behaviors among male mammals. Whether those impulses will become the norm for gender relations depends on the society.

    In the most gender-equal societies, various mechanisms are in place to contain male aggression. Successful hunters are ridiculed so they don’t get too much status. Men who try to dominate their wives are beaten back by the women’s kin, who rush to her aid. Myth cycles elucidate the tension between the genders and work to keep men contained. For example, the !Kung have a creation myth that, decoded, seems to describe how Man is forever trying to boss Woman, but as long as he does this nothing will work, everything will be stopped up, the People will not flourish. Only when he learns to work with Woman and the two become equal partners can everything become unstopped and the People flourish. That sort of thing.

    What this suggests to me is that going forward, to build a gender equal society, we need several things:

    1) Men need to be integrated in child care. There is a strong correlation in “primitive” societies between the degree of father-child interaction and the degree of gender equality.

    2) Women and men need to share each others’ roles — jobs, public positions — or be free to do this if they wish. This also correlates in anthro surveys to gender-equality. There are definite exceptions — societies like the Iroquois with female power but complete separation of the spheres — but that will not work for a modern society, where all humans must be free to be whatever they wish.

    Both 1 and 2 are goals of the mainstream feminist movement. It’s not just get women into the public sphere, but get men into the domestic sphere. But in addition:

    3) We need a clearly articulated philosophy that will contain male aggression. If the male impulse to dominate is to some extent innate, then equality won’t just happen. We need what anthropologists call a “script” to explain to ourselves how people must behave, as with the !Kung.

    4) Question: do men need something that only they can do? (joo joo) Something analagous to childbirth? Is being able to pee standing up enough?

  100. CR says:

    hey! I just went ahead and read that. I didn’t know there was any such movement. But it sure doesn’t sound too good and just a touch idiotic. I don’t think anyone would go for it. I know I wouldn’t. I like what Miss Dworkin said. She sounds like she’s got a level head to me. Unless I, like Alon, totally didn’t understand what she was saying. Alon, What were you fussing about on that other thread? She didn’t sound nutty at all to me. At least from that one essay. Of course, that wasn’t a very hard subject to write about. It was too easy for her. Maybe not standing up there all by herself in a room full of people carried away with some kind of hate-lust. But the subject itself wasn’t difficult. I’m going back and reading some more from her. Thank you, Mandos

    I think females and males don’t get their power from the other gender. Or if they do, maybe they ought look inside instead. I mean, I think it’s best to get your power just from yourself and the miraculas fact that you find yourself alive in the universe right now.

  101. Alon Levy says:

    Violet, although in specific cases it’s possible for various kinds of cultural systems to arise in a modern society, such as a hierarchistic military, or an egalitarian team, modern civilization seems inherently individualistic. Of the civilized societies that have been around, all I know of were/are individualistic or hierarchistic, and all post-Enlightenment ones were/are individualistic.

    This makes a lot of sense, given that the sort of ties that nurture egalitarian movements only work on a small scale, say one kibbutz. However, modern societies are based on large-scale ties. The center of modern economic life is the city, which is too big for egalitarianism by several orders of magnitude. It may be possible in the future to revert to a more egalitarian way, but not in any directed way. What you propose is essentially a vanguard movement, which is only compatible with hierarchy.

    There have been past efforts to organize society along egalitarian lines, such as the kibbutzes, and anarcho-syndicalist communes. But the kibbutzes are economic failures that require constant subsidies from the (hierarchistic) government, and the anarcho-syndicalist communes fractured under external or internal stress.

    Obviously, the fact that society on the whole is individualistic doesn’t mean all associations within it are individualistic. Marriages are either hierarchical or egalitarian, because by their nature they require a high-group system. Political activists tend to form egalitarian organizations, especially but not only when they’re radicals. But they still coexist in an individualistic system.

    Now, the reason I’m injecting cultural theory into this discussion is that the Mbuti are a good example of an egalitarian, non-patriarchal society (the adjective “egalitarian” refers to culture, not gender). But since modernism depends on a highly individualistic mode, you have to consider an individualistic, non-patriarchal society.

    There’s nothing about the individualist bias that makes it incompatible with gender equality; natural behavioral differences between the genders are so scant that without overwhelming cognitive evidence that male aggression is innate, we can safely assume that it isn’t, and that a post-patriarchal individualist society will have equal levels of male and female aggression. We don’t need a vanguard of anthropologists to check male aggression. For now, all we need is a group of cognitive psychologists to conduct more research into innate gender differences.

    Finally, I don’t think getting men into the domestic sphere will be that successful, if only because modern capitalism gives market work more value than non-market work. Because marriage is high-group rather than individualistic, it’s impossible to turn the current form of domestic activities into market work. What’s likelier is that this work will just change – the rise of public education and daycare are good examples of this trend. Daycare teachers and social workers don’t suffer from the same depression symptoms as housewives and people who care for their elderly parents full-time, to my knowledge; and although their social status is low, this can be rectified within the capitalist system.

  102. cicely says:

    I have a time consuming job to do (because my computer is old and slow) which is to copy and paste this entire thread and edit out the wanderings…thankyou so much to all who’ve contributed so far. You’re so right, Violet, alternative ways to organise society using examples from the entire mammalian world, and human societies that have existed or do exist, is possibly at the centre of everything for me. “It can all be otherwise.” is a guiding principle, if you like. I think perhaps it has been since I was a child and wondered why things happened like that a local single mum (in the sixties) was looked down upon – which seemed so unfair, since she was just a person like the rest of us. (This was before I knew virtually anything about sex and society.) My own mother raised myself and my two brothers alone, but with three kids, maybe the community thought she was was a widow until her second (brief) marriage.
    I am a secular humanist who accepts the random injustices of life in my head but will still involuntarily ask (beg?) for help from a God I don’t believe in if I’m lost in the dark and can’t make sense of my street map in my panic. I think of religion as kind of an organised response to the unknown and to randomness, a cry for help and justice, which then, unfortunately, follows on to become a means of controlling whole populations. The reason I’ve said all that is to explain that maybe my secularism is why I look for what humans ourselves could actually be capable of in terms of organising society both as fairly and as effectively as possible. I think it’s up to us. My ‘faith’, if I have one, is that we can or could do pretty well, my fear is that it’s too late. But the show must go on…

    I do wonder how the societies that have been mentioned deal with homosexuality, intersex, and transexuality – without trying to de-rail into current debates on these subjects. (Outer space observers hats on please…) Have any observations been reported? (Like geologists have finally felt safe to reveal what they’ve seen in the animal world, particularly re homosexual pairings and behaviours…) Sorry, that is probably unavoidably a de-railment – but I just had to ask…

  103. Mandos says:

    As an aside, now that I think of it from my own personal experience, the Minangkabau are actually an extreme example of a dynamic that exists in some extent in much of the South and Southeast Asian elite cultures. I am of South Asian extraction (child of immigrants to Canada), and I know that in my family, matters of marriage and family are very much handled by groups of women with input from men but no mandatory approval by the patriarch or anything. The family does rush to the aid of a threatened woman, etc, which doesn’t seem to happen that often. And so on.

    And you see it in practical terms with the acceptance of female heads of government in many South Asian countries well in advance of Western countries. The societies below a certain stratum are highly patriarchal, but large swathes of the elite culture, even in its traditional basis, is decidedly not so.

  104. Mandos says:

    Mmm, should say, decidedly less so.

  105. Mandos says:

    Violet in 99: I have to say that I agree with 1 and 2. In fact, particularly on 1, Western society has in theory, I think, agreed on 1. Men now at least publicly agree that there are great benefits to being involved with their own children.

    (Since you are taking a biological/EP tack now, Violet, how do you deal with the matter of paternity anxiety re 1? Do you think that male involvement is a suitable incentive for women to not “stray” and cause suspicion and possible abandonment? Or is the solution the technological threat of paternity testing?)

    With (3) and (4), I share a little bit of Alon’s criticism. The Minangkabau, the Mbuti, etc, are all small societies, marginal even. The juju works because everyone in the society is cooperating and included in the juju, at least for the Mbuti. The Minangkabau juju works because the males have turned it into a path to material power in the larger Indonesian society.

    When you get to large-scale industrial societies, particularly under capitalism, some people are going to get left out. Men and women, because of different reproductive fates, get left out in different ways. Teenage girls feeling/being left out, for instance, sometimes have babies in order to feel needed and loved. Men don’t have this recourse.

    The movie Fight Club and Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale generally indicate the direction I’m going here. Men feeling left out find each other, and they build an ideology or a story of being left out. The juju doesn’t work because society is too large to pay attention to marginal groups and enjuju them. The situation can snowball from there. It’s suggested in the Handmaid’s Tale that the Sons of Jacob created the revolution that they created because the men were set adrift, purposeless until they controlled women and forced themselves to the centre.

    And you see this, I think, in real life. Again, let’s go back to the known case: MRAs.

    So in order to make anything like 3 and 4 work for a large-scale society, you have to define systems by which you would never get marginal male groups. Maybe the problem is capitalism.

  106. Violet says:

    Oh, Mandos, we’ve cross-posted.

    Well, as you see above, I’m not a biological determinist. We’re cultural animals and nothing is absolute. But we have biological impulses towards all sorts of things.

    It is difficult, because EP types always want to seize on one aspect and say, “this is natural, this is how people are designed.” But the variation in known societies puts the lie to this. In some societies women hunt more than men, in at least one society men have as much responsibility for childcare as women, in some societies rape is unknown, in some societies women are considered more fierce… And the dizzying variety of kinship organization and social structures that even the most primitve bands come up with shows that we’re not locked into a biological template.

  107. Violet says:

    Alon and Mandos, I wasn’t suggesting that we all need to adopt a forest foraging lifestyle and live in tiny bands of 30 people.

    For an example of my #3 (a “script”), see the current philosophy of multiculturalism and tolerance. This is a script we have adopted to combat xenophobia, prejudice and racism. We teach it to our children and recite it to ourselves. This is a perfect example of a modern “script” to shape social behavior. We need something like that to address and shape gender relations.

    As for #4, I don’t know — that’s the question that started this all. Do men need something special of their own?

    Cicely, I just want to say that your comment was not a derailment at all, and in fact was a nice segue into this evening’s biological portion of the program!

  108. Mandos says:

    Um, Violet. Your post in 106 is indistinguishable, almost, from the basic ideas set forth in the Family Values chapter of How the Mind Words by Pinker, if I recall correctly. And that’s where Pinker first put his foot in it, so to speak.

    EPists do talk about anthropology quite a bit: they just don’t accept that typical anthropological theories/explanations have the right kind of explanatory power.

    There’s also more to EP than sexual dynamics. It’s only one chapter in How the Mind Works. However, one central cornerstone of EP is the notion of cheater-detection, and it is the more generalized notion of the evolution of cheater-detection that is applied to sexual dynamics to achieve the sociobiological nemesis of many feminists.

  109. Mandos says:

    For an example of my #3 (a “script”), see the current philosophy of multiculturalism and tolerance. This is a script we have adopted to combat xenophobia, prejudice and racism. We teach it to our children and recite it to ourselves. This is a perfect example of a modern “script” to shape social behavior. We need something like that to address and shape gender relations.

    Yeah but the script seems to be incapable of stamping out periodic rises in racism. Witness the core audience of the alleged Minuteman Project

  110. Violet says:

    I should have to go read the Pinker to see, and whenever I’ve tried to read him I’ve become physically ill, but here are few things about EP:

    1. We are animals, and even feminists know this. But it is one thing to say there may be an animal basis for, say, aggression in certain individuals, and another to say that human societies will always be built on aggression because that’s how humans are wired. Similary, it is one thing to notice that sex has some biological basis, and another to say that sex roles in modern human societies are pre-determined.

    2. EPs look for a biological basis to EVERTHING, from how people fold laundry to how women do in math. It’s absurd. To me that’s rather different from looking at a broadly attested human behavior that keeps cropping up in different settings and wondering if there may be a biological basis to some extent.

    3. EPs ignore the striking variety of anthropological findings which makes biological determinism absurd.

    When I say that there may be (emphasis on may) an impulse for male domination that may need to be socially addressed and contained, that is not so different from saying that there is an impulse towards aggression in humans — leading to interpersonal conflict, violence — that also needs to be socially addressed and contained. And the latter is something we all know.

  111. Violet says:

    I found the following summary of Pinker’s “family values” in an online review:

    Then there are the implications for the relations between the sexes, which are far from politically correct. It turns out that the genetic interests of men lie in deceiving women into believing that they will stick around to bring up their children, when in fact their genes are conspiring to make them inject sperm into the next nubile young woman, while similarly deceiving her. Paternal irresponsibility is the genes’ prime directive. The genes of women, on the other hand, are intent on establishing a stable family life, supported by a rich, strong husband, and they deem promiscuity a pointless enterprise in light of the realities of childbearing. Female genes are deep into fidelity and maternal love. All this is argued to be a consequence of the selfishness of genes combined with the obvious asymmetry between the sexes when it comes to bringing children into the world–chiefly, the fact that women spend nine months infertilely carrying a child, while males suffer no decline in fertility by making a woman pregnant.

    This kind of coldly biological account of the origins and logic of human emotions and practices is applied to romantic love, friendship, war, rivalry, the accumulation of wealth, status, infanticide, the kidnapping of women, untrustworthiness, fashion, property, beauty, polygyny, testicle size, incest, stepfathers. These all flow smoothly from the theory that our desires are calibrated so as to maximize the prospects of our genes in producing copies of themselves. Thus, friendship is based on reciprocal altruism, or the principle that if I help you today you will help me tomorrow; and polygyny is a way for males to get more of their genes into the gene pool; and beauty is an indicator of health and reproductive potential. No doubt all these qualities are modified by supervening factors, but their biological basis is held to consist in gene wars raging beyond our awareness.

    This is bullshit.

    BTW, Pinker’s wrong that promiscuity is uninteresting to females. Females are probably as promiscuous as males, but possibly less open about it. And all that business about “deceiving” — WTF? Anthropology doesn’t support any of that. This is all classic EP overreaching, trying to find a biological basis for every human social behavior.

    I’m sorry, but I really don’t think this is the same as what I’ve said. All I’ve noticed is that it’s extremely common for men to try to boss women, and I’ve wondered if this has some basis in the male mammal’s impulse for sexual domination.

  112. Mandos says:

    We are animals, and even feminists know this. But it is one thing to say there may be an animal basis for, say, aggression in certain individuals, and another to say that human societies will always be built on aggression because that’s how humans are wired. Similary, it is one thing to notice that sex has some biological basis, and another to say that sex roles in modern human societies are pre-determined.

    But EPists do not actually say that sex roles in human society are predetermined, at least not at an individual level. They say, rather, that cheater-detection has evolved among humans also to compensate for sexual cheating and this has implications for “broadly-attested behaviour” and limits the sorts of solutions you can give for it.

    Pinker (who is only the popularizer of the work) at least used to be a liberal who hung out with Chomsky, and at the time of writing How the Mind Works would probably have been horrified by the notion that human societies can’t be changed for the better: just that the ways you have to change them have to be attuned to the underlying likely evolutionary strategies that got us here.

    EPs look for a biological basis to EVERTHING, from how people fold laundry to how women do in math. It’s absurd. To me that’s rather different from looking at a broadly attested human behavior that keeps cropping up in different settings and wondering if there may be a biological basis to some extent.

    I’m really going to have to part company with you at this point, beyond the social/sex roles issue. The way that people fold laundry or are capable of thinking about the concept of folding itself definitely impinges on questions about the biological basis of cognition itself. Interaction with spaces is fundamental. I agree that much of the “women are poorer at math” stuff is quite hokey, but you’re conflating worthwhile questions with some poorly posed ones.

    Pinker’s way of describing these things stems from his past life as a linguist, and large swathes of modern theoretical linguistics has concluded that there are fundamental limits on the types of grammars that can exist in human language, and that this has a biological basis in some way. From there, Pinker hypothesizes, we can develop an alternative “modular” concept of mind that allows different human activities to be classified as instances of various modules.

    This doesn’t mean that specific instances can always be justified by specific recourse to biological principles. But the claim that generalized instances can be explained by general principles about these mental modules and that this can be biologically grounded is not a trivial claim and can’t be dismissed as flippantly as you do.

    Leda Cosmides, who is in some ways the scientific power behind the Pinkerian throne, hypothesizes that there is a “cheater-detection” module and she has set out to prove that existence, and it is the application of cheater-detection to sexuality that causes the greatest consternation among feminists.

    I have found that I don’t, for the most part, need to make recourse to it anymore.

    EPs ignore the striking variety of anthropological findings which makes biological determinism absurd.

    I beg to differ that they don’t engage anthropology. They may at time be wrongheaded, but they’re not that blind. First of all, they’ll tell you that most of the variation consists of outliers, and their conception of biological determinism is not usually deterministic at a fine-grained level, so fringe violators can exist—they are talking about tendencies and limits.

    Secondly, they often challenge anthropological intepretations of social phenomena, as some apparent phenomena are really just epiphenomena of a larger parameterized principle. The epiphenomenal argument can be borrowed straight from syntactic theory in linguistics.

    I think that a lot of pop EP, including some apparently promulgated by Pinker, rather weird and maybe quite wrongheaded, but the technique and the questions it asked can’t be dismissed so easily.

  113. Violet says:

    Alon, in my comment #99 I used the phrase “male aggression” imprecisely. What I meant was sexual aggression and the male attempt to dominate females.

    You’re right that when we look at incidents of aggression across male and female populations (human and otherwise) the biological basis for male aggression seems to disappear. Which is to say, it is reasonable to think that men are not intrinsically more violent than women. Greater levels of male violence is a feature in most societies, but this is possibly just socialization.

    However: the male impulse to dominate female sexually is somewhat different. I’m not talking about levels of personal violence or aggression, but the ways in which males attempt to exert some control over females. It’s impossible not to see that almost all human societies exhibit this to some extent. Even in gender-equal societies these attempts exist, but they are actively contained by various social and mythical structures.

    It seems to me that this may have some biological basis. I’m not saying this is determinative for human behavior at all, only that there may be an innate impulse here. The animal world is full of males who try to dominate females into mating, who aggressively chase off competitors, etc., etc. It’s male reproductive fitness. A female animal generally has less stake in controlling the sexual behavior of a male, except in those situations where his dallying could lead to a loss in provisioning or nurturance.

    I think that may explain why even among primitive foragers, occasionally men will try to marry more than one female, and if the first wife does not object, then he will do this openly. But polyandry is much rarer. Females do “cheat” all the time, as do all female animals, but they tend to be secretive about it. It is very rare for a first husband to accept a second husband.

    I should explain at this point that I’m not a biological determinist at all. I’m also allergic to a lot of EP; I think all those people need to be forced to study anthropology. Because if there is one thing you learn from anthro, it’s that there is nothing “determined” for humans. Anthropologists have such a hard time guessing what the most common early social configuration was because human societies show such variation. For every generalization, there is at least one exception. As one anthropologist put it, different human societies are like different species in terms of their social organization. Whereas all bonobo chimp groups are roughly the same, for example, all human societies show differences. Nothing is fixed.

    Nevertheless, we ARE animals, and I think it’s silly to ignore the biological substrate of our behavior.

  114. Mandos says:

    That summary of his writing as I remember it is very poor. I’ve seen him summarized rather poorly many times, because many people (including I suspect himself these days) want to read into his writing a lot of political agendas. The original work, How the Mind Works, is not that explicitly political. Only when he got bitten by saying a few stupid/overthetop things (which he does in HTMW, I admit) did he get radicalized and start writing polemics like The Blank Slate (which I haven’t read).

    However, here’s a critique of Pinker that I think does a much better job, because it’s not as motivated to read into the work what that other review you quoted did:

    http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ian/Manifestoes/pinker-crit.html

  115. Mandos says:

    Oh and here’s Pinker’s rebuttal of Ahouse and Berwick:

    http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articles/media/1998_Summer_bostonreview.html

  116. Violet says:

    I encountered Pinker back when he was a linguist, and was unimpressed with him then. I also encountered EP back when I was working in cogsci, and have never been impressed.

    Without getting into a whole derailment, let me just say I don’t think much of Cosmides and Tooby’s work on social exchange. Modularity is a theory without empirical basis. And when you note that “they’ll tell you that most of the variation consists of outliers,” indeed they will. That is certainly one way to make the data fit your theory. EP is notorious for that.

    I think that a lot of pop EP, including some apparently promulgated by Pinker, rather weird and maybe quite wrongheaded, but the technique and the questions it asked can’t be dismissed so easily.

    I think almost all pop EP is wrongheaded, but even the serious work you refer to is, in my estimation, profoundly flawed. As for the questions it asks, yes, they are worthwhile. But I don’t think EP is bringing us any closer to the answers.

  117. cicely says:

    Goodness, so much is going through to the backstop (usually a cricket saying so ‘to the (wicket ‘keeper’) right about now, due to the substantial holes in my education. However, I would like to agree with Violet about women’s interest in multiple sex partners. I, myself have enjoyed one long-term polyamorous relationship with a female partner, and it would still be my ideal if I wasn’t becoming more and more convinced that I’m past ‘all that’ anyway. (Since I think this is kind of unfortunate though – maybe I’m not!) There is a growing interest in polyamoury generally – among women – as well.

    Sexual jealousy (sexual ‘ownership’) overall is one of those big issues our society needs to front up to in my opinion if things are to improve.

    Violet, thanks for your comment- and – what is a ‘segue’? It’s not in my dictionary…and Violet or Mandos, what does EP stand for? I’m thinking evolutionary something, but what?

  118. cicely says:

    Psychology? Have I guessed right? Do I get a prize?

  119. Violet says:

    EP = Evolutionary psychology.

    cicely, I love your Oz expressions.

  120. Violet says:

    Oh, we cross-posted! Yes, you do get a prize! Er…what do you want?

  121. Violet says:

    By the way, Mandos, let me explain that I didn’t wish to sound curtly dismissive of your interest in EP. I’m actually just too sleepy to say much about it tonight!

  122. Alon Levy says:

    Females are probably as promiscuous as males, but possibly less open about it.

    “Surveys grossly underestimate women’s sex lives: everybody, especially women, is reluctant to reveal the truth.
    We know this because there is a way to of getting women to talk. Hook up college students to a fake lie-detector machine, and young women report almost twice as many sex partners as women feeling no such pressure. In fact they report as many partners as their male counterparts. So men and women may be far more similar than sex surveys have made us believe.”

    - Frans de Waal, Our Inner Ape, p. 89, via Jerry Monaco.

    Violet, thanks for your comment- and – what is a ’segue’? It’s not in my dictionary…and Violet or Mandos, what does EP stand for? I’m thinking evolutionary something, but what?

    In music, a segue is a transition from one track to another without a break. It’s then borrowed to describe going on a tangent in a conversation.

    It seems to me that this may have some biological basis.

    Human societies have evolved sufficiently that the biological substrate is reduced to noise. It’s ironic I have to resort to quoting Lewontin (before Dworkin, I had him), but the entirety of human progress is based on transcending our biological limitations: flying, pills that treat previously fatal genetic diseases, cooperation…

  123. Mandos says:

    Violet…now you’ve totally intrigued me and I really want to respond to you but I’m not sure I want to generate a derailment on this thread…

  124. cicely says:

    cicely, I love your Oz expressions.

    That would be kiwi expressions, coming from me.. but I’m glad you like them. Have I mentioned our US/Canada like rivalry? NZ is the one with the Labour Party (social democrat) government led by Helen Clark, the country’s second female Prime Minister. Oz has conservative John Howard, George Bushes buddy, and no female Prime Ministers yet. 2 nil. Like the US though, lots of lefty thinkers not in power.

    Alon, I guess the above goes a little beyond a segue then. Thankyou for your explanation.

    Oh, we cross-posted! Yes, you do get a prize! Er…what do you want?

    A big hat and a very special flute that only I can play.

  125. Mother says:

    I’m glad that men are speaking up for the important roles that they play in society.

    FOr too long men have given feminist everything they wnated including changing in public policy to multi-billions in tax dollars given to women’s only issues while ignoring men who suffer the exact same issues.

    Women were tide to their traditional gender roles, and so are men. Women can do anything these days, but men are still obligated to be the protector of country and provider of family, while thanks to feminist, women have the luxury of choice while condemning men to continue to support women if women can’t.

    Keep it up men, the ones you protect are your young sons and elderly fathers.Equality should be fair to both men and women, not just for women as deemed by every feminist group in the world.

  126. Mandos says:

    Who is feminist? Did I give her something?

  127. Infidel says:

    Humanists.
    Feminists are more like humanists than masculinists are.
    Masculinists think just because there’s a “C” like in “muscle” in masculine, except it isn’t a hard “C” like in masculine but soft.

  128. CR says:

    EP sure does take the romance out of amore. A real killjoy. Knocked off my rose coloured glasses. That’s okay- I keep several pairs just for cases like this.

  129. RedDragon says:

    I saw Helen Clark in a random tourism programme about NZ. She was abseiling down cave walls and stuff. It was cool. I was thinking how Tony Blair would never do stuff like that to promote the UK. Cicely, what do NZlanders think of Helen Clark in general?

    P.S. Apologies Violet, this is a total tangent.

  130. Violet says:

    It’s ironic I have to resort to quoting Lewontin (before Dworkin, I had him), but the entirety of human progress is based on transcending our biological limitations: flying, pills that treat previously fatal genetic diseases, cooperation…

    Alon, I agree with you. What I’m doing is zeroing in on the biological limitations that we’re transcending — cooperation, for example, is a social construct transcending selfishness. I’m wondering aloud if constructed notions of gender equality are a means to transcend testosterone-fueled sexual aggressiveness.

    But please note that I’m just wondering this, not arguing it. It’s really just something I occasionally ask myself, usually after I’ve been reading at length on primatology or mammal sexual behavior; it’s not a position I’m prepared to defend.

    Mandos, some time we’ll do a whole thread about EP and we can talk about it all you like.

    Cicely, I’ll e-mail you a kickass hat — with feathers! — and a very, very shiny flute.

  131. The Countess says:

    CR, that’s very interesting about Liberia. I had wondered if any country or culture had gone matriarchal-patriarchal-matriarchal. I’ll have to look more into that.

    I can’t imagine a world without men, either. It would be a very boring place without them. I can appreciate men without feeling that I “need” them. I’m sure a lot of women feel that way. Some men are threatened by that idea, especially throwbacks like men’s and fathers’ rights activists. Their feeling of being obsolete permeates everything they stand for. That’s why they push so much for presumptive joint physical custody. They feel that they can’t be “real fathers” without the law forcing women to pay attention to them and abide by their demands. The problem is that women DO pay attention to fathers, and they know that children will benefit from the presence of a good father. Children benefit from the presence of good men and women in general, too. The father’s rights and fatherhood movement notion that children must have contact with their fathers or they will turn into juvenile delinquents, get pregnant, flunk out of school, and all the other doomsay proclamations only shows how expendable those kinds of men think they are. Rather than rethink their misconceptions, they lord power over women and children.

  132. The Countess says:

    “Females are probably as promiscuous as males, but possibly less open about it.”

    I remember reading several sources that stated that women cheat nearly as much as men. Here’s an excerpt from an interesting article about women cheating. I’m not saying that any of this is true, and I haven’t looked into it myself, but it is definitely interesting.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/08/07/INGJ9E31DH1.DTL

    In a paper in the newest issue of Biology Letters, an academic journal, Havlicek argues that his findings support the theory that single women want nurturing men who will help raise a family. But once the home is secured, they will have the urge to sneak around with men who have the best genes.

    “Since women can always get a man for a one-night stand, they gain an advantage if they find partners for child-rearing,” Havlicek says. “Single women can be expected to be interested in men that make good fathers.”

    “Once they have them, though, they can be expected to have extra-pair copulations with men who have good genes.”

    Scientists believe dominance and traits like facial symmetry are proxies for good genes. These features also happen to be attractive to women, more so when they are ovulating. Meanwhile, studies of birds have shown that attractive males make less attentive fathers.

    Havlicek’s research adds to a large body of work in the past decade on how sexual preferences change during the course of a women’s menstrual cycle. A study co-authored by Havlicek last year found men preferred pictures of fertile women to pictures of the same women at different times of the month. One study showed that ovulating women, when shown videotapes of men in groups, preferred those who “didn’t back down.”

    “What’s new in Havlicek’s study is that single women and women in relationships responded differently,” said Nick Neave, a doctor of Evolutionary Biology at Northumbria University in England.

    Havlicek’s study also breaks new ground by finding a link between dominance and scent. Other studies have shown women prefer the scent of men with symmetrical features, and that body odor changes according to a person’s emotional state, but none had directly linked odor with dominance.

  133. CR says:

    Hi Countess,
    I don’t know about those studies. Have heard alot about them and find them all very interesting. A little cut and died, and certainly not much fun.

    In my case I am about your age, Maybe a little younger. Not much though. Have been with my lover for over 20 years- since I was 17 ( and they said I was too young and he only wanted me for ses- “ce la vie” say the old folks)-. We work tgether all those years and live together – so we are together 24/7. I have formed a strong attchement to him that seems to get stronger with every year. Rather than weaker.I come to like him more and an more. We have had many interesting adventures together. So in that sense I do need him. And I think that’s pretty normal. Oh sure, life would go on without him, but I do not know how well I would hold up at his loss. I think I would feel pretty bad. I still like him even when I ovulate, and have never cheated or wanted to cheat- even though I am 15 years younger than my special freind and he doesn’t look like Johnny Depp. I do like the way he smells but I can’t tell if his facial features are simetrical or not. I have a very romantic bent and he doesn’t seem to mind it. I do not know if my hips are wide enough though to go along with that other scientific study about men liking women with child bearing hips. and I don’t have big boobies. So I guess he’ll be trading me in soon in order to go along with his predetermined genetic drive. After all, you can’t argue with science. If they say it, it must be. I’m teasing now.

  134. cicely says:

    RedDragon says:

    I saw Helen Clark in a random tourism programme about NZ. She was abseiling down cave walls and stuff. It was cool. I was thinking how Tony Blair would never do stuff like that to promote the UK. Cicely, what do NZlanders think of Helen Clark in general?

    She has won three elections on the trot, although the last two were close. Even her opponents admire and respect her (not all of course), and it’s my belief that she will go down in history as one of the most, if not the most, popular, respected and admired leaders of the country. I could write a long list of the reasons I admire her. For one, can you think of any other head of country who has officially apologised to gay men and lesbians for the treatment they have received at the hands of previous governments?

    She genuinely loves the outdoors. Does climbing and tramping, canoeing etc. I have a great picture of her in her tramping gear with what looks like a battered old hat on her head. If I have regrets – which I don’t really, something that comes close to one is that I have not been living at home in NZ while Helen has been PM. I actually voted for her in my Auckland electorate early in her political career.

    Thanks for asking the question Reddragon, and apologies to all, along with RD’s, for the digression…

  135. Violet says:

    That’s it, I’m moving to New Zealand.

    If I were a matchmaker, I’d send CaptDMO and Mother each other’s email addresses. That would be cool internet business: a dating service for blog trolls.

  136. Alon Levy says:

    If I were a matchmaker, I’d send CaptDMO and Mother each other’s email addresses. That would be cool internet business: a dating service for blog trolls.

    Not so much as a dating services for real bloggers, or regular commenters. You and Will really need to hit it off (or you and Steve… or you, Will, and Steve). Since trolls often go by multiple handles, you may end up inadvertently telling them to go fuck themselves, and that would just be impolite.

    What I’m doing is zeroing in on the biological limitations that we’re transcending — cooperation, for example, is a social construct transcending selfishness.

    Actually, if I’m not mistaken, there are several biologists who claim that cooperation is in fact a biological construct. Some are Marxist critics of Darwinism, which emphasizes competition, but even EP claims this, if only indirectly.

    For one, can you think of any other head of country who has officially apologised to gay men and lesbians for the treatment they have received at the hands of previous governments?

    Did Helen follow her apology with real action, such as giving straight and gay couples equal adoption rights? I’m asking because John Paul II apologized for a lot of the Church’s crimes, while repeating them or committing similar ones.

    FOr too long men have given feminist everything they wnated including changing in public policy to multi-billions in tax dollars given to women’s only issues while ignoring men who suffer the exact same issues.

    Women were tide to their traditional gender roles, and so are men. Women can do anything these days, but men are still obligated to be the protector of country and provider of family, while thanks to feminist, women have the luxury of choice while condemning men to continue to support women if women can’t.

    You make no sense.

  137. Violet says:

    Alon, the best part about Mother is how, after 100+ comments on the fact that men’s special role in society is to wear big hats and play magic flutes, she weighs in to say:

    I’m glad that men are speaking up for the important roles that they play in society.

    As for the matchmaking, I was in love with Will but he broke my heart by sleeping with all the other feminist bloggers, and Steve is still traumatized by our divorce. So there you go.

  138. cicely says:

    Did Helen follow her apology with real action, such as giving straight and gay couples
    equal adoption rights? I’m asking because John Paul II apologized for a lot of the Church’s crimes, while repeating them or committing similar ones.

    ‘…As for adoption law reform, government white papers and Law Commission Reports have already suggested inclusive reform is advisable. As lesbian/gay New Zealanders already have access to most other legal parenting responsibilities and rights, this will represent a final frontier before it is ultimately crossed.’

    Due to be debated this year.

    Alon, if you google ‘gay and lesbian rights in New Zealand’ and go to the Wikipedia entry you’ll get a fuller picture – including info on ‘our’ Georgina Beyer, the world’s first openly transexual Mayor, and then the world’s first elected transexual MP! (She has a private
    members Gender Identity Bill due to be tabled for debate in Parliament also this year.) NZ lays claim to being the first country in the world in which women won the vote as well, though I think Finland also claims this distinction. It’s remiss of me, but I’m not sure
    which is correct. I’m happy with first or second…

    Don’t get me wrong…we have our share of rednecks – as you might call them. The public Homosexual Law Reform Debate/circus of 1986 (in town halls around the country)brought them all out of the woodwork. It was a very nasty business which I was in the middle of. My then partner was arrested for smashing a window at a venue in which the homophobes were spouting off and not letting supporters of reform in. Actually it was an accident. She was pushed into the window by the throng of supporters trying to get to the front. (Yay!) And the pro-gay and lesbian reform laws were ultimately passed.

    That’s it, I’m moving to New Zealand.

    I’ll see you there with bells on. Eventually.

    I think I must have used up my diversion vouchers for a while. My most profuse and humble apologies.

  139. Alon Levy says:

    I thought you’d be more open to polyamory… as for your divorce with Steve, you must tread carefully, because even if Steve mistreated you, you must pretend everything’s alright in the presence of your children or else you’ll give them PAS and undermine his rights as a father.

  140. B says:

    I am sorry but I’ve only read to post 98 before writing this so if I have missed something I apologise.

    What worries me is the essentialism of this entire discussion. There also seem to be many misapprehensions of gender in early society.

    It reminds me of a stone-age grave found in Sweden last century. The body had been buried with a spear, bow and arrows, fishinghooks and diverse other hunting attributes so everyone assumed that this was the archetypical stoneage man – the hunter. Later on modern osteology proved that it was a woman who had given birth to several children. Besides they only got about 10% of their nourishment from fish or meat anyway.

    As to the assumption that women in primitive society were constantly pregnant, most women breastfeed their children for a couple of years and don’t get pregnant while nursing. And most primitive societies have the use of contaceptives.

    Then we come to the idea of the fragile woman who wouldn’t survive in the wild without a man. It is actually the other way around. Womens bodies are better at storing fat so women survive longer when access to food is low. Women also have better endurance for long treks or longtime physical stress – compared to men, whose strength is more explosive.

    And so I could go on and become embroiled in the mores of essentialism myself. Actually men and women have always been able to do eachother’s work. Some men even have the ability to breastfeed. During Europes many many long wars women ran the farms, did the plowing and managed all the hard jobs without the help of men.

    It is my belief that the road to an equal society doesn’t lie in finding some more appropriate joo-joo. We must simply share our burdens with eachother instead. Let the men care for their infants. Let them know equal responsibility for the wellbeing of kids. Make them comfort the crying and do the laundry. And refuse to label work either women’s or men’s work.

    As for the cause of patriarchy – humans have this nasty tendency to like categories like us and them and then to try to make sure that our group will be the one on top. The way I see it patriarchy as well as matriarchy (and racism, ethnocentricm et.c.) were both kind of inevitable.

    What is needed is a constant awareness of how easy it is to go wrong. And a watchfulness for when things in any way starts to deteriorate.

    And right now to get rid of Patriarchy, naturally.

  141. Mandos says:

    The problem with taking anti-essentialism to an extreme is the fact that women bear children and men don’t. Most of what we’ve been talking about in this thread are simply attempts at extrapolating from this and a few other small axioms (like the general desire to be needed).

    Violet’s point in this thread has been that there are cultures that diminish sex-role differences to the point where men and women are greatly involved in what would be separate spheres in other cultures. But all of these appear to have an intractable additional component that attempts to elevate men’s roles, even the ones that apparently are less rapey.

  142. Mandos says:

    Violet: Mandos, some time we’ll do a whole thread about EP and we can talk about it all you like.

    Hmm, I think the problem is deeper than EP, actually. I’m willing to dispense with critical aspects of EP, including its strict adaptationism. I think we have deeper methodological differences, actually.

  143. Violet says:

    I think we have deeper methodological differences, actually.

    Methodological differences?

  144. Infidel says:

    At what point would a culture be considered “rapey”? 3%?, 2%?, One in every sixteen males?
    If a culture was substantially rapey would it have become that way due to a need for the males to be non-peripheral?

  145. Mandos says:

    Methodological differences?

    I mean wrt the “outlier” thing. I happen to think that the argument for excluding outliers in the case of EP is sound for several reasons. Maybe not only the outlier thing, though. If you’re unwilling to make instrumental exclusions of outliers, several sciences I suspect would come to a grinding halt.

  146. Mandos says:

    At what point would a culture be considered “rapey”? 3%?, 2%?, One in every sixteen males?

    Depends on your definition of rape. Some radical feminists have a definition of rape so broad it includes a woman having sex when she doesn’t feel like it in order to make the partner in the relationship happy. Some only go so far as having sex after lengthy nagging is rape. If the former, the number of rapists would probably be a staggeringly large number in order for the culture to be considered “rapey”. If the latter, somewhat smaller.

    If we take the legal definition of rape—sex under overt threat of violence, to make it concise—well, I’m given to understand that a lot of rapists, in including, say, date rapists, are serial rapists. So it probably doesn’t have to be a high percentage at all. As long as women know that even one in 20 (just to throw out a number) men they meet might be a violent rapist, I suspect
    that is sufficient fear to enforce male supremacy.

    If a culture was substantially rapey would it have become that way due to a need for the males to be non-peripheral?

    Well, what’s the other hypothesis for the origin of rape? I mean, one other hypothesis is that men are naturally violent, and in fact so sexually violent that it is possible that they should be kept away from women at all costs because they are too much of a risk…

    The other option is that people just do bad things that are available to them, but why does rape have all these shibboleths and fetishization around it?

    If it looks like a protection racket, walks like a protection racket, …

  147. Mandos says:

    Here’s a thought: to what extent is the fact that some men *today* condescend to women who attempt man’s jobs part of the juju effect? If the juju effect is minimally necessary, then how eradicable is this attitude?

  148. CR says:

    Most people, especially men respect merit. Anytime a woman shows she’s got the stuff – she is rewarded with respect. Even historically, men will make exceptions for exceptional woman- even in funky cultures. Maybe at first, before she has proven herself, there’s that snotty condescension- but they come around most of the time. But men even put each other through the paces when they are “new’ on the job a good deal of the time. They are testing the new person or the woman.

  149. CR says:

    Something about the formation of culture that I remember reading about. In business there is a sector of pyschology that interests itself in understanding the culture and behaviour of humans in the business environment. It’s purpose is to assist management of people within business structure. It’s called Organizational Behaviour.

    Here are some things that they have come up with:
    The number one thing about culture they have found is that the culture of a business ( or a hunting.gathering group- or a platoon?), over time takes on the personaltiy and values of it’s managers and leaders. For example, while one buisness is owned or started by a button down, no nonsense, bottom line, conservative kind of person, he will- unconsciously, hire people who are similar to him/her. These people who they hired, will also unconsciously be more likely to hire people who also like them. Over time, this buisness will begin to reflect their personalitities and become a no nonsense, button down, conservative place with suits and ties in mute colors and the bottom line is observed at all times.

    Now if the owner is a creative type who is a little loosey goosey and wears Hawian shirts and shorts and values more indivuality and creativity, then he unconsciously hires people similar to himself/herself. Over time, you will see lots of Hawian shrits and t-shirts and a loosey goosey atmosphere in the office.

    So the scientist types have found that over time, the culture of the office or garage or platoon or hunting/gathering group becomes a reflection of the values and personality of the leaders or managers. Birds of a feather flocking together.

    If someone within this culture does not fit in. Say, he is a creative type with a Hawian shirt and shorts and lots of stuffed animals stuck to his computer, at a place where it’s all button down- after a while he will unconsciously feel uncomfortable and seek employment elsewhere where he fits in better. Or he will be pushed out by the others and so on. Natural selection -sort of -within the culture of that relatively small community.

    I don’t want to go on too much because one could fill books with the phenomenon of the formation of culture. And i don’t know if anyone will see the corelation between the formation of culture within a buisness environment of say 400 people or 1,000 people and the formation of culture in the anthropological world. I see it as being very similar and easy to understand. But being clumbsy with the writing, and given my back ground, I don’t have any hope that anyone else will. But I tried.

  150. CR says:

    Cutlture changes when the management values and personelle changes. It changes rapidly or slowly depending on the personality of the new managers or owner and the size of the groups involved. I believe this whole mess I just wrote applies to some extent- maybe even a big extent- to human culture groups large and small and possibly even whole nations.

  151. Infidel says:

    What is the value of rooting out the
    “juju effect in a woman” attitude in a condescending man towards a woman anyway? She’d only truly be juju’d if she embraced the mother jungle. In that case condescension on the mans’ part would put him at the periphery without a flute. All the while her capability of bearing children solidly set in stone.

    “Rapey” in a cultural context would have to be Mandos’s first example. The second example, legal context, exists in and as a result of, or product of existing culture. The first example respects individuals who exist in and create a particular culture.

    I’m a Mbuti, I’m not but, I’m a Mbuti and my parents are nuts! You talk about me like I’m a tribe. I’m part of a tribe, I sleep, I dream, my mother is different from Jimbwakki’s mother.

  152. Reclusive Leftist » Blog Archive » MRAs exposed says:

    [...] To use the nomenclature we’ve developed on this blog, what we have here are men deprived of their joo-joo and willing to kill to avenge their loss. This has nothing to do with “equal rights for men” (ha!) and certainly not the welfare of children in a divorce; it’s all about regaining male superiority and punishing women who have escaped their control. [...]

  153. Pat says:

    For whatever the reason men decided to use strength and violence to control their environment and the people around them initially, government and its processes displaced the need for those mechanisms, and destroyed male authority and superiority based upon that religious oriented separation of powers and division of labor.

    Since violence is no longer permitted to be the method of establishing authority or superiority, there is no need of identifying men vs women as superior. By government fiat, they have become equal within the scheme of human affairs. As humans no longer rely upon primitive tools, they also should not be relying upon primitive social status to manage modern life, as those attitudes necessarily oppress the potential for progress, and productivity, and unnecessarily create chaos, confusion, and perpetuate violence.

  154. Kiuku says:

    I really liked the beginning of this article, Violet. This is a little late but I just found it. The problem is and the problem with theories of male dominance involving “stress” is they all seem to take “stress” for granted, like a naturally occuring situation. Men create their necessity, their dominance, through violence. It is “Women need to be protected from the other bad men” scenario that you see everywhere. Male dominance rose through male violence. Women could hunt just as well as men, but again you see male hunting as the male mystic joo joo. There is no reason why even naturally occuring food shortages in one area would create stress in normal social beings such that they would have to go “fight” another tribe for their resources. “Fighting” is a male joo joo invention.

  155. Kiuku says:

    Rape is a hate crime and definitely a tool of male control. Rape is a product of misogyny, the hatred of women as a class, as a group of human beings lacking social equality. It serves the status quo and perpetuates women’s subordination. All men benefit from rape. Society, our patriarchal society views rape as an inevitability based on the natural qualities of “womanness”..that women are weak/vulnerable/must stay in the house/be protected by men. The fact of the matter is women are prey of men who hate them, just like a black person can be the prey of white men, or any man the prey of any other man in jail. Unless they are actively trying to end male violence against women, all men benefit from rape.

  156. tobias says:

    Wow. I have printed this thread out and read it in detail, marking every interesting bit. In the end the pages were all yellow, and the highlighter was empty. No questions, no actual comment, just a big thank you for providing a forum for this kind of enlightening conversation!