Irrelevant Mandos Thread

Saturday, January 20th, 2007 · 58 Comments »

Mandos Attractant
Mandos Attractant

This is just an irrelevant empty thread for Mandos to post whatever he wants to say in response to this discussion. Or anybody else, for that matter.

Am I not the most hospitable of bloggers?

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58 Responses to “Irrelevant Mandos Thread”

  1. ehj2 says:

    Ummm …

    This simply CANNOT be a preferred source of sustenance for a successful predatory species at the top of its respective food chain. It is certainly true that we are opportunistic omnivores (we’ll eat pretty much anything that doesn’t eat us first) … but this stuff (burnt cereal grain purposely exhausted of its nutrients and glued together with solidified grease) is nowhere near my top 500 list of foods I go looking for.

  2. ehj2 says:

    Ohhh, it’s actually made with potatoes?

    It’s not even a decent cereal with the possibility of protein content?

    Like you’re really going to persuade me that using a fibrous tuber makes it better …

    No.

  3. Violet says:

    Mandos thinks that stuff is ambrosia.

  4. ehj2 says:

    Mandos thinks that stuff is ambrosia.

    I disagree. The same way Republicans think they love fear and loathing for everything almost indistinguishable from themselves (a malady Sigmund Freud termed “the narcissism of minor differences), and what is basically an acquired taste from a period of early development gone horribly awry, no one actually likes bad food.

    The dried dust of ground lima beans, after all, was used centuries ago by Genghis Khan to salt the earth of his enemies; nothing would grow in those regions again, culminating after numerous battles in the desert expanse of the endless and inhospitable Gobi.

    Dito sweet potatoes.

    These are biological weapons, not foods. In any civilized nation they would be banned as food. Potatoes, of course, are actually quite useful in the distillation of certain potent medicinal beverages.

  5. Jim says:

    It looks like a 99 cent heart attack to me. Yeeesh.

  6. Mandos says:

    Mmmm, poutine.

    Sorry I was too busy seasoning a new wok and then experimenting with it. This is very important work. Maybe tomorrow.

  7. Mandos says:

    So first of all, I’d like to reiterate that I ask that kind of question that I did on that thread to other people because I expect their answers to be different from yours. Your answer comes, obviously, from your own experience and desiderata for male-female relations, plus your anthropological expertise. I wouldn’t normally go back and ask those question of people whom I thought had a similar perspective. Mary Sunshine, in this case, has a viewpoint that seems to me to be substantially different from yours. The question to me was: how different? (In her most recent missive she says that she will “dream in female.”) So wanted to try my luck and see if I could figure out what exactly she means by asking her the same question. I think it’s informative and interesting.

    I didn’t *quite* work but I thought the result was still interesting.

  8. Medium Dave says:

    Ooo, scary. Admittedly, I do happily consume fries covered with bright-orange processed cheese sauce on occasion, but that stuff at least looks halfway appetizing.

  9. Violet says:

    So wanted to try my luck and see if I could figure out what exactly she means by asking her the same question.

    Have you ever read Mary Daly? Or really, some interviews with Mary Daly? The thing is, asking someone like Mary Daly or Mary Sunshine “what about the men” is not going to get a response. Even with the caveat “okay, I know you’re not really interested, but…”, you’re still not going to get a response. The whole idea is to STOP THINKING ABOUT THE MEN. These are political refugees from patriarchy, and part of their resistance is to refuse to have their dialogue shaped by the eternal Man Question.

  10. Violet says:

    More importantly, though: do the french fries in the poutine taste like normal french fries, or are they contaminated with some bizarro Canadian poutine grease?

  11. Mandos says:

    I have, in fact, read interviews with Mary Daly. And I’m aware of the ramifications of WATM. AND I didn’t expect much of an answer. Still, I cannot resist futile questions. In this case, Mary Sunshine was more specific than others as well as somewhat different, and just tantalizingly on the edge of clarity.

    Still, as frustrating as the eternal Man Question is, it’s kind of out there, ready to snag any practical implementation of political-refugee-from-patriarchy-dom. Some people who wouldn’t *like* to have thought it through, still have thought it through. For instance, I think I can guess Heart’s answer to the question, and Amy’s Brain Today has given multiple answers. Mary Sunshine’s answer, well, that would have been more interesting.

    I’m not letting you off the hook for the rest of the response to me :) I’m just being lazy and not getting around to it.

  12. Mandos says:

    As for poutine, at a typical Ottawa chipwagon, it’s just sticks of potato dipped in boiling french fry oil. I don’t think it’s anything special. Of course, the oil may be really really old by that point. I hear old oil makes it taste better.

  13. Mandos says:

    So I’ve been lazy and not answered you substantively, Violet. And I’m not entirely feeling unlazy yet, but I still think I owe at least something. Let’s see if I can put my objections into a short abstract.

    No, I don’t believe that a feminist utopia, or some vague approximation thereof, would oppress men to anything like the extent to which the least sexist society oppresses women.

    However, I find it interesting the roles you see as balancing women’s property-responsibility/ownership in matrilineal societies. Most of them seem to have the characteristic of being “external” in some way. Even if they are economically important in one way or another.

    Now, as you note, assuring paternity is important for father->child inheritance.

    If male roles in hypothetical matrilineal societies sufficiently balance female roles, then whence would the desire for male inheritance and property ownership have emeged?

    I was never claiming that a feminist utopia would “oppress men” in the sense of oppression that people typically use, perhaps including even Mary Sunshine’s mysterious Female World. I was interested in “peripherality”, not “oppression.”

  14. Violet says:

    However, I find it interesting the roles you see as balancing women’s property-responsibility/ownership in matrilineal societies. Most of them seem to have the characteristic of being “external” in some way. Even if they are economically important in one way or another.

    External to what? Control over women’s reproduction?

    The problem is your assumption that women’s reproductive lives are the center, so every time we discuss a society where men don’t control women’s reproductive lives, you say the men’s roles are “external” or “peripheral.” It sounds to me like the only type of society where you think men have sufficient importance is one where they either control women’s reproductive lives or have babies themselves.

  15. Violet says:

    Whoops, I wasn’t quite finished. My computer froze up, I’m surprised that bit above got through.

    To continue: all the gender-equal societies that I know of have a clearly elucidated sense of the complementarity of men’s and women’s roles. All humans know that both men and women are essential for the continuance of the species, and all cultures that I’m aware of consider both men and women essential for the continution of that particular culture. Men’s roles are frequently more “external” in terms of being further afield from the home place, but this doesn’t carry any negative connotation. Why should it? Men take pride in their role as protectors and as hunters or tradesmen or religious leaders (or all of the above); they consider themselves essential and the women agree.

    I mean, if you went to one of these guys and said, “don’t you feel peripheral?” I think he would laugh.

    If male roles in hypothetical matrilineal societies sufficiently balance female roles, then whence would the desire for male inheritance and property ownership have emeged?

    Cultural systems change as circumstances change. I don’t think matriliny gave way to patriliny because the men felt peripheral (!), if that’s what you’re thinking. There are a bunch of ways matriliny can turn into patriliny:

    * Stress factors on a society — unfriendly neighbors, food shortages, war, existential crises — often enhance the importance of the traditionally male roles of defense, trade negotiations, hunting, religious invocations, etc.
    * Historically, the transition to heavy plow agriculture probably converted many matrilineal cultures to patrilineal ones, since with the heavy plow men took over the plowing and become stakeholders in the land.
    * Civilization itself, with its external outlook and specialized forms of labor not always compatible with child-rearing, favors the male role.

  16. Violet says:

    No, I don’t believe that a feminist utopia, or some vague approximation thereof, would oppress men to anything like the extent to which the least sexist society oppresses women.

    I think you need to explain why you think a feminist utopia would oppress men at all. Feminists don’t want to oppress men, and there is no known society on earth where women oppress or have oppressed men.

  17. Tom Nolan says:

    This conversation between Mandos and Violet seems very different from the ones they’ve had in the past on this subject. I seem to remember them both agreeing that a huge amount of male cultural and religious activity was mere “juju”, a compensation for being peripheral to the production and rearing of children.

    Or did I dream it?

    Whatever. I have a couple of questions regarding Violet’s list of possible causes of transition from matriliny to patriliny.

    Why would the first point she mentions have any effect at all? Is the idea that weapons must be handed down from father to son? Or that men fight better if they know that they can dispose of the terrain they are defending?

    I thought the heavy plough, though larger and more cumbersome than its precursors, was wheeled and horse-drawn: i.e. less of an effort for the ploughperson than the ox-drawn scratch plough. I’ve never so much as heard of ploughwomen, but then again I’m not an anthropologist. But even if they were common, why would the change from a strenuous scratch plough to a relatively easy wheeled plough facilitate the growth of patriliny?

  18. Violet says:

    This conversation between Mandos and Violet seems very different from the ones they’ve had in the past on this subject. I seem to remember them both agreeing that a huge amount of male cultural and religious activity was mere “juju”, a compensation for being peripheral to the production and rearing of children.

    I think where Mandos and I disagree is on the mereness of the juju. He thinks (apparently) that men in matrifocal and gender-equal societies don’t genuinely see themselves as essential and their roles as of equal value. Whereas I think they do, since they say they do (and the women agree).

    My original definition of juju was the special role that men had for themselves that only they could do, typically something magico-religious. Like wearing important hats and playing special flutes.

    Why would the first point she mentions have any effect at all? Is the idea that weapons must be handed down from father to son? Or that men fight better if they know that they can dispose of the terrain they are defending?

    By the “first point” do you mean defense? If so, then it has an effect because men usually have primary responsibility for defense. Why? I guess because it’s dangerous, and so is considered to be better-suited for those members of society who aren’t pregnant or rearing children. There are certainly cases of women warriors and so forth, but nevertheless the correlation between war and men is extremely strong across all types of societies.

    As for the plough: I mistyped — I just meant the plough period.

    But btw, the difference between the scratch plough and the heavy plough is in the mouldboard. Scratch ploughs can have wheels and heavy ploughs can be pulled by oxen. The advantage of the heavy plough is that it turns the soil more deeply and efficiently and makes it possible to plant in heavy soils that the scratch plough can’t touch. But it’s very hard, heavy work.

  19. Violet says:

    I hate Romania right now. There’s a website I keep trying to access there and it keeps freezing up my computer. It must be one of those Satan-possessed websites.

    Anyway, I shall probably quit for the evening, so let me just clarify that I think Mandos thinks what I said I thought he thinks (about the mereness), but I’m guessing. He will have to speak for himself.

  20. Tom Nolan says:

    Violet

    Yes, I can see why men would make better territorial defenders – what I was wondering was: why would this help effect the change from matriliny to patriliny? That’s why I suggested inheritance of weapons. Or are you simply suggesting that when males become socially preponderent due to their value as territorial defenders a change to patriliny inevitably follows: patriliny as a sign of male dominance rather than its cause or support?

    I’ve seen pictures of scratch ploughs without wheels – and, just to make sure that I hadn’t misremembered, I looked it up on wiki (the layman’s friend!) where you can see one too.

    Your point about the plough, then, was that a change from hoeing (a female activity?) to ploughing would increase the social value of men, and that a change to patriliny would be the inevitable consequence?

  21. Mandos says:

    External to what? External to the locus of social reproduction and continuity, of course.

  22. Mandos says:

    Cultural systems change as circumstances change. I don’t think matriliny gave way to patriliny because the men felt peripheral (!), if that’s what you’re thinking. There are a bunch of ways matriliny can turn into patriliny:

    I’ve seen these reasons before, and only the agricultural one suggests a *necessary* or *sufficient* connection between changing circumstances and patrilinearity. Even if so, how was the connection between stakeholdership and inheritance drawn in the first place?

    Of course, males raised in matrilineal societies are not by and large going to be raised to resent their situation if you ask them, and of course, it’s likely to be some changing environmental ingredient which is going to instigate the change *However*, the question is, when change happens, why *that* change and not another change? Even in response to external stress, there’s no reason to me that it should correlate to inheritance schemes so ubiquitously, minus the small cultures that behave differently.

  23. simply wondered says:

    Vi – ‘By the “first point” do you mean defense? If so, then it has an effect because men usually have primary responsibility for defense. Why? I guess because it’s dangerous’ –
    so get the expendable ones to do it. Exactly. Women as biologically able to bear children are more valuable than the sperm sprayers, surely? as you know i speak (as ever) from ignorance but led by good ole-fashioned guesswork.

  24. cicely says:

    I missed the beginning of this conversation (was it on another thread?) and am having trouble getting a handle on it, but finding it interesting. If what I write next is completely irrelevant then, I’ve made my excuses…but please feel free to re-direct me to the point of the discussion if I’ve completely missed it…

    Has anyone read Rosalind Miles’s book ‘The Women’s History of The World? (Well, anyone here…) I was looking for the bit about a transference of power and/or importance from female to male and – in incredibly short shorthand – you can’t get away from multiple goddesses and gods being usurped by male gods – multiple first – then ultimately being whittled down to the One Male God religions. Goddesses were born, worshipped/feared/ everything – out of the fact that women created new life out of their own bodies. When men worked out their role in procreation, about the time of the rise of agriculture maybe, they began to regard their ‘seed’ as the source of life, and women’s bodies as merely the fields they planted new life in. My point is to wonder whether this is where the male ‘ownership’ of women and children idea – patriarchy – originally came from, bringing with it an opportunity for revenge at the humiliations goddesses had often brought to bear upon men. (Otherwise, what motivation for men vs women?) Then the thing spread all around the world via war, trade and – of course – religion.

    So, what sort of gods to the egalitarian societies you know of (who’ve managed to escape the spread of patriarchy) worship, Violet?

  25. Violet says:

    Of course, males raised in matrilineal societies are not by and large going to be raised to resent their situation if you ask them

    In other words, you prefer not to be constrained by the data. Well sure, you can believe anything you want.

    External to what? External to the locus of social reproduction and continuity, of course.

    “Of course” because we live in a patriarchy that is obsessed with the control of female sexuality, and we are the inheritors of patriarchal religions that are freakishly focused on the same. Everything in our cultural background tells us that men are the heads of families, that children belong to fathers, and the role of women is to bear men’s children. Like people everywhere, we tend to believe that our culture is normative, natural, the only way to be. But it’s not.

    It is always difficult to escape our own cultural confines — it’s difficult for all of us — but the effort must be made. I actually wish that in-depth studies of non-patriarchal social systems from all over the world were required for Western school children; perhaps it would help us all shed the sense that our patriarchal way of thinking is normative. In this short space, though, all I can do is re-iterate that what you regard as normal and universal — that unless men are in control of women’s reproduction they are somehow “peripheral” to what really matters — is simply not how all cultures see the world. Non-patriarchal societies usually embrace a notion of complementarity. (And not the kind of phony complementarity advocated by modern-day patriarchalists who pretend that women are just as important as men, because every king needs a subject, right?) Having babies is, to these cultures, women’s business.

    As a matter of fact, the focus on reproduction as the center of life isn’t even universal. You would think it would be, since fundamentally we’re all just a bunch of genes trying to reproduce themselves — but the same could be said of animals, yet the lion spends most of her life-energy not on reproduction but on getting food. If lions had religion they would have a Goddess of the Hunt who controlled the supply of wildebeests. The cultic ritual would involve offerings to the goddess and a Summoning the Wildebeests, etc., etc.

    It’s like that with a lot of human cultures. You know what the single most common focus is of human ritual and prayer? FOOD. Not babies. Without food, there is no life, and the majority of human energy is spent on securing it. Babies, on the other hand, just come along naturally.

    Consider the world view of a band of hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, or small-scale horticulturalists. Their main focus is finding the animals to hunt, encouraging their flocks to reproduce, getting their crops to grow. When there are problems, the fault is thought to be some problem with the gods. So, prayers have to be offered, rituals performed, spirits propitiated. As for babies, they of course just come along when a man and woman have sex. Both men and women play their essential parts in society — women make and tend babies, and gather or grow plants; men do religion, and tend the animals or hunt.

    Now, do you actually suppose that the men in that culture feel somehow peripheral? Somehow outside the center of things? In fact they don’t think that way at all. They’re not outside the center of things; they’re one-half of the whole, and they know it.

  26. simply wondered says:

    ‘because we live in a patriarchy that is obsessed with the control of female sexuality’

    but i think it’s obsessed with controlling everything – i see society as desperate to straitjacket male sexuality into its self-serving norms too.

  27. simply wondered says:

    oh and cicely, i too have NO idea what the start of this thread was, but it seemed like fun to get involved and ignorance is my friend.
    thus you will be unsurprised to hear that my ignorance of Rosalind Miles and her presumably fascinating book is total.

  28. Violet says:

    Your point about the plough, then, was that a change from hoeing (a female activity?) to ploughing would increase the social value of men, and that a change to patriliny would be the inevitable consequence?

    Yes, that’s the point about all those factors: that male dominance arose as a result of men’s roles becoming more important. I will try to explain in a little more detail what that means.

    First of all, anthropology is not like math or computer science; there are no if A then B statements. There are no cultural absolutes at all. Human social development is more like weather: a huge number of variables, out of which trends and patterns can be detected, and certain results predicted but only within a degree of probability and dependent on other factors, etc., etc., etc.

    In studying the origin of male dominance (which is based on history as well as contemporary case studies), anthropologists have noted that a rise in male dominance seems to follow from situations in which the male role in society has become emphasized at the expense of the female role, either economically or socially.

    * Stress factors — not any stress, of course, but stress that is met by a response that enhances the male role in society. Imagine a typical egalitarian society in which men and women’s roles are in balance, the men’s roles including defense (as is common worldwide). As long as the group is relatively at peace, the warrior role is not overwhelmingly important. If the group becomes involved in ongoing warfare, though, then the society can become militarized and the role of the warrior glorified. Military leaders can take over the decision-making apparatus, and society largely subordinated to military demands. If this situation obtains for long enough, then male dominance can become entrenched, which can in turn eventually lead to patriliny and full-scale patriarchy.

    * Change in agriculture: Or any economic change that shifts power to men. In a horticultural (pre-plow) farming society, women own the fields, just as they “owned” the patches of wild grain before that, just as they were in charge of obtaining plant food since time immemorial. Men meanwhile were in charge of animals. (Very strong correlation around the world: Women = plant food, Men = animal food.) With the plow, agriculture became men’s business. This was probably a huge blow to women’s status, since now men were in charge of both plant and animal food. Of course it probably took a very long time for a change in inheritance systems from matriliny to patriliny (centuries or millennia, I would think).

  29. Violet says:

    When men worked out their role in procreation, about the time of the rise of agriculture maybe, they began to regard their ’seed’ as the source of life, and women’s bodies as merely the fields they planted new life in. My point is to wonder whether this is where the male ‘ownership’ of women and children idea – patriarchy – originally came from, bringing with it an opportunity for revenge at the humiliations goddesses had often brought to bear upon men.

    My opinion is that patriarchal religion follows from patriarchal economy.

    I think that people have known about the male role in reproduction since the Upper Paleolithic (if not before!). There are all those ithyphallic paintings and sculptures, you know, though less common than the pregnant Mother Goddesses. But still, I think working out that fucking=babies was within the grasp of any Paleolithic culture.

    With the rise of plow agriculture and the shifting of economic power to men, people (well, maybe just male people) began re-visioning their mythic structures. Whereas previously the male and female roles in procreation had been seen as both essential but with emphaisis on Woman as the great Mother of All, men now began to exaggerate the male role as Fertilizer of All, with woman as the recipient of his seed. I don’t think they’d just discovered the male role; I think they were re-interpreting it. And the religious pantheons were re-fashioned as well, a process that was still ongoing with the dawn of Near Eastern civilization. We can almost see the great Mother Goddess being cut down to size as the Young Male God, who had formerly been her son or consort, now became her lord.

    The reason I see this as following on the heels of the economic/social change is because that’s a process that is observable (and has been recorded) around the world: religion gets re-made to reflect reality. Myths are created to explicate the world, to justify change, to explain why and how things are.

    (Otherwise, what motivation for men vs women?)

    I think that much of the antagonism between men and women in patriarchy is a feature of patriarchy itself, because the system imposes male control over female sexuality. It’s got oppression built into its core. I’m going to paste in what I said about that in the thread where this conversation started:

    This is why, in a matriarchy (if I may use the term), men are not oppressed: women have no motivation to do so. If women are in charge of reproduction and possess the economic means for sustenance, there is absolutely no reason for them to try to control men’s sexuality. After all, the woman is passing on her property to her own offspring, and while it may hurt her heart if the man she loves is sleeping with other women, it has zero economic effect, and hence no impact on how society as a whole is structured.

    In a patriarchy, on the other hand, where women are simply vessels for men’s progeny and all wealth is passed from father to child, men are motivated to ensure their paternity by controlling the brood mares (women), severely curtailing their sexual freedom. If it’s absolutely critical for economic reasons that a man know who his offspring are, then he’s motivated to keep his wife locked up and “pure.” Patriarchal societies are based on domination and oppression at the very core; it’s an unnatural system.

  30. cicely says:

    No time to comment properly, but what you say re the origins of patriarchy does make more sense, Violet. I went to bed thinking ‘oh, surely men knew their role in procreation sooner than when I was suggesting’. (But I’m happy to make an idiot of myelf from time to time…) And religion and social order ‘reflecting’ practical/economic realities and then entrenching male dominance that arose from them – yes, that does ring true. And then the dreaded spread ‘after’ the initial entrenchment(s).

    Certainly ‘not’ a natural state of affairs, but one of those horrible man-made forks in the road that leave great chunks of humanity dispossesed of their whole human ‘selves’.

  31. Mandos says:

    In other words, you prefer not to be constrained by the data. Well sure, you can believe anything you want.

    Look: If I wanted to do a survey of women in rural Afghanistan or Pakistan’s NWFP province, you wanna bet that you won’t find a majority of women dissatisfied with their role? It’s easy to ask anyone raised in any given culture, no matter how unsatisfactory, and find that at some instant in time, they don’t see it.

    I am willing to believe that most of the time, people are satisfied with their roles, and that every so often, there’s a—to use a crystalographic metaphor—”phase change.” The question has always been: what motivates the phase change?

  32. Violet says:

    Look: If I wanted to do a survey of women in rural Afghanistan or Pakistan’s NWFP province, you wanna bet that you won’t find a majority of women dissatisfied with their role? It’s easy to ask anyone raised in any given culture, no matter how unsatisfactory, and find that at some instant in time, they don’t see it.

    Sure, but that’s not an appropriate analogy. The analog would be if you studied all known patriarchal societies, now and from the past, and could find no evidence whatsoever that women’s status was considered lower than men’s — by either men or women — and no evidence at all that women chafed at their role.

    There is simply no evidence at all of female dominance, of men being oppressed, or anything like that.

  33. Mandos says:

    Which I thought I suggested I never claimed in itself. Especially since our data sources for the latter is kind of sparse relative to our data sources for the former.

  34. Mandos says:

    Look, there’s a confusion here: I am not claiming that peripherality and oppression are the same thing, or even (especially?) that peripherality *is* oppression. At worst, I am claiming that they are both *routes* to motivate changes for better or for worse..

  35. Violet says:

    I went to bed thinking ‘oh, surely men knew their role in procreation sooner than when I was suggesting’. (But I’m happy to make an idiot of myelf from time to time…)

    You are not an idiot at all; the theory that the male role was only discovered around the time of agriculture used to be common and is still held by some people. I don’t believe it myself. Even the most “primitive” and isolated people seem to understand perfectly well about babies, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t. And the phalluses from the Paleolithic associated with fertility-looking things seem to cinch the idea.

    I think the reason people have argued that the male role in reproduction was only discovered with the advent of plow agriculture is because that’s when patriarchy started to develop in the Near East. I think that is putting the plow before the oxen, as it were; it seems to me vastly more likely that the shift to patriarchy stemmed from the economic change. After all, every human society ever known has been fully aware of the male role in reproduction, yet patriarchy is not universal.

    In general I am suspicious of “universal” explanations, such as womb envy, for patriarchy, because when you look at our whole global history, not only do you discover that patriarchy is not universal, but that it also seems more connected to economic patterns than anything else. The simplest societies studied (like the Mbuti, the Semangs, etc.) exhibit a strong degree of egalitarianism. Hunter-gatherer bands in general show relatively low levels of male dominance and a high frequency of egalitarianism and female importance. This continues with horticulture, which is what anthropologists call pre-plow agriculture and which was/is the domain of women. I personally believe that the most common human pattern before settled agriculture was roughly egalitarian.

    Which is not to say that I think something like “womb envy” doesn’t exist at all; I just don’t think it’s a sufficient cause to bring about patriarchy. What I think it brings about is juju! There seems to be a very common yearning among men to make their own role as prominently obvious as women’s role in the continuation of life. That’s where I think juju comes from. Juju tends to be extremely flamboyant, with hats and flutes and cutting ceremonies and so forth; it seems to serve the purpose of calling attention to male power. In a gender-equal society, the juju does not make men more important than women; the result is simply a deeply-felt balance between males and females, rather than male dominance. But in a society that is undergoing change to male dominance or in which male dominance is already in effect, the juju spirals out of control. And then you get, you know, the Pope.

  36. Violet says:

    I am not claiming that peripherality and oppression are the same thing, or even (especially?) that peripherality is oppression.

    Perhaps the problem is the term peripheral. If men are fundamentally peripheral to the center of things, then there is an imbalance that can never be corrected unless men get control of the center.

    I think, as I was just saying above, that men develop juju in order to balance the prominence of women’s role in reproduction. It’s not that women are the center and men are outside; it’s more two halves, with one being very obvious and attention-getting. So men come up with juju to make their half of things look just as shiny and fancy as the women’s side. Or to put it in other words, I think juju is an attempt to manifest in an external, flamboyant way what is already understood, that men are also essential to life.

    However, none of us really know. We are in speculative territory here — but that is why I think it’s so critical for us to try very hard to get outside our own cultural norms. I’m reminded of an essay by Sharon Smith in which she mentioned the reaction of 17th and 18th century Jesuits to Native American social structures:

    The Jesuits mostly were appalled by the level of equality they found–including the sexual freedom and equality between women and men. One Jesuit, when he encountered the Montagnais-Naskapi of Eastern Canada, reported, “I told him that it was not honorable for a woman to love anyone else except her husband, and that, this evil being among them, he himself was not sure that his son, who was there present, was his son.” But the Naskapi were equally appalled by the Jesuits. The man replied, “Thou hast no sense. You French people love only your own children; but we love all the children of our tribe.”

    We have been Jesuits for too long.

  37. cicely says:

    There seems to be a very common yearning among men to make their own role as prominently obvious as women’s role in the continuation of life. That’s where I think juju comes from. Juju tends to be extremely flamboyant, with hats and flutes and cutting ceremonies and so forth; it seems to serve the purpose of calling attention to male power.

    Still in speculative territory, I wonder if the goal of ‘juju’ is to make the male role ‘more’ important than women’s rather than ‘as’ important, at least as time went on. This to ‘legitimise’ by accentuation a power imbalance that even quite early must have seemed illegitimate to some if not a significant but unknowable percentage of people. When girls and women chafed at the limitations forced upon them, and brothers and other male rellies saw how much their sisters etc were ‘actually’ capable of, what was their equal but opposite response?

  38. Violet says:

    Still in speculative territory, I wonder if the goal of ‘juju’ is to make the male role ‘more’ important than women’s rather than ‘as’ important, at least as time went on. This to ‘legitimise’ by accentuation a power imbalance that even quite early must have seemed illegitimate to some if not a significant but unknowable percentage of people.

    I think that happens when the society shifts to male dominance, which I think happens primarily because of other pressures (usually economic).

    In other words, I would sketch out the history of transition like this:

    1. Gender-equal society, with the sexes in balance and male juju serving as a balance to the women’s special role in child-bearing.

    2. Something causes a change to male-dominance, most likely by shifting the balance of economic power to men: the development of plow agriculture, introduction of cattle breeding (as in Africa), etc. Of course the change does not happen overnight!

    3. Along with the economic change, the juju evolves to emphasize the role of men as being superior and of central importance, myths are re-vamped to explain why men must rule women..

  39. Violet says:

    So, what sort of gods to the egalitarian societies you know of (who’ve managed to escape the spread of patriarchy) worship, Violet?

    I never answered this question. When Peggy Reeves Sanday did her analysis of mythology across cultures, she found a high correlation between gender-equal societies and gods that were either female or couples; i.e., either a Mother Goddess or a Divine Couple. The flip side is a strong correlation between male gods and male-dominated societies.

    A highly unusual exception is the Minangkabau of Indonesia, who have maintained a matrifocal, matrilineal society despite their conversion to Islam. Sanday spent two decades with them, and believes that their culture was simply so strong and so highly-developed that its matrifocal component was able to withstand the patriarchal pressures of Islam when it arrived about 300 years ago.

  40. cicely says:

    A highly unusual exception is the Minangkabau of Indonesia, who have maintained a matrifocal, matrilineal society despite their conversion to Islam. Sanday spent two decades with them, and believes that their culture was simply so strong and so highly-developed that its matrifocal component was able to withstand the patriarchal pressures of Islam when it arrived about 300 years ago.

    That *is* strong. I agree with what you wrote earlier – that matrilineal, matrifocal etc societies, past and present, should be studied in schools – to help spread the knowledge that there is nothing natural, ‘right’ or inevitable about patriarchal society. Bonobos are good, but they don’t quite do it…

  41. cicely says:

    simply wondered – I’m guessing Mandos asked some radical and seperatist (spelling?) feminists something about the place of men in a feminist utopia. To those who know – am I close?

  42. Tom Nolan says:

    Cicely

    It’s on that infamous “I am a monster and proud” thread at Women’s Space.

    Mandos was wondering aloud, and in the vicinity of a certain “Mary Sunshine”, if the fear that some men have of losing dominance is not, perhaps, all that irrational if they face the danger of being culturally effaced by the supremacy of women.

    Violet bundled him out of their before he they burnt him in a wicker man.

    Actually, it’s amazing that he manages to operate in an environment like that at all. They’ve already ejected him once, but he has amazing powers of insinuation. Personally, I love watching him at work. Mandos, the Rad Whisperer

  43. Tom Nolan says:

    ahem…”out of there”.

    Sorry, as you were.

  44. Violet says:

    I was taking issue with Mandos on two things: one, the idea that a feminist utopia would oppress men; and two, the idea that in matrilineal/gender-equal societies, men are so “peripheral” that they are somehow at a disadvantage and thus motivated to gain control of women’s sexuality.

    The reason I took issue is because there’s no evidence for either of those things. We don’t have any feminist utopias to study, but we can clearly see that there’s no evidence for female oppression of men in any type of social structure, including the most matriarchal. There’s also no evidence that men in matriarchies feel excluded or disadvantaged, and this is far more than just a question of people accepting what they were born into. Even in so-called matriarchies, men have the glamour jobs and the most visible cereomonial/religious positions. I get kind of frustrated on this subject because in fact, anthropologists have been searching in vain for 150 years for a society where men’s status is lower than women’s, and they can’t find it.

    Consider the Moso of China, who are probably the closest to what we would call a “matriarchy” of any extant society. They traditionally don’t practice marriage at all; the sole family unit is mother and children. Sexual freedom is complete for both sexes, and fatherhood is only acknowledged if the parties involved choose to do so. Men belong to their mothers, are economic and social partners with their sisters, and serve as mentors for their nephews and nieces. The house and farm belong to the women, the eldest or most dynamic woman in the family is the head of the family (a role she passes on to the daughter of her choosing), women control the family’s wealth, etc., etc. Men live with their mothers/sisters, but sexual custom dictates that they sleep away from the family home, spending the night with their girlfriends (or in an outbuilding if they don’t have a lover.) Meanwhile, the women of the family entertain their own lovers each night in the family home.

    It’s easy to look at this and say, gosh, those men are so “peripheral.” But in fact the men have terrific lives. Women do the housework, farmwork, and child-rearing, which means men don’t do those things, and they sure aren’t complaining. While little girls are learning to tend house and field from the time they can walk, little boys play freely until they’re old enough to learn manly jobs. And manly jobs are glamorous: a man might become a Buddhist monk, lama or a native priest, all of which are extremely high status jobs. He is likely to become a horse-caravan trader, which means he’ll travel out in the big world, see the sights, and have even wider opportunities for sexual liasons. Or if he’s a cowboy type, he may go herd yaks with his uncles in the mountains. Meanwhile, he has a permanent home with his mother and sisters, where he is doted on like any son, relied on for advice on outside business by his sisters, and looked up to by his nieces and nephews. And his love life! He can love as many women as will have him. Aside from the physical and emotional pleasure involved, he can have the satisfaction of knowing that he’s probably fathered several children but will never have to bother about taking care of any of them. (Though he may choose to be involved with their lives if he is so inclined).

    Far from being disadvantaged or excluded, Moso men actually lead lives that most men around the world would envy.

  45. cicely says:

    Thanks, Tom. I went over for a look. I somehow missed the middle of that thread when I went there before.

    Thanks to you too, Violet. I really appreciate learning about these societies. I printed your last comment off to absorb and think about it. At first glance it certainly appears that the Moso have got things sorted and balanced a whole lot better than we have.

  46. will says:

    “the Minangkabau of Indonesia”

    I was just reading about them yesterday. A very interesting culture. I am planning on reading more.

  47. Burrow says:

    POutine!!!!!!

  48. Violet says:

    Oh, you Canadians!

    You know, I’ve reached the point that I think I’m going to have to try that stuff. But I guess I’ll have to get to Canada first. Which means I’ll have to leave the house. Hmm.

  49. will says:

    Take me! Road Trip!!! I love poutine.

  50. Violet says:

    I forget, where did you have poutine? Toronto?

  51. will says:

    Quebec, if you were talking to me.

    But Montreal is a fabulous city.

  52. Mandos says:

    Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City, and most of the places in between. Actually by now it’s known across most of Canada but those are the places to get the good stuff. I’m told Quebec City’s poutine is the best.

    However, I thought you were a vegetarian. Sometimes it’s beef gravy. Actually some of the gravy mixes for poutine are vegetarian too, but I don’t think you can easily tell.

  53. Mandos says:

    Juju file:

    Incorrect sperm

    One of the comments complains about men being seen as interchangeable by posters who are criticizing the would-have-been father for not accepting the child.

  54. Mandos says:

    So I sort of got bored and wandered off to other things, but I’m still not happy with the economic change argument. The reason why is thus: it fails to explain the central point of the discussion. Alright: we can see how environmental/economic conditions can bring about male dominance as such. But why *this* form of male dominance—circumscription of women’s roles in order to increase paternity certainty—rather than, say, passing one’s property legacy onto one’s nearest male relative by sisters or cousins? Still a male line. But why a *biological* male line?

    It also doesn’t help us with the even larger broad context in which this particular discussion unfolded, which was a Women’s Space discussion of separatism, as I recall. Now we *do* live in a dominant culture that normatively expects relationships between men and their biological offspring, even without a unified nuclear family in place. Do you expect increasing equality to de-emphasize the genetic bond?

    Or, as a commenter on a more recent thread on Women’s Space suggests:

    That people will inevitably form bands and alliances with one another has nothing to do with whether they’ll be based on biological relatedness, least of all fatherhood. If you take the father (ie, patriarch[y]) out of heterosexual relationships, you end up with an arrangement in which the sex (and number, for that matter) of the parties is entirely irrelevant, rendering male-female alliances less “heterosexual,” per se (especially since, women no longer being the sex class, there would be no concept of sexual servitude or obligation within such an alliance), and more just random. With sex appropriately teased out from reproduction and family, the people one sleeps with or even spawns with need not be, even in a vague aspirational morality kind of way, the same people one trusts or relies on.

    But it seems to me that people, including men, would still want at minimum to take care of and know their own offspring, now that we are no longer “innocent” and have the history of a culture in which children were designated to men in some way.

    Furthermore, it’s not clear that we would even want to remove such a designation and live like the Moso, considering that in an advanced industrial society, such divisions of labour suggest oppression (women doing most of the domestic scutwork?) where it might be an innocent and egalitarian thing among the Moso. Worse, do you really want a society in which, in order to avoid male peripherality, we give the high-status and “exterior” jobs to men, given that these are now lucrative and powerful positions? If not, then what is our source of juju?

  55. Violet says:

    But why this form of male dominance—circumscription of women’s roles in order to increase paternity certainty—rather than, say, passing one’s property legacy onto one’s nearest male relative by sisters or cousins? Still a male line. But why a biological male line?

    Passing property to one’s sister is not a male line; that’s matriliny. That is the difference between patriliny and matriliny: in a patriliny, a man passes property to his own offspring, while in a matriliny property passes to his sister’s offspring.

    Are you really asking why people have different feelings about their own offspring than about their nieces and nephews? You yourself say later on in the same comment:

    But it seems to me that people, including men, would still want at minimum to take care of and know their own offspring

    Yes, even in close-knit societies where all the adults act as surrogate parents for all the children, people generally are quite interested in their own offspring. As for how people think property should be passed down, that varies. Many societies believe that the most sensible thing is to trace descent and property through women. This frequently goes along with female power and relative gender equality, though there are exceptions: some societies that develop male-dominance still maintain matrilineal descent, and jump through various hoops to make it serve men’s interests (like men marrying their sisters). In contrast, patrilineal descent usually goes along with male power, though not always: there are some simple gender equal societies, like the Mbuti, who regard men and women as completely equal, yet have elected to trace descent primarily through men. (In the case of the Mbuti, it may very well be influence from neighboring patriarchal cultures in Africa.)

    No one really knows for sure why some societies develop male dominance, but as I keep saying, I think the most likely cause is usually economic. When the balance of productive power favors men (such as when men take over the farming and the fields, or if a society becomes dependent on men’s herding), then the stage is set for men to decide that they want to pass their personal wealth onto their own sons, and to do whatever is necessary to ensure that this happens.

    I don’t quite understand what you’re saying about the Moso. I described their society in order to demonstrate that even in the most matriarchal society on earth, even one where fatherhood is generally not acknowledged, men are not peripheral or in any way oppressed. You kept saying that unless men control women’s sexuality they will be “peripheral,” and societies like the Moso are proof otherwise.

    Where did you get the idea that I think we should give up Western-style civilization and live like the Moso?

    Worse, do you really want a society in which, in order to avoid male peripherality, we give the high-status and “exterior” jobs to men, given that these are now lucrative and powerful positions? If not, then what is our source of juju?

    Why do you think juju is still necessary to avoid male peripherality? I’m guessing your argument is that it’s always been that way, so it must always be that way, but I don’t find that persuasive. Actually it reminds me of the arguments against the birth control pill in the 60s; reactionaries said that being fertile had always been the core fact of womanhood, and to change this fundamental aspect of society would lead to mass breakdown, social decay, lunacy, whatever.

    A feature of most pre-industrial societies is that gender roles are clearly defined. The rigor with which gender distinctions are enforced varies considerably, from hardly at all to rigid segregation of the sexes. But it’s a common feature: men do/are this, women do/are that. In gender-equal societies the distinction is not oppressive to either side — the roles are equal in power and respect — and in any case, in most pre-industrial societies there aren’t that many jobs anyway. Either you tend the fields or you tend the cattle: these are your career options.

    But obviously in a post-industrial feminist-enlightened modern world we are way past that. Which is an excellent thing, bringing the potential for all people to be what they want to be and live how they want to live. None of us find our identity in the narrow categories of our ancestors anymore. Women don’t hop about in the cornfields dripping menstrual blood on the Earth to celebrate their fertility as mothers; and I’ve only known one woman in my life who derives her primary sense of self from motherhood, and she’s a religious nut with 6 children. So why should men need juju?

    The reactionary behavior of men in modern culture is not, I think, some deep-seated permanent response to loss of juju, but a very particular backlash against the loss of male privilege which has happened and is continuing to happen in their lifetimes. They’ll get over it — or their sons will.

    Bottom line is that it’s far too soon to say that without some special juju or control over women’s sexuality, men will fall apart. How can we say that men cannot adapt to a modern gender-equal world, when the very notion of a modern gender-equal world is still so new?

  56. Violet says:

    That link to the Women’s Space thread doesn’t work. I can’t quite sort out what that commenter is saying (the one you excerpted), but I get the feeling he/she seems to think that patriarchy is inevitable if men know who their children are. Which isn’t true at all.

  57. Mandos says:

    Heh. It appears that my “twinkletoes” at IBTP seems to have slipped, and now there is a long protracted, but wholly appropriate, thread about whether or not to ban me, with the votes overwhelmingly in favour of bannage. Well, it was only a matter of time, made too many influential enemies for Twisty to keep me on.

  58. Infidel says:

    So you come slinking back over here to your own thread just as Violet is about to go off on Jerry Falwell and put the last nail in Roberto Gonzales’ coffin, or vice versa. Just what is an IBTP anyway?