Sunday, February 28, 2016

Theory of the Difference in Power Between Men and Women.

Here is my root hypothesis:
Power is distributed between men and women according to the relative
importance of their contributions to the survival of the community. In
pre-literate, pre-agricultural societies, women and men tended,
therefor, to share equal status.
A second hypothesis holds that because men tend to be larger and
more muscular than women, they are able to dominate women through
physical power.
Persons familiar with western history might tend to believe that the
current pattern of male dominance is a product of male violence and
physical power. Supporting this argument they might dispute the first
hypothesis by noting that the production of children is obviously the
most important role in any community, and yet women do not retain a
status equal to the importance that this role would imply. However men
have not always dominated women. So what happened?
The problems in these apparently contradictory hypotheses can be
resolved if the first hypotheses allows the second to operate. Among the
pre-literate societies known to us are some that are matrilineal or even
matriarchal; In these societies, the permission of women may be required
for men to pursue a course of action, such as an attack on another
village; even though they have different roles, their positions have
equal status. The explanation for this is that the products of women's
labor are as important as those of men - perhaps more important.
Moreover, many pre-literate and paleo-lithic societies were thought to
engage in fertility worship, a clear statement of the importance given
by the community to the power of women to produce children and an
obvious veneration of women's status. However with increasing
complexity, changing demands on men and women, and increasing disruption
of human communities, the core function of women to produce children
lost its primacy to the need for men to protect the community and
acquire new resources.
Male violence takes on more importance as conflict between
communities becomes more common. The Huron Indians, a matrilineal
society related to the Iroquois, turned to warfare for a period just
before the arrival of Europeans because hunting was becoming less
successful, and men needed a way to demonstrate their masculinity. Hence
they were developing a violence-oriented society while still a
matrilineal culture. Whether the Huron would eventually have become
patriarchal can't be known, but this sort of transformation required
millennia, and was observed to occur in the cultures of the middle east
over the period of agricultural development. The key here is that as
violence becomes more important, the relative economic output between
men and women becomes less important. Also becoming less important is
the natural family structure required to raise healthy children, which
is typically led by women. The production of children is still
important, but women's roles and the production of children in
particular are subsumed in importance by the need to support male
military activity. Men, who must protect the community from attack and
raids by other communities, must now be given deference they did not get
before, and to a degree not seen previously, they have permission to be
controlling and use violence in their domestic relationships.
This transformation was very gradual. It was fostered by the dynamic
produced by agriculture and by husbandry that men could have multiple
wives. Families came to favor male children because, if they were
successful, they could multiply the number of children for the family
name much more than any one female child could. Of course every man with
a second wife means there is a man without a wife, so a male child will
not automatically produce more children, but it is possible and a gamble
seen as one worth taking.
The availability of agricultural surpluses, inducing theft and
violence and supporting more children for successful men, and the
possibility of having multiple wives, further inducing control and
violence, produced cultures which value and assign power to males and
men, in preference to females or women. Female fertility ceased to be a
resource owned by the women themselves; men came to see themselves as
owning it. These beliefs have persisted in western cultures for at least
4,000 years; they are deeply encoded in our religions and traditions;
despite this, women of western societies in the last century and more
have taken on the power structures which accord privileges to men, and
have demanded equality. What is so fundamentally different about the
present circumstances which women face that the time came to so
profoundly change the relationship between men and women?
One obvious cause is that women got fed up, but this was probably
always true. What was new were education (rationality and science being
big contributors), wealth (colonialism did benefit some), communication,
the formation of mass societies, and the deep complexity of western
economies. With the loss of the tradition of individuals living in
extended families on farms, the widow in an industrial economy will have
to raise her children on her own income; same for a woman whose husband
has left her (until the advent of contraception, almost all women were
mothers). Being in the workplace, having the same responsibilities as
men, or more, and seeing no material difference in the roles they or men
were expected to fulfill, except that men were paid more, women rejected
the argument that men's roles make them deserving of any privilege.
Indeed, with a general decline in the level of violence between
communities and a declining utility for violence in the community,
violence and the control that comes with it could be rejected as
necessary to the male - female dynamic. Women, seeing themselves as
used, abused, and trapped, having the education to know better, and
having the responsibilities to compel them, rejected the subservient
roles they had been assigned, and demanded equality with men.
I think it is worthwhile to discuss "equality". The first hypotheses
above suggests that equality for men and women does not require they
have equal access to the same roles. They can have different roles, but
the different roles must provide to each an equal chance to acquire the
resources they need to live and possibly to have children. For practical
purposes, because of the complexity and turmoil of our cultures and
societies, there are very few jobs which truly require a man or a woman
- sperm donor and mother? For now the only reasons to support role
distinctions at all only require some accommodations to motherhood, such
as allowing women to rejoin the workforce at the same status as when she
left the workforce to have children. Then a woman does not need to
choose between having a family and having a satisfying career. Since men
are generally not required to make this choice, this would be an
important achievement of equality. Other, "affirmative" accommodations
are also needed, due to the extra burden from producing and raising
children, and we could discuss "affirmative action" to further level the
Unfortunately if you're man, you're not near as smart, as aware, as
connected or as competent as your rank equal. The unexpected outcome of
the Feminist revolution may be that men become more domestic and women
become the providers.


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