«

»

Dec 02 2006

Ritual madness (another “Sod off, God!” tangent)

A propos of yesterday’s “Ritual: Nature or Nurture?” discussion (which has since oozed over into Pharyngula; if you’re PZ Myers, every time an angel says “religion sure is dumb,” a little bell rings), a reader sent me a link to an article, published this month in what I believe (my Norwegian is a little rusty) to be a publication of the University of Oslo.

Given the nature of the comments on the ritual post (mostly “Twisty is wrong; humans gotta have rituals”), what I expected was a scientific paper arguing that ceremonial tomfoolery is hardwired in H. sapiens, much like women’s innate proclivity to talk too much. In fact the article turned out to be evidence that my theory is righty-o: a report on “a startling archaeological discovery [that] changes our understanding of human history.” The startling archaeological discovery is a remote cave in Botswana where certain ancient Botswanians, believing themselves to be descended from snakes, carved a giant python head into the wall, to which they apparently ritually sacrificed spear heads. ca. 70,000 BCE.

I’m sure that I, too, would be “startled” by the sudden discovery of a giant python head and the hideous charred remains of thousands of ancient Botswanian spearheads. Even without spearheads, unexpected snakes have a way of taking one aback. Longtime readers may recall the painful episode wherein my inadvertent — albeit extremely temporary — juxtaposition with a diamondback rattler actuated, on my part, an injudicious sideways leap the ultimate destination of which turned out to be the aciculate embrace of an opuntia cactus. I was pullin’ pricklies out of my pear for quite some time afterward, I tell you what.

However, the giant stone age python head startles Norwegian archaeologists for less comical reasons. In “chang[ing] our understanding of human history” the discovery appears to push the date of the earliest human ritual practice 30,000 years back from where it used to be on the Timeline of Ill-Advised Human Innovations. It also shifts the official location of the invention of deity-worship from Europe to Africa.

Archaeologist Sheila Coulson describes the tableau: “Stone age people took these colourful spearheads, brought them to the cave, and finished carving them there. Only the red spearheads were burned. It was a ritual destruction of artifacts. There was no sign of normal habitation. No ordinary tools were found at the site. Our find means that humans were more organised and had the capacity for abstract thinking at a much earlier point in history than we have previously assumed. All of the indications suggest that Tsodilo has been known to mankind for almost 100,000 years as a very special place in the pre-historic landscape.”

Coulson also reveals that hidden in the cave behind the giant stone snake head is a conveniet secret hidey-hole, complete with secret hidden escape shaft. The speculation is that a shaman — or some other species of prehistoric pompadoured evangelist godbag con-man — would secret himself there in his undisclosed location and intimidate, Cheney-like, a gullible audience of true believers with smoke and mirrors.

So you see? You grasp the gist? Domination of submissives through ritualized religious bogosity is a learned behavior resulting from the serendipitous intersection of opportunity and imagination, not some kind of biological imperative. If the Norwegians are right — and when has a Norwegian ever been wrong? — and it’s been going on for twice as long as everyone thought, well, no wonder everybody thinks church is as natural as camembert.

But the reality is, it’s only as natural as All-Natural Kraft American Singles

81 comments

  1. thebewilderness

    It would appear that the authoritarianism that produces sociopaths may be a genetic glitch indeed. This discovery seems to be an example of one of the methods used to hoard privilege, lo these many years ago. No wonder the overthrow of the patriarchy has been two steps forward one step back.

  2. Jezebella

    That still means humans likely spent tens of thousands of years unencumbered by organized ritual, right?

    Of course, they were also unencumbered by delicious squash sandwiches.

  3. emma goldman

    I still say it depends about what you’re talking. I’m with you on the getting rid of deities thing. I’m with you on gullibility, smoke, mirrors, and the presence of same at most Rituals. I’m with you on the hierarchy/patriarchy thing, and the ways rituals can and do reinforce that.

    However, I also think one of the aspects of being social beings (in the Wittgensteinian sense of “aspects”) is a tendency to impose/create/utilize order(liness)–I’d argue that language is itself one of those orderings. But surely there’s a difference between the things that Twisty writes and the things written on a godbag website, say, or in a holy scripture. that is, committing to the notion of humans being social creatures does not commit one to a particular social order any more than committing to the notion that humans utilize language commits one to particular use of language.

    I think the gist of what I’m saying is that order(liness) is at the heart of ritual, but that order(liness) is pretty vague. I don’t know where the quantum cutoffs are–how to distinguish among things that a group of friends or family do regularly, and enjoy; things that some bunch of godbags claim is required of everyone because an invisible cloud being declared it so; things that primarily reinforce a patriarchal social order; things that attempt to subvert said social order; etc. At a micro level, I’d even argue that OCD–kind of orderliness taken to an extreme level–speaks to some kind of wiring in humans that prefers order. some people in the other thread mentioned it as a way to keep uncertainty and the fear that accompanies uncertainty at bay. I’d argue that the orderliness that language necessitates speaks to some kinds of wiring. And I don’t think that committing to any of those things commits one to a defense of Ritual, writ large, run by godbags, etc. So, in that sense, I agree that humans do not Need Ritual, and they certainly don’t need any specific ritual or type of ritual.

    And I completely agree that “Domination of submissives through ritualized religious bogosity is a learned behavior resulting from the serendipitous intersection of opportunity and imagination, not some kind of biological imperative.”

    I think what I’m saying is that there might be a baby in that bathwater.

  4. TP

    My ignorant guess is some vague feeling that ignoring any and all of the good religion has done while exaggerating the bad things people have used it to do is too simple to leave at that. I, for one, wouldn’t want to return to a pre-christian world of bestial dominance untempered by the slightest whiff of the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount. I find it difficult to believe that the world would somehow be a better place without it, and alarming to think how much worse it would be with male aggression unchecked by even lip service paid to christian ideals.

    Not that I’m apologizing for the evil done in the name of all religions – mostly Judeo-Christian religions, as far as I know. Or the boring and useless pomp of rituals. But when I see all those men out there bowing their heads to a higher power than themselves I see them doing something that is a little closer to humility than male privilege might otherwise imply they need to be. Male privilege unchecked by even the idea of a higher power seems even scarier than male privilege usurping and using a belief in a higher power to further their own selfish ends.

    The ideals of religion temper the male lust to dominate and ruin everything around themselves. The fact that it is not a bullet-proof solution doesn’t change that.

  5. Mar Iguana

    What if the shaman was a woman? And, the spear makers were worshipping the god-like bleeding of women synchronized with the moon, with no more harm done them physically than a snake shedding its skin periodically? The shawoman would have them burning the red weaponry to keep them on focus that their phallic spear thingys were for killing food, not each other.

    I mean, then as now, who were the brighter ones before the boys decided “fuck wisdom, violence is easier,” read “patriarchy” Especially when one considers that the boys seem to require relentless repetition in order to get/retain a concept; ritual in other words.

    It could be. Since it’s all necessarily speculation, what the hell? It’s most probable that prehistoric human life was egalitarian and that the innovating of spirituality, along with everything else from agriculture to weaving to domesticating animals, was done by women 70K years ago. Realizing the kinda-cute-but-not-as-bright males of their kind were, maybe the shawomen came up with a way to discourage homocide.

    Spirituality is having a sense of the intangible, the metaphysical. Religion is merely the co-opting of that feeling to obtain and retain illegitimate power, worshipping death rather than celebrating life since both men and women can kill but only women can create human life, god-like.

  6. Mar Iguana

    Mangled a sentence in there. Sloppy proofing.

  7. Chris Clarke

    There’s a whiff of tautology to much of the ritualistic defense of rituals I’ve seen this week. It’s as if “ritual” was being defined as “those aspects of life’s routine that make me feel good,” and then the argument is made that “since ritual makes me feel good, there must be some deep-seated need for it.”

    I won’t deny that there’s something in our makeup (though not in makeup) that makes pleasant routine somewhere close to necessary for most people, at least on occasion. But to expand the category “ritual” to include all pleasant routine is to dilute the word past any real utility.

  8. Burrow Klown

    *shudder*

    You mentioned Kraft American “cheese”.

    *shudder*

  9. Hattie

    “All of the indications suggest that Tsodilo has been known to mankind for almost 100,000 years as a very special place in the pre-historic landscape.”

    Ah, yes, I remember it well!

    I knew a Norwegian once, and he was not just right, he was ALL RIGHT!

  10. Dinosaur Mom

    My grandmother’s last words to my sister were “Eat your processed cheese, it’s good for you.”

  11. Mar Iguana

    “I, for one, wouldn’t want to return to a pre-christian world of bestial dominance untempered by the slightest whiff of the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount. I find it difficult to believe that the world would somehow be a better place without it, and alarming to think how much worse it would be with male aggression unchecked by even lip service paid to christian ideals.” TP

    So, human history from inception to the Sermon on the Mount was all bestial dominance until xtian ideals came along? See, I have this silly notion bestial dominance began with patriarchy, not the human race itself. And, xtianity alarms me plenty.

  12. Edith

    OK Twisty, but does church melt as well? Does it make a fast, simple toasted cheese sandwich? I don’t think it even does that, but maybe I should ask the Norwegians.

  13. Jezebella

    TP: you said, “The ideals of religion temper the male lust to dominate and ruin everything around themselves.”

    Question: is the male lust for domination and ruin an innate human quality in penis-owners, or is it incited and reinforced by thousands of years of patriarchy? Your seem to suggest here that our patriarchal religions have done anything, anything AT ALL, to make men behave better (historically speaking, not individually speaking).

    I don’t buy it. Patriarchal religions teach the male class that they are entitled to dominance, at any cost, by any means, because god said so, and this kind of religion gives the male class a very powerful tool to use to enforce their domination.

    Do we need patriarchy to prevent worse male behavior? When put that way, it sounds like a threat: tolerate our violent “god”-given domination, because if you dismantle religion, we’ll be even nastier.

    (TP, I’m not putting words in your mouth, just following the logic of that one statement.)

  14. Mandos

    “Domination of submissives through ritualized religious bogosity is a learned behavior resulting from the serendipitous intersection of opportunity and imagination, not some kind of biological imperative.”

    Um, this is a false dichotomy. It immediately leads to the question: what makes humans susceptible to this?

  15. Mandos

    “Question: is the male lust for domination and ruin an innate human quality in penis-owners, or is it incited and reinforced by thousands of years of patriarchy?”

    If we take Mar Iguana’s theories to be correct, males are less intelligent or capable than women, and hence women probably used to run the world. Thus patriarchy is the response to the realization that men are being, so to speak, “played” by women—even if for their own good. It would thus be “natural” in that way, since as soon as this realization occurred, the patriarchy train would start to leave the station.

    So if benevolent female dictatorship is the “natural” human condition, then patriarchy is its “natural” antithesis.

  16. darkymac

    Mandos:
    It immediately leads to the question: what makes humans susceptible to this?

    Well, the circular face of that question is pretty clear – if humans are susceptible to this, then why do some people sort themselves out to want to exploit the tendency?
    The assumption in both those questions is that there is a system of organisation of people’s brains that somehow requires the credulity of many to submit to hocus pocus of few. All discussion effectively over. What is, is.

    Isn’t the IBTP approach one of imagining another way than dominate and submit?
    Isn’t the Mandos approach one of assuming that there is no other way than dominate and submit?

    The question that in my view sticks out like dogs balls is why aren’t more of us as imaginative as these original flim-flam artists?
    As imaginative as the Rainman?

  17. Blamerella

    Um, this is a false dichotomy. It immediately leads to the question: what makes humans susceptible to this?

    Doesn’t lead to that question for me. It was not an explanation of why people submit to religious authority, rather why people use it to dominate. Opportunity and imagination, as she said, but also efficiency. Conjuring up a bogus Sky Fairy, even better if you could throw in some smoke and mirrors to scare people, and demanding obesiance to it for all time strikes me as a non-labor intensive way to control the populace.

    And there’s your answer: What makes humans susceptible to this? Easy. The people in power using misinformation and manipulative tricks to create fear. Same way the Bush administration got the majority of Americans to go along with attacking Iraq initially and how they got half the voters to re-elect him in 2004.

    Thus patriarchy is the response to the realization that men are being, so to speak, “played” by women—even if for their own good. It would thus be “natural” in that way, since as soon as this realization occurred, the patriarchy train would start to leave the station.

    Why? Since most people have realized that patriarchy is the dominant system, when is that matriarchy train leaving the station? Or is it only males who inherited a healthy level of self-respect and an innate aversion to being “played”?

  18. Jodie

    darkymac, I am convince that more of us are not imaginative because either A. we’re too lazy or B. we’re too overwhelmed by the stuff we have to do to get by in life or C. imagination is discouraged early by the powers-that-be until only a very few remember how to use it.

    I vote for C and I blame the patriarchy.

  19. mearl

    Oh, please, TP. This picture you paint of lustful, domineering men raging unchecked atop their helpless and subdued kingdoms: it stinks of male self-aggrandisation. If you aren’t male, I’ll take back everything I say from here on in as is aimed at your delusional image, and aim it more at the males who share this dream.

    Perhaps you’ve acquired this idea of men who are not under the constraints of civilisation as heaving-torsoed, frothy-mouthed, chest-pounding conquerors from our dear friend Robert Bly? What about uncivilised women? From your comment I have to assume that you think women’s base nature is NOT just as frothy and lustful, but instead is more akin to that of a pile of overcooked noodles; hence how easy-peasy it is to dominate us.

    Have you ever read the works of Karen Horney and her theories about the socialisation of males and females from birth? If not, here’s a rundown: Horney and her successors theorised that men develop their identity by creating their “self” in opposition to their primal encounters with a female who has the power to sustain their life (or not) and attend to their needs, i.e., the mother. Women grow up INTO the role of female while males have to break away from it. Because they can never biologically achieve the power role, men fear it and constantly try to contain and destroy it because it opposes their very masculine identity. This school of psychoanalytic thought, it is notable to note, views gender as mainly constructed. So men’s driving need to dominate women and other things is in fact due to their intense fear of women, and hence why women don’t have a need to dominate men and the rest of the universe. Patriarchal religion, as with other systems of misogynistic dominance, could then be observed as a contrived manifestation of that same fear, solidified over centuries. That’s one thing to think about.

    Another thing would be that your idea of religion as a useful tool for keeping the frothing rabid male masses in check does not take into account any of the matriarchal religions found in history, which seemed to work just fine and dandy until they got snuffed out by any of the waves of invading colonial societies from the beginning of colonialism (and I don’t just mean 16th-c.). The Mohawk tribes in Canada, for instance, show evidence of matrilineal power and inheritence in family lines and community economics right up to the present day. Since the aboriginals here don’t spawn by budding, I’ll go out on a limb and guess that there have always been males in their society. Those males didn’t rage around frothing without the guiding hand of christian crapiola, and neither did any of the males who lived in pre-christian societies. Christianity is based on a development of pre-existing religions, but some people think that it was population growth and development of more complex systems of politics that led to the whole male-dominance “norm,” and that this happened long before christianity, but also led up to it. This may shock some people, but it’s possible to have non-christian societies that aren’t barbarous. Who’s to say we can’t we think up more for the future?

    Males in post-christian societies, it is also notable to note, do plenty of frothing anyways, so it ain’t like christian doctrine itself has really done much to curb this. 1500 years after this religion was invented, the most civilised of christian societies held public hangings and burnings, dismemberings and beheadings. This was considered good fun by all. Nowadays they’ve just “civilised” their gore-ific fun into the art of war, in the name of god. Being christian or even Western doesn’t bring immediate assurance that one is a critically thinking, cerebral pacifist. Granted, every society has its drawbacks, but to say that without christianity we’d all be barbarians and men would be the meatballs on top of their hills of spaghetti and cheese, and that this is all biological, is to ignore both history and logic.

  20. Edith

    mearl, please write a book. I will buy it. In hardcover.

  21. Jodie

    “The ideals of religion temper the male lust to dominate and ruin everything around themselves. The fact that it is not a bullet-proof solution doesn’t change that.”

    Men aren’t animals and they can temper their own damn lust. I am acquainted with plenty of them who manage to do so outside of the context of religion or government. Funny, I know both men and women who are their own moral agents.

    That male-centric religion thing is the thinking I don’t understand in this whole mess. Women are supposed to subsume themselves into their roles and men just can’t help themselves when it comes to their lustful urges.

    At the same time, these beasts of male irresponsibility are supposed to “know best” and “lead” the women (who are tagged as the responsible people who are not supposed to have any urges at all).

    If men are so untrustworthy, why does God insist they be in charge? That does not sound like the action of a sane being.

    This has never made sense to me. We are either animals or we ain’t. We can either make reasoned choices or we can’t. Either we have higher intellectual functions or we don’t. These people want men to be both animals and more responsible than women, and sorry! That doesn’t work.

    Our biology does limit us (for example, a severely developmentally delayed person will never become a surgeon; a 5 foot tall person will never be able to get the stuff off the top shelf without a stepladder, and I will never be good at hitting balls with sticks) but biology is too often used to excuse attitudes and behaviors that are actually molded by society. Instead, biology is used as an excuse to rationalize permission to do whatever.

    And I am SO tired of rationalizations.

  22. Mandos

    Why? Since most people have realized that patriarchy is the dominant system, when is that matriarchy train leaving the station? Or is it only males who inherited a healthy level of self-respect and an innate aversion to being “played”?

    First of all, this is only dependent on Mar Iguana’s premise, ie, assuming it is true. Remember that Mar Iguana’s post seems to imply that matriarchy is a benevolent dictatorship. Most people on this blog would agree that patriarchy is generally not, by observation. This make sense, since patriarchy is (under this theory) the reaction to the original benevolent state, its predatory nature presumably a result of the corruption from the act of seizing power from the benevolent matriarchy.

    A predatory system, conscious of its predation and paranoid about threats, will surely have an advantage over any attempt at reasserting a natural, benevolent matriarchy.

    As mearl says,

    If not, here’s a rundown: Horney and her successors theorised that men develop their identity by creating their “self” in opposition to their primal encounters with a female who has the power to sustain their life (or not) and attend to their needs, i.e., the mother. Women grow up INTO the role of female while males have to break away from it. Because they can never biologically achieve the power role, men fear it and constantly try to contain and destroy it because it opposes their very masculine identity.

    Mar Iguana’s theory can be seen as merely this writ large—women by virtue of being the birth-givers are the “natural” leaders of the community and must keep males in check, for their own good, of course. But then, if we want to extend this to the establishment of patriarchy, we can say that as soon as a group of males realizes this and decides they don’t want to be kept in check, or worse, do the check-keeping themselves, they have to react against and subjugate women’s power.

    (mearl’s statement after this, “This school of psychoanalytic thought, it is notable to note, views gender as mainly constructed,” is curious and sounds almost like a ritual incantation (heh), because the way she presents it is that it stems from women’s biological birth-giving role…)

    darkymac,

    Well, the circular face of that question is pretty clear – if humans are susceptible to this, then why do some people sort themselves out to want to exploit the tendency?

    Chance. People have the capacity to do so. Things may run along for millenia with no instantiation of the capacity in question. Someone realizes the capacity by “accident” and it spreads like a virus. A lot of things might have happened that way, I think.

    The assumption in both those questions is that there is a system of organisation of people’s brains that somehow requires the credulity of many to submit to hocus pocus of few. All discussion effectively over. What is, is.

    I have to say that this is an instance of the same “nature/nurture” or “development/learning” false dichotomy. That we have a system of organization that makes us susceptible to flim-flammery (or not) doesn’t imply that this capacity is going to be realized at all times, for starters. But it does suggest that given the right conditions, things are going to unfold in a certain way. Think of it as saying that there aren’t an unrestricted set of possible variations for human culture to unfold in matters of dominance and submission, but perhaps only a few, some of which are more desirable than others. It doesn’t however, necessarily mean that domination and suvmission as we’ve seen it are cast in stone.

    The same argument can be made, less controversially, in other matters with strong cultural effects. Take taste, for instance. I like the taste of sushi. i know people who dislike the very concept. But I haven’t yet met anyone who likes the sulphurous smell of very rotten eggs.

    And a certain amount of effort is given to indicating, on this blog for instance, that certain acts are “inherently degrading”. That’s pretty consistent with the view of cultural determination that I’ve presented above. That there are people who *do* it doesn’t necessarily make an argument for unrestricted variation.

  23. Mandos

    At the same time, these beasts of male irresponsibility are supposed to “know best” and “lead” the women (who are tagged as the responsible people who are not supposed to have any urges at all).

    If men are so untrustworthy, why does God insist they be in charge? That does not sound like the action of a sane being.

    I’m sure you’re aware of the argument but I’ll spell it out anyway: the claim is that men in their “natural” leadership roles have their violent aggression and lust channeled into the place where aggression is beneficial and good, that being leadership. Naturally, you have to believe that assumption about what is good leadership: aggression.

  24. Jodie

    Mandos, I’d never actually heard of that argument (thank you for pointing it out) and I have to admit that I’m flabbergasted that anyone would really think aggression was a way to “lead” anything…makes me think of that horse to water analogy.

    Force and domination only go so far, and that style squanders all the good that the dominated ones have to give. It’s just not an effective use of people’s talent to say, “You can’t do that because you’re a girl/ethnic slur/weak/whatever. That just pisses me off, and it pisses me off more that the men who like to say that men as a group are superior are almost always the men who can’t keep up with the women.

  25. Mandos

    Well, to accept the aggression-leadership link, you also have to hold a nontrivial set of assumptions about the universe. Among them, that

    1. the world is a scary, dangerous place, in which only the forceful really survive (this is true in some situations, I would say).

    2. there is a link between aggression/forcefulness and creativity/initiative (also occasionally true, I would say).

    3. leadership by consent and consensus tends towards the status quo even when its suboptimal (also not always wrong in the *little* picture, IMO).

    and so on. As I said, these things are partly true in some situations, but some people believe that these are always and maximally true and build a complete psyche around it.

    And the counterpart to this is that aggression chanelled into things other than leadership and domination emerge as direct violence. Essentially, it says to the dominated that they have a choice between violence with the benefits of stable leadership or even more violence without that benefit.

  26. mearl

    Hey man, I’m just the messenger for the readings I’ve been filling my pointed head with. It does make sense, though, mandos, if you think about it: women can biologically give birth, that’s the given. But once out of the womb, an infant of either gender’s capacity to learn a societal gender role could be altered if it weren’t for the happenstance (due to evolution) of women in societies being the primary caretakers of children, spurring that whole dependence/fear thing Horney talks about. I was considering the idea that if more men played the role of caregiver in a consistent way throughout children’s early years of development, even during breastfeeding months where the infant is dependent on the mother for food, would we see a change in the whole society? We’re evolved enough as a society that it’s not just about survival anymore, and men and women could very well take equal roles in working both at public life and raising kids. Margaret Mead’s anthro studies are really fascinating to look at, too, although I won’t get into quoting those here. I write so many novels on this blogsite that I can’t sleep at night due to the guilt of sucking up webspace. I recently wrote to Santa asking for a potion that will make me less verbose, so in January it will all be cool, and my posts will be two words or less. In the meantime, check Mead out.

  27. darkymac

    Mandos:

    That we have a system of organization that makes us susceptible to flim-flammery (or not) doesn’t imply that this capacity is going to be realized at all times, for starters. But it does suggest that given the right conditions, things are going to unfold in a certain way. Think of it as saying that there aren’t an unrestricted set of possible variations for human culture to unfold in matters of dominance and submission, but perhaps only a few, some of which are more desirable than others. It doesn’t however, necessarily mean that domination and suvmission as we’ve seen it are cast in stone. and the rest of your post, really.

    It appears that you’ve assumed that I’ve read more than your assumptions about tendency into your argument, mate.
    If one concedes that there is a tendency to dominance and submission/ gullibility and exploitation as a social organising model in human behaviour, then of course the tendency need not be expressed the same way in all cases – even though it can be summoned to prop up just about any thesis, ay?

    I just don’t see that assuming a tendency to any kind of behaviour is a way of both interpreting and imagining social systems, and you do.

    I think I’ll just leave it there.

    For more of a clue about how I approach stuff like this, Jodie’s blame is on track.

  28. Catherine Martell

    Re: “So if benevolent female dictatorship is the “natural” human condition, then patriarchy is its “natural” antithesis.” Etc.

    Any variation on the “but women would run happy matriarchies and that would be better!” argument seems to me to be (a) unprovable, (b) wildly unscientific, and (c) dumbassed to infinity.

    The definition of ‘male’ and ‘female’ as a binary is an invention of the patriarchy. Nothing in biology is a binary; everything is a continuum. Most people can see that humans are not ‘black’ or ‘white’ but an infinite variety of shades in between; ditto hair colour, leg length, nose size, whatever. Increasingly, scientists are appreciating the same thing about sexuality and indeed sex.

    Back in the mists of time, societies organised themselves on the basis of identifying and enforcing difference. One of these things tends to be the fairly arbitrary drawing of a line somewhere and calling everyone on one side of it male and everyone on the other side of it female. Different societies have drawn this line in different places, but from that point on have felt the need to invent things like religion to reinforce these gendered roles. For instance, carving a giant snakey thing out of rock and making everyone bow down to its phallic majesty.

    Feminism, for me, is about aspiring to a society where the whole question of sex doesn’t get asked. It’s not a question of putting women in charge instead, and in fact I see no consistent evidence from history or anthropology that implies it would be better or worse if you did. There have been very few matriarchal societies anyway. On closer inspection, those which are normally described as such generally turn out to be the sort in which women are ‘honoured’ by being confined to a big hut and offered tributes for their perpetual progeneration.

    What would genuinely be better is a society in which your social position was not determined by how some doctor decided your external genitalia defined you at birth. It would be better yet if said society applied similar not-botheredness to race, colour, caste, class, etc. OK, it’s never going to happen. Doesn’t mean I can’t like the idea.

    Among the first things to get rid of on the road to anti-hierarchical enlightenment are the silly rituals of religion that constantly reinforce the dominance and submission of certain groups within a society. Ritual is not a human need unless you have created a paradigm and require its continual reinforcement. Clearly, this does not apply to whether you brush your teeth at the same time every day. But, as for eating some biscuit and pretending it’s the flesh of your redeemer, or beating yourself with sticks for a week whenever you have a period, or elaborately purifying yourself if an outcaste happens to brush past you in the street; no, a society doesn’t need rituals like that, unless it wants to maintain difference and exclusion.

    The argument that a matriarchal society would be better, or that if you put women in charge things could be different, is nonsensical. If there wasn’t a patriarchy, there wouldn’t be ‘male’ and ‘female’ at all, and you wouldn’t need to perform silly, superstitious acts to support that artificial and unproductive separation.

    At least, that’s what I hope.

  29. Mar Iguana

    I have two words for you, Mandos, two more than I care to waste on you but I’m feelin’ generous this mornin’: “Speculation” and “egalatarian.” Review how in your brain these words changed into “theory” and “female dictatorship” and why.

    I am irritated by discussions of “human” behavior. Please. There’s male behavior and female behavior and the twain ain’t meeting for quite some time now. How can they when even their primal reactions to stress are a world apart? Men, like animals, have the fight or flight response. Women’s response to stress is tend/befriend. Now, you tell me which response is not too bright, not quite what you’d call “human?”

  30. Mandos

    This ain’t egalitarian, it’s establishing a system of control via deception:

    What if the shaman was a woman? And, the spear makers were worshipping the god-like bleeding of women synchronized with the moon, with no more harm done them physically than a snake shedding its skin periodically? The shawoman would have them burning the red weaponry to keep them on focus that their phallic spear thingys were for killing food, not each other.

    I mean, then as now, who were the brighter ones before the boys decided “fuck wisdom, violence is easier,” read “patriarchy” Especially when one considers that the boys seem to require relentless repetition in order to get/retain a concept; ritual in other words.

    And speculation vs theory: in this context, not much difference.

  31. Mar Iguana

    “If there wasn’t a patriarchy, there wouldn’t be ‘male’ and ‘female’ at all…”

    I doubt seriously that before patriarchy people didn’t note a just little bit of a difference between “male” and “female.” Myself, I have no desire whatsoever to be equal with males. Women would have to make themselves lesser beings to accomplish that. Cock equality. Give me liberation for all by raising human consciousness itself. Then, dominance/submission thinking would stop and pointless speculation about women “running” the world and matriarchy would be seen for the lunacy it is.

    There is already in place a way for this kind of human society. It just hasn’t been allowed to work. Yet. It’s called democracy, government by consent of the governed. Sure, consensus takes time and work but it beats crude but effective, hamfisted male governance by fear, intimidation and violence any day.

  32. Sam

    Regarding men’s rapaciousness leading to rituals tempering it, I recently read a socialogical account of warmaking that boiled down to leaders using war to keep young men as far away from their own civilization as possible. Too many young men in a population causes violence, thuggery and general discord so it makes sense for a leader to send them away to take their agressive ya-yas out on other people, preferably people the leader doesn’t like.

    In the animal world, groupings of one male and several females have been patriarchally dubbed “harems” by male scientists, but it’s sometimes more accurately profiled as male concubinage. Lionesses only need one lion to mate with and more males are a problem that leads to strife, so as new male lions come into the territory they fight with the old ones and thusly the pride concubine is replaced by a new source of fresh DNA while lionesses go on to live longer, more reproductively successful lives.

    Not too long ago researchers described a population of monkeys where the alpha males fought over pieces of rotten meat and they all died from it while less dominant males who didn’t get any meat lived. Instead of becoming alphas, the male monkeys decided it was in their best interest to get along peacefully with the females and this group of monkeys was thereafter markedly less violent than groups where the alpha males still dominated with violence and the fear of more violence.

    Most months I have more hope, but the dark, frosty days of December have me thinking off and on that really, really big piece of rotten meat may be a necessary element to stemming male-pattern violence.

    At least I didn’t share a bonobo analogy.

  33. stacy

    You dear gyns (and others) need to read Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Patricia Gowaty, Joan Roughgarden, Jean Liedloff and many others of the feminist anthropology persuasion! Hrdy especially is provocative and thought-provoking. Some of you need to update your theories a little and others need to expand your knowledge base. Much has happened in the scientific world since the 70′s as a direct result of radical feminist scientists and their courage and honesty and very little has made it into either the mainstream or the feminist blogsteam. It’s a lot of work to read some of these tomes but well worth it. The answers, as usual, are not simple. And as dear Kay Leigh Hagan loves to remind us: Many things can be true at the same time.

  34. Luckynkl

    The definition of ‘male’ and ‘female’ as a binary is an invention of the patriarchy.

    Yeah, it’s only a figment of our imagination that half the population can create life and the other half can’t. And of course, without patriarchy, no one would have noticed that.

    That’s in part what’s wrong with postmodern/queer/transgender theory. It’s totally out of touch with reality.

    There are X’s and there are Y’s. There are no P’s, Q’s, or Z’s or 3rd sex. If one wants to get technical, there are only X’s. A Y chromosome isn’t a Y at all. It’s a degenerated, deformed, mutated X that has degenerated to the point that it’s only a fraction of the size of an X and only carries 20 characteristics. All of which have to do with being male, not human. What’s more, the Y chromosome continues to progressively degenerate. Eventually, the Y chromosome will go the way of the dinosaur. It will become extinct.

    Valerie Solanas is actually quite scientifically correct. Males are literallmy mutants. Incomplete. Deformed. A mistake. It is the X chromosome which makes us human. The X chromosome is composed of 1500 characteristics and carries the blueprint for human DNA. 1500 does not equal 20. X’s and Y’s are not one and the same and are not interchangeable.

    In the scheme of life, males are neither here nor there. Never have been. It is a female planet. And totally female centered. Stop thinking patriarchal. View it through the female lens. The lion doesn’t have a harem. He is a stud puppet for the lionesses. Lionesses bond for life. They choose who they want to mate with. A confrontation between 2 males will not necessarily result in the victor being able to mate with the lionesses. If the lionesses don’t find him suitable, they’ll kick him to the curb and reject his sorry ass. So much for the king of beasts and the big, patriarchal lie and myth.

    On this planet, only females can reproduce. Be it with a male, another female, or through partheogenesis. Males can’t produce a thing. Other than a mess. Basically, women keep males around to amuse themselves with. Or maybe it’s out of compassion. We tend to be fond of what we create. Even if our offspring is deformed, crippled, retarded, or male.

    So yes, Mandos, it is a benevolent dictatorship. That we allow males’ sorry mutant asses to exist as all speaks to our benevolence. Especially considering how disrespectful you boys are to us and to the life on this planet. If we had any sense, we’d stop production immediately. But our compassion and benevolence overrules our senses. You boys think it’s a weakness. You’d be wrong.

    Man didn’t get to rule by being the smartest, the fastest or the strongest. There are plenty of species faster, stronger and smarter. In fact, if we went by that, men would pretty much be dinner for the rest of the animal kingdom.

    Nah, how man got to rule is by being the most murderous, sociopathic motherfuckers in the history of the planet.

    Men as a class have no respect for life. No guilt. No conscience. No remorse. Patriarchy makes emotional cripples out of men and raises them to be aggrandizing sociopaths. Developmentally speaking, men don’t emotionally advance much past the age of 2. Like a 2 year old, he continues to imagine that he is the sun and we the planets that revolve around him. He doesn’t empathize with other’s pain. He only feels his own. Because he is emotionally stunted.

    Emotion, however, is not a weakness, as patriarchy views it. It is part of being human. If one doesn’t use it or feel it, one is incomplete. So men are not only biologically incomplete, they’re incomplete mentally, socially, and emotionally as well through their conditioning.

    How men rule over women is through rape. Intercourse is a political institution under the patriarchy. It is nothing short of legalized rape that has become socially acceptable through conditioning. Little wonder men can’t tell the difference between rape, violence and sex.

    The bible tells a story if one cares to see that elephant standing in the middle of their livingroom. It is about the incestuous rape of a 14 year old girl by her symbolic pedophile father, god, and the pregnancy and birth of the father’s child and grandchild. There is a message there. That men can control women, especially young women, through rape. Incestuous rape. Rape disguised as love and sex.

    Rape/sex is about power. Dominance/submission. What men eroticize is power. Not sex. The intent is not only to dominate women by violating and penetrating women’s physical boundaries, empowered all the more if she willingly and masochistically submits, but also to impregnate. Women are then enslaved by their own biologies and thus more easily dominated and controlled.

    And that is what’s wrong with all this pie in the sky horseshit otherwise known as queer theory, postmodernism and transgenderism. If we go to the root of women’s opression, it is their biologies at the source of it all. The fact that one half of the population can create life and the other half can’t. It is the very definition of sex.

    Besides rape and impregnation, feminization was a means the patriarchs used as a control device. Feminization is a means of oppression. A method. The patriarchs know if they want to oppress a group, they feminize them. The fact that femininity is so closely associated with women speaks volumes.

    Violence is another means the patriarchs use. Made easier if society raises their heirs to be sociopaths.

    Religion, ritual, tradition, custom is another means the patriarchs use. It’s called brainwashing. Chant a lie long enough, often enough and by enough people, it then becomes the truth.

    As Gloria Steinem said, the problem isn’t learning. It’s unlearning.

  35. Twisty

    Chris Clarke grasps the gist: “There’s a whiff of tautology to much of the ritualistic defense of rituals I’ve seen this week. It’s as if “ritual” was being defined as “those aspects of life’s routine that make me feel good,” and then the argument is made that “since ritual makes me feel good, there must be some deep-seated need for it.”

    I won’t deny that there’s something in our makeup (though not in makeup) that makes pleasant routine somewhere close to necessary for most people, at least on occasion. But to expand the category “ritual” to include all pleasant routine is to dilute the word past any real utility.”

  36. finnsmotel

    “Domination of submissives through ritualized religious bogosity is a learned behavior resulting from the serendipitous intersection of opportunity and imagination, not some kind of biological imperative.”

    Ok, so it’s a learned behavior. What made the first person want to teach it to the second?

  37. Twisty

    The observation that it would be to his benefit.

  38. finnsmotel

    Are observations of benefits not biological events?

  39. Blamerella

    And the counterpart to this is that aggression chanelled into things other than leadership and domination emerge as direct violence. Essentially, it says to the dominated that they have a choice between violence with the benefits of stable leadership or even more violence without that benefit.

    For millennia the leadership has been neither stable, nor particularly beneficial to the dominated. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready to take my chances on the unchannelled stuff.

  40. Mary Sunshine

    Luckynkl, another brilliant post.

    That is all part of Feminism 101 as far as I am concerned. Truble is, nobody teaches it any more. And the women who have figured it out for themselves hardly ever let on.

    Thanks for that.

  41. JJE

    “Males are literallmy mutants. Incomplete. Deformed. A mistake…In the scheme of life, males are neither here nor there…Males can’t produce a thing. Other than a mess…That we allow males’ sorry mutant asses to exist as all speaks to our benevolence. Especially considering how disrespectful…boys are to us and to the life on this planet. If we had any sense, we’d stop production immediately. But our compassion and benevolence overrules our senses. You boys think it’s a weakness. You’d be wrong.
    Man didn’t get to rule by being the smartest, the fastest or the strongest. There are plenty of species faster, stronger and smarter. In fact, if we went by that, men would pretty much be dinner for the rest of the animal kingdom.
    Nah, how man got to rule is by being the most murderous, sociopathic motherfuckers in the history of the planet.
    Men as a class have no respect for life. No guilt. No conscience. No remorse. Patriarchy makes emotional cripples out of men and raises them to be aggrandizing sociopaths. Developmentally speaking, men don’t emotionally advance much past the age of 2. Like a 2 year old, he continues to imagine that he is the sun and we the planets that revolve around him. He doesn’t empathize with other’s pain. He only feels his own. Because he is emotionally stunted.
    Emotion, however, is not a weakness, as patriarchy views it. It is part of being human. If one doesn’t use it or feel it, one is incomplete. So men are not only biologically incomplete, they’re incomplete mentally, socially, and emotionally as well through their conditioning.
    How men rule over women is through rape. Intercourse is a political institution under the patriarchy. It is nothing short of legalized rape that has become socially acceptable through conditioning. Little wonder men can’t tell the difference between rape, violence and sex.”
    Luckynkl,
    I know a class of two year old, emotionally stunted, sociopathic, motherfucking rapists that agree with a several of your thoughts, here. I hope you don’t find that too disturbing.

  42. Mandos

    As Gloria Steinem said, the problem isn’t learning. It’s unlearning.

    Alright, but what you’ve said basically suggests that men’s apparently inherent biological inferiority/defectiveness—if that is what it is—leads to all of the other ills of “conditioning” which you mentioned. Like I said, *assuming* that there *was* a benevolent dictatorship of the biologically superior/complete sex, then its overthrow by patriarchy was only a matter of time. How much of the ills of patriarchy can be accounted for by biology then, given that it was designed by, according to you, the biologically defective sex, whose rightful place is under the benevolent dictorship of women?

    I mean, you say,

    Men as a class have no respect for life. No guilt. No conscience. No remorse. Patriarchy makes emotional cripples out of men and raises them to be aggrandizing sociopaths. Developmentally speaking, men don’t emotionally advance much past the age of 2. Like a 2 year old, he continues to imagine that he is the sun and we the planets that revolve around him. He doesn’t empathize with other’s pain. He only feels his own. Because he is emotionally stunted.

    Emotion, however, is not a weakness, as patriarchy views it. It is part of being human. If one doesn’t use it or feel it, one is incomplete. So men are not only biologically incomplete, they’re incomplete mentally, socially, and emotionally as well through their conditioning.

    But if the conditioning stems from (and sustains) the establishment of patriarchy, and the form of patriarchy results from men’s biological “incompleteness”, then what exactly do you expect would undo the conditioning and hence patriarchy?

  43. Mandos

    Yeah, it’s only a figment of our imagination that half the population can create life and the other half can’t. And of course, without patriarchy, no one would have noticed that.

    As an aside, I’d like to mention that our illustrious host has mentioned on more than one occasion that she actually believes that without patriarchy, we would rarely notice the differences in sexual characteristics that we have.

  44. finnsmotel

    “Males are literallmy [sic} mutants. Incomplete. Deformed. A mistake.”

    Isn’t that kinda how evolution works, though? The mutations, the exceptions eventually replace the rule, create a new rule, it gets mutated further, and so on.

    A more interesting point to ponder, if you ask me (and I know you didn’t), is this:

    Does culture impact evolution?

    If we agree that it does (I think that it does) why are we so hesitant to manipulate it?

  45. clew

    But, hunh, mearl, haven’t there been enough people raised from infancy by men to be examined? Do they reverse the usual psychological pattern?

  46. mearl

    Still working on that one. Once I do some research on any groups of guys raised by guys WITHOUT the presence or advice of any females, from infancy, I’ll get back to everyone who’s innarested. If anyone else has any contributions on clew’s comment, I’d welcome them (it would also help with my papers, haha). If anyone knows of any all-male communes raising kids and celebrating fatherhood, please direct me to where I can investigate this phenomoenon.

    I would assume that since the vast majority of people in all societies are raised from infancy and at least through early childhood by women, it follows that the resulting surrounding social pressures create ideological problems for any possibility of a “natural” upbringing as raised by men, i.e., children raised by men would end up being strongly affected by the models of men and women in the greater culture. Another foil in the whole process of being raised by men is that all men have mothers and have the suppressed memory of being part of a woman’s body at one time, despite whatever circumstances they might experience after birth, unless they were whisked away, minutes after being born, to an all-male commune celebrating fatherhood somewhere. And here’s something I don’t know: is it even possible to raise an infant without any women around in the first while, on only formula and that sort of thing (shudder)? As I said, I’ll have to look around. I’ve read stuff about the whole “gatekeeping” concept, which I’ve considered quite a bit: the scenario where women sometimes have to choose between allowing dads to make mistakes and learn to father mostly on their own instead of hoarding and instructing the whole process to have it done “correctly.” I freak out about that one, knowing how irresponsible all the guys I know are when it comes to caring for something that isn’t their car or their PS2 collection. I for one would have a hell of a time trusting a guy to properly look after my kid. This is all speculative, though, since I have no kid. My opinion could change.

    Nancy Chodorow discusses an ideal upbringing for children, which would constitute the presence of both males and females (not necessarily biological moms and dads), but with both contributing to early childhood care, and each parent having a solid sense of self that isn’t wrapped up in only their kids. A recent article in the Globe and Mail talked about research on fathers performing a closer intimate and caregiving role towards their kids, and how it shows biological benefits for both kid and father. In the arena of personal experience, I see a ton of three types of fathers kicking around alone with their kids these days, something I didn’t notice much of when I was younger (but I could have been occupied with other things, like Pogoball): yuppie dads swanning around rich neighbourhoods with their kids, taking their daily run with strollers and dog (often in mid-afternoon on a weekday when “typical” yuppie men would normally be at work?); granola dads, biking their kids to the organic food stores in the granola-land of my city; and LOADS of 19-year-old gangster dads, with their gangster friends and really small children, strollers, etc. in tow. I don’t know if these guys are single dads or co-parents, but I bet this trend is changing the way kids grow up just as much as women moving into public life has.

    The jist of what I am reading says that gender identity is biologically based, but socially constructed. Gender-role-split heterosexuality, as we all know, is the norm, and has so far been unavoidable. That’s not to say it’s impossible to change.

    Btw, luckynkl, I loved your post.

  47. Catherine Martell

    Luckynkl: “Yeah, it’s only a figment of our imagination that half the population can create life and the other half can’t. And of course, without patriarchy, no one would have noticed that.”

    First of all: ‘can create life’? Ick.

    Second of all: I’m not arguing that there isn’t sexual difference. There’s obviously a huge spectrum of sexual difference, and yes, those down one end of it are able to incubate foetuses. But not all women can incubate foetuses, for reasons of age, hormonal function, anatomy, health etc. Clearly the lack of ability to incubate a foetus does not, in and of itself, render you un-woman.

    I’m not arguing against variation, I’m arguing about where you draw the line between male and female. Your definition of sex appears to be chromosomal, which is regarded as inadequate by most of the scientific establishment these days. Even the Olympic committee has now given up on chromosomal tests as they are so often misleading. For all your “X and Y” rhetoric, you must be aware that there are X, XXX, XYY, and many more variations, and that there is a considerable blurriness around some people even when they have ‘normal’ chromosomal patterns. Also, there may not be Ps or Qs, but there are in nature Zs, and Ws and Os too for that matter. But down that road may lie bonobos, so I’ll leave that right there.

    Scientists now use six or seven differentiating factors to determine sex in humans, including chromosomes, several different measures of hormone production, foetal hormonal development, anatomy, secondary characteristics developed at adolescence and so on. No one factor can be said to be right in all cases. Biologically speaking, the situation is more complex than you allow. This isn’t about postmodern transgender theory. It’s about science.

    However, where we agree seems to be that at some point the patriarchy has learnt to use feminisation as a means of oppression. The way I see it, the patriarchy created an ‘other’ out of all those people who seemed to be lumbered with childbearing and couldn’t win who-can-piss-highest-up-this-wall contests, and has spent the following however many millennia inventing a trillion stupid ways to convince everyone that this distinction is natural and biology is deterministic.

  48. Mar Iguana

    “First of all: ‘can create life’? Ick.” Catherine Martell

    Patriarchy’s opinion precisely. The majority of the world’s population have or had this “ick” function. And, how the Ys hate the Xs for it since, by creating life, death is created. Plus, it cocks with their “made in god’s image” load to be reminded they were born just a couple inches from the shitter, in blood, piss and afterbirth.

    More re the “ick” factor, “…haven’t there been enough people raised from infancy by men to be examined? dew

    Haaaaaa. That’s a good one. NO. Boys do not seek custody of children until that icky drooling, vomiting, pissing and shitting phase is over. Boys do not clean up drool, vomit, piss and shit, thank you. That’s women’s work.

    Like mearl, I’d wouldn’t trust my kid for any extended periods to the care of beings who can focus on only one thing at a time, who can’t shift from right to left brain fast enough to deal with situations as they arise, who can’t get through one minute of the day without a sexual thought slamming into their brain, etc.

  49. Luckynkl

    First of all: ‘can create life’? Ick.

    Very good. You’ve learned to despise anything that is authentically female. The patriarchy will be so proud of you!

    Your definition of sex appears to be chromosomal, which is regarded as inadequate by most of the scientific establishment these days.

    I don’t give a flying fuck at the moon what the patriarchy would like to twist into a pretzel today to suit them and benefit by. Flip flop, flip flop, flip flop — what will benefit and profit the boys today? They’re currently making a killer profit by conflating this horseshit called gender. Which is nothing more than a social role that anyone can play. Actors make millions by assuming roles. Or did you really think that was Jesus Christ or Napoleon on your tv set?

    But not all women can incubate foetuses, for reasons of age, hormonal function, anatomy, health etc.

    But the fact remains, only women can. Furthermore, it will be assumed that she can, whether she can or wants to or not, from the moment she is pronounced a girl, and she will raised and conditioned accordingly. Something that is NEVER done to anyone pronounced a boy. What about that don’t you get?

    Of course I’m aware of the variations. However, I don’t give a hoot how many X’s one has, the Y will render him a male and incapable of impregnation and childbirth — which is at the root of women’s oppression. The battle over who will control the uterus and thus, reproduction. That’s what it’s all about. Unable to produce life, males must control those who do. Women. Hierarchies are dependent on it. For without heirs, men’s hierarchies cannot exist, let alone continue.

    I have to go to work now, but I’ll be back.

  50. Mandos

    I note that some places allow gay male adoption of infants.

    However, I don’t give a hoot how many X’s one has, the Y will render him a male and incapable of impregnation and childbirth — which is at the root of women’s oppression.

    So are you suggesting that the root of women’s oppression is an immutable fact about biology? If so, then do you expect any solution at all?

    Also there are people with Y chromosomes who have female organs and are only discovered to be incapable of pregnancy in adulthood but are otherwise entirely raised as (and look naturally like) biological women.

  51. vera

    So are you suggesting that the root of women’s oppression is an immutable fact about biology? If so, then do you expect any solution at all?

    Mandos, I don’t know the answer to that question, though I think about it plenty. For what it’s worth:

    Suppose the answer to your question is “no, the patriarchy does not spring from biology, it can be overcome, and there is a solution.” Then we’ve got to find the solution before the patriarchy destroys the planet. I have to work all day as a technical writer, but I ponder on the solution in the evenings after dinner and before I have a second glass of wine.

    Suppose the answer to your question is “yes: the patriarchy springs from biology, it is immutable, and there is no solution.” So what, then? If we’re doomed because we humans can’t help but organize ourselves in a destructive hierarchy of dominators and their victims, we’ve got to transcend our biology or die. We still must find an alternative to the dominator model.

    I admit, the problem seems insurmountable and life is short. That’s where the wine comes in.

    Once in a long while I find some little corner where people are trying out the cooperator model. The cooperator model is a rarely-applied alternative way for humans to organize, and figuring out how to encourage and expand that model is what we must do now that the dominators have led us to the edge.

    Seeking out and encouraging the cooperator model helps whether the answer to your question is “yes” or “no.” If nothing else, it helps ward off despair, and it’s easier on the liver than wine.

  52. Catherine Martell

    Luckynkl (and Mar Iguana), re my ‘ick’ at ‘can create life’: “Very good. You’ve learned to despise anything that is authentically female. The patriarchy will be so proud of you!”

    Come off it. I was icking the choice of words, not the act of reproduction. ‘Create life’ has a nasty ring of God and anti-abortion to it. I don’t believe that biological processes require positivifying with creepy euphemisms.

    “They’re currently making a killer profit by conflating this horseshit called gender. Which is nothing more than a social role that anyone can play.”

    What are you getting at? Who is conflating the gender ‘horseshit’, and with what? And how is it profiting them? Obviously gender is a word referring to a socially conditioned role that anyone could play. That, at least, isn’t controversial, is it?

    I’m not talking about gender, anyway. I’m talking about sexual anatomy: specifically, whether it may be divided into two neat categories or not. I don’t see any way in which it serves the patriarchy to suggest that, perhaps, sexual anatomical differences are more nuanced than science previously thought. The patriarchy is exactly the thing that has created rigid definitions of sex (and, for that matter, gender).

    “But the fact remains, only women can.” (ie conceive and give birth)

    Agreed, but the fact that *some* women can does not make it an acceptable definition of womanhood.

    “Furthermore, it will be assumed that she can, whether she can or wants to or not, from the moment she is pronounced a girl, and she will raised and conditioned accordingly. Something that is NEVER done to anyone pronounced a boy. What about that don’t you get?”

    There’s nothing about that I don’t get, which is why I haven’t been arguing against that point, or even about anything connected to that point. For what it’s worth, that point fits exactly with my argument.

    “I don’t give a hoot how many X’s one has, the Y will render him a male and incapable of impregnation and childbirth — which is at the root of women’s oppression.”

    Actually, having XO renders you incapable of having children, too. And Mandos is right about there being XY women (and XXY women), who’ve suffered through the same process of feminine conditioning as all the rest of us.

    The patriarchy has created the paradigm in which we think about sex, and has spent all of history brutally reinforcing it. I think perhaps I’d agree with you that the ability to reproduce is the root of women’s oppression. However, the patriarchy does not merely oppress those who reproduce, but rather all those it defines as female. I would argue that an arbitrary line has been drawn somewhere in the middle of sexual biology and all those on one side defined as female, on the basis that they just *look* like people who might be able to reproduce. This line has, to the best of my knowledge, no firm basis in science.

    As Mandos hints, the problem with your argument that a Y chromosome basically makes someone a drooling, raping, murdering, anti-life-creating, X-chromosome-oppressing defective is that you are implicitly explaining all male behaviour on the basis of it being biologically determined. Which means there’s nothing they can do about it, and it’s a permanent excuse for behaving like an arsehole and oppressing women. If someone’s twisting a metaphorical pretzel under the unseen influence of the patriarchy here, it’s you – the argument that all bad male behaviour is inherently ‘natural’ plays right into their big, hairy claws.

  53. Mandos

    Alright, but that’s what I’m getting at. Luckynkl and Mar Iguana have presented variants of a type of theory that holds that patriarchy exists because, among other things, men and women have radically different biological interests. A dominator model is one way of “reconciling” these interests in favour of one “side”. For all its faults, it itself has worked out as an extremely resilient and long-lived system. What would a cooperator model have to contain for it to reconcile these interests in a better, equally “stable” way?

    The answer to this question, I think, will allow us to evaluate how well we can put luckynkl and Mar Iguana’s theoretical/speculative position to good use.

  54. Mandos

    I was responding to vera and CM crossposted, by the way.

  55. vera

    I’m not suggesting that the cooperator model actually has a chance; just that it’s the only choice we have. In the competition of ideas, patriarchy may have already won out and we will follow it to our ultimate extinction.

  56. Mandos

    You may be right about the latter option and I believe Twisty has repeatedly intoned the very same prophecy. However, *if* a cooperator model *does* have a chance, I think it’s worth talking about what it might look like, assuming it can exist at all. Or, it may be at minimum entertaining to discuss how it *might* have happened in the past, again were it possible.

  57. vera

    I personally find it difficult to lay out a neat list of what the cooperator model would “contain.” The patriarchy is the Matrix, remember? I’m one of those bodies in a cocoon, just beginning to imagine another reality.

  58. Mandos

    I dunno, that sounds tantamount to quietism.

  59. vera

    The open source movement is a case in point: it’s “open,” right, and self-organizing, and opposed to dominance hierarchies, etc., etc. Except that nearly all open source communities I’ve seen exhibit their “rebel nature” by adopting the very tactics of the system they think they oppose: engaging in rape humor for hetero-male bonding, flaming as a way to build reputation and weed out the weak, and so forth.

    Why is it that the men who participate in this activity — these “rebels” who are so proud of being anti-establishment — never grasp that there’s nothing more traditional than misogyny?

    So though I can’t really answer your question, Mandos, if I had to choose a starting point I’d say to try to talk sense to the open source boys. If they can be persuaded to stop using the tactics of the oppressor, then maybe we could take the next step in discovering what the cooperator model contains.

  60. vera

    Heh — the older I get, the more I come to understand why some people retreat to the contemplative life. I used to think those monkish people were nuts. I’m beginning to suspect they’re sane. Maybe saner than I am.

  61. finnsmotel

    “I have to work all day as a technical writer”

    Wow, me too.

    How does such a thing happen to otherwise decent people?!

    -finn

  62. finnsmotel

    “Once in a long while I find some little corner where people are trying out the cooperator model.’

    You tell me where that corner is and I’ll move there.

    Seriously.

  63. vera

    I engaged in technical writing originally as a way to earn a living. Now I can hardly write a normal sentence. I try to put everything I say into a numbered list. This comment, for instance: I’m having trouble not writing it as a set of bulleted items.

    A friend sent me this URL, where you’ll find a report by a group that seems to be a “little corner where people are trying out the cooperator model”:
    http://flosspols.org/deliverables/FLOSSPOLS-D16-Gender_Integrated_Report_of_Findings.pdf

    There’s also the Ubuntu project; a version of the Linux operating system produced by a group that has tried to be truly open and diverse. From what I’ve heard, Ubuntu is the most usable Linux version ever produced on account of the Ubuntu group being respectful of non-engineers.

    But you can’t move to these places because they are virtual. If I ever find one in real life I’ll move there too.

  64. Pony

    I don’t know if Findhorn has a feminist sensibility, but here’s a link. You might also want to read through Heart’s blog for the posts about her communal living experiences (which were decidedly not feminist).

    http://www.findhorn.org/home_new.php

    http://womensspace.wordpress.com/

  65. Mar Iguana

    So, Catherine Martell, “create life” has a nasty ring to it just because a bunch of gawdbags have spun the words to suit their purposes? Like they do. Thing is, that’s precisely what’s happening in a pregnant woman’s body. She’s creating life. I swear. Women fall all over themselves reclaiming the word “bitch” of all things, but let the boys co-opt “create life” and it’s, “Oh, OK, you can have that one. We women wouldn’t want to appear god-like or question the stigma of the most common surgical procedure in the country or anything.” I mean, the poor little guys. They can’t create life so can’t we let them run around believing they are the ones who are god-like, made in the image of some sky psycho? NO.

    As for who’s getting rich off conflating gender, it’s con-doctors who tell boys with a major psychological problem they can be made into a woman by surgical and chemical manipulation, which ain’t cheap. These con-doctors should be banned from their profession. Of course, these boys only want to buy what they think of as the sex toy parts of woman’s anatomy. None of them are bleating about needing the parts having anything whatsoever to do with impregnation or childbirth I notice. But, women, again, fall all over themselves to make sure they call these disturbed boys “she.” Horsepucky. Words are important. Rather than support these boys’ delusions of luv, they need to be referred to mental health.

    “Agreed, but the fact that *some* women can does not make it an acceptable definition of womanhood.”

    Go tell that to the patriarchy which, by the way, has not been around for all of humanity, just several millennia of it. It was a very bad turn.

    “I would argue that an arbitrary line has been drawn somewhere in the middle of sexual biology and all those on one side defined as female, on the basis that they just *look* like people who might be able to reproduce. This line has, to the best of my knowledge, no firm basis in science.”

    And, what part do they “look” at? I’m pretty sure it’s that stretch between the legs. If there’s a dick there, it’s male. If not, it’s one of those other things. Wash, rinse and condition accordingly.

    I, too, would like to live in a world where little boys who want to dress in girl’s clothes and play with dolls are no more disturbing than tomboys and that tomboys disturbed no one; a world where people who prefer the feminine look or the masculine look, or both, are free to chose. But, we live with patriarchy, which needs to make it very easy to identify the sex class or the boys might get confused as to who is fair game. I remember in the ‘60s/’70s, when many girls started wearing jeans, flannel shirts, no make-up and boys started wearing outrageous outfits and long hair. The Man went nuts because he couldn’t figure out who to sexually harass. This resulted in the hideous look the boys prefer now with their shaved heads and baggy clothes hiding their bodies so there can be no doubt about who can be jumped. Wehank.

    I used to think bad male behavior isn’t inherent but conditioned. I’m not so sure anymore. The more I learn about the differences between male and female brains, about the effects of testosterone on formative physiology and adult male behavior, the more I think it may be inherent.

    What is not natural is patriarchy, which is no more than a system that exploits these inherencies, exaggerating, encouraging, fanning rather than tempering them, channeling them into more constructive behaviors. I do not believe that in the whole of human existence, women have been treated like livestock but we survived as a species because they were not.

    But, we can’t know that, yet, since any systems before patriarchy have been obliterated, making it impossible for women to know their own history. Instead, we’re fed these loony notions of club-wielding cavemen dragging women around by the hair and man-the-mighty-hunter bringing that bacon home to the little, cave lady and her cubs when the fact is it was more like scavenger/gatherer than hunter/gatherer and survival depended on the daily gathering, not the sporadic scavenging. But, you know how the boys like to puff themselves up. Fortunately, more women are becoming anthropologists, archeologists, biologists and such, interpreting through the female lens, noticing things the boys miss because it doesn’t fit into their world-view, which is pretty half-assed.

  66. zawadi

    Mar Iguana: “As for who’s getting rich off conflating gender, it’s con-doctors who tell boys with a major psychological problem they can be made into a woman by surgical and chemical manipulation, which ain’t cheap. [...] Rather than support these boys’ delusions of luv, they need to be referred to mental health.”

    Interesting. You suggest that the medical establishment is so saturated with patriarchy that a segment “cons” boys into altering themselves towards womanhood.*

    At the same time, you suggest that these boys should be referred to “mental health”, the mental health field being, among all the fields of medicine, one of those with the least understanding of women, historically and currently.

    So I wonder, do you trust the medical establishment or not? Or is only that part of it is the boy’s club, while “mental health” is where you chuck people you think are mad or offensive? Or is it just that your seeming aversion to transpeople trumps their own lived experience and needs and knowledge?

    *By the way, lots of transpeople are not ‘persuaded’ to undergo reassignment surgery, nor do many consult doctors. Many choose not to undergo surgery, or to take hormones.

  67. Pony

    Apologies to MarIguana (with whom I completely agree). I could write a treatise, if I could write, from the viewpoint of medical conflict of interest. There’s big bucks for those trans procedures, for several kinds of physicians and surgeons, pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers and last but not least psychiatrists. In parts of Canada, if not all, the person who wants one of these procedures (which includes surgery) must have among other signatures, that of at least one psychiatrist.

  68. Mar Iguana

    “So I wonder, do you trust the medical establishment or not? Or is only that part of it is the boy’s club, while “mental health” is where you chuck people you think are mad or offensive? Or is it just that your seeming aversion to transpeople trumps their own lived experience and needs and knowledge?” zawadi

    No.

    No, and.

    No

  69. Mandos

    That directly contradicts everything you said on the subject in your post above.

  70. Mandos

    I used to think bad male behavior isn’t inherent but conditioned. I’m not so sure anymore. The more I learn about the differences between male and female brains, about the effects of testosterone on formative physiology and adult male behavior, the more I think it may be inherent.

    What is not natural is patriarchy, which is no more than a system that exploits these inherencies, exaggerating, encouraging, fanning rather than tempering them, channeling them into more constructive behaviors. I do not believe that in the whole of human existence, women have been treated like livestock but we survived as a species because they were not.

    Alright, here’s an interesting place to start. If some Bad Behaviours are inherent to men (as a class, of course), then here you suggest that they can be tempered and channeled into “more constructive behaviours.”

    What specifically are these behaviours?
    To what do you think they should be channeled?
    What is the mechanism by which you would channel them?

  71. Mar Iguana

    “*By the way, lots of transpeople are not ‘persuaded’ to undergo reassignment surgery, nor do many consult doctors. Many choose not to undergo surgery, or to take hormones.” zawadi

    Good for them. Sincerely. So, what we have here is a failure to communicate since our limited language has gendered pronouns/words that don’t describe those who can’t relate to either “he” or “she” or think they have to choose between only two ways of being in this world. That’s obviously inadequate but until people figure that out, there’s a nice chunk of change to be made. It is a major insult to women for the sex change industry to assert they can create a woman from a boy, not to mention it’s a flat out lie and just plain fraud and malpractice.

    What would be a good, non-derogatory word for those who think they are neither? He, she and what? I can’t think of a positive sounding word just now. Words like “other,” “miscellaneous,” “etcetera” or “whatever” are sure not acceptable. We probably need even more than three words to describe what people actually are. But, that would be a major threat to male worshipping, patriarchal woman riding, wouldn’t it?

  72. Mar Iguana

    “What specifically are these behaviours?
    To what do you think they should be channeled?
    What is the mechanism by which you would channel them?” Mandos

    Negative and destructive.

    That which is positive and creative.

    End patriarchy.

  73. Mar Iguana

    “That directly contradicts everything you said on the subject in your post above.” Mandos

    No, it doesn’t. Think damn it.

  74. zawadi

    “Genderqueer” is a lovely word that some people who are uncomfortable with naming themselves as one of the extremes seem to like to use nowadays.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genderqueer

  75. Mandos

    Negative and destructive.

    That which is positive and creative.

    End patriarchy.

    You gotta have something at least a little more specific than that, *especially* for the last one. I remember when one of the wingnuts was asked what the American military should do in Iraq. He said: “Win.” *headdesk*

  76. Mar Iguana

    You’re hopeless, Mantwo times three. I don’t gotta do squat, “especially” do your thinking for you. Take your brain out of the box for some exercise now and then. Start with figuring out why your American military wingnut comment is so resoundingly irrelavant.

  77. Mandos

    Start with figuring out why your American military wingnut comment is so resoundingly irrelavant.

    It’s entirely relevant. Your goal is to end patriarchy. Isn’t it? I asked you not even about the means to do it, but merely the means to a small component of your overall programme. You responded by reiterating the obvious implicit goal. That’s a way of answering while avoiding the question. You do it regularly. It’d be more honest to say that you don’t really have an answer.

    Incidentally,

    Negative and destructive.

    That which is positive and creative.

    This suggests a connection between aggression and creativity, to suggest that male aggression can be channeled to creative ends. Way back up there in this thread, it was noted that many anti-feminists believe that male aggression is simply unchanneled essential male energy, which thus requires positive outlets. How does this differ from that kind of theory? Especially since it suggests that men need these outlets more than women do, which means that for the good of society men must have more of these outlets than women, and so on, and so forth.

  78. antares

    greetings. long time lurker, first time poster…

    The masculine principle is, yes, both assertive and creative in nature. Aries/Mars, as the archtype, represents both the force of Nature’s creativity in spring as well as, say, the forcefully-aggressive act of childbirth.

    If we are seeking to find ways for men to positively channel this Aries/Mars type of energy (which women have as well, of course), we might look to native peoples for a hint.

    In many (all?) aboriginal communities, the men are drummers and dancers, they sculpt things, make boats, tend animals, play with and teach the children and upkeep the dwellings. Masculine aggressiveness is best channeled into activities that better the community.

    If i can butt in to the conversation between Mandos and Mar Iguana, id like to answer this one of his questions : What is the mechanism by which you would channel them?

    Clearly, *force* is not the answer. They must _want_ to cooperate. My feeling is that they will come to this desire on their own. And, sooner than they realize.

  79. Catherine Martell

    Mar Iguana: “Thing is, that’s precisely what’s happening in a pregnant woman’s body. She’s creating life.”

    That’s a very romanticised way of looking at it. She’s incubating a foetus. It’s not like creating a novel or a piece of art, is it? More like baking a cake, maybe: just don’t screw it up by ingesting too many wrong ingredients. Bringing up children is an extremely creative activity, but I hate the idea of having a pregnancy described as ‘creating life’: it’s just way too close to the whole mother goddess delusion for my liking.

    MI: “As for who’s getting rich off conflating gender, it’s con-doctors who tell boys with a major psychological problem they can be made into a woman by surgical and chemical manipulation, which ain’t cheap.”

    That is a spectactular misunderstanding of my entire argument. I despise the medical establishment which gets rich off sex ‘changes’. The entire process of ‘changing’ your sex is, I believe, impossible. But this sexchange-medical-industrial complex can only exist because it perpetuates the premise that there are two rigid sexes and everyone must be corraled, bashed and even mutilated into them.

    If one accepts, as I do, that there are infinite possibilities on a sexual continuum, sex changes become not only abhorrent but illogical. Gender dysphoria would not exist in a post-patriarchal society, because ambiguity would be permitted. I find it quite understandable that there are plenty of people walking around now who are confused by and uncomfortable with the gender roles they are forced to perform. What is totally disgusting to me is that doctors respond with “Oh, that’s OK, we’ll just cut your cock off, or indeed stick one on.” Empirically, it would be far more valid to say “We’ve constructed a model of sexual difference, but all these exceptions show it doesn’t work. We need a new model.”

    MI: “And, what part do they “look” at? I’m pretty sure it’s that stretch between the legs. If there’s a dick there, it’s male. If not, it’s one of those other things. Wash, rinse and condition accordingly.”

    Yes, this is precisely the problem: you are categorised at birth by a medical establishment that will later charge you (if you’re in the US, anyway) a lot of money to “fix” you. When in fact we all start with the same genitals until the hormone rush through the womb at six weeks, which determines how your genitals and other sexual features will develop. It’s logical to assume that there is an infinite range of possible results from this process: it is clear, for instance, that people’s genitals are different sizes, and that some people’s secondary and hormonal sexual characteristics are more developed than others.

    And yet we persist in forcing everyone into one of two camps, and, when they don’t fit, convince them that several bouts of barbaric medieval self-butchery are the answer. Because surely our social construct of sex is infallible and it is their bodies, not our prejudices, that are wrong.

  80. antares

    An additional thought about the Mars/Aries archtype in response to the question of Mandos…

    In myth, men learn to harness their desire nature and control the power of their will by leaving home (to, ideally, become Men) on what’s often called a ‘hero’s journey,’ or, ‘vision quest.’ The ones who learn, byway of having to live on their smarts, skills and ability to relate to strangers (as opposed to their womenfolk) for an extended period of time, learn the true scope and power of Nature. The ones who are able to return home a ‘hero’, are the ones who have allowed themselves to be humbled by the actual experience of the inconnectedness of everything/everyone.

    Westernized man has made it so that successive generations of boys dont have to undergo any trials (with Nature) to learn to reign in or refine their willpower. Now they have very little amounts of control over it, and so, it controls them.

  81. Mar Iguana

    zawadi, I like this part from your link: “Some genderqueer people view gender as a continuum between man and woman, with the two traditional genders at the two poles and their own genderqueer place as somewhere within the continuum.”

    From the list of pronouns (“ze”, “per”, “zir”, “sie” and “hir”, “zhe”, “hir”, “zes” or singular “they” instead of her/his) what do you find most people using? (I don’t get out much, borderline hermit.) I’d like to see non-gendered pronouns replace what we now have because where one falls within the continuum is nobody’s business, kind of like using “Ms” since a woman’s marital status is nobody’s business but ze own.

    “Yes, this is precisely the problem: you are categorised at birth by a medical establishment that will later charge you (if you’re in the US, anyway) a lot of money to “fix” you.” Catherine Martell

    Worse yet, I’ve heard of doctors who “fix” the genetitals of newborns if they aren’t clearly male or female and that this can really mess these kids up later in life. I swear doctors think MD stands for Medical Diety.

    Mandos: Mandos, Mandos, Mandos. You funny.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>