“John Schwartz of The New York Times wrote way in the back time, “Men would rather marry their secretaries than their bosses, and evolution may be to blame.”
“Powerful women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market because men may prefer to marry less-accomplished women. Men think that women with important jobs are more likely to cheat on them.”
“…there are evolutionary pressures on males to take steps to minimize the risk of raising offspring that are not their own.”
I have been told this meditation is like a hydrogen bomb, that it can be used to nuke men. I have solved this by not speaking as a man, rather as a woman encountering the world, and that includes men. Sometimes I am wrong. I ask readers simply consider the questions I ask throughout. Also, I am speaking in broad generalities — we all know that for every rule in genetics or conditioning where humans are concerned, there are many exceptions.
The way things are: Sadly, the question of gender relations that feminists hoped would be resolved by the beginning of this century has not been resolved. Women still constitute a servant class the world over, and in many parts of the world, we are still slaves. Do I have to say where? Men may feel they are subservient to the world too, and they are.
Like pug dogs with noses so smashed in they can’t breathe properly or Huskies overbred until they are routinely born with dysplastic hips, on the surface at least, it seems women and men selectively bred themselves into beings that require one to be deity-like and the other to be worthless. Which one depends on individual circumstances.
It is not easy to write about the pain people feel relative to others on so many points, whether one does so journalistically, rationally, scientifically, poetically, etc. There is no way for any of us to shrug off collective responsibility because we exist in an experiential feedback loop of conditioning or genetics with our ancestors, yet there is no way to accept responsibility for anything you did not participate in individually. We have not lived forever. We can only include our own limited lives.
It might actually be helpful to consider the way we have “bred” ourselves over the last 10,000 years in much the same way we have bred our animal companions. I am not taking a stand here on one side of the great nature/nurture divide. I believe both affect us profoundly. Feminists from the mid and latter portion of the 20th century have already analyzed in depth many of the ways in which we have been nurtured to regard females as servants and men as rulers. That is a power game now between the genders. Scientists are discovering the ways our genes work to create male and female to ask if we find this relationship that far down into our cells. Transgender people suggest this relationship is that far down into our cells. You can have a mis-match between your internal (cellular) and external (social) realities.
What is clear is that through both conditioning and genetic selection, we have deliberately sought to create females with traits of passivity, emotionality and empathy (and here it might be more productive to substitute the word cooperativeness) and males with traits of aggression, lack or control of emotion, and blunted empathy. Aggressive, analytical females in every culture have been subjected to punishments of various kinds, and women in general (until the turn of the 20th century in the west) have been confined in their homes — some in extreme situations on pain of death (Afghanistan under the Taliban both times is a good example). In addition, women all over the world who have acted on various aggressive or sexual urges have been subjected to various kinds of killings — they were actually removed from the gene pool. The same can be said for sensitive, more cooperative men.5
Certainly, if one looks at the few species to which humans are related, one can see many forms of dominance and cooperative behaviors in males and females, yet the tendencies to dominance do not seem to play themselves out in systematic repression of the exercise of vital powers of females in those species. Humans can certainly evolve to value and enhance the exercise of vital powers for everyone society-wise.
It is vital to ask why our current situation has happened in the human species. Is our own intelligence with its many strengths and limitations at root? We easily find what works in any situation, then we do more of what works. But more than that, we can imagine what we desire, select only the data, the elements that support the attainment of our desires and discount or eradicate anything that interferes with what we or our group want. Many have seen the actions of various Administrations and Industries in the USA with regard to this hallmark human strategy. A phrase borrowed from the literary world to describe this mental process is “magical realism.” It doesn’t take everything into account, just those included through rigorous or messy selection.
It is clear from an examination of history that at some point men discovered physical force and humiliation applied consistently over time worked to subdue women to their wills. Most men aren’t this way by nature, but it works. We see that, in general men are physically stronger than women. Individual men were able to make this work if they were so inclined (e.g., my dad and brothers were not so inclined). At some point, the group male consensus lead to general physical suppression of all women by means of force as history shows (something about power and its corrupting effects) — so history does not record a time when women were NOT suppressed socially, politically, and economically. Concurrently, almost assuredly women from time immemorial found that sexual allure, cultivated assiduously, worked to strongly affect men, worked. On one side we had men using force to have their way, and on the other women using sex and the various psychological methods of coercion or kindness that must accompany such to have their way.
Our ancestors assuredly did have love for each other, but it appears they first and foremost used each other — to produce children, and secure access to resources (social, economic, and natural). How else can you explain marriage rules that forced virtual strangers to set up house to benefit abstract concepts like “family name” and “fortune” rather than the dictates of individual natures? How else can you explain social conventions that suppressed female vital powers of intellect and aggression in favor of cooperation and empathy, and male vital powers of empathy and cooperation in favor of competition and calculation?
All this does make me wonder if over the millennia of civilization, males have been systemically bred to be more and more controlling, to be the top dog or judge themselves and be judged harshly. Is it any wonder some male winners expect to have their whims met at every turn by all women and every man they can subdue to their will? Is it any wonder males routinely permit themselves and their groups any degree of force in mind, body or will that create and maintain such control? Do I have to say corporate takeover?
At the same time, it looks like women have been bred to be more and more empathic, “psychological” and cooperative with men, and some other women. Is it any wonder women now understand human psychology so well that they and their children have managed to survive and even prosper under the environmental conditions in which they have found themselves for 10,000 years? Is it odd that they have their ways quite often, even while subservient?
As this societal breeding project progressed, have men grown less and less capable of understanding or expressing subtleties of human emotion and bonding through such except sometimes with woman or another man, or are these abilities merely suppressed? Have women become ultrasensitive to absolutely every nuance of human breath, bat of eye, turn of limb, so that while men have subjugated nature, figured out how to control even the atom, women are able to figure out the entire psychological make-up of a human being, as well as successfully project what they are likely to do next under almost any set of circumstances simply by being in the same room with them for three quick minutes? Did I mention you will do their will or know the reason why?
Certainly, many women throughout time have used this ability to control men. In this way, they may have helped create their own bondage just as men have.
Nevertheless, women in the west, aided by men tired of being caged in the dominator role, have broken out of these old molds, at least psychologically — another triumph of the human mind’s ability to problem solve — for the old social “norms” are probably retarding the advancement of the race as a whole in ways we are just finding out about — like over-reliance on standardization (artificial intelligence), climate disturbance, species deaths, and boredom or fighting. It has become fashionable in some political circles to talk about the west’s success in terms of its utilization of ALL its human resources — women as well as men — this place where women are educated and free to pursue the expression of their many and varied vital powers as are men! We can see this is true as women rise up to take prominent positions in society and men reach out and engage with children and nature. They learn to slow down and simply be at appropriate times.
Fortunately, all types of people are beginning to do just that! We folk have become Senators, healers, physicists, poets, educators, entrepreneurs, and leaders. We have become members of society at large and vital members of such in many, but not all, places. We are working on it.
How can we bring balance and sanity into the relationship between women and men, the two gender ends of the race that work together to make the next generation?
In a magically realistic world men might decide to create a race of robots — Cherry 2000s to be perfect servants — robots with no personhood, no vital powers to exercise or die painfully on the vine like real women, robots with no will to power of their own. Women might find a race of space aliens who have evolved in a more balanced way — yes, a whole race for whom the exercise of vital powers is the sexiest thing going. Then these two Earth genders could finally go their separate ways! Sure, mingle if they wanted.
Except, as we all know magical realism is, well, magical. It doesn’t exist anywhere except in our fervent, overactive nervous systems.
So again, what can we do?
Well, our predicament doesn’t make any sense whatsoever if we slice any one life or set of lives out of the context of the last 10,000 years. If we do that, we are left with men and their aloneness, and women with their suffering that knows no real way out.
Avoidance is always easier. It is probably no accident our culture, in fact most, cultivate a thousand different forms of distraction…outside of the fact that we bore easily, generally speaking.
There is, however, a potential way out. We have to look at what we have done to ourselves and each other over the last 10,000 years and make a start at undoing it. And this is my opinion all the way: All people can be set free, by society and by themselves. All people can learn that even though some tactics work on the surface, like physical force or sexual manipulation, in the long run, they hurt way more than they help.
We didn’t get here overnight, we won’t get out of this predicament overnight. We have to be able to trust each other! It will be many generations of hard work if everyone started working on it right now. Many people are doing the best they can, many are entrenched and thereby retarding the process. Together we all lurch along.
That is the way of things. We can band together, those who are going slow, and those moving forward fast. We can strive to survive, our hearts and mental health as intact and functional as possible while standing on the ground that has worked for us in the past.
We can make this choice now, way sooner than soon.
c. 2005 TDHawkes
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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