A Thought Adventure

Monday, September 28, 2015

5. The Male Inferiority Complex. II

What are the signs that men suffer from an inferiority complex? Don't most of them act as if they were in control? Take for granted that they, like the cocks on the dunghills, have every right to shut up the female voice with their deafening crows?

Declarations of superiority
“Women have long hair and short intelligence.” (Traditional Chinese saying); 
The position of women "is always and invariably relative to men." (The Torah, The Written and Oral Law);
"The head of every man is Christ; and the head of every woman is the man." (St Paul, I Corinthians, 11:3);
"Women and dogs and other impure animals are not permitted to enter." (A sign to be found in some mosques);
"Woman is by nature meant to obey." (Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher);
Man reaches “a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than woman can attain--whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands.” (Charles Darwin);
"Femininity is failed masculinity." (Sigmund Freud).

Well, that's just it. What better proof that men lack a wholesome self-assurance than their very need to hammer in that they're above women--more than, brighter than--and that they, not women, must be the decision-makers? If women are, naturally, a breed below men, what makes it necessary to shout it from the housetops? 

Today when at least some of us begin to realize that bragging and bullying are ways to compensate for feeling ignored and devalued, we may pity--and also smile a little at--these self-appointed male authorities and their pompous proclamations. But if we want to understand them and all the men still reluctant to implement gender equality (even if they endorse it with their minds), we must confront something we've overlooked. While engrossed in women's plight for decades here in the West, we’ve let the paradox escape us that society’s view of men is just as unfair as its view of women--and perhaps even more peppered with stereotypes.

Male masochism
Whereas once admired feminine virtues like chastity, meekness, obedience are becoming laughable, we still glorify masculine ones dating back to the dawn of patriarchy (like aggressiveness, fearlessness, stoicism). We choose to ignore the clear vein of masochism that runs through male behavior based on these ideals (i.e., most male behavior), such as being willing to put honor above life (in duels, kamikaze, the ‘supreme sacrifice’), suffer physical pain without flinching (in sports, play, hazing practices) and obey orders (from officers, coaches, bosses and bossy wives). And, according to current statistics, it’s men, not women, who make up the majority of the homeless, the suicides and the fatalities in the work place.

In this context I also think we should take a look at the physically painful initiation rites that men in so many cultures have to go through but which are not required of women (except in the case of female genital mutilation). In his book Symbolic Wounds: Puberty Rites and the Envious Male, psychologist Bruno Bettelheim sees these rites as an outgrowth of a deep male envy of the female power inherent in motherhood.

The question to ask is why men not only endure but take pride in self-destruction. What makes them go on emulating some mythical hero’s struggles instead of asking if his sacrifices still serve (or ever have served) a meaningful social purpose? And if this martyrdom isn’t too high a price to pay for the semblance of male superiority?

To come closer to an answer we need to prod deeper into the sense of inferiority that men are hiding from. For a closer look at how women contribute to it, see next post.

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For the full blog click originofsexism.blogspot.com

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

4. The Male Inferiority Complex I

Webster’s Dictionary defines inferiority complex as “an acute sense of personal inferiority resulting either in timidity or through overcompensation in exaggerated aggressiveness.” (Complex = “a group of repressed desires and memories that exerts a dominating influence upon the personality.”) Other definitions add the “wholly or partly unconscious” character of this feeling of inferiority and give “spectacular achievement or extreme anti-social behavior” as examples of compensation for it. If extended to mean an acute sense of collective inferiority, all these definitions fit the complex I see entrenched in the entire male sex.

My definition
What I call the monumental male inferiority or mother complex is not the same as a man’s neurotic bond to his mother, although it may have that effect also in individual men. It is first and foremost a collective disorder buried deep in men‘s unconscious (somewhere at the bottom of the iceberg Freud used as a metaphor for the human mind, in which only the tip that's visible above the surface represents the conscious part). And it originates, I suggest, in the archaic belief that women create children on their own and must possess magical power. Research shows that in these cultures people believed--even after men’s role in procreation was recognized, which supposedly took a long time,--that this magic continues to cling to womanhood, thanks not least to a long-lived and universally practiced goddess cult.

At this cult’s annual Fertility Festival the youth chosen to mate with the Great Mother Goddess (incarnated in the High Priestess) is ritually killed after the act of impregnation. My take on this bloody custom of male sacrifice is that it awakens in men a fear so profound of woman, both as authority figure and as sexual being, that it engraves on them a debilitating sense of inferiority (in websterian terms “an acute sense of gender inferiority“).

To me the founding of patriarchy (which I place rather late in the annals of humankind) is men’s enraged response when the matriarchs refuse to meet their demand for power-sharing.  And since I consider this demand perfectly reasonable in a period of evolving consciousness, I largely ascribe the violent overthrow of the matriarchy and its goddess cult to a final explosion of the volcanic anger that this complex has whipped up in men. Thus, the misogynistic social order we all are heirs to is a perfect example of how that complex--“through overcompensation”--resulted in “exaggerated aggressiveness” towards women.

But why does this complex remain today long after people stopped believing in goddesses? 

Repressed memory of woman power
I see two major reasons. One is that men bury their complex in their collective unconscious and slam a fake sense of superiority on top. Instead of looking their feeling of inferiority in the eye (and getting a chance to shed it once they discover its roots in pure superstition), they choose to build a male-ruled society on their need to deny it. A society that invents a theory of female inferiority and denies women a voice in its affairs.

Says psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, ‘When the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner contradictions, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn in opposite halves.”

The other reason is that women reinforce the complex. I think we’ve grossly underestimated the dynamics of the resentment against men that millennia of patriarchy accumulate in women. Far from disappearing, this emotion seeps into women's relations with men where it manifests as what I call reverse sexism’ or 'misandry' (Greek misos=hate, andros=man), i.e., attitudes and behaviors as full of contempt for men as sexism or misogyny is for women, and as common.

The existence of reverse sexism is a sign that something has gone as seriously wrong with women’s healthy instincts as with men’s. Misandry and misogyny generate each other; not only do they balance each other, we can't have one without the other. Nor can we get rid of one without getting rid of the other.

Now, because men can’t admit that behind their complex lies (for good reasons) a deep fear of womanhood, they also can’t admit that women possess power. But although this omission may fire them to beef up their own power, it may also inspire them to make a timid response because of the risk they run of being victims of female manipulation.

For a look at how this complex expresses itself, see next post.

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For the full blog click originofsexism.blogspot.com

Sunday, September 20, 2015

3. The Beginning Digs

One thing that inspired me to construct my theory about the origin of sexism was the conviction that, to succeed in getting rid of this now several thousand-year-old peculiarity, we need to find an answer to how it began.

At the dawn of recorded history (written language was first invented c 3200 BCE), most of society was already male-ruled. So to find the roots of misogyny we must delve into pre-patriarchal times. Given that much of our knowledge about this early period only exists in myth and legend, my effort at reviving it consists to a large extent of ideas and hypotheses that are based on informed suppositions rather than on scientific evidence.

Many discard attempts at theorizing about what happened before recorded history because it may not be scientifically provable. To them I offer the objection that what can’t be proved also can’t be disproved. We may never have a conclusive answer to what kind of society existed in the prehistoric and pre-literate era, but why should that prevent us from doing some educated guesswork? 

Let’s also keep in mind that a real myth (by which I mean myth in the original sense of the word) is an interpretation of something in nature; it has nothing to do with the supernatural nor is it a synonym for a falsehood. “Myths,” says one Greek scholar, Edith Hamilton, “are early science, the result of men’s first trying to explain what they saw around them,” Another, Jane Ellen Harrison,, points out that “Mythology invents a reason for a fact, it does not base a fact on a fancy.”

As far as possible I do, however, take my speculative leaps and broad generalizations from a foundation of facts (historical accounts of remaining matriarchies, research in archeology, anthropology, mythology, art and analytic psychology). For the rest I feel all right to give my imagination free rein--as long as I retain the coolness of my judgment and, to quote Sigmund Freud, “do not mistake the scaffolding for the building.” I don’t presume to be right; all I want is to launch ideas and stimulate a discussion.

It’ll take me a while, okay, before I get down to it all. But if you like ideas that besides apprehending facts also try to comprehend the world and ourselves, and if you don’t mind the winding road, welcome on board the bandwagon of my Thought Adventure.

The gist of my theory.
Men don't put women down because they consider them lesser than men (as we’ve been made to believe and it certainly looks like). On the contrary, they do it because they want to claim for themselves what they perceive to be women’s higher rank. Men’s chief motive for oppressing women is the desire to overcome a monumental Inferiority, or Mother, Complex inflicted on them by a pre-patriarchal matriarchy and rooted in a deep, and deeply repressed, fear of female power. It’s against this ancient social order--where women are the first sex due to their fertility and men are sacrificed on the altar of a Great Mother Goddess--that patriarchy arises in revolt.

Differently put, women were the first sexists.

Let me start by explaining what I mean by the male inferiority complex, in which I see the key to what‘s gone wrong with men‘s sexual instincts. See next post.

Mother Goddess from Ҫatal Huyük (6000-5500 BCE) Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara 

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

2. On Equality

Because equality is a key concept in this book, let me start by giving my definition of it and how I think it applies to the sexes.

Equal doesn't mean identical.
For two things to be equal, one must not be more nor less than the other in an identified respect. For example, I can’t be more or less of a human being than you (nor you than I) whether you‘re a man or a woman, because being members of the same species both of us possess its biologically determined attributes. But equal doesn’t mean identical or ‘the same,’ as is often alleged, since we--unlike almost all other species--are individuals. To quote philosopher Mortimer J. Adler:
while behavior is similar in each animal species, in man the similitude consists not in behavior but in potentialities, which can manifest in a variety of ways. For instance, there may be thousands of languages, but the potential for learning any human language is the same in all infants.

I base my argument about the innate equality of the sexes on the premise that male and female are complementary forces of nature--just like other polar opposites in the universe (particle and wave, matter and energy, organic and inorganic). A premise based in turn on the picture of the world that emerges from modern physics, where polar opposites are two sides of the same thing and both are required for a complete understanding of reality. 

Equality by law of nature versus by human law.
Now since male and female are two sides of one and the same physical phenomenon, homo sapiens, I propose - and make it my working assumption - that sexual equality is a natural law. As such it’s also inflexible, by which I mean that it applies regardless of outer circumstances. Whether women enjoy equal rights with men or not (which is a matter of jurisdiction) has no bearing on this law, because, being a natural phenomenon, female power can neither disappear nor diminish. If barred from expressing itself openly, it only goes into hiding where it invariably redresses its equilibrium with male power.

But since this isn’t a commonly held view, let me put it differently:

(thesis) The sexes have equal power.
(antithesis) Women’s power is unequal to men’s on all levels of society.
Women’s societal powerlessness is counterbalanced by a hidden power that, though different in kind, is as dominant in the inner workings of society as male power is in the outer.

Or, as Einstein said when postulating that the universe is simmering with a kind of invisible, ‘dark’ energy, “Beware of empty space! It may have created the world.”

(Einstein’s groundbreaking discovery that empty space is not empty but contains infinite energy parallels the view of the Void in Eastern mysticism. In Hinduism, Buddhism and Daoism ultimate reality is said to be formless, empty, void, but that doesn’t mean it’s a nonentity; on the contrary, it’s the essence of all phenomena, an infinitely creative potential and the origin of all forms.) 

When did we lose sight of nature?
I think time has come for us to disabuse ourselves of the illusion that the sexes have unequal power and realize that society is as much a creation by women as by men; i.e., women are as responsible as men for its sexist bias. Or else we’ll never find out what played havoc with men’s mating instincts, which is the problem at the heart of sexism.

In saying this I don’t imply that women chose to live at the mercy of men, restricted in all areas of life by laws men invented and enforced. What I do maintain is that they chose to concur with this system, because it allowed them to create a shadow society in the home where they in turn, as wives and mothers of boys, could victimize men by practicing a ‘reverse sexism.’

Today, luckily, men and women are becoming more aware of their inherent equality and are more willing, at least in some parts of the world, 
to make it visible. But unless we journey far back in time and do some real deep-digging I suspect we’re only scratching the surface of a nut as hard to crack as the delusion that one sex is either more or less than the other.

To cut the first sod, see next post.

I welcome feedback and would love for you to leave a comment. You can post a comment below this article or you can click on this article's headline.
For the full blog click originofsexism.blogspot.com

Sunday, September 13, 2015

1. Why Are We Sexists?

In my upcoming book ON THE ORIGIN OF SEXISM, A Thought Adventure, I outline a theory of how sexism began and why it continues on in society todayI’ve started this blog to get some response to its main ideas. By sexism I mean prejudice or discrimination based on sex whether directed at men or at women. 

If  “the relation of man to woman is the most natural relation of human being to human being” (as Karl Marx put it), why have we botched it so badly? As if the war of the sexes were an immovable fact of life instead of a mystery crying out for an explanation, a pathology in need of a cure!

Who needs this old topic again you may sigh. Didn’t the women’s movement thrash it all out a long time ago, like in the sixties? It’s just a matter of time before misogyny is history, right?

I disagree. I think we’re nowhere near an end to the inequality between the sexes. First, we’ve never even asked the most basic question: why is there sex discrimination at all? Second, by trying to dig women out from under erroneous ideas about femininity, the feminist movement addressed only half the problem. The other and equally important half--digging men out from under equally false ideas about masculinity--is still largely unaddressed.

Faced with the enigma of how women--the very objects of most male desire--can stir so much contempt, and even loathing in men, I make the following suggestions. Somehow, at some time, something went seriously wrong with heterosexual men’s healthy instincts. And for such an unnatural thing to happen--one so odd it’d be comical if it weren’t as great a tragedy for men as for women-- there must be some pretty formidable reasons.

Key questions.
In order to pull up sexism by its roots, I believe we must find out why it got planted in the first place. I will therefore try to answer some key questions that as far as I know have not even been asked yet: 

* What lies behind the establishment of a society where only men decided on political, economic, legal and administrative matters? A society in which women had no right to be educated, own property and seek occupation outside of the home?

* Why did the violence against women that this society allowed men to practice become accepted as normal all over the world for thousands of years, and why is it still common in many parts of the world?

* How did this treatment affect women and what was their response to it?

Women's contribution.
Now since I don’t believe any social order can last without the compliance (vocal or silent) of its constituents, I’m forced to assume that women went along with their rank as the second sex. And since I find this unlikely without women exercising a power of their own as compensation, I presume that the apparent imbalance of power between the sexes is in reality a balance

We’re in it, sisters, up to our necks!

One of the most important things for us to find out, then, is this: What have women in patriarchy done to compensate for their lack of outer power and restore the power balance with men?

For a closer look at this alleged power balance, see next post

I welcome feedback and would love for you to leave a comment. You can post a comment below this article or you can click on this article's headline.
For the full blog click originofsexism.blogspot.com