A Thought Adventure

Friday, October 30, 2015

15. The Neolithic Age

Findings by several archeologists in the 1950s and ‘60s show that around 10,000 BCE--the beginning of the Late Stone or Neolithic Age--people who rely on hunting and gathering are reaping wild barley and wild wheat with knives, grinding the grain and using storage pits. They live in the Fertile Crescent, a broad, hilly region stretching from mainland Greece and Crete in the west over Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran to the foothills of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan and north Pakistan.

The agricultural revolution
The art of farming is thought to have begun when people first make the observation that a common weed they’ve collected for eating is growing where they previously spilled seed. Before people know how to cultivate by seeding, they probably begin by setting out roots, tubers and shoots. Because women used to be the gatherers in the earlier economy, they are considered to be the inventors of agriculture and also its first cultivators (until the plow was invented). We don't know when animals were first domesticated, but it’s assumed to coincide with farming.

The shift from a hunting-gathering to an agricultural economy occurs between what archeologists call the ‘proto-Neolithic’ era (c 9500-7500 BCE)--a transitional stage between food collecting and cultivation--and the ‘basal-Neolithic' era (c 7500-6500 BCE)--the stage when grain agriculture and stock-breeding are firmly established. This period is probably the most transformative in the life of humankind. In the course of a few thousand years the world undergoes material and spiritual developments so important that even the revolutionary changes of our own machine, nuclear and information age can’t compare with them.

The first main effect of the new means of subsistence is that, as a rule, our ancestors have enough to eat (often more than needed). This stimulates both sexuality and mind, permits them to settle down in hamlets and villages and lead fairly stable, predictable lives. Another effect is a great increase in population. Whereas several square miles are needed to feed a hunting tribe, only a few acres of land take care of the needs of a farmer’s family. The earlier, more apprehensive existence is exchanged for one of reasonable continuity and competent control over processes once entirely subject to the caprices of nature.

The mother-goddess and the sacred bull are the earliest spiritual expression of the farming culture; the bull is venerated because he fertilizes the milk-cows and plows (=fertilizes) the earth. In history’s first temples (c 4000-3500 BC in Mesopotamia, or Sumer) the earth-goddess is symbolized by a cow and her fertilizing consort by the moon-bull who dies and is resurrected. 

The evolution of consciousness
Since I connect this drastic change in living conditions with an awakened mind, I suggest it takes place at the same time as our species makes its breakthrough into full conscious awareness. Although many circumstances (such as climatic and other environmental changes) play a part in the agricultural revolution, I don’t think people could have invented farming without full insight into the natural processes and the laws of causality--like being able to examine the present, draw conclusions from the past and predict the future.

I’ve found no studies that pinpoint when evolution bestows us with the gift (some call it curse) of consciousness. We still don‘t know exactly what it is nor where to find it (though neuroscience is working hard at it), but many scholars consider it a very late arrival on the scene. For most of our life as a species we probably live, just like the animals, according to innate behavior patterns. But after millions of years of slow but steady growth, a series of genetic mutations bring a spectacular expansion of the neo-cortex. And then, with a bang, comes the final upgrade that makes it possible for us to reach a conscious comprehension of the world--the prerequisite I posit for the malevolent matriarchy.

Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould calls consciousness the greatest invention in the history of life, because it allows life to become aware of itself. By enabling us to see things objectively and in pairs of opposites, it adds an entirely new dimension to human existence. From a non-conceptual and essentially childlike way of seeing things, we now turn to an adult and highly discerning view; one that includes the ominous realization that  we possess personal power.  

It is now we make the groundbreaking discovery I see as the main motive for inventing the custom of ritual regicide. A discovery that puts an end to the Benevolent Matriarchy and marks the beginning of the Malevolent Matriarchy, the birthplace of the male inferiority complex. See next post.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

14. The Benevolent Matriarchy

Two kinds of matriarchies
I distinguish between two matriarchal periods. The first and by far the longest--which I call the Childhood of Humankind or the Age of Innocence--I see characterized by a Benevolent Matriarchy. I suggest it lasts from the time anatomically modern humans first appear c 200,000 years ago, or all the way from the start of our life as a species, Homo sapiens sapiens, and up to c 10,000--9500 BCE, i.e., the dawn of the agricultural revolution. The reason I name this era ‘benevolent’ is to indicate that woman’s dominant position in the group is due merely to her role as child-bearer and not to any coercive measures on her part.

The second, much shorter period--which I call the Adolescence of Humankind or the Age of Awakening--I see characterized by a Malevolent Matriarchy. A product of the new farming and stock-breeding economy, it lasts only a few thousand years until the first signs emerge of a patriarchal social order (c 5000-4500 BCE in the Near East). The reason I name this second era ‘malevolent’ is that now female rule, assisted by a burgeoning ego, gradually degenerates into a tyranny where men are oppressed. And I contend that this very different and more tightly organized matriarchy owes its existence to the unique milestone we now reach in our evolution as a species--namely the breakthrough of consciousness.

During the Benevolent Matriarchy all people are hunting-gathering nomads. So to figure what life may have been like back then we need to make some tentative comparisons with still surviving hunter-gatherers. Because anthropologists at the end of the 19th century found that some of these preliterate peoples (like Hottentots and Bushmen, inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, the Arctic, Australia, etc.,) still kept the original forms of their rites and beliefs, they see their societies as a sort of living fossils, arrested at a cultural stage similar to the Upper Paleolithic, or Early Stone Age.

According to William Haviland, author of Cultural Anthropology, hunter-gatherers live in small groups of 25 to 50 people who move about according to how available the main food stuffs are. The bulk of the calories consumed comes from the food stuffs women collect--such as roots and tubers, nuts and fruits, fish and shellfish--to which hunting adds proteins and fat.

Studies also show that most nomads are remarkably un-aggressive and egalitarian. Being mobile, they don’t accumulate surplus goods and luxuries, hoarding is considered a moral wrong and gift-giving is common. In the band, consisting of an association of related families and probably the oldest form of political organization, all adult members decide on common affairs by consensus, and conflicts are settled informally by gossip, mockery, negotiation.

Having lived so long under some form of patriarchal rule, we’ve learned to associate governing power with either physical force or the threat of it. But to come closer to understanding what matriarchal rule might have been like, we must realize that this kind of community is small in scale, lacks complex (or any) political organization and is held together by personal relationships, not territory or property. Private property scarcely exists before patriarchy, and archeological digs in pre-agricultural sites have yielded no weapons.

A pre-conscious stage
In the Childhood of Humankind I presume humanity moves through successive non-conscious and pre-conscious levels. People are still ignorant of individuality so the relations between leader and follower most likely resemble those between mother and infant. To communicate, not even words (and much less physical force) may be needed, only example, accompanied by facial expressions, tone of voice and gestures. The exaggerated eyes on many female figurines, some with brilliant gems inserted in their eye sockets, seem to indicate that eye-to-eye contact is important at this social stage. (We don’t know when language is invented; it was long supposed to be between 70,000 and 40,000 years ago, but lately scholars think it happened much earlier.)

I suggest the respective roles of the sexes are accepted as natural because the imperative need for survival makes them equally indispensable to the group. Men work in enterprises best served by them, like hunt and defense, and everybody pretty much finds an outlet for his or her own innate gifts. I label this period benevolent also because traditions of equality are a universal feature in the ancient history of humankind. The famous democratic traditions of Greece, e.g., were all inherited from the preceding pagan society.

It’s to the second and what I call Malevolent Matriarchy that I attribute the origin of sexism. And I consider this drastic reversal of female reign inconceivable without the unparalleled event that is the arrival of the conscious human mind.

But before pigeonholing the dramatic impact of this new and formidable player on the world stage, first a quick look at the environment in which I place the transformation of matriarchal leadership. See next post.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

13. Ritual Regicide

Scholarly interpetations
Because coercing the spirits to fulfill man’s needs is a central ingredient in both magic and religion, the early farmers probably feel a genuine and imperative need to coax the powers-that-be to promote the fertility of the earth. Maybe they regard planting and harvesting as a mystery comparable to the process of impregnation followed by the birth of a child, and need a ritual to express it. Maybe they relate their own destiny to that of plants, which some scholars believe, like Campbell and German anthropologist Leo Frobenius, (author of Childhood of Man); and maybe--because to them harvesting is a killing--the farmers simply accept death as a natural part of the eternal cycle of growth and decay.

Or, as suggested by British anthropologist Sir James George Frazer (author of  The Golden Bough), perhaps they believe that the rites of marriage, death and rebirth will magically bring about the annual cycle of growth and decay. This is an idea derived from the primitive ritual of sympathetic magic, according to which you can produce the events you desire by using objects or actions that resemble or are associated with it.

For all these reasons the farmers are well prepared to accept the matriarchs’ brilliant idea to make vegetal seed (‘dying’ in the earth to give rise to a plant) a metaphor for male seed (‘dying’ in the womb to beget a child), and to celebrate it in a sacred marriage. Nevertheless, if it’s the ‘death’ of the seed in the ground and its ‘rebirth’ as a plant they want to imitate, wouldn’t a simple marriage and birth ritual be more appropriate (to celebrate the transformation of the male seed in the womb and the birth of a new human being)? Isn’t it to wildly overplay it when the siring process winds up bumping off the sire? Besides, what could be more contradictory to a ritual meant to enhance life than murder?

Moreover, in every study I’ve come across of preliterate societies, murder is never a normal event and death is always sad, something to be avoided. Neumann means it’s precisely because of the elemental bond with nature that the primeval mind has always regarded killing as an outrage on the world order. And Mumford admits to being puzzled how a ceremony that begins by invoking a more abundant life can turn into its very opposite.

I’m astonished that none of the scholars raises an eye-brow at an institution as appalling in its brutality as male sacrifice (and one so dismissive of men’s pivotal role as initiators of new life). Instead  they all seem to accept it as somehow logical. As if the standard for human mating behavior were set by the praying mantis--the insect whose female after copulation bites the head off the male and eats him!

I’m equally shocked that nobody asks how it may affect the early farmer to be exposed, repeatedly and with great fanfare, to such merciless killings of men. Wouldn’t his reactions be akin to those of people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)--heightened states of rage and vigilance, distrust of everyone, a profound sense of guilt and aloneness? And since these feelings had to be repressed, wouldn’t they have grown increasingly explosive with time?

My interpretation
In my interpretation the spring festival is not a feast in honor of renewed life, and fertility is not the reason why men have to be ritually sacrificed. The reason is another altogether. It’s to ensure that the female sex retains its superiority over the male. It’s to drum in that woman is and remains the principal creator of new life. And it’s to engrave on the collective mind that woman alone has the divine right to dispense death as well as life.

I therefore conclude that ritual regicide--this four-headed hydra sanctioning incest, castration, murder and cannibalism--is a contrivance of the women rulers in the first farming villages when their authority is under attack. It’s not born of religious fervor but of a specific intention arising in these women’s minds: to block all expressions of fatherhood beyond the purely biological and to crush any sign of equality between the sexes. As the first trauma inflicted on newly conscious man, male sacrifice is, I contend, the spark that sets ablaze the discord between the sexes--one that simmers in matriarchy, flares up in patriarchy and is still raging. And as such it’s the prime motor of both the male inferiority complex and its corollary, the practice of misogyny.

But what motivated the matriarchs to create an institution like ritual regicide? To lead up to an answer I first need to describe how I think the matriarchy developed. See next post.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

12. The Fertility Festival

Probably because eating and begetting are necessary for life to go on, magical rituals to ensure the continued renewal of plants, animals and humans are common in farming villages everywhere. From the agricultural revolution on (c 9500--6500 BCE) solemnly celebrated fertility rites arise in the ancient Near East (and later throughout the world). Representing the yearly cycle of death and revival of vegetable life, they revolve around a god who dies and is resurrected. Included in the festivals are bounteous meals accompanied by sexual license, music and dancing.

The sacred marriage
In these rites the Great Mother Goddess is represented by the queen or priestess (often the same person) and the god by the young king (her son or brother and always a young man). Known as Dumuzi in Sumer, Tammuz in Babylon, Osiris or Geb in Egypt, Baa'l in Canaan and Adonis or Attis in Greece, he plays the role of the goddess's consort in the annual sacred marriage ceremony (hieros gamos). After consummating the sexual union, he is killed (and often also ritually eaten) but then resurrects and becomes immortal thanks to his association with the goddess

Images of the ritual marriage between the god and the goddess are common on the Mesopotamian cylinder seals, because in the city-states the marriage between the king and Inanna (goddess of Love and Procreation, Queen of Heaven and Earth) becomes a religious credo. It not only brings about the fertility of every living thing but also the prosperity and well-being of the land. And in all myths the death of the consort is considered an indispensable part of his marriage to the Great Goddess.

In Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara G. Walker writes that marriage with the earthly representative of the Goddess "was essential to the position of kingships; this was the original meaning of holy matrimony."

The goddess who cuts off the head of her consort "appears in certain Tamil texts (which may underlie the Sanskrit)" according to the anthropologist Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty in Women, Androgynes and Other Mythical Beasts. (Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken in parts of southeast Asia and one of the world's oldest classical languages.) India's Rig Veda collection of sacred Sanskrit texts (1200 BCE) contains several stories of very powerful goddesses (although by then there was a shift from female to male dominance).

In Hindu mythology one recurrent motif is death as an erotic release. Another is portraying the consort of the goddess as her son (images abound of copulation with a small male), which is a concept common also in other Indo-European myths and rituals--Irish, Greek, Welsh, Gallic, Roman. Everywhere in the goddess worship slaughter and blood offerings are seen as magical guarantees of earthly fertility.

In the words of Mircea Eliade, scholar of myth and religion and author of A History of Religious Ideas, "Carnage and cannibalism are characteristic features of archaic fertility goddesses."

Ritual regicide
No one knows where these strange and cruel rites originate. But, as reflected in historical and anthropological records, archeological findings and innumerable myths recounting it, the custom of male sacrifice, or ritual regicide, can be found in every corner of the world--including the high civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China and the Maya-Aztecs. It's practiced by the Celts and the Etruscans, and Vesta's temple in Rome holds symbolic rites of regicide. Scholars agree that women's participation in this cult is extensive: they serve as priestesses, oracles, prophets, diviners and later as temple scribes, judges and witnesses of legal documents.

Ritual regicide spreads over the entire Near East. Historian Diodorus Siculus (=from Sicily) records it in Egypt as late as 60--67 CE and Campbell reports that the custom has survived up to our days among the Shilluk people of the White Nile (in Sudan). Sometimes the king's son is sacrificed instead, but also criminals are known to have been substituted. Later only mock executions survive.

Why aren't we more aware of goddess cults that extended over the entire world and went as far back as the latter part of the Old Stone Age? Partly, no doubt, because archeology as a systematic and interdisciplinary inquiry into the life, thought, technology and social organization of the past came into its own only after WW II. And only then did it have access to technologies like C14 radiocarbon dating and tree ring counting (dendrochronology), which led to dramaitc reassessments of time sequences.

Female despotism
The presence of male sacrifice in matrilineal cultures everywhere is what got me started on my hypothesis of a female autocracy. As I see it, the idea to create a goddess cult springs from a consciously and carefully constructed ideology that sees in the Great Mother Goddess a symbol of Womanhood, and in Woman the model for Human Being. The bizarre idea that the fertilizing male must be sacrificed to guarantee the fruitfulness of the goddess (and of all living things) is therefore the brainchild of powerful female rulers who refuse to relinquish their power.

For some thoughts on why the murder of the Goddess's bridegroom became the central event in female religion, see next post.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

11. Female Religion

Venus of Willendorf
24,000-22,000 BCE  

What speaks most eloquently of a universal matriarchal past is the abundance of female figurines in stone, clay, plaster and metal found in what’s believed to be sacred settings everywhere--from southern Africa to Siberia and across the globe from China and Japan to India, Ireland and the Americas. These archeological finds, generally assumed to represent a Goddess, or goddesses, are humankind’s first known objects of worship and among the earliest and most common of all artistic motifs. Nearly all human images dating from 30,000--5000 BCE are of women, and everywhere in the world’s religious traditions the presence of goddesses is overwhelming.

Statuettes with greatly emphasized sexual parts (dating from c 30,000 BCE), discovered in the caves of northern Spain and southern France but also, e.g., in China (the Hongshan culture), are believed to have been objects of a religion that considered the female body divine. The women portrayed, who are always naked (sometimes with outspread legs, slender and sexually alluring, sometimes ample and nursing a child), seem to indicate that our prehistoric ancestors conceived of the divine as a maternal power that nurtured and provided for them.

The Mother Goddess
Nile Goddess
The figurines are all believed to portray the same mother goddess, Great Goddess, Magna Mater and Mother Earth, who later became prevalent in  agricultural societies; there is for instance a great similarity in style between the early Old Stone Age (paleolithic) figurines and the later New Stone Age (neolithic) ones, from 9500 BC onwards. A glossary of pictorial motifs compiled from about two thousand artifacts belonging to both these periods shows how the Goddess’s power is everywhere: in water and stone, in tomb and cave, in animals, birds, snakes and fish, in hills, trees and flowers. A trait common to many depictions of the goddess is that she lacks feet, as if coming straight out of the earth with which she’s identified 

Analytical psychologist and Jungian scholar Erich Neumann points out that the sexual symbolism in primeval cult and ritual (as always in mythology) isn’t concerned with any personal, genital aspects but represents the creative element in life and has a sacral and transpersonal meaning. The goddess, regarded as self-generating (parthenogenetic) and as the single source of all life, is a virgin, (Greek, parthenos) which everywhere in the ancient world means a woman who belongs to no man in particular but simply stands, like the man, in the service of fertility. Virginity in this sense is sacred because seen as a state of psychic openness to the divine. 

Fertility Goddess, Ecuador

The remarkable similarity between all those objects suggests a consensus about the almost sacred status of the feminine. According to Joseph Campbell (a scholar who made a survey of the spiritual history of mankind with his comparative studies of world mythology), woman was once prodigiously
powerful, because the center and origin of an effective magic. The natural mysteries of the menstrual cycle, childbirth, and the flow of mother’s milk--in themselves manifestations of power--were primary sources of religious awe.

Was prehistoric society female-managed?
Writes David Kinsley in The Goddesses’ Mirror, “Since women embodied the Goddess's life-giving power and the role of males in the reproductive process may not yet have been known, much speak for the theory that this goddess-centered society was also female-managed.”

In myths from far and wide the Great Goddess also appears as the Terrible Female, monster, witch, vampire, ghoul, specter, whose womb is deadly and devouring. Then she’s symbolized by things like the underworld, hell, darkness, nothingness, by a toothed vagina or by a mouth with a boar’s tusks, fangs, an outstretched tongue.

It is therefore clear and beyond doubt that in the era predating recorded history goddess worship was practiced all over the world. In Japan a long surviving memory of it is the divine status of the emperor (renounced only after WWII) which was based on the first emperor’s marriage to the sun goddess Amaterasu.
Amaterasu, Japanese Sun Goddess
Let’s now look more closely at this practice and what it may tell us about the relations between the sexes.  See next post.

Check The Myth of the Myth of Matriarchy

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

10. Matriarchy

Were men always the first sex?
Is it because we tend to take for granted that patriarchy has always existed that there's so little interest in probing its origin? In her classic work The Second Sex, French author Simone de Beauvoir writes that woman's place in society has invariably been assigned by men, whose biological advantage (larger size and muscular strength) guarantees them sovereign status "from humanity's beginnings.”

This belief, based on the idea that male dominance is ‘natural,’ seems to come either from religion (“God created woman subordinated to man“) or from a deep-seated conviction that brawn is the criterion of superiority. But if we believe society is created by human beings rather than ready-made by God and that it’s our business to examine it, how can we not ask why it looks the way it does?

I believe that in “humanity’s beginnings” sovereign status belongs to the female gender. At a time when survival is precarious, what takes priority is not the masculine physique but woman’s unique ability to bring forth and nurture offspring. To my mind, patriarchy evolved fairly recently in human history in revolt against a preceding matriarchy, which by then had grown out of bounds. It is a reactive social order and its oppression of women a revenge for an earlier devaluation of men.

Now, for me to be able to challenge the common claim that patriarchy is ‘normal,’ in the sense of the social norm, I must show that it hasn’t been around forever; but that, at different times and in different circumstances, also other social systems have existed where men and women behave differently towards each other.

Why do I posit a matriarchy, and what’s that? Matriarchy’ (literally mother rule) has been defined as an ancient system of social organization built around the interests of women, and in which women are the chief authority.

Theories of matriarchy
With his book Mother Right (1861), Swiss scholar J.J. Bachofen presented the first major challenge to the belief that patriarchal society was a natural state of affairs, and that male superiority was self-evident. American anthropologist Lewis H. Morgan (author of Ancient Society, 1877) found that practically all Indians of North America were organized in matriarchal clans (singular gens, plural gentes), where only the offspring of the daughters remained in the kinship group. From this he posited that native American tribes represented, “more or less nearly, the history and experience of our own remote ancestors when in corresponding conditions.” To German social scientist and political theorist Friedrich Engels, Morgan’s discovery of the matriarchal gens had the “same significance for prehistory that Darwin’s theory of evolution had for biology.”

Definitions of matriarchy
Do we by matriarchy mean a social system in which descent is matrilineal (traced through the female line) and residence is matrilocal (the husband moves into the woman‘s dwelling place)? If so, we know several examples from eye-witnesses in early historical times (among them Herodotus, Greek historian in the fifth century BCE, renowned as the 'Father of History'). But we also know that staunchly patriarchal societies, such as China, Japan, Egypt, were once matriarchal in these respects.

If by matriarchy we mean a social order that’s also ruled by women, we have less concrete evidence. Yet examples exist, like the ancient Qiang state in the Himalayas, ruled by a queen and a council of female ministers. Described as a Country of Women (Nü Guo), it’s documented in detail by the imperial histories of the Sui (581-618 CE) and Tang (618-907 CE) dynasties in China.

We don‘t know for sure whether matriarchy was once a universal social norm. But—due to the central place in the group that child-bearing assigns woman--many scholars assume that humankind has always lived in some form of matriarchal system; i.e., one where life is centered around the needs of the mother and her progeny, and to which the rest of the group naturally adapts. Like the 106-year-old Chinese dissident Zhou Youguang, who recently declared democracy to be “the natural form of a modern society,“ I declare matriarchy to be the natural form of ancient society.

But for me to postulate as tall an order as a universal matriarchy (that’s also the birthplace of sexism), mustn’t I have other and more tangible proofs? See next post.

For further reading:
Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough
Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, vol I-IV
Erich Neumann, The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype and The Origins and History of  Consciousness

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Monday, October 12, 2015

9. On Power

Let me start by clarifying what I mean by power.

Like psychiatrist Erich Fromm in his book The Art of Loving, I see power--in the sense of having a measure of control over our immediate environment--as necessary for both our physical and our psychological survival. Defined as being able, competent and significant enough to feel that we count in our interactions with others, power is in my view a primary motive of human behavior. I even call the need for it a fifth instinct, by which I mean a self-preserving impulse as indispensable to us as the four instincts we share with the other species: to feed and breed, flee and fight in the face of danger (the Four Fs). Or, as psychologist Rollo May puts it, “Power is the birthright of every human being.”

So adamant do I think it is for us to have power in this basic sense that, if lost, our drive to regain it will never stop but grow insatiable and threaten to destroy both others and ourselves. When coining the expressions ‘saving’ and ‘losing face,’ (face meaning an individual’s prestige, honor, reputation), the Chinese certainly knew the importance of personal power. In the movie The Help it’s a black person, interestingly enough, who is most keenly aware of it. As the nanny of a plump little white girl whose mother rejects her, this woman insists that the child repeats after her, not only every night at bedtime but several times a day, "You is important!"

How do we get that life-saving power? When we're newborn it comes naturally, because then we know how to trumpet our needs loudly enough to have them fulfilled. But as we grow and must contend with similar needs in others, it becomes more problematic. That's when we begin to realize that power is an ambiguous concept.

Primary and secondary power
There are two major kinds of power, inner and outer. I can be strong enough within myself to gain both the self-respect and the respect from the community that I need. I can also be strong because something outside of me assists me in obtaining that respect. When I draw on my own resources (knowledge, experience, personal qualities, self-reliance), I've got primary or inner and genuine power (Indian writer Deepak Chopra calls it 'self-power'). When I rely on external props (anything from a famous name, an impressive title or great wealth to buddy networks, laws or weapons), I’ve got secondary or borrowed and compensatory power (what Chopra calls 'power of agency').

Primary power maintains itself without support from the outside and can’t help attracting cooperation from others, whereas secondary power needs to pressure others, whether subtly or palpably, to conform to its will. Says Mencius, Chinese philosopher in the 4th century BCE: "When men are subdued by force, they do not submit in their minds, but only because their strength is inadequate. When men are subdued by power in personality they are pleased to their very heart's core and do really submit."

It's important to keep in mind that the two kinds of power, though mutually exclusive (or because of it!), are dynamically related. The need to borrow power to be able to make others do our bidding is directly proportionate to our inability to muster up subtler means of persuasion. Let's not forget that when it comes to inner, primary power women have a huge advantage over men thanks to society's different view of femininity (something innate in a woman) from its view of masculinity (something a man must must earn).

The reason why men don’t stop accumulating compensatory power--yet never seem to get enough of it--is that no amount of external strength can ever still the desire for inherent strength. There simply is no way gratifying ego needs will ever gratify the deeper needs of the psyche as a whole. This doesn't mean, however, that men don't have all kinds of primary power too and avail themselves of it in their work; it just means that they don't rate it as highly as the use of props inluding force

Gender-biased power
Since throughout history women have mostly exercised power person to person (as mothers and wives), theirs has been a primary or ‘soft’ (=unforced) kind of power. As runners of the social machinery, men, by contrast, have mostly wielded a secondary or ‘hard’ (=forced) kind of power, one that in a purely material sense is often formidable thanks to the many coercive measures at its disposal. In a psychological sense, however, as Fromm points out, it is not a strength at all but an impotence. 

The reason we can say that women have as much impact on society as men is that soft power affects people directly, through their emotions. And since the most impressionable people are children, those most influenced by it are tomorrow’s men and women. This kind of power works from one person to another, often without intermediaries or outer props; it communicates by setting examples, sometimes even without words using only facial expressions and body language. If skillfully handled, very little of it goes a long way. Because for all the respect we tend to pay to the more conspicuous outer power, it has no more influence over us than inner power. 

Or to quote 18th century author Oliver Goldsmith, ”How small of all that human hearts endure/ That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!”

Today things are changing. Gone are the days when women had no other outlet for their potential than the family and so, hopefully, are the days when men used up all of theirs outside of the family. But to get to a future free of gender bias we must begin by asking how we arrived at it. Which takes us over to my theory of how men got saddled with their inferiority complex, and to why I assume it happened in a matriarchy. See next post.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

8. The Parental Inequality

Although we live at a time when the gender roles are in flux and many young fathers are taking care of their babies, we still don’t think that fatherliness, or the ability to act in a fatherly way, is as important in children's lives as motherliness. Do we quite know what we mean by it? Before 1970 (when fathers in the US were finally allowed in delivery rooms) only a minority of the research on parental bonding took fathers into account. And when manuals for fathers started to come out a few decades ago, they often began by asserting that there really exists such a thing as a paternal role.

I see this devaluation of fatherhood, or what I call parental inequality, as one of the worst examples of reverse sexism, or misandry. To not acknowledge that the father’s role in his children‘s lives is as indispensable as the mother's is to injure men’s sense of self just as much as the sex discrimination injures women’s. Because it not only cheats men of a large chunk of their manhood (and thus of an important source of genuine, innate strength), it denies them the full range of their humanness.

Human versus animal parenthood
I suggest it’s ignorance about who we are as a species that’s created a phenomenon as absurd as the parental inequality. Ever since Darwin we’ve been eager to show that humans are animals like all other species, and rightly so. But this has also meant overlooking and failing to draw conclusions from the differences that do exist between us and the rest--one of the starkest of which is our unusually long childhood. Animal species don’t need much parental teaching because most of their behavior follows innate behavior patterns. In our species, by contrast, which lacks such patterns and requires more time to reach maturity, the raising of the young makes considerable demands on parental guidance. It clearly indicates that our species needs a very different kind of parenting.

For a clue to why we have such an unbalanced view of parenthood let’s take a look at the way we define masculinity and femininity respectively. In a worldwide survey of how disparate cultures interpret these concepts, anthropologist David D. Gilmore found that all of them see femininity as a biological given that needs neither tests nor proofs. Although women are judged by sexual standards (and can be punished for inappropriate behavior), their right to a gender identity is rarely questioned.

Masculinity, by contrast, is everywhere a culturally determined attribute--and not something the male is born with. To become a ‘true’ or ‘real’ man, he must build up certain qualities which are much the same everywhere (like toughness, courage, combativeness) and so entrenched in men as to make up what Gilmore calls a "deep structure of masculinity.“ And to succeed in this endeavor a man has to go through rituals, or trials, of skill and endurance sanctioned by his culture.

For example, if a boy among the Masai, an East African cattle-herding tribe, cries out or so much as blinks an eye during the bloody circumcision rites, "he is ashamed for life as unworthy of manhood, and his entire lineage is shamed as a nursery of weaklings."

The male disadvantage
We see here that the sexes derive their identities--and with it their standing in society--from very different grounds: hers is innate, his must be earned. To gain a secure place in the world, it's enough for a woman to be born female and a prospective mother; (in some preliterate cultures also a baby girl is called 'mother'). But a man's place is always precarious: it has to be won, and once it's won it must be maintained--or it may be lost.

What the existence of such an egregious male handicap says to me is that the antediluvian superstition about female superiority remains in force. The idea that only a woman's worth (or stature or citizenship in the community) is seen as innate, and not a man's, seems to me so obvious a remnant of a female-oriented, or matriarchal, ideology that it’s downright ludicrous. A sign that--even if we no longer believe in it--enough of female magic stays around to make us end up with seriously skewed gender definitions.

How does it affect a man to know that being born male and a prospective father isn’t enough to earn him the right to be called a man? To have to go in pursuit of the social recognition that’s given woman in the cradle? And how does this in turn affect the methods men choose to attain the necessary balance of power between the sexes (and also between themselves and other men)? These are questions we need to ponder if we’re ever going to get to the bottom of sexism.

For instance, what can men’s reaction have been once they became aware of this discrimination against their sex (i.e., at the time in evolution when we'd developed consciousness)? I can’t help wondering if it wasn’t a bit like my nephew’s when, at the age of five, he was told that babies come out of their mother's belly. "NO!" he screamed at the top of his lungs while frantically jumping up and down. "Girls come out of their mother's belly and boys come out of their DADDY'S belly!”

There has to be some justice, right? To me this primitive reaction speaks volumes, not about ‘womb envy,’ but about something I consider so elemental in us humans that I call it part of the survival instinct: the need to know that who I am in myself, at tabula rasa, is worth exactly as much as who anybody else is in him-or-herself. It’s precisely because this basic need was never met in men that they contracted their inferiority complex. And the reason the complex survives is that they've chosen to deny it.

In a most fundamental respect, therefore, men are the second sex. But they have themselves to blame. For if they had faced their complex and discovered its origin in pure ignorance, and if they had gone on to assert the equal importance of their paternal role, then they wouldn't have had to take the circuitous route of oppressing women to affirm male power.

I‘ve declared that women have as much influence as men in society and are as responsible as men for its sexist bias. But how can women’s traditional power in the inner workings of society (mostly amounting to running the home) be even comparable, much less equal, to men’s vast power in the outer workings of society (which amounts to running the affairs of society as a whole--political, economic, legal)? For a closer look at the different powers, 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, October 4, 2015

7. The Return of the Repressed

Because she conforms to the prevailing pattern of male privilege, a mother earns rewards for indulging her son’s whims. In reality, though, this behavior not only does the child a disservice, it’s committing a hostile act against him. First, it fails to perform the most fundamental task of parenting, which--besides giving the child affection and basic protection--is encouraging him to stand on his own two feet, secure in himself and reliant on his own authority. Second, it prepares him badly for a world that expects him to postpone gratification, face challenges and take responsibility, i.e., be an adult. Especially today when men can no longer count on having wives to serve them.

What mother gets out of pampering her son is an opportunity to show what some would call maternal sacrifice (protectiveness, forbearance, love). To me it seems more like masochistic martyrdom--a cover-up for an underlying antagonism against the kid--because it exposes him to the risk of becoming either over-dependent on female reassurance or unwilling to enter a close relationship with a woman. In the most extreme case, a mother’s instinct to love her child turns into a passion specific to all forms of sadism--having absolute control over a living being.

The terms sadism and masochism were first introduced as sexual perversions by the German psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing. He saw power rather than pain as central in both syndromes and showed that sadism is often masked by reaction-formations like over-goodness and over-concern. Bribed with material things, assurances of love--anything but being allowed freedom and independence--a child of such a parent may become fearful of love, yet cover it up by compensatory feelings of eminence and perfection.

Inflated motherhood
Time is greatly overdue for us to face the monstrosity we’ve created out of the maternal role. From having originally been an important natural, yet always finite, source of power for a woman, motherhood mutates into a legitimate outlet for many of the frustrations inherent in being female. Although there certainly are mothers who hit their sons (who then in turn hit their wives), I propose that most maternal behavior illustrates what Freud called the “return of the repressed,” i.e.,it expresses in an indirect way the aggression that’s never confronted directly. Because it is in the practice of motherhood that most of the injustices ever done to womankind come home to roost. 

Lacking properly drawn boundaries, the maternal role includes features like mother spending most of her time in physical closeness to her children, concentrating her major energies on them and deriving the bulk of her prestige from their achievements. This relationship is unfair to both mother and child, because while only remotely concerned with the good of the kids, it makes mom responsible for whatever goes wrong with them.

There’s a tendency, especially here in the West, to think that everything a mother does is an act of love. When she smothers her kids with attention, we say she “loves them too much,” and when she pays them little mind she’s “good and firm.” Is romanticizing motherhood a way for men to expiate guilt for sins committed against the female sex? Or is it simply wishful thinking on their part? As French writer George Sand puts it, “The virtue of woman is a fine invention of man.” Whatever it is, seeing proofs of motherly love also in the most outrageous child-rearing practices, is to condone a category of child abuse that I call ‘soul rape.’

The mother complex
I consider the illusion about an inherent maternal goodness to be one of the most important reasons why men’s inferiority complex endures, because it perpetuates the misperception that women have a higher rank than men. A misperception that goes all the way back to the magical belief that women create children on their own, but which is also kept alive by men's envy of the closer bond women have to their children.

Isn’t it highly ironic, then, and even amusing that so many men feel threatened today when new opportunities are saving women from having to make a career of motherhood? When a primary source of men’s sense of inferiority towards women is finally drying up! And along with it also the not uncommon sequel to wifely subservience: the shameless manipulation of husbands?

Now to understand how an archaic superstition about female superiority can still haunt men--if only on a subconscious but therefore so much deeper level--we must face what to me is another hugely consequential truth. Far from having a destructive effect only on sons, the inflated maternal role overflows its banks into neighboring territory to also knock the bottom out of the paternal role. That father isn’t considered to be as necessary for children nor valued as highly as mother (despite some latter-day progress in this regard) is a strangely overlooked fact, and one we need to examine. 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

Thursday, October 1, 2015

6. Reverse Sexism

Though expressed in subtler ways than misogyny (and often masked as wifely or motherly concern), misandry, or reverse sexism, permeates the power women wield in society. Women’s influence may be mostly hidden but, like that of the proverbial grey eminence, it is as dominant behind the scene as men’s is on it. Which, I contend, makes acts of reverse sexism every bit as damaging to the male psyche as sexist acts are to the female. And since it’s in the maternal role that women exercise most power, the males hardest hit by reverse sexism are their sons.

The home
To understand how women establish their power we need to take a good look at their predicament in patriarchy. To make up for their lack of influence within the official, male-ruled social order, women build an unofficial, female-ruled social order in the home, the only field of activity accorded them. And since becoming a mother is a woman’s one shot at power (except for the outside chance of getting married to a powerful man), women put mother at the head of their shadow realm and enlarge her role out of all proportion to its original purpose.

I don’t think we have a clue to what makes society tick until we face two underlying and hugely consequential facts. One, that women’s aim when constructing the maternal role was to give themselves a big enough dose of ego-fulfillment to make up for the many indignities their sex was subject to; two, that repressed animosity to masculinity is part of every mother’s unconscious legacy to her son.

Motherhood grants woman liberty to mold her children’s hearts and minds pretty much as she pleases. Not only is mother given a near-monopoly on her kids' care and upbringing (particularly at their earliest and most crucial stage of growth), but her performance--unlike that of any other executive in a democracy--is virtually exempt from lawful checks and balances. Unlimited power is dangerous also for the power-holders themselves, because of the risk they run of losing their boundaries. For patriarchy’s women (whose lot is to foster new broods of sexists), the risk of the inflated mother role is license to vent their repressed anger at men on their hapless sons.

But wait a little. How can I say that women use motherhood to retaliate against men? Don’t most mothers dote on their sons and even consider it a mother’s duty to favor boys, members as they still are of the first sex? Well, that's just it. Unable to express their righteous anger openly, women have to use indirect ways like hiding their feelings under acts of exaggerated concern. One of the most popular--as well as most devious--of these is to spoil their male children rotten. What could be a better way of sabotaging manhood than for the saboteur to dress in sheep’s clothing?

Differently put, come on, sisters, who do we think we’re kidding when playing the game of victims sacrificed on the altar of male power?

For more on the corrupting practice of favoritism, one of the most vicious and best hidden examples of reverse sexism--and a major wellspring of the monumental male inferiority complex, 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