A Thought Adventure

Thursday, January 21, 2016

34. Male Timidity

The question to ask is this: why after thousands of  years of male supremacy does misogyny remain alive all over the world today? It seems to indicate that, for all their efforts at counterbalancing it, men continue to suffer from an inferiority complex vis-à-vis women. And the reason they can't get rid of it is, as I suggested in the beginning of this blog, that they have buried the memories of what caused it so deep in their collective unconscious that they have no memory of it. And how can you get rid of what you don't even know exists?

What irks men?
What then is it about women that men continue to resent and make women continue to pay for? Now that we know since long that man is as necessary for propagation as woman? Now that we neither worship goddesses nor practice male sacrifice anymore? Well, there are indeed other areas in life where the weight is lighter on the male than on the female plate of the sex balance. 

One remarkable example of the disparity between the sexes comes from Gilmore's study about cultural concepts of masculinity. There we learned that almost nowhere in the world is manhood seen as innate in a man the way womanhood is in a woman. Before a man can count on being considered 'a man' he must go through tests and proofs laid down by his culture.  

As I see it, this shocking discrimination against the male sex is an almost laughable relic from the matriarchal era. And I find it strange that men don't protest against it, How can modern, rational men accept that their masculinity is conditional--something they must earn, win, kill for? Instead of proclaiming, loud and clear, and as a matter of course, that Being Born Male equals Being A Man. Basta! 

To understand this passivity in men I think we need to look at another result of the male inferiority complex, a state of mind that's diametrically opposed to exaggerated aggressiveness--namely timidity. (Webster: timid = lacking in courage or self-confidence; lacking in boldness or determination). 

First let's realize that power has a negative side also for those who wield it. Fromm puts it this way in Love, Sexuality and Matriarchy: About Gender: while domination of one sex (or social class or nation) “leads to subliminal rebelliousness, rage, hatred and desire for revenge in those who are oppressed and exploited,“ it also leads “to fear and insecurity in those who do the oppressing and exploiting.” 

The Male Predicament
Then let's take a good look at men’s situation in our male-dominated society. Though invested with a sense of privilege, a man must still follow directions imposed on him from outside. Because obliged to prove worthy of his rank above women he is put under constant pressure to keep up pretenses. A pressure that's especially exasperating as most men no doubt know--from their life experience alone--that women are just as clever, brave, able (or the opposite for that matter) as men. They also know that women have power and that it threatens them. But since the prevalent male ideology can’t admit any of this, they must deny it.

Now, if on some level of consciousness men do know that their superiority is no more than a pipe dream in the male mind, we must ask how it affects them to have to pretend otherwise. I suggest it takes a toll that manifests, when not in explosive anger, in various forms of timidity--apprehension, procrastination, inactivity. Furthermore, doesn't it create considerable anxiety in men to have to routinely navigate between their socially determined roles and their own inner selves? Doesn't it make them unsure of who they are both as males and as human beings.

I therefore propose that an urge to flee from anxiety into mind-numbing insensitivity is what lies behind the negative qualities often attributed to men--arrogance, overconfidence, emotional withdrawal. And I even suspect that this is also why men die younger than women. Because, if it's both deep enough and not openly acknowledged, this kind of existential anxiety is bound to kindle a fear that won't stop smoldering.

Can we wonder then if many men lose track of their own authentic selves and become consummate actors? If, instead of the well-rounded human beings they could be--given a chance to grow from inside out--they end up as hollow men whose inner life is a wasteland?

For another pressure on men, the rigid and unforgiving male role model, see next post.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

33. Patriarchy II. Monogamy

Besides organized war the most crucial social change that patriarchal rule introduces is a reversal of the outlook on the sexes. This society’s ‘ordinary’ state of consciousness, or 'natural' way of looking at things, is shaped by an ideology of female inferiority so uncompromising that it makes the subjugation of women seem natural. In their relentless pursuit of male power, the leaders set up rigid gender roles. Men can play any roles, women only those that cater to male needs; they lack even the right to speak up for themselves.

In her book The Creation of Patriarchy historian Gerda Lerner points out that the reason women have been able to participate in the process of their subordination is that they are psychologically shaped to internalize their own inferiority. Among the devices securing their cooperation she mentions gender indoctrination (hammering in women’s secondary status); educational deprivation (including knowledge of women‘s history); restraints and outright coercion; discrimination in access to economic resources and political power; distinguishing between women as ‘respectable’ or ‘deviant’ according to their sexual activities; and awarding class privileges to conforming women.

The most effective tool in bringing women to their knees is the institution of monogamy. Because its express purpose is to produce children of undisputed paternity, monogamy is for the woman only, not for the man. To her marriage means being dominated by the husband and, like other pieces of property, confined to the home. In Asiatic towns eunuchs keep watch over her; in Athens she lives in a separate women’s apartment and only goes out in the company of a female slave.

"To imprint the notion that a woman is happiest when subservient to a husband takes years of stifling her healthiest impulses," psychiatrist Helen Deutsch writes in The Psychology of Women. She must renounce her own achievements, repress her initiative and give up her aspirations (some of which she may not even be conscious of)--all things she cannot do without anxiety.

In his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Erich Fromm reflects on how it affects people to have to live severely restricted lives. “Life has an inner dynamism of its own; it tends to grow, to be expressed, to be lived,” and, “if this tendency is thwarted the energy directed toward life” turns toward destruction. “Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life.”

Rape of the Sabine Women

Engels believes women accept monogamy to get protection against rape, allegedly rampant at the time. Today, when living in a world where sexual violence is not only endemic but widely practiced with immunity, we know only too well that rape is as rampant as ever. Judith L. Herman and Lisa Hirschman (authors of Father-Daughter Incest) argue that this abnormality--rather than a deviance from an ethical family concept--is a logical outcome of the way the patriarchal family is organized. Because monogamy is an institution invented to maintain the superiority of men, the right to have “sexual relations with subordinate women becomes a jealously guarded male prerogative, guaranteed by the explicit and tacit consent of all men.”

Does rape begin when men learn that sex is connected to pregnancy, as some have suggested? Even if making this connection may awaken the idea of rape, I don’t think it’s practiced until the decline of matriarchy. British author Robert Graves suggests that Zeus’s many rapes illustrate the Hellenic conquest of the goddess shrines and the triumph of patriarchy over matriarchy. Considering how common mass rape is as a war tactic, it’s easy to link rape to warfare and to male retaliation against women. As Susan Brownmiller puts it in Against Our Will, Men, Women and Rape, rapists have served “in the longest sustained battle the world has ever known.”

Does monogamy have an adverse effect also on men? During matriarchal times, one thing a man can take unequivocal pride in is his capacity as lover. He’s the bearer of the phallus, the source of women’s sexual enjoyment and a prominent focus of joyous celebration at the religious sites. But once women can show lust only on command and are severely punished for any spontaneous display of it, the era of female eroticism comes to an end. Gone is not only the cult of the phallus that was so prominent in the goddess religion; but also the widely held conviction that sexuality free of any bonds is a state of psychic openness to the divine, capable of pacifying an angry god and averting illness or other misfortune.

What happened to love?
I suggest monogamy makes a mess also of the affective relationship between the sexes. Although we can’t really know what place such a relationship has in matriarchal times, I suppose the patriarchal husband stands to lose as much as his wife from the restrictions on female sexual desire. For if she is with him because she has to and not because she wants to, how likely is he to get any of the things that count most in close relationships? Like spontaneous affection, sincere appreciation, true respect--or even the really satisfying, mutual kind of physical pleasure? Not to speak of unconditional love?

Because sex is necessary for our survival, and plays into everything we are and do, patriarchy’s profanation of sexual intercourse amounts to a condemnation of human nature. That later the Christian religion embraced it with glee means that the shaming and defiling of an essential human instinct became entrenched in our everyday psychopathology. 

Or as German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche puts it in his Genealogy of Morals, “Christianity gave Eros poison to drink. Eros did not die of it, to be sure, but degenerated into Vice.”    

To try to understand some of the motives for these developments, let’s now look deeper into the Monumental Male Inferiority or Mother Complex, which I consider the impetus and prime mover of patriarchy. See next post.

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

32. Patriarchy I. Warfare

Mesopotamian warriors
We don’t know when patriarchal orders are first installed, only that they exist in some form already at the beginning of recorded history and are characterized by city-living. Although nobody knows when organized war was invented or why, it’s a staple ingredient in patriarchal cultures; the most striking feature already in the Mesopotamian city-states is the constant wars between them

Though ambivalent in that it offered both freedom and compulsion, protection and aggression, the ancient city was nevertheless, says Mumford, “the collective expression of a too heavily armored personality” whose “extreme manifestations are now recognized in individuals as pathological.” 

By contrast, in surviving Stone Age cultures war is nothing but a ritual or game. According to Gwynne Dyer (author of War), it’s definitely not about slaughter and there’s never much killing; nor is war ever a conquest to win territory, subjugate people or destroy their basis for livelihood. The soldier, a professional killer, is a creation of civilization.

Does war have religious origins?
Several scholars see a connection between sacrifice and war. Mumford thinks war is an outgrowth of ritual sacrifice and suspects that beneath it lies “an irrational belief, still deeply embedded in the collective unconscious (that) only by wholesale human sacrifice can the community be saved.” He suggests that raids to find victims for sacrificial slaughter turn into mass extermination and become a supreme sport of kings. In some West African kingdoms (e.g., Dahomey) warfare is the principal way of obtaining sacrificial victims; and so it is among the Aztecs, who need many thousand a year because they believe the sun will die without meals of human blood.

Since ritual sacrifice requires an incessant supply of youths to butcher, it seems plausible to me that men look abroad for victims. And if the purpose of war (or at least a powerful incentive for it) is indeed to maintain this custom, then organized war has a religious origin: being a warrior becomes an alternative to being sacrificed and battle becomes a surrogate sacrifice. With time warriors form an exclusive caste analogous to priests and in feudal times an aristocracy. Nowadays nationalism is a kind of religion. In Japan’s Shinto state religion war is a sacred enterprise and the fallen soldiers are gods to be worshipped.

According to René Girard (in Violence and the Sacred), “War and sacrifice serve the same end: to redirect aggressive energy that is about to tear the community apart toward external forces.”

Without pretending to know what sets the patriarchal states on a permanent warpath against each other, I can’t help wondering if it isn’t simply the need for more targets to vent their frustrations on than those on their own turf (like women). Can hitting their neighbors serve to detonate men’s inner arsenal of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) urges? And if so, is this why they dream up what may be one of the most useful devices in all of history--the quintessential Human Enemy? Few things seem to me to better justify man’s inhumanity to man than concocting the idea that his fellow-man is his foe--providing us as it does with a perfect reason to blame others for the destructive impulses we can’t confront in ourselves.

But isn’t the impulse to fight part of a basic instinct for self-preservation? So that it’s only natural to feel combative when threatened? Certainly. I also think that as people grew more aware, both of the world around them and of their own subjective states of mind, they probably became more easily provoked. But that doesn’t mean that the extreme brutality emblematic of civilization is any way ‘natural’ or unavoidable. During the course of evolution the animals’ built-in action patterns are being replaced in our species by the ability to choose how to respond to perceived threats. The way we act is always our choice and responsibility.

War, I therefore argue, has nothing to do with an outer enemy--only with our own dark emotions and motivations, which we prefer to project rather than pull up from our unconscious and squarely look in the eye. Pogo got it right. “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

War and manhood
Why does the insane idea that only mass killings can save society remain a rationale for war today? To me it is an example of our society’s psychopathology--that we see abnormal behaviors as perfectly normal. And why do we do that? Because in patriarchy the 'ordinary state of consciousness' is based on the false idea of male superiority--which in turn is a male substitute for matriarchy's equally false idea of female magic. 

Throughout history wars have supposedly served many purposes that benefit men. It makes them identify with collective strength; provides a source of prestige; gives them both a bonding with each other away from women and a semi-religious feeling of being part of something larger than themselves. In a word, war defines manhoodIn his 2003 memoir Jarhead, A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and other Battles, Anthony Swafford writes that from a very early age he understood “that manhood had to do with war, and war with manhood.”

But why must manhood be defined as something outside of a man when womanhood is not defined as anything outside of a woman? A question we never ask, because to do so would be perfectly logical, sane and sound.   

For patriarchy’s most prominent feature besides war: its curtailment of female sexuality, 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, go to: originofsexism.blogspot.com