Female-dominant cultures?

Discussion in 'World History' started by Mouthwash, Mar 16, 2017.

  1. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    I mean, we have members of this forum say that men are genetically programmed to be confrontational, aggressive, and competitive, and women non-confrontational, pacific, and empathetic like three times a week.
     
  2. Yeekim

    Yeekim Moderator Moderator

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    We're still talking past each other. :wallbash: I'll try again.

    1) We don't know of any truly female-dominant societies. That's what the wiki says and that was your own starting statement in this thread. All societies known to us range from "sexes are about equal" to "males are strongly dominant". I hope we agree so far?
    2) This being so universal, underlying reasons are clearly biological/evolutionary. Males must have some biological advantage over women. Obvious (and probably only) one is strength, further amplified by how our way of reproduction limits physical exertion of females even more.
    3) This advantage obviously manifests in many different ways. The ability to settle intersex disputes in male's favor by force or threat of force is just one among them. I'm certainly not claiming this capacity for violence is the most important, let alone only aspect of it. You have yourself explained another mechanism. I'm sure yet others can be found. I'm not disagreeing with your explanation either. I'm just saying that "being better at punching things" and "being better at carting grain to market" both come down to the same underlying reason - males being stronger. Neither "emergence of family as an unit of production" nor "development of intensive agriculture and large-scale exchange" would have translated into male dominance without it.
    4) Males being stronger does not "directly or straightforwardly translate into social power over women". That is a claim no-one has made. After all, we started with pointing out there are societies where sexes are about equal. However, males having this one comparative advantage and females having none means that emergence of social order where females are dominant over males has historically been that much more unlikely.
     
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  3. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    I just don't...that is literally the exact claim you're making in that very post! Why the hell do you go to all this trouble of making a claim in a fairly detailed way only to deny that you are claiming what you are obviously claiming? It makes no sense...
     
  4. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    But my initial claim was that,
    1) No fundamental objections to this one, although if we're going to be picky I'd argue that plenty of societies are female dominated within the right context. Even a lot of patriarchal societies take on a strangely matriarchal bent within the boundaries of the household. There's a reason that the hen-pecked husband is a stock character across so many different cultures. This stuff is always contextual and negotiated, and from the perspective of those living, usually understood as practical, however historically-limited their assumptions, it's not about the exercise of power as an abstraction. As I've said, what we call "patriarchy" is in practice asymmetric dependence, and that still assume interdependence; very men in any society are actually independent of women, at least not unless they've been rendered more deeply dependent in some other way.

    2) Why do we assume that the biological explanation lies simply within human beings, and not within, say, grain crops, or herd-animals? Any human society with a more complex lifestyle than hunter-gathering is part of a project comprised of several and perhaps dozens of species, however enthusiastic or conscious we treat each participant, we can't treat human biology as something discrete and self-contained in that context. Even before we get on to the question of what aspects of human biology may tend towards male domination.

    I also dispute the framing of "advantage". That implies competition, but men and women are not naturally placed in competition. So far as biology is concerned, men and women are squarely on the same team against a hostile world. It requires an already-existing patriarchy for an "advantage" to realise itself as such. This framing rests on the assumption that one gender will naturally attempt to exert power over another, and that men are just better at it, but that assumptions has no clear basis. That isn't just pedantry, it's an important part of how we conceptualise this whole question: whether gender inequality is a product of gender conflict, or whether gender conflict is a product of gender inequality.

    3) What is your reason for believing that the strength of men was routinely used to settle disputes between men and women? We're not talking about a hypothetical Atlantis, here, we're talking about human societies as they actually developed. One of the overriding concern in all societies is minimising violence within a community, whether this is through the state or through tradition or through a single overriding personality. Even if the solution is to ritualise violence, as in a dueling culture, or by the threat of violence, as in an authoritarian society, the intention is to minimise the actual use of violence. A society in which people routinely resort to violence to resolve their problems is one which is failing, which is well on its way to being something less than a society. It's unclear why a greater capacity to disrupt society would make men more powerful within society.

    Further, as Owen pointed out, why does strength only become an important factor when we're specifically talking about the relationship between men and women? Rich men are not necessarily strong men than poor men. Old men are, generally speaking, weaker than young men. Priests and administrators are very generally weaker than warriors and labourers.

    4)That claim was essentially a rewording of my initial claim,
    If nobody disagrees with that claim, why have we spent five pages talking about it?

    As I've said, I don't even dispute that human biology does play a role in gender relations unfolding as they did. What I dispute is that strength is really all that central- especially given that "strength", here, only really means "upper body strength"; pound for pound, women generally match men in lower body strength, core strength, or endurance. The male "advantage" is only consistently manifest from the pecs up. What I argue is that a far more fundamental distinction between men and women, the reproductive cycle, ticks every box required by the appeal to "strength", and has the additional advantage of actual explanatory power.

    What puts men in this position of asymmetric dependence in relation to dependence is more than anything else mobility. Men can range freely and for greater distance from childhood to infirmity, where women are often constrained by pregnancy or nursing children. That is inevitably going to inform the division of labour far more deeply than how can bench how much. Men don't actually need to be stronger, could even in principle be weaker, for society to unfold broadly as it did, for the division of labour to develop broadly as it did. The genetic-level difference is not so profound that it will remake the heavens and earth. Between any two random individuals, nutrition and lifestyle will count for more than genes. Even in a society where those characteristics are relatively uniform, the strongest woman will be stronger than the weakest man. But pregnancy, and the consequent differences in mobility, represents a more general condition with less variation between individuals, so far as this question is concerned.

    The problem for the "muh genetics" school, as I've suggested previously, is that pregnancy is not just something that happens by itself. It is something over which women exert a certain degree of control even from very early times. It undercuts the biological inevitability of patriarchy, and places it as the unintended consequence result of a series of thousands of years of human decision-making. It turns patriarchy into something that humans built, and can therefore demolish, rather than something that happens of its own accord, and which we can at best hope to repress.

    Why would we assume solidarity among men?
     
  5. Yeekim

    Yeekim Moderator Moderator

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    Agreed.
    Sure, it is not self-contained - and I'm not even sure why you'd exclude hunter-gatherers. Obviously, actual impact of any biological differences between sexes depends on enviroment - but without that difference contained within human beings, environment would impact everyone the same way and could not give one sex any advantage over the other.
    A valid and important point.
    I'm not saying it was necessarily "routinely used". You are right that all societies seek to minimise the actual violence. This is true even for animals. And the chief strategy employed to minimize violence is that a fights generally occur only when outcome is in question.
    You have argued that it is their dominant position that really enables male violence on females, rather than violence having won that dominance... but at a guess this seems more like chicken-an-egg type of problem, or self-reinforcing feedback loop.
    My first guess would be that priests and administrators have other advantages over warriors and labourers that apparently outweigh them being physically weaker. Maybe they tend to be smarter?
    Because that is what we do on CFC? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    With no proper yardstick to measure them, I'd settle for them to be about equally important.
    First of all, I'll repeat that men being stronger does not make patriarchy "inevitable", merely possible. We both agree society was likely more equal before emergence of a family as a chief unit of production, etc. And under modern conditions, physical strength has far less importance than it had hundreds or thousands of years ago, leading to a society where sexes can, in fact, be equal. Changing our mode of procreation seems comparatively more challenging, not less, to say the least.
    I wrote "there are societies where sexes are about equal" twice in my previous post. How you missed it I have no idea.
     
  6. Pangur Bán

    Pangur Bán Deconstructed

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    Dominating public leadership roles in violence-driven human society doesn't necessarily men monopolising power on a gender basis. It goes without saying that the godfather's wife is more powerful than multiple massively-built yet lowly ranked goons. Women exercise power in private, and might be all the more powerful for it. I always love the fact that in the highly patriarchal families / societies imagined at the top of the cosmos by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Germanics (Zeus, Mars, Odin, et al), actual power over all gods and humans really rests with three obscure women, the Fates / Norns.
     
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  7. Olleus

    Olleus Deity

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    Can we, perhaps, stop arguing about who said what and just focus on the actual substance of the debate? I couldn't care less who comes up with the good ideas.

    Honestly, sometimes I think posts should not be tied to an account to stop this BS of bickering about individual words
     
  8. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    At best, it only shows that such a project may be possible, not that it is possible. And traditional gender roles ('patriarchy' is a term used by ideologues) certainly weren't built with any deliberate plan in mind, so why assume they can be deliberately removed?

    EDIT: On a second reading, you're actually right, but strawmanning. This refutes the claim that genetics alone is the cause of gender roles, but no one is claiming that. Just because something is not grounded in our genetic makeup does not make it arbitrary and subject to overthrow.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
  9. Olleus

    Olleus Deity

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    This thread has become a swamp of people disagreeing while saying essentially the same thing. It's like me pushing a potted plant off the window sill such that it falls down and then asking "What made the plant hit the ground?" Half the people are saying it was gravity that pulled it to the floor, and half that it was me when I pushed it off the window sill. This is purely semantic, without both of those things the plant would have never hit the ground.

    Men have biological advantages when it comes to work/war/other things over women. Those advantages have allowed men to develop social structures which favours them in the external (outside the home) sphere. Those social advantages are self maintaining and have only slowly started to weaken in the last ~100 years or so when men's biological advantages are no longer important, due to the mechanisation of labour and better contraceptives.

    Can we all agree on that, without focussing on who said what first??
     
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  10. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    But in your own example, the difference is self-evidently more than semantic. "Semantic" describes the meaning of words, but "gravity pulled it to the floor" and "you pushed it" are two different statements that describe two different processes. They may not be incompatible, but the difference is absolutely a substantive one. There's a profound difference between asking that we accept a compromise between or synthesis of the two explanations, and trying to convince ourselves that the explanations are somehow identical.

    There's a difference between description and explanation. The question isn't whether patriarchy existed, it's why and how.

    Asking us to settle for your description while rejecting any attempt that problematises that description isn't consensus, it's just intellectual laziness.

    "Patriachy" is a perfectly neutral term and is not equivalent to "traditional gender roles". There's no exact correspondence between differentiation and hierarchy; although the latter for obvious reasons tends to entail the former, the former doesn't entail the latter. Most of these egalitarian hunter-gatherer or horticultural societies we've referred to assumed very strong differentiation between men and women.

    Now, you aren't wrong that human action is not the same thing as human intention. People don't always moved towards the long view, and most of history is comprised of people acting for pretty short-term interests. But, I don't think it follows that we can't anticipate the long view. After all, most of the freedoms won by women over the last century were not directly understood as steps towards a totally overhauled social structure, but as direct and concrete goods. Roe vs Wade isn't celebrated by feminists simply because it fits into a grand narrative of female emancipation, but because access to abortion is a good thing that benefits women. Gay marriage isn't celebrate simply because of its symbolic power because it extends a host of legal and social benefits to same-sex couples.

    I think that what distinguishes modernity from all previous eras is precisely this ability to locate the present within the future and the future within the present, to see the long-term implications in short-term actions and to the short-term actions that build towards long-term outcomes. Both narrow pragmatism and millennial utopianism are relics of a pre-modern mind. If you ever look at pre-modern social movements, they are characterised by this dueling preoccupation with the now and the forever. "We want the thousand year reign of Christ the King, and also more turnips". Modernisation of social and political thought is comprised precisely of bridging this gap between what's in front of you and what's over the horizon.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  11. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    In normalspeak, we use "traditional gender roles" to mean "our traditional gender roles."

    And this didn't apply to the Bolsheviks/Nazis? I think both of them met your criteria very precisely, and look where it got them.

    I think that for all of your scholarship, the Lindy Effect is still the only way to understand the world. You believe that intellectuals can uproot markets and gender roles, i.e. age-old things that which formed unconsciously and which we still barely understand.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  12. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    Well, I'm trying to be a little more precise than "normalspeak".

    The Bolsheviks were archetypal modernists, yes. The Nazis weren't. Both movements were pretty up-front about that. I really don't know what you're trying to say here.

    No, I don't. For a start, I believe that markets have done more to uproot gender roles than intellectuals have, whatever the feelings of those intellectuals in regards to either markets or gender roles. What I believe is that these things rise and fall as a result of deliberate human action, and that the ability of humans to act deliberately is not constrained to the perspective of Neolithic farmers.
     
  13. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    I mean that both movements had the qualities you ascribe to modernity, i.e. "[the] ability to locate the present within the future and the future within the present, to see the long-term implications in short-term actions and to the short-term actions that build towards long-term outcomes. Both narrow pragmatism and millennial utopianism are relics of a pre-modern mind."

    It seems like a pretty central reason the Holocaust was so successful.

    Markets have existed for as long as scarcity has. The modern centrality of the market is what's uprooted gender roles, and it can be resisted.

    But not by the whims of the intelligentsia.
     
  14. Olleus

    Olleus Deity

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    Fair enough, it wasn't semantic, that was a poor choice of words. Rather both causes (gravity and the initial push) are required, focussing on only a single one of them misses the point.

    I disagree that why and how are fundamentally different. It's either a question of scale or of consciousness. Both essentially refer to the cause of something, how being principally the mechanism that caused it and why the reason behind it. So why is either the cause behind the mechanism (that is, another mechanism itself) or some reference to intention. I think it's fair to say that there was never a global conference of men who sat down and decided that women should be oppressed. So all we're left with are causes. If you disagree with:
    do you care to provide an alternative? I stress that the above isn't meant to be a completely exhaustive explanation, but a starting point which can be elaborated on.

    Compared to your normally eloquent and enlightening posts, your recent replies have been rather off topic and rantful. I genuinely don't know what you are arguing for now, but would like to. To put in it a single sentence: What do you believe are the causes/reasons/mechanisms that led to men having the lion's share of political power through out recorded history?
     
  15. Ryika

    Ryika Lazy Wannabe Artista

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    The way you phrase that seems really weird to me. As far as I understand our understanding (...) of early humans, the main thing that changed when agriculture allowed us to settle down, is that we abandoned life in family-like groups where childcare and living space was shared among many members of the group, and settled down into actual families that now had their own living spaces that needed to be maintained by the family unit. That may not have been universally true for early settlements, but as settlements grew and people actually started specializing and trading with each other for goods, that most certainly became the norm. Hence, it was only natural that one partner would start doing the housekeeping, while the other partner would primarily do the stuff that was required to stay productive. Given hat men have the muscles, and women get pregnant and can't work during that time (and might die as a result of giving birth, which was not at all uncommon back then), it is obvious that men basically needed to take the role of the primary provider while women needed to take the role of the supporter (doing the housekeeping, the majority of the child-rearing and helping with work where possible) for that sort of thing to work out properly.

    That's the situation most people were in during most of history, they had families where men worked and women stayed at home because that's what allowed them to survive. The privilege to even "develop social structures" consciously is a privilege that only a small group of mostly men ever had. While it is true that those men often shaped the world to benefit them, or at least shaped it with the idea in mind that "it's a man's world" (and a woman's household), and shaped it from a male perspective, I think it is hardly fair to present history as if it had been a "battle of the sexes".
     

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