The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Second Chakra stuff

Studying Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida", his tale of the Trojan war, this morning during the Golden Hour.  Poor Cressida is definitely placed in a delimma, wishing to remain true to her lover, but having little power to protect her virtue in the midst of the Greek camp.  And the lecturer makes the inevitable comment concerning the status of women in a "male-dominated society."
Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I don't mistake my opinions for the truth.  Those of you following the Lifewriting approach to fiction craft or life skills should understand that my purpose in speaking is not to convince you of the correctness of this or that position I take.  It is to illustrate the meta-position of having a core philosophical stance which you can then extrapolate into every important arena of life, and expose it for debate, and utilize it for characterization, plot, and determination of one's own life path.  So I understand that I'm about to dive into a culural whirlpool here, and ask that you not merely agree or disagree with what I say, but see how it is an organic part of the overall approach.
First chakra is most basic: survival.  So to that end, I do tend to believe that the vast majority of human motivations and actions deal with survival: of the individual or the family or the group.  Second chakra is sexuality, and this is where a bit more of the duality of existence comes in.  Male and Female.  Although I was raised by women, love women, have spent far more of my life in t he company of women than of men, I'm sure there are sexist overtones to my point of view.  After all, I don't think men and women are equal.  Nor do I think one is above the other.  I think they are complementary, and that that sexual dimorphism exists, and the apparent power differential exists, not for the advantage of either men or women, but for the propogation of the species.  When you say: "in this male-dominated society..." you open the door to a buncha other questions, the most obvious being: "as opposed to what?" 
There are precious few examples of "female-dominated societies" around, or even what might be called "partnership cultures," although some pre-agricultural societies come pretty close. As a post-industrial society I would argue that we are coming full circle and approaching what might be the most honestly "partnership" culture that has ever existed.  And about time.  But why has it taken so long? Have men, all over the world, gotten together in secret conclaves and decided to oppress women?  I think not, and if they'd been able to, I personally think that that would be evidence that women are inferior, which I most decidedly do not believe.
What, then, is going on, and has gone on, and how does it influence current gender relations?
Remember: survival is paramount.  Which means that any form of social organization that allowed more children to be born, and for the culture to be replicated in their education, had a real edge and tended to go onward.  The implication is that the fabled "matriarchal" cultures didn't make the cut.  The fact that most of the cultures pointed to as "matriarchal" tend to be protected by jungles, or on islands, or atop mountains somewhere is quite suggestive.  In "The Chalice and the Blade," a provocative theory is advanced: Matriarchies are the best places to live in times of peace, and the worst in times of war.  In other words, they generally fail to survive first contact with a patriarchal structure.
But doesn't this mean that men are in charge?  Well, wait a moment.  In a male heirarchical structure, power is everything.  The men at the bottom are utterly disposable, and we have a cultural blind-spot for this.  I've heard women who complain about slasher movies where a woman is threatened, and they didn't even notice that twice as many men as women had actually been killed.  or notice that in film after film you've seen endless tableaus of thousands of dead, mutilated men washed up on Omaha beach, a spectacle you have never seen, and will never see, with a reversal of gender.  I've had women say: "Well, men start the wars..."
As if they do this capriciously.  Let's march off to be killed and mutilated for just no reason?  Have they ever read the letters of these men, sensed their utter terror, and their belief that the only thing that justifies the carnage is the fact that they are protecting home and hearth?  Shielding their loved ones?  yes, men are more agressive and violent than women, but when I see social contexts that are dominated by women, they are just as controlling and dominating and cause just as much damage.  this is a human trait, not a male trait.  Males, in my view, are short-lived worker/fighter drones. They are manipulated (not by women, not by men, but by genetic forces) into insanely self-destructive behavior by cultural beliefs that they must protect women and children.  Men are programmed to believe they should die to protect women.  where in the world are women programmed to believe they should die to protect men? 
there is a limit to how much men can dominate and control women, before the society falls apart.  Afghanistan was a great example.  Women were so dominated they could barely get medical treatment.  As a result, the infant mortality rate was the highest in the world. They would have fallen apart within another couple of generations.  Men and women are two halves of the same coin.  If men screw women over too badly, the culture will be out-competed by a culture that has a more reasonable approach.  I can't see an argument to this unless someone thinks that women contribute nothing to a culture.
And while the gender gap is similar to racial prejudice, it is not precisely the same.  After all, one tribe really CAN eradicate another, and have many many times.  Men may wish to control women, but not to eradicate them.  Women manipulate men using every tool they have.  Men manipulate women the same way.  And women manipulate women, and men manipulate men. 
So in my opinion, who is in charge of the world, men or women?  My answer: no one.  the world is a place where women's dreams are disposible, and men's lives are disposible.  In the aforementioned Shakespearian play, it is horribly sad that a woman is placed in such a terrible ethical delimma.  Far more is made of that than the fact that little boys were programmed ffrom the cradle to believe that dying on a distant battlefield with an enemy sword in your guts, suffering slowly as the ant eat you alive, crying out for a homeland you will never see again, is somehow glorious.  We are all part of the big meat machine, folks. Our way out is to see beyond the dualities of male and female, black and white, and allow ourselves to evolve to a more loving and civilized place.

Pointing the finger of blame is just more of the same stuff.  We suffer, while our genes laugh at us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"...where in the world are women programmed to believe they should die to protect men?...

"...there is a limit to how much men can dominate and control women, before the society falls apart. Afghanistan was a great example. Women were so dominated they could barely get medical treatment. As a result, the infant mortality rate was the highest in the world. They would have fallen apart within another couple of generations..."

Actually, that case of women being programmed to believe they should die to *produce* men - or more accurately, girls being forced to risk death from childbirth in order to produce more boys - has lasted for a lot longer than a couple of generations.

Also see these: (this one includes stuff on how child marriage is bad for boys too!)