Sunday, January 27, 2013

The "War on Women"

I am somewhat reluctant to comment on this issue as it is so controversial and also ultimately far too complicated to be dealt with in less than a book length attempt. And I am sure that whatever I say will be widely disputed by many, perhaps everyone. But throwing caution to the wind I will proceed.
I don’t believe the “problem” is basically about abortion or birth control. It is more fundamental than either of those two issues and has to do with the attempts by men in all societies to control women. The problem with women, through no fault of their own, is that they are women, and women, by virtue of their very being, are, I suspect, however unconsciously (or consciously)  perceived by men as threatening the social solidarity of human societies. It is not the existence of female sexuality itself, widely enjoyed by males everywhere, but, rather, the fact that women, both sexually and in other nurturant and loving ways, can and do come between men. There are few things that have the potential to come between brothers, clansmen, and even fathers and sons, more than females. In many if not most so-called “primitive” societies fights over women are fairly commonplace, and it is clear that even in our more “advanced” industrial societies men continue to sometimes fight over women. It is not only the threat women pose to the relations between men that is disruptive, but also the fact that women often also destroy marriages. Think of all the men who run off with their secretaries or divorce their loyal wives of many years for the “trophy wife” or the “younger woman” and so on. This is not the fault of women but simply the facts of life when there are two distinct genders or sexes, and especially when there are expectations of “masculinity” and “femininity.”
I doubt, for example, that most men are particularly troubled by Lesbians, except perhaps because they are not available to them. I’m pretty sure that if a man’s wife leaves him for a woman it does not affect him as much as if she leaves him for another man. I even doubt that most men are particularly offended by the love-making of two women, indeed, I know they will often pay for the privilege of observing such sexual activity. Aside from perhaps homosexual men, I doubt most men would pay for the privilege of watching two men engaged in sexual activity. I suspect that women  kissing each other does not bother most people, both men and women, as much as two men kissing each other (something becoming more and more common these days).   
Obviously sexuality plays an important role in the overall relations between the sexes, but there is much more involved in relationships between men and women. Both men and women, for example, often are attracted to members of the opposite sex that cannot be perceived as merely sexual attraction, people do not fall in love and stay married primarily because of sex. Often it is not at all obvious why two people “find each other,”  hence we often hear that “opposites attract,” or I don’t see what he or she sees in her or him, and so on. The fact is, men and women are attracted to each other for many reasons and unfortunately often in ways that disrupt the social order, cause trouble and even in some severe cases lead to jealously, unhappiness, murders and suicides. The basic biological and psychological differences between men and women, while delightful in their ways, can also be disruptive of the social order.
It is obvious that historically and even now to a different extent in different cultures the behavior of women has been controlled to a greater or lesser extent by men. Most societies have been primarily patriarchal, women have had a lesser voice in political and other important matters, and even in societies where descent is reckoned through females the effective control of those societies is in the hands of males (mother’s brothers, for example). It is interesting to contrast extreme examples of societies in which women are dressed from head to toe in burkas with those in which they go virtually naked in tiny bikinis and such. I suspect the presence of women as threats to society are not as different as we might suppose and the bikinis do not represent female freedom from male dominance as much as one might suppose. One could well argue that the wearing of bikinis only reinforces the image of women as sex objects in basically the same way the wearing of burkas does. It might be true that in some ways women have “come a long way, baby,” but in some very basic ways “things change but stay the same.”
Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their opressors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I greatly enjoy your observations. I find them measured and well thought out. I check your blog daily. Thx