The ecumenical religion of patriarchy

I subscribe to a whole bunch of fundie-survivor/recovering fundie blogs. Libby Anne has a terrific list here of the sort I mean, which she describes as “blogs by individuals who grew up in the Christian Patriarchy or Quiverfull movements and have since questioned and left.”

So I’m used to having posts like the one I quote below pop up in my Google Reader, and I was just kind of skimming quickly without noticing specifically which blog this was from:

… this is what The Cult taught: Historically, there is no such thing as a “teenager” — there were children, and then there were adults. A child is a child until he/she reaches puberty, and then he/she is biologically an adult. “Teenagers” are a modern invention, caused by a godless, indulgent consumerist society, family breakdown, peer pressure, advertising and a lack of discipline in childhood.

Therefore, parents could avoid having their children turn into teenagers by raising them correctly, by instilling the fear of God in them, by teaching them to take on as many adult ritual and behavioral responsibilities as possible when they were still young, and by carefully sheltering them from the wider society. …

I hadn’t heard of The Cult before, but I assumed it was the writer’s shorthand for the Bill Gothard gang, which was where I thought I’d heard this bit about teenagers before. I kept reading and tripped over this:

… Because if we sheltered our kids, they would never get the idea that supposedly typical teenage behavior is in any way normal or acceptable, so they would be much less likely to act that way. And if we kept them securely inside our conservative, insular Muslim bubble as much as possible, then community expectations that they act maturely would be constantly reinforced, and it would be that much harder for them to be rebellious “teenagers.”

Muslim? Wait a second … this isn’t No Longer Qivering? I scrolled up to the top and only then did I realize that this was a post from Sober Second Look — a blog much like many other fundamentalist survivor sites, but dealing with liberation and recovery from oppressively patriarchal Muslim fundamentalism rather than from oppressively patriarchal Christian fundamentalism.

Libby Anne had the same reaction to that same post: “My God, They Really Are the Same.”

This is absolutely word for word identical to what I was told growing up in a Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull evangelical homeschool family. Exactly.

I mean, we’re talking so exact that you could replace a few words – substitute “homeschooling” for “The Cult,” say, and “prayer five times each day, fasting the entire month of Ramadan, and wearing the hijab” with “reading the Bible regularly, praying constantly, and dressing modesty” – and if someone showed it to me I would think I’d read it in No Greater Joy, Above Rubies, a Vision Forum catalog, or any other Christian Patriarchy or Quiverfull magazine.

… So very many of the ideas we were raised on are common to fundamentalism across religions. And yet, we thought we were so very different.

Those similarities are revealing.

Here we have identical gender hierarchies set up with identical approaches to two very different sacred texts. The patriarchal boy Christians and the patriarchal boy Muslims have both selectively gleaned what they needed or wanted from their respective scriptures, and their parallel projects reveal that whatever scripture happens to be the one being mined isn’t really important.

The true religion for PBCs and for their Muslim counterparts is patriarchy itself. Given the choice between patriarchy and the Bible or between patriarchy and the Koran, these boys will choose patriarchy every time.

In other words, their purported allegiance to Christianity or to Islam is just a pretext, not a cause. It is secondary at most, and barely even that. The PBCs and the patriarchal Muslims share the same core religion, and it is neither Christianity nor Islam.

Think of this patriarchal religion like Q, the hypothetical lost Gospel source whose existence we can deduce from studying the Synoptic Gospels.

The first three books of the New Testament — Matthew, Mark and Luke — share a bunch of parallel passages. We’re pretty sure that Mark was written first, and that it was later used as source material by the authors of Matthew and Luke in putting together their later, longer accounts.

That’s easy to see from reading all three books. Chunks of Mark can be found repeated verbatim, or with very slight changes, in both Matthew and Luke.

But there are also other parallel passages in Matthew and Luke that do not come from Mark. That might mean that Matthew copied them from Luke or that Luke copied them from Matthew, but that isn’t what scholars who have closely studied the earliest manuscripts think. They think instead that Matthew and Luke were also both using some other common source — “Q” — which they both drew on in the same way they both drew on Mark’s Gospel.

We have Mark, but we don’t have Q. All we know of it is what we can infer from those identical passages appearing in Matthew and Luke.

So think of patriarchal religion as being like Q. We can’t study it directly because its devotees all pretend they’re actually adherents of some other religion. They pretend to be Christians or they pretend to be Muslims, but really their main allegiance lies with this hidden religion of patriarchy.

We can examine this hidden religion the same way we can examine Q, by studying the parallels — the identical dogmas and rules and teachings shared by patriarchal Christians, patriarchal Muslims, patriarchal Jews, patriarchal Pagans, patriarchal Hindus and even patriarchal atheists.

They claim allegiance to so many different texts and traditions, yet they all wind up in the same place. And the closer I look at these supposedly disparate patriarchal boys across lines of religion, the more I find myself saying just what Libby Anne said, “My God, they really are the same.”

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  • Magic_Cracker

    I have often wondered, “Why patriarchy?” Anatomically modern humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, but patriarchy for maybe 10,000 years. What was going on  that made patriarchy the It Boy of social organization at the dawn of recorded history?

  • Morilore

    Half-assed uninformed speculation incoming:

    Primitive agricultural societies are more labor-intensive than hunting and gathering, you increase the labor force by increasing the population, the population is most rapidly increased if all fertile adult women are kept pregnant and nursing at all times, this makes women dependent on men, this results in/requires that men have all the power.

  • Aeryl

     This ignores the fact that women are perfectly capable of performing primitive agricultural work and were needed more in the fields than in the birthing bed. 

  • Lliira

    Nope. For the first few thousand years of agriculture, women = farmers. Men = hunters and soldiers. With lots of overlap either way. It is impossible to keep fertile women pregnant/nursing at all times, and no society has ever done it, not by any stretch. Also, pregnant and nursing women worked their asses off.

    “Requires”? NOTHING “requires” that men have all the power, EVER.

    Here is what happened: war. Men were the soldiers because men were more able to fight physically than women, and because men were less valuable than women, fertility-wise. A very few men attained a lot of power through war. Doing so, they attained a lot of women through war (keeping other men from being able to have them — but then, there’s war to get rid of those other men). The entire society was set up by these powerful men in order to aggrandize themselves.

    People seem to forget, in these conversations, that very nearly every single person in those times in the societies we’re talking about (Mesopotamian, pre-Biblical) was a slave. Man, woman, child, didn’t matter, you were a slave. The power differential between men and women did not exist as a power differential between men and women. The difference was between the teeny tiny population of non-slaves and that of everyone else — and women could own slaves and do with them as they wished, just as easily as men could.

    The idea of “freedom” came about eventually, and it was freedom for property-owning citizens. The more freedom became distributed, the more tightly men started clinging to ideas of manhood as equalling freedom. From the Greek ideals of manhood (which required womanhood to be stomped into the ground), to the Renaissance ideals of manhood (ditto), to the Victorian ideals of manhood (they tried to give women the sop/chain of angelic motherhood and we’re still trying to shake that off), to the frenzied, terrified masculism of today’s right-wing religions, professional sports, and Hollywood.

    The separation of men and women into such extreme differences in power only happened when men were freed and decided to act like their former masters. It was not inevitable. It did not happen among many large Native American tribes. Further, “patriarchy” is a misnomer when talking about society in much of Africa, where lineage is traced strictly through women and uncles are the important male figures in children’s lives, not fathers.

    It just so happens that we trace our cultural history from these particular ultra-violent sects which just so happened to decide to smash women to the ground and treat sex like something dirty and dangerous. It did not have to be this way.

  • Morilore

    “Requires”? NOTHING “requires” that men have all the power, EVER.

    Sorry about that.

    Your post seems more knowledgable and factual than what I wrote.

  • Norman

     There’s some interesting recent economics research in this vein focusing on the development of the plow and the gender specialization resulting from its use.

  • Lliira

    10,000 years is way, way overstating it. 5,000 years AT MOST, and only in certain societies.

    Further, trying to figure out why it happened by reasoning from biology does not work in any sense. Different cultures treated men and women differently. Patriarchy was far from a foregone conclusion, as very many cultures proved and prove. Reasoning backward and acting like this crap we’re stuck with in our particular culture was somehow inevitable — no. It was not. It is not. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NR2MMC4EJXJWJMLH6IF457XL64 Alex B

    “Reasoning backward and acting like this crap we’re stuck with in our particular culture was somehow inevitable — no. It was not. It is not.”
    I don’t see anyone who’s doing this. I’d be very interested in learning about where patriarchy came from, and what cultures that developed it shared, and also what was different about cultures that didn’t develop patriarchy

  • Magic_Cracker

    10,000 years is way, way overstating it.

    Perhaps. But not my point.

    5,000 years AT MOST,

    Very debatable. Beside the point.

    and only in certain societies.

    Yes. Agreed. Certain societies. All over the world. At roughly the same time.

    trying to figure out why it happened by reasoning from biology does not work in any sense

    Which I didn’t do.

    Patriarchy was far from a foregone conclusion,

    Never said it was.

    as very many cultures proved and prove.

    Indeed. Hence my question — how and why did patriarchy come to dominate? 

    Reasoning backward and acting like this crap we’re stuck with in our particular culture was somehow inevitable — no. It was not. It is not.

    See above. I never said it was inevitable. I just want to know why it happened. What was it going on X thousand years ago that made (some) people in those(certain societies that the egalitarian way of life they’d been living for hundreds of thousands of years needed a radical overall.

    I’m not suggesting there was some single inciting incident, or that a band of hunter-gatherers had a tribal meeting and voted in patriarchy, but people don’t change the way they’ve been living for hundreds of thousands of years for no reason at all.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Even most egalitarians are willing to admit that under certain external pressures as occur naturally in large parts of the world in the presence of early humans but the absence of civilization, there are basic biological advantages that make power-grabs by  the males make good evolutionary sense. (Like how human reproduction without modern medicine kills a lot more women than men, making it, on balance, a good idea to limit admission to the riskier occupations to the gender with a lower baseline mortality-rate-due-to-childbirth)

    There’s also certain naturally occurring external pressures that make it good evolutionary sense to eat your children or mate with your sister or wear a mullet. That doesn’t make it a good idea to enshrine those things as the laws of your civilization ten thousand years later when you’ve invented science, medicine, sanitation and mousse.

  • Carstonio

    Even most egalitarians are willing to admit that under certain external
    pressures as occur naturally in large parts of the world in the presence
    of early humans but the absence of civilization, there are basic
    biological advantages that make power-grabs by  the males make good
    evolutionary sense.

    I could understand strict gender roles under such conditions, but why would evolutionary sense entail having women as subservient to men? Hypothetically, a preindustrial society could have those strict roles but still have equal status for both genders in tribal and familial decision-making. This theory implies that women naturally rebel against bearing and raising children and have to be forced to do so for the good of the society.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Shortest answer: Because separate but equal never works out in the long term. Even if it manages to start out that way, the second one side gains an advantage, it figures out how to hold on to it.

    (In fact, it often *did* start out vaguely egalitarian. And then one side gained an advantage and then it wasn’t. The intermediate step is usually “There is a crisis so us hunters need to use our gazelle-killin’ rocks to protect the womenfolk, who are on average less mobile due to some of them being pregnant”)

  • Carstonio

    Without disagreeing with your theory, my question was why a man-controlled society have more evolutionary advantages than a woman-controlled one, not how the society ended up with one or the other.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    RAW wrote a wonderful reductio ad absurdum of patriarchy in one of his “Historical Illuminatus” books. More or less it went such: if what empowered men to lead was possession of the willy, then would it not follow that the leader of men should be the man with the largest, proudest willy, and that political discussions would all lead to men measuring their willies against one another? 
    The woman thinking of this then laughs at her own idea.

    If anyone actually knows what I’m talking about please post the excerpt; I’ve been searching for it. 

  • banancat

     I don’t know what book you’re talking about, but penis-measuring contests have been a metaphor for dominance displays or trivial disputes for a very long time.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I’ve always thought that the other way ’round: that trivial disputes and modern dominance displays were metaphors for literal penis-measuring contests. 

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     I don’t remember it in the Historical Illuminatus books, but Wilson’s short-story “The Horror on Howth Hill” (From the SubGenius anthology “Three-Fisted Tales of “Bob””) has Our Heroes theorizing that dick-size is how the Pope is chosen. 

    Then the Knights of Malta break in with guns, and things get even weirder.

  • Carstonio

    My own theory is male jealousy of the female ability to bear children, the fear that males are irrelevant by comparison.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I had a professor decades ago who claimed that almost all primitive societies tend to be matriarchal until they discover that men serve a purpose in reproduction, whereupon they very quickly switch over to being patriarchal.

    As she didn’t give specific examples, I have no idea how accurate this is.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I had a professor decades ago who claimed that almost all primitive
    societies tend to be matriarchal until they discover that men serve a
    purpose in reproduction, whereupon they very quickly switch over to
    being patriarchal.

    Wait. There are people who seriously blame patriarchy on Ayla from Clan of the fucking Cave Bear?

    I mean, Auel invites us to do exactly that, but I didn’t think anyone actually believed it, with the possible exception of, you know, Auel.

  • Ursula L

    Wait. There are people who seriously blame patriarchy on Ayla from Clan of the fucking Cave Bear?
    I mean, Auel invites us to do exactly that, but I didn’t think anyone actually believed it, with the possible exception of, you know, Auel.

    Auel, like the professor in question, began writing decades ago.  The original “Clan of the Cave Bear” was written in the 1980s, I read it while I was still in high school.

    My understanding is that this was an anthropological theory then, and a new and interesting one, which Auel picked up as part of the setting for her fiction.  

    Note that the Clan is patriarchal, and that the division of labor in the different groups they encounter in their travels changes.  She explicitly mentions, at one point, that some groups divide with the care of children versus hunting being a male/female thing, and other groups having it be the elderly caring for children while younger adults do other work.  Auel wasn’t putting all her eggs in the basket of one anthropological theory, she was exploring how suddenly understanding the connection between sex and reproduction might Change Things. 

    I don’t think that this is really an either/or situation.  

    There are current anthropological theories (such as the one presented in Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human) that point to an early pre-human female/male pairing where the problem of both cooking and protecting food from being stolen while you’re busy cooking it was solved by having larger males and smaller females pair up for the task.  This creates a push towards patriarchy – a smaller female needs a larger male to fight off other males while she cooks for the two of them.  

    There are also theories, such as the Grandmother Hypothesis, that point to pre-humans starting to develop longer, post-menopausal lifespans when older females started helping care for the children of their daughters, which provided a survival advantage for the grandchildren of longer-living grandmothers.  This creates a push towards matriarchy – younger women need to stick by older women for the care and protection of children.  

    Humans being humans, I see no reason to think that both things didn’t start to happen at once as humans began to evolve more complex social connections and intelligent survival skills.  And different cultures wound up drawing from different patterns of social organization in different ways.  As humans, we collaborate and take care of each other, in many complex ways, and that’s how we get things done that are more complex than what one person working alone can do.  

  • The_L1985

    Wait. Didn’t the other Modern-type humans in the Nature’s Children series also know about the male’s role in reproduction? IIRC, only the Neanderthal “flatheads” believed it was totem-wrestling. There’s a whole long sequence about ritualized deflowering in the 2nd book, with the implication that a girl’s first time (by the mores of that culture) should be with someone who’ll give her strong, handsome children if she happens to get pregnant from it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yes and no. They knew a woman who’d never had “Pleasures” would never be pregnant, but they thought the Mother took something (part of the spirit, I think, I forget) from a man who’d been in contact with a woman and mixed it with a similar something from that woman and thence baby. But it was Ayla who actually connected that sex means babies. Before that they’d apparently been thinking not, because if sex meant babies then they’d be overrun with babies, right?

  • The_L1985

    But they still knew there was a connection. Just because they didn’t know about eggs and sperm (and let’s face it, until the 19th century or so NO ONE knew how babies got started in there exactly) doesn’t mean they didn’t know that sex was necessary to start things off.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m pretty sure that isn’t how it worked in the series, but I don’t know where the family copies got to and I certainly don’t have them with me.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     I’ve re-read them fairly recently, and no… people didn’t realize that there was a connection between sex and pregnancy except that they knew that until a girl was “opened” by a man that she couldn’t have a baby.

    Whether there was a ever a time when people didn’t understand the connection between sex and reproduction I don’t know, though IIRC at least some people in the field believe there wasn’t.  (IIRC it’s also the case that there is no record of anyone ever contacting a culture that didn’t know that sex made babies, although I can’t recall where I heard that so I could be misremembering.)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     Rot13 encoded spoilers for people who haven’t read the last book and don’t want to be spoiled (though the last book wasn’t that great so you might want to skip it…):

    Ng gur raq bs gur ynfg obbx jura Nlyn orpbzrf n Mrynaqbav gur Zbgure erirnyf gb ure gung fur’f evtug nobhg frk pnhfvat certanapl naq gur Mrynaqbav gryy rirelbar ryfr, jvgu gur vzcyvpngvba gung guvf vf jurer zbivat njnl sebz gur Zbgure naq gbjneq znyr qbzvangrq fbpvrgl — vapyhqvat znyr qbzvangrq eryvtvba — fgnegrq.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    They might speculate as much, but why would they? The only part of the causal relationship between sex and pregnancy that they’d be in a position to actually observe is that if someone abstained long enough, they wouldn’t get pregnant. And who exactly would volunteer for this experiment, and why? Also, how would the rest of the tribe feel about respecting that experiment? (For Science! Which hasn’t been invented yet!)

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    The only part of the causal relationship between sex and pregnancy that they’d be in a position to actually observe is that if someone abstained long enough, they wouldn’t get pregnant.

    They would also be in a position to observe that there was more of a resemblance between a woman’s children and the men she’d had sex with than the men she hadn’t had sex with. A clever observer could work out a connection between sex and pregnancy from that.

    Admittedly, when there isn’t much genetic diversity within a community, that pattern is trickier to observe.

    And who exactly would volunteer for this experiment, and why?

    Well, one place to start might be with nonhuman animals, who also get pregnant after having sex. Indeed, many of them have relatively fixed mating seasons, which are followed by breeding seasons, which might make the connection easier to work out.

     And it doesn’t take a genius to speculate that human sex and pregnancy might work the same way as in other animals, given the other similarities we can observe.

  • Turcano

    The short answer to this question is a combination of two factors: doubt over paternity and patrilineal inheritance, both in terms of material wealth and especially in status.  Once people start accumulating wealth and status to the point that they can’t consume it all over their lifetime, they have to leave it to someone else, the logical choice for that someone else is their children, and people would rather leave these things to their own children rather than to other people’s children.  Until 1978, maternal parentage was never in doubt, but there is always doubt, no matter how small, in terms of paternal parentage.

  • walden

    The “ur-text” is not exactly hidden.  The Hebrew scriptures are shot through with patriarchy.  
    So the modern or progressive Christian enterprise needs to disentangle these culturally-bound concepts from true “revelation”.
    The patriarchal enterprise in contrast, privileges these concepts and regards them (or many of them) as fundamental to the faith.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    It would not seem men would have to be superior in war by dint of their statistically superior muscle mass. Once weaponry is developed, much of that advantage goes away, and what remains can be made up for by ruthlessness and ambush. 

    All it would take would be different social norms and socialization leading to a different concept of war: one that completely eschews honour in favour of minimizing losses and maximizing enemy casualty. 
    I used this for a society in one of my SF universes where the people had been conquered by a vastly superior force which they were only able to overcome through sneakiness, poison, and ambush. Said values become rather entrenched in their later society in both genders.

    That they later become a matriarchy is less from said values as it was one particular hero figure. 

  • Morilore

    It would not seem men would have to be superior in war by dint of their statistically superior muscle mass. Once weaponry is developed, much of that advantage goes away, and what remains can be made up for by ruthlessness and ambush.

    I recall seeing a Youtube video showing a reenactment of a fight between two mail-clad knights from the European medieval period.  It looked like a bar brawl; the narrator explained that swordfights almost never work the way they do in movies because if swords hit swords, they can break or degrade.  In other words, at least some weapons prior to gunpowder were not powerful enough to be effective equalizers.  However, even the weapons used by societies are inflected by their cultural norms (consider swords and clubs vs. bows and arrows), so you are probably still right.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     One qualifier on that, though: A lot of historical thinking about medieval swordfighting derives from the opinions of 19th century historians, who, being used to the smaller, lighter swords of their own era, made not-always-justified assumptions that the larger, heavier swords of earlier eras were clumsy, brutish weapons. There is reason to think that trained swordfighters of the period would actually have been trading on skill rather than brute strength.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Possibly, but by the time weaponry is developed, power has already accumulated in one place. And historically speaking, there is always a high cost in moving from concentrated power to less concentrated power: it either takes a long time, or involves a lot of heads on pikes.

    There is a recurring historical pattern that whenever there’s a societal collapse, power tends to concentrate, and when times get better, it takes several times longer for power to disperse than it took for it to concentrate.  And if that societal collapse involves things like “death rate in childbirth increases” or “infant mortality increases” or “survivors think they need to make lots of babies NOW to avoid extinction”, that concentration of power tends to be away from women (Even though in many cases this takes the form of “women become highly valued”, because “highly valued” has a tendency to morph into “treated like a valuable commodity“)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     To elaborate a bit more: when times are tough, there is a tendency across most societies to come up with a reason to treat people as property. Depending on the preexisting conditions and how bad it gets, this will often extend across all demographics; men, women, children, old, young, etc. You end up with a small number of people who — not necessarily due to any pattern at this stage — either de jure or de facto own everyone else.

    Under a wide variety of these ‘times are tough” scenarios, it ends up being the women from the underclass  who are more valued as property and more protected. Which means that as fortunes wax and wane and people shift in and out of the privileged class, there’s a concerted effort to keep the “high value property” right where it is. 

    (And this is not all that different from how inequality is persisted even today: when times get bad, things get bad across the board. When they get good again, the people who were at the top when things were bad make sure that they don’t get better for whatever groups it benefits them to keep down)

  • http://twitter.com/WayofCats WayofCats

    I know how patriarchy works NOW: it’s a way for immature and insecure men to feel superior in the absence of any good reason.

    Perhaps it has something to do with it at the start?

  • http://twitter.com/RyanWithCupcake Ryan

    A side note: You present the Q hypothesis as more established than it really is. While it is certainly the majority position, there are plenty of Biblical scholars who support alternative hypotheses to explain the synoptics.

  • Carstonio

    With all the Q references, I picture John de Lancie as Satan tempting Jesus.

    The PBCs and the patriarchal Muslims share the same core religion, and it is neither Christianity nor Islam.

    Instead of crosses or stars and crescents, its adherents should wear pendants shaped like male genitalia, for that is their real god.

  • The_L1985

    I’ve seen such pendants. They tend not to be very flattering representations.

  • Kevin

    Men are on average bigger and stronger than women so we can physically control them. This  didn’t start five or ten thousand years ago. It’s feature of human nature. 
    It ought not to be true but it is.
    The patriarchy isn’t a modern invention. It’s a modern name for an ancient thing. There was no golden egalitarian age when men and women rode around hand in hand on pink unicorns.
    The reason this evil is  so persistent is not due to the scheming Patriarchs, it’s because the denial of human nature is so persistent.

  • Morilore

    There was no golden egalitarian age when men and women rode around hand in hand on pink unicorns.

    The reason this evil is  so persistent is not due to the scheming Patriarchs, it’s because the denial of human nature is so persistent.

    You are actually objectively wrong.  Prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were more sexually egalitarian then agricultural societies.  There may have been no “golden age,” but that doesn’t mean that patriarchy is “human nature.”

  • Kevin Alexander

    You are actually objectively wrong.  Prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies weremore sexually egalitarian then agricultural societies.  

    Evidence please. Even in the last remaining hunter gatherer societies men did men stuff and women did women stuff but the men still ruled and got the lion share of the resources.

  • stardreamer42

     No, YOU come up with evidence for your claim — which contradicts pretty much everything I was taught in anthropology class. I think you’re pulling this stuff out of your ass.

  • Kevin Alexander

      your claim — which contradicts pretty much everything I was taught in anthropology class. I think you’re pulling this stuff out of your ass.
    I’m pulling it from The Blank Slate which goes on for more than four hundred pages with the argument and the evidenceYou should go back to your college and ask for a refund.

  • Kevin Alexander

    Arghh, blockquote fail.

    Your line starts with ‘…your claim…’

    My answer ‘I’m pulling it from…’

    How do you do block quotes here?

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    How do you do block quotes here?

    Like that.
    Just kidding. Seriously, put the word “blockquote” between those angle thingies “” before your quote, and after your quote do the same thing with “/blockquote”

  • Aeryl

     Men getting the “lion’s share” of the resources is counterproductive, evolutionarily speaking, because that is stealing resources from their own progeny.

    Hell, it’s also a misnomer, from the idea that the sole male lion amongst a pack has power, when in actuality he’s only there and taken care of for breeding purposes. 

  • Kevin Alexander

    I was using ‘lions share’ as a common expression I don’t know if it’s misnomer.

    It’s not counterproductive. Most animals live on or near the edge of starvation. If you feed your offspring first then you starve and then your offspring starves. Most carnivores at least if stressed enough will eat their own young and try again later.It makes more sense to eat first then give any extra to your kids. 

    Remember it only takes nine months to make a baby but a skilled hunter takes twenty years.

  • Aeryl

     Um, no, because in primitive agrarian* cultures, there were always other people around willing to take care of your kid if you died.  At this time, many women died in childbirth, who do you think took care of their previously born children? 

    This isn’t like using the oxygen mask on the airplane. 

    *Also, you keep bringing hunting into this, when the topic under discussion is the beginning of agricultural civilization, one where WOMEN did most the work. 

  • quinnthebrain

    The reasoning I’ve seen in my studies that sort of makes sense if you squint is the notion that with the arrival of the agricultural revolution (different places at different times, but generally thought to begin about 10,000 yrs ago), societies shift from hunter/gatherer to sedentary, and begin to acquire more stuff.  Land chief among them.  Then the big issues becomes “who inherits my stuff?”  Men wanted their own heirs to inherit their stuff, thus the need to control women’s sexuality to insure that her children were in fact his children.  And bob’s your uncle, patriarchy is encoded.  

  • LL

    One thing that still kind of amazes me is the power of a really shitty idea. 

    If you live long enough, you’ll be part of some group (doesn’t even matter what kind – family, employees, church, stamp-collecting club, whatever, just a group of somewhat likeminded people with specific goals) and there will be some issue/problem/goal and everyone will be asked for their input/ideas, and someone will come up with a stunningly idiotic one. Often, this person is the person in charge. And nobody will mention how stupid the idea is. And the group will act like it’s best freaking idea they’ve ever heard, even while a couple of them look sideways at each other, as if to say, “Holy shit, we’re actually gonna do this incredibly stupid thing.” 

    Because when you are the one person who tells everyone else that an idea is stupid (or even if you phrase it in kinder terms), about 98% of the time, nobody else in the group has the gonads to back you up. They will knowingly proceed with a terrible idea rather than be known as the malcontent or the person who’s being “negative.” And when it all goes tits up, nobody will thank you for being right. Certainly not the idiot who came up with the shitty idea to begin with.

    My theory, anyway, on human history. It’s filled with self-evidently shitty ideas that very few people had enough courage to label as such.  Esp. if the shitty idea benefits some people at the expense of others. From these people’s perspective, it’s an awesome idea, because, duh, it works for them. THEY don’t have a problem with it, therefore, there’s no problem at all. 

    I suspect this is the basis for patriarchy. There’s no actual reason or logic behind it. From an evolutionary perspective, patriarchy makes no fucking sense at all, despite some people’s amusing attempts to slap some sort of “biological imperative” on it, to give it the patina of science. Sometime way back when, some man (or group of men) decided that they’d like to be in charge of everything, esp. the supply of, let’s say, female companions. So they invented a bunch of stupid rules that gave them control over the supply, told everybody else those rules came from God(s) and there you have it. 

    People are stupid. And they’ve always been stupid. They’re slightly less stupid today, compared to, say, 5,000 years ago. But they’re still plenty stupid. 

  • mb

    Actually, “sometime way back when, some man (or group of men) decided that they’d like to be in charge of everything, esp. the supply of, let’s say, female companions” could be a good explanation. Men seem to have this impulse quite often; women, not so much.This could be culturally determined, but it also makes sense: a man “owning” a lot of women could have a lot of children. A woman “owning” a lot of men wouldn’t necessarily have more children.

  • Worthless Beast

    We all know the justifications for patriarchy in religious circles – when people reference the “women in subjugation” verses and how some even cry “But Eve at the fruit FIRST!!!”

    Having read the Skepchick article… what is it that atheists use for justification?  It would seem to be “You’re an athiest female, therefore you don’t have any religious hangups holding you back from sex, you like, should totally have sex with me!”  I guess? It would sure seem like “complaining about being propositioned” equals threats from people who forget that there are many non-religious reasons why a woman might not want to drop everything and have sex, or see propositioning as a compliment that a man deigns to give her. 

    Urgh.

  • Becca Stareyes

    You also get bullshit evolutionary psychology arguments that pretty much consist of ‘stereotype/cultural norm must be genetically inherent to all wo/men, therefore do what I say’. Or the standard excuse that because atheists have thrown out religiously-justified patriarchy that they are magic, unbiased, egalitarian beings who are somehow immune to having been raised in a patriarchal society. 

  • Worthless Beast

    The “I am not religious, therefore I am objective (and magically am always right!) ” is something I’ve run into before (on the Internet).  Not even in regards to sexism, either… I remember running into the argument of “I know more about your religion than you do because I took a one-semester college class on comparative religions and am a mighty atheist!” that evolved from a response on a fan board to a thread about a *piece of fiction* where I was pointing out religious symbolism and parallels therein…  This person was a female, though… I can imagine arguments getting really stupid if we were manly men discussing the place of women or something similarly serious…

    Even though I’m just a stupid Theist, I’d feel creeped out about being propositioned in an elevator by a stranger. Nothing to do with religion or sexual repression – everything to do with thinking people who proposition strangers with “coffee” (it’s never coffee) are creepy.   If it’s evo psych people want, it’s in the best interest of all women to not mix genes with creeps.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    Having read the Skepchick article… what is it that atheists use for justification?

    Actual example of thing I have heard atheist women say has been used by atheist men for justification:

    “The world must be peopled!” — Much Ado About Nothing, Act II, Sc. 3

  • Morilore

    Having read the Skepchick article… what is it that atheists use for justification?

    Essentially: denial that sexism is a thing in atheist circles.  They deny that sexism and sexual harassment are serious problems in their communities and claim that feminists are artificially constructing “deep rifts” in the atheist movement in order to suborn it into “dogmatic feminism.”   The fear beneath all of this is probably the fear that women are trying to “shame male sexuality” (through “dogmatic feminism”), which really means that they are terrified of facing accountability for sexually objectifying women.  See LMM22’s comment.

  • EllieMurasaki

    denial that sexism is a thing in atheist circles

    That argument stops holding water about when one looks at http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Atheism%20Plus and compares the upvote-downvote numbers.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

     

    Essentially: denial that sexism is a thing in atheist circles.

    Right. I also see this at geek/tech/fan conventions. You bring up sexism and misogyny, and suddenly you’re the problem because the problem you’re pointing out cannot possibly exist.

    I think it’s a mixture of “People in mainstream society are bigoted against us – we can’t possibly be exercising bigotry ourselves!” and “We are more enlightened than mainstream society – how can you say we have problems in our social dynamic?”

    And then there’s the more widespread idea that feminism has done its work, it’s already won, sexism is over, right? All the while expressed in terms that belie the assertion. Example: a male friend (haven’t given up on him yet, but am tempted to put it in scare quotes when I think of this) who stated that he doesn’t mind feminists except when they’re “militant.” I began to calmly enumerate things that feminists still have to militate for, and he shouted me down with “There is no pay wage gap! I know more about this than you – women get paid the EXACT SAME as men! No, they do! Shut up!” He’s clearly exemplifying mansplaining, the aggressive silencing of women, and the assertion that it’s up to a man to decide whether a woman’s anger is appropriate. But sexism is dead, says he.

    Sometimes I think it’s male entitlement raising its ugly head. “If we acknowledge sexism is still A Thing, then we’re going to have to give up more of our Good Shit!” But I don’t think it’s always conscious. Sometime I think it’s just male privilege (“I don’t see sexism, so it doesn’t exist”) combined with resistance to criticism (“How can you say I’m not perfect already?”) “Just” these things, though, are toxic enough.

  • Carstonio

     Disgusting that men who rightly condemn the authoritarianism in biblical inerrancy push some of the same ideas minus the authoritarianism.

    Yes, male entitlement and privilege are major factors. (I view those as, uh, complementary.) For the subset of atheists who are former fundamentalists, the sexism of that religious view might still fester in their minds despite a conscious rejection of the view. And some might have experienced bullying and ostracism for their atheism when younger and are now taking it out on others who they perceive as ranking below them in a social hierarchy – a milder version of abused children growing up to be abusive parents.

  • VMink

    And some might have experienced bullying and ostracism for their atheism when younger and are now taking it out on others who they perceive as ranking below them in a social hierarchy – a milder version of abused children growing up to be abusive parents.

    I’ve seen this in some peoples’ reaction to the campaign against bullying in the context of gay teens — they were bullied, too, how dare anyone come out against bullying of gay teens and not bullying of .  It’s a surprisingly angry backlash.  It’s more of a kyriarchal construct (of which patriarchy seems to be a primary axis) but that mindset is present in a lot of other things as well.

    There’s still this kyriarchal sense that any sort of rights are zero-sum, and attempts to make things equitable are labeled multiculturalism, diversity, etc., all in rather denigrating tones.

  • Carstonio

     Side issue – I don’t understand the campaign against bullying. There might be less bullying if school administrators simply did their jobs and punished the bullies.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Can you clarify what you don’t understand about it?

    I agree that punishing bullies might help.

  • Carstonio

    I get the impression that the campaigns are aimed at making bullying less socially acceptable. As someone who was bullied myself, I definitely support that goal in and of itself. I just don’t want it to be a substitute for responsible administration, with principles fobbing off their duties on kids.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > I just don’t want it to be a substitute for responsible
    > administration, with principals fobbing off their duties on kids.

    Ah, gotcha.
    Yeah, I suppose that’s a possibility.

    Personally, I don’t see anti-bullying campaigns as very different from, say, a grassroots effort to increase voter awareness of an issue. Sure, it’s no substitute for elected officials behaving responsibly, but it’s not intended to be; if anything, it’s intended to encourage them to.

    Of course, it might not work.

  • Michael Pullmann

     Well, part of the campaign is to get administrators to do that.

  • The Guest Who Posts

    “I’ve seen this in some peoples’ reaction to the campaign against
    bullying in the context of gay teens — they were bullied, too, how dare
    anyone come out against bullying of gay teens and not bullying of
    .”

    I’ve seen this too, and it makes me want to bash my head against the nearest wall. Speaking as someone who was bullied herself (for reasons unrelated to sexual inclination), it seems like plain resentment.

  • SisterCoyote

     This. So much this.

    I think it’s a mixture of “People in mainstream society are bigoted against us
    – we can’t possibly be exercising bigotry ourselves!” and “We are more
    enlightened than mainstream society – how can you say we have problems
    in our social dynamic?”

    I’ve seen this one rear its ugly head every so often in circles I frequent – we’ve been lucky, there, though, plenty of both male and female voices ready to go “Um, no, please stop talking now.”

  • Aeryl

     One I get a lot from some of my sexist gay friends, is that the world is bigoted against them, so they are ENTITLED to a little bigotry themselves.

    *headdesk*

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Yeah, pretty much.
    It’s not really surprising, though.
    I mean, it’s not like being gay somehow counteracts all the forces that lead some straight people to be sexist, racist, classist, etc.
    Nor does it counteract the tendency to rationalize our failings.

  • SisterCoyote

    …that’s so backwards, it’s scary.

  • LL

    As for how all this dumb shit (patriarchy) got started, I imagine it started when there were enough people on earth to require some (really dumb) way of deciding who gets what and who’s in charge (let’s say about 8000 B.C.). If you’re some very small group of nomadic people or  maybe just a family, it’s kind of in your best interest to treat the others well, or at least not be a colossal asshole. To cooperate, rather than dictate. You gotta sleep sometime, and you’ll sleep a lot better if you don’t have to worry about being stabbed/bludgeoned to death by the person you’ve spent all day treating like crap. If you’re smart, you don’t want to piss off the people who might have to help you fight off a large predator, or gather food or build a shelter. Your life depends on cooperating, rather than sitting back and telling everybody else what to do. There aren’t a lot of other people, much less female ones, to worry about controlling. You’re mostly worried about yourself and your family, rather than making sure all the females of the other wandering groups behave in a particular way or dress a certain way. When the human race is a hair’s breadth away from extinction, that tends to lend some perspective as to what’s really important. 

    But once there were enough people to form actual communities, your welfare probably didn’t depend quite so much on cooperating with everybody. So you could be a dick to some of them and as long as you still had enough allies, you didn’t have to worry about the ones you’ve screwed over. And then once there were enough people to make all the different groups start coveting the good shit (females, food, weapons) that each group had, you figure why not just go take somebody else’s shit, it’s easier than working for it yourself. That group there has that awesome location right by the river, let’s go kill the males who might be any trouble, keep the fertile females, and move in. That other group has tons of goats, let’s go get ’em. And so on. 

    Thus, “civilization” was born. 

  • LMM22

    Ugh, Jesus Christ, people — could we eliminate the armchair anthropology? I’m sick of these discussions, because it seems to consist of a bunch of sexist males on one side and speculation (and appeals to theoretical situations) on the other side. I do think that evidence of convergent social evolution under certain conditions (e.g., most agricultural societies of a certain kind are patriarchal, even if the degree and kind varies) suggests that there are reasons why that feature would be favored, even if it’s not necessarily ideal. Patriarchy may not have been a foregone conclusion, but there’s a lot of evidence that the odds were *really* heavily weighted in its favor.

    That being said (to skip to MY armchair speculation), I think one major issue we’re encountering in fundamentalists is that of “bad faith” (to use the term as Sartre meant it) — that of a mass of people acting out a role they know they are not defined by. Patriarchy in the face of a more egalitarian society looks different (I suspect) than patriarchy as it was — just because that, when that’s the way things are, you really don’t have much to prove by being holier than thou. (I’ve heard that imams are complaining about this — young people are asking them about the “Muslim way” to do things that, until now, were seen purely as secular acts.)

    To Fred’s point, though, I’m going to draw a distinction between the patriarchy of atheists and that of most theistic groups — and it’s one that’s not in the atheists’ favor. We conflate them now, but the sexual revolution and the Second Wave feminist movement were two entirely different movements, separated by about a decade or more (there’s a good argument that the sexual revolution started in the ’20s). Between the two of them, there’s a fairly miserable period in which, essentially, it was acceptable for men to see women as purely sexual beings — and the women really had no way of saying no. Pre-sexual revolution, women could, to some extent, protect themselves from objectification (and sexual advances) by following the code that was handed to them — I’m a good girl, I don’t have sex before marriage, my father would object if he saw you kissing me. Post-Second Wave, women could appeal to the fact that they just weren’t attracted to someone. But between those two periods (see, e.g., Mad Men), women were expected to be sluts, and they really had no socially accepted way to refuse to have sex with someone. (*)

    Most patriarchal theists want to return to the era before the sexual revolution. Most patriarchal atheists (from what I’ve seen) want to return to the era before women’s lib. Patriarchal theists (in theory) want women to be chaste and subservient. Patriarchal atheists want women to be sluts and subservient.

    (*) The story I heard was that much of the Second Wave got off its feet at a rally against the Vietnam War when a female speaker was jeered off the stage. I’d give you a cite for this, but it’s late enough that I really can’t concentrate on anything.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I for one will cop to my armchair anthropology as being a bit of the RPG pattern of introducing a bare-bones outline of a society for the core rulebook, then going back to flesh it out for the splats, which is sort of the ‘start-from-the-conclusion’ bit that makes for poor argument and leads to BS like evolutionary psychology, but feels okay if you know you’re doing fiction in the first place. 

  • Turcano

    To be fair, the scientific method tells us that the only difference between speculation and a hypothesis is a testable prediction.  Many of the possible explanations given here have predictions, many of which can even be expressed formally.*  Actually running the test requires more expertise than most of us have due to most of us not being anthropologists, but that’s another matter.

    *My explanation (and I think Anton Mates is on the same page that I am) has a dependent variable, patriarchal social norms, and two independent variables, patrilineal inheritance and inequality in wealth or status.  Since the combination of the two independent variables is the predicted cause, the hypotheses can be formally expressed as follows:

    H0:  x1 ∩ x2 = x1 ∩

    ⌐x2 = ⌐x1 ∩ x2 = ⌐x1 ∩ ⌐x2
    H1: x1 ∩ x2 ≠ x1 ∩

    ⌐x2 or ⌐x1 ∩ x2 or ⌐x1 ∩ ⌐x2

  • LMM22

    Many of the possible explanations given here have predictions, many of which can even be expressed formally.*  Actually running the test requires more expertise than most of us have due to most of us not being anthropologists, but that’s another matter.

    Theory or not, the issue is that there is an entire discipline *filled* with data about this discussion, and everyone here is ignoring it. We don’t do that with physics or even linguistics. But, for some reason, everyone wants to pretend that there aren’t experts who have discussed these issues in depth for decades now. It’s like trying to disprove the theory of relativity by coming up with thought experiments.

  • Carstonio

     For clarification, what is the name of the discipline? I’ve long been skeptical of claims that specific gender behaviors are solely or mostly innate instead of learned, because of the usual agendas of the men who make the claims. (I suppose their equivalent on the other side is someone like John Money.) But ultimately I know of no way of testing any particular theory about such behaviors. One would need a control group of people raised without any societal influences.

  • LMM22

    I’ve long been skeptical of claims that specific gender behaviors are solely or mostly innate instead of learned, because of the usual agendas of the men who make the claims.

    Anthro-effing-pology, for Christ’s sake. This isn’t about “test cases” or “controlled trials” — this is about why (i.e., in large part, under which circumstances) different societies adopt different power structures.

  • Carstonio

    I thought for a minute you were talking about a more obscure scientific discipline. The question here is what role biology plays in forming different power structures, and that would seem to involve additional disciplines.

    circumstances which favor a
    patriarchal structure (e.g. the fact that, in agrarian societies, women
    tend to be pregnant or nursing for a pretty decent chunk of time)

    My specific criticism was of the theory that men holding all the authority in a society offers evolutionary advantages over the alternatives – women holding all the authority, or no gender barriers to serving as societal leaders. In principle that’s different from the strict gender roles that you describe, although I doubt that there have been many societies where those roles didn’t also include male authority.

    Of course patriarchy happened. The question of biology is one of answering the question of whether patriarchy is inevitable based on biology. My personal opinion is that if it is inevitable, then all of civilization may be pointless. I can imagine few things sadder than bringing into the world a daughter who would be doomed to domination and brutalization at the hands of men. There’s been speculation that many sex-selective abortions in India happen because mothers cannot bear that fate for their daughters, and I deeply sympathize with that sense of misery. Obviously humans can have the capability and desire to achieve gender-egalitarian societies, but the biology theory behind gender behavior would mean that doing so would be Sisyphean.

  • LMM22

    No offense, but we’re rapidly hitting something-is-wrong-on-the-Internet territory here, and I have other work to do today.

    The question here is what role biology plays in forming different power structures, and that would seem to involve additional disciplines.
    It *does* — but there’s a long list of questions to ask first (e.g. what power structures do we have? how do they correlate with material culture?), none of which can be addressed very well in a non-academic setting. (The scientific method — which is basically presented only to be abused constantly in practice — omits one very important first step which is “read the literature.”)

    As for myself, nature vs. nurture debates seem to be a little preliminary. There’s a lot of evidence that hunter-gatherer cultures tend to be, well, nearly utopian in a lot of ways. That being said, if the issue is nature, well, I’m predicting genetic engineering within a few generations. (*)

    (*) First thing we’re getting rid of is wisdom teeth.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     In addition, as I observed below, the question isn’t really “nature vs. nurture” because that isn’t an either-or situation.  Frequently the answer is “yes” — it’s both biology AND the environment.

    This isn’t my area but I suspect that biological and cultural influences can also form a sort of feedback loop.  Suppose there is an inherent biological tendency for men to be more aggressive than women.  Thus on the whole men would tend to act somewhat more aggressively than women do, thus aggressiveness becomes associated with masculinity, thus a cultural norm develops that men should be agressive and women should not be.  The cultural expectations would then reinforce the biological differences, exaggerating them and making life difficult for people who don’t fit what has become the cultural norm.

    As far as distinguishing what’s biology and culture — well, yeah, it’s tough.  (It drives me nuts when I see people write columns to the effect of “I used to think the difference between boys and girls was cultural, but then my son played with trucks and my daughter played with dolls even though I was totally gender-neutral raising them, so now I know it’s biological.   Leaving aside the question of whether someone can really be gender-neutral raising their kids, unless this person raised her children locked in the basement, they weren’t free of cultural influences.)

    Again, this isn’t my area, but I get the impression that one thing people look at is cross-cultural differences.  If the tendency for men to be higher status than women, to be more aggressive than women, or to try to control sexual access to women tends to be a common thread across many different cultures (and I gather it does) then that arguably suggests that there’s SOMETHING going on there.  If it was totally arbitrary whether men or women had higher status, you’d expect to see about a 50/50 split across cultures once you control for cultures influencing each other, etc.  We very much don’t see this, which suggests that’s it not completely arbitrary.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     

    My personal opinion is that if it is inevitable, then all of civilization may be pointless. I can imagine few things sadder than bringing into the world a daughter who would be doomed to domination and brutalization at the hands of men. Almost as sad is the prospect that no matter how a parent socializes a son, he would be doomed by testosterone to regard women as property to be seized and conquered, as the gender essentialists imply.

    I think that’s excessively pessimistic.  The idea that there’s a biological tendency for men to be more aggressive than women doesn’t imply that all men are doomed to regard women as property.  Our minds are influenced by our biology (anyone who’s dealt with mental illness or even become cranky and irritable because they’re hungry and their blood sugar is low knows that) but we’re not mindless automatons, either.  As I said, it’s not nature OR nurture, it’s nature AND nurture.

  • Carstonio

    Obviously I agree. I wasn’t asserting the opposite. Instead I was addressing the arguments of the gender essentialists and taking these to what I see as the logical conclusions. Their boys-will-be-boys notions strongly imply that patriarchy is natural. It’s a sexist variant of the idea that existence about dominating or be dominated. We can and do condemn gender essentialism as morally repulsive, but I admit I also want to prove that it’s factually incorrect.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    We can and do condemn gender essentialism as morally repulsive, but I admit I also want to prove that it’s factually incorrect.

    So do I!  Sadly, whether I want something to be factually incorrect has no bearing on whether it actually is factually incorrect.

    That said, it seems to me that the available evidence is plenty strong enough already to show that this strong form of gender essentialism is factually incorrect.

    The analogy I like to use when I get into debates about gender differences is height:  Men are undeniably taller than women, on average.  Nevertheless, I’ve met many men shorter than I am.

    So even for variables for which there ARE overall differences between the genders it doesn’t imply that men and women are completely or even mostly separable on that variable.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    Obviously humans can have the capability and desire to achieve
    gender-egalitarian societies, but the biology theory behind gender
    behavior would mean that doing so would be Sisyphean.

    Why? Why should a biological component to human behavior be insurmountable? Why should it even be *hard* to surmount? So what if there are biological reasons for neolithic humans to trend toward patriarchy under conditions found in the levant five thousand years ago?

    Man is biologically disinclined toward flight. We cracked that one.

  • Carstonio

     See my reply to B. I was asking “what if the gender essentialists are right?” They seem to be arguing that human males are incapable of viewing human females as anything other than prey and property. As I interpret their ideas, patriarchy would be not merely a tendency but an inevitability.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    Why? Why should a biological component to human behavior be insurmountable? Why should it even be *hard* to surmount? So what if there are biological reasons for neolithic humans to trend toward patriarchy under conditions found in the levant five thousand years ago?

    Insurmountable?  Maybe not. However, some biological components of human behavior are easier to surmount than others.

    One could equally well say, “So what if there are biological reasons for paleolithic and neolithic humans to crave fats and sweets under conditions found thousands of years ago?  What does that have to do with life today?”  The answer to that one turns out to be — quite a bit.  Humans aren’t mindless eating machines* and it’s not like we have no choice about whether we eat fats and sweets.  Nevertheless our craving for fats and sweets is a huge public health issue.  It turns out thousands (or millions) of years of evolutionary imperative aren’t that easy to just walk away from.

    (See also: abstinence-only sex education.)

    Where whatever underlies the tendency towards patriarchy falls on this scale I don’t  know (and I’m guessing neither does anyone else).

    *Although Mindless Eating is a fantastic book for anyone interested in food psychology. In some situations we do kind act like mindless eating machines.

  • Keulan

    The Slate article from Rebecca Watson is only telling one side of the story- her side, and her supporters. She’s ignoring the distinction between the trolls that she feeds and reasonable atheists who disagree with her (and her supporters’) particularly unskeptical version of feminism. Not to mention the fact that Watson and her followers make vague claims of sexism at atheist events but refuse to provide any evidence to back them up.

    My point is, most of the atheists who disagree with Rebecca Watson are have good reasons for it if you bother to ask. We’re not misogynists like she and her followers say.

  • Nathaniel

    “reasonable atheists who disagree with her”

    Do tell. This should be a treat.

  • Madhabmatics

     No True Scotsman/Atheist would send rape threats!

  • stardreamer42

    “Teenagers” are a modern invention, caused by a godless, indulgent
    consumerist society, family breakdown, peer pressure, advertising and a
    lack of discipline in childhood.

    The first 5 words of that sentence are the grain of truth at the root of this tree of idiocy. “Teenagers” are in point of fact a modern phenomenon, but the cause is the enforced period of dysfunctional conflict between physical maturity and legal adulthood — which in turn is caused, in part, by our technological culture. Until quite recently (historically speaking), it was possible for a young man or woman to take on an adult role in society — get a job and/or get married — and thereby be accepted as an adult, by approximately age 16. The extended “childhood” that results from not providing that path as an option causes a lot of social unrest among the young people who are caught “betwixt and between” — ready for adulthood, but unable to be recognized as such in our society. And there’s no easy fix for this.

  • banancat

    Is this really true though? It’s just “common knowledge” that in the past everyone got married and had jobs earlier, but I’ve never actually seen the evidence that adulthood in mid teens was ever really widespread, however that is measured. Some societies had a low average age of marriage but others had a much higher age, into the 20s. And the idea of becoming a financially independent adult or couple has been historically rare, especially in nomadic and agricultural cultures where extended family all worked the same farm or tended the same herd. In a way, it’s our concept of adulthood that is new and rare.

  • Loquat

    It’s true, there weren’t a lot of societies where teen couples got married and were considered independent adults, but there used to be plenty of room in society for teenagers to do useful work, often work that prepared them for what they’d be doing as adults, whether it was looking after younger relatives or being apprenticed to a tradesman or what-have-you. The work kids do in a high school… I suppose it still technically counts as preparing for adult life, but there’s no direct connection between the classwork and any future job, and the work students produce is almost never useful to anyone. So we’ve created a society where adolescents are a special class, old enough to want to be more than children, but not yet economically useful enough to get anywhere near adulthood.

    Or, to quote Paul Graham:

    The reason kids are so unhappy, adults tell themselves, is that monstrous new chemicals, hormones, are now coursing through their bloodstream and messing up everything. There’s nothing wrong with the system; it’s just inevitable that kids will be miserable at that age.
    […]
    I’m suspicious of this theory that thirteen-year-old kids are intrinsically messed up. If it’s physiological, it should be universal. Are Mongol nomads all nihilists at thirteen? I’ve read a lot of history, and I have not seen a single reference to this supposedly universal fact before the twentieth century. Teenage apprentices in the Renaissance seem to have been cheerful and eager. They got in fights and played tricks on one another of course (Michelangelo had his nose broken by a bully), but they weren’t crazy.
    As far as I can tell, the concept of the hormone-crazed teenager is coeval with suburbia. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think teenagers are driven crazy by the life they’re made to lead. Teenage apprentices in the Renaissance were working dogs. Teenagers now are neurotic lapdogs. Their craziness is the craziness of the idle everywhere.

  • Jenny Islander

    I am always happy to see programs at my local high school like the annual skiff raffle: the metal shop students make a working skiff from aluminum and raffle it off to raise money.  Unfortunately this kind of thing gets maybe 20 percent of the students involved in the community.  About half of the kids, total, can get jobs.  What do the others do?  Bury themselves in school sometimes, sit around and smoke pot sometimes.

  • LMM22

    In part, I blame cars — suburbia may seem like a great idea when your kid is six, but by the time they’re thirteen, they’re miserable. Sixteen gets you a car (and all the added agonies that accompany it), but where are you going to go? There are a lot of malls that ban crowds of teenagers.

    If you wanted to optimize a world which would exclude people under a certain age (and, hell, over a certain age), ours would be a good start.

  • Daughter

     I’ve read that the beginning of modern teen “culture”, as in teens having their own fashion, music, slang, etc. , began with the rise of high schools in the 20th century. With a group of same age peers congregating together, the rise of teen culture was inevitable. So it’s not entirely due to suburbia, a newer phenomenon.

    Nevertheless, the teen ennui that suburbia produces is a real thing. I grew up in a city with a good transportation system. At age 11, I was allowed, along with my 9-year-old neighbor, to take the bus to the movie theater for the first time, and from then on I was pretty much able to independently get around without needing my parents to drive.

     

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     I went to a talk on women’s health issues in colonial times when I was visiting Colonial Williamsburg.  The speaker asked us to guess what the age of first marriage was for women in Williamsburg during that time.  People guessed 15, 16… nope, it was 23.

    I’m hardly an expert but from other reading I’ve done I get the impression that the age of first marriage for women depends among other things on whether women in that culutre tend to marry men roughly their own age, or men significantly older than them.  If they married men similar in age, then they wouldn’t be getting married until those men were established enough to support a family — i.e. in their twenties.  If women married significantly older men, then they tend to marry younger.  

    The speaker also pointed out that in colonial America there were quite a few young women who weren’t starting their periods until 15 or 16 and that even then people felt it wasn’t a good idea for girls to get pregnant for the first few years after menarche. 

    It certainly is the case that in an agricultural society young people generally had significantly more responsibilities than they do now.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Incidentally, that reminds me that I’ve read a few studies that show the  onset of menstruation seems to have been dropping throughout the 20th century.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah. I’ve heard multiple theories. We’re better fed, so we’re reaching the body weight necessary for menarche sooner. Our bodies think ~4400 hours of light exposure means a year’s gone by, when we’re actually getting, I don’t know, ~5500 hours of light a year thanks to electric lights, so our body clocks think we’re old enough for menarche younger. I think there’s a couple others.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Yes. I remember that when this was first observed, there was a rush of panic. First, it was an unreasoning “ZOMG! We don’t know why but if something isn’t done, 12 year olds might become hot!” reaction (That’s not me being flippant; the actual moral panic seemed to be “It would be bad for twelve year olds to meet our culturally enforced standards of sexual attractiveness,” entirely divorced from any specific concern about it actually being physically or emotionally bad for the children involved. Which has a really creepy tone of “Oh no we might not be able to resist the urge to stroompf  children!”), then it moved to “Zomg! Hormones in the milk!”, and then finally, “Meh. It’s just the median moving down because we don’t delay puberty by starving the children of the poorer 50% of people.”

  • Carstonio

    As a father, my concern is that younger puberty means that kids are physically capable of sex before they may be emotionally and psychologically ready.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I suspect that unless you’ve found a way to delay puberty until the mid twenties a la Earthsearch, the ship may have already sailed.

  • Carstonio

    I was really wondering about effective ways for parents to prepare kids emotionally for  early puberty.

  • LMM22

    Cancer is a real concern, though. This isn’t just some sort of social evil.

  • LMM22

    The speaker also pointed out that in colonial America there were quite a few young women who weren’t starting their periods until 15 or 16 and that even then people felt it wasn’t a good idea for girls to get pregnant for the first few years after menarche.

    We often forget that the age of menarche has dropped substantially over the past half-century. A lot of squicky rules (e.g. girls should marry before they get their periods) are *slightly* less squicky once you take that into account.

  • Ursula L

    Hmm…

    I think we may know the “Q” source that is common for both Islam and Christianity.  

    Judaism.  

    And particularly all the Old Testament texts that have made up your fascinating “Biblical Families” series of posts.  

    Both Islam and Christianity explicitly draw from Judaism.  Christianity drawing from Judaism, Islam from Christianity and Judaism.  It would not surprise me at all if you found blogs from women who have left the most conservative branches of Judaism that read the same way.

    It might also be interesting to look at Sikhism, which draws from Islam and Hinduism.  I know less here, but does it have a conservative version that picks up on the same misogyny?  

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

     Roman society was pretty patriarchal pre-Christianity as well. And they certainly weren’t being directly influenced by Judaism.

  • Madhabmatics

     It wasn’t just a patriarchy, it was a patriarchal patriarchy. It was literally a patriarchy run by fathers!

  • Deb Hurn

    interesting idea that Patriarchy is like a primary religion
    but I don’t really think so
    I think it is just as simple as testosterone
    that’s just what testosterone does
    it makes for competitive aggressive behaviour, necessary for survival
    necessary for achievement to a certain degree also
    and therefore anything smaller, weaker or “other” is to be eliminated or controlled by being diminished further
    it is biological… then cultural
     

  • The Guest Who Posts

    Even if that’s a necessary effect of testosterone (which I’m not sure about, but I’m not a biologist), that wouldn’t explain why women also do all the things you mention.

  • banancat

    You do realize that women have testosterone. Also that some societies are not patriarchal and the people in those societies don’t have some genetic mutation that causes deficiency in testosterone. Also, hormones aren’t magic.

  • Aeryl

     Biological “just so” stories about why men behave the way they do, are just as bad, incorrect and harmful as biological “just so” stories about women.

  • Carstonio

    Yes, and both types of stories are almost about preserving male entitlement. The idea that controls on female sexuality are necessary because males cannot control their own. Wrong –  I know of only one exception – Robert Heinlein’s contention in some of his books that an 18-year-old male should be kept in a barrel and fed through the bung.

  • Ross Thompson

    Robert Heinlein’s contention in some of his books that an 18-year-old male should be kept in a barrel and fed through the bung.

    Actually, it was that a child, up until the age of 18 should be kept in a barrel and fed through the bung-hole. On their 18th birthday, the bung should be driven in.

    I suspect he didn’t really advocate that.

  • Carstonio

    He may have not literally advocated that, but he most likely supported the philosophy behind it. His earlier books did have scenes that were glorified stump speeches, but as he aged his competent-man theme devolved into a Just World Fallacy variation, a lament that he was surrounded by fools and idiots.

  • The_L1985

    We all are. We all are fools and idiots, so it’s pretty hard not to be surrounded by them. :P

  • Carstonio

    All the more reason to be skeptical of folks like Heinlein, or at least his protagonists.

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

     Seriously no, just no.

    Testosterone doesn’t actually seem to work that way in humans (or indeed other primates). Indeed studies show something unexpected http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208132241.htm

    And really even if it did men are no more slaves to their hormones than women are.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     Although apparently other studies show exactly the opposite effect:

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0008330

    Dunno.  My postdoc adviser once called the fact that men are more prone to agression (and particularly violent aggression) than women the single biggest and most robust gender difference in the social sciences.  It may not be clear what role testosterone and other hormones play in this, but given how strong the effect seems to be I’m skeptical that there’s no biological basis for it whatsoever.  (Although clearly cultural ideas about appropriate behavior for men and women play a major role as well — nature vs. nurture isn’t an either/or question.)

  • Deb Hurn

    Oh, and I always find I read the title of Piper and Grudem’s book as “Recovering *From* Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”
    quite genuinely unintentional
    its a funny word, ‘recovering’, these days
    few would read it as ‘reclaiming’
     

  • Anton_Mates

    What was it going on X thousand years ago that made (some) people in those(certain societies that the egalitarian way of life they’d been living for hundreds of thousands of years needed a radical overall.

    As I understand it, it’s largely just a matter of having more stuff.  It’s hard not to be egalitarian when your society doesn’t have much in the way of long-lasting material wealth; you can’t hoard up a barnful of resources and then dole them out to hundreds of people in return for their loyalty.  If you do spend your time hoarding as much as you can, you’re probably depriving your neighbors and they’re just going to shun you as an asshole.  And being shunned is usually very bad for your life expectancy, if you’re a hunter-gatherer.

    So it’s not necessarily that a lot of societies became more patriarchal when they developed agriculture and herding and such, as that they became less egalitarian period and all power imbalances were amplified, including those between sexes and age groups.

    I’m not suggesting there was some single inciting incident, or that a band of hunter-gatherers had a tribal meeting and voted in patriarchy, but people don’t change the way they’ve been living for hundreds of thousands of years for no reason at all.

    Patriarchy in the sense of older males having the most overt* social control goes back into prehistory, so far as we know.  It’s certainly found in the majority of hunter-gatherer societies, for instance.  In the arena of courtship and marriage, most marriages are arranged by the future spouses’ parents.  Among those parents, the fathers usually have the most say–frequently the only say–in the decision.  Daughters are married off at a younger age than sons, and are less likely to be allowed to choose their spouse themselves or veto a marriage to someone they don’t like.**  Wives are much more likely than husbands to be punished for adultery, and are punished more severely.  And so forth.  There are plenty of exceptions, of course, and for all we know it was never the case that all human societies were patriarchal to this degree, but it’s definitely the most common pattern.

    It should be noted, too, that the phenomena Lilira mentions of matrilineal descent and the avunculate (uncles favoring their sisters’ kids over their own) are not particularly counter to patriarchy.  Both systems are good to Older Men with Stuff, if paternity is pretty uncertain in that culture.  

    Matrilineal descent is good for a man because his daughter’s children are more likely to be his genetic grandchildren than his son’s children are.  His son’s wife might be having kids by another man, but his daughter can be pretty sure that her kids actually, y’know, came out of her.  Likewise, his own wife might bear the kids of another man, but his sister’s kids are definitely her own, and therefore definitely his genetic nieces and nephews.  In such cases, matriliny and the avunculate allow men to be more confident that the status and wealth they’re handing down will end up with their actual blood relatives.

    On the other hand, in cultures where a man basically buys a wife (or multiple wives) from her family, it’s better to hand down wealth to your son, even if you’re not quite sure he is your son, because it makes his marriage chances so much better.  Your daughter doesn’t need wealth to get married.  Hence, in those African societies, matriliny has tended to disappear once they started keeping cattle, which are generally used as bridewealth

    *I say overt control, because when mothers do exercise control it tends to be in subtler ways that are missed in a lot of ethnographic accounts.  So almost certainly spouses’ mothers have more control over the marriage decision than these accounts imply–but even so, probably not as much as the fathers do.

    **Divorce, interestingly, is very common in hunter-gatherer societies and can usually be initiated by either spouse.  So your parents get to say who you marry–and you may not get to refuse, especially if you’re a younger girl–but you get to walk away if it doesn’t work out.  Of course, the woman may walk away pregnant and the man doesn’t have to worry about that.

  • MaryKaye

    I have read (possibly in _Oya:  In Praise of an African Goddess_ but I’m not sure) that at least some modern hunter-gatherer societies make a practice of mocking anyone who seems proud of his hunting prowess.  You’ll bring back an amazing kill and people (of both genders) will gather around going “Look at that stunted little bunny.  Isn’t it sad?”

    The explanation the people doing this give is that it’s necessary to keep good hunters from becoming impiously self-important and turning into bullies.

    This suggests to me that a tendency toward kyriarchy is part of the human condition, but hunter-gatherers can’t afford it, so they actively suppress it.  Agrarian peoples were somewhat released from pressure to suppress it.  Now we have to rediscover ways to do so.

    I would compare this with chimpanzees.  Different chimpanzee societies have significantly different gender roles (this is in _Chimpanzees of the Tai Forest_).  In some, strong female friendships/alliances limit male power significantly.  In others, females are more isolated and males have more power.  So chimpanzee biology encompasses both more and less egalitarian societies, just as ours does.

  • Leum

    In part, I blame cars — suburbia may seem like a great idea when
    your kid is six, but by the time they’re thirteen, they’re miserable.
    Sixteen gets you a car (and all the added agonies that accompany it),
    but where are you going to go? There are a lot of malls that ban crowds
    of teenagers.

    Malls ban crowds of teenagers in some places? Weird, and pretty despicable too. I hate the way our society treats teenagers as guilty until proven innocent.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    We can and do condemn gender essentialism as morally repulsive, but I admit I also want to prove that it’s factually incorrect.

    One argument against it is that the existence of sexual dimorphism does not perforce equate to observed mental differences.


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