Feminism is Dead
To Be Presented on September 17, 2000
9:00 Am Sunday at the
By William S Jamison
I will be working in the metanarrative that includes an interpretation of Darwinian evolution as correct. Specifically, I will use the view referred to as evolutionary psychology (Buss). The main purpose in life is to procreate and pass on our genes and culture (Daly and Wilson).
My argument: Contemporary feminists are too radical for most women. Classical feminism was good and achieved the goal of political equality. Women’s Rights are issues of continuing importance and should be judged according to the merits of each case. “Feminism” is now associated with a radical male bashing troop of elite women that demand more than most women consider acceptable and as a result most women do not call themselves feminists. Feminism is dead.
In answer to the question, “Are women and men different?” The answer today is: Yes, but some men are more like women than some women and some women are more like men than some men. You may view this difference as “the glass is half full or half empty” difference. Some of us will want to insist on certain features being more important than other features and argue all persons are mostly alike, or take the contrary position and say men are from one planet while women are from another. All persons want and need very much the same sort of things. You do not get what you want in life, you may not even get what you need, but you will certainly get it in the end. I will stress the view that men and women are different in this discussion.
What makes them different? We talk about male/ female and those that are in between. Genetically we describe female and male bodies. The victorious spermatozoon that breaches the fortress of the ovum determines what sex the gamete will be. During development at about six weeks the interplay between the mother and fetus will determine how much estrogen and testosterone will be present at various times. This ongoing biochemical mix will determine how the specific male and female characteristics of the fetus will be hard-wired into an individual. This appears to have special effect on brain development from moment to moment. The brain is our largest sexual organ. Just as our bodies can be called genetically female or male our brains can be described as male or female. Characteristics of male brains: they are more aggressive and competitive and better at skills that require spatial ability and mathematical reasoning. Female brains are more sensitive to nuances of expression and gesture, more adept at judging character. Women, it seems, are more people-oriented than men, who are more interested in things. (Moir)
Are men the dominant sex? Prehistoric families of human beings (or contemporary technological primitives) appear to be only different from other primates in the amount of complexity resulting from our having opposable thumbs and knees that let us walk better than other primates. In primate societies we talk of dominant males and dominant females. In this sense dominance refers to competition for mates and resources with others of the same sex. The sex roles are different. While males are typically larger than females this is not a positive thing for individual survival of males. Large males have shorter lives. It is of procreational value since the large males win dominance over other males and are more likely to pass on their genes. This in turn tends to make males larger. Females compete with other females for mates with status and resources to assist them in successfully raising young. In this it seems that social competitive patterns are developed in order to and as a result of successful procreation.
As environmental factors changed and human beings became urban social patterns changed. It seems correct to describe males as the dominant sex in history. This also seems to be because history is a male enterprise. Males competed using increasingly sophisticated technology and used “history” as a means of passing on successful behaviors to the next generation of males. History is first the oral and later the written tool that enabled males to pass on successful traits. Survival of the fittest traits is what we have as a result. Since this is primarily a concern for males in competition with other males, females appear to be a subjugated second sex. Two or more males today talking together about females with or without status among females will still sound as though females are a subjugated second sex. Men wrote history. Most of the history we have in our libraries was written by old, white, and now, dead males. This history can be rewritten and reinterpreted to show that females are dominant through herstory. Many such books are being written even though “herstory” is still not a word recognized by spell checkers.
The classical feminist movement accomplished what was central to the movement. It redefined women giving them a competitive position in previously male dominated status systems. Technological advances also gave women more control over their own reproductive systems. Both of these changes resulted in relatively fast restructuring of male and female relationships in so-called first world societies. This restructuring has resulted in a growing female presence and even dominance among males in what had been a predominantly male competition for status to win the best females (Tiger). The prize is still the same. Winning means procreational success. Passing on genes and accumulated winning behavioral and cultural traits is the prize.
The social organism, or the organic structures of society, is also competing for survival. Genes make use of the socially constructed norms to react to environmental changes in their bid to ensure the environment remains healthy for succeeding generations. Just as bacteria create toxins that prevent overpopulation at the expense of future survival so our social structure creates social toxins that prevent human overpopulation. Selfishness or self-centered metanarratives seem to be one way our genes decrease procreativity to protect against overpopulation. Selfish individuals view children as competitive users of personal resources and so fewer or no children result. First world societies have reached zero population growth not counting emigration and children of those relatively poor in resources.
Classical feminism introduced women into competition with males for male status. Contemporary Gender feminists, or radical feminists are viewed by some as having stolen feminism. Extreme examples of this movement consider sex as violence to women. Descriptions, such as that of Andrea Dworkin’s book Intercourse seem almost to describe heterosexual relations as though it were males forcing sex on other males where the violence is a form of warfare to destroy the status of weaker males. Even less extreme examples, such as Betty Friedan, describe themselves as though they had male brains. Since a female body can have a male brain, this might be a result of hardwiring at six weeks on. Stresses on pregnant women may very well be the way the socially constructed reality interacts to affect the developing fetus and prepare it for the type of behavior required for social survival. Other contemporary women, such as Cybill Shepherd act like males with high status to mate with as many partners of high (or low) status as possible, since chemicals can be used to fake monthly pregnancies and control fertility. As Cybill says, she was a very, very bad girl.
Christina Hoff Sommers argues that classical feminism achieved its goals but contemporary radical feminists have stolen the movement and turned it into a male bashing hate filled small clique. “Most American feminists, unwilling to be identified as part of a cause they find alien, have renounced the label and have left the field to the resenters.” (p.49)
While Sommers feels that males and females are actually doing well despite the hype (The War Against Boys), there a others like Lionel Tiger who argue that males are in decline as a result of direct competition with females in female environments. This has been especially a result of medical technology that gives females control over reproduction. Robert Bly feels it is important that young males be able to follow the stories that enable them to become men harking back to traditional male roles. It is here that Sommers argues the movement to treat boys more like girls makes them more violent instead of less. The disciplined, competitive but teamwork military style of raising boys is the method that creates the best men. We should stop the radical feminists from having such an impact on boys education to correct the academic slide that we see boys experiencing compared to girls.
“Over thousands of generations, a preference for men who showed signs of being willing and able to commit to them evolved in women”
During interviews conducted for the book, Dr. Segerstrale said, she discovered that some moral philosophers were outraged by sociobiology's adoption of the word "altruism" as a technical term. In that usage, it refers to an organism's sacrifice of itself to ensure that elements of its genome will be propagated by relatives -- hardly the version of Good Samaritanism that the word evokes for most people.
Steinem: Remember the '50s and '60s? Then, women were supposed to marry what we wanted to become--as in, "Marry a doctor, don't be one." In the '70s and '80s, some women started to say, "We are becoming the men we wanted to marry." But in the '90s, more men must become the women they wanted to marry.
Link to an interesting picture: http://metalab.unc.edu/wm/paint/auth/rousseau/rousseau.dream.jpg
Bibliography: (these are links to amazon.com)
Homicide (Foundations of Human Behavior) by Martin Daly, Margo Wilson. Hardcover (January 1988)
The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order by Francis Fukuyama (Paperback - June 2000)
From Kirkus Reviews,
April 15, 1991
Cybill Disobedience: How I Survived
Beauty Pageants, Elvis, Sex, Bruce Willis, Lies, Marriage, Motherhood,
Hollywood, and the Irrepressible Urge to Say What I Think
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