Note: I’ll be speaking of averages and generalities as I go along. Nothing I write should be taken to mean that I believe individuals should be wedged to fit stereotypes. Far from it. Averages and generalities can be anywhere from useless to downright destructive when applied to individuals. BUT they’re very useful when talking about the whole — of civilization or of the human race.
See Part I here, which mostly lays out other premises.
Evolution and civilization
Civilization as we know it was largely designed (by chance and nature more than by intent) to protect women and children.
Not out of some sort of caveman chivalry, but to perpetuate the species.
Early hunter-gatherer societies were probably more egalatarian than, say, early agricultural city-states or Victorian England. But the division of labor was there, biological before it became cultural. Women gave birth and nurtured. Men protected.
Males of the species eventually rose to the top of the social hierarchy because they were best equipped to be fighters, hunters, and (once humankind settled into cities) general providers while women were better equipped to stay in the cave or the hut and take care of the offspring.
Men came to rule because they were physically stronger and generally more dispassionately ruthless than women (more on the relative ruthlessness of males and females below).
Have there been exceptions? Sure. There are always exceptions. There have been warrior queens and bold huntresses. There have been gentle men who stayed in the village and cared for small children. Individuals will always bust through the rules.
But “woke” pseudoscientific proclamations to the contrary, overall biological and social patterns were established early-early on. Today we’re still stuck with that inheritance. The social is easy to alter; the physical, not so.
The dark secret behind male dominance has always been that, once a successful pregnancy is launched (which, face it, isn’t exactly an arduous task for a guy), men are less essential to the continuation of the human race than women and children are. Men are necessary to the process (and delightfully so), but a few men can take care of a lot of women. No doubt that’s part of the reason that competitiveness developed so strongly as a male trait.
I’m not saying anything that should be controversial. This fact is why it’s been “women and children into the lifeboats first.” This is why young men have been expended by the millions in wars while, in civilized societies, women and children have stayed home — perhaps performing important support roles, but protected as much as they can be.
All the while, the real “support role” in human development has actually been the man’s.
Now of course the old order has turned upside down. We women have been freed from enforced child bearing. We’ve proven ourselves smart and capable (even if most of us remain “differently abled” than our male counterparts). We’ve leaped into the workplace and done well. We’ve learned to take care of ourselves — or to take advantage of governments offering to protect us and our children. More recently, we’ve even begun getting pregnant with no more than the casual, sometimes downright immaculately clinical, assistance of men — men who may be complete strangers or good friends, but who aren’t going to fulfill traditional father/protector roles. Consciously or unconsciously, a lot of women are looking around and asking, “Who needs men?”
There are even some — admittedly on the fringes at this point — who believe women should put men out of their minds and their lives entirely. (Although the view is extreme, I note that this hate-filled harridan manages to get away with publishing her hate-filled book in a country that has stringent hate-speech laws, and officialdom isn’t raising any objections.) (H/T C^2)
The times they are a’changin.
Some of this is not likely to reverse. Some of it shouldn’t reverse. And some of it is batshit bonkers.
Just as our bodies still carry the “caveman” traits of craving sugar and storing fat even when we no longer endure starvation, our bodies and brains have evolved to fulfill certain roles, and the physical, intellectual, emotional characteristics behind those roles are still with us.
What was healthy eating — or at least a sensible survival pattern — for our hunter-gatherer bodies now renders us obese and diabetic. But we’re stuck with it.
What worked for us socially when Ogg needed to club dire wolves to death to protect Mrs. Ogg and the Ogglets, or when semi-civilized tribal patriarchs were gathering harems and producing hundreds of chilldren to ensure that a few reached adulthood and duly reproduced doesn’t appear to work so well for us today. But we’re stuck with the very definite physical legacy of that, too.
Our new reality has left men adrift, boys confused, women angry.
And as women, and feminist thinking, dominate teaching and social work and various other opinion-making professions, there’s a growing feeling that men and boys are not only far less necessary than they once were, but that they’re downright inconvenient and troublesome.
Where once women balanced the good in men with the negatives — good provider vs sexual aggressor, strong father figure vs aimless young man, wise leader vs arbitrary master, beloved friend and partner vs emotional bull in a china shop — our modern emphasis is increasingly on the bad side of maleness. Who are these violent, sexually predatory, “privileged,” emotionally blunted creatures, anyhow, and who needs them? So modern feminist thinking seems to go.
We’re making men and boys pay for the sins not only of their fathers, but their great-great-great-great-great-etc. grandfathers, on into antiquity. AND often making them pay for things that were not sins, but essential to our survival.
Now, from a position of strength, the increasingly female-leaning intelligentsia can with impugnity condemn patriarchy and all its works. And too many of us (sadly both male and female) believe that we can not only rid ourselves of male social domination, but that we can replace traditional strengths of maleness in society with “superior” female values — yes, even unto believing that “teamwork” and “inclusivity” are more important than solid engineering for building bridges.
A strident educational establishment insists that inconvenient traits like restlessness, aggression, and cool-headed logic should be trained (or medicated or crushed) out of male children.
There are two problems with this. Well, more than two, many more. But for purposes of this series of posts, two:
First: we don’t need feminized supremacy and social control any more than we needed male supremacy and control. We need, we have always needed, balance. Each sex and every individual should be valued for who and what they are and the contributions they can make.
Neither sex is superior. Or inferior. Neither has a lock on being right or good in all things.
Second: The increasing devaluation of traditional (and biologically based) male skills, traits, and roles in society is a mistake. A mistake based on an illusion. Or really, based on a delusion.
We delude ourselves that civilized society — with its neatly laid-out structures, its smooth supply lines, its defined rules, its prosperity, its diversions, and above all its comforting safety — will always be with us.
It won’t be. You and I know that, but millions don’t. And boy, are they — and alas, we — headed for a fall.
After that fall, we (meaning both women and society as a whole) are going to need men — good, strong men — as we haven’t needed them in several lifetimes. And as things are going now, we won’t have them.
Protection is of the essence. It’s why tribes (extended families) formed. It’s why early cities had walls. It’s why the biggest and strongest initially got the dirty killing jobs, then the top-dog jobs, then the biggest rewards while the physically weakest practiced other labors.
Both men and women have protectiveness built in.
But — again, generalities! — protection is different between the sexes.
Rudyard Kipling wrote that the female of the species is more deadly than the male (thank you, C^2 for the reminder). Anthropologist Margaret Mead had an interesting theory that one reason women have been so persistently socialized and stereotyped as gentle and helpless is that, in fact, when unleashed, we are deadlier than the male — under certain circumstances. (Her reasoning wasn’t far from Kipling’s.)
The idea being that, in defense of home and children, the female (and not only of the human species) knows no bounds. She won’t “play fair” or negotiate when roused. She’ll simply eat you for lunch if you’re a threat to what she holds dear. Or maybe lift your car in the air if its tire happens to have landed on her son or daughter. But commonly, for a woman, that passion and strength comes only at the extremes. And is deeply, deeply personal.
Male protectiveness is, let us say, both broader and more of an everyday matter. A man wants to provide for his family every day as well as protect it from dire threats. His desire to protect spouse and children is as deep as any woman’s. But his protectiveness extends beyond family. He’ll defend clan, community, country, church, and abstract principles in a way most women won’t.
And again — exceptions! Here I am, writing this, a woman who never related to children but whose lifelong focus has been protecting and perpetuating principles of freedom. Individuals always bust the rules.
Still, the generalities are useful. In each sex, in different ways, the urge to protect can be overwhelming. It’s so basic and so strong.
Both men and women can also — it should go without saying — misuse their protective instincts. But again, the most typical misuses are different between the sexes.
The most notorious male misuse of protectiveness is to attempt to control others virtually to the extent of owning them, demeaning them, and sometimes killing them if they try to break free. The most notorious female misuse of protectiveness is stifling the development of children by trying to keep them “safe” from every tiny harm, real or imaginary — a practice damaging to both boys and girls, but more destructive to sons than daughters.
(It’s not hard to see that feminized misuse of protectiveness in our current safety culture, where children aren’t even allowed to play unsupervised or walk to school on their own.)
Other utterly bogus forms of “protection” include the bad old excuses of “protecting us from ourselves” or protecting us from information that the holder thinks will harm us (but is really about the holder trying to protect himself from us). And of course there’s always the bad old mafia/governmental “protection” of extorting money from us to prevent our alleged protectors from doing us more harm than they already do.
The deep human drive to protect (and be protected) is often misused. No doubt about it.
But in its best forms, protection is the glue that holds human civilization together. And you’ll pardon my political incorrectness in saying so, but when men’s innate energies and drives are well-channeled, men do protection in the best possible way. Every day and with a healthy dose of good sense.
More on that to come.