The Earth is held for ransom and the women lose their franchise...

How did males manage to eventually dominate nearly every culture in the world? The answer lies within the recesses of our ancient past.

Progress in the area of symbolic speech marked the emergence of what is often called "modern humans" 200,000 years ago.  Complex speech allowed for more abstract thought, which led to innovations in tool design, which led to humans seeing deposits of raw material in a new way.  Up until about 40,000 years ago, any given tract of land was only valuable during the seasons that edible plants and game thrived on it.  But that changed when somebody in the Nile Valley decided that an area rich in flint (used for sharp-edged tools) was worth staying in one place for.

What happened next is simple economics.  If you want to take control of a certain location that's plentiful in a raw material that many other people rely upon, you'll need to strike a deal with those people.  Most likely you'll mine and perhaps even fashion the material for them, and they, in return, will provide you with food.  Now, imagine if, in a particular tribal group, it had been the job of the women to mine and fashion flint tools that the men hunted with.  Within the context of the new "trade" situation, the men need only gather a bit more on the hunt and then they can bypass the industry of the women in their tribe entirely, thereby (perhaps unintentionally) diminishing the women's role in their society.

While this scenario is hypothetical, it remains true that where trade emerges, markets quickly follow and this impacts the balance of labor in the surrounding nomadic societies.  A market will seek to provide as many necessary goods and services as it can, and the distribution of roles among all trading parties will require a shift.  Being naturally sedentary, the earliest markets would tend to co-opt "camp roles" first, roles which had long been almost universally assigned to women.

Thirty thousand years later, in the Fertile Crescent, agriculture and animal husbandry was perfected as a way to allow markets to feed themselves.  The resulting trade imbalance with nomadic peoples brought about the building of walls and the creation of the first cities.  This, of course, enhanced the status of warrior and priestly classes, which were occupied mostly by men.  Four thousand years after that, bookkeeping was invented to keep track of huge city surpluses and the markings employed eventually evolved into writing and mathematics.  Soon the areas that cities influenced overlapped one another, sparking conflict and planting the seeds of imperialism.  Scholars note that here is where goddess references begin to disappear from the archeological record and male-oriented religions take over.  (Not due to some conspiracy, mind you.  Humans simply tend to think that Heaven mirrors Earth.)

Our modern ideas and technology owe a great deal to writing and its offspring (the printing press and the digital computer).  However, it should be noted that writing brought about a profound split in the human psyche.  The reflective and personal experience of writing (and reading) led to a sense of individualism and hyper-rationality that eventually created a false duality, scandalizing passion and emotion.  One result of this has been centuries of ignorant stereotyping, where men are "cold and rational" and women are "emotional and irrational".  And the more cultural and technological success the innovation of writing spawned, the more proper its more insidious contributions seemed to be, propelling twisted ideas far into the Industrial Age.  In fact, such ideas would not only be used to justify dividing the genders, but to dividing races and ethnicities as well.

So it's no wonder these attitudes persist today, with at least 40,000 years of momentum.  For nearly that entire time the female role had been whittled down to "baby maker".  Of course, by very similar reasoning, you'd think by now we'd have come to know better.

History and Gender

There were a lot of pieces in the paper today thatseemed to coalesce around that topic.  I thought of putting them on the Feminism forum but I think maybe they fit here a bit more because of the focus on the historical (in most of them).

There was a long piece on whether or not Homer's works could be treated as historically accurate.  The first, long section of the article went through the evidence on that point, concluding that they are not an accurate history of the age in which the Trojan War took place.  They are, however, a good history of the culture and attitudes of Homer's own era.   And the prominent feature of that period--of which the abduction of Helen and the Trojan War are a kind of glossy, idealized version--is violence against women and violence between men over the ownership of women:

"The war between Greeks and Trojans ends in the Rape of Troy: the massacre of men, and the rape and abduction of women. These events are not the rare savageries of a particularly long and bitter war - they are one of the major points of the war."

"As the old counselor Nestor shouts to the Greek hosts, 'Don't anyone hurry to return homeward until after he has lain down alongside a wife of some Trojan!' "

Very like what has been chronicled in recent histories of genocidal conflicts.  

The author traces this violence back to a scarcity of women in the society and says that in cultures around the world  this seems to be the inevitable result of a scarcity of women in the population.  That seems inadequate to me as an explanation, but I think the GC's outline of what precedes agricultural societies helps fill in the gaps.

I also thought the conclusion of the piece, summarizing Greek culture and it's ties to our own was intriguing:

"A shortage of women helps to explain more about Homeric society than its relentless violence. It may also shed light on the origins of a tragic and pessimistic worldview, a pantheon of gods deranged by petty vanities, and a people's resignation to the inevitability of 'hateful war.' "

"Hidden Histories"

There was also a review of a history of witchcraft by John Demos, The Enemy Within.

Again, I'm not sure either the book or the reviewer though gives a full accounting of why women comprise 80% of the victims of witch-hunts.  The reviewer, in describing Demos's book, sees the cause as transhistorical and transcultural: "As primary caregivers, women were both the 'Good Mother,' providing nourishment, and the 'Bad Mother,' controlling and denying desires. Either way, the female presence stood central to psychic development and beliefs."

It just seems to me that this might be taking the female "baby-maker" role and turning it into some kind of universal cause of idealization/demonization instead of looking at particular cultural forces that lead to the focus on that role.

"The Accused"

Then there was a piece on the recent development in language of the preference for using a gendered pronoun to refer to babies over the gender neutral "it."  Similary, gender pronouns are now preferred in referring to pets.  And the author also notes the way in which clothing for babies was in the past much more gender neutral both in color (blue/pink coding only came into existence in early 20th centruy) and style.  All of that seems to be in accord with other histories I've read that place the emphasis on the concept of an "opposite sex" alongside the rise in the idea of individual rights in the 18th century.  Gender opposition becomes a way of denying women's equality with men when other forces are tending to assert a set of rights inherent in the individual. 

A girl called 'it'

Finally--not really history, but I'll throw it in 'cause it certainly goes along with the false duality of rational/emotional the GC outlines above--McDonalds has recently started an ad campaign to try to lure coffee drinkers away from Starbucks.  The main appeal of the ad is apparently anti-intellectualism, but while the male Starbucks drinkers are mocked for their prentiousness (going over to McDonalds allows the man to give up his soul-patch and fake glasses), what it allows the women to finally admit is that they are ditzy airheads who prefer glossy magazines to reading books, and have no idea where (or even what) Paraguay is.

All the coffee, none of the cultural literacy

The link above has the "female" version of the ad.  Here's the male McCafe ad.  So if you're a woman you can go back to being a ditz who reads glossy magazines and if you're a guy you can go back to admitting that you like football.  Starbucks apparently has some gender neutralizing hormonal additive.  Hmmm, probably explains the whole transgendered movement.


Meat as Currency

Interesting article talking about how pieces of meat in hunting might have been the origin of currency--thought it fit in here.  Carroll is writing in the context of the Wall Street bailout, and the whole idea of currency as untrustworthy--then tracing back where it came from and why humans put too much faith in it.

In currency we shouldn't trust

The Sexual Politics of meat

...and along that line an excerpt from a book review on that controversial issue:

THE SEXUAL POLITICS OF MEAT is an account of flesh eating as a patriarchal institution, and of women, including feminists, as both victimized by and complicit in the ideologies of "meat."

In the first, Adams defines what she calls the "patriarchal text of meat," the social, political, economic, and linguistic contexts in which animal flesh is associated with woman and flesh eating is associated with maleness. For the most part, Adams focuses on the British and American "texts" of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She makes it clear that and how we associate flesh eating with power -- that is, with maleness, with white skin, and with the rich and powerful nations. Clearly, these associations are not value neutral or benign. Meat eating is linked with virility, intelligence, courage, and material affluence.

Adams' social-historical account of the multiple politics of meat, although brief, is provocative, and suggests that a great deal more research should be done in this area.

Adams introduces a tool that is exceedingly helpful in understanding the dynamics of the sexual politics of meat. Animals become "absent referents" when they become "meat." They are absent in three ways: literally, because they are dead; linguistically, because they no longer cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, OR animals, instead become "beef," "pork," "poultry," "mutton," "food-producing units," or "meat"; and metaphorically, because animals and their experiences are appropriated in metaphors which we used to describe our experiences rather than theirs. Adams claims, I think correctly, that "sexual violence and meat eating, which appear to be discrete forms of violence, find a point of intersection in the absent referent" (p. 43). For example, Kathy Barry, in FEMALE SEXUAL SLAVERY, writes of `maisons d'abattage' (houses of slaughter) in which six or seven girls sexually service 80 to 120 customers a night (p. 43). Adams lists the bondage equipment of pornography -- chains, whips, cattle prods, nooses, dog collars, and ropes. Some animals, such as pigs, are forcibly impregnated in devices that suppliers jocularly call "rape racks." "THE HUSTLER, prior to its incarnation as a pornographic magazine, was a Cleveland restaurant whose menus presented a woman's buttocks on the cover and proclaimed, `We serve the best meat in town!'" Chicken magnate Frank Perdue asked in a recent advertisement: "Are you a breast man or a leg man?" And, of course, we have the Cattle Queen (p. 43).

Objectification, dismemberment, and consumption are the infrastructure of violence. They are the ways in which animals and women are made absent:

Objectification permits the oppressor to view another being as an object. The oppressor then violates this being by object-like treatment, e.g., the rape of woman that denies women freedom by saying no or the butchering of animals that converts animals from living breathing beings into dead objects. This process allows fragmentation, or brutal dismemberment, and finally consumption. . . Consumption is the fulfillment of oppression, the annihilation of will, of separate identity. (p. 47)

The rest of the review is equally interesting...  Please read.

This then reminds me of the following news which I'm ashamed came from Iowa:

PETA video of pig abuse triggers investigation

The video, shot by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, shows farm workers hitting sows with metal rods, slamming piglets on a concrete floor and bragging about jamming rods into sows' hindquarters.

On the video, obtained by AP, a supervisor tells an undercover PETA investigator that when he gets angry or a sow won't move, "I grab one of these rods and jam it in her [anus]."

"I hate them. These [expletives] deserve to be hurt. Hurt, I say!," the employee yells as he hits a sow with a metal rod. "Hurt! Hurt! Hurt! Hurt! ... Take out your frustrations on 'em." He encourages the investigator to pretend that one of the pigs scared off a voluptuous and willing 17- or 18-year-old girl, and then beat the pig for it.

Leaving the claims Peta makes about "all factory farms" aside (and note the farm vows to fire any employees that engaged in such violent abuse)... I did happen to note that the language used during these acts of violence was uncomfortably sexual.  I wish I could find the original article I read which gave more detail along those lines...

Re: Sexual Politics of Meat

Wow--those were, um can't find an adequate expression...

I think the connection is apparent in horror movies.  

There's also the relation between the word "chattel" (often used to describe a man's wives or a man's slaves) and cattle.  And the exchange of livestock for women in marriage/dowry arrangements.  This is kind of the central theme of the book My Year of Meats that I've mentioned on the site elsewhere.

Re: Meat as Currency


"Meat" as currency... gets lawyer suspended.


Lawyer before ABA board: But, ladies and gentleman, as lawyers we must always's not the meat, it's the motion.

So good!

Good read! Analyzing gender roles for the past 200,000 years is the exquisite answer to how genders has evolved into the image it has today. Hypothetically speaking, 40,000 years ago, if women were to mine and fashion flint tools for men to hunt with, the men, instead of by-passing, would hunt and gather more as a ways of payment. Thus, exonerating the role females incur, at least for a while. As a woman myself, I am inclined to think that it's the "mans fault", as far back as when the image of females as "baby-makers" arose. But of course, I'm only teasing. Laughing



Re: So good!

Well, don't be too hard on the men.  After all, how could they really have competed with women without cheating a little? Laughing

How's the saying go?

"This is a really important job, so I need ten good men... or five women."

you are ,mentally sick

You children of Satan sure can find your way aroundl. Like the scriptures says your father is the father of lies

anytime history smacks you

anytime history smacks you christians in the face  and shows you that another chapter in your book is false you always bring in the devil.its kindof strange how you always use him instead of the other guy

Re: anytime...

While I think I understand what you're saying (and who you're responding to) I'm not sure who "the other guy" is supposed to be.  But either way... I think we should take caution in making comments about Christians as a group.  Not all Christians are the same, you know! Smile

Re: you are ,mentally sick

Forgive me, but are you suggesting that the mentally ill are "children of Satan"? Gracious, that's surprising.  Who'd have thought that Satan could be managed by Prozac? I wonder if that's a listed side effect.  "May cause cramps, dizziness, loss of appetite, and difficulty in communing with demonic powers.  If instructions from Lucifer cease for more than four hours, consult a physician."

Hmm.  Probably not.  Oh well, thanks for stopping by!Smile