Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Men are naturally better

~From Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique by Michael S. Gazzaniga, page 69:

Wrangham [professor of biological anthropology at Harvard] reports that observational studies have found chimps to be patriarchal. Males are dominant, inherent territory, raid and kill their neighbors, and gain the spoils (not only increased foraging, but neighboring females), but they also are killed if they lose their territory. Females, however, gain a different advantage. They can remain in their territory and continue to forage by simply changing allegiance to the conquering band. They remain alive to reproduce again, whereas the male is killed. OK, so chimps are patrilineal, but what about humans?

Wrangham reviews the ethnographic records, studies of modern-day primitive peoples, and archeological finds to show that humans are, and always have been, a patrilineal society, regardless of what some feminist organizations assert. ... It has been argued that this patriarchy is a cultural invention, but a new field of study, branded evolutionary feminism, views patriarchy as a part of human biology.

So there.

Though this makes sense, as I don't recall knowing about any matriarchal societies, besides made-up ones. I often hear that Jesus called God "the Father" because the society he lived in was patriarchal. Maybe it would be more accurate to say the humans species was, and still is.

But perhaps humans are better at psychologically reversing this natural emergent property by simply being conscious of it and making a mental effort to do so. But I imagine that would be pretty hard unless the society was comprised entirely of females. The farthest we could get is to create a completely equal society that was neither patriarchal nor matriarchal. I imagine that would still be pretty difficult though.



At May 5, 2009 at 5:54 AM , Blogger Luke Anthony said...

This is the point at which you read Luke Anthony Sawczak's "Divinities" ( )! :)

If we must get really biblical about it, our best evidence is that God created man first. (Then he pulled a chunk of man out to make woman. Kinda disadvantages man.) Later, they become "one flesh". This implies that in some way, they are both lacking completion, namely in something found in the other ... Perchance. ?

From a different standard psychological viewpoint, there's the "active" and "passive" roles, a subject and an object, and (to refer to your circular logic stuff in a blog post) you might as well say that the one in the active role is there because... they are. If women were the natural active role--except they can't be due to the nature of the word "woman"--would they be--ah! but they are--

In some respects, it's reasoned that on a basic non-advanced level, e.g. strength, versatility, sexual position, the male is naturally the one in the active role. However, in our reality, most of the things we do, or require done, each day are totally doable by women with equal or better prowess than men. (Men don't, for example, necessarily make better accountants, graceful trampolinists, chefs, presidents, and so on.)

So while men may be "naturally better" in a traditional (and probably historically universal) sense, the fields in which they are, are becoming not more relevant than the fields in which women are.

At May 5, 2009 at 2:28 PM , Blogger Sean Hannifin said...

Well, I don't believe (and the book really doesn't argue) that men are truly "naturally better" ... that was just to make the title catchy. :D That wouldn't really be a very nice thing to say, and psychologically women are of course just a capable as men to do just about anything.

From a biblical viewpoint, I'd say Genesis, whether or not it's taken literally, shows that we humans see and saw men as the dominant sex for a very long time. Similarly, in the New Testament, God sent a son. Why not a daughter? Though I suppose there are some religions in which the "God" is considered to be a female, doesn't that change how that god is perceived by believers? It doesn't imply that the society of believer would necessarily be matriarchal.

The book really doesn't seek to answer why humans are patriarchal, rather it says "the species with which we share ancestral background are patriarchal, and all of our societies seem to be too, so this probably isn't a societal thing, it's a natural species thing."

A "patriarchal" society of course doesn't imply that women are "worse" or unneeded, it just means the men have more power in the family units, and perhaps the larger community as a whole (president of the USA?). And this doesn't mean that there aren't families in which the mother is "dominant" ... it's talking about the societies as units themselves.

Physical strength may have something to do with it, but most likely there's something psychological too, as men and women do have psychological differences. Perhaps power tends to be more important to men?


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