23 November 2012

Gender Wars

Most radical feminists will define patriarchy as a set of  hierarchical social structures designed and controlled by men in order to subordinate, oppress, suppress, objectify, exploit, use and abuse women to male advantage.  In their analysis, the conception of power relations in society is very much a negative one.  It is as 'power over.' rather than as 'power to'.  This contrasts quite starkly with the analytic, liberal, or eco- feminists conception: that power is productive, creative, enabling; and it can be nurturing rather than controlling, unifying, rather than divisive.

In the radfem version, reality and data are subordinate to theory.

That in itself, renders patriarchy theory and its theoretical components all but useless as a tool for social analysis.

Patriarchy theory fails because of its limited explanatory value and its insistance that men and women are fundamentaly enemies, that women are 'victims' and men 'perps'.

If you want to insist on a victim and blame culture then call men and women 'the victims' and blame 'the genes', because natural selection is utterly indifferent to your gender politickking. 

Evolution selects for traits that maximise gene replication.  It is not interested in the idea that one gender is superior to the other.  Why on earth would it be?  It selects traits in both genders that maximise reproductive potential, and that is where one should look for foundational explanations of  gender differences and of the social structures that humanity has constructed over the millenia.

You can't just look at societies apex and consider that men universally hold all the power and control in some sort of deliberate conspiracy to subjugate women without also considering the bottom of society where men form the vast majority of the victims of violence, the prison population, the homeless, the 90+% of deaths in work related accidents and so forth.

It's easy enough to understand the passion and anger generated in these debates and, given our history, it would be somewhat remarkable if there were not now a percentage of both misogynists and misandrists in the population, but I don't see how any further such polarisations can be in any way helpful.

Would it not be utterly surprising if both men and women had not developed effective strategies over the last half million years aimed at having their different needs and drives met and maximising their reproductive potential? 

Any analysis of society that fails to include such considerations is bound to fail and it is in this sense in which I find patriarchy theory to be limited, blinkered and inadequate and to hold as much explanatory value as, say, biology without evolutionary theory or geology without plate tectonics.

Further discussion of the topic would, of course, be interesting....but dyed in the wool gender warriors from either side of this debate, need not apply.  I'm interested in unity and genuine equality, not division.

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