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Author Topic: Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth  (Read 10204 times)

lyner

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If there were a simple relationship between menstrual cycles and the Moon, you would expect, not just the same frequency of the two cycles but, also, a phase -locking. All / most women would have their periods at the same time of the month. This doesn't happen, as far as I know.
And, as for the strictures imposed on women during menstruation, I think they were yet another set of rules, invented by us blokes to establish more dominance.


 

another_someone

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #1 on: 22/10/2007 20:38:13 »
And, as for the strictures imposed on women during menstruation, I think they were yet another set of rules, invented by us blokes to establish more dominance.

Whereas I think it is mere myth that 'us blokes' ever had dominance over women.  It is true that in traditional societies, the wife was expected to be subservient to her husband, but equally the man was expected to be subservient to his mother (and  women were normally far more terrified of their mother in laws than they were of their husbands) - so you had a complete feedback, where both sexes had power over the other in different contexts.
 

lyner

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #2 on: 22/10/2007 23:15:53 »
Try living in Afghanistan or Iraq and see what it looks like for women over there! I can think of few societies in which the men work harder or longer hours  (including running the home) than women - whether you're talking hunter-gatherers or modern day Britain.
You mention the Mother in law as having power - a little and very localised, possibly. That was only a way of getting more out of the subserviant women of the household.
 

another_someone

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #3 on: 23/10/2007 00:21:14 »
Try living in Afghanistan or Iraq and see what it looks like for women over there! I can think of few societies in which the men work harder or longer hours  (including running the home) than women - whether you're talking hunter-gatherers or modern day Britain.
You mention the Mother in law as having power - a little and very localised, possibly. That was only a way of getting more out of the subserviant women of the household.

In many ways I think the situation is worse for women in the modern Western world, as they try and take on the traditional male role alongside their traditional female role (although ofcourse the traditional female role has been reduced to some extent, partly through smaller families, and partly  because of the use of labour saving devices - although similar mechanisation is also applied to the male role).

But we are not talking about work - the discussion what about who has the greater influence (power) in changes to the structure of society - and it is still my contention that the mother figure has, and always has had, more control over society in the long term than the husband.

In fact, it may even be argued that the accumulation of power does nothing to reduce workload (the Prime Minister works quite a bit harder than the average tramp - so by that measure, who would you say has more power, the Prime Minister or the tramp?).
« Last Edit: 23/10/2007 00:24:51 by another_someone »
 

lyner

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #4 on: 23/10/2007 11:18:51 »
Where to start?
The following may not apply everywhere or at all times  but they are still current in some places.
A woman can't divorce her husband without witnesses, shame and rejection - a man can divorce his wife by saying it three times. Fair?
A woman may not vote. Fair?
A woman isn't allowed to drive. Fair?
A woman can't go out on her own. Fair?
A woman has a problem getting education. Fair?
Women are still 'property' in many societies. Fair?
Can someone come up with a corresponding list to show than men have a hard time?
Given the choice, which situation would you rather be in? A very biased question, I know.
 
Blokes have had it made in most societies for most of history. Why?
Because they are, potentially, more mobile, physically stronger and can get their own way. Because women become pregnant and have children and they have more than themselves to consider.  Men have Power and Women have to Work in many or most societies.
The question of power play between men is another matter and the PM works at attaining and maintaining  the position because he wants power. The tramp has the power of choice, possibly, but he may not be able to make an informed choice or take action to improve his position.   Ability comes into it. There are plenty of men who suffer at the hands of others but there is a large separation in the peaks of the gender distribution curves , even though there is an overlap.
Marriage is one of Society's formal mechanisms to make men  take on responsibility and commitment and it has had the useful function for millennia  of  helping to ensure that the next generation is looked after. The law and religion are mechanisms to limit the excesses of individuals. Without them the situation would be worse for survival of the species.
You really do bring out the socially aware in me, George..
Not much Science there, but a good ol' rant!

 

another_someone

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #5 on: 23/10/2007 16:17:16 »
As you say, it is somewhat diverging from the original topic, so I have split it off.
 

another_someone

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #6 on: 23/10/2007 17:01:57 »
Thinking about the Prime Minister and the Tramp scenario - I think one problem is that as you have highlighted, men are permitted to, and required to, take far greater risks than women - risks that can lead them to be Prime Ministers, or risks that can leave them destitute or dead.

As you say, in some societies women are not allowed to leave the house unaccompanied, but by the same token, they cannot go out to work, and so become the responsibility of their husband.  It may be irritating for women not to be allowed to go out, but I would imagine it is as irritating for their menfolk to have to chaperone their women everywhere.  Rightly or wrongly, this is supposed to improve the protection a woman has in society.

An analogy can be drawn from the Coal Mining act of 1842, that felt that women and young children were being exploitatively used by the coal mining industry, and so made it illegal for women (as well as children under 10 years of age) to work down the pits.  This did much to protect the women from exploitation, but at the cost of depriving them of, what in many villages, was the primary local source of employment.  So, was the act something that protected women from abuse, or did it itself abuse women by depriving them of an equal right to earn a living that their menfolk had? (incidentally, the act has never been repealed, so it is still to this day illegal for women to work down mine pits).

Aside from that, the very question of power distribution within society, it is only recently that we can think at all in terms of power being assigned to gender.  In the past, the biggest factor that influenced the power an individual held within society depended on the power their family held.  Only recently, with the demise of the use of the family as a means of power distribution, and the rise of the institutions of the State to replace many functions previously held by the family (including, critically, the function of education of the young, and with it the power to shape social change), that one can look at gender as being a significant aspect of power distribution, because it is only now that the individual has been separated from the structures of the family (and, incidentally, the State has removed from women much of the power to influence the the shape of the next generation that they once had - as now the State seeks to influence children directly, sometimes even seeking to overturn what it sees as the inappropriate influence of the family - the extreme of this was the Cultural Revolution in China, but in a slower, but nonetheless insidious, way this is happening in most modern societies).

The traditional role of the family (which was particularly key in feudal societies) meant that despite the mobility of men, they actually did not have so much social mobility (often women could achieve greater social mobility through propitious marriages - or even without marriage, ask yourself what man could have risen as fast as Nell Gwyn).  A lot of this did depend on the stability of society at large.  When society was at war, it often gave the men who were willing to take the risks, far greater opportunities to better their position, no matter what their family background; and in those times, the power of women did indeed diminish (particularly if she happened to be on the losing side - but even then, her position was often more powerful than her menfolk, who might well be dead - which is indeed a fairly powerless position to be in).  When society was at peace, the structures that society imposed would reduce social mobility for men, and the role of women in society would become more important.
 

lyner

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #7 on: 23/10/2007 17:29:02 »
If you choose to view Women's condition from the standpoint of the men who are 'justifying' it then you will see it from that perspective. I think you are distancing yourself from the main issue of male dominance and  just quoting a  potted social history. Historians are well known for avoiding making judgements in case they 'cloud the issue'. And 'issues' have a place.
Imagine waking up in  Afghanistan tomorrow morning. Would you rather wake up as a man or as a woman?
That's my point.
And, if you were a woman, tomorrow, you probably wouldn't be allowed to post a reply.
 

lyner

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #8 on: 23/10/2007 17:30:06 »
Can we have some women's views on this?
 

another_someone

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #9 on: 23/10/2007 22:10:30 »
If you choose to view Women's condition from the standpoint of the men who are 'justifying' it then you will see it from that perspective.

In a sense, that would be the logical standpoint to take when you say "I think they were yet another set of rules, invented by us blokes to establish more dominance" - you did not ask there what the women's reason for creating the rules might be, you only suggested the motives you believe men had for creating the rules.

But the reality is that there is nothing in what I said that suggested it was really a male view being imposed on women.  If you look 1842 law, it was not really a question of males imposing their view on women, but rather middle class people (who could afford to have the luxury of a wife who does not work) imposing their view on working class people who desperately needed every source of income they could have.  This difference was in no way something that middle class women and men disagreed upon, for middle class women were as shocked by the thought of women working down mines as much as their menfolk did; but then, middle class women had the luxury of not having to work down the mines.

I think you are distancing yourself from the main issue of male dominance and  just quoting a  potted social history. Historians are well known for avoiding making judgements in case they 'cloud the issue'.

But how can you judge a power relationship without stepping far enough back to look at the whole picture.

Ofcourse, you can get close in, and get tied up in all sorts of detail, but it doesn't tell you how the whole works.  And to judge how the whole works, you cannot get emotionally involved - you would be lacking objectivity and fail to properly analyse the situation.

And 'issues' have a place.
Imagine waking up in  Afghanistan tomorrow morning. Would you rather wake up as a man or as a woman?
That's my point.
And, if you were a woman, tomorrow, you probably wouldn't be allowed to post a reply.

If I were to wake up as a man, I doubt I would be allowed to post a reply, unless I was one of a very select few men (in fact, I rather suspect not many would even have access to the Internet, or even to basic needs).

It is rather a rosy view if you believe that the average Afghan man has any substantial power.

But it also has to be remembered that Afghanistan is in fact a country at war, and so some of the qualifications I made about the power of violence during times of war - but this is only true for men who are particularly skilled in violence, and it is not a society where men of peace have a place of power, even less so than women.

But the real problem in Afghanistan is the struggle between what is seen as foreign influence, and what is seen as traditional Afghan values (which is, as all patriotic views of history are, more a matter of artificially distorting the difference between them and us, rather than a specific agenda of who 'us' is).  The trouble is that this is about rejecting the role that Western (and the Soviet backed communist Afghan regime) gave to women (it is also about men having beards, and otherwise making it clear they are not servants of foreign powers).  It is not really 'men' versus 'women', it is traditional Afghanistan (even if this is an artificial concept, defined by what it is against rather than what it is for) versus outside influence.
« Last Edit: 23/10/2007 23:04:08 by another_someone »
 

lyner

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #10 on: 24/10/2007 11:41:14 »
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you did not ask there what the women's reason for creating the rules might be,
That presupposes that everyone, to whom rules apply, has a say in making the rules. There are many instances to the contrary.

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It is rather a rosy view if you believe that the average Afghan man has any substantial power.
Everything is relative. He can certainly beat his wife as much as he wants!

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But the real problem in Afghanistan is the struggle between what is seen as foreign influence, . . .  an artificial concept, defined by what it is against rather than what it is for) versus outside influence.
Are you implying that everything would be hunky dory for women in Afghanistan if it weren't for the fact they have been at war for a long time?
There really aren't any societies that have not been affected by war, in any case. I don't think it is war that makes the difference; I think it is simple economics. and the ability of one group of people to have influence over another group.
Evolution  has ensured that we have mechanisms to inhibit us from killing each other over minor issues but it has not stopped dominant humans from dominating other humans. You could say that it is the reason we have been so 'successful'. But, if you want to think of us as being, in any way, superior and as having something special abut us, then there are other issues to consider.
Just because things have been that way for a long time, it doesn't mean that they are right or fair. Groups are very reluctant to give up any power that they have already established and will use all their efforts to maintain it - not least by reasoned arguments and laws.
The easiest way to avoid doing anything about the situation of women is to argue that it is, in fact, a good situation and does not need changing. The same could be said about the 'working classes', slaves or third world factory workers. Convincing oneself that there is no problem is easy, when it is in one's interest to keep the status quo.
 

Offline rosy

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #11 on: 24/10/2007 12:46:09 »
Um, woman's opinion coming up...
I think there is little question that men in many (most?) traditional societies have markedly more power than is necessarily good for anyone, but
1. On the question of strictures on women during menstruation. You may or may not have noticed, but it's an inherently pretty messy business. Frankly, that women did (and do) manage without the sanitary products now available strikes me as pretty impressive. I mean, I wouldn't *want* to go out and do stuff during my period if they weren't available to me.
2. That being the case, it would be quite difficult to sustain much of a role in public life when for a 4-7 day period each month you were shackled to mess, and washing cloths, and trying not to get too much blood on the furniture (and the idea of all women having regular, predicatable periods is a total myth.. so it would be difficult for many to ensure things are scheduled round it).

The whole thing is about spheres of influence. Women, often older women, may have dominance in the home (not sure how this applies in different cultures), especially where several generations live together, but if men have control over who leaves the home and when then they have a much more important form of power. For one thing, it leaves women under the matriarch in a position of total subservience.
The idea that this provides a significant amount of protection for women in general is laughable. Whilst for those who have a family to protect them it may be OK, and whilst it may not be ideal they won't starve, for those who end up alone despite this the outlook is extraordinarily grim, because they will be total outcasts, beyond even the men who have nowhere to go (and indeed, to take a non-Afghan example, there was until not long enough ago an expectation that widows in some cultures throw themselves on their husbands' funeral pyres).
All legislation which differentiates between men and women is in my view insidious, the only binary difference between the sexes is the difference in roles in child bearing (note I say bearing not rearing). Beyond that, men are on average stronger, women are on average possesed of smaller hands and thus better at fiddly production line type tasks. More women may wish to stay home with the kids for a while, but some men who would also like to do so are currently, even in Britain, given odd looks outside the school gates if they are the principle carer.. it's certainly assumed that mum is not on the scene.
If men hold the keys to education, to earning, to independence, then however it came about it's wrong, bad, and should be changed as fast as possible wherever possible. I don't acknowledge cultural tradition as an argument on this one. But on the other hand, trying to force the issue too fast will tend to lead to a backlash by those who currently have the power and are thus in a position of strength. Which ain't gonna help anyone.


*** Conflict of interest statement: I'm a female grad student. I'd have gone barking mad trapped in my parents' let alone my grandparents' home without the option of going out by myself on a bike, or on foot. Especially if rather than leaving home for university at 20 I'd still been stuck there at 25.
Also, being quite startlingly visually unattractive, I'd never have found a partner without meeting him on an intellectual level. And would be driven round the bend by one who couldn't keep up with my thought processes (I reckon I'd have been married off to someone old, thick, and desperate to find a mother for his children before it was too late. Or died a maiden aunt. I'm not sure which would be worse.)
 

lyner

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #12 on: 24/10/2007 13:04:29 »
At last, a woman's post. Thanks rosy.
I'm amazed you're the only one.
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And would be driven round the bend by one who couldn't keep up with my thought processes
And you reckon you'll get some sense on this forum???
 

another_someone

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #13 on: 24/10/2007 13:40:30 »
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you did not ask there what the women's reason for creating the rules might be,
That presupposes that everyone, to whom rules apply, has a say in making the rules. There are many instances to the contrary.

It does not presuppose any such thing.  You suggested I was only looking at things from the male perspective, and I was saying that if you believe women had part part in formulating the rules, then looking at the female perspective to explain the formulation of rules would be redundant.  You cannot have it both ways, and suggest that one has to take into account the woman's perspective to explain the rules, but then say that the woman's perspective had no influence on the creation of the rules.

But, as I said before, I don't actually believe the taboos concerning menstruation could have been as simple as males exerting dominance over females.  The greatest dominance one group of human beings had over another was the dominance American plantation owners had over their slaves, and there was never any taboo whatsoever in what the plantation owners could or could not do with their slaves (excepting that they were not allowed to set them free).  The creation of a taboo that limited the periods of time that a man could have sex with his wife would not have been consistent with the notion that there were no limits to the power men had over women.  On the contrary, one might say it was a way women might have power over their menfolk, and it might well have been a way women would have exerted influence to protect themselves, but it implies they did have some power to be able to provide that protection for themselves (you might argue it was a limited power, but nonetheless, it would make more sense to accept that as limited or not that power was, any taboo that limited the actions of men was in fact an expression of female power and not of male power).

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It is rather a rosy view if you believe that the average Afghan man has any substantial power.
Everything is relative. He can certainly beat his wife as much as he wants!

Nominally, this is not the case, since nominally he is not allowed to kill his wife, and is not allowed to treat his wife 'cruelly' (although what that word means is open to interpretation).

What is true is that Afghanistan is a very primitive society, and I use the word 'nominally' since in fact the writ of the State is very weak in that society, so the rules can only be enforced insofar as they are enforced by the family unit.  The problem here is that women go to live with their husband's families, which means they are in effect an alien in the family, and as we know even in the modern world, aliens (in our case, foreign nationals) always have a greater difficulty seeking justice within a society than do the natives (even when the law nominally gives both groups similar rights).

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But the real problem in Afghanistan is the struggle between what is seen as foreign influence, . . .  an artificial concept, defined by what it is against rather than what it is for) versus outside influence.
Are you implying that everything would be hunky dory for women in Afghanistan if it weren't for the fact they have been at war for a long time?

I am not saying everything is hunky dory in our society, but that the war creates a reactionary environment that makes it difficult for the society to develop as it otherwise would.

Bear in mind that as bad as the situation might be in other countries in the neighbourhood, they are nonetheless developing and implementing change.  The Taliban, who are seen as the harbingers of all that is most extreme in Afghanistan were actually able to create their powerbase because of American support as the Americans saw them as a valuable tool against the Soviet sponsored regime in Kabul (bearing in mind that the Soviet sponsored regime was, from the perspective of what we see as women's rights, far more liberal than anything that has come since).

Similarly, in Iraq, woman had far more rights (from a Western perspective) under the regime of Saddam Hussain than they have had in the war torn environment that has followed.


There really aren't any societies that have not been affected by war, in any case.

Ofcourse, all societies have been at war at one time or another.  What I said was that there are times when societies are at war, and times when they are not; and that these times cause differences in the balance of power within the society.  No society is perpetually at war (although some wars can last for several generations).

I don't think it is war that makes the difference; I think it is simple economics. and the ability of one group of people to have influence over another group.

Ofcourse this is true, and still remains true today, but the question is both whether that power is absolute (it rarely is, and certainly is not over the longer term), and how you define the lines that specify who it is that has power over whom.  It really is far too simplistic to suggest that throughout the ages, the dominant dividing line with respect to power distribution has been the power distribution between the sexes.

Evolution  has ensured that we have mechanisms to inhibit us from killing each other over minor issues but it has not stopped dominant humans from dominating other humans. You could say that it is the reason we have been so 'successful'. But, if you want to think of us as being, in any way, superior and as having something special abut us, then there are other issues to consider.
Just because things have been that way for a long time, it doesn't mean that they are right or fair. Groups are very reluctant to give up any power that they have already established and will use all their efforts to maintain it - not least by reasoned arguments and laws.
The easiest way to avoid doing anything about the situation of women is to argue that it is, in fact, a good situation and does not need changing. The same could be said about the 'working classes', slaves or third world factory workers. Convincing oneself that there is no problem is easy, when it is in one's interest to keep the status quo.

Where have I made any argument for keeping the status quo, about anything?

The status quo was the solution to yesterday, but will never be the solution to tomorrow.  All I am saying is that neither yesterday, nor tomorrow, is or was simply dependent upon one group of people having dominance over another, but was and will be about a complex power play, with many different and complex interplays of power within society.

The question was about why was yesterday (or a distant yesterday) as it was - it was nothing about how we should seek to solve the problems of tomorrow.  Ofcourse, having a better (and objective) understanding of yesterday may well give us a better understanding of what is possible for tomorrow, but I would be the last person to ever suggest that we should ever seek to recreate yesterday.
« Last Edit: 24/10/2007 13:43:17 by another_someone »
 

another_someone

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #14 on: 24/10/2007 14:38:34 »
I think there is little question that men in many (most?) traditional societies have markedly more power than is necessarily good for anyone, but

But that would imply that historic societies were 'broken' societies - and while all societies (including our own) are imperfect, it would not make sense to regard them as 'broken'.

1. On the question of strictures on women during menstruation. You may or may not have noticed, but it's an inherently pretty messy business. Frankly, that women did (and do) manage without the sanitary products now available strikes me as pretty impressive. I mean, I wouldn't *want* to go out and do stuff during my period if they weren't available to me.
2. That being the case, it would be quite difficult to sustain much of a role in public life when for a 4-7 day period each month you were shackled to mess, and washing cloths, and trying not to get too much blood on the furniture (and the idea of all women having regular, predicatable periods is a total myth.. so it would be difficult for many to ensure things are scheduled round it).

One story I have heard is that during the bleeding (assuming it was not excessively heavy), the blood would mix with dirt and form a plug, that plug eventually falling out, but while it was in place, would create a rather crude natural tampon.  I don't say it was a particularly hygienic solution (but then, traditional societies have not been renowned for their modern levels of hygiene anyway), and certainly the plug would make ordinary sexual intercourse difficult, but it may have allowed many women to go about their business (e.g. work in the fields or the factories).

The whole thing is about spheres of influence. Women, often older women, may have dominance in the home (not sure how this applies in different cultures), especially where several generations live together, but if men have control over who leaves the home and when then they have a much more important form of power. For one thing, it leaves women under the matriarch in a position of total subservience.

Yes, women under the matriarch were in the weakest of positions - the more so because men had so little influence within the home (mostly because they spent so little time within it, at times maybe even spending extended periods of time away from the home).  The presumed payback was when the subservient women herself rose to the power of matriarch (a little like the problem we had with the pressures placed on junior doctors working hours, and the most vociferous defenders of the system were the senior doctors, who themselves had come through the system, and took the attitude that if it was good enough for them, then it was good enough for their successors).

But I do agree that one should not fall into the trap of 'one size fits all', and different societies did have different social structures, and different interplays between the sexes.

Certainly, from the late middle ages, in Europe, a woman who was widowed would inherit her husbands estate (the first time she would have property in her own name - although the assets that made up her dowry might at times be regarded as her property, but that situation was complex and varied with time and place), and she would be in the height of her power.

The idea that this provides a significant amount of protection for women in general is laughable.

I think one has to differentiate here between intention and outcome (also, what might well have been a good idea when it was first introduced, as time progresses, and the reasons why it may have been introduced fall into the mists of history, the natural inertia and conservatism of society may nonetheless make it difficult to update the requirements of the newer society as quickly as some would like - but then, there is always a balance to be had between a society that tries to implement some stability, and one that tries to overreact to every transient change in the social environment).

Whilst for those who have a family to protect them it may be OK, and whilst it may not be ideal they won't starve, for those who end up alone despite this the outlook is extraordinarily grim, because they will be total outcasts, beyond even the men who have nowhere to go (and indeed, to take a non-Afghan example, there was until not long enough ago an expectation that widows in some cultures throw themselves on their husbands' funeral pyres).


I am not sure that (the funeral pyres) ever happened in Afghanistan - it existed in some parts of India, but even there, there is much debate about how widespread it was on the wider continent.

Nonetheless, for various reasons, I have heard similar (subtly different) stories about other societies.  One story I have heard was about the old Mongols, who when the king died, his queen was wrapped up in a carpet and horsemen would rise over her (the wrapping up in a carpet was to overcome a taboo on spilling royal blood).  Although I have heard this to be the case (but only from one source) about the steppe Mongols, I have not heard that it carried across to the Mongols who settled (e.g. those that ruled China), and even for the nomadic Mongols, I have no idea how this reflected on traditional customs when lesser mortals died.

All legislation which differentiates between men and women is in my view insidious, the only binary difference between the sexes is the difference in roles in child bearing (note I say bearing not rearing). Beyond that, men are on average stronger, women are on average possesed of smaller hands and thus better at fiddly production line type tasks. More women may wish to stay home with the kids for a while, but some men who would also like to do so are currently, even in Britain, given odd looks outside the school gates if they are the principle carer.. it's certainly assumed that mum is not on the scene.
If men hold the keys to education, to earning, to independence, then however it came about it's wrong, bad, and should be changed as fast as possible wherever possible. I don't acknowledge cultural tradition as an argument on this one. But on the other hand, trying to force the issue too fast will tend to lead to a backlash by those who currently have the power and are thus in a position of strength. Which ain't gonna help anyone.

You are talking about the world you live in, the role you have been brought up to undertake.

If you talk to most Saudi women (one cannot say anything is true of all women, whether in Saudi, or in Britain), they actually do not want equal responsibility - but they would like a little bit more independence (particularly the right to drive).

On the other hand, in Britain, women are still expected to be the primary child carers.  As you say, house husbands are not well catered for, but equally, many men feel they get a raw deal in the divorce courts with regard to child care.  Women are in no great hurry to give up their benefits in that regard (although, to be fair - as much as the traditional supposed power that men had over women was as much down to the collusion of the women themselves, so too is the disadvantage men have in the law courts down to the collusion of male judges, and the disadvantage that house husbands have is also driven as much by the collusion of man as any driving force from women - even in the matter blame in cases of rape, it is often the case that women can be the harsher judge of other women than men ever are).
 

lyner

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Gender power distribution - was Moon & Hair grwoth
« Reply #15 on: 24/10/2007 14:48:55 »
Reading your past comments, I seem to read that women's fortunes, both past and present, have not been all that bad. Indeed, your first comment involves the word 'myth'.
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Where have I made any argument for keeping the status quo, about anything?
That seems, precisely what you have been doing; justifications and explanations with no comments as to the morality of the situation.
A lot of the problems suffered by women are explicable in terms of  social history - but are they excusable, from a modern standpoint? Is this not a forum to discuss morals?
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how we should seek to solve the problems of tomorrow.
OK, let's do just that.
But the fate of women will still be a problem unless the situation is sorted out by our trying to solve the problems of today. We could start with the dowry problem, female infanticide and the obscene practice of 'honour killings'. Then there is 'rape as a form of ethnic cleansing'. . . .
You might, at least, feel able to condemn such things rather than to explain them in terms of their history.
 

another_someone

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« Reply #16 on: 24/10/2007 15:53:36 »
Reading your past comments, I seem to read that women's fortunes, both past and present, have not been all that bad. Indeed, your first comment involves the word 'myth'.

Indeed, within the contexts of their time, I would suggest that women as a collective group did not feel hard done by - some felt very fortunate, and some felt very unfortunate, as has always been the case, but as a collective view, most women, most of the time, felt their lives were no worse, taken in the whole, than their menfolk's.  Ofcourse, you can rightly say that they were conditioned to live the lives they were given, but that is no more or less than our womenfolk are conditioned to live the lives they are given, and neither would feel comfortable living the lives of the other.

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Where have I made any argument for keeping the status quo, about anything?
That seems, precisely what you have been doing; justifications and explanations with no comments as to the morality of the situation.
A lot of the problems suffered by women are explicable in terms of  social history - but are they excusable, from a modern standpoint? Is this not a forum to discuss morals?

It makes no sense to judge the past by modern standards - lest we be judged by our descendants (and the lives of our descendants will be very different from our own, and they too would inevitably see our own practices, whatever they may be, as inexcusable within the context of their own societies).

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how we should seek to solve the problems of tomorrow.
OK, let's do just that.
But the fate of women will still be a problem unless the situation is sorted out by our trying to solve the problems of today. We could start with the dowry problem, female infanticide and the obscene practice of 'honour killings'. Then there is 'rape as a form of ethnic cleansing'. . . .
You might, at least, feel able to condemn such things rather than to explain them in terms of their history.

I don't agree - but rather that the fate of people (some of whom happen to be women - is still a problem.  This notion that women are the only sufferers in the world seems to me to be nonsense.

Let us look at the particular examples you gave.

Rape as a tool of terror (not only of ethnic cleansing) - are you really saying that the menfolk that are associated with those women do not suffer equally (I suppose many would already be too dead to do much more suffering, so I suppose you may have a point in that respect - the dead do not suffer).  But the real issue of terror tactics like that is more about 'pour encourager les autres', and is intended to terrify the other men just as much as terrifying the other women.  Understandably, it even terrifies you as a man, even though you are not even in the zone of conflict.

Then, to look at the issue of honour killings - again, do you think that this does not hurt men?  If a woman is killed for loving the wrong man, is the man who loved her not also hurt (OK - this may be the reverse of the situation with rape as terror, insofar as the women is dead, but the man still lives, but the notion that somehow this is a crime with only female victims still does not hold up).

In most cases, female infanticide also has similar problems - it in the end makes it more difficult to men later in life to find wives.  There are two cases where this might make some sense: firstly where there is a high mortality rate amongst men (although in that case, polygamy is the more humane answer); and secondly where people are living at population levels that are at the limit of sustainable resources (the modern answer to that is widespread contraception, but the traditional way of managing that is to limit the number of girls in society - similarly, in the modern world, women are expected to undertake a very masculine role in society, and so the problems of having too few men by virtue of limiting the birth rate is also mitigated).

The issue of infanticide has always been a complex issue, particularly in the days before contraception.  What is not also an issue is female foetuscide, since foetuscide itself is still legal in many countries (including those that you might approve of), so the argument is only about the basis upon which foetuscide may be permitted (this is not an attempt to argue either side of the abortion argument - my own view being that I support abortion - but only that once one supports abortion in one context, it becomes more difficult to be too judgemental on abortion in another context - at least from a purely moral perspective - although one may still question whether it is in a societies interest to deplete it of women, but that must take into account the specific needs of that society).

The other problem I have is to try and not fall into the trap of moral imperialism, as did the missionaries of the 19th century when they would go out to Africa to convert the 'morally inferior' Africans (and other people's of the 'morally inferior' world)  to see the better way of doing things.  Certainly, when I am considering the actions of my own people, and my own government (who nominally acts on my behalf), then I have no qualms about arguing the rights of my particular perspective of the world; but to what extent may I assume that what is morally right in my world view must be imposed upon far away people's who live with a different world view.  I am not saying that there is no argument for trying to influence others, only that one should do so without an air or moral arrogance, and thus to tread carefully and sensitively when doing so.

That having been said, in all three of the examples you give, the practices you describe are not generally legal (in contemporary times) even in the countries they are undertaken; and so one might reasonably condemn the practice as being in violation even of the laws and customs of the countries in which they are undertaken.
« Last Edit: 24/10/2007 15:58:57 by another_someone »
 

lyner

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« Reply #17 on: 24/10/2007 15:56:28 »
So is there any point in trying to change things?
You appear to be condoning all these things by, merely, explaining their causes  or  dismissing them as affecting  men - in some way.
I still can detect no element of  condemnation in what you write.
« Last Edit: 24/10/2007 16:00:11 by sophiecentaur »
 

another_someone

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« Reply #18 on: 24/10/2007 16:04:44 »
So is there any point in trying to change things?

Yes - change is always necessary - because tomorrow is different from today.

What you have to remember though, is that the changes you implement with the best of intentions will always have undesirable side effects - and as much as you will act to try and cure yesterday's problems, all with the best of intentions, you will nonetheless be condemned for having created tomorrows problems (although, in reality, if you are astute, tomorrows problems, even those created by your own changes, will still be less than they would have been if they were restricted to using yesterdays tools).

The main issues I have is: don't judge others badly merely because they are not in your shoes, nor you in theirs; and when you try and change things, tread carefully.

Just as the changes you will make will create an imperfect society, believe that those who came before you, also tried their best to create a society as good as they could, despite their imperfections.
« Last Edit: 24/10/2007 16:06:23 by another_someone »
 

paul.fr

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« Reply #19 on: 24/10/2007 16:14:32 »
just popping in with a few comments and observations, that may or may not be relevant.

How about certain "religious" organisations where the man can have multiple wives, who benefits from this? The same religion, when the man is excommunicated his wives are either shared out amongst the other men or given to one single man, who benefits from that situation?
 

lyner

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« Reply #20 on: 24/10/2007 16:28:27 »
They are chattels. Can't be a lot of fun for them. Except in a warlike nation where there may be a lot of widows with families after a battle. The  transfer of 'protection'  may be to the advantage of the woman, directly, but the main advantage is for sustenance of the population, indirectly.

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don't judge others badly merely because they are not in your shoes, nor you in theirs
I don't have to be in the shoes of a woman, who has been set on fire by a husband because she has transgressed in some way, to know that the practice is just not right. Battered husbands is only a significant occurrence  in disfunctional sectors of our own society, remember. Like male rape - it is nothing like as common as the other way round. and cannot be used as a counter argument. Male rape is 99.99% male-on-male, in any case.
But, really, A-S, you are just kidding us.
You really do have some empathy with the oppressed,
You don't really excuse abuse on the grounds of tradition.




Do you?
 

another_someone

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« Reply #21 on: 24/10/2007 16:31:14 »
How about certain "religious" organisations where the man can have multiple wives, who benefits from this? The same religion, when the man is excommunicated his wives are either shared out amongst the other men or given to one single man, who benefits from that situation?

There are two different issues here - who has control over who marries whom, and the specific effects of polygamy.

Polygamy itself is said to reduce the workload for any one woman, as the roles of the household are shared between women.

Polygamy (as its counterbalance, polyandry) is useful when the environment causes an imbalance in the numbers of the two sexes.

Where there is no imbalance in the numbers of the sexes, then ofcourse polygamy means that some men will not have wives at all, and while this may be useful in the social mobility of women (i.e. a wealthy or powerful woman can obtain lots of wives, who can then share in his wealth and/or power), it does ofcourse disadvantage many men who are not rich or powerful.

It has to be said that even nominally monogamous societies only generally have a venear of monogamy (and that is usually to the disadvantage of the women).  There are two ways in which nominally monogamous societies still practice polygamy:  firstly with serial monogamy (one man may marry several women, but will only be married to one at a given time); and also with the use of mistresses (where the woman will not have the protection of the status of being a wife).

To be fair, nominally monogamous societies are as capable of practising covert polyandry and covert polygamy, but in practice I think covert polygamy is slightly more prevalent than covert polyandry.
 

paul.fr

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« Reply #22 on: 24/10/2007 16:42:20 »
oops, i did mean to add that some of the "extra" wives are between the ages of 11 and 17. Simply put it does not matter if the "wife" is a child. This does still happen, and is happening right now in places in the US.
 

another_someone

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« Reply #23 on: 24/10/2007 17:00:30 »
Quote
don't judge others badly merely because they are not in your shoes, nor you in theirs
I don't have to be in the shoes of a woman, who has been set on fire by a husband because she has transgressed in some way, to know that the practice is just not right. Battered husbands is only a significant occurrence  in disfunctional sectors of our own society, remember. Like male rape - it is nothing like as common as the other way round. and cannot be used as a counter argument. Male rape is 99.99% male-on-male, in any case.
But, really, A-S, you are just kidding us.
You really do have some empathy with the oppressed,
You don't really excuse abuse on the grounds of tradition.

Do you?

The problem is that you are saying because abuse happens in other societies, as it happens in ours, so we should condemn their society as inferior to ours.

No society sanctions rape (although what is meant by rape may be different in different societies - just as what is meant by murder may be different in different societies).

There are differences between what kind of violence is allowed for physical chastisement in different societies (whether it be towards women, or towards children, or towards one's employees), but no society condones cruel treatment (within its own definition of cruelty - but burning a woman would be considered cruel in most societies).  There is ofcourse a problem that in many parts of the world, the real power of the State to interfere in family matters is very limited - so it is not so much a matter of condonement as a lack of enforcement.  For that, we should look to helping the societies to enforce their values rather than condemning them for having inferior values.

Ofcourse, the other problem is that throughout the world, including in this country, the most extreme violence tends to be of a nature the State reserves for itself - since it is through the threat of extreme violence (by which I include long term imprisonment and capital punishment) that the State tries to enforce its will upon its populace.

The difference is that I find it difficult to be morally superior, when there is so much wrong in our own society - and I sometimes feel this condemnation of foreign practices is merely a distraction of what is wrong with us (a little like using the threat of terrorism to justify all sorts of things that we do within our own society in the name of combating terrorism that ought to be condemned of itself - but by saying that other people are doing terrible things, so we excuse ourself our own wrongs).

I also have a problem, as I indicated above, in judging a whole group of people (whether identified by race, or by gender) as being the evil usurpers of power.  Clearly, there are individuals who abuse power, but they are individuals, and not a collective group.

The issue of male rape is interesting, because the definition of rape requires (under English law) requires penetration, so although women can be charged with sexual assault, they cannot be charged with rape, excepting when they are collaborating with a male attacker who actually performs the penetrative act.  Thus, even if a woman points a gun at your head, and forces you to have sex with her, since she has not penetrated you, it will only be a sexual assault, not rape.

You mention that battered husbands are only an issue in dysfunctional parts of our society - is that to imply battered wives happen in properly functioning parts of our society, or that such abuse in other societies is in well functioning parts of their society?
 

Offline rosy

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« Reply #24 on: 24/10/2007 17:05:47 »
Another_someone
Quote
But that would imply that historic societies were 'broken' societies - and while all societies (including our own) are imperfect, it would not make sense to regard them as 'broken'.
No, don't think I said that. I think what I said was that it wasn't ideal. What I meant to imply was that, as with so many things, technology has now moved on and we ought to be able to do better.

I take your point about the difference between intention and outcome, but I would say that if we're going to compare systems at all it has to be the outcomes and not the intentions (in whatever woolly way we define intentions... whose intentions? those of the writers of the rules? those of the people implimenting the rules?)

And about independence vs responsibility... don't see how you can have one without the other...

Anyway, I don't have the time spare at the moment to go all round the houses about cultural relativism. So I shall back out of this one here before I get too cross.
 

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