*Whose* ‘Biology-Is-Destiny’ Around Here, Anyway?

by HUB Newsfeed

Patriarchy has been reconstructing women to “fit” within male biological norms and convenience for millennia. One of the first bits of female biology to start reconstruction was pregnancy and birthing, more recently, patriarchy has focussed on reconstructing sexuality and sexual identity. In all cases, this reconstruction removes all the uniquely female bits. As Germaine Greer in her classic The Female Eunuch pointed out, women often seek social reconstruction as castrated males, or as mentioned in Radically Speaking: Feminism Reclaimed, women’s only options are to 1. Live WITH a man, or 2. Live LIKE a man.

With motherhood, the final chapters of the reconstruction are almost completed with the evolution of assisted reproduction technologies, as discussed in Womb Rights, Womb Wrongs. Childbirth was the first to be reconstructed by males. Birthing had to be at male convenience, and by male design, under male control, whether of domesticated animals or of women. It was treated by men as similar to a stubborn bowel obstruction, as that is how their bodies work. As Mary Daly pointed out in her discussion of the elements of the Sado-Ritual Syndrome, such torture rituals start in the upper and middle-classes, become fashionable and spread downward over time. The first women to submit to the knives and torture of the man-midwives in the middle-ages, were the royal wives of European nobility. No wonder women welcomed and demanded the introduction of chloroform in the 19th Century. It is no wonder then, that now, many women prefer, request and even demand Caesarian section.

However, less well known is a similar Sado-Ritual Syndrome surrounding lactation. Although many women will whisper their testimony to the whole-body eroticism of breastfeeding in kaffee-klatsches and suburban play-group centres, many Western women still don’t breastfeed or if they do, not for very long. ie. “the minimum necessary”. Mothers who breastfeed for too long, or in public are seen as an aberration. Despite a push by women’s health-workers in recent decades to reverse this process, it hasn’t been very successful. As with childbirth, males can’t do it – therefore it is an aberration, a ‘Misfit’ piece of biology that needs some sort of surgery to ‘fix’. If physical surgery/reconstruction won’t fix it – then social surgery will have to do.

Previous generations, in the middle-ages and through the nineteenth century saw upper-class women abandoning breastfeeding of their own children, and so it was left to servant and slave-women to do it, the invisible ‘wet-nurses’. In the 20th century, the removal of breastfeeding by the formula-bottle, allowed many more women in all socio-economic classes to abandon such stigmata of lower-class servitude.  With recent technological advances, we are just beginning to see the beginnings of the removal of pregnancy. Upper-class wealthy women can hire a surrogate womb, just as previous generations hired wet-nurses. Like the wet-nurses, the gestational mother, or surrogate is the least paid, the least visible, the least valued and is given at best, token respect for her altruism. But not to worry, within 30-50 years, maybe earlier or later, it can be taken over by machinery for all socio-economic classes and that mythical all-powerful, pregnant, child-feeding, child-tending, or child-teaching woman can be completely dispensed with.
And good riddance, is heard by all.

Every psycho-analytical theory from Freud onwards, including some feminist theory has claimed that mother-child bonding is somehow detrimental to humans. Particularly if prolonged beyond the ‘minimum necessary’, which is defined at the limits of masculine biological/social capability. So it should be discouraged, and de-valued to that minimum necessary for the maintenance of physical health of the infant and no more. Women have been encouraged for generations to ‘separate’ themselves from the child/infant at younger and younger ages. Eventually, we all hope, the minimum necessary will be nothing at all. The feminist theorists however, go on to say that it isn’t the mother’s fault – its just a by-product of primitive biology and sexism, and technology and greater participation in ‘real-life’ will get rid of the whole messy business eventually.

So we forgive the mother for her sins, whilst still calling motherhood itself a sin, and biological motherhood, the most sinful of all. At best, we support the inclusion of fathers in the social parenting role, to try and rid parenthood of its all-powerful bad-mother myth. But even men who do take an active participatory role in parenting their children – are considered “lesser” men by others. Probably because most men can’t identify with the earth-fathers doting on their babies, anymore than they can identify with a lactating or menstruating woman. Male mothers aren’t considered any more important than female ones – but at least they aren’t biological Misfits. Of course, Big Daddy will prove through retroactive reconstructed scholarship that he was better at it all along, once he ‘liberated’ all that messy female biology.
Menstruation of course, has been rendered invisible as it is the primary Misfit piece of female biology. In the search to reconstruct female biology in terms of male biology, the menstrual cycle has changed dramatically over the centuries. There is evidence to suggest that modern Western women today have far more cycles, heavier and more prolonged bleeding due to changes in diet, pregnancy/lactation patterns, as well as altered muscle-to-fat ratios. There is little research of women’s menstrual health however, as being Misfit and not entirely necessary, it can be safely ignored, or reconstructed with hormones or surgery for convenience.

After thousands of years of enforced motherhood, where women often didn’t even have a token ‘choice’ of which male sired their children – I can empathise with Shulamith Firestone’s cry of ‘Pregnancy is barbaric!’ and some women’s desire to abandon motherhood and its attendant biology altogether. Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers are a reminder of the cruelty, the physical and psychological rape heaped on our mothers for generations. Biological motherhood is also a symbol of our greatest powerlessness, our bodies are taken over by forces beyond our control, not just physical ones – but social forces as well.

Perhaps throwing out female biology and replacing it with masculine techno-porn processes designed to imitate masculine biology, will liberate women, as depicted in Marge Piercy’s popular utopian novel Woman on the Edge of Time. Nonetheless there may be some discomfort when a main character justified this with ‘We all had to give up our power-bases’ in order to create ‘equality’ – assuming there is some kind of one-to-one ‘equal’ exchange of ‘equivalent’ commodities-– men sharing their power-bases is considered equivalent to women sharing their mythical ‘power’ of biological reproduction. When I first read this, my initial response was “What power?” The first thing patriarchy did was expropriate reproduction under male-dominance, and keep mothers (and children) under very tight control.  Mothers have no rights.  In the search for an androgynous solution to the gender wars, some women seem to agree with patriarchy that female biology is the root of all evil and oppression. Get rid of the Misfit biology and problem solved.

“The phenomenon of the drag queen dramatically demonstrates such boundary violation. Like whites playing “black face”, he incorporates the oppressed role without being incorporated in it.”
“…the feminization of male-to-female transsexuals…. who consider themselves “women”…..undergo operations which …give them artificial vaginas but no clitoris…”
Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology – 1978

Many of us who grew up with the liberal/humanist tradition accept M2t trans* as ‘women’.  On one hand, many born women do reconstruct themselves to ‘fit’ a masculine definition of femaleness, or femininity, much as M2t trans* do. Biologically speaking, this version of male-constructed womanhood, either denies the clitoris or reconstructs it as an ‘equivalent’ version of the penis. Breasts are denied any biological function other than decorative, the vagina is an artificial hole without complex musculature or nerve system, and the uterus and ovaries disappear altogether. Apparently to be considered biologically female, all that is needed is a pelvic orifice, and a couple of decorative lumps on the chest. Full stop. End of story. All the uniquely female “bits” are completely disappeared.

From any of the traditional viewpoints, be it essentialist, biological determinist, or completely social constructionist – accepting bodies reconstructed to mimic female physicality to be included in the sex class ‘Woman’ (however ill-defined and problematic that category may be) appears to lack even basic logic. Even from a purely social constructionist perspective, childhood socialisation is very much rooted in physicality. Perhaps M2t trans* are not male either, but its questionable whether this should automatically provide a basis for a definition of ‘womanhood’ to include any human, that is considered “not male”. Just automatically lumping anyone ‘not male’ into womanhood, is bizarre. We are a class/sex all of our own.

“The insistence that manmade women be accepted as women, is the institutional expression of the mistaken conviction that women are defective males”
Germaine Greer, The Whole Woman – 1999

Liberal men sometimes embrace their “feminine side” – but we all seem to forget that a male’s “feminine side” has nothing to do with being female, biologically or socially. Men’s ‘feminine side’ can only ever be a part of masculinity, but perhaps one that is difficult for men to accept in their own identity – the male’s concept of the ‘Other’ is a part of their own Self. This ‘Other’ or ‘twin’ of the male Self may be a softer, gentler version of masculinity, but it is not femaleness.

Throughout history, this ‘twinning’ of masculinity can be seen in mythology, religion, and politics. Examples abound – Castor & Pollux, Apollo & Dionysus (who often appeared ‘in female form’), Cain & Abel, socio-political revolutions sometimes described as the revolts of gentle Sons over their cruel Fathers, even the modern politico-military use of the terms of ‘hawks’ and ‘doves’ – and the wrathful God image of Judaeo/Christian/Islam tradition – contrasted with His gentle, ‘effeminate’ Sons or Prophets. As Robert Graves explains in The White Goddess:

“It will be claimed that man has as valid a claim to divinity as woman. That is true only in a sense; he is divine not in his single person, but only in his twinhood. As Osiris,…he is always jealous of his twin – Set, and vice-versa; he cannot be both of them at once except by an intellectual effort that destroys his humanity, by denying both twins’ dependence on Her, and this is the fundamental defect of both the Appollonian and Jehovistic cults. Man is a demi-god; ……Man envies Her completeness, flees her divinity, and tells himself lies about his own completeness, and thereby makes himself miserable; because if he is divine and complete, she can’t be…. She becomes a mere nymph, and his love for Her turns to scorn and hate..”

This eternal dance of Osiris & Set, may superficially value more highly those characteristics traditionally associated with the male, but the male’s ‘feminine side half’ is also valued but returned to us as the only definition of womanhood to which either born-men or born-women can aspire. The message to all is that men make ‘better’ women than born-women do, and one part of the process of becoming a “real woman” (and worthy of being man’s “Other half”) is to deny, remove, minimise, or reconstruct all uniquely female biology (and the social constructions as well) to fit the image of his ‘Other’ Self.

Some feminists have approached this by continuing the debate on social construction of gender, although most would appear to dismiss biological essentialism/determinism. In recent times this discourse has expanded with some new analyses emerging from academic circles – Judith Butler, Donna Haraway et al, have developed intriguing concepts of reconstructing humanity into some kind of sexless soup-blend of androgynous cyborgs – but this seems to combine only those traits that are parts of the twinned masculinity that Graves describes. Again, uniquely female attributes, whether they be biological or socially constructed – appear to disappear in the blend. This is the basics of the “Myth of Androgyny”, androgynous means male, as male is the default human.

These recent models of social gender constructionism maybe a fun and intellectually stimulating way of viewing the age-old “nature vs nurture” debate, but most of them seem to be strongly in support of nurture, and its offspring culture and technology, ‘freeing’ us all from the limitations of nature. However, the impact of biology on gender identity is ignored, minimised or completely dismissed, just because we have developed an enormously complex psychosocial organisation independent of the natural world. An unstated assumption in all this theorising is that Nature is somehow negative or evil, and female biology the worst of the lot. It is also reminiscent of ancient Greek male philosophical obsession with transcending Nature (female) by Culture (male).
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“The mythology of the female orgasm could be considered the last ideological push of the heterosexual establishment…….Nothing however, could disguise the fact from women at least, that, where male sexual response tends to the mechanical, female response continues to manifest as unpredictable and variable…..A man who knows which buttons to press to get his partner to come….is seeking to produce in his partner stereotyped orgasms rather like his own….Only lesbians were able to handle the idea that female sexuality might not be symmetrical or mirrored with male sexuality, and that reconstructing it to fit, might result in a net loss of delight.”;
Germaine Greer, The Whole Woman – 1999

As a young woman discussing sexual matters with others, some of us felt struck by our lack of words with which to articulate our feelings and discoveries, whether lesbian or heterosexual. Sex researchers’ tended to formally describe female sexuality in frameworks of male sexuality, and for some of us women, concepts used to describe male sexual responses didn’t appear to comfortably ‘fit’ what we had experienced.

This reconstruction of female sexuality to parallel that of males, including describing lesbian sexuality in terms of some kind of “mirror-image” of male homosexuality, on some levels parallels the reconstruction of all female biology described above. In the search for ‘equality’ we seem to have settled for ‘equivalence’ of the kind that anything a man feels, a woman can too.

But anything a woman can feel, but a man just can’t, just doesn’t exist and should be erased from the Human Condition.

In her book Sex and Destiny, Greer outlines her perception of the changing concepts of sexuality, in that she believes that the so-called ‘sexual revolution’ was co-opted by patriarchy, and turned into a religion. She argues that the only sexuality that was freed, was male sexuality:

“Whether women like it or not, current sexual mores are conditioning them to become genitally centred: their sexuality is being conditioned into the likeness and the counterpart of masculine response……There is now no reason why a woman can’t be more like a man. Female sexuality has been tailored, pared-down, snipped to fit (the) male……….  Only lesbians were able to handle the idea that female sexuality might not be symmetrical with male sexuality, and that reconstructing it to fit might result in a net loss of delight.”

Male sexuality is fixated upon genitals and penetration, with the ultimate goal of orgasm. Mechanical factory-line production of orgasms. Therefore, hence, ergo – so must female sexuality. Women and men are ‘equal’ defined as ‘equivalent’. Its religious nature underpins the consumer economy, which is also fixated on penetration of markets. The explosion of increasingly bizarre pornography, paraphilias, prostitution and trafficking, has at least partly resulted from its promotion as a modern opiate of the masses – if you aint coming, you aint living, and from its liberal roots, this new religion also embraces many others previously excluded (eg homosexuals, disabled, the elderly) in its ritual observances and homage to the Sacred Orgasm.

Only the Celibate is ex-communicated from this new Church, to the point where lack of libido, or a personal preference for celibacy, is seen as a major health problem requiring some sort of “fix”, physical or mental.

The basic premise of the liberal philosophy behind the sexual revolution of the 50s & 60s, (at its most simplistic), was that much of the authoritarian patriarchal state was based on repression of sexuality. Free the libido and hey, presto – patriarchal structures would collapse, and the world would magically start to make love not war. Many ‘early feminists’ agreed with this stance. Denied women’s history, they were no more aware of women’s activities in previous generations, than any generation of women has ever been. For example, the Parisienne women of the 1890s, with their riotous bare arse, split legged displays designed to show utter contempt for their oppressors – as in ‘Kiss my fat ass!’. Like many young adults, the ‘early feminists’ of the 70s were rebelling against their parental generation, they were going to change the world, by reclaiming and celebrating their sexuality.

Feminist erotica was born.     Again.    *sigh*

Many of these early feminists who were trying to change the system from within, admitted their mistakes in the hopes that future generations of feminists might learn from their experiences. As Greer pointed out in response to Donita Sparks’s pulling a tampon out and flinging it into the audience when L7 was on stage at the Reading Festival of 1992 –
” Sexuality might be the most subversive thing, but female sexual display, from the artistically tasteful to the most grotesque, is pure sexual conformism to the dominant sexual paradigm. What (we) learned from the pointless surrender of our privacy was the true extent of our powerlessness, in that female sexual display, whether hostile or seductive, is a weapon that can only inflict injury on the displayer…. As long as men think of women’s bodies as commodities offered only and solely for their consumption, there is no liberation to be had either in taking clothes off, or keeping them covered”.

Nonetheless, it would appear that every new generation of women tries again to make female sexuality ‘subversive’ in the name of ‘sexual liberation’ – and hence each generation has its own version of ‘Girl Power’, riotgrrls, kinderwhores etc – hard-drinking, sexually aggressive Courtney Love wannabes, along with academic pseudo-feminist arthouse films like Romance exploring the transcendental experience of the ‘romance’ of rape and sado-masochistic sex.

Greer continues this theme in The Whole Woman:”Sex at the end of the century is no longer a matter of intercourse. The sex of the millennium is pornography.” The only sexuality which has been freed is male sexuality, but almost as an afterthought, women are invited to participate in the name of equality, or equivalence, but only as long as their sexual expression parallels the dominant masculine paradigm. As might be expected with the freeing of male sexuality, so has woman-hatred been freed and expanded:
“Some men hate all women all of the time; all men hate some women some of the time. I reckon that in the year 2000 more men hate more women, and more bitterly than in 1970. Our culture is far more masculinist than it was 30 years ago. Movies deal with male obsessions….the rock music that appeals to men is deliberately, unbelievably and outrageously misogynist. While women were struggling to live as responsible dignified adults, men have retreated into extravagantly masculinist fantasies and behaviours. Every day terrible revenges are enacted on women who have dared to use their new privileges…..yet every day we are told there is nothing left to fight for…..Feminism has served is purpose, and can now eff off.”

The assumption on both sides of the Nature vs Nurture debate assumes that for a characteristic to be biological, or ‘natural’, it must be ‘fixed’ or immutable, unchangeable.

Indeed, the opposite is true, biological behaviours and characteristics are infinitely adaptable. The ‘Biology is Destiny’ concept in regard to biological determinism, or the simplistic scenario of constant pregnancy for females, being produced from natural “instinctive” rape by males, is ridiculous being applied to humans, as both fertility & sexual congress behaviours are highly variable in all species, and is not a biologically ‘fixed’ determinant or ‘Destiny’ in any mammalian species, let alone in humans, but is highly dependent on other factors, some external to the population (eg. environmental), and some internal. But this assumption in people’s minds, is even more ludicrous when relating to homo sapiens sapiens – our own species has not lived as a primarily biological organism for uncounted millennia. Layers upon layers upon layers of civilisation, religion, tradition, education, culture, language, abstract thought etc have almost wiped off the physical map most of our ‘fixed’ biological instincts and drives belonging to our evolutionary ancestors. Our species has made both conscious and unconscious cultural decisions regarding biological processes ever since it crawled out of the primeval slime.

However, the same argument can be used against social constructionism, the automatic assumptions being biology is ‘fixed’ (which it isn’t, and never has been, especially in humans) – and ‘social constructs’ are changeable (which historically, have proved to be enormously difficult to change).

If social constructs are fixed, then there is no point working for change. As so many of these social constructs are written in stone, they may as well be set in concrete.

This generalised antagonism towards even the possibility of a unique female identity, is probably based in fear of upsetting the masculine power-systems – an understandable fear. Large numbers of women do embrace this ideology, or theology, of ‘flight from the female’ as a strategy for survival in an anti-female world.

A clever tactic of Divide & Conquer – by convincing us that we don’t really exist as a ‘class’ at all, and never did, neither socially nor biologically (when it has always been both) – we have absolutely no basis on which we can unite in solidarity, and will therefore never be a threat to the oppressive power-structures we all know are there. According to postmodern theorists, there is no such category of ‘Woman’ anyway -there are no universalisms biological or social, so there is still no point in working for change. The post-modernist ideal of genderless humanity, removes, dismisses or minimises all concepts of unique femaleness and replaces it with masculinity, albeit a far more socially acceptable one.

Whether Culture and/or Biology, is Destiny for all of us, then it would still appear to be a solely Male Destiny.
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Edited from previously published version in FemSpeak e-zine
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Herstorical Note: This post was posted here, at the Radfem HUB, on January 13, 2012, and was authored by HUB author Rainsinger. On May 28, 2012, Rainsinger left the HUB and indicated that she wished to have this post removed from the HUB, and no longer desired to have her name associated with the HUB. Instead of allowing content to be deleted from the HUB which would be deleterious to our herstory, it was proposed by the remaining HUB bloggers, and agreed to by Rainsinger, that, as a compromise, the substance of the post would be left intact and authorship would be changed to the generic HUB user, “HUB Newsfeed”. However, the HUB now regrets making this compromise, and believes that changing the authorship of the post was also deleterious of our herstory. The post should have remained intact, in every respect. We regret this error in judgement, as well as the fact that this change is permanent and cannot be altered. — Eds. 6/15/12

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37 Comments to “*Whose* ‘Biology-Is-Destiny’ Around Here, Anyway?”

  1. ” Only lesbians were able to handle the idea that female sexuality might not be symmetrical with male sexuality, and that reconstructing it to fit might result in a net loss of delight.”“

    I read The Whole Woman when I was 18, after I’d arrived at university. This line stood out and made *perfect* sense to me. I’d started having intercourse at the age of 17, but the three years before that, I had been “experimenting”. Experimenting is what patriarchal media refers to as foreplay. And I could never understand why “experimenting” and “foreplay” was *better* than the act itself. I was baffled. Until I read The WHole Woman…and realised the language was all wrong.

  2. Sigh. Yet another reminder–but awesome post!– of how our vey identities, our womanhood have been horrifically warped by the patriarchs through the ages. Sometimes I can’t help but feel we’re just *FUBAR, but then I regain my composure and remember how resilient we’ve been all this time under the yoke of patriarchy, and there are brilliant, audacious women like Greer who continue to speak up and publish these manifestos for us to discover , so hopefully we can reclaim or reinvent our womanhood. And yes, we all can learn a lot from lesbians.

    *Fucked-up beyond all repair

  3. Rainsinger–this is such a rich and beautiful piece…hard to know where to begin in affirming your thoughts. All of it resonated so deeply with my experiences and the thoughts I’ve had along the way. All of this, as a womyn with a sexual tendency toward the hetero in my earlier years and thus, much experience with sex (and birth) set within patriarchy’s background–and also as a feminist ever-seeking to see and move beyond patriarchy’s confines in thought and deed, and in every aspect of my existence as a womyn.

    With Greer, although I’ve never read her work, I have deeply felt/experienced “the idea that female sexuality might not be symmetrical with male sexuality, and that reconstructing it to fit might result in a net loss of delight”. I can’t give that realization solely to lesbians, although my reading of Sonia Johnson and others has suggested to me that fully womyn-identified womyn were better positioned on the whole to explore the full range of delight which womyn are able to know thhrough sex unconfined to (male-style) orgasm. But I know too well from my hetero experiences how pathologically-intent men are to control sex along the lines of their confined experience of it, in word, image and actions. I know too well the deeply spiteful envy of men who witnessed my experience of a delight more encompassing than they could achieve, and the various subtle and overt methods they are driven to employ in order to annihilate my delight. Seek to annihilate it rather than seek entrance, with my delighted welcome, into the mysteries of a deeper, more whole-bodied and whole-hearted delight.

    For not only would that mean their willingness to surrender control–something which translates in patriarchy-think, straight to ‘letting a womyn control me’ (as if there is no alternative to control itself, merely a switching-places of *who* is in control). It would also mean their willingness to let go of socially-constructed ideas of manhood’s appropriate sexual pleasure, what its proper expressions, sensations and limits are. And this, again in patriarchy-think, means that they may have been ‘wrong’ about sex; it means that their ‘skills’ might not be the end-all achievements they’d thought.

    And I see how horribly persuasive this has been to everyone, including many erstwhile feminists as time has gone on–everyone ever-more ‘freely’ delving into the realm of male-focussed sexuality without having a clue that it IS male-focussed and controlled in every way. That the fact we even come to ‘want’ this or that sensation, skill, toy, enhancement, is founded in patriarchy, in men’s limited/limiting notions of sexual pleasure, in capitalism’s commodification of our lives and in misogyny. Offering the ‘better orgasm’ via products hides the fact that the full range of erotic delight is not centered in (male-defined) orgasm. That delight needs no mechanical/chemical assistance at all–and can be foreclosed upon, if one’s focus is on tools rather than lover, on goals rather than loving process. It does indeed all tie back to patriarchal ‘science–particularly medical science– which is also responsible for the trend in removing womyn, both our power and natural biology itself, from childbirth. The fundamental split of ‘mind over matter’–‘divine’ rationality over ‘profane’ biology, mankind over nature itself–first was expressed as men over womyn. That murderous act of separation is indeed finding it’s fullest flowering in allopathy’s (western medicine) achievement of control over our lives on the physical level of biology and biochemistry. So few understand that allopathy’s ‘medicine’ does both literally and metaphorically amount to the control of our thoughts, feelings, desires, our lives on every level.

    So damn few–including so precious few feminists anymore–realize that allopathy is founded upon the idea that the male body is the ‘perfect form’ of human biological existence, and the female body an inherently flawed counterpart…and even deeper upon the idea that the body is merely a machine which ‘mind’ can control/alter at will, and with no consequences to our lives as humans. Even those who have some idea of this history of allopathy do not realize that this premise is still very much in place, although now it takes a less-overt form in med/scientific discourse (well, less overt except to feminist eyes). Few realize that allopathy still takes as man-elevating and viciously womyn-erasing a form as ever, on the material level of practice in terms of surgeries and drugs, including pregnancy and childbirth practices. With Greer, I agree but would take it further: “I reckon that in the year 2000 more men hate more women, and more bitterly than in 1970.”. I think more womyn hate womyn (including themselves), and in ever subtler and more subservive ways than ever before.

    Now suddenly, humanity’s quest to split the atom comes to mind as an apt analogy and forecast of our trajectory in the continuing work to erase the biological category of ‘womyn’ so that she will be utterly subsumed into manhood: the fundamental split of mind over matter–the primary and by now well-developed psychosis of modern man– led first to the enslavement of womyn and from there into our worship of fundamentally separative science. This science in time led to the discovery of atoms and the power contained in the interaction of atomic bits. Because man (fully psychotically delusional by then) so firmly believed in the power of man’s mind over matter/nature, he dared breach the fabric of our reality by atom-splitting as weaponry and as energy-source.

    Now, no matter the staggering evidence of profound harm done to all of life in atomic-age ventures, man continues to attempt control of this basic magic of life in the never-ending quest for control over life. And in the continuing work of medical science to split humanity from nature and most especially womyn from our biological reality and identity, do we enter the same territory of harm. A harm so insidious and deep, yet so invisible as yet, that we have no idea where it leads. Womyn, perhaps especially those avowed feminists, now further soaked than ever in worship of maleness and maculine mind-for-control, are buying more fully into it by the day. Thus is our self-destruction so nearly made inevitable–both apart from, and together with the lethal poison of nuclear fiddling.

    That is, unless some fiercely, passionately, tenderly womyn-identified, womyn-loving womyn will hold fast to ourselves in unified body and mind. While we un-learn the misogynist forms of ‘femininity’ strictly meant to confine us for male purposes, we can remain intent upon dis-covering what it is to be womyn. Loving ourselves, body and soul, loving each other, is the place to start. Claiming the deepest mysteries and gifts of our sexual delight as womyn, including our loving ownershp of pregnancy and birth as fully powerful creative acts of life as womyn, and with that including the gifts and real power of bonding fully with our children–these things are all intimately interconnected for us, and within us, as biological womyn. And they all amount to claiming ourselves as womyn, for our own loving delight and for the work of restoring the sacred feminine in this divided and war torn world. The sacred feminine, that is–our real, very personal and utterly radical power of wholeness.

  4. oops on the typos above…

    And cherryblossom–on your explorations of your sexuality: I’m with you, I never understood this separation of ‘foreplay’ and ‘experimenting’ from ‘sex’. I never understood why sexual pleasure must be defined/confined/separated in any way.

    Mocha–totally with you on those FUBAR moments! And then, like you, I remember our resilience (and my own personal resilience), brilliance, audacity and I can think–surely it is only patriarchy and its adherents that are FUBAR. Me, and some others, we will survive–we will live beyond patriarchy both by reclaiming AND reinventing ourselves. Are already living so much outside of it in powerful ways.

  5. It’s a great article. So many good points!

    “The sacred feminine, that is–our real, very personal and utterly radical power of wholeness”

    Yes! It seems so logical and rational to simply realize that women are half the human race. To attempt to erase everything we bring to the equation is the path to self destruction.

  6. The Female Eunuch pointed out, women often seek social reconstruction as castrated males, or as mentioned in Radically Speaking: Feminism Reclaimed, women’s only options are to 1. Live WITH a man, or 2. Live LIKE a man.

    Or live with AND live like a man.

    Sigh. This point- as well as the rest of the post – is so true. Often times when I’m reading The Hub I want to immediately spam the articles to my address book. I am continually disheartened by the fact that information/truth never makes a dent in the Stockholm syndrome from which 99.99% of women suffer. And the fact that almost all women have eaten up male supremacy with a spoon. When exposure to women is exactly the same as exposure to men what’s the point of even trying to interact at all.

  7. “However, the impact of biology on gender identity is ignored, minimised or completely dismissed, just because we have developed an enormously complex psychosocial organisation independent of the natural world.”

    It’s time to re-examine that bias toward the nurture-is-all argument. As the article points out so well, biology is enormously important in women’s lives – let’s embrace that fact. So much confusion is caused by denying it, or trying to find ways to androgenize us, or to make it seem that who we are is so vague we barely exist as a group. I do understand the reasoning behind those attempts; it arises from Freud’s infamous comment that in the case of women, “Anatomy is destiny.” A strain of feminist theory rightly rejected the whole notion of complete biological determinism, but threw out all of biology as part of the rejection.

    As this article points out, acknowledging and studying biological bases of behavior does not at all mean that all such bases are unchangeable. Hormonal manipulation, for example, is common today, for cancer treatment, to treat pedophiles, to manipulate the reproductive cycle, to keep people sexually functioning, to make men (and some women athletes) stronger, and so on and so on.

    One of the hottest fields today in law enforcement and penal science (lol) is Biocriminology. Crime Times collects studies on the subject. Here’s a brief introductory article on the increasing emphasis on researching biochemical bases of violence:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/if/4102371.stm

    Biological bases of human behavior are nothing to be afraid of; research may help us find some solutions to intractable problems of human society in the future.

  8. A strain of feminist theory rightly rejected the whole notion of complete biological determinism, but threw out all of biology as part of the rejection.

    Yes, I agree — if you’ll forgive an unfortunate pun, I believe they “threw the baby out with the bathwater” 🙂

    Biological bases of human behavior are nothing to be afraid of; research may help us find some solutions to intractable problems of human society in the future.

    However, this is where I disagree (quite strongly), I don’t believe any biological solutions would ever be appropriate for any social problems (nor do I believe in biological bases for human behaviour).

  9. Amazing post rainsinger, it whirled through my head!
    What you say about biology, totally agree with you. That’s the difference between wanting equality and being a radfem. Men want equality – that is, we don’t have an inch of anything more than they don’t have, we erase anything in our body that’s specifically female, otherwise it may make men jealous, angry, violent, etc. We become their robotic clone, fashioned according to their image. And we live in eternal self-hatred, dissociation and denial of self. Equality feminism is a complete man-made hoax.

    Our nature is fine as it is, what’s wrong is what men choose to do it, how they manipulate, destroy it and corrupt it to shape it in their image, just because they’re pissed that nature didn’t give them a baby-making machine. For instance, i find listening to my body very useful to see what’s ok and what not’s ok for me, it usually works. I would never again alter my body.

  10. I was disgusted at Firestone’s and Solanas’ suggestion to replace motherhood by automation. That’s precisely what men want, have complete control over baby-making, be the complete male-mothers, creators of frankensteins. It’s like replacing female erasure by… more female erasure! It’s looking at the problem from the wrong side, from men’s side, it’s still internalising male hatred of the female body as defective and at the heart of the problem. Plus even if a baby could survive that way, there’s no way in the world it would be healthy. No way.

    And imagine what they’d do with us once they started creating their robot-slave-frankenstein babies? They’d exterminate us for sure, this time we’d be really expendable and a sure menace to their automation plan. Imagine, we could go and insult them by making our own babies! It would be transphobic or whatever to make babies! They would either sterilise us all or kill us. Until they’d kill the earth and everything would be dead.

  11. rainsinger: “However, this is where I disagree (quite strongly), I don’t believe any biological solutions would ever be appropriate for any social problems (nor do I believe in biological bases for human behaviour).”

    I totally agree that the current trend in ‘biological solutions for social problems’ is wrong to the Nth degree. Lots of reasons for that–but basically, our biology is so complexly intertwined with social and psychological forces along with sheer habit when it comes to behavior. For instance, you can chemically castrate the rapist, but that doesn’t change the underlying psychosocial dynamics that brought about his urge to sieze power in violent sexual terms. With that castration, you also can’t stop the fantasy of rape, a strong habit. Put very simply.

    However, there is recent evidence to show some biological basis for behavior. My own interest in this is centered on womyn’s biology, as a midwife. Researchers have been able to isolate various hormones which contribute to nurturing behaviors in moms, and even in men, for instance. Not to say that these hormones ‘drive’ behavior –people can and do resist the hormonally created impulses (related again to psychosocial dynamics). Yet this behavior is not reserved to simple actions like ‘feed the baby now’, but also to ‘thinking behaviors’–deepening the tendency to think in more inclusive, holistic terms rather than strictly linear/logical; to think more in terms of process and ‘us’, not just goal and ‘me’.

    Also, we now know that the hormonal realities of both men and womyn are not resticted to our sex-type hormones. Not only do womyn have some testosterone, and men some estrogen *by nature* (and along a continuum, not a fixed, standard level in either sex), the relative flow and amounts of those ‘opposite hormones’ is very much related to everyday social factors (along with tendencies created via childhood socialization). So–a man who holds an infant on a regular basis will begin to produce more oxytocin (estrogenic hormone) which provides a hormonal signal encouraging emotional attachment and further nurturing behavior. There are situations where womyn tend to produce more androgenic hormones as well–we naturally do, during ovulation, and there are social situations and psycho-dynamics that also prompt this.

    Point being that this area of research could be very fruitful in facilitating understanding of what makes womyn, womyn, with the real and unique gifts/potentials of that. Gifts and capacities which we need to restore our own wholeness, restore sanity in human affairs and thus, prevent patriarchy’s extinction juggernaut from carrying us all into oblivion. Patriarchy has worked for a long time to create and emphasize the separation of womyn and men. One real part of a more complicated truth is that it has worked to make womyn ‘estrogen bound’ and men ‘testosterone bound’, thus deepening by social contrivance a greater difference between us than is natural. This of course only serves the dominance paradigm and sexist role division.

    Such research, tho, must be centered on *understanding*–not on ‘fiddling with nature in order to gain control’, which is the present trend in this kind of research. With the right approach, it could help us understand ourselves better, with all of our gifts and capacities–very much including the ferocity that’s a needful part of nurturing behavior!

  12. FemmeForever–YES! Stockholm Syndrome, ITA. Only recently did I reference SS, in refutation of the ‘sex pos’ pro-porn and pro-sex work cadre.

    Karmarad– ” “However, the impact of biology on gender identity is ignored, minimised or completely dismissed, just because we have developed an enormously complex psychosocial organisation independent of the natural world.”

    It’s time to re-examine that bias toward the nurture-is-all argument. As the article points out so well, biology is enormously important in women’s lives – let’s embrace that fact. So much confusion is caused by denying it, or trying to find ways to androgenize us, or to make it seem that who we are is so vague we barely exist as a group.”

    Yes, so much confusion, and deep pain, and ill health is caused for womyn by denying this. I too understand the reasons behind it, as you name re: Freud and his ilk. I am eternally grateful to have been raised in a time when the Next Wave Radfems were so thoroughly deconstructing the myths of gender…it’s probably been THE question I’ve asked myself over time in development of a Radfem self/life “Do I think/feel/act this way, mainly due to my gender socialization–or does this really come from my core?” In the worst times of my life, it’s the question I asked Too Late…but at least I could track back and see where I went wrong, and thus continue the work of deconstructing patriarchy within, dis-covering the awesome, real womyn-self I AM.

    Recently on another (f-fem) site, I was trashed for suggesting that female biology is an important underlying aspect of womyn-self. Their (outraged) argument was that Next Wave Feminists had totally deconstructed all that hash YEARS ago–how had I missed it? While I didn’t bother pursuing discussion, all I could think was–“So–that’s it? Feminist understanding STOPPED in what, 1980, we now have it all and there is no need for further thought on this all important topic of Being Womyn?”

    I DON’T THINK SO!

    Rainsinger, I also told them they seemed to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater…;-)

  13. yttik–thanks for the nod 🙂 In writing that bit about ‘sacred feminine’, I looked the word ‘sacred’, also ‘sacrament’, discovering their association with that which is ‘holy’…so I looked up ‘holy’ as well, on a womynly hunch…and was delightedly affirmed in dis-covering that ‘hoy’ arises from the Old English word hoelan–which is about healing as a process of restoring wholeness.

    btw…I am writing something on Samira Ibrahim, the Egyptian womyn-protester who is filing suit against the police who performed virginity test on her and other womyn protesters. May I use your quote about loving womyn unconditionally as the most radical act, in this piece? If you want to discuss, reach me: harvestqueen1 (at) hotmail.com. I was thinking of quoting you as “a womyn I know as yttik”. So, I would like not only your permission, but also to know if you prefer to be quoted by another name (or only as ‘a radfem I’ve read’).

    thanks 🙂

  14. oops, above…’hoy’ should read ‘holy’.

  15. “Do I think/feel/act this way, mainly due to my gender socialization–or does this really come from my core?”

    Hari, this is my main question too, what has led me here. I’m aware that my persona (“social construct”) is in all sorts of complex ways in conflict with, or at least not supportive of, my core (I have no problem calling this core my “essence”; others may disagree). I’m talking here about a general persona we are all, as women, aware of and conditioned to.

    Put as plainly as possible, I identify this as one of three or four fundamental and urgent questions specific to feminism. Why? Because, although men are also constrained by their personas, since all societies are constructed around the male ethos, their personas are closer to their cores. Also, if intolerable conflicts between persona and essence arise, men as a group have the power to change the situation as soon as it is identified and a consensus reached.

    In enormous contrast, women’s personas have also been constructed around the male ethos, which takes them much farther from their female cores, and they do not have any method of changing intolerable conflicts without resistance and suppression. We are having a very hard time reaching back for our essential womanhood (which I consider to be biologically-based behaviors, since I have no way of knowing what behaviors women would construct in a freer environment).

    The discussions we have here reflect this search so often; we seem to have only recently discovered that the sexual act for het women is not necessarily the het male paradigm, for instance. Sometimes the search for essence centers around our biology, sometimes around our conditioning, and mostly it is intertwined, as you say. Scientific studies which find women to be deferential, peaceful, relationship-oriented, are of little use, as they consistently do not attempt to separate social conditioning from essence, so that all we know is that “this is how women’s personas are constructed in this society at this time.”

    I do find this search very exciting, if bewildering.

  16. “I don’t believe any biological solutions would ever be appropriate for any social problems (nor do I believe in biological bases for human behaviour).”

    Seeking a loo at a restaurent is a biological bases for human behaviour overlaid with sociological convention. At a pinch you can dispense with the loo itself but not the requirement for it. Human behaviour is based on biology and social conditioning, patriarchal conditioning is a distortion of natural impulses into unnatural behaviours that serve the system of male supremacy.

    I agree with not seeking biological solutions, to sociological problems. The small percent of human problems that are rooted in biology are not usually susceptible to short term solutions. They are only alterable through time plus evolutionary selection processes that enshrine female reproductive choice. So we need a sociological system that ensures this.

  17. So we need a sociological system that ensures this.

    yes 🙂 We should construct our societies to fit our biology, not reconstruct our bodies to fit society!

  18. zeph–and rainsinger–totally agree. One way that I have seen biological research *toward understanding* to be of tremendous benefit has been in the field of childbirth. The increasing discovery of hormones and neurotransmitters, with their various physical effects, that are present in womyn during natural birth, has helped to show how extremely important it is not to interfere with birthing womyn. In order to support not only a most enjoyable but safest birth experience (for normally healthy womyn, which is most of us), womyn generally need quiet, low lights, touch ONLY as the womyn desires it (if at all) and only from people she trusts–she should be in control of her body and the environment. In fact, this work, together with research done on stress and relaxation responses (effects of adrenaline in particular), shows in effect that a womyn who is supported in having the most relaxed and enjoyable birth experience is actually in the best possible biological frame to have the safest birth–her body can do it’s work well, as intended naturally. All of this together shows just how inherently unsafe routinely medically managed birth is for womyn and babies. Again, put simply–but it’s all about constructing society (and it’s systems such as birth care) to fit our biology!

  19. karmarad–glad you can resonate with my Ultimate Question…and thanks for your post otherwise. Your way of saying all that is so wonderfully cogent and on-the-mark. And I almost used ‘essence’ instead of ‘core’…since this idea of ‘true self is so real, and yet ineffable, I suppose only naturally it’s hard to find words to convey the meaning.

  20. “We should construct our societies to fit our biology, not reconstruct our bodies to fit society!”

    Beautiful! I like that. I can imagine a society where women’s biology is respected and acknowledged and viewed as important. Suddenly the whole dynamic changes.

  21. I’m afraid, yttik and rainsinger,that would require a society that actually viewed women as human. And though our radfem resistance has survived and continued all this time, we still have a plethora of obstacles in our way. But women around the world are realizing that male “medicine” and male “science” have corrupted our physical and mental health, and erased our unique abilities as women. And despite the misogynistic barbs and the myriad of public and private perils that come with resisting the male-status quo’s monopoly over knowledge and resources, more women are starting resist and rediscover our biology.

  22. “Because, although men are also constrained by their personas, since all societies are constructed around the male ethos, their personas are closer to their cores.”

    Yes Karmarad, they are removed from themselves but not so far away that they are unrecognisable. They also see the advantages of a system which ensures them free access to one group of females or another, for reproduction via marriage, and persecution via prostitution. They frequently boast that this system is about survival of the fittest; when patriarchy actually ensures survival for the unfittest men, and ofttimes destruction of the feistiest women.

    “Sometimes the search for essence centers around our biology, sometimes around our conditioning, and mostly it is intertwined,”

    Women see the social structure but because they are reluctant to acknowledge the depth, of women directed enmity inherent within it, they try to find a way to live with integrity while abiding by its laws. This leads women to conclude that marriage must be made to work, and men who can’t make it work, have been diverted from their natural course, due to social conditioning. But marriage is not natural it is an essential part of a social system that advantages all men over all women. A corral for livestock made from the joined hands of fathers and husbands. ‘Who gives this man to this woman’!

  23. As Greer points out, males are born as sensual as women, although they obviously don’t have the same sexual potency as women: the “machinery” is a bit different in that respect. But boys, male teenagers.. all have the capacity to experience sex the way (I think) it was meant to be. Boy babies are just as affectionate, tactile and loving with their mothers as girls, and are born with the same ability to give and receive love.

    ..at around the age of 16 (earlier these days) they become porn-sick and *forget* .They’re also taught by their elders what girls are for. I remember being in the pub with my ex (we were both 16) and bumped into his uncle there, who suddenly began to make all sorts of embarassing comments, designed to humiliate not just me, but my then boyfriend as well. That’s the male pecking order: elder male lords it over younger male, who in turn is taught to lord it over all women and weaker males.

    It’s crucial for patriarchy that men forget how to make love so that male sexual pleasure (if you can call the violence that passes for male sexuality “pleasure”) is focused on the penis alone, and on entering some hole (patriarchal imagery here). Imagine how difficult it would be for the status quo to continue, if young men suddenly remembered how to make love the way they were supposed to. Imagine if sex was no longer about someone getting “fucked” and someone else doing the “fucking.” What if the entire house of cards came tumbling down?

  24. there may be some biological basis for behaviour. We’re never going to know until boys and girls are treated the same by society.

  25. I’m not sure it matters. Sex differences are not an issue, unless they have social status and political power, attached to them. When you assign higher power and status to one set of behaviours (eg masculine ones), then you are making a value judgement – you are saying one set is “superior” to the other. So what if girls predominantly behave one way, and boys another? It shouldn’t matter in a purely physical/biological sense any more than being left or right-handed.

    I believe in the ‘soft-wiring’ of biology, not ‘hard-wiring’. Being ‘soft-wired’ like lightly shaped clay, it can be changed, adapted and moulded through learning (or ‘conditioning’), training and practice. Like any physical skill. I believe its more like “preferences”, eg like being born left or right-handed… one hand is stronger than the other. So naturally, the individual will prefer to use their ‘strong’ hand, and not use their ‘weak’ hand. Doesn’t mean they can’t use their ‘weak’ hand, and with practice and learning can develop the ‘weak’ hand to be just as strong as the one that was ‘stronger’ at birth.

    I believe sex differences in behaviours are like that too. It is a fact that a majority of girls have ‘stronger’ audio/language skills than boys – statistically speaking. And also that boys are ‘stronger’ at visual/spatial skills – statistically speaking. (Of course, there are exceptions – most studies show an overlap in child populations of around 23-25% )

    Well.. again its like having a ‘strong’ hand, and a ‘weak’ hand – obviously *anybody* is going to prefer to use their ‘strong’ hand in preference to their ‘weak’. Many little girls find maths difficult, so they avoid it. Its “boring” they say… and similarly with boys with reading/language skills – its “boring”. Kids enjoy what they are naturally better at. I believe that kids will avoid doing things that they find difficult, and preferring to spend time at what they are good at 🙂 And if they are socially reinforced by parents, teachers, greater society etc in one direction or another … but by that token you also can’t treat them exactly the same – maybe more girls than boys, do need extra tuition in some areas, because its ‘weaker’ in a majority of girls, and same thing with boys, more boys than girls may need extra work in other skill areas to build up their relative weaknesses.
    Society values ‘male’ strengths, and despises female ones.. (sexist social value judgement) and dominates its childhood education primarily to ‘play to the strengths’ of male models of learning.

    One of my favourite studies of this kind of research was done with 6-month old babies. They showed each baby a series of visual slideshows with music… and they were given a cord to pull from their high-chairs. Smart babies – they quickly learned that pulling on the cord, advanced the slideshow. After a certain amount of time, after the babies were happily gurgling and pulling on the cord etc – the hidden researchers, switched off the cord mechanism. Babies that age became frustrated, kept pulling the cord for awhile – until they gave up, burst into tears or rage etc – because it obviously wasn’t working any more 🙂

    The researchers counted how many times the babies pulled the cord before they gave up, (assessing frustration tolerance in 6-month olds to compare with 2-year olds) and found some interesting stats they weren’t looking for. A huge statistically significant variation between the sexes. On average, girl babies gave up after 6-10 pulls of the cord. Boy babies pulled on average 15-20 times before giving up. (around double).

    As one researcher said (and this has always made me laugh), “Whether its stubborness, or just plain stupidity – or whatever *IT* is – boy babies seem to have twice as much of IT!”

  26. LOl at the conclsion of that experiment. I agree, it doesn’t matter at all. It’s the value attached to the behavours that matter, and yes whatever is seen as female is despised. Society puts a very low value on the caring professions (dominated by women) and they are rewarded accordingly. Bankers, on the other hand, who have been proven to be absolutely shit at their jobs are well rewarded (with tax payers’ money), because they’re men.( ETA Scrounging parasites…)

  27. rainsinger–“Sex differences are not an issue, unless they have social status and political power, attached to them. ”

    Or at least we can say that sex differences *are an issue in patriarchy*–that is, they are a problem–because they DO have social status and political power attached to them. When looking at societies where womyn are equal to men in status/power, and also at those where there is a norm of multiple genders instead of strictly a binary (often the same societies, actually)–these societies value all healthy manifestations of sex-differences. They understand, as can be stated in biology terms, that xx/estrogen tendencies are just as necessary to their society’s whole well-being as xy/testosterone tendencies. The multiple-gender societies simply accept that there *is* a continuum, that normal individuals might express more of the ‘opposite sex type’ traits in thinking/behaving, and this is a valuable(not aberrant) expression of personhood within society.

    Btw, the Iroquois 5 Nations of NE USA/SE Canda, were/are egalitarian (Iroquois, Mowawk, Seneca and…I forget the other 2…one culture w/5 distinct facets. They were among the most populous, prosperous, ‘successful’ of the N. American indiginous nations). They practiced ‘serial monogamy’ (only loosely monogamous in sexual practice); womyn were the ‘property owners’, w/respect to home/household goods/garden plots–because, the people ‘belonged to the land’, as w/all indigenous nations, no sense of ‘private property’ as now), and womyn chose their mates. “No-fault Divorce” was as simple as putting his personal belongings outside her teepee; he would be welcomed into the homes of mother/sisters/brothers/other single men and lose no status. No rupture of ‘family/community relationships’ in their village/clan model. While men had important relationships w/ children, which could be continued, the line was matrilineal and ‘fatherhood’ as such did not exist. It was a womyn’s brothers/cousins/uncles on maternal side who held the responsibility, with mothers, of providing for children. The Iroquois kept 2 councils, men’s and womyn’s, each attending to general concerns of each. The councils had to come with each other on any matters of import to the whole village. So–sex differences were recognized, just not placed in heirarchy except wrt particular activities obviously more the business (not exclusively, but certainly ‘more’) of one sex than the other.

    Of course, in such egalitarian societies, girls are not raised with the eradication of their personal power and natural ferocity in mind. Biological femaleness is not inherently ‘dependent’, ‘suggestible’, ‘weak’…it takes a LOT of social conditioning to render womyn not only physically weak, but also deeply afraid of their individuality along with their ferocity and physical power. Not only was rape and battering NOT a norm for the Iroquois, it was unthinkable. This was not only due to cultural values, but because a man well knew womyn carried knives they knew how to use–and knew he would certainly face retribution as well from clan en masse, if he tried. Possible physical retribution, certainly social retribution of shaming, possible out-casting. Whereas now, even physically strong womyn, even womyn who are physically strong AND fierce in ‘executive leadership’ might find herself in a relationship w/a batterer that she finds difficult to escape, due to that deeply imbedded taboo against using her all her strengths in defense against her man (and the equally deeply embedded notion that she needs a man, and is somehow to blame for his behavior as if abuse is a ‘relationship issue’).

    More directly on topic again–I think humans have some hard-wiring, but much more soft-wiring. For instance, we are hard-wired as a social species; we need each other for survival, far more than ‘non-social’ species. It is due to the very fact of this hard wiring that humans always form societies. And it is due to our high degree of soft-wiring–so ultimately ‘programmable’–that very different societies can form, and that individuals can be persuaded to emphasize certain aspects of self, and override others, in formation of personality and behavior in keeping with social dictates. We see this so vastly entrenched in patriarchy, where sex-roles are concerned, and due to patriarchy’s pronounced heirarchy of men over womyn.

    Your story about the 6mon old babies made me laugh. It was my babies who taught me that there was *something* to the idea of sex differences, beyond Next Wave feminism’s deconstruction of socialized gender (adding that my babies also showed me there’s a continuum of differences, not a strict division). Now I wonder, wrt that study and what I (begin to) understand about xx/estrogen and xy/testosterone: maybe the girl babies, due to the generally female power of holistic/inclusive thinking, simply intuited sooner that there was *something* outside of them, which was influencing events. Maybe the boy babies persisted, due to the generally more linear/narrow-focus male style of thinking. Of course even at 6mos we can’t rule out gender socialization’s influence…perhaps already by then, the boys had had their ‘determination to succeed’ (e.g.) emphasized, and the girls had not–the girls, perhaps, were already being taught to ‘surrender’. But I have a feeling that gender-socialization only works as well as it does, because there really ARE somewhat hardwired/biological sex differences.

    Because I’ve learned, as noted by many over time, that the very best, most persuasive of lies always contains some kernel of truth. Biological research into sex differences as posed most obviously by study of estrogen and xx, testosterone and xy, research done with a razor sharp radfem focus of critique, may be useful to us. For me, that radfem critique was piqued recently in my quick take study of auto-immune disorders (occurring 8x more for womyn than men) and depression (at least 2x more often for womyn). Briefly–all research posed the idea that these differences along sex lines might be down to ‘an estrogen problem’…bearing their further scrutiny of how estrogen ‘disables us’, of course! Immediately I saw instead, a *patriarchy* problem–patriarchy having created a culture which is fundamentally sickening and lethal to womyn. OF COURSE estrogen is different than testosterone, we are only just beginning to unravel the ‘science’ of that as it applies to brain, biology, behavior, etc. And as a radfem looking at the research, I could see the bias of ‘male as the norm, female as essentially flawed/aberrant’.

    As a radfem so deeply hungry for evidence of *something else*, I have looked into other cultures, seeking the ones (such as the Iroquois) where womyn were healthy, wealthy, empowered socially and politically, strong, wise, etc. The kernel of truth in patriarchy is that womyn are different from men in important ways. Upon that kernel of truth has been built the overwhelming network of lies founded on men’s violent super-imposing of a male/female heirarchy, with it’s male-dominated sciences that cannot help but search for ever more ways that *femaleness* is flawed, rather than considering the possibility that *patriarchy* is flawed. Of course, now that even so many men are so sick in so many different physical/psychosocial ways, you’d think this truth would begin to dawn….oh yeah, except for that little matter of privilege…

  28. gender has nothing to do with individual physical characteristics – babies will learn absolutely anything you teach them, and what babies learn most is the behaviour of domination for boys and behaviour of subordination for girls.
    Gender is just the practice of master and slave, male domination and female subordination in its pure form, enforced through grooming, endocrination and psychological, economic and physical violence. it’s not about attributing different values to different character traits (to which we should respond by “accepting all differences in character and preferences”) – it’s allowing boys to only act dominant and dominate girls and forcing girls to always be subordinate to boys. There’s nothing to be negotiated in here.

    Take the maths thing: to justify and enforce domination over women, men have to pretend they’re intellectually superior to women while making women as mentally lobotomised as possible so they can’t think for themselves or gain the knowledge necessary to take over the male supremacist system. So men create special secluded male fields of knowledge based on their own value system of domination and control and prevent women from having access to this knowledge by making it taboo for women to do these kind of things – ensuring social, psychological, sexual, physical (etc.) retaliation if they don’t comply. To be able to enforce that division in the first place entails men already having the control over women’s bodies and minds through violence, but this gender thing, the cultural, religious, linguistic, economic and political (etc.) naturalisation of male domination and female subordination is what glues it firmly into place over time.

    Men create tools of power and destruction, hold monopoly over their legitimate use and forbid women from using it (wether it be tools, weapons, violence, war, knowledge, religion, language, economic production, agriculture, sports, culture, art, etc.), force women into marriage (through violence and by stealing women’s means of subsistence) => based on continual rape/PIV, forced reproduction and slavery – and this is gender, this what men call and naturalise as “masculinity” and “femininity”. It’s got nothing to do with finding something boring, having a strong or weak hand. Our preferences our shaped by this system of slavery, exploitation and expropriation of our bodies.

  29. Despising everything women are forced to do under patriarchy (being slaves to men) is part of the “gender” thing. I wouldn’t value being a slave to a man, but I would value care. Though they’re two different things and I doubt most women are in a position to “care”, their situation is most likely to be enslaved, to serve as free labour force. They wouldn’t do it, not like this if not under duress.

  30. cherryblossom–I totally hear you, especially as a mother, about the way boys start out and then are forced socially into a limited mold, wrt sex, sensuality– and I add, aslo wrt emotional expression. So sad to see my wholly-loving and fully-in-their-skin (in their natural encompassing sensuality) little boys give up so much to patriarchy’s dictates as they grew up. As a feminist mom who understood well about gender conditioning–but not til pretty recently the full extent of society’s influence on all kids–I made conscious effort to raise my kids in a whole-person/non-sexist way. And while I certainly see the impact of culture, in terms of narrowing self to suit gender expectations, on my girls too–well, it is worse, more deadening and overtly rage-producing for the boys. MORE narrowing and confining for my sons than it has been for my daughters as yet. Because, I think, in spite of rape/battering culture being more fully realized now than ever (and in direct reaction against womyn’s empowerment), it is more “ok” for girls to a) remain more fully in their bodies and feelings and b) it’s also acceptable for womyn (even dictated now, in the quest to further erase femaleness) to be strong, develop executive ability and other previously ‘masculine’ traits.

    Anyway–I have watched the boys shrink in this sexual/sensual way as they grew up, right in line with the ways they were also required to shrink emotionally. One does not give up empathy, and the full range of one’s emotions, without a general physical numbing that impacts sex/sensuality (and whole creativity and everything)

    I can’t say what part xy/testosterone plays in this. Surely some part, but my focus has been on this science as it relates to womyn, especially birth and breastfeeding. I cannot believe that testosterone itself requires that extent of shrinking of self, emotion and sensuality–do believe it is much more about patriarchy’s dictates that men must be as ‘testosterone bound’ as womyn must be ‘estrogen bound’, to preserve the sexual heirarchy. But that nature-nurture thing is for men to figure out for themselves. My love and focus is on womyn’s health and power now.

    And I agree that by about age 16 on average, this trend is ‘complete’ in boys. Sooner for some, but in any event it’s a process that starts young and comes to full pathology with sexual maturation.

  31. Just want to add that I am so extremely happy with all of this conversation! Thanks all. If I commented on everyone’s wonderful posts I’d be here all day…just know that everyone’s thoughts on this are greatly appreciated by me today 🙂

  32. NO I disagree that the culture is *more* narrowing and confining for boys. Quite the opposite. You only need to see how many girls have been sexually abused to understand that the system is designed to castrate girls until there is nothing left of their innate sexuality.

    When we eventually do away with patriarchy, males and females will both benefit, even if we have to drag men kicking and screaming into their own freedom… but there is no way that male sexuality is *more* circumscribed than girls’. While it’s certainly true that (as Greer points out) boys are affected by the hyper-masculine culture, and lose their ability to feel in the process, I agree with Karmarad that males are able to keep more of their “essence” than girls. Boys are not traumatized the way girls are.

  33. cherryblossom–even as I wrote the part that you are so rightly refuting, I was thinking that I was mainly talking about my own daughters–who were well nurtured as whole people, and who are among the lucky ones who escaped the trauma of childhood sexual abuse or of violent rape. But you are very right, and I stand corrected. On the whole, it is as you say…except for the part about dragging men kicking and screaming LOL. Not my job! And a job I’d actively discourage any womyn from taking on.

    I do believe womyn will (already are) leading the way, and that men will (already are doing) kick and scream over being forced to change if they want anything to do with womyn.

  34. “It is a fact that a majority of girls have ‘stronger’ audio/language skills than boys – statistically speaking…”

    I don’t know if we can trust these kinds of studies because our gender programming often begins even before birth. Because of that It becomes nearly impossible to separate biology from learned behavior. But we do create these cultural norms and expectations around gender that tend to imply that the things labeled female are bad and male good. Attempting to erase “women” means getting rid of the best things that humankind has to offer, like compassion, empathy, nurturing. It’s kind of crazy that what we value as a society are those things we have labeled masculine, like a lack of empathy, the ability to disconnect from your emotions, violence, destruction, bleeding a lot. LOL, I’m thinking of all the male stereotypes offered in a Terminator movie.

  35. witchwind–yes, patriarchy is a dominance/submission mind, and the master/slave roles are dictated as man/womyn–I agree that the gender constructs are built upon that foundation. Men have indeed worked hard to exclude womyn from studies and tools deemed only appropriately masculine, as a way to enforce the sex dichotomy and their dominance over womyn. Anthropological studies have shown how this was done in some cultures–womyn not allowed to even touch a man’s weapons, much less use them–or be severely punished. Men similarly taught to avoid ‘womyn’s things’ as unfit for their notice, and so forth, in all areas of thought, work, feeling. Complex and highly detailed religious beliefs, taboos, all kinds of overt and covert social forces are used along with violence to enforce gender norms.

    And still think that it could only have been built upon a kernel of truth about womyn and men in terms of sex-based biology–physical traits. For one instance, not only are womyn smaller than men (in general) but also do not develop the same degree of upper body strength as men, with comparable activity (it is possible for womyn to develop it, but only through focussed, intensive work–not via ‘comparable activity’). From that one general physical difference, I think that it’s logical to consider that womyn and men might also have some inherently differing ways of processing/problem solving/communicating–in order to deal with life’s survival challenges.

    And of course, there is the logical assumption that men must always have had greater physical strength, else how could we have been dominated through their violence? I’m thinking of way long ago when this began…when even womyn, living much more with the natural elements (and without tech conveniences of any sort) and would have themselves been much more physically fit than we tend to be today.

    Again, I do see all biologically ‘sex-type’ traits existing along a continuum in womyn and men–not by any means a strict binary. I’ve certainly seen through my own 6 kids and numerous others I’ve known from infancy onward, the various expressions of that continuum in early days and even despite gender enforcement (at first). And with yttik believe that now, we have lived with gender socialization for so long, and so thoroughly, that it is nearly impossible to sort out what is ‘inherent’ and what is ‘natural’. Again, I’ve watched my own kids and so many others upclose, how the gender binary is imposed more intently, and in more and more ways, as kids grow. By the time they are 3 or 4, most of the work is done for most kids…only deepened over time.

  36. yttik–“It’s kind of crazy that what we value as a society are those things we have labeled masculine, like a lack of empathy, the ability to disconnect from your emotions, violence, destruction, bleeding a lot.”

    Yeah, not just kind of crazy–completely insane!

    Was just reading about that latest study of men’s/womyn’s personality that’s been in the news–generally a load of balderdash for various reasons…but I’m thinking here of one particular trait named: being ’emotionally stable’ or ’emotionally reactive’. Men of course, have been ruled the ’emotionally stable’ ones. All I can think is–you mean, ’emotionally DEAD’? Or perhaps merely ’emotionally repressed’?

    Ye gawds, the words used–‘stable’ and ‘reactive’ are so value laden! So typical in patriarchy, how is this so hard to SEE?

    The Terminator is a most apt analogy. We are all to become terminators (gee, should I have said ‘more emotionally STABLE’? so we can perform as terminators cold-blooded rather than ‘reactively’?) and that is how we destroying the planet. Gah.

  37. Witchwind, I loved your comment. I think it is easy to get wrapped up in gender traits, when really,as you say, gender is nothing more than a political system.
    I’m as radfem as you can get, and (perhaps because of this awareness) I can already see the process of castration beginning in my daughter. It doesn’t depend on how nurturing the mother is, but on how well society values females. Even if a mother is one of the lucky ones who is equipped with adequate economic and emotional support — though, god knows, enough mothers in this world don’t have the support they need to do their job– all she can do is try to limit the damage. THe messages are literally everywhere. I don’t even own a TV, and yet am constantly surprised at the brainwashing that comes out of my daughter’s mouth 😦

    yttik, women tend to bleed a lot as well, though it’s not valued when they do 😉

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