“Woman” Is Not My Slave Name (from the DGS archives)

Before vagina hats, there was the “muff match”!

1st published WEDNESDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2011

 

woman slave name

Anne Snitow, Gender Diary in Conflicts in Feminism Eds Marianne Hirsch & Evelyn Fox Keller

 

 

I agreed with Naomi McAuliffe in her worry that feminism is doing itself no favours with its choice of high profile campaigns this year in Is the Muff March a cunning stunt? (For more on cunning stunts masquerading as feminism see this blog post) Where we differed was with the principle behind the march; in this case “the very real issue of cosmetic genital surgery.”

A real issue? I understand the personal is supposed to be political, but this is just a bit too personal. It may be the statistical case that “Labiaplasty, vaginal tightening, and hymen reconstruction are all on the increase”, but if women are choosing to do these things with their own highly evolved brains, where is the issue? The (apparently) oppressed women inside the Harley Street clinics were not privileged a voice to enlighten us. If they had, a curt, ‘Get stuffed and mind your own muff business’, might have been the response.

The feminists succeeded in getting headlines, but what benefit to the cause – indeed, what cause? Only WH Smiths could have benefited from the stunt, being spared a few hours of ‘radical’, ‘guerilla’ feminist activities denouncing the female form as pornographic and slapping stickers over pert boobs. In the war against sexual objectification, the next step may well be putting paper bags over pretty girls faces as they walk down the street. Come to think of it, these Object and Feministing girls would do well in Dubai, enforcing purdah.

But back to the elusive “issue”. With nobody being physically forced into anything, McAuliffe invoked the feminist context of collective female shame. Always a safe bet as, not being perfect, humans very often feel shitty about themselves whatever their sex. History is littered with ideologies which have sought to harness this nebulous power. “Women and girls have to live with accusations of smelling like fish, smelling during our periods, having vaginas that are too slack, having labia that is not neat enough, growing too much hair (as though it’s a choice), or not decorating a minge like a Christmas tree with some ghastly vajazzle. They’re reacting to these accusations with razors, wax and a surgeon’s scalpel.” 

If this is anything to go by, feminists are spending far too much time hanging around with teenage boys, (or frequenting Mumsnet – the vernacular is pretty much indistinguishable.) To take serious note of either opinion has the political weight of engaging in a debate on climate change with the Monster Raving Loony Party. There’s an adage about arguing with idiots that some feminists would do well to heed.

Another thing which jarred about this protest was the implication that such surgery was driven by vanity. Many surgical procedures in those clinics are not actually ‘cosmetic’ (as if that were a pejorative term – it isn’t) but reconstructive. But typically, these feminists jumped to the most negative opinion of women as vain, shallow, and easily led creatures. What a woman recuperating after getting a 3rd-degree perineal tear repaired would have made of their caterwauling we don’t know.

It reminded me too of the ‘too posh to push‘ myth; a myth pretty much perpetuated by women in the media. Anyone who has ever been through childbirth knows it is not about being posh, it is a genuine mortal fear of childbirth and wanting to avoid unimaginable pain. So unimaginable, in fact, it’s impossible to imagine it afterwards. That’s a neat biological trick! It’s about a series of trade-offs: between facing that fear and pain (surely an individual choice in a civilised and technologically advanced society) or having a few extra days bed rest and a sore tummy; between childbirth induced vaginal and rectal trauma or a fully functioning pelvic floor.

It’s one of the cornerstones of our civilisation that women do not have to face the mortal horrors of childbirth alone and without help if they need or want it. Why lead them up the garden path, then slam the door in their faces? I find it odd, not to say highly disturbing, that it is feminists, and not ‘The Patriarchy’, who are protesting that there should be limits to those privileges; and not based on medical or fiscal considerations, on ideological ones. Thankfully we do not live in a feminist autocracy, and our reformed patriarchy gives women the choice to avoid these traumas, and to have them surgically fixed, for whatever reason they so choose – bladder control or good sex – without the harassment of the establishment. Feminism once fought for women to have opportunities and choices such as these. Now it almost seems like it wants to revoke them.

As a society, we have come far. No man can now take to the pavement, pious placard in hand, telling women what they ought to be doing, and rightly expect to be called anything but a sexist pig. So what does that make these feminists?

Actions speak louder than words. For all the cries of feminism being a pro-women organisation, more and more it actually appears pro-feminist and anti-women. The disconnect between feminism and women is becoming more palpable as time passes. If it is for women, why won’t it listen to us? Why not take criticism where its due? Why not adapt? The feminists on the ‘Muff March’ perfectly illustrate how orthodox feminism today is not about creating opportunities for women or empowering them to make their own choices. It is about disseminating archaic 20th-century dogma and slavishly following ideology, in spite of women’s wants, needs and lived experience today.

So here’s my question: Does feminism serve women or do women serve feminism? That’s not a rhetorical question. It needs to be answered.

Too often feminism connects the word ‘woman’ in terms of weakness, victimhood and shame. If I could tell these feminists anything, it is that times have changed and ‘woman’ is not my slave name.

Follow the link to see the Facebook debate about the Muff March

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An Old Sexual Manifesto from 2011

I wrote this originally in 2011 and it references another old feminist campaign from 2006 (which I had researched and referenced in my university dissertation which was an attempt to unify liberal feminist aims with evolutionary psychology). It’s now 2017 and feminists still haven’t changed the record as we see with the furore over walk-on girls in sport. I have kept the original context in to show how feminist arguments never develop, only get recycled. The links go to the orignal sources I collected along the years.

It’s worth noting that at this time I considered myself a liberal feminist in the way Christina Hoff Sommers does today. I had yet to examine the premises of feminism in detail, compare them with those of egalitarianism and come to the conclusion that there is, in actuality, no such thing as liberal feminism, only egalitarianism. For more of that analysis see this essay which is a further analysis of my contribution to this paper published in the Journal of Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, Vol 8(1), Jan 2014, 3–11 Note: the latter link is a live download of the full PDF. Enjoy. Px
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One might be forgiven for thinking the recent rumblings of feminist agitation within the pages of The Guardian signified a progression of some sort. In Moral panic? No. We are resisting the pornification of women, Gail Dines and Julia Long take up arms against the old foe of the ‘pornification of culture’. They repeat scripts written by feminists of decades past, “(P)ornification…perpetuate(s) myths of women’s unconditional sexual availability and object status, and thus undermine women’s rights to sexual autonomy, physical safety and economic and social equality.” This asserted in spite of the fact that women in the West enjoy unparalleled levels of sexual autonomy, control over their fertility, physical safety and economic and social equality. A similar campaign has been hosted on the pages of The Guardian before. That too ended with a live Guardian debate. That one, like this one, was basically a book promotion dressed up as feminist activism. Lets take a step back in time…

On April fools day 2006, media feminist and Guardian regular Madeline Bunting railedagainst the sexualisation of our public spaces, decorated ubiquitously with female bodies, which to her represented, “another insistent, insidious message of how culture shapes expectations of our sexuality, another reminder of one’s own powerlessness to assert other images of sexuality with anything like comparable prominence.” Buntings invective was roused by, amongst other things, a console game advertisement on the sides of UK double-decker buses which had instructed those who just happened to glance at it to ‘Paste your girlfriend’s white bits here.’ Bunting posited a brief thought experiment, “Imagine: could I have an equivalent number of double-deckers trumpeting the message that sex is the magical experience of mutual giving?”, but quickly had a reality check, “Boring … duh … The problem about our pervasive cultural sexism is that the debate is tilted all one way.” The piece signalled her allegiance to radical Marxist feminism in the title, Sex Slaves to the Market, and predictably pointed a highly critical finger at that putative symbol of western patriarchy; capitalism. “Pornography is colonising all other forms of media… a multimillion-pound industry will carry on churning out the websites, DVDs and magazines that are distorting our sexual mores.” 

A week later, Libby Brooks, another Guardian regular and fellow traveller, published a new call to arms for feminism, A New Sexual Manifesto, again, in The Guardian, “This is not about being anti-sex,” she began, pre-empting the oft-used insult of feminists being anti-sex and frigid, “It is not about being prudish, or easily embarrassed, or unliberated. But it is about anger.” 

Both articles were motivated by two recent feminist publications, the primary being Ariel Levi’s investigation into the rise of what she termed ‘raunch culture’ in the US. In the best spirit of the sisterhood, it was called Female Chauvinist Pigs. Both Bunting and Brooks had been roused into action by an attempted broadside at Levi’s exposé from Kate Taylor, Today’s Ultimate Feminists are Chicks in Crop Tops, which appeared in the Guardian on 23 March 2006, and seemed to re-run many of the anti-feminist clichés that Brooks’ attempted to foreclose in her first few sentences.

Taylor opened with, “Men, you can relax. You are no longer the enemy. Instead, judging by recent events in America, modern feminists have a much shapelier target in their sights – other women. Specifically, scantily clad women who use their sexuality to get ahead.” Taylor then subverted this sass by succinctly encapsulating the dilemma facing modern feminism; the same unresolved dilemma that emerged in the UK in the early to mid-1990s, articulated within the media-friendly ‘ladette’ paradigm:

“Levy thinks raunch culture is a feminist movement gone terribly wrong. We are, in her eyes, doing all these things merely to show the men that we are “one of the guys” and “liberated and rebellious”. Naturally, she finds this confusing. “Why is labouring to look like Pamela Anderson empowering? The answer is, labouring to look like Pamela Anderson is not empowering. We’re not trying to be empowered. The twentysomething women I know don’t care about old-style feminism. Partly this is because they already see themselves as equal to men: they can work, they can vote, they can bonk on the first date. For younger women, raunch is not about feminism, it’s just about fashion.”

Here we had some dissent from the ranks, some space for real debate to emerge, not simply the usual rhetoric regurgitated for a new generation. Here was a voice from that generation, disrespecting the matriarch with a message from the front. But Bunting was not about to privilege this particular female voice, “They may recruit a naive cheerleader – such as Kate Taylor on these pages last week – but she’s only a token; this phenomenon is driven by the market. While the cash rolls in, millions of lives are muddled, sometimes even ruined, by the multiple misconceptions being peddled.”

That was Kate told. She was a ‘token’. The ‘pornification of culture’ was a problem only Marxist feminists could solve. The message was clear: Don’t you dare disrespect the non-hierarchical sisterhood! The title of Levi’s book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, invoked a similar, uneasy paradox. The elephant in the sisterhoods room; female intrasexual competition. Yes, once again, the great nemeses of feminism, other women, play footsie with patriarchy while Amazionia burns.

Pigs, was ostensibly a ‘new’ broadside against the ‘pornicopia’ of the West, but which suspiciously looked to me like a Stateside reworking of Imelda Whelehan’s Overloadedwhich charted the rise of ‘Loaded’ magazine and lipstick feminism in 1990s UK. In it, Levi railed against women living in the false consciousness of sexual liberation. The message was: You’re not liberated. You’re still being exploited and to make things worse, you are willfully abetting the patriarchy! To a feminist, there could be no greater crime.

So, not being able to parade these women for shame with heads shaven in the marketplace, Levi levelled at them the accusation of being not just chauvinists, but pigs too. Talk about tough love. Not since Faludi’s ugly-sisterly rant against Betty Friedan in Backlash for having the gall to be a (spit) liberal feminist, had feminist competition been so disseminated.

All this would not have appeared so ironic if there was any sort of agreement within feminism about female sexuality. But the truth is, now as it was then, that orthodox (aka ‘radical’) feminists object to ‘false’ representations of female sexuality in the media, even though they, within the multitude of feminisms, can’t actually agree on what female sexuality is. All they can do is agree on what it is not. A tenacious attachment to such stagnant and conservative feminist values is very well documented within the published articles of media feminists over the years in the Guardian, and more than illustrates just how little the discourse has adapted to changing times.

Taylor’s lonely dissenting voice found support however in the unlikely form of Lynne Segal in A Misguided Manifesto. Segal attended the live event even though she, “was reluctant to join the fray, feeling I had been here many times before.” She charted her journey to such weariness, ending with a defence of the young women castigated by Levi and co, bringing with her a healthy dose of historical perspective, “Superficially, it is easy to see the appeal of this attack on raunch culture: young girls are not “liberated” by wearing thongs, waxing their bodies…or buying sex toys. But then again, I’m rather glad they feel free to do this without getting stoned alive, without being arrested as whores and hookers.” Refreshingly free of feminist cultural relativism also.

Fast forward five years and we have a re-run; same script, same stage, different characters. Moral panic? No. We are resisting the pornification of women. No you’re not, your co-opting feminism to sell your book. Having read the script already many times before, I’m not buying it. Feminism was in crisis in 2006 and it still is today. The last thing it needs is the cynicism and, yes, conservatism of Gail Dines. Re-reading Brooks and Bunting, Dines and Long, it’s easy to forget true pioneers like Olympe de Gouges who in 1791 wrote one of the first feminist tracts, Declaration of the Rights of Women and Women Citizens; who spoke out for her sex and against the Terror and was guillotined for it; or modern-day feminist pioneers like Egyptian Aliaa Magda El-Mahdy. Dines, Brooks and Bunting & co cannot support El-Mahdy as her chosen weapon, her young, naked female body, is precisely that which they do not understand – the unbound power of female sexuality.

It’s easy to forget that feminism desperately needs a new manifesto, one that reiterates its duty of care and allegiance to all women (not just card-carrying feminists) above and beyond defunct 20th-century ideologies. It’s easy to forget that feminism is an essential movement in a world where we know men will attempt to constrain female choice if cultural mores allow them to. It’s easy to forget that we in the West are the exceptions to the global rule of female oppression, that we should stop navel gazing and use our power and influence to help less fortunate women, and by proxy their children and menfolk, enjoy the rights and privileges Dines, Bunting and Levi seem to take so much for granted.

Back at the Guardian debate in 2006, Segal came away with a subversive message:
“Let me share a little secret with you, something that hampers any attempt to rectify sexual behaviour: sex is all about wanting to be objectified, wanting to be the object of another’s desire, another’s gaze (even if, like a traditional straight man, we pretend that this is not the case). However, it is about wanting to gain this attention in ways that are reasonably safe from risk, harm or hurt – except, perhaps, for when these are the very things that turn us on.”

Predictably, after much sound and fury, the event ended up signifying nothing. I could not attend, but I did email Bunting asking her if the debate would be published. In a brief reply, she reported that she thought there would be a podcast on Comment is Free. After waiting some months for it to appear I emailed again to be told ‘I don’t think there is any podcast’. I have a feeling this next event will similarly be lost to history, and survive only as a strategy to be re-run with the next publishing deal. More fool us if we fall for such cynical, superficial nonsense masquerading as feminism.

In Defence of Reformed ‘Patriarchy’.

 

The following is the beginnings of an essay which I will continue to write based on feedback and questions I get. It is a living essay.

To begin I am setting out the fundamental reasons why I, as an evolutionary scholar,  fight feminism as briefly as possible in the hope everyone reading will immediately grasp the thesis. It’s all about patriarchy – what it is and what it is not.

As I have written elsewhere feminism is not the battle for equality between the sexes but a movement to “smash patriarchy”. This might have been a noble endeavour had feminists ever hit upon a theory of patriarchy that could begin to be falsified. The following are the starting premises for an evolutionary model of patriarchy, with this in mind. The feminist conception of patriarchy is woefully lacking (see a previous essay here). Examining patriarchy via evolutionary theory, which includes but is not limited to ecology, biology, anthropology and psychology, reveals a much more fascinating and complex picture. Through this lens, ‘patriarchy’ is our fitness landscape. It differs from place to place depending on ecological constraints. These constraints are myriad, but not infinite and so can be plotted. Neither are these differences arbitrary, they dance around a constant, evolutionary, fire.

I assert that ‘patriarchy’ exists on a continuum from malign to benign. Strong (malign) patriarchies appear in areas of ecological duress and appear to constrain female choice because competition between men is so fierce and women are often caught in the crossfire though they are rarely the primary target: this is what I call unreformed patriarchy. Unreformed patriarchies are dangerous places to live in for both men and women – but especially men. Unreformed patriarchies often practice institutional polygyny which contributes to male intrasexual competition as the operational sex ratio (OSR) is skewed (high-status men have more wives, low-status men have none.) We recognise these cultures in the world’s strict theocracies.

In the Western cultures, we live mostly in ecological release through both geographical luck and human technological innovation. Competition between men is not so fierce (though in some poor enclaves it is). Men generally cooperate and society is stable and safe – as safe as it has ever been in human history. Institutional monogamy helps this stability and the OSR is in equilibrium most of the time (again, except in high crime/high male mortality enclaves) though some mate switching still occurs.  These western, benign societies appear to facilitate female choice under what I call reformed patriarchy. In both these societies ‘patriarchy’ appears to manifest itself in men over-represented in positions of power but this is not true, they are overrepresented in positions of the most fierce competition which has the result of elevating them up the dominance or (as Jordan B. Peterson correctly parses) competence hierarchy. Men want power and resources not to dominate women but to attract them.

Women take part in the creation and maintenance of these systems for reasons of their own ultimate fitness. They are not victims of it. They compete with other women as fiercely as men compete with other men for the resources they need to stay alive, find the best partners and successfully reproduce. They do this in very different ways than men however and this will be the subject of another essay (but which is touched upon here).

Crucially for my thesis in defence of reformed patriarchy is that reformed patriarchy protects against unreformed patriarchy. Should feminism ever succeed in its stated goal of “smashing patriarchy” in the West, unreformed patriarchy will inevitably rush in to fill the void it leaves and western civilization will fall.

Therefore, it is vital we fight feminism. In defence of reformed patriarchy.


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A Short Review of Wonder Woman with an Evolutionary Slant.

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Despite all the feminist/SJW chatter around Wonder Woman, a marketing strategy which is far more likely to turn me off any product attached to it, I enjoyed the film.  The character embodies femininity unhitched from biology and evolution. In the real world, we know women are just as competitive as men, but employ more covert, less aggressive strategies to get what they want. We know women are more risk averse and attuned to possible danger than men, on average, because this is adaptive. Every one of our female ancestors successfully out reproduced women who were not so risk averse. Competition is a blast, but losing (for women) especially in our evolutionary past, would have had serious reproductive consequences for their (and their male partners) evolutionary fitness. And contrary to what many people think about evolution, differential reproductive success trumps differential survival success. Which is why men are more ‘disposable’ in evolution than women. Globally, men are overwhelmingly represented as victims of violence as they are in risky dangerous jobs, defence and policing; everywhere you see high risks you see more men than women. This is an evolutionary injunction, not a cultural one.

The evolutionary reason most cultures are gynocentric is that women are the key to the next generation. They are mothers and carers. Men are disposable protectors in comparison. And here’s the rub for feminists: Women can’t simply reject their evolutionary role and expect men to maintain theirs. It’s a two-way street.

Diana Prince is an immortal who need not worry about the risks of open aggression on her reproductive fitness. She can let her aggression run free and enjoy the thrill of fierce competition. I wonder if the frustration women express about the damsel trope stems from the aggression many women do feel but must suppress?

Wonder Woman’s theme is the perfect embodiment of this release of suppressed energy. The full force and thrill of female aggression which most women dare not fully manifest for deep evolutionary reasons.

 

For further reading on the mechanisms of female aggression see the lifetime of research by Professor Anne Campbell of Durham University (one of my mentors).

For further reading on the anatomy of female competition see The development of human female competition: allies and adversaries by Joyce Benenson and follow the refs.

Religion, Atheism and The Evolution of Symbolic Thought.

Stone tools provide the first evidence of the evolution of symbolic thought and began to emerge in our hominid ancestors around 2.5 million years ago  (our species, Homo Sapiens, emerged a mere 120,000 years ago). The cognitive architecture in the brain had to be in place before the first spark of creativity occurred, before the hominid looked at the crude lump of rock and saw the refined handaxe within it.

hand axe .jpgJust as millions of years later, Michelangelo  looked at a lump of marble and saw Pietà.

Michelangelo's_Pieta_5450_cut_out_black.jpg

The evolution of symbolic thought very likely enabled the evolution of language and technology. The same mechanism also gave rise to art and spirituality, two elements which some together in pre-historic cave paintings and depictions of shamans.

Religion might be said to be  codified human spirituality just as science is codified human innovation and curiosity and ethics is codified morality. They come from the same wellspring  – symbolic thought – and are deeply embedded in evolved human nature.

To call for the end to religion, as many atheists who follow the lead of Dawkins and Harris, is to say you are going after human nature. You then, however, find yourself in bed with social constructionists and postmodernists who deny human nature. This isn’t a rational position. We cannot erase spirituality without also erasing everything else symbolic thought gives us.

I can’t be sure, but I don’t think that’s where Dawkins or Harris would want to be. Yet it’s where the argument takes them. (Edit: this is not a criticism of these individuals. I admire and respect both – and I know Harris doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater with respect to spirituality and symbolic thought. This is just a discussion of the premises of the atheist argument, which Dawkin’s and Harris’ have popularised.)

I agree with them that religion and science should be kept separate. Religion is not science. That is true. Many people also assert that it’s not rational. I don’t agree.

Many of our instinctive biases help us stay alive on a daily basis. To use Jonathan Haidt’s elephant/rider metaphor, the elephant will instinctively take fright at the small thing rustling in the long grass, which could be a mouse, a snake or a tiger. The point is, the elephant doesn’t know until the mouse or tiger reveals itself. This is what we call common sense. Our instinctive biases have functions in terms of fitness. How ever much we scorn them now as intellectuals and rationalists, they helped our ancestors succeed – which is why we are now here, looking at this magic screen, reading words and thinking about abstract things such as symbolic thought. Meta!

But great as it is for helping us not get run over by a bus or eaten by lions, common sense isn’t great for science. Which is why we created the scientific method in the first place. We don’t need a subjective method. That’s already our state in nature. Science is not common sense, it is uncommon sense.

The very natural fear we have of jumping out of our comfort zones, also hampers us taking that further risky step, which might end up in total humiliation and social ostracism; there is no greater fear for a social animal, as humans are.

But getting back to religion; has it actually hampered the progress of science? I can’t see that it has.  The Enlightenment still occurred after the dark ages and in the midst of murder, mayhem and religious zealotry. We still have that of course but, since the beginning of recorded history, when have we ever not?

Would it be possible to erase spirituality and religion from human nature and also not take symbolic thought with it? I can only see that, if it were ever possible to trace that thread along the tangled bank of evolution to cut it off at the source, it would only render us less complex and less human.

I agree, science and religion are two discrete areas, but who am I to deprive a person who has lost loved ones of the hope they will meet them again in another life? It’s none of my bloody business. And it isn’t illogical of them to believe in an afterlife, if it helps get them through the night and look after their surviving loved ones.

I understand that, because atheists do not approve of an unreformed radical Islam and see it as a threat to hard won Western freedoms, they feel the need to go after all religion so as to be logically consistent and not seem bigoted. But the premises of this are flawed. The atheist argument, which denies religion is a part of human nature appears to me to be just as woolly as their opponents, who think God made man in his image. I think we can do better.

If atheists want to go after religion as a political force, then just be honest about it. Argue for a separation of church and state – argue for the continuation of that separation in the West and against religious mission creep into scientific realms. I would agree with them on that.

Science and religion are two separate areas, and both vie for expression; of curiosity on one part, and comfort in the face of certain death on the other. I don’t think that’s a glitch, I think it’s a feature.

In the same way that I think religion should stay out of science, I think science should stay out of religion. Fight to keep that separation distinct yes, but not to erase one or the other. That’s as illogical as postmodernists denying the biological basis of human nature.

Disclaimer: I’m agnostic.