Monday, January 18, 2010

Women create the game, men try to win

Women create the game, men try to win

A BBC online news item on women in Syria has this line:
Surprisingly, in patriarchal societies like Syria, it is often mothers who reinforce discrimination against women.
To be surprised you have to imagine that there is a battle between men and women. What there is, instead, is a battle between groups of men and women together against other groups of men and women. The way that works in humans is that females generate the cultural rules, by talking endlessly to each other about who and what is good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable, etc. This interacts strongly with another human characteristic: male status is lowered if they allow themselves to be bossed in public, so women don't do that to their partners. Also a culture where females are repressed is good at maintaining the existing status hierarchy. So women with high status try to move things as much as possible in the direction of limiting female freedom of action and communication. Women who have concerns about their status prefer a society with greater apparent sexual equality. And a characteristic feature of the modern world is that all women are concerned about their status, since relative female status is only established by direct contact, and every woman is aware subconsciously of the existence of many important women that they have not settled their relationship with.

While women are making the rules and establishing their relative status, men are trying to figure out the rules and win the game. Our fluid society is more stressful in many ways than more rigid societies, but they are certainly more interesting and productive.