So, I was listening to The Door Into Summer the other day, and as a throw away line on “how language has changed” he has a man threaten to punch out the main character for using “that word” in front of a lady. I don’t remember what the word was. (Weirdly, in Portuguese translation, which of course I read first and is still what I always remember, it was “queer.”)
I didn’t think much about it. Why? Because I’ve read/heard the book a million times, give or take a hundred thousand.
But yesterday I was reading Lileks Gallery of Regretable Food, and right at the beginning he apologizes (in essence) for making fun of food writing in the fifties because … well, he shows an advertisement for a supermarket, and there are all these baby carts and children parked outside, waiting for mommy and he said something like “Who are we to make fun of them when, in their society, it was safe to do this?” (This was not news to me, btw, because some years ago a Scandinavian visitor got charged with child neglect for leaving her baby in a carriage outside a coffee shop while she went in. Apparently it was still done wherever she came from.)
In the same vein – you know I read a lot of Rex Stout and for that matter a lot of pulp SF. I won’t say that guys are always getting in fist fights, but there is often the threat of one, usually for something done to women and children. (The most candid of the Heinleins on this is For Us The Living, in which the custom of fist fighting between men has been eliminated with the elimination of sexual jealousy, which is rather, you know, one of those ideas he got stuck in his head and couldn’t get out. In his defense no one had tried it. Now, fifty years of that great experiment later, we known added promiscuity doesn’t eliminate sexual jealousy, it just eliminates attachment. Never mind.)
It’s funny, if you look at the early books, because the women aren’t at all upset by this – though they might get upset if a bigger guy hits a smaller one. But only sometimes, which is why the Atlas systems commercials worked. Women preferred the big brutes.
It is only in the sixties, with the rather stern pushing of the “sensitive man” that women start acting like men fighting over them is some sort of terrible offense, and in fact men fighting at all is the sign of an oppressive patriarchy and stuff.
The culmination of the stupidity of women’s behavior in books and movies since then is the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean II where the woman has ONE JOB and that is to guard the stupid trunk, and instead she’s running after the men telling them not to fight.
Do women behave this way? Sure they do. Indoctrination works, and they’ve become convinced men fighting over them – or anything, in fact – is a sign of oppression and brutishness and stuff. (You say that like it’s a bad thing, honey!) I have in mind the idiot who was all upset because her boyfriend defended her in public from a drunk, because well, if she were upset she could defend herself. (No, she couldn’t. Men and women are different sizes and strengths. She can only “defend herself” because she can call on daddy government to put the mean evil man away. That’s not adulthood, that’s simpering folly. Daddy government also has troops, and if he turns on her, she’ll have no defense from HIM. Sure it won’t happen. Sure it won’t. And what stops it, exactly? Are you going to call on another government to punch government’s nose? You probably think you are…)
It has become a trope to consider men doing this sort of jostling for position, even in defense of women and children as uncouth and uncivilized and, oh, yeah, patriarchal.
I never fully understood why “Patriarchal” is baaaad, but “matriarchal” is devoutly to be wished for. Unless, of course, you never met any women, and your idea of mothers is a housewife in the fifties, ready to wipe every nose and tie every shoelace.
In fact, there have been very few real matriarchies (I’m not interested in your pre-historic fantasies. Sex with dinos is more realistic) and those that have existed didn’t last very long, because, well – see that thing where women aren’t as strong or as large as men. Also, for the record, this causes women rulers to behave in a different way. For how, exactly, go and read about our cousins, monkeys and apes, in the wild. Males establish their dominance by fighting, sometimes to the death. But females – ah, females are something special, and anyone who has ever gone to an all girls’ school will know our species uses the same method – establish their dominance by bullying to such an extent that underling females stop ovulating, due to extreme stress.
The only people who believe a female hierarchy is peaceful and caring are males who look at it from the outside and see the dominant female’s constant interfering and “bless her heart” as a “caring” thing and not the horrible oppression it is.
The problem is women in the US – and little by little in the rest of the world, but not so much – have either bought into or found it convenient to pretend that male view of females was right. (The women who buy into it tend to be chunky, middle aged, wear home made jewelry and talk about the Earth Mother a lot.)
They pretend that the male form of dominance is just wrong and barbaric, but the female is sainted, and leads to peace and caring.
So – this is where we are. Men no longer fight in public, not even to defend women. But women do still bully and push and shove in private, and drive other women insane.
Is society better for it?
I don’t know. Someone was talking in the comments yesterday about the coarsening of society.
I’m one of those women who never felt much need to have a man protect me, but that was because in the time and place I came of age I was larger and stronger than most men (this doesn’t mean I was Helga. I wore a size 7. But, different food and stuff… and most men were shorter and smaller than I. Also I am and have always been stronger than I look.) So I not only would stop nonsense cold, but I often protected weaker females (often from other females.)
And I’m not going to tell you I ever found men punching each other out attractive as such. I can even understand the roll of eyes, particularly with juvenile males, as they fought over nothing at all.
However, it is important to remember that humans aren’t angels. Whether you believe someone created us or we “just growed” the truth is that we’re built on an ape frame. And ape societies are established in a certain way.
Now we’ve made it impossible for men to establish their dominance structures but, more importantly, we made it impossible for men to police themselves. A man can no longer come along and say “Hey, Miss, is this ape bothering you?” without risking the woman turning on HIM.
Is our society better for it?
As Lileks in the intro to his book, I have to say “Who are we to make fun of them?”
Instead of men jostling and threatening each other, we have women appealing to an all powerful government whom they want to guard, protect and look after them.
Again, what are you going to do when your government turns on you? And what are you going to do if all those cozy things you voted for become oppressive? The one who pays for you to give birth might also decide you need a forced abortion. Why not? Most other countries who have that kind of power have, at some point or another. The one who pays to keep you in comfort will at some point decide that you’ve lived long enough.
Look, no one is arguing that some aspects of patriarchy could be very bad indeed, when patriarchy was taken to the extreme. In the Victorian age, a woman could be a helpless prisoner of an awful marriage (though not as much as our literature would make it sound.)
But now women, who still need protection, and who still, instinctively, seek the most powerful male, are de facto hankering for a marriage with government. Which can be the worst marriage of all, because there is no escape.
And as for aspects of the matriarchy – ask any woman who lives with her mother in law in a traditional society how loving and caring a tribe of females can be.
It takes decades of college education indoctrination to believe that women rulers and kinder and more caring…
So, now when I read novels and two guys are bandying words (if novels reflect the truth it hardly ever came to actual blows. A warning sufficed most of the time) over the way one of them was treating a woman or a child, I can’t even roll my eyes anymore.
Are we superior? How are we superior? How is it keeping the violent members of society from policing each other making us more civilized? How is pretending men and women are exactly the same and their relationships are exactly the same even sane?
What happens when you build your entire society on a lie? The lie that women need no protection might seem to favor women – but if it did, how many women would now be at the mercy of government, and how many children growing up fatherless.
It is always wrong to think of human genders as existing in isolation. You can’t suppress patriarchy in its place without suppressing matriarchy in its place. If men aren’t jostling for dominance, they also are not suppressing the bad actors in their midst and the women who think they’ve now become all powerful are in fact handed the dirty end of the stick and left powerless.
This Heinlein quote is wrong only because now many of the starry eyed idealists are female, but the rest stands:
All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly, which can — and must — be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a “perfect society” on any foundation other than “Women and children first!” is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly — and no doubt will keep on trying.
You might not like it. You might not think it applies to you. You might think you’re all powerful and self-sufficient as a female – but sooner or later you’re going to need protection from the bad actors in the male community.
Why do you think it’s better to get it from a bureaucratic society that you cannot hope to stop or even to influence very far than from the decent man down the street?
You can laugh at the punching out matches in old books and movies, but look at our illegitimacy rate, our drugged-to-the-gills young women, our fatherless children, our dropping-out-of-society male youth.
Who are you to laugh at the structures of the past?