It’s only been about 50 years since women have been getting good educations in large numbers. It didn’t take them that long to realize that all knowledge of the sort offered at universities is tainted by masculine subjectivity. It all needs to be rewritten — history, philosophy, anthropology, economics, biology — all of it is riddled with errors because there had been no women to correct the male scholars when they slid down the rabbit hole of masculine perspective. I’ve been reading feminist scholarship in all these areas, but what really interests me is what male scholarship says about masculinity. Here’s my first contribution to the examination of masculinity, and the rewriting of human history.
Imagine the first groups of humans, homo sapiens: small herds, though we can’t use that word now that the herd is human. There’s something different about these animals, something not just quantitative, but qualitative. Though scientists keep discovering more extinct species between chimps and humans (homo erectus, homo heidelbergensis, neanderthal to name just a few), the moment of the change is hidden from us. What we know is that humans have a level of consciousness that far surpasses that of any non-human, living primate. Why and how?
Hindu wisdom says that the one consciousness that pervades and animates the universe is present in all creatures, but its expression is limited by the biology of the species — very limited in plants, less limited in fish, even less limited in mammals. Human biology –whether brain size alone or something else as well — allows the greatest known expression of this divine consciousness when it’s manifested in form.
I don’t know whether to believe this or not, but it’s a view of life I prefer. It may be that humans were simply created to have this capacity, that the change was by design, rather than by evolution (that presupposes a purpose-driven universal or ‘divine’ consciousness, of course). It’s true that anthropologists can now identify stages of increased cranial capacity and are speculating our capacity for intelligence increased over a period of a million years or so. It’s also true they’re guessing wildly with very little evidence.
Gendering is mutilating.
I think this level of consciousness, however it occurred, was a problem; I think it caused discomfort for the first humans – no, for the first human males. And I think those early men tried to solve the problem by mutilating themselves so they couldn’t experience the full consciousness available to them. For my view of what constitutes full human consciousness, click here. That mutilation was the gendering of consciousness. Bear with me, I’ll try to clarify how gendering is mutilating.
I know there’s (male) speculation that this gendering and the resultant patriarchal culture started when humans switched from living as hunter/gatherer tribes to living as settled farmer groups. The assumption is that the (male) landowners would have wanted to know who their children were so they could leave the land to them. There are a ton of patriarchal assumptions here. First, why would only men own the land? If it was the case, patriarchy was already established. Second, why would anyone own the land? Third why would it be left to a family member when the owner died? These last two questions presuppose the existence of capitalism, an off-shoot of patriarchy. For more on how we all suffer from masculine vision, click here.
I suggest an earlier alternative and I’ll try to explain why.
Here’s how it might have played out. The tribe has emerged from the trees, though I shouldn’t think they’ve gone too far away. This does not happen from one day to the next. Maybe it took a million years.
They’re in a cluster, the women and children, the centre of the tribe. If the tribe is an egg, the women are the yolk. As with all mammalian species, the females are the most consistently important. The males come and go. They hang around the periphery, keeping an eye out for predators. That’s one of their two roles, the other being to impregnate the women when the women are in season.
There’s one significant difference between these intelligent humans and their ancestors – and it’s a significant part of the problem. Other primates live primarily by instinct. After a year or two of life, the young have received all the nurturing they need to augment instinct. They stop orienting themselves around their mother, or the mother encourages them to leave her close proximity. In the case of humans, instinct is largely replaced by experience, so human children need to spend a long time, eight to ten years, in proximity to their mother. So the group of women and children is a group with long-term bonds, and thus with considerable affection.
Men see themselves as the ‘other’
These males, we should call them “men” now, they have a consciousness that allows them to reflect on what they see, and to reflect on themselves as objects. They see the women as the group, they see the power in their group cohesion, they see that the women, with the children are a sort of home, created by bonds of support and affection.
They see that they are excluded.
And they would have been excluded to a large degree. There’s something deer-like about these early humans. In jungles and forests, their ancestors were not terribly vulnerable to predators. But these humans out on the plains are viewed by the large predators as prey. In consequence, the men need to maintain a constant vigilance. They needed to prowl the perimeter.
This is the second part of the problem. In the first, the women are spending years with their offspring, in the second, the men are spending the bulk of their time separated from the core of the tribe, the women and children.
So they see that they are excluded, and they are excluded from something valuable.
The men themselves don’t have bonds with each other, out there on the perimeter. They’re cautious and cagey, aware that the women will choose the best of them to mate with.
Because they have the awareness of humans, they begin to have feelings about this. They feel that the tribe of women and children is the “one”, and they are the “other”. Feelings of exclusion lead to feelings of loneliness, of exile, and eventually envy.
The sex that bears the children must be able to sustain life
The women, meantime, are learning more and more ways to maintain their own lives, and the lives of their offspring. They find the places where water appears, the places where various kinds of edible plants grow, possibly the places where they can gather insects for food, the places where medicinal plants grow. Because they are many, they can do these things even with young children around.
They learn to make “containers” to hold their babies close to their bodies, so their hands can remain free. And containers to hold the goods they find. Since they probably used plant material, we can assume they learned to weave. Once they learned how to process plants and how to weave, all sorts of things followed. They might have learned to weave nets to trap small animals. And once they brought fire into their camps, they would have learned basic chemistry.The women, we can assume, followed their inventiveness and ingenuity. It’s safe to say they needed men for nothing other than procreation and protection. And this is as it should be. The sex that bears the children must be able to sustain those children. We see that in every mammalian species.
The bonds the women have with each other are developed and strengthened by the multiple ways women help each other. They support each other during pregnancy, and during the years of child-rearing, sharing the burdens. They learn all the benefits of cooperation, and evolution doesn’t create any pressure for them to compete with each other.
When men formed teams, they formed the most lethal force in nature.
Then something catastrophic happened: the men decided to hunt large and powerful animals. It required them to form teams. In forming teams, they formed the most powerful and lethal force in nature.
The formerly isolated men now found group cohesion. Within male groups they needed to balance competitiveness with cooperation. And they learned to sort themselves into self-selected hierarchies of leadership and followership. They also needed to practice the skills required to successfully kill large prey. We can assume they invented games for that practice, meaning that they spent more and more time together, competing and cooperating, leading and following.
What happened next is what destroyed this incipient humanity, mutilating both the men and the women.
As they invented game after game, and improved their group hunting, they reified their sense of power. The male physical power that had been necessary to maintain life grew in significance as it became a power that could take life away from dangerous animals and that could, more than ever before, establish dominance in a species that had the self-awareness to experience the repercussions of dominance.
From engaging in occasional fights and lesser posturings to establish dominance, the men now daily experienced the thrill of establishing and established dominance as they won or lost at games, were more or less important in the kill. They developed lust for the hunt, for the chase, for the competitions, for power.
The Hindu chakra system identifies the life force as traveling up the spine from the lowest to the highest chakra. They also identify the sexual force as traveling alongside the life force energy. One result of this proximity is that feelings of being most alive can be accompanied by feelings of sexual arousal.
We see, all the time, that men of power can easily become sexually promiscuous. There is strong evidence that the feeling of power awakens sexual energy. We can also see, all the time, that when women feel most “sexy”, they also feel most powerful.
It’s possible these associations are patriarchally created, but it’s also possible they are a result of energy channels in the body.
I think we can imagine that as early men experienced their power more and more, they also experienced the sexual urge more and more. If that were the case, they would have found women’s lack of interest an obstacle. Can we assume women were only interested during the fertile time of month, and only when they were not pregnant or lactating? Can we imagine a period of time when men and women were drastically out of sync in terms of sexual desire? A time when men began trying to use their power against the women, to force mating when women were not ready?
Women were the first slaves and the first private property
What we do know is that men began hunting other human beings. The teamwork they had learned, the love of the hunt, the love of power cumulatively led them to attack other gatherings of people. They killed the men and forcibly took the women. Historians now know that the first slaves were women.
We can imagine the men of a tribe taking their newly enslaved women back to the core of the tribe, the women and children who formed such a cohesive group, and whose evolution had not required the development of competition. Free women and enslaved women could not co-exist. The men would have satisfied their lust with their slaves. And I think they would each have claimed “ownership” of their quota, determined by their ranking in the hierarchy. This may have been the beginning of any kind of ownership, so that women were both the first slaves and the first private property.
Eventually the core women of the tribe would have had to align themselves with various of the men. And the men would now expect submission from these women, as they received submission from their slaves. And the powerful men would now expect the same deference from the women as they received from the less powerful men.
Male Power and dominance would have replaced female affection and cooperation as the force that held the tribe together and gave it its complexion and character.
In all of this, the men were finding a way to hide their original emotion wound, the feeling of loneliness and isolation, the feeling of being ‘other’. They voluntarily relinquished their affectional nature when they enslaved women, in favour of their aggressive nature. And from then on they denied the importance of affection. They walled off their hearts. And that is mutilation.
Since they now required women to interact with them in submissive ways, they also caused the mutilation of women, who were required to relinquish their power.
The gendering of the human had begun. Wholeness was replaced with partialness. And humans began covering up the wound of mutilation with the alienating structures of the ego.
…to be continued