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The root of female oppression?

(78 Posts)
femfortheday Sat 22-Oct-16 15:44:46

Hi. I've always been of the general belief that the root cause of women's oppression was our female bodies - that we are on average smaller, slower and weaker, our reproductive capacity or our perceived reproductive capacity, that we are uniquely vulnerable because of sex, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
But I've seen this mentioned as being false. I don't want to derail into more trans stuff, as I just don't have the energy for it St the minute if I'm honest. But is there something else? Something that makes men hate us, either consciously or subconsciously? Another reason we end up where we do? Any links or book titles even would be appreciated too, for further reading.

HillaryFTW Sat 22-Oct-16 16:24:46

I'm with you: Feminism looks to counter the oppression of the child bearing sex by the non child bearing sex.

buckingfrolicks Sat 22-Oct-16 16:26:25

I think it's the opposite. It's men's testosterone. A hormone that makes for aggression and dominance.

Dervel Sat 22-Oct-16 16:29:31

I think you are right about the physical biological differences being a red herring. The percentage difference between human males and females is actually negligible when compared to other primates. The size/strength difference of gorillas leads to one alpha male gorilla with a wide ranging territory with several females who have no choice in mate selection.

Wheras our variance is more comparable with Orangutans where they tend to pair bond (females excercise choice in mate selection), and males/females engage in much the same activities.

There are other indicators that point to human females having greater choice in mate selection, so I don't think our species (from an evolutionary perspective) has evolved along patriarchal lines. Although for the last several thousand years at least we have. It's not actually long enough to make a massive difference to our evolution.

Moving into anthropology for a moment modern and still extant hunter-gather cultures see men taking a more active role in child rearing. My personal guess is that we are the most adaptable species, thanks to our intellect, and what happened was when we moved into agriculture we adapted to that by creating gender roles and society has gone along those lines ever since.

The good news is if I'm right we can adapt equally well to a society that is more egalitarian once we find the right combination of behaviours to promote.

Dervel Sat 22-Oct-16 16:33:11

On the hormone front iirc even that isn't enough to entirely account for it. If a human male had the testosterone levels comparable to an adult male gorilla we'd keel over dead where we stood. Again I think we closer to orangutans which show much less aggressive behaviour to one another. Chimps I believe have higher levels too.

Shiningexample Sat 22-Oct-16 16:34:54

I second testosterone and the effect it has on behaviour and physiology, ie the desire to dominate and the ability to dominate via greater power and strength

Shiningexample Sat 22-Oct-16 16:39:20

I'm not sure that comparisons with apes shed much light on the situation with humans, our cognitive abilities take things to a whole new level which puts us in an entirely different category

Marmalade85 Sat 22-Oct-16 16:47:22

I think it stems from sex; men penetrate and women receive.

Shiningexample Sat 22-Oct-16 16:47:46

If a human male had the testosterone levels comparable to an adult male gorilla we'd keel over dead where we stood

the effects of hormones depend on the blood levels of the hormone and the density and distribution of receptors for the hormone, as well as other factors like the way it interacts with other hormones.
So really the fact that a gorilla has higher test levels than a human is meaningless

PoldarksBreeches Sat 22-Oct-16 17:01:34

It stems from biology, specifically the capacity to bear children.
Girls are assessed for their reproductive potential. They are sold across the world for their perceived reproductive capacity and then following that they are controlled to ensure the offspring are also controlled.
Western societies have moved somewhat away from this societal model but not that far. Female worth is still measured by sexual potential but now it's fuckability as well as reproductive potential.
The physical differences between males and females are tools used to dominate and excuse /justify dominating behaviour.

museumum Sat 22-Oct-16 17:08:38

Is opression of females not down to male fear of being superfluous? In so many species all females bear young but only the "top" males get to mate.

MotherFuckingChainsaw Sat 22-Oct-16 17:19:02

muse I'd always wondered that.

When it gets down to it, you don't really need many men to keep the species going and society functioning.

I have long thought that the root of oppression was a deep subconscious terror on the part of the non-alpha males that we'd suddenly realise we didn't need them.

Shiningexample Sat 22-Oct-16 17:19:04

it could be argued that women are valuable to men because of the things they provide, children and the rearing of, sexual gratification, this leads men to want to dominate and control women.

Or that people (and animals too) have (what amounts to) a basic drive to further their own interests and so we do whatever we perceive to be in our own interests.
Men are more likely to be able to seize power because of greater physical strength and the fact that women are incapacitated/weakened by pregnancy and childbirth

Shiningexample Sat 22-Oct-16 17:25:23

to some extent competitiveness and risk taking behavior (which tends to be connected to testosterone) is useful, it underlies innovation and technological progress
also there is a dialectical process which can occur between oppressors and the oppressed, it can be a factor which drives innovation
co operation is good but we also need some disagreement and pressure to push us along.
Conflict between the genders (as well as between other groups) can have some useful outcomes

Dervel Sat 22-Oct-16 17:57:54

Freedom is a net positive to society through innovation. The ancient Greeks had a rudimentary steam engine, but they also had slaves. Take America upon the abolition of slavery very rapidly we began to see innovation in agricultural methods.

I'd make the same argument when it comes to women. If we're weighting down 50% of the population we're only operating at half the efficiency and innovation the human race is capable of.

Shiningexample Sat 22-Oct-16 18:04:21

I agree but I also think that your points fit with mine about progress often being a dialectical process

NotDavidTennant Sat 22-Oct-16 18:16:31

I've been thinking about this as I'm currently reading 'Sapiens' by Yuval Noah Harari, and he touches on the fact that the subjugation of women seems common to pretty much all agricultural societies and he discusses a few of the theories for why this before concluding that there isn't really a convincing case for any of them.

One thing I found interesting is that all the theories seemed to be about the qualities of men that might lead them to become dominant (i.e. stronger, more testosterone) which seems in itself a very patriarchal way of looking at things. That got me to thinking that rather than looking at it from a male perspective, what were the qualities of women that might make them vulnerable to subjugation?

The obvious thing that stands out to me is that women are the child-bearing sex. It is thought that in pre-agricultural societies women deliberately spaced out their pregnancies as it wasn't practical to live on the move with more than one small child, and it is also thought that relations between the sexes were more equitable in that era (although the reality is that we don't really know much about how pre-agricultural humans lived, so most of that is speculation). In agriculture societies women stopped spacing out their pregnancies and they generally seem to spend the majority of their fertile years either pregnant or rearing small children, which is surely a major impediment to participating in public life. After industrialisation the number of pregnancies start decreasing again and coincidentally (or perhaps not so coincidentally) we thereafter see progress in women's rights and the birth of feminism.

So my hypothesis is that the greater the proportion of their life that women spend on child-birthing/rearing, the more marginalised they become in society and the more that social institutions become male-dominated (and hence patriarchal).

Of course this is difficult to prove as correlation does not equal causation and there are so many potential confounding factors. Plus, even if a relationship was established, the argument could be made that cause and effect goes in the opposite direction and that patriarchy leads to high child-bearing rates rather than the reverse.

My tupennies worth.

Shiningexample Sat 22-Oct-16 19:12:15

we can look back and identify a progression as cultures go from agricultural to industrial and so forth, but we can only speculate as to where things are going, many things which seem inevitable now (such as patriarchy) may well be overturned and seem, primitive in the future

cadnowyllt Sat 22-Oct-16 21:56:37

Wheras our variance is more comparable with Orangutans where they tend to pair bond (females excercise choice in mate selection), and males/females engage in much the same activities.

Devrel, I don't think this is true of Orangutans. I haven't looked them up on wiki or anything, but from memory, they don't pair bond and as I recall, the males essentially attack the females when 'mating'.

cadnowyllt Sat 22-Oct-16 22:02:11

Ah, there appears to be two types of mating 'strategies' in orangutang.

Felascloak Sat 22-Oct-16 23:47:54

I find all this very interesting.
Humans are unusual in having concealed ovulation and mating whether or not fertile and there is evidence that under those circumstances the most successful strategy for the male to pass on his genes is to be monogamous to that woman. This kind of goes against conventional wisdom that men want to shag around and women want monogamy.
I think this would give an evolutionary pressure for guarding behaviour too, to prevent the woman getting pregnant with other mens children and the man investing his energy in another man's genes. Guarding behaviour could have a good pay off from the perspective of passing on genes.
Add on top of that how territorial we are as a species (guarding land and resources as well as mates) and how risky childbirth is to women and it starts to add up as to why a patriarchal system would flourish in humans as a way for a family to protect and transfer resources.
So I think we are oppressed on the basis of our biology but not necessarily because we are weaker.

Felascloak Sat 22-Oct-16 23:53:34

VestalVirgin Sun 23-Oct-16 00:33:32

Is opression of females not down to male fear of being superfluous? In so many species all females bear young but only the "top" males get to mate

Yes. It is men's inability to have children. They want to reproduce, and they cannot by themselves, so they want to own women's bodies. We see this happening with surrogacy today. Poor women are exploited by rich men.

Patriarchy probably evolved because men do not care how much women's bodies are damaged by childbirth, they want more children. And they want those children to be their own, thus they search to not only rape women, but also prevent women from having sex with other men.

Tribes with more children could wage war against tribes that were smaller, and still have some of them survive, and that way, patriarchy probably spread over the whole world.

That it is successful does, of course, not mean that it is good in any way, shape or form.
(I hate people who mistake evolution for a religion. Evolution is just the way things are, something having evolved a certain way does not make that way morally right.)

ChocChocPorridge Sun 23-Oct-16 07:44:41

I don't see how being able to virtually incapacitate a woman, and give her an extra mouth to feed for months of a year, repeatedly until it finally kills her, with her being able to do nothing about it (without risking further injury on herself) can't be the root of women's oppression.

Contraception only works because we're allowed to use it. Just look at what happens when men decide that it's no longer allowed - women are back to being continually pregnant and shut in the house.

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Sun 23-Oct-16 08:21:01

So my hypothesis is that the greater the proportion of their life that women spend on child-birthing/rearing, the more marginalised they become in society and the more that social institutions become male-dominated (and hence patriarchal)

Good hypothesis David. Ithe move to agriculture did allow a huge rise in population.

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