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Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Human Strategy ~ Women's Fib

This is an interesting entry into Marvin Harris's series for Natural History Magazine, "The Human Strategy." In the May 1972 issue Harris published "Women's Fib." Here is a PDF of the article, which is also available as images at the bottom of this post.

Harris was always sympathetic towards feminism, in spite of the hostile-sounding title.

And as the article makes clear, Harris is not hostile towards feminism but rather to non-cultural materialism explanations for male dominance.

The last couple of paragraphs are especially interesting:

For primitive societies, the basis of female subordination is the absence of technological solutions to the military problems associated with conception, menstruation, pregnancy and lactation. For industrial societies we must look elsewhere. Perhaps it has been found that higher levels of controlled aggressiveness and brutality can be attained in males when the achievement of masculinity is linked to the subordination of females. To put it bluntly, the institutionalized privilege of being able to exploit women is the reward that modern militaristic societies give to males who serve as cannon fodder.

My analysis of the relationship between sexual hierarchy and war leads to a practical suggestion. The strategy of sexual politics requires that the superordinate males who are threatened by the sexual revolution be promised something in exchange for their lost privileges What could be better than to promise them peace?

That was written 48 years ago. At that time, newspapers had only recently ended the system of classifying job opportunities by gender. Women were still expected to quit work after getting married in spite of the fact that more women than ever were working outside the home. Women could be refused a credit card without a male co-signer, by law, until 1974.

But as we have seen in the decades since, response to the increasing power of woman was not peace so much as allowing women themselves to become cannon fodder. And the gains in military participation for women have not been due to the United States military pushing for it, but because of women themselves.

Being cannon fodder is not a great occupation, nor a high status one. But the fact that women have fought for the chance to be cannon fodder is a pretty clear indication that the traditional role of women as economic dependents of men was considered by many worse than the life of cannon fodder.

And in the military, at least, there was a chance of moving up the ranks. The traditional role of women was to move down the ranks as age reduced a woman's value to society as a pretty baby-maker. 

Thanks to women's increasing socio-economic power, they are no longer so easy to turn into passive rewards for the men who serve as cannon fodder. This is why some men, from the Taliban to the Proud Boys, are hostile to the idea of women doing anything other than having children. 

And you see IDW member Jordan Peterson calling for "enforced monogamy," echoed by George Mason University professor Robin Hanson and right-wing New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.

As feminist male ally David Futrelle wrote:

A month ago, a disturbed young man drove a rented van into a crowd of pedestrians on a crowded Toronto sidewalk, killing ten and injuring 16 others. In a Facebook message posted shortly before the attack, the alleged mass killer claimed to be opening a new front in the “incel rebellion” against the “Chads and Staceys” of the world, and honoring the legacy of “Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger,” who killed six in 2014 in what he saw as an act of “retribution” against women for sexually rejecting him.

While Canadians, who are less used to mass murders than we are here in the US, mourned the dead, the self-described “involuntary celibates” who populate online forums like Incels.me were cheering. “Alek Minassian,” wrote one, lauding the alleged killer. “Spread that name, speak of his sacrifice for our cause, worship him for he gave his life for our future.” Other incels hoped that his van rampage would encourage future murder sprees, mass rapes, and acid attacks – all acts of revenge against a society that was denying them the sex they were entitled to.
Recently Minassian's legal team has used the defense that Minassian is on the autism spectrum

Without a dictatorship, it doesn't seem likely that women will be forced out of the job market, and so will continue to become increasingly less dependent on men.

It should be noted that recognizing that women's increasing economic power is the cause of women's increasing independence from men is a standard cultural materialist approach.