Thursday, October 11, 2007

Of Moral Obligations and Handbaskets, Part 6

Snowdog makes a fair cop.
Woooot! Violating your own No Politics rule! Five yard penalty! Second down!
That's probably why this series is taking so long to develop. The philosophical crosses over into the religious; the historical crosses over into political; the boundary lines are not well-marked and apt to change with the wind. I'm a science fiction writer and something of an amateur historian: I was taking graduate-level courses in anthropology when my wife informed me that it was time for me to leave the university and start killing mammoths in order to feed the baby. All this means that I tend to take the thousand-year view of things, and in the process often cross blithely over that faint barrier that separates the abstract and theoretical from the immediate and personal.

Case in point: this series seems to be veering towards becoming a critique of Feminism.

Honestly, I have little interest in writing such a critique. In the thousand-year view, Feminism is an anomaly, much like Shakerism and for roughly the same reason. In the long run, Feminism will be viewed merely as an eccentric anti-fertility cult, and possibly the reason why some sub-populations of H. sapiens went extinct in the early 3rd Millennium (CE). If there are scientists in the 4th Millennium, Feminism will be studied only by those savants unable to get nice grants to study Olmec werejaguar beliefs instead.

Certainly Feminism isn't a prime cause of any of the social dislocations we are feeling as we continue this journey in a handbasket towards an uncertain future. It's merely one of the more overt symptoms.

Still, it has its moments of interest. For example, this book wandered into the shop the other day: The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football: Sexism and the American Culture of Sports, by Mariah Burton Nelson. In this book, Nelson, a former starter for the New Jersey Gems of the short-lived Women's Professional Basketball League
"...links gender-based pay and scholarship inequity with male violence and male domination in sports and society at large.
"Besides their role in reinforcing sexism, she presents the corollary argument that "manly" sports, particularly football, set the stage for violence against women. The fear of strong females, Nelson contends, is the chief reason that female athletes are unsettling to men and are discriminated against in every area from college athletic budgets to media coverage of their events. She also makes telling points about so-called male bonding on teams as socially acceptable homoeroticism. In closing, she exhorts women to keep fighting for equal treatment, to continue viewing sports as an extension of personal goals and a source of pleasure, not as a road to dominance of men or other women..."

Look, there's nothing mysterious about the behavior of H. sapiens males. Once you understand that the species was forged in the crucible of the Pleistocene and is programmed for success in the context of a paleolithic hunter-gatherer culture, male behavior makes perfect sense. Male bonding as socially acceptable homoeroticism? No, men are programmed by evolution to operate well in tribal hunting bands, and when deprived of their traditional clan-based bands will seek to form new tribes. (Or platoons. Or teams. Or gangs.) Sports as a road to dominance over other men? Yes, of course; men are programmed by evolution to question authority, since bad leadership can lead the tribe into disaster, and yet at the same time also programmed to accept authority once it has been established and to contest with their peer males in order to establish a pecking order for future leadership.

Sports as enabling and condoning violence against women and an expression of the fear of strong women?

Ehnnnt! Malfunction! Does not compute!

Male violence against women is an aberration; it's counter-evolutionary. H. sapiens males are programmed by evolution to protect and provide for women. Further, males are trained from birth to both protect women and submit to female authority. (As in: "Be nice to your sister." "Be a good boy and give grandma a kiss." Aw, Mom, grandma smells funny! "Don't you dare talk back to your mother like that!") For an H. sapiens male to overthrow 50,000 years of instinct and choose to be cruel to a female of his species requires a major emotive malfunction.

[And as a sidebar: why this specific interest in sisters? Because in a primitive culture, assuming they share a common mother, the sister's children are the only ones that the male can be certain are closely related to him.]
"The fear of strong females, Nelson contends, is the chief reason that female athletes are unsettling to men..."
I think not. We're programmed by evolution to protect our sisters and vie for dominance with our brothers. It's when our brothers want to behave like sisters or our sisters demand to be treated like brothers that things start to go haywire.

Ehnnt! Malfunction! Does not compute!

And yet science fiction, which advocates the perfectability of man, consistently presents the idea that this reaction is merely a minor glitch in the H. sapiens BIOS, and one that can be fixed with a few simple paper patches. be continued...