“[T]he first class oppression coincides with that of the female sex by the male”, wrote Engels in 1884. Since then, women’s inferior position has been considered an undeniable fact, especially by progressive thinkers. Different political traditions have different viewpoints on the issue, but two of them stand out: Left Feminism which advocates that women are oppressed by Capitalism, and therefore that they will be liberated by overturning it; and Radical Feminism which argues that women are oppressed by “Patriarchy”, which is a complex set of prejudices, beliefs and institutions that result in men generally benefiting against women, which meant that the struggle should be against male privilege.
“Radical” Feminism is mainstream
The most interesting phenomenon is that the ideation of a “Patriarchy” has essentially been adopted by the system. Throughout the Western world, the concept of an oppressive patriarchy, as expressed by politicians, journalists and academics, is a key component of the dominant ideology. It is quite difficult to express a different view without being scorned, mocked, and subjected to fierce attack.
Women’s oppression: Systemic views
There are many studies on how women are oppressed at work, in the family, in sexual relationships an so on. And it’s beyond doubt that women are indeed oppressed. But are they more oppressed than men? Are they oppressed as women, or as members of a specific social class?
This is why we need to re-examine the tenets of “female oppression”. This is the topic of the first part of this book in which we examine the various areas in which some claim that women are oppressed. We will see that all the supposed disadvantages of women are essentially tradeoffs against much worse alternatives, and that these tradeoffs benefit the great majority of women, and perhaps even all of them.
Part 1: Are women oppressed?
Chapter 6: Happiness
The various studies about the war of the sexes use various criteria to draw their conclusions about the relative position of each sex. These criteria are often chosen based on the social class and the ideology of the researcher.
Thus, a feminist bourgeois who studied in Oxford will conclude that women are more oppressed because they have fewer opportunities to “exploit their talent” in comparison with men.
(Socio)biologists, on their end, are not very interested in who wins and who loses. They consider (rightly, from their perspective) that the war of the sexes is a natural process that occurs in all animals, and what’s important for them is that it contributes to the evolution of the species (which is not always true). The problem is that the evolution of the species is the last thing in the mind of someone struggling for his daily survival, so it is not a suitable criterion to assess the quality of life.
As for Economists, they will examine who has more money. And the list goes on.
Which criterion is the most relevant?
Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar, puts it this way: “Happiness, not money or prestige, should be regarded as the ultimate currency – the currency by which we take measure of our lives”.
For many it is self-evident that happiness is the most important criterion to compare the lives of people. Indeed, World Happiness Report 2013 of the UN “calls on policy makers to make happiness a key measure and target of development”. The only probable objections have to do with the reliability of the system to measure happiness. Nevertheless, researchers have decided to use “subjective happiness”, that is the level of happiness reported by individuals themselves. Subjective happiness has very real benefits in health and longevity. In fact, the above UN report devotes an entire chapter reviewing the “hard evidence”.
As we already mentioned in the section on marriage, at least for as long as there have been comparative studies, women have always been happier than men.
Table 1: Where Women Are Significantly Happier
|% rate their lives on the highest rung of the ladder of life
The 6 countries with the largest difference in happiness between women and men are Pakistan, Japan, Philippines, Argentina, Vietnam and India. In the 21 countries in the world with the largest difference there is not even one Western-European country, while the US are included. “Women’s greater satisfaction with life is pervasive in many of the less-developed regions of the world: in 7 of the 8 countries surveyed in Asia, 6 of the 8 nations in Latin America and all 5 nations in east and southern Africa.”
This means that in countries where the supposed “patriarchy” is stronger, men are more unhappy than women. This finding highlights the true essence of “patriarchy”, which is to burden men with greater responsibilities and social expectations, in order to provide women with greater protection and generally better quality of life than they get for themselves.
If the system had really been made up by men, it would be impossible to ultimately favor women. The answer is that the role of women to the construction of the system has been greatly overlooked. We will have more to say about this later on.
In developed countries, there is the “paradox” of declining female happiness: while from 1970 onwards
“by many objective measures the lives of women … have improved, … measures of subjective well-being indicate that women’s happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. The paradox of women’s declining relative well-being is found across various datasets, measures of subjective well-being, and is pervasive across demographic groups and industrialized countries.”
Of course, it is a “paradox” only if seen from the feminist perspective. But there is nothing paradoxical in that if you endeavor to live the life of a man you will come to know the unhappiness of a man.
Part 2: Is Biology responsible for gender differences?
The question whether biology plays a role in gender differences is important, and not a trivial one to answer. We have already seen that for the difference in life expectancy, which is perfectly measurable, biology is not yet in position to give a reliable explanation. The issue becomes more complex when we examine a multidimensional phenomenon such as behavior. Does biology influence it depending on whether one is a man or woman? Until very recently, compelling scientific evidence for one or the other opinion did not exist. The answer someone gave depended basically on his political views. Conservatives maintained that biology was crucial, while progressives that it was not a key factor. In feminist circles, there is a whole theory about “gender” which fiercely rejects any biological differentiation between the sexes, maintaining that sex is a social “construction” and that an individual’s “identity” does not depend on the biological sex he/she was born with.
Today, however, it is gradually becoming clear that the two sexes have behavioral differences which are important, and that these differences are due to biological differences. “[T]hanks to advances in genetics and noninvasive brain imaging technology … scientists have documented an astonishing array of structural, chemical, genetic, hormonal and functional brain differences between women and men.”There are differences that are spotted while in the embryonic stage, before society has a chance to have any effect.
Perhaps the mildest way to argue about the existence of those differences comes from (feminist) scientists that tried “to analyze male-female brain differences for their relationship to gender type as opposed to strict biological sex. Their findings do not prove that social learning is the cause of male-female differences in the brain.” [emphasis added]. Despite the disproval of their expectations, they do make one crucial observation: “Genes and hormones light the spark for most boy-girl differences, but the flame is strongly fanned by the essentially separate cultures in which boys and girls grow up.” That fact, that today’s society, despite claims to the contrary, compounds biological differences, is fundamental to understanding the situation in the “war of the sexes”.
Part 3: The War of the sexes
A weaker sex drive is at the basis of female superiority
The difficulty to find a mate
A frequent complaint of women has to do with the difficulty of finding appropriate mates, a difficulty which is supposedly greater than men’s. What they don’t seem to understand is that their difficulty is due to their elevated expectations. Anyone, man or woman, can find a mate provided they lower their standards enough. Men are forced to lower them more than women – even despite having more “democratic” standards to begin with. “Research has … found that most men find most women at least somewhat sexually attractive, whereas most women do not find most men sexually attractive at all.” For example, research in the most popular dating site, OKCupid, found that men have a normal distribution in their preferences, classifying 5% of women as most attractive, 5% as least attractive, and the other 90% in between. Women on the other hand, rate 25% of men as least attractive, while 80% of the men are rated below average. Let us compare these findings graphically:
The normal distribution of men’s preferences…
… and the elitist one of women.
“[M]en lower their attraction standards for casual encounters. Empirically, they are willing to have sex with partners who meet just minimal thresholds on traits they themselves rank as desirable, such as intelligence and kindness. In contrast, women typically maintain high standards.”
Women who cannot find a man for a long-term relationship and marriage have not understood that their tactic for casual sex does not work as well for a relationship. Keeping disproportionally high standards, given the sexual asphyxiation of men, does work in the women’s phase of lighthearted “exploration”, i.e. when they are young and more open to sexual experiences. The most attractive men are available for sex with no strings attached. But in “marriage mode”, after women turn 25 or 30, this tactic backfires, because while these men can bed them all, they cannot marry them all. The most unwise women then mistakenly “calibrate” their expectations: the fact that the captain of the football team had sex with them at one point (even if Bill Clinton wouldn’t consider it sex) does not mean that they will find a similar man to marry at a later stage.
Part 4: From prehistoric to historic society: what went wrong?
In previous chapters we presented the ways in which women are advantaged against men, and how the root of women’s supremacy is biology. Women are in a position to exchange sex for resources, while men are not. But perhaps the picture that emerged from our analysis so far is a bit gloomy: if women are prostitutes by biology and men willing to kill to have sex, then the future of humanity is bound to be grim, as some believe it was in the past. But if we look still further back, in prehistory, we realize that things were not so dismal. Not that women’s biology was different – women were always in a position to take advantage of sex – only that society could be different with the same biological foundation.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Bonobo: a different model of sexuality
Chimpanzees are the genetically closest species to humans. While no chimp is monogamous, the sexuality of bonobo chimps, a species that lives in Congo, is of particular interest.
Sex in bonobos is a free-for-all due to the great sexual receptivity of the females. The sexually satiated bonobos have low stress, have sex for pleasure and share their food. The end result is that they have very low male aggression: “The abundance of sexual opportunity makes it less worthwhile for males to risk injury by fighting over any particular sexual opportunity.”
Sex is not a prize for the winner who climbs to the top, but it is widely available to all. It is the binding element of the community. We have come to consider normal in our society that sex is something rare and exceptional. But “[a]s anthropologist Chris Knight puts it,’Whereas the basic primate pattern is to deliver a periodic ‘yes’ signal against a background of continuous sexual ‘no’, humans (and bonobos) emit a periodic ‘no’ signal against a background of continuous ‘yes’.’”
Chapter 36: Rage, Sex and Violence
As discussed in the previous chapters, we know that the typical reaction of men to feelings is… to avoid them. Pleasure in life, though, comes through emotions, and men’s tendency to avoid feelings costs them dearly. Even negative emotions are preferable from the deadening lack of emotion, and “women, in general, feel both positive and negative emotions more strongly than do men. And, sex differences aside, emotional life is richer for those who notice more.” Women “live more” than men because society is made to suit them, and they are allowed to live emotionally. Men, finding that an “intuitive” way of living does not work, are forced to overemphasize logic over emotion, which has a psychological and physiological cost: stress. It is as if women are comfortably driving a car in their country on the right, while men are obliged to drive in the UK, on the left, constantly on edge and never managing to adjust and relax. Women don’t think, they “feel”. Using Kahneman’s terminology, we can say that women don’t much need to activate their higher, “effortful” thought System 2. The lower and automatic System 1 brain processes are enough to navigate the world, letting their soul to be relaxed and free to sensually enjoy it.
There is great confusion among average people as well as in the scientific community about women’s “emotionality”. The oft-repeated phrase “women are more emotional” does not really explain anything, although it implies that there is a biological predisposition for emotions in women. But there are many indications to the contrary: “Boy babies are more trouble. They scream and cry more often than girl babies, and louder too. (Incidentally, this well-documented finding has been recognized as an important challenge to the conventional claim that females are more emotional than males.)” In reality, men operate less emotionally because, from their infancy, they are trained in devitalizing their emotions. Even though no mother does it consciously, the basic aim of this process is to block male sexuality. How can you be cool, relaxed, and leave your emotions flow freely, when they tell you to urgently have sex with a woman, and she says no? What will you do, rape her?
For men, sex precedes emotional involvement – at least for those who have matured beyond adolescence. “It’s sex first, then relationship, not the other way around.” In fact, this is true for women too: a woman will find a way to have sex with you if she really desires you, and won’t put you on hold because she is trying for something to happen with someone better right now. The vast majority of men are forced to endure female tests, with the usually vain hope that at some point they will have sex.
“Dating is the females’ boot camp for males. Here … he becomes conditioned to sitting at her feet, leash in mouth, tail wagging, anticipating the slightest hint of a sexual favor. His female drill instructor is the end product of 6000 years of survival of the fittest. While he is usually there just for fun, she’s working.”
“Through persistence, a woman gradually convinces a man to compromise his primary reproductive goal of unfettered access to a variety of women—a dream he relinquishes reluctantly, and one for the loss of which he never really forgives her.”
Nora Vincent, in Self-Made Man, after writing that she became a “momentary misogynist” from her experience in flirting as a man, continues:
“I saw my own sex from the other side, and I disliked women irrationally for a while because of it. I disliked their superiority, their accusatory smiles, their entitlement to choose or dash me with a fingertip, an execution so lazy, so effortless, it made the defeats and even the successes unbearably humiliating. Typical male power feels by comparison like a blunt instrument, its salvos and field strategies laughably remedial next to the damage a woman can do with a single cutting word: no.”
For these reasons, the main male emotion since the withdrawal of free sex is rage. As Herb Goldberg wrote in 1976, “[Man] is now being told that he is afraid of the woman. What he is really afraid of are his own impulses of anger and rage toward her over being increasingly abandoned, frustrated, and caught in binds – all of which he can’t express directly”. This rage is the steam that has been moving the whole of society for the past few millenia. It is what the ruling class transforms into war, workaholism, male self-sacrifice, guilt and other destructive and self-destructive tendencies.