[Altnews] Book: The Inevitability of Patriarchy

Submitted by Editor on Sat, 29/05/2004 - 12:21

The Inevitability of Patriarchy
by Steven Goldberg

The thesis put forth here is that the hormonal renders the social inevitable. Because of hormonal differences between males and females, it is inevitable that males will be socialized to aspire to the roles that have highest status in a society. Our biology makes the social arrangement known as patriarchy --the rule of males --inevitable.

It is true (as the feminists never tire of pointing out) that what are considered masculine roles in one society may be considered feminine roles in another society. Of far greater importance, however, is the fact that in every known society the masculine roles are rewarded with higher status than the feminine roles. The role of healer might be a masculine role in a society such as ours, and a feminine role in some other culture; but in any society that accords this role high status, the expectation will be that it will be filled principally be men. The reason for this is simply that men are by nature more aggressive than women, and social arrangements have been designed to accommodate this fact.

It is known that the male fetus is exposed to higher levels of testosterone during brain development than is the female fetus. This likely results in a male brain that is more sensitive to this hormone. This would explain why preadolescent boys are more aggressive than girls, even though before puberty their androgen levels are roughly equivalent. At puberty, of course, male testosterone levels rise sharply, so that the average male is exposed to more of the hormone than is the average female. The result is that adult males are on average more aggressive than females.

Aggressiveness is always advantageous to those competing against others for scarce resources. In competition for high-status roles, the more aggressive individual is more likely to win out over his equally talented but less aggressive competitors. Thus whatever roles a given society deems especially valuable, as long as there are more qualified applicants for those roles than are necessary to fill that society's needs, those who hold the roles will be among the more aggressive members of the society. And since males are more aggressive than females, the high-status roles in any society will inevitably be filled primarily by men.

Now the socialization of children always reflects to some extent their parents' expectations about the realities children will encounter as adults. And when high-status roles are currently filled by men, and women fill roles deemed of lesser status, adult expectations about the future of their children will be shaped accordingly: Boys will be socialized to aspire to the 'masculine' high-status roles. Girls will instead be told to strive for a distinct set of 'feminine' roles for which males are unlikely to compete--either because the role is too low in status (in our society, the role of nurse or day-care worker) or because males lack the required biological capacities (e.g., the role of giving birth to and nursing an infant).

But it is not only expectations that lead to the high-status roles in a society being designated masculine. This arrangement also reflects a society's tendency to try to maximize individual happiness. For consider what would happen if a society did not socialize women away from competing with men, from its not directing girls toward roles women are more capable of playing, or with status low enough that men will not strive for them. No doubt some women would be aggressive enough to succeed in competitions with men and there would be considerably more women in high-status positions than there are now. But most women would lose in such competitive struggles with men (because men have the aggression advantage), and so most adult women would be forced to live lives as failures in areas in which the society had wanted them to succeed. It is women, far more than men, who would never allow a situation in which girls were socialized in such a way that the vast majority of them were doomed to adult lifetimes of failure to live up to their own expectations. If women did not develop an alternative set of criteria for success, their sense of their own competence would suffer intolerably. Our system of patriarchal sex roles is just this society's way of trying to maximize the individual happiness of all.

From: Alan Barron

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