The “Nature” of Women

I’ve written before about how I don’t believe there’s a female way to experience the world that is different from the male way of experiencing the world.  This has generally been in reference to my belief that the current theories of gender identity hinder women by tying some ways of being to “feminine” and others to “masculine”.  Gender identity theorists are not the only ones who do this, though.  There are many among the radical feminist and cultural feminist camps who do the same.  They argue that the essential “nature” of women is good, while the essential “nature” of men is bad.  I call as much bullshit on that as I do on the concept of gender identity that’s so strong in the liberal feminist ranks.  In fact, it boggles my mind that people who will argue so strongly against the concept of gender will then turn around and argue that women are inherently of a better “nature” than men.  Those ideas contradict each other.

When we speak about the nature of men and women, we cannot deny that we are a sexually dimorphic species.  There are real, physical differences between the two sexes.  No one can logically deny that.  In fact, those biological differences have been the justifications for the oppression and exploitation of women.  The ability to bear children is a female-only ability.  It is also something that males began trying to control as soon as humans began forming civilization.  Controlling property meant that they had to control offspring.  To control offspring and keep property within the (male-defined) family, they had to control female reproduction.  To justify this, they needed ideology.  In a nutshell, that’s how the system of patriarchy was built.

Most evidence indicates the early family unit (much like the family unit of most species) was the female and her offspring.  Most family groups consisted only of females, as males left the larger group when they reached maturity.  With humans, this created matrilineal culture, where property was handed down from mother to daughter.  Even though larger family groups eventually came to include males, the matrilineal inheritance was the logical way of doing things, because patrimony was often unknown.  If a woman wasn’t bound to any single male, then the father of her children could be any one of a number of males.  Since males wanted to keep property within their (male) families, they began introducing the theory and practice of patriarchy.

Patriarchy was established slowly; it did not spring from the mind of the first humans.  Males with greater strength were able to impose their will on females.  Then, they developed ideologies (e.g. religion and gender) to justify this continued oppression of half the species.  Some argue this was because of the settling of humans into civilizations.  When humans lived by gathering and  hunting, women were able to raise and bear children, as well as to feed themselves, without the “help” or “protection” of a man.  The fact that it took patriarchy a while to come into being would seem to indicate that this wasn’t a “natural” way for either males or females to behave and to interact.  That’s not to say that this wasn’t a cozy set-up for males, and that they perpetuated it and continue to perpetuate it because it is a cozy set-up for them.

As civilization changed and technology improved, the need for brute strength declined.  Women were able to assert themselves economically again to some degree.  This allowed them to insist upon and fight for some reintroduction of female property ownership and matrilineal inheritance.

As women have gained more economic independence, some of them have garnered positions of power in government and industry.  The patriarchy persists, so these women are still few and far between.  However, those who have gained power have behaved in such a way that indicates women are not more “peaceful” or “moral” or better in any particular way.  The involvement of women in furthering the imperialistic, racist, and exploitative aims of patriarchy and capitalism would seem to indicate that it’s well within our nature to be as dangerous as men.  We generally don’t have the brute strength to impose that nature on an interpersonal level–we don’t have the power to rape and to kill at will in the manner that way men do, for example.  On the other hand, it’s impossible to deny the women who have bought into patriarchal and capitalistic institutions exhibit the same willingness to kill and to exploit when technology and ideology grant them the opportunity.  The nature of our oppression and exploitation means that we have had far fewer opportunities to do so.  The fact that so many women who have had those opportunities choose to exercise them, however, would indicate that it’s well within our “nature” to behave the same way men have.

This is why we need true revolution; reform is not enough.  Tearing down patriarchy and its bastard son, capitalism, is required for a truly peaceful, just society.  Since it is within the nature of all humans to behave in these destructive ways, we must tear down the institutions and ideologies that perpetuate this destruction.

I fully embrace the idea that the reality is that men have and continue to embrace patriarchy because it benefits them to do so.  I fully embrace that men, as a group, have embraced the opportunity to indulge in destructive, exploitative behaviors for the entire existence of patriarchy.  I accept that this means that men are, in the world we exist, far more dangerous than women.  However, I reject the concept that women are inherently better than men when it comes to our nature and capacity for good and evil.  We have had fewer opportunities.  I think we see this evidence when women do gain power.  Our natures are neither better nor worse than that of men.  It’s our behavior that has been different.  It’s time we created a society where men behave as women do.  That doesn’t require changing anyone’s “nature”.  It requires revolutionary change of ideology and of social organization.

4 responses to “The “Nature” of Women

  1. I don’t know any feminists who argue that men have intrinsically worse natures than women. As I understand it, the argument is that men have been socialised to behave worse than women, not that their essential nature is different. I literally have never come across any texts which argue that male=bad, female=good.

    • Sadly, I have on many occasions. There is definitely a philosophy that men are socialized to behave worse than women. There are definitely those out there who adhere to another philosophy, though: that the very natures of women and men are different. I’ve actually been verbally attacked and ridiculed for suggesting that women aren’t by nature different than men, that it’s about social structures and socialization. So, I definitely know it’s out there. The arguments for differing “natures” are usually based on testosterone and its link to aggressiveness.

  2. Pingback: The Left Side of Feminism

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