Patriarchy, Politics and the Future

(this article is in progress)

What we have in our society is a kind of fanatical rationality. So much material progress has been made under the doctrine of rationality that it reigns spureme, unchecked. The result is that many aspects of our lives, our societies and our world are intellectualised when in fact they require emotional inquiry as well as intellectual. For example, according to the rational realist, economic progress is sometimes more important than the wellbeing of those whom the progress is supposed to be serving. This type of ‘rationality’, cold intellecualism, is not rational at all. Our reliance on it comes of our misunderstandings about ourserlves and what ‘makes us tick’.

Emotion is sometimes needed to contribute to a more humanistically favourable rationality. It is well known that unchecked by rational thought emotion can lead to unfavourable outcomes and outbursts. Children often provide plent of examples of this but so do many adults who have not trained the capacity to think things through. Nevertheless Emotion itself is not less rational than intellect. It is another tool for us to use in this world, alongside intellect. Rationality would be a balanced use of each, governed by a higher faculty: wisdom. It is the latency of this higher faculty that causes our undervaluing emoition and partaking in fanatical rationality.

The social and the natural…
Is there a big difference between males and females? The issue is certainly confused, being wound up with social evolution itself. But are there any basic non-variable factors? Physically, yes; emotionally, maybe; intellectually, probably not; spiritually, no. The purpose of this essay is not gender equality. The genders are equal, but not in the fanatically identical sense espoused by ideological extremes. It may be that each gender has skills the other lacks- and it may be that we’ve got it all the wrong way around.

The purpose is to ask how might society be different today if women played a greater role in its organisation and reproduction (reproducing the economic and political world- not just the biological). Further, the purpose is to suggest a desirable scenario for the future, wherein social change has afforded women a respected role in governance. The obvious question is begged: what particular skills or traits are held by women more than men that would bring about a better future, and herein lies the difficulty because much of our interpretation of gender identity is wound up in the very mechanisms of our societies. What aspects of gender roles in our society are artificially constructed? Is there a reason to preserve patriarchy?

It is also suggested in this essay that many of our assumptions about the positive characteristics of women are true while the negative ones are mere social constructs. The biggest of these lies is that women are less intelligent and thus less suited to roles of leadership and governance. The biggest misconception is that emotion clouds rationality.

We might like to make some general statements: women are more nurturing and encouraging; women are more forgiving;

The myth… women are less rational because emotion clouds rationality

Rationality can rightly be said to be a higher virtue than emotionality. Emotional responses are often the worst, it is rationality that prevents emotion from committing various offenses. Yet emotion is an important but missing part of our makeup, and needs its representation in the decision-making process. Unforunately, the ’emotional irrationality of women’ is thus often put at odds with the ‘rational clarity of men’. But how true are these generalisations and how much are they social constructs? To make emotion and rationality mutually exclusive is a mistake.

We live in a world of unchecked ‘rationality’ which is employed in the acheivement of materialistic goals. This is represented in an overwhelmingly male dominated decision-making world. In this world, it’s not that ‘basic emotions have been conquered by these men in favour of a superior rationality’: it’s that important and necessary emotions are suppressed in favour of a reductionistic and mechanistic instrumentalism. In a world where individualistic economic goals are disjoined from social and environmental ideals, any emotion is irrational.

The now famous but forever relevant case of infant milk formula marketing in the global south should be now introduced to the argument. A group of human beings employing other human beings, and together calling themselves a ‘company’, decided to bring their product to vast new markets- one of which was the Filipino poor. However the product, proved fatal in that environment. Poor quality water and the lack of ability to properly sterilise it meant that infants died in the thousands and became sick in the millions. Yet, on the basis that directions for preparing the formula were on the bottle, the product was allowed to be marketed with such techniques as supplying new mothers in hospitals with ‘free samples’ of the product. Once having used the sample they would be forced to use it forever because their breasts, unused, would stop producing milk. A common argument employed by the company (there were more than one- but one in particular) was that feeding children with breast milk was inhibiting the woman’s social life and destroying their figure. Even after it was perfectly clear that these practices were killing children, the companies were allowed to continue and have been doing so since.

What type of thinking led to these decisions? On the part of the company, no one individual felt responsible for the deaths and sickness of the infants and the suffering of the mothers. Each were instruments of the company, themselves struggling to make it through a life of economic pressure.

On the part of the government, the presence of this company in the Phillipines was no doubt seen by the as ‘good for the economy’.

Posted on May 4, 2007 ... Modified May 4, 2007