Posts Tagged ‘ stereotypes ’

A Feminist and an Evolutionary Psychologist Walk into a bar…

There are a lot of people radical feminists hate (not unreasonably so, in most cases) and frequently argue with. But if you ever manage to find a feminist and an evolutionary psychologist at the same table, get some popcorn.

Feminists and evolutionary psychologists make natural enemies for the following reason:

Feminism asserts that the gender stereotypes and current mindsets about gender roles, are the product of the culture of patriarchy. Evolutionary psychology postulates that the way human societies are structured today, is the natural result of our evolution. In other words, it’s not the culture of patriarchy that gave birth to gender roles and stereotyping. It’s our innate, gender-stereotypical behavior that generated the patriarchal culture.

Evolutionary psychology explains, though not necessarily encourages, gender stereotyping as a natural behavior. Here’s why:

Take, for instance, these popular notions that feminists aren’t too pleased with:
– Women are easily intimidated, while men are stronger and more aggressive.
– Men have greater sexual needs than women

Almost universally in the animal kingdom (and more pertinently, among our evolutionary ancestors), it is the males who compete with each other to mate with the female. The female does not have to compete for the male. This is because a female only reproduces once every 9 months (different for various species, plus the lactation period), while a male reproduces around the year.

Because of this, the male has a reproductive advantage if he fertilizes multiple females simultaneously. The female, however, would receive no such benefit because she can only reproduce once in several months, no matter how many males she mates with.

As a result, we see males who are constantly searching for mates while females aren’t. This generates intense competition among the males, in which the more aggressive, narcissistic males have a natural advantage. The males thus evolved to become more aggressive and ever-ready for intercourse.

Females, on the other hand, had no natural advantage in scurrying around looking for males to mate with. Consequently, the female gender evolved to be less aggressive than men. Also, since mates were available to the females a dollar a dozen, they’ve had the luxury to be more choosy. This is why females are less obsessed about sex than men are.

This is as I said, merely an explanation of why things are the way they are, not how they have to be in modern society. For instance, evolution has designed us to bear and nourish our own kids. Instead, we sometimes adopt children and help advance their genetic lineage.

As repulsed as we often are by the idea of biological determinism in these situations, we have to acknowledge the presence of real biological barriers in combating certain behaviors. This is not the same as being an apologist for misogynism, but recognizing that undoing hundreds of thousands of years of behavioral shaping is not something that can be done in a matter of decades.

Gender stereotyping is wrong, because it does injustice to the outliers in the group. Women who are physically strong, and men who are not hypersexual should not be clumped with the average people and receive blanket treatment.

Some behaviors, however, are so deeply ingrained within the male psyche that fixing them could be a pathological change.

Radical feminists sometimes complain about men who drool over pictures of nude women, and in doing so, they’re not fighting for gender equality as much as they’re calling for global castration. No amount of education and awareness could make a male less titillated by erotic imagery.

In such cases, it’s far more rewarding to rethink our expectations than to fight our hardwired biological instincts. Sex-positive feminism, which I subscribe to, proposes that we change our attitude about sex by removing the stigma, instead of railing out against men for their desire seek it. A stripper, female or male, is degrading herself or himself only if we believe it’s a degrading job.

Why is quenching a patron’s thirst as a bartender not as great an embarrassment as serving a client as a prostitute? It’s because the society has not stigmatized the former, or at least, not the the extent as it has the latter.