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March 8, 2013 8:27 AM   Subscribe

"Not so long ago, the idea that women might rule the world seemed slightly ridiculous - like something out of science fiction. But in an essay to mark International Women's Day, political analyst and former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers argues it's now a topic that can be seriously discussed."
posted by talitha_kumi (32 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shouldn't the goal be that both sexes COLLABORATE to MANAGE the world rather than one sex or the other having to freakin RULE it? Of course, I haven't RTFA yet
posted by spicynuts at 8:44 AM on March 8, 2013


Women are also essential to building and sustaining peace.

I found the proximity of that sentence to the photograph of Condolezza Rice utterly ironic. It would seem to me that the "more women and it's all peace and mother nature and consensus" view of the world is totally contradicted by the fact that women are actually no different than men.
posted by three blind mice at 8:48 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Shouldn't the goal be that both sexes COLLABORATE to MANAGE the world rather than one sex or the other having to freakin RULE it? Of course, I haven't RTFA yet

That's basically what the article is about; it's mostly about the benefits of diversity and alternative viewpoints. I have no idea how it got the "Women should rule the world" headline unless someone at the BBC enjoys fucking with the Men's Rights people for lulz.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:55 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not so long ago, the idea that women might rule the world seemed slightly ridiculous - like something out of science fiction.

I remember reading this sci-fi story, from 1976, involving a crew of three male astronauts who somehow jump forward in time and realize that all men have become extinct, and (cloned) women now rule the entire world. And the reactions of the men in the story were... totally insane to me, as a woman in the 21st century. It was like... disgust, panic, and also they were totally convinced that it was their duty to take over control of the planet in order to save the human race from being, like, totally lame and sucky. It was a fascinating peek at the psyche of a time when women were just beginning to be ascendant in America...
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:58 AM on March 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


three blind mice: "I found the proximity of that sentence to the photograph of Condolezza Rice utterly ironic. It would seem to me that the "more women and it's all peace and mother nature and consensus" view of the world is totally contradicted by the fact that women are actually no different than men."

Women working within the confines of patriarchal power systems tend to adapt to leadership styles that allow them to flourish within those power systems.

I am trying to remember a relatively recent article I read on what it meant that more women were getting into positions of power. The author's thesis was that the west and its patriarchal power structures discounts roles that women are in or move into, and so they were contemplating about whether it might mean that having more women in positions of political power actually was a result of normal political roles not being important, anymore, in maintaining the status quo for the power elite.

The depressing point he or she was aiming at was that while women were going into political roles more and more, they are still absolutely left out of high-level banking and corporate power positions. What this says about the state of where real power lies, these days, is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by barnacles at 9:01 AM on March 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


To me the article seemed to be a strange mixture of acknowledging the advantages of diversity in decision-making, along with a large dose of "all women think like this" which altered the concept of 'diversity' into something more akin to competing dualities. Plus there's the uneasy disconnect between the article and the headline, and the choice of timing - all of which is going to affect how people react to the article. The result reveals as much about prevailing tensions in current opinion as it does about its actual subject.
posted by talitha_kumi at 9:03 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why women should rule the world is the title of her book. It seems like it is meant to be a ball-buster an attention-grabber.
posted by No Robots at 9:10 AM on March 8, 2013


Here's how 1970s British comedy saw it: The Worm That Turned (SLYT)
posted by GallonOfAlan at 9:15 AM on March 8, 2013


Perhaps I can mention this here. Nikola Tesla was interviewed in 1926 and predicted among other things improvements in women's rights and that "the average woman will be as well educated as the average man."

When Woman is Boss

Then that interview took an odd turn.
"The acquisition of new fields of endeavor by women, their gradual usurpation of leadership, will dull and finally dissipate feminine sensibilities, will choke the maternal instinct, so that marriage and motherhood may become abhorrent and human civilization draw closer and closer to the perfect civilization of the bee."
I'm not really sure about the bee thing, Mr. Tesla.
posted by tykky at 9:20 AM on March 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


showbiz_liz: "I remember reading this sci-fi story, from 1976, involving a crew of three male astronauts who somehow jump forward in time and realize that all men have become extinct, and (cloned) women now rule the entire world. And the reactions of the men in the story were... totally insane to me, as a woman in the 21st century."

Written by a woman!
posted by brundlefly at 9:43 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Women, they come here, taking our jobs
posted by Damienmce at 10:16 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


This whole fucking "women are naturally more peaceful" nonsense is just sexism dressed up in a different outfit. Any person who bases an argument about the state of women's lives in the modern ere on this notion should be ashamed of themselves.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:17 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't know, clvrmnky... I mean, I early on adopted the ideal that males and females were basically equal in all non-physical ways--the old-style liberal feminist view. Then about the same time that I came to realize that I held that as something like an article of faith, or a principle, rather than a scientific conclusion, I found myself among feminists who held it as an article of faith that females are better than males--e.g. more peaceful and cooperative moral and suchlike.

Ever since that time, I've puzzled over this stuff periodically.

I guess I very tentatively conclude that women are, in the main, a little less dangerous to have in power than men. I no longer think that we're totally equal, but, rather, I think that there are some tendencies, hence some true, important (if weak) generalizations one can make. Oh, I know some crazy females alright...no doubt about that... People you wouldn't want within grasping distance of any kind of power whatsoever. But I guess that, if I had to choose between some randomly-selected male or some randomly-selected female as dictator of the world, I'd probably choose the latter.

Anyway, the article should really be titled "What if men ruled the world less?"
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:35 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, I early on adopted the ideal that males and females were basically equal in all non-physical ways--the old-style liberal feminist view. Then about the same time that I came to realize that I held that as something like an article of faith, or a principle, rather than a scientific conclusion

This is a very honest statement. This article of faith that you held is a form of liberal creationism.

The rub is "equal in all non-physical ways". Well, we live in a physical universe. The mind is an effect of the physical brain, so there is no "non-physical way" about people.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:42 AM on March 8, 2013


Written by a woman!

Yeah. It's a criticism of what the astronauts represent, not a fearful "This could happen!" warning.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:46 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh shit, I agree with something that three blind mice said. The foundations of my world just trembled slightly.

I think we can safely say that any mean innate difference in aggressiveness between male and female sexes is completely overwhelmed by environmental factors. People get hung up on the "paternal" part of the word "patriarchy", which really is something of a linguistic anachronism to me, a quirk of the fact that at the time our society's dominant power paradigm became established, our society was dominated by males. However, the sex (and indeed the gender) of the members of the patriarchy is actually irrelevant.

What is relevant is that it is a cultural institution founded in aggression, hierarchy, violence, and coercion. Both men and women are capable of playing any role in the patriarchy (including leadership roles) and it is a flexible enough institution to adapt by co-opting and subverting whatever inborn predispositions may be present in its members. That is in fact a large part of how it perpetuates itself as an idea and as a cultural institution.

Merely adding more women to the mix does not fix anything on its own. The institution itself must be changed, and it must be changed by all of us working together. The average gender of the people who happen to be on the top of the pyramid at any given time is really a red herring.
posted by Scientist at 10:51 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Huh. This essay seemed to be presenting a really old school style of feminism. Not 21st-century third-wave feminism (with its intersectionality and willingness to challenge gender binarism), nor even second-wave feminism of the latter half of the 20th century (with its conflicting goals of liberal gender egalitarianism and separatism), but first wave feminism. The feminism of the Declaration of Sentiments and a dream of woman suffrage that held that women, being by nature spiritual and temperate and loving, would uplift a political realm tainted by men's baser instincts, if women were just permitted to participate in the political system.
posted by DrMew at 11:19 AM on March 8, 2013


"Not so long ago, the idea that women might rule the world seemed slightly ridiculous - like something out of science fiction."

It still seems nigh-impossible to me. We've come a long way but there is still so very far to go. I...highly doubt we'd rule the world unless a gendercide happens.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:32 AM on March 8, 2013


Is this going to be an argument between "Women are at their core fundamentally different from men" and "There are really no differences between men and women"? It's a pretty dumb argument. (Not that the article is much less dumb.)
posted by benito.strauss at 11:34 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The mind is an effect of the physical brain, so there is no "non-physical way" about people.

That's an article of scientistic (though not scientific) faith. A form, one might say, of scientific creationism, to use your phrase template.

It's in no way clear that every real thing is physical. It's a perfectly respectable view, for example, that numbers are both real and non-physical. The same is true of thoughts. So far as we know, one has to has a physical existence of a certain type to think thoughts; it in no way follows that the thoughts themselves are physical. If thoughts have propositional content (a respectable view) and propositions are non-physical (also a respectable view), then we're in the vicinity of the conclusion that thoughts are non-physical.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 11:36 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for that, Fists O'Fury. It always bugs me to see people (scientists and non-scientists alike) abusing science by espousing that kind of materialist absolutism. I'd never really conceptualized it in terms of "scientistic faith" before though, and I think it'll be a useful mental tool for me in the future.
posted by Scientist at 11:49 AM on March 8, 2013


Women working within the confines of patriarchal power systems tend to adapt to leadership styles that allow them to flourish within those power systems.
barnacles

But this seems to carry the implication that this not the natural tendency of women, that women are naturally peaceful and cooperative. This just gets us back to the "men are violent and aggressive by nature, women aren't" argument which people are objecting to.

Can't it be, as Scientist said, that the system we have is violent and aggressive and that all people working within its confines are forced to adopt such leadership styles, man or woman? That one reason men should support feminism is that the patriarchy hurts everyone, male and female, with its enforced concepts of behavior and gender?

Women should have access to leadership roles because they are human beings of equal value that deserve the same opportunities as men, not because they are natural peace-makers or whatever other essentialist argument someone can toss out.

Isn't fighting against roles based on (supposed) biology and "nature" entirely the point?
posted by Sangermaine at 11:56 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not 21st-century third-wave feminism (with its intersectionality and willingness to challenge gender binarism), nor even second-wave feminism of the latter half of the 20th century (with its conflicting goals of liberal gender egalitarianism and separatism), but first wave feminism.

Maybe it's actually "hand-wave feminism"?
posted by yoink at 12:08 PM on March 8, 2013


it in no way follows that the thoughts themselves are physical

To say that thoughts are the effect of physical process is not the same thing as saying that "thoughts are physical."
posted by yoink at 12:10 PM on March 8, 2013


yoink:
To say that thoughts are the effect of physical process is not the same thing as saying that "thoughts are physical."

1. But Tanizaki's claim was that "There is no non-physical way" about people. So your point isn't relevant (and I mean that in the friendliest way...)

2. But, while we're on the subject: I don't think that "thoughts are the effect of physical process." Or, rather: it's unproven, and, at best, an article of faith. Presumably 'effect' here means something like "outcome of efficient causation." If every thought is an effect in that sense, then all our thinking about logic and science falls into confusion--perhaps even self-contradiction. The very idea of valid reasoning comes damn close to presupposing that not all thoughts are simply cranked out mechanically. To make a wee hop to the side: since we already know that some events in the universe are uncaused, we have little reason to believe that thoughts are all caused. Of course randomness is no better than mechanistic causation...but I'm not here to try to prove anything about any of this, nor give a complete theory. I'm just trying to point out that a lot of the things that sound obvious when thrown out in conversations like this one are far from clearly true.

3. More to the point, really: we don't need a theoretically respectable distinction between the physical and the mental here. All we need is the kind of rough distinction that's needed by a conversation of this type. So Tanizaki's objection was really beside the point. Even if the mental is, at bottom, the physical, what I meant was obvious, and not controversial: men and women differ with respect to overtly physical properties like size and strength. They may be the same with respect to the ones we think of as mental, like intelligence and moral character.

scientist:
Thanks for that, Fists O'Fury. It always bugs me to see people (scientists and non-scientists alike) abusing science by espousing that kind of materialist absolutism. I'd never really conceptualized it in terms of "scientistic faith" before though, and I think it'll be a useful mental tool for me in the future.

Right on, brother.

I'll sound like a kook--or even more of one--if I admit that I suspect that faith permeates science...and even especially more of one if I admit that I don't think this is clearly disastrous. The key here is to understand Kant on rational faith (as opposed to blind faith, the kind that's generally at issue in ordinary discussions of faith in the U.S.). If that story, the story about rational faith, works out, then new possible tactics for justifying science are opened up. That's what Charles Sanders Peirce was on about.

But, um, this is kind of a tangent, and I barely understand any of it anyway.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 1:49 PM on March 8, 2013


The feminism of the Declaration of Sentiments and a dream of woman suffrage that held that women, being by nature spiritual and temperate and loving, would uplift a political realm tainted by men's baser instincts, if women were just permitted to participate in the political system.

Women are more left wing, more moderate voters with increased support for social programs than men though. That's been shown over and over again.
posted by fshgrl at 3:13 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


But, while we're on the subject: I don't think that "thoughts are the effect of physical process."

I realize that this is to simplify a somewhat complex problem, but I think it's actually fairly easy to show the contrary. It is a 100% reliable experiment that if you disrupt the physical processes of the brain sufficiently, thoughts cease to occur. That is, without the physical processes of the brain (or some other machine to which the consciousness has been transferred), thinking is impossible. Obviously you could go for some kind of Leibnizian "Pre-established harmony" argument here to get around this and I will agree that such a claim cannot be "disproven" absolutely (just as ghosts, fairies and other daemons cannot be "disproven" absolutely)--but it does seem to me that to insist on leaving room for explanations of that kind is to move oneself out of the realm of what can ever be amenable to scientific explanation or understanding.

The argument about determinism is an altogether separate one (if you accept--as you seem to do--that there are "physical" instances of "uncaused" events then the "physicality" of the brain doesn't lock us into pure determinism). It is extremely difficult to demonstrate, in any case, that anything at all that we do with our minds is incompatible with a strictly deterministic universe--perhaps least of all "valid reasoning" which has, in fact, often been held up as precisely an example of the ways in which the mind operates deterministically (we cannot "choose" not to persuaded by a convincing argument). It is certainly impossible to demonstrate empirically that we have "freedom of the will" in the sense of generating new causal chains ex nihilo from mental acts.

As I say, I recognize that to say "remove the brain and thought stops" somewhat simplifies the issue and that there are ways to preserve the sense of mystery you'd prefer to conjure. But really, in what other realm of explanation would we cling so desperately to a "ghost-of-the-gaps" like this? We know so many of the various ways in which tinkering with the physical substrate of the brain has direct and specific mental consequences (fratz this bit here and people can't recognize faces; fratz this bit here and they can't remember the names for things etc. etc.) it just seems like one really has to be working very hard against the clear preponderance of the evidence not to say "oh, the brain is the machine that makes mind happen." That's not to say there's not, still, a huge galaxy of questions left unanswered out there about how it does that; it's a process that is, clearly, almost unimaginably complex. But to say we have to wait until we can answer the how before we can even claim a pretty strong probability for the that seems to me very dubious. I can't tell you in any very detailed way how the motor of my car provides the power for it to move along the road, but I don't think that that debars me from being pretty confident that it does--and that it's not that God only sends the right "car moving angels" to push the car along if I also happen to have a functioning motor in there.
posted by yoink at 4:46 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


barnacles, could you please try to find that article? I'd really like to read it. It reminds me of a great study I read a few years back (and have been trying to re-find ever since) about how female executives are much more likely than male ones to be offered --and to accept-- abandon-all-hope turnaround gigs. The thesis was that men have bigger networks of colleagues who warn them off hopeless assignments.
posted by Susan PG at 7:05 PM on March 8, 2013


My corner of the world is ruled by women at pretty much every level: the mayor of Sydney is a woman, the Prime Minister is a woman, and the technical leader, the Queen of England, is a woman. Not to mention mining billionaire Gina Rinhardt, who probably has as much influence as the rest of them combined. They don't behave any differently than male politicians, with all the pandering and mudslinging and dog-whistle xenophobia that implies.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:17 PM on March 8, 2013


Fists, I think you'd get on well with some of Thomas Kuhn's ideas, which perhaps you already are aware of. One of his major ideas was that most of the time in science, scientists operate under the umbrella of a handful of accepted paradigms which are generally largely unquestioned. These "articles of faith" (my own term, not Kuhn's) are accepted because they explain the foundations of the field more effectively and comprehensively than other hypotheses, and by taking their truth mostly for granted practicing scientists can avoid having to constantly reinvent their field from scratch but instead are free to pursue more detailed and esoteric questions. This is manifestly reasonable. The only time paradigms are overturned is when later research has made the limits of their explanatory power obvious and problematic, and when a competing theory has arisen which explains everything the reigning paradigm does and also some or all of the things it does not.

Anyway enough of the derail, but I don't think you are being too radical in acknowledging a role for reasonable faith in science. Kuhn is one of the most influential thinkers in the philosophh of science, second perhaps only to Popper whose main contribution was the idea that it is impossible to truly prove anything anyway, that scientific hypotheses can be falsified but never strictly speaking verified. In other words, in science there is only increasing justification of belief, never absolute certainty. This is something that every science undergrad is taught. The key difference between scientific and religious belief is justification -- but one might well ask tbe question of what exactly qualifies as justification, and why are some beliefs or types of belief justifiable and not others? To me, that's where it starts to get interesting.
posted by Scientist at 11:26 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I vaguely remember the article barnacles is talking about. I spent about half an hour searching for it last night, because I could have sworn I got there from a comment here on the blue. No such luck though.
posted by talitha_kumi at 3:52 AM on March 9, 2013


It's in no way clear that every real thing is physical.

To the extent I am a believer in the Abrahamic God, I agree. But, I digress.

It's a perfectly respectable view, for example, that numbers are both real and non-physical. The same is true of thoughts. So far as we know, one has to has a physical existence of a certain type to think thoughts; it in no way follows that the thoughts themselves are physical. If thoughts have propositional content (a respectable view) and propositions are non-physical (also a respectable view), then we're in the vicinity of the conclusion that thoughts are non-physical.

The statement that I have emphasized in bold is a conditional statement, not a logical argument. I do, however, commend you on calling your own views "respectable".

Yes, so far as we know, a brain is needed for thoughts to occur. When you find a non-physical way to generate thoughts (how you would measure it, I do not know), then you might have some data to support your idea that thoughts are non-physical. Until then, the great weight of evidence supports the monist model. Have you ever wondered why alcohol impairs judgment? The the ethanol molecule have a mystical non-physical component that interacts with the non-physical component of thought? Is this non-physical component of thought any different than the luminiferous aether?
posted by Tanizaki at 1:30 PM on March 11, 2013


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