February 25, 2002
10:27 AM   Subscribe

Why Men Treat Women as Property! Somebody dropped their psychology lecture notes, revealing the embarassing truth ... Are there really connections between Islamic fundamentalism, and the global masculinity crisis? Be it Resolved: According to Google, the struggle against "Women as Chattel" is the essence of feminism! Other links that "+women +chattel" reveals ... (more)
posted by sheauga (9 comments total)

-- Afghan Women and Girls.
-- A landmark legal decision: the first international tribunal conviction for rape and enslavement of women.
The USAID Office of Women in Development.
-- Women in Sudan, Nigeria, and China.
-- Maureen Dowd on Extending our Women's Rights Campaign.

The struggle against "Women as Chattel" is the essence of feminism. And pornography is where it all starts!

*ducks and runs, stumbles on birka, attempts to dodge liberal Western tomatoes* ;^P
posted by sheauga at 10:29 AM on February 25, 2002

The notes are from Psychology 473. Advanced Evolutionary Psychology.

Using my BS detector I sense that Advanced Evolutionary Pschology with it's post-hoc explanations should, in the spirit of honest humour, really be called Advanced Backwards Thinking and be taught by Miss Cleo or John Edwards.
posted by srboisvert at 11:01 AM on February 25, 2002

Yes, evolutionary psychology is controversial. You can have an honest debate about the effects of genes on behaviour, the relevance of animal research to human behaviour, and how "hard-wired" we are for certain kinds of behaviour versus the influence of culture and free will. But there is a wealth of peer-reviewed research in the area: right or wrong -- or wrongish or rightish -- it's a real discipline, not a collection of just-so stories.

There's a wide variety of popular books on the topic out there, such as:
The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins)
The Moral Animal (Robert Wright)
The Origins of Virtue and The Red Queen (Matt Ridley)

Dig through the citations in the popular books to find some of the peer reviewed research.

One more thing: those lecture notes (from a male prof in the Psych Department at the University of Calgary, by the way), seem to have been partially based on chapter 11 of Sex, Evolution and Behavior by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson. Daly and Wilson are respected researchers and have published well-reviewed books on homicide and step-parents.
posted by maudlin at 12:01 PM on February 25, 2002

Yeah, what Srboisvert said. If we're going to accept that men's attitudes, emotions, and actions indicative of sexual proprietariness and the commoditization of women are products of evolved mechanisms, we're basically taking an essentialist view not only of gender, but of sexism, mysogany, and even rape. This is dangerous grounds, friends.

Whenever we get a 'natural' explanation as to why things happen, it ain't too long before people start using these 'natural' (i.e. essentialist) ideas to justify pre-existing social problems. As products of the modern world, we usually take scientifically 'proven' phenomena to be the last word. It's almost become a trope of sorts. Use it to fortify your argument and you've got a good case. If we accept this argument, as presented in the slippery post above, then we may open the door for the implications and consequnces that an essentialist/sexual dymorphic argument for gender may lead us to - that male superiority is an evolutionary truth in our species (i.e. that it would be 'un-natural' to disavow innate characteristics). This dangerous argument will open the door for even more trouble - that rape, mysogany, bigotry, etc are all innate traits of men. I ain't buying it. People can choose how they conduct their own lives, and I'm not gonna listen to anyone who uses an essentialist/naturalist doctrine to defend their own bigotry. Likewise, I can't accept a text (even a feminist text) that tries to illustrate the differences between men and women on an essentialist assumption that one may want to 'naturally' control the other.
posted by tiger yang at 4:17 PM on February 25, 2002

Bah! Evolutionary psychology is bunk, or as srboisvert noted nothing more than post-hoc rationalizations. Are we shaped by our physical and cultural evolutions? Of course- but our physical evolution basically stopped eons ago, and our cultural evolution isn't (as is often suggested by those who would appropriate "evolutionary psychology" to justify patriarchal, misogynistic, or elitist social structures, much as their predecessors did with "social Darwinism") static or set in stone; cultural evolution is both the cause and effect of our social organization.

In an interesting bit of serendipity for this thread, I caught much of "Fight Club" on HBO last night, and finished reading "The Chalice and the Blade" by Riane Eisler the night before; both are flawed but thought-provoking works.
posted by hincandenza at 4:33 PM on February 25, 2002

hincandenza:" Of course- but our physical evolution basically stopped eons ago..."

Straying only slightly off-topic, this recent documentary shown on Channel 4 in the UK illustrates the possible impact of continued physical evolution in the modern world.

Essentially it expands on a previous post and suggests that the presence of a mutation of a gene - delta 32 - delayed (if one copy of the mutation was present) or prevented (if there were two copies) the onset of plague. As the Black Death swept Europe, the 'protection' offered by the mutation ensured its survival within the population to the point whereby approximately 15% of Europe and the US have one copy of the mutated gene, and 1% have two copies.

The modern day significance of this? Well, the mutated gene effectively blocks the delivery mechanism (hijacking of white blood cells IIRC) for the virus - a mechanism that is also used by AIDS, among others. It thereby offers hope - that a way might be found to recreate this mechanism in the fight against AIDS - and also despair, when one considers that one of the probable reasons for the huge prevalance of the disease in sub-Saharan Africa is that it was never exposed to the Bubonic Plague in the same way as the Northern Hemisphere, and thus the mutated gene was never 'selected' and propogated.

Research like this would seem to suggest that physical evolution is driven more by short-timescale, high-impact events than the more 'gradualist'(?) approach that has been suggested, as I understand it, in the past, and as such is alive and well in the 21st Century. I wonder if a similar argument applies to evolutionary psychology? Or is it all really just bunk?
posted by barnsoir at 1:52 AM on February 26, 2002

I think you have to read these notes bearing in mind that they may help to explain why men behave the way they do (even when it appears irrational). Some of these instinctive behaviours originate from our animal origins.

We may have been animals, but now we are not and we can rationalise, suppress or remove behaviour that find undesirable. This becomes easier with a rational understanding of where our feelings can originate.

Intrestingly this article stops short of talking about female attitudes to men. Presumably that was another class. For example, I remember reading an article some time ago about male victims of rape. Very often their female partners felt they were less masculine and this often put extra strain on the victims, and the relationships.
posted by dodgygeezer at 5:51 AM on February 26, 2002

dodgygeezer - We may have been animals, but now we are not

We are animals.
posted by NortonDC at 8:02 AM on February 26, 2002

Research like this would seem to suggest that physical evolution is driven more by short-timescale, high-impact events than the more 'gradualist'(?) approach

I believe the phrase used is "punctuated equilibrium"; not a gradual evolution but instead separate bursts of furious changes and chaos, followed by stabilization for a few eons, then chaos again, etc.

I wonder if a similar argument applies to evolutionary psychology? Or is it all really just bunk?

I don't dispute that our psychology, our culture evolves. What I dispute is the idea that our cultural past and evolution are concrete barriers to change or alteration in the here and now, or that our cultural and psychological states are completely pre-destined forces out of our control that have been pushing us forward for millenia. In other words, too many people seem to like hearing that chimps are polygamous and violent, because it acts as a catch-all excuse for their own misogynistic behavior.
posted by hincandenza at 12:13 PM on February 27, 2002

« Older make sure she really means "yes"...   |   Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments