Thursday, 13 February 2014

Each healthy young woman has been gifted with significant social power

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Young, healthy women are, on average, much more powerful than young men: powerful in the social arena, powerful in the sexual arena.

Indeed all young healthy women are valued, all have significant power - because all are significantly desirable and desired.

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(The situation is very different for young men. To be a man is to be part of a zero-sum game. If a man does not have valued qualities then he is not valued - is indeed despised - and is indeed regarded as, is treated as, disposable. Which, biologically and economically - although certainly not religiously - he is.)

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This difference between young men and women is probably mostly for biological reasons described by Robert Trivers in relation to investment of resources in offspring. Over many generations of our ancestors women invested differentially vastly more resources into children than men (9 months pregnancy, a few years of feeding, and several years of total care); and this deeply shaped human psychology. By contrast, one man could provide all the necessary investment to make as many babies as required, and only economically-valuable men were necessary for their upbringing.

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Young healthy women have the greatest reproductive potential - they can expect to have the most babies and stay well to look after them until the offspring have ceased to be dependent.

That is why visual and behavioural cues signalling 'young and healthy' in a woman = what we term beautiful, desirable, sexy.

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Anyway, this means that the attractiveness of young healthy women is a gift; it is not something earned or striven-for.

And since attractiveness is the basis of their interpersonal and social influence, the power of young healthy women is also a gift.

Therefore one primary moral challenge for young healthy women concerns how they bestow this gift.

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Almost all women face this challenge, almost all women have this power - almost all women have (for a while) the power to shape their own social arena by their choices concerning the bestowal of their gift of youth and health.

Such decisions have personal consequences (on the woman who bestows, and the man upon whom the gift is bestowed); but the decisions also have social consequences, as others observe and learn-from the choices of each young healthy woman: at what age she chooses, whom she chooses, how often she chooses, upon what grounds she chooses, upon what conditions she chooses etc.

Therefore, as a gift - not earned - each and every young healthy woman has some significant power to shape not just her own condition, but also the condition of society.

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Indeed, each and every young healthy woman does - whether wittingly or unwittingly, whether knowingly or denyingly, and to some significant extent, actually shape her society by her choices of when (if ever), where, how, upon-whom to bestow her gift of youth and beauty.

This is, and ought to be regarded, as an awesome responsibility for each and every young and healthy woman.

Each woman is, as in the Princess fantasy, suddenly propelled-into this situation of being a focus of attention and a source of power - simply by virtue of her normal development.

So there she is, quite suddenly - yet temporarily - a ruler of some domain: What will she do?

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As so often, reality is reflected in Nursery Rhymes!

Men must prove themselves:

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick!
Jack jump-over the candlestick!

Whereas for an exceptionally beautiful, healthy young woman...

Goldilocks, Goldilocks wilt thou be mine?
Thou shalt not wash dishes, nor yet feed the swine.
But sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam. 
And feed-upon strawberries, sugar and cream. 

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10 comments:

George said...

It is terribly evil that society teaches these women that getting pregnant is not desirable because it might make them less desirable and give them less time to be desired.

That is to say don't fulfill your purpose, because you might lose the signals of that purpose - and modern society only cares for signals and manipulation, not for meaning or purpose.

Ugh said...

Interesting subject. I have often told my beautiful daughter she has tremendous power. Even when I explained why her self doubt doesn't let her take advantage. For my son on the other hand we were asked to drug him when he was little for acting like a boy. The attitude by society/school toward them was noticeably different, much more positive toward the girl.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

But sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam.
And feed-upon strawberries, sugar and cream.

What a contrast with the perfect wife in Book of Proverbs.

This is a most interesting insight. If the gift is used wrongly by selfish girls, they become women without chests. This is certainly what most effectively produces men without chests.

I also wonder if the jealousy of older or less attractive women is not a powerful ingredient in making otherwise healthy girls into superficial creatures, who do not live anymore for the good of others (family in particular) but only for themselves.

Aaron said...

This is a very interesting theory and I've heard it expressed before, but what puzzles is that this theory about the relative value of men/women seems to fly in the face of the actual judgement humanity has made historically in nearly all traditional societies.

In nearly all historical societies before late Western society women were valued far less than men and even considered objects of pity or disdain, and to this day in more traditional countries women are held in something like contempt. In Asian countries women are considered distinctly inferior- and treated as such - than men, even sophisticated countries like Japan.

So what I am wondering is if this theory is just another late-Western excrescence in that it doesn't conform to timeless human patterns but is just another example of the rather bizarre, from a historical and world perspective, Western tendency to exalt women, which began in the Middle Ages with the cult of the "lady", and seems to have reached a rather pathological peak these days, and if this theory is just a sophisticated attempt to create a post-hoc, and perhaps rather lame, explanation for a distinctly Western cultural aberration.

Adam G. said...

Bruce C.,
thanks for this. It helped me to see the connection between the complementarity of the sexes and the two attributesd most associated with God, love and glory:

http://www.jrganymede.com/2012/10/31/earned-respect-unconditional-love/

Bruce Charlton said...

@Aaron - Actually, I think that your interpretation is the modern (feminist) one. This was made clear to me when reading The Woman Racket by Steve Moxon - he marshals a great deal of objective evidence (note: this is not at all a Christian book - it is written from a secular right/ evolutionary psychology perspective). However, being relatively more highly valued should not be confused with being 'free' - but then there was not much freedom anywhere. And we (naturally) tend to be more shocked by cruelties to girls and women. I would say that the only significant exception to this higher valuing of women (and it is a big one) is the other major monotheism.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - From this perspective, modern secular culture can be seen as a vast and successful attempt to brainwash young healthy women into an inverted/ inferiority complex - or, if this is not possible, to get them to use their gifts for short-termist and selfish purposes.

jens cuthbert said...

This is something about which I have devoted considerable thought. As a student of social work I am keenly aware of the notion of patriarchy. However as a relatively young male, my imputed role as an oppressor of womankind seems , well, totally false.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ugh - I just retrieved your comment from the spam filter - inexplicable how it got there...

Bruce Charlton said...

From Imnobody

"Young women have a huge power and they do not have the maturity for using it wisely. This has always been true but it's truer now that people refuse to grow up.

"It is like a young men was given one million dollars and told to spend them the way he wants. I guess most men would waste this money on parties, drugs, fancy cars and hookers.

"In the old times, mothers and grandmothers (following tradition) told women to use this power wisely, which usually consisted of finding a good man to establish a family.

..."