Why do we, as women still succumb to simplistic outdated social dogma? We condone even degradation and objectification, and in most cases persist with our circumstances past it. Necessities aside, and I will address this in a later piece; did our fathers collectively fail us, or our mothers teach us to hide instead of retaliate and fight for ourselves? I wonder, why survive simply to carry on our species? We are not so simple, are we? Nonetheless, as women are still notably guilty of this.
This seemingly passive subjugation while it does have a long history of violence, is associated with collective and social trauma. Essentially, it is a long term detriment resulting from the failure of social institutions to fairly facilitate individual lives within society(ies). When the effect is on people of particular classifications in society, it is collective in nature. To my understanding, collective social trauma is a mental conditioning across generations due to environmental parameters. In the most rudimentary sense, some of us have learnt to adhere to simpler gender roles in order to survive.
Invoking evolutionary theory, specifically the mechanism of natural selection, we evolve as dictated by our interaction with the environment.
Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”
Usually discussed in terms of physical traits, it begins with our sensory perception of certain necessities or inconveniences within our environment. To extend to our own temporal alteration, it needs to be registered in some inherent way into our genetics. This is called genetic memory, which is the foundation for instinct.
Following this line of thought, our perception of features deemed ‘attractive’, primitively so as they may be, especially to prospective copulation partners, affect our ingrained tendencies. Again, it does sound primitive, but it is possible if the environment is unconducive for our own growth. When we don’t resort to nomadic practices to seek ‘greener pastures’, we simply must adapt accordingly. This can be as simple as tougher beaks or teeth, for better access to sustenance. The animal kingdom does however provide discernible examples of complex herited traits that transcend physicality, such as hibernation patterns of Monarch butterflies. In the most rudimentary sense, this forms our intuition, an inane knowledge base as to how to employ our physical being, particularly to execute our intents. It may appear to suggest, that we may inherit memories from predecessors, or even their impressions and sentiments of the world. To the best of my knowledge this isn’t true, but it is possible to inherit their trauma in a way. The long term effects of trauma include severe emotional distress. On its own, that causes certain biochemical changes within us. When paired with actual first-hand physical trauma, it seems possible that we may be ‘haunted’ for generations further down our lineages, so that we ‘recall’ the trauma in our biochemistry. Very recent works have observed this with holocaust survivors.
Altered Stress Hormones in Descendants of Holocaust Survivors
The philosophical view I have adopted, invokes our purpose as complex beings beyond the continuity of our species. Our young do require more care than the simpler counterparts of our biological kingdom. Consider for instance the cornucopia of illnesses we may suffer, or even our inability to move and function independently during infancy. As we evolve, our tools have become more sophisticated and we have come to rely on them to function within our architecturally complex habitats. Unlike ants whose physicality determines their role within colonies, our functions or talents as such complex beings, are not so physically ascertainable. While we may appear generally pleasing to the eye, we may be better suited for pursuits less aesthetic and/or carnal in nature, as dictated by our individual personalities, inclinations and abilities. We need to be nurtured accordingly, so that we too can grow into our diverse places and roles within society.
When we are discouraged from such progressive endeavours as education especially of a higher nature (e.g. since we allegedly tend to get distracted by familial commitments after a certain age), we can only resist the oppression for so long. Arguments that have not kept up with modern medicine, have invoked such archaic excuses as menstruation, childbirth, menopause and the resulting hormonal effects to explain and justify the perpetuation of patriarchy. Two things that immediately arise from this is the deeper rooting of the woman’s role as a home-maker and a care provider, as well as the man’s role as the breadwinner. Simplistically, their child now becomes conditioned to perceive themselves within certain gender roles, which does subdue their own persistence towards pursuits they find more interesting. Naturally, a different life-narrative as portrayed by a teacher or a neighbour perhaps, will build a wider perspective which will affect their personal growth healthily. On the other hand, restricted to the home and denied secularism especially pertaining to education, neither man nor woman will know any other way of life. This has seen women domesticated, as the ‘generous’ accommodating carer. Men are then largely absolved from the more domestic responsibility of raising their own children, and it has been norm for a husband to abuse his wife who was taught to be patient with him. In the present day, in addition to pre-existing cases of domestic abuse which are not all as subtle as economic entrapment, the issue of sexual consent in marriages remains debatable.
See Also: Of Adam’s Rib
The lifelong conditionings as described in the previous paragraph aside, we evolve with these lessons ingrained in us. It is what we perceive of our environment. Men and women alike will now adapt accordingly. Yes, sometimes being closer to dad provides more and else for the female child. And by that token, the son may turn very, even overly sympathetic and endearing to women due to his closeness to his mother. Generally though, we simply conform. Women, due to child-bearing capabilities and menstruation, are truly weaker physically and more at harm of forced subjugation especially sexual, as much as it has been used to ‘tame’ young boys and men into subordination as well.
On the Rape of Men and Boys in Africa
Rape of Men and Boys in Syria
Bearing and raising the heir, often not disposed of, itself is burdensome. The physical pains aside, the emotional strain from having borne the child inside oneself paired with the knowledge of the its father’s identity, is torment. Sometimes the victims aren’t aware of their pregnancy even, which tends to occur more with rapes of minors and in domestic abuse cases. They simply aren’t aware of the symptoms. Other times, they resort to self-harm risking their own lives to abort the unwanted spawn of their abuser. Their rescue and healing is often difficult, even post-displacement and rehabilitation because of the prolonged effects of trauma. Whether or not their children carry it with them, the witnesses to the incidents will.
Now, our individual reactions to identical stimuli do differ. This speaks to our personality, which is unique to our births and life experiences. Yes, we have seen the exception to the rule, the phoenixes that rise from the ashes, such as Oprah Winfrey. We also still see the marginalisation of women, and it is still in cautious little steps that we seem to dare progress. All said, similar to trauma, our intent can be preserved too. Such proactive efforts to change detrimental norms, as active engagement and education aimed at the masses require relentless hard work. What more, it takes a majority to swing any vote, and for that reason we need to engage the impressionable young. It is not easy, to convince a content party of a problem with society. Without doing that though, we will never see any social reform. On top of the difficulty, there is the repercussion to worry about. As is well known, our own history as humans is riddled with violence and women are still targets for hate crime.
Truthfully, once we remove the things that define us physically, as impossible a task as it is most days, we are just people. That, we should be able to build on with our male counterparts in endeavors not restricted to our private lives and homes. The male comrade is a necessary component in reshaping the mainstream ideologies that hold society back from truly maximising our potential as an all-encompassing human resource. So, is he too ‘opportunistic’ to descend the authorities that are more available to him, to accommodate for the less-accustomed-to female counterpart? Can she be allowed to prove herself, with a genuine opportunity to rightfully ascend in every hierarchy? Will she ever speak for herself, or can she only be a token piece, for a man’s socio-political platform? Will the best of us ever lead us, or must our greater versions be our patriarchs’ visions for us, which does seem to be the primary case still? Ayn Rand once said, “I trust that no one will tell me that men such as I write about don’t exist. That this book has been written—and published—is my proof that they do.” Controversies both in her personal life and writings’ contents aside, it is possible for a woman to succeed, as per her talents and I daresay even destiny. Perhaps there is hope.
Our emancipation is a complex weave through every power play and nuance of society. We are seeing the onset of times when we, women, can fight for ourselves. We are gently coming out of our extensive trauma and genuinely healing. However, this development is young and volatile. Sometimes we get caught up in the moment and hystericize over details, which can reduce a genuine cause into just a fad or popular rhetoric. As exciting as it is to us, to have a voice or platform, we do need to establish ourselves more firmly. When we choose to exercise our liberties, we should do so cautiously and deliberately, to serve greater social purposes instead of drawing the focus away from them and potentially feeding stereotypes. Strategically, the appeal to governance is a political endeavor and has always required compromise. In instances whence a woman is influential enough on her own, as usually depicted by her economic status, she is able to generate a mass effect in resistance. This is powerful as a statement in itself. For me, it means I can turn to a more accomplished woman for every manner of example and guidance, and I won’t be silenced. Again, it is not as simple as taking one’s side because they are female, but rather because they are truly justified. However, for all the cracks women have made in the ever-present glass ceiling, it has yet to shatter.
Personally, I am quiet. I don’t speak up in every instance, and I do save my voice for instances such as legalities. It may sound superfluous, but I do find it necessary for my own little sense of security, to take such precautions. As a clarification, I am not misandric. I have experienced the company and even comradery of good men, and I know they are not all misogynistic or even sexist. On the other hand, I have also encountered the more malicious juxtaposition in women. All said, I do appreciate a friend in any shape or form, if only to console the exhausted psyche. But I am a woman, and the presence of unexpected misplaced personalities in my vicinity does not negate gender inequality and the repercussions therein. As such, I do often take sexism personally, even in jest, and it is distinguishable from good natured discussions pertaining to gender-specific growth and divergence. I am not perfect, but I am a person, and I live for the day when that is recognised despite every stereotype, objectification, over-arching misjudgement, misogynistic sentiment and stigma…when a woman is prevalently recognised as a man’s true equal.