Why do women in the patriarchy get the bad end of the deal?
In order to answer this question we need a little human history: Because mankind went through an agrarian revolution approximately ten thousand years ago – the social transformation from nomadic hunter-gatherer cultures to resident agrarian cultures. From the nomadic hunter- gatherer cultures still in existence which survived in solitary places on earth until a few decades ago, social anthropology could deduce how the majority of mankind might have lived before the agrarian revolution. The following facts can be safely assumed to be characteristic of typical nomadic hunter-gatherer cultures:
- Individuals living in groups of several dozen individuals at most
- Hierarchies in the group were relatively flat: All adults individuals could – in an emergency – survive alone in the wilderness
- Children and seniors were supported by the whole group
Then the agrarian revolution came. The organised cultivation of staple foods at a fixed place made more food available than before. That enabled population growth and a faster rate of innovations as far as progress of technologies and tools was concerned. In order to guaranty the new food supply people needed a stricter social system with several (also new) hierarchical levels, in order to be able to manage the tasks required for agricultural food production.
The classical characteristics of an agrarian culture are:
- It consists of individuals in groups of several dozen or more; but population size can be de facto open-ended
- Steep hierarchies: Each social class delivers some tasks which the other classes could not – or not adequately – manage (e.g. farmers, officials, leaders).
- Only a few adults individuals could – in an emergency – survive alone in the wilderness.
- Children and seniors are only supported by the respective social class from which they originate.
Today, mainstream societies are still following this principle. A few substantial changes, e.g. universal health and/or old age insurances only entered some Eurocentric/Western societies’ mainstreams in the second half of the 20th Century. However, there is something very few people know about the agrarian revolution: It led to an extreme change in the way human sexuality was lived. In nomadic hunter-gatherer cultures, all the resources necessary for survival belonged to the whole group – and were inherited by the entire group after the death of one of its members. In an agrarian society, however, fair re-distribution to all members of the group was impossible due to the grown group size, and with less resources-per-person than in the old hunter-gatherer situation. Therefore the distribution system changed. Possessions necessary for survival were now passed on within the smallest unit of the group – the family. The big question became: Who gets the farm? Now possessions were handed down from the father to the children: “patrilinear” inheritance. A farm might belong to a couple – a woman and a man – at the same time, who shared the leading position with equal standing. As far as the inheritance was concerned, however, the children still had to be direct descendants from this specific man.
In hunter- gatherer cultures, it was a negligible criterion who the biological father of the children was. For an agrarian society, however, who fathered which children became essential information for the question of their inheritance. The price for that, however, was the total repression of female sexuality: Because in a time without reliable methods of contraception, abortion or paternity tests there was only one secure possibility of determining one’s paternity without doubt: The biological mother of the child must have, without any exceptions whatsoever, only ever had sex with the biological father of the child. Originally, the concept of inheritance simply replaced the old survival strategy of passing on the resources necessary for survival, and just transferred the old strategy to the family unit. When the inheritance cycle had repeated often enough, however, the inherited possessions obtained an extent far beyond that needed for mere survival. That way, dynasties with enormous properties and wealth and, as a consequence, unproportional political power and influence developed automatically. These elites have no interest to lose that special status again, of course. This is why it becomes extremely important for the members of such a dynasty that their possessions remain within the family and that the family is holding together. Now the criterion who fathered which children becomes even more important. The issue is no longer just survival; now the issue is to stay in power. Now it is no longer enough to control the sexuality of the women within the dominant elite; the women of any competing or even lower social class must also be controlled. Because the people of the lower classes must be kept from achieving a foundational social solidarity via a healthy realisation of their sexuality; otherwise, they might attempt to overthrow the dominant elite and redistribute those parts of their wealth not nescessary for survival amongst the public. The women of that elite must exemplify the suppression of sexuality through their own lives (at least seemingly), so that the women from the lower social classes, which are needed to enable the high status of the elites, do not develop any ideas “above their station”. These processes evolved, over the course of millenia, into a perfidious system spread by the dominant elite via religion, propaganda, legislation, and national institutions. Meanwhile, this system has been internalised and is passed on from generation to generation by education. In this way, most individuals – who never question, let alone remove these patriarchal introjects – subconsciously collaborate to keep the respective elites in power and themselves – quite literally – impotent.