Might Makes Right

Why have women’s rights been such an issue? Why has Feminism been a movement year after year? Why have women not simply been able to take the rights they do have, and establish the ones they want? Why, fourteen centuries ago, did Islam give women rights they hadn’t enjoyed previously? Has this business of women’s rights been churning souls even before that?

I think so, and I know why. It’s simple.

Men are bigger and stronger than women. In the animal kingdom, the strong lord it over the weak. Human kids do it all the time, before parents and civil authorities convince them to use more refined methods of getting what they want. People do have an animal nature. Men are able to control women simply by threat of physical force, and how many women, even today, or maybe especially today, find themselves under the thumbs of abusers simply because as women, they do not have the physiology to defend themselves?

I believe the physical superiority of men over women lay at the crux of all issues regarding women’s rights. When you strip off the overlay of culture, religion and civil order, and combine that with women’s vulnerable physical status while pregnant and nursing, you are left with a physically stronger male who is able to exert his will simply because the physically vulnerable woman cannot surpass him.

If my theory holds water, women’s rights will continue to challenge societies until women develop the musculature of men, and also until men learn how to carry babies. In other words, not in my lifetime.

About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions, and narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
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22 Responses to Might Makes Right

  1. Zuhura says:

    That’s depressing!

  2. Marahm says:

    LOL! Well, do you agree?

  3. Zuhura says:

    I’m not sure. That might have been the case in the past, but women today are hardly physically vulnerable while pregnant and nursing (unless the husband himself is actually abusive). Women could easily defend themselves through weaponry even if an individual woman is physically weaker than a man, but we are *taught* not to do so, *taught* to blame, rather than defend, ourselves if we are victimized.

  4. WM says:

    It’s not the case that the strongest men are the most powerful/influential/able to exert their influence on others, so go figure.

  5. Marahm says:

    With all due respect, I disagree that women can defend themselves through weaponry. I’m thinking of women going about their daily business and then getting attacked. Even a husband who has not been abusive knows, as does his wife, that if he wished, he could overpower her in a fight.

    When I was growing up, I was taught obedience to my father at all costs. That teaching carried over to other males who did not have my best interests at heart, as did my father, so I guess I’d have to agree with your second point.

    Little girls today are being taught differently, I think.

  6. Marahm says:

    WM, generally speaking, men are physically stronger than women, and can, indeed, overpower them, if they so choose. The last clause is operational here, “…if they so choose.” Any man can lord it over a woman.

    I think that behind all the conflict between men and women is the unconscious realization of this physical superiority of men over women. Very few people would admit to an awareness of it.

    However, with child-raising techniques turning away from corporal punishment, perhaps young people today do not think in terms of physical force as a valid method to exert their will over another person.

    When I was a kid (close to 150 years ago) all parents hit their kids as a form of punishment or coercion. It was perfectly natural and acceptable.

    I’ve just now remembered a hilarious act by Russell Stevens, ” Someone’s Gonna Getta Hurt Real Bad,” in which defies his father as a kid, and his father threatens to beat him.

  7. Zuhura says:

    Marahm, take a self defense class! I think I could overtake my husband in a fight (without weapons).

  8. Marahm says:

    Zuhura, that sounds like a good idea. I’m not actually scared of getting attacked, but as I get older, and more aware of my aging body, I notice the news reports of older women getting knocked over, raped, etc. A self-defense class is in order!

  9. WM says:

    If they so choose…they can go to gaol. There’s that phrase about the state enjoying, or endeavouring to enjoy, a monopoly of legitimate violence. Point being, physical strength means very little in the world.

  10. Marahm says:

    In other words, there’s always someone stronger than the strong one? Well, the state is notoriously impotent to protect women from being attacked by men, at least here in the USA.

    I rather like Zuhura’s suggestion to take a self-defense class. However, in order for men to think before they swing, women would have to rise up en masse to take self-defense classes. If the majority of women were trained in self-defense, the majority of men would know it.

  11. Zuhura says:

    Not only is the state impotent to protect/prevent women from being attacked, but also attackers often go unpunished. I agree with you, Mahram. I think all women should take self-defense classes and encourage one another to do so. (And refresher courses, too, I am reminding myself.)

  12. WM says:

    Fair enough. Still, I don’t feel the spectre of ‘might’ raises its head in every male/female transaction, though I might be wrong.

  13. Marahm says:

    Of course it doesn’t! I do believe, though, that biological determinants play a larger part in our attitudes and relationships than we are aware.

  14. Anon. says:

    Probably. You realise I’m only posting this so I can have the last word, of course.

  15. Marahm says:

    Oh, yes, but that’s part of your charm!

  16. WM says:

    That’s very charitable of you. I’ve heard it called other things in my time.

  17. Zuhura says:

    I’ve been reading Deborah Cameron’s Feminism and Linguistic Theory and came across a passage that seemed relevant to your post and our conversation. She writes that power is a a complex and subtle matter, exercised through ideology or discourse and not usually be outright coercion. And then includes this example: “For instance, no-one has to threaten little girls with violence to get them to desire ‘feminine’ things like dolls and pretty dresses. The problem for antisexist parents and educators is rather get them not to!” (160)

    I think we could come up with lots of examples where sexism/patriarchy operates without physical force or outright coercion. How does this factor in to your thinking, Marahm?

  18. WM says:

    Very Foucauldian. But, discursive constructions of gender aside, sexism and patriarchy aren’t the same! Patriarchy, correctly understood, is a good thing, and is sanctioned by religion.

  19. Zuhura says:

    Wow, WM, I could not disagree more.

  20. Marahm says:

    Well, I seem to be in the minority, thinking that a primordial awareness of the physical superiority of males over females is a factor when males are able to keep females in line. I have no empirical evidence to support my position, except my own upbringing by a strict and bellowing father.

    I agree that sexism is not patriarchy, and patriarchy is sanctioned by Islam.

    However, since we are discussing the role of physical force, or the threat thereof, I also agree that both sexism and patriarchy operate without outright coercion. I still believe, albeit without psychological or sociological evidence, that the underlying disparity between the physiques of the two sexes plays a big role in the ease with which sexism and patriarchy have traditionally succeeded.

  21. Zuhura says:

    Do you mean patriarchy is sanctioned by Allah? And would you agree with WM that that’s a good thing? I can agree it’s sanctioned by Islam if by Islam we mean the human-made rules that developed after the Qur’an was revealed. (I.e. Islam vs. islam.)

  22. Marahm says:

    Yes, I agree that patriarchy is sanctioned by the Islam that developed as a result of human-made rules. Is it sanctioned by Allah? I don’t know. I’m starting to wonder exactly what was the Islam that was revealed by Allah.

    Is patriarchy a good thing? I think it can be good, indeed. There is an argument to be made for the division of labor based upon physiology. Because women bear children, they feel the responsibility of caring for them, more than men. Men are suited to orienting their endeavors to the realms of business and other means of earning livelihood. This is a general statement, of course. Exceptions come to mind, but generalities are generalities because they prevail.

    I like to think that the differences should be honored, not used to keep women in the dark about economic matters, and not used to give men more freedoms, or to allow them to usurp the decision-making right for the family. This is exactly what happens, though, precisely because women are physiologically preoccupied with child-bearing and child- raising.

    A feminism with guts would give women the freedom for child-raising and homemaking, but at the same time teach couples how to creatively enrich each other’s humanity, rather than confine it. That would mean each fully participating in the realm of the other, not necessarily in actuality, but at the executive level.

    It would also allow for women who are truly called to the world of work to be able to do so, without having to worry about who’s minding the children. We have a system now, in the US– day care– but so many women are tied to it, rather than freed by it. That’s a whole ‘nother subject, though.

    I have a real objection to the original feminist idea that women should do it all– all at the same time, no less.

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