|Sugar and spice and everything nice,|
That's what little girls are made of.
Snips and snails and puppydog tails,
That's what little boys are made of.
"Girls are made of water, men of mud," he [Jia Baoyu] declares.
Cao Xueqin & Gao E, A Dream of Red Mansions, Volume I
[Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1994, 2005, p.34]
|Us girls we are so magical|
Soft skin, red lips, so kissable
Hard to resist, so touchable
Too good to deny it
Katy Perry, "I Kissed a Girl," Published by When I'm Rich
You'll Be My Bitch (ASCAP), administered by WB Music, 2008
For a man this might be a pleasant trip down memory lane, counting up his conquests. But for a girl, it's a whole other story. I had let these men inside me, wanting that to make me matter to them. Wanting it to make me matter...
A boy once said to me, "Boys have to put forth real effort to get laid, while all you have to do is stand braless in the wind." It's true. What's easier for a girl than to get noticed for her body?
Kerry Cohen, Loose Girl, a Memoir of Promiscuity
[Hyperion, New York, 2008, pp.2-3]
Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historic'ly fair;
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Well, why can't a woman be like that?
Why does ev'ryone do what the others do?
Can't a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do ev'rything their mothers do?
Why don't they grow up -- well, like their father instead?
Why can't a woman take after a man?
Men are so pleasant, so easy to please;
Whenever you are with them, you're always at ease.
Would you be slighted if I didn't speak for hours?
Henry Higgins, My Fair Lady, book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe, 1956
A woman wants one man to satisfy her every need.
A man wants every woman to satisfy his one need.
How to Impress a Woman:
Wine her, Dine her, Call her, Hug her,
Hold her, Surprise her, Compliment her,
Smile at her, Laugh with her,
Cry with her, Cuddle with her,
Shop with her, Give her jewelry,
Buy her flowers, Hold her hand,
Write love letters to her,
Go to the end of the earth and back for her.
How to Impress a Man:
Show up naked.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Save her! Save the girl!
Will Smith, I, Robot [Fox, 2004]
Naturam expelles furca tamen usque recurret.
"You expel nature with a pitchfork, but it just comes back."
Table of Opposites
These cross-cultural similarities suggest that we may be dealing, not with gender stereotypes as cultural artifacts, but with something deeper: sexual archetypes that are not produced by culture. The parallels between Greece, India, and China, not to mention countless other cultures [note], certainly explode a favored feminist thesis (with an element of anti-Semitism) that "patriarchy" was something created by Judaism and Christianity (cf. The Creation of Patriarchy, Gerda Lerner, Oxford, 1986). Ancient Egypt, for instance, with not more than three ruling queens in three thousand years (with the memory of the most notable, Hatshepsut, deliberately erased by her nephew and successor, Thutmose III), does not sound like a contradiction of patriarchy, whatever else the status of women may have been like [note]. As C.G. Jung would say about such things, archetypes, since they are part of the architecture of the unconscious, are going to turn up however much anyone dislikes them or tries to suppress them. Jung's view of sexual archetypes, however, is a complex one: The psyche actually seeks a balance between opposites. The manifestation of one sexual archetype anywhere in the mind, therefore, will lead to a covert manifestation of the opposite one elsewhere. The balance is especially a matter of the unconscious compensating for the contents of consciousness. Thus, the male unconscious contains an archetypal image of the female, the anima, while the female unconscious contains an archetypal image of the male, the animus. The unconscious images are spontaneously projected and recognized externally, with the characteristic that the external objects become numinous and fascinating. To the extent that a person is immature and unaware of the nature of this fascination, it will produce irrational effects, i.e. the object may be loved or hated, regardless of what it is actually like, and, especially, the person will be unaware that the fascination produces no knowledge of the object, which actually may have nothing whatsoever to do with what the subject thinks or expects about it.
The duality between internal and external, or subject and object, and between conscious and unconscious, produce an overlapping map of the psyche. The object and part of the subject are conscious, while the unconscious and part of the conscious are internal, i.e. in the subject. Male and female bodies are conscious objects (they have consciousness, but especially they are objects of consciousness). The mind, which is the conscious subject (internal and conscious), contains another couple of sexual archetypes for Jung: eros & logos. This is probably the most offensively "sexist" thing about Jung's theory, since eros is a female capacity for emotion, while logos is a male capacity for reason [note]. However, both of these functions exist in male and female minds. What is characteristic is the dynamic that is set up. Jung says that men tend to have irrational sentiments, while women tend to have irrational opinions. He did not think that all women had irrational opinions, or that all of a woman's opinions were irrational. He did think, however, that reason in women and emotion in men have a powerful unconscious potential, which means that men unaware or out of touch with emotion will tend to have the irrational sentiments, while women unaware or out of touch with reason will tend to have irrational opinions. Since a large number of people in real life are unaware and out of touch with emotion and reason, the tendency will be for more men to have the irrational sentiments, and more women to have the irrational opinions. This theory seems no worse than one of a universal patriarchal conspiracy when such stereotypes seem to occur in most historic cultures. For instance, Socrates says that people would think that Athenians "are in no way better than women," because of the emotional and histrionic way they carry on in court. But many miles, centuries, and civilizations away from Socrates, in the 1716 manual of the samurai ethos, Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, we find:
A certain man said, "I know the shapes of Reason and of Woman." When asked about this, he replied, "Reason is four-cornered and will not move even in an extreme situation. Woman is round. One can say that she does not distinguish between good and evil or right and wrong and tumbles into any place at all." [William Scott Wilson translation, Discus Books, 1981, p. 138]
Here we get a combination of contrasts involving geometry (square/round), thought (rational/irrational), and moral disposition (moral/immoral), with a harsh connection made betwen female roundness, irrationality, and immorality. A great deal of this misogyny in Japan can be traced back to China, where we have already seen the tradition of stereotypes.
The theory of the sexual dynamic of the psyche in Jung is conformable to the theory of male and female patterns of conversation in Deborah Tannen's best selling book You Just Don't Understand. Tannen, as a result of her own research, contends that men use conversation to establish status, or for "information," while women use conversation to establish closeness. This contrast seems to display the logos/eros functions, since information is rational while closeness is emotional. When a woman talks to a man about a problem she is having, they may speak at cross purposes. She may basically just want to be comforted and encouraged, while the man may think that she is seeking a solution that he can give to her quickly and then move on. Something similar is described by the pop psychologist John Gray in the popular Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: When they have a problem, men go into a "cave," retreating from contact, to work things out. Women, on the other hand, seek contact. If men and women are aware that the other has a problem and, as Confucius says [note], use their own feelings as a guide, they will tend to treat the other in exactly the opposite way they want to be treated. Men with a problem will not want to be bothered; and, if they are bothered, it can only be because a succinct "solution" is being offered to their problem. But women will tend to bother them without a "solution," which the man will find very irritating. Similarly, a man may avoid a woman with a problem, thinking she would like to be left alone. If she then seeks contact, he may respond by abruptly telling her how to fix it and then going away again. Both Tannen and Gray, like Jung, expect that as each sex learns what the other seeks, they will, at the least, not insensibly work at cross-purposes.
Tannen, like Jung, sees the opposite of each disposition emerge unconsciously. Men do want closeness, and women do want status. The dynamic, however, is that men may seek closeness by means of status, while women may seek status by means of closeness. Historically and cross-culturally, women tend to marry "up" in status, with older, more established men. Thus, historically, a higher status man could expect to attract women i.e. closeness (as the former "alpha male" of the United States, Bill Clinton, attracted the attentions of White House interns). Similarly, a good looking woman from nowhere could have a reasonable expectation that merely attracting the attention of the right man could result in considerable status: the husband of the Queen of England might not be the King, but the wife of the King would be the Queen. This dynamic also occurs among those of the same sex. Women, according to Tannen, may achieve status according to the closeness to the "in" social group, as seen in recent movies like Heathers (1989), Clueless (1995), and Mean Girls (2004) -- not to mention the fantasy of an outsider's revenge in Carrie (1976). At the same time, men may gain entry to a group by some achieved status: An "old boy" is immediately a friend to fellow alumni, however unknown to him. The new kid on the block who hits the home run is suddenly everyone's friend.
The feminist argument, of course, is that everyone naturally loves status and closeness equally, but that men seize status by force and women are just left with the dregs of closeness. However, since feminists also tend to think that women cannot achieve equal status (the "glass ceiling") without the help of anti-discrimination and sexual harassment laws, they seem to concede that women are not willing or able to compete on equal terms with men. Furthermore, part of the feminist argument often is that status hierarchies and competitive business are bad in the first place. Companies should be run with cooperation and closeness. How this is supposed to play out is unclear. No one is going to believe that uncompetitive business is better than competitive when the law is used to force competitive businesses to do things they don't already want to do, i.e. granting status positions to women who would not have gotten it otherwise. There are at least three incommensurable claims in all this: (1) If women are naturally as competitive as men, then all that feminists need to do is raise a generation of women through "non-sexist" education that will simply take what is theirs, the way men did (since it has been some forty years since the "women's movement" conceived this goal, it should have happened by now). (2) If women are not naturally as competitive as men, but have a right to the same status positions, then the law ought to simply give it to them. And (3) If non-competitive business is best, then women should just start their own companies (which they can and do, with more than half the wealth of the country in their hands), which will then out-perform the patriarchal ones and drive them out of business, with the same result as (1) [note]. These alternatives cannot be all true together, but choosing one over the others makes for very different views of human nature and very different policy objectives.
The truth seems to be that some women are just as competitive as men and will do just fine in a regime of freedom. Most women, however, do not want the same things as men, reflecting millions of years of evolution; and, once they are not hectored by egalitarian, utopian, moralistic political exhortations, they will simply behave differently and put together kinds of lives that are somewhat different from men, though often with the dreaded feminist defect of being dependent on men, who may earn the income to support them and the rest of their family [note]. While feminists think that men want to keep women out of their workplace, men are, in fact, usually quite pleased to have agreeable women around. They just are uncomfortable directly competing with them. Particular women, with enough drive, can overcome this. Otherwise, the customary and helpful approach is to make some distinction that separates the competition.
The Pythagorean table of opposites suggests other sexual archetypes, though with the familiar paradoxes of unconscious compensation. It is curious that the Pythagoreans and the Chinese should agree that the male is to be associated with odd numbers (7 & 9 for the I Ching) and the female with even ones (6 & 8 for the I Ching), for we often seem to see just the opposite, especially in the imagery of myth and of popular culture. Thus, in Greek mythology, there are nine Muses and seven Pleiades, all women. The number three turns up in the association of the Moon goddesses Artemis, Selênê, and Hecatê with the three stages of women's lives (virgin, mother or matron, and "crone"). There are three Graces, three Hours, three Fates, and three Furies, all goddesses [note]. There are also the three goddesses whose jealously sparked the Trojan War: Hera, Athena, and Aphroditê. The recent television series Charmed starred Shannen Doherty (Prue), Holly Marie Combs (Piper), and Alyssa Milano (Phoebe) as young witches who use the "power of three" in their spells (there were later cast changes). We also get three women in The Witches of Eastwick , Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer (from John Updike's, The Witches of Eastwick, 1984). The number five, missing from those examples, turns up with a vengeance in popular all girl rock groups of the 1980's and 90's: There were five Go Go's, five Bangles, and (originally) five Spice Girls (Baby, Ginger, Posh, Scary, and Sporty). There are only four cartoon character Bratz (Jade, Yasmin, Sasha, and Cloe); but in their video Genie Magic and with the accompanying dolls we do get a fifth (Meygan -- a redhead, which is a nice addition since the others have black, blond, and brown hair). Now, there are five Desperate Housewives: Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria, Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, and Brenda Strong. On the other hand, the conspicuous occurrence of the number two in Greek mythology is with the Dioscuri, the "Twins" (Gemini), Castor & Polydeuces (Pollux). Twin brothers or just two "buddies" have become a specific literary and movie genre (e.g. Gilgamesh & Enkidu, Krishna & Arjuna, Hawkeye & Chingachgook, the Lone Ranger & Tonto, and, in the first of the now endlessly multiplied "buddy" movies, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid), while two man acts dominate the history of comedy: Laurel & Hardy, Abbot & Costello, Cheech & Chong, Bill & Ted, Bevis & Butthead, Jay & Silent Bob, etc. There seems little in the way of corresponding female pairings, except in conscious imitation of the male ones (e.g. Thelma & Louise). Similarly, there is a powerful archetype behind the number four, from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to the four Beatles (John, Paul, George, & Ringo), the four Cartwrights in the TV series Bonanza (Ben, Adam, Hoss, & Little Joe -- it was never quite right after Adam, played by Pernell Roberts, ironically now the only surviving one of the four, left the series), the four men on horseback at the climax of the western movie Silverado (Kevin Kline, Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, & Scott Glen ), the four Ghostbusters at the climax of the movie Ghostbusters (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, & Ernie Hudson ), all the way to the four super-hero "Ex-Presidents" (Ford, Carter, Reagan, & Bush) in a series of cartoons on NBC's venerable Saturday Night Live -- parodying, of course, similar groups of cartoon super-heroes, like the "Fantastic Four." Finally, we get the six members of the Monty Python troup: Graham Chapman (d.1989), John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. It is hard, however, to envision these six as a coherent group, since they never appeared together as an organized team in any of their shows or movies -- and Terry Gilliam did animations but rarely appeared as a character himself (perhaps most memorably as "Cardinal Fang" in "The Spanish Inquisition" episode). In terms of performance, Carol Cleveland was functionally more like the sixth Python.
Recently, Playboy magazine (March 1999), has featured a layout that combines the male and female group numbers. In "The Girls of KISS," the members of the revived, strange 70's heavy metal rock band KISS, all four of them, are photographed with groups of women, five for each member of the band, all with the matching black-and-white face paint worn, in distinctive patterns, by each band member. "Goupies," women who throw themselves at rock musicians, are generally seen as attracted to the status and charisma of rock bands. Where five devotees would not fit easily on the cover of the magazine, we only find three grouped there with the bizarre leader of the band, Gene Simmons, in his signature, tongue-out pose.
Late one evening in Austin, Texas, around 1976, a friend of mine said he had once heard the theory that small groups of men tend to shake down to four, where each corresponds to a specific function in a Bushman hunting party (now "K!ung" seems to be used instead of "Bushman"). This came up because there were, indeed, four guys left from a party earlier that evening. I have never heard this theory, or any such specific information about Bushman hunting parties, anywhere else (though I saw a movie in my Freshman anthropology class about Bushman hunting parties); but, if true, it would put male archetypes well outside Judeo-Christian patriarchy, or even the "ice people" periphery of Eurasian steppe culture. The four roles in the Bushman hunting party were: (1) the leader, (2) the master hunter, (3) the shaman, and (4) the joker. This seemed to match up pretty well with the four guys left at the party (I was the shaman). It also seems to match up, for instance, with the Beatles: John was definitely the leader, Paul the master hunter (or composer in this case), George the shaman (heavy on Vishnu), and Ringo the joker (appearing, indeed, in several subsequent movie comedies).
This pattern is also conspicuous in the classic science fiction television show, the original Star Trek. The core cast members were Captain Kirk (William Shatner), clearly the leader, First Officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), the master hunter, Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley, d.1999), the shaman, and Chief Engineer Scotty (James Doohan, d.2005), the joker. Star Trek was not a comedy, and so Scotty's role as the joker is subdued; yet his Scottish accent, suggested by Doohan himself, simply cannot be imitated without a comic effect. Other characteristic lines spoken by Scotty, often about his inability to provide more power to ship, are still reproduced in countless comic contexts. As the Science Officer, Mr. Spock supplies all the theoretical expertise in the show and so represents the scientific version of hunter. Dr. McCoy, apart from his own expertise in medical science (as Scotty is the expert in engineering), is frequently involved as the moral adviser and conscience of Captain Kirk. In stories conspicuously lacking religion, McCoy is the closest to a religious voice. McCoy often provides a conflicting perspective in relation to Mr. Spock, who tends to provide dispassionate and impersonal observations. To McCoy, this often seems unfeeling and inhuman; and he says so.
A recent television show on NBC, Third Rock from the Sun, was about a group of four extra-terrestrials passing as human: Dick (John Lithgow) is the "high leader," Sally (Kristen Johnston) is the military veteran "security officer," Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the old hand "intelligence officer," and Harry (French Smith) is, well, no one was originally quite sure, but he turned out to be, to his own surprise, the "communications officer." Since Third Rock is, of course, a comedy, no one is quite what one might expect from their roles: the leader is a self-obsessed ditherer, the military man (master hunter) is, well, a woman (though the aggressive and statuesque Kristen Johnston pulls it off convincingly), and the older veteran (the shaman) is a teenage boy. The only role that doesn't need to be comically reversed is that of the joker, and indeed, French Smith does all the physical pratfall humor, is the constant butt of jokes, and has all the dumb-and-dumber lines.
In somewhat less clear terms does the pattern fit the group of four in the very successful comedy series Seinfeld, where Jerry would be the (rather ineffective) leader and Kramer definitely the joker (all the pratfall humor, and the craziest schemes, again). Between George and Elaine the assignment is less certain; but George seems best as the comic reversal of the master hunter, since he is always trying to fulfill, or at least be seen to fulfill, some such role, while Elaine, as the closest we get to the "conscience" of the group, can be the comic shaman: her problems more often start with sensible dilemmas or observations, and only later collapse into chaos -- like the time all she wanted to do was get her old school acquaintance to wear a bra.
Some similar uncertainty comes up with the four members of the Ghostbusters team in Ghostbusters (1984). Dan Aykroyd, playing Ray Stantz, is clearly the engineer of the group, the one building the equipment and spouting the techno-babble (something Aykroyd himself loves to do). This makes him fairly obviously the master hunter. Harold Ramis, playing Egon Spengler, is the theoretician of the group, humorless and cerebral. This makes him the shaman. Bill Murray, playing Peter Venkman, is the most personable of the group, with not much to do on the technical or theoretical side. This makes him the leader, although his personalibility tends towards the hucksterish, and he seems at least as interested in hustling a date with Sigourney Weaver as in furthering their business -- she characterizes him as more like a "game show host" than a scientist. However defective, this is leadership. But these principal characters leave the Ghostbusters with only three members. For the fourth we get someone who is literally the "dark other," Ernie Hudson playing Winston Zeddmore. Although Ernie has some funny lines, he is not a comedian and his character never appears in the ridiculous forms that Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis do. This would make him something rather different from being the joker. But the grouping works, so the trick must be that, with the other members of the group so comical, we get a comic reversal of the joker, making him the most serious and ordinary, the most "every man," of the Ghostbusters, the outsider who tells the others he wants his own lawyer or can testify to the Mayor as a disinterested observer. This adds something real to a group that otherwise already consists entirely of jokers. [note]
Although there are many exceptions to the odd/even group archetype for female and male (e.g. the five Beach Boys, the five Rolling Stones, the Seven Sages of Greece, the Seven Sages of India, the Seven Against Thebes, or The Seven Samurai, remade as the Western, The Magnificent Seven), and one might object that the female characters in Third Rock and Seinfeld break the pattern (though 25% of roles isn't exactly the "gender equity" feminists had in mind), the reversal of the Pythagorean opposites seems itself to raise the main question. Why would Greeks and Chinese settle on odd for male and even for female? Although there is little to go on but speculation, one might suppose the male and female bodies to suggest this. Although both bodies have homologous organs that are mostly bisymmetrical, the female body displays conspicuous development of symmetrical organs (breasts, buttocks, labia major, labia minor), while in the male body these are underdeveloped (except for the testicles). On the other hand, the most developed and characteristic male organ, the penis, is a single, center-line part, while the homologous female organ, the clitoris, is ordinary entirely hidden between the labia. If these kinds of physical impressions are the origin of the odd/even assignments, then Jung's principle of compensation accounts for their reversal in the groups: Males, representing oddness, are balanced by occurring in even numbered groups, while females, representing evenness, are balanced by occurring in odd numbered groups. The result, multiplying odds by evens, is, of course, always even, which should please feminists: the idea of "balance" itself implies evenness and symmetry. This would also fit in with Camille Paglia's notion (in Sexual Personae, 1991) that females are complete in themselves in a way that males are not. A male group, to be "complete," requires the fourth member. Sally and Elaine completing the groups in Third Rock and Seinfeld might actually remind Jung of his theory that the Virgin Mary completes the group of the Christian Trinity (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit). Complete unity, in turn, would be in the union of male and female, the kind of imagery we find in Tantrism, in both Hinduism and Buddhism, what Jung called the "mysterium coniunctionis" (in alchemy, Jung's Mysterium Coniunctionis, Princeton, 1977).
The theory of male and female archetypes as physical metaphors for the male and female bodies is of great interest to Paglia. This brings us to the "light" and "darkness" terms of the Pythagorean table of opposites and the Yin-Yang theory. It might be enough if male and light are both thought to be good to dictate the assignment of darkness to the female. Darkness itself can be a metaphor for evil and ignorance, which no doubt sounded female enough for the old patriarchs. On the other hand, Paglia notes that female sexual organs are, in fact, largely hidden and dark, from being concealed and internal. Even external female genitalia are ordinary hidden, not just to others looking at a nude female, but even to a woman herself, who, unless she is exceedingly limber, is going to need a mirror to see her own labia, vagina, and clitoris very well. Male sexual organs are not only all "hanging out," but they are also situated closer to the ventral part of the body (the underside of quadrupeds, the front of humans), where they can easily be examined by their owner. What the male organ is for and what it does is obvious to all and the subject of endless humor; but what goes on inside the female body, with ovaries and uterus, was not obvious to anyone and could rarely be a subject of humor. People are conceived and carried in, and born from, the womb. This does not seem particularly funny -- like a penis squirting semen does (as in the Egyptian hieroglypic at right). Instead, it is mysterious.
If the dark, the hidden, and the internal is the female archetype, there is plenty of expression of this in myth and history. Egyptian tombs, as places of rebirth, are appropriately vaginal and womblike, and very much dark, hidden, and internal. Mycenaean Greek tombs, with a buried, womblike chamber, also feature an open approach to the entrance, the dromos, which might suggest the space between legs leading to the vagina. This is also the impression of most Egyptian temples, where a series of avenues, courts, and entrances becomes progressively smaller, until leading to the dark and enclosed inner sanctum, the place of the god, which also represents the place of the birth of the world. Egyptian temples are thus not usually towering and phallic, but supine and womblike. The sun temples of the V Dynasty, however, and of course the Old Kingdom pyramids themselves, have the towering quality -- though the pyramids then contained the vaginal passages to the womblike place of rest and rebirth. The earth itself, with its hidden fertility, its dark caves, etc. is commonly seen as female, "Mother Earth," with some interesting exceptions. The Egyptians had an earth god and a sky goddess, the opposite of what we see in Greece, India, China, etc.; but this makes some sense in Egypt, since the earth itself was mostly desert and could be seen as sterile. The Nile, flowing upon the earth, is what was fertile. The Nile god, Hapi (one of the, unsurprisingly, four Sons of Horus [note]), was male, but he is commonly shown with breasts, a compromise, at the least, with the female imagery of fertility.
The supreme image of the hidden, mysterious, and internal would have to be the Labyrinth, originally the mythic creation of the architect Daedalus to hold the Minotaur. Theseus, as it happens, is only able to master the Labyrinth with the help of Ariadne's umbilical-like thread. The full archetypal potential of this imagery, however, we can see in a modern creation, the fantasy novel The Tombs of Atuan (1971), by the science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula LeGuin, who often uses gender themes. The story is about a young woman who was chosen as a child to be the high priestess of an ancient cult on the island of Atuan (in LeGuin's "Earthsea" fantasy world). The "Tombs" mark the most ancient part, and the most ancient gods, of her temple complex (which otherwise features, interestingly, a temple of twin "God-Brothers"). Under the Tombs is a great cave, the "Undertomb," into which it is forbidden to bring light. Connected to the Undertomb is a vast labyrinth, which she can enter and explore with the help of a light. LeGuin went to considerable trouble to actually produce a plan of the labyrinth, as seen at left, complete with all the features mentioned in the story. This is, in more recent feminist terminology, a "sacralization of the feminine" with a vengeance: A cult of female priests resting, literally, on a vast chthonic metaphor for the female body, entered through the sacred darkness of a stone vagina.
In these terms, the story then turns out to be not quite what one expects. LeGuin's hero magician, from her other Earthsea stories, shows up, dares to burn a light in the Undertomb and, when captured by the priestess, wins her over, escapes from the island, and takes her with him to start a new life (not with him) and, we are left to assume, live happily ever after. She is "rescued" from her chthonic deities, resulting in an earthquake and partial collapse of the "Tombs." This is all a rather astonishing turn for the story if LeGuin was otherwise any serious kind of feminist. In the only interview I have seen with her, she did seem to be in the grip of, indeed, a particularly bitter form of feminism, complaining that she could not walk down a street alone without being fearful of groups of men nearby (a politically correct sentiment only so long as one does not say "black men" nearby, in which case fear of "male violence" instantly becomes the racism of "white privilege"). Jung himself might have said she had a animus problem, as feminism itself represents an "animus" in the more ordinary sense. So why would Ursula LeGuin alienate her priestess of vagina and labyrinth from the chthonic deities? Perhaps because the archetype here was more of Jung's "Devouring Mother" than of real fertility. The priestess has no name. She is the "Eaten One." The magician eventually picks a name for her. Her gods are nameless also, and not evidently female in form; and the cult has no particular trappings of growth or fertility. LeGuin, perhaps, was not so much being rescued by some man, but was more escaping from a suffocating mother. In any case, the archetypal imagery all seems out of LeGuin's conscious control; it does not make for a story of the feminist future.
Equally interesting imagery turns up in a Valentine's Day card. This was drawn by Susan Hunt Yale (printed by the Marcel Shurman Company Inc.). There was no date on it, but it was for Valentine's Day circa 1995. The card shows a small heart-shaped maze. At the center is a heart-shaped pool and heart-shaped fountain. On the edge of the pool sits a young woman. Overhead is a banner that says "Stay Forever." At the entrance to the maze stands a young man. Over the entrance is a banner, held up by Cupid figures, that says "Start Here." Again, one wonders if the artist was aware of the archetypal images, or gender stereotypes, being employed. The young woman, patient and passive, in the literal and metaphorical heart of her labyrinth, awaits the questing male, who may not actually know that "Stay Forever" is what he is questing for! This is all very far from being politically correct, but it is also very evocative and sweet, which is the point on Valentine's Day. If there is an archetypal female quest for closeness, the enclosed, protected, intimate space of the maze provides a powerful image of it. Meanwhile, the restless male, wandering around, wanders into the design, literally, of the female: the stereotype of the female, deprived of power by the male, restorting to stratagems and scheming, which is then morally condemned by the male as feminine deviousness. In this instance, it is sad that anyone would see a political crime in the eternal play of courtship. As Oscar Wilde says, "Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault."
The female archetypes of the hidden, interior, dark, chthonic, etc. stand in stark contrast to other female stereotypes: The skin-deep quality of female beauty and the "objectification," as the feminists say, of the female body. How can the female be, all at once, primarily a surface appearance and, at the same time, the dark and hidden? Beauty is a thing of light, knowledge, externality, and the unhidden. One way to deal with this is simply to say, as many feminists do, that all this beauty stuff is something that men impose upon women. The "male gaze" turns women into objects, and the mystified female, in the grip of false consciousness, responds with the kinds of self-torture (make-up, shoes, hairdo, corsets, dieting, breast implants, etc.) that men require. Unfortunately, the existence of "lipstick lesbians" and gay male drag queens pretty decisively explodes this theory. The former don't have to please any men, and the latter are imposing the most elaborate rituals and instruments of female beauty on themselves. Even apart from actual drag queens, many have noted a tyranny of beauty in gay male interaction that is suggestive, indeed, of what traditionally would have been called female "vanity."
The mirror and the female have, indeed, been associated as long as there have been mirrors, which means all the way back to ancient Egypt. Thus, we find in a collection of Japanese ghost stories the remark, "She thought about the old saying that a mirror is the Soul of a Woman -- (a saying mystically expressed, by the Chinese character for Soul, upon the backs of many bronze mirrors)..." ["Of a Mirror and a Bell," Kwaidan, Stories and Studies of Strange Things, by Lafcadio Hearn, Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1904, 1971, 1986, p.55].
There is also the discordant circumstance that harshly patriarchal societies, like Saudi Arabia and Iran today, Calvin's Geneva and Puritan Massachusetts in the past, have fiercely suppressed and condemned expressions of female vanity, especially in public. At the same time, periods of great liberalization and openness, like the 1920's, have seen women cut lose with shocking displays of flesh and consumption of cosmetics. To traditionalists, all the painted women flaunting their legs, shoulders, and décolletage were bringing about nothing less than Sodom and Gomorrah. Today, Saudis still ask why a woman would want to show all her charms in public unless she is a prostitute. The feminist response is often all too similar: female sensual and sexual exuberance, all the way to women flashing their breasts or bottoms at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, are symptoms of male oppression and domination and so of a kind of political Sodom and Gomorrah. The religious and political anhedonia are comparable.
The mirror itself creates the kind of duality that characterizes female identity and as such has drawn considerable attention from feminists. Mostly hostile, of course. A woman looking in a mirror sees... another woman, a woman who is herself and yet not herself, a distillation of her appearance. Her attitude towards that other woman may be a frank evaluation, admiration, criticism, or delusion. But there is no doubt that any interiority of the observing woman is unrepresented in the image. This always makes the image a potential adversary. Time in front of the mirror with cosmetics always involves altering one's self and then observing this effect in the image. Will the image respond in a satisfactory way? So there may be a kind of antagonistic back-and-forth. One alteration may not look good, so one must try again. The adversary is unresponsive or recalcitrant. This may go on for some time, generating an archetypal feminine pastime. Every day, this Other will be confronted every so often, in a ritual examination and upgrade, a sort of dance or duel that will continue in a mixture of caution, respect, hostility, and perhaps some admiration for years. It can descend into bizarre pathologies, such as when the starving, skeletal anorexic continues to see herself as fat, or as the mutilated "cosmetic surgery addict" sees her grotesque face as increasingly beautiful. While the pathologies may be a dangerous exaggeration of the normal, feminism, of course, sees them as falsifying and refuting the normal. There would be no anorexia or elective cosmetic surgery without concern for appearance. Well, no (except for the "divine anorexia" of ascetic fasting). But without any concern for appearance, we are back to what Nietzsche called a "furious, vindictive hatred of life." At the same time, a male could not devote a tithe of the time to a similar activity without being considered unmanly, far too self-absorbed to be properly masculine. But the principal sin of the "pretty boy" is that he is neglecting the female in order to admire himself. A woman before her mirror may even tolerate male presence and observation with some complacency.
Anaesthetic feminism, which sees female vanity as slavery imposed by men, puts itself in the strange company of Ayatollahs and Calvinists when it comes to its attitude towards female beauty. But the paradox does remain: How can the female archetypes be contradictory, both hidden and internal, superficial and external? The answer is indeed that beauty is imposed by the male, but not by way of society, culture, convention, and force. Female vanity is imposed by the male of the female unconscious. A woman not only knows what a man wants, but, as an unconscious male herself, it is she who wants it -- hence its independence, not only of any actual males, but often of any actual attraction to males. In the same way, just as there are women, like the anaesthetic feminists, who feel driven, plagued, and unhappy by male expectations of them (which, in a sense, will be their own animus expectations of themselves), there are men who feel driven, plagued, and unhappy by female (or anima) expectations of them to be strong, supportive, protective, achieving, status seeking, etc. Psychic freedom from that stress, besides simply not worrying about it and becoming unambitious (the archetypal male "couch potato"), can be found in the assumption, to greater or lesser degrees, of female roles -- as a passive gay male, a transvestite, a transsexual female, etc. These things can be sorted out in all sorts of ways. Or some males just become super-masculine super-achievers (e.g. Donald Trump), decide that all that women ever want is their status, and so lose themselves in their work, probably with a string of failed marriages, or prostitutes (e.g. Eliot Spitzer), behind them.
Thus, women know that their true selves are hidden. As Tannen says, women may bond by telling secrets. They want a man who is seeking and respects their true selves. At the same time, a woman will feel bad about herself if she thinks she looks bad. And she wants to please the man who likes her by looking good for him. Similarly, men are attracted to good looking women, can even hold them in awe (Ed Bundy's response to Playboy Playmates, in the recent Fox television series Married with Children, is a good example), but they will also become contemptuous of an airhead and know that a woman whose vanity is completely self-centered can be real trouble. As women often complain, men cannot decide whether they want a Whore or a Madonna. Of course, the trouble is that men want both, after a fashion; and women mostly would hate to admit that they would like to be both, since they would like to be appreciated and desired both for their (hidden) true selves and for their (very unhidden) physical bodies. This is just the paradox of human life, that we are creatures that are objects, having physical bodies, but also are consciousnesses whose minds seem to float free of any objects or bodies. In the solitude of subjective consciousness, we wish for contact with others, but that contact is mediated by bodies, which often have their own agenda -- e.g. fighting between men, gossiping between women, loving between men and women, and all the strange variations that occur as random histories and psychological variations send people off in a kaleidoscope of different directions. Even if Camille Paglia is right that women are more psychically whole than men, they nevertheless labor under the difficulty that archetypal female identity has this dissociation between internal and external. To the male, the male body is more or less just the instrument of the male self; but the female does not like the sense of her body as an instrument. But it cannot be entirely valuable in itself either, because her true self is internal and hidden. A woman cannot be the ugly Socrates with the beautiful soul without a sense of tragedy. There is nothing tragic in the same way about the foolish or evil man who is handsome -- he is more the archetype of the seducer or the devil.
The middle ground, or the bridge, between Jungian Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious and imagery that is metaphorical of the differences between male and female bodies would be male-female differences that are the result of evolutionary adaptations of behavior. These would be, like the body, the result of innate genetic differences but would also be, like the archetypes, principles of higher order organization, knowledge, and behavior. The kind of study of human behavioral differences in an evolutionary context is called "sociobiology," but this is often attacked as simply an attempt to use Darwinism to reinforce reactionary attitudes about women, or as a misunderstanding of human evolution, which is now largely cultural. However, using Darwinism for anything hardly fits in with what is considered the principal source of "reactionary attitudes" today, namely religious fundamentalism, where Darwinism for any purpose is anathema. And, while it is true that human evolution now is largely cultural, this was not always so, it is unreasonable that any pre-cultural adaptations would just disappear completely, and, as it happens, even a little bit of sociobiology goes a long way. Because of the hostility provoked by sociobiological arguments, the discipline (or parts of it) now is frequently referred to as "evolutionary psychology."
One fundamental sociobiological consideration is just of the cost of sex. Thus, a male can impregnate a female and then disappear. Before paternity suits, and even after, this minimized the cost of reproduction for males and thus could be a possibly effective reproductive strategy (all that really counts evolutionarily). If a male could impregnate enough females, then, even if the solitary females with children would have less chance of survival, the sheer numbers might outweigh the drawback of those cases. On the other hand, the cost of sex for a female, before birth control and safe abortion, would be high indeed. Burdened with pregnancy for months and then with children for years, a female's life would be powerfully and probably permanently affected.
For many mammals this would not make that much difference. Tigers, for instance, are solitary animals, and the males and females do not live together. The female is thus left with the cubs, but then they grow up quickly. Lions are rather more sociable, but the females give birth off on their own and care for the young that way for a while. The males would help provide some protection to the group once a female returns with her cubs, but they do not otherwise make any contribution to rearing the young. Humans are different, mainly because humans are not individually very strong in the first place (not many animals want to mess with a female tiger or lioness), females are rendered acutely more vulnerable while pregnant (not true for many mammals), and the children are helpless for many years, requiring much more care and protection than any other mammal young. Human evolution thus passed up solitary motherhood altogether.
Because of the cost of sex, males and females most sensibly would pursue different courtship practices. A male determines the attractiveness of a female quickly and wishes to mate quickly. Since the only way to determine attractiveness quickly is through appearance, that looms large in the estimation of the male. On the other hand, females do not want to mate until the male exhibits a more durable commitment, lest they face the consequences of pregnancy alone.
Now, since cost sets up a real economic dynamic, it is not hard to imagine human institutions responding to it through cultural evolution without there being an innate and genetic component. It would violate Ockham's Razor to gratuitously posit innate propensities if learned ones would already account for human institutions. This can be tested: If courtship behaviors are culturally created, then we would expect them to change if the costs of sex are dramatically changed. There appears to be some evidence of this. In a regime of "welfare rights," where the government supports any children women may have, we have seen male responsibility all but evaporate and many women, "welfare mothers," indulge in much of the same kind of irresponsible promiscuity that was supposed to be characteristically male. While this is a recent phenomenon, there is also some older evidence of it. As examined in more detail elsewhere, Pacific island cultures have often been more tolerant of pre-marital sex and pregnancy. There costs were lowered through institutions that allowed for easy adoption (hânai adoption in Hawai'i), so that pre-marital pregnancy did not impose serious costs (apart from the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth) on girls. Indeed, at least one pre-marital pregnancy, in some places, was seen as evidence of fertility, enhancing prospects for marriage.
Does this kind of evidence simply establish that courtship behavior is cultural rather than innate (gender rather than sexual)? No, for a couple of reasons. One is that innate differences are not expected to result in fixed and inflexible behaviors. They are about potentials that result in a statistical spread of behavior. That is how evolution works, through random variation, a range of characteristics, and then the differential success of some variations. Thus, if the evolutionary environment changes, e.g. through the removal of the costs of sex for females, then the behaviors, out of the range of variation already present, suited for that new environment, will flourish. Women who already have an inclination for promiscuity can achieve great reproductive success by becoming "welfare mothers" and having all their children supported by the government. If the new environment persists, then over time any genetic component for that promiscuity will become more widespread. That is how evolution works.
The value of the evidence about "welfare mothers" for the argument therefore depends on the statistical size of the phenomenon. In a welfare state regime, how many women become promiscuous "welfare mothers"? Nowhere near a majority, though even this itself is confused by variations, since some communities have much higher illegitimacy rates than others and this likely due to varying cultural and economic factors within those communities. Thus, it would help to have some other kinds of evidence as well. The cumulative weight of that evidence does seem to be against the purely "cultural" thesis. This has been examined in many studies, from The Evolution of Human Sexuality by Donald Symons (Oxford, 1979) to popular presentations like "Boys & Girls Are Different -- Men, Women, & The Sex Difference," an ABC television special with reporter John Stossel (1995, MPI Home Video, 1995). A recent book on the issue is Gender Gap, The Biology of Male-Female Difference, by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton (Transaction Publishers, 1997, 2002 -- a physician & psychologist couple at great pains to display their feminist bona fides despite the evidence they present for male-female differences).
For example, one kind of evidence considered by Symons and Barash & Lipton is what happens when homosexuality becomes socially acceptable. The existence of homosexuality is itself strong evidence of natural variation in behavior, since nothing could be more of a dead end as a reproductive strategy than homosexuality. Given a homosexual group, then, we do have a natural experiment in sexual behavior where only the propensities of one sex are involved. Where heterosexual courtship involves an interaction of men and women, homosexual courtship enables each sex to exhibit behaviors unaffected by those of the other. The results are persistant and interesting. Homosexual men (gay men) seem to be much more promiscuous and sexually active than homosexual women (lesbians). Lesbians do not even seem to be as sexually active as heterosexual women, who are, of course, often responding to the desires of their mates. Sexual promiscuity has even been valorized in much gay ideology as a salient and ennobling characteristic of the "gay lifestyle." But when it became clear that bathroom and bathhouse promiscuity was spreading new and dangerous venereal diseases, ultimately meaning AIDS, there was, and is, great resistance to the idea that prudence alone should rule out that characteristic of the "lifestyle." "Safe sex" became the way of preserving promiscuity while preventing disease. Unfortunately, sex with condomns does not feel like sex without them, and "unprotected" gay sex has continued, even, by 1999, increasing again, resulting in infection rates that have ceased to drop.
[Note that the "Ruby" image for Ruby's Diners, displayed at right, has now been modified by the company to eliminate the curve of the posterior that previously has been visible under her skirt. This certainly was criticized for being too sexually suggestive, which, of course, is exactly why it was nice -- despite its irrelevant and perhaps disturbing juxtaposition with food. The shoes, however, remain with the sort of heels that would be hell to any actual waitress.]
By contrast, AIDS is all but non-existence in the lesbian community, where the idea of anonymous sex in toilets is about as disagreeable as it is to heterosexual men and women. An interesting anecdote in that respect is what happened to radio "shock jock" Howard Stern when he ran his "lesbian dating game." Stern wanted to match up lesbians for dates and then hear afterwards about their sexual activities together. To his disappointment, the lesbians often did not have sex at all on their dates; and one woman even told him that "lesbians only have sex after they've dated for six months." Now, the idea that women are not as naturally promiscuous and not as sexually driven as men is one of the oldest gender stereotypes in the book, while no one in society is as hostile and militant about "gender stereotypes" as politicized lesbians. One might expect, therefore, that radical lesbians, even if they didn't feel it, would be at some pains to celebrate and practice promiscuity just as much as gay men simply to demonstrate the falsehood of the stereotype. But this is not what we see. It is hard not to conclude that they really don't feel it. As it happens, at the height of "women's liberation" in the 1970's, there was a deliberate effort by many women to participate in the "meat market" dating scene of single's bars with just as much abandon as men, precisely to demonstrate that women could be just as interested in free love as men. While there were, of course, some women who liked that just fine, the overall impression, even before the specter of disease arose, was that this was a particularly empty experience for most women.
So, while gay men continue at an unusual level of promiscuity, with or without "safe sex," both lesbians and most heterosexual women have reverted to something rather like the gender stereotype. This outcome, however, would seem to indicate that the stereotype reflects genetic and not just cultural adaptations. Indeed, the great variety in human cultural evolution has only occurred in the last 10,000, perhaps only the last 5,000, years, while the original forms of human culture and society, preserved in a few essentially paleolithic communities even into the 20th century, may have persisted for ten of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of years. Recent variations are thus in a period that is really too short for any real physical evolutionary change to have occurred, while the older human society would have developed at a time when human communities simply would have been natural variations on older primate communities and cultural evolution would really not yet be a factor. The great generalized intelligence that now we might think would automatically abolish innate behaviors and make for cultural variation was relatively late to develop. Australopithecines and Pithecanthropines (Homo erectus) had increasingly large brains, but nothing like the bulging skull of Homo sapiens, though the former already had a basic stone tool culture, while the later may have already had a pidgen-like language (cf. Derek Bickerton Language and Species, U. of Chicago Press, 1990).
In these terms, what we would reasonably expect is a persistence, with variation, of innate and genetic behaviors, i.e. a tendency of men to fix on female appearance and to seek multiple sexual partners and a tendency of women to value something more than appearance and to choose new partners rarely and carefully. There is an excellent example of this in the current (1999) President of the United States, Bill Clinton, and his wife Hillary. Clinton told Monica Lewinsky that he had been with "hundreds" of women (and that he would not have hit on Kathleen Willey because her breasts weren't large enough). Even though he felt bad about that, he was continuing to do pretty much the same thing. Meanwhile, Hillary, who in 1992 publicly ridiculed the feminine "stand by your man" ethos, practiced it to a fault in 1999. Feminists have hypocritically accepted all this rather than give aid and comfort to their political enemies, even to the extent of affirming that such promiscuity is just natural behavior, which it is up to Hillary to forgive or reject -- this despite the feminist thesis that there really isn't any "natural" behavior and that a woman like Hillary must be suffering from low self-esteem and false consciousness to be tolerating a faithless rat like Bill. (Juanita Broaddrick's accusation that Clinton actually raped her in 1978, for which there really are no rationalizations left in the feminist arsenal, is mostly handled by being ignored).
The political enemies of mainstream feminism are, of course, both those who believe in traditional society and those who simply believe in freedom. Either view would preclude the kind of social engineering desired by the feminists. Advocates of traditional society also believe in social engineering, just to very different ends, i.e. to discourage or preclude the kind of social variation that we see in a free society. Feminist social engineering is to discourage or preclude the kinds of traditional roles that we also continue to see in a free society. A free society, in turn, where there are only mutually voluntary relationships, allows (1) people to do what they want, and (2) for the kinds of social and behavioral variation that enable both cultural and, ultimately, genetic evolution to work. In a free society there is actually no need for a determination on whether gender stereotypes or sexual archetypes are innately or culturally determined. We simply note, in retrospect, whether the "stereotypes" persist voluntarily or disappear with the winds of cultural change. Both the authoritarianism of traditional society and the totalitarianism of a feminist utopia would suppress just those kinds of evidence that might falsify their own theses.
One may be excused the suspicion that the advocates of traditional society don't really believe that it is entirely natural and spontaneous, which means it must be enforced by the state, while feminists don't really believe that everything is "culturally constructed," which means that fierce political "re-education" and police measures can and must be employed to suppress what really are natural inclinations in men and women. What they all fear is being proven wrong by the uncoerced, free, natural, and spontaneous behavior of individuals living their own lives [note].
A recent idea of some feminists, examined by Christina Hoff Sommers in The War Against Boys, has been that women act by different moral standards than men, with men applying abstract principles and women acting out of sympathy and compassion. This suggests comparison with some of the typological categories examined elsewhere, here shown combining Chinese symbols and virtues with various quasi-Jungian distinctions. The green dragon is male and represents Yang in the Chinese system, even though the element to which it corresponds, wood, is a Yin element. The "orange" tiger (which would really be white in Chinese five element theory) is female and represents Yin, even though its corresponding element is metal, whose hardness is archetypally Yang. If we do a similar reversal of sex with the phoenix (Yang fire) and the turtle (Yin water), we get virtues that make for pretty good gender stereotypes. The dragon with righteousness gives us the notion referenced of acting by principles as masculine. The phoenix with sympathy, or kindness, gives us the similar connection of acting out of compassion as feminine. The remaining two are more novel assignments. The tiger with propriety can match with a very ancient feminine stereotype: vanity. Vanity is about appearances, which is the essence of the Chinese virtue of properity and good manners. Indeed, it is not men who ever worried much about Amy Vanderbilt or "Miss Manners." Do women or men worry more about what other people think about them? While certain, touchy men may worry, the stereotype would seem to be that women worry more generally, especially with the idea in mind that "there will be talk." Finally, the turtle with prudence gives us the image of the sober, stolid, phlegmatic, careful man, who may in fact be patiently enduring a party for the sake of his wife, who simply wants to be "seen" and make a good appearance, and who consequently instructs her husband how to behave, even though he actually "behaves" very little. More like endures. Each of these types, however, encompases the opposite sex also. "Good hearted impulse" gives us the image of a stout, florid, and jovial man (e.g. Santa Claus); "honor" evokes a ramrod hidalgo, fully prepared to be insulted at the slighest awkward gesture towards him. The prudent woman may be a weary and put-upon wife and mother trying to run a household while a husband is out drinking, gambling, whoring, etc.
|Pages on Feminist Issues|
|Against the Theory of|
|Pornography||Defense of Christina Hoff Sommers published in The Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 66:7|
|Abortion||Women in the
|Letter in defense of Christina Hoff Sommers sent to the Los Angeles Times|
Karen A. Smyers, Ph.D., Jungian Analysis
Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, 1862-1863, Édouard Manet
The Erotic as an Aesthetic Category
Ethics, Critique of Feminism
|Good death||Bad death|
|Gods, ancestral spirits||Mortals|
|Sexual abstinence||Sexual activity|
|Beneficient spirits||Evil spirits, ghosts|
|Clean hand||Dirty hand|
|Side man lies on during intercourse||Side woman lies on during intercourse|
|Side on which men buried||Side on which women buried|
|Ritual side of house||Side of house with midden|
|Fertility, health||Death, sickness|
|Older people||Younger people|
|First wife||Junior wives|
Both these tables are from Right Hand, Left Hand, The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures, by Chris McManus [Harvard University Press, 2002, pp.25-28]. McManus is not particularly interested in gender differences. They come up because he is interested in what is associated with right and left. The universal association looks like the right and the male with what is good, clean, and sacred, while the left and the female with what is bad, unclean, and profane.
In these tribal cultures, as in the Bible, there is always intense concern with the pollution attendant upon menstruation. Menstruating women are often segregated in a dedicated house, typically as far away as possible from any sacred precincts. With the Purum, even ordinary houses are ritually laid out, on right and left, to reflect the systematic dualism -- e.g. the right side private and family, the left side public and for strangers. The women of the household, of course, do not live on the public side, mixing with strangers, but on the private side. Symbolically that is the masculine. This may be the essence, in fact, of patriarchy. Women represent what is wild, strange, and dangerous; but they are properly contained in the male sphere. In the Middle East, of course, the private and women's part of a house is the h.arîm (i.e. "harem"), "forbidden, sacred" etc. Women who are not properly contained and controlled do become an active source of trouble and danger. A witch, indeed, an independent woman, is a conduit for death, evil spirits, sickness, poisons, and all the negative features that the Purum, Gogo, and Pythagoreans assign to the feminine.
A noteworthy inversion here involves the sun and moon. The Purum, like the Japanese and Germans, take the sun as female and the moon as male. What is more familiar is the Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek assignment of the sun as male. For the Egyptians and Babylonians the moon was also male, but the Greek view of the moon as female has now been enshrined in the modern "valorization of the feminine" because of the correspondence and quite reasonable comparison of the lunar month to menstruation -- menses is simply the Latin word for "months" (sing. mensis). It is noteworthy where we get these kinds of variations cross-culturally and where we don't.
Return to text
In the minds of feminists like Gerda Lerner, men and women are, of course, naturally identical in every way, except for actual genitals. One curious feature of this is the idea that the hair of men and women is naturally of the same length and that cutting it at different lengths is a cultural imposition.
Now, anybody can cut their hair; and obviously women could cut it very short and men could let it grow out. This doesn't happen very often in history. Buddhist monks and nuns both shave their heads. Otherwise, we tend to get the universal stereotype that women's hair is relatively longer than men's, as we see in the image of a typical Ancient Egyptian married couple at right. Here, in relation to the styles of the 1950's, the man's hair is rather long; but his wife has hair down to her (Empire) waist. This is especially noteworthy when one finds feminists actually arguing that short hair for men and long hair for women was culturally "created" either by St. Paul (those Christians, or Jews, again) or by the Roman Army.
Jews and Romans did seem to have an ideal of hair length for men that was shorter than they often saw among Gentiles or Barbarians, respectively. Much later, more traditional cultures, such as tribal Navajos, sometimes are noted being "long hairs" in relation to current Western fashions. Western fashion, however, also changes. One sees very long hair (often wigs, like the Egyptians) among European men in the 17th and early 18th centuries. This is striking when women at the same time typically wore their hair up, giving the visual impression of short hair among women and long hair among men. Men's hair often gets shorter with changes in political climate. Thus, Parliamentary forces in the English Civil War were called "round heads," because they cut their hair short, as opposed to the typical 17th century fashions of the Royalist "Cavaliers." Similarly, the French Revolution introduced the 19th century European norm of short hair on men. In both these cases, there seems to be a moralistic reaction against the implied sensuality of the earlier fashion -- a sensuality that might seem effeminate (this is also when men wore lace), except that its associations were with the violent values of armed aristrocrats (as when the Spartans let their hair grow when at war, implying that war was luxurious).
Meanwhile, it is obvious that, in general, women are able to grow their hair out considerably longer than men can. Also, while there is baldness among both women and men, "female pattern baldness" involves thinning, while "male pattern baldness" involves the total loss of hair. It has been experimentally demonstrated that male pattern baldness is caused by testosterone.
Male and female bodies differ in so many ways that a lengthy book would be necessary to detail them all with their causes and suggested purposes. I've commented on some of this elsewhere. That women have substantilly less body hair is conspicuous. More subtle is the difference in the quality of the skin. Women's skin feels and generally looks different than men's. A clearer indication of this emerges with aging. Women develop "cellulite," or a sort of orange peel or cottage cheese quality in their skin, which is really a characteristic of the underlying fat and not merely of the skin. Men rarely develop this characteristic without disease or artificial hormone manipulation. Thus, women may be able to cut their hair and look more masculine, or at least boyish, but once the cellulite develops, there is little that can really be done about it. It betrays how different the female body is in terms of one's flesh itself.
Return to text
Or maybe not "the most offensively 'sexist' thing about Jung's theory." In a new book, The Essential Difference, The Truth About the Male and Female Brain [Basic Books, 2003], Cambridge professor of psychology and psychiatry Simon Baron-Cohen argues that the female brain, in general, is specialized for emphathy (eros), while the male brain, in general, is specialized for systemizing (logos). Baron-Cohen is at some pains to denounce sexism, racism, "classism," stereotyping, and oppression, so I gather that sex differences (and Baron-Cohen says "sex," not "gender") are no longer sexist. He is not careful enough about stereotyping, however, since in a world of limited knowledge, good generalizations about types are good clues about what to expect in individuals. But if he is liable to be accused of sexism just for saying that, in general, male and female brains are different, chances are he is not going to put too fine a point on it. On the other hand, talking about "classism" makes him sound like a Marxist. "Essential" in the title, however, sets a heterodox tone, since the bien pensants ritually denounce "Essentialism."
The cover photo of the book nicely illustrates the thesis [click on the image for a larger popup]. The male face above, with a blue tint, and the female face below, with a red tint, have very different expressions. The male eyes are narrowed and looking away, while the female eyes are wide, looking straight on camera, and have relatively dilated pupils -- usually a sign of friendly or receptive emotions. The female face thus possibly displays empathy, while the male face is clearly concerned about, or tracking, something else. The small pupils, which improve focus, make the male eyes seem hard. Also, the largest area of skin in the male face is the forehead, while that of the female face is the cheek. The former may imply thought, while the latter, with the softest large area on the face, invites a kiss. The effect of the two images is striking, even as the blue and the red (cool and warm) recall the blue and pink that conventionally mark male and female babies.
We may be seeing a female association of the face in the Mayan glyph and affix for "woman" (ixik), which is also used as a grammatical "feminine agentive prefix" (ix-) in the language. The Mayan languages do not otherwise have grammatical inflection for gender. The masculine agentive prefix, aj-, which can also be used in the common gender in association with ix- (i.e. ixaj-), is of much more abstract form. While the female glyph does not have any overt sexual overtones to me -- indeed, it is hard to see it as distinctively female at all -- it is striking that such an image was taken by the Maya as representive of the feminine. If there is something "sexist" in this, it was hardly something cooked up or "socially constructed" by Romans, Jews, or Christians.
Return to text
Confucius says, "Women and servants are most difficult to deal with. If you are familiar with them, they become insolent. If you keep your distance, they resent it" [Analects 17:25]. Here we definitely see the issue of status, and its conflict with closeness.
Return to text
There is also the awkward possibility, which is the kind of thing we see in hierarchy groups in mammals (as in chimpanzees or wolves), that the sexes compete among their own sex to establish status and hierarchy, while the two sexes do not compete directly with each other. The relationship between the sexes is simply that the two hierarchies match up: The highest status ("alpha") male and female pair off with each other, and so on down the line. This is rather like what we see in many human relationships, as in the frequent pairing of movie stars with movie stars, even as the rewards for achievement, like the Oscars for acting, have different categories by sex.
If there is anything natural for humans about the intra-sexual competition, having males and females then compete against each other could produce a great deal of confusion and conflict, as competitive signals are confused with non-competitive sexual signals. Indeed, this is pretty much what we see in the legal and moral quagmire of sexual harrassment law, which contrasts with the much older and universal human practice of reducing confusion by separating the sexes, or at least having them in different kinds of categories where they do not directly compete. Of course, the latter was the more recent solution in Western societies when males and female both sought employment in businesses, but then the female jobs (e.g. secretary, nurse) generally had an overall lower status ("pink collar") than the male jobs (e.g. executive, doctor). Where some social change or legal social engineering affects that phenomenon, what can happen in response is "male flight" from newly feminized categories. That may be a factor right now in declining male enrollment and graduation from college, even as female enrollment and graduation have surged.
Return to text
The age old dependence of human females on males, although very nearly the root of all evil to feminism, nevertheless is simply transferred, not abolished, by most feminist political agendas. Thus, if the ancient principle was that women have the right to be protected and supported, political feminism absolutely agrees with this but merely wishes to see the job discharged by the government rather than by fathers, husbands, gentlemen, or religious charity. Thus we suddenly had in the 60's the notion of "welfare rights," which no one had taken very seriously previously, that women had an absolute entitlement to government support of their children, however irresponsibly they may have come by them. Similarly, in the 80's we had a vast expansion of anti-discrimination law, that women had a right to federal civil rights protection from unwanted sexual proposals, nude pictures, dirty jokes, or even vaguely "sexist" language in the workplace.
As Katie Roiphe [at right] has noted (The Morning After, Sex, Fear, and Feminism on Campus, 1993), much of this is a return to Victorian ideas that women are too innocent and fragile even to be exposed to certain words and images. The only difference is that, where before women would be protected by chaperones, relatives, and decent society, now they can seek protection from Federal Prosecutors. Similarly, Camille Paglia sees the program and personalities of anti-porn feminists as little different from the religious fervor and anhedonia of Carry Nation. What this may show is no less than the phenomenon noted above, of the reemergence of archetypes, after they have been suppressed in one form, in different ones. Since this reemergence is in a political context of support for statism and the expansion of the power of government, its irony is eclipsed by the danger of its support for ongoing leftist and authoritarian assaults on freedom.
Return to text
The Graces are Euphrósynê, Thaleîa, and Aglaîa, "Joy, Bloom, and Brilliance"; the Hours Diké, Eunomía, and Eirénê, "Justice, Good Law, and Peace"; the Fates, Klóthô, Lákhesis and Átrôpos; and the Furies, Aléktôn, Tisíphonê, Megaîra.
The Hours is also a 2002 movie, starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep. Nicole Kidman won an Oscar as Best Actress for her role, in which she is unrecognizable in makeup as Virginia Woolf. Although the story is about three women, the allusion of the title is evidently simply to time and not to the Greek goddesses. The movie is of interest for its gender theme, which evidently is that Virginia Woolf had bouts of insanity because the times did not allow her to express her lesbianism. There is almost nothing in the Virginia Woolf part of the movie to suggest this, except for one woman-on-woman kiss; but then the other (fictional) stories in the movie, of Julianne Moore in 1951 and of Meryl Streep recently, seem to make the case. Julianne Moore nearly commits suicide and does end up abandoning her husband and children, evidently because of lesbian feelings, though (again) we see no more than one kiss. Meryl Streep is "out" and living openly with another woman, and is also looking after a poet friend, played by Ed Harris, who is dying of AIDS. Julianne Moore turns out to have been Harris's mother. We are left to understand that Streep, who keeps being called "Mrs. Dalloway," after the novel that Woolf is seen writing (and Moore seen reading) in her part of the movie, is the happiest and best adjusted of the women. However, she doesn't always seem so happy, and she also seems to have devoted much of her life to the Ed Harris character, who repays her devotion by committing suicide in front of her. As it happens, Woolf and the Ed Harris character are apparently the truly creative people in the movie, both of whom are seen committing suicide. One is easily left with the impression that creativity perhaps requires suffering and inner conflict to a degree that might bring on insanity and suicide. This would be a counter-current to the more obvious gay liberation theme, the appropriateness of whose application to Virginia Woolf is beyond my ability to judge.
Return to text
A case where the pattern of fours doesn't seem to work at all is with the four boys who are the central characters in the popular South Park series on the cable network Comedy Central. Kyle (Broflovski), Stan (Marsh), Kenny (McCormick), and (Eric) Cartman. Kyle and Stan are clearly the central characters in the group. Kenny usually gets killed in very episode (until recently). Otherwise what he says is usually unintelligible. Cartman is frequently at odds with the other boys and breaks away to act on his own (for instance, in the March 2004 send up of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Cartman begins his own neo-Nazi movement) -- he is the only member of the group typically addressed by his last name (not always affectionately). It is very hard to say whether any of this makes Cartman the leader, joker, master hunter, or shaman. The same with Kenny, while Stan and Kyle are usually only distinguishable in that Kyle is Jewish and frequently the butt of Cartman's remarks about Jews. The reason for this indefiniteness may be in the origin of the characters. Stan and Kyle are stand-ins for the authors of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Archetypally, the group is thus really not four, but two -- the Twins. Kenny and Cartman were added to fill things out, indeed to get a group of four, but the dynamic is still that of the Twins. When Kenny dies and Cartman leaves, the Twins are frequently, as it happens, all that is left.
Return to text
In Egyptian burials, the four Sons of Horus (Imset, Hapi, Duamutef, and Qebesenuf) are conspicuously associated with the four chambers of the Canopic Chest, which contains the internal organs of the deceased (liver, lungs, stomach, and intestines).
In Tutankhamon's tomb, the Canopic Chest was found housed in a wooden shrine, with four protective goddesses on each of the four sides. Four goddesses would then seem to be one of the exceptions to our archetypal number rules, but there is something odd about the group: it is not a group that occurs otherwise in Egyptian mythology or religious imagery. Isis and Nephthys are sisters, occurring in the group of four with their brothers Osiris and Seth, but then Neith is a very ancient goddess with no mythological connection to the first two, and the fourth, the scorpion goddess Serket, otherwise hardly even turns up in accounts of Egyptian religion. The four goddesses thus seem to have assembled specifically to match the symmetry of the Sons of Horus and the Canopic Chest, and indeed there is a specific association of each goddess with one of the Sons [The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson, Thames & Hudson, 2003, p.88].
Return to text
We might consider if there is a mathematical analogy to the archetypal characteristics of the feminine and the masculine. At the most basic level, negative terms more than positive ones are like the stereotypes and paradoxes of the feminine. Thus, if the feminine is the opposite (internal, hidden) of what it seems (external, obvious), this is like negatives which, when multiplied by themselves, become positive. On the other hand, while the positive/negative opposition would seem to fit the Pythagorean or Chinese sense of opposities, a gender stereotype of the "negative" for the feminine would seem to be just too, well, negative. There are more elaborate oppositions in mathematics, for instance between sine and cosine functions. Sine and cosine functions actually have all the same values, but they are out of phase by 90 degrees. This seems a small difference, but it results in some interesting contrasts. The sine of a negative angle is equal to the negative sine of the positive angle, but the cosine of a negative angle is the same as the cosine of the positive angle. Whether or not the angle is negative is thus, we might say, "hidden" by the value of the cosine. This seems to fit our archetypes, or stereotypes, quite suitably. Even the graphs of the functions through 360 degrees (2 radians) exhibit an asymmetry for the sine and a symmetry for the cosine functions, as we might say that even numbers exhibit greater symmetry (or at least bisymmetry) than odd numbers. This kind of mathematical asymmetry and symmetry also turns up in quantum mechanics: Asymmetrical wave functions (), which change their sign as two particles are exchanged, are characteristic of fermions (Fermi-Dirac statistics), which are the kind of particles (protons, neutrons, electrons) that constitute matter, while symmetrical wave functions, which do not change their sign as two particles are exchanged, are characteristic of bosons (Bose-Einstein statistics), which are the kind of particles (photons, gravitons) that transfer energy in the universe. The Greek stereotype of the feminine as moving and the Indian notion of the Goddess representing power (Shakti) fit the latter quite nicely. Indeed, massless bosons like photons and gravitons spontaneously move at the velocity of light. So, for what it is worth, we could extend the male/female, Yin/Yang opposition into abstractions unanticipated by the Greeks, Indians, or Chinese.
Return to text