When posting on FaceBook during this stressful year I often mention the importance of empowering women if we want to move human history into a better future. The response I get overwhelmingly, especially from otherwise well-meaning men FB friends, is that women do or would govern as good as or as bad as men. The implication of this view of course is that empowering women would make no difference. That getting to a better future depends on other things, things that men can/could do equally well. This is NOT CORRECT. It is an underlying paradigm that influences and undergirds all patriarchies. It is a deeply entrenched assumption/view/belief/paradigm that will forever hold back major improvement if it is not eventually abandoned. Women WOULD bring a different perspective and approach to governing. That is the subject of my book War and Sex and Human Destiny, the full text of which is on this website.
Nations that cling to the view that subjugating women or restricting women to only the domestic sphere of our lives will remain patriarchies indefinitely. They will share many of the worse characteristic of patriarchies, arguably the worst of which is war. But there is also slavery, human trafficking, barbaric policing and other ills that the Enlightenment and the introduction of the concept of human rights introduced. Patriarchies around the globe are threatened, and even in liberal democracies, authoritarian patriarchs are fighting to retain control not only of nations but of human history.
Here's a post I put on my FaceBook wall today:
"The world we see around us, the world we have created thus far for better or worse, is a product of patriarchy for millennia. So that there is no misunderstanding, when I say in any of my posts that the empowerment of women is critical to the survival of the idea of liberal democracy as opposed to the continuation of patriarchy (patriarchies being defined as fundamentally all-male governing) I don’t mean just having a woman as the head of government. Or even a few women in a nation’s legislative body.
The exact percentage of women in leadership that can change the nature of a country so it switches from being patriarchal in character to something else is not an exact number. Studies indicate that for example when a governing body reaches somewhere between 25 and 35% women its orientations and decision choices begin to reflect a more female perspective (e.g. greater concern for community good and children’s well-being than concern for power and control).
In a fully mature liberal democracy, women would be sharing in governing at approximately a 50-50 ratio at all levels, local state and national. Furthermore, in a fully mature liberal democracy all racial and ethnic groups in the society would be sharing in governing.
Historically the world community has been slowly moving over the past several hundred years toward becoming more democratic, even liberal democratic, but I don’t think we yet have any fully mature liberal democracies. The Nordic countries and Iceland come close, although they do not have to deal with huge racial and religious differences. It’s those differences that make the United States experiment in democracy so unique and also such a challenge.
At this time patriarchal interests on the far right around the globe appear to be making a last ditch attempt to retain patriarchal control and orientation toward life and the environment in many of even the most developed liberal democracies. Trumpism is just the most frightening example because he is the leader of one of the richest and most influential democracies in the world. It will be a great triumph for liberal democracy if he is removed from office in a landslide. And a great tragedy if he is not.'
An historical social inflection point?
This true story has a heroine, a victim, and a villain. On May 25, 2020 the lives of three people intersected in tragedy. A seventeen-year-old black girl, Darnella Frazier, our heroine, accompanied her young niece to a grocery store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. To her horror, they came upon a scene where a forty-six year old black man, George Floyd, was lying on the street. Our victim.
What shocked Darnella was that Mr. Floyd was lying on his stomach, his hands were handcuffed behind his back while a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, our villain, was pinning Mr. Floyd, face to the ground, with a knee pressing on his neck. Darnella, a teen equipped with her cell phone, had presence of mind. She whipped out her phone, turned on camera, turned on video, and began documenting for the entire world to see the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police. She stood her ground, hand steady. 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Try sitting quietly for that long. It’s a very long time.
As subsequent investigation revealed, three other officers aided in bringing about this death. What had Mr. Floyd done? At this time in the U.S. counterfeit twenty-dollar bills circulate widely. You yourself may have been given one and purchased something with it. An employee at the grocery store felt Mr. Floyd had used a counterfeit bill to purchase cigarettes and called the police. Tragedy was set in motion. If only the store owner had been there. Mr. Floyd was known to him. But he wasn’t there. He would perhaps not have made that call. But the call was made and two rookie officers arrived. They began the attempt to make an arrest. Soon, officer Chavin arrived, a man with numerous complaints on his police record. He took over, and by the time Darnella and her niece arrive and Darnella began filming, Mr. Floyd was down.
He repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe,” “Mama,” and “please.” At one point he said, “I’m about to die.” Bystanders repeatedly told the police officer, to no avail, that he was killing the man.
The video went viral and peaceful protests began, organized by the international human rights movement Black Lives Matter, founded by three black women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. The protests spread, guided by the experience in the living memory of many in the black community of civil rights peaceful protests inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers that resulted in major legislation. Peaceful protests spread from coast to coast in the U.S., highlighting for a nation founded on belief in “justice for all” that systemic racism still cripples the nation, blemishes it. But racism and bigotry is not just a U.S. flaw, it’s a human flaw that bedevils us wherever it thrives. Protests have sprouted here and there around the world, wherever humanity’s “better angels” are willing to face up to it.
Sadly, there has been rioting and vandalism as well. That is another human flaw: there are always a few, almost always the majority being men, who are disaffected and criminal who seize on any opportunity to express the urge to destroy by using public physical violence.
But in the fourteen days since Mr. Floyd’s brutal death, the following have happened as the result of peaceful protests, large and small. These suggest that to the extent that significant changes flow from the protests, his death may very well be a profound inflection point for the better for human history.
Within 10 days of sustained protests:
Making war is not inevitable. My latest book "War and Sex and Human Destiny" takes a well-researched and comprehensive look at the many reasons why. War is not an inescapable result of human nature! In this book, I explore this fact from the perspective of an evolutionary biologist examining the subject of war from both a biological and anthropological perspective to explain why we can be sure that war is not something that is “in our genes.” I also use the biological phenomenon called sexual dimorphism to explain why any attempt to end war that will endure must including the empowerment of women.
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Dr. Judith Hand writes historical fiction, contemporary action/adventure, and screenplays. Hand earned her Ph.D. in biology from UCLA. Her studies included animal behavior and primatology. After completing a Smithsonian Post-doctoral Fellowship at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., she returned to UCLA as a research associate and lecturer. Her undergraduate major was in cultural anthropology. She worked as a technician in neurophysiology laboratories at UCLA and the Max Planck Institute, in Munich, Germany. As a student of animal communication, she has written scientific papers on the subject of social conflict resolution.
Astronomy image credit: NASA: Full Hemisphere Views of Earth at Night.