If women around the world in the twenty-first century would get their act together they could, partnered with men of like mind, shift the direction of world history to create a future without war. Judith L. Hand Shift: The Beginning of War, The Ending of War
The Historical Background
Thousands of years of human history demonstrate conclusively that complex, state-level societies governed by men alone (patriarchies) are unable to avoid war as an instrument of policy. This is true no matter what the political organization. [Why? A detailed, biologically-based exploration of the origins of and causes of war can be found in Shift, The Beginning of War, The Ending of War (Hand 2014.)]
The framers of the American Constitution recognized how powerfully sovereigns or small groups of determined men could be tempted to unleash the dogs of war.
In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers: the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man. James Madison, 1793
History since Madison’s time shows that, unfortunately, giving war-making decisions to a legislature could also not prevent his country from going to war. Far from it. Madison’s United States, for example, has as of this writing devolved to the point of acting at least once on a policy of preemptive war.
There are many proximal causes of armed conflicts, the things people fight over (e.g., resources, religion, territory). But the ultimate cause is rooted in our biology (Hand 2014, 2018). There are two evolved behavioral traits in particular that characterize men in general more than women in general which can be manipulated to rouse men to take up arms:
A proclivity for aggressive group bonding and cooperation that includes conformity to and support of the group (Wrangham & Benenson 2017).
A proclivity to seek dominance and authority through physical force.
History demonstrates that when a ruling male or an alliance of ruling males decides upon a course of war as a means to establish or maintain dominance and authority, they can call upon others to join together to safeguard their way of life or protect and defend the group, especially the women and children. When they do, the vast majority of men, even those who are at first reluctant, do not vote or rebel against it.
It’s not that men don’t long for an end to wars. At a conscious level most men would love to be free of this primitive remnant of our historical past. But because of their biological roots they also find male bonding and the thrill of dangerous activity to be compelling. This was vividly documented with respect to war by the author Chris Hedges in a book entitled War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002).
The instinctive proclivity for male group bonding served our early ancestors in many ways. It facilitates many forms of hunting. It was essential for defending women, children, and the elderly from predators. It may also explain why competitive contact team sports appeal particularly strongly to men. But that same attraction to male group bonding to accomplish a demanding goal can also be manipulated by ambitious leaders to build an army and lead it into war.
Differences Between Men and Women With Respect to Physical Aggression and Social Stability
To understand why Empowering Women is a necessary cornerstone of any campaign to end war we need to understand some biological differences between women, in general, compared to men.
Male bonding – For example, to start with, in a 2017 paper entitled “Cooperative and competitive relationships within the sexes,” Wrangham and Benenson looked cross-culturally at children’s groups at play and at the ways men and women do their work. They were looking for innate, not culturally based, characteristics. They found that, in general, girls and women characteristically form smaller groups and tend to work independently, side-by-side, rather than as a coordinated and cooperating team; e.g., when gardening, foraging, or preparing food and clothing. Boys and men were more likely to form teams for cooperation in a task, like hunting or building.
Their explanation for the origins of these innate differences is debatable, but the findings themselves serve to emphasize the reality of a strong biological preference for men and boys to unite and bond in cooperative groups.
Use of physical aggression - Much other work also has found that there are significant differences, relevant to making war, in how men and women respond to and use physical aggression (Archer 2012, Campbell 2013). For example, unless constrained socially by adults, boys more frequently use some form of physical aggression to establish their dominance relationships, and use strong physical aggression (hitting, kicking, fighting) much more frequently than girls.
In many contexts women are typically more inclined to avoid direct physical aggression. To establish their dominance relationships, girls and women may sometimes use some physical aggression, but they tend rather to rely on indirect acts like making fun of others, excluding others from the “in” group, back-biting, or as adults in some societies, even resorting to witchcraft.
A preference for behavior that facilitates social stability rather than conflict – Confronted with conflicts, to resolve them girls and women far more readily than men prefer to engage in negotiation, mediation, and compromise (Campbell 2013, Österman et. al. 1997). There exists a seeming paradox in that, as will be mentioned, women are not innate pacifists; if they feel their community or their children are in mortal danger, women will encourage the men in the group to take up arms. And if the male response isn’t forthcoming or seems doomed to fail, women will fight (Muir 1992).
When under stress in conditions that might elicit fighting, men typically react with what is called the “fight-or-flight” response. But in those same contexts, women are, in general, more inclined toward what has been called the “tend-and-befriend” response, behaviors more likely to facilitate a calming effect on the situation (Taylor et. al 2000).
The roots of these female preferences, like those of men, lie in their biology, but in the case of women, the prevailing evolutionary pressure has been to predispose their first choice or choices to be to preserve social stability. A wide array of women’s behaviors function so that they personally avoid conflict altogether, or resolve a conflict as nonviolently as possible, or work to create conditions in their environment that will avoid a possible escalation now or in the future to the level of physical aggression (Campbell 1999; Hand 2003, 2014 pp. 60-66; 2018).
Once the global community fully appreciates exactly why these male/female differences exist it should become clear why all male governing has produced a phenomenon like war. It should become clear why empowering women as governing partners with men is a necessary condition, not merely optional, for creating and maintaining a war-free future.
To arrive at that full understanding we need to delve deeply into our biology to answer the question, “What kind of animal are we?” Specifically, we need to understand the evolutionary factors that shaped characteristic responses of men and women to many social issues. To do so we’ll explore the significance of two biological concepts: sexual dimorphism and parental investment theory.
Sexual Dimorphism, Parental Investment Theory, the "Battle of the Sexes"
The term sexual dimorphism comes from the Greek dimorphos, meaning having two forms. At some time in their life cycle most species of non-microbial organisms—plants and animals—reproduce sexually. They have males, which make sperm that are tiny and motile, and females, which make eggs that contain nutrients needed to begin development into a new individual. Humans obviously fit this pattern.
Sperm have the equipment and energy for movement but are small. And eggs, which hold those needed nutrients, are relatively huge and immobile. This massive difference in size, composition, and function has profound biological ramifications, because eggs, having all that nutrient material, are much more expensive to make than are sperm. Males can make thousands or even millions of sperm. But in every sexually reproducing species, females produce far fewer eggs.
This fundamental asymmetry sets up a situation in which reproductive pressures on and strategies pursued by males and females of all sexually reproducing species are very different. Natural selection will shape the two sexes differently in some critical ways. The biologist Robert Trivers, in his paper “Parental investment and sexual selection,” wrote what is arguably the most influential paper explaining how this fundamental male/female difference in how much each sex “invests” in making offspring has affected evolution of all sexually reproducing species (Trivers 1972). And that includes us.
Examples of sexual dimorphism - Anyone who closely observes animals sees these differences played out in many forms of different or competitive male/female behaviors, the result of natural selection on the two sexes over time. Observers often refer to some male/female behavioral interactions as a “battle of the sexes.”
Sexual dimorphism can occur in anatomy, physiology, and behavior. It exists in external anatomy (e.g., male/female differences in body shape, color, or size), and internal anatomy (e.g., on TV shows like “Bones” or “CSI” experts often look at skeletal or dental remains to tell whether a human victim was male or female).
Sexual dimorphism, size differences, and social leverage - A biological principle relevant to any general discussion of social conflicts and conflict resolution has to do with body size differences; during social conflicts, a very broad general rule across the animal kingdom is that larger and stronger animals always dominate smaller, weaker ones—unless the weaker ones have “leverage” in the relationship (Hand 1986).
I began my explorations on conflict resolution with a field study of the communication behavior of Western and Laughing Gulls. This included changes in behavior when males and females formed pair-bonds. Keep in mind that in these particular species, close cooperation between males and females is essential for them to breed successfully. They share in nest building and nest guarding duties, territory defense, and in protecting and caring for their young.
Male gulls are always larger than females and thus could easily dominate a female. But during pair-bond formation their behavior changes so that they end up with a relationship in which conflicts are resolved using what we would call egalitarian behaviors.
For example, hungry mates would share a large food source side-by-side; the male did not drive the female away until he had his fill. When doing incubation duty they used signals to negotiate which mate would be the one to incubate eggs at a given time; the male did not use physical force or threats to make the female leave the nest when he was ready to incubate (Hand 1985).
Because close cooperation and coordination are required for successful breeding, the smaller females have “leverage” in their pair-bond relationship. Sharing food and using signals to negotiate which of them should be on the nest are two egalitarian forms of conflict resolution. What this study indicated is that if domination of females by larger mates reduces male reproductive success, as it would in this species if the male did not share food and duties with the female, then natural selection may well result in male/female conflict resolving relationships that are egalitarian rather than dominance/subordination.
How does this apply to our species? By roughly the same amount that characterizes gulls, human males are larger and stronger than females of their race. So we should expect men always and everywhere to dominate women. Whenever they don’t, we need to ask why; what cultural or reproductive leverage is likely cancelling out women’s size disadvantage in any given context? This is a subject too extensive for further consideration here, but chapters in a book edited by M. Z. Rosaldo & L. Lamphere explore many examples of societies where circumstances give women such leverage, and we see women exercising both domestic and public power and leadership (Rosaldo & Lamphere 1974). The point being that in human relationships and societies, whenever women gain sufficient leverage in any given context they can be expected to have egalitarian relationships with men in those contexts, and they are perfectly capable of leadership.
Sexual dimorphism and physiology - Sexual dimorphism isn’t as familiar in physiology; notable examples are differences in blood levels of the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen.
Sexual dimorphism in behavior - It’s sexual dimorphism in behavior, however, that’s critical to discussing human social affairs. Looking across the animal kingdom we see behavioral complexities that relate to multitudes of different species living in widely divergent habitats, from fish to reptiles to birds, to mammals. Humans are classified scientifically as mammals because women nourish their newborns and young with milk from mammary glands. That being the reality, what follows focuses on examples taken from mammalian species.
Examples of Behavioral Sexual Dimorphism
While differences directly related to reproductive interactions like mating behavior occur, behavioral differences also occur that are not directly related to reproduction. For example, an elephant herd consists of females and their offspring, including sexually immature males. But when a male comes of age the females expel him, allowing contact only during breeding season. Expelling males of reproductive age is a built-in proclivity, or preference, that regulates elephant social affairs and is not directly related to reproduction.
Male and female lions can live together, but it’s females that have the proclivity to unite to kill prey to feed the whole pride. Males do participate in hunts, especially of large prey, but the main urges of a pride male are to guard the pride from other males and mate with females as often as possible when the females are in heat. For gorilla families, food consists primarily of green leafy vegetation, and the females’ biological urges motivate them to spend their days eating and caring for their young. They also prefer to let the male determine the direction of the group’s movements: when he moves they follow. If danger threatens, he’s the one with the proclivity to protect the group.
Knowing what sexual dimorphism is and what to look for, we can now consider how behavioral sexual dimorphism plays out for us in ways relating to efforts to create a more positive, secure, and just human destiny and an enduring peace. We’ll consider first how it relates to psychological tendencies to use physical aggression, and then to preferences for social stability. What follows is a summary of material presented earlier in two books (Hand 2003, 2014).
Recall that we are mammals and we are primates, closely related to other great apes: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos. A number of realities that are true for other mammals and primates are also true for humans. The following are three biological realities that affect women’s proclivities with respect to social conflicts and especially physical aggression.
Reproductive Pressures on and Priorities of Women
Reality Number 1. The biological bottom line for all living things is to reproduce. Women must successfully reproduce. If an animal doesn’t reproduce, its genes and the physical and psychological characteristics they govern are eliminated from the game of life.
Life, from a biological perspective, is all about reproducing successfully because that is the vehicle by which genes for traits, including behavioral/psychological ones, are passed to subsequent generations. I didn’t have children so the genes for my social and sexual preferences won’t be passed on. Traits for resolving social conflicts of women in the past who were successful reproducers are the traits women have today.
Reality Number 2. For female mammals, including female primates, reproducing is a very expensive investment, beginning with production of eggs (as opposed to sperm), and then additionally, investment in time, risks taken, and energy expenditure. What does that mean for women? Consider that female primates carry an offspring to term, nourishing it from within their body—often for months; for women, nine months. Then they risk the serious hazards of childbirth. Then for a substantial period of time they provide milk from their body for nourishment, something very costly from a physiological perspective. They must protect this offspring, care for it, and in our case, support it for years before it is old enough to reproduce, the earliest at ages between roughly eight and thirteen. Finally, after their offspring reproduce, research shows that women in most cultures are still deeply involved in making sure that the offspring of their offspring also survive and thrive: they invest in their grandchildren (Hawkes 2003).
Reproduction is unquestionably for female primates, including us, a very extended, risky, and expensive process that puts enormous reproductive pressures on females. Most especially so for us since our offspring are born so very helpless.
The evolutionary result of this massive female parental investment, Reality Number 3, is that the ideal social situation for female primates, including us, is social stability for long periods. Anything that threatens the life of these expensive offspring or their caregiver, for women certainly something like war but also deadly fighting within their community, has been and remains hugely evolutionarily counterproductive.
This reality is fundamental to women’s behavioral choices. As noted earlier, many observed behaviors characteristic of how women respond to conflicts reflect a strong, evolved, emotional/psychological preference for social stability. This is because that proclivity, and the observed behaviors which it underlies, is something key to making women reproductively successful.
For example as mentioned earlier, women, in general, are naturally inclined toward negotiation, mediation, and compromise, much more than men, in general (Campbell 2013). Why would natural selection, over time, favor women thus inclined? Because, as many writers and experts like William Ury have pointed out, solutions arrived at by those nonviolent means often result in win-win outcomes, which tend to be more socially stable. Meaning, they avoid or decrease social conflict. The results are also longer lasting (Ury 1999).
Another example. To keep the peace when challenged, women may defer rather than argue or fight; they are behaviorally primed to avoid fighting. In a context where it won’t cost them reproductively to do so, women may anticipate that challenging another person may produce a socially disruptive result; consequently, they may opt to refrain, deflect, or defer.
Case in point, anthropologists observed a nomadic foraging society that was generally egalitarian in behavior and politically egalitarian in that both women and men shared in decision-making that affected the entire group. They found that women, nevertheless, let the men sit under the shadier trees. Arguably women in that society, anticipating that haggling with men over who sits where will lead to conflicts, prefer to nip the issue in the bud by simply deferring.
Many otherwise strongly independent women in many societies will choose to defer to their husbands’ wishes in small things rather than create an argument. This will especially and perhaps consistently be the case if the woman does not have sufficient social leverage to make her relationship with her husband egalitarian.
Finally, a woman’s reproductive success depends not only on producing a live child or children and keeping them alive until sexual maturity, hence her concern with conditions fostering social stability. It depends also on the woman providing a nurturing environment in which to raise children who will be able to 1) successfully compete for reproductive partners and 2) to succeed in life so that their own children thrive. Hence women can be expected to have an innate concern to provide the best possible nurturing quality of life she can manage for her children as they mature.
Women Are Not Pacifists or Saints
Since this is a book about war, it’s important to stress that evolutionary pressure favoring a preference for social stability did not result in women being by nature pacifists let alone saints. They can be spiteful. As members of a hierarchically inclined species they engage in power struggles, but typically establish and maintain their social status using nonviolent forms of aggression. But they can kill a sexual rival out of jealousy or a spouse they no longer love. They can engage in domestic abuse of children or spouses. But compared to men, women do so rarely.
Women can fight in wars if no other option is available. Moreover, soldiers who have fought with women have informed me that if roused to the point of taking up a weapon, women can even be vicious fighters. Lack of aggressive motivation is not what is being asserted about women’s biology. The forms that women’s aggression takes, however, shows dimorphism.
So women are not pacifists. To repeat, what women are by nature is determined preservationists of socially stable communities. A wide range of women’s social behavioral choices—not just avoidance of war— are a reflection of that preference for maintaining social stability that functions to allow them to successfully raise children who in turn will raise children successfully. Examples of these choices are described in Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace (Hand 2003, pp. 138-144) and Shift: The Beginning of War, the Ending of War (Hand 2014, pp. 62-65, 165-167)
Women and war - With respect specifically to war, for the overwhelming majority of women, physical fighting in defense of community is uncommon. It’s certainly not their first response to a threat. Their first response is more likely to be to encourage negotiation, mediation, and compromise.
If, however, women can be convinced that they, their children, or their community are under some kind of imminent mortal threat, they can be moved to urge the men to make preemptive war. And as fierce defenders of children and community—and that includes their way of life—women can and will fight, and fight bravely, if necessary. This reality was well described by writer and film critic Kate Muir in her book Arms and the Woman. Female Soldiers at War (1992).
As for women leaders, a review going back several hundred years shows that strong women leaders have waged wars of defense or preservation (Hand, 2003, 99-104; 2014, 117-122). Think of Golda Meir (4th Arab/Israeli War), Margaret Thatcher (Argentina), or Elizabeth the First of England (Spain). These heads of state did not launch an invasion or start a war, but they responded firmly to attacks.
In a warring society some small percentage of women will certainly be political “hawks.” Historically, however, and this is key, women leaders in power have been overwhelmingly less inclined than male leaders to launch a war of conquest (Hand 2003, pp. 95-105; Hand 2014, 117-122). Elizabeth the first of England is an example of the former protective sort, as evidenced by her mounting a navy that defeated the Spanish Armada. If history can be believed, Cleopatra of Egypt exemplifies the less common woman leader, having a genuine lust for conquest. In short, we can expect that female heads of state are as likely as male heads of state to be strong defenders of their nation, but are less likely than male leaders to start wars.
In summary - This compressed account has covered how natural selection for reproductive success shaped the fundamental psychological relationship of women, in general, to using physical violence, to waging war, and to a preference for living in and creating a socially stable community in which to raise children.
We turn now to two further biological realities, numbers 4 and 5, which also are the results of natural selection for reproductive success and/or survival. These apply to the other half of our species, the men. To end war, and to end or greatly reduce much else that negatively characterizes patriarchies, we also need to understand the second half of the sexual dimorphism phenomenon.
Reproductive Pressures on and Priorities of Men
Reality Number 4: For male mammals the reproductive game is very different; males virtually never invest in offspring as heavily as females do. With only rare exceptions found in one primate family (Callitrichidae – tamarins and marmosets), male primate parental investment in offspring is never as great as that of the females. Many primate males invest nothing but sperm. Human fathers often become involved in some support and protection of their young (think monogamy), but this isn’t even the case in all cultures. With only rare exceptions would a father’s physical participation, bodily risks, and time investments approach those of a mother.
And very importantly, if a man loses an offspring for any reason—from a fight within the community where he lives or in a war—men potentially can relatively easily father replacement offspring. They simply need to find a woman to impregnate, and the father may or may not take responsibility for the years-long care required to bring the child to sexual maturity, which is a basic criterion for evolutionary reproductive success.
As a consequence of the above: Reality Number 5 is that for many male primates, including men, maintaining social stability is not as high a priority as it is for women. It is important to men, who have no desire to live in chaos, but not nearly as critical reproductively as it is to women.
Dominance status vs. social stability - Actually, the urge to rise in dominance status is, in many primate species, a major evolutionary pressure on and priority for males, because higher dominance is frequently correlated with greater male reproductive success or survival. There remains some debate around the extent to which this is true for humans (Rueden & Jaeggi 2016). What is unquestionably true, however, is that much of men’s social lives and psychology is focused not on promoting social stability but on rearranging the social order to achieve greater social dominance that translates into social status (McMartin 2017).
Unless restrained by police, strong social customs and prohibitions, or both, male groups will readily use physical aggression to achieve dominance over other male groups.
The overall result is that while social stability is a very high priority for women, it is not such a high priority for men.
Research and common experience shows that men are more likely to use physical aggression that results in killing, a classic study of this reality being that of Martin Daly and Margo Wilson (Homicide (1988). Think of participation in fist-fights, knife-fights, gang wars, and inter-state war itself. These are characteristic of human male behavior in dominator cultures. And in any culture, they are uncommon to rare behavior for women compared to men.
The strong male urge to exercise dominance is also expressed in relationships between men and women. And as mentioned earlier, unless a woman or women have some source of “leverage” in relationships, the woman or women are going to be subordinate. In modern societies a woman’s leverage often tends to be financial; the woman has her own source of substantial income that makes her independent or is critical to the family’s well-being. Or she may have family ties that, if exercised on her behalf, elevate her standing in a relationship. Or the culture in which the relationship is formed is one that promotes sexual equality so that cultural norms give the woman or women leverage.
Partnership in Governing and Leadership: Key to Abolishing War
“Abolishing war” defined - As a reminder, in a previous essay, “The Single Most Important Idea for Ending War,” I defined what these essays mean by the phrases “ending war” and “abolishing war.” It is when the global community arrives at a state in which war is not only unacceptable, it has become abhorrent and obsolete. Negotiation, mediation, compromise—any and all nonviolent means of resolving conflicts—are always the tools chosen. Furthermore, logic suggests that at some point an official agreement would have been drawn up, signed, and affirmed regularly by the global community--some form of global peace treaty, with mechanisms necessary to enforce it, would be in place.
Why male/female partnership is a necessary key to abolishing war - With that definition of ending war in mind, and given the reality of sexual dimorphism, we can begin to outline specifically why empowering women is a necessary cornerstone of ending war and is also critical to maintaining a global peace once achieved. We can also consider reasons why the ideal social condition to be achieved by empowering women is not to replace male leadership. It is to enable women and men to govern as partners because partnership produces the best overall outcomes for communities and societies.
History makes very clear that men alone cannot abolish war. Men can find war games or planning for war, and even sometimes the fighting itself, attractive (Hedges 2002, “Promote Nonviolent Conflict Resolution”. Historically the generators of war have been almost entirely men. I call such men hyper-alpha males. The names of some from major dominator cultures are familiar: Alexander the Great, Caesar, Attila the Hun, Genghis Kahn, Napoleon, Hitler. We also have modern hyper-alpha males such as Vladimir Putin of Russia, a man who annexed Crimea and at this time is attempting to do the same to a part of Ukraine.
It is critical to note that for normal men (and women), killing another person (at least close-up killing) does not come naturally; men must be conditioned and trained to kill as warriors. (Grossman 1996) Men who have witnessed war’s devastations in person tend to loath war. Many who actively participate bear emotional scars for a lifetime. Humans actually seem to have a built-in, evolved reluctance to kill others they perceive to be human. (Hand 2014, pp. 90, 234-235) The majority of men who are happy with their lives are not easily persuaded to go to war. We have a strong reluctance for killing others of our species unless we first in some way dehumanize them. This is a very positive aspect of our biology, male and female. It is something to count on in any war-ending campaign.
We have no historical record or any data to prove it, but it is equally unlikely that women alone can abolish war. Empowering women globally will be (and is being) an enormous historical shock. It requires that we turn the social order upside down in country after country. Attempts to give women more freedom and power are virtually always contested by women as well as men. Shifting our economies away from war (“Shift Our Economies”), another AFWW cornerstone, will be similarly wrenching. Although it will save property and lives and increase general wellbeing, the entire process required to end war will also create enormous social and political upheaval.
Some have and will argue that war is good for us; it brings out the best in us in terms of service and sacrifice, or it promotes innovation. Some individuals will prefer to keep things as they have always been because change is always stressful, or even frightening. Some, certainly including the war industry, will prefer to preserve war as a legitimate option because their livelihood depends on it. In short, a great many will resist the change. They will fight back, politically, legally, financially, physically, in open ways and in secret.
Sometimes the engagement will turn violent. When Rosa Parks, an African-American woman in the segregated American south, simply refused to give up her seat in a public bus to a white man, the ensuing social disruption eventually cost lives, many lives, before segregation there was officially ended. Nor were the nonviolent major social change campaigns of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. free of bloodshed.
Sadly, with the possible exception of the development of the Internet, not one of the steps described in the previous essay “How Far We Have Already Come"--changes that prepared the ground for this promise of freedom from war-- was achieved without bloodshed. Social change can be very hard. Massive social change still harder and often violent.
The reluctance of women, in general, to stir up social unrest of any kind is one reason why women alone will not, I believe cannot, bring about a future without war. For women, the urge to compromise too soon—to stop the fighting—will be strong. Willingness to embrace change, to refuse to compromise, especially if for a time the change creates serious social turmoil including deaths, is what men who share the desire for an enduring peace will bring to an ending war campaign.
Men who have grasped the vision of ending war will be needed to drive the campaign forward. No compromise short of success. There has to be a willingness to engage in massive struggle against the war machine and war industry. An unrelenting, unswerving willingness to rebel at whatever the cost must take hold in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of the global family.
At first a few women, by nature born fighters, will join and lead. But most women, born compromisers, will hold back. Once the campaign is underway and a critical mass of women understand the ultimate vision of peace and stability for their communities, women will flock to the rebellion in great numbers and support it with unflagging courage and determination.
Arguably, it may be women thinking of their children and grandchildren who are the first to seek out men with whom they can partner. But one way or the other, male/female partnership is critical. For a nonviolent social abolition campaign to succeed we’ll need the kick-ass, no-holds-barred, give-me-liberty-or-give-me-death spirit characteristic of men, tempered by the we-all-need-to-find-a-way-to-get-along-and-play-nice spirit more characteristic of women. The campaign will need to seek out and establish gender balance and work in a partnership that benefits from the best traits characteristic of both sexes.
The effect on society of women in governing bodies - It’s not unreasonable to speculate that a governing body with roughly fifty percent women and men would be much less likely to opt for war. Groups of women confronted with a conflict would be inclined to negotiate longer (Fisher 1999; McDermott & Cowden 2001). Most women would require a higher level of perceived threat than would most men before consenting to launching a war. Also the majority of women would not be nearly so concerned about appearing weak in the eyes of their peers; their overriding concern would be defensive: preserving the stability of the place where they are raising children and resisting the call to send their (biologically expensive) children into a war where they might die.
Consequently, a decision-making body in which choices of most women combine with the choices of men similarly inclined to favor nonviolent means to achieve security would create majority blocks having a social-stability-seeking orientation about many issues. The governing system most capable of producing such a 50/50 gender ratio is a liberal democracy. As described in the essay “Spread Liberal Democracy” a mature liberal democracy facilitates the ability of women to govern as equals with men and is one of several reasons why another AFWW cornerstone is Spread Liberal Democracy. The power of a democracy to rein in hyper-alpha men would be greatly strengthened by the addition of women as partners in the governing mix.
Partnership in Governing and Leadership: Key to Other Positive Changes in Communities and Nations
Percentage of women’s representation – What does “partnership” mean? The exact percentage of independent women required to reach a critical mass that tips the balance in decision-making bodies in favor of nonviolence and concern for other “women’s issues” is unknown. This is a point also made in the essay “Women: The Pivotal Catalyst for Positive Change and Long-term Stability.”
Independence for women in the context of governing and civic decision-making means that a women has a power base that is her own, not dependent on someone else, such as a husband. Independent women likely have control of their own financial assets, and they have a political base that supports them personally. When an Afghan women was asked if she was excited about the new constitution that required 25% of the governing members to be women she said, “It depends on who the women are. If they are merely a spokesperson for their husband, nothing will change.”
Some research suggests that a shift in the “chemistry” of organizations occurs with respect to a wide variety of issues (e.g., health, family, community, justice, competition vs. cooperation) when women make up roughly 27% - 35%, depending on circumstances.
What does not and will not bring about a change in orientation of a decision-making body is token female representation—placing a few women here and there in responsible positions.
And with respect to war, this absolutely will not tip the balance against the majority of men who are more easily drawn into physical struggles for domination. When the American Senate voted to support the second Iraq war only thirteen percent of the Senate was female. The Senate’s response, to go on the attack, is not surprising. There may be cultural differences: a greater percentage of women in governing bodies might be required to make this shift in societies that, for example, have historically been extremely aggressive.
It is not at all unreasonable, however, to assume that when any deciding body—local, regional, national, or international—reaches 50/50 gender parity, the shift will be not only in preferences favoring nonviolent forms of conflict resolution, but also toward creating socially stable and nurturing communities. For example changes in politics, education, judicial systems, health care, end of life care, economics, religion, and more (see the essay “Women: The Pivotal Catalyst for Positive Changes, Long-term Stability, and an End to War,” Hand 2003 pp. 134-141; Hand 2014, pp. 63-64).
Women and long-term global stability - Once the goal of a global peace is achieved, perhaps initiated by the signing of an enforceable global peace treaty, it is the innate preferences of fully empowered women that will ensure that we maintain warlessness; that will ensure that no hyper-alpha male or males can once again entice us into killing each other. Women sharing power with men in governing is what will make our future different from past failures of men deciding and acting without women’s socially stabilizing influence.
We could justify empowering women globally because it’s the morally right thing to do. A civilized thing to do. A humane thing to do. Part of human rights. From a practical view, however, it is the necessary thing to do. The important question is not what the global community can and should do for women, but what women will be able to do for the betterment of the global community.
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