An intolerant, imperial propriety
Women are not a finer form of Homo sapien. (II)
This continues the discussion of how careerist feminism actually operates in our society that began in the previous post.
A species arising via male teams
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It is highly likely that patriarchy — coordinated male power — is what made us Homo sapiens. That is, made us the most gracile, and only surviving, species of the genus Homo.
Along with Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), we are the equal most proactively (i.e. deliberately) aggressive primate. Yet, we are the least reactively aggressive primate.
The hypothesis is that, as we evolved from Homo erectus, teams of beta males— able to communicate because we had developed language — systematically killed off the alpha males. Because the two forms of aggression use different brain circuits, we used our proactive aggression to systematically select against reactive aggression, murdering our way to niceness.
Many (though not all) foraging societies seem to have been quite gender-egalitarian, being mobile, with fluid groups. They actively suppressed dominance behaviour that got in the way of our increasingly cooperative reproduction and subsistence strategies. Such suppression included systematically killing off the alpha males.
Prestige and propriety
In suppressing dominance behaviour, Homo sapiens developed two further forms of status as currencies of cooperation: prestige and propriety.
Prestige is status from publicly displayed competence and risk-taking. In all human societies, prestige is male-dominated — though less so recently — because women were so often stuck with looking after the kids.
Our species has the longest childhoods of any species. Our children are by far the most biologically expensive, in terms of investment by adults. This is a fundamental structuring feature of all human societies and our evolution as a species.
Homo sapien children, even in foraging societies, are rolling almost two-decade projects. It takes almost 20 years for a forager child to be able to forage as many calories as they consume.
When forager women hunt, it is typically if: (1) they have no kids; (2) their kids are all adults; (3) someone else is looking after the kids; or (4) you can do it with kids in tow (e.g. lizards, sea shells, etc.). These you can if … patterns also apply to female authors across history, remembering that schools = someone else is looking after the kids.
So, the basic evolutionary — including social evolutionary — story for women is (1) can you do with kids in tow?; and (2) how does it affect successfully raising kids to reproductive adulthood? The last is needed for successful biological selection. The actions of women who never had kids have limited biological evolutionary impact.1 Their social evolutionary impact can be rather larger.
Prestige being a basic form of status — and so a key currency of social cooperation — has much to do with why there are no matriarchal societies. A matriarchal society would require the presumption that authority was female: having a male-dominated form of status fatally undermines any such presumption.
Matriarchal families are entirely possible and, as the number of fatherless children mount, increasingly common. For fatherhood is a social, not a biological, relationship. An adopted father is still a father.
Fatherhood is statistically safer for children if the social role goes with biological paternity, as is motherhood. Warning stories about step parents are normal across human societies, another case of stereotype accuracy. But creating the social role of fatherhood is something (almost) all human societies do. The odd exceptions rely on unclehood instead.
The third form of status — propriety, status through exemplifying norms — developed out of our highly cooperative reproduction and subsistence strategies. Norms stabilise our expectations about each other in a way that makes cooperation much more resilient.
It is inconceivable that you would ever see two chimpanzees carrying a log together.
There are a few thousand Chimpanzees and billions of us because we have the normative capacity to cooperate on the basis of shared intentions. In other words, because we are not (just) Homo economicus. Though we can certainly act as such within contexts where our normative and shared intention capacity enables teamwork, property (and so exchange), plus other forms of connection and types of transactions.
Women tend to be very concerned with propriety, as a stable and cooperative social environment is safer for child-rearing and for the physically weaker sex. Propriety often focuses on sexual propriety, as that reinforces a woman as a suitable partner for the rolling two-decades project of child-rearing. This is especially in those polygynous societies where males control the key assets. Intensified competition among wives over prospects for their children leads to ostentatious concern for propriety.2
The males-seek-prestige, women-uphold-propriety pattern can lead to a situation where men can gain honour, women can only lose it.3 It is typically a lot easier to regain prestige than to regain propriety. Propriety can be very unforgiving. Hence Jesus, proposing an ethic of forgiveness, flouted propriety.
As the physically weaker sex — often with bubs in tow — women are more likely than men to hide their aggression to avoid or minimise retaliation. Propriety provides an excellent cover for female aggression, as one can characterise one’s aggression — including to oneself — as just being moral or social concern, thereby legitimating and de-personalising it. (De-personalising it for the aggressor, rather than the target.) Women are often blind to their own aggression, because it is both safer — and more effective — for them to be so.
Religion tends to have a strong connection to propriety, as religion intensifies norms by giving them divine sanction while separating the sacred (things not in the realm of trade-offs, except possibly against each other) from the profane or mundane (where trade-offs are accepted). This can generate devoted agents — folk who eschew the trade-offs of instrumental rationality within the realm of the sacred.4
Such devoted agents can be very effective in generating, structuring and intensifying group cohesion. Something that can be of particular value for the physically weaker sex with bubs in tow.
It is not surprising that women tend to be important vectors of religious belief and change. That Christianity feminised sexuality by anathematising all sex outside marriage; insisted on only one wife per husband; on female consent for marriage; on women having testamentary rights; and only children born in wedlock were legitimate, were all powerful points of convergence between women and the Church.5
Societies built on male teams
Human societies have typically put considerable effort into creating and sustaining male teams. This made for more effective protectors and hunters of large or dangerous animals. It meant even unmarried males contributed to the group and to the raising of our biologically expensive children.
This effort to create and sustain male teams became even more intense once we developed farming and pastoralism — that is, assets to defend (and seize). That pastoralists had mobile assets (animal herds) and were better fed (so more dangerous) made this particularly true for pastoralist societies, turning them into a recurring menace for farming societies.
This was even more so for peasant farmers working in water-logged fields with lots of pathogens and parasites, eating a diet short on animal nutrition. See the history of the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Indus, Ganges, Yellow and Yangtze river valleys.6
Male teams engaged in dangerous activities tend to engage in intense mutual baiting and linguistic outrages. The point is to see whether other members of your team will stand up to pressure, whether they have your back, whether they can be relied upon. Men will often bond over tasks, as it gives a teamwork framework within which trust can be built, making it is easier to discuss emotionally salient issues.
As the physically weaker sex, often with bubs in tow, women are more likely to see emotions as threats, to want evidence of commitment to them — and, by implication, their children — by being emotionally “seen”. Women often want to talk through an issue, so they can “tick off” various concerns.
Which brings us to the pattern you can see in any schoolyard of men, boys (and tomboys) form teams, women, girls (and sissies) form cliques. Teams are about bonding over a common task, competence in roles, reliability in cooperation. They are task — and so reality — focused.
Cliques, not so much. Cliques can be highly unstable, they tend to be highly emotionally focused and about providing emotional support, about reassurance rather than accuracy. There is a reason that women in male-dominated environments can come away emotionally bruised, while men in female-dominated environments can come away feeling emotionally smothered.
All this goes with the male tendency to focus on things, the female tendency to focus on people; a pattern that shows even in primate infants. It is possibly not entirely a coincidence that around about the time the contraceptive Pill led to a surge in female graduates, the long-term trend of increasing use of rationality terms in texts stagnated and dramatically reversed, being replaced by a concomitant surge in the use of intuitive terms.
Institutions and organisations are formalised teams. If they become formalised cliques, they degrade, as they lose mechanisms for building trust; there is an elevation of emotional salience at the cost of task-focused realism; and an increased tendency towards enforcing a conformist propriety, with more shaming and shunning behaviour. A process we can see most clearly in academe, but is also occurring elsewhere as institutions feminise.
The Longhouse of feminised academe
An emerging meme is the notion of the Longhouse:
…a slang expression and a metaphorical concept popularized among the far-right and alt-right used to refer to a matriarchal society that is distinguished by suppressing non-conformity to established rules by canceling individuals, avoidance of direct conflict, and valuing safety (including emotional safety) over privacy and individualism, among other things.
A recent judgment by the UK Employment Tribunal in the case of Jo Phoenix v. Open University provides a field work report in how an increasingly feminised academe is, not so coincidentally, becoming intolerantly conformist: a Longhouse academe.
The Tribunal so often says “we do not accept the evidence of Prof X or Dr Y that …” you could turn it into a drinking game. Misrepresenting those who dissent from the approved narratives — and the false negative stereotyping thereof — has clearly become habitual and endemic. The Tribunal notes and documents the negative and inaccurate stereotyping.
These are folk — you can see it in the judgment — who think that “academic freedom” means abusing and defaming people for dissenting. This is an aggressive and intolerant propriety in operation. Folk who think the rules don’t apply to them as they are so morally committed, they have such social concern.
Dissent is treated as a threat, as emotionally hostile “harming the marginalised”. This is what a Longhouse academe looks like: and yes, dissenting women are absolutely prominent victims. Just as young or low-status males often suffer under patriarchy.
The judgment puts on display an operative conformity that denounces and punishes folk for stating what — in Douglas Murray’s phrase — we all knew until five minutes ago: that a person with a penis is not a woman, but a man. The ability, and willingness, to rationalise and moralise nonsense can be a superb sorting device, showing your commitment, your conformity, your soundness. That you belong in, and uphold, the Longhouse.
Consider the experience of an Australian academic:
… a person pulled me to the side at the International […] Conference […] and said “for your own good I really think you need to tone down your criticisms of gender”. Why? “’cause I don't want you to lose your job”.
Here we see the combination of cowardice and preference falsification that so disfigures contemporary academe. The introduction of Women’s Studies, and then compulsory Theory, generated the — now ever-enlarging — pattern of students lying about what they think in order to get higher marks (or not be failed). Students have to show their commitment to the demands of social concern propriety within the academic Longhouse.
As indicated by the experience of two prominent African-American academics, there is a nasty minority of academics who feel entitled to engage in abusive cognitive bigotry — progressives who think that they own morality and are self-righteous shits about it. This has a lot to do with why academe has deteriorated. A pattern that has been magnified as female-typical forms of moral/social concern aggression to enforce an aggressive and imperial propriety have become entrenched.
We have schools and universities that are equalitarian, progressivist, feminist, and feminised. As equalitarianism — the claim that all capacities, propensities and competencies are evenly distributed among human groups — is false, it requires a structure of lies, falsehoods, censorship and intimidation to maintain itself. It now comes — via DEI — with its own set of inquisitors/commissars/political officers aka diversity officers and diversity response teams, to do precisely that. They operate on the fundamental principles of inquisitors: that error has no rights and they can determine error. They are the guardians of propriety.
Progressivism screws things up due to its pathological relationship to information. It sets an imagined future — so without reality tests — as its benchmark for action; treats past and present as realms of sin, discounting the only sources of information we actually have; and acts as if it owns morality, so blocking, and being very intolerant of, dissenting views. Moreover, for Critical Theory in all its forms, screwing things up is the point — and stated to be so in its literature — as maximising disruption within existing society will enable the transformational and liberatory future to emerge.
The conformist propriety of academe — where mastery of Theory becomes a license to decide denied others — is shifting elite values. A recent poll of US elite folk found a striking change:
Among members of the Elites who are 55 or older, just 10% think there is too much individual freedom—a majority (54%) of Elites under 35 hold that view
Increasingly feminised — and so conformist — Universities are pumping anti-freedom views into their graduates and so into our institutions.
Feminism provides a justifying and motivating collective narcissism, while feminisation elevates precisely the form of status — an aggressive and intolerant propriety — enforced by female-typical patterns of moralised social aggression, that energises and prosecutes this serial disaster.
Yes, this does mean that our equalitarian, progressivist, feminist, and feminised schools and universities are pumping social entropy into our societies. They are making them systematically less functional, less free and less democratic. That is what Theory demands and the academic Longhouse delivers.
Back in November 2014, a team did a very clever thing: for the first time ever, they landed a spacecraft on a comet in the Rosetta mission. The event was live-streamed, with scientist Dr Matt Taylor being interviewed in the live-stream. He was wearing what can be reasonably described as a colorful bowling shirt featuring patterns of scantily clothed female cartoon characters, a gift from a female friend.
A bunch of self-righteous harpies — who we can be confident will never do anything as clever or useful — engaged in all the humourless wowserism of the one-upping puritan and publicly abused and humiliated him over his shirt. This was a very clear case of public denigration subordinating (masculine) prestige — doing the very, very clever thing of landing a spacecraft on a comet — to an abusive and unforgiving feminised propriety.
This was made quite clear in an article on The Verge entitled I don't care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing. The ludicrously heightened sense of emotional and social threat — cartoon figures in an obviously jocular shirt as “ostracising” — has become part of a wider pattern of using such emotional catastrophising as a weapon against freedom of thought, speech and action.
It is even more ridiculous, as the less restrictive a society is for women, the less likely they are to go into STEM, as the more they tend to focus on their relative strengths.
Homo sapiens seem to have evolved around 300,000 years ago, though we did not become fully modern — genetically speaking — humans until rather more recently. This was followed by a long period of stasis in our cultural and technological development — though not nearly as long as that of our Homo erectus ancestors. This stagnation — the sapient paradox as archaeologist Lord Colin Renfrew poses it — is likely a result of the interaction between climactic instability from regular ice ages and the gossip trap: the way propriety can be a weapon against non-conformity — including new techniques. As Erik Hoel puts it:
A “gossip trap” is when your whole world doesn’t exceed Dunbar’s number and to organize your society you are forced to discuss mostly people. It is Mean Girls (and mean boys), but forever. And yes, gossip can act as a leveling mechanism and social power has a bunch of positives—it’s the stuff of life, really. But it’s a terrible way to organize society. So perhaps we leveled ourselves into the ground for 90,000 years. Being in the gossip trap means reputational management imposes such a steep slope you can’t climb out of it, and essentially prevents the development of anything interesting, like art or culture or new ideas or new developments or anything at all. Everyone just lives like crabs in a bucket, pulling each other down. All cognitive resources go to reputation management in the group, to being popular, leaving nothing left in the tank for invention or creativity or art or engineering. Again, much like high school.
The manipulative emotional catastrophising we saw in the Shirtstorm has spread, based on use of the Theory that weaponises emotion. It uses an an aggressive, imperial, feminised propriety to denigrate, and supplant, prestige from achievement. The entire history of human striving is cast as a realm of sin for failing to conform to this imperial propriety — being so full of male faces and, in the case of the West, European (“white”) ones.
There is nothing true in feminism that you need feminism to say. There are various untruths that feminist Theory and practice — its praxis — gives plausibility and emotional force to. Especially by wielding an intolerant and aggressive propriety across increasingly feminised institutions.
The intersection of feminism with Marxian-derived Critical Theory has been key to the evolution of “wokery”. Key elements of “wokery” — the term identity politics; the notion of privilege by category; interlocking (i.e. intersectional) systems of oppression — came together in the April 1977 Statement of the black lesbian feminist Combahee River Collective.7 In many ways, what became known as “wokery” is the feminising of Critical Theory.
The Statement developed a model of moral racketeering where ownership of morality by the correct Theory-possessing Moral Masters (or Mistresses) of the Universe entails that disagreement is illegitimate, so must be motivated by sexism/racism/homophobia/etc. It is the signature move of “wokery”, and is the classic feminist move about women who fail to endorse feminism. It is also textbook narcissism, with a strong dose of the sort of emotional blackmail that a particularly manipulative form of mothering, or female “friendship”, uses.
The feminisation of Critical Theory leads naturally to the replacement of celebration of solidarity with the working class by a hierarchy of “marginalisation” that can be played by, and with, folk of one’s own class, no matter how elevated — even by an actual Princess. This aggressive, imperial propriety generates both status games and social leverage via the weaponising of emotions, including hyper-elevation of emotions as threat, and the demonisation of bad-feels.
Anathematising views as “harmful to” is female-typical heightened set of threat from expressed emotions. Thus do we see the mobilising of a female-typical sense of emotional threat to degrade and destroy freedom of speech and thought.
“Wokery” takes off suddenly — and you can track it in the data — because social media, via online mobbing, dramatically upscales the female-typical, moralised aggression its imperial propriety rests on.
Shirtstorm matters, as it displays starkly the shift from (male-dominated) prestige to a feminised imperial propriety that celebrates, elevates and enforces a deferential, even fearful, conformity. A pattern that feminisation has increasingly entrenched in the academy and is spreading across institutions, degrading them.
Feminisation of institutions, an ideology of imperial propriety and social media that creates — in Graham Linehan’s nice phrase — a digital panopticon, enables social mobbing to upscale reputational aggression, replacing institutional protections — delegitimised by Theory as creations of an oppressive society — with raw social power:
One obvious sign you’re living in a gossip trap is when the primary mode of dispute resolution becomes social pressure. And almost everywhere you look lately, it’s like social media is wearing a skin suit made of our laws, institutions, and governments. Does it not feel, just in the past decade, as if raw social power has outstripped anything resembling formal power? How protected from public opinion does a judge feel now? How protected does a tenured professor feel? How protected do you feel? To what degree is prosecution of crime a matter of law, or does social media have its billion thumbs on the scale?
So, you are a cohort of young folk emerging from feminised schools system and the academic Longhouse, what is that going to do to your politics? Polarise them along male/female lines is what we might expect, and we see some evidence of, though as a function of larger gaps in university attendance and salience of cultural politics, rather than differences at the level of policy.
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Not none, because of factors such as kin selection and complications of lineage interactions. A lineage that produces homosexuals when its expression of genes becomes too convergent with the cognitive patterns of the other sex will more readily maintain the cognitive divergences between male and female expression of genes conducive to successful reproduction.
Hence dress that covers the body and veiling — the latter says “only my husband sees my face”. As Muslim women engage in more education and employment outside their immediate neighbourhood, they have adopted veiling as an ostentatious commitment to traditional sexual propriety.
This can be particularly intense in kin-group societies, where behaviour of a person can reflect on their lineage, potentially providing an opportunity for others to move up in status. (Dis)honour killings are typically about public loss of propriety-honour. In Arabic, prestige-honour is sharaf, and can be increased. Propriety-honour is ‘ird, and women can only lose it, though the loss can be discharged for their relatives by the punishment — and especially the killing — of the transgressor.
Religion also provides ways of managing being self-conscious beings.
These factors, and the way Christian congregations can be both substitutes for, and protections from, the demands of the kin group, are a significant factor in the spread of Christianity in Africa.
Especially after the iron replaced bronze, so pastoralists could be as readily well armed as states with elaborate trading systems.
From the Statement: The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. … We do not have racial, sexual, heterosexual, or class privilege to rely upon, nor do we have even the minimal access to resources and power that groups who possess anyone of these types of privilege have. … This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. (Emphasis added.)