Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gender and History

Understanding one’s gender, and how one’s gender influences one’s thinking and social interactions, is of interest to philosophers, psychologists, and anthropologists. We also see gender as an important topic in history. One need only think of the wars between Frederick the Great and Empress Maria-Theresa to agree, or to consider the progress which took place as the Judeo-Christian tradition removed some of the limits placed on women by earlier societies. In fact, it can be said that a necessary foundation for any society is the discovery of gender roles. Robert Lewis wrote:

After a lifetime of studying cultures and civilizations, both ancient and modern, the eminent anthropologist Margaret Mead made the following observation: “The central problem of every society is to define appropriate roles for men.” Author George Gilder adds: “Wise societies provide ample means for young men to affirm themselves without afflicting others.”

Psychologically, men are far more fragile than women. Men struggle with their identity much more than women do. Though feminists would have us believe that poor self-esteem is largely a female problem, caused primarily by social inequities, the evidence tells a different story. “Men, more than women,” says David Blankenhorn, “are culture-made.” For this reason, a cultural definition of manhood is critical.

Why would Margaret Mead, herself obviously a woman, stress that the “central” task for any society is to discover the correct roles “for men”? As an anthropologist, she had analyzed the data: the vast majority of major crimes, violent crimes, burglaries, vandalism, and graffiti are committed by men. Essentially all rapes are committed by men. Drunk driving is disproportionately male. Margaret Mead saw that men, if they do not discover their proper roles in society, are dangerous and destructive. Conversely, if men find, or are shown, the roles they ought to assume, they are productive.