Currency and Sentiment: Reflections on Evolution and Entitlement
This document, Currency and Sentiment: Reflections on Evolution and Entitlement, accompanies the project, Welcome to My Faith in You. All work is made collaboratively with Verónica Vega.
As a species that has evolved to the point of achieving unsurpassed consciousness, human beings are capable of experiencing innumerable emotions. The intricate systems of emotions fundamentally influence personhood, thus offering a distinctive engagement with reality based upon individual perception. Inextricably linked to the study of gender and the performance of identity, an intersectional approach must be utilized in order to appropriately discuss human sentiment within the context of the timeline of human history. It is crucial to consider that the majority of investigations into human evolution are based upon the data of male scientists and anthropologists who have evidently discounted and even purposefully buried the pre-patriarchic historical era. This is not to imply that these omissions have taken place with malicious intent, but regardless, they must not prevail.
An examination of various timelines of human evolution has produced one unifying agent – rampant fluctuation. Scholars cannot forge a unanimous timeline given that humanity existing prior to written records can only be investigated through archeological artifacts. Even after the introduction of written records, historical accounts are intertwined with myth and the potential errors of storytelling. On the other hand, contemporary culture holds scientific knowledge as the precipice of truth, but knowledge is relative and based upon individual perception. This consideration is held tight throughout this inquiry that exists in an effort to shed light on the voids within the uncertain timeline of human evolution.
The schools of feminism and bio-politics suggest evidence that points to a large segment of history that was occupied by matriarchy. This substantiation pertains to the period prior to the discovery of human conception. The origin and discovery of human reproduction is remote and mysteriously lacking research, but potentially points to a primary transference in power from women to men. As we delve into prehistory and the matriarchic period, we must consider the contemporary notion of binary gender and the historical shifts that have influenced contemporary sociology. An analysis of the dynamic nature of global human sentiment, illuminates a potential hopefulness regarding sustainable economics and ecological mindfulness. Despite an era of multinational industry with strongholds in perpetuating capitalistic gain at the expense of the environment, we must embrace a global cooperative evolution in order to transcend the myopic Darwinian model of competition that fuels patriarchy, so the ideals of prehistorical matriarchy can be resurrected. Sentiments of fear regarding the unknowns of our human history must be overcome so we can freely examine the time when God was a woman.
Prehistoric Innovation and Shifting Roles
Because the earliest examples of written language date to about 3000 BC, a healthy degree of informed speculation is necessary in order to reconstruct an image of life predating written record. Let us begin with the domestication of fire. Anthropologists generally agree that some human species were able to utilize fire as a tool as early as 800,000 years ago, but the skill had been mastered to a greater degree by about 300,000 years ago. Fire allowed the ancient human species potential access to a greater variety of food, such as grains that had previously been too hard to digest, but their consumption did not become viable until the advent of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. Fire presented the ability to kill harmful bacteria and although these dangers were unknown, it is safe to say that the advent of heat treatment contributed to the health and well-being of early humans.
Because animals had not yet been domesticated, early hunter-gatherer hominoids chose to go after large game, which could supply more caloric energy for the clan. Given that hominoids existed as prey in the eyes of many of the animals they hunted, they had to work together in order to make a kill. Clunky clubs and spears were adorned by both men and women as they utilized the strategy of driving, where they would surround game and gradually herd them over a cliff to their death. These predators, as well as Archaic women of the time, served as the inspiration for the female deities that have been unearthed from Mediterranean and Mesopotamian ruins, some dating back over 40,000 years.
An Archaic female deity was “far more likely to hold a snake in her clenched fist than a child in her arms,” showcasing a notion of womanhood that valued her identity as “a huntress, a consumer of sacrificial offering, and, most strikingly, an anthropomorphized version of the predator beast.” The Archaic predator goddess later manifested itself into the Egyptian Sekmet, a lioness with a flaming mane and the Indian Kali, the goddess of war, death and destruction. The prevalence of violent female deities is informative of a human sentiment that was concerned with transcending the status of prey within a landscape of numerous predators. The fierce characterization of women was likely influenced by the mysterious bodily expansion of the stomach and the violent expulsion of a screaming child into the world, in the midst of the excitement and fear of a group who had no medical conception of what they were experiencing.
The predator beast goddess represented the residual animalistic components of women, while the Paleolithic fertility goddesses were more indicative of true physiology. Venus sculptures such as the Venus of Willendorf are commonly depicted with enlarged breasts and stomachs, alluding to the pregnant form. Some contemporary scholars deny that the Venus sculptures represent a pregnant body. This is based upon prior scholarship that states that Paleolithic cave drawings of stick figures with enlarged erections were not based upon fertility. However, it would have been impossible for the drawings to knowingly reference male fertility because their role in reproduction via sperm had not been discovered. The drawings likely aimed to celebrate the sexual pleasures brought about by the phallus. Women’s enigmatic ability to produce life was likely held in high reverence given that the physical acts of pregnancy probably elicited thoughts of magic or power. Although pregnancy presented a mesmerizing experience for early humans, it is likely that the majority of infants did not survive until the hunter-gatherers developed agricultural practices and progressed beyond their nomadic existence. Drive based hunts would have required the participation of both males and females, thus subjecting infants and children to immense danger during close encounters with predators.
The shift from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic era saw a period of decline for many of the large migratory predators that had previously been hunted for food. Around 12,000 years ago, the hominoids adapted by inventing tools such as the bow and arrow that allowed them to kill smaller, faster animals such as birds and fish. Hunting methods shifted from the chaotic group effort of driving to the quiet waiting game of stalking and killing from a distance. Raucous children and infants would have ruined the element of surprise, so it is believed that women began to stay behind with them. Potentially, the act of birth may have served as a strong enough physical link for women to have self elected the duty. Anthropologist Lila Leibowitz largely considers this new duty of childcare to be a “demotion” in woman’s status, but different does not necessarily mean worse.
A sexual division of labor was beginning to take form, as well as new methods of defining what it meant to be a man or a woman. Being a man became increasingly synonymous with hunting and war, as agriculture allowed clans to construct settlements and abandon their nomadic ways. This new way of living allowed populations to grow, but also saw increased warring activity based upon competition for resources. Still, human reproduction existed as an enigma and the female continued to be revered as the sex that could produce life. Men’s role within reproduction was not yet recognized, partly because the nine-month gestation period of human pregnancy made it difficult to connect heterosexual sex with birth, especially if multiple partners were involved. It was not until humans began to domesticate mammals that they began to realize the role of sex in pregnancy. Living around animals with reactively quick gestation periods, such as dogs, people began to discover sperm and the male role in reproduction. However, this was likely first observed by women and thus integrated into the structure of goddess worship so that women could control pregnancy and ensure societal equality with men.
Prior to the development of major cities, it is likely that the cave served as the first notion of the fertility temple. Women and children would stay together while men hunted for food or went to war with neighboring clans over resources. All of this male energy was spent for the sake of the women who could bring new life into their world. It is thought that about 100,000 to 80,000 years ago, higher intelligence and more complex language was developed by women within these caves. It was created as an evolutionary means of helping to keep children alive. Early language helped women to realize what was wrong with their upset children so that they could be soothed. Song and play helped to establish notions of culture in these early Paleolithic matriarchies.
Despite the fact that the concepts of matriarchy and patriarchy were conceived prior to written record, universal definitions exist with little consideration of ulterior meanings. Matriarchy and patriarchy are defined as societal or governmental structures where women or men, respectively, hold nearly exclusive power regarding decision making processes. This is largely true of historical and contemporary understandings of patriarchal societies. However, it is likely that matriarchal societies historically dealt less with women’s dominance over governmental power and more on the act of giving birth. That is, matriarchies have and continue to hold life and those capable of bestowing it in high societal regard.
In the ancient cities of Sumer, Babylon and Canaan, some women were held in such high reverence that they lived in “sacred precincts,” or holy temples used for goddess worship. Men wishing to praise the goddesses could do so by visiting the temples, where some were chosen by the female inhabitants to engage in sex, which was considered a sanctified act. An 8,000-year-old stone tablet survives from the temple of the Mother Goddess at Catal Hüyük, which has been interpreted as depicting the embrace of a man and woman on one side and a woman holding a baby on the other. Although this appears to acknowledge an understating of reproduction, men might have still viewed pregnancy and childbirth as having mystic or divine origin, given that the understood embrace does not necessary mean they knew of sperm. It is believed that the stone tablet actually depicts a mother holding her baby on one side and the mother holding the grown adult on the other, showcasing women’s power to cultivate and nurture life. Around this time, marriage was becoming a customary practice and written records from Sumer, Babylon, Canaan, Anatolia, Cyprus and Greece reveal that some married women continued to live within the goddess temples, offering sacred intercourse, and coming and going as they desired. Women could have two husbands during this time, but a shift was on the historical horizon.
Because women from the temple chose the most vital men to mate with, selective breeding led to more intelligent men. Eventually, these men began to understand reproduction to a greater degree. They realized that their sperm possessed the potential for life and the power dynamics between the sexes became less concrete. In 2300 BC, Urukagina instigated a new law that made it illegal for women to have more than one husband, while the city of Eshnunna issued a law requiring a woman’s husband to stay with her even in the event that she birthed the child of another man. King Hammurabi’s Law required adulterous wives to take an oath in the temple prior to returning home to their husband, but the laws of the Assyrians and Hebrews established between 1450 BC and 1250 BC allowed the husband of an adulterous wife to murder both his wife and her lover. Laws of developing civilizations continued to vary greatly, but were gradually shifting towards institutionalized methods of control, instigated by male centered political initiatives that challenged women’s equality of social liberty. Men began to understanding sperm as a seed of life, capable of passing his lineage to countless women. This realization brought about a new characteristic definitive of manhood – learned entitlement.
Men’s new lease on power swiftly manifested itself through the rituals of marriage, which involved the symbolic demotion of females from predator to prey in preparation for their “triumphal consumption.” Greek art of this time depicts the unmarried woman as an animal in need of domestication, or matrimony. Preparing the bride for marriage mirrored the tasks associated with prepping an animal for sacrifice. The woman’s hair would be cut, her body washed and her body’s ability to bleed acknowledged, indicating her reproductive potential. Reducing female’s symbolic status to prey erased their shared history with males as having evolved to the role of predator. The belief that only males could exist as warrior predators serves as a foundational point in the development of gender as a means of institutionalizing male dominance. Similar to currency or livestock, women were often forced to enter into marriages for the sake of their family’s ability to capitalize on new alliances, oftentimes with an enemy clan. Women became pawns in the game to bridge social gaps, showcasing men’s ownership and mounting control.
This sense of men’s ownership of women is reflected in laws regarding rape, which are typically defined as property violations. The victim was not considered the person who was raped, but their titleholder, or husband. Often, the rapist would pay the woman’s father and she would become his property as noted in Deuteronomy 22:28-9,
If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give the father of the young women fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife.
The ancient Hebrews found this transaction satisfactory and also believed that the rape of an unmarried woman could not be illegal because a property owner was necessary in order to collect financial retribution. They had no concept of spousal rape, as men owned their wife’s sexuality. The Levite Laws established around 1250 BC and followed by the ancient Hebrews under the direction of Moses decreed that women had to maintain virginity until marriage. They also had to remain faithful to their husband and both offences warranted death. As men gained more control over the lives of women, they realized that like other commodities, newness, or virginal purity was desirable. This was so men could guarantee sole ownership of the womb, and thus, power over reproduction and lineage.
Although a women’s ability to menstruate could have been marked as a sacrifice necessary for reproduction, it is thought that the monthly shedding of the uterine lining was a hidden and taboo subject. This exists in contrast to the public blood sacrifices by men through war and circumcision that marked their passage to adulthood. Men’s blood sacrifice held religious significance and distinguished those who could inherit property from those who could not. This process served to maintain man’s economic power over women, thus marking a possible origin of patriarchy. While it is believed that many of the developing civilizations of the world began to observe patriarchal tendencies, alternative societal structures existed and were recorded.
One such account exists in a record by Diodorus Siculus, Diodorus of Sicily. Dated 49 BC, the traveler wrote of a journey to Ethiopia, where he observed “women [who] carried arms, practiced communal marriage and raised their children so communally that they often confused even themselves as to who the natural mother was.” His records indicate that Libya constituted a true matriarchy with women possessing all authority in matters of public duty, while men worked in the domestic realm, dealt with childrearing and obeyed their wives. The cross cultural differences in the gender roles of our ancient ancestors are relevant to the study of contemporary societies, as they sheds light on the potential for future shifts in sentiment.
Contemporary Conditioning of Sentiment
Looking at current breakdowns of gender roles within the United States and the majority of the Western world, we see that women have traditionally served as family caretakers of physical and emotional health. Given the widespread socialization of gender conformity, it seems understandable that women may place a higher degree of significance on interpersonal relationships, or communion, thus appraising them as being significant and worthy of emotional expression. As men have traditionally been considered the breadwinner and guardian of the family, it is reasonable to think that this pressure to provide may ingrain a sense of importance on events or actions that deal with accomplishment and control, agency, thus deserving of an outward emotional response.
The ways in which people decide to outwardly express their emotions (or not) are subject to feeling rules, which are social guidelines that dictate “what to feel, when to feel, where to feel, how long to feel, and how strong our emotions can be.” Similar to the ways in which people perform their gender identity as a means of establishing a public self, people must navigate social dynamics by either responding to or ignoring internal emotional cues as well as the cues of others. As a major component of the widespread system of social conditioning, feeling rules imply who is allowed to feel what emotion, where the who directly relates to gender. Emotional standards have come to exist where specific emotions are associated with particular genders. It can be postulated that the performance of these specific emotions help to construct the frameworks of what constitutes masculine or feminine. Social conditioning begins at birth and case studies have proven that “as early as preschool age, both males and females believe that sadness and fear are associated with females; anger with males.” These stereotypes ultimately function as a self-fulfilling prophecies. As children begin to realize societal expectations, they force their emotional identity to represent the norm, or face consequences.
Evolutionary psychology provides an understanding of the mental and physical components of the body and mind that decipher emotional feeling, but clinical examination has revealed gender to be a primary influence on outward behavioral response. In her Gender and Emotion: Beyond Stereotypes, Leslie Brody cites case studies by Hanson and Radin that conclude that men or women that exhibit gender roles that traditionally pertain to the other gender regularly exhibit the corresponding outward emotional expression. Stay-at-home dads or men who work in childcare typically display the emotional expressiveness conventionally associated with women. The studies of Hanson and Radin reveal that men who are predominantly responsible for raising children typically show more affection and openly discuss a vaster spectrum of emotional feeling than men who lack this experience. Overwhelming research dictates a correlation between the experience of child rearing and the expressions of nurturance. It has been found that adults as well as children who regularly interact with younger children show an increased expression of nurturance as well as a decrease in outward aggressive behavior. This behavioral shift in men regarding emotional expressiveness is directly linked to their investment in working in the realms that have traditionally been considered feminine, or for women. In order for men to fully understand their emotional potential, they must abandon the system that maintains their privilege over women. Something must be relinquished.
Contemporary Sentiment and the Conditioning and Maintenance of Power
“What does it mean to say someone is ‘emotional’?” and “Who decides what is or is not ‘emotional’ behavior?” and “Who has the power to label, and to make that label ‘stick’?”
Within our hetero-patriarchal society, it must be considered that norms regarding emotional expression are part of the socialization process put in place by the dominant group. Positions of fiscal, social and political power have historically been bestowed upon white heterosexual men. Looking at the breakdown of emotions commonly expressed by either men or women, trends are rather blatant. Looking at Jack Sattel’s The Inexpressive Male: Tragedy or Sexual Politics?, a critical review of a preexisting article, The Inexpressive Male, a narrative is painted of guarded men who are socialized to deny themselves vocal expression of emotion. Efficient and rational, their repressive tendencies almost merit sympathy. That is until one realizes that this inexpressiveness is not simply due to a lack of feeling or a cautious approach to interpersonal relations. Male inexpressiveness does not mean that men do not have feelings or express emotion; rather, it means that they choose which emotions to display and when to do so. A widespread “no guts, no glory” approach to performing masculinity dictates than men can outwardly express, rage, contempt, sexual prowess – any emotion or feeling that contributes to the dominance of their public and private identities. Males learn this in early childhood, not because inexpressiveness in young boys is particularly useful to the maintenance of patriarchy, but because they are expected to grow up to become men who possess every tool available for establishing and preserving power. Male inexpressiveness is a tool utilized by the dominant patriarchal system for the sake of maintaining economic, social and bodily power over women and men of a lessor economic and racial rank.
Taking into consideration historical gender roles, women have largely been financially dependent upon the labor of their husbands. However, it is crucial to remember that women have been historically responsible for the maintenance of the home as well as the care of children. Women are largely accountable for the emotional dynamics of heterosexual relationships and the mental and physical health of children. Not only must they work all day either at home or at a place of work, but they must come home to a relationship they are solely responsible for maintaining. In this scenario, emotion work becomes a commodity, and while the emotional maintenance of the relationship is her obligation, only the man can express anger or frustration. If a woman were to make such an expression within the context of a heterosexual relationship, she would be be violating emotional stereotypes and such violations often engender sever consequences.
It has been found that if the wife in a heterosexual relationship is depressed, her expression of anger is more likely to elicit abuse than sympathy on the part of her male partner. The female partner fights for respect within the relationship and the male often uses physical or verbal abuse as a means of preserving his dominant position or the female does nothing and continues to live in a relationship with an unequal distribution of power. This illustrates the social phenomenon of the double-bind, or she is damned if speaks up or damned if she does not. However, it is not correct to say that men simply lack the means to express vulnerability and care for the sake of relationship maintenance. In fact, it has been found that male inexpressiveness is situational; men utilize inexpressiveness as a tool for maintaining their position of power, unless they are in a subordinate position.
Sennett and Cobb’s The Hidden Injuries of Class insinuates that upward movement in the work hierarchy requires middle-class men to express a particular “phoniness.” The energy put into this masquerade ultimately causes an emotional deficit between the man and his female partner and children. However, a notion made popular by Nina Simone introduces the scenario where men can express themselves freely, but never to their wife. The other woman receives gifts in exchange for a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on as men have worked to establish a society of emotional prostitution, so their stoic nature can be maintained in the public realm.
In this example, we begin to see male emotional expressiveness (or lack thereof) as not just a byproduct of socialized gender roles. It is an indicator of the achievement or pursuit of social power.
Power is having the means to accomplish one’s personal objectives within a timely manner. In looking at trends among the connections of power, identity performance and emotional expressiveness, it is crucial to think in terms of groupings of people, rather than pinpointing the experiences of individuals. This allows a more comprehensive look into the distribution of power among a variety of intersectional identities. In regard to emotional expressiveness, it has been found that the emotional stereotypes associated with either gender have corresponding associations that yield reactions that exude “power” or are deemed “powerless.” This dynamic can be interpreted as having been appropriated from Greece and Rome by contemporary Western cultures, and through the process of Americanization, it has slowly, but efficiently spread into nearly every other culture.
Defying Institutional Dominance and Performing the Future
In addressing the current state of sexual politics and the distribution of power, it is necessary to state that the present condition of maleness demands review of the institution of masculinity and its essential characteristics. Women should not be forced to adopt these characteristics in order to achieve equal social and political power. We must fight to embrace androgynous sentiments and end the male monopoly on conditioned expressivity that propagates power.
The last century has seen an increased degree of fluctuation regarding shifting sentiments along the binary system of gender. Key archetypes of masculinity and femininity still exist, but overlap is becoming more common. The last century has borne witness to new generations of men who are becoming increasingly receptive of their public emotional identities. Vital characters such as Francis Bacon, James Baldwin, Leigh Bowery, David Bowie, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Edvard Munch, and Oscar Wilde have helped to champion new levels of societal acceptance for men who wish to abandon the antiquated archetype of the sacrificial war hero in order to become creative and academic producers of positive culture.
Contemporary sentiments have led to an organized resistance to war, focusing less on the notion of an enemy and more on the institution of war, which has become one of the most deeply rooted components of Western economics. Humanities addiction to war with its own species has distracted a vibrant industrial complex that could be utilized to combat more pressing threats such as climate change and bacterial resistance. We must accept that the Darwinian model of competition is fueling capitalism and the disastrous rate of resource consumption. Humanity must embrace a collaborative working model as we hold conservatives accountable and demand greater investments in childcare, education, gender diversity, sexual and racial equality, as well as ecological conservation. We must turn our attention to the obscure Paleolithic era, to the times of goddess worship, so that light can be shed on the benefits of matriarchic societies and their reverence of life. Investment in self-awareness at an individual level can help us to most efficiently navigate our individual experiences of personhood, so we can most effectively instigate reform at the scale of our global community.
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