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Why Alpha Males Rule Our World – and How We Can Begin to Erode their Dominance


Readers: Please Note that this is an extremely long post broken into several parts which includes numerous links to background information.  I’ve chosen to post it in its entirety to allow the reader the option of reading it in total, or ‘nibbling’ on the parts.  If you’d like to read it in parts, I suggest you bookmark the page and come and go at your leisure.  All references to “culture,” with the exception of those specifically identified in the section on the baboon studies of Sapolsky, refer to human culture as a whole.

Your comments, feedback, and ideas on this important topic are welcomed and encouraged.  I especially recommend perusal of Part 5 which discusses the findings of Dr. R. M. Sapolsky.

Part 1.   Social Dominance Theory – the Basics[1]

Social dominance theory posits that once a group establishes dominance within a culture they will create and use institutions and legitimizing myths to maintain their dominance and control over the resources of the society.  There are  three basic categories where social dominance is exercised: age, gender, and arbitrary.  The dominant group uses its dominance to control access to the culture’s resources while subordinate groups have those resources meted out to them by virtue of rules established by the dominant group.

This dominance is supported by both those in the dominant group and those who are in the subordinate group(s) by indoctrination through ideologies and legitimizing myths.  (Some of you may have heard me refer to these legitimizing myths in the past as “patriarchal educational materials.”)  This indoctrination is effected through the establishment of institutions that are run by the dominant group such as governments and religious institutions.  Anyone who rejects or tries to change the legitimizing myths or challenge the ideologies are attacked and rejected by society as deviant and destructive or dismissed as odd and undesirable; however, the tendency for counter-movements to arise from out of the subordinate groups has been noted and the success of these counter-movement is directly related to the subordinate group’s ability to fend off attacks from those who wish to destroy them or takeover by those who are in or support the dominant group’s cultural status.

Social dominance based on age is manifested in the control of children and the socio-political neglect of the elderly. Gender social dominance in our society is manifested in sexist oppression of women and homosexuals.  Arbitrary social dominance is  a variable dominance within society of any one group over another based on such characteristics as heterosexual, wealthy, white, males – and to some degree Judeo-Christian, over all other groups not falling into this category.  For example, whites dominate over non-white, heterosexuals dominate over homosexuals, the wealthy dominate the poor, etc.  The human dominance of animals is another form of arbitrary social dominance.

As noted above, the primary institutions used by the socially dominant are government and religion.  The corporate and financial institutions, including the media are integrally related to these institutions and represent significant vehicles for conveying legitimizing myths and stereotypes that support patriarchal ideologies.  These structures and myths are established to ensure that males remain in control of the culture.  Religious texts are the foundation for a substantial number of the legitimizing myths that permeate our culture.  When debates over abortion or same-sex marriage are engaged, they invariably crumble into arguments about “God’s will.”  Oppression of women is particularly evident in these religious institutions where women are ritually denied leadership roles, defined by their child-bearing abilities (yes, it had to be that Elizabeth was barren not that her husband was sterile), have their reproductive rights controlled by men (abortion is immoral, birth control violates “God’s will,” and Mary was impregnated by a paternalistic and invisible male God who bestowed the honor upon her to be the vessel for the Savior of the world – a male), and that women are “dirty” during their periods and must be separated from society. The subservient role of women is so heavily integrated into our cultural ideology by the institutions of religion that even the quest for suffrage was countered with religious arguments.  Both men and women alike lamented that giving women the right to vote would put them at risk since their quest for equality would erode a man’s desire and sense of obligation to protect them in their God-ordained role as vessels of life for society.  These myths are effective because they can be used as a cultural weapon against women who want to counter the status quo.

Important to the theory is that once dominance is established, the dominant group need not maintain a plurality in the society in order to maintain their social rank.  This is because the institutions they have been established ensure that the dominance becomes self-sustaining.  Only successful counter movements can erode the status quo.  For a brief overview of how male dominance was established, please see my prior post on the persistence of patriarchy, where I describe how males established social dominance through the use of physical strength and in the process associated physical power with dominance. Upon establishment of social dominance, males designed governments and social institutions around the concept of their social dominance in order to control and influence by their power the resources of society.

Women too can become promoters of their own submission when they are fed and accept messages from these institutions that declare their subordination to males.  This helps to ensure that anyone who defies these norms are ostracized or destroyed.  Even the First Lady Michelle Obama was guilty of promoting a legitimizing myth, very likely unwittingly, when she made the infamous “Hillary can’t take care of her own house” comment.

One important tool used by these institutions is the media.  Television shows, news media, movies, music, and other forms of media are controlled by socially dominant males through CEO leadership and government regulation.  How are women portrayed in these mediums?  What are the subtle and overt messages being conveyed about women’s role and place in society?  How are women heroes portrayed?  For the most part, women in successful leadership roles will usually have their positive traits mitigated by a counter portrayal of sexually promiscuous, insensitive, lacking compassion or maternal instincts, or eternally seeking male companionship (i.e., cannot make it without a man.)  Lesbians are rejected by religious institutions for their audacity to withhold their sexuality from men; however, they are accepted so long as they use their lesbianism to satisfy males sexually in pornography or “threesomes.”

Homosexual males are also rejected by social dominant established institutions, both religious and government, because they threaten the legitimizing myth that males are sexual conquerors of women.  Both women and homosexuals are deprived of equality in the military because to do so would erode the legitimizing myth that only “real” men have the physical strength to be protectors.  Jeff Schweitzer, who worked under President Clinton as Assistant Director for International Affairs in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, provides some of the most compelling observations about the Bible and other religious doctrines’ use legitimizing myths to further this type of gender oppression.  Some interesting radio interviews with Mr. Schweitzer can be accessed at this link:  and I highly recommend a listen.  Schweitzer’s upcoming book, “Cosmic Dice” is supposedly aimed at taking on the use of organized religion as a tool of maintaining various forms of social dominance.  One interesting point he makes is that in addressing the erosion of this type of legitimizing institution with a counter movement will also require addressing the underlying spiritual societal needs that religion fulfills.

Consequently, if faced with a legitimate threat to their social dominance, the dominant group will resort to the use of violence.  Legitimizing myths and tools of the institutions will be disseminated to ensure that others within the culture support their dominance and use of violence.  Ideological attachments to legitimizing myths that underlie the belief systems are easily identified if you are paying attention.   This is what we witnessed in the 2008 election season.  What was the immediate message disseminated upon Sarah Palin’s arrival on the political scene?  It was the accusations concerning her inability to carry out political responsibilities *and* be a mother to her five children.  Hillary’s candidacy was met with overt sexual attacks including misogynistic commentary.  Misogyny is a form of violence against women and is the weapon of choice in our culture and other patriarchal cultures as a means of maintaining male social dominance.

Part 2.  What Does Social Dominance Theory Mean to Us?

The current gender dominance of males is a major concern for women in our society.  Men clearly control the institutions and vehicles of the cultural legitimizing myths that continue to support their dominance.  We have seen the violence that our culture is willing to resort to in order to further this dominance.  War, genocide, discrimination, oppression, and imprisonment bias are all examples of violence utilized in the name of maintaining social dominance.  Misogyny is a form of violence against our gender that has proven effective in maintaining male social dominance in our society.  I believe that, as women, we are at a crossroads.  There currently exists a window of opportunity for us to address this imbalance and erode the social dominance of males that stands in the way of progress for women.

As noted previously, my prior post entitled The Persistence of the Patriarchy describes how the dominance of males was established at a time when physical strength was valuable to human cultures and was used to protect the childbearing women who were ensuring the population growth of the society.  Once males established this dominance, the institutions of settled society (religions, governments, financial units) were built upon this premise and the institutions and legitimizing myths were established and designed to promote this dominance.  However, as I pointed out in this prior essay, physical strength is no longer the primary function of leadership in our society.  As women, our ability to contribute to society is now equal, and in some cases greater (more on that later) with regard to gender and we are facing a window of opportunity to change this persistent paradigm for the good of both females and our culture.

Part 3.   What Power Can We Use To Erode The Social Dominance Of Males?

Women and homosexuals have much to learn from the African American community.  They have been subjected to the historical arbitrary social dominance of whites and yet successfully created and defended their counter-movements leading to their present victory.  Regardless of arguments about the “blackness” of Barack Obama, the solidarity of African Americans in the 2008 presidential election is undeniably a manifestation of their unified effort.  Counter movements such as the African American churches and black social promotion groups established a sense of commonality for a black culture that transcended all other considerations.  I’ve previously written about our inability as women to find and successfully mount a similar counter-movement based on our one, singular common thread – our gender.  Homosexuals are in the same boat with us and should be natural partners as they too challenge the gender design of the dominant group.

So, what do we do with this power?  First and foremost women must gain dominance over the institutions, beginning with the most over-arching institution, the political structures of our government.  There is currently a legitimate debate over how to achieve this.  Some argue that promoting women into positions of power in government regardless of political ideology or party to achieve a certain percentage – whether the tipping point of 30% or the actual ratio of 51%– is the answer.  Others counter that doing this will adversely affect the ideologies they hold.   The strategic nature of this question is one we MUST resolve if we are to move forward.  I believe it is the lynchpin of our ability to successfully erode the social dominance of males.  If we cannot agree on a strategy to promote women into positions of power in government, we will continue to remain tied to the institutions and myths that perpetuate our subordination in society.

To erode the social dominance of males we must first leverage the source(s) of power we have as women and do so in concert with the homosexual community.  What are these sources?  Do we even have a source of power?  I believe we do.  We may not yet have power and influence in government or religious institutions.  We may not yet exert power or influence over corporate, financial, or media institutions.  However, we do have power in numbers.  As women, we represent 51% of the voting public.  There is power in the sheer number of women voters.  This leaves us to ponder several important questions.

  • How do we harness this power?
  • Considering the 30% and 51% solution ideas, can we use our sheer numbers to achieve this goal?
  • Can we do this if we are selective about the ideologies or political party affiliations of women?
  • What happens if we place ideology and political party first?
  • Can we achieve equality in society by eroding social dominance?

Remember, it was the socially dominant group that developed the current political party systems and created the ideologies that underlie them.  The undeniable fact is that we cannot achieve equality or erode social dominance without gaining power and influence of the political systems.  Everything seems to flow from this point.

One example of how this can be accomplished is to study the actions and effect of the African American community throughout history and leading up to this presidential election.  There can be no doubt that African Americans were able to counter the arbitrary social dominance of whites by joining together in solidarity.

Next, we must work to erode the social myths used to legitimize male dominance in government.  What are some of these myths?

1)      Women are less capable of leadership

2)      Women must be like men to be effective leaders

3)      Women who act feminine are perceived as ineffective leaders.

4)      Men are the only gender capable of strong leadership

5)      Women have a social and moral obligation to the responsibilities of child-bearing and rearing and therefore cannot provide adequate commitment necessary for effective leadership, nor should they be expected to do so.

The first step to countering legitimizing myths is to promote effective women leaders to dispel errant stereotypes about feminine leadership.  Some may be dismayed that Hillary Clinton has chosen to take on a subordinate position in the Obama administration but she is doing more to promote a positive, feminine leadership model than any other person in our society today.  She is intelligent, decisive, caring, diplomatic, empowering, gutsy, fearless, and transforming.  Hillary Clinton is the epitome of effective leadership.

What are the key pieces of a strategic plan to challenge and dispel these errant legitimizing myths? I propose that there are three prongs to the approach:

  1. Support (supporting women in their quests for leadership)
  2. Education (providing information and education to society about the inaccuracies of legitimizing myths, the benefits of female leadership, and promoting the positive role models that can impact and change cultural stereotypes about women in leadership)
  3. Recruitment (active recruitment of women for political leadership)

If it comes down to a question of what comes first, women or ideologies, what should we choose?  If we choose ideologies, we are potentially promoting continued male social dominance since males control the message at the moment.  If we choose women first, and we can successfully erode male social dominance, we will then be in control of the message.  I say choose women first.

Part 4.   Why Is This A Critical Window Of Opportunity?

The question of sexism and women in leadership is at the forefront of our debate.  As Hillary noted, there are currently 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling.  If you want to take down a structure, there is no better time than when the structure has been damaged.  Additionally, the issues of gay rights and same-sex marriage are also experiencing a tidal wave of public discourse and effect.  There is no time like the present to take this issue on.  But it will not effectively transform our society if we are unable to counter the legitimizing institutions and myths that hold us back.  If our major or sole source of power is the sheer numbers of our gender, how long will the opportunity to overcome our oppression last?  Yes, African Americans were able to overcome by the solidarity of their numbers, even with a much smaller portion of the voting population, but their solidarity and commitment to mutual aid reaches far back into our history.  Women however, have spent decades falling for these myths and subordinating themselves willingly to the institutionalization of male dominance.  We have clearly failed to bond in significant numbers.  This is the sad but true effect.  A majority of whites supported the African American community in their quest to overcome.  This past election revealed that women do not enjoy the same support from their male counter-parts, nor do they adequately support each other in this quest for equality.  Fortunately there are many women who are waking up to this reality now, and “real” men who understand the necessity to step aside and allow women to take their rightful place in our society.  From this core group we can build a successful counter-movement.

Many of us have also discovered that we must be willing to question the views of the so-called political parties.  Remember, these are institutions that were established by the social dominants and all of the messages they’ve developed must be viewed with a jaundiced eye.  We’ve witnessed the destruction and co-opting of counter institutions and messages in this past election period.  So-called women’s organizations have been fully integrated into the Democratic party and are therefore now under the control of the socially dominant group.  Watching the obsequious behavior of Kim Gandy and Naomi Campbell is a frightening illustration of this takeover by the socially dominant group.

To some degree, PUMA has also been co-opted by this same process.  How many groups calling themselves “PUMAs” have become echo chambers for the republican or conservative institutions under the umbrella of support for Sarah Palin; or the defense of conservatives dressed in their objection to all things Obama.  A scan of posts and comments on blogs spouting the PUMA logo will uncover a series of memes in support of conservative pundits well beyond promoting of female leadership in government, all under the guise of protest against the administration.  I’m not too shy to admit that I’m highly suspicious of this activity; and while it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t vote for Sarah Palin or couldn’t have a reasoned dialog with someone of a different political persuasion, it does mean that I am cautious about the objectives of these movements.  Other PUMAs have disintegrated into public anti-Obama gripe soapboxes with little to offer in the way of solutions while a few others struggle to establish their group as a women’s counter-organization that continues to look to the Democratic party to save our gender. I am clearly of the belief that we should now shed the label of PUMA and focus on strategic action steps to create an effective counter-movement based on principles and not personalities.  I feel that the co-opting has begun and the divisions will only destroy us.  The PUMA label is no longer a uniting force or something that is sufficiently inviting to those who gradually conclude that this administration or our political parties are not serving our best interests as a society.  Nor does PUMA appear to be the vehicle through which we can develop the solidarity we need to truly change our culture.  Disagree with me if you wish on this point but I think PUMA was only the beginning of a conversation; however, it is not the solution.

Our aspirations should focus on ensuring that women take their rightful place in the political processes of our country and that government policies are changed to ensure that women are given the equal if not greater access to the resources of our country simply by virtue of their equality in society.  This includes things such as universal healthcare.  Women, children, and minorities are disproportionately without healthcare so of course social dominants want us to beg them for it.  Reproductive freedom is essential and control of our sexuality is critical.  Another critical piece of course is access to jobs.  Affirmative Action is opposed by the social dominants and they have proferred the legitimizing myth that we should be ashamed if we are promoted because of our gender.  Screw that.  Men have been promoted because of their gender for several thousands of years.  In fact, we should question the motives behind everything the social dominants and their supporters abhor.   Messages that tell us we should wait, or that we are only asking for a hand out, or that we are lesser in society should be dismissed out of hand.  Is it any surprise that the recent stimulus package promoted primarily male dominated jobs?  I’m not surprised – and you shouldn’t be either.

The time is now and the window is open.  Madame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leading the way by demonstrating the value and effectiveness of women leaders.  I believe it was her understanding of this theory that led her to hold her ground and refuse to attack Sarah Palin in any way.  She is to be greatly admired for this clearly courageous stance.  Bill Clinton likewise demonstrated a keen understanding of the deleterious affect such an attack would have.  He did not engage in any of the sexist or misogynistic political attacks on this republican opponent.

My firm belief is that we cannot afford to battle over ideologies and try to come to consensus before promoting women to leadership positions.  Once we’re in control, we can deal with the social policies.  Right now, we only have an illusory control over them anyway.  They are controlled by the socially dominant and maintained through the use of established institutions that promote the legitimizing myths.  However, we are the majority.  We must explore and execute a strategy to address the current cultural structure.  As Sojourner Truth said, “If women want any rights more’n they got, why don’t they jes’ take ’em and not be talkin’ about it?” – I agree Sojourner…I agree.

Part 5.  A Glimpse into a World Where Females are the Socially Dominant Gender?

SAPOLSKY Robert Sapolsky and an olive baboon share a quiet moment on the Talek River, July 2007 (Credit: John Heminway) – click for link to original picture

Standford University neurobiologist Dr. Robert Sapolsky has published some very interesting observations about his studies of baboons in Kenya [2].  His research was showcased in the PBS special and National Geographic video entitled “Stress.” (I highly recommend this video for many reasons, only some of which will be addressed herein).   While his initial objective was to observe and document the commonalities of hierarchal structures and the effect of stress within those structures between humans and primates, he was presented with an unexpected outcome when cataclysmic disease transformed the baboon troop he was studying from one dominated by alpha males, to one dominated by females.

His studies began over 30 years ago where he sought out to observe what similarities might exist between baboons and humans regarding hierarchical structures and the physical effects of stress related to social standing.  He did so by visual observation and biological studies of the two stress hormones, adrenaline and glucocorticoids.

Sapolsky noted that the causes of stress in the baboon troop were similar to human cultures in that they stemmed from mostly social and psychological causes.  He found that the baboon troop was ruled by dominant males who were aggressive bullies that attacked and bullied passive males and dominated and sexually controlled females.  One video diary shows an alpha male torturing a subordinate male by holding his head under water at the river’s edge. Sapolsky admitted to not liking baboons for this reason, referring to these dominant baboon males as

“scheming, back-stabbing, Machiavellian, bastards who are awful”

noting that

“In a typical baboon troop, females experience considerable physical and psychological stress, being subject to particularly high rates of displacement aggression and domination by males.” [3]

He did admit however that their cultural structures were perfect for his scientific studies in that they revealed a common thread between humans and these primates: the biological effects of stress were very similar between humans and these baboons.  He found that in both human and baboons, the negative effects of stress were greater for those lower in the social hierarchy.  This may fly in the face of the “type-A” theories that present dominant males as type-A, high-driving, personalities but that would require an entirely different discussion about positive and negative stress which I won’t delve into here.  The point is that the socially dominant alpha males in both baboon and human cultures are able to maintain better health through their social status.  The fact that women outlive men in our culture must also be viewed through the prism of hierarchy, remembering that there are males who are not at the top of the heap, yet are driven by social norms to be there.  They are experiencing great stress from their lower social standing, thus contributing to these negative stress effects.

As a result, Dr. Sapolsky, who was the recipient of the McArthur Foundation’s Genius Fellowship over 20 years ago, made two important discoveries about how a human’s and baboon’s social rank determined their levels of stress hormones: 1) dominant males had lower levels and less physical and psychological distress and 2) lower ranking humans and baboons (the “have nots”) had much higher levels of stress hormones and exhibited much more stress and deteriorated health.  What was critical about this discovery was his conclusion that in both humans and baboons “It’s not just your rank, it’s what your rank means to society.” …and so the nexus to our current dilemma.  Whoever is on top of the hierarchy remains in control of the resources and the health and well-being of the society’s members.

In addition to these sought after principles, fate presented Dr. Sapolsky with an unexpected glimpse of what might happen if the social stratification norm was turned on its head.  Originally, the baboon troop included “males [who] were aggressive” and a “society highly stratified, [where] females took a lot of grief…”  Then, in a tragic turn of events, the baboons came upon a tourist lodge garbage dump where they began to forage for food.  Unfortunately, the food was tainted with tuberculosis.  As a result, nearly one-half of the males in the troop died.  Sapolsky was devastated; that is until he realized an important fact — it was only the aggressive males that died.  In fact, every alpha male died.  Now, you may wonder why this occurred since his prior observations led to the scientific conclusions that alpha males had the greater physical condition.  However, as  alpha males, they contributed to their own demise by gorging themselves on the tainted food, leaving only the leftover scraps for those lower in social status (females and passive males.)

Is this starting to sound relevant yet?

With the troop now composed of twice as many females than males, and the remaining males being the more passive, “socially affiliative males,” the culture of the baboons transformed into a more peaceful, egalitarian structure.  Bullying and aggression were all but eliminated.  What made this an important transformation is that in this primate culture, alpha males always come from outside of the troop – they are not born into the troop.  Any alpha male born into a troop, eventually leaves to join a new troop.  However, subsequent to this transformation, any alpha male that attempted to enter the transformed troop were quickly rebuked by the females and the passive males.  The result?  These aggressive males assimilated into the more egalitarian society, living and cooperating under the rules of the newly socially dominant group.



Do Sapolsky’s studies reveal important lessons for our human culture?  I believe they do and his revelations give us a glimpse into the type of world we prefer to live in — one where cooperation replaces violent aggression in the name of maintaining social dominance.  The current legitimizing myths about female leadership must be dispelled.  There is nothing wrong and everything right about being feminine.  We have allowed our social structures to paint us as weak, yet our nature of being good listeners who are diplomatic and nurturing are all positive attributes that would bode well for our future and the world we leave for our children.

Hillary Clinton is leading the way and showing us how it is done.  How can we follow and emulate her in a way that forges the necessary common bond which will erode the current social dominance of males?  Where do we go from here?  That is the question and the challenge we face.


Additional References:

[1] Pratto, F., Sidanius, J., and Levin, S. (2006). Social dominance theory and the dynamics of intergroup relations: Taking stock and looking forward. European Review of Social Psychology, 01 Jan. 2006.

[2] Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). Social Status and Health in Humans and Other Animals.  Annual Review of Anthropology. 33: 393-418.

[3] Sapolsky, R. M. (August 2006). Social Cultures Among Nonhuman Primates : California Forum On Theory In Anthropology. Current Anthropology 47, 4

Another Lecture by Dr. Sapolsky: http://tinyurl.com/qn58nf on the effects of stress in the human and non-human condition (this is for those interested in learning more about the effects of stress on the body.)

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27 Responses

  1. SOD, this post is made of a win. You expressed my thoughts exactly. There is a book I want to read called The Chalice and the Blade and another book called In Search of the Lost Feminine. I am actually reading them right now because I also want to do a series on this topic, as I feel it is the most important topic and the most relevant to our current problems- more so than any other.
    Thanks for this. And that information about the baboons is informative and confirms my beliefs about the natural world and it’s relevance to humankind.

    The time is now and the window is open. Madame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leading the way by demonstrating the value and effectiveness of women leaders. I believe it was her understanding of this theory that led her to hold her ground and refuse to attack Sarah Palin in any way. She is to be greatly admired for this clearly courageous stance.

    She said in an interview that it was possible to acknowledge the fact that Sarah Palin is an extraodinary woman, and still be able to disagree with her on certain issues and have an effective, respectful discourse about it.

    Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton are currently the most important women in politics right now- and by extension possibly the most important women in the world. They are each other’s “other”. They are like yin and yang- the universe cannot permit one to exist without the other.

    • Thank God we have at least one leader with the common sense to say that disagreeing doesn’t mean that you should be disrespectful regarding that person and her accomplishments. I said it before and I’ll say it again I believe Hill and Sarah would deal well together. Sarah may label herself a conservative but she has a compassionate side that should appeal to anyone who recognizes that it is a good thing to reach a hand out to ease the struggle of a fellow human being. I have no doubt that she would have made good on her promise to help the families of specially abled children. I think her emphasis on Head Start and her hand out to low income families in her state struggling with health care costs are laudatory(particularly in a time when many DEMOCRATIC governors are cutting their health careaid to low income families:ie Gregoire)

      • Palin is more Clintonian than she lets on. She advocates small government and is fiscally responsible but she promotes Head Start, and has said that funding for the aid of special needs children should not be cut. She also gave back money from her state’s surplus to low income families.
        She has said that she is pro-life, states that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and talks often about her faith, but she doesn’t govern based on her socially conservative views. Her first veto as Governor of Alaska was legislation that would have denied benefits to same sex couples. She has stated that women who get abortions are not criminals. She believes that Roe V Wade should be overturned but only because it should be a state issue, and has even said that reducing the number of abortions should be a long term goal. And she has also supported the access of contreception and appointed a pro life member of planned parenthood to the alaskan supreme court.
        If the Republican Party wants to survive, and right now they act as though they don’t, they should make Sarah Palin the de facto leader.

    • Also, SOD, your observations about religious institutions and their effect on male social dominance is fascinating.
      I wanted to get a copy of Elaine Pagel’s collection of non-canonical text called the The Gnostic Gospels.
      They are the gospels that were discluded from the current bible by the roman patriarchal council of nessia because of their lack of fidelity to male social dominance. In fact, there are as many of forty books missing from the bible, most of which we will never ever be able to see- because patriarchal societies back then destroyed them due to their references to egalitarianism, reincarnation, and their rejection of a male virgin savior.
      It just goes to show that religious institutions are used by the patriarchy to advance their social dominance.
      We all know how many countless lives were lost in the inquisition and the burning times, an example of socially dominant groups using violence to stay in control.
      Who can forget the cathars? They were a peaceful gnostic group that existed for a time in the middle ages. But the pope’s army’s slaughtered and tortured all of them due to their heiriarchal belief in the equality of men and women.

      • sorry, typo:

        Also, SOD, your observations about religious institutions and their effect on male social dominance is fascinating.
        I wanted to get a copy of Elaine Pagel’s collection of non-canonical text called the The Gnostic Gospels.
        They are the gospels that were discluded from the current bible by the roman patriarchal council of nessia because of their lack of fidelity to male social dominance. In fact, there are as many of forty books missing from the bible, most of which we will never ever be able to see- because patriarchal societies back then destroyed them due to their references to egalitarianism, reincarnation, and their rejection of a male virgin savior.
        It just goes to show that religious institutions are used by the patriarchy to advance their social dominance.
        We all know how many countless lives were lost in the inquisition and the burning times, an example of socially dominant groups using violence to stay in control.
        Who can forget the cathars? They were a peaceful gnostic group that existed for a time in the middle ages. But the pope’s army’s slaughtered and tortured all of them due to their heiriarchal belief in the equality of men and women.

      • I recently read Ireland’s Pirate Queen, the story of Grace O’Malley, and was struck by the destructive influence the spread of Christianity had on matriarchal cultures, particularly the Celts. What the Roman empire didn’t destroy in spreading around patriarchal religion, the British empire finished off. Before the Romans invaded, Celtic women owned property, led warriors in battle, and practiced trial marriages whereby they could change their minds about husbands who didn’t prove worthy. In many ways, Grace O’Malley, who was a daughter, sister, mother, pirate, and warrior who lived in Elizabethan times, was much more liberated than many of us today.

        A point made by the author of that book is very pertinent to women uniting in common cause. She talks about how the Celts were taken over by the British because they were very tribal and would constantly fight each other over resources, unlike the British who had a national identity. On the rare occasions that the Celts did unite against the British, they were a force to be reckoned with, but they could never sustain that unity. We women are not a tribe, but rather are members of every tribe. We must not let our tribal divisions keep us from uniting in common cause to get the representation we are entitled to, so that we can be the transformative change that will prevent wholesale destruction of everything that matters. I believe this will happen, as women are by nature democratic and diplomatic, as seen in our current Sec State who is off on a global feminist expedition whilst the socially dominant wrestle with the audacious notion of whether the best qualified person for any leadership position can ever be anyone other than a white dude.

  2. littleisis…it makes me so happy to know there are courageous young women such as yourself who are socially conscious and willing to challenge the status quo at such a young age. My respect and gratitude goes out to you.

  3. Anywho, I’m, going to bed. I have a hilarious George Carlin book and my kitteh waiting for me

  4. Wow, SOD, this is a lot to think about! I can see why it took you awhile to put it together and it’s wonderful! I was listening to a panel of 4 men talk about the gay marriage issue on Wolf Blitzer’s sit room today. One of them spoke to the fluidity of women’s sexuality and how he thought women would opt out of straight marriages if given choices as children. This really speaks to the issue of men being threatened by losing dominance. I think they see it as a zero sum game with them losing everything instead of gaining things from empowered women. Thanks for so much to think about!

    • Thanks dak. I was particularly inspired by Sapolsky’s studies — the transformation was facinating. I highly recommend that video.

    • I also saw your comments on the previous posts about the “institution” of marriage and it’s effect of women’s subservience.

      How fitting for this post, eh?

      • yes, sometimes I think the institution can actually overwhelm the best interests of the people involved. very fitting.

    • If this past election didn’t wake people up to how threatened fans of the patriarchy are by a level playing field, I doubt there’s anything that will. Hillary Clinton being president and doing the job better than anyone in recent history at a time when everything hit the fan would’ve done serious, irreversible damage to the male supremacy myth. Many of those screaming various and assorted gender-based fictions about her knew she was more qualified (if not over-qualified) for the job than O, and above all, did not want the sea change she represented.

      There’s a few good men out there who’ve wised up to the notion that patriarchy’s doing them no favors as human beings. Robert Jensen would be one of them. Some of his essays on how non-alphas are continually forced to jockey for position in male hierarchies are simultaneously comical and depressing. The alternative to these soul-killing humiliations are cooperative societies (some might call them villages:) where people help each other out and don’t leave anyone behind. I like to think that’s what women will create after the revolution, and it looks like the evoluted baboons already discovered that. Well, them and the people bringing along the social democracies.

  5. and I think I saw some of the research Sapolsky did on National Geographic maybe? I just remember thinking how the corporate world is just one step away from the baboon. So many corporate events are just made up of the showing your ass to the dominant male so he knows you’re still under his thumb. I love to watch the subA males … it’s a humiliating experience for them.

    • Yes, that sounds like you’ve seen it. I was also fascinated by the movie “March of the Penguins” and the illustration of their wholly egalitarian quest for survival of their species.

      I have always been interested in the idea that we are all just animals and we have unfortunately used our human intelligence many times for horrific purposes.

      • well, I think there’s a lot to be set for comparing the animal species that thrive on the dominance hierarchies vs. the egalitarian ones. It’s an interesting evolution question. The herd mentality just operates on not being the weakest, but the others have a much more interesting dynamic.

      • the other thing that I’ve found interesting, that while all that A male behavior stresses out women and gays, we can find and be ignored in our own subculture, non dominant straight males are just destined to be tortured all their lives, no wonder so many of them eventually go postal, they really have few options

        • It does help explain the apparent conflict between Sapolsky’s stress hormone studies and the statistics that women tend to outlive men.

        • Well the deal about being nonthreatening is that you can frequently hide underneath the radar. Unfortunately, when they choose you as the object of their sadism, the experience is awful. But as long as they are more threatened by a B male, you can go do your own thing if you’re a C male or a female. Just lay low, do your thing, and then be happy when they’re backs are turned. We’re really not that far from the African Savannah if you really think about it.

  6. dakinikat, on May 27th, 2009 at 12:49 am Said:
    well, I think there’s a lot to be set for comparing the animal species that thrive on the dominance hierarchies vs. the egalitarian ones.
    Human society was egalitarian until ~15,000 years ago, when there was a sudden (genetic?) change in the human population in the region that is now Israel, Jordan and Syria. That is the place where one of the most dramatic changes in Humans shows up, sedentism. The nomatic, hunter-gatherer, humans began to live in fixed villages. The so called “neolithic revolution”.

  7. OK, that’s like a serious dive into a difficult subject. I like the part about not getting caught up in ideologies for the bigger picture of women gaining ground. I thought the study was interesting where when the number of males was less they became more passive. That does give me pause and worry when we hear about control over gender in birth selection. Imagine China or India with 80% males.

    Dealing with the threat felt by some males is an interesting challenge. It seems obvious that improvement in any form of human rights, like women’s rights, and greater equality is better for everyone. But if you think you’re in power, you don’t want to lose power.

    Now I have to go prove my manhood by caber tossing. Grrrr.

    • Of course that could end up being a self correcting problem. Either that generation kills itself off because they’re all male or there just isn’t much of a next generation because they’re all male.

  8. I’ve always been one of the low-dominance straight males. I didn’t know how to express how I felt, but looking back after reading this article, I recognize that I noticed at an early age that I did not benefit from traditional concepts of masculinity. That probably explains much of my sympathy for feminism.

  9. Saw this on Iblamethepatriarchy.com
    There are some men that think that feminism won and women rule. I think this writer should join the Men’s rights organisation.

    From Patriarch to Patsy

    In the most affluent parts of the Western world, a historic transference of power has taken place that is greater than anything achieved by the trade-union movement, the women’s movement or the civil-rights movement — and it hasn’t even been extended the courtesy of being called a movement. Fathers, who enjoyed absolute authority within the household for several millennia, now find themselves at the beck and call of their wives and children. Indeed, most of my male friends are not fathers in any traditional sense at all; they occupy roughly the same status in their households as the help. They don’t guide their children through the moral quandaries of life — they guide them to their extracurricular activities from behind the wheel of a Dodge minivan.

    This is a subject crying out for book-length treatment and, on the face of it, Michael Lewis is just the man to provide it
    “Home Game,” Mr. Lewis’s account of becoming a father to his three children, begins promisingly. “At some point in the last few decades, the American male sat down at the negotiating table with the American female and — let us be frank — got fleeced,” he writes.

    The poor sucker agreed to take on responsibility for all sorts of menial tasks — tasks that his own father was barely aware of — and received nothing in return. If he was hoping for some gratitude, he was mistaken. According to Mr. Lewis: “Women may smile at a man pushing a baby stroller, but it is with the gentle condescension of a high officer of an army toward a village that surrendered without a fight.”


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