The horizontal conflict (part 2/3): women VS men (1/2).
INTRODUCTION: THE WORST AMONG WARS.
The history of humanity is an infinite sequence of violence and aggression. If we think that still today there are unscrupulous imperialists and colonized peoples, masters and slaves, therefore Executioners and Victims (*), there is really the doubt that mankind has learned nothing (in terms of evolution of consciousness, and therefore of true civilization) in tens of thousands of years. In this rundown of horrors, there is a war that in my view has been and still is the most toxic of those fought: that between women and men.
HUMAN HISTORY AS A GENDER DOMINATION.
According to the theories of the jurist and anthropologist Johann Jakob Bachofen (1815-1887), the whole history of mankind can be read as an alternation between periods of domination of women over men and vice versa. Bachofen hypothesized a cyclical alternation of:
- MATRIARCHAL DOMINATION: sometimes fierce and violent even physically towards the male (as in the Amazonism of which the Greek Myths narrate), other times more oriented towards a maternal “Socialism” (as characterized by the triumph of sexual freedom and the communion of goods ), this domination would have been legitimized by the “mysterious” power of women to generate new lives and by its greater affinity with the earth;
- PATRIARCHAL DOMINATION: often violent also physically as well as psychologically, and imbued with patristic values (such as monogamy and private property, which later became one of the cornerstones of Capitalism), this domination would have instead found justification in the greater “spiritual” dignity attributed to themselves by males compared to females (think of the recurring importance of this topic in patriarchal religions, especially in monotheistic ones).
In essence, both women and men would have preferred the tyranny of power (over the other) to equal sharing since the dawn of time. Although this theory has not had full historical confirmation, given above all the difficulty of reconstructing what happened in the most distant ages, I consider it very likely based on what we can still observe today in the relations between males and females: power games, accusations reciprocal, frequent executioner-victim dynamics.
THE ORIGIN OF HUMAN DESTRUCTIVITY.
Where does that disruptive destructive charge come from in the name of which our ancestors already preferred to play a massacre game (with the opposite sex), rather than building a loving and mutually respectful relationship? There are several theories in this regard, attributable to the following main strands:
- INNATIST THEORIES (MOST OF A PULSIONAL TYPE AND OF PSYCHOANALYTIC ORIGIN):the destructive drive force (what Freud called “Thanatos”, from the homonymous Greek God of death), has been within the human being since his birth; it is in constant tension with Eros, that is, with the creative drive force (sexual in the first place). These two forces vie for the primacy of the stage of the human psyche. When Eros prevails, we are more inclined to attitudes of authentic relational openness and therefore to approach the other; when Thanatos prevails, one collides (also violent) with the other. The struggle between these 2 psychic forces is however much less balanced than one might naively suppose, since the frustration generated by a possible failure of the approaching behaviors to a desired object (from food to another human being) generates unpleasant emotions (pain, anger, etc.) which easily feed the Thanatos. There is also, already in very young children, a strong tendency to envy (**) for those who perceive them as more skilled and competent (or sexually gifted) than themselves, including the parents themselves; therefore, even when the desired object (mother above all) is available and present, Eros does not necessarily prevail over Thanatos. All this would explain the innate propensity of human beings to antisocial behaviors, as well as the need to build Civilization with shared codes of conduct, in the absence of which we would end up tearing each other apart; including the parents themselves; therefore, even when the desired object (mother above all) is available and present, Eros does not necessarily prevail over Thanatos. All this would explain the innate propensity of human beings to antisocial behaviors, as well as the need to build Civilization with shared codes of conduct, in the absence of which we would end up tearing each other apart; including the parents themselves; therefore, even when the desired object (mother above all) is available and present, Eros does not necessarily prevail over Thanatos. All this would explain the innate propensity of human beings to antisocial behaviors, as well as the need to build Civilization with shared codes of conduct, in the absence of which we would end up tearing each other apart;
- EMPIRISTIC THEORIES (FOR THE MOST CULTURAL AND PSYCHOSOCIAL-ANTHROPOLOGICAL ORIGIN):these theories affirm that at the moment of birth we do not have destructive drive forces in us. With respect to the unleashing of aggression, the external environment with its stimuli (gratifying or frustrating) is therefore considered central. On the other hand, with respect to the consolidation of aggressive behavior patterns, the reinforcement (positive or negative, in the form respectively of prizes or punishments) that follows them is considered decisive. Even the behavioral models provided by the reference adults (parents, teachers, prestigious characters in their community) and the type of culture in which they are immersed (***) play an important role in modulating their aggression (which, in the absence of containment brakes, degenerates into destructiveness).
Given that there is validity in both these theoretical strands, for the purposes of the following discussion I will refer mainly to the second. (Which is more useful to us, since the learned components of destructiveness can be analyzed more easily than the innate, more intimate and subjective ones).
CONGENITAL DEFECT? NO THANKS!
If on the one hand it is probably true that there are innate as well as creative destructive forces in us, on the other hand we are also very well equipped to be able to interact in a loving and harmonious way with the opposite sex. We think, for example, of our genital anatomy: females with a concave, moist and welcoming sexual contact organ … and males with a convex, dry and penetrating organ. Therefore, 2 perfectly complementary poles : poles that, by virtue of their full complementarity, can virtually interact and integrate with joy. Even outside the sexual area, we are concretely equipped with everything we need to be able to relate in a loving and constructive way. They showed us:
- the Paul Ekman’s research on facial expressions that communicate the 6 main emotions (disgust, joy, fear, anger, surprise, sadness), where it is seen that regardless of their cultural backgrounds people are able to identify and classify properly these 6 emotions in the face of another human being. Which means that from birth we are predisposed to empathy for the other and for his / her experiences … attributable to others like us experienced in the first person;
- the discovery of the “mirror neurons” (G. Rizzolati and collaborators), by virtue of which it has been scientifically proven that observing the behavior of others activates the motor neurons responsible for performing the same movements performed by those who are observing. Which is another powerful confirmation of our ability to resonate with another living being.
So in my opinion we are not “defective” by birth, compared to the possibility of building harmonious relationships with others (including people of the opposite sex); the hypothesis that I advance is that discord and violence between women and men are not an inevitable “destiny”, but bad habits learned in the mists of time and reinforced by millennia of mutual wrongs.
HATE CREATES HATE: REVENGE DILUTED AND OUT OF TIME.
If we accept Bachofen’s theory of human history as alternating gender domination, we could say that regardless of who initiated hostilities (knowing for sure is not given to us, and it is not even so essential), women and men they hated and submitted to each other. Alternately, and with increasing ferocity because each generation took revenge on people of the opposite sex also on behalf of their fathers or mothers. (Often seen victimized and mistreated by people of opposite sex.) In this sense, the biblical saying that fathers’ sins are destined to fall on their children is absolutely pertinent; in fact these children will have to deal with the desire for revenge generated by their fathers (through more or less serious abuse of power) in the females of their generation. Similarly, it is also true that mothers’ faults must fall on female daughters. To pay the salty account of historical grudges, often settled for several generations, are therefore punctually those women and men who are born and live in a period in which the sex to which they belong is letting go of the power until then exercised against other sex. This means that,just when there would be the conditions for attempting to create more equal relationships, the Executioner-Victim relationship is reversed by starting a new cycle of abuse. Here is how the madness of a revenge systematically acted “out of time” has led us further and further away from harmony and kept trapped in mutual grudge.
BREAKING THE CHAIN OF resentment: WHERE ARE WE AT?
It is necessary to interrupt this VICIOUS CIRCLE of: abuse of one sex over another; accumulation of rancor and its transmission to subsequent generations; timeless revenge of the sex whose fathers (or grandparents, or great-grandparents, etc.) or whose mothers (or grandmothers, or great-grandmothers, etc.) had been subdued; new abuse of sexes inverted with respect to the starting one; etc. To do this, we must first understand where we are today: where in the chain. In the next (and conclusive) part of the article I will start from here, lowering the concepts so far exposed in the social reality that characterizes today’s times (at least in Italy, and I would say also in the rest of the West).
(*): Executioner, victim and savior are the 3 dysfunctional relational roles identified by Stephen Karpman in his “dramatic triangle”. I presented this scheme and briefly illustrated it in the previous Article: “The horizontal conflict (part 1/3): homosexuals VS heterosexuals”.
(**): highlighted in particular by the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, in all her works. In this regard, see above all: “Envy and gratitude” (1957).
(***): the most relevant cultural dimensions respectively in favoring or discouraging antisocial and destructive behaviors are: individualism VS community spirit; competitiveness vs collaboration; consumerism VS affectivity also extended to non-human objects and entities of nature (plants and animals) as well as to people. The current dominant culture (the neoliberal one, that is capitalist to the bitter end), is: individualistic in the Machiavellian sense; fiercely competitive; strongly consumerist. That’s why we can say that it is in the service of Thanatos.