It has often been cited that men’s physical strength built civilization. Some scholars claim that this is the reason why women were at a disadvantage. Men who are on average stronger were able to impose patriarchy by physical force. These statements are incorrect . Women’s oppression has been related to the lack of financial independence, education, and access to employment. When human societies shifted from hunter-gather structures to permanent settlement and farming much of the inequality that is recognized today began to emerge. Women were through out history not allowed to own their property. Many times when marriage occurred women’s property went to her husband. Marriage when it became part of human civilization was nothing more than a property arrangement. Women were not considered humans or citizens , but property. Marriages were mostly arranged ones. Selecting a partner is a relatively new phenomenon. It is dubious that if women were just as physically strong as men discrimination or sexism would end. An oppressor only needs to have a system of organized violence and dominate institutions to maintain control. That does not provide a reason for why a majority of societies are male dominated. The explanation is rooted in competitiveness, human evolution, and sociology. If women were as strong as men there would be some differences in human civilization. Certain occupations, relationships, and elements of society may change.
Civilization can be defined as a state in human society in which there has been the establishment of culture, a governance system, and a complex social structure. Egyptian, Roman, and Greek civilization are examples of early complex orders. Civilization can be found anywhere humanity decides to live. Africa, Asia, Europe, and Oceania have long histories of human migration, settlement, and the establishment of civilization. Normally, settlements occur next to river systems. Water is not only a necessity for living it also holds importance as a commodity. There could be more civilizations that existed, but they have yet to be discovered. Archaeologists and historians have a challenging task to rediscover the past and provide a lucid interpretation of it.
It has only been recently in that academics have given consideration to women in history and the rise of civilization. It was not until the 20th century that women’s history was given serious investigation. Prior to this, women were not given any attention at all in the historical narrative. That did not mean women of prominence did not exist. Hatshepsut, Hypatia, Nzingha, and Queen Elizabeth are just some of the women who made large impacts on history. There could be more women who also contributed, bu they are either forgotten or records of them are lost. Cultures that recorded their history through oral traditions may have either disappeared or been wiped out. This same problem can happen with written documents either being lost or destroyed. The earliest known forms of writing may have emerged around 3400 B.C.E, but there could be the possibility other writing systems could have existed prior to this. There are so many possibilities, which makes it difficult to know exactly what the ancient past was like. It is even harder to figure out women’s stories in the span of human history. Anthropologists, historians, and paleoanthrologists are to extract information from artifacts and fossils. Human evolution, farming, and technology would alter the course of world history.
Sexual dimorphism is the phenotypic and physiological evidence of human evolution. Sex differences are the products of millions of years of genetic and biological evolution history. The majority of primates have a level of sexual dimorphism, but in other species the female is larger. This has to do with reproductive strategy. Arachnids produce young in large numbers at once. Canines produce puppies in liters. The reason this is done is that it possible that most will die and having more would allow for a guarantee that at least some would continue to spread genes. Primates have more parental investment in their young, because they do not produce them in large amounts. It is rare for a woman to have quintuplets. The reason for producing one child at a time was more efficient for primates. This explains why women are on average smaller than men. There was no need to be large, because the only reason to be that way was to hold young during the gestation process. This is based on theory and natural history observation. Men’s greater size and strength was probably an adaptation to compete for females. This also relates to sex selection in evolutionary history. Sex selection is mate choice in the context of the process of natural selection. The males that were the healthiest or strongest would most likely attract more mates, because they have the potential to reproduce more off spring. This indicates the possibility that our ancient ancestors may have been functioning on a system of polygyny.
Sexual dimorphism is visible evidence of the human evolutionary past.
The fascinating part of human evolution is that sexual dimorphism actually decreased among the hominids and australopithicines . Homo Habilis males were 60% larger and Homo egaster as well as erectus were 20 % larger. This could mean that there was a shift in evolutionary history from strict competition to group defense. Size may have no longer been a favored trait and began to diminish in importance. Human beings are genetically closer to chimps which have a 35% difference in male and female size. The modern day human has only an estimated 15% to 20% size difference between males and females. The assumption from this point would be that sexual dimorphism would continue to decrease. However, this is speculation considering there has not been a concrete explanation why it decreased in different phases of human history. The conjecture is that when humanity switched to farming and permanent settlements this effected the human body. This may explain the changes in bone and muscle strength of human beings during the rise of civilization.
Men and women can manipulate their bodies to high physical fitness levels. Yet, sexual dimorphism does not disappear with this change in body.
The thesis that men just by being stronger gave them dominance does not seem to be as cogent an explanation. Strength differences are partly genetically determined and can be subject to modification based on environment. A woman who works out can be stronger than a man that does not. A strong woman does not seek to dominate weaker men. If all women were strong as men the structure of society and civilization may not radically change. This suggests that differences in positions in civilization are based on a combination of behavior, discrimination, and the pyramid structure of society. Biology or evolution does not create inferiors. Women for a longtime have been cast as the biological inferior, which has been disproved by history and science. Biological sex difference and dimorphism do not explain patriarchy.
There does exist societies in which women hold considerable power, but are not by definition matriarchies. Matriarchy has not existed in human civilization thus so far. If one did surely it would have been during the hunter gatherer stage or have continued in some form into the Paleolithic or Neolithic ages. There is a tendency to confuse matrilneal kinship with matriarchy. There are societies in which women do have relative freedom as well, even without the presence of feminism. The Mosuo people of Tibet are a society of “walking marriages.” Women choose their husbands by walking to the house of the man. This society functions on extending family network. The largest households are headed by women. Marriage does not exist as an institution. Women and men live together while still functioning as a family unit. As demonstrated by the structure, it does not require women to be physically strong or use violence.
Other peoples such as Minanagkabau of Indonesia also demonstrate a system in which women are prominent members. Women have the power to remove chiefs if they believe he is not able to fulfill his duties. This tribe that lives in West Sumatra may hold a record to how sex relations worked prior to the rise of farming and agriculture. There are still roles men and women have in the context of their sex, but it does not mean women are without rights. This system is not exclusive to Asia, but can be found in various places around the world. Ghana and the African continent has a tradition of the matriclan. The Akan peoples base their whole system around female inheritance line. The men still hold the leadership roles. This would not be a matriarchy in the sense that some perceive it. The Bribri of Costa Rica once more follow a similar organization pattern. Women can inherit land and it can be passed down through the female line. Women also hold an important responsibility in this society preparing cacao rituals.
The Garo however have minor differences in sex relationships. Marriages are arranged for the youngest daughters of the inheritance line. The process for the non-inhereiting daughters follows a procedure more complex. The bride to be’s family must hunt down the groom and capture him. This is repeated until the groom acquiesces or the bride capitulates. This Indian ethnic group that resides in the state of Meghalaya would not be by definition an example of gender equality. Marriage is not a binding contract in this society, therefore couples and end it without stigma or legal repercussions. The Nagovisi of New Guinea share the trait of marriage not being institutionalized. To a degree this trait among these tribes does give women a level of freedom.
These societies are not matriarchies, rather social systems based on the matriclan. The only matriarchies that exist are one in ancient myth. Amazons were thought to be a society run and dominated by women. The question remains why the women in these societies if they have favorable positions are not seeking to dominate? The answer is in the fact there is a difference in terms of male and female competition. Men may be genetically wired to be more competitive and aggressive. If women were as physically strong this would not change as long as behavior and its biological roots were the same.
Farming and permanent settlement was the most significant turning point in human history. This gave rise to civilization as it is known culturally, politically, and sociologically. This resulted in the inequality that we see today. Those who could produce surplus food or resources were at an advantage compared to people who lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Relevant to women, under hunter gatherer societies they enjoyed better conditions. As the historical passage of time continued, their status would fluctuate and the dramatically lower with the rise of monotheistic religion. Farming began around 8000 B.C.E resulting in a switch from hunting. Animals were domesticated with the most important animals such as oxen and horses used for traction around 3000 B.C.E. What started in the Fertile Crescent (Israel, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt ) spread to Europe. Elsewhere farming and agriculture developed independently. The spread of farming caused a growth in population. This was the birth of civilization with the pyramid structure of social hierarchy. Chiefdoms would become cities. Mesopotamia saw the rise of some of the world’s first cities. Between 4500 to 2000 B.C.E the world witness the beginning of civilization. Women lost status in this transition to civilization. The theory that men were advantaged because more physical strength allowed them to monopolize manual labor, which gave them more control over food supply and therefore more authority. The problem with this is that technology negates the need for muscle power. As time progressed the Industrial Revolution occurred and machine power was outpacing human power. At this point it seems that physical strength was not as essential, when civilization became more technologically based.
There are some professions in which women at at a disadvantage. The physically demanding occupations such as law enforcement, firefighting, military, construction and sports have fewer women. The reason is not just sociological, but biological. Women have less muscular strength than men and have higher attrition rates the more intense the physical activity gets. This means only a few women would have a presence in these fields. Proper exercise and training can help women perform better. However, the numbers will not be equivalent. If women were as strong as men there would be higher numbers in these fields assuming laws against discrimination were enforced. It should be understood that more women in particular professions does not equal a peaceful society. More women in the military or police would not lead to calm. The reality is states around the world are held together by violence or threat of violence directed at its citizens. Laws are more about control, rather than protection. Gender stereotypes, such as women being more peaceful have some believe erroneously that wars would stop if more women were in power. There are women who have advanced the cause of aggressive warfare. Condolezza Rice was an advocate fro the attack on Iraq and Hillary Clinton convinced the Obama administration to intervene in Libya. Ethnic, religious, and national hatreds are too powerful, so women being in power would not change anything. The numbers relative to physically demanding occupations would change, however if the power structure remains the same there would be little difference. The most radical change would mean that sports would be co-ed. If there was little difference in strength and speed there would be no reason to have separate divisions. This does not mean automatically women’s sports would become more popular, because there would probably remain the discriminatory obstacles based on sex.
It seems that male dominance is not based on physical strength, rather around differences in competition and aggression. These traits were part of the evolutionary past and continue to have influence on behavior of humankind. Men tend to have more aggression and are more willing to use physical violence. This is not completely biologically based; boys in various cultures are taught to be more aggressive. This does not mean women are not capable of violence or fighting. They show aggression in a different manner that is verbal according to anthropologist Helen Fisher. The male response is a physical one. This difference in aggression and competitiveness explains why there are more men in the military, politics, and business. To an extent, these profession to require a level of cooperation. At their core it is about being as aggressive as possible to reach the apex of power. Women must maneuver in a system that is against them and sometimes the reach this level of power. Others may be stopped.
Ellen Sirleaf President of Liberia and Sheik Hasina Prime Minister of Bangladesh are political survivors specifically because they are competitive in their government structures. Countries in which female leaders try to balance certain systems either find themselves deposed or victim to the corrupt political structure. Dilma Rousseff former president of Brazil was impeached by a corrupt judiciary system. Yinluck Shiawatra the former Prime Minister of Thailand was removed by a coup disguised as a Constitutional Court decision . Women who are in power have to be more cunning and aggressive to maintain it. Politics, commerce, business, and finance are a few areas in which societal power rests. Women lag behind in terms of reaching a glass ceiling. Even with reforms and anti-discrimination laws there remains a persistent problem. The difference in male and female competitiveness and aggression hinders the women’s advancement. It would take many years to change particular behaviors. One step would require parents to encourage their girls to be more competitive and go into fields that are male dominated. This may change this gender based disparity that is seen in modern civilization. I may not negate it completely, millions of years of the evolution of behavior cannot be overturned instantly.
If women were as strong as men, this would effect relationships between the sexes. Men with more insecurities would have trouble adjusting or men who believe in strict gender roles. There is already a reaction to women becoming more financially independent or being a bigger presence in the workforce. Sexual harassment and misconduct in business, media, and the entertainment industry demonstrate that men still want to keep women out of particular areas. Women’s rise has often been met with violence is societies that want their submission. Domestic violence may not even disappear. Although men represent a higher number of perpetrators, women make up a smaller percentage. It is not clear if this would increase or decrease with women having more strength. Traditionally, men attracted female attention through status. When arranged marriage decline in the world, men and women began to select their own partners. The men with the most money or resources had an easier time getting companionship. The shift now is that women can acquire high status without male assistance, which has changed the gender dynamic. Men with less resources will struggle more to find long lasting relationships. This explain why it would be rare to see a female CEO dating a janitor. The practice of endogamy applies to class, ethnic group, and religion. Men would have to either compete more to establish meaningful relationship. While there would be a change in amorous relationships men’s behavior might change in how they treat women. Some men think they can bully or direct violence at women just on the fact they are stronger. This would change, because women would no longer be considered easy targets. Like any oppressed group women revolted against mistreatment and feminism radically changed women’s status in society.
The biggest change to women being as strong as men would be that the dynamic of protectionism of women and male disposability . These two concepts are reliant on one another and to some extent harm attempts at establishing gender equality. The idea that women must be shielded from life’s hardships was designed to restrict their freedom.Women were in this perspective too weak and helpless to survive on their own. Male disposablility was the idea that men should be glad to sacrifice themselves no matter how deleterious for the sake of community. This was basically an argument used in times of war. Men should in that view be happy to go off in die in a cause that they might not have investment in or could benefit from. The idea that men are naturally tougher comes from the notion they are physically better suited for hardship.Survival depends on many factors and strength is not the only one. If men and women were of the same strength capacity these two practices would end. The concept that women need male protection is based out of dated chivalry. If women were seen as capable then the whole dynamic would be altered. Women would in this regard become disposable and would most likely end up being drafted or doing things that were once thought to be improper for them. Tasks that require strength or physical skill were thought to be improper for women to do. Even though women have proven themselves capable, there are still objections.
Civilization has been a speeding train of change and development. Technology has drastically changed our culture and society. From the first primates to leave Africa to the modern cities of the contemporary era humankind has come a long way. The hunter gatherer stage of human civilization was the probably the closest point in which society was completely equal. Yet, this could even be brought into question. Hierarchy exists even when a modern form of government is not present. It seems that human behavior is not wired for equality, rather competition. Behavior and social structures are important indicators of how a civilization functions. This explains that why women if they were strong as or stronger than men would probably not be in a better condition. Competitiveness and aggressiveness has driven history. This came at a cost. It resulted in imperialism, constant warfare, and many egregious injustices. This has created much anxiety about whether humanity can survive. There may be small chances of hope that this can be reversed. Currently, it seems there is a rise for some women to power whether it is political, social, mental, or physical. These scenarios are only speculation and the future still remains a mystery.
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Garrison , Laura. “6 Modern Societies Where Women Rule.” Mental Floss, Mental Floss , 3 Mar. 2017, mentalfloss.com/article/31274/6-modern-societies-where-women-literally-rule.