Sunday, March 9, 2008


This blog post is going to be very dated, very personal, and also try to say things that relate the general American.

It is March 2008, and Hillary Clinton is running for the Democratic nominee for President. She is being used by writers (and she is using writers) as a way to talk about political power of women. Several writers will spend precious paragraphs describing the dueling strategies of being nice and pretty versus being tough, and how society wants both and will cancel a woman out once she chooses either one. Then the writer mixes the specific with the general, talking about Hillary's niceness/toughness moments and connecting it to the situation of everywoman. Ultimately the writers are saying, if you are woman, watch Hillary because her rise or fall from power are your rise or fall. She is you, because single genders are a giant meta-organism of interconnectedness.

For men, one sharp division is the supporters of women's political/economic equality versus those who do not. Men are pulled into the task of overthought about Hillary based on the same weighting of her candidacy -her rise of fall is a grand moment in the Universe's evolution, and it will be a permanent rise or fall for that whole gender.

All this measuring of Hillary's power to measure a whole gender is crazy, or as Wittgenstein would say; "confused by your own symbolism". All those not on crack should be aware Hillary is already powerful, by every meaningful way that we can measure power in a modern non-Axe carrying society.

Hilllary Rodham-Clinton is stunningly smart. I believe if all the candidates for nomination of either parties over the last 100 years where listed, she would shine in the top 1 per cent. So there you have it, she has merit and power.

But the right-wingers that want her to fall forever from power, or the geriatric shoulder-pad feminists who want any woman with power to be vested with it forever without measure of merit -here is an important thing to keep in mind: Hillary Rodham-Clinton's position in the political power structure has almost nothing to do with women. She rises or falls, and there is no connection to other women's rise or fall. If the right-winger males or left-wing shoulder-pad feminists express glee or cry in pain at Hillary's political outcome, it is because they have second class mental powers.

The issues within women's quest for a fair shake in this world are accessible with language, but the garbage we mistake for symbolic analysis when talking about high profile politicians never mention those important things. I just went through a major life experience with my wife, and feel I have some things to say about challenges a woman truly faces.

My wife gave birth in January 2008, her first baby. Through the whole pregnancy she was lauded as the pinnacle of healthy . During the 18 hours of delivery things went a little bad. She had to take hormonal stimulants that pushed the labor forward, then took things to slow the process down. At one point in this imbalance, she was in constant contraction, a very painful and scary time. She had needed this stimulant because of an earlier bad situation, her water had broke and started allowing life-threatening germs into the womb, but the opening for the baby to come out was not widening at all. At the last phase of delivery two bad things developed. The umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's throat, slightly cutting off oxygen. This meant delivery needed to happen soon. Which it did. In the last moments, the nurses said she was hemorrhaging, a life threatening situation without medical intervention. All these things were deftly handled by the medical staff, and my wife did the amazingly hard final pushes the produced a very healthy and whole baby boy.

My wife was released from the hospital in 48 hours, and at home learning with me to be parents of a baby. Six weeks later, she is still recovering. Walking around the neighborhood can only be done in short intervals. She nursing the baby, so her lactation arises every 2 or 3 hours. She is biologically tied to home and hearth, for now.

This sentence "She is biologically tied to the home and hearth, for now"; is the measure of everywoman. Women have amassed plenty of statistical data showing their gender as capable at running business, flying planes, designing engines, and leading military revolts. But if or when she gets pregnant, there is a phase of convalescence. Political, military or economic power is not easier if you have a penis. I have one, it's only useful in a few ways that have nothing to do with making money and certainly never helped me take over a country. It's the no need for a year of convalescence that has helped me get ahead.

But more extreme than convalescence is death. This was a more potential outcome for pregnant women that existed before modern medicine could intervene. As stated earlier, my wife may have died without modern medical intervention. Herein is a indication of why these ancient archetypes of patriarchal societies came into existence. I speak with emphasis of the most painful historical reference for feminists -the man with a wife and several concubines. Add to this an old normalcy codified in Confucian law that a man is to have a dry, distant and formal relationship with his mate and offspring.

Why and how did these social norms come into place? Because men have big strong upper bodies and physically overpowered women? Impossible since many famous leaders of these grossly patriarchal societies have been obese or physically handicapped. I believe the most abusive patriarchal structures came about because of women's death during childbirth.

During my wife's pregnancy there were a few around us that promoted natural childbirth. The political rationale is that medical practice of the last 100 years has demoted women's strength, allowing men/science/experts power over the woman's body and her own power within the natural process. The basic schema is Nature = Woman-More-Powerful and Science = Woman-Less-Powerful. After going through the ordeal, I see those schema's as wrong. The true schema's are Nature = Dying Women and Men Creating Social Valuations Which Distance Them From Deep Attachment to One Woman. Negating medical intervention in child birth brings back women's status as expendable, or at least an expected demise. And it is that expected demise that generated a chasm between women and men.

Humans became the powerful species they are because of brain power. That brain power demands a large brain, relative to our body size. Babies born with bigger brains, and bigger heads, started getting an advantage in our brain-empowered cultures. The rise of the bigger headed baby (at birth) has had a toll of death on women for tens of thousands of years. The statistical rise of surviving mothers has everything to do with higher valuation of women in modern societies.

Woman power has everything to do with this: Men are more deeply invested in their single mate than ever in the history of our species.

The rise of women is enabled by men who say no to membership in traditionalist fantasies prevalent in Christianity and Islam. For women, the rise of woman power is enabled by avoiding academic stances that advocate exclusion of men in the lives of women, or specifically condemn marriage.


The Serpent Lord said...

I'm embarrassed by the media coverage of this campaign. Instead of real information or ideas about the candidates and the election we get shallow objectification.

You have an interesting theory about the biological basis of social difference between the sexes. It seems like some of the societies frequently cited for their sexual parity or equality are from parts of the world where infectious disease was a smaller factor than in the old world cradles of civilization, and proportionally more women may have survived childbirth to become experienced leaders.

The arms race between our species and it's natural health threats is probably a better barometer of the prosperity of women in the US than looking at one politician. The US has the 20th lowest maternal mortality in the world and black women are about 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy. We aren't exactly regressing back into the middle ages, but the US can afford to improve these conditions.

What role does the natural childbirth movement play in this? My mother had eight kids between the mid 70's and the late 80's and increasingly relied on medical intervention, but each time the balance of power shifted from the medical establishment to her.

(The first two of us were born on Valentine's Day and Halloween, which is probably not so much a coincidence as a reflection of how doctors in the 70's felt like they were in control of the entire process of childbirth and could pick and choose delivery dates.)

The natural childbirth movement is not a lone vanguard fighting against the oppressive medical establishment. Their proposals should be considered in the light of alternatives and self interest. This being a life-and-death situation each woman's self interest influences the value of women's lives generally.

BFGalbraith said...

I strongly agree with your post here after having similar experiences myself.

There is another implication in your post here:

Humans have inherently evolved a need for high-tech intervention in reproduction. That need is directly related to our capacity to engage high-technology.

high technology -> surviving large-brain births -> large brains -> high technology (repeat)

Our population exploded as we perfected surgical technology to increase survival rates of child birth. This means that as a species we are cyborgs, part smart monkey, part machine. Our artificial tools are part of us because we as a group cannot reproduce as consistently as we do without those artificial tools.

It also means natural selection is happening based on who most effectively embraces this humans-as-a-cyborg-species model.

LanceMiller said...

Your statement "It also means natural selection is happening based on who most effectively embraces this humans-as-a-cyborg-species model" made me very happy.