INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
In The Eye of Spirit
(1997) Ken Wilber wrote: "There are today at least a dozen major schools of feminism (liberal, socialist, spiritual, eco, womanist, radical, anarchist, lesbian, Marxist, cultural, constructive, power), and the only thing they all agree on is that females exist" (p. 190). There is more to that, writes Joyce Nielsen, Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. "[All feminists] agree that women are disadvantaged, subordinated, or oppressed". She is author of Sex and Gender in Society: Perspectives on Stratification
(1990). In this paper she uses Wilber's outline of Integral Feminism, as sketched in The Eye of Spirit
(1997, pp. 186-202), to put the many feminist approaches into perspective. She values feedback on this article and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Wilber Meets Feminist Theory
Joyce McCarl Nielsen
Gender is a subject that at first seems simple and straightforward but becomes more complicated, confounding and unfathomable as one studies it. I begin with a series of seemingly unrelated but gender-relevant facts, events, and happenings.
- Consider, for example, the thoughts of black educator Anna Julia Cooper (1868?-1964) as she traveled by train in the l890s:
"And when....our train stops at a dilapidated station....and when, looking a little more closely, I see two dingy little rooms with "FOR LADIES" swinging over one and "FOR COLORED PEOPLE" over the other while wondering under which head I come." (A Voice From the South, 1892).
- Consider that at about the same time, Charlotte Perkins Gillman (1860-1935), well-known author of The Yellow Wallpaper, was quietly going mad because a well-intentioned doctor had prescribed a "rest cure" that confined her to a cottage (with a yellow-wallpapered room) and prohibited her from doing what she loved most, writing. (Victorian doctors were convinced that too much mental work would destroy women's reproductive organs.)
- Consider that the practice of clitoridectomy (removal of the clitoris by cutting or burning, without anesthesia) is a puberty rite for girls aged 8 to 12 across Africa, the Middle East, and India. Though controversial, parents, government officials, older women (especially those who perform the operation), and girls themselves defend the practice. For the girls it means marriageability and thus adult status. The ideology related to the practice is that women's sexuality, which in some nonwestern cultures is considered strong and powerful, needs to be controlled. Indeed, many girls in cultures that practice this and other forms of what Westerners call "genital mutilation" think of their genitals as dirty and unclean, as "something to be rid of." (Kramer, 1995; Moen, 1983; New York Times, Jan 15, 1990)
- Consider that population experts have recognized a worrisome shortage of women in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Papua New Guinea. They explain these demographic facts as the result of a deep preference for male children. More girls than boys are aborted, killed at birth, abandoned, neglected, given up for foreign adoption or hidden, and given less food and medical care. (Newman, 1997)
- Consider that western style technological and economic development in most third world countries has the overall effect of diminishing women's status. (Sivard, 1985)
- Consider that medieval scholars, in addition to arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, debated about whether women had souls. (Pateman and Gross, 1986)
- Consider Meredith Tax's (l970: 10,12) comments about a woman's experience of the everyday public occurrence of being whistled at:
They (whistlers, catcallers) ... make her feel ridiculous, or grotesquely sexual, or hideously ugly. Above all, they will make her feel like a thing.... What can women do, what choices do they have? Either she remains sensitive and vulnerable to the pain; or she shuts it out by saying, 'It's only my body they are talking about.'
- Consider that when college women attending a l969 anti-inauguration demonstration in Washington, D.C. went on stage to speak about women's rights, they were booed off the stage by New Left male radicals with remarks such as 'Take her off the stage and fuck her!' (Donovan, 1990: 141)
- Consider that most serial killers are men who kill women, either one at a time or in groups--e.g., Ted Bundy, Richard Speck.
- Consider this description of gestation and birthing by Buddhaghosa, a 5th century Buddhist monk:
When this being is born in the mother's womb, he is not born inside a blue or red or white lotus, etc. but on the contrary, like a worm in rotting fish, rotting dough, cess-pool, etc., he is born in the belly in a position that is below the receptacle for undigested food (stomach), above the receptacle for digested food (rectum), ....which is very cramped, quite dark, pervaded by very fetid draughts...various smells...exceptionally loathsome. (Neumaier-Dargyay, 1995:147)
- Consider the case of Emmett Till, a 14 year old black boy who whistled at a white woman in Mississippi in 1953. His maimed body was later found in the Tallahatchie River (Davis, 1981).
- Consider the case of Matthew Shepherd (an out gay male student at the University of Wyoming) who was beaten to death (pistol whipped, tied to a post and left for dead) in l998 by two male students because they thought he "came on" to them.
I'm perplexed about all these things....and more.
Why is the degree of hostility toward and derogation of women (and some categories of men) so extreme?
Why is the degree of hostility toward and derogation of women (and some categories of men) so extreme? Surely one doesn't have to be mutilated to know and stay in one's place. Isn't the social pressure to do so enough?
If sexual differences and sexual inequality are biologically based--genetically, hormonally or anatomically--as so many argue or assume, then why is so much effort and time put into narrowly defined social constructions of women and men. If gender is "natural," why do we create social structures that in turn create inequality? If social structures reflect biological imperatives, why are these structures continuously challenged by both women and men and why do they need so much reinforcement?
Why does gender inequality persist even when and if both women and men involved in any given social context are aware of and prefer to transcend it?
Why does gender inequality seem to be hard-wired into our social structures and into the ideologies that support them but not necessarily into the minds and psyches of individual women and men?
Why is gender inequality always in the direction of male dominance? There are no known cases of women as women dominating men in the same way that men dominate women. In the past and in other cultures women have been valued highly for their work and reproductive capacity. Why is modernization associated with a loss in this aspect of women's social value?
Why are science fiction writers, with all their imaginative abilities, unable to create sexual equality in fictional societies without at the same time refashioning human biology--e.g., Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness, Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time.
These are the kinds of questions addressed by feminist theorists. As Ken Wilber (1997) recognizes, feminist theories have proliferated (fissioned, in my terms) in recent years. I disagree with him, though, when he says (perhaps light-heartedly) that
"the only thing they all agree on is that women exist." (p. 190)
Feminist answers to questions like the above do vary enormously but they share three unifying premises:
- they all agree that women are disadvantaged, subordinated, or oppressed;
- they all try to explain this inequality; and
- they all believe that something should be done about it.
There is then agreement about the problem but not necessarily about its solution. Feminist as opposed to nonfeminist theories have an emancipatory theme. Their purpose is to liberate at the same time that they explain and understand.
In this paper I present contemporary feminist theories in an attempt to synthesize, integrate, fuse them, if you will, but not in the sense of reducing or collapsing them into a single theoretical or conceptual dynamic. Rather, following Ken Wilber's (KW) lead, I assume that all are partial truths even though (and perhaps especially when) they conflict and have contradictory assumptions. Each approach clarifies gendered phenomena in at least one of KW's four quadrants, outlined in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution. [KW categorizes everything in the universe according to (1) whether it is individual or collective and (2) whether it is known subjectively or objectively. These distinctions create four quadrants, the interior (psyche) and exterior (action) of individuals and the interior (culture) and exterior (society) of collectives.
In this presentation I use the quadrants as anchors to indicate unit of analysis--that is, to say whether we are talking about individuals or collectives and whether we are looking from within (subjectively) or without (objectively). In a sense, then, I've replicated what KW does in "Integral Feminism," (Wilber, 1997). As he did, I've juxtaposed the different feminist traditions and the four quadrants. The difference, though, is that I flesh out each feminist story, giving more detail, more elaboration, and some attention to its limits. I also maintain some of the historically emergent order of different feminisms, and this, along with reference to the four quadrants, leads to a two part division of this paper. Part 1 considers liberal, Marxist, radical and socialist feminisms in that order and is more or less at the collective level (both internally and externally). Part 2 shifts to individuals (upper half of the quadrant), but always in the context of cultural evaluations of gender (lower left quadrant), to present these feminisms: existential, woman-nature, postmodern, ecological, womanist, gender as performance, and one version of psychoanalytic feminism.
Feminist theory has its own progression, which does not necessarily correspond to KW's four quadrants. In the search for a satisfying explanation of gender inequality, the limits and radical potential of each feminist approach become evident, at which point attention is turned to an area of life not previously considered gendered. Feminist theory's progression, then, is one of gradually encompassing the world. The result is that we move from the political to the personal at the collective level in Part 1 and from a "being" to a "doing" emphasis at the individual level in Part 2. In short, several organizing frameworks are going on simultaneously: a roughly historical sequence, a loose traversing of KW's four quadrants, and the feminist progression of increasingly deeper and wider analysis of heretofore unstudied areas of life.
That women are disadvantaged in all aspects of life and by all measures of status is taken-for-granted in sex and gender sociology texts.
That women are disadvantaged in all aspects of life and by all measures of status is taken-for-granted in sex and gender sociology texts and is where most gender scholars begin. The examples of gendered phenomena with which I opened this paper illustrate the historical and cross-cultural pervasiveness of gender stratification. Even in societies where women have made phenomenal progress in terms of education, political participation, occupational opportunity, and feminist consciousness, gender inequality persists. Consider, for example, that in the U.S. the gender gap in earnings has remained more or less constant since 1955 and that men with high school diplomas earn about the same as women with B.A. degrees (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1995). Women's bodies (and increasingly men's) are objectified, commodified, and commercialized in all aspects of popular (and even scholarly) culture. Women spend millions of dollars per year on breast implantation, a process that makes one's breasts larger and firmer but destroys any feeling in them as well as the functional ability to breastfeed. This objectification of one's own body is an attempt to meet contemporary beauty-fashion standards so unrealistic that most women--that is, average women--see themselves as failures. For more details and documentation of the ubiquity and depth of gender inequality, see standard texts such as Lindsey (1997), Nielsen (1990), Renzetti and Curran (1999).
Recent attention to men as gendered beings and to both women and men of different races, ethnicities, ages and sexual orientations leads to the disconcerting realization that much feminist theory is white feminist theory. Moreover, this is not an "add and stir" situation. That is, "adding" scholarly work on women and men of color often results in radical reformulation of and challenges to even the basics of feminist theory. I say more about this in the "Dualisms, Differences, Diversity," section in Part 2 below. For now I argue that when men are disadvantaged, subordinated or oppressed, it is as workers, criminals, slaves, servants, etc. but not because they are men (with the possible major exception of gay or effeminate men). And although there is no generic woman--that is women are necessarily of a certain class, race, age, sexual preference--most of the feminist literature is about women as women. The following discussion, then, is more abstract and more "white" than I would like.
For some answers to the above listed questions, I begin with the historically oldest or first, but in the end, least satisfactory, feminism, liberal feminism.
From a classically liberal, human rights point of view, the solution to women's inequality is obvious: Women should have equal rights. The question, though, is equal to whom? Equal to men of the same color, class, ethnicity and age? Even if this were possible, we would have gender equality in a limited sense but continued class, race, and age inequality. This is certainly not the goal of most feminisms. Their objective is to do away with all forms of inequity. Liberal feminism does not completely answer the question of equal to whom. I'll return to the issue of how age, race, class and other status variables interact with gender. For now, the focus is on legal rights. During the first wave of feminism (roughly from 1800 to 1950-60) these included the right to vote, to be educated, to own and inherit property, to get a divorce, to run for public office. During the second wave (approximately 1960-1990), they include the right to engage in military combat, to become a priest or minister, to equal pay for equal work. The ERA, which reads, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the U.S. or by any state on account of sex" sums it up rather nicely. Although the ERA was not ratified, the principal of equality in the public sphere is widely supported. Additional limitations of this approach become evident, however, when we hear reports of girls who play little league baseball being required to wear jock straps. Does equal rights mean that women and men have to be treated exactly alike regardless of circumstances or differential needs? Consider the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Gilbert v. General Electric Company, as described by Jaggar (1983:47):
In this case, female employees of General Electric charged that the exclusion of pregnancy-related disabilities from their employer's disability plan constituted sex discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that this was not so, in part because it argued that the exclusion of pregnancy was not in itself a gender-based discrimination but instead merely removed one physical condition from coverage. The justices counted as quite irrelevant the biological fact that this was a physical condition to which only women were subject!
The same principle is applied when battered women who hit their partners in self defense are arrested (Hubbard, 1998). This is equality with a vengeance. This is the rationality of liberalism its most logical extreme.
These cases raise several questions about creating fair and equitable social policies. To what extent can we or should we ignore apparent differences between the sexes? The difference in reproductive roles is one example but others about average strength and size come to mind. I will return to the issue of sex differences at the individual level, which is relevant to the upper right half of KW's quadrant. For now I'd like to stay at the societal or aggregate level of analysis, the lower half of the quadrant. With that in mind, consider the question of whether strictly enforced legal equality can lead to equality in other spheres of life. Perhaps liberal feminism is limited not because it doesn't take differences into account, but because the source of inequality is elsewhere, not just in the public sphere. The larger question is why society (represented by baseball officials, Supreme Court justices, or the criminal justice system) is so hostile toward pregnant working women, girls who play baseball, and battered women. What underlies judgements that so defy common sense? The Court's ruling shows the limits of liberal politics as it relates to categories other than white men. Let's look more specifically at the pregnancy issue.
The school of thought that has dealt the most with questions of how reproduction and related household activities fit in the larger social system is Marxist feminism. Our challenge is to see how far Marxist-feminism can take us in understanding the Gilbert case cited above. Some assumptions and concepts are basic to Marxist feminist thinking. The first is that work, defined as activity that transforms the material world, distinguishes humans from animals, and is central to human life and happiness. Marxists distinguish two interlocking kinds or spheres of work: production refers to activities that result in material necessities such as food, housing, clothing, and shelter; reproduction includes childbearing, childrearing, and nurturing, clothing, and feeding adult household members. Marxist feminists (more than liberal feminists) recognize that reproduction is as important as production.
Historically (and this is simplifying a bit) the development of industrial capitalism led to increasingly separated worlds of productive work in the public sphere, on the one hand, and reproductive work in the domestic sphere, on the other. This process, which occurred over a period of time, had an initially overall negative effect on women's status. In precapitalist, preindustrial agriculturally-based economies, women's productive and reproductive work could be carried out in a single site. Routine activities included canning, weaving, spinning, making beer, soap and bread, gardening, small livestock tending, all of which were regarded as valuable and integral to the household economy. As more and more products and services were transferred out of the home and into factories, middle class and upper middle class women were left isolated in the home with an unusual (perhaps unhealthy) focus on childrearing. Poor and working class women stretched to work both inside and outside the home. (This historical transition is replicated, to some extent, in developing contemporary third world countries, thus accounting for women's recently lowered status there.)
Marxists, recognizing women's lower status, originally argued that the key to women's emancipation was their entering and fully participating in the more prestigious world of production work. In this regard their remedy is no different than that of liberal feminists. At the same time, however, they, unlike liberal feminists, supported the idea that household work be socialized--that is, taken over by the state. They reasoned that since women's reproduction activities benefit society as a whole--that is, women "produce" on a daily basis the workers needed to maintain the larger economy--their work should be shared by the whole society.
To apply Marxist-feminist reasoning to the Gilbert case, then, pregnancy coverage would not be excluded in an ideal socialist economy, in part because of socialized medicine and in part because the importance of reproductive work is acknowledged.
Now consider some limitations of this approach. First, in socialist countries, even those in which there is national health care, women are as disadvantaged as they are in capitalist economies. Granted, no country has ever completely socialized housework, as a Marxist feminist solution would prescribe, so there is no adequate test of this policy. And granted, freeing women of the sole responsibility for childcare and housework would contribute to their equality. But even if agreed to, no society can afford to pay for these tasks. Indeed, that is the Marxists' point: women's work in the home is an integral part of capitalism, it benefits capitalists as well as men. Second, even Marxist feminists are having second thoughts about the deprivatization of domestic work. Let me explain.
One of Marx's major contributions was his articulation of alienation as it is experienced by the worker in industrializing economies. When the production of goods or services is divided into parts, each worker sees only one small part of the total process. The assembly line is more efficient but it means that the worker is separated from and loses control over the production process. Work activity is no longer an end in itself but done for wages. There is profound separation from the products of one's labor. [Here, then, is another reason for development in the third world not necessarily improving women's status.] Prior to industrialization material production was a more holistic, creative enterprise. Now one saves one's creativity for nonwork, leisure activities. Given this, some Marxist-feminists point out that homemaking is one of the few nonalienating jobs left in an otherwise rationalized, commodified, alienating capitalist world. To socialize it would be a mistake.
Two specific policy ideas in the Marxist feminist tradition are relevant to the issue of women's reproductive work. One is wages for housework, the idea that the state pay wages to housewives, again to acknowledge that their work is prerequisite to all other work. The second is comparable worth in the marketplace. This is based on the realization that equal pay for equal work (a liberal idea) does not apply if there are no men to be equal to. Sex segregation in the work force--that is, the fact that most occupations are filled primarily by women or men, but not both--accounts for at least one-half the gender gap in earnings. Women in female-dominated occupations earn less than men in comparable male-dominated occupations. For example, legal secretaries (women) earn less than heavy equipment operators (men, dental hygienists (women) less than stockroom attendants (men), nurses (women) less than fire truck mechanics (men) and tree trimmers (men), clerical workers (women) less than delivery van drivers (men) and parking lot attendants (men). These occupations are cited because they are gendered and because they have been judged equivalent in terms of accountability, working conditions, decision making demands, and knowledge and skills necessary for the job (England, 1992). Implementing a comparable worth policy, however, would mean negating or ignoring market forces, unlikely in today's capitalist economies without political revolution. Both wages for housework, which has some of the same negative implications as socializing housework, and comparable worth are aimed at reducing, eliminating or making equitable the sexual division of labor under capitalism, which Marxists-feminists see as central to women's oppression. Simply put, women are disadvantaged because they do less valuable work (reproduction) or are overburdened with both productive and reproductive work. Reproductive work is less valued because it has only use value (produces goods and services for immediate consumption by family or household members) but not exchange value (producing goods or services that can be sold or traded).
Consideration of Marxist-feminist strategies raises the question of whether it is the work itself or the sex of the worker that is devalued. Gender and occupational categories are too highly intertwined to definitively and cleanly answer this question. However, the fact that women in male dominant occupations also earn less than men in the same occupation (but more than women in women-dominated occupations) suggests it is women who are devalued first. Devaluation of women is not limited to occupations, as illustrated in the cases cited earlier of shortages of women in some middle and far-eastern countries and of women being the targets of serial killers just because they are women.
Historical analysis shows that capitalism does lead to separation of the workplace from the home and that it did indeed exacerbate women's disadvantage, but gender inequality was already there to be exacerbated. Patriarchy (defined here as socially institutionalized male dominance), the critics point out, existed prior to capitalism. Indeed, there are many examples of extreme patriarchy in preindustrial, precapitalist societies. Consider, for example, Denish's (1974) anthropological analysis of herding groups in the Balkans. Subordination of women in this area of intense intertribal combat was so extreme that their (women's) social existence was virtually denied. From the male perspective, which in this case was the societal perspective, the sole value of women was to give birth to sons, so that the lineage would survival and attacks on the tribe could be avenged. Denish's fieldwork was done in the mid l960s in Montenegro, then a part of Yugoslavia.
Although Marxist feminism has forwarded our understanding of gender, it does not provide a completely satisfying solution to the dilemma of sexual inequality. The focus on capitalism as the major component of women's oppression is also challenged because it doesn't recognize that the traditional division of labor benefits men, as well as capitalists, and cannot explain women's continued subordination in industrialized societies in spite of their high public sphere involvement.
The point that patriarchy existed prior to capitalism is central to the contribution of radical feminists, who take an even closer and more historical look at the reproductive side of the sexual division of labor. Radical feminists would speak directly to the issue of the meaning of pregnancy in the Gilbert case. Radical feminists have explored the full implications of sex differences in reproductivity, which they argue is the real basis of women's subordination.
If Marxist feminism is relevant to the lower right (collective, external) quadrant in KW's scheme, so is this aspect of radical feminism. (KW locates radical feminists in the upper right quadrant because of their essentialist ideas about individual women and men. My emphasis here is their analysis of reproduction at the societal level.) The questions addressed by radical feminists include: Who controls the means of reproduction and why? Who determines reproductive policies? Who decides who is allowed to have sex with whom? Who decides who can and cannot have children? What contraceptives (if any) are legal? Do women have legal access to abortion? etc. Notice that the issue is not so much what is decided as it is who is doing the deciding. These issues are more political and relevant to women's status than previously thought.
The core idea of many radical feminisms (Moen, 1979; Lerner, 1986) is that patriarchy is based on male control of procreation. This ranges from men's literal control over women's sexuality as in cases of rape or enforced chastity, to the creation of norms, laws, customs that proscribe motherhood without a socially recognized father (thus the concept of illegitimacy) to societal level creation stories in which men are given the leading role. Consider, for example, that the Christian story of man as the first prototypical human being defies common sense. In reality we witness women giving birth but never the reverse. Even in modern times, there is evidence of men's increasing and continued control over women's reproduction. For example, male M.D.s replaced midwives' authority over birthing in the early 20th century and now in the late 20th century new reproductive technologies (in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, etc.) are in the hands of primarily male medical scientists.
Cross-cultural and historical evidence of male interest in and control over reproduction is so pervasive that Stannard (1970) sarcastically hypothesizes that it is men rather than women who have maternal instincts. The serious point, though, is that population issues (heredity, inheritance, family size, societal size) are important to individual and societal survival. As Moen (1979) points out, whoever controls reproduction controls society. A radical feminist analysis of the Gilbert legal case, then, would stress the importance of societal control over the circumstances of women's reproduction and the meaning of pregnancy--that is, whether it is celebrated as the beginning of a human being regardless of paternity, considered a medical event that requires control, an activity that interferes with work in the public sphere, or a totally private, nonpublic issue.
For some radical feminists women's reproductive role is defined as a disadvantage that can be remedied only by complete technological control of the birth process. When women are no longer bodily handicapped by the birth process itself, they argue, they will be liberated. Other radical feminists agree that the source of women's oppression is in men's need or desire to control reproduction (and thus women), but that giving up the one thing that makes women unique and valuable could lead to their not being valued at all, except perhaps as domestic or sexual slaves. Still other radical feminists argue that women's reproductive capacities should be celebrated, acknowledged, and valued rather than taken over by technology, which is just more male control. These different positions--whether women should or should not give up biological reproductive capacity--reflect two basic views about gender differences in general, and are more fully discussed in Part 2. First, I review socialist feminism because historically it is the next approach to emerge. It illustrates integration at its best, combining insights from both Marxist and radical feminisms.
Socialist feminists, like radical feminists, recognize that capitalism in and of itself does not adequately account for women's oppression and that patriarchy is the older social system. As Young (in Tong,1998:122) argues,
"We do not need one theory (Marxism) to explain gender-neutral capitalism and another theory (feminism) to explain gender-biased patriarchy....but a single theory--a socialist feminist theory--to explain gender-biased capitalist patriarchy."
In other words, capitalism is just one form of patriarchy. Whether we call it capitalist patriarchy or patriarchal capitalism, socialist feminists make at least two major contributions. They document and analyze how patriarchy and capitalism are intertwined and reinforce each other. They have also applied Marx's concept of alienation and fragmentation to all aspects of women's experiences--sexuality, motherhood, intellectuality, women's bodies in advertising, etc. The Gilbert case referred to earlier exemplifies how women's reproductive experiences are categorized and fragmented in a patriarchal capitalist system. Socialist feminists would see both capitalist and patriarchal motives reflected in the judges' decision. The insurance company argued for excluding pregnancy because it saved them money. The case is a classic instance of a group of capitalist men making decisions that effect women's reproduction.
I said earlier, when introducing the Gilbert case, I would reconsider it in terms of an individual rather than societal level of analysis. We now return then to the upper right quadrant of KW's scheme, with a focus on gender differences at the individual level.
Part 2. Dualisms, Differences, and Diversity
From my late 20th century (feminist) view, I am still surprised at the extent and nature of devaluations of things female, even though it is everywhere present.
The two positions on reproduction outlined above exactly parallel two common positions taken about other sex differences. Should women strive to be more like men or should they instead celebrate and value the feminine? (One could extend the latter by arguing that men should emulate women.) Women giving up bodily childbirth eliminates difference by making women more like men. We ask what underlies the idea that women would be better off if they were more like men. The answer is that a majority of people (men and women) in most societies put a higher premium on men and masculinity.
Consider the following list of dualisms we traditionally associate with gender: Self-other, mind-body, agency-communion, rational-emotional, active-passive, sun-moon, culture-nature, day-night, production-reproduction. Notice that for the most part the first term, more often associated with the masculine, is the more positive. This cultural evaluation explains why more women want to be like men than the reverse, though it doesn't explain the direction of the evaluation in the first place.
From my late 20th century (feminist) view, I am still surprised at the extent and nature of devaluations of things female, even though it is everywhere present. Consider, for example, what children think about the value of being female or male when they see their mothers going out to paid work and coming home to domestic work, while their fathers work less and bring in more money. Consider that as sex segregated occupations become more female, as did secretaries and bank tellers in the early part of the century, their prestige and pay decreases. Or consider that women who work in men's occupations report hitting a "glass ceiling," while men who work in women's occupations encounter what Williams (1997) calls a "glass escalator." Again, the question is whether it is the work itself or women who are devalued. Cross-cultural research on what women and men do, workwise, shows extreme variation. There is no task (except childbirth itself) that is exclusively done by women and no task (except hunting large sea mammals!) exclusively done by men (Murdock, 1937). For all others there is enough variation to argue that the link between gender and work is neither necessary nor programmed. Yet consider the following quote from Margaret Mead (1962:157).
Men may cook or weave or dress dolls or hunt humming-birds, but if such activities are appropriate occupations of men, then the whole society, men and women alike, votes them as important. When the same occupations are performed by women, they are regarded as less important.
Why? Is it because men have been doing the evaluating? But then how or why did they get that right? Did they win some ancient battle between the sexes and then through hegemonic structures, guarantee their continued domination? This may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. Social historians cite the universality of stories, myths, and legends in preindustrial societies that have the theme of women once having access to power or magic, but then abusing or losing it. The gist of these stories is to explain (i.e.,justify) existing male power over women. Cross-cultural research supports the existence of within group solidarity among women and men along with jocular animosity between them. One cannot help but think, though, that there is more to it than an ancient, long past struggle of sexual politics. Societies actively maintain sex stratification, even if not for the same reasons or with the same forces that originated it. At any rate, if differential evaluation is the key, a second position on the issue of sex differences is also a solution. Just as African Americans responded to racism by declaring that "Black is beautiful," so women increasingly argue that women as women (not just women worthies) are valuable and to be celebrated rather than denigrated. This renewed or new acknowledgment of womenis the contribution of cultural feminists and can be traced at least back to Margaret Fuller, a 19th century feminist (Donovan, 1990:32). It is a major shift in values and to my mind a healthy one. More on this in a later section. For now, we return to the question of whether it's the work or women that is devalued.
De Beauvoir's (1952) analysis of sexual inequality suggests that it is indeed in the nature of the work itself. Her existential approach is important not only because of her unique insights about gender but because of its continued influence. Her ideas are further developed by Ortner (below) and more recently in postmodern feminism (below). De Beauvoir's use of existential philosophy to explain women's cultural and political status in western civilization (Donovan, 1990) is lengthy. I simplify here in order to get to the main point, which is that her analysis can be considered the beginning of a shift from thinking of gender as constitutive, as part of one's being, to thinking of it as more in the realm of doing. This will become clearer as we proceed.
Two conceptual distinctions are important to understand de Beauvoir's analysis of gender. The first is the Hegelian idea that human consciousness is divided into two parts, a transcendent or observing ego (called pour-soi or "for itself" by Sartre) and a fixed self or observed ego (en-soi or in-itself). These are in constant dialectic process. Pour-soi is the soaring, creative part of self but needs en-soi as an object against which to measure or define itself. A similar dialectical process occurs between one's pour-soi part of the self and other people. In other words part of the self needs others to prove one's own existence, even if it is only negative proof that it (the self) is not the other. Sartre's further development of this concept is that the self has two dimensions, one is transcendent (which he called "being"), the other is immanent (or "non being"). One's relation to others parallels the relation between one's pour-soi and en-soi. To constitute oneself as a self, one objectifies others.
Now, how does this relate to gender? One of de Beauvoir's insights is that we humans relate to the world through our bodies. This sounds like common sense now, but recall that with the exception of Marx and Engels, western philosophers ignored the body. Their focus was on thinking and rationality, perhaps best exemplified by Descartes' "I think (not I feel, eat or love), therefore I am." Because of childbearing and rearing, de Beauvoir argues, women exist as en-soi (or as others) rather than as pour soi. Their work, which is repetitive and maintenance oriented, predisposes them to en-soi mentality. It is immanent rather than transcendent. It is "mere" reproduction, while men's work transcends the natural. In this way women are defined by men as the Other, the inessential, while man is defined as the One, the Subject, the being capable of transcendence--of free, independent, and creative activity. This tendency to objectify women as "others" is reflected in considerations cited earlier--e.g. Victorian physicians' thinking mental work harmful for women and debates about whether women had souls.
By describing women's work this way, de Beauvoir devalues it, a stance that seems regressive, even reactionary in light of recent feminists' acknowledgment of women's work. But then she takes the argument a step further to say that the key to liberation is in women's own moral choice. Women must choose to be transcending subjects via (presumably nonreproductive) creative projects. They must do this even though it is easier and tempting for them to become things, as in being a sex object, trophy wife, dumb blonde, or "bimbo." The latter have the advantage of being protected by (presumably transcending) men, but this is not considered healthy, as illustrated by the tragedy of Marilyn Monroe and others like her. Even though de Beauvoir herself implicitly or explicitly devalues women's traditional work, by separating the woman from the work, she generates the idea that powerful, strong, subjective women are a possibility. In some ways this is just another version of the "women should be more like men" idea that liberal, Marxist and some radical feminists propose. The difference, though, is in the level of analysis. The others are talking about structural changes that, once made, would minimize the need for individual choice. De Beauvoir is recommending a powerful personal transformation on the part of individual women. Although more demanding and more difficult--it would be so much easier to be thingified, objectified, and cared for--there is potential glory and honor here.
Nevertheless, there are serious problems with de Beauvoir's analysis. The first, of course, is whether it is even remotely applicable to less privileged women. For working mothers, women of color, and poor women, faced with the daily reality of poverty, racism, and lack of societal and government support, talk about pour soi consciousness is at best irrelevant and at worst insulting. Another problem is her devaluation of immanent work, which now not only seems almost anti-woman, but also challenges Eastern religious traditions that recognize the value of repetitive, maintenance work as good for one's soul, one's consciousness. Indeed, ecofeminists take exactly the opposite position to that of de Beauvoir. They argue that it is precisely too much transcendence that has put the earth in jeopardy. More on ecofeminism is presented below. First, consider two extensions of de Beauvoir's work.
Unlike most other feminisms, postmodernism rejects the idea of grand theory altogether. Postmodernists are not interested in a single explanation of or formula for women's situation. Nevertheless, some do want change. There is no representative postmodern feminism but rather a series of intriguing ideas. One is that they proclaim an advantage to being "other," to being unattached to the dominant culture. It is a freer way of being. (The emphasis on being shows the influence of de Beauvoir.) A second is that they endorse women not only not emulating men, but women creating their own female language, their own female sexuality, their own female world. They also carry anti-essentialism to the point of questioning the existence of any core self at all, and thus any sense of a fixed gender. This is ironic for women who are fighting for equality, recognition, or rights precisely on the basis of their identity as women.
Postmodernist feminism, then, brings us back to the quandary of the Gilbert case. If one argues that women need additional, special or different treatment because of their reproductive role, one leaves open the possibility of essentialist thinking. This could in turn lead to differential specialized treatment of an unwanted kind--e.g. protective labor legislation that restricts women's ability to work and earn higher wages. In other words, it undermines the demand for equality. If, on the other hand, one insists that in the name of or for the sake of equality, women and men be treated exactly the same, one denies or ignores women's real and serious needs--e.g., health coverage, day care. Consider, for example, a female household head who is employed in a woman's occupation and needs child support precisely because she is a woman without a "male" salary. To treat her as if she were male is to do her a disservice, yet this is where anti-essentialism leads. Postmodernists question the privileged use of the word "woman." This is a frustrating, no-win situation, one that I think will be resolved only by radical change in our cultural assessment of gender. In other words, something drastic has to happen in the lower left quadrant of KW's scheme.
Ortner's Woman-Nature Thesis
Ortner's Woman-Nature Thesis is another extension of de Beauvoir's work. Ortner first distinguishes between culture, the human-made component of life, and nature, the physical world in all its manifestations but without human intervention. Culture includes human consciousness, human creativity, transcendence via thought and technology of the natural givens of existence. She then points out that most cultures tend to value the cultural over the natural precisely because it represents a transcendence or mastery of nature, and indeed that human history is the story of increasing control and manipulation of nature. The next part of her argument is that women are more closely linked with the natural because of menstruation, childbirth, and childrearing, while men are associated with the cultural--e.g., the built environment, artistic creativity. It follows that women are valued less and have lower social status because of this connection, which Ortner says is near universal. (Ortner is saying that women are perceived as close to nature, not that they really are.) This theory could explain the seemingly universal devaluation of women's bodies reflected, for example, in the practice of clitoridectomy and the Buddhist monk's description of childbirth cited earlier.
The main insight of ecofeminism is that the connection between women and nature is more than metaphorical. Keller's (1990) analysis of Western science, with its spectacular success in controlling and mastering the natural world, is relevant here. In "Gender and Science," she builds on the subjective-objective distinction that is basic in science and, using a sociological-psychoanalytical perspective, describes the process by which the capacity for scientific thought is developed and intertwined with the development of emotional and sexual identity. The idea here is that scientific thinking itself is gendered, and that the scientific attitude toward the natural (feminine) world parallels men's apparent interest in controlling women. This argument is the basis of one particular conclusion made by some but not all ecofeminists--that women are somehow better, nicer, more connected, less apt to kill, less apt to screw up the environment. This assertion irritates KW, who argues that the "woman as relational-men as autonomous" dichotomy is independent of progress along the hierarchical scale of moral development. I accept this as well as his plea for balance and integration--that is, inclusion of the best (and worst) of both female and male. But I still see value in endorsing the feminine, if only to compensate for past imbalances. If integration is the goal, it will be more easily done if the different parties or parts being integrated start in the same place--that is, as equals. KW suggests that feminists who celebrate the feminine have stopped growing. I disagree. I think some of them are just getting used to pride and self-confidence. Although some radical feminists do believe in female superiority, most think in both/and rather than either/or terms. Moreover, one doesn't have to be essentialist to simply celebrate and acknowledge so-called "feminine" traits such as a well-developed capacity for relationship. Nor does one have to link them to women! Here again is the idea that "If men could just be more like women...."
The gendered, sometimes metaphysical dualisms listed earlier are relevant to but different from the study of sex differences at the individual level of analysis. The latter topic is still in the upper part of KW's quadrant but now we're talking about real rather than stereotyped individual women and men and whether and how they differ. By studying large numbers of real people and comparing women and men as subgroups, researchers ask if there is any evidence that women and men differ in this psychological sense (the "I" level in KW terms). The answer is, not much. This is paradoxical when one considers all the conversations, schema, and theories that depend on sex differences as the reductive explanation for inequality at the social, cultural, historical levels (KW's "we" and "they" categories). Empirical evidence doesn't warrant using individual sex differences as an integral part of gender theories. Yet almost every theory in gender studies begins with or assumes sex differences at the individual level. What accounts for this paradox?
Several possibilities come to mind. First, it could be that there really are profound differences between women's and men's psyches but that existing measurement instruments are not sensitive enough to tap them. A second possibility is that the sex differences literature is about personality traits while theories and reality are about women and men in interaction. Perhaps gender differences show up in, are relevant to, or exist primarily in interaction. Personality and gender identity tests, which are usually paper-pencil tests administered to individuals, assume a stable core gendered identity that is context-free. Perhaps this isn't so. Perhaps our gendered selves are more flexible, situational, and context-dependent than we thought. Indeed, humans are wonderfully flexible and responsive to immediate needs and varying contexts. Traditional, middle class American women, for example, did not hesitate to go out to work when called on to do so during WW II. (Working class women and women of color were by and large already in the work force.) Another example of human situationality with respect to a particular type of behavior is seen in results of experimental laboratory studies of aggression. These show that aggressive behavior depends more on the situation than on the sex of the aggressor, and further that women can be as aggressive as men, depending on the conditions (Frodi et al., 1977).
Extending the idea that gender is as interactional as it is individual, consider the possibility that gender is performance, that it is not so much within the individual but between one person and another. Studies of transsexuals and transvestites raise this question: If a biological male can so successfully pass as a female that he refers to himself as she/her, thinks of himself as female, interacts with others such that they regard him as female, and in all ways thinks "like a woman" (as Jack Lemmon did in a scene of Some Like it Hot), then where ultimately is the site of female identity? Perhaps it is in the performance rather than the person. The gender as performance theme is articulated by West and Fernstermaker (1993) as "doing" or "accomplishing" gender. They distinguish among sex (biological classification as female or male), sex category (social identification as a woman or a man), and gender (conduct that is accountable to normative conceptions of womanly or manly natures), and then obviously highlight the latter. This approach to gender dovetails with the "from being to doing" transition implied in de Beauvoir's work.
Regardless of empirical evidence or lack thereof for sex differences at the individual level, there are theorists who minimize and those who maximize their extent. This is called the "sameness-difference" debate. Related to the minimum-maximum or sameness-difference distinctions are explanations for sources of differences. Minimalists tend to explain differences in terms of socialization and socially institutionalized roles. Maximalists are more likely to endorse essentialism, the idea that there is some "essence" that is femaleness and maleness and that these are inherent in the very nature of being a woman and man. (How essentialists explain exceptions, changes over time, cross cultural variation and overall lack of empirical evidence for differences, I don't know). Essentialists in turn tend to fall in two camps that have been described as those for and those against women. The latter include sociobiologsts and others who both explain and justify sexual inequality. The former are some (but not all) radical and cultural feminists who see women as not only different but in some ways better than men. (At this point I put radical feminism in KW's upper left quadrant, as he does.)
Now consider differences among or across categories of women rather than between women and men. This is a subject generated mainly by women of color feminists and its challenges have been healthy for feminist thinking. Indeed, this work is referred to by some as having launched the third wave of feminism. Full consideration of how gender, race, class, and age interact will lead to more complete feminisms. The fact that women of color have different attitudes than those of white women about work in the home, sexuality, men, what equality means and most policy issues, indicates that a major revolution is in the making. A hint of the magnitude of these kinds of differences is seen in the Anna Julia Cooper quote cited at the beginning of this paper.
Perhaps the most central contribution of "womanist" or women of color feminist thinking is their leading the rest of us to realize the extent to which white women, though disadvantaged as women, are privileged regarding race. More important was the realization that part of that privilege is not having to think about race! Similarly, white men rarely have to think about race or gender. Male scholars are not usually aware of their own non- thinking about gender or race. As Kimmel and Messner (1995) demonstrate, when a white man is asked what he sees when he looks in the mirror, he says "a person," "a human." When a white woman or person of color does the same, s/he answers "a woman," "a Mexican-American," "a black man," "a Hispanic," etc. Kimmel's point is that white men see themselves as representative of the human race. Women and people of color see themselves more particularistically. They are too often (daily) reminded of their gender and race to think of themselves as representing "mankind," or "humankind." A perhaps extreme example is the earlier cited case of Emmet Till, the black boy who was murdered for whistling at a white woman.
One result of this difference in experience is that women and people of color are more likely to have what DuBois (in The Souls of Black Folk) called "dual vision," the ability to see the world through two sets of opposed values, those of the mainstream and your own. The implication is that white men are more likely to be monovisioned.
Let's pause for a moment, to ask where we've gone, and where we are going. We began this discussion by recognizing the limits of liberal feminism. We then considered the importance of reproduction, not easily included in liberal feminism because of its focus on the public sphere. That led us into Marxist and radical feminisms; then we noted that socialist feminists show how both capitalism and patriarchy reinforce each other. We then shifted from the structural to the individual level to look specifically at sex differences, both metaphysical and psychological. In this context, we considered existential, cultural, and radical feminisms again, as well as womanist, postmodern and ecofeminism. All along, we've considered different "what to do's" about gender inequality: e.g., go for civil rights, change the nature of housework, change the reproductive process, change our ideologies, change our biologies, change the division of labor by sex, change our attitudes about the natural world.
Consider one last feminism, one that has the merit of explaining the deep rootedness of men's and society's hostility toward women.
There are several psychoanalytic feminisms. For brevity's sake I am limiting my presentation to Chodorow's Reproduction of Mothering. Her analysis of gendered relations and gendered psyches begins with a universal social structural feature: Everyone's first parent is female. This means that for infant girls, interaction is with a same sex parent and for boys it is with an opposite sex parent. To the extent that one's self forms out of interaction with others, both genders develop an initial layer of self that is more female than male. Both male and female infants and toddlers are extremely, intensely, and somatically dependent on the caretaking female, they both love and want her, but at the same time resent her because of her immense power. She can bring extreme discomfort as well as bliss. If this primordial relationship continued, children would stay forever tied to their mothers. But society intervenes.
Sometime during the 3-5 year old period children are confronted with the incest taboo--you cannot marry your mother (or your father)--and the result is, of course, what Freud called the oedipal crisis. Boys have to give up their love for mother and at the same time establish a "masculine" rather feminine identity, girls have to give up their love for mother and somehow become heterosexual. Chodorow argues that for girls, establishing a feminine identity is relatively smooth going insofar as they have first hand access to a real, concrete, walking-talking person who exemplifies, to varying degrees, what society calls feminine. For boys the process is more difficult because, at least since the industrial revolution, fathers are relatively absent from the household, so their source of information about what is male and masculine is more abstract and positional. They learn about a role more than they interact intimately with the person in the role. Because there is no easily accessible, affirmative definition of masculine, boys can only define it (masculinity) in negative terms. It is that which is not feminine. In order to become a male person, then, they have to not only reject the original feminine self, but reject, derogate, and negate all things feminine. So there is both an internal and external rejection of what is feminine. This, according to Chodorow (and others) is the reason misogyny is so deep-seated.
Because of boys' need to separate in order to establish a gendered identity, their sense of self is more autonomous. Women, because they maintain connection with the female mother, continue to be more relational. In other words, men develop strong ego boundaries but constantly and continually need to assert and reassert their masculine identity. Girls, though confident and certain of their gender identity (one doesn't have to do anything to prove it), are more likely to have self esteem, ego boundary, and self identity problems, especially as young adults when they register the general societal derogation of women. All this occurs because of a structural feature, the division of labor by sex that has women being the original parents, with fathers becoming more important only as children get older.
This structural arrangement and related processes explains both sex differences in interactional style and devaluation of the feminine. Here then is another theoretical explanation for facts such as people arguing about whether women have souls. More importantly, Chodorow argues that although these differences are built into our psyches, they are deep but not essential, and certainly not inborn. They are the result of an intense and long term socialization process. The solution to gender stratification, then, is to restructure the division of labor by sex by having both women and men parent, by having both be equally responsible for childrearing from birth on.
If family relations were restructured in the direction Chodorow suggests, boys would not have to reject femaleness in order to grow up, and male hostility or rejection of women would diminish or disappear. A ruling such as that in the Gilbert case would be unlikely because the psyches of those making the decision would be different. Her argument has a reductionist flavor, but is different from usual reductionist reasoning in that it starts with a structural arrangement that in turn, hypothetically, effects change at the psychological level. It also cuts across KW's quadrants. Insofar as it begins with a structural arrangement, it fits the lower right quadrant. Insofar as it then focuses on psychological makeup--modal personalities of women and men--it better fits the upper left quadrant. This does not challenge the categorization of quadrants. As KW argues, there are parallels, correspondences, connections across and between all quadrants. Notice, though, that few feminist theories traverse in this way, most are limited to a single quadrant.
Evidence for Chodorow's account is primarily clinical, anecdotal, experiential. Nevertheless it has been one of the most generative feminist theories. It could, for example, account for some of the extreme cases of devaluation of women cited earlier--e.g. women targeted by serial killers, women objectified sexually.
We've seen how different feminisms would approach, if not solve, the Gilbert legal case that we began with. This analysis shows that gender oppression is multifaceted and overdetermined and has its paradoxes. The partial truths considered here are context-specific. Liberal feminism is right on target, so far as it goes; capitalism does exploit women through their marginal work status, commodification, and "free" household labor; capitalism and patriarchy do work together to reinforce sexual inequality; existentialism directs attention to individual moral choice; radical feminism highlights the fact that we are embodied creatures and celebrates the feminine. Psychoanalytical feminisms explain why the problem is so deep-rooted; ecofeminism looks to the future and the larger picture, relating gender and ecology in imaginative ways. Postmodernism shows the limits of conceptualizing gender as essence, while gender as performance theories underscore the normative element in doing
This has been an interesting exercise. juxtapositioning Ken Wilber and feminist thinking. The goal of feminist theories is to arrive at a satisfying solution to gender inequality. That is, one wants to do something or at least propose doing something. KW's angle is rather different. He incorporates his wide-ranging, more or less feminist-informed knowledge of sex and gender into an evolutionary-based, universal scheme that explains "everything." His take on the future of gender is guardedly optimistic. Things can always go wrong (pathologies occur through too much agency or too much communion), but the emergence of a new kind of consciousness that he calls "vision-logic" signals the possibility of an end to male-female antagonism as well as other kinds of social and political injustices. The idea is that just as the emergence of the noosphere (KW's term for the domain of the mind) allowed rationality to differentiate itself from mythical thinking, we are now seeing the beginnings of a new kind of mentality or consciousness which promises transpersonal ways of being. This is difficult to explain in part because it hasn't happened yet, at least not on a wide scale. Just as 2-7 year olds cannot "get" the conservation principle embedded in Piaget's famous experiment (pouring water from a short, fat glass into a tall, slim one), it is difficult for us to fully understand a newly emerging way of thinking. But when the same children are 7-11 years old, they do understand conservation. Likewise we are just getting descriptions of this new consciousness or way of being. It involves seeing and treating all others as expressions of oneself, and doing this naturally, without effort. It is inclusive rather than exclusive thinking. The worldview is global, there is room for everyone and everything. Part of this new consciousness is a real integration of male and female expressions within all individuals and at all levels. Transgender is a possibility. (Here KW would caution that this doesn't mean ignoring or denying gender distinctions, but rather acknowledging, embracing and most importantly, integrating them. It is gender plus, not no gender.)
KW's vision presupposes considerable development in the upper left quadrant, that is, in the interiority of human minds. In other words, more evolution, especially in the area of human consciousness, is in store for us. (As KW put it, why would it stop now?) So, if things don't go haywire, if we don't blow ourselves up, this could be the solution. It will call for some "kindness" on the part of women and men, to use KW's word, but the stage is set for gender equality as part of a larger major transformation in human evolution.[12,13]
Feminist thinking, in the meantime, is also progressing dynamically in the postmodern world. Second wave feminism that began in the late 1960s still thrives in both persons and institutions. At the same time, some writers distinguish a postmodern or third wave feminism that has a less foundational flavor than that of just a generation ago. There is now less commitment to the idea that a single factor or metanarrative can explain gender and other types of oppression. We now recognize no one or right way to be feminist. In short, a fissioning has occurred. Some even refer to "postfeminism," signaling not so much an end to feminist thinking as we know it, but rather a shift away from the fundamental questions raised by earlier feminists and toward a more pluralistic, relativistic, dynamic, fast-changing, inclusive collage of feminist expression in the cultural (rather than social structural) realm. In terms of KW's quadrants, this is a shift away from the lower right quadrant and toward the lower left. To some, this shift appears irresponsible, superficial, perhaps even trivial. Consider, for example, Time magazine's June 29, 1998 feature on feminism in which TV star Ally McBeal is used to represent contemporary feminism. I see this is as less a trivialization and more an example of feminism in all its varied forms being diffused into the larger culture, with different, uneven, varied, and both collective and individualized ways of dealing with it. Young women (and men) now take for granted attitudes, practices, policies, and ideas that earlier generations fought for. Of course their concerns and issues will be different.
My goal of an integration, a synthesis, a fusion of feminist theory has not been fully realized. I am left with an untidy, unfinished inquiry that captures the complexity of life, and is certainly not elegant. Perhaps in this multifaceted, wide open, global present, Ken Wilber and I see the same future.
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- Thanks to Jim Downton, Steve Graham, Mike Lightner, Barbara McCarl, and Glenda Walden for ideas, good listening, and excellent re-writing and editorial suggestions.
- Different terms used to describe what sociologists call sex stratification reflect the explanation being promoted. "Gender inequality," for example, implies that women's disadvantage is an historical oversight. "Gender oppression," in contrast, indicates that women are actively restrained and that others (men, capitalism) benefit from their situation.
- Here I use fusion as a synonym for integration, unlike Wilber (1997), who distinguishes the two and defines fusion as less than integration.
- Here I say "inequity" rather than "inequality" to indicate that I mean equal opportunity or equal access rather than equality in the literal sense. Much feminist writing does not distinguish between equality (equal distribution of resources no matter what) and equity (distribution of rewards based on contribution, performance, etc.). Equality is often used as a shorthand term for equal opportunity.
- Contrast this to the liberal assumption, that reasoning and rationality are the distinctly human attributes.
- Although popular opinion is that men are doing more housework, research suggests otherwise. Recent national studies show that on average, working women spend over 33 hours a week on housework compared to 18 hours a week for their partners (Lennon and Rosenfield, 1994; South and Spitze, 1994). Working women continue to be primarily responsible for housework even if a husband is unemployed and even among couples who profess egalitarian, nonsexist values (Newman, 1997: 470).
- There is evidence that women's contributions, especially in the area of fertility, were more valued in prehistorical times. The widespread existence of goddesses, however, does not mean that there was any kind of matriarchy (Stone, 1976; Ann, 1995). Women in general were just less unequal, less subordinated than they were later (Chavetz, 1984).
- Along with the incest taboo in Chodorow and other psychoanalytic accounts, there is a built-in assumption of heterosexuality. The rule about not marrying mother assumes that girls will learn to transfer their love to members of the opposite sex and that boys will replace mother with other females. Other psychoanalytic feminists focus more on how and why bisexual or the "polymorphous perverse" sexuality that we are born with ends up being mostly heterosexual. Since heterosexuality is central to women's and men's psychological development and makeup, there is the suggestion it may go far in explaining inequality. This is the argument of some radical feminists and has been developed in queer theory. Queer theorists have rather convincingly argued that the compulsory heterosexuality part of gender is at the root of women's oppression.
- Some feminists, mainly essentialists, are against the idea of men parenting young children on the grounds that men's aggressive, dominant "natures," not to mention their statistics on incest and sexual abuse, make them unfit for this task.
- This is not just a reductionistic psychological solution--i.e. "If people were just nicer...." KW does emphasize the need for development in consciousness but never excludes or ignores corresponding development in other realms.
- As I write this, the violence in the Balkans increases and the Denver metro area is shocked by what is now referred to as the Columbuine tragedy: two high school boys shot and killed 13 fellow students, a teacher, and themselves. The tragedy underscores the need for both more moral development and a redefinition of masculinity.
- KW's "solution" raises the question of how "translation" in his scheme relates to "transformation." Translation is a change in surface structures, while transformation is a change in deep structure. Deep structures are gender-neutral while surface structures are typically gendered. . "Transcription" describes relations between deep structures and surface structures. Do these distinctions explain why and how so many otherwise "enlightened" men (e.g., Swami Rama, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Swami Muktananda, Richard Baker-Roshi, Trungpa Rinpoche, Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin--all cited in Schwartz (1995)] turn out to be exploitive of others--especially women?
- KW is not saying, of course, that current projects for equality should not continue.