Towards an Evolutionary Feminism

 

Introduction

Is there a possibility for science to support feminism? You would think that a feminist would say “yes”, but very often they are suspicious of the very idea that evolutionary theory could support it.  I am by temperment a liberal feminist, so I am willing to assume that science does support it. As a seeker of truth, I assume that science must support it, but I do not yet claim that I know it. My current project concerning feminism concerns what it would mean for science to support feminism. Perhaps I will very soon be able to prove my assumptions, but for now I am trying to state my problem clearly and in a way that admits of proof. In this forum I would like to have others criticize or develop my results. This blog post is only the beginning of this process. I will accept input from anyone that will help me out.

Of all the science we have, which is the most relevant?  My primary motivation here is my belief ( defended and explained elsewhere ) that for any ethical or political proposition, all justification must eventually derive from some aspect of the well-founded theory of life-science originated by Darwin. If this cannot be accomplished, then we must admit that it must be false. In my view, it is much more likely to be the case that from a scientific perspective some aspects of feminist theory and practice will be shown to be vitally important and achievable. However others will be seen to be misguided amd counterproductive even from the perspective of feministm. Of course, this should not come as a surprise, because I am sure that a great many feminists (both real and potential) can see a lot of so-called “feminsim” that they can do without. Perhaps the concerned public could use a new perspective in order to further this conversation.

With this in mind, let us adopt a provisional definition of this belief that has very little theoretical baggage: “Feminism is the idea that women are not doormats.” (source?) In other words, women (as people) should be treated as the locus of independent agency, and not as mere property or wards of some male.  We are all of us dependent in many ways and our ability to manifest agency that emerges out of a social context of Recognition (a translation of Hegel’s “Erkennung”). This means that I speak to my daughter as a person with her own destiny and mission in life, and the fulfillment of this mission will give her the respect of others. I am not at all focusing on making her a good bride; rather I am focusing on developing her potential from a wider more universal standpoint of “zoon echon logon“, a person with reason.

Of course, being a respectable woman is slightly different from being a respectable guy, but I treat my daughter as a person who should think about things. Also she should insure that her due consideration about the validity of her own words and her character should make others respect her on a level that is not completely reducible to gender-specific roles. However, I am assuming that how her life plays out will be greatly affected by her gender. This is basically my reading of Aristotle’s gender-theory in his  Politics I. 

I am also very much pro-choice; I hope to make a contribution to this issue in a future blog post. So given all this, I think I have as much claim as anyone to be a feminist, although I am not a stereotypical feminist. Thus I am willing to concede many points often pressed by anti-feminists:

  1. The modern world is different from the premodern.
  2.  Many of these differences have to do with the “relations of production”.
  3. Many of the most important relations of production are gender relations.
  4. People did not evolve to live in the modern world.
  5. Given the above:
    1.  modern ideas are not to be taken dogmatically.
    2.  modern innovations often cause problems.
  6.  Women are somewhat different from men, physically and mentally, slightly moreso than the differences between the races, but much less than the difference between humans and bonobos.

So far so good, but we are not at all as far as endorsing most common sexist assertions. In spite of this, I have to say that my refutation of anti-feminism is not very inspiring or moralistic, which will insure that most feminists will ignore it. Here is how I approach it:

  1. In spite of #6 above, the modern world is here to stay, sexists. Don’t like it? There’s plenty of patriarchy out there to emigrate to.
  2. If you decide to stay in the modern world, get used to it.
  3. Forget about your ex. She is not “The Eternal Feminine”, nor is she Feminism. Having marriage difficulties is just part of the modern world; get used to it.
  4. Let women worry about becoming who they are. If you don’t like how some women are, all you have are the rights of political speech, emigration and the prerogative of sexual selection. By choosing your wife, you are helping to choose the next generation.

These are the true basis of feminism; it has no essential link with postmodernism, socialism, or Wicca. It’s just the way that the modern world affects the “gender relations of production”. Once a man has accepted this, the following tips may help him understand how he fits into a feminist world:

  • Go find a woman you like and forget the rest. Or not. It’s your choice. Difficulties with this are your fault, and it’s not because you haven’t overthrown the government yet. I mean like “your fault”.
  • If you can’t find a decent job, that’s your fault. There’s jobs out there, it’s just that other people got them instead of you and I.

Of course, coming out as a ‘feminist’ does not in any way mean that I accept some other person’s model of ‘feminism’, or even what most feminists think. On the contrary, although I have no idea what percentage of feminists uphold the embarrassing opinions so often alleged of them, I am willing to make this generalization about them: Feminists need to liberate themselves from the Humanities and Social Sciences in order to reconstitute their position on a sound basis. The Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) is wrong enough to make feminism look stupid to many literate in real science (evolutionary theory, economics, etc.), and who perhaps are not aware that the SSSM is not at all necessary part of feminism. Thus, many non-feminists are being misled by many of our more vocal feminists who are not thinking critically.

For example, the whole gender pay-gap argument is sort of evidence for sexism in one sense, but then what about the fact that most of the horrible and dangerous jobs all go to men? Is that sexism as well?  How about male incarceration? And male death rates by violence? Males die by violence MUCH more often than women, so is that cause by “reverse sexism”? No, I’m pretty sure none of this due to reverse sexism, but if you disagree, you have to make much better case for it. But this is true of both ‘men’s right’s theory’ and much feminist theory. Men right’s theory merely takes up much of the mistakes of vulgar feminism and inverts them. They’re both wrong.

The only reason I think feminism can survive thinking critically is because it has other evidence and another conception of sexism that does survive scrutiny. The reason nobody knows this is because of the common misconception that evolutionary theory is not allowed in ethics and politics

Think about it; women should be able to drive, go to school, study any subject, be free from harassment when walking the streets or using public services, control their reproduction, and take almost any job. None of this is based on the SSSM, or refuted by real science. The idea of letting women take almost any job and be free from harassment is radically different from the mistaken idea that 50% of politicians, garbage collectors, soldiers, sewage technicians, CEO’s, criminals, philosophers, or physicists should be women. I hold that given the psychological tendencies of women, few of them will be disposed to choose these jobs, but as a feminist/decent person, I hold that those women who do choose to compete for these roles should not be subject to sexism and discrimination. What’s so hard about that?

But going forward, the best way to proceed with defending or criticizing feminism is with evolutionary theory and economics. There is no other way. If you disagree with me, tell me this: What makes your feminism true? Is it just your feelings about certain things that you dislike? Or it is a form of knowledge that shows that some people are wrong? For me it must be the latter.

Evolutionary Feminism: the Basics

Whatever else feminism might be, one thing that it absolutely MUST be true if it is to be philosophical and scientific is that it has to be self-aware of itself in terms of Darwinian theory. Think about it: feminism is  a set of beliefs about certain living creatures. It’s both factual and normative, since it not only says what should be but explains why some things are as they are. On this view, feminism and any other ethical  or political doctrine is a cooperative survival strategy. For any strategy to be “true” or “good”, it must outcompete the other competing strategies. How do I know this? Just answer this question: how did our current morality come to be as it is? Because it is a strategy that out-competed other possibilities. That’s why murder, rape and slavery are wrong; because human societies who did not feel/behave as if they were wrong went extinct. All current murderers, rapists, slave-owners, et cetera are either going extinct or they are parasitical on normal “decent” society. So, under the assumption that feminism is an adaptive possibility, there are multiple ways to justify it:

Adaptive Feminism

Feminism could be an adaptive strategy that seeks to outcompete  OR enforce a stable truce with any sexist counter-strategies that might seek to extinguish it, either by out-reproducing it genetically or by our arguing or out-propagandizing it culturally. In this view, feminism and sexism (or whatever you call it non-feminism) are two different types of survival strategy. Both of these types of strategy are mutually incompatible and in competition. In traditional times, sexism dominated, but in modern civilization feminism is in approximate competitive equilibrium with patriarchy.  It may be that feminism is gradually overtaking as the Evolutionary Stable Strategy ( ESS ) for humans, or it may be that feminism has had its day and will gradually go extinct. I don’t know about this, but the important thing to see here is feminism as a strategy, not so much of political activism, but of reproduction and the organization of production.

For example, feminism is often explained as the idea that there should be less sexual division of labor. I fail to see why division of labor is oppressive.  I think that sexism is oppressive, but not sexual division of labor per se. Many forms of feminism have no problem with there being different talents and abilities among different types of people when you are talking about different cultures, and I think that sexual differences have the same effect in most cases. I will simply take the horn of this dilemma that accords with evolutionary anthropology and accept that there is a natural sexual division of labor that has gelled over evolutionary time. The difficulty of this issue come from this: traditional ESS does not match our ‘ideal’ modern division of labor. This is due to the Modern Age’s radical changes in the means of production, which in turn have changed the social relations of production, including gender relations. This is the “adaptive feminism” theory; it claims that feminism is an adaptation or perhaps maladaptation.

Superstructural feminism

On the other hand, instead of being an adaptation itself, feminism could also be an epiphenomenon or rather a by-product of an true adaptation. If true, it means that the modern world is defined by a certain psychological structure or by certain conditions in the production of identity such that feminism is a by-product. As such, feminism could be a just part of the Modern Age, and is not adaptive in and of itself.  This could mean that feminists would do better to spend their time promoting progress in general rather than specifically feminist activism. Why? Because sexism and feminism are based on the means of production. Since sexism is epiphenomenal to the means of production, it’s useless to confront it per se; just promote progress in general. This idea is not at all specific to Marxism; the concept of “progress” can also be defined in a classical liberal, centrist liberal, left liberal or even a transhumanist context. A liberal feminist could be motivated to promote general progress through business, politics, science, engineering and philanthropy with the idea that by moving society along sexism will decline over the long term. Feminism can still contribute by defending abortion rights and studying their benefits on crime rates and combating welfare abuse.

At this point I am not attached to either the adaptive or the epiphenomenal theories of feminism; all I am saying is that this is the first question that comes up when you try to defend a scientific feminism. I hope that I or someone who reads this will contribute to answering this question so that we can more on to clarifying exactly what’s wrong with sexism and how to fix it.

Conclusion: Feminism as Science

Whichever of these two options you choose, the ultimate definition of what feminism and patriarchy truly are is not in terms of the feelings and ideas that happen to occur within our heads and hearts, or even the logical principles used to argue for and against it, but in terms of their effects on the inclusive fitness of human populations. Because this is ultimately what any behavior of any animal is, including humans. Everything we do ( even philosophy ) is an adaptive strategy, a by-product of an adaptive strategy, or it’s nothing at all. Feminism is no different.

I know that many of my fellow humans follow the survival strategy whereby we whole-heartedly pursue whatever sort of morality we happen to feel attached to, and that talking about ethics with any scientific attitude is only permissible if we are criticizing our enemies.

That’s not how I roll. I have the same moral feelings of most other people about almost everything. However part of my survival strategy is to try to find problems where a scientific solution has not been tried yet. I try to ignore my feelings because there are things we need to figure out. Ethics is a behavior pattern that evolved. Period. Any ethical theory likewise. Full stop. That’s all they are.

Just as you don’t study sex by having sex, so also you cannot understand morality from within your favorite ethical theory or being led by your strongest moral sentiment (unless it’s intellectual honesty, which is a moral sentiment). Think from first principles! For living creatures, this means evolution.

An implication of the above is: The only way to refute feminism is to show that it cannot out-compete sexism. That’s why every other moral law became a moral law – it outcompeted the alternative.
Why? Because the basic idea that ethical discourse in daily life is merely a form of selection no different from Sexual or Artificial Selection is simple. So simple that surely I have made it clear to those who have ears to hear that that is truly the arkhe of all ethical phenomena. I call it “Ethical Selection”; by recognizing those who are suitable for cooperation and sharing resources, we select in their favor. This is the one and only origin of all of our ethics. Accept this and get over it.

But once this is accepted, what is HARD to explain? Feminism.

It’s easy to see how altruism, care, virtue, love, art, poetry, religion, etc. are the result of evolution. Anyone can see that, so long as they accept evolution as the foundational theory of living systems.

But feminism actually requires some work. I can already see how it might turn out, but in its foundations and its application, but if I could do it, I would consider it to be the most difficult application of the theory, as well as a service to feminist theory. Once my theory, feminist would no longer feel the need to contradict science every time they open their mouths.

Of course, my theory might actually refute some crappy definition of “feminism”. If you are not sticking your neck out for the possibility of being wrong, don’t waste my time. Your so-called “philosophy” is not worthy of the name.

So that explains the focus on feminsim in my posts. Thanks for reading. Comments are welcome, criticism moreso, refutation even more so. Anybody who finds themselves really wanting to refute me would be very appreciated if they could present something which has some real truth behind it.

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