Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Happy Feminist: THE FIRST SEX

The Happy Feminist

I was right. I'm not happy at all with her comments about The First Sex. As an act of fair disclosure, let me admit that I have been doing research related to Davis' work for over 20 years, and have a work about her ideas in progress. Here are the comments l left for The Happy Feminist:

How disappointing to find someone who has read the book and yet bought into the negative press. Davis' work was one of the first of its kind, and I don't think her theories are incorrect at all, particularly the part about the XY being a later mutation, and inherently flawed. Most of the genetic work I see being done lately only confirms that, though they bend over backwards to try and keep men the winners of the genetic lottery. Check out books by male scientists like The Redundant Male and Adam's Curse, and read between the lines. Did you know they've already passed a law in Wisconsin to prohibit parthenogenesis? They're terrified of the day women learn that we can reproduce without men - a fact announced back in 1979 that no one wants to talk about. I'm just waiting for some eager lesbian researcher to announce that the first little girl with two mommies is about to be born. It's entirely possible right now.

The fact that there was an ancient matriarchy has been and is still being deliberately obscured. And yes, I think it is fact - the patriarchy's scientists have to twist themselves into pretzels to ignore the influence of the Goddess in the ancient world. See Athana for more about this.

I consider The First Sex required reading for every feminist, and I challenge everyone who does read it to open their minds and consider the possibilities. That knee jerk reaction you've been indoctrinated to is your best sign that there's more going on there. I'm currently working on a sequel to Davis' book where I incorporate new information and show that she might have been correct, after all. It isn't that hard to do.

I hope that's not too unsupportive - I do want to encourage younger feminist writers, but this is a real sore point for me. Women in this culture are so deeply ingrained with the tendency to dismiss the work of our sisters in order to fit into the male-dominated sciences and academia. Just because you've never heard the theory before, doesn't make it "ridiculous" - it makes it new.

Every new idea is addressed with ridicule from the establishment. Ideas that support the idea of female primacy or supremacy and/or the existence of ancient matriarchies are doubly threatening to a culture that has spent 6,000 years trying to obscure the facts so they can subjugate and exploit women. It infuriates me when a woman participates in the lies. I want to shake her and scream "turn in your ovaries!" - but I know that she's just another victim of a deliberate tradition of brainwashing. If we're ever going to take back our power, we have to do our own research, and have the strength to tell the men to fuck off when they try to ignore the obvious, or make us feel inferior.

Let's talk about some of these ideas quickly - first, the idea that most, if not all, cultures began as matriarchies. We're all fond of that image of the caveman beating his woman into submission - it's even in the comics. It's also bullshit. The female of the species almost always provides the sustenance for any group, animal or human. And I don't believe for a minute that an ancient humanoid creature would find anything as awesome as the process of birth. That alone would create a cult of motherhood and sexuality. It's simply logical, and the earliest excavations of ancient sites always yields a huge majority of female figurines.

Every myth, every artifact, every book, has been through the patriarchal filter - and so have you. It takes work to let go of that conditioning, but it's work that must be done to reclaim our herstory as well as our futures. Learning about herstory - what we've lost, what has been destroyed and obscured and forbidden - is hard. It creates a sense of alienation. It creates a rage that has no antidote. To paraphrase Mary Daly - what forgiveness is there when you understand the true horror of what has been done, and is being done to women in this world.

It takes strength to go against "conventional wisdom." You have to be willing to be called a man-hating dyke even though you love men. You have to be willing to be called a crackpot by your colleagues and friends, any and all of whom may not have your level of education on the subject they're criticizing, and who will swear on a stack of Bibles (ahem) that they have your best interest at heart. You have to deal with writers like Cynthia Eller, who sell out their sisters to sell a few books or to gain acceptance from the establishment that is keeping us down.

We live in a culture where women are grossly underrepresented in Congress. Instead of being outraged by the gender apartheid in this country, we think getting one more woman into Congress is "progress." We think it's ok that in the 21st century, women still make 3/4 what a man makes for the same work, and will never even be considered for most high level jobs. It's bullshit - we're the majority of the population. We should be the ones making policy, not begging for scraps, and the only way that happens is to recognize who we are and always have been.

If I had the power, I'd call for women to stage a general strike. Show the establishment how vital the work we do - even the menial work - really is. We should be marching not just for Peace, but for protection from all violence against women, for equal representation at evey level of government, including the presidency, for equal pay, for an end to poverty, and real human rights for every woman everywhere in this world. No more mutilation. No more exploitation. No more pushing us aside when our needs are inconvenient, unpopular, or unprofitable.

Now, about the idea of parthenogenesis - I believe that the reason virgin births are so important in many religions is that at one time, probably when we were still aquatic apes (yep, I believe that one, too) women reproduced parthenogenetically. Scientists have long wondered why people reproduce sexually at all, because it seems wasteful. In fact, the only advantage to sexual reproduction is that it creates greater variety in the gene pool, which allows quicker adaptation to environmental changes. The only obstacle to it genetically is a process called imprinting, but I'm pretty sure we're within 5 years or so of someone finding out that imprinting is a relatively new and unnecessary process.

In the mean time, in 1979 I saw a news report about a study that was published which found that a human ovum could, when combined with another ovum, either from the same woman, or a different one, could be stimulated to develop into a child. The child would always be female, and a child produced with two cells from the same woman would be genetically identical to the mother. A child produced with cells of two women would be a genetic combination as happens in any birth where cells are provided by two parents. I'll give $100. to anyone who can track this study down and get me a copy. Geneticists are horrified by the prospect of two women reproducing without men, so they quickly dismiss the concept quickly if they address it at all.

What they will admit to, and even write books about, is that the Y Chromosome is full of dead and dying genes, and is doomed to extinction long before the X. Naturally, we're talking about thousands of years here, but it took us longer than that to get where we are so in the grand scheme, it's really not that long. As it is, the existence of a Y chromosome doesn't guarantee maleness. If additional hormones don't bombard (attack? the process has been compared to the way a birth defect happens) the fetus, it will still develop into a female child. The female is Nature's first choice - the default gender, as it were.

"From Her all things proceed and unto Her they must return..."


At 2:01 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

In fact, the only advantage to sexual reproduction is that it creates greater variety in the gene pool, which allows quicker adaptation to environmental changes.

Uh, I would think that this would have been a really important trait once upon a time, and actually, might be critical once again?

At 8:40 PM, Anonymous The Happy Feminist said...

Hi Morgaine -- I finally got into your site after, for some reason, having some technical difficulties. (In fact, I was trying to get into your site before I wrote my piece!) In case you didn't see my responsive comments on my blog, I want to assure you that I did not find your comments "unsupportive" in the least.

I will note that I have never believed Davis's overarching theory to have been disproven -- just that it's not exactly proven yet, or at least that Davis's book isn't conclusive in itself. If I could rewrite my post, I would make that point a little more clear. I certainly found the book incredibly compelling when I read it and, and there is nothing I would like better than to see her proven correct.

Also (and this will probably depress you more), the critique of Davis to which I was exposed in college was actually taught at my very feminist-oriented women's college (Mount Holyoke) by my "Feminist Theologies" professor. I have never been afraid of being called a man-hating dyke (I would probably be rather flattered!). The main point of the post was that regardless of whether Davis is correct or incorrect (and I don't pretend to be an expert), my view of myself and the proper role of women in the world will remain unchanged.

Finally, I would note that one of the strongest aspect of Davis's book is that she exposed patriarchal biases in historical and archaelogical research. She showed that we shouldn't automatically assume that all ancient societies were male dominated. After all, even if Davis's theory isn't yet established conclusively (or at least didn't seem to be, based on my exposure in college 12 years ago), the more common patriarchal version isn't either.

I look forward to exploring your site now that I'm in it!

At 4:33 PM, Blogger The Happy Feminist said...

I wasn't sure how to create a link but I wanted to somehow announce that this post is featured in the Carnival of Feminists at

At 4:05 AM, Blogger Grace said...

Just having lots of female images doesn't necessarily mean the society wasn't patriarchal - look at the magazine rack at the grocery store.

That said, I find the overall portrayal of Cro-Magnon society in, say, the Earth's Children series fairly believable - people haven't quite figured out yet that sex causes babies, and all the men have a kind of vague existential angst about why they exist, and wonder what their balls are for (though I could do without the rampant dick-worship).


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