Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Natural Superiority of Women

I have never actually read the book by this title, edited by the famous twentieth-century sociologist Ashley Montagu, but I am going to attempt an evolutionary scientific defense of an idea that may not have even been widely circulating when Montagu published his volume. And that is: neoteny.

Neoteny, broadly defined, is the retention of juvenile characteristics into adulthood. We have all noticed that juvenile animals differ from adult animals in consistent and very noticeable ways. Juvenile animals have big heads and big eyes and are generally smoother than adult animals. While it is difficult to define an exact list of neotenous characteristics, we all know them: the way puppies and kittens and children are different from dogs, cats, and adult humans.

These are precisely the ways in which humans differ from the other apes. Human and chimp babies look more alike than human and chimp adults. As humans grow, our heads (and brains) continue to grow for a much longer time than is the case in chimps. Baby chimps even have relatively flat faces, like humans, rather than the sloping faces of adult chimps. Baby chimps are pretty hairy, like adult chimps, but the relative hairlessness of humans (in which we have as many hairs as chimps, but many of them do not develop) can be considered not just a neotenous but a fetal characteristic that we maintain into adulthood. In addition to this, adult humans usually retain into adulthood the juvenile playfulness and creativity of children. We humans consider ourselves superior to chimps because of our neotenous characteristics.

And these are also some of the ways in which women differ from men. While it cannot easily be demonstrated that women have bigger brains (relative to body size) or are more creative than men, they have many juvenile characteristics such as relative hairlessness and smoothness. The smoothness comes from having more subcutaneous fat than men. Because women make a bigger physical investment into each child than do men, women think more about the future prosperity of their children than do men. Because of this, I believe, women are more likely to find peaceful and constructive solutions to problems than are men, whose first reaction is often violence. I think the world would be a more peaceful and a fairer place if it were run by women.

There are, of course, exceptions, and I am making only a generalization from my own biased point of view. My experiences have convinced me that, in general, women are superior to men. Matter of fact, I don’t see what women see in men. But I’m glad you like us men. To my male friends, I merely say that I’m not referring to you personally.

Yes, women are babes, and that’s why they are superior. Women are superior to men for some of the same reasons that humans are superior to chimps. I am defining superior, of course, from a human-centered viewpoint; all of you crawdads out there, and Klingons, forgive me, but the human viewpoint is the only one I can have.

Someone asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg how many women are enough in the Supreme Court. She said nine. She then explained that when the Court consisted of nine men, nobody thought it strange, but a nine-woman Supreme Court would raise at least a little bit of consternation. Nevertheless, I think that we need to have more input from women in governing our countries and our corporations (and our universities).

It can work. I am a member of the Cherokee tribe, and our traditional government (before about 1800) had women as well as men in leadership councils. Of course women made important decisions in times of peace, but there were a few women, such as my sixth great grandmother Nanyehi, who made important contributions in times of war also. When Attakullakulla, Nanyehi’s uncle, visited England in 1830, he met with the King and Parliament. One of his reactions was, where are the women? How can you ignore the input of half of the population? He might have been more pleased had he met Queen Elizabeth I, but the all-male Parliament would still not have met with his approval. I am squarely with Attakullakulla, and with Nanyehi, on this one. Of course, eventually the Cherokee tribe was vanquished. About 1829, just before being dispossessed from its homeland, the Cherokee tribe adopted a white style of government, modeled after the United States, including restriction of suffrage and offices to men. So the pre-1800 woman-intensive Cherokee system did not work? The only reason it did not work is that the white people—that is, white men—had more guns.

Back in the 1970s, a pollster asked schoolchildren who the worst man and worst woman in history had been. The most common responses were Adolf Hitler and Anita Bryant. You kidding me? In case you don’t remember Anita Bryant, she got to be famous for making anti-gay statements. I am not here to attack or defend Anita Bryant (she is certainly no Hitler); but if she is the worst woman the kids could think of in all of history, that tells you something about the differences between men and women. Islamist jihadists are mostly men, plus some women who have been practically brainwashed by men.

Another famous Cherokee, Will Rogers, said he never met a man he didn’t like. Well, I could introduce him to a few. And a few women, too. But I have truly liked and admired nearly all of the women I have ever met, and most, but not nearly as many, of the men.

Here’s to women! May it be a good year for you!

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