Your work supports the patriarchy!?!

I had been invited to attend a meeting of academics at Nottingham University. I do not to consider myself an academic, but because the subject of the meeting was going to include a discussion about including men in the their partners pregnancy I chose to attend.

The gathering was very engaging indeed and I was enjoying it very much, that was until I released that the presentation that was about to start included a report of some research that had been conducted using a textual criticism methodology. No problem there, very interesting in fact, except for the fact that my book Men, Love & Birth was one of the books included in the study.

It was in the midst of this presentation that the Professor speaking suggested that my work supported and reinforced the patriarchy! She went on to say that ultimately it would lead to more stereo-typing of the relationships between men and women.

At first I to felt very defensive and my responses almost certainly gave away my insecurity when answering these valid questions. Now, having had some time to think through the issues she raised I do see things very differently. It’s not that I know the Truth, far from it. But I have explored what some evolutionary biologists suggest is how the human animal has developed over multiple thousands of years as woman and man.

Yuval Noah Harari in his mind blowing book Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind, pulls together the work of many evolutionary biologists and comes to some staggering conclusions regarding how the human animal has arrived at this point in history.

I wasn’t really aware until I read his book that at some period in our history there were in fact 6 species of human being on the planet at the same time! I was taught the evolution of humankind at school many years ago and I remember seeing those pictures of the evolving human being. You probably know the ones?

I think I can be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that one species died out before the other established itself upon the earth. Even though as I began to think about it, that makes no sense at all.

Yuval makes the observation from his research that these 6 species of human being lived in small tribes dotted about the globe. Having little or no contact with each other and almost no impact on their evolving eco system. He goes on to explore what might have happened that led to the explosion of growth that we homo sapiens appear to have experienced, which has ultimately led to the extinction of all our cousins and the world we now live in.

The brain is made of three main parts: the forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain. The forebrain consists of the cerebrum, thalamus, and hypothalamus (part of the limbic system). The midbrain consists of the tectum and tegmentum. The hindbrain is made of the cerebellum, pons and medulla.

We probably all know that our brain has evolved over an enormous period of time and that all it’s segments or parts have some what different ages. Homo Sapiens began to develop a neocortex or forebrain around 200,000 years ago and this lead ultimately to the ability to communicate using symbols, sounds and eventually language (interestingly some evolutionary biologists date the arrival of language as a mere 20,000 years ago).

Before the gift of language, that self-reflective skill we now have of being able to think about thinking, we were just another species of mammal doing our best to survive in a hostile environment, largely responding from instinct to the world around us. As we developed the ability to chat about our world and experience we became good at creating stories and narratives that gave meaning to our lives as individuals and tribes. We were now able to invent things, or rather concepts, that have no physical characteristics. In fact, you might say that they didn’t exist in one sense, although the stories that we told ourselves and each other would go on to transform our world.

When people say to me now that I am doing and teaching stuff that is reinforcing the patriarchy, I don’t react with as much defensiveness as I did on that fateful day (there is still some feelings of insecurity that come up to be honest, but hey, I’m only human). Instead I am reminded of Yuval Noah Harari’s work and I remind myself that the patriarchy, like the matriarchy are narratives, very powerful stories that add meaning to our lives for sure, but do not change our foundational evolutionary biological structures. We are still just female and male homo sapiens doing our best to survive together. The difference in our outward ways of behaving have been in development for millions of years.

I shot a short video the day after that meeting in Nottingham. I warn you, the video is very raw in more than one way! I have not edited it in all. Watching it back I think it of reflects how I was feeling at the time very raw indeed.