Women, Men, Commitment, Love and Future
June 23, 2008
"The whole theory of the universe
is directed unerringly to one single
individual- namely to you."
Many anthropologists believe that the matriarchal society was never a female-dominated society; and only the patriarchal society has experienced gender-domination; and thus patriarchy is a male-dominated society. Of course other scenarios have also been proposed about the way patriarchy has come into being. But regardless of how we evaluate the inception of patriarchy, we know that it has been with us for thousands of years.
Also we know that in primitive pre-patriarchal societies, the male characteristics were highly respected and the research of the poet/author Robert Bly has shown a lot of this positive masculine energy which is separate from male-domination and is a very healthy power, just like the feminine characteristics that are not necessarily synonymous with female-domination.
The most major change in male-female relationship happened around the end of Middle Ages, in the chivalry era, about 400 years ago in Europe, when love was introduced as a basis for marriage. Literary works such as Don Quixote of Cervantes are examples where one can see such new concepts exemplified. It does not mean that male/female love relationship did not exist before that era. As we all know romantic works such as Lily va Majnun, Khosro va Shirin, Veys-o-Ramin, Romeo and Juliet are abundant in pre-Modern literature. But in none of the above works, one would see love as a requirement for a lasting relationship.
In traditional society, marriage was done out of *will* for living with the other. And love would later develop or not develop. But in the modern society, the love was to become a requirement prior to the *will* to marry. But still the *will* was needed, or else no love would consummate in a lasting relationship (See Eric Fromm, The Art of Loving, 1956). Also still traditional marriage could exist considering the chance that love could develop later. But the force element would be excluded and therefore if in a traditional marriage, love did not develop, there was a much higher chance for divorce in the modern times.
In the last 200 years a new change happened in the male-female relationship. This new change was mainly through two major movements, namely socialist and feminist movements. In my opinion both these movements started, peaked and finished in this period. I do not want to detail their history and their positive and negative aspects. I do not want to discuss the remnants of them either. There are many leftist, feminist, and new age political and ideological groups and cults all over the world at this time, but I have no interest in reviewing any of them. For me just like Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha'i Faith and other religions, I can learn from their achievements without needing to be a Hindu, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Jew, Christian, Muslim, or Baha'i. Below I just want to show what these movements have achieved. Actually as far as the women rights of suffrage (voting) and wages and salaries and maternity rights are concerned, I will not be discussing much in this article. My focus will be interpersonal and love relations.
But before I discuss the achievements of the past, I need to note that beside the social and political movements, the industrial revolution and changes that occurred in the production, made the most major impact on the status of women in the modern world. An excellent review of this process was done by Joan Wallach Scott in the Scientific American magazine of September 1982 entitled "The Mechanization of Women's Work". The review shows that the jobs created for women in the industrial sector of economy always kept women in low pay and in occupational segregation and that is still true in the industrial sector of the economy.
But what is currently happening in the post-industrial economies is that most positions that are being generated in these new sectors are more in line with the skills that traditionally were synonymous with feminine abilities. For example, in ALL post-industrial economies a new group of services are growing. Women being much stronger than men in these areas are taking the lead in most job categories of these new sectors of post-industrial economies. There is a *big misunderstanding* about these *new* services. Let me quote Daniel Bell on what I mean:
"...Let me point out that 'services' can be misleading in the way people think of them. They're not simply McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, all of which are a kind of fast food notion of service. Services today are basically human services and professional services. Health, education and social services, which expand the range of what a population can do. Expanding its longevity, expanding its skills. And those are the dimensions of a post-industrial society in its emphasis on service"
(Daniel Bell, "The Break Down of Time, Space and Society", Framtider, Vol3, 1993, Sweden).
Therefore, it is obvious that women are the ones who possess better human and professional service skills and they are increasingly taking the lead in the post-industrial sector of economy. This is a major difference in the economic sense between how women are liberating in the post-industrial economies as compared to how they were trying to liberate themselves in the industrial age.
Now let's discuss the achievements of the past movements as far as the interpersonal relations are concerned. In fact I think being a feminist or a socialist or being against feminism and socialism is not really a worthwhile issue to discuss nowadays. It is just like the Shi’a and Sunni fight. It is all over. The *point* is the achievements of those days. If the American women stood up for Bread and Roses, today we need to see what crystallized as the roses and learn from it and move on. The woman contributors are contributing just like the men, only they are more conscious of their past, just like an Iranian and an American when contributing to world peace, they no longer need to act as nationalists, although the Iranian knows more about Iran and the American knows more about the U.S., and cosmopolitanism makes more sense than nationalism.
One giant lesson of the woman rights movement was that the relationship of the men and women can no longer be based on force, whether condign, compensatory, or traditional/organizational force. The new relationships demand to be out of choice rather than out of pressure. Even the traditional marriage relationships more and more demanding the same thing.
This is why in countries like Iran, there was a demand for such rules, which were finally crystallized in the ghanoon hemayat-e Khanevadeh during the Shah's Enghelab-e Sefid. Whether that was a pseudo-law or not is not my issue here. I am just talking about the society demanding such rights that would make the state to provide it or at least pretend to provide it.
The traditional relationships could not continue the same as before and modifications were demanded especially by women. In the West, the struggle for women's rights was simultaneous with the popularization of psychological theories such as Freud, Jung, Maslow, Rogers, Horney and others, which emphasized human potentials. The result was unbridled relationships and a big disorder from late 60s to late 70s.
The traditional marriage was attacked from all sides. Some even thought marriage and family itself are the root cause of all interpersonal problems and took on destroying the family. The industrialization was already putting a lot of pressure on the family unit too and these anarchic tendencies also helped the destruction further. Many boys that were brought up in the feminist families started to show an opposite problem. A lack of virility and masculine characteristics which became alarming and was simultaneous with suicide and nervous breakdowns.
So attention to the needs of the male was incidentally pioneered by some feminists themselves, and in time, people like Robert Bly started to do more serious work in this area drawing on the traditions of pre-patriarchal societies, such as the Native American Indians and Aboriginal families. Also the *new commitment* started to take shape.
Many of the old thinkers started to focus on the need for new family relationships and commitment. But this time, *commitment out of choice* rather than *commitment out of force*. In negating the latter, many of the Human Potential advocates had negated commitment all together and had dumped the baby with the bath water. But now the new thinkers started to correct the situation. (for a good review of this topic read New Rules of Self-fulfillment in a World Turned Upside Down by Daniel Yankelovich.
But the new commitment was built on the achievements of the old woman right movements. The works of some authors such as George Bach found a lot of following. He had worked for 40 years on the fighting between couples and had advocated that his solution could be used between nations to end all wars. He called the couples "Intimate Enemy". He said fighting and expression of anger are not only good and healthy but the energy can be used for a better life. He showed how avoiding to express anger can lead to suicide or murder by the victim. So he tried to show the rules of fighting as if it was a new game like soccer. The word game is not appropriate because in the modern literature, playing games means trying to avoid real problems by making pseudo-games. But the comparison with soccer, to set up new rules to fight fairly, may be a good analogy to show George Bach's approach in works such as Creative Aggression, Intimate Enemy, Stop Driving Me Crazy, and others.
George Bach showed the rules of fair fighting. His rules were observing *optimal distance*, avoiding "gunnysacking", listening skills, methods to ensure correct understanding and dialogue, realizing the danger of mistaking expectation for reality, and finally understanding yourself and your partner. Once one of these people told me, no matter how good of the skills you develop, if you put a rock and a glass in the same room, your chances to break something is very high. So it is important that people know themselves and the other before entering a relationship. So intimacy was not just learning skills to behave better with a partner, it was learning skills to find the right match. This is what George Bach addressed in his book called *Pairing* for the people who are *not* married, and are thinking about a lasting relationship.
Later on these findings were extended to children and children rights. Pioneers such as Dr. Haim Ginott did very extensive research in this area that were much more accessible and down-to-earth than Piaget's works. Some authors such as Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish used these interpersonal skills development and wrote How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & How To Listen So Kids Will Talks. They expanded the above findings to children communication. They showed how to help children to express anger from childhood.
Other pioneers such as Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward in their Born to Win expressed a different model for interpersonal communication. They said that humans communicate as *parents*, *adults*, and *kids*. They said we all have all three in us and if one is trying to be a kid today, the partner needs to be able to relate as a parent. They said *adults* need to be mostly in the second plane, but it does not mean that they will be able to completely wipe out the other two modes of their existence, and they need to learn to come to terms with all three planes.
Authors such as the Christian author John Powell showed the value of unconditional *love* in many types of relationships in his book The Secret Of Staying In Love and in his other works. Anne Morrow Lindbergh in her Gift from the Sea showed how important *respect* between partners can become of value, the more the couple move from the first passions of a relationship. She was not saying the passion would die, but she was saying the lack of *mutual respect* can kill the love even if the passion is rekindled. She showed how important it is for couples to keep their own space and not step over each other.
Some authors such as Leslie Cameron-Bandler started investigating emotions. She worked with Richard Bandler, the founder of NLP and author of Frogs into Princes. As I have said before, I know about lot of allegations about them, and I am just looking at them as scientists here, that in my opinion, they have explained the communications of people with visual, audio, or kinesthetic inclinations better than any other school of pshychology.
In her book The Emotional Hostage, she shows how family, cultural, linguistic, and personal dimensions come into play in expressing emotions. For example in a language like Persian, there are not that many words to distinguish *frustration*, *resentment*, *boredom*, etc. Also some cultures have easier time to express anger or sadness or happiness. For example, Western cultures in comparison to Iranian culture have a harder time to express sadness, but have easier time to express happiness. But they both have a hard time to express anger.
Authors such as Robert Alberti and M.L. Emmons in their Your Perfect Right showed how some Indian cultures have an easy time to express anger and why. Also some people like Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman started criticizing the psychological and new age cults such as EST and Scientology and religious cults such as Jesus Freaks in their work entitled Snapping, (see Cults), which showed how some people to free themselves of the cultural, family, and personal emotional chains, had taken refuge in these cults.
Finally a new form of romance developed. Works such as Dan Millman's Way of the Peaceful Warrior or Richard Bach's The Bridge Across Forever were love stories between a man and a woman, who were conscious about who they are, and were truthful to what they were, and they did love each other for what they really were, rather than for the image of what the other side was fantasized to be. Even some modern movies such as Children of a Lesser God were made to show how positive it is, to come to terms with one's true emotions. They showed the expressions of truthful self and anger. In contrast, the old movies, such as Gas Light, showed how one could be driven crazy by remaining out of touch with reality.
Some authors even used cartoon characters to show what it means to be comfortable with oneself and have a genuine relationship. For example, Bejamin Hoff in his Tao of Pooh achieves this goal, a very light entertaining book, and yet full of words of wisdom.
The women contributed the most to our understanding of ourselves in the Modern Times. I do not support any ideology that is based on preference of one gender. But I think emphasizing a female perspective, was a path which helped the advancements, that humanity needed, to go from forced commitments, to voluntary commitments. It is easy to observe it at the end of the road; but it was a very painful road, which was marked by women who asked for bread and roses, on that 8th of March. Their aspirations are now crystallized in our lives decades later. And even that more in the West when other parts of the world still have many miles to go.
It is now love, loyalty, faithfulness, contempt for deceit, that many share in their commitments and marriage, thanks to the great achievements of the past. You may not see people on the streets chanting "Bread and Roses" slogans that often, but many live a life which is the crystallization of those ideals, lives that are more fulfilling. It is neither a commitment out of force, nor the other side of the coin, the destructive anarchy and lack of commitment. It is commitment out of choice, but definitely a commitment.
There were many women organizations in Iran, from the time of Mashrootiat that did exemplary work. The Jamiat-e NesvAn-e Rasht after Mashrootiat, and many women organizations in the 1320-1332 period. Unfortunately the modern post-industrial developments, and the concepts of new commitment have mostly not reached Iran yet.
It is either the forceful bond or anarchy for most of our youth. Many good qualities like love, loyalty, sincerity, honesty, faithfulness, and truthfulness are dropped as a way to denounce the forceful relations. It is perhaps inevitable. After all, it took at least 2 to 3 decades for the West to come to terms with the New Commitments, and even in the West, this is just beginning to solidify.
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