- A transcript from The Hour of Judgment radio series -
Copyright (c) 1995 Kevin Solway & David QuinnGuests:
- Andrea Lanyon - Senior Research Assistant in Sociology at the University of Queensland.
- Leslie Jolly - Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Queensland
Hosts: Kevin Solway & David Quinn
One of the more difficult and unpleasant tasks of the entire radio series involved trying to arrange a couple of feminists to come on to the program and discuss the psychology of the sexes with us. Who would have thought such a seemingly simple project could produce such a convoluted drama! We must have spoken to at least twenty feminists over the preceding few weeks, completely in vain. The most frequent response to our requests was: "Sorry, I'm past that stage now [of discussing the fundamentals of male/female psychology]. I've moved on to other things". I'm not joking. It seems that feminists are now so advanced that the mere effort of understanding reality is beneath them!
All we wanted to do was to investigate the characteristics of masculinity and femininity, and determine the relative value of each, but the women I talked to clearly viewed such a proposal with extreme loathing, possibly placing it on a par with rape.
Of course, many of them were put off by the fact that a program, called The Hour of Judgment, was run by a couple of men. One of them, for example, a Christian feminist, initially expressed some interest in appearing on the program but wouldn't commit herself until she had listened to an episode. She duly tuned in the following Sunday evening, only to promptly phone the station the very next morning and declare her emphatic refusal. When I asked her the reason for this, she replied, "I don't think I would be comfortable on a program like yours. I thought it was going to be a discussion program. You set yourselves up as judge and jury, did you know that? Sorry, but I don't like its adversorial element." After hearing this repeatedly from a number of leading feminists, I began to despair over the possibility that we would never get any women onto the program at all.
Eventually, we resorted to asking a friend of ours, Sue Hindmarsh, for help in finding some feminists for us, and it was due to her patient coaxing skills - namely two hours whispering sweet praises and encouragements on the phone to Andrea Lanyon - which finally got us the breakthrough. (See THE NATURE OF WOMAN and SEXUAL FANTASY for Sue's subsequent appearances in the series.)
Andrea Lanyon arrived at the studio on Sunday with her colleague, Leslie Jolly, and I must confess the very sight of them undid me. I very rarely talk to women in any capacity, let alone concerning something as important as philosophy, and here I was expected to take part in an hour's conversation with, not one, but two of them! And what made it worse was that, while Leslie was older and more dignified, Andrea happened to be one of the most lovely specimens of womanhood I had ever laid eyes upon!
Imagine my turmoil! And it was not lessened when Kevin wandered off to do something else, leaving me with the insurmountable task of entertaining our guests. What was I to do? Engage them in conversation? I asked Andrea what she did at the university, and she said, "I study animy". I asked what animy was, and she said, "Normlessness" . . . Well! I was a blithering mess by this time, I can tell you! Indeed, the one thing which was going through my mind as we trundled off into the recording studio was the hope that Kevin would be able to carry the show for the both of us.
David: Well, we have success at last! After weeks and months of trying fruitlessly to get women to come onto the program, we have tonight, live in the studio, two women prepared to pick up the challenge and look closely with us at the psychology of the sexes. Hello everyone, I'm David Quinn, with me is Kevin Solway, and this is The Hour of Judgment. Now it is obvious that coming to a thorough understanding of human psychology is extremely important if we, as individuals, and as a society, are going to take control of our lives. After all, it is our psychology which drives everything we do. Now, by psychology, I don't necessarily mean what the academics refer to as psychology, but our character, our values, our beliefs, our world views, our attachments. It is these things which literally determine what we become in our lives. And central to any understanding of human psychology, I believe, is the understanding of male and female psychology. Because to me, the sexes are very different to one another. The masculine mentality is entirely different to the feminine mentality . . . or is it? This is the issue we will explore tonight. It is an issue, I might add, which is usually completely avoided in our society. It seems that not many people want to come to grips with what is the masculine and what is the feminine and what it means for society. But tonight we're going to break these taboos and look fearlessly into the whole thing. And we have with us, to help us in this, Andrea Lanyon, who is a senior research assistant at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Queensland, and Leslie Jolly, who is a Lecturer in Anthropology, also at the University of Queensland. Welcome to both of you, and thanks for coming in. And also welcome to Kevin Solway, who is our resident expert, as always.
Kevin: I'm still here.
David: Now, Andrea and Leslie, to start off, would you call yourselves feminists? Is that a term you use to describe yourself, Leslie?
Leslie: It's a term I'd more often hear used about me than I'd be inclined to use myself. It's not very important to me what I label myself, but I guess other people would call me a feminist, yes.
David: So you're uncomfortable with this term?
Leslie: Well, it can mean so many things.
David: What does it mean to you personally?
Leslie: To me, it means an interest in looking at power differentials between men and women, and working, in my working life, to equalize those power differentials.
David: And what about yourself, Andrea?
Andrea: Well, I do say I'm in a similar boat to Leslie, in that I know that lots of people think I'm a feminist. But perhaps I'm a little different to Leslie because I'm quite happy for them to think that I'm a feminist. I'm quite happy with the label. I recognize, as Leslie does, that there are certainly, sometimes, problems with the unified indication of feminism and being a "feminist", but I consider myself a feminist because I'm concerned with equalizing the power differentials between man and woman - particularly in terms of emancipatory politics - from a female perspective.
David: So you take the basic view of all feminists, I imagine - the basic premise that all women have been oppressed over the centuries by men, or the patriarchal system, or whatever you like to call it, and it's only now that this is changing. Is this your basic view?
Andrea: Well, my view is perhaps a little bit different because I know from my scant reading of history that there have certainly been particular instances in humankind's past where women have had perhaps more power in a variety of areas of life than they do today. I'm thinking, in particular, of times in early Celtic existence when Goddess religions were very strong. Women were consulted in terms of important things that were going on in life and in society. So I don't take a blanket approach and say that women have been oppressed in all places at all times. But I think that certainly for me, and for my mother, and for her mother, that's the history from which my knowledge of women's oppression comes from. And it's my concern in redressing those sorts of issues.
Kevin: Perhaps we could have a look at this issue of power. Now, traditionally, power is seen to be a masculine thing. And some women today are claiming that they want power. Do you see this as a masculine trait in women?
Leslie: I think you have to ask power for what?
Kevin: Well, exactly.
Leslie: Just as you can't generalize about oppression in all times and all places, I'd like to add to what Andrea has said, that not only is it historically impossible to say that women have always been oppressed by men, but cross-culturally you can't say that women are oppressed. People have power in context - in social context. Sometimes it's women that have it, and sometimes it's men that have it, and sometimes the power that they have is a different kind of power, used for different ends.
Kevin: Yes, well, in today's society women have a lot of sexual power. I mean, we only have to turn on the television and look at the advertising, or look at the magazines, and it's full of women's sexual power--
Leslie: Just be a bit more explicit. What do you mean by sexual power?
Kevin: Well, literally the power women have over men as regards sex. The power women have to modify men's behaviour.
Leslie: And you think men don't have that over women?
Kevin: Well, I'm not saying that. I'm saying that women today do have a strong sexual power.
Leslie: I think the sexes have a sexual attraction for each other, and we both do things to maximize that attraction.
Andrea: Or minimize it.
Leslie: Or minimize it, as the case may be . . . on occasion.
Kevin: Speaking for myself, I know that I have a very strong desire for power, but that power is more of an intellectual power - it's a power of understanding, a power of knowledge - a knowledge of Ultimate Truth, a knowledge of absolutes. So I suppose some people would regard me to be an extreme egotist, because I want to know everything. I want to know what is ultimately true - what is permanently, absolutely true. I'm not interested in what may be true today and not true tomorrow. For example, science doesn't interest me hardly at all, because it's a temporary sort of knowledge - it's an incomplete knowledge. So this is a certain type of power which men, or some men down through the centuries, have sought for. All the great philosophers, all the great sages that I know of, are men. Not only are they men but they're masculine men. They desire absolutes; they're not interested in relative things.
Leslie: Are we talking Aristotle here, or are we talking Hitler?
Kevin: Well, all of the great men, who have achieved great things - whether they be great bad things or great good things; whatever has been achieved of enormity - has been done by men who value some sort of absolute, who desire some sort of permanence.
David: This is idealism, isn't it.
Kevin: Yes. They're not men of fashion. They're men striving for permanence. So this is a particular kind of power that men strive for, which you see very rarely among women, who have a different sort of power. Perhaps we could examine this issue of masculinity and femininity within the human individual. Have either of you thought about this affair very much?
Andrea: I suppose, Kevin . . . and perhaps we'll have some differences in perspective in relation to what you've said, because one of the things which I think about . . . what you've said . . . my first thought, as a feminist is, yes, there have been a lot of very great male philosophers who have fought for this particular sort of truth - intellectual power. But I also think about the myriad of women who have probably been interested in those sorts of things as well - in terms of looking into the meaning of life, looking into what is ultimate truth and permanent truth, if you want to put it into those terms - but we've not gotten to know about them. So that's one thing that I think about. I don't think in terms of dichotomising between men who have thought about these sorts of things, and women who haven't.
Kevin: Well, I'm wondering whether this is true. Because I know that I find if I meet any person who has a desire for the absolute, for some genuine knowledge - whether they be man or woman - I automatically have a great deal of respect for them, because people like that are so rare. And I think the same thing would be true for all history. If there were women who had these genuine desires . . . and remembering that if the desire is there, the understanding and the result will also be there, because anyone who genuinely seeks this higher knowledge attains to it . . . so if there were women who had genuinely sought this higher knowledge they would have attained to it, and they would have been respected.
Leslie: And so they have! Generations of mothers in the Catholic Church--
Kevin: You're joking, aren't you?
Leslie: No, I'm most definitely not.
Kevin: The Catholic Church . . . ?
Leslie: Any Church. It seems to me that what you're talking about here is something which goes beyond intellectualizing capacity - that if you can attain it without any special intellectual equipment, as you seem to be saying, it gets into the realm of faith.
Kevin: Well, no. Intellectual equipment is definitely necessary for higher knowledge.
Leslie: But you just said desire was enough.
Kevin: Yes, desire for the intellectual understanding is what I mean. There must be a desire to use the intellect. If there's no desire to use the intellect, then nothing's achieved - obviously. I mean, no matter what kind of experience a person might have, no matter what kind of so-called "spiritual experience" they have, if there's no reason there to verify the experience or to interpret the meaning of it, then there's nothing. So intellect is absolutely essential, and it seems to me that this power of intellect is a very very masculine thing. And in the past, when we have seen women who have attempted to follow this intellectual path, there hasn't been any fruits. You don't find the great female philosophers, the great female thinkers, in this realm of the absolute.
Leslie: Wasn't it Hypatia who was stoned to death for being a philosopher? Women have learned not to do these things. Women have learned to use their intellectual capacity for other ends. I would dispute with you the existence of an absolute, single, truth.
Kevin: On what grounds?
Leslie: On the grounds that I see all knowledge as constructed in interaction with other human beings in society, because of the kind of social beings we are.
Kevin: And is this an absolute truth?
Leslie: . . . oh, you've got me there. It depends what you mean by absolute. I think it's a generally true fact about the human species.
Kevin: Yes, but truth is either relative or it's absolute. It's got to be one or the other. If we say it's an absolute truth that all knowledge is relative, well then, we still have an absolute truth.
Leslie: Well, let's argue from that point then. Can you accept that position?
Kevin: Well . . .
David: As a stepping stone.
Kevin: As a stepping stone, yes.
David: It has logical implications.
Leslie: And what are they?
David: Well, if everything is relative, then it means that things can only exist relative to other things. So therefore nothing can really exist in its own right.
Andrea: Well, I'm no philosopher, and I come to this discussion as a sociologist. I haven't read all the great philosophers. So, in that respect, there's a difference in terms of the power, if you like, that exist here, because I just don't have that sort of knowledge. But in terms of talking about things in relativity to one another, and in terms of absolutes, you would be hard-pressed ever to convince me that masculinity and femininity are absolutes. I am absolutely convinced that they are relative.
Leslie: One is relative to the other.
Andrea: Masculinity would not exist without femininity.
Leslie: And perhaps stages in between. In other cultures in the world you don't just have two genders, you might have three or four. These things are performed, rather than being inborn.
Kevin: Masculinity and femininity are just words that we stick on certain types of behaviour. So all people, generally speaking, have both masculine and feminine traits.
Leslie: Oh, well, that's a different argument altogether.
Kevin: Well, this is what I'm really speaking about - masculinity and femininity.
Leslie: I have a very masculine side. It makes me want to get in there and argue!
Kevin: I think you have . . . more than most women.
Leslie: Maybe you don't know many University women.
Kevin: But from my observation - to spice things up a little bit - men have quite a large portion of femininity in them. That's why you find a lot of men who are cross-dressers, and who want to change into women physically.
Leslie: There are lots of men who are exceptionally good mothers.
Kevin: Right, mainly because our mothers were our main role model in our early years of life. I know when I was a very young child, people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I told them I wanted to be a mother . . . because I didn't know anything else. It was the only thing I knew, it was the only thing I felt comfortable with. So men do have a large component of femininity in them . . . also because femininity is very easy and comfortable - it's a comfortable lifestyle.
Leslie: It depends how permanent it is, probably.
Kevin: But women, I would say, only have a very, very small component of masculinity in them. I'd say in the order of one or two percent - maybe a little bit more in some women like Camille Paglia, who would almost make the grade as a man, I think.
Leslie: As an honorary man, she would be pleased.
Kevin: I think she'd be proud of that. I think she sees herself as a bit of a man as well. So both masculinity and femininity do definitely exist, but I like to draw a sharp distinction, for purposes of discussion, between masculinity and femininity. So I say that the idealistic type of striving, whether it be that of Hitler or the Buddha, is masculine - this striving for absolute perfection and permanence - even though it might be in some crude way. And the desire for comfort, and living in the present, acceptance, passivity, the pleasure of just going with the flow, being an observer--
Leslie: I think they're all behaviours that you learn.
Kevin: But I would describe those as feminine behaviour.
Leslie: But you still learn them. And an organism of either biological sex can learn those behaviours.
Andrea: I disagree. I mean, in terms of you saying that this striving, in terms of longer-term effects and having permanence over and above, if that's what you're talking about, and saying that this is a particularly masculine trait - that, if I remember correctly, women only have one to two percent masculine trait . . . I think about mothers, I think about women in the family, who strive, who work really hard, and who are not just living for the present - I mean, they're living for their family, they're living for the future, and striving and battling in ways very similar to this description you provided - and you call this masculinity!
Kevin: Well, this relates to an area you're probably familiar with, and it's the kind of work that women are skilled at.
Leslie: You learn skills.
Kevin: Yes. Now I saw some figures somewhere which show that in very boring - well, I won't call it boring - but in repetitive factory work women have been found to be more productive than men.
Kevin: And I put it to you that the reason is that men, being more idealistic, want to be a football hero or something, and they're not happy to be sitting at the assembly line doing something he regards to be boring.
Leslie: Being less oriented towards the future and providing for the family, they'd rather be on the dole, maybe?
Kevin: Exactly. Something more constructive. But the women, not having these ideals and goals, these grand goals for the future, are satisfied with this kind of work. Now I regard this as inferior behaviour. But, quite rightly, you say that this behaviour is learned.
Andrea: Right, and they may do the work. But they may not be satisfied with the work. I mean, one of the things that I would say to you, as a sociologist, and in relation to the comments you, David, made in introducing the program, is that I don't think that we're taking social structures into account sufficiently, and how they limit one's behaviour, one's character, and one's psychology.
Kevin: Let's look at how these social structures got here. I know for myself that if there are some social structures existing that I personally don't like, then I will go out of my way to knock down those structures. It's one of the purposes of this program to do just that. If there are things happening in society which we don't like, then we change them. That's the way men do things.
Andrea: And that's the way women do things as well!
Leslie: It's surely the way feminists do things.
Andrea: That's right.
Kevin: Let's hope so.
Andrea: I think that's a little negative, because if you look at the sorts of evidence that exist of women striving - of feminists, of people who would not call themselves feminists but perhaps Leslie and I might call them feminists or emancipatory women in history, women who have struggled and strived to get the vote.
Leslie: To do all sorts of things. And apart from that level of activity, there is the domestic everyday tedium level of activity, where I think you see women doing a lot of things, but they don't tend, for various social reasons, to organize themselves. So they're not very much of a force, it seems to me, in most trade unions, for instance. But I've known lots of women in work situations who actually go out of their way to make the changes they see are necessary. If that means doing, right I'll do it now - I don't make a theory about it, I don't go out and make a program about it, I just do it.
David: You were talking, Andrea, about the women in the suffrage movement, for example. Well, I think that to the degree that they're actually striving to change things, that would be masculine. It would be the masculine component in them that is striving and taking responsibility to make changes. But what I see in the feminist movement, generally, this is not the case. It's more like a fashion. And it's very much the case that no woman wants to take responsibility for their actions. As an example, we've been trying to invite women on to this program for a number of weeks, and the general response has been, or the general feeling has been, that, "We're past the idea of discussing the basic issues of men and women. We're past that. We've got other things to do". So when it comes to justifying and thinking about why one does what one does - you know, why become a feminist, why pursue a particular cause - women are reluctant to own up to it, and they pass the buck. This is what I've found personally. Now when I've invited men on to the program to defend, say, why they are Christians or why they're Buddhists, they understand completely what you mean.
Leslie: Did you ask women to answer those questions too?
Leslie: And they come in and talk about that?
David: Occasionally. But concerning the issue of feminism, it's a very wide sweeping movement; it has a lot of effects; it's changing our society and it's affecting everybody's lives, so it's a very important issue. It's bigger than Christianity, for example, in terms of social change--
Andrea: And you know, I absolutely take offence to your statement that it's a fashion. I mean, it's not something I wear as a fashion statement. It's something that I live, as a way of looking at things.
Leslie: We both built our careers on it for one thing.
Kevin: But you can see how men like ourselves can be a bit sceptical, though. Because it's well-known that women are far more suggestible than men are.
Leslie: Who knows this fact?
Kevin: Well, actually this is one of the few things which academic psychology has proven beyond any doubt - through experiments in hypnotism and suggestibility. Women are markedly more suggestible. You can tell groups of people, men and women, completely crazy things; a large number of men will believe it, but a far greater number of women will believe it. I mean, obviously it's the way they've been brought up--
Kevin: We'll discuss how much of it is genetic as well sometime during the program - because genetics has obviously got something to do with it.
Leslie: We're not geneticists either, you should know.
David: But I suppose that by "fashion" I'm talking about something deeper than what you're thinking of, Andrea.
Andrea: It did come across that way, but I was just saying--
David: I must say that I have a very lofty concept of "unfashionable". I mean, someone who is not fashionable has thought out, to the very bottom, these absolutes which were mentioned before. So he's actually thought out his or her position on what is good, and what is true. He has actually come to an individual understanding and reached that ultimate certainty. Now if you haven't reached that then you're prone to fashions. So if women don't value this absolute knowledge, and I meet very few women who do, then how can they not be prone to fashions? How can you not be prone to them if you're not valuing the individual understanding of reality?
Leslie: I think you're talking about a moral code here - that you are congratulating yourself on having attained a moral code which works for you. But suppose five years down the track your circumstances change in such a way that your moral code needs re-examination, as it no longer fits the circumstances - are you able to do that? Or are you too absolute about it? For a feminist would say that this is the down-side of the kinds of qualities which you are labelling "masculine", for want of a better word. They tend to get hide-bound. You not only get your aristocracies, but you also get your Hitlers.
Kevin: Yes, well, my purpose in life the survival of wisdom. So, you see, all my values and my choices pivot on this goal. So whatever I do, I ask myself, "Is this conducive to the survival of wisdom?" And by wisdom I mean a knowledge of Ultimate Truth. So this is not going to change five years down the track, no matter what happens - unless I die or something. I will always have the same values for as long as I live, from now on, and I'll care only about the survival of wisdom. But the more feminine way of looking at life is to say, "Well, what are the forces operating on me in this society? I will adjust myself according to the forces of my family, the forces of my employers, the forces of the expectations of other women--"
David: That's right, you need that strong purpose. If you don't have that strong purpose, then you're--
Leslie: By changed circumstances, I really had in mind global, environmental circumstances. Now the values of the elders that led us to the environmental crisis which the world is in today really need re-examination.
Leslie: They would have held them as absolute truth. There are people in Papua New Guinea who hunt dugong. They have hunted dugong for millennia. They used to go out in little canoes with bamboo harpoons, which is extremely dangerous as the dugong is a big animal, and it's hard to do. They prized especially the female pregnant dugong. Now, environmentally this is terrible, but from the point of view of their society they got more fat, more calorific intake, all that. Along come dinghies, outboards, rifles, and all of a sudden they can take a whole lot more dugong than they could ever take before. People from the environmental agencies go out and try to explain to them that this really isn't such a good idea, and they say, "But look, you white fellows with your Bible, it says here, and you've taught us to believe it as an absolute truth, that God said, 'The fruits of the earth are there for you to take'."
Kevin: Well, I think we could then say that these men, or these masculine values, were a very poor sort of masculine values.
Leslie: Oh, I see, so it's not masculinity that gives them absoluteness.
Kevin: No. In their case, their absolute wasn't a true absolute.
Leslie: But how do we work out what the true absolute is if we're not listening to both sides of the conversation?
Andrea: There has to be a period of growth too. You're talking globally. I'm thinking much more specifically about individual men and women in their daily life, and how they move through their life and grow as people, and grow in wisdom. And I firmly believe, and I don't know what sort of women you've been talking to in your life, David, but I know that a significant majority of the women and men that I associate with are very concerned with attaining wisdom and developing their knowledge and--
David: And is this their conscious goal? Is this what they live for, this attaining of wisdom?
Leslie: They would be very disinclined, perhaps, to express it in those terms, because they have a whole baggage behind them of Christianity and all those sorts of things that many people nowadays don't want to be associated with. But certainly our colleagues, the ones I like and the ones I don't like, I'd have to accuse them all of constantly seeking a better understanding and a better moral order.
Kevin: Well, if a person wants to be well-liked and popular and earn a good income, they seek to have more wisdom, and they seek to appear to desire wisdom. Many people are like that. But to actually desire absolute, ultimate truth, requires one hundred percent devotion of a person's life. It's not an easy thing to do. I'm thinking again of all the great wise men of the past, the great philosophers--
Leslie: Do you know how many hours lecturers at University put into it?
Kevin: Excuses, excuses!
Leslie: It is your whole life!
Kevin: . . . Yes, but University is not what I mean by wisdom. University is like a factory--
Leslie: It has some of those aspects, especially these days.
Kevin: I mean, the knowledge you gain is not absolute. They are theories, hypotheses, history--
Leslie: That's how you arrive at truth.
Andrea: Yes, if you don't develop your knowledge, Kevin, you.
Leslie: It doesn't drop on you out of the sky!
Andrea: This is something we're going to disagree about. You do not come to an absolute by it just coming and hitting you on the head.
Leslie: The Mormons believe that, of course.
David: Well, I believe it actually.
Andrea: You must have met with some forces that I don't yet know about. But certainly in my understanding of the development of knowledge and the movement towards truth, and understanding what is true and what is not, is a developmental, processual one, and done in relation to other people.
David: Yes, well, certainly in the case of University knowledge, and scientific knowledge, and all that sort of stuff, I agree totally. But making a breakthrough into ultimate understanding is something that you arrive at all at once - if you're lucky.
Kevin: It's important to understand that Universities don't deal with absolutes. This is the important question--
David: They don't consciously strive for it, do they.
Kevin: Ultimate truth has no place whatsoever in Universities, in any department. Even in the philosophy department, where if you expected to find anybody who was interested in absolutes it would be there . . . but there's nobody. There's nobody in the philosophy department interested in ultimate truth! Perhaps, you might say, the religious studies department? Maybe someone in the religious studies department is interested in absolute truth? And again you'd be wrong.
Andrea: Well, I just think that we will have to accept that we differ on this point, otherwise the conversation will just stagnate somewhat. Because otherwise we're not going to be able to come from one position in relation to another, because I disagree. Because I have an inkling . . . well, I know what you're trying to say . . .
Kevin: Well, obviously, you must have some concept of what ultimates must be, or absolute truths. What would you conceive to be an absolute truth that would be arrived at through University knowledge?
Andrea: Well, I think an absolute truth - and maybe I'm jumping into a big abyss here - but an absolute truth which I hold to, as a sociologist, is that this whole idea of male psychology and female psychology, the whole idea that there are these innate - and I'm not suggesting you believe this, because I don't quite know yet, because I'm not quite sure where you're coming from - but certainly this innate male and innate female traits, characteristics, behaviour, is just a load of bunkum. It's just totally unfounded.
Kevin: Well, obviously, everything comes from somewhere. Nothing in the universe is actually innate. Everything has causes, doesn't it. This microphone on the table in front of me isn't innately a microphone. Something has made it a microphone, and it's the same with everything in life.
Leslie: Exactly. We're all made men and women.
Kevin: So let's move on to the question of what actually makes men and women, and what kind of role our genetic make-up has. Now I find it interesting that all through time men have had similar interests: war, sport - they're very similar - philosophy, violence--
Leslie: So that's where being a man comes from - war, sport, violence . . . ?
Kevin: In all cultures, men have been interested in these similar things.
Leslie: I don't think you can say that - not for all cultures.
David: At least you could say that for the dominant, successful cultures.
Andrea & Leslie (together): How do you measure success!?
David: Yes, survival, dominance, territory.
Leslie: Well, if you train people to war then that becomes your measure. And yes, you can train people to go out and kill the neighbours. If that's your idea of success, then yes, I have to agree with you, it's masculine.
Kevin: Well, looking at it from a scientific point of view, in evolutionary terms now--
Leslie: Evolutionary terms take into account the reproduction of the species, and there is a very strong argument that in human evolution the driving force was not the male's ability to fight the people next door, it was not the male's ability to go out and hunt big animals, it was the female's ability to pick a mate who would be properly nurturant of her offspring, so that she could raise them. Given her biology, she's not going to have very many and they are going to be widely spaced, and she has to raise them for a long time, through a long childhood. Those are the successful traits of the human species - the nurturant traits, not violent ones.
Kevin: But its interesting that there's a large gap between the other apes on the planet which are alive today - the chimpanzees and so on - and us. And there are no living--
Leslie: There's not that much difference. We share ninety- seven percent of our DNA with the chimps.
Kevin: Still, a few genes difference can make a big difference in the animal.
Leslie: Obviously, though probably less than we think.
Kevin: And the reason why there are no intermediate forms alive today is probably because we jolly well killed them! They may have been competing for our females, or competing for our resources, or whatever the reason, so just for fun we decided to wipe them out.
Leslie: Not for fun, but for survival.
Kevin: Yes, looking at it from evolutionary terms, survival, but from the individual's point of view they may have done it for fun.
Leslie: I don't know how you can speculate on that.
Kevin: And I also have a theory that many women find this trait of behaviour in men, whether they know it consciously or not, attractive.
Leslie: It's a marker of masculinity. As we said at the beginning, we're set up to be attractive to each other.
Kevin: Yes, but not only that. If a man is violent, it means he's a better protector in a way. This was more valid in the past where protection was sometimes necessary--
David: It's a form of nurturing.
Kevin: Yes, it's a form of nurturing. A man was a better carer and protector if he was big, strong, and dangerous.
Leslie: Well, amongst the higher apes, the big, strong, dangerous bloke will sometimes get to be top male because of violence against other males, but the females don't buy into that very much. And the females are looking for mates who aren't going to be violent. When a new top male takes over a baboon troupe he eats the children of the other baboon males, so that he - so the theory goes - passes on his own genes rather than somebody else's. Amongst the apes that doesn't happen, because we can't survive as a species with that degree of violence.
Kevin: Right, but I'm slowly moving towards the reasons why there would be a large genetic difference between men and women
Leslie: I doubt that there is . . . it's just one chromosome.
Kevin: It doesn't matter how few genes are different. I mean, just one gene difference, early on in the development of the human organism, can have very drastic effects on the eventual outcome--
Leslie: You can have red hair instead of black hair; you can have a penis instead of a . . .
Andrea & Leslie (together): . . . vagina!
Kevin: A brain or no brain.
Leslie: Well, no brain hardly makes you viable . . . although in our case . . .
Kevin: One gene can make a big difference. So that argument about the number of genes and chromosomes and so on is not really valid. But the fact is, in ordinary everyday life, men, masculine men, are attracted to feminine women. This is a basic rule of life. That is why when women want to look attractive to men they have the long silky hair--
Leslie: Because we've defined that as female!
Kevin: Well, the men define it as what they find attractive.
Leslie: But you learn what is attractive. It's not in your genes.
Kevin: No, no.
Andrea: I mean, this is such a contentious point. There are men who would find women who have hair like Leslie's . . .
Leslie: Which is very short.
Kevin: Feminine men--
Andrea: These masculine men which you're describing, using currently popular labels and categories . . . I mean, especially now, fashion indicates that women with very short cropped hair are very, very pretty.
Leslie: There can be a number of signals given off by that and you learn those in your particular society. In other societies the men go to immense lengths to make themselves big wigs, and they decorate themselves up, and if you want to be a very masculine, yet very attractive man, you've got to have the big hair.
Andrea: It's socially constructed.
Kevin: I think these are minor things, though.
Andrea: No, they're not minor.
Leslie: You brought it up.
Kevin: No, the basic point is true. There are basic traits of masculinity and femininity. Those people who are strongly masculine in their minds are attracted, sexually and emotionally, to people who are feminine in their minds. So there's a strong selective pressure there.
Leslie: Have you got figures on that? And how have you measured it?
Kevin: Well, it's difficult to measure. That's why they don't study it in Universities.
Leslie: I suggest it's impossible.
Kevin: But in everyday life, you only have to turn on the television and look at the advertising to see how women are portrayed--
Leslie: Advertising, precisely. They're aiming to sell something. They're teaching you what is good and what is desirable in a very overt way.
Kevin: But they're giving people what they want as well.
Leslie: Which was built by yesterday's ads.
Andrea: And going back to your point previously about suggestibility, certainly there are a number of people, both men and women, who, for whatever consternation of social forces, accept these signals and it effects their behaviour in certain sites and certain places. So I firmly believe--
Leslie: The overlap in all those cases, I think, is as significant, if not more significant sometimes, than the differences.
Leslie: You're saying there's an absolute difference, am I right?
Kevin: Well, no. There's an absolute difference between masculinity and femininity as I have described them. And in the case of men having a large degree of masculinity, they are going to seek the opposite of what they are in order to complete themselves.
Kevin: A man, with his masculinity, feels as though he's missing something - he's missing some of the joy and pleasure in life. He is going to seek a person who can fulfil--
Leslie: A person who has learned to live the way you are describing - either masculine or feminine behaviour - certainly is missing things.
Kevin: Okay, now lets look at this selection pressure--
Andrea: Can I just ask something by point of clarification. When you were talking just then about masculine and feminine . . . do you agree, or can you agree, that masculinity as we're discussing it is a social construction, and that in fact, if you think back to previous times, the sort of masculinity that we're talking about now is quite different? What was considered masculine, as opposed to feminine in, for instance, part of English history - and I'm not a historian--
Kevin: Those sort of things are passing fashions. But the basis of masculinity, which is idealism--
David: This is something you've made-up here, Kevin, about what is masculine and what is feminine.
Kevin: Yes, I'm defining this idealistic striving as being masculine, as I stated at the beginning of the program.
Leslie: Which we clearly indicated and disagreed with.
Kevin: Yes . . . and so all other appearances of masculinity--
Leslie: How does violence relate, in your understanding, to the intellectual striving?
Kevin: Well, when a person strives for absolute perfection, and they fall short--
Leslie: Are we talking perfection here, or domination?
Kevin: Same thing.
Leslie: Well, then your striving is in fact violence of its own - it's an intellectual violence. It's an inability to take a negotiator's position.
Kevin: Let's take an example of a person who desires wisdom as opposed to ignorance. He has to destroy all the ignorance in his mind - and that's a form of violence, isn't it?
Leslie: It's a very strange metaphor.
Kevin: Whenever a person wants to achieve something great, something has to die. It may be ignorance--
David: Valuing is violence.
Kevin: Yes, to value something, you devalue something else. If you value truth, then you devalue ignorance. So everything we do is a form of violence. But I want to get back to what I was saying a bit earlier: if masculinity is attracted to femininity, then there is a selection pressure there, not just in social conditioning, but there's also a genetic pressure as well. Because those women, for example, who have, genetically, brains less capable of doing abstract reasoning, will be found to be more attractive--
Leslie: How is this to be expressed, this lack of abstract reasoning capacity? I mean, I think there have been instances where women have this capacity and learn very early in life not to show it. So women are socialized - and it still happens in our high schools today - not to do maths and science, but to do history and languages, because that's more feminine, more suitable. It somehow fits with people's idea of what women should do. But it says nothing about women's innate capacity.
Andrea: And their ability to abstractly reason.
Kevin: That's right. This is a very shady area. It's in the area of empirical science where we can't say to what degree women are determined genetically. But nonetheless there are very strong forces which would suggest that if women were genetically inferior, as regards abstract reasoning, then they would have an evolutionary advantage because they would be more attractive to men. They'd be less threatening, more easily suggestible, better slaves . . . you know, a large number of men find this attractive. Men are attracted to young girls, for example.
Andrea: Men also are attracted to young boys.
Kevin: Exactly, they're suggestible, they're weak, they're--
Leslie: What we're talking about here isn't anything very directly related to genetics. We're talking about the exercise of . . .
Andrea & Leslie (together): Power!
Leslie: Men are built into a structure we call patriarchy, which gives power to some men over other men, and to all men over women. And men seek to perpetuate that power structure. It's got nothing to do with physical, species perpetuation.
Andrea: You have to accept that there are biological differences between men and women, and yes, there may be some genetic differences between men and women. We know that there are hormonal differences between men and women. But from my reading and my understanding and my consideration of this point, that minor difference is not going to be translated into the significant differences which we see in everyday life. Because what is the most important, what is the most powerful factor, in bringing about these configurations of relationships is socialization, social structure, and this issue of patriarchy.
David: Well, okay, I think what Kevin is saying is that, looking at evolution from the broad perspective, we evolved in a tribal unit, and within this tribal unit the men evolved to do the defending and hunting. So this caused him to be genetically--
Leslie: That isn't true.
David: But you can see the effects, at least in our culture, that the men are generally stronger, physically stronger, and--
Kevin: More prone to take risks.
Andrea & Leslie (together): Risk behaviour is learned behaviour!
Kevin: You don't know that. It could be hormonal. Men may get more of a buzz out of taking risks.
Andrea: It's learned behaviour.
Leslie: Getting the buzz is going to be because the guys are going to think I'm really great, or whatever. It's learned behaviour.
David: Even if it is genetic, a few years down the track we'll be able to change our genetics any way we want to. So if we wanted to eliminate certain traits, we could do that if we wanted to. So this whole idea of genetics doesn't mean--
Leslie: Who do you mean when you say "we"? The question there is, who has the power to make the changes? And under patriarchy it's going to be men. What changes are they going to make? We see in America moves to implant foetuses in men's abdomens so that they can become mothers and things like that. What kinds of genetic changes are we looking at, and what do we want our society to look like down the track?
Andrea: And I think, too, positing feminism as male-bashing is a problem, because a lot of the feminists I know are not male- bashers. What their goal is is an emancipatory politics for women, and further on than that - thinking about what sort of world is going to be good for everybody - for men and for women. Right? And that follows on from this concern about genetics--
David: But if you haven't consciously thought out what kind of world . . . I'm not sure that feminism knows what it ultimately wants, you know.
Kevin: Feminism doesn't really even know what it is.
Leslie: Well, that's one of these cases where you can't use the label feminism. Who do you mean "doesn't know what they want"? I do!
David: Well, women who believe in this "oppression" and "patriarchy" - that they've been oppressed by patriarchy. You were saying before about the patriarchy, and all that sort of stuff. I don't really go along with that because there's different spheres of power, and women have their own power. They have a certain power over men. It's more emotional and sexual, whereas with men it's more direct - it's more physical and intellectual. So there are different spheres of power.
Andrea: We would be the first to recognize that there are certain different spheres of power. We would also be the first to recognize that women have power in different sorts of situations. I mean, we began talking in those very terms. When I, for instance, talk about masculinity, I talk about hegemonic masculinity - what is the dominant form of masculinity at this point in time. Recognising that there are different forms of masculinity competing for that dominance, and different forms of femininity - there's a hegemonic femininity as well - you have that diversity. But, when you look at, broadly, the situation in Australia, America, and Europe, when you look at the people who are in positions of power, in terms of making significant input into making changes in structures which affect daily life, men are in most positions, and currently very much . . . I mean, you just have to look at the recent Labour politics and all that's going on there, and their supposed commitment--
David: You mean quotas and all that sort of thing?
Andrea: Yes, that's right.
Leslie: Which they will never, ever honour. Because it's not in their interests to honour them.
David: Well, you're dealing with politics there, which is a whole different kettle of fish, isn't it.
Andrea: It's all part of it, though.
David: Yes, but going years down the track . . . What sort of world do we want? Now, ultimately, I am for women's liberation. There's no doubt about it. I want women to be totally liberated. But my concept of liberation is different from that of a lot of women. I see liberation as being liberation from false concepts, liberation from false attachments, liberation from--
David: Yes, ignorance. But I don't see this in feminism. And I don't see anything in feminism that wants anything to do with being liberated.
Kevin: Or with ultimate truth and ultimate knowledge.
Leslie: I really would have to disagree very, very strongly. We're arguing here about what we understand knowledge and truth to be--
Kevin: Well, this is a good point. You were saying before, Andrea, how feminists are not necessarily anti-male . . .
Kevin: But you have to look at that from the point of view of the male - as to whether the feminists are anti-male or not. I mean, I myself value what I call masculine values, which is idealism and striving for absolute perfection--
Leslie: What I call domination.
Kevin: Yes, I'm quite happy with the word "domination", but in my sense of the meaning it's domination over ignorance. I want to dominate over my weaknesses. I don't want to have weaknesses at all! So that's a kind of ultimate domination - I want to destroy them completely.
Leslie: But it isn't human to not have weaknesses at all.
Kevin: I believe in evolution. I want to evolve into a superior form of human being.
Leslie: It doesn't happen in one lifetime.
Kevin: Well, this is the only one I've got, so it'll have to do. But I'm thinking these are the things I value - masculinity is what I value above all. And whenever men fail in the world it's because of their inadequacy, their failings of being masculine - they're not masculine enough, they're not strong enough to cope with what's dealt them. And when I look at feminism - even the strongest feminists: the Camille Paglias, the Germaine Greers, the Celia Greens, who I consider to be the most advanced feminists - they are doing nothing to help me, and in fact are actually destroying the things that I believe in and the things that I uphold. So feminism is most definitely destroying what I believe in, and is destructive to masculinity.
Leslie: You're equating yourself with the whole of masculinity?
Kevin: Yes I am.
Andrea: And therein lies part of the problem, I think. But certainly I think that feminism, and I don't know about yourself, but certainly feminism has to be deconstructive. There may have been some side-effects of feminist approaches which have not been anticipated, and which we would admit are perhaps negative in some respects. But there has to be a deconstruction of what is inappropriate, of what perpetuates inequality and injustice. And feminists have chosen to begin with women because nobody else has given a damn about them for a very long time. And they are learning to stand up for themselves. So that's one point. The next point is that I would disagree with you, David, about feminism's lack of clarity in terms of where it's going. There are, I think, getting back to my point about developing knowledge and all that sort of thing - that it's processual - certainly we must go through a period of trying to work out what is the best way to go. But definitely our goal is a better society, and a better existence, a better understanding of ourselves and one another, for both men and women. Would you agree?
Leslie: I agree, absolutely.
David: Well, it sounds good. We agree with that too.
Leslie: You were feminists and you never knew it!
Kevin: Well, I've always known I'm a feminist but when I tell women that they laugh in my face.
David: Well, we're going to finish-up, I suppose. It's getting on time. Thanks Andrea and Leslie,
Leslie: Thank you.
David: And Kevin and I will be back next week. See you later.
Andrea: Thank you very much.