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Dominant_sex_A Study in the Sociology of Sex Differentiation

Dominant_sex_A Study in the Sociology of Sex Differentiation

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Published by: lelstress on Jan 16, 2010
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THE DOMINANT SEX
 A Study in The Sociology of Sex Differentiation
BYMATHILDE AND MATHIAS VAERTING
Translated from the German by
EDEN AND CEDAR PAUL
TRANSLATORS' FOREWORD
The authors of 
The Dominant Sex
contemplate a refunding (Neubegründung) of the comparative psychology of the sexes. The present volume is the initial contribution to that work; it is intended todemolish the old edifice, and in part to clear the ground for the new construction. Literallytranslated, the original title runs: "Feminine Peculiarities in the Men's State, and MasculinePeculiarities in the Women's State." The fundamental theory of the book is that what we call"masculine" qualities to-day are merely the qualities of a dominant sex; and that what we call"feminine" qualities are merely the qualities of a subordinate sex. Novel-readers may remember thatthe theory was foreshadowed forty years ago in Walter Besant's amusing anti-feminist squib,
The Revolt of Man
. In the present study we have a work as readable as any novel in which knowledge of the psychological and sociological effects of sex dominance is placed upon a scientific basis. Onlywhen full allowance has been made for these effects, will it be possible to ascertain the residue of masculine and feminine character traits which are indisputably congenital. The authors have provedthat much of what we lightly class as "masculinity" and "femininity" is not congenital, but isreacquired from generation to generation.There are two other main lines of contemporary research into the problems of the comparative psychology of the sexes. One of these is by way of direct biological study. Excision andtransplantation experiments with the reproductive glands furnish justification for the traditional belief that there really are such things as essential masculinity and essential femininity. But thesesame experiments have also confirmed Otto Weininger's brilliant hypothesis in
Sex and Character 
,that what we call "man" and "woman" are only rough-and-ready terms for the preponderance of male and female elements, both of which are present in varying proportions in every individual. Now the Vaertings' study of the effect of the prevailing type of sex domination upon the mind of theobserver, shows that the investigator cannot make due allowance for the bias thus engendered in hismind until he has grasped the full import of the principle they have brought to light. Almost all whointerpret such experiments as those of Steinach and Voronoff are still unconsciously influenced bythe preconceptions derived from the prevalent dominance of men.The second main line of recent research into the psychology of sex differentiation has been thatfurnished by psychoanalysis -- by the direct study of unconscious mentation in ourselves and our contemporaries, and by the application of psychoanalytical theory in the imaginative reconstructionof prehistoric society (as in Freud's
Totem and Taboo
, and Kolnai's
 Psychoanalysis and Sociology
).But here, likewise, inferences are vitiated by the "Men's-State complex" of the psychoanalysts,whether these be men or women. From one point of view
The Dominant Sex
is itself a
 
 psychoanalytical study, for it shows how largely our judgments concerning sex differentiation areunconsciously influenced by the affects dependent upon the extant type of sex dominion, and howhistorians have tended under the influence of these affects to "censor" the evidence of an antecedenttype of society wherein women were the dominant sex. Here also the arguments will have to bereconsidered, the conclusions restated, when we have learned to make allowance for the tyrannywhich the extant Men's-State ideology, complex, or bias, exercises over all our thinking.We do not wish to imply that no one before the Vaertings has ever been aware of the existence of the bias to which we refer. There are, for instance, reiterated allusions to it in the writings of womenrebels against male dominion, from the days of Mary Wollstonecraft's
Vindication
onwards.Havelock Ellis writes to us in a private letter: "The fallacy in sexual comparisons is fairly familiar -the difficulty is to eliminate it. It has been acutely present to my mind for nearly forty years; and Ihave always attached importance to control observations, when possible, on other species in whichthere was no reason to suppose one sex dominant." But the Vaertings are the first to attempt theelucidation of the matter in all its bearings, as the outcome of a detailed historical and sociologicalstudy.The evidence for the widespread existence of a feminine dominance, the obverse of themasculine dominance with which we are all familiar, is scattered broadcast throughout thesucceeding pages, and throughout those of the numerous works to which the authors refer. There isno need to summarise it in this foreword. Students of sociology are acquainted with Bachofen'stheory of matriarchy; and those who cannot read German have access, at any rate, to summaryexpositions of the theories of the author of 
 Das Mutterrecht 
. Such original English (or American) books as Westermarck's
 Human Marriage
and Lewis Morgan's
 Ancient Society
have done much to popularise the conception of matriarchy -- and psychoanalytical reconstructions of the patriarchal primitive horde cannot shuffle out of the world the abundant evidence of primitive matriarchy. Butthe Vaertings, when they write of the dominance of women, mean something different fromBachofen's matriarchy. The long-continued dominance of women in ancient Egyptian society, for instance, was no mere "mother-right"; any more than the dominance of men in HohenzollernPrussia was a mere expansion of the powers of the "old man" in the patriarchal horde. That is whythe translators have seldom used the terms matriarchy and patriarchy; and for this and other reasonsthey have passed over Bachofen's terms "androcracy" and "gynecocracy" in favour of Anglo-Saxonequivalents with somewhat different implications. We speak of the "Men's State" and the "Women'sState," to denote social conditions in which men and women are respectively dominant. For theadjectival forms androcratic and gynecocratic, and for similar locutions, we generally use "Men's-State" and "Women's-State," with a hyphen to indicate that the significance is adjectival. In thismatter, no less, we have had the advantage of consultation with Havelock Ellis (through whoseinstrumentality the Vaertings' book was first brought to our notice). He writes: "The `-cracy'terminology is certainly correct and accepted; but it is ugly, pedantic, and no doubt, to many,obscure. I think you are quite justified in sticking to your own terms."In fine, then, the Vaertings' theory is that the Men's State tends to produce "manly men," and"womanly women." On the other hand, the Women's State tends to produce "manly women" and"womanly men." That is to say, the women of the Women's State are "mannish," from the Men's-State outlook; and, from the same outlook, the men of the Women's State are "womanish." In other words, the main content of these terms, ostensibly denoting a biological sex differentiation, is anexpression of the attributes referable to the prevailing type of sexual dominance. Under monosexualdominance, the ideology imposed by the nature of the sexuo-social environment modifies all our  judgments in such matters. Nay more, that ideology distorts our perceptive faculties, andsophisticates our reasoning, so that history, art, and science, are subtly falsified by the bias of the
 
dominant sex. There are individuals who can escape that bias, even under monosexual dominance.But, in the mass, the ideology of the dominant sex will be prepotent until sex equality is achieved.Meanwhile, the influence of the Men's State is unceasingly at work. As Evelyn Sharp wroterecently in the
 Daily Herald 
(September 5, 1922 -- article on "Sex Equality") : "The perpetualinsistence on the limitation of women's interests has resulted in her artificial specialisation in suchinterests. But this is a reactionary and not a progressive tendency, and one that hinders the solutionof many problems that will only be solved when they are approached, not as women's, but as humanquestions. It is also a tendency that hinders the emancipation of women. For, after all, woman'semancipation simply means her recognition as a human being."Evelyn Sharp, it will be seen, like Mary Wollstonecraft, Havelock Ellis, and many another, is aforerunner in respect of a portion of the Vaertings' great generalisation. But this does not detractfrom the latter's originality, which consists in the vast scope of their scientific synthesis, in thewidth of the implications of their theory of the dominant sex. Darwin, Marx, and Freud -- all hadforerunners.Marx showed that history could not be made intelligible without the clue afforded by therecognition of the class struggle; he pointed out that historiographers in general were, and could not but be, under the spell of the ideology of the master class. History had to be rewritten -- for the most part still has to be rewritten -- by persons whose master-class bias has been readjusted. In likemanner the Vaertings contend that history is perennially falsified by the prepotent ideology of thedominant sex. Nor is it history alone that has to be rewritten from an equalitarian outlook in sexualmatters. The readjustment is quite as essential in respect of the inferences most recently drawn inthe fields of sociology and psychology. These two sciences, likewise, must be "refounded" upon asex-equalitarian basis. Blow follows blow with disconcerting speed, making lovers of a quiet lifelook back with regret to the times when Bishop Ussher's contemporaries found it easy to believethat Eve was created out of Adam's rib in the year 4004 B.C. But alas, our authors have littledifficulty in showing that, quite apart from the excellent Ussher's defects as a chronologer, the rib-story itself has to be dismissed as a Men's-State fable! That was the Yahvist version, and Yahve wasa Men's-State god, fashioned after the image of dominant males. The Elohist myth, on the other hand, "male and female created he them," has a comparatively equalitarian flavour, and was thesaga of a tribe or tribes where the sexes held equal sway. In respect of folklore and primitivereligion, the theory of the dominant sex throws light into dark corners. It is by the abundant light thenew conception brings, that its general validity should be appraised. Let critics beware of condemning it because, here and there in matters of detail, the authors' data can be questioned, or  because at times it is even possible to doubt the soundness of their inferences. They have notinvariably escaped the pitfalls that beset the pathway of the pioneer. Nevertheless they have, we areconfident, gone far, very far, towards justifying their main contention -- that they are refunding thecomparative psychology of the sexes.Our sex nature is very variously composed. Neither in society nor in the individual is it stable inits characters. Many societies and many individuals are strongly sexed, but the modern trendtowards equal rights for the sexes is unquestionably accompanied by a reduction in the intensity of sex differentiation.In the psychological sphere, sex differentiation has three main factors: biological, psychological,and sociological.Biologically or psychologically determined differences in the psychology of the sexes, in sexual behaviour, indubitably exist. Their existence in the human species is indicated by the comparative

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