Inequality Thy Name is…Mother Nature

Imagining a world where women are physically as strong as men throws up some interesting perspectives into gender relations. Thinking about it one gets the feeling that the disparity in raw physical strength forms the core of gender inequality and its manifestations.

In the animal kingdom, gender disparity is the most obvious in mammals, the  group of animals considered to be the most advanced and to which human beings belong. In most mammals, the female is smaller, weaker and less aggressive than the males, which translates into their being susceptible to sexual aggression from the males. It is common for males to force themselves sexually upon unwilling females.

In most mammals, the gestation period is a significant part of the life-span. Labour is painful. The offspring are born weak and defenseless and are nursed and cared for by the mother for an extended period of time. The females get little or no support from the males in the business of rearing the young ones.

It does appear like nature has actively conspired to give female mammals the shorter end of the stick.

There is no way of knowing with certainty whether other mammalian females resent, or even fully comprehend, the way the scales are tilted against them, but the human female  obviously has the intelligence to do both. Of course, the human female today has it much better than other mammalian females. Contraception has given women freedom of a scale unimaginable barely a couple of centuries back. Sexual assault is punishable by law in most parts of the world( although implementation often leaves much to be desired). These small mercies have taken a long time coming but they have indeed made the human female  more equal than the others, as it were!

The rapid strides made during the last century towards the cause of empowerment of women might lull us into believing that complete equality may be within reach, but how realistic is it to hope for complete equality when the average female can be so easily overpowered by the average male? Let alone rape, it is ridiculously easy for a man to kill a woman with his bare hands. Isn’t it basically this sheer lack of physical strength in women vis-a-vis the men which makes the average man so proud to be a man and so dismissive of all things feminine?

Now men are stronger owing to a greater mass of muscles, which in turn is an effect of greater levels of the hormone testosterone in men, the very hormone which is responsible for generating libido(in both sexes). So nature, in one fell swoop, gifted men not just greater libido but also the ability to force themselves sexually should they so wish. Women, on the other hand, are stuck with not just lower sex-drive but also the stark inability to defend themselves in the face of unwanted sexual overtures from males. The law provides only so much protection, especially in the third world where implementation is poor in general.

So how different would things be if women were to become, in a flight of fancy, as physically strong as men?

The most obvious result of this fanciful scenario coming to pass would be that women would become far less susceptible to sexual assault, although they would continue to be a little susceptible due to the other gender being more sex-driven.

Parents of girls will worry less about their safety in this big, bad world and will stop pressuring their daughters to get married as soon as possible. The who-is going-to-look-after-you-when-we’re-no-longer-here line of thinking will be rendered irrelevant. That by itself will solve a lot of problems.

No restrictions on movements will mean better prospects at education/employment. No looking for ‘safe’ jobs like teaching, medicine and suchlike which severely restrict women’s choices. No fear of on-site or marketing jobs or jobs which require traveling. More assets, more control over available resources.

There will be far fewer incidents of domestic violence.

Chivalry will become redundant. Men will no longer feel the need to behave like knights in shining armour, just as women will not feel the need to look up to/please all the males in their lives.

In short, it will be a world drastically different from the one we know. Disparity in physical strength is the root of gender inequality and it cannot be wished away. Which means that absolute gender equality is not achievable today or anytime in future. For all efforts made towards emancipation and empowerment, the bias is something we will always have to deal with.

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13 Responses to Inequality Thy Name is…Mother Nature

  1. R's Mom says:

    But then doesnt wit, diligence, emotional strength, mental strength, smartness and other such stuff count???

    Yes, if you talk about only physical strength, I am so upset but I do agree to you…There are definitely females who are stronger, but then on an average, between a man and woman of equal training, the chances are the man may win in a physical combat…but the woman has equal chances of winning using her wit, mental strenght and smartness, isnt it?

    Your post made me think, think really hard…I so want to disagree with you totally, but I realised that you are talking only in terms of physical strength 🙂

    Errr…I had to look up the word Chimera on the internet *Ashamed*

    • Didn’t mean to upset anyone, R’s Mom 🙂

      I know all this probably looks odd on the blog of a self-proclaimed feminist–it sounds pessimistic and suspiciously like chauvinistic propaganda– but I was only trying to do some reality check.

      Let me assure you that I have not changed camps overnight. I am and will always be a staunch feminist.I was talking only about physical strength and how the lack of it in women contributes crucially to gender inequality. I am not underestimating the importance of emotional strength, perseverance, wit, facility with languages,the ability to think on one’s feet and other such parameters. It is true that women consistently perform at least as well as, and often better than, men do on these counts. I do strongly feel that there is no job on the face of the earth that men can do and women can’t , except those that test the limits of physical power.

      The point is, for all their intelligence and abilities , women will continue to be physically weaker, which means they will continue to be susceptible to physical and sexual violence. These are issues even in the Western countries–domestic violence is a worldwide phenomenon. Basically women everywhere are at the mercy of the law.Women are even more at risk in the non-Western world( the West constitutes only a fraction of humanity) where law-implementation leaves a lot to be desired. During wars and other situations when there is a collapse of law and order, violence against women shoots through the roof.

      To me it looks like it is this physical/sexual susceptibility that is the core of all gender bias. The bias might lessen over time due to better laws, better implementation, better participation of women in public life but will it ever completely vanish? I have my doubts.

      PS–I am changing the title of the post to ‘Inequality Thy Name is…Mother Nature’. I kind of feel the word ‘chasing’ has negative undertones.

      Keep visiting,RM, Okie ? 🙂

      • R's Mom says:

        No No…I wasnt upset…or anything was just that I thought women do have other qualities which help them overcome the physical weakness

        I totally agree that in terms of physical strenght, we have a disadvantage…I totally agree to what you wrote in the comment above…we are dependent on the law to protect us physically….and these laws are pretty non existent 🙂

        Of course I will keep visiting…I love the way you write


  2. Agreed.
    There is no gender equality any where.
    It’s always inequality only.
    The degree of inequality varies.
    The worst is seen in Talibansed Afghanistan.

    Ironical, isn’t it?
    We have Sonia and Pratibha at the apex of our political pyramid.
    We have firebrands like Mamta and Mayawati and a “heavyweight” like Jayalalithaa in powerful positions but that makes no difference to the common woman.

    Goddesses are worshipped in temples and wives are ill treated at home by the same men.
    Why? Oh why?
    All because Eve took a prohibited bite?
    Do you buy that theory?
    I don’t.
    Thanks for some fodder for thinking.

  3. Sam says:

    First visit to your blog and you have written about the disparities so well.
    It is quite frustrating isnt it? Sometimes I feel that whatever we do, the lack of physical strength and hence the violence/power/aggression that causes fear or respect puts women on the backfoot.
    I wish we had some natural powers to combat this physical strength – get 10 arms like goddesses in times of crime!

    • It is indeed frustrating, Sam, to think about it. I find these lines, from a prayer,very relevant in this context::
      “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
      Courage to change the things I can,
      And wisdom to know the one from the other”

      Welcome here, Sam 🙂

  4. biwo says:

    Actually primates display a wide range of behavior. Gorillas have an alpha male (a silver-backed one) who has a harem of females to mate with.

    Orangutans mate monogamously for life.

    Bonobo females are more promiscuous than males and bonobo society is bi-sexual, egalitatarian, non-violent and matriarchal.

    Chimps are our closest ancestors and the alpha male is often not the strongest or largest, but the most manipulative and political. High ranking male and female chimps form networks and dominate lower-ranking individuals.

    Females often choose the alpha male in chimp society.

    All this to say that primate behaviour is too varied on which to base any conclusions about our human gender dynamics and mating practises.

    • biwo says:

      Edited to add that by orangutans mating for life, I meant that orangutan females have home ranges that overlap with that of a male, who is usually their primary mating partner.

      Also, everytime somebody throws the “Nature made men dominant” argument at me, I throw the “Look at the bonobos” argument back at them. 🙂

      Primatologist Sarah Blaffer-Hardy’s book “Mother Nature” is a wonderful, wonderful read for those looking for a “feminist” perspective of the whole thing.

    • Wow, didn’t know much of this, though I do remember reading somewhere about the promiscuous bonobo females a long time back.

      Sarah Blaffer-Hardy’s book sounds very interesting–will check it out for sure.

      This post was actually more in the nature of a frustrated rant ruing how being substantially weaker physically leaves the human female so very susceptible to both sexual and non-sexual violence, and how that is the crux of all gender bias.

  5. Scribby says:

    I hear you! all we can do is learn a type of martial art to at least stay basically safe when required?

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