Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, that day of the week of which Dent Arthur Dent never could get the hang.
I was listening to my Spotify playlist the other day, and in brief succession—though not one right after the other—I heard the songs People Are Strange by the Doors, and Girl by the Beatles. It struck me, because of whatever peculiar frame of mind I was in, that both songs presented interesting insights, at different levels, about powerful and important aspects of human character and the nature of civilization.
I love it when art reflects on deeper facts of reality or can be interpreted as such. It’s not necessary that art do this for it to be good or beautiful or worthwhile. By no means is it necessary. But it’s wonderful when it does.
We shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, that powerful insights are to be found in the lyrics of two of the most artistically sophisticated, groundbreaking, and iconoclastic bands of the sixties, but it’s pleasing to find, nevertheless.
The most straightforward of the two thoughts arises in a simple line from People Are Strange, specifically: “Women seem wicked, when you’re unwanted.” This is a powerful observation, often lamentably true, about the character of men, rooted in biology and focused by the lens of thousands of years of cultures largely dominated by men.
It is a biological fact that women are, if you will, the gatekeepers of the next generation, and since getting into the next generation is one of the most powerful drives enacted by our genes (since organisms that don’t have that drive don’t tend to get into the next generation), this sets up seriously powerful forces that have acted continuously over the course of eons.
It’s a lot more directly costly for women to get their genes into the next generation than it is for men, so they tend to be a lot choosier than men need to be, all other things being equal.* But of course, this puts any given man in the position of having to compete for the favor of, or some other means of access to, women in order to reproduce. For men who find themselves by nature easily attractive to women, this is not a big problem. In those cases, it’s more often a problem for women. But such attractiveness is rare, and most men find themselves in bitter competition with other local men (in the modern era, “local” can refer effectively to millions and even billions of people). For a man who’s having trouble finding a woman who finds him suitable, this can engender tremendous frustration (biologically, psychologically, and socially), as this powerful ancestral drive finds itself unfulfilled.
We humans don’t deal with frustration well; we have a hard time thinking about it clearly. We have a hard time looking at ourselves and saying, “Well, maybe I’m not that obviously promising a person with whom to pair one’s genes in the trip to the next generation. Is there anything I can do to make myself at least seem more promising?”
Instead, many men start to think that women are wicked. Perhaps “think” is too lofty a verb for the process; “feel” might be more accurate, since logical thought is rarely involved, and is more often used in post hoc sophistry than for careful evaluation. We associate our frustration with women, especially with highly attractive women, and we lose sight of the chain of causality. We just blame the women for the feeling, instead of recognizing that it comes from us and our own circumstances. We fail to recognize that women are no more to blame for wanting to be choosy about their partners than men are about wanting to posture and show off in order to maximize our own perceived attractiveness.
From this collision of drives and barriers is born all manner of misogyny, including whole cultures that require women to be covered in public so as not to “inflame men’s lust”** It’s part of the what drives men to create societies that subordinate women, that effectively (or actually) enslave them. Women are described as wicked and are blamed for the frustrated lusts and behaviors of men, partly because it’s easier to “justify” mistreating someone when you demonize them.
This frustration turned to malice and revenge is almost certainly contributory to the push in certain modern communities to ban abortion even when pregnancy is the result of rape. After all—looking at things in horribly immoral but nonetheless depressingly real terms—this leaves open one means by which to circumvent the biological gatekeepers. Or, rather, it is a means to break down the gate, and an option that such men, consciously or subconsciously, might want to leave open for themselves.
Maybe I’m being uncharitable.
So many evils are born of or influenced by the fact that women seem wicked*** when you’re unwanted that it’s almost too depressing to accept or at least to look at closely. But if we want to correct and prevent evil outcomes, we need to think about where they come from and how they became what they are. Only by doing this we can counter such evils effectively and efficiently and produce a more moral and ethical civilization. Unless and until we change the nature of our biology itself, at a very deep level, we’re going to be saddled with this tendency, this subjective feeling, so well and concisely encapsulated in the Doors’s seemingly throw-away line.
Oodles more could be said about this, of course, but I’m not trying to write a full article, let alone a book on the subject. I welcome your input on the matter, though, whether in the comments or on Facebook or on Twitter.
And, of course, I clearly don’t have reasonable time or space this week to deal with the second song, Girl, so I’ll leave that for next time. I’ll just provide a teaser by saying that I think this song—probably unintentionally and/or unconsciously—had much to say about addiction, and the parallels between it and the dramatic and poetic notions of romantic love.
In closing, a quick report: I continue to edit Unanimity at a good pace, and I’m enjoying the process; this enjoyment will probably not last, nor should it, for I need to be as brutal and ruthless with my work as I can.
I also, just for fun, yesterday began writing (by hand, to try mitigate my natural verbosity) Dark Fairy and the Desperado, a story I’d originally envisioned as a manga, based on two drawings I did at separate times and for separate reasons, of characters who somehow just worked in my head when I threw them together. You can see several renderings of them among my posted images on Facebook, in my personal account and I think on my author page. There’s even a fanciful picture, drawn as a favor, of the Dark Fairy tormenting then-President George W. Bush.
How much more would the Dark Fairy have to say and do now, with our current president? One shudders to imagine, and that shuddering is not necessarily entirely born of dread, but perhaps, rather, of antici…
*All other things almost never are equal, but we’ll leave that aside for now.
**Since most men, as a simple fact of reality and math, can’t stand out as plainly being above average relative to other men, and so are more likely to be frustrated in their “lust” than to have it bear fruit…so to speak.
***Let there be no misunderstanding: this seeming is purely in the eyes of the beholder.