Men’s war on women did not begin with Donald Trump, far from it. Its roots are Biblical and mythological, bound up with creation stories tying women to the introduction of sin and evil into the world; so deeply embedded in our collective psyches is this view, it’s no wonder male CEOs, presidents, and Joe Sixpack casually spew anti-women rhetoric in their everyday speech and modern American entertainment revels in tales of violence against women.
The Bible and recorded creation mythology was, of course, written by men. Men have thoroughly monopolized tools of power and information for well on 10,000 years and creation mythology reflects male bias. Some argue this is the outcome of dimorphic sexual differences, that the greater physical strength of men as compared with women inevitably creates a systemic power imbalance, what we could call The Testosterone Effect. At the level of force and coercion where brute strength prevails, this is undoubtedly true. One would expect such physical differences to diminish in importance, and over time they have, but far more slowly and modestly than many of us might hope or expect.
In small, tribal society such power imbalances can be less pronounced, but larger, civilized society displays systemically embedded, overt sexism. Civilization is by its nature bureaucratic; it’s impossible to maintain civilization without methods of social control, and such control combines rules of law enforced by physical controls. The creation of the first city states in Mesopotamia and in later Greece required armies to defend land, and these armies were composed of men.
In ancient Greece, it was told that the first king of Athens, Ericthonius, emerged motherless directly from the soil, a progenitor of the Athenian race of men. The first woman, on the other hand, was literally forged from earth by the Olympian god Hephaestus in his underworld workshop and then brought to life, a simulacrum. This artifice received the name Pandora, originator of the “female breed of women.” Our Bible, of course, varies the tale by having a monotheistic god create the first motherless man, Adam, and later to create the first woman, Eve, derivatively using a rib from Adam’s body. Like Pandora, Eve’s fate is to bring misfortune into the world, or so the stories go; blame the misery we suffer not on men, but on women.
This is, naturally, the way his-story has been written, not her-story. Women, the not-quite-fully-humans, have but one purpose in his-story, and that is to serve men and produce heirs. Accordingly, for thousands of years women in civilization have been virtual or literal slaves of men, classified as chattel, set to labor, used as sex objects and denied freedom or legal protection. Though we idealize women in statuesque personifications of Liberty and Justice, not until a century ago did American women gain the democratic right to vote, and today they continue to struggle for control over their own health and bodies. For all their lip-service and lame excuses to the contrary, men remain firmly in control of the levers of power.
I write this knowing that I too benefit by powerful sexist attitudes and feelings; being a privileged white male in American society means my present life rests upon a social legacy of dominance and cruelty directed at women. The opportunity for success I’ve enjoyed has, unfairly, been at the expense of and by creating lack of opportunity for success for women.