5 January 2013

January 4 was the day my New Years resolution died. I was moving, so I’ve got some sort of an excuse. Here is 389 words to make up for missing yesterday.

“Today I read Hanna Rosin’s review of Alisa Valdes’ The Feminist and the Cowboy. Valdes’ book is about finding love with a man who holds traditional views of gender relations. Valdes was raised by progressive minded academics who didn’t allow Barbie dolls in their house. She is attracted to the cowboy, because he is willing to take control in the relationship. Though at first she is befuddled by her attraction to his retrograde relationship mores, Valdes soon discovers that women are biologically programmed to respond positively to controlling males.
Rosin acknowledges the sexual attraction of a controlling make, but questions the acceptability of the arrangement outside of the bedroom. She points out that much of the science Valdes refers to is based on unfounded claims. The claims of evolutionary psychology are indeed very much in question.
Alan Wolfe fingers evolutionary psychology as one of the main opponents of liberalism in the contemporary world in The Future of Liberalism. Evolutionary psychologists and their popularizers argue that the conditions of civilization are a relatively new phenomenon in the course of human evolution. We were essentially cavemen for most of our evolution, and our brains have not gotten a chance to catch up to the civilization we have built up around us. Wolfe condemns evolutionary psychology as an academic fad with little evidence to sustain its arguments. Wolfe’s liberalism is based on the premise that humans are capable of making logical choices, and evolutionary psychology claims that our capability for reason is limited by our caveman brains.
Rosin’s review shows how this argument plays out for gender politics. Valdes claims that she, as a woman, is evolutionarily predisposed to want to be controlled by a man, and that any efforts to buck this trend are in futility. The conflict between reason and emotion that she feels is fundamental to the human condition. Any relationship must deal with power imbalances, and male-female romantic relationships are especially fraught. Humans have even less experience with male-female equality than we do with civilization. As Valdes points out, relationships are a whole lot easier when one party cedes control to the other. As feminism points out, male domination is not a sustainable social arrangement. Valdes’ book and Rosin’s review of it are interesting parts of the argument that we are having over how to achieve gender equality.”


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