Archive for September 10th, 2010

Continuing on from yesterday’s post where I’ve been taking conversations about maleness for a wander around the blog.

I titled this post with a quote from Marie Curie because it was thoughts of her that tugged me toward today’s tangent.

After hours of researching testosterone-driven aggression, infidelity, abuse, slavery, torture … pick a term for what happens to millions daily, any term … I settled in to do some light reading on patriarchy, the history and manifestations of this man’s world we live in.

Although historically, male domination of societies has prevailed … unevenly often, as is evidenced by ancient differences between Greek and Egyptian cultures and such modern poles as, say, California and Kandahar … prehistorically, matriarchies ran the show for something like 40,000 years.

Matriarchal societies are now virtually nonexistent, although a bare few are still functioning in remote corners of the world. The Mosuo of South East China, for example, a culture in which women rule the roost and the word “rape” doesn’t exist.

Few Mosuo women will have more than one partner at a time, even if they are not expected to do so. Mosuo women can change partners as often as they like. In fact, they practice “serial monogamies”, and some relationships can last for a lifetime. So they are not a culture sexually promiscuous as one might think.

Google “mass rape” and see how different the patriarchal world is. From Bosnia to post-WWII Europe, to today’s Congo, rape is not only an active verb in the vocabulary, it’s a living outrage committed by millions leaving millions of victims.

Add in feckless mates, absent fathers, violent crime in general and we get a whopper of a messy man sandwich that’s causing a global bellyache none may end up surviving.

Can we, for just a moment or two, try to imagine a world where women were able to maintain their ancient power?

Okay. Maybe that’s too much.

Can we imagine a world where the power western women have today, limited as that still is, was allocated … what? … maybe 200 years ago?

Back to Marie Curie for a moment.

Maire Curie won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 … the second year prizes were awarded. (She also won the prize for Chemistry in 1911.) In total, a Nobel has been given 41 times to a woman. (Five in 2009 alone.)

What have they won for? Here are a few examples …

Marie Curie: for her discovery of radium and polonium

Irène Joliot-Curie: for their synthesis of new radioactive elements

Gabriela Mistral: for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin: for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow: for the development of radioimmunoassays of peptide hormones

Nadine Gordimer: who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity

Aung San Suu Kyi: for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights

In the same period of time, 765 Nobel Prizes have gone to men, also for some great stuff that has made a difference in the world.

And here’s where we get to the imagining bit …

What could our world be like if … even just for the past 200 years … women had had the same opportunities to contribute?

In a bit more than 100 years, look what just 41 women who struggled like hell managed to do.

As Marie Curie, two-time Nobel Laureate was forced to admit:

I have frequently been questioned, especially by women, of how I could reconcile family life with a scientific career. Well, it has not been easy.

Did anyone EVER ask her husband, with whom she shared the first award, that question? I’m betting NOT.

Has humanity been served by an ancient shift that left women powerless and put men firmly in control?

What would I know? I’m just a girl …

Further reading for the interested:





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