Male Dominance and Religion

The Baroque painter, Artemisia Gentileschi, made all of her Judiths from her ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’ themed paintings into self-portraits, depicting herself as the Old Testament Jewish heroine, and all the decapitated heads into portraits of her rapist when she was 15, Agostino Tassi (Perugia, 1578– Rome, 1644). In fact, she made all the slain villains or decapitated heads in her religious art into Tassi’s likeness. He is now forgotten, except for having been Artemisia Gentileschi’s rapist, and his art dismissed — and she is an iconic, early feminist painter adjudged as comparable to Caravaggio in Early Modern vision, innovation and technique.

Tassi was a rapist, Holofernes was a Philistine general harrying the Jews in an Old Testament narrative. Judith was therefore a Jewish heroine, much painted in the late Middle Ages, Renaissance and Early Modern Period, on into the Enlightenment. Post-Modern artists like to appropriate the theme also, Cindy Sherman for instance. Holofernes and his army were laying siege to Judith’s hilltop village, and the Elders were about to surrender to ameliorate the death count, and Judith popped up and said, “No,” no! I can fix this,” so she packed a picnic basket with goodies and a LOT of wine, dressed up like a prostitute, took her maidservant (slave), and took herself off to the enemy camp, which covered all of the surrounding hills and all of the landscape. She presented herself to the guards at the general’s tent, who mistook her for a mere camp follower, and let her in. There, she wined and dined Holofernes, got him roaring drunk, and had sex with him until he was sleepy.

Then her maidservant held the post-coital weakened soldier down while Judith sawed off his head. This the crafty pair hid in the now empty basket under a tea towel, exited the tent and casually waved bye-bye to the guards, who presumably made rude gestures, nudged and winked at each other, thinking it had been a case of business as usual with the ladies. Judith and her maidservant headed off, over the hills to home.

When dawn came, the deadline for a peaceable surrender, she whipped out the head from her basket and held it aloft by the hair for all of the assembled crowd to see. Here was proof that a powerful enemy could be defeated by craft and guile. In the story, she was proven right, because the army, being totally authoritarian in its structuring, simply folded its tents and went home, seeing that the ‘head’ of their organization had been taken out. They had fields to till, and wives and children to visit, no doubt.

Jeremy Glass published an article with the heading, “SCIENCE CONFIRMS MEN ARE TERRIFIED OF SMART WOMEN,” on Thrillist on 10/20/2015, with the image of wartime stone genius (and incredible dancer) Hedy Lamarr. I think the article is kind of a joke. Firstly, it’s written by a man, and — secondly — it features statements like: “If you’re bad at context clues and/or love skimming articles (which you do) then we’ll fill in the blanks for you: basically, an overwhelming amount of the men in the study favoured the women in the hypothetical scenario who showed less intelligence than the ones who were smart.” The Independent reports on the specifics of the study: “105 men were first read a hypothetical scenario involving a woman who either outperformed or underperformed them in a Maths or English course and then made to imagine them as a romantic partner.”

Dear author, are you attempting to practice male protectionism here? Glamorizing male dominance and submission rituals? ’Cause if you are, I don’t buy it. There’s nothing glamorous or remotely mystical about fear-based fetishes and ceremonialized control. It’s just the same seamy old dance (no pun). Male-dominant-ranking Higher Primates (besides patriarchal male-ranking indoctrinated homo-sapiens-sapiens), like some chimp packs (choosy as to societal models) and all baboons, perform mock copulation on sub-dominant males by mounting them and simulating giving them a good ‘rogering.’ Submissive or passive males turn around and bend over to indicate submission to dangerous, violent dominants.

Men are actually most afraid of other men, in my experience — smart ones, dumb ones, big ones, crafty little ones, They are afraid of other men who have been deformed in mind and spirit by an overweening patriarchy, that rewards aggressively dominant males and victimizes subdominant and submissive males. After all, if one in three human females are sexually dominated and assaulted by a male (usually a familiar, spousal or related male), one in four human males are. And in wartime circumstances among vestigial ‘Cattle Cult’ societies, it is estimated that around 85% of captive women are raped, and ALL the captive males.

A ‘Cattle Cult’ is defined as a social model which claims the Divine Right to Rule of its elite, or alpha-ranking male members (no pun), as having been handed down to the men of their tribe by their local, tribal war god at the Creation. ‘In the Beginning,’ according to these privileged, meta-narratives, ‘God’ (Yahweh, Ja-Ho-Va-He, Jahovah, El, the Elohim by any other name(s) — the monolithic sky gods of countless other Cattle Cult societies across the world in the wake of patriarchal revolutions) gave possession, control and rule over all the people, animals, fruits of the Earth, and territories to the alpha-ranking men of the tribe. Cattle Cults are the result of male-dominant-ranking dynamics elevated to the status and psycho/spiritual prestige of a religion.

Sound familiar?

Africa, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey, and the West for the most part (the Mafia, the U.S. government, the extremist fundamentalist cults of every patriarchal religion) still have flagrant Cattle Cult societies. In these systems, it’s all about control, possession and dominance of assets, property, resources and territory, with females and infants defines as ‘property,’ or chattels. In the main, they are acquisitive tribal systems that rule and prosper through raiding and theft.

The legalistic/divine justification for murder, theft and rapine — the logic that exempts rapacious murderers or perpetrators of ‘ethnic cleansing,’ slave-taking, subjugation of racial or ethnic ‘Others,’ and ‘stranger’ genocide, and which exempts the corporate raider or invading warrior from blood guilt and the ‘pollution’ of ‘sin’ — is the idea that they are not ‘stealing,’ nor breaching any taboos related to killing or rapine. They, as God’s ‘Chosen People,’ are simply taking back what was rightfully given them at the Creation, by their male Creator. Add to these rationales the notion, prevalent to orthodox patriarchal religions, that ‘sin’ can only be expiated by blood, and you have the logics behind the ‘sacrifice’ of captives in wartime and the occasional Orthodox rabbi flinging blood spray all over the Wailing Wall from the neck of a freshly decapitated, still flailing chicken that he has firmly grasped by the feet.

Driven mad by religious terror and awe, the same tactics that terrorists use, such behaviours are in fact no more or less that spiritual terrorism, with the fearful awe of Hell-fire torture and Divine Wrath as the goads and flails for their constant self-flagellation. ‘Jews for Jesus’ contingents, doing everything in Jesus’ name, will go very far to justify Israel’s criminal occupation of sovereign Palestinian lands. They and their Zionist ilk are as bad as all the authoritarian, sycophantic, mind-numbed Catholics and Evangelicals clustering around the current, U.S., mythically un-presidential beast.

Dominant/submissive social models are constructed, learned, and passed down as doctrinal. At some point learned or adapted behaviours may become “ingrained,” and alter DNA, as that happens in some cases, providing a basis for the so-called ‘Hundredth Monkey Effect” theory. (The hundredth monkey effect is a hypothetical phenomenon in which a new behaviour or idea is claimed to spread rapidly by unexplained means from one group to all related groups once a critical number of members of one group exhibit the new behavior or acknowledge the new idea.)

But it can just as equally be deconstructed, and un-learned, with that revised model being passed on and becoming organically encoded once a critical, quantum mass quotient of the genus changes their allegiance to the new idea, schema or model. Social relating on a horizontal egalitarian respect-based model, very different from vertical dominant ranking hierarchical social models, is just as ‘natural’ — just as ‘biological’ to humans — as it is to certain other Higher Primates also. If you think otherwise, you’re accepting your conditioning and indoctrination as fact, and not simply a construct. (Every social model is constructed. Every model of science, biology and/or psychology is constructed. Epistemological and ontological models are constructed. Indeed, even perception itself is culturally constructed. Of course.)

Best to not be too attached to constructs OR to the epistemological frameworks for their modeling. Better still, think on this: Every member of the group in the matrifocal clan-bonding model has a role — a vital and uniquely valued one, precisely FOR being unique, different and individual, where there is no penalty for difference and no value placed on uniformity. Female Clan Bonding privileges collectivism and communalism, but not conformity. Everyone has a unique and valued role in the clan or organic network. There are people next to you, but not above or below you, in a horizontal, Earth-oriented social cosmology and worldview. (“worldview” = “reality construct and/or concept.”)

What is more ‘interesting’ is letting people know, and see the evidence, that as far as the “Vertical Dominant ranking model,” it was very far from always so. More than interesting — mind-blowing, liberating, hugely relieving. In fact, male-dominant-ranking models are a tiny, recent blip in the human social record.

We didn’t make it through the recurring Ice Ages by acting competitively but by living cooperatively. Even with other species, notably wild canines. This carried through the Gravettian Epoch right through the hunter/gatherer societies of the newly formed grasslands and into the Early Neolithic of Chatal Huyuk and Old Europe, and only ultimately ceded to the male-dominant-ranking armed, horsed warfare of the Late Iron Age — and even then there were (are) vestiges and survivals of female-clan-bonding models (matriliny in human terms) that remain in healthy equilibrium, most notably among surviving authentic Northwest Coast First Peoples.

That’s, at best, 5,000 years of patriarchy, and not even a major blip on the recognizable human social record of 75,000 years of archeological art history and material culture. Hospitality laws were hardwired into matrifocal humans during the Ice Age, along with the cannibalism taboo and incest prohibitions. Hospitality Laws are the human equivalent of Bonobo monkeys’ female-clan-bonding way of feeding stranger Bonobos who wander into their camp, instead of killing them and eating them, like the male-dominant-ranking baboons will do with ‘Other’ baboons they come in contact with or gain power over.

A top-down ‘pecking order’ is inaugurated and maintained by ‘pecking,’ which is to say, in animal anthropological terms, ‘attrition.’ ‘Attrition’ can be otherwise known (in all-too human, schoolyard social politics terms) as bullying — as ‘punching down.’ The baboon pack haremizes females, sequestering them and infants in the centre of the running, raiding alpha-led pack. The adolescent males are relegated to form the outside flank of the pack, and function as a sort of running guard. Their ‘attrition’ rate is as many as 50%, a full half of every male generation being killed or dying from their wounds before reaching sexual maturity and adulthood. Only the most vicious and violent youngsters survive to climb up through the ranks and become dominant alphas or ranking sub-dominant lieutenants of alphas.

While male-dominant-ranking ‘pecking orders’ are maintained by top-down ‘pecking,’ or what we may call ‘bullying’ in the human context, female-clan-bonding social networks (or matrifocal societies in human terms) are maintained by pleasure-sharing and nurture. In all Higher Primate matrifocal societies, this effectively means mutual grooming, sharing of affection, food gifts or ‘food-offerings,’ and petting-soothing. For the Bonobos, it means tons and tons of self- and other-soothing, consensual sex.

For female-clan-bonded, matrifocal human societies, social network maintenance also meant, and in some cases still means, tons of consensual sex and mutual grooming. (Hence the slightly inaccurate descriptions of such societies as sybaritic ‘fertility cults’ by modern scholars, and their prohibition by the ascetic patriarchs of the Old Testament as ‘abomination’ in castigating the ‘Whore of Babylon.’) Human matrifocal societies of North Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Sub-continent, it meant (and still means, in ceremonial circumstances or in the culture of the women’s baths) mutual hennaing of hands, feet, face and body, ceremonial tattooing, elaborate braiding and dressing of hair, dressing and adorning of the body, sharing of food offerings, and other pleasure and nurture sharing rituals.

Interestingly, human sacrifice never occurred in matrifocal, organically occurring social networks (which occur in a horizontal web-work of connectedness, known as female-clan-bonding), but only in attrition imposed, male-dominant-ranking social models, where it is all about possession, dominance and the aggressive control of assets, property and territory. Why? Because in the epistemological framework of female-clan-bonding, everybody is someone’s son, daughter, sister, brother, uncle, auntie, cousin, etc., equally precious within a horizontal network — never diminished and dehumanized in a violently hierarchical, vertical-ranking value system, whereby some are the elite and others, less fortunate, are the ‘expendable’ or ‘otherized’ none-caste non-persons (slaves, captives, chattel, booty, property, etc.).

Enslaved non-persons and captives are garnered from war and dominance practices, and provide fodder for human sacrifice, which in turn yields the added perk of instilling passivity, terror and awe in dominated underclasses. Slavery is the by-product and the perk/booty of war for the victors. War and raiding are the acquisitive means by which male-dominant-ranking societies, also called ‘Cattle-Cult’ societies by social anthropologists, procure possessions, assets, property, chattels, and territory. Patriarchy is the name given this ideology of male-dominance, and patriarchal religion is nothing more or less than the painfully ongoing exercise of the typical Cattle Cult’s violent core tenets.

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Yvonne Owens, PhD

Yvonne Owens, PhD

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I'm a writer/researcher/arts educator on Vancouver Island and all round global citizen who loves humans even though we're such a phenomenal pain-in-the-ass.