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Jedburgh
07-12-2007, 12:58 PM
CEIP, Jul 07: Women in Islamist Movements: Toward an Islamist Model of Women's Activism (http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/cmec2_women_in_islam_final1.pdf)

...We conducted interviews with women belonging to Hizbollah in Lebanon and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as well as less structured conversations with women Islamic activists in Morocco, Kuwait, and other countries. Their responses indicate that there is much ferment and discussion among Islamist women. The outcome of these ongoing debates is still unpredictable and it is doubtful that the participants themselves know how far their ideas will develop and evolve. But it is certain that women’s political activism in Islamist movements is a growing phenomenon that needs to be watched carefully.

The idea that Islamist women play important roles in the movements to which they belong and that through their participation they may be defining a new model of Islamist activism or even feminism is contrary to views commonly held in the West. There, it is generally assumed that the battle for women’s rights is being fought by secular, modern organizations, not by Islamist movements that are part of a tradition that has historically oppressed women. The idea that women in Islamist movements may have something to contribute to women’s rights is also rejected as preposterous by most secular Arab feminists. Many angry debates have broken out at international meetings of women’s organizations concerning this issue. But many Islamist movements today are breaking new ground in terms of their views of politics and society, and the rise of women activists is part of this renewal. Past history is not necessarily an indication of future positions....

FascistLibertarian
07-12-2007, 01:03 PM
The idea that Islamist women play important roles in the movements to which they belong and that through their participation they may be defining a new model of Islamist activism or even feminism is contrary to views commonly held in the West. There, it is generally assumed that the battle for womenís rights is being fought by secular, modern organizations, not by Islamist movements that are part of a tradition that has historically oppressed women. The idea that women in Islamist movements may have something to contribute to womenís rights is also rejected as preposterous by most secular Arab feminists.

This is a very good point.
1) There have always been women of important status in every society, it does not suprise me at all that there are activist islamic women.
2) This is a kind of cultural imperialism. After all, we know what is best for their women, we know that the way they treat their women is wrong, and we know what to do to fix it. Part of the reason we went into A-Stan was linked to womens rights, but it is always tricky when you are telling others how to live.
If they came here and were all "dont drink or have sex" I am sure we would tell them where to go.......

tequila
07-12-2007, 01:30 PM
Part of the reason we went into A-Stan was linked to womens rights, but it is always tricky when you are telling others how to live.


Let's not confuse propaganda points with actual goals. I am reasonably sure that ensuring women's rights are respected are not high on the agenda for U.S. commanders in the 'Stan.

SteveMetz
07-12-2007, 02:01 PM
Let's not confuse propaganda points with actual goals. I am reasonably sure that ensuring women's rights are respected are not high on the agenda for U.S. commanders in the 'Stan.

I've recently been arguing that women's empowerment is a vital and greatly underestimated part of counterinsurgency. My reasoning is that a lot of the young males who compose the foot soldiers of an insurgency participate not because of any political grievances, but because doing so is psychologically empowering. In other words, they do it in part to get girls. Empowering women gives allows them to influence this decisionmaking process.

My response to "women's empowerment is not part of our culture" is to respond with "Well, it IS part of our culture so if you want our help, address the issue." In other words, you can't help those who won't help themselves. If a potential partner is not serious about altering the social, economic, and political structures which give rise to armed conflict, we shouldn't waste our time with them.

Tacitus
07-12-2007, 02:19 PM
In other words, they do it in part to get girls.

That's an interesting idea that I hadn't read before.

The only girls they ever publicly cite, however, are the 35 virgins (or whatever the allocated number are) they're going to receive in paradise as a payoff to their suicidal attack.

But who's to say there aren't some groupies in the here and now attracted to the jihadists, despite their puritannical image?

FascistLibertarian
07-12-2007, 02:28 PM
Dont be silly Tacitus and SteveMetz.
Premarital sex is a sin!
you wouldnt want that to stop you getting into paradise after you kill some innocent women and children.
:rolleyes:

tequila
07-12-2007, 02:34 PM
I can't say I really agree with you, Steve.

Psychological empowerment does not necessarily equate to "getting girls." I agree that many young men become insurgents or jihadis for much the same reason that young men in the United States become Marines - the urge to be part of something larger than oneself, a sense of mission endowed with the glamor of violence and danger, community admiration. However, I find it doubtful that sexual conquests are really part of the bargain given typical marriage structure typologies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Women available outside these typologies are not generally those drawn to jihadis, either - they are, more likely, among the targets of such --- witness the recent trigger for the Lal Masjid siege.

SteveMetz
07-12-2007, 02:45 PM
I can't say I really agree with you, Steve.

Psychological empowerment does not necessarily equate to "getting girls." I agree that many young men become insurgents or jihadis for much the same reason that young men in the United States become Marines - the urge to be part of something larger than oneself, a sense of mission endowed with the glamor of violence and danger, community admiration. However, I find it doubtful that sexual conquests are really part of the bargain given typical marriage structure typologies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Women available outside these typologies are not generally those drawn to jihadis, either - they are, more likely, among the targets of such --- witness the recent trigger for the Lal Masjid siege.

I was kind of using a cariacature of my position. You're absolutely right, of course, that psychological empowerment is a multi dimensional phenomenon. What I was really getting at is that in nearly all societies, women's empowerment constrains risk taking behavior by men. That's the reason that women tend to be disempowered in gangs, the Mafia, etc. So counterinsurgency needs to be more than just creating a bunch of low paying jobs and holding elections. It needs to constrain male risk taking and provide non-violent forms of empowerment. Exactly how that is done will vary from situation to situation.

Nat Wilcox
07-12-2007, 04:31 PM
I suspect that women, and issues related to women, are central to the struggle with radical Islam. One of radical Islam's chief beefs with modernity is its inevitable consequences for women. Thinking of radical Islam as the enemy, they want the field of battle to be primarily economic, and secondarily military. I strongly suspect that if you wanted to really take the fight to the enemy, you would choose the field of battle to be cultural. There is nothing, I suspect, that strikes deeper fear in this enemy's heart than the emancipation of women in their world. I suspect that our advantage is primarily in the battle of ideas, and that a really good grand strategy will do everything it can to make that the main battlefield. It is ashame that the current administration has botched that battle so badly. But, as the Nobel laureate economic historian Douglas North put it:

"It is simply impossible to make sense out of history (or contemporary economies) without recognizing the central role that subjective preferences play in the context of formal institutional constraints that enable us to express our convictions at zero or very little cost. Ideas, organized ideologies, and even religious zealotry play major roles in shaping societies and economies."

In this respect, I suggest we rethink the common supposition that culture is terribly rigid, and makes beliefs and decisions likewise rigid. Lots of culture is quite fragile. We had a labor economist through here that looked at the simple effect in dominantly Arab towns of an Israeli policy that reduced the cost of childcare for Arab women. Because the timing and locations of its implementation varied more or less randomly, it was like a natural experiment. Some scholars had said that the low labor force participation rate (LFPR) of Arab women in these towns was cultural. But sure enough: Once the childcare initiative was in place, the LFPR of Arab women in these towns shot up like a damn rocket. So much for rigid cultural norms.

FascistLibertarian
07-12-2007, 04:48 PM
There is nothing, I suspect, that strikes deeper fear in this enemy's heart than the emancipation of women in their world. I suspect that our advantage is primarily in the battle of ideas, and that a really good grand strategy will do everything it can to make that the main battlefield.

But who should do the emancipatin? Should we go over there with force and tell them what to do? That causes all sorts of problems.
Egypt banned FGM on their own.
I think the issue of rights for minority groups will only improve. The issue is education not force.

The idea of having the advantage in the battle of ideas.
We had it during the cold war. Everyone could see we had the moral high ground.
We still do have the high ground I feel. A lot of people dont feel like me.

Nat Wilcox
07-12-2007, 05:09 PM
I'm not culturally relativistic enough to regard what is basically chattel bondage of women in much of the world as simply somebody else's business, though I realize that we in the West have deep disagreements about these sorts of things in these postmodern times.

Force isn't working, and banning groups is counterproductive.

I would say that the issue is not so much education as aggressive, well-thought-out subversion. For instance, the Israeli childcare subsidy mentioned above almost certainly wasn't conceived as cultural subversion, but getting the women out of the house is going to have some consequences that the enemy really doesn't want to see. Economic empowerment and, in general, economic change are profoundly disruptive of social and cultural norms. We want that--lots of it. We want to think about how to make it happen without force, banning and so forth.

SteveMetz
07-12-2007, 05:17 PM
I'm not culturally relativistic enough to regard what is basically chattel bondage of women in much of the world as simply somebody else's business, though I realize that we in the West have deep disagreements about these sorts of things in these postmodern times.

Force isn't working, and banning groups is counterproductive.

I would say that the issue is not so much education as aggressive, well-thought-out subversion. For instance, the Israeli childcare subsidy mentioned above almost certainly wasn't conceived as cultural subversion, but getting the women out of the house is going to have some consequences that the enemy really doesn't want to see. Economic empowerment and, in general, economic change are profoundly disruptive of social and cultural norms. We want that--lots of it. We want to think about how to make it happen without force, banning and so forth.

I agree with your thinking. I believe the major shortcoming of our current security strategy is that we've put so many things "off limits." And those are the very things that represent the solutions. This is just one example.

Others are ones that I've mentioned in here (and am weaving into the monograph I'm writing): control of visitors and immigrants from states which tolerate the ideology of Islamic extremism; aggressive measures against ISPs which host sites or transmit messages for violent Islamic extremists. Etc.

Nat Wilcox
07-12-2007, 05:32 PM
am weaving into the monograph I'm writing

Steve, if you wish to cite (as an example) the research I was talking about, the paper is by Analia Schlosser, and you can get it here in manuscript:

http://pluto.huji.ac.il/~ani/PublicPreschool_Schlosser.pdf

RJO
07-12-2007, 05:33 PM
What I was really getting at is that in nearly all societies, women's empowerment constrains risk taking behavior by men. That's the reason that women tend to be disempowered in gangs, the Mafia, etc. So counterinsurgency needs to be more than just creating a bunch of low paying jobs and holding elections. It needs to constrain male risk taking and provide non-violent forms of empowerment. Exactly how that is done will vary from situation to situation.

Are there Arabic translations of Lysistrata (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysistrata) ("dissolver of armies") in circulation? Maybe somebody should do an airdrop. Instead of the very popular Reading Lolita in Tehran maybe there should be a Reading Lysistrata in Sadr City.

Tacitus
07-12-2007, 08:57 PM
I'm not culturally relativistic enough to regard what is basically chattel bondage of women in much of the world as simply somebody else's business, though I realize that we in the West have deep disagreements about these sorts of things in these postmodern times.

Force isn't working, and banning groups is counterproductive.

I would say that the issue is not so much education as aggressive, well-thought-out subversion. For instance, the Israeli childcare subsidy mentioned above almost certainly wasn't conceived as cultural subversion, but getting the women out of the house is going to have some consequences that the enemy really doesn't want to see. Economic empowerment and, in general, economic change are profoundly disruptive of social and cultural norms. We want that--lots of it. We want to think about how to make it happen without force, banning and so forth.

Nat: I donít really know how you could emancipate women in the Middle East by force, anyway. Unlike our Civil War, where emancipation of those in bondage could occur through just walking off the plantation when a Northern army showed up, that just isnít going to happen in the Middle East. They arenít going to throw away the burka just because some Gis show up in town, if for no other reason than they have nowhere else to go. They have to live in their society, whether we are there chasing around terrorists or not.

The cultural subversion plan seems very interesting. Change the economic component of a society, and then you change the cultural norms. I just wonder if this can be imposed on a whole population. I am reminded of the Soviets in their efforts to create ďThe New Soviet Man.Ē
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Soviet_man

Just free mankind from his oppressed economic relationships with men who have the power to oppress him, and then you have a selfless man who will labor for the common good.

Are we making a similar assumption about Muslim women? Free them from their oppression at the hands of their male relatives, and we will see a more enlightened Muslim civilization, at peace with the world?

Nat Wilcox
07-12-2007, 10:25 PM
"Soft as the earth is mankind, and both need to be altered
(intendant Caesars rose and left, slamming the door)."

--W. H. Auden, from In praise of limestone

I am not one of Auden's "intendent Caesars." Do not worry.

When I have read about the intellectual roots of radical Islam, it seems clear that it stems from a revulsion toward, and terror of, Western modernity on the part of what were essentially devout fundamentalists (of course, highly intellectual and very smart devout fundamentalists...I do not view this as a contradiction in terms).

If you look around the world over the last couple of centuries (but particularly in this century), once the balls of modernity, individualism, sexual liberation and consumerism have gotten rolling almost anywhere, they are very difficult balls to stop. Remember that the attempt to build socialist man was in large measure an attempt to stop (some of) those balls from rolling as well (individualism and consumerism in particular). It didn't work. I think this was also crystal clear to the intellectual forebears of the enemy.

They plan on building "Islamic man" just as devout communists tried to build "socialist man." They are not interested in an insipid, moderate version of Islamic man, any more than communists had any patience with insipid liberal welfare states. (I remember a chant at my left-wing alma mater: "2-4-6-8, smash the liberal welfare state.") I think the comparison is apt.

Islam is not some automatically totalizing ideology. In Afghanistan and Pakistan's Pushtun regions, Islam and Pushtunwali have been "at war" with one another as systems of cultural norms for something like four centuries. If a sort of "totalizing Islam" never even won any sort of complete cultural victory in and around the mountains of Tora Bora, I don't see why we treat it as some kind of totalizing, strong cultural system which is very tough, or that automatically shapes people's thoughts in some sort of totalizing manner. Our enemy is very tough, but the idea that your median muslim women can't discover quite easily through experience that it is swell to have money and be away from the house seems pretty weird to me. This is precisely what the enemy fears, and for good reason. I think the enemy basically admits this in their own writings. They are terrified.

120mm
07-13-2007, 07:22 AM
That's an interesting idea that I hadn't read before.

The only girls they ever publicly cite, however, are the 35 virgins (or whatever the allocated number are) they're going to receive in paradise as a payoff to their suicidal attack.

But who's to say there aren't some groupies in the here and now attracted to the jihadists, despite their puritannical image?

Then you haven't read Van Der Dennen.

http://rint.rechten.rug.nl/rth/dennen/dennen.htm

He posits that the basis of war is at least partly based on the availability of mating opportunities.

120mm
07-13-2007, 07:31 AM
Dont be silly Tacitus and SteveMetz.
Premarital sex is a sin!
you wouldnt want that to stop you getting into paradise after you kill some innocent women and children.
:rolleyes:

You overlook the possibility that pre-marital sex is forbidden in many cultures for practical reasons. The "modern western" view that the sex organs are a form of home entertainment system ignores the purpose they actually serve and is socially destructive. In this, I understand perfectly why the radical islamist feels the need to defend their society by attacking us.

I will not comment on killing innocent women and children, as I think it is a straw man and doesn't belong here, but I do not think that if we can only get a bunch of Arab men laid, that it will stop the fighting.

Now, if Van der Dennen is correct, better chances for reproduction within the societal construct would lessen the strident nature of Violent Islamic Fundamentalism.

SteveMetz
07-13-2007, 09:06 AM
You overlook the possibility that pre-marital sex is forbidden in many cultures for practical reasons. The "modern western" view that the sex organs are a form of home entertainment system ignores the purpose they actually serve and is socially destructive. In this, I understand perfectly why the radical islamist feels the need to defend their society by attacking us.

Thing is, it's just prohibited for daughters, not for sons.

Abu Buckwheat
07-13-2007, 09:16 AM
I've recently been arguing that women's empowerment is a vital and greatly underestimated part of counterinsurgency. My reasoning is that a lot of the young males who compose the foot soldiers of an insurgency participate not because of any political grievances, but because doing so is psychologically empowering. In other words, they do it in part to get girls. Empowering women gives allows them to influence this decisionmaking process.

My response to "women's empowerment is not part of our culture" is to respond with "Well, it IS part of our culture so if you want our help, address the issue." In other words, you can't help those who won't help themselves. If a potential partner is not serious about altering the social, economic, and political structures which give rise to armed conflict, we shouldn't waste our time with them.

I sort of disagree with you that women's issues and empowerment are a vital part of COIN. First what makes us think that the women in societies which are dissimilar to ors want out involvement in the first place. I worked as an NGO security director for a few years and in the ten 3rd world places I investigated or lived I found that women wanted to be empowered inmainly one way... micro-economics of the family. They did not want to wear bikinis, take off the Burqa or be shown western respect that would be disrepectful in the eyes of their own men. They wanted education for the children and mico-credit. Doesn't our view that helping them will help us only show a disdain for their connections to their own cultural identity? Levae it to Phase IV NGOs or the UN who have the cultural senstitivty to do this. In 2003 pre-war the head of USAID made some very similar statements about our ability to change NGOs way of thinking about helping foreign cultures that sounded very similar to the ones above. He made a statement that NGOs who want to help traditionally can leave the coalition and 'we will find NGOs who will do what we want them to do' with regard to 'adjusting' other cultures to our own humanitarian world view.

If we all agree that respect of cultures, traditions and peoples is job one in COIN, why would we suddenly make adjustments for such a core issue as not harassing their women and children? I believe the rumors in Somalia about African-American soldiers 'feeling and disrespecting our women' at checkoints, the rape and murder of the girl in Mahmudiyah by US Army soldiers (which resulted in the deaths and mutilation of two others) and the use of female Marines to search women in Fallujah were all exploited by the enemy as examples of the deep disrespect Americans show moslem women.

There are proper ways to do it, within UN standards but it should be left to the touchy-feely NGOs... they can be quite good at empowerment, particularly in improving the family welfare.

One other thing ... as for the part to impress girls ... I am sure it is a deep down possibility that depends on the locale of the conflict. Here in the ME its about the respect of your peers and community. Salafists are staunchly mosogynistic unless that woman has been given to him by a trusted-source imam and blessed by Allah otherwise ... death and the virgins ... my favorite bumper sticker here in the Gulf is the one on Landcruisers. Its the International female symbol with a red circle and line through it ... they refer to it as the "No Women (B**ches)" sticker ... they mean to say impure women (aka sluts) don't get in their cars, just the guys. Amazing.

SteveMetz
07-13-2007, 10:47 AM
I sort of disagree with you that women's issues and empowerment are a vital part of COIN. First what makes us think that the women in societies which are dissimilar to ors want out involvement in the first place. I worked as an NGO security director for a few years and in the ten 3rd world places I investigated or lived I found that women wanted to be empowered inmainly one way... micro-economics of the family. They did not want to wear bikinis, take off the Burqa or be shown western respect that would be disrepectful in the eyes of their own men. They wanted education for the children and mico-credit. Doesn't our view that helping them will help us only show a disdain for their connections to their own cultural identity? Levae it to Phase IV NGOs or the UN who have the cultural senstitivty to do this. In 2003 pre-war the head of USAID made some very similar statements about our ability to change NGOs way of thinking about helping foreign cultures that sounded very similar to the ones above. He made a statement that NGOs who want to help traditionally can leave the coalition and 'we will find NGOs who will do what we want them to do' with regard to 'adjusting' other cultures to our own humanitarian world view.

If we all agree that respect of cultures, traditions and peoples is job one in COIN, why would we suddenly make adjustments for such a core issue as not harassing their women and children? I believe the rumors in Somalia about African-American soldiers 'feeling and disrespecting our women' at checkoints, the rape and murder of the girl in Mahmudiyah by US Army soldiers (which resulted in the deaths and mutilation of two others) and the use of female Marines to search women in Fallujah were all exploited by the enemy as examples of the deep disrespect Americans show moslem women.

There are proper ways to do it, within UN standards but it should be left to the touchy-feely NGOs... they can be quite good at empowerment, particularly in improving the family welfare.

One other thing ... as for the part to impress girls ... I am sure it is a deep down possibility that depends on the locale of the conflict. Here in the ME its about the respect of your peers and community. Salafists are staunchly mosogynistic unless that woman has been given to him by a trusted-source imam and blessed by Allah otherwise ... death and the virgins ... my favorite bumper sticker here in the Gulf is the one on Landcruisers. Its the International female symbol with a red circle and line through it ... they refer to it as the "No Women (B**ches)" sticker ... they mean to say impure women (aka sluts) don't get in their cars, just the guys. Amazing.

By "empowerment" I didn't mean Westernization. I simply meant giving women some degree of influence over events within their societies. As I mentioned, I've become convinced that two vital elements of breaking a conflict-producing system that our doctrine and strategy for counterinsurgency do not address are: 1) providing alternative, non-violent means of empowerment; and, 2) providing alternative, non-violent outlets for the aggression and risk-taking behavior of young males. I believe women's empowerment helps constrain this aggression and risk-taking behavior. It's not a silver bullet, but it's an important part of the problem.

To put this in a larger context, I think we tend to psychologically "mirror image" when we approach counterinsurgency and stabilization operations. Because our political/cultural/economic system is not badly flawed, we assume others are not. Hence we view insurgents or terrorists simply as psychological deviants. I tend to see them as products of badly flawed systems. Thus without systemic re-engineering, new bad people will simply replace the old ones. And--this is the important part--systemic re-engineering is more than simply holding elections, creating a democracy, and tossing in some reconstruction aid. It entails changing values, preferences, and culture.

Now, I'm still strugging with exactly how one does this. The women's empowerment idea is just one small element of a really big task.

FascistLibertarian
07-13-2007, 02:28 PM
You overlook the possibility that pre-marital sex is forbidden in many cultures for practical reasons. The "modern western" view that the sex organs are a form of home entertainment system ignores the purpose they actually serve and is socially destructive. In this, I understand perfectly why the radical islamist feels the need to defend their society by attacking us.

I will not comment on killing innocent women and children, as I think it is a straw man and doesn't belong here, but I do not think that if we can only get a bunch of Arab men laid, that it will stop the fighting.

Oh no disrespect meant, the comment was more sarcastic than anything.
Monogamy and restrcting womens premarriage sex is tied upw ith males control of females.
I am not just talking about the modern western version. Hunter-Gathers usually had premarital sex as did tribal cultures (although the chiefs daughter was often a virgin).

Monogamy is linked to agriculture and preventing men from being cuckolds.

120mm
07-14-2007, 07:24 AM
Thing is, it's just prohibited for daughters, not for sons.

I disagree. To a certain extent, mating is controlled by the female (rape, of course, is a male tactic to circumvent female control of sexual reproduction. It appears to be in the male's best interest, biologically, to "spread the seed", but if the male wants his offspring to survive and more than just genetic codification to be passed on, a certain amount of monogamy/polygamy becomes necessary. Male protection of mate and offspring then defeats random "seed spreading" in a competitive environment.

Edited to add: In the insular society where I was raised, there was no such double standard. Gentlemen did not "take advantage" of Ladies, ESPECIALLY when they were vulnerable, sexually.

120mm
07-14-2007, 07:35 AM
Oh no disrespect meant, the comment was more sarcastic than anything.
Monogamy and restrcting womens premarriage sex is tied upw ith males control of females.
I am not just talking about the modern western version. Hunter-Gathers usually had premarital sex as did tribal cultures (although the chiefs daughter was often a virgin).

Monogamy is linked to agriculture and preventing men from being cuckolds.

Sounds like someone is listening to some agit-prop. Monogamy and restricting women's extra/pre-marital sexual conduct is all about ensuring that females are able to successfully raise children who prosper, guaranteeing the security of females past child-rearing age, and and in order to wield authority. It also helps to have a committed mate who has an entirely different "skill-set" to provide the ability for a female/male combination to stay within their "comfort zone" and lengthens the lifespan of both male and female.

That doesn't deny that being sexually available isn't also a tactic for achieving the same goal, but being sexually available is a much more riskier proposition than monogamy/socially sanctioned sexual conduct. Sexual availability can be used to collect goods and support the raising of offspring, but when push comes to shove, committed mates and offspring get taken care of, and sexually available females are "dust in the wind."

Your position (and I assume the sarcastic tone thereof) is very popular with the "social engineering" crowd, who depend upon a constant state of conflict between the sexes, which they try to worsen by such theories. They find it useful to create several "Straw Men" to attack, using such theories.

Nat Wilcox
07-14-2007, 01:18 PM
First, although I sympathize with the impulse to come up with "functionalist" (broadly speaking, adaptive or optimality) stories about cultural practices--how could I not, I'm an economist!--a lot of these are post-hoc "just-so" stories and there are usually non-functionalist explanations for such things too. A great example of this is the "food laws" you find in various religions. Routinely, people trot out functionalist stories about these laws, how pork spoils quickly in the desert and so forth. But get a load of this:

"You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk." (Deuteronomy 14:21)

This smacks of a cosmology in which it is regarded as somehow unnatural or horrific to boil a baby in its mother's milk. You can tell me all the functionalist stories you want about it; to me, the simpler and much more persuasive explanation is that the Hebrews had a certain folk science that put things into certain categories, and those categories came laden with meanings, and those meanings implied that certain culinary actions that mixed things across certain categories were horrifying.

For cautions about functionalist just-so stories from two distinguished evolutionary theorists, there's probably nothing better than this very famous paper, which I can highly recommend to any of you. It is eminently readable by anyone here; it is not written in overwhelmingly jargon-riddled academic prose:

S. J. Gould and R. C. Lewontin. 1979. The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, Vol. 205, No. 1161, The Evolution of Adaptation by Natural Selection, pp. 581-598.

My point above is that the scientific status of post-hoc functionalist arguments in evolution, biology, anthropology etc. is difficult. But let's assume that difficulty away: Suppose that we KNEW that male (or female) strategy X is an "equilibrium strategy" of some sort--that, in game-theoretic terms, it is an optimal response to the environment and the strategies played by others in that environment. Would that make strategy X "good" or "right" or "moral" in any noncontroversial sense?

As near as I can make out (I find philosophy very difficult), ethical philosophers divide arguments into two kinds: Teleological and deontic. Teleological ethics is the strategy of defining "what is good", and then defining "what is right" as that which maximizes the "good." You are all familiar with this: I remember someone here saying something like "greatest good for the greatest number", a classic utilitarian-sounding principle. That is teleology. Deontic ethics is everything else. A good example of why ethic philosophers suspect that teleology is not sufficient is intuitions that certain things are simply wrong. For example: "I don't care how many people can be made rich by killing this one person--killing people is just wrong." Religious traditions are full of categorical imperatives, for instance, that brook no teleological exceptions. It's the business of descriptive deontic ethics to try to understand such imperatives by means of non-teleological argument.

Obviously, the argument that strategy X satisfies certain goals of player i, and therefore is good, is a teleological argument, not a deontic one (as far as I can make out, the debate immediately above is about the purpose served by monogamy (or whatever) and hence is about the satisfaction of some good goal, not about categorical imperatives). So, suppse that X is optimal for player i, given the environment and the equilibrium strategies of other players. Would strategy X then necessarily be part of a collectively rational profile of strategy choices by all players in that environment, in any utilitarian sense--that is, would it necessarily advance "greatest good for the greatest number" by virtue of being the equilibrium strategy of player i?

It's painfully well-known that the answer to this question is a resounding NO. The prisoner's dilemma is the best-known example, but there are lots of others. In economic, evolutionary and cultural games of all sorts, equilibria only very rarely, and even then only accidentally, advance "the greatest good for the greatest number" (really, some kind of utilitarian criterion--a weighted average of individuals' satisfactions, for instance). Therefore, no functional story for agent i's use of strategy X implies anything at all about the satisfaction of any global (I mean "culture-wide", not global in the sense of the whole planet) maximization of what is good. Therefore, strategy X is not obviously "right" when it is part of an equilibrium in some game.

So: Why should I care about any particular functional just-so story about monogamy, rape, etc,, from the viewpoint of our ethical obligations toward some other culture? I do not see functional reasons as a demonstration of rightness. This is not to say that I see no good reasons at all: I think (I bet you do too) there are probably very good deontic arguments against rape, period, regardless of what functional role it might play in any particular spieces or human culture. My point is, if all of this discussion about the adaptive significance of monogamy rules is supposed to convince me that these rules are somehow "right" in any interesting moral sense worthy of my deference, it doesn't work for me and I don't see why it should work for anyone else either.

We were talking about interfering with cultures. What culture? Yesterday, today or tomorrow? Who judges what the "authentic" version of the culture is? Does authenticity matter anyway? Here are some stories to think about. Think of them as "authenticity koans" if you like.

1. In the 1970s and 1980s, when environmentalists were pushing for worldwide controls on seal-hunting, the subject of Inuit rights rarely received a lot of attention. But when it did, many environmentalists argued that because most Inuit had adopted certain Western technologies as part of their hunting practices (snowmobiles and rifles, for instance), that they were somehow not an "authentic" indigenous culture worthy of special consideration, as far as curbs on seal-hunting practices went. The question to turn over in your mind is, when do the Inuit stop being Inuit? When they use snowmobiles? If the Inuit chose to ride snowmobiles during their hunts, but still call themselves Inuit and view themselves as culturally distinctive, who is right--the environmentalists or the Inuits? If there are any less technologically flexible Inuit who don't ride snowmobiles, are they any more Inuit than those who do?

2. For the most part, Western art collectors strongly prefer African art objects (masks, etc.) that have "been danced." This means that the object has actually been used in some sort of "authentic" ceremony of some "authentic" African culture. Suppose (this is true) that some African artisans decide to make masks, statues, etc. for export and not for ceremony. Suppose (this may or may not be true) the workmanship is equal to, or even better than, the workmanship of artisans who strictly create objects for ceremony. Are we doing African artisans any favors by insisting that "high value" objects (to us) have to be "danced" objects? Why do we think that an African artisan who produces an object for export is somehow a less "authentic" African artist than one who does not? Is it our business to dictate authenticity to African artisans? Suppose we stop doing that, and value equally both kinds of work. Suppose this causes more African artisans to produce for export rather than ceremony. Have we then committed some sort of intercultural crime by doing this--by promoting a flow of artists out of production for "authentic" uses and into "inauthentic" uses?

Personally, I think the more you think about cultural authenticity, the more controversial the whole concept gets. This is one of those postmodern insights that I actually agree with. If we can't even define what the "authentic" culture is, how can we exercise caution towards changing it? If we did inadvertently or deliberately change a culture through our interactions with it, on what basis would we be able to say that the first version of the culture was somehow more authentic, and hence better than, the one we ended up with after the change? Finally, who gets to define the authentic culture? The Supreme Leader in Iran? Osama Bin Laden? Why should I accept their definitions, in countries with widely varying norms and customs and degrees of conservatism or liberality (both within and between countries, I mean)?

FascistLibertarian
07-14-2007, 07:57 PM
Monogamy and restricting women's extra/pre-marital sexual conduct is all about ensuring that females are able to successfully raise children who prosper, guaranteeing the security of females past child-rearing age, and and in order to wield authority. It also helps to have a committed mate who has an entirely different "skill-set" to provide the ability for a female/male combination to stay within their "comfort zone" and lengthens the lifespan of both male and female.

What you are saying is that you think monogamy and restricting womens sexual contact is normal. What I am sayign is it varies by culture and if you look at the earliest socities (h-g's) it really wasnt an issue. What you are arguing for is a cultural universal. What I am saying is that these roles change over time.


That doesn't deny that being sexually available isn't also a tactic for achieving the same goal, but being sexually available is a much more riskier proposition than monogamy/socially sanctioned sexual conduct. Sexual availability can be used to collect goods and support the raising of offspring, but when push comes to shove, committed mates and offspring get taken care of, and sexually available females are "dust in the wind."

Unless you can get another man to raise you child.....
Maybe mate with good genes and get the guys with bad genes to support you.
I am not talking about 'risk'..... Clearly there are risks to any sexual practise.


Your position (and I assume the sarcastic tone thereof) is very popular with the "social engineering" crowd, who depend upon a constant state of conflict between the sexes, which they try to worsen by such theories. They find it useful to create several "Straw Men" to attack, using such theories.

What theory of mine is so wrong? I dont think I put forward any theories besides maybe a little marxist femminism.....

If you dont think monogamy is linked to the neolithic revolution that is fine, you can think whatever you want. :rolleyes:

Yeah I just want conflict between the sexes......

I am not in favour of cultural relativism but if you think gender and sex roles are universal and or natural than your just plain wrong.

I am not saying that the earliest human gender and sex roles are more natural or correct than later ones, just that early ones were not about monogamy.

Read origin of private property and the state.
Read Nisa.

RJO
07-15-2007, 03:31 AM
For cautions about functionalist just-so stories from two distinguished evolutionary theorists, there's probably nothing better than this very famous paper, which I can highly recommend to any of you. It is eminently readable by anyone here; it is not written in overwhelmingly jargon-riddled academic prose:

S. J. Gould and R. C. Lewontin. 1979. The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, Vol. 205, No. 1161, The Evolution of Adaptation by Natural Selection, pp. 581-598.

My point above is that the scientific status of post-hoc functionalist arguments in evolution, biology, anthropology etc. is difficult.


Wow, its very nice to see my field being mentioned (evolutionary biology). Yes, these "functional explanations" are very problematic. They can also be called "state explanations" -- that is, explanations (or rationalizations) of states of affairs. They can be curiously compelling in a psychological sense, even when having no basis in fact. (That's a topic for the psychologists to investigate.) But an important point is that many people (at large in the world) *do* believe them, and so regardless of whether they are factually correct, people may act as though they were.

(The stronger alternative to state-explanations are change-explanations: explanations not of states of affairs, but of events [changes]. But to offer change-explanations, you first have to establish a factual chronicle of events, and for some cultural products this can be difficult to do.)




We were talking about interfering with cultures. What culture? Yesterday, today or tomorrow? Who judges what the "authentic" version of the culture is? Does authenticity matter anyway?....

Personally, I think the more you think about cultural authenticity, the more controversial the whole concept gets. This is one of those postmodern insights that I actually agree with. If we can't even define what the "authentic" culture is, how can we exercise caution towards changing it? If we did inadvertently or deliberately change a culture through our interactions with it, on what basis would we be able to say that the first version of the culture was somehow more authentic, and hence better than, the one we ended up with after the change? Finally, who gets to define the authentic culture? The Supreme Leader in Iran? Osama Bin Laden? Why should I accept their definitions, in countries with widely varying norms and customs and degrees of conservatism or liberality (both within and between countries, I mean)?

This is accurate and important, and it strikes at another central concept in evolutionary biology: essentialism vs. population-thinking. Those who think there is an "authentic" version of a culture are essentialists: they think cultures have essences, and to deviate from the essence is to be inauthentic. (We all know Clarence Thomas isn't *really* black; nobody who is pro-choice can be a *real* Republican; if you don't support violent jihad you can't be a *real* Muslim; etc., etc.) Essentialism is always false when applied to cultures, societies, races, biological species, and lots of other things. But it's a persistent psychological bias in most human thinking. The rejection of essentialism (and its replacement with what we call "population thinking") was a central achievement of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, because until you dispose of essentialism, evolutionary change can't be correctly understood. So also with cultural change.

I could go on about this favorite topic, but it tends to make people's eyes glaze over. :D Nevertheless, it's an important foundational issue if one wishes to engage in the contest of ideas across cultures.

Bob

120mm
07-15-2007, 06:56 AM
What you are saying is that you think monogamy and restricting womens sexual contact is normal. What I am sayign is it varies by culture and if you look at the earliest socities (h-g's) it really wasnt an issue. What you are arguing for is a cultural universal. What I am saying is that these roles change over time.

Actually, I'm arguing that cultural dispersion in sexual practices is way overblown by those with political axes to grind.

Unless you can get another man to raise your child.....
Maybe mate with good genes and get the guys with bad genes to support you.
I am not talking about 'risk'..... Clearly there are risks to any sexual practise.

Saying that you are not talking about risk is to avoid the issue entirely. I'm asserting that Monogamy is a LESS risky strategy for child-rearing than promiscuity. To say you are not talking about risk makes me wonder why you bothered to respond at all. Here's a better attack on my theory: Demonstrate how non-monogamy leads to a "buffet-style" strategy for child-rearing. If you could get this to work, it would lead to a larger field of input, which would theoretically be "better". If I believed in this, I'd use it to attack my position. I just cannot see where any man or woman's self-interest would be served by this approach.

What theory of mine is so wrong? I dont think I put forward any theories besides maybe a little marxist femminism.....

There are plenty of people whose income, not to mention their political/social viewpoints depend on nurturing conflict. You may not be a General, but your statements indicate you are at least a soldier in that fight.

I am not in favour of cultural relativism but if you think gender and sex roles are universal and or natural than your just plain wrong.

Actually, gender and sex roles are as close to universal as anything we've seen that is observable within human behavior. It is not my fault that politically-motivated "researchers" have chosen to make grand and sweeping conclusions about things which are, frankly, aberrations. Making grand conclusions about teenaged sexual habits on Somoa is the intellectual equivalent of saying that a car is all about the lugnut next to the air stem on the front right wheel. And while promiscuity is NOT an aberration, one could make the case that it is not a particularly successful strategy for passing along genes and societal order. Unless, of course, you are a member of a society where it is the norm. (Wherever that may be.)

I am not saying that the earliest human gender and sex roles are more natural or correct than later ones, just that early ones were not about monogamy.

It is convenient to ascribe sex roles when the participants are dead and long gone, especially when one has a political axe to grind. I also doubt that "lust", "in love" and "jealousy" feelings have changed much, if at all, throughout the history of mankind.

Read origin of private property and the state.
Read Nisa.

No thank you. I'm doing just fine observing how animals interact, counselling couples and reading a little bit on my own. I don't need a marxist/feminist academic to "educate myself". I did a 4 year stint, back in the '90s as a paid relationship counselor (and continue to do so as a volunteer) and have, frankly, burned out a little bit on the "sexual relativity" folks' point of view. I understand my viewpoint is a little bit "swimming upstream" from "sexual revolution chic," but I haven't met anyone who actually attempts to put some of that crap into use, who isn't horribly unhappy (all the while blaming others), while those who appear to be the happiest are those who ascribe to more traditional Judeo/Christian/Islamic mores.

In addition, I am doing a life-long empirical experiment, myself, vis-a-vis my own family. (I think you'd be surprised at how "out of the norm" my own upbringing was, despite your unsupported and unsubstantiated innuendo to the contrary)

And yes, I have decided that "stated happiness" is a valid metric, despite all it's failures.

(This thread is almost precisely why I am having Second, Third and Fourth thoughts about pursuing Academics as a career.)

Nat Wilcox
07-15-2007, 01:49 PM
(This thread is almost precisely why I am having Second, Third and Fourth thoughts about pursuing Academics as a career.)

Hey, my apologies if you feel things have floated off into cloud-cuckoo-land. :o

For the record, I suspect (like you) that for most people most of the time, monogamy is the best course for each of them, personally, given the culture around them. (That's the same thing, in game-theoretic terms, as saying it is an equilbrium strategy for most agents...or in RJO's terms, saying it has a high equilibrium frequency in the population, in at least one population equilibrium...equilibria are frequently "mixed" by the way, meaning that several strategies coexist in stable population frequencies...so monogamy could be the majority strategy and non-monogamy could co-exist with it as a less frequent one.) There's no contradiction between that view and the other things I said above.

At any rate, when I originally wrote down my list of something like "the four horsemen of modernity" and used the phrase "sexual revolution" to name one of those horsemen, what I really had in mind was not changes in sexual behavior per se but instead changes in the economic and political status of women. Poor choice of words on my part. I really am trying to generate light rather than heat, and I'm sorry if I did the opposite for you. I will try to keep it cool.

It is interesting that the presumed breakdown of sexual mores in the West is very heterogenous, and highly related to education. If you look at the least educated women in the U.S. today, you see all of the phenomena that the media have taught us to expect: High teenage and out-of-wedlock births, single-parent families, high divorce rates, etc. But among the most educated women, the trend toward such things has actually reversed in almost every respect: Divorce rates are falling, etc. There is a recent story about this here:

http://www.economist.com/world/na/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9218127

This suggests to me that the "pathologies" normally associated with the sexual revolution in the West may be more pathologies of (lack of) education and prospective lifetime wealth...or at the very least, whatever pathologies may have been unleashed by the sexual revolution, they may also be mitigated by good economic oppportunities for young women.

I don't think cultural subversion has to disturb mating norms. Nor did I ever mean to argue in favor of disturbing them in some massive way.

I did mean to argue that some intuitions about what constitutes "moral" intercultural contact seem flimsy to me...that they aren't as clear as some folks seem to believe. Obviously it pays guests to have good manners, and in order to do that, you have to know something about your hosts. If this is all we mean by being culturally sensitive, my grandmothers knew that and I endorse it. But when I have dinner company, I expect that sometimes sparks will fly. Also, as a guest I am not above subterfuge in trying to get my host to see my viewpoint, or to try the tasty but perhaps strange-looking Muhammara I have brought over for an appetizer. Is such subterfuge immoral?

FascistLibertarian
07-19-2007, 02:29 PM
Actually, your immature, smarmy sarcasm you implied when you said "And we all know that sex before marriage is wrong!" is what I'm keying on. Frankly, it is not something that belongs on SWC.

Fine, you can take people who think they will go to hell for sex before marriage but go to heaven for killing other people by killing themseleves seriously. To me these people are so stupid that sarcasm is the best response.


Actually, I'm arguing that cultural dispersion in sexual practices is way overblown by those with political axes to grind.

How so? Ever read kinsey? If anything it is the reverse, you try and fit the human sexual experince into a nice little box. You should read some ethnographies or history.


Are you suggesting that sexual reproduction is "un-natural"\

No of course not. I just deal with a lot of people who are ignorant enough to think that monogamy and hetrosexuality are natural.


I'm doing just fine observing how animals interact

Besides the fact that large numbers of animals are bisexual and not monogamous what in the world do animals have to do with human sexuality?


while those who appear to be the happiest are those who ascribe to more traditional Judeo/Christian/Islamic mores.

In addition, I am doing a life-long empirical experiment

Okay, so you did sex councilling or whatever, and you dealt with people who were either non-monogamous and non-hetrosexual and were unhappy. And from that you drew empirical evidence?

Yeah the mores of the monotheist religion make people happy......

Im sure the friends and family of christian people who killed themselves because they are attracted to the same sex are really happy.....

but then he shouldnt have killed himself right? just not had sex?

Nat Wilcox
07-30-2007, 02:50 PM
Interesting article at The Economist titled The Verdict of Qom, with some illustrations of differing clerical opinion within Shia Islam about women and other things as well.


Khomeini's central idea, the doctrine of velayat-e faqih, gives the Islamic Republic its theological underpinning. This holds that until the appearance of the Shias' “hidden imam” (of which more below) society should be governed by a supreme leader, the clerical judge best qualified to interpret God's will and the meaning of Islamic law. It is this doctrine that makes Ayatollah Khamenei supreme leader and all others subordinate to him. But Qom itself has never felt completely at ease either with Ayatollah Khomeini's idea or Ayatollah Khamenei's succession. Indeed, many of the most revered clerical minds in Qom see this doctrine, and especially the way it has been implemented since Khomeini's death, as negating their tradition.

Full article here:

http://www.economist.com/specialreports/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9466854

davidbfpo
06-25-2010, 10:13 PM
After a search the right thread to re-activate with this Saudi story and yes I am mindful it relies on official sources.

Sub-titled:
Saudi Arabia is reviewing its terrorism strategy after the detection of a female run network that was fund raising for al-Qaeda. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/saudiarabia/7854994/Saudi-Arabian-mother-becomes-the-First-Lady-of-al-Qaeda.html)

Note:
Shehri, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate who returned to Saudi Arabia and then fled to Yemen, specifically demanded the release of Heila al-Qusayyer, who had been arrested in February.

Saudi justices moves slowly and sometimes with press coverage. I wonder if his demand made the Saudis realise the value of the arrest?