Gender Issues and Government and Psychology and Social Issues09 Feb 2008 12:32 pm

The typical view is that modern industrial societies are patriarchal in nature and manner. Male domination, in these societies, is enforced and maintained through aggressive and violent brute force.

In our examination into male female tendencies through gender symbols we have called into question much of this stereotype of male aggression. While granting the validity of phallic symbols such as guns, missiles and knives we have balanced this with other valid phallic images. These images focusing on penetration, probing, expansion and emission included the microscope, hypodermic needle, telescope, drill, hoe, train, pen, paintbrush and many other tools, artistic, implements and technological instruments which have been used to foster and improve the quality of life.

So, is male brute force the only or even main instrument of social power, or are there other less overtly masculine means used by modern societies to enforce control over its populaces?

Modern psychology has identified many alternative methods that an individual may employ to establishing and maintain control over another. Many of these methods can be used by governments and political leaders socially and not just be used in one-on-one situations. These general strategies of psychological manipulation include guilt, shame, fear, exclusion, intimidation, innuendo, class designation and exile.

Though various forms of psychological intimidation and warfare have existed throughout history, they probably have never served such a central role as they do in modern democracies. In general modern democracies are premised on the idea that citizens have general rights and that they elect the leaders who serve their interests. Such an ideology makes it difficult for a political group to govern through brute force. Instead they must foster control through more subtle and psychological means. This is the realm of public perception management and political spin. This is the realm of getting people to willingly give up their rights and privileges in exchange for protection and inclusion within the group.

These indirect means of power and control are not only done by governments upon its citizenry, but filters down to interpersonal interactions among individuals and communities. The same strategies are also used in international affairs. Therefore, the psychological methods of power and control are used in interpersonal, domestic and international levels.

While brute force and the threat of brute force is still a major tool used by the
US and a few other nations in international affairs most other nations use less aggressive means of exerting their power. Most nations and governing bodies standardly use strategies of power and control which deal more with psychological matters such as guilt, shame and exclusion.

Let’s take a moment to discuss the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is more internal and geared towards the individualistic nature of democratic societies. While shame is more a form of public humiliation and exile. This distinction between cultures that emphasize guilt and ones which employ shame was first introduced by ER Dodds but grew in popularity in many fields including psychology, philosophy, anthropology and sociology.

In short modern societies often employ both shame and guilt with despotic and socialistic societies leaning towards shame and democratic or theistic societies centering on guilt. In both cases power and control are fostered by either a person feeling personally at fault and unworthy (poor self-esteem) or socially humiliated and devalued.

In international affairs nations use the principle of exclusion through leaving or removing nations from groups such as NATO, OPEC or the UN. This would also involve being sanctioned or punished by some international organization, or in being labeled a terrorist state by some international body. Nations will often use indirect pressure to exert power or influence over another nation, such as embargoes or economic sanctions whereby the target nation of the act suffers economic or political harm.

Inside of nations tools such as strikes, demonstrations and marches often serve to wield power and influence. In a capitalistic/democratic nation the threat of the ballot box or in refusing to consume or patronize a business can give grassroots or religious organizations great leverage and power.

What the bulk of this post suggests is that power in modern societies even those which are patriarchal or despotic often employs techniques of power which are not typically masculine in nature. Not only is power diffused of brute force, but many of the mechanisms employed could be considered feminine in nature.

Though both men and women employ direct and indirect means of power, the more blatant aggressive and violent forms are considered masculine and the more indirect, verbal and vague forms are considered feminine. For more on the feminine aspects of power I’d suggest you read my posts on female womb/vaginal sexual images and their meanings. In short the female images focus on protection, gestation and accumulation which is exemplified in images such as the purse, nest, home, bank vault, coal mine, vases, pots, vessels and secret passage ways.

Likewise in modern psychology the indirect means of getting power are considered feminine in nature. This is the realm of passive aggressiveness, and though once again this strategy is employed by both men and women it is considered more feminine in nature.

With this in mind one could make a strong case that the bulk of day-to-day power plays in modern society use feminine rather than masculine techniques. While men have been labeled brutes and violent tyrants women have been cast as gossips and social predators. The realm of gossip, innuendo, rumor, and verbal insinuation is the realm of modern politics in the US. Fact is seldom focused on and instead we are always forced to consider perception and presentation. What is said, is often secondary to how it was said or even who is reputed to have said it.

In a society which openly acknowledges the importance of spin and spends great energy in parsing their words to arrive at a desired affect, it is hard not to recognize a classically feminine energy. The desire to destroy the reputation of your opponent by smear and rumor and to have them suffer the pain of being excluded from the group is not the technique used by brute force or tyrants.

Again many studies have shown that while males across the globe have a tendency from birth to be attracted to objects and activities, females have a tendency to be focused on relationships and language. I would argue that modern societies have become less focussed on structural change and more focused on words and relationships. Most wealthy modern societies have become more conservative in nature, and such conservatism puts a limit on the type and style of change encouraged and allowed. Such conservatism also makes the management of public perception all the more important and that means the use of language and images becomes more a tool of power and control.

Jim Guido

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