Strong Women and Social Change

Theory of mind, as Andrew Lehman explains, can be understood as a modern cognitive style that contrasts with the tendency of ancient matrifocal societies—and autistics—to engage in primary process thinking.  Theory of mind does not merely refer to being aware that other people have minds, as it is often simplistically described.  Rather, as Mark Stairwalt sets out in detail, it involves making rigid assumptions about what others ought to be thinking.  A primary process mode of thought, on the other hand, is characterized by free association among many possibilities, without being constrained by time or place.

In aboriginal matrifocal societies, children spend large amounts of time in the company of their mothers and adult female relatives.  Thus they are taught by example how to repeat, as if they were practicing the steps of a dance, the ritualized patterns of social interaction.  They gain the ability to cooperate with others in productive ways.

When male-dominated cultures became the norm, social expectations with regard to children changed dramatically.  Boys were trained to become ruthless warriors, while girls were raised to obey the patriarchy.  The emphasis was now on rote conformity, enforced by adults and children alike, through the expedient of shaming and bullying anyone who deviated from the narrow paths laid out for them.

These strict gender roles have begun to break down in recent years, making it possible for women to take a more active hand in shaping the development of our society.  A corresponding shift away from the rigid assumptions that characterize patrifocal societies can be expected.  Now that conformity is no longer essential for maintaining a steady supply of warriors and servants, it will be possible for creative self-expression to flourish, leading to the recognition that there is far more potential and diversity in our species than the theory of the normal mind presumes.

on 05/6/10 in featured, Society | No Comments | Read More

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