Listen, we’ve all had those days. You know what I’m talking about; the days where you feel like doing absolutely nothing. Perhaps you feel that way because you’re overwhelmed by the massive amount of things that you will have to do. Or maybe you’ve done too much, and your body is taking the reasonable approach in relaxing while your mind races to find something else for you to do. But, after that break, we always go back to work and move forward with our lives.
Time and time again do we experience this cycle, and eventually, as is true when one walks along a path for long enough, we become familiar with it. Then comes the introspection. “Am I satisfied with this?” “Does this help me reach my goals?” The answers to these questions bring a change in psyche and a redirection in drive, possibly leading to larger changes down the road. This is the fate of humans in the societies that we have built.
What would cause this but our own potential and our awareness of what we can do? We can speak for our own potential, as we are capable of self-awareness. Instead of speaking of our individual potential, like most do, however, I want to bring attention toward the collective, societal potential.
As a society, we don’t have the capacity to be introspective. Members of society have to tell society of what they see. And, unlike the single, introspective person, people in society can disagree with that initial interpretation and offer a rebuttal. This comes at a cost; the interpretation of any given person may be true, but they can be overwritten by a more persuasive person. That persuasion is dangerous, since it doesn’t only spawn from individual charisma, but also societal mores.
On that note, most industrialized societies have one thing in common. That is men, from the time of King Gilgamesh, have taken control over an insane percentage of decision-making for these nation’s societies. Explicitly, this creates a problem. Humanity has, for the millennia of our existence, been mostly composed of an even amount of men and women. If a minority of a group are responsible for all of that group’s decisions, then there will not only be natural tension, but also a destruction of societal efficiency.
Think for a moment. Besides the information and communication technologies of today, such as the smartphone, social medias and YouTube, can you think of any isolated invention that has impacted general life that did not already exist in some, more outdated form before the 21st century?
But that’s not even the worst of it. Do you believe that this is as fast as we could have been getting to this point? Knowing how we’ve held our own back, it’s unlikely. We have to face the fact that our innovation has been curbed by the male majority, only growing a fraction of what it could have been moving at.
Allow me to elaborate on a critical reason for our lack of growth by utilizing the science of sociobiology. Sociobiology, the study of social life through the lens of biology, tells us that, in the past and, to a lesser extent, now, intensity of labor, subordination of women, creation of female and male-centric roles and the use of symbols drove the structure of patriarchal societies. But that’s clearly illogical. What does the intensity of labor have to do with the capacity of any gender to envision the problems of this world and create solutions?
It doesn’t. It was a woman that founded the world’s oldest university, 500 years before the age of universities in the medieval era. The introduction of smallpox inoculation, or the protection against infection, in western medicine was brought about by a woman. One of the most valuable scientific laws, the Law of Conservation of Energy, began from commentary, by a woman, on Isaac Newton’s most famous work. The first treatment for leprosy, or Hansen’s disease? The link between chloresterol and clogged arteries? The first to bring awareness of the effect of financial status and gender and racial discrimination on health? Women.
And I can keep going. There are an immense amount of hidden, female figures in human history that can be found to have contributed massively to the library of knowledge that we humans have since built on. However, the question is, “how far would we have gotten if societal roles were not hindering their, and our, growth?”
With Unity Comes Progress
Many say that the problems of the largest units — countries — begin with the problems of the smallest — families and communities. Well what happens when an entire community is involved in solving a problem?
This is very simple, but I will add an analogy in the form of a question to clarify: how do you surmount a roadblock if everybody thinks the same way or has experienced the same thing?
When there are problems to be solved, people tend to call upon their experiences to inform their patterns of thought. Therefore, if everyone had the same experiences, then there would be no difference in how people think. Diversity of thought can only come from diversity between people. That said, when a community works together on a problem, it is more likely for that problem to be solved. Many heads are better than a few.
That said, despite the logic of tapping into everyone’s potential, we’re still at a point where segments of society are male-dominated. For example, women only hold 24% of STEM jobs. While women, particularly those of color, are now outpacing men in higher education, they still have to fight against those ancient sociobiological ideologies to be seen.
This creates a frustrating map of events: society has problems to solve, the solutions to those problems elude society because of the lack of diversity of thought, women, who bring that diversity, show that they are qualified to help, but get turned away, due to societal mores, and, finally, the solution is found at a great financial and temporal cost.
The only way to fight these ideologies is education and progress. When more people are aware of an issue, it becomes more important to solve it. When you need knowledge, find it. When you need perspective, ask for it. Our path to growth as a human culture can only be carved with input from all of us.