The Meaning and Substance of the Subjugation of Women


What do you believe are the driving forces and meaning of subjugation?

I have to divide this post into three parts. First is the benefit of subjugation of women to men, second is the ongoing deep effect on women and then there is the fact of culture. And again I have to point out that these posts are thought documents and certainly not research vehicles or repositories.

Benefits for Men

Looking at the discussions about patriarchy has been a depressing experience. In my life I have heard all the arguments men advance regarding the appropriate roles of women. I found every one of them distressing and invalid. Branded large on the surface of claimed benefits are the augmentation of power for men. I’ve searched that landscape for decades and found it wanting.

But they have held power and continue to hold power. Of course the exercise of that power goes well beyond the subjugation of women. Men held the power over slaves through history. And part of the discussion focuses on sexual rights including rape. The discussion in that area seems to focus more on men’s rights. I don’t hear much about celebration of rape.

As to the overall benefits men derive from patriarchy I have to confess I shake my head. Yes, there is power which some celebrate but the motivation to look away from the issue of loss of potential and broad benefits mystifies me. But then I don’t seem to relish power.

The Losses for Women and Society

It seems there are some benefits for men but at the society level the benefits are highly questionable. As to the benefits for women, they are hardly impressive and the negatives for society are rather important.

First of all, women are half of the population which means any negatives are substantial. At the most global level, the subjugation of women means there are limits of vision and effective planning. We see that much potential is not developed.

In spite of all the publicity we continue to see women paid less than men for doing the same job. That means there is less potential and freedom in their lives. All of this contains innovation and productivity. Patriarchy contributes to racism, imperialism, capitalism (in its darker components) and supports environmental catastrophe. Of course there is much more to the last item on the preceding list.

It is difficult to note any benefits to society as a whole and, even for men, the results are less than ideal. It is ever so hard to see the justification. In the media we see a cross section of people presenting views and too often the arguments simply do not hold water. It is hard to tell if those who present phony or contrived arguments believe them or whether it holds some unadmitted benefits for them.

Then There is Culture

Often in discussing these kinds of issues we talk about specific benefits and losses which leads us to deal with the people who are benefiting or not from policies and attitudes. But at a larger level there is the matter of culture.

If we move beyond individual benefits and losses to the larger picture, then culture glares before us. One of the great strengths of humanity is that we possess culture. Now and again we trip over our differences but culture in general contributes stability and guidance.

Leslie White (one of my heroes) called it the extrasomatic stream. Culture does not reside within a given person but flows around us in society. We see it when two diverse groups come up with the same idea at the same time even though they do not talk to each other. The components come together independently because of this stream outside of individuals.

Its is a strength, but it is also a weakness because when something becomes established in culture it has tremendous staying power. And even if we overcome patriarchy there are systems which constrain women as a matter of culture. These have to be defined and examined. And we cannot believe for a moment that simply recognizing it will lead to sudden and widespread change and release from the negatives of subjugation.

We have our work cut out for us.


Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

A Focus on Patriarchy- Pt 2

Why Are Women Subjugated?

There is an interesting historical perspectives about subjugation and it suggests that women were not always subjugated. Now granted, when we reach very far back in history we cannot always be sure about the validity of the information but it seems intriguing.

Were Cavemen Rapists or Nasty Mysogynists?

There is the recurrent image of the caveman dragging a woman off by her hair but it may be that for many of them life was quite different. One line of thought says that the men were often off hunting. Remember the hunter-gatherer? Well, yes, the men were hunters and the women gatherers. Since they didn’t have access to birth control pills they were often back at the cave with the kids and took them out to gather. The hunt might be unproductive or worse and what they gathered was generally believed to be central to sustaining the tribe. It may be there was a good partnership.

Women Warriors

Adrienne Mayor’s book The Amazons was truly an interesting encyclopedia. Once upon a time I thought Amazons were mythological women warriors. Not really. Amazons were the women of the nomadic and semi nomadic tribes of the area that includes the Steppes east of the ancient mediterranean societies. They were skilled horsewomen (women do better with horses) and fought alongside their men just like the Viking Women.

It seems when we go back in history and search cultures we find that the subjugation of women was far from universal. Of course, true equality may have also been illusive in many circumstances as it is among races and tribes.

The Agricultural Revolution

Then came the agricultural revolution in the Middle East. Evidently there was then the need for more workers and that meant more children were needed. Perhaps this was the beginning of the subjugation of women because of the needs. Naturally all of this can be taken with a grain of salt but the possibilities are interesting.

In fact, I remember sitting in class mesmerized listening to the anthropologist Leslie White when he pointed out that slavery began when people started to be able to produce more than they needed personally. If all you can do is sustain yourself then there is no point in having a slave.

Plenty Is Not Enough

It is truly intriguing that what happened to women and many peoples may have been a function of surpluses. Suddenly subjugation of all kinds became rewarding to those who managed to be in power. Then came kings, despots, dictators and oligarchs. For many of them what wealth and power they held was never enough. Moving beyond subsistence and survival can have wholly new effects.

Then culture gets stamped in. How it has been becomes how it will be. Now comes our capacity to examine and reconsider.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt


Women and Our Future Pt. 5

Is That All It Is?

Confronting Possibilities

What key memories do You have?

Long ago I remember standing in front of a cathedral in France. I was ten years old and looking around at a new world with new people. At that age I had little perception about what Europe had just endured nor the reach of its history. I recall my mother placing a handkerchief on her head before entering. I asked her why and she said it was “customary”.

Being who I was then and am now I didn’t press it further but for me it opened questions and they remain unasked in so many ways. The true answer and the depth of meaning remains to be probed. Of course, there are answers many people accept, but I find them shallow and lacking of substance. Possibilities always present themselves.

The Polar Bear

There are many interesting documentaries on television and recently I saw one about polar bears. I’ll put aside the barren environment in which they live and how it is now endangered along with their future.

Almost the entire documentary focused on the males search for a mate and the conflict involved. It seemed fraught in so many ways including his initial contact with the female with whom he wanted to mate. I had to think “Is that all It is?“ I doubt many people view our struggles as just about continuity as a species.

Power and Submission

In later posts I’ll go more deeply into the issues of power and submission but for now let me raise the question. I’ll just call it “Is that all it is?” which means are we simply in a battle between men and women about dominance and submission related to reproduction? I failed to see the greater purpose involved in a woman covering her hair in church and I fail to see a greater purpose in subjugating women. To me a better question to focus is whether we as a species have a larger mission.

The world of animals is fascinating in its diversity and their struggle for survival shows tenacity. From the struggle comes increased complexity, a culling process and new futures. Looking back at human history we can see something of a similar process but we also see something else. We acquired language and mastered the development and balancing of culture.

What’s Next

I am always asking what i might call my life question. Is the struggle to survive and gain a mate all there is? But does the acquisition of language and culture suggest that there may be other fascinating possibilities in our future. And how might an end to the subjugation of women fit in? “Possibilities” attend my life and I have to raise them again in this context.

We have hopes and dreams which alone suggest there may be interesting ways forward. And fundamental for me is the question about what may happen when we empower women which I firmly believe is to happen. And some of that is what has fostered my efforts in writing the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy.

How would you define the essence of our future as beings?


Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Not So Loyal Opposition

For you, what are the implications of the movement to empower women?

Opposing Empowerment

From history it is clear that there are very many people opposed to women being empowered. It was not so long ago that women did not have the right to vote. They had to be brave, march in the streets and insist that they should have such a right. In the 1960s came the women’s liberation movement. In some ways it was not an easy time for women. I recall women dressing in what amounted to men’s suits with ties. That form of dress was (thankfully) abandoned shortly. But we were all finding our way.

There were questions about who would support women being liberated and that included some women. At times it was all so tentative. I recall being at a convention and hearing there was to be a meeting of women about the issues. I showed up wanting to hear what they had to say and a stricken woman politely told me it was for women only. In retrospect I can see how they wanted to consider where they stood and what needed to be done without some male making possibly unwanted input, possibly in the form of “mansplaining”.

Male Subterfuges

And lets face it, whether men will say so out loud, many of them are opposed to women being empowered. And, of course, the question is why they should feel so threatened. Of course, they almost never put it that way. There were simple statements that a woman’s place was in the home, that it was unseemly what women were asking and on and on. Oh please, can we be honest?

Actually, I’m not so sure we can be honest because I think the issues are so fundamental and deep in the human psyche that I’m not sure we can easily be honest.

Such Breadth of Opposition!

And then there are other matters which are related. Recently it has come out that men in football are suffering terrible brain injuries from the brain bouncing around in the skull and from twisting of the brain stem. Suggesting there is a problem seems to be tantamount to taking away their masculinity. But the real point here is something else that came up in one discussion I heard. A couple of former players raised the issue of a player who came out and said he was gay. To put it mildly he was not treated well by his brother players. And then both of the former players commented that they thought the homophobia was simply another form of being antiwomen. I simply can’t respond to that thought in a simple fashion.

Expecting a Backlash

The bottom line here is that there is a lot more than meets the eye. Presently we have a war on women going on in the United States. Efforts are being made to restrict women’s reproductive rights which also relates to fundamental issues of health care. The talk is about opposition to abortion but, not for a second do I believe that is the issue. Women are not supposed to be empowered.

And I fully expect that I’m going to get some nastiness for supporting the movement and I think it will be disguised and, in fact, the men objecting may actually believe what they are saying. This is a very, very deep issue which will require exploration. And this issue is fundamentally underlying my Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy.

I’ll have much more to say and some thoughts about the underlying issues.

How are you expecting the movement for empowerment will play out?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Is This a Time of Reform?

With Crisis Comes Opportunity

With all the political turmoil the question reform seems odd. It merely seems to be chaos and we have no idea where it will lead. And I’m not hearing a lot of wisdom from the talking heads.

Some things strike me as almost inevitable. Change, consolidation and finding a direction. This kind of turmoil can’t continue forever. All we can hope is that a direction will appear before we end up in an unimaginable crisis.

The point is that world events are hardly linear and neither are their components. Opportunities appear, reform eras come and go and from each of these things we may grasp them and make improvements. Sometimes the time is simply not ripe.

The Reform Era of the 1960s

We built a new country after World War II and then came a major reform era. We began to talk about stewardship of our world in more defined ways, the advent of effective birth control opened a new era for women and our thinking broadened in many ways.

As a psychologist one movement which caught my interest was community mental health. It was time to move away from in depth psychotherapy and psychoanalysis to a broad movement which would bring “mental health” services to the population at large. To do that they we were to apply a public health model.

Seizing an Opportunity

Just as I was finishing my Ph.D. at Duke the movement opened and I was interested. I have to admit I never liked school all that much. I just stuck with it. Too much of it was not particularly engaging for an intuitive personality type. I needed novelty, possibilities and community mental health offered those things. So I came to Baltimore to become engaged in inner city poverty. I did not really know what I was getting into but I loved it. We learned how to give services in diverse poverty communities. And we learned to do battle with the conservative forces in the mental health hierarchy who were not at all interested in groundbreaking and simply wanted the grant money.

What a Learning Experience!

We had to lay aside old ways of thinking. Had to delve deeply in the communities as they were and even keep ourselves safe. We dealt with junkies wanting to con us out of meds, riots when Dr. King was murdered, and sort out our own diversity. It was challenging, dangerous and exciting. Because we came with a new framework we could perceive origins, outcomes and vulnerabilities. In fact, we saw the savage policies which flooded our prisons and the roots of division between the people and the police seeding riots decades later.

For the Record

All such things must come to an end and in time the rambunctious, groundbreaking twenty somethings moved. But I could not resist putting down the experience for the records. The story in all its fascinating details is told in may book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health.

From Past to Present

And then something happened recently. I came to awareness which had eluded me. The movement had come too soon. Certainly there were problems which would have worked against progress anyway, but in many ways wed lacked the tools to really document and develop what we found and what we did.

When we had gone out onto the streets we were all naive. We had to learn a new approach whether we liked it or not. Insight therapy and medications were not fundamentally useful. The community was in crisis with each community having a different crisis of sorts. And so we had to learn community and life management. But there were no tools to document what we found and ways to construct broadly useful models.

Now Comes Information Technology

The needed tools now exist. With parallel resources putting down what we found and what worked, we could have moved toward a comprehensive, flexible system which would have evolved into a whole new movement. I can only imagine what utility it would have today.

The long and short of it is that it is now time for a community mental health movement. All the prerequisites exist in Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health. We will see if these kinds of potentials will grow out of our present crisis. There are so many flowering buds out there in this age.

What do you see coming?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon Home Page

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stewardship in All Regards


The Mountain Road bridge, straddling small waterfalls in the hills of the Brecon Beacons, National Park, Wales, United Kingdom.
Understanding Essential Obligations

In the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy stewardship is an underlying theme. We are facing an issue of stewardship in regard to our fellow humans and our planet. There are so many levels of stewardship and the people in this story are facing central issues in defense of our future. Attention to the needs of stewardship often prove deeply inspirational.

After World War II we collectively took a deep breath. Not only were there whole countries that had to be rebuilt but there were many millions of people who had put their dreams and their futures on hold. We got to work. About twenty years later things began to change.

Beyond Normalcy to Change
For me high school ended and I entered college innocently. Suddenly sputnik was lofted by the Russians and there was a new mission. Almost simultaneously the civil rights movement opened and we began to focus on preserving the planet on which we live. Amidst it all the women’s liberation movement was born. The dawning of this movement seems to have been related to the availability of effective birth control but it meant a whole new potential and form for our relationships.

While I was in graduate school mental health took on a new dimension with the advent of community mental health. It was not just a matter of mental health. We began to look at interacting with whole communities. I wrote about it in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health. We weren’t just treating mental illness. We were responding to the needs of communities.
Recognizing Stewardship
For me there was one word which characterized all of these events. Stewardship. And to this day it continues to hold our attention but is most often heard in regard to stewardship of our home planet.

But for me it holds a broader connotation. We are stewards in all regards. Whether it is in the civil rights movement, in the relationship between men and women or the planet itself, it is all a matter of stewardship. Anything can be lost or impaired if we do not become thoughtful managers. It was this underlying recognition which fed a great deal of what I was to come to write in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. I actually had no idea what it was fomenting deep inside of me. We have broad responsibilities to tend to each other and our home. And it just might be that we are seeing something even more fundamental. We seem to be taking ourselves to a new dimension.