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What If Women Ruled The Heavens And Earth?

Because males ruled as the supreme gods in the heavens (e.g., Yahweh, Jehovah, Christ, Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Indra, Lord Krishna, Ahura Mazda, Zeus, etc.)[1], as well as the seas (e.g., Poseidon, Neptune) and even in the underworld (e.g., Hades, Satan, Devil, Thanatos, Yama), it should be no surprise that they largely ruled the world as well as Commanders, Caliphs, Emirs, Tzars, Shahs, Maharajahs, Chairmen, Premiers, Kaisers, Kings, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Sultans, Rajahs, Ayatollahs, Popes, Dalai Lamas and the like. However, the very fact that only a smidgeon of women filled these key leadership roles belies the reality that women were likely just as capable of ruling as men—or perhaps, even more so. Therefore, if we assume the equivalence of leadership ability for both sexes, the only logical way to account for this unequal situation would be to conclude that women were either deficient in some as yet unspecified abilities essential for ruling or else were being discriminated against because of misogynistic prejudices.

To put this matter of ruling in proper perspective, we first need to address the role the gods may have played in this discriminatory scenario since many of these rulers claimed to have been chosen, ordained and inspired by them--or even to be godly and omniscient themselves. Then, once we focus on the gods, we encounter a startling, often overlooked fact. In bygone days humans once worshipped a female God who was far more awesome and powerful than most of the male gods appearing later. In her book, When God Was a Woman, Merlin Stone traced the ancient worship of this God back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages.  Back then, the Great Goddess, known as The Mother, was the immortal, omnipotent creator and law-maker of the universe: a prophetess, the answerer of prayers, a provider of human destinies, an inventor, a healer of the sick, a hunter and even an invincible leader in battle—all in one. The Mother was considered to be “the sum total of the energy in the universe” and “the activity in all things.” She was “the great power of all creation, the primordial essence, the womb from which all things proceeded and into which all things returned.” She also gave women full rights[2].

Because the Mother God was so all-powerful and all-knowing, she eventually came to rule the heavens and entire ancient world under different names and in multiple forms. In India, for instance, she became known as the Goddess Durga. In this role, with her many arms and the varied weapons at her disposal, she protected worshippers from evil by destroying all forms of wickedness, including arrogance, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger, greed and selfishness. Over time, as her influence spread to other lands, the Goddess came to be called, “The Great Mother,” “The Queen Mother of the West,” “the Golden Mother of the Jade,” “the Lady Queen Mother,” the “Primordial Essence,” or the “Eternal Venerable Mother of the Far East” nations. Under these different titles, she represented “the great power that creates and destroys” and “the womb from which all things proceed and into which all things return.”                   

Figure: The Goddess Durga

The beliefs in the powers of The Great Mother continued until about 2400 BCE when the Indo-Europeans began invading other countries and imposing their patriarchal beliefs in masculine superiority on the citizenry. Subsequently, belief in “the Goddess as The Universe” began eroding. Her powers were then redistributed among a growing number of male and female lesser gods, each now overseeing different domains. This growing assembly of minor gods and goddesses eventually led to the rise of polytheism throughout the civilized world. Among this plethora of gods and goddesses, perhaps the best-known assembly of divine beings were those worshipped within the Greco-Roman Empire. (See Figure below)

Figure: Gods and Goddesses from Greek and Roman mythology

In essence, what this grouping of male gods and female goddesses portrays are the beliefs by the general populace about the basic strengths and weaknesses associated with each sex. Overall, male gods, who were far more aggressive than female goddesses, were prone to war, retaliation, conflict and displays of power. For instance, Zeus, the head god of the heavens, when not seducing goddesses, used lightning and thunder bolts to bolster his edicts. Poseidon, god of the seas, relied on earthquakes, storms and tidal waves to intimidate his enemies. Vulcan, an expert blacksmith, spent his time forging powerful metal weapons capable of wiping out armies. Mars, who had a short temper, relied on his blood-spear and protective shield to do battle with anyone who defied him. Hades and Hermes relied on trickery and deception to deal with their enemies. Even Eros, the mischievous god of love, had ways of being intrusive. He flew around shooting his darts into the butts of humans, causing them to lust after anyone nearby. And while all this turmoil was transpiring, Dionysus, an aficionado of wines and rowdy events, roamed the heavens seeking out wild bacchanalia in order to engage in bawdy sex.

In contrast to these male divinities, female goddesses were far more caring, prudent, sedate, loving and considerate. None fomented wars, tormented others or constantly sought fights. Venus spent her time fostering love, beauty, desire, fertility and prosperity. Iris, goddess of the Rainbow, was busy beautifying the heavens. While the male gods prowled the heavens as hunters, the goddesses gathered provisions and treats for their loved ones. Hestia, for instance, the goddess of the hearth, home and family, dedicated herself to remaining virginal and undefiled while promoting longevity, safety and vitality for others. And then, for those in need of wise advice, Athena, goddess of wisdom, was readily available to make sure they acted wisely and well.

Then, as these polytheistic systems evolved over time, a singular male deity began to take over as an exalted leader of the gods. In time, he absorbed all the powers of these lesser gods into His Being and even dismissed the Divine Councils that were assembled to offer Him advice. 

Here is what the Supreme God in the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita had declared in the Song of the Lord:

“I am He by Whom the worlds were created and shall be dissolved… the Supreme Self, I am the cause and upholder of all…. I am its Nourisher. I am the Knowable and the Pure …. I am the Goal, the Sustainer, the Lord, the Witness…and the Origin. I am Life and Death…the Unborn and the Omnipresent. The Source and Master of all beings, the Lord of Lords, the Ruler of the universe…”

So now, with the rise and spread of such monotheistic religions as Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, a complete shift to the worship of a singular male God, a.k.a., the Lord and Master of the entire universe, displaced The Eternal Mother. In time, even Her prior existence was virtually forgotten. Also, the lesser maternal, loving, caring female goddesses were now portrayed as evil serpents or dragons. As Lynn Rogers, in Edgar Cayce and the Eternal Feminine, claims, “25,000 years of ‘her-story’ of the Goddess’ bountiful creativity were obliterated.” A seeming, spiritual transformation of sorts eventually occurred over the centuries as the earlier Mother Goddess devolved into the stern, all-powerful, authoritarian God, the Father, who demanded complete obedience from His worshippers. By then, the growing patriarchal societies had become averse to the very notion of a woman serving as a ruler of any sort.

In recent times, Arianna Grande, in her song, God is a Woman, reawakens the distant past.  Selected lyrics from the song are below:

(You love it how I touch you

My one, when all is said and done

You'll believe God is a woman

And I, I feel it after midnight

A feelin' that you can't fight

My one, it lingers when we're done

You'll believe God is a woman.) 

Women as Men

With the eventual dominance of male gods in the heavens and the plethora of male rulers on earth, it became well-nigh impossible for females to compete in either of these spheres. This situation was best exemplified in monarchical governments allowing a queen to ascend to the throne after her husband, the king, died, only if there were no male heirs apparent. That dire situation was to be avoided at all costs. However, if it did occur, the queens often adopted a clever strategy to offset the prejudices against them. Since they were not males, they could do the next best thing. They could act like a male. 

Hatshepsut (1479-1478 BCE) was the first known female to rule in ancient Egypt as a male with the full authority of a pharaoh. Images after her coronation portray her with a masculine physique—i. e., no suggestion of breasts, narrow hips and wide shoulders. Even so, all references of her in the Egyptian texts used female pronouns. Figuratively, she lopped off the ’S’ from her “She” and the ‘r’ from “Her” to act like a “He” in all manner of behavior and appearance. Despite her actual gender, she now conformed completely to the expectations for a male king. She even waged imperial warfare to bring the spoils of battle to enrich her gods and her people. In many ways, her unconventional kingship was an expression of conformity by adopting the expectations for a ruler of the times. As for her personal life, she hooked up with Senenmut, who was presumed to be a gay male because he was unmarried. He then served as her close advisor and protector during her time in power.

Then, in later years, even when queens actually ascended to the throne by hereditary succession, they likewise had to confront similar biases attesting to their supposed temperamental, intellectual and moral unfitness to rule. One common way almost all the modern- day widows or daughters of a deceased King chose to counter these biases after coming to power was to argue that while they had the body of a woman, they possessed the spirit or mind of their departed male kin. Queen Elizabeth I, for example, invited comparisons between herself and her headstrong father, Henry VIII, who beheaded her mother.

“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman,” she told her troops, while dressed in a silver breastplate and white gown, “but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England, too.”

To emphasize her fitness to rule, her tutor wrote, “Her mind has no womanly weakness, her perseverance is equal to that of a man, and her memory long keeps what it quickly picks up.” Then, to assuage the doubts of those who advanced more reasoned arguments against women rulers, dealing with their innate unsuitability to rule, apologists for the queen devised the clever theory of the King’s two bodies. This theory held that when she assumed the throne, her whole being was altered. Once her mortal flesh, which was subject to all the imperfections of womanhood, became wedded to the immortal body politic, that was timeless and perfect, all her female shortcomings were eliminated. Therefore, as a result of this transformation in her being, her femaleness would no longer pose a danger to the glory and welfare of the nation.

Then, as a humorous aside, we have a more recent instance of the convoluted logic involving gender issues. In 1979 another monarch with the same name but a different numeral, Queen Elizabeth II, went on a royal goodwill tour of the oil-producing countries in the Middle East. Sensitive to Muslim customs about the dress of women in public, she wore a burqa-like dress covering her from wrists to ankles and neck and a special scarf attached to her hat so she could pull it down over her face like a veil if need be. However, when she arrived at the airport in Saudi Arabia, the King was faced with a dilemma. It was not proper for a female, even a queen, to attend a special reception dinner given by men, much less to be feted as the guest of honor. Yet for diplomatic reasons, he felt obliged to welcome her and her female entourage. Fortunately, after praying to Allah for guidance, he had a divine inspiration. He declared the Queen and her four ladies-in-waiting to be “Honorary men” during their visit. While that proved to be a great relief for all, it only made the visitors more confused about what clothes to wear and what public bathroom facilities to use.

Aside from being proclaimed a would-be male, women actually had other ways of earning this dubious honor. For over 200 years, thousands of Dahomey women warriors lived and died to defend their country, now known as Benin, on what was once called “the slave coast.” According to the only authoritative account of these fierce women, they came into existence in the 1720’s as the king’s palace guard. They consisted of the king’s “third-class” wives: those forced into celibacy because they were considered too unattractive to inhabit his bed or were deemed to be infertile. Records showed that there were about 600 women in the Dahomean army from the 1760s until the 1840s, after which King Gezo expanded the corps to as many as 6,000 because of the threat of the neighboring Yorubu natives. These troops lived in his compound and were well supplied with tobacco and alcohol, plus up to fifty slaves for each warrior. When these women left the palace, a female slave, ringing a bell, walked ahead of them. The sound warned males to keep their distance. Touching any of them meant possible death. Legend held that these women were officially thought to become “men” at the moment they disemboweled their first enemy—the highest honor they could receive. 

So why should this symbolic transformation of a woman’s body into a male’s body within certain societies serve as a requisite for doing battle? Most likely, this notion came from the belief that males were more suited for battle than females by virtue of their body build, aggressiveness and physical strength. Men generally took care of all the wars and battles while the women took care of domestic affairs.  Also, while a few female rulers, such as Catherine the Great of Russia, Queen Victoria and the Byzantine Empress Theodora, gained renown for their successes in battle, none won the universal acclaim of such legendary male rulers as Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Odysseus, Charlemagne, Mao Zedong, Tamerlane, Attila the Hun and Cyrus the Great.

Now what about the supposedly male attribute of aggressiveness, perhaps best portrayed by the actions of ambitious rulers to expand their country’s influence, ideology and borders or to establish dominion over other nations? The successes in battle of rulers, such as Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Charlemagne, Mao Zedung, Tamerlane, Attila the Hun and Cyrus the Great, have earned them the almost universal respect as being among the greatest rulers in history. In contrast, few if any famous female rulers have gained such comparable renown for their military acumen. Whatever lasting fame they gained came about because of their more peaceful achievements. For instance, the renown of Catherine the Great of Russia mainly had to do with her fostering the Freedom of the Nobility Act, which freed up nobles from obligatory military service. Queen Victoria, who had an Era named after her, was instrumental in transforming the political role of the British monarchy into a ceremonial one. Borte Ujin, empress of the Mongolian Empire, was the wife and most trusted advisor of Genghis Khan and ruled the Mongol homeland in the long periods when he was away at war. And the Byzantine Empress Theodora gained a small measure of fame mainly from passing laws allowing women to divorce and own property.

What is often overlooked in the praise heaped upon these legendary male leaders is the toll exacted by them on others for all their conquests and victories—all the deaths, devastation and untold suffering of those partaking in battle along with the collateral killing of innocent bystanders and noncombatants. To best appreciate how warfare represents such a prominent feature of ruling, we need only observe the matter from a historical perspective. The facts speak for themselves.

After producing a ten-volume, monumental work, The Story of Civilization, Will and Ariel Durant published a little-known, slim book, titled The Lessons of History, in which they sought to reveal what their lifetime studies of history had taught them about humans. Their sobering message was that since the beginnings of recorded history there has been little alteration in the aggressive conduct of mankind. While the means and instrumentalities changed over time, the motives and ends remained the same. For instance, in 3,241 years of recorded history, only 268 years had been free of wars. Put differently, ever since humans could write, they had been killing each other in wars more than 92 percent of the time somewhere in the world. This percentage might even be on the low side. The Durants claimed that the reason for their discouraging observation was that humans engaged in this behavior because they were subject to inexorable biological laws that kept them responding in the same way to similar circumstances. These biological laws, which were unusual for historians to cite, involved the struggle for existence, the selection of the fittest and the perpetuation of the species.

We also need to add to these observations those by Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud in their famous exchange of letters about why men were drawn to war. Interestingly, Freud came to almost the same conclusion as the Durants. Only he held out a ray of hope. Although he blamed war on mankind’s aggressive instincts, he considered several possibilities for preventing it. After noting that men tended to fall into one of two classes, leaders or followers, he proposed that those in the upper stratum should be trained to subordinate their instinctual life to “the dictatorship of reason” so they could better lead the masses. Aside from offering such a simplistic classification of men, Freud should have been ashamed of himself for making such a naive suggestion. Especially so since he already had established how much instinctual forces enabled humans to deceive themselves about their true intensions by providing self-serving rationalizations for their actions. Time also proved him to be naïve. He wrote his famous letter in 1932, several years before his beloved Germany–which then represented his ideal of the most civilized and advanced culture at the time—marched on Poland, unleashed the most devastating war on mankind ever known and dramatically rendered his argument moot about the preventive benefits of culture and intellect.

Interestingly, in this discussion between two of the greatest minds of the 20th Century, one a physicist and the other a psychiatrist, neither had pursued the implications of what was staring them right in the face. In positing possible solutions to prevent wars, they had not articulated the reality that virtually all of the wars were initiated by men, who likely were suffering from what some have referred to as testosterone poisoning, manhood mania, toxic masculinity or X chromosome deficiency. If they had focused on that actuality, one or the other might have proposed that perhaps the best solution to preventing wars would be to have far more women in power because they were far less aggressive than men.

Had Einstein and Freud been alive today, here are the facts they would have had at their disposal with respect to the past century. Rough estimates reveal that the world leaders during the past century alone were collectively responsible for well over 205,000,000 deaths (ca. 170,000,000 civilian and 35,000,000 combatants killed) due to wars or to disastrous social policies, such as forced collectivization, ethnic cleansing, gulags, purges, the “Great Leap Forward” or even the “promulgation of democracy” (7). That totals to an average of roughly 100,000 deaths per male ruler worldwide, a feat even a wrathful Jehovah had trouble matching when He supposedly destroyed the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Now what about the deaths caused by female rulers? While female rulers were likewise capable of wreaking havoc in other nations during the entire past century, the death tolls and casualty rates attributed to them were a mere pittance in comparison. All told, the lesser number of female rulers were responsible for a total of roughly 200,000 deaths, give or take a few thousand, over the entire 20th Century—or about 7,500 deaths per female ruler.  That death tolls per female ruler worldwide were far less than one-tenth of the average number of deaths per male ruler.

While potentially all sorts of legitimate, methodological criticisms could be levied against this comparison, the facts speak for themselves. In their book, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence, Dale Peterson and Richard Wrangham clearly laid all the blame for wars on men. They claimed that even when women warriors fought alongside men in wars, especially against alien occupation, they always served in men’s armies and fought men’s wars. While it may be unjust to lay all the blame for most wars on male rulers, all the evidence indicates otherwise.

Perhaps the best example of potential differences between male and female aggressiveness can be found in a detailed report on the 1994 Rwanda genocide that was instigated by a large group of Hutu extremists planning to wipe out the minority Tutsi population after the assassination of the President of Rwanda. Approximately 800,000 civilians, mostly Tutsi but also moderate Hutu victims, were killed by the 200,000 participants. In the legal proceedings that followed once peace was restored, the authorities found several thousand individuals guilty of complicity in this massacre. Less that 6 percent of this total were women. Only 47 of them were on the list of 2,202 (roughly 2 percent) Category-1 genocide suspects.

Interestingly enough, while the majority of women participated in this massacre, they did so in ways very different from those of men. Unlike men, they did not carry machetes. They assisted by refusing to hide Tutsis—or also to help them. They comforted the killers by cooking their meals and fetching drinks for them. And they exposed the hiding places of Tutsis. Given these non-lethal aspects of complicity, many community leaders claimed all the women were innocent of murder because they were mainly led by men. Some influential Rwandans even proclaimed that the genocide might have been avoided entirely if women had been in power.

A lawyer in the country summed up the general public’s conception of the overall role women played in the massacre as follows:

“There is a presumption that women are good by nature, that is, hospitable, welcoming, mild, and incapable of committing atrocities. So, women who really participated, that is, those who were violent or surpassed the expectations of them, and who cannot be explained away as innocent, are not understood. They are treated, not like men, not like women, but something else, like monsters.” 

Or, there was an even briefer excuse by an authoritative source for the seeming complicity of the relatively small number of women.

“They can’t be blamed. They just acted like males.”[3]

Now for a complete change of venue. Once we switch our attention from waging war to making peace, we find that female rulers appear to be far more effective than male rulers. They were mainly able to do so because they had certain unique, unconventional weapons at their disposal. Below, for example, is what Livy had to say about how females ended an ongoing battle between the Sabines and the Romans, who had abducted Sabine women for wives over the years. The strategy resulted in a reconciliation between the two armies and an agreement to form one nation under one ruler. A similar tactic, employed by men under comparable conditions, likely would be inconceivable.

[They] went boldly into the midst of the flying missiles with disheveled hair and rent garments. Running across the space between the two armies they tried to stop any further fighting and calm the excited passions by appealing to their fathers in the one army and their husbands in the other not to bring upon themselves a curse by staining their hands with the blood of a father-in-law or a son-in-law, nor upon their posterity the taint of parricide. "If," they cried, "you are weary of these ties of kindred, these marriage-bonds, then turn your anger upon us; it is we who are the cause of the war, it is we who have wounded and slain our husbands and fathers. Better for us to perish rather than live without one or the other of you, as widows or as orphans."[2]

In more recent times, in a courageous grassroots movement, over 3,000 Christian and Muslim women mobilized their efforts to end the fifteen-year civil war in Liberia responsible for an estimated 200,000 deaths. Under the aegis of an organization, called “Women of Liberia, Mass Action for Peace,” they staged a silent protest outside the Presidential Palace, pressuring the warring factions to resolve their differences. This also helped to bring to power Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s first female president. The weapon they used proved to be far more powerful than all the prior guns, canons and mortars used before.  Their threat to the men was known as the Lysistrada tactic: i.e., “No peace, no sex!”                                                       

Observations such as these make it reasonable to conclude that the levels of testosterone or estrogen suffusing the brains of humans likely contributed to entirely different leadership styles and ways of wielding power. They likewise also influenced major differences in the basic inclinations of men and women. Except for the actual magnitude of the fatalities attributed to the different sexes, the situation itself should be no surprise. Even Benito Mussolini, the fascist leader of Italy during World War II, may unknowingly have provided good reason for mankind to opt for female rather than male rulers. In his speech to the Chamber of Deputies in 1939, he bluntly declared the following: “War is to man what motherhood is to a woman. From a philosophical and doctrinal viewpoint, I do not believe in perpetual peace.” In effect, he was stating that a women’s job was to raise sons at home so that they later could be sent to do battle and die, if necessary, for a cause.

So what is the cure for all the deaths and destructiveness caused by wars?  Since males seem far more inclined to do battle than females, it would seem reasonable to expect that matriarchal rather than patriarchal societies would be the answer. However, when we attempt to compare the wars and battles undertaken in both kinds of society, we confront an unanticipated problem. Such a comparison is impossible. There arguably are no strictly matriarchal societies. The very notion of their existence has been contested. The reason for this lingering confusion was due to the mislabeling of certain practices in certain small, obscure societies as being matriarchal when they really were only ‘matrilineal’ (tracing kinship through one’s mother), ‘matrilocal’ (families remain located near the maternal line) or ‘matrifocal’ (where the mother is head of the family). Even more basic, some commentators argued that there can be no true matriarchal society simply because, by definition, no woman groups would tolerate a political power structure based exclusively on sex or gender.[4]

At best, the only models available about the nature of all-female societies derive from legend and utopian fiction.  According to legend, Amazon women supposedly lived in Pontus, now a part of Turkey near the Black Sea, and were ruled by a queen named Hippolyte, the name meaning “unbridled mare.” In ancient portrayals, they wore trousers, carried a shield and quiver, and were reputed to be fierce warriors. Herodotus referred to them as Androktones, or “killers of men.”

According to some accounts, the kingdom consisted only of women. But once a year, in order to keep their race from dying out, they visited a neighboring tribe, known as Gargareans, to mate with the men. In other accounts, they did not kill all the men when they went to war. Instead, they would take some as slaves, whose role was to serve and service them.  The infant girls resulting from their visits were kept and brought up by their mothers and trained to raise crops, to hunt and to wage war. Having no use for the boys, they either sent them back to their fathers or left them in the wilderness to fend for themselves.

What of use could we learn from such a society? Not much. It was an intriguing notion, but implausible. Even “killers of men” would likely resist sacrificing boys they gave birth to and nursed unless they were deranged or held so much festering anger towards males for centuries of oppression and abuse. Also, from a practical standpoint, that practice held no survival value.

Now for the other extreme. In her 1915 novel, Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman depicted a utopian society existing in a remote, isolated part of the wilderness. What happened was that a volcanic eruption killed almost all the warring men about 2000 years ago and blocked off the only pass out.  The remaining male slaves then killed all the male offspring of their masters along with the old women, with the intention of taking over the land and the young women with it. But the women fought back and did away with the men. Cut off from the rest of the world and males, the surviving women despaired over the future of their society until one of the women became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. Then, having learned to reproduce through parthenogenesis (i.e., producing only female embryos), the all-female society grew and prospered. No longer having to play men’s games, such as pretending they were weak, helpless and dependent, the women could be their true selves. All of their efforts now could be devoted to improving their minds, working together and caring for their children. Because women now ruled by reason and collaboration, their society was free of conflict, war and domination. And then, as the three male explorers who discovered this utopia learn, all traditional gender roles were blurred. The women were muscular, strong and independent and had no concept about the typical duties and expectations for being a wife. Most important, they did not need men to survive.

While this novel and its sequel, With Her in Ourland, stretch one’s imagination by having women reproduce via parthenogenesis (though advances in cloning techniques may allow for single sex societies in the future), they do a brilliant job in highlighting the artificiality of many gender roles. Other utopian novels, such Huston, Huston, Do You Read? by James Triptree, Jr. (pseudonym), The Female Man, by Joanna Russ and A Door Into Ocean, by Joan Slonczewski also deal with similar issues. What they also do is portray the feminist desire of women in these utopias or dystopias to avoid the common practices within patriarchal societies to settle disputes by means of war. In essence, they accomplish that by getting rid of all men by one means or another—just as the Amazon women supposedly did. They even managed to do so without relying on the Superwoman poster below, which cited Aphrodite’s Law (see cartoon below)                                                                  

At this point we need to pause to consider the ramifications of these observations. The very existence of novels portraying the existence of idyllic utopian societies consisting only of females may well be underplaying the important role females play in ordinary societies, even patriarchal ones. If all societies were predicated on ongoing battles within and between the sexes for dominance, then humans likely would have obliterated themselves by now. Instead, even with all the wars, social upheavals and calamities, civilizations have advanced, cultures have thrived and the world population has soared, with humans rivaling ants as the most invasive species on earth. And despite Aldous Huxley’s insightful claim, "The most important of all the lessons of history is that men do not learn very much from them," mankind must have learned something useful so far to offset its potential for self-annihilation. There had to be another stabilizing force at work in society to offset the destructiveness of males and to assuage the fears of females for their offspring. Obviously, there was. If “man, the warmonger and hunter” represented the potent trope to account for the aggressive behavior of humans, then “woman, the peacemaker and nurturer” could have ostensibly served as a counter force to contain the damage by men. 

Given such a world, it then becomes possible for female rulers to be who they are in dress, spirit and action. They would have no need to emulate men. They could be proud of who they were. They could extol womanhood as a remedy for manhood. So if we dismiss these demeaning expectations for females as instances of misogyny, we can commend the stance of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the first woman to be democratically elected President of Iceland, serving in office from 1980 to 1996. She had this to say about ruling:

“Sometimes when women get elected to positions of power, they start acting like men. They start being tough like men. My vision and understanding of the world is a woman’s understanding of the World, not a man’s—I have never tried to copy a man. I think it’s very important that a woman remembers that she is a woman and not a man. You’re a woman, so keep being a woman and show women and men you are a woman. This sends a very important message that women are equal to men.”[5]

With the input of both males and females being necessary for social stability and population growth, we need to realize that the fundamental human unit in virtually all societies, regardless of its’ government and the recent blurring of sexual rules, consists of the union of a man and a woman, most often formalized as a marriage. As it happens, 96 percent of all 20th Century rulers were married and only 4 percent were single.[6] Also, 93.1percent of women and 91.8 percent of men married by age 49.[7] The reason these statistics are so relevant to this discussion is because they indicate that whenever a male gained political power, whether by election, inheritance or force, the status of his spouse changed, too. The wife (or her equivalent) now became the only person within the entire nation who, most likely, was physically, mentally and emotionally closest to the proverbial throne. As such, she likely would be privy to her mate’s innermost ambitions, thoughts, worries, sensitivities and doubts. Within this context, she also might come to serve as his sounding board, counselor and helpmeet during times of stress or duress. In short, there was ample cause to justify the wisdom in the old statement, “Man was created to be the protector of woman, and woman to be the helpmeet of man.” As a consequence, when a man became a ruler, the general public was likely getting two rulers instead of one—one in sight and the other often out of view.

Once we acknowledge the existence of ruling couples within all the different forms of government, we need to reexamine the common assumption of a man’s supposed “natural dominance” in such marriages even if he happened to be a ruler. The relevant question that needs to be asked is, “Dominance, with respect to what?” As Susan Carol Rogers points out in her article, titled, Female Forms of Power and the Myth of Male Dominance, a distinction needs to be made between power and authority. Because authority structures are more formally defined role networks, they are easier to observe than power structures or the nature of actual political acts (see Cohen, etc.). To complicate matters, men and women in many societies behave as if the myth of male dominance was true even though it did not define overall behavior. Rogers then argues that because men and women were equally dependent on each other economically, socially, politically and psychologically, neither could be more autonomous than the other. While a deference custom represented a ritual or cultural expression of an unequal power relationship, it did not accurately reflect the actual power relationship between husbands and wives with respect to “who dominates and who submits; who makes family decisions; who gets his or her way in case of disagreement; who is catered to; who commands; who obeys; and so forth.” Because of these omissions, information about the actual power relationships between husbands and wives remains scanty and private. Given this reality, it even might be the case that wives were silently communicating to their husbands, even those who were rulers, “I’ll give you credit for making the major decisions here, if you’ll make the ones I tell you to.”

Now for a potential shocker. Aside from all the ways by which women may get men to do their biddings, we have yet to consider the seemingly implausible reality that the selection of such a huge majority of male rulers had nothing to do with their special abilities or qualifications for leadership. Rather, this situation might exist simply because women preferred it that way. If true, what a shock that would be! It would challenge virtually every argument favoring the supposed superiority of males over females with respect to leadership abilities. Nonetheless, that is exactly the position Ester Vilar took in her provocative book[8].

“Could it be,” Vilar asks, ‘that strength, intelligence, and imagination are not prerequisites for power but merely qualifications for slavery? Could it be that the world is not being ruled by experts but by beings who are not fit for anything else? And if this is so, how do women manage it so that their men do not feel themselves cheated and humiliated, but rather believe to be themselves what they are least of all—masters of the universe? How do women manage to instill in men this sense of pride and superiority that inspires them to ever greater achievements?”

Vilar then goes on to claim that men do what they do simply because they have been unwittingly manipulated by women into doing so. The whole lives of men are nothing but a series of conditioned reflexes, whereby they are enslaved by the powerful social expectations of their role—protectors of their women, their families and society. Although women possess the same intellectual abilities as men, they supposedly have been content to conform to the age-old, patriarchal traditions that give them little incentive to compete with men in a bid for success. And why? Simply because women pretty much had what they wanted. While men strived and competed for money, reputation, stature and seeming power, women simply could be who they were, provided they attached themselves to a suitable male. The man then functioned according to the pleasure of ‘non-freedom.’ Or, to put it another way, women “have planned a future for themselves which consists of choosing a man and letting him do all the work. In return for his support, they are prepared to let him make use of their vagina at certain given intervals.” Also, since energy flows where the attention goes, women have powerful influencing techniques at their disposal. Because most humans seek praise and admiration, women may exert control over men by bolstering their egos. They could do so by periodically praising them for their strength, courage, intelligence and character.

In many cases, then, a woman’s dependence on a male is not only material but practical as well. It enables her to fulfill her role as a mother and spouse without personally having to compete with men in a world filled with strife, greed and ambition. Because of these realities, men supposedly find themselves unthinkingly fathering women's children and providing security for the family. Given this situation, Vizar then claims, “Women just sit back getting lazier, dumber and more demanding—and, at the same time, richer. A primitive but effective system of insurance policies — policies for marriage, divorce, inheritance, widowhood, old age and life –- ensures this increasing wealth.”

Of course, many of these extreme claims about men and women require qualification. For one, they disparage women and men by discussing them as entire groups and not allowing for diversity and variation among them. The presumed characteristics for married women do not allow for a sizable percentage of them who actually prefer to be the dominant partner within their households and also those who thrive on competition with males in the workforce. And the presumed characteristics for married males do not do justice to those who willingly support their wives in their ambitions and careers. However, with these exceptions aside, these observations about the underlying motives of many wives deserve careful attention and thought—especially so because they have a scientific basis.

As it happens, these claims about the intentions of many women are consistent with evolutionary theory. From a biological perspective, sperm are cheap. During spermatogenesis, male testicles release anywhere from 20 to 300 million sperm cells in a single spurt of semen.  In contrast, women release just one egg a month. Also, pregnancy for a woman usually lasts nine months, while a male’s contribution to the birth process is as long as it takes for him to ejaculate a few squirts of semen—perhaps as long as five to ten seconds. As a result, evolutionists would claim that women tend to be selective in the men they chose to marry, especially with regard to their ability to support them and any children they may have together.[9]

Therefore, what actual scientific proof, if any, can be offered to support the seemingly wild contention that males, though far more plentiful and influential as rulers than women, may unwittingly be doing women’s bidding? What single bit of evidence might support this seemingly outlandish notion? Well, here it is. If Darwin’s contention is correct that the most important basis for human evolution involved the principle of survival of the fittest, then females display a decided superiority over males in one crucial aspect. According to the report in the Global Health Observatory, plus other studies, women worldwide live an average of 6 to 8 years longer than men. Since the best way to measure physical fitness is longevity, then, with minor qualifications, this significant difference in lifespan could arguably serve as proof.

Aside from their advantage in lifespan, females have another reality in their favor. This disparity in longevity with men was much more likely to be magnified in real life because of the widespread practice of men to marry younger women. In the case of male rulers, this age discrepancy was likely to be even greater. Ostensibly, a youthful, attractive wife would not only be an attestation of their manhood but also appeal to their political base. This age difference between them also often violated the so-called, One-Half Plus Seven Law—the worldwide, implicit expectation that it would be improper for a mature man to marry a woman less than one-half-his-age-plus-seven-years.[10]As an informal proof of this age differential among ruling couples, the percentage of widowed First Ladies happens to be far higher than that for widower male rulers after the age of 65.

So what are the consequences of such a situation? A study on 11,887 men and women over a span of four years found that the increased longevity of women put them in a caregiver role with their aging husbands. As such, they assumed responsibility for their health, finances and overall behavior.[11] Their wives spent the last years of their husbands’ lives telling them what to do and what not to do. In effect, since this reality likely also applied to ruling couples, the wives eventually were in the position to be ruling the rulers!—for many, a befitting and satisfying reward for putting up with them for years.

Perhaps the best way to portray the nature of such relationships between aging rulers and their younger wives within their private chambers would be to cite the humorous interchange between Toula and her mother, Maria Portokalos, in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Toula: “Ma, Dad is so stubborn. What he says goes. Ah, the man is the head of the house!”

Maria: “Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.”


[1] I did realize that Allah was genderless. However, all references to Him in the Quran and elsewhere represent male pronouns, never female.

[2] Merlin Stone, When God was a Woman (Barnes and Noble, 1976); Lynn Rogers, Edgar Cayce and the Eternal Feminine (California: We Publish Books, 1993); Sylvia Browne, Mother God (Hay House, 2004); Savitri L. Bess, The Path of the Mother (Waterfront Press, 2016).

[3] Nicole Hogg, “Women’s Participation in the Rwandan Genocide,” International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 92, (March, 2010).

[4] Cynthia Eiler, The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory (Beacon Press, 2001).

[5] Anna Andersen, “Madam President,” The Reykjavik Grapevine, March 24 2014, https://grapevine.is/mag/feature/2014/03/24/madam-president/.

[6] Data compiled from the Demographic Yearbooks of the United Nations on 97 Societies, https://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic-social/products/dyb/index.cshtml

[7] Fisher et al., “Romantic Love: a Mammalian Brain System for Mate Choice,” Philosophical Transactions Research Society London Biological Sciences, Vol. 361, No. 1476 (December 2006).

[8] Esther Vilar, The Manipulated Man (Pinter & Martin, 1971).

[9] Maia Szalavitz, “When Men Stop Seeking Beauty and Women Care Less About Wealth,” Time – Healthland, September 7 2012, https://healthland.time.com/2012/09/07/when-men-stop-seeking-beauty-and-women-care-less-about-wealth/.

[10] Kara Kooney, The Woman Who Would Be King (New York: Crown Publishers, 2014).

[11] Catherine Beaunez, “Cartoon as a political manifesto,” Global Fund Women, http://exhibitions.globalfundforwomen.org/exhibitions/women-power-and-politics/appearance/cartoon

CONTRIBUTOR
Arnold M. Ludwig
Arnold M. Ludwig

Arnold M. Ludwig, M.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. He received the American Psychiatric Association's Hofheimer Award for excellence in research and won the national Dorcus Award for work on multiple personalities (altered states of consciousness). In addition, he has authored books such as King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership, How Do We Know Who We Are?, A Biography of the Self, The Price of Greatness, The Mystery of Life.

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Foreword  NATO is once again in the spotlight. A NATO summit concluded on Monday 14 June 2021 in Brussels, ending with important decisions charting the Alliance’s path over the next decade and beyond. NATO has served as a pillar of stability and security for more than seven decades, while the world has become more complex, with a host of new players, threats, and challenges. Allied leaders...
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