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Nation: An Unchauvinist Male Replies

4 minute read

Social Anthropologist Lionel Tiger, 43, has been ridiculed in Women’s Liberation publications for his theories on the reasons for male political domination. The author of Men in Groups, a professor at Rutgers and married, with one child, Tiger last week discussed Sexual Politics with TIME Correspondent Ruth Mehrtens Galvin. Among his observations on Author Kate Millett and her theses:

FOR a start, virtually all the goals that women have are perfectly justified, legitimate and desirable. One can only support them in every way. The problem, as I see it, is the analysis that they make of why things go wrong, of why there are these disadvantages. Millett tries to say that the males dominate females because they dominate females. This is her evidence of patriarchy and it therefore should be removed. It is a very peculiar way of reasoning, if all societies, everywhere, exhibit the same characteristics of male dominance.

Millett has raised, more directly than anyone else, some of the critical problems of biological reality that we’re going to be facing. Questions are being asked about what kind of animals we are. The hunting history, for example, is now fairly clear: we evolved as a hunter. We spent 99% of our time as hunters; we’ve been hunters until very, very recently. It’s not just a question of changing a few employment practices and a few attitudes of males and females toward each other. It’s far deeper than that.

The argument ultimately turns on whether one thinks that there are any differences between males and females that can be inherited. Clearly Millett thinks that there aren’t. I think there are, and if we want to deal with this basic problem, we have to deal with it in terms of what it is, not in terms of our abuse of the system. We get some kind of genetic inheritance, we get all these chromosomes, we get a lifecycle. Those biological givens influence and shape a deep structure of behavior. Millett is talking about the very deepest structure of all without realizing that she is. She’s talking about the breeding system: any animal’s central problem is how to reproduce, to survive enough to reproduce. Unless you’re talking about that, you’re talking about something that’s trivial.

Women’s Liberation is very much a minority movement. It’s evangelical. It’s a movement that makes people feel good, and there will be a lot of people reading these books who won’t do a thing to change the conditions of their lives; still, they like reading about revolution. In one sense it constitutes a kind of pornography; it’s a fantasy about the different ordering of things without individuals really doing anything about the ordering.

There’s something that again the feminists are going to have to cope with —that males are much more fragile sexually. It’s often difficult for males to perform sexually if they don’t feel that the mood is just right. One of the problems here may be that primates physically have intercourse with females that they can dominate. It may just be that the phenomenon of sexual encounter depends on a sexual politic. And that without this politic, in the way it has been contrived for several million years, there may not be any sexual encounter.

Males are very fragile. They can only operate in very fantasy structures—like the Pentagon and like the U.S. Government—with seals and all the wings and eagles. They have this fantastic panoply that males create. Males are always in drag, in a sense, even if they’re in the Pentagon, always constantly elaborating these highly mythical structures. The thing the females do, of course, is break them, which is why it’s a very desirable thing, often, to have females in the structure to laugh at the funny men in their Shriners’ costumes.

My whole argument about the feminist movement is that the women start from exactly the wrong point of view. Rather than starting from the notion that males and females are the same, they should start from the notion that they are different, and that they have different life experiences. Then you might actually get somewhere. This would mean that you have a career structure for women that is different from the one for males, and thus women would be discriminated for. I’m all in favor of discriminating for females.

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