There are debates that lose track of what they want to achieve in the fog. So it is also with the gender debate. The word “mankind” has been discarded in favor of the word “humankind” and “he or she” has been cropped to “s/he,” but what’s the purpose? Or, better yet, what’s the _telos? (Telos is a term from the Greek referring to the “desired state” of things, rather than some finish line people run across to win a race._) A vital question remains essentially unanswered: What does a society look like in which men and women live together equally?
No controversy that’s driving us at the moment is so bitterly slugged out as that of gender equality, and that’s because the struggle is missing a telos. Should men share the power endowed to them by their forefathers with women, or should the masculine measure of power be replaced with a feminine one? One reads of effeminate boys being shaped into girls by their nursery school teachers. The girls learn faster, and no one seems to care about the boys falling behind. These examples, at least, suggest a reversal in our power structure. Where is the advantage for us men in seeing our reign of power replaced by another: that of women?
“Women lead differently” is one of the reasons given by supporters of a female executive quota here in Germany. Really? The evidence for this claim is still pending. Gender foes hold biology accountable: male and female bodies are different. From this natural fact they derive different societal roles for men and women. This argument, too, is invalid.
Nature is the real enemy
When we talk about gender roles, we’re talking about social constructs. Gender research has this much right. These social constructs serve, as Foucault correctly laid out, for rule formation and the maintaining of power. Language is the trowel that cements the exercising of power.
But was it ever different? Have humans ever really lived in a “Garden of Eden”-like natural state, naked and without social conventions? This intellectual regress to nature, to evolution, is a mistake. We like to dig up the bones of our ancestors, but we know very little about how they treated one another in their prehistoric communities. And even if we did know, we wouldn’t emulate them. As a consequence of this, our bodies and our behavior have nothing to do with one another. Rather, nature is the enemy; the archaic period in which survival of the fittest and the rule of the jungle were all that mattered, in which a woman was male property, followed a primitive logic: The man protected the woman and if he no longer could, the she and her children, and maybe also even the man, were enslaved by others. These archaic customs still persist today in many parts of the world, and people in developed societies have only culture to counter them.
Culture is the attempt, by means of social constructs, to venerate women and for men to demonstrate respect and vice versa. The courtship rituals of the sexes occupy a special place in this mix. Here, just as in the subsequent intercourse, archaic elements are mixed and infused in large doses into the culture. Its charm lies in its sheer audacity to relegate culture to a padded room and leave it there forgotten in the reanimation our animal drives.
Our telos: to defend this culture against gender-war-wagers and biology fanatics.
_Translated from German by Ben Hill_