In cultural anthropology, among many typologies of social cultures, there is also a division into masculine and feminine cultures. This division results from the difference in characteristics attributed to men and women.
The basic difference arises from biology, which determines the role of women and men in the process of procreation. Women give birth to children, breastfeed them, and care for them during at least the early stages of their lives. During this time the role of men is to defend women and children from a variety of external threats.
From this basic biological difference, a number of norms and behavioral patterns outside the sphere of procreation have been derived as more appropriate for women or for men.
Consequently, what is considered typically feminine or masculine is culture-dependent and the result of upbringing rather than biological determination. Thus, when we speak of masculine or feminine culture, we mean certain cultural stereotypes traditionally attributed to men and women.
In the case of a particular social environment, however, it does not mean that female characteristics resulting from these stereotypes cannot be attributed to men, and male characteristics to women. Therefore, the culture of social environment can be defined from the point of view of dominant patterns of thought and behavior traditionally attributed to men or women, which are accepted in this environment by representatives of both sexes.
Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede assumes that the components of masculine and feminine culture are universal and identical in every national culture. Thus, masculine culture values assertiveness, toughness, and a focus on material success while feminine culture values modesty, tenderness, and concern for quality of life.
In masculine culture, children grow up believing that appreciation and admiration is due to anything strong. In feminine culture, on the other hand, children’s liking is aroused by losers and anti-heroes. In masculine culture conflicts are resolved through confrontation of force while in feminine culture conflicts are resolved through compromise and negotiation. In masculine culture the family sets children on a career path and arouses great ambitions while in feminine culture it teaches humility, modesty and solidarity with others. In masculine culture, economic development is most important, while in feminine one – care for the environment.
From the extensive research that Hofstede conducted in 100 countries in the early 1980s, there is a definite primacy of male culture. Female culture is clearly dominant only in the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands. It is astonishing that at the time the pattern of feminine culture dominated somewhere considering that since time began the aforementioned characteristics attributed to men were considered an indispensable factor in the development of civilization.
Only recently this way of thinkings has been criticized. Consequently, feminine culture is beginning to be treated as an alternative. The Scandinavians were the first but their example is now being followed by more and more European Union countries. Conservatives, who resist this tendency, see its cause in gender ideology, feminism, or the left-liberal attack on traditional values.
Nevertheless, the cause results from the fear of the consequences of the previous direction of civilizational development, in which male culture played a special role. The end of civilization is already increasingly visible on the horizon and unless there is a fundamental change, catastrophe seems inevitable.
Aggression, possessiveness and greed: these three traits of male culture have been stimulators of human development for centuries. They have been at the core of the three main areas of activity: conflict resolution, exploitation of nature and driving force of the economy. The need for a fundamental change in the way things are done concerns these very areas.
Since time began, people have been forced to fight for survival and to improve their living conditions. Threats came from natural disasters, wild animals, and other people. As a member of a tribe, one had to constantly fight with other tribes for living space, for the right to hunt and fish, for access to raw materials and natural resources. In this struggle, one was once a defender and the other time an aggressor who, in the interests of his own tribe, strived to subjugate other tribes.
And so it continues to this day. Tribes, however, have turned into nations, the economic goals of wars have been increasingly camouflaged by ideological ones, and the arsenal of weapons has become increasingly sophisticated and destructive.
J. Campbell’s study of comparative mythology indicates that the myth of war against strangers has always been present in cultures and treated as a fundamental factor in the internal integration of communities. Without exception, all national cultures include a glorification of war and its own heroes in their myths.
Masculine culture is based on the understanding of reality as a place of constant competition, in which the position and possibility of action of an individual or group depend on its strength and activity, and is constantly threatened by the action of other individuals and groups. Masculine culture includes admiration and appreciation for violence, forcing obedience, breaking resistance. Hence the belief that aggression is necessary to improve both one’s own fate and that of the nation.
People are forced to change their view of war and to stop treating it as a romantic and patriotic male adventure. It is a consequence of the enormous destruction and loss of millions of lives during the world wars in the twentieth century, and the invention of nuclear weapons, whose use threatens to annihilate life on the entire planet. The pacific movements have caused that peace has an incomparably higher value in the public consciousness than war, even it was undertaken for the most humanitarian reasons.
The leaders of the world’s superpowers feel the burden of responsibility for causing a global conflict that threatens to destroy civilization. Moreover, even though they allow local wars in the interest of their local countries, and sometimes even cause them, at the same time they try to maintain a global balance of power.
In the modern world conflicts between states are never bilateral. It is always intervened by other states and supra-state organizations that mediate conflicts and seek to resolve them peacefully by finding compromises. Unlike in the old days, the invader has to reckon with various sanctions imposed on him in the international environment. Instead of aggression in resolving conflicts, today there is more and more need for conciliation, which is a feature of women’s culture.
The contemporary globalized world is strongly connected by various ties of dependence. In this world, individual countries are no longer able to solve problems on their own. The fight against epidemics, terrorism, natural disasters or climate catastrophes is only possible in close international cooperation.
Therefore, conciliation skills, empathy and cooperation will count more and more. Aggression, ruthlessness, and confrontational attitudes, on the other hand, will be universally condemned. Thus, anthropologist Loren Eiseley is right when she writes: “The need is now for a gentler, a more tolerant people than those who won for us against the ice, the tiger and the bear.”
Everything points to the fact that in the age of information civilization, there will be a much greater need for cooperation and humanistic values than for cultural patterns of courage, risk and aggression so carefully cultivated in expansive and partitioning countries in the first half of the 20th century.
Exploitation of Nature
For centuries, people have carelessly exploited natural resources encouraged by the biblical injunction to make the earth subject to themselves. Forests have been cut down without thinking about the consequences. Hunting was practiced exterminating animal species and driving some of them to extinction. Natural resources were extracted (coal, gas, and oil) without caring about the poisoning and destruction of the environment. Methods of animal production and breeding were used in the way that it polluted water and air.
For hundreds of years, the exploitation of nature was characterized by possessiveness, which is a feature of male culture. Possessiveness is expressed in the pursuit of maximum effects and efficiency in action. The idea is to dig, harvest and kill as much as possible, more than necessary, and never less.
The damage caused by this way of acting is enormous and has already become very evident in the twentieth century. Suffice it to mention, the destruction of the ecosystem by open-pit mines, excessive deforestation causing hurricanes, acid rain, the disappearance of the ozone layer of the atmosphere, toxic wastes and sewages deposited on open land, air and water pollution. Progressive environmental degradation poses a real threat to human life on Earth.
One example is global warming, which is progressing much faster than previously thought. This is because greenhouse gas emissions are steadily increasing. The world is still dominated by power plants which burn coal and send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as well as technologies that emit methane and fluorocarbon.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the environmental protection movement developed and succeeded in placing a number of restrictions on activities that threatened the environment. Industrial companies were forced to introduce clean technologies, waste management, and the installation of purification devices. The automobile industry has been forced to control exhaust emissions. The oil industry has been forced to develop new low-lead and unleaded fuels. Packaging companies must reduce waste and energy consumption.
European Commission directives clearly define the directions of the fight for environmental protection obliging member states to apply them. In particular, the principles of ecological forest management and the replacement of fossil raw materials with renewable energy sources are in force.
The way to save our planet is therefore obvious: male possessiveness must be replaced by female providence. It is characterized by careful analysis of the consequences of actions taken and concern for preserving nature intact. Precaution also means striving to live not only from exploiting what is, but also from creating something new. Prevention involves certain restrictions, such as not killing animals for pleasure or for their fur or skin, reducing meat consumption, stopping the clearing of forests for farming or construction, and retraining people working in extractive industries.
Driving Force of Economy
Apart from the unsuccessful and altogether brief experiment with a planned economy, the regulator of economic processes has always been the market, where the game between sellers, and seller and customer takes place. The basic role in this game is played by competition, on which the position of the participants in the market game depends.
In order to win in the competition, it is often necessary to implement product innovations and quickly introduce them to the market, which is the best way to respond to the needs of customers and the behavior of competitors. Innovation has become an imperative for modern entrepreneurs. “Change or die,” Jack Welch – chief executive of General Electric – used to say, and Gary Hamel warns:
“Out there in some garage is an entrepreneur who’s forging a bullet with your company’s name on it. You’ve got one option now – to shoot first. You’ve got to out innovate the innovators.”
The adrenaline rush of competing with others is a typically masculine urge, the source of which is greed – the desire to constantly get rich and dominate others.
The imperative for innovation makes market competitors constantly looking for novelty by not only introducing completely new products, which is more difficult, but also by modifying existing products by changing package sizes, new ingredients or flavor varieties, differentiating appearance or design.
The trend of planned aging of products is becoming more and more common. It involves frequently changing the fashions accepted by consumers to encourage (or rather compel) them to buy more often. Accelerated aging is achieved by deliberate reduction of the use value of components, the use of lower quality materials, etc.
Manufacturers explain this procedure by meeting the needs of customers who want to change used products. Encouraged by aggressive advertising, they want to look for something more attractive and newer. Therefore, taking advantage of the lower durability of products, manufacturers offer new designs and models. As a result, we are dealing with a situation in which durability of use is replaced by increased product functionality, which is normally not important.
The fatal effect of the mad race of producers introducing new products and their variations under the banner of progress and development, is an enormous waste of resources. Massive withdrawal from the use of recently manufactured products and their replacement with new ones does boost the economy but, at the same time, increases the demand for energy, raw materials and all other materials immeasurably.
The pursuit of profit fuels necessity that constantly needs to be satisfied, which inspires entrepreneurs to take new initiatives. The vicious circle of greed spins faster. But the seas and oceans are not yet completely covered in plastic, and smog has not suffocated city dwellers.
Turbo-capitalism driven by greed leads to disaster. It is not only about ecology, but also about the effects of consumerism, which is a creation of modern marketing. They consist in the spread of infantile, demanding and irrational attitudes.
Consequently, they instill in people the belief in their unlimited ability to fulfil even the most exorbitant dreams if only they trust the eloquent marketers. It leads to excessive expectations and abdication of their own responsibility.
Consumerism and the lack of greater interest in public affairs open a wide field for populist parties. People entangled in consumption, narcissistic need for self-improvement, and complaining that others have it better than them, either do not go to the polls or choose the party whose representatives promise the most and not in the long run but immediately. In this way, the myth of fulfilling dreams promoted by modern business leads to the destruction of democracy.
Therefore, the development of the economy based on male greed must finally be stopped. The alternative is development based on frugality and prudence, which are considered in cultural anthropology to be typical of female culture. A prediction of such a change is the increasingly popular escape from destructive competition through joint projects with potential competitors, or through creation of inter-organizational network cooperation structures, which allow for better utilization of resources of various companies.
An important change that has already taken place to a large extent in the Nordic countries is the introduction of a closed loop economy, in which all waste and used products are used as secondary raw materials. In a circular economy resources circulate in a closed loop, in contrast to the traditional linear economy, in which it has become increasingly difficult to deal with the ever increasing amount of various garbage.
In order to save the world, people must also reduce their needs and give up many of their habits. Sometimes this may require a return to behaviors and practices of the distant past, such as giving up plastics and various detergents. It will also require a different approach to ownership, as the principle of austerity may often require abandoning private property in favor of social property.
There is increasing talk of a sharing economy, which involves the provision and use of services between individuals. This requires a continuous transfer of property between these individuals. The goal here is to make the best use of resources. Examples are the benefits derived from the introduction of the urban bicycle or urban scooter, as well as car-sharing.
In order to save the world, in social culture male aggression, possessiveness and greed must give way to female conciliation, prevention and thrift. Hofstede’s research did not apply to Poland or other countries behind the Iron Curtain at the time. There is no doubt, however, that male patterns still dominate in Polish social culture. As Maria Janion writes:
“National and male megalomania prevail, which makes it possible to seemingly solve the problem of ‘inferiority’ and ‘superiority’ in our favor – in this case in fact the problem of power and dominion. This is what makes our lives unbearable – in the vicious circle of domination, imposition, slavery, exaltation and humiliation the constant struggle for recognition of some mythical superiority and triumphing, the constant display of pride and the desire to elevate ourselves above others.”
After taking over the power by the United Right (an informal conservative political alliance in Poland), these masculine traits were especially strengthened. Governing by constantly stirring up conflicts, seeing enemies everywhere and worshipping the cursed soldiers: all this is supposed to strengthen the nation’s combat readiness instead of the inclination for compromise and tolerance.
Instead of Tusk’s fields there are calls to build shooting ranges in every commune. Poland, as the only country in the EU, is breaking out of the European program for combating the climate crisis, which assumes that the EU will achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The Polish authorities disregard the directives of the European Commission and enter into conflicts with their neighbors in connection with the destruction of the natural environment, as exemplified by the Turow mine case.
In terms of waste utilization and recycling, and consequently the possibility of implementing a circular economy, we are in last place in Europe. In Poland a departure from traditional masculine culture is particularly needed. This requires a fundamental change in the patterns propagated in the educational process and in social pedagogy. Fortunately, the patterns of feminine culture are increasingly being recognized by the younger generation.
The world is in a critical situation, so either the future will be female or there will be no future at all.
Czeslaw Sikorski – Professor at the Faculty of Management of the University of Lodz. He deals with social problems of management, especially issues of organizational culture. Moreover, he is interested in analyzes and diagnoses of changes taking place in the Polish society
The article was originally published in Polish at: https://liberte.pl/przyszlosc-musi-byc-kobieta/
Translated by Natalia Banas