More empathetically disposed?

This is no scientific essay on women. Only my personal reflections on an issue that has been raised countless times. I have been asked if the woman differs from the man in terms of empathy, care, compassion and emotional intelligence during my whole professional life and I will simply tell what I have seen and what I have felt.

Women may be understood from many different philosophies and scientific schools. Or, at least, some efforts have been done...

I will leave out Feminism and current Gender Research, simply because I am not writing a book here.

The female gender can be regarded from her social, biological, biochemical, endocrinological, functional, conductural, mythological, symbolical, sexological, psychological, parental, and philosophical manifestations and yet, there is so much more to it than that.

The division of labor is an agent of central importance when studying man´s evolution from a Social Darwinist perspective. Men and women seemingly develop a strict pattern of different chores in order to secure survival and reproduction. This does not exclude cross-overs because of necessity (changes in ecological niche, wars, famines, plagues etc) or even to a degree for cultural reasons. Culture, however, can often only be understood when analyzed in terms of access to the means of production and the additional super structure (prevailing normative mindset, ideology or creed).

Functionalism will regard the woman in terms of her biological capacity to conceive and give birth , to feed the infant during the intial crucial year of it´s life, whether the birthmother, or not. Non fertile women are, from a strict functionalist angle, an anomaly and can only be understood in a context of over population, which is absurd and inandequate. The gentically inherited disposition for Sapphic love and disinterest in procreation cannot be understood by functionalists who will regard it as a cultural deviation, maybe because of a shortage of men or something equally silly. Her social functions as a daughter, sister, partner or wife, mother, mother-in-law, aunt and so forth will presumably be better understood in social sciences in general since social roles and patterns of behavior are limited by a necessity of purpose from the functionalist´s point of view.

Social Darwinistic explanations will enfathom the necessity of empathy, courage, aggression, protection, nursing, compassion and an urge to invest in emotional relations with her social environment, which pretty much cover up the ideas of the social, philosophical and psychological sciences as well. The eminent need for social interaction of different species, be it an insect or a dolphin, are recognised by all sciences.

The presence of women who do not care for child rearing, procreation or nursing is disturbing from an Occidental scientific point of view and often referred to the field of pshycological anomalies, much like the somatic medicine science also tends to do when no physiological findings can be traced for illnesses. The fibromyalgia and other syndroms which are associated with women will receive inadequate attention because of sociocultural determinants of gender differentiation which also have an impact on medical conditions and research in general. To our stupor and great dismay we only recently became aware that fatal illnesses such as cerebral and cardiac strokes have been overlooked, simply because the symptoms may differ from men´s. And this is only the start.

Prominent female philosophers such as Hypatia and Diotima (the latter the mentor of Plato) and warriors such as the Celtic Boudica have been recognized by science but I dare say that there were many, many more, History never told their stories and we know why. Science is neither objective nor precise but dependant on the normative mindset in which it is active.

The paradox of the dicotome symbols of the Mother of God and Eve says a lot of the confused superstructure of the traditional patriarchal social reproduction pattern which has been prevailing on and off during history.

My line of profession is still is being regarded as a female profession since appr. the 1930´s. To support, comfort and working as a therapist, the latter once a very patriarchal occupation until Anna Freud paved the way, is still primarily seen as a woman´s job. This indicates that the female gender has been found and is expected to be more perceptive of other people´s needs, especially when it comes to emotionally charged challenges.

And I sincerely believe that the female gender has an inherited disposition in the Selfish Gene (Dawkins) that may differ from the masculine, although we all have an innate capacity to empathize and to protect, to nurse and give comfort. Our ways of expressioning it may differ genderwise due to social and reproductional determinants. But by looking back at Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, Lao Tze and many more we know that men are fully capable of compassion and agape, even if sometimes expressed in abstract terms only.

Working in war zones and with traumatized victims of torture has convinced me of a gender difference though. Women generally survive hardships better than men. Women are more apt to accept and find ways of coping and to implement their ideas of how to move on, often collectively. If this stems from a biological disposition which serves to protect and secure the offspring, I do not know. I can only tell what I have seen and experienced and I was lucky enough to be raised by strong, corageous and compassionate women, my Mother and maternal Grandmother, whereas my father, although reliable and kind, was emotionally more distant.

When God needed help He created Woman.

(Jewish proverb)

Douglas 2012