Tuesday, October 31, 2006


My Pay-triarchy post raised the question of what a matriarchal society might look like.

It’s easy to blame men for having screwed everything up and gotten us to this desperate point. You know, the point where the planet is a drained, dying, overheated turd trying furiously to eject us from its rancid longsuffering surface...

…After all, the men were the ones in charge, right? And with great power comes great potential for abysmal failure.

But I suspect that rule applies no matter who’s at the helm. So along those lines, here are just a few theories on what the world would be like if women had ruled history instead of men:

On statehood

Assuming there were still 6 billion of us (unlikely since birth control would probably have been invented about 10,000 years ago), and assuming the sexes were still roughly equal in number, I'd say there would be approximately 3 million separate countries in the world: one per woman. We're territorial like that.

Another way of saying that is that there probably wouldn’t be a concept of “country” like we have now. My theory on this is quite simple: the distinctly patriarchal concept of land ownership arises from a male genetic imperative to stake ownership claims, resulting from the ambiguity of biological fatherhood.


On war

This one really is simple: we wouldn’t have had the “Cold War,” we would have had the “Cold Shoulder War,” or possibly the “Icy Stare War.” All wars would be chilly, snippy, and protracted, with little or no bloodshed (we shed enough blood monthly, thank-you-very-much) but lots of hurt feelings on all sides.

On religion

The facile answer would be to say that we’d all worship a sparkly unicorn goddess of rainbows and harmonious lovey-dovity.

This one’s hardest of all to guess at…most major patriarchal religions have a secret team of professionals working around the clock to figure out new ways to subjugate women. (You didn't hear that from me.) It’s really hard to say whether that would simply be inverted in a matriarchal culture, or whether there’s some mitigating factor in our biology or natural…inclinations?...that would make a female religion different (read: I'm copping out of this one). I’ll have to plagiarise check out what E.O. Wilson thinks of that…

On technology

This is another tough one. Behind every great invention, there’s a wife nagging her husband to just make me a machine that sucks up dirt already! But admittedly it has been the men who have done the grunt work. And, okay, the thinking work too. We’re the visionaries, they’re the realizers. Okay, okay, they can be the visionaries too. But without women washing their dirty underwear and taking care of their damn kids, men wouldn't have had the luxury of time in which to do all that visualizing and realizing.

So I guess as the rulers of the world, we could’ve commanded the men to invent washing machines and microwaves shortly after Washington’s fortunate tangle with a lightning bolt.

But my theory is that the structure of society would be so different that the everyday life tasks--domesticity, if you will--that drive invention would be organized in a radically different way, so many of the inventions we’d need and use would be entirely different.

On society

Here's one for ya: I bet if women ruled, there would be no separate public and domestic realms.

I’m pretty convinced about this. The public and private worlds--like the world of family and the world of business, for example--would have been unified throughout history. My proof is that this is exactly what has happened since the sexual revolution in the latter part of this century; you know, since the pendulum started swinging for Gynotopia.

Don’t agree? Well, see “On war” above for my thoughts on that. Hmmph.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Look down. Are there a pair of bumps obscuring your view of your lap? Then guess what? YOU are the new boss of everything, jefe. It’s official: the pendulum has swung.

“‘We are perhaps on the first step to a matriarchal society; women will earn more money than men if current trends continue by 2028,” said Michael J. Silverstein of the Boston Consulting Group. “The trend has been escalating in the last 10 years as there has been a gradual, slow erosion of the power balance in the family, a psychic rebalancing.’” [From NYTimes.com, October 30, 2006, article by Mickey Meese, “What Do Women Want? Just Ask”]

It’s confusing at the top
Fellow power-mongerettes, how do we feel about this? As Meese points out, as recently as 25 years ago, our mothers would have needed our father’s (or uncle’s, or grandfather’s) signature to get a loan from a bank. I’m part of the first generation of women that finds this unthinkable. The idea that women had so little economic heft that even North American females (supposedly the most radical of ‘em all), even after the sexual revolution and women’s lib, had banks laughing in their faces in 1980: can hardly wrap my brain around it.

Does this mean that we’re on the road to a “matriarchal society,” though? Before you answer that, consider the source of our newfound power: $$$$. Or more specifically, the fact that we spend our $$$$ like crazy people. Are we marketers’ targets or Pocketbook Warriors? It’s hard to tell. I quote the NYTimes article because it drew my attention this morning, but we’ve seen this story a lot lately: women control most of the spending in the first world today, blah, blah, blah. Women will only go on to control more of it in the years to come, blah, blah, blah. So corporations are learning to cater to us, blah, blah, blah.

That’s all good, I guess, because it means that in a way, women are now the designers of a subset of products, which means we’ll have products that work for us. And not just traditional domestic products, but, like, tools and cars and stuff that you normally need testicles to buy.

On the other hand, I’m not totally comfortable with the idea that my empowerment in our larger society comes from my money. Nor am I comfortable with the "psychic rebalancing" of the family being described as an "erosion" just because we're no longer Dobby the House Elf.

My empowerment in my relationships with the men I know doesn’t come from that; it comes from them having been raised by a generation of mothers that views women as men’s equals, and raises their sons accordingly. It comes from the guys I know having the empathy and common sense to realize that I’m not inferior because I lack gonads. In my private life, my equality doesn’t come from money, it just comes from…well, the fact of my equality. Why not so in our public lives?

Another thing I’m really uncomfortable with is the marketers. They say we spend our money based on “emotions, coupled with facts”—the implication being that men buy based on fact alone. I really resent that. I think there’s a subset of purchase types that we all make based on emotion, and another we all make based on fact. I don’t buy a hammer based on emotion, for example. Hell, I don’t even buy maxi pads that way. I buy jewellery based on emotion; that I admit. But my husband buys hockey equipment on the same basis. Shopping is infused with emotion for all humans—it’s some evolutionary throwback to a time when we used to consider a dead log filled with grubs a jackpot. Mmmm…big fat grubbies, just lying there in an old dead tree trunk waiting to be eaten. Mmmmm….

If advertisers and corporations really want to know what women want, they should realise this: we don’t like to be manipulated. If you read the NYTimes article, you’ll see there’s a very fine line between “involving women in product design” and “emotionally manipulating women to compel them to spend.” (Like that creepy Crave Parties thing…ick.)

The era of the third option
So what does it all mean to women’s “power”? Personally, I’d like to see a general swing away from dialectics. You know: the idea that something can ONLY be either A (e.g. patriarchy) or B (matriarchy). If our society just swings over to matriarchy, we run the risk of repeating the errors of our patriarchal past. In a dialectic, there’s always a winner and a loser.

As a woman, I don’t want my gender's power to come at the expense of men, boys, or anyone. As the new Mistresses of the Universe, I guess we need to be careful about that. It's all about Door #3. There must be a way we can all win.

I called it

Damn Google.

As predicted.

Damn them again. Damn them to heck. In fact, damn all corporations taking away the lawless freedom of the Internet.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The violet nature of life and death

The view from my bedroom window is like a perfectly framed abstract painting that's always changing. All year, I watch the capricious scene from my pillow: green leaves against steely bark against cobalt sky; red leaves against black bark against tangerine sky; no leaves against snowy bark against grey sky.

The leaves are yellow now, nearly white. Lately I’ve found myself wondering: why are those yellow leaves so gorgeous against the bark and the sky today? And one day it hit me: because at this time of year, the backdrop of everything is violet.

I’ve taken some painting classes. I’m a lover of art. I know a little about colour theory. Yellow and violet are complementary, sitting on opposite sides of the colour wheel. That means they set each other off, and their union is interesting to the eye.

I’ve been thinking a lot about violet lately.

Colours are wavelengths of light. Colours are mixes of other, more elementary things. Light is a wave and a particle. Colours are like music made of particles either hitting the same note or harmonizing.

Around here, painters can’t wait to paint autumn in orange-yellow-red. But if they stuck around after the light show is over, they’d see: the real colour of autumn is violet in all its infinite shades.

After four years of daily bush walks, I believe the world is always trying to send us little messages. But you have to be very quiet and keep a look out. I’m pretty sure I’ve fallen in love with the stories left by wild, finite natural events: leaves layered like stained glass after a big storm, moss and mud and sticks on the wet forest bottom, massive slabs of granite dragged along in the slow moraine of glaciers. Every day I walk, every day I look up from my pillow, every day it’s all completely new.

And yet I feel like there’s so much I’m missing. Like how I missed violet for so long. The yellow leaves are a message the world wants someone to see: life and death have colours of their own, and colours have cycles, and everything’s in a cycle, and it’s all perfectly…perfect. Now I see the violet everywhere. This is its season, when the parts sacrifice themselves so that the whole can live on.

When leaves die, they explode into colour then fade to violet, and—eventually—to brown, which is simply the melding of complementary colours.

When we die, our bodies turn violet. Not grey, like they show in the movies. Or at least I can’t see how that could be: we have no black or white in us, but we’re full of blue and red. When I think about that, and I think about how everything in the forest does it too, I find it very comforting. And a part of me that understands that I really understand almost nothing beyond the tip of my nose wonders: What about that other part of us, the part they say lives on beyond our bodies? Is it real? If so, I think it must be violet. And when we die it has nowhere to go but up the spectrum, to ultraviolet. And that's a very cool thought.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bill Gates: your world domination remains safe...God: yours, not so much.

I'm not always the most freshly sharpened crayon in the pack. I like to kid myself that once in a while I have a wee fartlike brainwave. But let's face it, the average four year-old knows more about technology than I do.

So I've been puzzling over this invention. It's a USB memory-stick that has a program that lets you turn any computer into a phone.

My tiny little brain is convulsing. How is it more convenient to turn a computer into a phone than to carry a cellphone around with you?

Wouldn't you have to search around for a free computer, or power up your iBook or whatever, plug in the VoiceStick, click whatever buttons make the program run, and then...call the person? How is this easier than pulling a cell phone out of your pocket and dialing the number? I'm counting 5 steps in the VoiceStick scenario and 2 in the cellphone one.

Some of you are S-M-R-T in the technical realm. Please, do share. (Gizzy?)

But speaking as a technical lay-person, you know what I'd like someone to invent? Some kind of super-secure, encrypted widget or gadget or magic or programy-type-thing that stores all of your passwords for all of the million things online that we need to enter passwords for, and magically beams them to the 'password' field for us. This 'widget' used to be called 'the human memory,' but that's shot now. Because if you're a careful, mildly paranoid person like me, you have many password-login ID combinations that you use just in case Someone Discovers One of Them. The downside of this is that it's taxing to keep track of all the damn password combinations.

While we're at it, why not make the widget a storage device for all essential secret information that you may forget at some point, like your credit card number or the access code for your Swiss bank account? It would have to self-destruct the moment someone, I don't know, tried to hack it or something. Shit. Does that mean you'd need a password to access your password widget? Well, I guess one password is better than 50. Or maybe it could work by retinal scanner...

And I think I want this widget to also be a phone. Not a VoiceStick phone, but a tiny little phone that works by voice commands or possibly body movement so it doesn't need a number pad. I either say the phone number I want it to dial, or the name of the person, or I move my fingers like I'm typing on an imaginary number pad, and it dials for me.

So we might as well make it a computer too. I want it to store all of the miscellaneous non-essential information I need to access on a regular basis: my schedule, my to do list, people's phone numbers, the contents of my fridge (which my husband seems to think I have a mental inventory of, but I don't, honey-poo, so you'll have to move stuff around instead of yelling "don't we have any mustard?!"), a list of all possible wardrobe combinations in my closet (including accessories), an update on my eBay bidding status, and, uh, birthdays and stuff like that. I want to just be able to talk to my widget and tell it what I need, and it be smart enough to get it to me.

In which case, we might as well wire the sucker directly to my body. I was thinking maybe they ("They"....ooooo....the ubiquitous They) could package it as an attractive piece of jewellery, such as a bracelet or a ring. But why postpone the inevitable? Just hook it right up to me, somewhere indiscreet like behind my left ear or under my index fingernail.

Eventually, this widget could learn and think and develop its own identity. Artificial intelligence is just around the corner, people (or already here if you count George Bush...bump-ba-DUM!).

My widget could very well be the most useful and important invention in the history of...everything. It could help me think and learn, and it could scan my body and let me know if I have a virus by triggering excess mucous production. It could indicate to me that I was nervous by causing me to perspire heavily from my hands and feet. It could trigger emotional responses to external stimuli. It could send messages to my limbs to help me move my body. It could get all fuzzy when I'm drunk and make me think I'm a really good singer.

Wouldn't my widget be amazing?

Well, we can always dream.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

So much for my endless hours of Daily Show reruns...

Sorry I've been AWOL lately...my phone was down, my internet was down. And it's all down to B-E-L-L, a company I am quickly growing to H-A-T-E.

But I foregress...What I really wanted to talk about was the big news for the two kids who founded YouTube: Google liked it so much they bought the company. For 1.65 B-I-L-L-I-O-N dollars.


Would you like to deposit that in your chequing account, or savings?

That's. That's. That's ...an unfigureoutable amount of money.

I'm happy for them; by all accounts they'd never have gotten laid otherwise. (But really, who needs sex when you have YouTube?). But I'm worrified. Will my endless supply of 80s-era Madonna t.v. appearances and Daily Show re-runs be cut off? Worse, will I have to pay to play? God damn the capitalists. Damn them all to Murgetroid.

Read about it here, if you dare.

As a side note, the NYTimes is raising the image/spectre of the 'dot-com boom,' saying this whole transaction is distinctly late 90s-ish. That's a scarifying thought, if one recalls what happened with the dot-com boom (hint: it sounded like 'BOOM! You have no more money!') Gross exaggeration or prescient insight? I guess we'll have to wait and see....