Does this conflict necessarily result in females being seen as sub-human? Do we always see an enemy as inferior?
And how would we figure in social change? Would condemnation of sexism represent a profound alteration in the way humans develop psychologically?
Or is sexism hard-wired so that it will eventually return as the accepted norm?
I think the only way to see what female humans really are is to separate femininity from female. Femininity is a collection of human traits that the sexes actually share. A female human is just that: a human. I wonder at what stage of development the ability to recognize humanity appears... to see the living person behind the sex. Or is that actually a primal state which we eventually lose?
I wince a little at the thought about separating femininity from the female as that femininity is perhaps what I find the most attractive at the instinctual level. I wince in the same way that I wince when someone tells me that a "1" is a "0". Femininity as weakness and dependence is a different thing but femininity qua femininity? No I think that is a difference that we want to keep around.
I think as humans, and as conscious beings we have a special case. Humans and maybe some of the other primates don't have a specific mating season. Males are pretty much ready to go all the time and females too with some perhaps some monthly exceptions. In the off season I think the other mammals are virtually oblivious to their sexuality. But to us humans there is no off season really so we have to figure it out at the conscious level.
That conscious recognition of the difference between male and female as an actual
rather than instinctual
difference is really similar to the Oedipal/phalic phase that Freud identified in the individual human. It's something that the other mammals don't really experience with the possible exception of the great apes.
The menstruation cycle I think is very important here. Most other mammals the females only ovulate once or a few times a year. Mice, rabbits and other rodents are an exception; I haven't researched the facts as to how often they ovulate. Regardless, it is reasonably safe to say that (even after reading Watership Down) the rodents don't really have the mental capacity to be conscious of the differences between males and females in anything similar to the way that humans (and perhaps some of the great apes) are conscious of them.
Instincts are not enough to deal with the ever-present recognized reality of a division between male and female within the population that has a year round mating season makes necessary. At this point I might even pose the theory that higher consciousness i.e. consciousness above the instinctual level was born out of the necessity of keeping the difference between male and female straight. That is a realization that occurs in humans (at least) well before puberty. I think that Darwin's criteria of "survival of the fittest" would likely naturally select those humans who could distinguish sexual difference well before puberty rather than those who didn't have such foresight.
This is not to say that consciousness of the difference between male and female is not an instinct. It could still be an instinct but it would be an instinct unattached from the instinct towards reproduction. What other reason for such a pre-procreative distinction than the advantage over those who only became aware of this distinction when the female was ovulating.
I am out on a limb here but I find the idea intriguing. Consciousness of the difference between male and female before breeding age could very well carry with it many epiphenomenal facets...such as the difference between one and zero... perhaps even the difference between yes and no... and whatever binary oppositions that the young human race would be capable of distinguishing yin and yang my brothers and sisters yin and yang. The duad. Not something to spit at my dear Pythagoreans but the beginning of it all and yes it was all about he and she all along. Once the floodgates were opened enough to allow for the (Darwinisticly adventageous) conscious distinguishing between male and female all else sort of follows as a matter of course... a cosmic trigger that opened up to us the world of yes and no, of black and white, of you and me, of this and that. What Freud called in his naive understanding of it's broader implications "the phallic stage".
There are other binary oppositions that would be adventageous to a mammal year round but none quite so subtle as the difference between male and female. And with the constant level of awareness of the subtle difference between male and female many other subtle distinctions followed as a matter of course accidentally
and natural selection made the most of these differences until one day several million years later we were making computers that knew the difference between a "1" and a "0".
Yes I am out on a limb, but it is possible that this is the case. Sorry for the prolix; it's time for me to turn in for the night.