Two Thought Experiments On Dominance

Were we to take the Starship Enterprise to a planet where the females were allowed to go out to work if they wanted, but were by no means obliged to do so, and where the male was absolutely obliged to support her whether she chose to or not; and where everything she earned by working outside the home was hers to spend on her own personal amusements, the basics having been already paid for by the male, which sex would we then pronounce to be dominant? Surely the male must be the subaltern here. And yet this is the position under mainstream Islamic law. This is not the whole story of Muslim society, of course, but it ought at least to make us think about our more thoughtless parrotings.

Were we to warp our way onwards, and find a planet on which the men go out to work for quite appalling hours, so that they come home to catch a minimum of sleep or else crash in a plastic coffin near their workplace; a planet on which most of the wives do not go out to work but are supported in a lifestyle of hobbies and lunching by their husbands; a planet on which the men hand over their entire salary to their wives and are given cigarette-money back; a planet on which many of these men, if they do not die young of this toil, retire only to be called “wet leaves” (something difficult to sweep out of the house) before being divorced by the wives they have so long supported – which sex would we regard as the exploited one? And yet Japanese men are often spoken of as arch-patriarchs.

There is almost always a way to flip the drawing.

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