Essays and Theroies
Menstrual Odors, Dirty Diapers, and the Male Dominated
Religious Quest For Purity:
Giving Birth to Misogyny, Ethnic, and Racial Discriminations
Originating in the Human Biological
Emotion of Disgust.
William A. Spriggs
June 20th, 2007
There was a small, but very interesting article in the June 4th 2007 issue of Time magazine on page 51 that has given birth to this essay.
It was in the LIFE section under "Behavior" and its title is "The Ewww Factor," by Michael D. Lemonick. The article highlights two scientists, Andrea Morales and Gavan Fitzsimons who specialize in market psychology behind the emotion of disgust. I consider this as very important article because it allows the common person the opportunity to understand the evolutionary origins behind certain select discriminations - in particular against women and all humans considered to be "inferior."
Two important keywords in the article are: "touch transference."It's a fancy term for cooties," Time quotes one of the scientists. "If something repulsive touches something benign, the latter, even if it is physically unchanged, becomes 'infected.'"
If social scientists were quick to sum up the mechanism of discriminations found in all cultures, a person would be embedded in social psychology and find the social dominance orientation theories between dominates and subordinates prevailing. But we have to "take the elevator down" one floor into the evolutionary origins of the mind to understand why the myth that social subordinates are "dirty" and carry disease originated in the first place. But before we enter that realm, let's cite a few examples of human discriminations that are familiar to many. The German Nazi propaganda movies of the 1940s, Der Rothschilds, Jude Suss, and in particular, Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew), are the ones that quickly jump into my consciousness when they tell us abut "the dirty Jews." If you have time, view this short movie clip (I found it on You Tube) and notice the not-so subtle reference to rats as disease carriers and "as do the Jews."; also take note in the film of the animated maps of the Middle East, the Mediterranean Sea area, and the European theater showing the "Jews" spreading throughout all these areas - the animation looks very much like a parasitic disease spreading under a microscope. The framing is obviously malicious.
In a similar vein, my mind then jumps to the current American political debates of 2007, which finds the subject of the mass entry of Mexican "illegal aliens," a hot potato issue. [I prefer to think of them as "being invited by illegal employers" seeking cheap labor.] One of the main messages on the knuckle-crawling radio air waves these days is that the "inferiors" bring disease with them. The main "disease de jour" in the spring of 2007 is leprosy. (See Lawrence Downes' New York Times Editorial Observer piece of June 17, 2007, "When Demagogues Play the Leprosy Card, Watch Out" - Here's a brief excerpt that fits our essay's theme: "While the disease has greatly abated around the world, the social side-effect - abuse, discrimination, exile - have not gone away…Their disease has been feared for millennia. It is the Bible, linked to sin and uncleanliness and imbedded in the language, as a metaphor for anything loathsome or untouchable.") Or, perhaps we should update the language to 2007 standards - "As transferring cooties"?
The bottom line premise below the surface is that knuckle-crawling conservatives show no empathy, nor wish to be bothered by "inferiors," whom they consider worse than dirt. So, "wasting a penny" on the "inferiors," only helps to "encourage" the subordinates. The neo-conservatives scream their pronouncements to their base with examples of how the "inferiors" crowd up "our" hospitals and schools, which ultimately extend "their" lives, at "our expense" and "they" "take money" "from our pockets" through various social commitments.
When it comes to the human behavior that revolves around this "touch transference" considering the "repulsive" touching something "benign," one is reminded also of the "birthing" order between dominates and subordinates. If a Nazi German of the 1940s would to have sex with a Jewish woman, and she became pregnant, then it is interesting to note that the child born would still be considered "inferior" by the dominate German social group norms. The same could be said about the black African-American slaves and white slaveholders in the American south before the civil war (and up till the late 1980s). In both cases, the child born, does not "rise up" into the higher ranks of the social dominate circles by being "touched by a superior dominate," but still remains in the "inferior" subordinate ranks. Now, I have only cited these two instances, but if all social scientists would make a list of all dominate and subordinate social hierarchies on the planet, I'm going to posit that it would be true in all cases. This is just an educational hunch, but if accurate for all hierarchies, then the social norm mechanism of categorizing the "others," would indicate that more is going on biologically when groups are involved vs. when the individual mind is at work; but that "group thought" still originates within the individual mind before it morphs into group consensus in which all of us "can relate to."
Why? Because the "group" behavioral social norms that bubble up from our ancient evolutionary brains revolve around social hierarchies and they still believe that resources are scarce; by "allowing" "others" or "outsiders" considered "inferior" into the ranks of the social dominates could possibly hurt the supply of resources available, and thus, could lead to food shortages, and ultimately, possibly death. And if anyone is going to "die," it's going to be "the other," meaning those of "inferior ranking below us." It would appear that any "mixing of the blood" and (and I believe these thoughts are still prevalent today because the common person is not consciously aware of the process) group classification mechanisms of categorizing our fellow humans into inner circle groups and the "other" outer groups was a possible evolutionary survival mechanism.
We, of course, don't need these "inferior people" exclusionary discriminations today as there are more than enough resources to go around. It would be like going on a food intake diet today because we now understand that our human bodies seek out and desire foods high in fat content as a survival mechanism from our near-starvation primate past; our problem today is that we have way too much food available within easy reach to eat. (See the excellent Time magazine cover story of June 11th, 2007, "The Science of Appetite: Why we are hardwired to crave the wrong things and what new research says we can do about it."
But getting back to our Time magazine piece on touch transference and disgust, here are a few prominent paragraphs:
"In a series of studies, the researchers found not only that some products - trash bags, diapers, kitty litter, tampons - evoke a subconscious feeling of disgust even before they're used for their ultimate messy purposes, but they can also transfer their general ickiness to anything they come in contact with."
"This may be the first study, though, that reveals an evolutionary basis to shopping preferences. Low threshold revulsion makes sense, protecting our ancestors from eating rotten or poisonous food or touching animals that had died of infectious disease. The face of disgust - with the nose wrinkled and the eyes squinted as if against some pungent smell, and the tongue often protruding as if spitting something out - tells you a lot. "It was probably," says Fitzsimons, "a pretty good proxy for the germ theory of disease before anyone knew germs existed."
"The idea that negative qualities can be passed by a touch has become hardwired, say Fitzsimons. (That applies to good qualities too, which is why touching a holy object or person is considered a way of acquiring a little holiness for oneself.)" As an aside, it may also help to explain the common person's (that includes me) fascination with "celebrities."
But I want you to burn that thought about "touching a holy object or person" into your mind and store it away for a few moments before I return to it. This is also very important.
"…everything we did suggested that these feelings were below the level of awareness"
These solid scientific findings are important because not only do they give us a clue about the early ways our ancestors remained alive in the jungle, the studies also lead us down a path as to the biological origins of misogyny, racial, and enthnic discrimination. But let's first focus on this phony hatred of females; for if recorded history teaches us anything it is that the female has been derogated because of her "weakness," "frailty," "emotional instability," and myths associated with her menstrual flow. Both revered for her reproductive ability and blamed at the same time, the female has surely gotten the wrong end of the social stick. However, now, with new information available - through the science of disgust -- I am taking a big leap by positing that the menstrual cycle and the "touch transference" mechanism associated with disgust are the origins of such cultural nonsense.
Now, hang on, because what I am about to teach you is considered "structured speculation" because it is based on similar science studies -- but not yet scientifically connected in studies. I'm going to take you back into our ancestral past when "man was the hunter" and the female was the "gatherer." (Or so myths tell us that is the way we evolved.)
In many hunter-gatherer societies, studies have found that there are sometimes found myths, or stories that shift blame onto menstruating women in the hunting tribe for the failure of the male hunters to return with a prize of the day, week, or month. Some of us in the evolutionary community believe that the reason that the male hunters created these "bad luck" myths is that it helped to deflect criticisms against the savage responsibility of "providing for the survival" of the tribe. A lot of benefits came the way of the successful hunter; including being "top dog" or Alpha male in which the females would consider these hunters as prime candidates for gene passage, progeny legacy, and child assistance. So, any failure to succeed may have created the origins of the "false tale." We also believe that this successful "passing the buck" blame evolved into males using the same technique in religions.
Some of these early "blame-the-female" myths can be found in Chris Knight's Blood Relations: Menstruation and Origins of Culture, p. 394, he teaches us:
"Driver and Massey (1957: 255. 'One of the
most widespread beliefs is that menstruating women are offensive to game animals.
In particular, a hunter must take care that his wife 'does not touch any of
his hunting gear or drip any menstrual fluid on the meat of previously slain
In Thomas Buckley's and Alma Gottlieb's Blood Magic: The Anthroplogy of Menstruation, p. 22:
"One school of thought (March 1980; Nunley 1981) holds that menstrual taboos originated in observations that animals either attack (bears) or are repelled by (white-tailed deer) humans exuding a menstrual scent. Kitahara (1982) has extended this in his theory that menstrual taboos are most stringent and numerous among hunting peoples (compare Child and Child 1985)." ilbid. 22.
"…odor theory might account for the origins of hunting-related menstrual taboos against activities such as menstrual sex, which would spread the odor to hunters, or against menstruous women touching men's hunting gear or cooking for hunters; but the theory is incapable of shedding light on the origins or functions of other taboos that clearly have nothing to do with the 'natural' effects of menstrual odor - such as the Greek Orthodox taboo against menstruating women receiving Communion [Though still observed in conservative Eastern orthodox churches, this taboo was abolished in the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Gregory the Great in a Papal bull of 597 A.D.. (Wood, Charles T. 1981: The doctors' dilemma: Sin, salvation, and the menstrual cycle in medieval thought." Speculum, 56: 713- 714)]." ilbid. 22.
"From the point of view of the two groups of practical theories just reviewed, the embedding of menstrual taboos in religious systems merely masks their utilitarian origins. Religion from this point of view is a kind of smokescreen created to ensure the adherence of simple peoples to procedures that guarantee their physical survival" ilbid., p. 23.
The knowledge gained here is of the utmost importance because
it transcends one meme of thought [hunting] into another [religion]. In both
cases, the memes "exclude people" [mostly against women] away from
an objective [a good hunt] or an object [a holy place or holy object within
a holy place]. The connection between the two is the importance of hunting
for survival of the physical body morphing into religion as being important
for 'survival' of the 'soul' beyond physical death through religion. And the
reason? Because it benefits the bachelor males of both social functions [hunting
& religious authority] and places them in higher esteem. Both still could
be placed under an evolutionary umbrella of reproductive advantage even though,
in most cases, the males of religious organizations have united in celibacy.
[Or so we have been lead to believe that is their intentions].
Now, don't misinterpret my words. I am not expressing these views as a bad thing gone wrong by a physically dominate gender. And I want to especially reprimand any female feminists from raising their fists and voices and crying "foul!" against males. You must always remember that in the mating process, it is the female that has created man -- not man has created women. Women picked aggressive, successful men because the evolutionary imperative has been hardwired into the female with the knowledge that these aggressive males would give the best advantage to her progeny. It has to do with evolutionary pressures. And guess what? It is the same today in 2007. If you want to put the blame on males for all of the world's horrors - then you have to equally blame the female for picking males that brought home the big prize through aggressive means. Since the female is the mover and shaker of this mechanism, then it will be the female that will reverse this trend.
Here's a great passage from the scientist Ann Campbell's 2002 book, A Mind of Her Own: Evolutionary Psychology of Women to drive this perspective home. (Notice the shift to 1st person in the paragraph)
"Women have been parodied as the gentle sex in convenient opposition to the belligerent male. Men compete, women do not. Men must compete for sex but what is there for women to compete for?.. women must compete for all those requirements that ensure their reproductive success. Competitive reproductive success. When push comes to shove and there is not enough to go around, I am afraid that it must be my progeny, not yours in the next generation. But I will avoid outright violence if I can. Why? Because without me, the chances of my children surviving drop disastrously and offspring survival is the prize that is at stake. Female competition may look different from that of males, but that does not mean that it does not exist. We are competitors - and good ones." P. 310
Now, getting back to menstrual flow: To sum up Buckley & Alma Gottlieb: "As a result these [menstrual] taboos may function in the management of anxiety, in safeguarding subsistence, and in the management of health and social organization alike; that is, they may be reflective of a variety of human concerns whose origins and functions probably cannot be exhausted by any single causal or functional explanation." P. 24.
From the paragraph above, I am sure that the management of anxiety had something to do about it. But, I'm sticking my foot out here on a limb and merely basing my menstrual misogyny theory upon the science of disgust in our lead paragraphs by trying to image a temple in the same time period as the Old Testament. Somewhere located in the Middle East, a woman, into her menstrual cycle of the third day could be giving off what would be considered offensive odor. Did this female have available daily baths then? Were there sanitary napkins? Were there perfumes to disguise certain offensive odors and replace them with pleasant ones? If there were, I'm sure that they were the privilege of the wealthy and not for the common females.
And a thought just occurred to me: my wife was changing our grandson's diaper a few moments ago, and in occurred to me that "diaper" is also on the list above for "repugnant" items. And onto whom do most of the "duties" of changing the diapers usually occur? The female. So not only are sanitary napkins on the "ickiness" list because of the association with menstrual blood, so too, are diapers, which, of course, are associated with human feces and urine - both waste products - and a double whammy of "touch transference" attached to the "inferior" female who usually does the nurturing. Once again, my thoughts go to the temple where a poor female in her cycle is holding a defecating infant. Now, if you're a powerful local rabbi, would this set you in motion to exclude these "pollutants" out of "your holy place" by shifting blame to women by declaring some "law" because that you believe that God would not be present under such circumstances?
So, putting the blame for a poor hunt because of a female's menstrual scent is only child's play compared to the blame passed down upon women as growing populations developed organized religions -- with the overwhelming population of these organizations consisting of bachelor males. The rise of bachelor male enclaves has been directly related to the consensual social norm of "primogenitor" that emerged from the Middle Ages. This belief, in which all riches in a family were passed to the first born male, left the second, third, and etc., born out in the cold without a dime. Now, where would a poor, but highly-educated male go to survive? How about the church? Let's face it people, being a shaman or priest was a much better way then roaming the countryside and begging for food. As an established priest or higher, they generally got all the food they wanted; some made riches beyond imagination; got to wear silken robes; they had clout and prestige, and if anyone got in their way, they could literally tell them to "go to hell" and cause those unfortunate souls to prostrate before them in fear, begging for forgiveness, and evoking queries on how to repent.
And once established within their inner circles, their power could easily influence their followers into thinking that the greatest gift that God could give - the reproduction of her/his/its own DNA into our human children - and the natural menstrual flow that women tolerate every month to make it all possible -- could somehow be a foul, messy, smelly, polluting business that was an insult to be in the presence of the holy Altar, church, or temple. They did it by merely by enhancing those old myths about the "polluters." Breaking the "rules" of the religious establishments meant not finding life after death; a comforting place away from tumultuous times; a very big deal during the Middle Ages and, to some, even today.
Now, it is time to enter several World Religions and look at their "rules" concerning menstruation.The following paragraphs come from www.bookrags.com
[Bookrags.com describes itself as the premier research site for students, with over 5.7 million pages. What they have written below is so concise and prevailing that I can not change a word. I feel somewhat embarrassed by borrowing so many their words, but I would consider it more a crime not to use them. To ease my guilt, I have decided to give them a permanent place on my web site.]
"…Nonetheless, in both historical and contemporary practice, the major world religions share an overwhelmingly negative view of menstruation as a pollutant of sacred public and domestic space, (underline emphasis mine) which requires some form of separation of the menstruant from the family or community. Menstrual blood is a contact pollutant and excludes women from religious acts either during their menstruation or simply because they are persons who menstruate. These exclusions owe much to the symbolic and material ambivalence of menstrual blood. On the one hand, it is a defiling natural excretion whose cyclic flow is not susceptible to (masculine) cultural control. Menstrual blood actually and metaphorically represents the loss or abortion of a potential life, yet it causes a woman no painful threat to her life. On the other hand, menstrual blood belongs to the mysterious, quasi-divine processes of creation: the gestation and birth of a new life."
"…It is broadly the case that in Brahmanical Hinduism, menstrual blood is considered polluting and requires a woman to separate from her family for the first three days of her period. During this time she cannot perform religious acts of devotion and secluded from her family, cannot cook, look after children, brush her hair, or wear jewelry. She must perform a purificatory bathing rite before normal relationships and activities can resume."
"Similarly, in Buddhism, menstrual pollution prevents a woman from undertaking pilgrimage or entering a temple. The prohibitions differ according to context: some temples in northern Thailand do not allow women to circumambulate the stupas, (a Buddhist shrine, temple, or pagoda that houses a relic or marks the location of an auspicious event) fearing the pollution of relics held at their center. However, contemporary Buddhist apologetics frequently disown the menstrual taboo as non-Buddhist and as originating in the older purity codes of host countries such as India and Japan."
"In the Qur'anic view (2;223), menstruation is polluting and requires the Muslim woman's seclusion from her husband. The had?th literature prohits a menstruant from reciting prayers, fasting, entering a mosque, and touching the Qur'?n until she has finished her menses and taken a full bath (ghusl). The purification ritual allows her to resume sexual relations with her husband…"
"In Judaism, the menstrual taboo derives from the priestly codes of the Hebrew Bible and from rabbinic law. After Judaism's post-biblical transformation from a religion of cultic sacrifice to one of law, the rabbis reinforced the injunctions of Leviticus 12:1-5 and 15:19-32 by ruling that a menstruant is impure for the five or so days of her menses and for at least seven days afterwards. After this time has elapsed, the menstruant (niddah) visits a ritual bath (miqveh) and, after immersion, physical relations with her husband can be resumed. However, the power of menstrual blood to defile Jewish sacred objects and spaces is limited: the touch of a menstruant cannot pollute the Torah scroll, and menstruating women are not excluded by law, though sometimes historically by custom, from the synagogue. Only the ultra-Orthodox are punctilious in observing the laws of menstruation (customarily termed "the laws of family purity"), but the contemporary apologetic emphasis is on the laws' alleviation of sexual boredom in marriage, rather than on a superstitious or cultic repugnance for menstrual blood as such. Conservative Judaism has modified the laws of menstrual purity and Reform Judaism has abolished them as irrelevant, archaic, and offensive to women."
"The Christian tradition is historically and denominationally diverse in its view of menstruation. In the New Testament, Jesus is presented as having abolished the Jewish menstrual taboo among other distinctions between the clean and the unclean. Most significantly, in a story found in all three synoptic Gospels, Jesus heals the menstrual disorder of a woman whose touch he experiences not as a defilement but as a mark of her faith. Nonetheless, Christian feminists have argued that, as the church developed, a legacy of Greek philosophical misogyny, ancient Mediterranean menstrual superstition, Gnostic asceticism, the institution of a celibate priesthood, and the authority of the Old Testament combined to reinstate the view of menstrual blood as unclean. To this day, the Christian menstrual taboo informs the disqualification of women from ordination because in most quarters of the church (notably the Orthodox and Catholic Churches) it is believed, if not always stated, that a woman's biological presence pollutes the sanctuary."
"By contrast, the menstrual taboo would appear to have fallen into disuse in the contemporary Protestant denominations…Whether Protestantism's apparent indifference to women's menstruality is a function of its egalitarian, word-centered, and anti-priestly ecclesiology, or whether it is ignored because it is considered socially unmentionable, remains a matter of debate."
As we move away from the Middle Ages and the decline of the Roman Catholic Church, secular Western Civilization's influence grows and shifts to Europe, and in particular as the pillar of thought considering gender roles, sex, and subordination of the female we find that during the period from 1500 to 1800, the rise of the middle class of England saw not only the growth in non-religious thought, but a strengthening of the masculine dominate role as paterfamilias (a man in the role of father and head of a household) and further insistence on the female's role of religious mentor and "keeper of the home." This gave rise to the popular phrase, "Home and Hearth." This rise in the non-religious segment of the population also gave rise to "advisory" writers and their followers - today, we call them "experts." All of these experts, continued to maintain and strengthen the myths of masculine responsibilities and "scientific" findings of women's weakness and frailty.
In Anthony Fletcher's Gender, Sex & Subordination in England 1500 - 1800, he writes:
"Menstruation was seen by numerous writers at this time as both a sign and as a cause of women's inferiority and of their predetermined sedentary and domestic roles. For example Fontanus's treatise The Woman's Doctor opened with the assertion that women were 'made to stay at home and look after household employments.' Their work was accompanied 'with much ease without any vehement stirrings of the body' therefore 'hath provident nature assigned them their monthly course.'" p.62.
"Patrcia Crawford has argued convincingly that 'menstruation served as a reminder of the axiom that women had inferior bodies.' It was an axiom that, so far from being challenged at this time, was reinforced by current notions about blood and purity. Even the quality of blood was gendered. Male blood was treasured, at its hottest and best, as the matter from which the seed of life was created." p. 62
"Menses in the Galenic corporeal economy were, as we have seen, another kind of blood: a plethora of blood inferior blood, blood that needed to be cast out. Once again scripture and medical belief supported each other and they together supported the patriarchal order. In Isaiah the coverings of images which were defiled were to be cast away 'as a monstrous cloth'…The King James Version of the Bible specified that earlier references to the sinful city of Jerusalem as a 'filthy thing' implied that the city was a 'menstrual woman.'" p.63.
"Superstitions about the dangerous powers that menstruating women might exercise remained embedded in English popular culture during the Hanoverian and Victorian periods. Women were excluded from primitive Methodist chapels during their periods up to the end of the nineteenth century and as recently as 1974 there was correspondence in the Lancet about why flower handled by a menstruating woman should wilt." P. 63.
Well, I think that you're getting the idea; there are no doubts that myths concerning women's health, emotional stability, and biology have been dragged through the mud since the Greeks and Romans; then intensified with the fire of religion in the Middle Ages; ravaged by witch hunts for several hundred years based on the publication of the malicious Malleus maleficarum ("The Hammer of Witches"), and then set in cultural stone by the early landed aristocracy of England.
This is really important because the legacy of the English Victorian era has left an indelible impression on Western, and in particular, American culture. Let me enter this paragraph on the power of masculinity in Victorian England from John Tosh's book, A Man's place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England.
"Ultimately, the power of home rested on the
twin authorities of nature and religion. The home was ordained by nature because
its function and structure predated civil society and was the precondition
for its reproduction. It carried the authority of religion because the family
was the medium through which the divine purpose had worked in both the Old
Testament and the New, and most of all in the life of Jesus Christ himself…At
its most elevated, the idealizing of home extended to the belief that domestic
virtues would triumph over a heartless world." p. 29.
Since we have begun our essay with the emotion of disgust, I feel we should wind down the essay by returning to it again, only this time, by bringing out the big gun: The Handbook of Emotions, 2nd Edition, with Michael Lewis and Jeannette M. Haviland-Jones, Guilford Press, New York, 2000. And what better place to start then the book's entire chapter 40 - Disgust.
"For North Americans, elicitors of disgust come from nine domains: food, body products, animals, sexual behaviors, contact with death or corpses, violations of the exterior envelope of the body (including gore and deformity), poor hygiene, interpersonal contamination (contact with unsavory human beings), and certain moral offenses…" p. 637.
"The goal of this chapter is to make sense of this varied set of elicitors - that is, to describe the meaning of disgust within both developmental and cultural contexts. We argue for a path of development in individuals and cultures that extends from the presumed origin of disgust as a rejection response to bad tastes, in the service of protecting the body, to the full range of elicitors listed above, more appropriately described as in the service of protecting the soul." p. 637
"Our own definition of disgust, or what we call "core disgust" in this chapter, derives from those of Darwin, Angyal, and Tomkins: "Revulsion at the prospect of (oral) incorporation of an offensive object. The offensive objects are contaminants; that, if they even briefly contact an acceptable food, they tend to render that food unacceptable." (Rozin & Fallon, 1987, p. 23). P.. 637
As in the beginning paragraph, Rozin, Haidt, and McCauley lead us to the biological origin of disgust and then "evolve" the biological into the sociological by stating that the true nature of the beast lies in its current state today.
"Although we agree with Miller's (1997) characterization of disgust in its current form as largely a social and moral emotion, we believe that the argument for a food origin are very convincing (Rozin & Fallon, 1987). The facial expression of disgust can be seen as functional in rejecting unwanted foods and odors, and the most distinct physiological concomitant of disgust - nausea - is a food-related sensation that inhibits ingestion." P. 638.
"We have argued above that disgust began its evolutionary life as a distaste response, focused on the mouth. However a major theme of this chapter is that the elicitors and meaning of disgust have expanded far beyond distaste (underline emphasis mine), such that there is now a qualitative difference between the two, and hence that distaste and disgust now constitute distinct psychological categories. In this and subsequent sections we chronicle the expansion of disgust from core disgust, through animal-nature disgust, interpersonal disgust, and moral disgust." P. 639.
The next paragraph is important because it gives us insight how the mind morphs from the biological into the social realm. The section begins with the title: "Offensive Entities: Animals and Their Products. But before you read the paragraph, frame your mind by grokking these following three sentences: "The enemy is nothing more than an animal" "You have to think of your enemy as an animal before you can kill him." "Illegal aliens are dirty, smelly, and creepy."
"Angyal (1941) held that the center of disgust is animal (including human) waste products, which he saw as debasing. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that waste products have a special role in disgust. Body products are usually a focus of disgust, and are central to the related anthropological concept of pollution (Douglas, 1966; Meigis, 1978, 1984). There is widespread historical and cultural evidence for aversion to virtually all body products, including feces, vomit, urine, and blood (especially menstrual blood)". P. 640. Now quickly remember my scene in the Old Testament temple of the menstruating women who was also carrying a defecating child. It would appear that our female ancestors hit the jackpot with bells and whistles confronting the male rabbis.
As we move away from the biological, we humans have to "evolve to a higher plane" by rejecting our animal origins. If we want to push "inferior" people away, we morph them "back to the animal state." In this part of the Disgust Chapter, the authors label this section: A Theory of Disgust: Avoidance of Reminders of Our Animal Nature.
"…Anything that reminds us that we are animals elicits disgust (Rozin & Fallon, 1987). An examination of the seven domains of disgust elicitors we have identified thus far suggest that disgust serves to "humanize" our animal bodies. Humans must eat, excrete, and have sex, just like animals. Each culture prescribes the proper way to perform these actions - by, for example, placing most animals off limits as potential foods, and all animals and most people off limits as potential sexual partners. People who ignore these prescriptions are reviled as disgusting and animal-like…Human bodies, like animal bodies, die. Envelope violations (which display soft viscera) and death are disgusting because they are uncomfortable reminders of our animal vulnerability. Finally, hygienic rules govern the proper use and maintenance of the human body, and the failure to meet these culturally defined standards places a person below the level of humans. Animals are (often inappropriately) seen as dirty and inattentive to hygiene. Insofar as humans behave like animals, the distinction between humans and animals is blurred, and we see ourselves as lowered, debased, and (perhaps most critically) mortal." P. 642
But, of course, nothing makes me angrier than when I see blatant racial or ethnic discrimination; I have no doubts as you read the following paragraphs that you can see the origin of such thoughts come from interpersonal disgust. (between one person viewing or evaluating another). The authors continue:
"We have found widespread evidence in the United State for aversion to contact with possessions, silverware, clothing, cars, and rooms used by strange or otherwise undesirable persons (Rozin et al., 1989; Rozin, Markwith, & McCauley, 1994). We have analyzed this interpersonal aversion into four separately identifiable components: strangeness, disease ( e.g., tuberculosis), misfortune (e.g., an amputated leg), and moral taint (e.g., a conviction for murder). These types of contacts seem to be both offensive and contaminating; thus they seem to be instances of disgust…But laundering or even sterilizing things used by others reduces the contamination effect only very slightly in our studies and this fact make it more difficult to understand interpersonal contamination simply in terms of potential contact with body products…Thus we currently consider interpersonal disgust, almost always mediated by contamination, as an independent category of disgust elicitors. This form of disgust clearly discourages contact with other human beings who are not intimates, and can serve the purpose of maintaining social distinctiveness and social hierarchies." p. 643.
Of course our distinguished chemical scientists can't seem to form the words on their lips that they just described racial, ethnic, generational, and health (as in a person having all limbs and facial features) discriminations. Now, if they could just inform us by citing the Social Dominance theories of Sidanius and Pratto, they would be in touchdown territory. It's all about resources, people. And discriminating against people by naming them "dirty," "smelly," "or they are just like animals" is just a JUSTIFCATION mechanism to keep one's goodies untouched by the cootie people. Following the mental "labeling" or "stereotyping" mechanisms then come the physical exclusions.
Finally, the authors then lead us into MORAL DISGUST. I really don't want to go there because now we morph into evaluations by selected and highly placed persons who live very comfortably by telling people that it is OK to discriminate against certain people because God told them so. This falls in their section called: Divinity -Disgust.
The authors dip into some strange behavioral explanations like: "hostility triad," which include three ethics called "ethics of community," "ethics of autonomy," and "ethics of divinity." Also included are "CAD triad hypothesis" (community-contempt, autonomy-anger, divinity-disgust). But I think they summed this section up nicely but teaching us:
"Disgust plays a special role in the moral
domain as a means of socialization. Insofar as entities viewed as immoral
are also disgusting, there is no temptation to have traffic with these entities."
In the concluding section of their chapter, the authors leave us with a table that I thought was excellent. It just basically shows us that we evolved from the primate past to the "higher" mental complexes of thought. It is found on page 645 in the Disgust Chapter.
TABLE 40.1 Proposed Pathway of Expansion of Disgust
and Disgust Elicitors
|0. distaste||1. Core||2. Animal-nature||3. Interpersonal||Moral|
|Function||Protect body from poison||Protect body from disease/infection||Protect body and soul, denial of mortality||Protect body, soul, and social order||Protect social order|
|Elicitors||Bad Tastes||Food/eating, body products, animals||Sex, death, hygiene, envelope violations||Direct and indirect contact with strangers or undesirables||Certain moral offenses|
So, In conclusion, you now have a solid foundation to see the behavioral evolution of the human mind reaching up from the biological into the sociological. Always try to remember that we are animals yes -- but we are more social creatures than animals. Try to remember the broad brushstroke math: 40% biological, 60% Sociological; 40% Nature, 60% Nurture; 40% genes, 60% local environments (cultural surroundings).
I think also in conclusion you can get a much better understanding of how complicated our species really is. We have come a long way since our voyage out of Africa, and I think what really excites me is the knowledge that we are rapidly approaching the truth behind our human behaviors. I know that there will be a harsh pushback, but those opposed to such truths should be ready to pay the price.
Angyal, A. (1981). Disgust and related aversions, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 36, 393-412.
Buckley, Thomas, and Alma Gottlieb, eds. Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Mesntruation. London, 1988.
Campbell, Ann, 2002 A Mind of Her Own: Evolutionary Psychology of Women, 2002.
Crawford, P., 'Attitudes to Menstruation in Seventeenth-Century England,' Past and Present 91 (1981), p. 73
Darwin, C. R. (1965). The expression of the emotions in man and animals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1872).
Davey, G. C. L., Buckland, G., Tantow, B., & Dallos, R. (1998). Disgust and eating disorders. European Eating Disorders Review, 6, 201-211.
Douglas, M. (1966). Purity and danger. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Downes, Lawrence New York Times Editorial Observer article, June 17, 2007, "When Demagogues Play the Leprosy Card, Watch Out"
Driver, H. E. and W. C. Massey 1957, Comparative studies of North American Indians. Transactions of the American Phiolosophical Society (N.S.) 47: Part 2.
Fletcher, Anthony, Gender, Sex & Subordination in England, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1995.
Fontanus, N. The Woman's Doctor (London, 1652), p. I.
Grahn, Judy. Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World. Boston, 1993.
Joseph, Alison, ed. Through the Devil's Gateway: Women, Religion, and Taboo. London, 1990.
Knight, Chris. Blood Relations: Mestruation and the Origins of Culture.Yale University Press, London 1991.
Lee, R. and I. DeVore (eds) 1968. Man the Hunter. Chicago, Aldine.
Laws, Sophie. Issues of Blood: The Politics of Menstruation. London, 1991. The author construes menstrual taboos as political instruments for maintaining gender hierarchy.
Mason, Michael The Making of Victorian Sexuality, Oxford, 1994.
Marcus, Steven The Other Victorians, London, 1966.
Meigs, A. S. (1984). Food, sex, and pollution: A New Guinea Religion. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Miller, W. I. (1997). The anatomy of disgust. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
O'Grady, Kathleen. "Menstruation." An Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion, edited by Serinity Young, vol. 2. pp. 649-652. New York, 1999.
Pearsall, Ronald The Worm in the Bus: The World of Victorian Sexuality, London, 1969.
Russett, Cynthia Sexual Science: the Victorian Construction of Womanhood, Cambridge, MA, 1989.
Shuttle, Penelope, and Peter Redgrove. The Wise Wound: Mestruation and Everywoman. London, 1978; rev.ed., 1986.
Rozin, P., & Fallon, A. E. (1987). A perspective on disgust, Psychological Review, 94(I). 23-41.
Rozin, P., Markwith, M., & McCauley, C. R. (1994). The nature of aversion to indirect contact with other persons: AIDS aversion as a composite of aversion to strangers, infection, moral taint and misfortune. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 495-504.
Rozin, P., Lowery, L., Imada, S., & Haidt, J. (1999). The CAD triad hypothesis: A Mapping between three other-directed moral emotions (Contempt, anger, disgust) and three moral ethics (community, autonomy, divinity). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 76, 675-584.
Sidanius, Jim & Felicia Pratto, Social Dominance: An Intergroup of Social Hierarchy and Oppression, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1999.
Steinberg, Jonah. "from a 'pot of Filth' to a 'Hedge of Roses' (and Back): Changing Theorizations of Menstruation in Judaism." Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. 13 (1997): 5-26.
Tosh, John, A Man's place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1999.
Tomkins, S. S. (1982). Affect theory. In P. Ekman (Ed.), Emotion in the Human Face, (2nd ed., pp. 353-395). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Trudgill, Eric Madonnas and Magdalens: the Origins and Development of Victorian Sexuality, London, 1969.
Wansbrough, Paula, and Kathleen O'Grady. "Menstruation: A List of Sources." Available from http://www.inform.umd.edu/EdRes/Topic/WomensStudies/Bibligraphies/menstruation
Valuable web site information
Other references you might like to try not cited in the essay.
Becker, E. (1973). The denial of death. New York: Free Press.
Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1975). Unmasking the face. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Grunfeld, D. I. (1982). The Jewish dietary laws: Vol. I. Dietary Laws regarding forbidden and permitted foods, with particular reference to meat and meat products. (3rd ed.). London: Soncino Press.
Below are four of my ealier essays with excepts from each below the link. They all take a similar path in that they discuss biological memes as they evolve into "higher" human, social norms and behavior.. Since they are written over a period of 13 years by a man with limited college education, they may seem a bit disjointed, but I think they weave a fairly accurate pattern. Enjoy
In either case, I theorize, that today we "view" others in our social groups as either winners or losers in an unconscious, innate way. We begin to evaluate these people in terms of being able to win or lose the race against the predator. We tend to flow toward those we think of as "winners," and we tend to shun those whom we think are "losers." This, I speculate, was the origin of ranking which leads to the behavior mechanism we know as eugenics -- the judging of who is, or not, worthy to carry on the genetic line within a particular cultural context. There are no cultural People magazines devoted to "losers" or the "poor." I know that this sounds like I am simplifying life to its barest, but that is what evolutionary psychology does -- It is the language of our DNA. Thirty thousand years ago, there were no philosophers, no scientists, no psychologists, no crystal balls to consult to solve our "problems" -- just our emotions adapting to our harsh ancestral past. All is open for speculation.
Psychology and the Origins of Bigotry and Prejudice: Perhaps Evolutionary
Psychology Unravels the Mystery
William A. Spriggs
After our species evolved into a conscious conceptual creature identifying external friend and foe, I believe that prejudice and bigotry were then the result of hoarding resources in times of shortage for (in order of importance) one's self, one's clan, one's tribe, and one's village. (I call this behavior The Resource Retention Theory -- those that have the gold, do everything within their power to keep the gold for their benefit). In times of plenty, of course, the opposite occurred -- generosity, or altruism towards one's fellow creatures. What is often called "greed" by moralists springs from one's desire to live and to perpetuate one's own genes into the next generation. Our bodies can't live forever, but gene transference is the closest we come to succeeding. The "conceptual extension" from self to clan to tribe to village naturally continued, finally including one's nation, which is what we call nationalism. Simply, this "extension" merely represents that we are conceptually expanding our "turf." The larger turf area that we "possess," the greater the feeling of security in the area in which we physically live. The greater the area of security in which we live, the greater our feelings of comfort. Comfort and serenity allow our brains to think, to process new information at maximum efficiency. Sitting under a shade tree in summer with a cooling breeze can be very pleasant. We can more easily focus on problem-solving within the sphere of a calm situation, than we can while dodging bullets in a gang war.
Psychology and the Origins of Racism, Prejudice, Bigotry, and Discrimination:
An updated View
William A. Spriggs
August 14, 2001
Now, I want you to return to the opening quotes I used to set the tone with white males giving comments about blacks in general. And below, I give you three cases where discrimination has been recorded of one group against another, and I want you to notice the similarities. Also note that none of them are about whites showing disrespect towards people with black skin.
by William A. Spriggs, July 2004
Another way of looking at discrimination policies is that they just don't exclude others on flimsy evidence, but that dominate groups create these mechanisms to enhance opportunities for their own group members over others. The myth of cultures creating "meritocracies" with images of individuals clawing their way up a ladder of success fits very nicely into the propaganda messages of those already on the top of a local hierarchy. True, there is some competition, but dominates seem to fail to recognize that half the struggle of climbing to the top of this fictional hill was already aided by those that preceded them within their own particular safe circle of similar phenotypes; the competition that they face has been stripped of all those from the subordinate classes. Think of global economics: Do we place barriers in front of people, like countries place barriers for importing items so that their own country has an advantage? How come those individuals that preach free trade of products and commodities between countries don't also promote "free trade" between all groups of peoples? What if the world was dominated by DNA Free Traders?
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