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The Gender Contract

Let’s start by watching a short YouTube video; Semba Cesaria Evora.

Did you watch it? No? well go back and watch it … you have to so as to understand this post … says about it all when it comes to gender relations and without a word. Where have we gone wrong? What should be an equal distribution of respect of give and take has turned into an mostly male violent, free-for-all? Has it always been this way, that the alpha male has dominated the female in a no-choice oppression system of patriarchal rule?

“Semba (masemba in plural) is a traditional music genre and dance genre from Angola that became popular in the 50’s. It is the product of an evolution as it was influenced by different ethno linguistic groups from Angola as well as several different African rythms. In the context of dancing, the word Semba means “the body of the man that comes in contact with the body of the woman at the level of the belly button”.

In one of the national Angolan languages called Kimbundu, Semba can also have the meaning of “Umbigada”. Umbigada describes also a dance movement when the contact between the two bodies is provoked by the man who suddenly takes the woman on the hip and brings her towards his belly button. The Umbigada movement is exactly what is still done today in the traditional dance from Angola called Rebita and other African dances. Before the arrival of the Portuguese the semba dance was part of traditional religion. Dancing accompanied the worship of the godess Kianda, in honour of whom food, clothing and other gifts were thrown into the sea.” (Quotes from various sources of general information on the internet).

I have to confess here and now, this gender topic is a very difficult theme for me to write upon … as a matter of fact, from a male point of view, it could be seen as one best avoided as it could bring the wrath of all things anti-male upon one. But f#ck it! I’ve not backed out of a good scrap yet and I’m not about to now! But there is also another reason why I find it rather traumatic … and the one is connected to the other..so to tackle one, I have to tackle the other because both are interconnected by what is now a national moral and ethical dilemma..

As an amateur writer of mostly emotive genre (if I can say it like that), I need to feel an emotional connect to both the story-line and the characters of which I write … and then, perhaps more importantly, I have to want to deliver those stories to my fellow country folk equal with my cultural sympathies … but lately, in perhaps the last few years, I have felt less and less connected to either of those two identities, ie, neither with characters now relevant in my community, nor with my fellow country people to whom I would wish to relate a story.

In the first instance, an attempted financial swindle perpetrated on me by a close kin relative shook my faith in that kinship connection. The attempt was made not out of disguised trickery, but up-front and with the open claim that it was quite legal to do so … never mind the moral or ethical or cultural betrayal of principle, just the fact that it was an available legal option was enough excuse to “try it on” seemed to legitimise it in their mind.

In the same vein, we saw a political example of this action with the by-election of New England, where the voters returned the late incumbent with an increased majority … overlooking the fact and indeed excusing the fact that he had predator’d and impregnated a young lady in an extra-marital fling, thereby betraying the trust of his spouse and family, his position of trust in his subordinate staff, betraying in turn that community trust of moral and ethical obligation expected in a government representative member of that constituency and claiming and expecting that “a person’s private life should be kept out of it” exemption … here again we have the apparent legal “termination of evidence” as it is not against the law to have an affair or deceive kin and community.

This crossing of legal, moral, ethical and with the increased awareness of sexual harassment of women in the workplace; social laws, we are come to a place where it is imperative that the lines between what is “right” as in law, and what is “decent” as in morals and ethics must be separated and adjudicated upon, lest we go too far down a road that has historically brought many societies totally undone.

And so we have to ask: Just where did all this need to dominate the female of the species go so wrong? Was it back in those days of tribal structures? If we look, as an example, to Tacitus’s records of behaviour of early Germanic peoples, which must have in some way reflected many tribal groups in Europe of those times:

The Germania of Tacitus

But the sharpest spur to their valour ( of the warriors ) is that each
separate squadron or column is not a mere casual aggre-
gation of chance-comers, but is composed of men of one
family and one kin ; and their households go with them
to the field, and the shrieks of their women and the
wailings of their children ring in their ears. Each

man feels bound to play the hero before such witnesses
and to earn their most coveted praise. To his mother and
to his wife he brings his wounds ; and they do not shrink
from counting them, nor from searching them, while they
carry food to the fighters and give them encouragement

VIII. Their traditions tell that more than once, when
a German line was wavering on the point of giving
way, the women rallied it, urgently entreating the
men to fight on, baring their breasts and crying out
that their captivity was at hand. Captivity for their
women is a thing the men abhor far more than for
themselves; so that, as a matter of fact, we always obtain
the firmest hold over those states which are compelled
to include amongst the hostages they send us some
maidens of noble birth. Nay, the Germans even ascribe
to women a certain inspiration and power of prophecy ;
they do not either despise the advice they give or
neglect their forecasts. Most of their tribes long gave
divine honours to Veleda, whom we saw as a prisoner
here in the days of the Emperor Vespasian, of blessed
memory; but there was also an Aurinia* in earlier
times, and many others likewise, whom they venerated
sincerely enough, though not with any idea of making
goddesses of them.”

Yet, when we look to Roman law of the times, we find the law of “Patria Potestas” enshrines dominance via a legal authority over a male’s family, property and kin. Is this the result of a “civilising” of the State, the inevitable result of the militarising of society so that those remnants of the tribal “warrior class” use a force of arms to seize not only political power, but also gender domination?:

“The Roman household was conceived of as an economic and juridical unit or estate: familia originally meant the group of the famuli (the servi or serfs and the slaves of a rural estate) living under the same roof. That meaning later expanded to indicate the familia as the basic Roman social unit, which might include the domus (house or home) but was legally distinct from it: a familia might own one or several homes. All members and properties of a familia were subject to the authority of a pater familias: his legal, social and religious position defined familia as a microcosm of the Roman state. In Roman law, the postestas of the pater familias was official but distinct from that of magistrates.

Only a Roman citizen held the status of pater familias, and there could be only one holder of that office within a household. He was responsible for its well-being, reputation and legal and moral propriety. The entire familia was expected to adhere to the core principles and laws of the Twelve Tables, which the pater familias had a duty to exemplify, enjoin and, if necessary, enforce, so within the familia Republican law and tradition (mos maiorum) allowed him powers of life and death (vitae necisque potestas)” (Pater familias).

We are a society that has come the full circle to a very dark place. We are at the crossroads of “which way do we proceed?”. We cannot oppress any one minority section of our multicultural society without elevating one ruling ethnicity to suppress them all … likewise, we cannot allow the male oppression of women without the condemning of us all to oblivion.

We cannot allow the overlooking of moral and ethical responsibilities to each other without brutalising each other … and in that at least, we do have a simple understanding of what social responsibility of the adult is; “room to move, room to grow, a right to decide.”

Now, if we can return to that dance: We see the complimentary movements of man and woman intertwined sylph like as two creatures of nature locked in ritual courtship. The woman enticing and alluring, the male encroaching and attempting to entrap and encompass … the woman then slipping from his grasp and out of his control, only to once again spin and twirl in voluptuous attraction to the man’s more brutish hunger … and if she decides to give herself to the male, it must be done on her own terms in her own good time … mesmerising!

Such should be the natural ebb and flow of man to woman relationships..indeed, I recall my own fragile youth when attempting to court young women, fraught with fumbling difficulty of trying to look and sound “cool” … just one wrong word or phrase … one “bad-hair” moment in style or dress could send a youth to “Coventry” for what seemed forever!

For those who read the article but didn’t click on the link to the video … here it is for your enjoyment:


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  1. stephengb2014

    I tip my hat to you Joseph, such insight,

    I confess to not seeing the dance as you saw it in your last but one paragraph, but yes, it was all there, just as you said.

    (Yes I watched in facination before I read your article)

    Thanks for the insight into history!

    S G B

  2. townsvilleblog

    Jo, I was raised to have respect for all, one of many parental responsibilities missing in today’s parents.

  3. townsvilleblog

    Joe, My apology mate, I’m not at all cultured the dance looked to me like two constipated chooks dancing on hot coals, sorry mate.

  4. Joseph Carli

    That’s alright, Townsville…and, of course, you are correct…; you’re not cultured at all.. 🙂

  5. Leah or the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon

    Men are angular. Women are spherical. If you paint women, you paint the whole universe. Every woman is a particularization of the one thing – the “She” or Shakti, the universal power or creative energy.
    A woman’s body rotating expresses the unity of existence. All of this is just “She” or Shakti.

    A very potent and scary image of the universal “She” or Shakti is the Hindu Goddess Kali who is course depicted as a blood-thirsty “bitch” who dances on corpses.

    In their fear-saturated angularity men are hell-deep afraid of what Kali or the universal “She” implies and demands – namely complete non-strategic surrender to the beginningless and endless World Process.

  6. Joseph Carli

    Leah…and yet the man must go to the woman…he has no choice…he is mesmerised like Ulysses and the Sirens…”For their attractive beauty rose not solely from their form, but from a mothers dream sown deep within the male’s desire…”

    Forgive us..forgive us!

  7. wam

    great read, joseph,
    In my youth, I forsook men for women twice. Once at the end of university because of the men vs women hockey when a beautiful girl paired as my opponent and we went to the adelaide show after. But she was appointed to the bush and I got enfield high. The second was feb of my first year teaching and we are still married. She has taught me the power of women without self ie the bane of feminism.

    Loved the dance but women are not a natural inclusion in dances like the tango: the queer dance of Argentina
    “In order to prepare for the ritual environment of tango you have to learn how to lead and follow. You have to have embodied experience of both parts to be good at either,”


    Perhaps women are not a natural inclusion in any religious ritual beyond sacrificing virginity.

  8. Joseph Carli

    wam..I contradict you in claiming that women ARE the religion…why else would men spend so much time and effort trying to seek and satisfy their desire for what women can offer?…Given the choice for a healthy male…would he prefer to spend it in company gaining instruction from a constructed “God” or in the arms “gaining instruction” from a desired woman?

    I know at which altar I would adore!

  9. fa

    “… we do have a simple understanding of what social responsibility of the adult is; “room to move, room to grow, a right to decide.” ”

    Spot on. And now is our time to decide whether we want the oppression and abuse of women – our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our grandchildren, our parters, our colleagues – to continue in today’s world.

    Thank you for having the courage to write this, Joseph Carli. Respect.

  10. paul walter

    Just a bit esoteric. Can’t figure what it is about.

    Sorry Joe, maybe it is the first couple of paras, a proposition is not necessarily a fact and opinion should not be passed off as holy writ.


  11. Joseph Carli

    Well, Paul..I put it up as a lure for commentary..looking for input into a subject most pressing at this time in our community..indeed in the entire western world..”women” are become a marketable commodity..not just in the old fashioned way of sexuality, but now in a ‘corporate manner”..and in some ways, being used as a saleable “marque” by corporate women themselves..even by “de-sexualising” themselves to do so..as a kind of androgynous gender.

    A while back I posted an article : “The Corporatization of Women”, where I warned against the middle class taking charge of the “liberation of women” and steering the direction of that liberation down into “approved channels of behaviour” not necessarily to the benefit of the whole of society..I stand by that accusation.

    The object of the above post was to demonstrate the need to understand the sensual equality of both sexes toward each other to allow both genders to play out their roles in what I have termed “The Gender Contract” unspoken, unwritten, yet locked in place by the requirements of nature for both man and woman to grow and respect each other..

    So, Paul..if you “can’t figure what it is about”…just watch that dance and you will see framed within the movements of that pair of dancers, just as we witness in the mating rituals of any number of nature’s creatures, that sublime psychology of the sensuality of male-female foreplay.

    It is not “holy writ”..it is pure animal !

  12. paul walter

    Good. That is what i figured. (sighs) “O, Brave New World, etc”.

    Seriously, I agree. It thus coincides with my underlying and deep detestation of modern mass media and press, constant consent manufacture, the death of historical memory and community and a political rupture of balance best illustrate by the developing “crazy” of Western and global politics during the century.

    I could mention Catherine Deneuve, but am sure that would cause a little spite to creep in.

    Am off to a different sort of dance, the dance of A League footy here in Adelaide so will catch the flick here a little later.

  13. Joseph Carli

    ” Catherine Deneuve “…….(sighs)…

  14. Freethinker

    I like how you related the culture and the dance with so important issue and yes, the milonga and tangos which are classic music for the River Plate are another good example in how interact both sex.
    Things have change a lot since the end of the great depression and man is not only the guilty part, “it takes two to Tango”
    I would like to see comments for the feminine point of view but looks like that we have to dance alone…….
    Thank you for sharing Joe.

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