Ainu a Feminist

I don’t come across many hardcore feminists in person either in my line of work or social life, but I had the occasion to do so in the form of my artsy friend Angela around February this year.  One of the things she said to me in the early stages of our brief acquaintance was that she was a feminist and, after I probed that statement, she told me she believed behavioral differences between men and women were wholly the result of social conditioning.  To support this theory she said she used to play with trucks as a child, and not dolls.

My response was to ask her to imagine a set of men and a set of women being assigned the following task: each person has to wrap a Christmas present of an awkward shape, such as a pair of socks.  Let each go away and do so, and then view the results.  I said the presents wrapped by women would be very neat with the ends folded into little triangles and Sellotaped in place, whereas the men’s would be an utter mess of crumpled paper and excess tape.

The likely results she did not dispute, but our reasons for them differed: my theory was that men simply don’t care about the presentation of gifts they receive – especially things like socks – possibly because they know it’s going to be ripped off in a second anyway, and so don’t see the point in putting in effort to wrap things nicely for others.  By contrast, women tend to care about the presentation of gifts – both given and received – and so put more care and attention into the wrapping.  Angela wasn’t convinced.  Her hypothesis was that society places an expectation on women to wrap presents well and so they do, whereas men have no such expectations placed on them.  I didn’t press the point any further, and took a slug of the strong cocktail I was holding at the time.

If Angela’s hypothesis is true, then seemingly disparate societies are a lot more similar than we think.  Back when I was working in Sakhalin for an oilfield services company which did, among other things, industrial insulation of pipework we set up a training centre in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.  One of the conditions of us being granted a quota for bringing foreign workers into the country was to hire and train local labour, which was fair enough only anyone who was unemployed on Sakhalin between 2006-2008 was incapable of holding down a job.  An exception to this was a handful of Ainu women who we brought down from the north of Sakhalin and put through our training centre.

From what I could tell, the Ainu had only partially integrated into Russian life.  They spoke Russian, ate Russian food, and dressed in non-traditional clothes, but were treated by the Russians as an altogether separate people (as Russians are wont to do with their ethnic minorities).  I’d probably describe them best as looking like Eskimos, with one or two being rather attractive, but the rate at which they aged showed they lived hard lives.  Almost every one had a husband who was either an alcoholic, had taken off, or was in prison, although I never found out if they were ethnic Ainus or Russians.  Anyway, what we found when we put the Ainu women to work insulating pipes was that they worked very slowly but very accurately, and the result was insulation around the bends of pipes which was incredibly neat.  And they did so with more than a little pride.  By contrast, the (Russian) men who we were training turned in work which looked as though it were done wearing boxing gloves.  None of us involved was particularly surprised by this outcome.  (Incidentally, the Ainus were the only women we put through the training centre: ethnic Russian women simply wouldn’t sign up to this kind of work.)

So if Angela was right in her thinking, the tiny Ainu society – which would know about the wrapping of presents only insofar as they have seen their Russian neighbours do it and adopted their customs – imposes such gender-based expectations on its womenfolk that they will go to a yard run by foreigners and wrap a piping spool in fibreglass with more care and attention than any number of men.  And if I was right, it is simply because women – of any ethnicity, society, and background – are simply pre-programmed to care about this sort of stuff more than men.

I’ll leave it to my readership to choose which theory they support.

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17 thoughts on “Ainu a Feminist

  1. The modern Japanese are apparently of mixed descent: predominantly from rice-farming immigrants from Korea, with a soupçon of Ainu. And they wrap things beautifully. Though I dare say it’s the women who do the wrapping.

    P.S. When I was at school the Ainu were called The Hairy Ainu, which certainly helped intrude the name into my memory.

    (By the way, your software added the cedilla quite beautifully. Most impressive.)

  2. When I said “the modern Japanese” I was referring to those who are not themselves Ainu.

  3. The problem for feminists like your friend Angela is that biological reality is a direct threat to their position on the grievance spectrum. Try striking up a conversation with her about the IQ differences between men and women, or why you don’t find as high a proportion of women working in the ‘triple D’ occupations (dirty, difficult, or dangerous). You’ll definitely need a couple of those strong cocktails.

  4. When I was at school the Ainu were called The Hairy Ainu, which certainly helped intrude the name into my memory.

    You learned about the Ainu in school?! Jeez, we did well to learn about those people to the East called the English.

  5. Try striking up a conversation with her about the IQ differences between men and women

    She’d have gone apeshit if I’d done that.

    But I’ll give her credit where it’s due here: she was at least prepared to get stuck into a debate on this stuff without losing her temper, and she held her own on quite a number of issues. But I think what let her down over feminism (and certainly over economics) was that she seemed to be parroting somebody else’s lines rather than her having arrived at her position on her own. Now I’m out of these particular woods, so to speak, and can see a little more clearly I’d guess that she has adopted feminism and the lefty political outlook because these happen to be the views espoused by what is probably the only group who accepts the other aspects of her lifestyle and she hears/reads them day and night. I doubt I convinced her of much, but I reckon I at least made her think about a few things…but the flip-side of that is she appeared to be somebody who is quite easily influenced (and not in a good way) by people around her. I wasn’t wholly surprised that she told me not to contact her again a day or two after speaking to one of her close mates who is, it probably goes without saying, a deranged feminist out of central casting: American, overweight, dyed hair, middle aged, and with a neck tattoo. Unusually for a feminist she’s married, but to a chap who makes Owen Jones look like Joe Marler and posts BLM videos on his Facebook page. I still regret, a little anyway, that I wasn’t able to drag Angela a little distance away from this way of life. I did try, for what it’s worth.

    or why you don’t find as high a proportion of women working in the ‘triple D’ occupations (dirty, difficult, or dangerous).

    Again, to her credit she’d probably have accepted this. She wasn’t a man-hater by any means. But I suspect those around her back in New York would have launched into a spittle-flecked rant if I’d broached the question.

  6. Fair enough. It’s a good sign that she was happy to engage with you, though. As you say, it sounds like she was a hanger-on to the movement rather than a committed member. You deserve points for trying – I think I’d have lost patience pretty quickly.
    As for the Ainu (hairy, feminist, or otherwise), I heard about them for the first time today on your blog 🙂

  7. They dont apply for the high end jobs either, plus they are physical weaker than men.

    As for working in construction, I was looking after a big order of rubber lined vessels that were being manufactured in Shanghai. The vessels were as big as you could fit in a very large autoclave and the rubber had to be first cut to suit the development of the internal shape of the vessels and the many nozzles, manways and instrument ports etc. The local business owner had family units working on this, the mum cutting, dad and son applying the internal epoxy and bringing the cut rubber to the appliers. The young and tiny daughters worked inside skilfully applying the individual pieces, no shoes, no breathing apparatus, plus they had the dexterity to fit inside the nozzles to ensure that the rubber was properly placed and joined with zero gaps. I had no quality problems with these 72 off 14m long 2.5m diameter vessels and every one passed the all telling spark test, first time, every time, which up until then was unheard of.

  8. They dont apply for the high end jobs either

    And when they do they often hit 40 and find themselves single and childless and wonder what it was all for. So they ask the men, who tell them they kill themselves in the office to provide their wives and children with a better life. At which point the penny drops…

    The young and tiny daughters worked inside skilfully applying the individual pieces, no shoes, no breathing apparatus, plus they had the dexterity to fit inside the nozzles to ensure that the rubber was properly placed and joined with zero gaps.

    Did they lift their procedures from one of Oskar Schindler’s factories?!

  9. As for the Ainu (hairy, feminist, or otherwise), I heard about them for the first time today on your blog

    They’re a rare bunch, that’s kinda why I wrote about them…I just needed an excuse. 🙂

  10. “You learned about the Ainu in school?!”

    I went to school in Scotland. Longer school year, longer school day, and a fine old tradition of educational superiority to keep up.

    All destroyed now, of course, by the Forces of Progress.

  11. The social root of differences is gender behaviour is totally dismissed by experiments carried out with young primates.

    They have given baby chimpanzees a selection of toys – the females went for the dolls, the males went for the trucks. Its mother nature, just like the differences in IQ distribution, but it simply doesn’t fit the narrative.

  12. It has similarly been proven that IQ level is genetically hereditary and is also related to class, rich folk are far smarter than the dumb poor and the family environment doesn’t matter much at all. Just like leftism its in your DNA.

  13. Ainu men stood out from other Far Easterners for their rich facial hair. In “Sakhalin Island,” Chekhov wrote they sometimes had thick chest hair, growing “in tufts,” but the “hairy” (literally “shaggy” or “wooly” in Russian) description was probably due to their beards, not their body hair. Chekhov agreed with Voin Rimsky-Korsakov, the composer’s elder brother, that the Ainu had nothing Chinese or Mongolian about their facial features, adding that a bearded Ainu man wearing a traditional long jacket and belt would look like a Russian merchant’s coachman. They seemed like a tribe from warmer climes driven out by competitors and forced up north (the Ainu abhorred violence). They could not survive without rice, on fish and meat alone, like the Nivkhs.

  14. Fascinating stuff as usual, Alex!

    Ainu men stood out from other Far Easterners for their rich facial hair.

    Well, that would explain why dearieme (in his short trousers at school in Scotland) called them the Hairy Ainu!

    but the “hairy” (literally “shaggy” or “wooly” in Russian)

    волосатый?

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