The default male verbs: Kill, Control, Coopt & Quiet.

For so long, that just seemed sensible.

I was conceived the month after Pearl Harbor, when the dominant males who ran the world required conformity to their proclamations, rather than requesting comments. Raised by my father from the age of eight, I attended all-male schools after eighth grade and went directly into the all-male world of military aviation. Nothing in my origin or experience before 1971–when the USAF released me into the wild–prepared me for a world where males didn’t dominate.

Little did I know that two years earlier, RFCs—the deferentially titled Request For Comments (RFC) method of achieving consensus—had been conceived, had defined the Internet and would redefine my life.

In 2008, a friend pointed me to Riane Eisler’s seminal book, “The Chalice and the Blade“. Isabel Allende described it this way:

Anthropologist Eisler reports that, before ~5,000 BCE, most of Europe lived in peaceful, undefended villages. That ended after 3 waves of invasions by violent horsemen from the area of the Caucasus mountains between 4300–2900 BCE. Before the invasions, as far back as the archeological record reveals, these societies were “matriarchies”. More accurately, they were matrilineal cultures where property passed from mothers to daughters. In a hunter-gatherer society, this makes sense.

Our patriarchal lens causes us to assume that a matriarchy’s ‘rules’ are to dominate, like a patriarchy’s, a rigid hierarchy of female rulers subverting all lesser people & genders to their iron will. In fact, a matrilineal culture emphasizes partnership behaviors, a distinction described by Jordan Bates in his 2015 post, “Dominator” vs. “Partnership” Cultures: A Profound Re-Telling of Human History, quoting Eisler’s conclusions:

Bates is optimistic, seeming to resonate with MLK’s optimistic arc of the moral universe:

Is TCP/IP a feminine architecture?

Like Bates, I’m a cheerleader for the partnership model, so perhaps I see it where I want to. In my Chalice’s Restorant post in 2008, I concluded that a woman-led partnership model is an idea whose time has surely come:

How do we know its time has come?

  1. TCP/IP is a feminine, non-hierarchical, P2P protocol.
  2. We’ve tried every other idea and none of them work

But I’ve been corresponding with some leaders of the early Internet, a couple of whom pushed back against my characterization.

Weird, yes, but is there a point to be taken? Maybe it just sounds sexist or too much like identity politics to easily embrace. I’m not the expert here.

However, Before Steve Crocker’s RFC-1, I doubt any group of white male experts ever decided on a new industry standard in terms as deferential and egalitarian as a request for comments. When Steve was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame, he said,

There it is: Protocol as “Helpmate”. I rest my case.

And you could go around them if you wanted to build something else.

What could be more forgiving and nurturing? So I’m wedded to the view that the arc of the moral universe is bending away from institutionalized patriarchy even as deeply as the protocol level.

That’s as optimistic as Dr. Lewis Thomas’ 1974 declaration in Lives of a Cell:

We have language… We have affection. We have genes for usefulness, and usefulness is about as close to a ‘common goal’ of nature as I can guess at.

Founder & CEO, NewGov.US. A public utility for managing politicians.