Izzhov wrote:But this raises the question: where on Earth does this particular societal force come from? It's everywhere. Since the vast majority of societies have this kind of structure to them (i.e. with men doing the labor and women raising the children), I must conclude that some biological predisposition is involved.
There is a biological factor involved, but it isn't in the brain. It's this: men are, on average, larger and stronger than women. This means that, in ancient agrarian societies, men could easily bully women into taking subservient roles and doing drudge work. Since it was easy to do, many of them did.
The pattern held, because it was convenient to men, who had the greater strength, to have a convenient underclass to exploit. Those men who didn't exploit and abuse women were often crowded out of the leadership positions by those who did, because the exploiters had the advantage of free labor from their captive women. So it became almost de rigueur
in agrarian societies: to be successful, men must oppress women.
But the thing about oppression is, oppressors ALWAYS fear that the oppressed will rise up and rebel. So they knew, instinctively, that they had to rely on more than just physical strength to keep women down; therefor they contrived to keep women out of every possible position of power that would make them a threat to male dominance. This included education of any sort that would not fall within the strictly prescribed sphere women were relegated to, that of domestic servant and sex partner.
Then, partly to assuage their consciences, and partly to encourage those men who weren't necessarily sold on the idea of dominating women, they invented excuses, such as "It is the will of the gods/God", or "It is natural law". Or, much later on, "It is simply a product of evolution." Women were and are consistently told that they are less capable, less intelligent, less holy, and less deserving than men, and when everybody tells you the same thing, you start to believe it. These excuses helped to cement the idea that men who dominated women were only doing what was right and natural, and kept the pattern going.
This varied in intensity by culture and time period, of course, but the pattern is nearly universal. Women in some societies had access to some degrees of freedom and social status that those in others did not, but they were always kept out of positions of true power whenever possible. When it wasn't possible, and a woman did manage to achieve real power, she always faced, at the very least, public censure and doubt, often outright villifcation, sometimes even assault or death.
This has been the pattern for millenia. It's only started to break in the last couple of hundred years because of the Enlightenment, and it's been slow going, with women who stand up for their rights facing resistance and attack every step of the way. Even today, women and girls are still told that they're not as good at some things as men and boys (like math!), and that therefor they shouldn't try. And the whole "our brains evolved differently" thing is just another piece of that. It sounds nice, it "explains" the problem in such a way that absolves anybody from having to solve it, and it justifies the existing inequality and bad treatment. But it's false, and harmful.