Monday, February 15, 2016

How Feminism made men into jerks

Continuing this series, I am going to try another way of approaching the central problem, to see if this is helpful.

Once upon a time, there was a certain masculine ideal, which had strength of character in a central position. The ideal man might be intellectual or practical, he might be introverted or extroverted, he might be dark or fair, he might have limitations and even serious faults, but he was not a weed. Let's leave reality for a moment, and think about perceptions, expectations, and fantasies: what we can see in fiction.

So what I have in mind are men like John Bold in Trollope (The Warden), Gabriel Oake in Thomas Hardy (Far From the Madding Crowd) - the names rather give the game away - Mr Darcy in Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice), Shakespeare's Othello, and Duke Theseus (Midsummer Night's Dream) - you get the idea, there are masses of examples.

Contrasted with these men were of course weeds. Roderigo in Othello, Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice, Shakespeare's Silvius in As You Like It. They aren't of huge significance, but there they are. Men who aren't strong are, obviously, weak.

But there is another type: the cad. Sgt Troy in Far From the Madding Crowd, Mr Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, Tolstoy's Count Vronsky in Anna Karenina, Shakespeare's Iachimo in Cymbeline. They represent a marginal social phenomenon, in terms of numbers, but an important one. These are not weeds, they have a degree of strength of character, they are amusing, charming, and so they are attractive to women. They offer them excitement, but not commitment, though sufficient financial incentives may on occasion get them to tie the knot. Hardy is not exactly subtle when Sgt Troy impresses the girl by getting out his sword and waving it about. These men try it on with single women, women married to weeds, or, in the case of Iachimo, a woman married to a slandered exile.

What these authors want to say (among many other things, obviously) is that the female characters should go after the ideal men, and ignore the cads. The cads may on occasion seem more exciting than the good men - they are obviously far more exciting than the weeds - but what they offer is at best the cheap thrills of the roller-coaster, and more likely the trauma of a car crash. The ladies don't need warning off the weeds, who are simply not attractive; what is interesting for the novelist is the difference between the cad, who may not immediately show his true colours, and the ideal chap, who is probably less flashy.

Now, the strength of character of the masculine ideal includes being able and willing to provide leadership within the family, along with the support and defence of it. These are men who wear the trousers. They are masterful men. The ladies who marry them won't have to prop them up as they might have to prop up a weed; equally, these chaps are going to have the last word about family decisions. As we can imagine their on-going marriages, these men are reasonable, they are kind, they are sexy, and they are patriarchs.

So far, so uncontroversial, I hope. That is how marriage was imagined in those days, before feminism and the sexual revolution, whether you like it or loath it. The promise of the feminist or feminist-influenced modern conception of marriage is that it is far superior because it is equal. The role of all the books and plays I have mentioned in our ongoing culture is, accordingly, far from clear. Their continuing huge popularity, with film versions and so on, suggests that their conception of human nature still strikes a cord, however.

The feminists tell us that the patriarchal model of marriage and family is oppressive, and the trait of masterfulness in men is now systematically discouraged. There was of course a delay between the ideological triumph of feminism in the 1950s and its influence over the upbringing of boys from their earliest years, but we've got there now.

So men who might otherwise have modelled themselves with some degree of success on the old-fashioned masculine ideal, now have a choice: they can either become weeds, or they can become cads. They find, however, that the role of the cad, now called the jerk, is enormously larger than before. In the name of sexual liberation and the attack on the patriarchal family, the social pressures limiting jerk behaviour are far less than before; because women get married later, and are much more likely to marry weeds, their opportunities are vastly expanded. And then there is contraception.

But here is something else. A high proportion of young women are genuinely convinced by feminist ideology about the importance of equality within marriage. They consciously don't want to marry a masterful man. But they still don't find weeds terribly exciting. What they find exciting, in fact, remains what it always has been: a man exhibiting strong masculine traits. They just don't want to marry such men. What to do? Easy: in the language developed in discussions of these issues, they spend their years of promiscuity chasing 'alpha jerks', and then settle down for a disappointing marriage with a 'beta provider', a marriage which of course may well end in divorce, because those weedy husbands are incapable of giving them much of a thrill.

Sleeping with jerks is, from a feminist point of view, a safe way to play with fire. Feminists theoretically hate jerks, but patriarchs are far more dangerous. A feminist who wants to experience the thrill of a masculine man can go to bed with him, without finding herself oppressed by a long-term patriarchal power-structure.

This, of course, is to summarise a huge phenomenon in very crude terms. But for those who like to see numerical empirical support for such observations, there are studies which show that women are physically attracted to men with high levels of testosterone, for example, but there is also a good deal of evidence of a contrast between what is immediately attractive to women and what is regarded as a good prospect for a long-term relationship.

As soon as women stop to think, consciously, about settling down, their intellects and ideological commitments start playing a much larger role in their decisions. And of course, feminists have been very successful in driving the patriarchal masculine ideal out of town, and the ladies are quite right to think that jerks won't make very good husbands and fathers. It's just that if it hadn't been for feminism, women wouldn't have been left with this unenviable choice.

But this really is too crude, because the different types are not watertight groups but points along a sliding scale. What I said before about men being able to make themselves more attractive by exhibiting strength of character remains true; the kind of feminist who aims for men with no personality at all is not a female whom sane Catholic men are going to want to marry anyway. One of the most annoying kinds of weed, even to feminists, are 'male feminists', illustrating the incoherence of their position, and patriarchal traits can still be seen here and there. What I have said in this post does, however, draw attention to another aspect of the problem. Catholic men of a more patriarchal bent have to contend with ideological opposition from women who would otherwise find them attractive.

Update: this Telegraph headline could have been written to support my argument. 'Sex with 'bad boys' might be irresistible to women - but you don't have to marry one'

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  1. This is brilliant.

  2. So inspiring that you see other human beings as "weeds".......

    1. Thank you. I find it fascinating that you object to my calling people weeds, not to my calling people cads or jerks.

    2. "Weed" is a well-known euphemism for people who are unimpressive and prone to be blown over by the next strong breeze. As the context should have made immediately obvious.

  3. A very good post. I must say I'm rather glad Mr Darcy got a mention!
    With regards to the criticism of your choice of the word "weed"; I found a very good definition: .... Weed: unprepossessing (not creating a favourable impression; unattractive). I think this is a fair description of how some people? Dr Shaw was not singling any particular person out, so I'm sure you need not be offended!

  4. *it should read "how some people act"

  5. I agree. Before getting married, all the women who turned me down, did so on ideological grounds (they obviously were still attracted to me)

  6. I feel that this is a much better analysis!

    I am also tempted to hypothesize the following. Given the fact that women today have become like men, they no longer have that many objective qualities to look for in a man. Questions like, "is that man able to provide?" have become less important. So there is perhaps an increased reliance on the feelings, attraction etc. With these financially well-off women acting this way, the other women might try to imitate their lifestyles too.

    Anyway, at the end of the day, as long as men and women do not think according to some objectively verifiable (and valid) set of standards, we will have a persons acting on a whim. It will be futile for anyone to change to meet these whims.

  7. The difficulty with this theory, which is in many respects excellent analysis, is the near-total absence of patriarchs in the current "marriage market." Where are these paragons to be found?

    1. That is indeed the difficulty: the tragedy.


    2. One could say the same about where are the believing Catholic women out there? I just don't think this brutal name-calling, "weeds"? and "jerks," does anything to improve the situation, caused in large part by the rollout of Vatican II, and in fact is precisely what turns off many from Catholic circles trying to maintain the Church's tradition.

  8. I think you have achieved a very good analysis and am glad that you have "rediscovered" the importance of patriarchy to society. Patriarchy is of course the natural order intended by God which is constantly exemplified in the Holy Scriptures. As such it has been a major target of Satan since the dawn of time.

    I would be interested to know what you would come up with if you applied a similar analysis to the loss of patriarchy in the priesthood.

    1. Speaking of the importance of patriarchy in a traditionalist worldview, I shall leave this here for the world to see:

    2. Excellent, Sean.

      Augustine: This is somewhat relevant.

  9. The sexes have different biological roles. Fact.

    Man is naturally masculine, Gabrielle and of course Jack Reacher being the obvious examples. But don't forget organisational ability. That is equally important to women.

    Women, whether they admit it or not, are inclined to the concerns of reproduction. That is how we are, except for a very small percentage of either sexes, lets say about 1 -1½ % . This small percentage however have an extraordinary ability to influence liberal opinion in this internet age, and they do so. This is a subject which should b e looked into as I have indicated elsewhere.

    There is a third choice for young Catholic men and women and that is to think for themselves, look, observe. That takes time. Females expect a career, and the menopause is still there. So time is relatively short.

    However some of us have an overruling weakness. In my case it is - oh sorry - was, a shapely ankle. But that is another story.

  10. Great analysis, Joe, although I am inclined to think that contraception is the overriding factor, not feminist theory. It has turned women into providers and has facilitated the whole unisex culture in which the underlying qualities of both men and women are completely obscured.

    Where are the patriarchs nowadays? Thanks to the pill and mass fornication, they have mainly become loose-living cads. How do we turn them back?

    1. I used to think that the Pill was the driver, but now I think ideology is the key. Two thoughts to back that up. First, the promiscuous life-style was adopted by the elite long begore the Pill, and it spread from there Second, the Pill did not have these consequences for Islamic socieites.

    2. Fair points. But I’m still inclined to lay most of the blame on the Pill plus the collapse of Christian belief. In Islamic countries (where the Pill is prescribed to many married women), religious convictions have strengthened, so gender roles have barely changed and there is strong pressure on young women to keep their virginity until marriage (and punishment for those who don’t). Plus mechanisms for marrying off young couples caught jumping the gun.

      In the West, religious convictions have disintegrated and the effects of contraception have run wild. Feminist ideology is definitely a big influence but I think it has leaked into a post-Christian vacuum rather than being the main driver of anthropological change.

      I remember a sermon in which the priest said that “man without God becomes a caricature of himself.” I think that huge numbers of the jerks/cads (and weeds) are merely the secularised caricatures of the authentic, patriarchial, man.

    3. Women becoming providers is surely a result of equal pay for men and women. There is greater incentive for women to go out to work rather than staying at home to look after their children and there is every encouragement from the Government to do so resulting in the two-income family dominating the housing market and excluding the single income family. Government policy particularly affects single mothers who are encouraged to go out to work with subsidies for child care. It seems to me that the only way out of this conundrum posed by equal pay is subsidising the stay-at-home mother in some way through the tax or benefit system.


  11. Oh I'd say on balance both men and women are capable of being jerks. Always have been.

  12. Thanks Dr Shaw. Again, a very insightful piece of analysis.

    It's difficult to know just what the solution is, but from the male perspective here are a couple of thoughts:

    1) Try hard to show men how to be patriarchs rather than weeds. In Catholic circles, I think it is more necessary these days to guard against a deficiency of manly backbone than to ward off caddish behaviour.

    2) Men (including weeds) need to be more demanding of the women they get involved with. The weed class is currently being expected to underwrite the sexual hedonism of our womenfolk by putting up with rejection during their teens and twenties and then landing themselves a hardened veteran of the dating scene once the music starts threatening to stop.

    At the moment there are no disincentives to prevent women pulling that trick, but I think that could change rapidly if weeds (and patriarchs for that matter) started letting them know that a dodgy sexual history is a potential deal-breaker.

    It sounds harsh, and of course it could be genuinely harsh for some women who've been led astray, but it might push things in the right direction.

  13. Magisterial.

    But I can see many men and women nodding along with you here while still very confused about the right order between them. Why not press this farther for them? Write about the duty of the wife to obey the husband in all things but sin, especially the marital debt. Maybe even his right to coerce her or punish her, in all charity.

    Do a study for us of St. John Chrysostom's writings on this, especially homily 20 on Ephesians. There's so much to unpack for men who have no idea what it looks like, what it means to be a patriarch.

  14. I suppose the most famous example in British politics of a 'weed' would have to be Frederick John Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich, who was Prime Minister from August 1827 to January 1828. Known as 'the Blubberer' on account of his propensity to burst into tears (on one occasion in the presence of George IV) he was also described, I think by the Duke of Wellington, as being 'as firm as a bulrush'.

    He had considerable ability and if the top job proved too much for him, he served Prime Ministers from Liverpool to Peel and died, as Earl of Ripon, in 1859 at the age of 76.