Thursday, September 29, 2005


This is where liberalism gets you. Last Friday, the first ever civil union between a threesome took place in the Netherlands.

Viktor de Bruijn "married" two women in a ceremony before a notary who officially registered their civil union. At the moment, only a civil union rather than a marriage is recognised, but who knows when this will change.

Viktor described the events thus: "A marriage between three persons is not possible in the Netherlands, but a civil union is. We went to the notary in our marriage costume and exchanged rings. We consider this to be just an ordinary marriage."

It was only a year ago that I wrote an item on Alastair Nicholson, the very respectably liberal former chief justice of the Family Court of Australia. In arguing for homosexual marriage, Nicholson claimed that the traditional understanding of marriage had been superseded, to the point that "it is difficult to argue that a modern marriage necessarily excludes all others."

Once you begin to see marriage as any kind of arrangement which individuals contract to, there is no logical reason to limit it to two people - so it seems inevitable that liberal societies will move toward a recognition of polygamy. I just didn't think it would happen so quickly.

The lesson? We should think very carefully before moving from a traditional view of marriage as an exclusive union between a man and woman. Once marriage becomes liberalised into nothing more than a state sanctioned contract between individuals it loses its particular character and begins to take any form - including a polygamous one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

When the wheel turns

I left school in the mid-80s expecting to spend a few years of single independence at uni before embarking on a career and marrying.

Was I in for a shock. By the time I was ready to settle down (at about the age of 23) relationships between men and women had changed so radically that marriage seemed an unlikely prospect.

Young middle class women had been brought up to value independence above all else. I was aware of this and thought that I would have to make some compromises to accommodate this within a marriage.

What stunned me was how quickly any notion of compromise was lost. Many of the most attractive girls went "all the way" with their commitment to independence by simply deferring the very idea of marriage and children until some unspecified point in their mid to late 30s.

What is more, there was a kind of feminist triumphalism in the media. It was common to be told that women were now happily independent and self-sufficient and that traditional men were obsolete.

The situation was made more difficult by the personal behaviour of many young women. A lot of young women acted in a coarse, mannish way and chose to date "the wrong sort of guy".

Added to all this, the divorce rate was rising and divorce laws seemed to leave men with little legal protection in a marriage.

The question to be asked is how do men react when put in such a situation? When the normal process of settling down is made so difficult, how do men adapt psychologically?

I believe that many of the men caught in this situation did make a kind of psychological transformation. They found a balance in their relationships with individualistic women, by becoming more individualistic in their own outlook.

They found that now that they weren't expected to take care of women, that their lives were lighter and more "free-floating". They tried to live by the benefits of this, as this was what was now available to them.

They had been forced to become more self-sufficient, and to set their own personal goals, rather than to fulfil goals related to romantic love or family life.

For some men, this meant deferring their own commitment to family and career, for others it meant chasing their own materialistic, lifestyle goals to which their partners were expected to contribute, without making burdensome demands.

Lone women

How have things worked out for my generation now that we've reached our mid-thirties? Not so well, I think.

The first problem is that many women reached their thirties and found that they no longer wanted to do the careerist, single girl lifestyle anymore. They now wanted to marry and have a family.

Unfortunately, they were all too successful in attacking the traditional "family man" ethos when they were in their 20s. Men have gone through a major psychological adaptation away from their protector, provider instincts: it's not easy for men to change back.

And so you get the kind of lament made by Martha Kirkland, in an email to Henry Makow. Martha is a 30-something woman living in New York, who, despite being bright, thin, attractive and funny, finds herself without a partner.

Martha is understandably unimpressed by the fact that many men ask her on the first date how much she earns or whether she has a trust fund. She can't understand "how grace, charm and feminine essences no longer seemingly have a value".

She has observed that "The last thing my men friends want is any woman to be dependent upon them, especially emotionally and secondarily financially."

The conclusion Martha has drawn from this is that it is she and many of her women friends who are "at a relatively young age dinosaurs".

It's interesting for Martha Kirkland to put things this way because it mirrors what traditionally minded men felt in our twenties, rather than our thirties. That back then it was women who did not sufficiently value their "grace, charm and feminine essences"; that it was women who did not want to depend emotionally or financially on a man; and that it was traditional men who found themselves at a young age declared obsolete.

Meaning & identity

So the wheel has turned. It is now women, rather than men, who want to follow their instincts to marry, and who are disoriented by the individualistic values of the opposite sex.

Should men take comfort from this? I don't think so, because as Henry Makow rightly points out in response to Martha Kirkland's email, the situation is hardly ideal for men either.

He writes that:

Feminism lets men "off the hook". We no longer have to take responsibility for families. Instead, we can do as we please. In my case, that meant a search for meaning and identity.

Ironically, I learned that these are rooted in the masculine role feminism allowed me to forego.

In other words, a large part of meaning and identity for men is derived from our masculine role within a family, whether as husbands or fathers. So, even though a genderless, individualistic role might feel lighter and less burdensome, it is less likely to leave a man feeling fulfilled.

Martha Kirkland herself makes another good criticism of the newer, individualistic role for men. She explains that,

I attempt to persuade [these men] that the wildly successful feminist does not become the Dove Girl at home. That they are asking the impossible, a totally womanly creature that is utterly self-sustaining, emotionally, spiritually and financially. I attempt to illustrate how this creature in fact cannot co-exist. Or rather co-exist, in the same female body, mind, spirit.

What Martha is saying here is that a woman who is forced to become emotionally and financially independent is less likely to be attractively feminine at home.

I think this is generally true. A woman with a husband who intelligently protects her from some of the harshness of life, is much more likely to reveal her softer, more vulnerable feminine qualities.

It's not realistic to expect that most women will be ruggedly self-sufficient and softly feminine at the same time: this would be to expect a woman to be contradictory things.

So men ultimately have to choose one thing or the other; fully-natured, heterosexual men are more likely to want feminine women, even if this means taking on the "burden" of a protective role within the family.


I have seen a number of different responses to the situation women now find themselves in.

The relationships columnist for the Melbourne Herald Sun, Toby Green, has for some years now urged men to ignore the feminism of the 80s and 90s and to return to an authentic masculinity.

She has spoken of the treatment of men by feminist women that:

We huffed and puffed and blew your masculinity down. Maybe it was the headiness of the battle, but we got carried away. At some point, we needed to be saved from ourselves ...

Has it not occurred to you that you could not really be as terrible as we keep telling you you are ...

As a mate, I will tell some in-house secrets. Some of us know we are out on a limb and do not know how to tell you without losing face that, although we may not need to be protected (I did not say dominated) and taken care of, we like it. It feels good.

Robyn Riley, another Herald Sun columnist, has taken a different approach to the situation of contemporary women. In a recent column she angrily attacked those men who, in their late 30s, still "don't want to deal with the responsibility of family, housework and career".

She doesn't want to admit that the male attitude is a predictable reaction to an earlier feminist individualism. To the suggestion that the lack of commitment is because "in the 90s, men felt they were repressed" she responds that "If they were, it was only for a decade, for goodness sake."

And she then admits that "What bugs me is that the minute women look like winning some equality, these delinquents start stamping their feet and having tips in their hair and riding around on scooters." (Herald Sun 12/2/04)

And here we have the problem. For an orthodox liberal feminist like Robyn Riley "equality" means female independence. This is because liberals believe that we should be autonomous, in the sense of being created by our own individual reason or will.

It would be very hard for an orthodox liberal to admit that we need someone else to help us to fulfil our lives. And so Robyn Riley is committed to the idea that women should be independent, and that men should do whatever is required to uphold this kind of female individualism.

There's little room here for understanding real world psychology, including how men are likely to psychologically adapt to the presence of feminist women. It is just the imposition of ideology onto one area of life which is intensely personal and instinctive.

The angry, feminist, anti-male approach of Robyn Riley is unlikely to convince a new generation of men to recommit to family life. The more sophisticated approach of Toby Green, which is able to recognise gender difference, and which allows a natural interdependence of men and women, is much more likely to allow men and women to reestablish healthy relationships.

(First published at Conservative Central 14/02/2004)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Double discrimination

We are letting down our boys.

Just take the issue of sports. Last year a Victorian tribunal ruled that a 14-year-old girl could not be excluded from playing in a boys' football competition. This was done in accordance with anti-discrimination laws.

The very same tribunal has now decided that it's fine to exclude 12-year-old and 13-year-old boys from a girls' netball league. Netball Victoria welcomed the decision, with the comment that "Girls don't play the same way as boys and don't always wish to play against boys. We believe they should have that choice."

Well, yes. They should have that choice. But so too should boys.

And to compound the double standard, there is now a Victorian football league from which boys are excluded. A newspaper article quoted one of the girl players saying "When you play with boys, you don't feel very comfortable tackling." Which I can well understand; but I also understand that many boys would (rightly) not feel comfortable tackling girls either.

So the situation is this: we have anti-discrimination laws which prevent boys from having their own football competition, but which allow girls to have their own football and netball competitions.

In other words, the anti-discrimination laws blatantly and unjustifiably discriminate. They should be scrapped: something is wrong when we can't even allow boys to do something as normal and healthy as play football together.

(I've discussed this issue previously in an article "Free to Choose??")

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Gender traitors?

There have been more developments in the Swedish feminist party, Feminist Initiative.

First, Susanne Linde, a leading figure in the party, has resigned after being bullied by another leading member, Tiina Rosenberg. Rosenberg, a professor of gender studies, taunted the more politically moderate Linde, by saying that "a good moderate is a dead moderate". When Linde spoke of resigning Rosenberg said "I'm glad that our intelligence reserve won't fall with you." Linde said of this "I felt so violated I started to cry."

Now, this kind of bickering is not unheard of in political parties. But remember, feminists keep telling us how much nicer and more peaceful the world would be if only they could run things, instead of nasty men. But it seems that feminists can't even keep the peace in their own little party, let alone on the world stage.

The second development also concerns Tiina Rosenberg. She is reported to have said that, "women who sleep with men are traitors to their gender."

This statement is a real blast from the past. It harks back to the feminism of the 1970s and early 1980s. I caught the tail-end of it when I was an undergraduate uni student in the mid-80s. On the housing advertisement board, there used to be ads for women only communes. Within a few years, though, feminist separatism had run out of steam.

And now it reappears in Sweden. It is a wildly perverse attitude, which runs directly counter to healthy human instinct and social solidarity. I can only presume it has its origins either in lesbianism, or else the left-liberal idea that there are oppressor groups (men) who have set up artificial categories (male and female) in order to achieve a will to power of their own group over a deprived and oppressed victim group (women).

If you were to take such an ideology seriously, then perhaps you might see men and women as enemies locked in combat, so that a heterosexual woman could be castigated for "sleeping with the enemy."

But what a dreary, life-wasting philosophy! Imagine relegating the differences between men and women to the realm of "oppressive, artificial, social construct". This does not fit well with heterosexuality, in which it is precisely the masculinity or the femininity of the opposite sex which we love. Nor does it judge fairly the real motivations of men in working hard to establish and provide well for their families.

In a way, Rosenberg is right: if you follow the logic of the leftist view, a woman would be led into the hopeless situation of rejecting heterosexual love and the traditional family.

You would think that someone led to such a position would reconsider the ideology being pursued. But perhaps Rosenberg is a lesbian and so has little to lose from rejecting heterosexual love and family life.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Marriage not for couples?

There's always a more radical liberalism. It doesn't matter how much society gives in to radical liberal demands, the left will never be satisfied but will want to take things further.

Take the issue of marriage. Some American states are now changing the traditional heterosexual form of marriage in order to include homosexual relationships. But for some radicals, having gay couples marrying is still applying a "heterosexual norm". They want marriage laws which incorporate any number of adults living together.

The Swedish group, Feminist Initiative, recently held a conference at which they decided on their policy toward marriage. The group voted for the introduction of a "cohabitation law" which would not only ignore the gender of those marrying, but would also allow for more than two people to be included.

FI founder, Tina Rosenberg, explained that the group wants to create "a modern concept which does not favour and promote couples and heterosexual norms."

She hastened to add, "A man who lives with eight women in a patriarchal structure, where the man decides and the women obey - that's not what we're aiming for," - it's not clear, though, how she intends to prevent a pattern emerging in which men marry as many women as they want or are able.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Reality vs Orthodoxy

Minette Marrin has written a very interesting column on the issue of human rights.

She begins by suggesting that "the great post-war left-liberal ascendancy may be beginning to question its own certainties".

Her chief exhibit is David Goodhardt, a self-confessed "sensitive member of the liberal elite." Goodhardt recently abandoned left-wing orthodoxy by writing about human rights that:

People are not born with rights ... Rights are a social construct, a product of history, ideas and of institutions. You and I have rights not as human beings, but mainly because we belong to the political and national community called the United Kingdom, with its infrastructure of laws and institutions.

It's remarkable for someone from the left to declare such a thing. Usually the left trumpets the idea of abstract, universal rights. Minette Marin herself offers a good criticism of this left-wing tendency to base politics on claims of abstract rights when she writes,

This approach is incoherent ... it offers no explanation of what mysterious entity has conferred such rights or how they are to be enforced or who is to decide between conflicting rights.

There's one more worthwhile part of Minette Marin's column. She criticises the proposal that immigrants to EU countries should swear an oath of allegiance to EU laws, rather than to their nation of residence. She complains,

You almost have to pinch yourself at the folly of it. All across Europe, governments and bureaucrats and so-called community leaders have been forced, most painfully, to try to think more deeply and more critically about identity and the fragility of the ties that bind us in a shared sense of belonging and how best to strengthen them; their lazy, unexamined platitudes about immigration and celebrating diversity have been blasted, quite literally, away.

And what does Brussels come up with? A proposal that is quite astounding in its lack of the slightest understanding of feeling, sentiment, social solidarity, place, custom, ritual, symbolism or national tradition ...

This is not quite traditionalist conservatism, as it doesn't recognise ties of kinship as being one important aspect of national identity. It does, though, realistically accept the fact that questions of identity and belonging are important to individuals, can't be taken for granted and require a respect for the traditional life of a community.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Death of a school

Ten years ago Moreland City College in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg had an enrolment of over 1000 students. Last year numbers had fallen to 270 and the school was closed.

Why? It seems that multiculturalism didn't work in this Coburg school. A group of highly disruptive students gave the school a bad reputation from which it never recovered. And there is now evidence that these disruptive students were Lebanese Muslims who hated Australia and wanted to replace it with an Islamic state.

A former teacher, Chris Doig, tried to raise the alarm when some of his students danced with joy after the September 11 attacks. His concerns were ignored by authorities. Mr Doig said of these Lebanese students that "Some of the disruptive ones would say that Australia was degenerate and our legal system would be replaced by Shariah law in the not too distant future."

He also said of the disgruntled students that "Some of these were so disruptive and even violent that staff and other students abandoned the school when they could."

Nor is Mr Doig a lone voice. Two other teachers have supported his claims. One of these says that the disruptive students used to boast that Australia would become a majority Islamic country in 50 years. "They would do this by converting the infidel and by out-breeding the rest of the community."