Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A feminist comment to show young women

In a recent post I complained about a feminist double standard. Some feminists at the Hoyden about Town site had endorsed lesbian separatism as a strategy for women whilst later admitting that they themselves lived happily with the fathers of their children.

My post generated a lengthy debate. One of the participants, deus ex macintosh, is a feminist commenter at Hoyden. She argued with a refreshing lack of rancour and a willingness to reply directly to comments. I'm grateful to her for engaging in a reasonable discussion of the issues. Nonetheless, I was struck by her concluding remarks - and I only wish that I could make young women aware of them.

She was asked the following question:

... if the wife and mother deal is so bad, why do women keep signing up for it?


She answered:

For the same reason that theory conflicts with evidence as Mark has pointed out. We are talking in generalisations. Patriarchy or any other type of social theory works at a macro-level to describe general social trends and attempts to explain them. Marriage or any other type of personal relationship works at a micro-level and is a result of individual negotiation. Feminist or not I would no more live my life based solely on a social theory than I would invest my money based on an economic one. At the micro-level they're inherently unreliable which is why we're constantly examining where our personal experience supports the theory and where it differs, hence the switch in voices.


"Feminist or not I would no more live my life based solely on a social theory..." So here the personal is being insulated from the political. Unfortunately, not all young women are going to be so pragmatic. Some will be too earnest or too conscientious or even too unsophisticated in picking up cues as to how far the theory is meant to be taken in one's personal life.

So you arrive at a situation in which some active feminists will escape the negative consequences of their own theory more successfully than other young women who are less politically savvy and who follow the theory at face value.

The message to young women therefore is this: feminists might sound very confident in condemning what is traditional in relationships and family life, but this masks a pragmatism and a scepticism about the real world applicability of the theory.

Chances are that feminists will later wash their hands of you if you take what they say too literally.

20 comments:

  1. The important word in that sentence is "solely", ie. exclusively. Theory still shapes the expectations on which we base personal decisions, Mark.

    Perhaps what you perceive as condemning what is traditional in relationships and family life is in fact "a pragmatism and a scepticism about the real world applicability of the theory". Feminists aren't at war with SAHMs or traditional relationships, just the idea that they are the only valid choice open to women.

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  2. Feminists aren't at war with SAHMs or traditional relationships, just the idea that they are the only valid choice open to women.

    No, there's a situation in which the opportunity to be a SAHM is given token recognition, whilst the machinery of government is swung into action to engineer other outcomes.

    This is inevitable once feminist theory is adopted. Patriarchy theory states that the male role is the autonomous "human" one, whilst the traditional female role is an oppressive, subordinate "non-human" one - the one which denies women a human status.

    That's why the European governments have adopted policies stating that, as a matter of justice, men and women must be brought toward the same family roles.

    The Scandinavian countries are just now enacting laws which effectively fine those families in which the woman spends more time at home with the baby than the man.

    And here is how Yvonne Roberts puts the current situation in the UK:

    In the public domain, however, as the government has pushed mothers into work and encouraged dads into "fathering", as opposed to mainly breadwinning, a conjuring trick has been performed - motherhood, now you see it, now you don't. Motherhood has almost been erased from the lexicon of family policy. Instead, mothers and fathers have been subsumed into one: the gender-neutral "parent". And that has already had an impact on the degree of support mothers receive.

    And from a British newspaper:

    Mothers who stay at home are a problem

    Mothers of young children should go out to work, the Government declared yesterday ...

    According to a new policy paper on equality for women, backed by four Cabinet ministers, there are 'real problems' over women who stay at home to bring up their children.

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  3. "Feminists aren't at war with SAHMs or traditional relationships, just the idea that they are the only valid choice open to women."

    I think this would be more persuasive if you hadn't previously states that, while they "were split" on the question of whether marriage should be abolished or merely reformed, feminists were in agreement that marriage was "an institution that operates at the woman's expense." I think it is more than a little disingenuous for feministst to pretend to be neutral towards an institution that they also prefess to consider to be unfair to women. If marriage really were "an institution that operates at the woman's expense," than feminists have no business being neutral towards it.

    And, as Mark Richardson has shown, in their rhetoric, in their "do as I say" mode, many, many leading feminists follow Simone de Beauvoir in not being neutral, in not wanting to give women the choice of traditional marriage/SAHM. These feminists clearly are "at war" with traditional marriage/SAHM-hood.

    Of course, in their real lives, in their "don't do as I do" mode, many of these same feminists are happily married. That's because they know that, despite what their theory of patriarchal exploitation demands "must" be true, marriage is not, in fact, "an institution that operates at the woman's expense."

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  4. Mark, this is what Lawrence Auster refers to as one of the Liberal Left's "unprincipled exception". It merely betrays the fundamental untruth of the Liberalism's feminist genus of thought.

    Simply put - Liberals, feminists (the left et al)always benefit when they violate their own beliefs.

    What else could more clearly demonstrate Feminism as make believe than that commentary?

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  5. Again, I don't see why "liberalism" is being made to take the rap for radical feminism. Radical feminism comes out of a dogmatic Marxist, anti-liberal tradition, not out of the liberal tradition.

    And, as a form of separatism, radical feminism violates the principle of universalism that is a hallmark of liberalism. In fact, liberalism if often visciously attacked from the right precisely because it treats, or wants to treat, all people equally. Liberalism is criticized, often correctly, for minimizing the differences between various groups of people. Liberalism is the philosophy that is opposed to ideas of racial supremacy and exclusionism, of extreme nationalism, of ethno-centrism, of religous supremacy or exclusionism, and so on. Why should it be any different when it comes to gender? I submit, that it's not. Just as liberalism opposes male chauvinism and separatism, it opposes the female chauvinism and separatism inherent in the radical feminist position.

    Liberalism is the philosophy that wants to deal with the human race as a whole, and is thus often subject to the criticism of overgeneralizing, of imposing their own standards on others in the name of universalism, or of running rough shod over the specific experiences of local, regional or national groups. Liberalism is criticized for thinking and acting as if everyone wants the same thing out of life. How then can liberalism also be criticized for the misdeeds of radical feminists, who believe that one half of humanity is irrevocably at war with the other half? That men and women have nothing in common except the oppression that the former practices on the latter?

    To use an analogy, in the US we had a Civil Rights Movement that secured formal, legal equality for Black people. Concurrently, we also had a "Black nationalist" movement that preached Black separatism and, in some instances, supremacy. Obviously, the CRM was an example of liberalism. And, the Black nationalist movement? Was it "liberal" too? I don't think so. It has more in common with the various traditional European nationalisms, which were anything but "liberal."

    Equality feminism, the idea of equal rights for women, yes, that's liberalism in action. Just like the CRM. But, radical "womanist" "difference" or "gender" feminism? Is that liberal? No more than the Black nationalist movement was.

    And another thing! The blogger seems to think that "liberals" value autonomy so much that they are opposed to all long-term committments and relationships. But, it would be a dwarfed and thwarted kind of "autonomy" that didn't allow for long term committments. Liberals don't think that "autonomy" is some sort of absolute good in and of itself, such that it should be hoarded into a big pile and never "spent" on making long-term committments or entering into long-term relationships. A large part of what it means to be "autonomous" is to have the ability to make just such committments.

    For example, children and the mentally incompetent are denied autonomy because they "don't know what's good for them." They are denied the right to enter into long term relationships, and any contract they might sign is held null and void. It is this lack of autonomy, not an excessive love of it, that bars one from making long term committments.

    Yes, it an "unprinciple exception" for a radical feminist to get married. But, it's not one for a liberal.

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  6. Read it again, Ruddy...

    "Even feminists are split between those who believe that there IS a successful model of marriage and family that doesn't operate at the woman's expense, we just haven't found it yet, and those who believe the institution is inherently flawed and would be happy to see it abolished. There is not one Feminist opinion on this, there are many - all framed by our various personal experience."

    This doesn't seem particularly 'radical'. Notice in particular the bit that says there IS belief in a successful model that DOESN'T operate at the woman's expense. If you're going to take issue with one of my opinions at least make sure it is my opinion.

    Do you guys honestly believe that the government has somehow been snowed by 'patriarchy theory' into supporting women who work? Isn't it more likely they have recognised the fact that very few families can afford to keep a mother out of the workforce for several years no matter how much she might want to stay home, and are prioritising policies to make that easier.

    I do agree that the main problem with extending the right to maternity leave (which is meant to make it easier for mothers to return to their jobs) is that its actual effect will be to make employers think twice about employing women in the first place. In a way, I'm surprised Mark isn't supporting it wholeheartedly for that reason. That'll keep 'em home.

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  7. "Read it again, Ruddy..."

    OK

    "'Even feminists are split between those who believe that there IS a successful model of marriage and family that doesn't operate at the woman's expense, we just haven't found it yet, and those who believe the institution is inherently flawed and would be happy to see it abolished. There is not one Feminist opinion on this, there are many - all framed by our various personal experience.'

    "This doesn't seem particularly 'radical'. Notice in particular the bit that says there IS belief in a successful model that DOESN'T operate at the woman's expense. If you're going to take issue with one of my opinions at least make sure it is my opinion."

    It is, or at least was, your opinion, that I was taking issue with. According to you, the least radical feminists, the ones who DON'T believe that marriage is inherently flawed and want to see it abolished, still think that marriage, as currently constituted, is an institution "that operates at the woman's expense." That being the case, these feminists have no business being neutral towards marriage, yet you claimed that their position was one of neutrality. Yes, these feminists are hopeful that some "more successful" (ie better for women) model of marriage can be "found," but, as of right now, marriage "operates at the woman's expense." That being the case, feminists are--or should be--"at war" with marriage, which is directly contrary to what you said.

    You were quoted accurately and in context. You just don't like it that the actions of many feminists are at odds with their professed "position" on marriage.

    "Do you guys honestly believe that the government has somehow been snowed by 'patriarchy theory' into supporting women who work? Isn't it more likely they have recognised the fact that very few families can afford to keep a mother out of the workforce for several years no matter how much she might want to stay home, and are prioritising policies to make that easier."

    Here in the US, the government has certainly capitulated to "patriarchy theory" on many issues, such as rape and domestic violence. But, when it comes to women working rather than being SAHMs, the government favors that outcome (to the extent it does--it doesn't seem to favor it quite as much as it favored in other places, like Scandanavia and the UK) not because of "patriarchy theory," but because it normally does whatever women (as represented by feminist organizations) want.

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  8. You were quoted accurately and in context. You just don't like it that the actions of many feminists are at odds with their professed "position" on marriage.

    Really? According to you I wasn't being persuasive because I said that feminists "were in agreement that marriage was an institution that operates at the woman's expense" and only split on whether to abolish it. The point I actually made was that they are split on BOTH issues.

    You're right that I don't like being included in a generalised accusation of hypocrisy. It's like saying all Christian Conservatives are hypocrites because some still hire prostitutes and/or abuse children. Those feminists who do think marriage is oppressive tend to be the ones who don't marry. Those who do marry either don't consider it oppressive or accept that this might be the price of a successful marriage or having children or achieving something else they value.

    I'll say this once more before I give up - There is more than ONE type of Feminist. About the only universal belief that exists is that women should have the power and opportunity to choose for themselves, regardless of the theories or opinions of anyone else.

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  9. Hang on a sec. In response to a question as to why marriage is so bad, you didn't defend it by saying its generally good. Instead, you replied that:

    "We are talking in generalisations. Patriarchy or any other type of social theory works at a macro-level to describe general social trends and attempts to explain them. "

    So in other words, you embrace the theory that men generally oppress women in marriage. Now, in this comments thread, you are attempting to change your position, claiming that you do not view marriage as generally oppressive.

    I'm, afraid Mark is correct. There is a fatal contradiction between your theories and how you live your life. You resolve this by contrasting "the abstract" and "the general" with "the particular" and "individual negotiations".

    But you cannot have it both ways. Either traditional male-female relationships are generally oppressive, or they are not.

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  10. "Really? According to you I wasn't being persuasive because I said that feminists "were in agreement that marriage was an institution that operates at the woman's expense" and only split on whether to abolish it. The point I actually made was that they are split on BOTH issues."

    Yeah, really. Wow, this is becoming tiresome. You said:

    "Even feminists are split between those who believe that there IS a successful model of marriage and family that doesn't operate at the woman's expense, we just haven't found it yet, and those who believe the institution is inherently flawed and would be happy to see it abolished. There is not one Feminist opinion on this, there are many - all framed by our various personal experience."

    The split, according to you, was between those feminists who wanted to abolish marriage outright and those feminists who believe that marriage, as it currently exists, is an institution that "operates at the woman's expense," but, rather than advocating its abolition, wanted to go searching ("we haven't found it yet") for a "model" of marriage that doesn't operate in this way. The less radical group, the reformers, you might say, think that marriage (as we now know it) operates at the woman's expense (you explicitly state this), but want to continue the search for that "more successful model" of marriage. The other group of feminists, the more radical group, the abolitionists, surely also agree with the first group (even though you don't explictly state this) that marriage (as we now know it) "operates at the woman's expense." That's why they want to abolish it. Thus, again, according to you, all the feminists are in agreement on the issue of marriage operating at the woman'e expense. The only area of disagreement is on whether to reform or abolish it.

    That's what you wrote. NOT, that feminists were split "on both issues."

    "Those feminists who do think marriage is oppressive tend to be the ones who don't marry."

    Again, in your original statement, you said that all feminists think marriage "operates at the woman's expense," (ie is "oppressive" to women). The group you are referring to here should include all feminists, not just a subset of them, if you want to be consistent with your prior statement.

    "Those who do marry either don't consider it oppressive. . ."

    Before, you said they all do. This should be an empty set of feminists.

    ". . or accept that this might be the price of a successful marriage or having children or achieving something else they value."

    It would seem to be strange kind of "feminist," however mainstream and non-radical, that would accept for herself, or advocate for her sisters to accept, membership in an institution which is "oppressive" to women.

    Again, if marriage "operates at the woman's expense" or is "oppressive" to women, then feminists, all feminists, should be against it. They should be, as you put it, "at war" with it. Not neutral towards it.

    "I'll say this once more before I give up - There is more than ONE type of Feminist."

    I know that there is more than one kind of feminist. I have often mentioned that I agree with many of the ideas of the original "equality" feminists. As for there being subtle variations even among the "difference" feminists, fine, I already knew that too, thanks anyway, but those variations don't come into play here. They all find marriage to be "oppressive" to women. And that's what we're arguing about.

    "About the only universal belief that exists is that women should have the power and opportunity to choose for themselves, regardless of the theories or opinions of anyone else."

    Tell that to Linda Hirshman, or to Simone de Beauvoir, who said, "no woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. . .because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one."

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  11. Women in the west have always had the power to choose for themselves. Feminism did not give this to women.

    Christianity, unique among western religions, had a role for unmarried people provided they were celibate.

    In general, no one ever had to get married beyond some family motivations such as royalty. Further, in general women were forcibly stopped or killed for being promiscuous. They were simply unmarriagable or social outcasts.

    Feminism merely encourages women to follow the basest of male behaviors. In the 1920s they encouraged women to smoke as a form of liberation. Now they encourage promiscuity (have what ever sex you choose is encouraging promiscuity.) These will have equally ill outcomes in different ways for young women who buy into this model before they have the life experience to see what it truly good for them.

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  12. First, thanks to Aurora and John for linking to the post.

    Anonymous, I did consider referring to Lawrence Auster's idea of the unprincipled exception.

    The idea runs as follows: it isn't possible to live consistently according to liberal principles, but it's also not permitted to publicly express non-liberal principles.

    Therefore, to live in the world a liberal has to make unprincipled exceptions to his own belief system.

    We can see this at work in the way that Deus ex chooses not to challenge her feminist theory, but merely insulates aspects of her personal life from it according to her own comfort level.

    Here is the key Auster quote linked to above:

    Modern liberalism stands for principles of equality and non-discrimination which, if followed consistently, would make a decent life in this world, or any life at all, impossible.

    But modern liberal society does not permit the public expression of non-liberal principles, by which rational limits to equality and non-discrimination, or indeed the very falsity of these ideas altogether, can be articulated.

    This fact forces liberals continually to make exceptions to their own liberalism, without admitting to themselves and others that they are doing so.

    Such exceptions must take inchoate, non-conceptual, pre-rational forms, such as appeals to brute self-interest, to the need to respond to a pressing emergency, or to common sense.

    For example, liberals who want to escape from the negative consequences of their liberal beliefs in a given instance will often say that the application of a liberal idea in that instance “goes too far,” without their indicating by what principle they distinguish between an idea that has gone “too far” and one that hasn’t. In fact, it’s purely a matter of what suits their own comfort level and convenience.

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  13. Notice how deus has stopped responding.

    Its as though her feminist beliefs have never been contrasted with her lifestyle choices before.

    Either she must see her partner as an oppressor of her, or she's the luckiest woman in the world for not having an oppressive partner.

    I wonder which?

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  14. The classic Canadian example of this is Judy Rebbick -- the senior feminist in our country.

    She is married to Stephen Lewis, a prominent social democrat of the liberal variety (as opposed to the Red Tory type which also exists in Canada).

    Rebbick and Lewis sent their son Avi Lewis (now a pundit/film-maker etc.) to Canada's most elite private school: Upper Canada College.

    When Rebbick was asked if sending their son to an exclusive, privileged school violated the principles of equality she advocated in her public life, Rebbick replied: "We would never sacrifice our children to our principles."

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  15. We would never sacrifice our children to our principles.

    Just other people's children?

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  16. Remember gentlemen,
    Feminist theory is such a STRONG straw-woman ideal to most females precisely because it preaches ‘options’. Or more to the point, an avoidance of personal responsibility. There is always an ‘eject’ button. There is always something/one to erase personal responsibility – whether its men, government, history, the right to change your mind, PMS, feelings, etc – that feminist-inspired women will ‘press’ as their answer.

    Most rational men are attempting to debate (logically) in a straight line to a team (feminism) that finds that particular mode of thinking limiting because it requires ethics and responsibility.

    Women want it all.
    Women want ‘choices’.

    The masculine recognizes that once a ‘choice’ has been made – it tends to negate others, & so one moves in a straight line and accepts what comes per their original ‘choice’. (ie. I ‘chose this’.) – but consequently, that there is immense value to be gained by going as far into that one direction as possible…. as our previous historical progress has shown.

    The feminine, less self-sufficient, will only move forward enough that she is (more-or-less) guaranteed safety. And today, others aren’t allowed to move ahead of her, lest she be left behind/alone or made to feel bad. Unfortunantly, these are the ‘realisms’ of the outside world that women have (unsuitably) placed themselves in.

    A similar hypochrisy is spouted by the 26yr MP British-feminist ‘Harriet Harman’…

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1020553/Why-does-Harriet-Harman-hate-marriage.html

    …where she’s consistently espoused (over those 26 years) that fathers are irrelevant & marriage is irrelevant - though she is married to a man and has children? She (somehow?) espouses & attempts to enact political policies that she herself does not live by.

    There is a thing called “Living by example” – that is missing from feminist lexicons.

    -Bobby.N

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  17. Sorry, link to my previous post didn't work.

    Try clicking here
    .

    -Bobby.N

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  18. Here's some thoughts from someone who considers himself a very objective, factual thinker. Some basic background on me is that I am a white homosexual male who grew up mostly amongst African Americans but then eventually in my occupation as an adult became mostly surrounded by white people. Why I mention this experience that allows me to understand well two different races will become clear shortly.

    So why do women typically make less money in the workface than men? First let's do a quick experiment. Look around yourself right now. Look at every useful object around you that was made by a human being. You will find that all of these objects have something in common. They essentially were all engineered and manufactured by men. The person who took the risk to start the business that made every single object around you is a man.

    Here's my point. People should recognize that the masculine approach to getting work done is far superior to the feminine approach. Men typically get paid more than women because they are simply more valuable when it comes to getting results. Just because women can conform their thoughts to what a professor says in order to regurgitate information back to score well on a test (what so many people define as being intelligent) does not mean women are as capable as getting results as men. Common sense and everyday observations tell us that men derive more pleasure on average than women from getting work done.

    People should keep in mind that all gender research is biased. Gender studies faculty are predominantly female feminists. Here's another experiment. Pick out about 50 gender research articles. Find out the research question being asked and then ask yourself what answer to that question would be favorable towards women. You will find that you have correctly predicted the results to the study almost every time or every time, which is impossible to do if the research is not biased. If you can predict the results of the research based on the probable bias of the researcher, then the research is nonsense.

    Women and men are different. The typical woman is superior to the typical man in certain regards without a shadow of a doubt. But a fact of nature is that men are also superior to women in certain regards, and that is just a fact of life.

    Our society would be better off if these facts were recognized. Women would not be so overvalued, providing an impetus for men to want to marry them and take of their needs, even if those needs included the man helping his wife succeed in her career. This would help create more families and lead to more family stability, which is key for social stability.

    White women typically make quite a bit less money as compared to men when one compares the races. In other words the pay discrepancy between the genders is mainly a white issue. What white women get in return for this pay discrepancy is that white men compared to men of other races are more expected to take care of women. A white man's identity in the eyes of a white woman is how the white man treats the white woman. This contrasts with other races in which men are thought of as human beings instead of having as their identity how they treat their women. This explains why older white men have by far the highest rate of suicide in the United States, as white men no longer have any purpose in life when they cannot work and provide for and take care of people.

    I believe white women who are feminists have only two valid complaints. One is simply that beauty is too overvalued and that white women should not have to have their self-esteem depend so much on how pretty they are. Another valid complaint is that white culture makes white women more passive and insecure compared to women of other races, which makes them much less economically valuable than white men. Interestinly enough on average white women with a college degree make less than African American women with a college degree.

    But white women should keep in mind that what they get in return for their low pay is to be put on a pedestal and get treated like a princess, and this is why married women are so much more likely to be Republicans, the party stereotypically associated with being more favorable to men. It is not a bad deal for women when the man provides so much income for the family, which she basically gets to run.

    The system breaks down when a white woman does not have a white man to treat her like the most precious gem that ever existed, and this is when white women become feminists.

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  19. Notice how deus has stopped responding.

    We didn't seem to be making contact, so there wasn't much point, Leon. My choices don't contradict my beliefs, I am presently single. It would be nice to find a male partner but is not essential for my happiness and my feelings about having children are pretty ambivalent at the moment though I recognise this might change. Other women will feel differently.

    Accepting Liesel's proposal that Feminism (or I suspect liberalism) in society encourages promiscuity, I'd point out that it doesn't enforce it. My religious beliefs run counter to the social pressure so it's part of the culture I choose not to share. I don't think that makes me less of a feminist or liberal or compromises my other political beliefs in any way. Like you, I'm not impressed by "do what I say, not what I do" - if you can't live with it, don't espouse it. I am not a hypocrite. Hypocrisy is not okay.

    People young or older deserve the same choice and freedom to make their own mistakes rather than having others setting themselves up as arbiters of what's good for them. THAT's where I am suspicious of conservatism and it's tendency to impose its social values - by violence historically (stone the adulteress etc).

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