Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bill Bennett: one rule for women another for men?

Bill Bennett provoked a storm of criticism from the men's movement with two recent columns.

In these columns he noted the decline of men in education, employment and the family. He believes this is due to a lack of good masculine role models for men.

Now, I'm a supporter of traditional masculinity, so I'm not opposed to this aspect of Bennett's argument. But his analysis is both inadequate and confused. He doesn't see anything wrong at all with the changes to society over the past 50 years - in fact he strongly supports them. Nor does he see anything wrong with the behaviour of women in society - in fact he thinks women have gone from strength to strength.

So in his mind there is nothing that might be discouraging men from committing to work and family life. He believes the larger trends of society are fine - it's just that men haven't been socialised properly into their roles. So he hasn't thought very deeply about what once connected men to work and family and what might be disconnecting them today.

Here is Bennett praising the "ascension" of women in society:

For the first time in history, women are better educated, more ambitious and arguably more successful than men.

Now, society has rightly celebrated the ascension of one sex. We said, "You go girl," and they went. We celebrate the ascension of women but what will we do about what appears to be the very real decline of the other sex?

Bennett assumes that female "ascension" is to be measured in terms of career ambition; nor does he consider how a supercharged careerism in 20-something women might affect relationships. Are women who are focused on independent careers going to commit to family formation at a young age? If not, how does that affect the type of men they select for? Might some of these career ambitious women appear less feminine in their personality to at least some men? And if these women rise quickly in their careers, won't there be fewer men in their peer group for them to hypergamously look up to as potential mates?

Bennett goes even further with his "she done no wrong" argument:

Many women told me the problems are much worse than I described. They explained to me how they have to lower their standards to find a man. Young women, in particular, complained that men are dragging them down and holding them back. As one woman told me, if 60 is the new 40 for men, then 25 is the new 13.

Most feminists are not celebrating the decline of men and shouting it from the rooftops. Certainly, the far-left feminist movement has sought to diminish the role of men, but a majority of women want able, competent men of their equal. Strong men make stronger women (and vice versa) and stronger families, and women want that. Many men today aren't sure what they want.

Bennett is 68-years-old and clearly never had to go through the modern relationships scene. If he had, he wouldn't accept with such naivety the claim that the average 25-year-old woman is a perfected creature waiting patiently to select wisely a traditional man to marry. In particular I would recommend to Bill Bennett that he google the term "ladette".

And what of his claim that "strong men make stronger women (and vice versa) and stronger families"? I'm not sure exactly what he means by this, but presumably he means that a self-sufficient, independent career woman will bring out the qualities of resilience, self-sufficiency and career ambition in men and vice versa and that this will create a strong family culture. I just don't think this is right - and the evidence would seem to be on my side. It's not that men want women to be entirely helpless or dependent, but the male protector instinct will only be triggered if there is something to protect. If a woman is entirely independent and self-sufficient - and if women allow their personality to become too aggressively harsh - then women are likely to leave many men feeling cold.

Which brings me to my last but most important point. Bill Bennett can't seem to decide between liberal and conservative values. In the end, he seems to want men to be traditional and conservative but women to be liberal - and this is not something that's going to work out in the long run. If men think they are being held to traditional responsibilities whilst women to get to choose any option they like, then increasing numbers of men will want what women are having - and will look for ways to get such options for themselves.

Bennett claims that liberal societies have delivered autonomy to men but that men haven't made good use of it:

In developed Western countries, man has unprecedented freedom to choose, to a degree heretofore unknown, a life of his own wanting and design. A mere hundred years ago, man couldn't afford to dawdle in limbo between adolescence and manhood; manhood was thrust upon him for survival. Today, more opportunity lies at his feet than ever. Yet with this increased opportunity comes increased confusion, and the response on the part of some men has not been encouraging.

That's good evidence that Bennett, in his underlying philosophy, is a liberal: he thinks of freedom in liberal terms as being a freedom to choose a life of one's own design, i.e. a freedom to self-determine or self-create.

There are two problems with this claim. First, it's not clear how a man today really has such a freedom compared to a man of 100 years ago. Like most men I want to have a respected place as a husband and father in a family; I want to take pride in and contribute to my larger ethno-national tradition; I want to live in a society in which personal morality is taken seriously and in which art and culture reflect higher spiritual values; and I want to have a sense of my tradition building on the past and growing into the future rather than disintegrating. Isn't it true that I would have had more chance of of living such a life 100 years ago than today? So how am I more "free" today in choosing a life of my own design?

The second problem is that Bennett contradicts himself in his advice to men. If progress means a freedom to choose a life of one's own design, then why does Bennett so much want men to choose the predetermined values of traditional masculinity? For instance, Bennett criticises the Occupy Wall Street movement in this way:

Take the Occupy Wall Street movement, for instance. While diverse and scattered, some of the mottos and slogans on display are in stark contrast to the traditional and time-tested ideas of manliness.

So he believes that men should select "traditional and time-tested ideas of manliness". I agree that they should, but the problem for Bennett is that this contradicts his liberal belief that society is rightly based on choosing a life of one's own design. If I'm a young man, and I've been brought up with the idea of choosing a life of my own design, then why shouldn't I choose to spend my 20s playing computer games? Or being a player? Or being effeminate? Surely, if the aim is to self-design, you wouldn't go for something because it is traditional.

The only way you can suggest that men should go for "traditional and time-tested ideas of manliness" is to assert that there are values that are more important than "self-design". But if you do this, you have to be consistent and admit that there are going to be similar values for women too. But I don't hear Bill Bennett talking of "traditional and time-tested ideas of womanliness". In fact, Bennett seems to believe that women have "ascended" by becoming non-traditional.

Bennett complains that modern society has given men confusing messages about what it means to be a man, but Bennett's own messages are also confusing: he gives extreme praise to women for being non-traditional self-designers, whereas men are to follow a traditional and time-tested masculinity.

Bennett makes a bald assertion that these different pathways don't conflict, but it's likely that they do and that men will pick up on the double standard anyway.

So is Bennett a conservative or a liberal? I think he's a right liberal who continues to hold in a confused way to some more traditional values. As such I don't think he's the ideal person to put the case for traditional masculinity to young men.

55 comments:

  1. Great post. You might find this interesting. A professor of evolutionary biology discusses the decline of males, and that a new kinship system is already underway. Bureaugamy: a mother, her child, and a bureaucrat.

    I particularly liked his talk about how when women are on the pill, it gives off a pheromone telling men that they are pregnant. Imagine a young man going to a nightclub and all the women are on the pill?

    Anyway, here is the link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIb2Lu8YuhA

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  2. I think you "hit the nail on the head" with this one. I for one am a college educated man who holds down a job,pays my taxes,likes to play video games in my spare time,and see no reason to get married or raise children with the modern woman.I do not understand why I am the one being called irresponsible or immature for simply refusing to play games that are rigged for me to fail or refuse to be one of society's tools.Perhaps Mr. Bennett feels that if enough men do what I am doing, it would be the end of our society(and he possibly would be right)but I cannot see how anyone can expect me or any other male to make non self-interested choices that will likely lead to personal financial ruin(divorce,alimony,child support etc..)heartache,stress and avoidable life problems only because "society" will be better off. It sounds like the "Slave Master" trying to shame his slaves into doing his work and trying to bring dishonor on those who have the audacity to desire freedom.His article reminds me of the novel "Atlas Shrugged" except instead of the industrialists going on strike it is the men, and it is not a "conscious" strike. The incentives to "man up" are not there and it is foolish to try to shame someone into doing something for which there are no rewards only risks and punishment. The solution to this problem is to put the incentives back into marriage and fatherhood, but that would mean taking on feminism,its laws, and possibly shaming women into "womaning up" which is something I don't think Bennett is prepared to do. It is odd that someone Bennett's age cannot see this because it wasn't very long ago that men gladly took on the responsabilities of marriage, fatherhood and gainful employment and no one had to be shamed or talked into it.However our culture has changed due to liberalism,feminism,political correctness etc... and I think that any man who would take on those responsibilities these days has got to be ignorant,stupid,blind,delusional or all 4.This current situation of men is what you get when you give one group rights and freedoms(women) and another group the responsibilities(men).

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  3. He's castigating the cads for not being cuckolds.

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  4. @Tim

    Lionel Tiger isn't a professor of evolutionary biology he's a professor of (biological) anthropology.

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  5. I think a cat would be a better mother than some modern women, who not only leave their children in day cares to earn a paycheck, but when the work is over they will go to a club to drink and party and spend the paycheck on alcohol. A lot of them are so irresponsible that they don't even marry their children's father and live on welfare, yet not a word from feminists shaming them. Isn't it strange?

    On the other hand, if the woman is responsible enough to marry a decent man and stay home taking care of his house and children, then she is called all sorts of names including a parasite.

    People like Bennet say they represent women's interests but it's not true. They represent interests of a small group of women, mostly upper middle class, who profit from feminism, while they ruin the society for everybody else.

    I think he is right that men should man up. And after they have done it, they should demand the restoration of the old system, where the Father was the head of the household, there was no no-fault divorce, no abortion on demand etc. Manning up would also include not rewarding shemale career women and party girls with marriage as they are totally unsuitable for it.

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  6. Bennett thinks of himself as being 'conservative'. As Lawrence Auster showed, many conservatives (he meant RINO's) are only reactive to liberalism that's moving leftward continuously. So, what was 10 years ago 'liberal', today is 'conservative'. I can't know for sure if he's dumb or not. But I can say he's coward. If you brand yourself as 'conservative', you fight with "progressivism".

    Anyway Mark, that was one of the best critiques of Bennett's articles. You are one of the very few conservatives that 'get it' and I'm afraid that means there are few real conservatives left.

    gabriel

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  7. "Most feminists are not celebrating the decline of men and shouting it from the rooftops. Certainly, the far-left feminist movement has sought to diminish the role of men, but a majority of women want able, competent men of their equal."

    In other words, Bennett agrees that most women are feminists?

    Höllenhund

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  8. Most feminists are not celebrating the decline of men and shouting it from the rooftops.

    They are.

    Certainly, the far-left feminist movement has sought to diminish the role of men, but a majority of women want able, competent men of their equal.

    The majority of women want able, competent men whom are somewhat superior to them. Also far-left feminists are the purest form of feminism and as feminism has become universally accepted it turns purer and is less restrained by other factors.

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  9. In other words, Bennett agrees that most women are feminists?

    Great point. He's arguing about levels of equality in women, he's not arguing about women whom are against equality.

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  10. A very good take on that disastrous piece of nonsense by Bill Bennett.

    I think that men like Bennett need to be understood, however, in this way. The concern is for the interests of their daughters/younger female relatives (like nieces and so on) -- for ease of references I will refer to all of these younger female relatives as "daughters". They simply want the "advantages" of feminism for their daughters, including economic independence, career achievement, feistiness/sassyness/empowerment and so on. The parental mode here is no longer encouraging the daughter to be prepared to be a very good wife and mother, but to prepare the daughter to be an independent economic and career actor as the primary goal. And the parental/relational pride element here, as well as the parental/familial competition element, is substantial. It is more marked in men who have daughters and no sons, as these guys tend to pile onto their daughters all of the stuff they would have wanted to see in their non-existent sons as well, but it also applies to many fathers of both sons and daughters, as well as some guys like Bennett who only had sons but who likely feel these same feelings about other younger female relatives.

    Which is, of course, a long way of saying that men like Bennett and countless, nay millions, of others are essentially *feminists*. The only feminism they don't like is what they call "far left" feminism -- i.e., the likes of Andrea Dworkin or perhaps, today, Jessica Valenti. They don't want to have a perpetual gender war or fight about patriarchy, but they do very much want the benefits of "mainstream" feminism for their own daughters and younger female relatives.

    Which leads to the next point. In *addition* to the benefits of mainstream feminism for their daughters, they *also* want the benefits of traditional responsibilities and roles placed on the *men* in the lives of their daughters and young female relatives. One way to look at this is what I call the "superhero marriage" -- they want their daughters to be high achieving careerists, but they want men still to be as well, and also for the men who are like that to be willing to marry women like their daughter --> i.e., a "superhero marriage" of two high powered people both "kicking ass and taking down names". In other words: they want men to be more or less the same as they always were in terms of responsibility, striving, achievement and so on, *but* want these guys to be attracted to and to want to marry supercharged women like their daughters -- i.e., as you point out, women get the lifestyle design and empowerment choice, and men get to keep doing what they've been doing, regardless of how different women have become.

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  11. To a man like Bennett this "makes sense", because it is best for his daughters. It can be accused of wanting to have one's cake and eat it, too, but from the perspective of someone like Bennett that makes no sense because, as you note, he sees the advance of achievement and careerism among women as an absolute good. In this vision, men and women alike are supposed to be high-achieving superheroes in a marriage of fantastically able and driven equals. That's what he wants, at least, for his daughters/female relatives.

    The problem with this scenario, of course, is that it never really asks what men want, and what motivates men. Instead of excoriating young men for playing video games instead of trying to out-hypergamize the next guy, Bennett would be far better off to examine what actually motivates men to step up to those roles, and what demotivates them from doing so. Beyond the obvious and clear contradiction you rightly point out (i.e., liberal freedoms for women, traditional responsibilities for men), it also belies a rather poor understanding of cause and effect. To my understanding, one cannot separate the lack of motivation evidenced by many younger men from the behavior of young women. Men like Bennett want to do this, because they *want* young women to be behaving the way they do (well, apart from the BJ your sweet niece gave to the bad boy bartender in the pub loo last weekend that you don't know about, but anyway ....) and therefore do not want to problematize that in any way. Therefore, if the men aren't acting as they want, pick at the men and try to shame them into behaving differently, but whatever you do, do not change what the women are doing -- because you LIKE what they are doing.

    This, in essence, is one of the main reasons conservatism has failed in its current manifestation. Far too many conservatives cannot deal directly with feminism (the mainstream kind), because they do not WANT to do so, because they WANT that mainstream feminism for their daughters. Yes, this is misguided, but when things don't turn out as they like for their daughters, why, they just turn around and blame men like Bennett does here. It's a circle-jerk of massive proportions, and as we can see from the behaviors of young men, it isn't working.

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  12. A more likely and simple explanation I can think of is that Bennett is simply a liar. In other words, he can probably comprehend the true driving forces behind male underachievement and marginalization but he prefers to spew the old female supremacist rubbish which puts all the blame on "slacking manboys" for the messy SMP because it's more fashionable, popular and accepted.

    Höllenhund

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  13. On another note, I think it was useful on your part, Brendan, to point out that men with daughters and/or young female relatives are generally harmful to other men, especially young single men. They are prone to female supremacism and pedestalization and are psychologically very resistant to learning about the reality of the current SMP. They see their daughters and female relatives as blameless, fantastic princesses threatened by slacking, heartless cad thugs etc. They would rather watch 10 young guys get hanged and quartered than to see their daughter get disadvantaged in life to any degree legally, economically or otherwise.

    Höllenhund

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  14. "A more likely and simple explanation I can think of is that Bennett is simply a liar."

    I agree. I don't think Bennett would be able to keep his job as CNN's houseboy 'conservative' if he went against the current orthodoxy of 'blame men first'.

    Selling out men in order to make more money (and get more women) is consistent with what rich and powerful men (RAPM) do.

    I think the people who are participants in the occupy wall street protests are unwittingly fundamentally protesting against the feminist tendencies of RAPM.

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  15. "The overwhelming response I received, from men and women alike, worries me."

    Bennett mentions the responses of *selected* women but not men in his article. It is entirely possible that most men responded with sentiments similar to those in the comment section of this post but Bennett simply avoided mentioning them because they were not consistent with his line of thinking.

    I would add that if Bennett's sampled women are a fair representation of women overall, then misogyny is not only justified but necessary for men to redress their grievances.

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  16. Feminists have removed all legal, cultural and political means for men's rights to be addressed. Without any rational agency to seek redress, how will men behave? Women claim rights to exercise inequalities between men that are based on personal preferences with public consequences.

    They fall into the category of "good inequalities": It goes something like this, if you're not attractive well, you should be discriminated against. You're male? Same thing. I work in a publicly funded post secondary institution, the staff is now 83% female with five of six academic departments having a 100% female complement. Looks more like a bee hive, male worker drones doing the real work with women spending their days in the board rooms.

    Women claim the right to define themselves but as described above now claim a form of property rights to male identity. The assertion, that they own male identity by being entitled to define it is an act of supremacism so bold I'm afraid to even speculate how it will end.

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  17. good comments here

    bill bennett, and the legion like him, will rot in hell

    word verification: throwina

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  18. Thanks for the comments.

    Brendan, I substantially agree with your comment.

    The parental mode here is no longer encouraging the daughter to be prepared to be a very good wife and mother, but to prepare the daughter to be an independent economic and career actor as the primary goal. And the parental/relational pride element here, as well as the parental/familial competition element, is substantial.

    That sums up well the attitude amongst most of my own relatives. I have to accept that they have this attitude but I don't really get it. I have one daughter and what I want most for her is that she has a happy marriage and has children. I don't take for granted that she will have the qualities to attract a good man and to be a good wife - my role is to foster these qualities in her.

    Anon (7.02)

    I agree with you that incentives for men to marry are declining and that the risks are increasing. But I am someone who still took the plunge and who has been happily married now for close to a decade. The incentives for me are the experience of fatherhood and the perpetuation of my own lineage and tradition.

    There is no double standard in my own marriage - my wife and I are both equally committed to fulfilling our distinct roles. And, yes, it's true that if my wife decided to divorce me that I'd be in a legally vulnerable position. But given that she is now in her early 40s with a couple of kids she doesn't have a great incentive to do so. Divorce would mean for her, regardless of the rigging of divorce laws and welfare, a decline in living standard and a tougher lifestyle. My wife, too, experienced her own parents' divorce, one which had a very negative effect on her, so she is more terrified of divorce than I am.

    It's wise for men to know what they are up against and what the risks are. But I still wouldn't entirely reject marriage. There are still women out there who are primarily family oriented and who have the older preliberal attitudes of respecting marriage as an institution rather than following their own interests/whims.

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  19. " Isn't it true that I would have had more chance of of living such a life 100 years ago than today?"

    This brought home to me that it's only 3 years now until the centenary of the Armageddon of Western Civilisation in the Great War.

    We never recovered.

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  20. Women who say they have to lower their standards to find a man are just continuing the behaviour they applied to all their former boyfriends. They were not good enough and now the man they settle with is not good enough either.
    So they aren't lowering their standards at all. They are still unrealistically high.
    I feel sorry for the men.

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  21. What's the point of moderately academic men from working and lower middle class educations, trying hard educationally?

    In white collar work they now have to compete against smarter, better connected upper middle class women, so they may as well just borrow less, find blue collar jobs and start working earlier.

    It's the same when looking for a partner. Since successful, educated women only want partners with high incomes, why bother working hard to impress an educated women.

    Basically males of moderately talents are taking it easy because there's no opportunity for social advancement and no one takes they seriously anyway.

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  22. What's the point of moderately academic men from working and lower middle class educations, trying hard educationally?

    Good point. The incentives existed but have been removed as women climb the ranks of higher education until there are little men left. I'd think that the best thing that blue-collar men can do is either skip college or acquire a 1-2 year degree and try to find a good chaste, religious, feminine woman from the blue-collar class.

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  23. When women embraced feminism they did so to advance their private or personal desires and did so largely without concern for the consequences to society. Fairly quickly they received the support of both the state and also of men. (Men supported this out of general sympathy for women, personal advantage, a desire to not carry the sole breadwinner role and a beleif that nothing substantially would change). By having the support of themselves, the state and men women were in a strong position.

    If men should do something similar, ie embrace "manism", and be motivated primarily by concerns for their private rights and desires regardless of society, they would receive their own personal support, which would be not inconsiderable if we see men as uniquely strong. However, they would receive opposition from women, both individual/career and stay at home, the state, and many men who would see such moves as an abandonment of their important social role.

    All in all that would leave men in a weak position and would not be a replication of feminism. With one exception, and that is that such a move would tap into the dominate social theme of liberalism, ie my freedom my desires etc, which would carry some argumentative weight.

    We are serious about discussing what men should do in this circumstance, but this does not mean that we have an answer yet and in many cases the answer will be an individual one as it largely revolves around how individuals live their lives, please no complaints about how we’re abandoning people. However, if we embrace "manism" we abandon centuries of tradition and the concept of manhood would totally change and be nothing more than a gender lacking social significance.

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  24. it's only 3 years now until the centenary of the Armageddon of Western Civilisation in the Great War.

    We never recovered.

    --
    Quite right.

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  25. WW1 was a great win. We're nowhere near done.

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  26. Bennett has just come out with an anthology "The Book of Man" that looks to be a pretty good collection of advice. He's written several good traditionally minded anthologies - "The Book of Virtues" is another.

    Though he's well armed with traditional wisdom about virtue and manhood, he fails to even attempt to respond to the circumstances in which modern men find themselves. Why he is so blind to the impact of the social changes of the past half century I don't know - perhaps as Brandon suggests it has something to do with his affections for and inability to see the foibles of his younger female relatives, or perhaps it's just the result of never thoroughly questioning the pervasive liberal viewpoint on women. Perhaps it's just calculated for the sake of maintaining mainstream credibility.

    Many social conservatives share this blindness to the ways in which modern gender relations differ from what they were in the past. The attitude seems to be that men should just "hold the line" at all costs, while never questioning just how the line got to be where it is today. Unrelenting doggedness is admirable, but doggedness in defense of the wrong position is worse than useless. Sadly, men who have insight into our contemporary situation - such as the local proprietor, or Dalrock, or even Roissy - never make it into the mainstream media.

    The website "the art of manliness" is another example of what Bennett represents: good traditional advice, but no practical advice on responding to modernity.

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  27. Pechorin,

    Do you have any practical advise on how to respond to modernity? I don't think a total refuse to marry and have kids under vritually any circumstances is a practical response.

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  28. I guess one of the issues is if marriage sucks so much for men today, because its been weighted towards women, what was it like for women in the past? Did they have to grit their teeth and suffer for the sake of society? I mean men had a pretty good deal, sex whenever you wanted it, domestic labour, and someone to tell what to do all the time. If the relationship didn't work out you blame her. Maybe she had a fat ass? Good 'ol days.

    I've got no problem telling women to "woman up". Don't expect me to bust my ass though for guys who just want a better deal for themselves and stuff everyone else. Too harsh? I should remember I'm talking to the "broken" generation of men, so traumatised that they need to play computer games 24/7 to cheer up, and tone it down a little.

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  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  30. Jesse --

    So I guess the message is that men should suck it up now, because women sucked it up in the past. Sounds like an argument a feminist would make. As a man who lives in the present, no, I do not want to "suck it up" for the "benefit" of "the team", when said team hates me because of my sex and race. But, hey, yep, I should just calm down and carry on, eh, mate?

    No thank you. Been there, done that, and have the T-shirt, TYVM.

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  31. Yeah I hate you because you're a white dude. There is obviously a problem when people get smashed by relationships or the system. I'm no different and I know that if I were to get married today I'd be marking time until my divorce. This is a problem to be overcome though, both societaly and personally.

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  32. I guess one of the issues is if marriage sucks so much for men today, because its been weighted towards women, what was it like for women in the past?


    --

    Steve Moxon's book,
    The Woman Racket: The New Science Explaining How the Sexes Relate at Work, at Play and in Society
    belies Jesse's white knighting contention.

    In the multicultural utopia I find myself in, I come across several traditional women (i.e., women from the past) who have not been infected by liberal feminist memes because they immigrated to the West when they were already adults. These women do not consider themselves "oppressed" when they cook dinner for their family or vacuum the house, and they do not envy men or wish to become men. The same could be said of Western women over 60 years ago, but it can not be said of them today.

    Jesse takes his cue from all the pro-feminist film propaganda he's slurped up over the years; films that depict women as perpetually suffering and men as perpetually having a good time. What with all that drinking and wenching that supposedly went on constantly who found any time to till the fields?

    Not only are most women feminists today, but most men today are also feminists because feminism has become firmly entrenched as part of the political orthodoxy. And most people defer to the world view of their elites (inculcated through mass media propaganda) even if said world view has become warped and cancerous.

    Bill Bennett is a feminist. Jesse is a feminist. Most men I talk to at work are feminists. They would never admit to the label, but they subscribe to sophistries such as "fairness" and "equality" and other Trojan horses on the road to feminist cultural hegemony and male emasculation.

    In a world that has veered far left over the last century, labeling oneself a "moderate" or a "social conservative" seems to merely mean one prefers a fox trot over a gallop on the road to the West's oblivion.

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  33. Wait a minute, can it not be said that if women had it so good why where so many of them ready and willing to jump out as soon as they could? As for many of those who stayed behind they had no problem catching onto the vibe of change and cracking the whip. I mean I know many men who just love coming home to do whatever their wife tells them to do too, but that doesn't mean that modern marriage as set up is a fair deal for blokes.

    Successful marriage requires the mutual acceptance of responsibilities. It does not require, nor can it succeed, happily at least, with one side having too much power over the other. Nor with one side seeing their personal interests as the predominant or sole matters of concern in a marriage.

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  34. I know that if I were to get married today I'd be marking time until my divorce.

    That's too pessimistic. If you get a good job, if you choose your spouse wisely, if you invest time into fatherhood, if you are willing to fight for your marriage early on, if you know when to hold your ground, if you're not taken away from home for too long by your job, if you keep the physical side of the marriage healthy, if you act when you feel the connection slipping - your chances of staying married are very high. It's not all a matter of chance - a man who "husbands" actively and intelligently can help to make things work.

    if women had it so good why were so many of them ready and willing to jump out as soon as they could?

    Partly because they weren't asked to bear the real cost of doing so. Women were allowed to bail out and still claim the support of their (ex)husband and/or the state.

    I mean men had a pretty good deal, sex whenever you wanted it, domestic labour, and someone to tell what to do all the time.

    i) Enjoyable marital sex requires the wife to be into it. Just going through the motions takes the joy out of it. There is no law that can force a wife to make sex an enjoyable experience for her husband. So men who married in the year 1900 were just as much at the mercy of the sometimes unpredictable nature of the female attitude to sex as men who married in 2000. There would have been many men who made a sacrifice in this area in the year 1900.

    ii) Domestic labour. But this was matched by men's paid labour. A woman might have scrubbed and cleaned and cooked, but her husband might have spent 12 hours a day digging coal underground. So who had it better?

    iii) Someone to tell what to do all the time. Do people really get married for this reason? The most powerful of male instincts is to want to protect and provide for a wife and family. A man wants a woman to voluntarily accept him as the man in the family - to see her love and respect for him. That's why most men aren't interested in the use of coercive force when it comes to their wives. Sure, you do get some abusive husbands, but that's not what really drives the average husband.

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  35. Mark,

    Looking at 1 Corinthians 7:3. Contemporary translation:

    "The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality - the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to 'stand up for your rights.' Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out".

    Cross checking with other translations its possible that that translation is a little loose, however, the underlying principle of marriage as a mutual, and equal, service is sound and supported by other parts of the Bible. For instance Ephesians 5:21: "Be subject to one another out of reverence to Christ".

    Marriage is a service to each other between spouses and is part of a greater and more important service to God. It is not about one side having more power over the other or one side abusing their power for personal advantage.

    Taking another verse:

    1 Corinthians 11:3: New King James:

    "The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God".

    11:8: "For man is not from woman but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman but woman for the man... Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman, but all things are through God."

    Authority of the husband comes from God and is subject to God. We are not given power in relationships for our own sake. Our traditional marriage relationships, in the absence of strong Christian beliefs, gave too much power to men, and without the restraining influence of mutual service and being subject to God, it was too often exploited. The fact that is wasn't in many cases does not alter the fact that the accepted "ground rules" were too favorable to men and in such an environment abuses could and did regularly flourish. The old staple of "taking it out on the wife" whilst considered base, was very much a reality for many people as human nature is flawed and power over others, be it physical, financial or emotional, can be intoxicating and saying that is no revelation.

    Its true that women were not required to bear the full costs of divorce when that started to occur, but that did not alter many women's desire to get out of it as soon as they could. Why? Not only because of individual differences between the spouses but because of larger perceptions that their marital relations were unfair to them. Every husband and wife doesn't need to be lectured on the reality of experiencing when a spouse goes too far and in our recent history it was very much men in the driving seat. Today people are reluctant to marry because they don't want to pass under the yoke of their spouses expectations. This is based on a real understanding that marriage involves a struggle for power. Whilst who is in charge may be uncertain today, or geared towards the woman, this underlying issue was still very much a conscious reality of the past. The fact that modern people might be hyper concerned on this issue to a perhaps unrealistic extent does not take away from the fact that such concerns are valid.

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  36. Cont.

    On the issue of who got a better deal out of marriage, the husband or the wife, financially, the fact that the man was the head of the household and legally and morally in charge of the finances put him in a very powerful position. Women's soft power whilst considerable, or in instances dominate, can't stand against this in the balance. In the West we had civilised marital laws so a women couldn't be flung out of the house or impoverished, this, however, regularly happens in parts of the developed world where there aren't such protections. It also happens when too much power without responsibility is placed in the hands of one party and is an extreme example of when power relations get out of hand and so is relevant to the us.

    On the point about "marking time until my divorce" that was very much a personal statement. I know that for me personally a divorce would be likely if I were to marry right now, and this is largely based on personality factors and the fact that there is relatively little room for error in relationships as people generally want to leave fairly quickly when difficulties arise. This is obviously something to be overcome primarily by me although societal expectations can help. I'll be aware when I think I can personally, realistically and successfully hold a marriage together and this is very much my aim. However, like other men I'm not particularly keen on experiencing a divorce.

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  37. Jesse, I particularly like this quote:

    "Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman, but all things are through God."

    That's a very deeply traditionalist quote - I should try to remember it.

    Having said that, I don't like your argument. You wrote:

    financially, the fact that the man was the head of the household and legally and morally in charge of the finances put him in a very powerful position.

    You then suggested that this gave men too much power in a marriage.

    Why is this argument problematic?

    a) Women are hypergamous. It is a good thing, a stabilising thing, if a woman perceives her husband to have power. I really don't believe that women have left marriages because they think of their husband as being too powerful.

    b) Your argument suggests that men should not be trusted with a provider role. But it is the provider/protector instinct that is the strongest foundation for monogamous marriage.

    If marriage is to be based on the sex instinct alone it won't last. My sex instinct draws me to my wife, but also to many other women. So why would I commit to her alone? But my instinct to provide and protect has a different logic. It is to want to create a secure and protected space for my wife to raise our children. The provider/protector instinct commits me strongly to the welfare of my wife.

    c) That's why, too, men who are committed to the provider role are unlikely to be abusively domineering. If you are oriented to creating a safe and protected space for your family, then why would you fill that space with abusive domination? Men who do so are forgetting their role, not following it.

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  38. The classically abusive man is the weak man. Not strong or secure in himself emotionally, perhaps not successful in the world. This weakness might be temporary, chronic, or highlighted by the wife but we don't strike out in moments of strength. Rather than move to overcome weakness such a person rages and finds fault with others where he can. Abuse is one possibility, deliberately ignoring the wishes of another is another. Either way it occurs, or may occur, when one side has too much power and one "can". Its obviously sinful but can be allowed to go on if not checked in some way.

    A man should be a provider in that both parties should add their strengths to the marriage for the good of the whole. He need not be the sole provider, however, for the marriage to be successful as success requires harmony, mutual affection and love not economic divisions. If the modern marriage is more confused and less stable then the traditional marriage, and this is the case, then hopefully we can work through this and find clarity with principles of mutual obligation underlying our thinking.

    If we say women are hypergamous we are saying that they are incapable of controlling their desires or weaknesses. Not tempted by things or subject to failings like all humanity, but incapable. This is a basis for inequality. It is right that men should be heads of the household because men have certain strengths and traditions, and order and the commandments make it so. It is not the case though that the wife should be treated as deficient nor that the titular headship should be taken too far.

    If we say women are attracted to power so we must make men powerful, that power must be tempered by justice and obligation. It would be nice, however, if all relations weren't viewed through the power prism. Whilst power attracts it also creates the desire to rebel and endless rebellion within a marriage is tedious. One of the biggest causes of divorce in a marriage is when one partner looks at another and says "you're not as good as I thought you were, therefore you let me down". Well we're all human, only He is perfect. Weakness in individuals is our natural state and something to be overcome rather than a basis for divorce. To think anything else, to see the partner as the source of all power to be feared respected and deferred to, is to invite problems when the mask slips or situations change and is therefore not a strong basis for marriage. I would suggest it is also not accurate and inhibits true intimacy and understanding between the sexes, which finds its strongest expression through mutual service.

    We can say, ok lets fix that and take away the option of divorce and people won't be tempted in that way and there will be order. That of course will work, however, marriage "freedom" came at the end of our long history of political struggles and we in the west, conservative or liberal, love freedom. We find in freedom an ennobling and enabling trait that builds the individual and society to its full potential, puts it on more solid foundations and is also a legitimating principle for social relations. Today freedom goes too far and we are in disorder, people though are unwilling to abandon the possibility of freedom and the hope that comes with it.

    As Christianity was a freeing thing for individuals and society, and it was, its power came through the acceptance of certain fundamental truths. Put God first in all things, love your neighbor, seek righteousness and know that your salvation is through Christ not the religious law. Marriage should also be a freeing thing for individuals as we come together as one body and spirit in mutual service and love. It should not in my opinion require technical divisions of the economic sphere, strict divisions of labour or power relations as its foundation as these are not in my opinion truly matters of the spirit or heart which I believe should be overriding principles.

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  39. Either way it occurs, or may occur, when one side has too much power and one "can".

    But men always have this kind of power. Man always "can". It's a question of whether they choose to or not. And as you point out, it's not usually the powerful men who choose to. It's the men at the fringes: the underclass men who are unemployed, who abuse alcohol and drugs, who have a low income, who have poor mental health.

    Violence is also more common in matriarchal settings in which a man gains access to a woman not through being a provider or a father but by the sex appeal of raw displays of testosterone, i.e. thugging up. Women in such settings seem more accepting of male displays of force rather than less accepting.

    success requires harmony, mutual affection and love

    But that's the formula for modern marriage. Moderns think to themselves "I'm marrying you because I love you and because you make me happy". And then when there is a period of emotional flatness and they think they have options, they move on.

    It's not that marriage shouldn't have love at its centre. But it needs buttressing. If a man's masculine identity is tied to his efforts to create a protected space for his family to be emotionally and materially secure, then he will want to battle on through good times and bad. It becomes a life project.

    If the modern marriage is more confused and less stable then the traditional marriage, and this is the case, then hopefully we can work through this and find clarity with principles of mutual obligation underlying our thinking.

    OK, but how? In practice what happens now is that most women are hypercharged careerists in their 20s; the lucky/skillful ones manage to marry and have a child or two in their early to mid-30s; most then scale back their work commitments and live a kind of modified traditional marriage in which the husband is the main breadwinner and they are the main childcarer but with some overlap.

    One problem with this adaptation is the first part - the long delay in taking family formation seriously in a woman's 20s leads to all kinds of dysfunctions which many people never recover from.

    Another problem is that liberals find it difficult to tolerate any continuing relevance of sex distinctions, so there is ongoing pressure to ramp up female careerism relative to men's.

    Whilst power attracts it also creates the desire to rebel and endless rebellion within a marriage is tedious.

    Good point. You can see this in father/son relationships. If a father asserts authority without having tended to the relationship then you often get rebellion against both the father and the order he represents.

    But if a father doesn't assert authority you also get problems - so the solution is not a paternal abdication of authority.

    And marital relationships seem to have a different dynamic. If you are a genial, laid back kind of guy you are arguably more likely to invite a reaction from your wife. She wants to know you are strong, so she will throw herself against you, hoping to meet a "stopping point". The best thing for the husband is neither to yield nor to react angrily or aggressively but to calmly absorb.

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  40. (continued)

    to see the partner as the source of all power to be feared respected and deferred to, is to invite problems when the mask slips or situations change and is therefore not a strong basis for marriage

    But that's such a long way from most marriages. Better to say that men need to be respected by their wives for a marriage to be happy.

    And that can't be taken for granted or simply demanded. You can't just say "I'm your husband therefore you have to respect me no matter what I do or how I act or what kind of man you perceive me to be".

    There's a difficult balancing act for men here. Part of a modern marriage is doing things, such as helping with the kids or with housework or simply providing company for your wife, which are helpful and will make your wife feel that you are present and that you care and that you aren't too much of a jerk.

    But if you just did these things the marriage would easily slip into a "sisterly" kind of relationship. You would take the masculine/feminine charge out of it.

    So men need to make sure they do things that also win a different kind of respect, i.e. the "I look up to you as a man" kind of respect.

    And that might involve building things; playing masculine sports; doing father/son things; showing roguish charm; getting a promotion or a pay rise; having a bit of grunt in your personality; and making sure the marriage stays sexualised.

    And it helps if you have distinctly gendered roles. If you read some of the articles in liberal magazines about middle-age divorce, some of the wives seem to dislike the "gender convergence" in the home - they feel as if they have become the men they wanted to marry and they feel as if the husband has usurped their role in the home.

    Marriage should also be a freeing thing for individuals as we come together as one body and spirit in mutual service and love. It should not in my opinion require technical divisions of the economic sphere, strict divisions of labour or power relations as its foundation as these are not in my opinion truly matters of the spirit or heart which I believe should be overriding principles.

    Jesse, a masculine instinct to provide is not a "technical division of the economic sphere". It is arguably the deepest "matter of the spirit or heart" when it comes to the inner life of men. So much flows from this drive of men to create a protected space for families and communities. It is difficult to conceive of an effective manhood without it. When it is taken away men seem to go into decline.

    I don't think we are going to agree on this issue. I think there is room for individual women to engage in paid work as long as it does not undermine the commitments of men to a provider role. A society which allows this masculine role to fall away, is, in my opinion, unserious about its future existence.

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  41. So is Bennett a conservative or a liberal?


    He's a neocon. Which basically means that yes, he's a liberal.

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  42. Mark,

    Thank you for your serious and considered answer. You make a lot of good points and make my reconsider my position. Obviously the situation is difficult for me because my argument involves looking to the future without very clear guideposts and only rough directions and you have much longer accepted beliefs and traditions supporting yours. Nonetheless my views, or many of them at least, are all too common in the modern world and if a more patriarchal family arrangement is to be maintained it has to be underpinned with strong arguments. Its not illegitimate to recoil a little when we say things like women are "hypergamous" so casually as if women were a totally different or completely irresponsible species, and in a manner which implies that men are free from faults.

    Many young men too if they’re going to seriously take and maintain such a dominate role in relationships are going to want and need stronger justifications and arguments then just, "I do so because I'm a man", when at the same time women prove themselves capable and responsible in so many spheres.

    I would also suggest that denying women access to the world of careers could be an "artificial" way for men to maintain power. Power of a possibly more sustainable nature can be found in other ways, although as was said this can and will be difficult to achieve in practice. I think what can be said is that power in life comes from confidence, and true confidence is internal confidence. Whilst we need external means to build our confidence, roles, obligations and regard, we also don’t want to build our confidence at the expense of others or by holding others down.

    I’d like to say that I've found this a very useful discussion and I thank you again for your participation in it, as always.

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  43. Sadly, men who have insight into our contemporary situation - such as the local proprietor, or Dalrock, or even Roissy - never make it into the mainstream media


    While I agree with you about Mark Richardson, I shudder at the thought of Dalrock or Roissy coming to the attention of the media and being used as the poster child for my (our) positions. They don't just object to feminism, they seem to have a visceral loathing of women as women.

    I just looked in on Dalrocks, where he is arguing, as far as I can tell, that feminists and conservatives are the same people. But he's so incoherent it's hard to tell what he's trying to say. I do get the impression he hates conservatives though, along with women. At least he's catholic about it.

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  44. Sunday, 20 November 2011 5:27:00 PM AEDT

    Obviously you haven´t read Dalrock's blog or he just made you feel bad. Instead of criticizing mindlessly you should say why do you think Dalrock or Roissy just viscerally hate women. So far you haven´t disproved their ideas, you are just confirming them either if you are a woman (hamster driven, feminist) or a man (mangina, white-knight)

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  45. Lol on the harsh words for anyone who doesn't hate women.

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  46. Obviously you haven´t read Dalrock's blog or he just made you feel bad. Instead of criticizing mindlessly you should say why do you think Dalrock or Roissy just viscerally hate women.


    Maybe it's the constant references to "whores" and "sluts" and "meat-puppets".

    Dalrock has claimed that women (but not men) who divorce and remarry are "whores".

    The man does not know the meanings of words. He does this all the time, as with his assertion that anybody who disagrees with him is a "feminist". In fact even people who do agree with him in general but favor a less spittle-flecked form of discourse are "feminists" and "manginas" and "Gilligans" in his eyes. And in his prose.

    I actually agree with him about most (maybe even all) policy matters. I think no-fault divorce laws are a disaster and should be scrapped, for instance.

    But his words just scream "gibbering lunatic", and that's not what is needed to bring about legal and social change.

    This site right here shows that it is possible to make a powerful criticism of feminism without sounding unhinged.

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  47. So far you haven´t disproved their ideas, you are just confirming them either if you are a woman (hamster driven, feminist) or a man (mangina, white-knight)


    This sort of witless garbage is exactly the problem with Dalrock and Co.

    You combine your demand for a serious logical refutation of your "ideas" with a string of idiotic ad-homs.

    "Anybody who disagrees with our brilliant IDEAS is either a feminist (if a woman) or a mangina (if a man). So no further refutation of their stupid criticism is necessary".

    It's impossible to have any sort of rational discussion with people whose minds work like this.

    It reminds me of arguing with 9/11 Truthers - the fact that you diagree with them simply proves that you've been brain-washed by the secret Tri-Lateral/Illumanti conspiracy. Which justifies them in ignoring anything and everything you try to say to them.

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  48. It seems that the words Dalrock uses for women are so bad that Mark won't let me post them here.

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  49. Anonymous it seems you are the one unable to hold a rational discussion, I never said the things I said because I disagreed with your arguments, that is because you never presented them, you just threw in ad-hominems, and stated that Dalrock and Roissy loath women, when in their posts there is nothing so far which suggests that (as far as I have read), which is proof of what I say, you stated the following: "While I agree with you about Mark Richardson, I shudder at the thought of Dalrock or Roissy coming to the attention of the media and being used as the poster child for my (our) positions. They don't just object to feminism, they seem to have a visceral loathing of women as women. "

    Normally I don´t defend people but so far I haven´t read anything in Dalrock or Roissy posts remotely resembling the hatred expressed by the feminists in their websites (Hannah Rosin in the "End of Men" for the Atlantic or Sharon Osbourne making fun of a man whose penis was cut off...). It seems that for you any criticism of females is an expression of hatred or something like that

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  50. @Mark

    Although I have many differences with you, this really was a well-written, tightly-argued expose of the incoherence at the center of B. Bennett's call for "liberated" womanhood and traditional manhood.

    Bravo.

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  51. you just threw in ad-hominems, and stated that Dalrock and Roissy loath women, when in their posts there is nothing so far which suggests that


    Did you see the post at 7:38AM?

    But it should be obvious that Dalrock is mad at a lot more than just "feminists". Many of his screeds involve throwing ad-homs ("Gilligans" and "mangina") at other men. At other conservative men. He recently claimed that traditional conservatives (aka "manginas")have set social policy in America for the past fifty years.

    So I would not say that Dalrock hates just women, he hates most people of either sex. If you find ad-homs so upsetting I suggest you try telling that to Dalrock, who is easily the worst offender in this regard.

    He has a post up at his site caled "Traditional Conservative or Feminist" which consists of him quotng some of his comenters who disagree with him, and then calling them names.

    One person objects to Dalrock's constant referenves to sluts, whores, and cocks, and the respnse from Dalrock is "I had such high hopes for Severn, but then he broke out the Womens Studies phraseology and even endorsed serial polyandry".

    Huh?

    He later responds to another commenter with "I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Gilligan more upset at slut shaming".

    Take away his ad-homs and Dalrock would be struck dumb.

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  52. If you're going to build a community out of pissed off individualists you're going to have to be pretty tough in your language. Kudos.

    What I don’t understand is that there was a comment just there about “slut shaming”, yet if you criticise a gamer or whatever they’re likely to say “Oh that’s just shaming language” and then totally dismiss the argument. Do you guys actually believe in shame? The idea that there should be limits on your behavior and that community/moral and not just individual standards should apply? Or do you get carte blanche in your own behavior whilst calling others shameful? Just a question.

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  53. What I don’t understand is that there was a comment just there about “slut shaming”, yet if you criticise a gamer or whatever they’re likely to say “Oh that’s just shaming language” and then totally dismiss the argument.


    I've noticed that also. They very explicitly want to shame everybody they disagree with, but if anybody disagrees with them they complain about the (largely non-existent) "shaming language" being used against them.

    It's all part of what makes rational discussion with this crowd so difficult. And I'm somebody who probably agrees with them on 99.9% of the issues. But because I try to tell them that their tone is counter-productive, I get called a traitor, a beta, a virgin, a mangina, a white knight, and a string of other insults.

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