Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The unhappiest award goes to...

Who is unhappiest at work? According to one survey, the unhappiest workers are female, unmarried, age 42 and a doctor or lawyer.

That's an interesting result. According to liberal theory, such women should be the happiest. Such women are "unimpeded" in their autonomy by any commitment to family and they have successfully pursued a glamorous, high status career outcome.

But they are unhappier than anyone else.

Mightn't this suggest that an unimpeded, maximised autonomy is not the sole, overriding good in life? And that marriage is more significant to women than the liberal theory allows for?

And who are the happiest workers? They are married men with children, a good income and a managerial position.

That fits perfectly with what traditionalists would expect. Such men are fulfilling their masculine natures to be fathers and husbands and good providers. They are the happiest despite the fact that they have sacrificed a considerable measure of their autonomy to make a strong commitment to family and career.

Some more interesting data comes from a recent Herald Sun article about longer working hours. Which sex starts paid work earlier and finishes later? Not difficult to guess:

The report quoted Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showing about 30 per cent of men and 11 per cent of women are at work at 7am, and one in six men and one in seven women at 7pm.

Maybe that should be considered when feminists complain about the pay gap. The working day is longer for men which must account for some of the gap.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Survey: male provider role unchanged in 35 years

The male provider role is still going strong in Australia. Bettina Arndt has discussed some research data which shows that the amount of paid work undertaken by women has barely changed since the mid-1970s.

It's true that female workforce participation rates have risen since the 1960s from 33% to 58%. But that includes women working only a few hours a week and those unemployed but looking for work. But when it comes to full-time work there has been no significant change:

One of the most stubborn characteristics of the Australian workforce is women's rejection of full-time work. The Australian National University economist Bob Gregory sums up the data: ''Despite the rapid increase in education levels, despite large changes in social attitudes towards married women working in the labour market, despite large increases in labour market rewards and despite increased labour market involvement, the proportion of women 15 to 59 employed full time is much the same as it was 35 years ago.''

Nor have women's part-time work hours increased much:

women's weekly part-time working hours show very little overall rise - barely an hour over 30 years.

The conclusion drawn by Arndt is that husbands are being unfairly castigated for not doing a larger proportion of unpaid work when women have not increased their proportion of paid work.

The response from the female readers is interesting. Some agree that the paid and unpaid work balances out:

In my own household my husband earns 95% of the income (working very long hours) and does 5% of the unpaid housework/child care. I earn 5% of the income and happily do 95% of the unpaid housework/child care.

But then one woman had this ungrateful thought toward her own husband:

Yes Bettina, my husband plays on his iPad on the long commute. Likewise his long lunch is a "work-related activity". Do you really think this tripe helps men? You may like to consider that reading your articles makes many women feel very stabby towards them.

Another took the PC line that there are no natural preferences at work but that it's all due to socialisation:

you do not discuss why women are 'rejecting' full-time work. (No, it's not because as a female I am 'biologically hardwired' to be a snuggly nurturer all my life.) You do not go into any of the cultural or social background which could lead to such a rejection.

But most of the comments, from men and women, agree with Arndt - and that's in a newspaper with a largely lefty readership:

Reader 1: At last, someone tells the truth of what I see around me and what my own experience is. Why would I have kids and spend all week working and commuting?

Reader 2: Arndt's comments are absolutely true. Many academics and journalists are determined to trot out the party line on women and work, ignoring the clear evidence to the contrary. For example, did the media ever pick up on the obvious fact that ABC childcare went broke because contrary to the rhetoric, there is not an enormous unmet need for childcare in Australia, other than in affluent inner urban areas? Childcare centres in the suburbs and the urban fringe, where the majority of kids live, have plenty of spaces, because most of the children's mothers are not working or working in ways that still allow them to care for their children. You never hear this story because it doesn't match the approved story we are meant to be telling.

Reader 3: I generally agree with your article. Put simply, any women I know of about my age (mid 30's) in a relationship with children either do not work, or at least do not work full time. Nor do they seem to be ever intending to work full time again.

My conclusion? Women can be hypercareerist in their 20s and that can be demoralising to their male peers. The men ask themselves why they should bother trying to keep up when society doesn't want them as providers anyway. But the female hypercareerism doesn't last in the large majority of cases.

I've seen that happen many times. I've seen strongly feminist women who have sworn over and over that they weren't maternal types suddenly get jack of it all, pressure their boyfriends into marriage, have a child and quit their jobs.

So one conclusion is that men shouldn't accept that the male provider role is redundant. It's not by a long way.

But there's one more conclusion to draw. Even on the right there is often an assumption that women's greatest aim in life is to be a full-time careerist. Therefore, if you support the traditional family you might be criticised for trying to impose a masculine bias on women or trying to support a policy that women will rise up against collectively.

But the reality seems to be that even after decades of the state and the political class trying to impress a careerist world view on women, that most women aren't buying into it - that they really do want to focus on their families and that they don't see full-time careerism as the path to self-actualisation.

So I don't think traditionalists have much to lose in supporting the traditional family. We can afford to be a bit flexible when it comes to female workforce participation; all that we really need to do as a minimum is to continue to uphold the male provider role in society.

Boys need their dads

From the Melbourne Herald Sun:

Teenage boys without a father figure are more likely to go off the rails and turn to crime.

Interestingly, it isn't even the quality of interaction between father and son which cuts crime and delinquency rates - it is sufficient that the father be present:

While the father's involvement in a son's life was beneficial, it was the mere presence of a dad that affected delinquency rates.

"The sense of security generated by the presence of a male role model has protective effects for a child, regardless of the degree of interaction between the child and father," said Melbourne Institute director Deborah Cobb-Clark...

"Fathers provide children with male role models and can influence children's preferences, values and attitudes, while giving them a sense of security and boosting their self-esteem.

"They also increase the degree of adult supervision at home, which may lead to a direct reduction of delinquent behaviour."

Wealth does not necessarily offset the absence of a father:

Wealthy families were no better placed to solve the problems associated with youth delinquency, it said.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

There's another Snow White

In my last post I reported that a "warrior princess" Snow White film was being made. I suggested that modern culture had trouble accepting women as feminine creatures. As if to prove my point, I discovered that there's another film version of Snow White being produced called Mirror Mirror. This one stars the daughter of musician Phil Collins, Lily Collins:

Lily Collins as Snow White

Obviously I can't complain about the promotional picture shown above. That's certainly a feminine representation of Snow White.

But she doesn't stay that way. She ends up as a swashbuckling leader of a group of bandits in the forest. Lily Collins says that:

Our Snow White starts off as the fairytale princess we all know and love and then she progresses into a young woman and much of a fighter.

Just as Kristen Stewart was left with bloodied knuckles after her fight scenes, so too has Lily Collins found the fight scenes difficult:

While “Snow White & The Huntsman” has offered images of a warrior Snow White, Lily too, in “Mirror Mirror,” has some fight scenes.

“This was insane training,” she said of preparing for the role. “I’ve been fight training and fencing for about three months now… I was kickboxing, doing some stuff on wires. It’s been really intense.”

And all that training has left Lily a little worse for wear.

“I’ve gotten a lot of bumps and bruises, but so far no bad injuries,” she said.

So to prepare for the role of Snow White an actress now has to spend three months kickboxing.

Which raises a serious issue. If a girl wants to develop her feminine essence - so that she brings it out to its fullest and most admirable extent - then how does she go about cultivating it?

Modern society does not care much for this task. A girl will get no positive guidance from the mainstream culture. Watching actresses kickbox their way across the silver screen or the TV set isn't likely to help.

But if girls don't cultivate what is most admirable in their femininity, then won't they feel disconnected in their self-identity? And won't it be more difficult for men to feel instinctively connected to them?

Here's one small piece of advice I can offer. A young woman should look at herself in the mirror and observe her body: the elegance of her hands, the slenderness of her arms, the softness of her breasts, the warmth of her eyes and her smile. And she should try to match this truth about her body with her inner presence. Does her inner sense of self match what her own body has developed toward?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A bloody Snow White

A new Snow White is being filmed. True to the modern age, Snow White has been transformed from "the loveliest of them all" into a warrior princess.

Snow White as a warrior princess
The actress playing Snow White, Kristen Stewart, has been doing so many intense fight scenes that she was photographed with bloodied knuckles:

Is this something to worry about? In the sense that it's another example of a trend in modern society, I think that it is. Things go wrong when people don't identify wholly with their own sex. If you are in any way set against yourself as a man or a woman, then it becomes difficult to express yourself adequately in relationships with the opposite sex.

What does the recasting of Snow White suggest to girls? It suggests that to be the heroine you now have to mix a considerable amount of the masculine in with the feminine. It suggests that the feminine by itself is inadequate or inferior.

It's a pity the film makers went this way, as the preview suggests that the film is well made and likely to do well at the box office.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A new fatherhood survey

A new US survey on fatherhood arrived at a couple of interesting conclusions. First, men do still want to father children:

Most of the men agreed or strongly agreed with statements such as "Having children is important to my feeling complete as a man"; "I always thought I would be a parent"; "I think my life will be or is more fulfilling with children"; and "It is important for me to have children," she said.

Second, men holding "non-egalitarian gender views" are more likely to commit to fatherhood and to value fatherhood. The term "non-egalitarian" is academic-speak for holding the view that there are distinctions in the roles of fathers and mothers within the family. In other words, men who believe that the paternal role is distinct from the maternal one are more committed to fatherhood:

Men who valued leisure and career, who espoused greater religiosity, who embraced non-egalitarian gender values, and who were already fathers tended to value fatherhood most.

These findings are similar to those arrived at in earlier research. For instance, back in 2007 I reported on a study undertaken by researchers from the University of Virginia which found that:

it would appear that women who are in marriages that are characterized by more traditional gender beliefs and practices are happier with the emotion work they receive and do receive more such emotion work from their husbands.

In 2006 another research project revealed that:

  • only 53% of "gender egalitarian" men work full-time compared to 95.7% of the traditional type
  • there was a higher fertility rate in traditional type families (1.7) compared to gender equality types (1.05)
  • men in traditional type families spent both more time at work and more time with their children (45.8 hours at work and 9.2 hours with children compared to 36 hours at work and 8.7 hours with children)

This stands to reason. If you believe that you have a distinct and necessary role in the family which expresses and fulfils your masculine self-identity then you are more likely to commit to that role than if you see it in more neutral terms.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The start of something bad?

On page four of the Herald Sun recently was a news item that might one day have very serious consequences for Australia:

Australian farmers and manufacturers will benefit from a nine-nation free trade deal that leaders hope to have in place within a year.

US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the heads of seven other Asia-Pacific nations have agreed on the broad outline of a Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Mr Obama hailed it as a "milestone" that could dwarf the euro-zone.

It commits Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam to drop all trade barriers.

There's a good side and a bad side to this. Australian politicians have been looking for some time now to create an Asian Pacific bloc similar to the EU. In 2003, for instance, a senate committee issued a report which:

proposes a Pacific community which will eventually have one currency, one labour market, common strong budgetary and fiscal discipline, democratic and ethical governance, shared defence and security arrangements, common laws and resolve in fighting crime, and, health, welfare, education and environmental goals.

In other words, the Australian senate agreed to shift sovereignty toward a regional federation. There was to be "one labour market" in this new federal entity, meaning no borders between Australia, PNG and other pacific nations.

Fortunately the Pacific Community never took off, but Kevin Rudd did bring in a Pacific Islander guest worker scheme in 2008. This scheme was opposed by Brendan Nelson which brought him the following rebuke from the national political correspondent for the Herald Sun:

A guest worker scheme makes sense ... it should also pave the way for a pan-Pacific economic and trade pact ... Rudd's employment scheme, which will initially allow 2500 "guest workers" into Australia, is the first tranche of an eventual Pacific "common market".

And so he we are a few years later, a step closer to a Pacific common market. The good news is that the nations involved in this Pacific free trade pact are so geographically diverse that it will be harder to argue for an EU style federation. The bad news is that these free trade pacts can easily lead on to a "free movement of labour" - which would mean a further loss of border controls for Australia.

Finally, it's worth noting that the Australian Department of Immigration has been proved correct in its warnings about a guest worker scheme back in 2008. It noted the negative impact of the mass recruitment of overseas labor in countries such as the USA and the UK. One problem noted by the departmental researchers was that:

... As immigration has increased, native-born low-skilled workers (those most directly affected by foreign-labor programs) are increasingly dropping out of the labor force, and the tendency seems most pronounced among teenagers.

If you've been reading the Daily Mail recently you'll know what a problem that has become in the UK. Jobs there are increasingly going to overseas applicants, leaving a large pool of native born young people unemployed. The problem has been recognised by the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron who has warned that:

...around two-thirds of the increase in employment since 1997, was accounted for by foreign-born workers. Even now people are managing to come to the UK and find a job. Yet throughout all of those years we consistently had between 4 and 5 million people on out of work benefits. You can understand it from the employer's point of view. Confronted by a failing welfare system, shortcomings in our education system and an open door immigration system they can choose between a disillusioned and demotivated person on benefits here in the UK or an Eastern European with the get up and go to come across a continent to find work. Or they can choose between an inexperienced school leaver here or someone five years older coming to Britain with the experience they need. But that situation is simply not good enough. We have to change things.

Open borders means that a nation doesn't have to confront failings in its education and welfare systems, as workers can be taken from overseas. But keeping 5 million locals on welfare is a costly business and the recent riots in the UK also show the dangers of a large class of unemployed young people.

The question, then, is whether this new nine nation agreement can be kept to a free trade pact (which is how it's now being presented to the public) or whether it will lead on to a free movement in labour or, worse, an attempt to create an EU style regional federation.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Roebuck disliked his own

Peter Roebuck has died after jumping from his hotel room in South Africa. He had earlier been visited by police after claims of sexual misconduct against boys.

Roebuck was the captain of an English country cricket team, who then moved to Australia to become a cricket commentator. But he did not like Australians. Some of his newspaper columns read very oddly, as they combine the usual kind of sporting analysis with hate filled commentary against native born white Australians.

Here is one example (in which native born Australians are termed "lamingtons" which are a kind of cake popular in Australia):

AUSTRALIA must not be waylaid by nauseating nationalists convinced that the defeat in Perth was caused not by a combination of absent friends and wayward bowling but by a sudden bout of politeness. Nor must it take heed of backslappers arguing that India's celebrations and appealing at the WACA Ground matched Australia's excesses in Sydney.

That is to confuse joy with rage. Likewise, the umpiring was acceptable and even-handed. Only lamingtons imagine otherwise. The game is up for that lot. It is time to move on. It is debatable whether people born in this country should be allowed to vote. It is no achievement to emerge from a womb. They could just as well be in Winnipeg. Australia is best loved by its settlers.

Similarly in an column titled "Lily-livered lilywhites have held cricket back" Roebuck complained that,

Over the years, Australian cricket has been dominated by players of Anglo-Saxon extraction.

But Roebuck thought that there was a progress toward enlightenment in Australia, in which Anglo-Saxons were on the way out:

Australia is advancing. A bright-eyed 17-year-old girl is making her Test debut in Bowral. Aboriginal sides from every corner of the country are taking part in the Imparja Cup in Alice Springs. And a government led by a Mandarin speaker has just issued a formal apology to the first tenants of this vast, hostile continent. It is all part of the same process, a long-awaited and stiffly resisted move towards enlightenment.

Roebuck seemed to get some of his identity from turning against his own tradition. It did not make him a happy man. Those writing his obituaries have struggled to portray him as a man with an anchored sense of self. In one column, he is described in these terms:

Peter Roebuck has jumped to his death in Cape Town, leaving behind the last great mystery of a complex and often tortured life that was full of questions and very few answers...

His life often appeared a long, lonely and ultimately futile attempt to find fulfilment, with plenty of controversy along the way, notably his suspended jail sentence 10 years ago after he admitted caning three young cricketers he had offered to coach.

It was that unedifying court case in Taunton that led many to question Roebuck’s motives when he helped fund the education of promising young cricketers, often providing accommodation for them at his homes in Sydney and Pietermaritzburg...

I worked briefly with Roebuck 12 years ago at the Sunday Telegraph and I have to say I found him the rudest, most prickly and unhelpful colleague I have ever experienced.

Facts rarely featured in his work. But I never got to know him properly and those who did spoke very differently on Sunday.

‘Scatty and focused, brilliant and fallible, muscular yet incredibly fragile, Peter Roebuck was too many men rolled into an irreplaceable one,’ wrote his friend Peter English in a brilliant tribute on the website Cricinfo, to which Roebuck contributed.

‘Individuals like him often sit on the outside, making choices and then fretting over the consequences.

‘In the end it was a wonder he lasted so long, dealing with demons and demonising which shadowed him during his playing days and forever after. Deep down, I think, he knew he would determine his end.’

I can't think of Roebuck as an admirable man. He cut himself off from some of the healthier and sustaining attachments in life with his disloyalty to his own kind.

[Readers: I'd ask that comments be restrained in nature in the light of Roebuck's recent death]

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.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

When real communities aren't allowed

What happens when people are no longer anchored in a tradition of their own? The answer, it seems, is that you get odd subcultures emerging which fill the need for identity and community.

There are young white men in America who are becoming juggalos and bronies. Juggalos are fans of a band called Insane Clown Posse (or other bands from the Psychopathic Records label). The following video gives you an idea of what juggalos are like (language warning):

And what are bronies? They are adult male fans of the TV show My Little Pony, which is aimed at 3 to 6-year-old girls. Bronies go into toy stores to collect figurines of the ponies; they post pictures of the ponies on facebook fan sites; and they have brony get-togethers. This is how a 32-year-old male speaks of the show:

First we can’t believe this show is so good, then we can’t believe we’ve become fans for life, then we can’t believe we’re walking down the pink aisle at Toys R Us or asking for the girl’s toy in our Happy Meal. Then we can’t believe our friends haven’t seen it yet, then we can’t believe they’re becoming bronies too."

He is raving about this:

Brony men haven't quite grown up to an adult masculinity. They are forming communities based on something childish and girly. Pity they aren't responsible members of a real community that would draw out higher aspects of their masculine nature.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

George Frederic Watts

George Frederic Watts was an English painter of the Victorian era. He attempted to create paintings that "speak to the imagination and to the heart and arouse all that is best and noblest in humanity" - a very different credo to the modernist idea that the purpose of art is to shock the public.

One of his most popular paintings was Sir Galahad (1862):

This one is titled Choosing:

This one Prayer:

This is a portrait of Jane Senior:

Monday, November 07, 2011

Rossiter's liberal mind

At the Town Hall site there's an article titled "The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness." In the US, the term "liberal" is usually used to refer to what we would call left-liberals, so I assumed before reading it that it would be an attack on left-liberalism.

And it's a good attack. But the problem is that the author, Lyle H. Rossiter, hasn't broken cleanly with liberalism himself. He stands by principles that are clearly classically liberal (right-liberal), even if he stretches them a little in a conservative direction. So we are left stuck with the choice between a right and a left liberalism.

This is how Rossiter outlines his right-liberal political convictions:

Of special interest, however, are the many values about which the modern liberal mind is not passionate: his agenda does not insist that the individual is the ultimate economic, social and political unit; it does not idealize individual liberty and the structure of law and order essential to it; it does not defend the basic rights of property and contract; it does not aspire to ideals of authentic autonomy and mutuality; it does not preach an ethic of self-reliance and self-determination; it does not praise courage, forbearance or resilience; it does not celebrate the ethics of consent or the blessings of voluntary cooperation. It does not advocate moral rectitude or understand the critical role of morality in human relating. The liberal agenda does not comprehend an identity of competence, appreciate its importance, or analyze the developmental conditions and social institutions that promote its achievement. The liberal agenda does not understand or recognize personal sovereignty or impose strict limits on coercion by the state. It does not celebrate the genuine altruism of private charity. It does not learn history’s lessons on the evils of collectivism.

There's a good side to this. Rossiter's right liberalism aims at a rugged individualism which encourages personal responsibility.

But it is inadequate to hold a society together and it's closer to left-liberalism than Rossiter realises. It's also a difficult combination of propositions to hold together. After all, if the stress is on the idea of the sovereign, self-determining individual, then what binds that individual to an external standard of morality? Why wouldn't a sovereign, autonomous individual say to himself "I'll choose to do what I want to do or what I think is right for me as an individual"? And what would bind that individual to tradition, which in its very nature is the creation of a collective that predates the individual? And if there is only the individual, bound to law and to contract and to voluntary cooperation, but not to collective forms of identity such as ethnies or nations, then on what principled basis can the influx of individuals from diverse sources be opposed? And if that is not opposed, then what is to prevent the eventual domination of politics by those arriving to take advantage of Rossiter's ordered liberty and who are willing to act as a collective to achieve their aims?

As you would expect from a right-liberal, Rossiter criticises the left-liberal preference of relying on the state to regulate society and to redistribute resources in the name of equality. He does score quite a few hits in his criticism of the left-liberal mentality:

What the liberal mind is passionate about is a world filled with pity, sorrow, neediness, misfortune, poverty, suspicion, mistrust, anger, exploitation, discrimination, victimization, alienation and injustice. Those who occupy this world are “workers,” “minorities,” “the little guy,” “women,” and the “unemployed.” They are poor, weak, sick, wronged, cheated, oppressed, disenfranchised, exploited and victimized. They bear no responsibility for their problems. None of their agonies are attributable to faults or failings of their own: not to poor choices, bad habits, faulty judgment, wishful thinking, lack of ambition, low frustration tolerance, mental illness or defects in character. None of the victims’ plight is caused by failure to plan for the future or learn from experience. Instead, the “root causes” of all this pain lie in faulty social conditions: poverty, disease, war, ignorance, unemployment, racial prejudice, ethnic and gender discrimination, modern technology, capitalism, globalization and imperialism. In the radical liberal mind, this suffering is inflicted on the innocent by various predators and persecutors: “Big Business,” “Big Corporations,” “greedy capitalists,” U.S. Imperialists,” “the oppressors,” “the rich,” “the wealthy,” “the powerful” and “the selfish.”

The liberal cure for this endless malaise is a very large authoritarian government that regulates and manages society through a cradle to grave agenda of redistributive caretaking. It is a government everywhere doing everything for everyone. The liberal motto is “In Government We Trust.” To rescue the people from their troubled lives, the agenda recommends denial of personal responsibility, encourages self-pity and other-pity, fosters government dependency, promotes sexual indulgence, rationalizes violence, excuses financial obligation, justifies theft, ignores rudeness, prescribes complaining and blaming, denigrates marriage and the family, legalizes all abortion, defies religious and social tradition, declares inequality unjust, and rebels against the duties of citizenship. Through multiple entitlements to unearned goods, services and social status, the liberal politician promises to ensure everyone’s material welfare, provide for everyone’s healthcare, protect everyone’s self-esteem, correct everyone’s social and political disadvantage, educate every citizen, and eliminate all class distinctions. With liberal intellectuals sharing the glory, the liberal politician is the hero in this melodrama. He takes credit for providing his constituents with whatever they want or need even though he has not produced by his own effort any of the goods, services or status transferred to them but has instead taken them from others by force.

That's some slapdown. But Rossiter leaves out the intellectual underpinnings of all this. Left-liberalism begins with the same kind of assumptions that Rossiter's right liberalism does: that individual autonomy is what matters. The left-liberal assumption is that it is the capacity for an autonomously self-created life that makes us distinctly human. Therefore, if some people are born with an advantage in pursuit of such a life, then we have a literal case of human inequality: some are being treated as more human than others due to an unearned privilege.

That seems unjust to left-liberals and so they look to the state to create conditions of equality, in particular by attacking whatever "ism" is held to be sustaining the privilege of some over the disadvantage of others. Left-liberals become committed to the view that equality is the natural condition of humanity and that inequality has been socially constructed. Inequality is not the result of different capabilities or interests or natures but of a system, i.e. of systemic discrimination or prejudice or exploitation. And so the left-liberal state does embark on a radically intrusive programme of remaking society.

There are considerable differences between right and left liberalism, but they share a great deal when it comes to first principles and both are suicidal to the societies which adopt them. So the aim should be a clean break from both and the opening up of politics to other approaches - and for this reason I can't feel enthusiastic about Lyle H. Rossiter's attacks on the liberal mind.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The family - motherhood

(Another instalment of my booklet, hence the length)

What liberalism asks men to accept is that they are to be liberated from being fathers – at least fathers with a distinctly paternal role.

This explains the attitude of Sara Maitland who associates fatherhood negatively with authority. She has confessed her desire to,

...cast out the Father in my head who rules and controls me ...This frightens me; I want to protect my father and my love for him. I do not want to kill him, to see him dead. I want to set the man free from having to be a father.

That is an anti-paternal understanding of what freedom means. It is freedom from fatherhood, rather than freedom to be fathers.

You might think that motherhood would fare better. After all, the new unisex parental role is drawn from the traditional motherhood role.

But unfortunately there is a logic to liberalism by which motherhood is also reduced in status.

In part this is simply because the maternal role, just like the paternal one, is based on something predetermined rather than self-determined, namely our sex. Therefore, there are liberals like Alison Croggon who view the maternal role negatively as a restriction on the individual:

the role - rather than the task - of motherhood is an iron cage

There are liberals too who dislike the connection between motherhood and a woman’s biology.

After all, the liberal theory is that we become human through self-defining or self-determining acts.

But motherhood is something common to all females, human and non-human, as a matter of inherited biology. So it is dismissed harshly by many liberals as a mere “biological destiny”.

Motherhood also offends some liberals because it leaves women relatively dependent on others for support; rather than enhancing a woman’s autonomy it tends to reduce it.

Here is Kate Millett putting the full-blown liberal view:

In terms of activity, sex role assigns domestic service and attendance upon infants to the female, the rest of human achievement, interest, and ambition to the male. The limited role allotted the female tends to arrest her at the level of biological experience. Therefore, nearly all that can be described as distinctly human rather than animal activity (in their own way animals also give birth and care for their young) is largely reserved for the male.

If you really believed the theory, you would not want as a woman to prioritise motherhood. It loses its place at the centre of life and becomes instead a limiting and non-human activity.

What are women expected to prioritise instead? There is a simple answer: careers. Careers fit in better with autonomy theory because they can be individually chosen (i.e. they can be thought of as a uniquely chosen life path in contrast to the predetermined role of motherhood) and because they are thought to leave women less financially dependent on men.

Fiona Stewart gave voice to such liberal attitudes in 2004 when a baby bonus was introduced in Australia. She was concerned that some young women might not prioritise education and careers over motherhood:

Everyone in the youth sector was - and still is - committed to encouraging girls to see motherhood as one of many choices. To move away from the historical model of "the baby maketh the woman"...This strategy of encouraging choice over biological destiny was aimed particularly at girls from non-English-speaking backgrounds... If we have to pay women to have should be done in a way that ensures that education and career still come first.

And there’s this from American professor Laura Kipnis:

For the first time in history, women are relatively free from traditional fetters. No longer is womanhood synonymous with motherhood...

...with more control over maternity, record numbers of women are now participating in the workforce, meaning that womanhood is no longer synonymous with dependency. In fact, women can now be entirely free from men should they so choose.

The language used here is typical of liberalism: motherhood is thought of as closing off choice and therefore as being a “fetter.” And it is associated negatively with dependency. What is thought to matter to women is not the freedom to marry well and have children but the freedom to live apart from men.

Australian newspaper columnist Alan Howe is another liberal who belittles motherhood as being a preordained role:

It used to be that your early 20s were an ideal time to have children. Newly married and generally expected to do little more than care for little nappy-clad economic stimulation packages, women's lives were often predetermined events.

But as educated, ambitious waves of women entered the workforce...things changed

Mothers “do little more” than care for babies complains Alan Howe. He does not, as a liberal, accord motherhood a high status.

Kasey Edwards is a Melbourne woman who was brought up to be career ambitious. She rose high in the corporate world but at age 30 ditched her career because she felt the corporate drudgery to be unfulfilling. What was she to do instead? She felt the urge to have children but resisted it on these grounds:

I'm prepared to accept that having kids could be one answer to being thirty-something and over it, but I don't want to accept that it is the answer. It seems so stiflingly predetermined to think that it doesn't matter who we are or what we have done with our lives up until now, we all have to breed in the end.

Motherhood has lost prestige in her eyes because it is not a uniquely self-created life path.

Here is a more radical interpretation of autonomy theory by an American feminist blogger:

Women, however, particularly women with children, don’t have access to the full menu of choices. In our culture “motherhood” is a kind of prison...

As for freedom from biology... there can be little argument against the notion that females bear a disproportionate burden, biology-wise...That women have to do the pregnancy is not a “cultural construct.” What Firestone and others have postulated is that until women are liberated from this burden, their personal autonomy will always be the actual physiological process of hosting a parasite for nine months.

If the point of life really is to maximise autonomy then it makes sense to treat motherhood negatively as a limitation (a “prison” is the term used above) and pregnancy as a biological burden from which women are to be liberated.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clarke, took this negative view of motherhood. She once justified her childlessness on the grounds that,

You’ve got better things to do with your time, unimpeded.

The seeds of this anti-maternal attitude were sown early. In 1892 Elizabeth Cady Stanton made a speech to a U.S. senate committee. She told the committee that the aim of life was the “self-dependence of every soul” and that women had a “birthright to self-sovereignty.” Woman, she declared, “as an individual...must rely on herself.”

This female autonomy was to be achieved through education and careers. And, predictably, family relationships were radically reduced in status. Elizabeth Cady Stanton described them as “incidental” to life: is only the incidental relations of life, such as mother, wife, sister, daughter, which may involve some special duties...

In the introduction to a book Elizabeth Cady Stanton edited in 1881 there is a longer treatment of the same theme. She wrote of her own sex that:

Womanhood is the great fact in her life; wifehood and motherhood are but incidental relations...Custom and philosophy, in regard to woman's happiness, are alike based on the idea that her strongest social sentiment is love of children...But the love of offspring, common to all orders of women and all forms of animal life...calls out only the negative virtues that belong to apathetic classes, such as patience, endurance, self-sacrifice...

Maternal love isn’t seen as being as meaningful when you believe that independence and self-assertion are what really matter in life.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was very radically individualistic. She thought that society should be structured around “the isolation of every human soul”.

But most of us don’t share that view. Most of us do want a degree of independence, but we also want to be fulfilled in our relationships with others and we don’t care if those relationships are preordained – they still matter.

Take Lori Gottlieb. She and a friend decided “in a fit of self-empowerment” to have their children as single mothers. In doing so she went further than most women in the pursuit of a life independent of men.

But even in her case “self-empowerment” was not what she most valued. She has described a moment when she and her friend were having a picnic in a park and watching their children play:

“Ah, this is the dream,” I said, and we nodded in silence for a minute, then burst out laughing. In some ways, I meant it: we’d both dreamed of motherhood, and here we were, picnicking in the park with our children. But it was also decidedly not the dream. The dream, like that of our mothers and their mothers from time immemorial, was to fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. Of course, we’d be loath to admit it in this day and age, but ask any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life, and she probably won’t tell you it’s a better career or a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment. Most likely, she’ll say that what she really wants is a husband (and, by extension, a child).

To the outside world, of course, we still call ourselves feminists and insist — vehemently, even — that we’re independent and self-sufficient and don’t believe in any of that damsel-in-distress stuff, but in reality, we aren’t fish who can do without a bicycle, we’re women who want a traditional family.

For Lori Gottlieb, being a wife and mother are not “incidental” relationships. They were once part of her dreams and longings. And yet they don’t fit in well with the ruling ideology of our society. It’s not easy for liberal intellectuals to view motherhood as promoting female autonomy and so the maternal role, just like the paternal one, has lost status in the modern West.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Stealing motherhood

Sorry, I couldn't resist a post on this.

Liz Jones has written another of her confessional columns for the Daily Mail. This time it's about her attempts to become a mother by stealing the sperm of her partners. She begins by reminding us of the ridiculous modern girl life script that she and too many other Western women have bought into:

...for most of my adult life, having a child was the furthest thing from my mind.

I wanted a career, freedom, a nice house and to keep my figure. As a feminist, I looked down on mumsy types.

But when I was in my late 30s, I decided that if I didn’t get pregnant soon then it might never happen. I had also reached a point in my life where I wanted to settle down with a man, and though my boyfriend at that time was wildly unsuitable, I thought that I could change him.

Yes, it's the modern girl jackpot. She wanted to be the autonomous career girl type and she spent her fertile years looking down on motherhood and dating unsuitable men. But in her late 30s, at the very, very last moment she suddenly decided it was time to settle down.

She's not exactly alone in having pursued this life course. It's part of the cultural message being promoted to Western women. For instance, there's a hit romantic comedy film out called Bridesmaids. The "heroine" of this film is part of a player guy harem; she sticks with him because she thinks he's hot. But in her late 30s she finally sees through him and starts to consider an average joe type. That's modern "romance" for you - the heroines are ageing women who get rescued at the very last moment by a decent guy.

But there was to be no such romcom ending for Liz Jones. Her "wildly unsuitable" boyfriend didn't want children. So Liz Jones took matters into her own hands:

He refused to believe I was on the Pill, and insisted we use a condom for every moment of our intimate contact.

‘I don’t trust you,’ he said, muttering something about women claiming to want a career, but underneath wanting to start a family.

I called his bluff and told him there was no way I would want a baby with him, given he didn’t earn any money. Yet the truth was, I had hatched a plan that many will doubtless find shocking.

Because he wouldn’t give me what I wanted, I decided to steal it from him. I resolved to steal his sperm from him in the middle of the night. I thought it was my right, given that he was living with me and I had bought him many, many M&S ready meals.

The ‘theft’ itself was alarmingly easy to carry out. One night, after sex, I took the used condom and, in the privacy of the bathroom, I did what I had to do. Bingo.

I don’t understand why more men aren’t wise to this risk — maybe sex addles their brain. So let me offer a warning to men wishing to avoid any chance of unwanted fatherhood: if a woman disappears to the loo immediately after sex, I suggest you find out exactly what she is up to.

As it turned out, my attempts to get pregnant by Trevor failed, and shortly afterwards he and I split up.

It would be a lot nicer, you would think, for Liz Jones to have gone about things the traditional way, i.e. learn to be attractively feminine in her early 20s, reward a family oriented man with her affections, get married and have a committed and enthusiastic husband to raise a family with together. Surely that's a better outcome than having to scheme to steal the sperm from an unwilling boyfriend.

Liz Jones did marry her next boyfriend, but again he was wildly unsuitable. He was 14 years younger and unwilling to commit to children. So she stole his sperm too but again without successfully becoming pregnant. She's now in her 50s, divorced and childless.

The moral of the story is that women should ignore the cultural messages encouraging them to endlessly delay family formation. Would you really want to end up in Liz Jones's situation? Wouldn't that be crushingly humiliating?

Men, too, need to consider the timing of family formation. Liz Jones relates in her column that,

I spoke to several men before writing this article. One, in his mid-30s, has just got engaged to a woman who is 39. He told me he is not yet thinking about starting a family, as he is self-employed and worried about the recession. They also live 45 miles apart, each in their own flat.

He told me he wants to wait until they have a house together, and for his business to become established.

I bet his fiancée will be pregnant within the year.

That man hasn't thought things through. If he really does want a family it would have been prudent to marry a younger woman. But if he is committed to marrying a 39-year-old then the time to try for a family is straight away. It's not sensible for him to say he "is not yet thinking" about family.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The family - fatherhood

This is another section of the booklet I am writing , which is why it begins abruptly.


In the traditional family our sex does matter: there are distinct and complementary roles for men and women as husbands and wives and fathers and mothers.

It is a form of family life that liberals cannot easily tolerate. Liberals think of individual self-determination as the highest good, but our sex is not something we can choose for ourselves. This leads to the idea that our sex should be made not to matter in family life.

Liberal societies therefore have shifted toward an ideal of a single, unisex parental role, based on the traditional motherhood role.

This is one of the ways that liberalism is anti-paternal. The convergence into a single, unisex role is done at the expense of fatherhood.

Sara Ruddick expressed this idea clearly in her book Rethinking the family. She declared that she looked forward,

to the day when men are willing and able to share equally and actively in transformed maternal practices ... On that day there will be no more 'fathers,' no more people of either sex who have power over their children's lives and moral authority in their children's world ... There will [instead] be mothers of both sexes.

Note that Sara Ruddick not only wants there to be “mothers of both sexes” rather than fathers and mothers, but that she associates fatherhood negatively with “moral authority”. That is because paternal authority is unchosen and therefore violates the liberal ideal of autonomy - a second way in which liberalism is anti-paternal.

She’s not alone in pushing men to adopt a more maternal parenting style. James Garbarino, the president of an institute for the study of child development, has expressed the view that,

To develop a new kind of father, we must encourage a new kind of man...we need to ask, "Why can't a man be more like a woman?"

Similarly, Diane Ehrensaft in Parenting Together has endorsed the idea of men and women "mothering" their children together and Andrew M. Greeley would like society to administer a "dose of androgyny" to men and "insist that men become more like women".

I’m reminded too of the Nescafe advert which ran on Australian TV and which included in its jingle the lyrics:

You can be mother when you are a man ...
Open your mind you know that you can.

What is the logical consequence of believing that there is only one unisex parental role based on motherhood tasks?

It means that the male role within a family becomes less necessary. If men have a distinct role as fathers, i.e. if they contribute something different to their wives, then they aren’t easily displaced.

But if the male role is no different to the female one, then their role might be helpful but it isn’t necessary. This is a third way in which liberalism is anti-paternal.

Englishwoman Laurie Penny has seized upon the decline of a distinct male provider role to inform men of exactly this point:

...since feminist liberation, we have been enabled to provide for ourselves and our children on a more basic level. If that alienates men from their traditional roles of breadwinner and head of the table then too bad...

So, precisely in what way do children ‘need’ fathers?...The plain fact is that now that women are allowed to financially provide for themselves, we no longer need husbands to raise children...

What women could do with, fundamentally, are wives – other people, male or female, to share the load of domestic work and money-earning in a spirit of genuine support and partnership. When more men can stomach seeing themselves in the role of 'wife and father', then we’ll have a basis for negotiation...If you’re truly man enough to be a wife and father, bring that to the table and we'll talk.

She is saying that children no longer need fathers – and if liberalism is correct about a unisex role then she is right. If men and women are no different, and have no different role to play, then why logically would children need a father in the house?

Penny Laurie is telling men that as their role as a father is no longer necessary they should aim to be one of the wives of either sex in the home. In doing so she is being consistent in applying liberal ideas about unisex parenting.

Another liberal who is radically consistent in applying the theory is Professor P.Z. Myers. He very much supports the idea that the male and female role within the family should be a unisex, interchangeable one.

He was therefore critical of Archbishop Nienstedt who asked,

What will happen to children growing up in a world where the law teaches them that moms and dads are interchangeable and therefore unnecessary?

The archbishop is making the same point that I made previously, that if the role of fathers is interchangeable with that of mothers then it becomes unnecessary and so the presence of fathers is thought to matter less in the family.

Professor Myers’ ominous reply was this:

I think a world where moms and dads are interchangeable in their roles and responsibilities in child-raising would be a fine place to live. Aside from nursing (and again, biologists will fix that someday, too)...

He so much wants parenting roles to be interchangeable that he hopes that men can be genetically re-engineered to be able to breastfeed children.

That is the logical extreme to which a visionary scientist like Professor Myers is willing to take the idea of a unisex parental role.


One critic of the liberal view of the family is the American writer David Blankenhorn. In his book Fatherless America he argues that men should not abandon a distinctly paternal role.

How does Blankenhorn explain the push toward a new fatherless family?

He explains it, as I do, in terms of autonomy. He believes that there are people who see socially defined roles, such as those of father and mother, as restrictive. These people believe that they are freeing individuals by replacing such socially defined roles with self-determined ones.

Blankenhorn quotes as an example of this the views of the very liberal Mark Gerzon. Gerzon celebrates the new family on the grounds that:

Couples may write their own scripts, construct their own plots, with unprecedented freedom...a man and a woman are free to find the fullest range of possibilities. Neither needs to act in certain ways because of preordained cross-sexual codes of conduct.

“Writing your own script” is liberal-speak for rejecting what is predetermined (or, as Gerzon puts it, “preordained”) in favour of what can be self-determined. Gerzon considers this to be an “unprecedented freedom”.

Blankenhorn recognises that this vision of freedom is part of a reigning orthodoxy:

In many ways, it is a bracing, exhilarating vision, bravely contemptuous of boundaries and inherited limitations, distinctly American in its radical insistence on self-created identity...It is the reigning ethos of much of contemporary American culture.

But it is not a vision that Blankenhorn can accept:

I dispute it because it denies the necessity, and even repudiates the existence, of fathers' work: irreplaceable work in behalf of family that is essentially and primarily the work of fathers.

I dispute it because it tells an untrue story of what a good marriage is. In addition, I dispute it because it rests upon a narcissistic and ultimately self-defeating conception of male happiness and human completion.

...androgyny and gender role convergence reflect the ultimate triumph of radical is the belief, quite simply, that human completion is a solo act. It is the insistence that the pathway to human happiness lies in transcending the old polarities of sexual embodiment in order for each individual man and woman to embrace and express all of human potentiality within his or her self...Now each man, within the cell of himself, can be complete...

This idea, so deeply a part of our culture, is fool's gold. It is a denial of sexual complementarity and ultimately a denial of generativity...Especially for men, this particular promise of happiness is a cruel hoax. Like all forms of narcissism, its final product is not fulfilment but emptiness.