Sunday, October 07, 2012

Processing Sandra Loh

You might remember that I opened my recent post on Sandra Tsing Loh with a confession that I didn't know how to process her latest article "The Weaker Sex".

Her column described the failure of relationships within her social milieu. The easy response, and one take up with gusto in the comments to the article at The Atlantic, is to criticise Sandra Tsing Loh and her friends for their narcissism and sense of entitlement.

But a comment to my own post made me realise that there was something more positive that might be said about Sandra Tsing Loh. The comment was this:
I can only read this article as a frantic, plaintive appeal for help, for an answer.

Which made me realise that for all its faults Sandra Tsing Loh's article did break with the usual modern girl response to relationship difficulties. Usually women like Sandra Tsing Loh, when faced with relationship failure, take the easy option of saying "We are a group of fabulous, empowered, independent women and men should be climbing over each other to be with us. They don't know what they're missing out on. They're just too scared and overawed. They need to man up and be everything we want them to be. It's up to men to make sure that relationship commitments happen."

Sandra Tsing Loh didn't go down this well-worn path. Instead, she admits that it is the women in her social circle who have the problem making commitments work and she believes it is because gender role complementarity has been broken. Because the roles of men and women are no longer complementary, relationships now rely exclusively on women appreciating men romantically, but women want different, contradictory things from men in a relationship and therefore women are easily disappointed and disenchanted. It leads to women disrespecting the men they are supposed to live with, seeing them as disposable, and in some cases preferring instead to have male support in a platonic way, for instance, in the work an ex-husband might do in helping to look after the children.

And she can't see her way out of this. She cannot find her way to a serious answer.

That's because she cannot bring herself to imagine men and women maintaining gender role complementarity in a marriage, but nor can she imagine a stable romantic satisfaction for women without it.

The way out of the deadlock is to allow for complementary roles for men and women, ones which allow for an expression of masculinity in men and femininity in women, and which then allow both men and women to bring something unique to the relationship that the other person needs.

This can be done in a big way (as in my marriage) or more lightly, but it's unwise to give up on this altogether in a heterosexual marriage.


  1. "The way out of the deadlock is to allow for complementary roles for men and women, ones which allow for an expression of masculinity in men and femininity in women, and which then allow both men and women to bring something unique to the relationship that the other person needs."

    Exactly!! And that is precisely why the feminists will never achieve happiness: They insist on worshipping at the false altar of "Gender is a social construct."

    Women do not want men who act like women, and they suck at being men. There's your misery, you dumb broad.

  2. I once knew a woman who had to return home after her mother died and, as she put it, teach her father "how to make a sandwich." This was nearly thirty years ago, and she, along with all the other young women in our set, was a feminist. So there were hoots of derision all round. It seemed to me that the old man had been, perhaps, too dependent on his wife, but I vaguely understood that his marriage had been built on a strong foundation. Sandwiches are real and they satisfy a real and recurrent need. If the wife is the only supplier of something the husband really needs, and will need to the day he dies, the marriage has a strong foundation.

    The relationships in our set, on the other hand, were built on sexual desire and personal fascination. Physical appeal and "brilliant" conversation, basically. In other words, they were built on sand. Sex and conversation are important in a marriage, but they are superstructure. The foundation is built out of sandwiches.

    Not long after the first incident, I was lunching with my great aunt. My great uncle, who had just lost his wife, was lunching with us. In the course of praising my great aunt's apple pie, he made a short but persuasive defense of complimentarian marriage. It made sense to me.

    Sociologists have a theory of what they call the "sleeper effect." This says that we are likely to decide that an idea is true if, shortly after we first begin to think about it, some coincidence appears to confirm it. My journey to sexual complimentarianism, which is part of my journey to traditionalism, began with my thinking about sandwiches and apple pies.

  3. JMSmith,

    I don't think it's so much sandwiches are foundational in the literal since of course, but rather the fact that if a relationship does not have 2 people dependent on each other then when the love leaves to marriage they will think it's time to split up. Thanks to liberalism.

    This has been the entire goal of the feminist/liberal agenda. They have liberalized the marriage laws, decriminalized adultery(it's a breach of contract not sure why it's not criminal) and pushed no-fault divorce under the guise of helping domestic violence victims. They've also made the DV definition extremely liberal to including a man that hurts a woman's feelings.

    By teaching women at an early age that being dependent on men is a form of oppression by men, liberals have caused marriage to be "only for love", which makes sense when you take into account the % of divorces of which women initiate around 70%+/-. This is the reason why they fight for gay marriage, because now instead of each person being dependent on the other, they're only in it for what the other can do for THEM, it's the equivalent of roommates that have sex.

    As much as dalrock didn't like fireproof, I recently watched it with my fiancee and the idea is one that I feel is the one God had in mind with Adam and Eve. The idea is that you can't get married because the other person makes you feel good whether it be physical, or emotional. Rather, it's the moment you realize that you're happiest when you do things for your gf/bf even if you don't like it such as going shopping with her, watching romantic comedies etc.. Just like in the movie, Caleb wasn't happy because his wife wouldn't respect him, his wife wasn't happy because Caleb wouldn't help her out and was hurt with his pornography problem, stalemate, only until Caleb learned that you have to be selfless in showing your love even if the other doesn't love you back; just as God loves His children even though many of them don't love Him back.

    Liberals want to see marriage destroyed, because if they can get people to NEED the government then they can grow the government all they want, right into an authoritarian regime.

  4. Anonymous@
    Of course I'm using sandwiches as a metaphor for all the practical benefits spouses bring to one another in a traditional marriage. I don't think a marriage can be built on practical convenience alone, but do believe that a good spouse is a lover, a friend, and a helpmate. I haven't seen Fireproof, but I don't think I quite agree with what you say about unconditional love. You're right to say that mature love takes more pleasure in pleasing than in being pleased, but very few of us have the stamina to love without being loved in return. There are the obligations of the marriage vow, of course, and some special cases, such as a demented spouse, but healthy love is a two-way street. Selflessness can be a symptom of pride, of a belief that one doesn't really need anything from anybody. Marriage is very much about needingyour spouse.

  5. I haven't seen Fireproof either, but I'd caution that it's not enough for a marriage to succeed that a man be willing to show unconditional love by doing things for his wife.

    It's true that a healthy marriage is about gift giving rather than account keeping.

    But a husband's task is a bit more complicated. Doing things like going shopping and watching romcoms can build comfort but they can also desexualise the relationship.

    So a husband has to be careful to maintain not only the comfort building things but also the sexual attraction building things.

    And that includes upholding a distinctly masculine role within the marriage.

    In Sandra Tsing Loh's article, the one remaining married couple blow up over a seemingly trivial thing. The husband is willing to do things for his wife (e.g. cook a gourmet meal from scratch) but his wife goes to therapy after he fails to change a light bulb in the garage for her.

    There was much scorn heaped on the wife in the comments for this. It seems such a little thing - why not just change the light bulb herself?

    But it seems to me that the light bulb standoff does have some meaning. In a traditional masculine/feminine marriage the man would do handyman tasks around the house. The very smallest of these tasks would be getting on a ladder and changing a lightbulb in the garage.

    So what is really at stake is this: the husband is willing to do traditionally feminine things in the house but is digging in his heels and refusing to take on even a symbolically masculine role.

    And that sends the wife into a tailspin.

  6. There is one distinctively masculine role that men can perform in a marriage, even if the wife makes a lot of money: Be a good father. However, the radical autonomists had to launch a propaganda campaign decades ago to convince everyone that they should be free to leave any marriage in which they find themselves to be unhappy. Part of the propaganda campaign was to claim that the children would not really be hurt by the divorce. In order to make that claim, they also needed to claim that it was just fine for children to be raised by a mother with the father not having much contact with the children. Thus, fatherhood became devalued.

    The sad side-effect of such cultural changes is that even women who are not feminists probably don't have the same appreciation for the role of the father as they should, because the propaganda has subtly taken root throughout the society. Of course, the likes of Sandra Tsing Loh and her friends can hardly be expected to appreciate that fathers have a very different influence on children than mothers do, but they are not the only ones affected by the anti-father meme.

  7. "Caleb learned that you have to be selfless in showing your love even if the other doesn't love you back; just as God loves His children even though many of them don't love Him back."

    That's crazy. You do not stand in the same relation to your wife as God does to his children (or even as you do to your children).

    There are any number of things that should kill your "unconditional love", including gaining large amounts of weight, cheating on you, disrespecting you, or getting addicted to drugs or alcohol. If that happens, the only thing a man can do is pull the plug. He owes that much to himself!