Saturday, November 23, 2013

A hostile Susie Boniface

English feminist Susie Boniface seems very keen to maintain the image of feminists as man-haters. On International Men's Day she wrote a column that is stunning in its hostility to men (worse, a mainstream publication, the Daily Mirror, chose to publish it).

Here's just the end bit:
...we can and should support International Men’s Day in every way that we can.

We should support anything which might, one day, lead men who father children and shirk responsibility to shoulder half the moral and financial burden of their own behaviour.

We should throw ourselves behind a day that might prompt men into speaking out about rape, and perhaps taking a day off from it.

If it grows and is a success then maybe in the future International Men’s Day will be the one day a year when males campaign against sex trafficking, slut-shaming, domestic abuse and religious persecution...

Perhaps one or two of them might even urge others not to monster every woman over 30 with a wrinkle while expecting them to have the bikini body of a bulimic 12-year-old and the sexual skills of a wizened courtesan.

Think of that – one day when men urge one another to be better than they are, and insist that every person is treated equally regardless of their gender.

Wouldn’t it be lovely?

One day when all men talk to their children, refrain from telling anyone to cover their face or hair, and chant ‘I must not use the pronoun “the” when talking about my missus’.

So, men, knock yourselves out. Have your day, do your best, overcome what you can. I’ll cheer you on, in fact I’ll even make you a packed lunch and help you with your placards.

While you’re off dealing with that, we women will just get on with everything else.

Don’t hurry back.

Why such hostility? I don't know for sure. All that I know about her personal life is that she is a divorced and childless career woman. In her politics she is a "sex positive" feminist (i.e. she believes that "choice" is what matters including the choice for women to wear feminine clothes).

Susie Boniface

Her antagonism could be to do with her personal life. But I suspect that her political beliefs are also at least partly responsible.

Early in her column, Susie Boniface talks about 6,000 years of patriarchy and female inequality. So she believes that men as a class have, throughout history, acted to oppress women. If that is your day to day mindset, then little wonder that anti-male feelings are bubbling just under the surface.

It's normal, of course, for men and women to be occasionally exasperated by the opposite sex. But in our society sex hostility goes much further than this: it is written into a political script, in which men are cast as the oppressors of women.

In a traditionalist community, such a script would be torn up. We would return to the understanding that the role of men is, and has been, to protect and provide for the women of their community, with this role very much being to the benefit of women.

We would emphasise, too, the value of fidelity between the men and women of a community. By this I do not mean sexual fidelity, but instead the existence of a relationship between men as a group and women as a group, which calls each group to a sense of service to the other as an expression of a significant part of their own being.

In other words, we fulfil an important part of ourselves when we "do for" women in a masculine way as men (and vice versa). That is how we express our fidelity toward the opposite sex. It is a sign of a healthy community life when we are able to express this freely - just as it is a sign of a community gone wrong when women are encouraged toward infidelity.


  1. I am intrigued by this part of your post:

    “In a traditionalist community, such a script would be torn up. We would return to the understanding that the role of men is, and has been, to protect and provide for the women of their community, with this role very much being to the benefit of women.

    We would emphasise, too, the value of fidelity between the men and women of a community. By this I do not mean sexual fidelity, but instead the existence of a relationship between men as a group and women as a group, which calls each group to a sense of service to the other as an expression of a significant part of their own being.”

    What you are advocating here sounds very much like my concept of unconditional Chivalry as a duty men owe to God on behalf of women. You speak of men protecting and providing for women; to “provide for and protect” women is exactly how I define Chivalry. You also speak of “the role of men” regarding “the women of their community” and the “relationship between men as a group and women as a group.” This sounds like you are not restricting Chivalry based on only good women receiving Chivalry and bad women being excluded from Chivalry or saying that Chivalry is only owed to a man’s wife but not women in general; you instead seem to be implying that each individual man as part of the male group owes a generalized obligation of Chivalry to each individual woman as part of the female group. If this is true then you seem to be in general agreement with my idea of unconditional Chivalry as a male duty to God on behalf of women.

    I wonder a bit about the idea of reciprocity between men as a group and women as a group. I would say that men owe Chivalry as a general principle to all women unconditionally; not dependent upon the woman’s behavior or any other factor. Chivalry can be seen as men giving to women the benefits of their inherited advantages over women. Reciprocity would then mean women giving to men their positive attributes as women in the skill areas women are better at than men. I would support reciprocity between the sexes in this sense.

    I am a bit uncomfortable with talk of reciprocal obligations between the sexes; I prefer the idea of both sexes serving and obeying God directly and serving the opposite sex indirectly in the sense that service to the opposite sex is a form of serving and obeying God. Also men give to women to enable women to give to children so there should be no expectation that men and women give to each other equally directly; the direct contribution from the man to the woman is greater than the direct contribution from the woman to the man. The woman’s contribution to the child enabled by the man’s contribution to the woman is an indirect contribution from the woman to the man as the man wishes to benefit his child through the means of contributing to the woman.

    So, I am wondering if you support my idea of unconditional Chivalry as a moral principle?

    Related to this topic of Chivalry is an article I recently wrote at my website:

    Why Chivalry is an Unconditional Male Duty

    By the way, you probably remember me from The Thinking Housewife? I am now at my own website Secular Patriarchy trying to build a group I am calling the Traditional Family Activists or TFAs.

    1. Jesse, yes and no. The "yes" part of the answer is this: I think it's true that some of the small gestures of polite chivalry were once part of the way that male/female fidelity was expressed in Western countries. For instance, I can remember giving up my seat on a tram for women back in the 1970s/early 1980s. It wasn't just for elderly or pregnant women; Australian men did it for women in general. You would be rewarded with a smile and a thank you. I always thought, even as a young man, that it was a good part of community life, for the very reason I have tried to explain in the post, namely that it was a concrete way to signal fidelity between men and women.

      Chivalry has a root not only in fidelity but also, I think, in the emphasis in the New Testament on charity towards those less powerful than yourself. Part of the message of the New Testament is that being powerful and wealthy is not necessarily a sign that you are favoured by God and therefore righteous and saved; similarly, being poor and humble does not make you part of a non-favoured caste (an outcast group). Christ went to great lengths to emphasise that this way of looking at things is false and that the wealthy and powerful are not favoured in such a sense and that God cares about the poor and humble (and that we should too).

      In Christian cultures this led to an ideal of service by the wealthy/powerful to those less wealthy/powerful. This expressed itself in a range of ways: it created charitable organisations; it led to an ideal of noblesse oblige; and, yes, it helped to bring about an ideal of chivalry between men and women, in which men's strength and valour was put to the service of women (something curiously absent in some non-Christian countries; in Japan, for instance, the heavy lifting is done by whoever is most junior, be they a strapping young man or a petite young woman).

      I don't think the historic practice of chivalry was entirely something we would want to endorse today. It went off in some strange directions at times. Even late in the piece it was the case that some men deferred too much to women, were too reluctant to contradict women, and saw women as moral exemplars in a way that inhibited masculine leadership and responsibility.

      There is also the problem, that you raise, of how you practise chivalry in a culture in which fidelity has been replaced with the idea of a sex war. I don't have a fully worked out position on this. If I saw a woman struggling to change a tyre, I'd help out (with my inbuilt sense of chivalry kicking in). But, at the same time, I can understand why chivalry has declined when men are treated the way they are within modern feminist societies.

  2. Susie doesn't like men. Why should she be surprised then that she finds no happiness or anything positive about them.

    She gets what she looks for.

  3. My thinking regarding Chivalry is actually quite thoroughly worked out; I think I can answer some of the objections or reluctance you have regarding the idea. I always define Chivalry as something that is male controlled, something that is imposed upon the individual man by the male community, and something that is done by men for the purpose of furthering male defined goals. I also tend to see Chivalry as something men impose upon women as an objective good not dependent upon the woman’s preferences in the matter. I characterize Chivalry as something men owe to God on behalf of women to help make clear why the Chivalrous duty is unconditional and not dependent upon either cultural factors or the behavior of the woman. As a duty to God Chivalry is always a moral imperative as ones duty to God is universal and unconditional. Since Chivalry is always an objective good Chivalry is therefore a duty under all circumstances; unconditionally.

    Women’s obedience to men is strongly tied to the male Chivalrous duty; the duty of Chivalry is unconditional whether the woman is obedient or not but once a man commits himself to Chivalry on behalf of the woman the woman then has an obligation to obey the man regarding the man’s Chivalrous intent towards the woman. If the woman then continues in disobedience towards the man even after the man has committed himself to Chivalry on her behalf then there is justification for enforcement measures against the woman to try to compel her into a state of obedience towards the man. In this way Chivalry is a mechanism for ending the gender wars and reestablishing generally accepted male authority in an overall patriarchal social system where men serve women and women obey men.

    The Chivalrous duty is unconditional precisely because men are in authority over women as a general principle; this male authority then enabling men to set the terms of Chivalry and enabling men to practice Chivalry in a way where their own interests as men are still protected. Women can still be punished for bad behavior under Chivalry; it is just that the punishment imposed upon the woman has to be separated from the woman’s continuing right to her protected status as a woman.

    Patriarchy is based on male controlled Chivalry; Feminism is bad on female controlled Chivalry. It is not Chivalry that is the problem; the problem is allowing women to dictate what Chivalry is. Once men reassert their right to define and control Chivalry then Chivalry can be harnessed for the positive social function it is meant to serve and the division between men and women can be healed.

    1. Jesse, I'm going to have a hard time agreeing with you because we have defined our terms differently.

      You have defined chivalry as men protecting and providing for women. To me, that's something a lot more basic than chivalry - it's the basic male social role from caveman times onwards.

      Chivalry was something more specific to the West, because it was a fusion of Christian morality with an aristocratic ethos. It took the "defend the weak and powerless" aspect of Christian morality and was therefore oriented to the defence of widows, children and the elderly, but combined it with aristocratic ideals of nobility and honour, courage and fidelity (including fidelity toward, and service on behalf of, country and church).

      There was included in chivalry a notion of courtesy toward women and courtly love (which I don't think was always rightly oriented).

      So I don't think it is chivalry which is the basis of patriarchy - chivalry is something that is too culturally specific. The Ancient Romans, for instance, had a patriarchal society, but can we really say that they were influenced by chivalry as most people understand the term?

  4. It is true, I definitely mean for “Chivalry” to be a basic and broad concept absolutely fundamental to the workings of society and something that is universal across all functioning cultures. Chivalry is men’s duty to “provide for and protect” women; it is all male behaviors directed towards such benefits on behalf of women where the man is responding to the woman as a woman. I actually have no interest in the specific Chivalric codes of Knights or wherever the term “chivalry” originally came from; I am taking the more general idea of men “providing for and protecting” women and creating a set of rules and principles around it as a kind of secular foundation for how a working patriarchal social system could be organized in the future. My “unconditional Chivalry” idea is also a way for me to differentiate myself from the MRAs so that what I advocate can avoid the pit falls I think MRAs too often and easily fall into where they refuse to take responsibility for men’s role in creating the current cultural malaise and for what men have to do collectively to escape from the cultural trap we are now in. Emphasizing Chivalry in the way I am defining the idea is a way of putting the onus on men to fix things which makes sense when you consider that men are the ultimate leaders of society whatever dysfunctions a society may be going through.