Tuesday, March 08, 2016

On the woman question - preliminaries

The woman question hasn't gone away. It is still the main topic of debate at many political websites. My own views have changed a little lately, and I'd like to explain why in a series of short articles. The main point I want to make is that one cause of this being such a difficult issue is that there is a paradox to womanhood itself. However, I think that it is useful to begin with something else, namely a look at the three main approaches or frameworks that are applied to this issue.

1. Liberal egalitarianism
This is the dominant framework in the West. It is supported by the state, the mainstream media, the educational systems and the major political parties. It is the idea that men and women are, apart from some irrelevant physical differences, the same and that our biological sex should have no effect on our role in society. Many who support this framework believe that "binary gender" (masculinity and femininity) is a social construct that oppressively denies choice to individuals.

2. Complementarianism

This is the view that men and women are different but equal and that the sexes complement each other. The Catholic church holds to a particular understanding of complementarianism, as have I at this site (though I have shifted to something a little different).

3. Biblical patriarchy

Those who follow this framework believe that scripture places men at the head of the family, and also gives to men teaching authority within the church. This framework has most influence today amongst parts of the evangelical churches in the U.S., including the quiverful movement. One of its prominent online defenders is the writer Dalrock.

So what are the merits of each of these approaches? I'll start with liberal egalitarianism, as it is so prominent in today's society. Despite its influence, it is the least convincing of the three frameworks. It requires us to believe that there are no significant differences between men and women; that masculinity and femininity have no basis in human biology but are oppressive social constructs; and that being a man or a woman can and should be rendered irrelevant in society.

These ideas run against our own lived experiences; against scientific knowledge of human physiology; against the history of human society; and against the heterosexual instincts of the average man and woman. It is very difficult for even the most fervent of liberal egalitarians to live in a principled way according to these ideas.

So why then is liberal egalitarianism so dominant? It dominates because it is a framework that fits in well with the larger philosophical trends within Western societies. For instance, liberal modernity assumes that there is nothing external to the individual that is inherently good, but that value comes from a freedom to choose our own subjective goods. But if what matters is a freedom to self-determine, then something predetermined like our biological sex will be thought of negatively as a restriction on the individual, something to be liberated from. If our sex is viewed in such a negative way, it will no longer form part of our core identity or our telos (our ends or purposes in life). Similarly, liberal political philosophers have usually chosen to base their ideas on what is called the "unencumbered individual", meaning an abstracted and atomised individual without particular qualities, identities and relationships - this too removes the significance to the individual of their biological sex. Also, modern philosophy generally holds that there are only particular instances of things, and therefore it is held that there is no real existence (no real "essence") to categories like "masculine" and "feminine". If these categories don't really exist, then they cannot be significant to human life.

Finally, it is typical in modern thought to look for "scientistic" ways of managing human societies. The prestige of the natural sciences has been so great, that social scientists want to discover principles as equally clear and applicable as, say, the law of gravity, on which to neutrally, rationally and scientifically administer social life. The idea of administering men and women as equivalent units is much more amenable to this scientistic, technocratic view, than more difficult, messier and "opaque" understandings about distinctions between the masculine and feminine. It also suits big business interests to view men and women equally as labour units (as market resources).

So liberal egalitarianism is weak in being out of step with how people experience life personally, but strong in having the support of certain underlying assumptions within modernist philosophy.

(Note, though, that even if the liberal egalitarian framework is wrong, this doesn't mean that there is never any merit to the more particular and pragmatic observations of those who support it.)

And what of complementarianism? This framework is, at one level, easy to support as it recognises the reality of the differences between men and women, but also asserts an equal value to each. Furthermore, it sees a kind of harmony in the differences, with the masculine and feminine forming complementary parts of a whole. It is an ideal and positive view of the relationship between the masculine and feminine.

But complementarianism is not without its complications. First, it matters a great deal how the differences between men and women are understood. One option, for instance, is to see these differences as irrelevant in terms of which sex takes the leading role in public life. This is the option taken by the modern Catholic church. Recent popes have preached a Catholic kind of feminism, in which sex distinctions are defended but at the same time claims are made that society will be better off the more that women are brought into positions of leadership in society (a strange stance for a church with an exclusively male priesthood to take).

The alternative is for complementarians to argue that men are more naturally oriented to create and uphold the formal structures of society (the way I used to conceive it was that men acted to create the secure space within which women could then successfully bear and raise their children).

I have increasingly come to the view that complementarianism doesn't say enough about the difficulties in creating successful marital relationships between men and women. It isn't sufficiently focused on the potential for disharmony and discord between the masculine and feminine. The vision remains fixed on an ideal rather than confronting the more difficult reality.

Finally, there is biblical patriarchy. This is the framework I am least familiar with, as I do not belong to this church tradition. I suppose one weakness of this framework is that being based on scriptural authority its appeal will be greatest to those who come from an evangelical Christian background, which is a limited demographic in many Western countries. I have read a few accounts of families practising biblical patriarchy and there are some things I admire about it, such as a willingness of parents in this tradition to educate their children according to their own principles rather than leaving their children to be entirely influenced by the secular liberal system. Some families, too, are serious enough about their community to encourage a healthy birth rate and to protect the pair bonding instincts of their young adults. I do read Dalrock regularly and it seems that the principle of biblical patriarchy is being undermined within the larger evangelical organisations.


  1. "there is biblical patriarchy. This is the framework I am least familiar with, as I do not belong to this church tradition"

    Biblical Patriarchy is not a Church Tradition. It is the essence of the divine revelation and divinely created social order. God gave man 2 institutions for the ordering of society - the nation state and the family. The Patriarchs (elder males) are the leaders of both and responsible for the preservation of both institutions.

    The Biblical family is not the modern nuclear liberal family but the bloodline intergenerational family as described in the Gospel where Jesus lineage was both pure, spanned over 20 generations (all well recorded) and both maternal and paternal lines were of common ancestry.

    It is the responsibility of patriarchs to preserve the borders of the state and the family, the bloodlines, values, culture and traditions of the people. Given the sinful nature of man, the Christian acts as "salt and light" in the preservation of the social order and the illumination brought by the Truth of the Gospel. The role of the patriarchs in society is to enforce the social order on the population, the majority of whom in all societies are sheep who need to be herded.

    Home schooling has no basis in the Bible or any Church tradition. Entrusting children to the authority of parents, who in most cases have no qualifications to be teachers, attempting to educate their children in social isolation from their peers is decidedly anti Christian. It benefits neither the child nor society. The home has no scientific equipment and most parents have no ability to teach advanced mathematics.

    The majority of parents who attempt to home school children are cranks who subscribe to heretical and gnostic deviations from Christianity obsessed with "ruptures" and end day apocalyptic scenarios.

    The essence of patriarchy is the adherence to traditional religion and values and the perpetuation of these in the face of technological change. In the West this exists only in Catholic Southern Europe and Orthodox Europe.

    1. Anon, the birth rate has collapsed in Catholic Southern Europe and in most parts of Orthodox Europe. In terms of Europe, Germany has the lowest birth rate but is followed by Portugal and Italy.

      We don't have a homeschooling movement here in Australia so I can't comment with any authority on it. But I do know it is a reasonably large movement, so I doubt your claim about the majority being cranks. Furthermore, homeschooling seems logical to me at a time when state schools are so focused on indoctrination into a world view that is hostile to religion (the latest news from here in Australia is that toddlers are going to be indoctrinated into the "masculinity causes domestic violence" theories of the white ribbon movement.)

      The alternative would be to set up alternative communal schools - my own preferred option - but this is a more difficult undertaking, requiring sufficient parents in a particular area having the financial resources to fund a school (I hope you don't think Catholic schools are the answer - from what I can tell these are now little different to state schools in what they promulgate.)

    2. Home schooling has no basis in the Bible or any Church tradition. Entrusting children to the authority of parents, who in most cases have no qualifications to be teachers, attempting to educate their children in social isolation from their peers is decidedly anti Christian.

      Does sending one's children to secular schools to be indoctrinated into atheism and anti-Christianity have any basis in the Bible or any Church tradition? Just asking.

    3. (I hope you don't think Catholic schools are the answer - from what I can tell these are now little different to state schools in what they promulgate.)

      They're possibly slightly worse since they're trying even harder to be PC.

    4. "the birth rate has collapsed in Catholic Southern Europe and in most parts of Orthodox Europe. In terms of Europe, Germany has the lowest birth rate but is followed by Portugal and Italy. "

      This is untrue. The birth rates in Germany,UK and USA are artificially inflated by immigrants, particularly Muslims with high birth rates. Birth rates in Southern Europe which is relatively immigrant and Muslim free, have not collapsed.

      A low birth rate of ethnically pure people perpetuating their bloodlines is inherently preferable to high birth rates of mixed bloodline people. The aim of traditional patriarchical societies is blood line purity and preservation and not population growth of ethnically mixed people.

      The response to the state school indoctrination should be to fight it and not run away into "home Schools" which have no ability to educate children properly in most fields but particularly in mathematics and science.

    5. Anon, I agree that European countries could get by with a replacement birth rate and that the primary issue is immigration. Even so, the Italian birth rate is 1.4 and that of native Swedes is 1.8. Both are below replacement level, with the Italian rate being worse. The Italians could get by with 1.4 for a brief historical time but would need ultimately to shift it back up.

      Fighting secular liberal indoctrination in the schools is a worthy cause. However, to make it work you would have to replace nearly every English and history teacher as 90% of these are strongly committed to a secular liberal worldview. You would also have to prise the state away from a commitment to the current state ideology, which means in reality, building non-liberal political parties to win elections. That's more of a long-term aim; the state schools won't change fundamentally in the short term.

    6. Birth rates vary throughout history and can rapidly change. The important issue is racial and ethnic purity. A mixed ethnic and racially diverse society has no future. Ethnic conflict strikes frequently and kills off many.

      Teachers are public servants. They teach what the Government tells them to teach. It is the curriculum which needs to change and not the teachers. Impose a traditional curriculum and sound discipline and dismiss teachers who fail to adhere to it.

    7. Anon, political struggles over the formal curriculum do matter, so you're right in that regard. But I think you underestimate the current situation. We not only have a state based on a certain ideology (as, say, existed in Russia in 1950), but the political class is voluntarily committed to this ideology - they base their sense of moral rightness, of life meaning, and of social status on it. All of the institutions of society have been captured by this political class and serve the ideology. So we are, at the moment, "shut out". That doesn't mean we give up, but it does affect our strategy. A better organised traditionalist movement would begin to consolidate - to take back ground - where it could. It is a challenge with limited resources to even get that far right now, but it is what needs to happen - very realistically, practically minded action.

  2. My apologies to the anon who submitted a link to a Catholic resource - I accidentally hit delete instead of publish. Please feel free to resubmit.

  3. I apologize for using "anonymous", but I do not understand the profile choices for commenting.

    As I am compelled to think about the dysfunction that surrounds me, I sense that at its root is the collapse of authority. This is not a new idea ("Things fall apart, the center cannot hold" / "If there is no God, everything is permitted"). The concept of Truth and belief in God has gradually become unintelligible to modern man. But once the First Commandment becomes unintelligible, and is finally discarded as unnecessary (or even as an obstacle to utopian equality), relationships between individuals fall into hopeless disorder.

    The collapse of authority has devastated the family. Recovery of order requires more than recognition of complementarity of the sexes -- it requires order and roles. Responsibilities cannot be carried out in the absence of authority -- so they, too, are abandoned (leaving a vacuum for the state to rush in).

    I think you are right in noting the serious consequences of the Church's failure to teach its own Catholic anthropology -- which includes the essential role of headship in the family. However, one can still find Catholics who speak with authority -- about authority. I think Fr. Ripperger's conference provides needed clarity in this regard:


  4. The current Pope, being a Jesuit, does not share the Church's historic philosophy that heir archives are natural and the sexes were created differently by God for his divine purpose.