Wednesday, February 28, 2018

It goes back some way

I watched about one minute of Q&A last night. It's a TV show here in Australia in which "luvvie" left-liberals discuss political issues with insufferable moral smugness.

Anyway, a British Labour Party feminist, Harriet Harman, was speaking. There is something icy in her personality, but to draw a laugh from the audience she noted mockingly that a generation ago many young women would leave school and have as their highest aspiration finding a husband and starting a family. On cue there were chortles of laughter from the audience at the thought.

The underlying message is that the highest ambition for everyone, male or female, is to participate in the market as a unit of labour. Although their reasons might be different, left liberals and right liberals end up in agreement on this. Careers come before family.

And the message has seeped through society. I had one of those moments of mutual incomprehension with a group of my students the other day. The topic was career advice, some of the students were disengaged, so I urged them on with the comment that choosing a career and choosing a spouse were the two most important life decisions.

The girls (aged about sixteen) looked at me with astonishment. They said they agreed that choosing a career was important, but they didn't think that choosing a spouse mattered as much. They couldn't believe that anyone would think it was that important, especially compared to a career.

If you want to blame modern day feminism for this you would be mistaken. The problem goes back to the first wave of feminism in the nineteenth century. In 1869 a college for women, Girton College, was established at Cambridge. What was the outlook impressed on the young women at Girton? One Girton girl put it this way in 1889:
We are no longer mere parts - excrescences, so to speak, of a family ... One may develop as an individual and independent unit.
That is a highly significant, and radical, change in life outlook. Think of it this way. The traditional view is that we do not develop, ideally, solo. If, for instance, you are a 25-year-old man, then ideally you will look to develop who you are as a person by seeking to become a husband and a father. As a husband you can develop your masculine personality by fulfilling your drives to provide for and protect a wife, by fulfilling your desire to form a loving union with someone of the opposite sex; and by fulfilling the innate instinct to reproduce yourself biologically, to reproduce your own family lineage and to reproduce your own larger ethnic tradition.

There are also, of course, aspects of a young man's development, such as the cultivation of virtues like fortitude, which could be done solo, but much would be left out if it were left at this. And even a man who never marries is likely to develop aspects of who he is in relationship with others, such as his parents and siblings, or (if a priest) in relationship with a church and parish.

But look at what the Girton girl is saying. She is radically diminishing the importance of family in her self-development. In fact, she has been educated, by first wave feminists, to utterly dismiss the role of family in self-development. The language she uses suggests that being a member of a family is a merely mechanical, static, impersonal thing. She speaks of being a "mere part - excrescence" of a family.

She goes on immediately to speak positively of solo development. She conceives the alternative as developing "as an individual and independent unit".

For some generations, men have been encouraged to develop, as before, in relationship with others, but young women have been encouraged to see this as oppressive and to develop solo. It's possible that this explains, in part, the reluctance of many women to see their husbands as making sacrifices on their behalf - perhaps women assume that men have the same outlook, of solo development, that they themselves have been brought up to believe in, or perhaps they even think it wrong for a person to develop in relationship with others rather than as a solo act (so they mentally refuse the idea that it is a good thing for their husband to make sacrifices for them).

This is one aspect of life in which a traditionalist community could very readily distinguish itself. We could return to the older, fuller understanding of human development for both men and women.


  1. I think this article is very apropos and in line with your thinking here.

    Make Having Children Socially Desirable Again

    The agenda in the West, with feminism a leading weapon, has been very anti-family as they readily admit. Anti-family means weaker citizens more easily controlled by the state. I have seen this effect directly. When you have family support you can make better more independently minded choices with more consideration of long term consequences. The atomized individual is a pawn.

    1. Female credential attainment levels are roughly causal factors in relation to fertility rates.

      I advocate punitive taxation on pet animals for those without children. Couch it in some kind of environmentalist terms to fool the liberal mind. There is a bit of a difference between the mgtow bachelor with one animal, and the female "hoarder".

  2. Surprised that it was teenage girls who reacted that. Its an age when historically parents have worried about their girls being too focussed on relationships to the detriment of their education etc. Now we have the reverse problem apparently. However, re the Girton girl: Her view was mistaken, no doubt, but was there something in Victorian culture she was reacting to? What made her think that her traditional role was merely to 'be a part'?

    1. That's a good question. I've heard different answers, for instance, that the industrial revolution decentred the family home, with the men going away to work and the children to school, thereby leaving women feeling that they were no longer at the centre of relationships as they once were and reacting emotionally against men in response.

      It's an interesting theory but I think the answer is more likely to have to do with the way the individuals are brought up to make sense of themselves and of their lives. The leading philosopher of Victorian England, J.S. Mill, held to the liberal idea that the primary good in life was "freedom" understood to mean maximum individual autonomy. This was held to give life its value and meaning. Mill himself published an essay in 1869 arguing that this understanding of life should also be applied to women (his essay first took shape in the 1850s), which meant that women should develop independently of men and family life, i.e. via education and careers.

      It would have been difficult to hold the line and for Victorian liberals to argue that the good in life is maximum individual autonomy but that women should still occupy a traditional role, whose value and meaning was not based on maximising individual autonomy, but on a different kind of self-development, one based on the significance of womanhood, of motherhood, of family, of the perpetuation of family lineage and of nation and so on.

  3. Hi Mark, as my wife and I become more and more engaged with our parenting responsibilities, there are some interesting eventualities. To try and prevent this becoming a screed, I would say:

    • We model our husband/wife, man/woman, father/mother relationship to our boy and girl
    • We demand a big sister role from our daughter to her brother
    • We demand a brotherly, protective role from our son to his big sister
    • We demand an obedience from both children
    • We talk about marriage, even at their very young ages
    • We talk about responsibilities at their very young ages
    • We talk about, model and encourage character and principle
    • We teach and encourage an “others first” mentality
    • We show affection to both kids in spades

    As a strategy this has, so far, produced what my wife and I consider to be two well-adjusted kids, who will know what it means to be a man/husband/father and a woman/wife/mother when they grow up.

    This is the consequence of an integrated, modelling, and inter-dependent familial relationship.

    The autonomy theory is a lie, because we all engage with relationships, and we all need to know how these relationships operate best.

  4. I work in a large law firm and see this attitude all the time when meeting new university graduates. When asked why they want the job, the young men invariably say they want to learn from the best or they have a special skill to contribute. In other words, they relate themselves to working with others. The females (many, not all) on the other hand are brazenly ambitious. Half jokingly (to avoid sounding pretentious while still telling the truth) they will say "I want to be the best" or "I want to be partner". It's a subtle difference, but important.

  5. "There are also, of course, aspects of a young man's development, such as the cultivation of virtues like fortitude, which could be done solo, but much would be left out if it were left at this. And even a man who never marries is likely to develop aspects of who he is in relationship with others, such as his parents and siblings..."

    Or his fellow men in his tribe or political community -- this is political friendship, or true fraternity.

  6. Mark, relating to your comment about your female students reaction to the idea that picking a spouse is important.

    Canadian youtuber Stefan Molyneux (I generally don't follow him much) posted a video recently where he talks with a 32 year old Swedish woman who can't understand why she can't find a man who meets her standards. Her lack of self-awareness about why she can't find her ideal man is staggering.

    The video (a little over 1 hour long).