Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The left has its nutters

This is not serious political analysis. It's simply drawing your attention to a leftist rant, one which suggests that there exist individuals on the left who are consumed by hatred, paranoia and self-loathing. A commentator named "Earthrise" contributed the following to a left-wing Australian blog:

We have sold our souls for a flat screen TV, paid for with the blood and suffering of innocent brown people. The weight of our bad karma is darkening the sky.

You good people know the feeling after Howard won the 2004 election. Nobody cared that our once beautiful country brutally and illegally invaded a sovereign nation!! I am ashamed to say I am one of the people who considered moving to NZ. Not from disappointment, but out of fear (I have three young girls). Not fear of some pathetic terrorist, but of the creeping fascism in our country, and our people's acquiescence. Part of me wants these people to suffer, my countrypeople. They have betrayed everything that made this country great.

That part of me looks forward to the next Great Depression. For me, the poverty will be a kind of forced seachange. I am already making the adjustments. For the fat, lazy, greedy, apathetic majority, that dark part of me smiles at their coming fall. Then I remember, these are the people who voted for Hitler. To 'save' themselves, they will ride the wolf.

Charming, isn't it? It makes the political rants of Michael Leunig seem positively benign in comparison.

I'm not suggesting that Earthrise best represents the opinions of the mainstream left. But bear rants like this in mind when the left portrays itself as the caring, non-hating side of politics, or when a leftist media singles out figures on the right as extremists. The left is a little too smug about itself when categorising things this way.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Boy Danny

It's nearing Father's Day, so The Age devoted its Saturday magazine to the issue of men and masculinity.

Some of the men interviewed did a good job of responding to the set questions. Danny Katz, a humourist, was the notable exception.

For instance, the first question asked was "What do you consider men's greatest strength?" Peter FitzSimons, a sports journalist, answered "Our resilience. The ability to take the hits, get up, keep going." Peter Kundall, who presents a TV gardening show, answered "Probably their single-mindedness. That they can put their mind to something in a very concentrated way."

And Danny Katz? He replied "I'm not a big fan of men and I struggled to think of anything ... we're funny with our kids, we're goofy."

Poet Jaya Savage was asked "Do you feel you have to be the provider?" He answered, "Yes, I would like to be. In many ways I am a traditionalist at heart. I like the idea of providing ... Maybe it comes back to my childhood and single mother. I would like to have been able to help my mother in some way."

Peter Kundall, when asked "Are men expected to be too emotional now?", replied "One thing I've noticed in the past is that many women want men to behave in a more emotional way, but when they do, the women don't like them so much."

Peter FitzSimons responded to the question "How much a part of your identity is work?" with the answer, "First and foremost I identify as a husband and father ... I heavily identify with "I am a FitzSimons." What am I? I am of the FitzSimons family of Peats Ridge. I don't know why that is so strong in me ... but it is."

And Danny Katz? He told the reporter, "I'm the fanatical cleaner of the house, the primary cook. I'm the one dressing the kids in the morning, making the breakfasts."

When he was asked, "What would you change if you were in charge of shaping the way men are?," he said,

You mean, anything, like I'm a godlike figure? Well, obviously something went terribly wrong the first time round. So I'd want to extract some of that testosterone and make us a little gentler ... If I could change a behavioural thing I think all men should experience raising their child more. I'd make them spend the first year at home ... It softened me and made me care about her [his daughter] and children in general and the human race...

Notice how the other men are more strongly "natured" than Danny Katz; they are more strongly connected to their masculine identity in particular, and to traditional forms of identity in general.

Where does this leave Danny Katz? Should we admire him as a gentle, feminine soul who has relinquished an aggressive masculinity?

I advise reading on before drawing such a conclusion. First, it's difficult to admire a man whose effeminacy is so well-honed that he admits of his "nesting" habits that,

I plump cushions as soon as people stand up from the couch. I'm like Terence Conran, moving vases and jugs to get that exact angle. If I even have a tradesman coming around, I'll clean the house and create a little bit of "mood".

This does not make for heterosexual romance. He tells us,

I have no sense of romance whatsoever ... I'm not an intimate person. I wish I could be like that for her [his wife], and yet I can be like that with my kids. I don't know why.

Nor does it contribute to an adult male personality:

I get spiteful, bitter, more angry than upset and I always behave in very childish ways. I think I'm at about the same emotional level as a nine-year-old. Instead of getting upset, I just sort of sulk and put my head down and shuffle around and send off this horrible vibe and make the whole house unpleasant.

I wouldn't accuse Danny Katz of lacking intelligence or wit. It does seem, though, that Danny Katz's negative view of men has left him unusually immature and effeminate. Even at the age of 42, he has failed to connect to that part of his masculine nature which might have led him to reach a more substantial adult self.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The getting of wisdom

I've had the chance now to observe friends and family mature and settle into their adult lives of work and family. Gradually people figure out what's important and what's needed to make relationships work and how to deal with their own shortcomings.

So it certainly is possible for individuals to learn from their experiences and to get the basic things right.

The problem is ... it takes too long. I know a lot of people who finally reached their completed adult selves in their mid-30s, by which time their best chance to successfully partner and have children has often passed.

I was reminded of this when I read the following passage by American traditionalist Lawrence Auster:

The notion that man’s unaided reason is sufficient to form a good way of life and a good society is, of course, a defining belief of liberalism. By contrast, conservatives, starting with Burke, believe that one person or a group of persons do not know enough, that people cannot start from scratch in each generation and build a decent society, and therefore society depends to a great extent on the wisdom and experience of the past transmitted to the present via culture, laws, moral habits and traditions, religious teachings, accumulated know-how, and so on.

It is precisely a lesson of my generation that you can't expect every individual to start from scratch in acquiring knowledge. The kinds of lessons learnt by each generation need to be passed down as a kind of "short-cut" for the rising generation.

Of course this can be done directly through parents, but it helps too if the culture you inherit guides you to make wise decisions when young which your own experience later confirms.

And this cultural support my own generation did not have. The messages we received were derived more from political dictates than from traditional culture.

And so we had to battle through the confusion of being taught that there were no significant differences between men and women; that gender role reversal was the moral path; that it was liberating for women to act like "ladettes"; that the family was an oppressive patriarchal institution; that motherhood was demeaning to women; that men were collectively responsible for domestic violence; that the male provider role was oppressive to women; and that the Western tradition in general was privileged and prejudiced and to be considered in terms of guilt and apology.

We inhabited a kind of anti-culture, an imposed politics which acted rather as a hindrance to knowledge and development than as a vessel to pass on an accumulated wisdom.

I hope that my generation won't repeat the same mistake and that we will try to endow our own children with a supportive culture.

PS Take a look too at this item by Lawrence Auster on Angelina Jolie.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Appreciating American emails

Well done American emailers!

There is currently an important court case under way here in Victoria which will decide how much freedom of speech we are left with under the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.

Two Christian pastors are appealing against a decision that they contravened the Act by criticising Islam. The pastors had quoted the Koran as evidence that the Koran taught violence and that there is a practice of 'silent jihad' for spreading Islam.

An article in The Age newspaper has revealed that during the previous hearing of the case before Judge Higgins,

Judge Higgins had to assure the Foreign Affairs Department he was not considering jailing the pastors after a flood of emails from America.

So support from abroad was taken seriously and has perhaps helped to limit the severity with which the Act will be imposed.

So to those American emailers who took the trouble to contact Australian officialdom, once again, thank you!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Domestic violence in 1831

Can women commit acts of domestic violence? Some interesting evidence is to be found in The English Dane, a biography of Jorgen Jorgenson I'm currently reading.

Jorgenson led an eventful life. Born in Denmark, he led a small-scale coup and became the ruler of Iceland for two months. He lived in England, worked as a spy for a while, but fell foul of the law and was sent to Tasmania as a convict.

In 1831 he married Norah Corbett against the advice of his employer, Thomas Anstey. Anstey wrote in his report on the proposed nuptials:

I have often told Jorgenson that his ruin is inevitable if he marries this woman. His infatuated attachment to her has now existed a long time ... I know nothing to the woman's prejudice, save that of being much addicted to liquor, and of her propensity to beat and scratch Jorgenson when she is intoxicated.

Jorgenson's biographer, Sarah Bakewell, adds the following:

He and Norah were often seen staggering in the streets of Hobart and the various Midlands towns where they lived over the next few years, she often laying into him verbally or physically. Jorgenson himself was no lamb ... but her attacks on him seemed more frequent and frenzied; she was half his age and twice as ferocious ...

But, as Anstey recognized, Jorgenson was in love, and there was no reasoning with him. Norah was charismatic at her best, and Jorgenson felt protective toward her.

So it seems that the existence of female domestic violence stretches back a long way, and that alcohol abuse contributes to such violence just as it does for men.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The disappointing truth about Oxfam

Oxfam is not what you think it is. It markets itself in a straightforward way as an aid organisation working to overcome third world poverty. What it doesn’t tell you in its marketing campaigns is that it has a left-wing political agenda which is central to its activities.

Did you know, for instance, that Oxfam has set itself the task of overturning masculinity on a global scale?

Oxfam should really call itself Oxfem, as its activities are based on feminist patriarchy theory.

Patriarchy theory begins with the liberal idea that what matters is our freedom to choose to act according to our individual will. This means that having the money and social power to enact our will is a crucial good.

Men have more of this kind of formal, public power; patriarchy theorists can’t allow that this is due to the innate temperament of men, so they claim that gender roles are merely oppressive social constructs and that the male prominence in public life is due to a power grab by men as a class at the expense of oppressed women.

The conclusion drawn by patriarchy theorists is that there is a systemic gender inequity in society which must be overturned in the interests of social justice.

The theory doesn’t work on several levels. First, the original premise is too limited. Yes, it’s good to have individual choice, but this is not the only good in life. People get married despite the inevitable limitations placed on individual autonomy, because they want to experience other important goods, such as marital love and fulfilling our instincts to be husbands and fathers, and mothers and wives.

Second, it’s true that issues of power do inevitably play a role in social life, but not as exclusively as patriarchy theory suggests. You can’t understand the male effort to be a breadwinner solely in terms of power relationships; it has much to do with a man’s instinct to provide and to contribute to the well-being of his family through competitive activity. Similarly, patriarchy theorists are dismissive of the traditional maternal role because they view it as having an inferior power status within a patriarchy; women who pursue the motherhood role, though, are likely to do so because they consider it important to their own children and to their communities, and not out of any consideration of power relationships.

Third, the idea that gender is a social construct flies in the face of both common sense and modern science. The two sexes are hardwired differently and are not interchangeable; if social conditioning does exist, it is to try to draw out the better qualities within masculinity and femininity, rather than to create them from scratch.

None of this, though, has occurred to our Oxfam activists. They remain mired within a 1970s style patriarchy feminism. They proclaim on their website that:

Throughout the organization, we will base our work on a common understanding that gender equality is key to overcoming poverty and suffering.

And they mean it! For instance, Oxfam through its website suggests that a helpful way to think about men and masculinity would include:

the invisibility of gender issues to most men and the notion of the ‘patriarchal dividend’ (i.e. the privileges that all men draw upon simply by virtue of being male) … the dominance of specific forms of (‘hegemonic’4) masculinity; how masculinities are actively constructed; the costs associated with masculinity for both men and women; and the dynamic nature of masculinities over time.

Here we have some of the key themes of patriarchy theory: the idea of men as a privileged class; the idea that masculinity is a construct; and the idea that masculinity is harmful for both men and women.

Note too the term ‘hegemonic masculinity’. If you scroll down to the footnote you get the following explanation of the term:

‘Hegemonic masculinity’ is a concept that draws upon the ideas of Gramsci. It refers to the dynamic cultural process which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women.

So Oxfam is happily guided in its philosophy and work by the ideas of Gramsci, the founder of the Italian Communist Party. Gramsci is famous for his idea that a direct revolutionary assault on the capitalist state was unlikely to occur in the developed West, as the bourgeoisie ruled not just by force, but through assent. The bourgeoisie had won this assent by achieving “hegemony”: by having its values dominate society culturally. Gramsci, therefore, counselled a “long march through the institutions”, in which Marxists would aim to win key positions of cultural power, and influence millions to their own beliefs.

Consider then that Oxfam believes that masculinity is harmful and that the way to overcome it is to work toward an anti-masculine cultural hegemony. How does this work in practice?

One example is the Oxfam attempt to “capture” schools. Oxfam declares on its website:

Governments have a responsibility to develop gender equality in teaching through the courses and practical materials they provide. Teacher education needs to equip teachers to promote an understanding of the profound nature of gender inequity … Ensuring that gender equity is a central theme throughout a programme of teacher education … is likely to ingrain understanding more effectively.

What does Oxfam suggest in practice might be done to favour girls in schools? One “reform” they propose is:

Methods of evaluation and assessment: examinations tend to dominate assessment, but other methods should be used, such as continuous assessment.

Oxfam also recommends changing ways of “teaching, learning and interaction within the classroom”, including:

the breaking down of hierarchies and power networks .. Head teachers and teachers would have a greater understanding of the conditions which lead to bullying, racism, sexism, and homophobic behaviour … some value would be placed on students’ experience and knowledge, with students being more actively involved in planning and evaluation of their work. Students would be encouraged to challenge narrow-minded concepts, and prejudices, and envision an expanded and divergent future.

And on it goes. You can see from these quotes how politically motivated Oxfam is; they don’t just want to provide an education for the poor, they want to rework the nature of education to achieve “hegemony” for their own political philosophy.

I’ll finish with one last example of the central role of patriarchy theory in Oxfam’s work. Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme commissioned a report “Men, Masculinities and Poverty in the UK”. In the executive summary of this report we read:

Oxfam’s approach to poverty – the importance of gender analysis

The study highlights the importance of coherent gender analysis … Gender analysis is central to Oxfam’s understanding of the root causes of global poverty … if gender relations are to be transformed …

Changing masculinities, changing men

… masculinities are actively ‘produced’ by individuals, rather than being programmed by genes … It is sometimes argued … that being ‘natural’ masculinity is impervious to reform. But our research demonstrates the reverse … Clearly there are risks involved in attempts to reshape masculinity …

The quote “masculinities are actively ‘produced’ by individuals, rather than being programmed by genes” highlights the liberalism which is ultimately at work behind all of this.

If you’re a liberal you believe that your very humanity is defined by your ability to shape who you are through your own individual will. The idea that a man will be shaped in a significant way by a natural inborn masculinity conflicts directly with this liberal belief.

So what the Oxfam liberals have done is to try to make masculinity fit in better with liberal theory; first, by insisting it is multiple (so that there is a choice between types); second, by insisting that the individual actively produces it, rather than masculinity itself shaping the individual; third, by denying that it is genetic and consequently hardwired; and fourth, by asserting that it can be reformed and reshaped according to rational, political, human design.

I doubt that we should be too worried about the effect of all this on traditional masculinity; it will endure despite Oxfam wasting aid money pursuing such objectives. Still, people who donate money to Oxfam in good faith should know that it is not simply the aid organisation it presents itself as in its advertising, but a political organisation with a radical agenda based on patriarchy theory.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Poor rich women?

In the papers today is the news that female millionaires will outnumber male ones in Britain within 15 years.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear complaints about men earning more than women. As I've often argued, the feminists who make these complaints seem to assume that the money men earn is for themselves: that it is somehow "male" money which men pocket for their own use.

In reality, much of the money men earn goes to their wives. So the more men earn, the wealthier women are likely to become. That's what's happening in Britain, where the fact of higher "male" earnings is soon going to co-exist with a higher number of female millionaires.

More Les

My apologies if this post is a little self-indulgent. The thing is, I really enjoy the political poetry of Les Murray. Here's another one, the major part of "A Stage in Gentrification" from Subhuman Redneck Poems (1996).

Most Culture has been an East German plastic bag
pulled over our heads, stifling and wet,
we see a hotly distorted world
through crackling folds and try not to gag.

Sex, media careers, the Australian republic
and recruited depression are in that bag
with scorn of God, with self-abasement studies
and funding's addictive smelling-rag.

Eighty million were murdered by police
in the selfsame terms and spirit which nag
and bully and set the atmosphere
inside the East German plastic bag.

It wants to become our country's flag ...

Maybe you had to experience the leftist ascendancy of the mid-90s in Australia to "get" this poem. It brought me immediately back to the atmosphere of the campus arts faculties of the time; the term "self-abasement studies" is especially acute.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Becoming the embodied subject

If you look at an Australian $50 note, you will see a picture of David Unaipon, an Aboriginal writer and inventor. Below this picture Unaipon is briefly quoted as follows:

As a full-blooded member of my race I think I may claim to be the first – but I hope, not the last – to produce an enduring record of our customs, beliefs and imaginings.

David Unaipon appears to be an admirable representative of the Australian Aborigines. However, what strikes me about his appearance on our currency is the double standard involved. Only an Aborigine could get away with expressing pride in his race, culture and traditions; if a white Australian were to do the same, he would not get his face on the $50 note, but would probably be denounced as a racist or bigot.

So why do we have such a double standard? Why is the majority population expected to have no serious pride in their own ethnicity, whilst at the same time celebrating the ethnicity of others?

The answer, I believe, has to do with the basic philosophy adopted by white intellectuals, namely liberalism. Liberalism asserts that to be human, we must be free to create who we are through our own will and reason. This means that we are most human when we are least subject to any qualities which might pre-set our identity or influence our choices.

To put this another way, liberals prefer to see the individual as an atomised, thinking and choosing mind, unconstrained by any inherited nature or tradition.

In a discussion at View from the Right, the American traditionalist, Jim Kalb, offered a similar explanation for the double standard:

My guess is that it’s a consequence of the nature of the liberal individual, which is the same as the Cartesian ego—a disembodied subject with no qualities at all other than the free-floating ability to have experiences and make choices.... The Cartesian ego isn’t really part of the world of experience. How, after all, could something with no qualities be embodied? So perhaps there’s a feeling that it’s more legitimate for Third World types, who don’t seem to be free floating Cartesian egos, to be embodied and thus part of the world of experience. The feeling then is that white people are Cartesian abstractions while nonwhites are vibrant concrete realities. [Emphasis added.]

If Jim Kalb is right, it would help to explain why some liberals are so willing to accept the demise of the West. For instance, Jens Orback, the Swedish Democracy Minister, said earlier this year,

We must be open and tolerant towards Islam and Muslims because when we become a minority, they will be so towards us.

Orback has already accepted the future dominance of Islam and a Muslim population in his own country. Perhaps he does so because he can only conceive of the existing Swedish population as being disembodied liberal subjects, whereas the non-Western immigrants carry a real, embodied tradition and identity – and therefore represent something of greater weight and worth in the world.

Could there be a clue to a strategy for Western survival in this? Perhaps what the Western remnant needs to do is to emphasise strongly that they do not belong within the category of “liberal subject”. If the remnant were to insist clearly enough on a separate identity as an embodied subject, then perhaps Western liberals would accept that we too belong in a different category to the liberal individual, just as non-whites do.

This would mean asserting, as a matter of course, that we embody qualities which we have not chosen for ourselves: it would mean, for instance, recognising the importance to us of our manhood or womanhood and of our particular national or ethnic traditions.

There was a time when we did do this as a matter of course. The further back in time you go, the less the influence of liberalism, and the more clearly you find expressions of European ‘embodiment’.

Let me give just two examples. Jorgen Jorgenson and Elizabeth Fenton were both settlers in Tasmania in the 1820s and 30s. Jorgenson had already had a colourful career. He was born and raised a Dane, but in 1809, when Denmark and England were at war, he led a coup against the Danish administration in Iceland, with the support of some English merchants. He ruled the country for two months, before being deposed.

Whilst in power, Jorgenson wrote letters to Icelandic officials, demanding that they pledge their loyalty. Here is how one Icelandic official, Jon Guthmundsson, replied to Jorgenson:

Who are you? You are born a Danish subject … But what are you now? You have not become a British subject, yet you have ceased to be what you were and should be, and also ceased to be a human being. Whoever and whatever you are, you have insulted me by assuming me foolish enough to be seduced, cowardly enough to be fearful, and dishonest enough to ignore honour and duty.

The Icelandic official berates Jorgenson for his betrayal of his native country and for the ambiguous status of his identity. He does not see such ambiguity as a liberation from the “prison of ethnicity”, but as a loss of an essential human quality. The Icelandic official is a fully embodied white subject.

Jorgenson was already living in Tasmania when Elizabeth Fenton set sail in 1828 to become a settler there. Her husband had served as a soldier in India, so she began her journey from India in a Muslim vessel, the Hamoud Shaw. After praising the Arab captain she wrote,

He has one European on board who holds the office of chief mate. He makes me quite melancholy. He is English by name and complexion, but his tastes, manners and his scruples, not to say his religion, are Arab.

He is the son of a Scotch clergyman, but for many years has been leading his present life, trading between Muscat and Mozambique. Muscat is, in his imagination, what Paris is to a Frenchman ... His converse turns on murders, executions, shipwrecks, his reading is the works of Voltaire and Paine, of which he has read just enough to unsettle his belief.

Poor fellow! though it always makes me nervous to hear him speak, I pity him too; he may not always have been what he now is; has he been made this [way] by disappointment or alienation from the humanising relationships of life?

Elizabeth Fenton was similarly disconcerted by the existence of a Greek convert amongst the crew:

The crew are a mixture of Bengalees, Arabs and negro slaves. Among this crowd there is, - Oh! sad to write it! – a Greek, a native of Athens, a Moslem now by adopted faith and practice.

Little reckons he of past time; Marathon is no more to him than Mozambique. He would rather have a curry than all the fame of his ancestors.

Couldn’t we apply this last sentence to your average disembodied modern liberal: “he would rather have a curry than all the fame of his ancestors”? Elizabeth Fenton, though, pre-dates this mentality; for her, a connection to ancestry and to homeland is the natural condition of man, disrupted only by “alienation from the humanising relationships of life”.

She too associates the human with the embodied subject, and she does so with the confidence which we need to return to if we are to clearly distinguish ourselves from the suicidal category of “disembodied liberal subject”.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Who are the victims of violence?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released a survey on personal safety in Australia. As reported in today's papers, the survey finds that men are twice as likely as women to be victims of physical violence or threats (1 in 10 men as opposed to 1 in 20 women).

Women were more likely to experience sexual violence than men (1.6 to .6) - note, though, that men are still a significant component even in this category of violence.

The statistics don't support the usual feminist take on violence, in which an oppressor male enacts violence against an oppressed female to uphold patriarchal control. It's difficult to accept this view when violence is mostly directed against men themselves.

Somalis invade Melbourne school

(I don't often report on crime, but I'll make an exception for this story as I doubt that it will be covered in the mainstream media.)

Yesterday, a teacher at Macleod College in the northern suburbs of Melbourne found his classroom invaded by a group of Somalis armed with baseball bats, seeking vengeance on a Year 8 boy for comments allegedly made to a Year 10 boy at the school.

What's truly astonishing about this story is that the Somali gang did not consist of teenage friends of the Year 10 boy, but of parents!

It's disturbing, really, that members of a group of refugees who have been in this part of Melbourne for such a short period of time (just a few years) feel so bold as to stage an armed invasion of a classroom.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Anthony Browne on immigration

A few years ago, Anthony Browne, an environment editor of the Times, wrote a most interesting article The folly of mass immigration.

Browne's article is a very effective rebuttal of a pro-immigration report, People Flow. He challenges the following four assumptions made in this report:

1) The People Flow report claims that mass immigration is normal. Browne points out that only 3% of people on the planet live outside the land of their birth, and that the current scale of migration from developing countries to the west is historically unprecedented rather than being a normal occurrence.

2) The report assumes that the migration flows which are now taking place cannot be stopped. Browne cites successful immigration restrictions enacted in the US in 1924 and more recently in Denmark and the Netherlands as evidence that migration flows can be deterred.

3) Browne also challenges the assumption that mass immigration is to be mostly regarded as beneficial. He notes that mass immigration adds to overcrowding in European countries and deprives developing countries of much of their educated class (with Africa having lost a third of its professionals to the west).

He points out too that the option of mass emigration can discourage poorer nations from adopting policies designed to create a self-sustaining society and economy. For instance, in 2000 the then president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, was asked how her country planned to feed, clothe, house and employ the many millions being added to the rapidly growing population. She replied: "We'll send them to America."

4) Browne also takes issue with the assumption that immigration is a right of individuals. He believes instead that it's a privilege and that those who profess to believe in democracy ought to allow a population to have democratic control over immigration policy.

Finally, Browne writes at some length on the question of hypocrisy; namely, that it is only Western populations who are expected to give up their own distinct existence through the process of mass migration.

For instance, in 2002, the British government gave full UK passports to 200,000 people living in British overseas territories, such as Montserrat. The inhabitants were allowed to live in Britain, but there was no right for the British to live in the territories.

How was this justified? The foreign office minister stated that giving British citizens the right to live in the territories would "risk fundamentally altering the social, cultural and economic fabric of the territories."

Here is a classic double standard: it's thought wrong for Britons to migrate somewhere and change the "social, cultural and economic fabric" of the host country, but right for the same process to occur within Britain itself.

I've only skimmed the surface of what's in Browne's article; I encourage readers to look through the entire piece.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Role reversal in the family: what does the research say?

In the modern scheme of things gender is not supposed to matter. So a lot of people look forward to traditional family roles being overthrown. Some even promote the idea of a gender role reversal in which women take over the provider role and men stay home to look after the children.

But is such a role reversal either possible or desirable? Before answering this question, consider some research on Australian families undertaken jointly by academics at the University of Melbourne and The Pennsylvania State University.

The researchers are openly sympathetic to the feminist quest for a non-traditional family. Their findings, though, are likely to be of most interest to traditionalists.

Where to start? First, the researchers see little future in a genuine, Mr Mom style, role reversal. They note that this family type is insignificant in number, representing less than 2% of all families (p.20). They also point out the contradiction in telling women to abandon the traditional motherhood role for (supposedly) being unfulfilling and then urging men to adopt it (p.2).

The researchers, therefore, focus instead not on a complete gender role reversal but on a partial change of roles: one in which women become the main breadwinners by earning at least 10% more than their partners. This is a more significant family type, as in any one year 20% of Australian families will fall into the “female provider” category.

The 20% figure is, however, misleading as the female will only be the main provider in many of these families temporarily. The researchers, therefore, looked at the situation over two years, rather than one, and found that in 13.9% of families the woman was the main provider over both years. The researchers label the women in these 13.9% of families persistent female breadwinners. (Note that the percentage of persistent female providers would decline for every year added to the survey.)

This brings us to a significant question. What kinds of family outcomes are associated with persistent female breadwinner families as opposed to the more traditional persistent male breadwinner families (which represent 62.1% of families)?

The researchers, despite their feminist sympathies, readily admit that the outcomes are best in male provider families (p.6). They quote the work of family sociologists who have found that,

male breadwinner families with women specialising in unpaid childrearing and housework are superior to other forms in providing stability, continuity and marital happiness ... an argument recently extended to include families where the woman is part-time employed and the man remains the primary earner ... The existence of economic persistent female breadwinner families to the extent they indeed involve low levels of commitment by the man to family, and to the extent they rear fewer children, supports [this] view.

So men in female provider families show “low levels of commitment” to their families compared to traditional men. The researchers, though, aren’t about to give up. Quite reasonably, they investigate whether there might be two different kinds of female provider families.

The researchers looked at the answers given by men in female provider families to questions about “gender equity” (the men were effectively asked whether they thought that men and women were interchangeable in their roles within the family). The men who scored highly were placed in a “gender equity” group and the rest in an “economic” group.

It’s clear that the researchers were pleased to find that the “gender equity” group of men, those who believed in the ideal of a genderless family, measured up to a feminist ideal of family life better than the “economic” group who simply lacked qualifications to compete in the labour market.

What is the feminist ideal looked for by the researchers? It is a family type in which both the man and woman reduce their working hours to spend more time with their families; in which men support women adopting the role of the main provider; in which fertility remains high; and in which men and women evenly share child-care and housework.

In table 4 (p.16) there is a comparison between the “economic” type of female provider families and the “gender equity” type. You can see from this table why the researchers believe that the “gender equity” type of family measured up better to their feminist criteria: the gender equity type of men spent an additional 3.5 hours per week with their children compared to the economic type; there was a more even division of housework between men and women (1.3 hours difference compared to 8.2 hours); amongst those employed, the gender equity type worked fewer hours (36.9 compared to 41.1); and the fertility rate was higher (by roughly 50%).

Sounds good? The researchers saw at least a glimmer of hope in the gender equity model. In their summary they reported that,

The equity oriented persistent female breadwinner families represent, as we supposed, not so much a reversal of traditional roles as a family form that offers economic and family success in tandem with gender equity. This group provides cause for hope for a feminist vision of families that can simultaneously achieve all three objectives.

From here, though, it is all downhill for the “gender equity” type of family. First, the researchers themselves point to one major problem: that of the 13.9% of female provider families, only 2.9% were of the “equity” type. This type of family is therefore not very significant statistically, and if there is a growth in female provider families, it is likely to bring about a larger increase in “economic” rather than “equity” type arrangements.

More importantly, the equity type families only look good in comparison to the economic type families. When compared to the traditional male provider families they don’t measure up well at all.

To understand this best you have to compare the data for traditional families in table 3 on p.14 with the data for the equity type families in table 4 on p.16.

First, consider the issue of fertility. In male provider families, there is an average of 1.7 children compared to only 1.05 in equity type families. Why is there such a difference? Those equity type couples who do choose to become parents tend to have multiple children, but there are too many who choose not to have children at all. So the commitment to family, in respect of children, is much less consistent amongst equity type couples compared to male provider families.

Then there is the issue of employment. One weakness of the equity type model is that the commitment of men to employment is much weaker. Only 53% of such men are employed full-time compared to 95.7% of male provider men. The traditional men work considerably longer weekly hours (45.8), compared to equity men (36.9).

Nor do equity men use their non-working hours to spend more time with their children. Traditional men spend 9.2 hours per week with their children, compared to 8.7 hours for equity type men.

One other striking statistic. Equity type women spend only 5.3 hours per week with their own children! This means that traditional provider type men not only spend 5 hours a week longer at work than feminist type women, they also spend nearly 4 hours longer with their children.

To summarise: traditional male provider families represent 62.1% of Australian families; feminist type families only 2.9%. Traditional men spend nine more hours per week in paid employment than equity type men, but still manage to spend more time with their children. Women in equity type families spend very little time with their own children and are far more likely to opt to remain childless.

Perhaps, then, gender does matter. Isn’t it possible that a man who finds a masculine role within the family will be far more strongly committed to both work and family life? Isn’t it possible that men who lose their masculine role within a family will become demoralised (the “economic” type) and be less inclined to father children, or commit in a stable way to paid work, or devote time to their children? Isn’t it also possible that men and women who are reluctant to constrain their individualism with gender (the “equity” type), will also be reluctant to constrain their individualism with the burdens of parenthood?

Finally, let me point out that the data deals a fatal blow to the negative stereotype of traditional men, namely that they are not pulling their weight within families. In fact, traditional men ought to take a bow: the data shows that they are more actively committed to family life than either feminist type men or feminist type women. They are more likely to have children, to work to support them, and to spend time with them. They don’t deserve to be lectured by feminists, whose commitment to family life is weak in comparison.