Saturday, June 30, 2007

The man merely has to show up at the wedding?

Back in April I posted on some research which found that traditionalist women were happier in their marriages:

adherence to traditional beliefs and practices regarding gender seems to be tied not only to global marital happiness but also - surprisingly enough - to expressive patterns of marriage ...

Why wouldn't modernist, feminist marriages work as well? Part of the answer must be that patriarchy theory, on which much of modern feminism is based, leaves little room for successful relationships between men and women.

Patriarchy theory assumes that the aim of life is individual autonomy, in which there are no impediments to our choosing to do or be whatever we want. What then matters is the power to exercise autonomy. Patriarchy theory claims that society has been organised around a pattern of dominance and subordination, and that men as a dominant class enjoy a privilege of autonomy at the expense of women. This oppression of women by men is built into the structure of society, so that even love, marriage and motherhood are instruments of the patriarchal oppression of women.

It's not easy to create a marriage based on this political world view. For evidence of this, consider the recent discussion of marriage on the feminist website, I blame the patriarchy.

A few words from the writer of the marriage post will give you a flavour of patriarchy theory at work:

... marriage benefits not just individual men at the expense of individual women; it is the very foundation of global patriarchy

... Even modern American marriages between progressive, trendy hipsters are, at the least, fanciful or ironic reenactments of a gruesome misogynistic hegemony

..."Love" ... cannot withstand the pressures wrought by the power differential between dominator and dominated. Because all of society, not to mention the global economy, turns on the difference between two classes - oppressor and oppressed, man and woman, white and black, top and bottom - love ... morphs into a class struggle. Couples struggle against the world and each other for fidelity, for money, for sex, for kids, for individual happiness or fulfillment. Thus, marriage is "work" ... but it is woman who has to do most of it; the dude merely has to show up at the wedding.

... Your Nigel is different, of course, [but] he enjoys a privilege that you will never see for as long as you live. I allude to the privilege of personal sovereignty.

The discussion which follows (over 300 comments) largely follows the same kind of themes. Most of the comments include the following propositions:

1) What matters is autonomy/personal sovereignty. It's good to be selfish and act for yourself only.

2) Women have to do everything. Men as the privileged, autonomous class don't have to do anything in a marriage.

3) Even if men are great husbands and fathers and even if they are perfect feminist liberals, they are still a drag on autonomy and self-actualisation and you should be ready to divorce.

4) Marriage is to be approached as a struggle between two people with conflicting interests.

5) You shouldn't have kids either, no matter how great they are, because they are an impediment to autonomy.

6) It would be easier to be a lesbian living in a commune. Children should be raised as autonomous beings, in female communes. It's better for heterosexual women to be lonely, rather than capitulate.

I can't reproduce all the relevant comments, but here's a selection:

23. I'm married. To a great guy. He's kind. He's loving. He's an amazing father ... He never expects adulation, kudos, or any special recognition for participating in the running of the household. I have two kids, and I love them ... But sometimes I wish I had just done whatever the heck I wanted, whenever I wanted.

33. I blame the patriarchy for the way in which social expectations and assumptions result in marriage that confines and limits the potential to take chances and dare to please yourself before everyone else!

37. I would add: Don't have kids, either. They are the ultimate trap. Frankly, if I had the chance to do it over again I'd go the whole hog and be a radical feminist lesbian separatist and organise a collective somewhere.

42. I hear you. Every day I thank dog we don't have children.

43. Despite having a "good one" as a partner ... I'm afraid of having children and sinking deeper into the wife/mother role ... Living with or depending on others for essential pieces of your life opens you up to domination, period.

44. As for post-patriarchal child-rearing, I'm fond of Shulie's utopian sci-fi scenario: 'motherhood' is eradicated; kids are not 'raised' but instead are allowed full independence in a cooperative of assorted adults; 'childhood' ceases to be sentimentalized or romanticized; kids receive fully human status ...

62. ... the boundaries I selfishly set for myself now are often the only things that make me feel like I'm still an autonomous human being. And no, it's not him. He really embraces the idea of an equal marriage and puts it in action. But the broader culture sets it up a certain way and you can't avoid these problems. What I am left with is a situation where I feel like I'm battling him to set those boundaries ...

I want everything, just like men get to have, except without having an easy life buttressed by inequality.

73. Maybe the ideal would be feminist collectives, where we could find companionship and solidarity (and look after each others' kids), without the bonds and binds of marriage.

74. Amen, sister. You know there are times I really wished I was a lesbian. It just sucks to crave male companionship when you're a woman living in a patriarchy.

75. I have been married for almost seven years to a "good guy" ... I'm going to stick with my good guy for the time being, but I am proud to say that I'm no longer terrified of the idea of ending my marriage if I ever reach a point where I feel I can no longer handle the power differential.

77. My cousin became a wife two weeks ago ... The wedding was extremely depressing for me because, as so many of you have shared, the dude does as little as possible while she has been doing every f..... thing.

78. Don't settle for anyone who isn't perfect for you, a feminist, and comfortable with the idea of divorce.

85. It's so nice to have these sentiments expressed from a source not in my head. It helps me understand why I threw away my engagement to a generally lovely man.

And on and on it goes. It seems to me that once you accept the basic assumptions of patriarchy theory, you're unlikely to experience marriage and family life as positively as you might.

First, if you think that autonomy is the basic good in life, you're likely to resent the inevitable impositions that marriage and parenthood make on you. Second, if you think that men are inevitably privileged and made autonomous by patriarchy, then you won't even recognise, let alone appreciate, the sacrifices men make on behalf of their families. No matter how much a man attempts to follow feminist rules of marriage, he won't ever escape the taint of patriarchy.

Finally, if a woman sees her husband as someone who fundamentally takes something away from her, and whom she must struggle against to retain a human status, then resentments will come easily, as will thoughts of independence and divorce.

Is it any wonder that women with more traditionalist views of marriage generally experience a more satisfying relationship with their husbands?


  1. I followed your link and perused the "i blame the patriarchy" blog for a while. The woman is obviously intelligent but the radiation of bitterness is a little disorienting. For someone who presumably believes that men are unimportant and women are better off without them, she is obsessed with defining her life in terms of maleness - AGAINST maleness, true, but that's just another way of defining it in terms of maleness.

    The fact that she kiddingly repeatedly calls herself a "spinster aunt" tells me that thoughts of singleness and childlessness are never far from her. She is trying to keep her mind occupied 24/7 with thoughts of fine food, literature, and above all snarky anti-male putdowns so that she doesn't notice too closely that she is alone and it's too late to have children.

    Her tone towards men is very much like Hitler's tone towards Jews. It's all about an obsession with how this other group is responsible for all the ills of your own group, and how you don't need them and would be better off without them. How the other group is committed to oppressing and exploiting your group. It has to be mentally draining to be so filled with anger all the time.

    I know a woman something like that blogger. Intelligent, erudite, good with a snappy phrase, and bitter. It's hard to be around people like that who radiate so much resentment and do it with sharp words. It's a shame that she out there spreading this poisonous attitude to young women who are then at risk of putting off learning to form a real, satisfying relationship with a man and to raise a family of their own until it is too late, and they end up another self-declared "spinster aunt" trying to make wine and literature substitute for the the fundamental needs within us all for family, children, and a mate.

  2. Mark, good comment. Perhaps I should have noted in the post that the woman who writes the "I blame the patriarchy" site is a lesbian.

    Nonetheless, what you point out remains true about her and the women who comment at the site.

    There is an obsession with defining their lives in terms of maleness, perhaps because they have defined maleness as the fully human condition, and they have therefore undermined a positive connection to womanhood.

    In particular, I agree with your comment that:

    It's a shame that she's out there spreading this poisonous attitude to young women who are then at risk of putting off learning to form a real, satisfying relationship with a man and to raise a family of their own until it is too late.

    That's exactly the problem. You get comments at the site like the following from "Rainbow Girl":

    41. This is like reading a horror story set in the future. My future.

    Rainbow Girl then goes on to talk about how having babies even at age 35 now seems too soon:

    62. I am thinking about having kids down the line, but as thirty/thirty-five starts to look younger and younger every year I have huge worries about how that would play out.

    Patriarchy theory is yet another hurdle to family formation.

  3. I think it's also relevant to talk about the lesbian sexual disposition that probably lay at the core of "patriarchy theory."

    Can it be that true lesbians have an innate revulsion for heterosexuality, i.e., male sexuality? Are they heterophobes and perhaps genetically-predisposed to undermining our "species?"

    Isn't "patriarchy theory" really just a liberal cover for these men and children-hating lesbians?

    Or, are these lesbian supremacists beholden to the idea that in the very near future they will be able to procreate and survive without men?

    Afterall, lesbians need not fear a patriarchy that they are genetically-predisposed to avoid out of lack of want or need.

  4. Mr. Richardson: "There is an obsession with defining their lives in terms of maleness, perhaps because they have defined maleness as the fully human condition, and they have therefore undermined a positive connection to womanhood."

    Ironically, these feminist idiots are striving to become male in a struggle against the masculine.


    Which is why, with the irrational bitterness I've had to deal with among girls such as "Rainbow Girl," I can't help but think "sucked in."

    If this is what they want, then so be it.

    After being vilified as a male at University over so many years by feminist academics through a politicised curriculum, and after having the Germaine Greers of the world acknowledged as credible authorities on the topic of relationships, I simply must confess that I take great comfort thinking these modern feminists will literally be going mad as the realisation sets in that they are independent, successful, alone, infertile, and empty inside.

    My only consolation whenever I hear one of them refer to me as an oppressive patriarch, is the knowledge that their raging hormones will drive them insane with sorrow, regret and loneliness for "choosing" their "lifestyles."

    Like I said: "sucked in."

  5. Lord above! What an astonishing pile of crap! If I were this kind of woman, I think I would slit my own throat.

    Is it any wonder that women with more traditionalist views of marriage generally experience a more satisfying relationship with their husbands?

    Well, you just can't be happy in marriage if all you think about is yourself.

  6. Mark R, how you can read this sort of guff and remain apparently so calm, is utterly beyond me!

  7. There is much truth here, but the grand integrating theme remains unvoiced:

    A man must become.
    A woman simply is.

    The two sexes are more different psychically than physically, and any attempt to deny those differences in the name of some sociopolitical outcome is destined to produce great misery. We're reaping the consequences as we speak.

  8. Mr. Richardson,

    I don't think it is entirely correct to assert that the pursuit of autonomy lay at the core of "patriarchy theory." I think it is more correct to suggest that biological homosexuality lay at the core of "patriarchy theory."

    I believe that a real revulsion for heterosexuality is the impetus behind "patriarchy theory." The "theory" then attracts mainstream appeal by gaining cover by immersing itself in the idea of the liberal first principle of complete autonomy.

  9. Thordaddy,

    There's a distinction here between:

    a) How the theory itself is structured.


    b) What is the real motivation for people constructing or adopting the theory.

    My post was really set at the first level. The theory itself is structured around questions of autonomy.

    Things do become more complicated when you bring in the second point.

    I don't think it's as straightforward as identifying lesbianism as the motivating factor.

    It's true that lesbians in the 1970s were very prominent in the feminist movement, and that Kate Millett, whose work Sexual Politics was influential in setting out a modern version of patriarchy theory, was a lesbian.

    There have been, though, plenty of earlier models of patriarchy theory, some going back to the 1600s, formulated by decidedly heterosexual men and women.

    They all seem to start from the idea that humanity is contingent (we can be more or less human) depending on our capacity to determine our life through individual reason.

    Women are then identified as being less autonomous and therefore as being less equal in their human status.

    This is pronounced to be a product of men holding women back artificially to serve the interests of men, rather than a natural expression of masculinity and femininity. Masculinity and femininity are held to be mere social constructs.

    Women, it is asserted, can do all things, even the most "masculine" of things, as well as, or better than, men.

    This is the gist of what Francois Poullain de la Barre wrote in 1673 and of what Mary Wollstonecraft claimed in 1792.

    It seems to me that once you accept the first principles, then the rest follows logically. It then becomes difficult to refuse the claims of patriarchy theory in principle.

    Therefore, the claims of feminists to be acting to achieve "equality" have tended to be accepted by the liberal establishment, even by those men who are, in their personal lives, conservative heterosexual fathers and family men.

    The theory, though, is vulnerable on several grounds. First, the initial claims about our contingent humanity are arbitrary - it is something which is merely assumed to be true and which can't be proven in any decisive way.

    Second, the claim that masculinity and femininity are social constructs can now be shown to be false on scientific grounds.

    So there is no lack of opportunity to explode the theory.

  10. Thordaddy,

    A few further observations. I've had some chance to observe the kinds of women who become activist feminists. I think they include:

    a) lesbians
    b) conscientious girls brought up by their parents or teachers to be feminists
    c) girls going through teenage depression and insecurity
    d) political women looking for a cause
    e) young women who have suffered abuse or dysfunctional family lives

    Of these women, the ones who are most likely to keep the faith into middle-age are:

    a) those with more serious mental health issues (e.g. severe depression)
    b) lesbians
    c) those with a severe dysfunction in their family background

    The others are much more likely to eventually compromise. They might continue to call themselves feminists, but they'll end up becoming wives and mothers.

    There's a complaint about these "backsliders" in the comments at I blame the patriarchy:

    135. Suddenly these feminist women are having babies and telling me that it "just doesn't make sense to keep working" ... they assert it is noble and radical to devote oneself selflessly to raising one's children rather than selfishly pursue and maintain their own self-sufficiency.

  11. Mr. Richardson,

    Theoretically, a biologically predisposed lesbian has the least to fear in terms of autonomy by living in any number of patriarchal Western societies.

    Yet, they are disproportionally represented amongst those who advocate most heavily on issues such as "patriarchal theory," abortion, "gay" marriage and feminism. Why? Theoretically, they are biologically predisposed to ascertain these things (men, children, marriage) as irrelevant to them as autonomous individuals most exemplified by their lesbianism. But, this does not explain the animus for men, children and marriage that imminates from these homosexual extremists.

    I think it is true to say that the patriarchy demands chastity from its women and in return these women are provided civilization. But what about lesbians who see this sexual oppression as inimical to their being?

    It seems to me that those who are currently at the forefront of pushing "patriarchy theory" are much less worried about their individual autonomy (lesbians and homosexuals in general have the least amount of obligations to society) and more intent on bashing our civilization to their own autonomous benefit.

  12. As Francis stated:

    "A man must become.
    A woman simply is.

    Which makes feminism so appealing to most women because it simply ‘demands’ that concessions & rights be handed to them. There is no looking at nature, men or the world as a whole. All that matters to these narcissists is that they’re ‘safer’ & ‘better’ than anyone else on the planet. The fact that feminists have to ‘share’ (read that word again) - the planet with the rest of earth’s inhabitants is a willfully BIG blindspot to them.

    The relationship archetype between man & woman cannot just be ‘female’.

    Over the last few decades as feminism has become the ‘orthodox’ view in which we should conduct the relationship dynamic between the sexes (which is to say; primarily a ‘female-centric’ viewpoint) , we find that men are disappearing from women’s lives.

    Families are much rarer today.
    Singleness (Read: individuality & autonomy) is very common.

    Since women (in general) fear being ‘alone’ MUCH more than men – I constantly wonder, “What are women doing listening to feminism?”. The answer of course is, that feminism feeds women unworkable fantasies. It moulds them (largely) into females that no man with any self-respect (which is a man that women like) would have anything to do with.

    Feminist can keep rattling off comments designed to induce ‘guilt’ & ‘fear’ among men (just like it so easily does to women) – but men tend to base their final decisions (whether today or in years to come) on reason. That means that when men finally reach their limit of uncompromising ‘women’ in their lives - they will eventually want nothing more to do with them. This will filter down to the younger men over the generations (as it has with older feminists instructing young girls over the decades) – and we will be lucky if we don’t end up dividing the planet in two (hows THAT for real ‘equality) – just so the sexes can co-exist on this world.

    I have little to no compassion or sympathy for feminists. I’m with Kilroy on this.

    Feminists have a lot of bitter fruit to sow from their planting.
    Eat up everyone.


  13. My own real life experience with real human beings tells me Putnam's findings tell us nothing about the inherent nature of humanity. People of diverse ethnic backgrounds can live rich, joyous civic lives together in democratic communities. But more importantly, I believe such a community is desirable perhaps necessary to the future of humanity. That alone makes it worth fighting for. From Freddrick Douglass to Martin Luther King heroic people in America have fought against tremendous odds for a more just, socially and ethnically integrated society... and achieved significant successes from which we have all benefited. Republicans (black and white) after the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement in the middle of the last century faced struggles far more daunting than the present generation has ever faced. Despite their struggle, they did not give up on the justice inherent to a diverse, racially integrated society. For us (Americans) to give up now would not only be a profound moral failing, but would surrender the ideals of universal freedom that remain America's greatest contributions to humanity.

    Jim Labbe
    Portland, Oregon

  14. Jim, you have managed to turn a process of national suicide into a heroic quest for universal freedom and justice.

    Is changing traditional America into modern Brazil really necessary for the future of humanity? Or for justice?

    Is there more freedom in modern Brazil than there was in traditional America?

    To be honest, I'm tending increasingly to think that diversiticrats are the very opposite of what they claim to be. They want to prise society open to make it more formless and therefore more readily amenable to rule by elites, whether financial or managerial.

    A natural, settled society has too much a sense of itself and its values to fall readily into line with a technocratic order. Diversity is used to smash it up, demoralise it, and individualise it.

  15. Richard,

    Why is an ethnically integrated society necessarily "more formless and therefore more readily amenable to rule by elites, whether financial or managerial?" How can a diverse open society really be a means to "smash it up, demoralise it, and individualise it?"
    I think your confusing cause and effect in advanced capitalist societies.... confounding the human desire to transcend cultural difference or overcome social and economic apartheid with the effects of the anonymous market relations in undermining social cohesion and stability.

    Modern Brazil does have more freedom than early America where political liberty and political communities were limited to white males. I am not sure I see your point in comparing the two societies in time and space. The last 200+ years of history in both countries has been about expanding that franchise and thereby deepening and broadening the practice of democracy throughout the Western hemisphere.