Friday, November 05, 2010

Men's role is to empower women for what exactly?

There was an article in the New York Times recently which described women as being "empowered" by their growing advantage in education and careers:

You could easily compile statistics to make the case that women — at least Western women — are already empowered. In the United States, we are 50 percent of the workplace (and 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs). We receive three college degrees for every two earned by men (along with 60 percent of all master’s degrees, about half of all law and medical degrees and 43 percent of M.B.A.’s). Working wives are coming close to bringing in nearly half the household income. Single, childless urban women under 30 actually earn 8 percent more than their male peers.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton would be pleased. She was one of the early American feminists who wrote in 1887:

The two great sources of progress are intellect and wealth. Both represent power, and are the elements of success in life. Education frees the mind from the bondage of authority and makes the individual self-asserting. Remunerative industry is the means of securing to its possessor wealth and education...

Even back then, Stanton's aim was "power" which was to be achieved through education and career. Hence, the more that women succeed at university and at work the more they are held to be "empowered".

The purpose of this power for Stanton? It was not directed to any social aim. It was intended to bring to women an autonomous existence. In Stanton's own words, the aim was the "self-dependence of every human soul", in which a woman had "self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself". Stanton believed in the "isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence".

But if women get autonomy through education and careers and thereby became empowered, what then of the family? Well, it gets downgraded in importance. Stanton wrote of family relations as being "incidental":

it is only the incidental relations of life, such as mother wife, sister, daughter, which may involve some special duties and training

She wrote also that,

the love of offspring ... calls out only the negative virtues that belong to apathetic classes, such as patience, endurance, self-sacrifice

(Stanton's attitudes not only fit in with the larger liberal culture, but they possibly have a personal origin as well. There were 11 children in Stanton's family but all of the boys died young. In her wikipedia article we find this:

Writing of her brother, Eleazar's, death in 1826, Stanton remembers trying to comfort her father, saying that she would try to be all her brother had been. At the time, her father's response devastated Stanton: "Oh, my daughter, I wish you were a boy!")

So Stanton's wishes have been fulfilled and young women are now doing better in their educational and career results than men. So are women now empowered? According to the New York Times article, the answer is no. The changes have not yet made women feel empowered:

It isn’t true until it feels true. That’s because measuring women’s power by looking only at women — and by looking mostly at the workplace — paints a false picture.

It seems that the problem is men. Women won't feel properly empowered until we men get with the female empowerment programme:

The life-work dilemma for women has long been that “the workplace has changed in their favor, but home hasn’t,” she says. Men, however, “have the opposite problem. More is expected of them at home, but expectations have not shifted at work.”

Younger couples say they want and expect parity in their relationships. But many women still carry a chip on their shoulders, chiseled in part by years of keeping all those to-do lists in their heads. And if men can find no relief from the pressures of work, they are not going to be able to fit into the revamped economy of home.

How then to inch toward change? Can we make it “manly” (or even better, “gender neutral”) to spend a day with a child, or earn less money but have more family time, or be the only parent at a parent-teacher conference because your wife has a meeting?

It's an odd sensation reading this as a man. The female journalist, Lisa Belkin, assumes that our role as men is to prop up a female individualism. She makes this explicit later in the article:

Empowering American women can no longer focus only on women — on leveling playing fields or offering mothers “on-ramps” and “offramps” or shattering ceilings one at a time. All those efforts must continue, yes. But none will succeed if we don’t change our expectations for men. Or, more accurately, men’s expectations for themselves.

So men are merely instruments to be manipulated for the empowerment of women? I don't think so, sister.

Note too the difficulty that feminists have here. According to them, the maternal role is the subordinate, secondary and disempowering one. And yet that's the role they want men to pick up. But if the good in life is to be "empowered" by careers, why would men do this? Feminists are forced into the position here of arguing to men, "do this even though we believe it will hurt you".

And then there's Lisa Belkin's suggestion of persuading men to get with the programme by making it "manly" to do so. The assumption here is that there is no unchanging essense to masculinity, but that it's whatever we make it to be. Which makes it not very much at all.

So what's a New York Times feminist to do? She looks approvingly to Sweden where policy pushes men into taking child care leave. Initially in Sweden, either the husband or wife could choose to take the paid leave offered by the state. Only 4% of men chose to do so. The state therefore decided not to allow men and women to choose. Some of the leave had to be taken by the husband. So now 80% of men take paid leave.

The problem for Lisa Belkin is that liberalism is supposed to be about autonomous choice and not state coercion. So she is forced into a verbal contortion to express her support for what the Swedes have done:

By steering men toward a particular path, Sweden redefined the nature of choice. Parental leave was transformed ... from an emotional decision to a financial one; from something mothers do to something every parent does. Would that same kind of redefinition — of the relationship between work and home, of the roles of men and women — work on this side of the Atlantic?

Sweden redefined the nature of choice alright. You are allowed to choose what the feminist state wants you to choose.

The next time you hear a liberal say they respect difference, just remind them that liberals aren't too good at accepting differences in the roles of men and women. The preferred end point of liberalism is one in which, in Lisa Belkin's words, parental roles are "gender neutral", i.e. identical.

I won't launch into it now, but there's also a discussion to be had here about the purposes of power. Is it really true that power is to be deployed to prop up our own individualistic purposes? Can you run a society along these lines?

I would have thought that power was properly directed toward larger social aims, such as the proper functioning of social institutions. Or, at the individual level, it's purpose is to direct the will toward the expression of character and moral purpose. Already in 1887, Elizabeth Cady Stanton seems to reduce it to an instrument of mere "self-assertion".


  1. If you have a society run by women you have a "feminised" society. So a feminised society being good men should go along with it. In times gone past feminists could say "Feminism is the theory lesbianism is the practise". As in their aim was total exclusion from the male realm. Now they just want to make men into girls.

  2. It has taken 1/3 of a millenium of liberal government, deficit funded welfare states, colonialism, intense leftist brainwashing, a monopoly of the world's natural resources, unsustainable energy production, exponential technological growth and a plethora of sex discrimination laws to get to the point where women think they compete with men.

    It has never been a better time for men than now to go Galt.

  3. Belkin is yet another writer who cannot see the hypocrisy of government subsidized female empowerment.
    She is doing something akin to claiming that a woman won a marathon against men while taking for granted the 20 minute headstart she got.
    The NY times article mentioned that the female 'winner' got the same prize money as the male winner even though she was more than 15 minutes behind him in actuality. This is a microcosm of the entitlement attitude that too many women such as Belkin have and too many men allow them to persist with.

  4. The NYTimes is cherrypicking the data. Leftists lie and mislead with statistics regularly, and you have to read the weasel words carefully. Note that it is only young women who outearn men, in some cities. Note that married women who work earn nearly half of income (this ignores married women who don't work and married men who don't work perhaps because they are retired). You have to unpack these puff pieces and their "data" carefully.

    Also, women get as many degrees as men. But in what subjects, at what universities. This equates a degree in electrical engineering from MIT with a degree in women's studies at Smith College.

    Feminists are liars: throw statistics back at them. Ask the writer what percentage of patents women receive (2%?). Or what percentage of new technological startup companies are founded by women. Or how many bridges are built by women (in any capacity).?

  5. Another thing. I rather like caring for children, my children. But writers like this make me feel almost bad about it. Especially as I know damn well that she only wants men to care for children more so as to "empower" women.

  6. Patience and endurance aren't virtues? Wow, that's an astonishing bit of amorality.

  7. This information about Sweden is probably not accurate, either. They can't force anyone, man or woman, to take a maternity/paternity leave.

    If a woman wants to return to work quickly, there is no law mandating she must stay home.

    I remember reading somewhere that in earlier times Swedish men could transfer their part of leave to the wife, enabling her to stay home longer, and it was also possible to do vice versa. Then it was forbidden, and as a result men tarted taking paternity leave, but most often not longer then a couple of weeks. It is not mandatory though.

    I distinctly recall reading an article on the Swedish site in English where a feminist was complaining about women still doing the majority of child care.Also in Sweden most women are employed by the government, and only few reach any important position in the world of private enterprise.

    So it is probably not the sort of a feminist paradise American feminists imagine it is.

    May be if there are any Swedish readers they can clarify it for us.

  8. Also in Sweden most women are employed by the government, and only few reach any important position in the world of private enterprise. So it is probably not the sort of a feminist paradise American feminists imagine it is.

    I beg to differ. Working at a job where you're overpaid, leech off the backs of others, and need not create value for others in order to keep your job seems exactly like the the paradise American feminists envision.

  9. I rather like caring for children, my children. But writers like this make me feel almost bad about it.

    I had the same thought, reading the article. She denigrates fatherhood completely by assuming that men don't want to spend time with their children. Men do not go to work because they wish to escape from their children, they go to work to provide for their families. Men will work -- and do work -- fewer hours when their families can do without the additional income and they do not risk their emplyoment by cutting back (an near-impossibility in today's brutal job market). But for that, they will need women's cooperation and frugality.

    You notice there is no mention of the fact that flooding the job market with degree-wielding women, and thereby inflating employment costs, has severely depressed men's wages.

  10. She denigrates fatherhood completely by assuming that men don't want to spend time with their children. Men do not go to work because they wish to escape from their children, they go to work to provide for their families.

    Alte, good point.

    The way I see it, by going out to work I'm keeping my family in material security and comfort and I'm allowing my wife to focus her efforts on our children.

    I've never thought, though, that my only paternal role was to provide.

    The relationship that fathers have with their sons and daughters is a vital one, and I'm aware of the problem of neglecting this if work becomes all-consuming.

    Fathers also have an important mentoring role with their sons, particularly when the sons reach their teenage years.

    I completely disagree with the Swedes/feminists/liberals that the paternal and maternal roles are identical (that they are both equivalent to the traditional feminine one).

    That entirely discounts the distinct role that fathers have in the lives of their children.

  11. The problem with "progressive" opinions is that they lend themselves to easy slogans: "Fathers and Mothers are the same". Easy to say, but nonsense. And it takes time to explain why it is nonsense. But it makes a good slogan.

    I have started taking extra time off work to spend time with my autistic 10 year old son. I like helping my children and taking them places. I don't see this as my being some kind of stupid "Mr Mom". I see it as part of my role as a father, and I regard it as a privilege.

    That said, I am the main breadwinner, and that is my primary role. I won't deny I like my job, a lot. But sometimes it is, and has been, a real drag. But it is my duty to work to make money, whether I like it or not. Sometimes I really love my job. But most men, most of the time, do not enjoy their jobs. I am a boss now, but I have been an underling most of my career. Feminists wet themselves over big male bosses in big offices, but maybe one in a hundred men has a job like that.

    Maybe one day I will retire and mind children, and my wife will take over the breadwinner role. But this will not be some kind of feminist statement on my part.

  12. Mothers remind me of a low hum, and fathers of a spark. Sparks make a bigger impression and lead to greater developmental leaps, but the hum adds constancy and comfort.

    But this will not be some kind of feminist statement on my part.

    Actually, that's basically the classical setup. At least, within my family. The men usually work really hard when they are very young, to get an education and a solid job. Then they get married to a younger woman. They provide for her and the children, with her money-earning potential increasing as the children age and become more independent. Then her husband retires or cuts back on his hours and she continues to work until her own retirement. That's always seemed a very sensible time-money pattern, especially as my male relatives often had very physically wearing jobs and couldn't work until full retirement age. All 5 of my uncles are retired and have wives who are working now, but who were housewives at some point.

    Feminists tend to miss that family lives have a sort of flow to them, depending upon the circumstances. They are very rigid that way. And then there is the impact of extended family on child-rearing. I know many young mothers who are homemakers when the children are very young, and then Grandpa or Auntie watches them after school when they are older.

    My husband took paternity leave with our second. In Germany, either parent can take 12 months with only the father being eligible for an additional 2 months afterward (if I'm not mistaken; it's been a while). My husband took the 2 months off and spent it preparing for our move over here and taking me on vacation. Grandpa watched the kids while we were traveling because he's retired and wanted to see as much as possible of them before we left the country. So I suppose the whole thing was not according to the lawamker's original intentions, being that they saw less of their father during that time -- not more. I know that those 2 months are very popular during hunting season. :-)

    They should leave such decision-making up to the families and mind their own business. They don't have to micromanage everything.

  13. They should leave such decision-making up to the families and mind their own business.

    Agreed. But they think that families will make the "wrong" choice, i.e. that gender will continue to have an influence on how things are decided:

    “If you leave the choice to the family,” says Carleton’s Prof. Doucet, “it’s going to be a gender choice – with long-term effects on family and home.”

  14. Oh, no! You mean that a family might make a decision based upon something other than feminist-approved egalitarian gender roles? Nooooo! Call the Gender Police! We must put a stop to this immediately or all hope will be lost!

    LOL. They are so stupid and petty, I struggle to take them seriously sometimes.

  15. "I won't launch into it now, but there's also a discussion to be had here about the purposes of power. Is it really true that power is to be deployed to prop up our own individualistic purposes? Can you run a society along these lines?"

    No. Power should be deployed to keep others safe and free. *SHOULD* be deployed for this purpose. I won't tell anyone to use his own power to do that for a female, or especially a feminist.

    In certain circumstances,like concentration camps or slave plantations (the whole world,under feminism), power should be deployed AGAINST those you are keeping safe and free, because those people have broken a basic civil contract. Power that keeps one safe and free,when given, is heroicism, when taken, it becomes slavery.

    Our purpose is NOT enriching and empowering women. In empowering women,we are essentially giving a loaded handgun to a child or wax wings to Icarus,except that women WANT to use that power to hurt themselves and others because they feed on drama and misery.They find the lifeless bodies of children "exciting".

    A man or father has a clearly defined role in most civilizations, his role is to pass on the wisdom of his forefathers or tribe and to keep his tribe safe.

    Feminists HATED that. A man as the source of inherited wisdom AND a beneficent guardian? That's patriarchy,in a nutshell.

    That is what feminists took away from us and in so doing, they have doomed the human race to repeat the mistakes of the past forever, because the wisdom of our forefathers was lost.

  16. Yes, there is an ebb and flow in life. As I have said at Default User recently, success can come at any time of life, there is plenty of time. You just have to be patient. Bad situations ameliorate with time. Everybody in the family gets a chance eventually.

    I am the primary breadwinner, my wife the primary carer. But I have done quite a lot of childminding. And my wife has often worked - albeit parttime - at jobs she has liked in her profession.

    As somebody once said, women can have it all, just not all at the same time.

    I have always wanted my wife to work when possible (my health has been a bit chancey at times, and I want us to have a fallback). She was once working fulltime, and it was too much strain on us all, so I more or less insisted that she go back parttime. But that was a practical decision, not an ideological one.

    I am a few years older than her, so I may retire in a few years time to help mind our son. He will probably need a bit of extra attention because of his condition. Maybe I will do some consulting, maybe I shall work parttime, maybe I shall just retire and amuse myself and my son, and finally read more of the books in my library.

    I think that the father and husband should make strategic decisions, but he should try to make sure that everyone eventually gets what he or she needs and wants.

    Feminists have roles in mind fully as rigid as any from the past. They don't understand how a family's life changes naturally over time, or the chance events that can change the entire game, such as illness and unemployment.

  17. Feminists have roles in mind fully as rigid as any from the past.

    Or even more rigid.

    Most women have always worked at gainful employment or contributed to a family business. My husband's grandmothers were both farmer's wives. My aunt's mother ran a laundry service and her grandmother helped in her family's bakery. My mother's mother raised rabbits for meat and fur, and had a large orchard and vegetable garden that she sold things from for extra income. My aunt helped at an orphanage and took her children with her to work, until they were old enough for school. Another aunt cleaned the local elementary school in the evenings, in exchange for a rent-free apartment. Our favorite butcher in Germany was actually a woman, who took over the business after her husband died (and whose son is now learning the trade). Her mother-in-law was running things when her late husband was apprenticed.

    The big change is not whether women work, or not, but the fact that gainful employment has become increasingly seperated from the home and has now often required leaving children with strangers for long periods of time. But that has been changing again; work is increasingly moving back into the home and family -- both for men and for women. The large corporate life is going the way of the dodo, as such work is increasingly outsourced and the Internet makes it easier for people to have flexible work arrangements (my husband also works from home a lot).

    We had a carpenter here a few weeks ago whose wife is a housewife. She handles all of his business' secretarial work, often takes the kids out to buy supplies for him or bring him things he needs at a worksite, etc.

    And back when men spent more time at home, they also spent more time actively raising their children. They were often responsible for teaching and training their children from a young age. In many of the homeschooling families I know, the fathers are very involved in teaching their children. Many teach their children their trade, as well. My husband and my son made a really cool robot costume for Holloween, with lights, switches, LED display, etc. and programmed everything themselves. My husband's father is an electrician and both of his sons are journeyman electricians, as well.

    That was rather long-winded, but I just meant to say that child-minding was never a "feminine task" once the children passed infancy. At about 5 years old, the children would begin to spend an increasing amount of time with their fathers. We just don't see that today because the fathers are often so far away during the day. Telling the fathers to "spend more time with the children" and "be more involved in the children's lives" sort of misses the point that the children were spending time with their fathers, involved in their father's lives. Fathers are supposed to be the bridge to adulthood and the wider world.

    The reason why feminists don't want to discuss any of these things in good faith is because seeing a family as a unit would disturb their ideology of gender-based warfare. They see husbands and wives as in competition with each other, rather than partners who just do what they have to do in order to move the family forward.

  18. I work part-time now, in teaching. But I still consider myself a homemaker because that is what I am. To quote the corny: I am my husband's wife. I am my kids' mother.

    I make a home and am a help-meet, and if teaching will benefit the family then I teach. If it didn't benefit them, then I wouldn't teach. If cleaning toilets benefited them, then I'd get out my scrub brush and go to it. If working at my old profession would benefit them, then I'd go do that. I know other women whose family circumstances would be harmed by their working outside of the home at all, so they do not do it.

    All of this "career" nonsense is what disturbs the picture, I think. Women think of themselves according to their job-title first, and only thereafter by their role as help-meet to their husbands. But if her job doesn't benefit her family (or, for that matter, his job doesn't benefit his family), then she should drop it, or cut back, in favor of something that does.

    The family should always come first, for everyone. Because it is the marriage that is our vacation, not the job. It's great to enjoy your job; I also enjoy baking and cooking, which is nice because I have to do it anyway. But I do not bake and cook just because I enjoy it. Work is work, and family is family, and we should all work for the benefit of our families.

    I believe it's the husband's job to arrange the family's working arrangements and tasks so that it best fits his family's goals and situation. That's a duty of headship, I think.

  19. "Maybe one day I will retire and mind children, and my wife will take over the breadwinner role. But this will not be some kind of feminist statement on my part."

    My wife have taked over the breadwinner role. She return home and talk to me about how bitch her boss is, etc. She wake-up early every days, drive in snow and cold wind to her jobs while I still sleep confortably. I wake-up hours later to help child to prepare for school, do some house work and enjoy something called FREEDOM. I will never return to the breadwinner role. NEVER!

    As far I'm concern feminists are idiots who beleave that servitude is freedom and freedom slavery. All this female power quest can only end in total and absolute collapse of the civilisation. Because the seek power for individualist and narsissic objective is incompatible with the whole idea of civilisation or of communauty..