Thursday, March 31, 2016

Laurie Penny's feminist love

As I wrote in the last post, English feminist Laurie Penny is, for some unknown reason, popular in Germany. She has given an interview to a leading German newspaper in which she lamented that babies could not be developed in laboratories. The second part of the interview has appeared and it concerns the issue of love between men and women.
Interviewer: Emotions often run high on the issue of equality between men and women. Why is that?

Laurie Penny: The gender question has not only a social dimension, it also has a very private quality. Many women - also many feminists - fall in love with men, many men fall in love with women, and so all the political gender questions land in the private sphere. The old saying, that the personal is the political is especially relevant to this issue. We can't talk about equality without talking about family, sexuality, love and romance.

Interviewer: Does feminism ruin love?

Laurie Penny: Feminism does certainly place in question our ideal of romantic love. But this ideal is the most unromantic that there is. There are countless studies that have discovered that sex in equal partnerships can be better. That the women is an autonomous partner who can say yes or no shouldn't be a problem for the sex life. Apart from that it is constantly suggested to us that a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman is the only possibility in order to be happy. I am a hopeless romantic and believe in love. I just don't believe that every love fits into the same box - mine doesn't.

Interviewer: What does your love look like?

Laurie Penny: At the moment I have a male partner, but I am polyamorous. That means I'm not able, and don't want to, tie myself down to just one person and that I distinguish between primary and secondary relationships. But at the moment I have the most intensive relationship anyway with my work.

So her work is the primary relationship in her life. Then she has a main relationship with a man. Then she has secondary relationships with other men. But she is also a hopeless romantic.

I suppose if your aim is to maximise autonomy, then this is what the result might look like. You attempt to fulfil yourself through something that is self-determined (your career) and you don't tie yourself down to just one other person.

Little wonder, though, that she earlier demanded that the state pay for women to be mothers. In her model there are personal relationships, but not much resembling a family life. In a way it's a "women going their own way" model, albeit one that would have to financially underwritten by the taxpayer.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Laurie Penny: "We need technological alternatives to pregnancy"

Laurie Penny is a radical British feminist. For some reason, she has become popular in Germany. A recent interview with a leading German newspaper went as follows:
Interviewer: Your recent book is called Making Babies. So do you want one?

Laurie Penny: For me to be able to imagine having babies, the circumstances would have to change dramatically and I don't know if they ever will. It is a shame that women still have to choose between motherhood and everything else. Apart from that I'm not at all keen on pregnancy. There should really exist technological alternatives for that.

Interviewer: That's a joke, right?

Laurie Penny: No, I mean that entirely seriously. We need technological alternatives to pregnancy. Why aren't there any? Modern medicine can reattach limbs and transplant faces. Today so much is possible, that was unthinkable a few decades ago. Egg cells are already fertilised in test tubes. Why shouldn't babies be created in laboratories? Why is a technological alternative to the womb so inconceivable?...I don't understand at all, what is crazier about this than the idea of transplanting an arm, a heart or a face.

Interviewer: Wouldn't it be a disadvantage for women, if machines took away from them the bearing of children? After all, the ability to bear children is a unique characteristic of women.

Laurie Penny: It is a female superpower! But women with superpowers have to be controlled and criticised. Therefore motherhood is on the one hand so elevated, that women who decide against it are seen as odd. Women who have an abortion are expected at some time to regret it. The woman who never became a mother must be sad about it in old age. At the same time mothers are blamed if they achieve the aim of becoming solo mothers, even though they in fact do something wonderful and selfless for all of us. To define pregnancy and motherhood as work and also to pay it as such would actually be the least thing to do.

What can you say? Laurie Penny is probably right that one day scientists will come up with an artificial womb. But her lack of connection to the idea of physically bearing a child is telling. So too is her primary concern that women be able to have their children without the support of a male partner - that instead motherhood should be commodified - treated in market terms as a productive activity - and paid for, presumably by the state.

She doesn't state it directly, but it seems that Laurie Penny doesn't want to have a child together with a man. She wants the child developed in a lab by scientists and then she wants to be paid for the work she does to bring it up as its mother.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

On the woman question 3 - virtue, reason and the male frame

My last post dealt at a very general level with the woman question. I argued that it falls mostly to men to create the frame in society, rather than this role being split evenly between men and women. My argument was that women are tasked with embodying the softer virtues, but that a woman's softness paradoxically makes it difficult for her to embody these virtues: she needs a frame that she cannot easily uphold herself in order to reach her true purposes.

What sounds neat and tidy at the general level, quickly becomes more complex when you look in a more detailed way at how women vary. I want to look in particular at how women differ when it comes to the attainment of feminine virtue; and at differences amongst women when it comes to reason governing feeling.

Feminine virtue

I argued in my last post that many women are influenced by the feelings that descend on them, and that a passive "recipient" mentality can lead women to certain characteristic vices, such as a lack of constancy and accountability.

However, it should be said that some women are so well-natured that their positive feelings/emotions are strong enough to conquer the negative ones. Therefore, they do not rely as much as other women on a social frame in order to reach toward their higher qualities as women.

In other words, you could chart a line with women who are strong in "natural virtue" at one end of the line and women who are most dependent on "learned virtue" at the other end.

There are at least some women who are strong enough in natural virtue that they do not need an outside frame - but they are a small minority of women. They are not sufficient in number to override the general argument I made regarding the necessity for men to lead in creating a frame for society.

And for those women most dependent on learned virtue? This is where the frame is most important. This is not the place for a complete treatment of what is required for the frame to work. But to give some idea of the issues raised, here are a few things that were once considered important in traditional societies.

a) Protecting the ability of young women to pair bond. If women are more influenced by feeling than by commitments of will, then it is paramount that they reach marriage with the pair bonding instinct as intact as possible. There are many factors that can strengthen or weaken this instinct. Being raised as a girl in a home with a strong family culture, in which the parents love each other, can strengthen her desire to have what she has observed her parents to have enjoyed. Being encouraged to protect the sense of reserve or modesty in not giving away her feelings too easily (i.e. not being "promiscuous" in the giving of herself to men) whilst unmarried is another psychologically protective factor. Not delaying marriage until too late in life might also help.

b) Practising doing for others, as a way of overcoming entitlement and ingratitude. In traditional societies young unmarried women might be expected to practise works of charity, or to help look after other members of the household. It is possible for fathers to enable vices in their daughters by cossetting them too much and providing them with the opportunity to live a shallow, party girl lifestyle. Men do want to create a protected space for women, but there is a danger that this space becomes a hedonistic, materialistic, status seeking, self-entitled one.

The public lives of some young modern women may not be like this: they may live under considerable pressure to succeed at school and at work. They may have to develop the ability to discipline themselves to rules and hierarchies. This may help to counteract some of the "entitlement princess" mentality, but it is not necessarily transferred into what is left of the private sphere of these women, i.e. how they conduct themselves in their leisure time and relationships with men.

c) Men's double standards. In traditional societies men were not as rough and coarse in the company of women as they were in male company. If graciousness and delicacy are female virtues, then this double standard has a logic to it: men instinctively felt that they were damaging or degrading something in women by acting too roughly and coarsely in their presence.

Another point I'd make is that motherhood can draw out some of the finer and more mature qualities in women, perhaps because it is less possible for women to adopt the passive recipient mentality when caring for their children. Mothers become the active, responsible agents in this relationship. It may not help, therefore, when women spend so long in party girl mode before finally becoming mothers relatively late in life. It is also, I believe, more of a test of a woman's virtue how she treats her husband, rather than her children, as this is the relationship where she is more vulnerable to expressing her vices.


In my last post I repeated the claim made throughout history that women are less able than men to govern their feelings/emotions with their reason/intellect. But this is obviously a generalisation. When you look at a range of individual women, then you see a significant degree of variation.

I believe there are two factors that influence how much a woman is able to govern her feelings with her reason. The first is her level of intelligence, or, more specifically, her intellect. The less intellect there is, the less likely it is to come into play. Second, there is another line you can draw, with "male mind" at one end and "female mind" at the other. Some women have a strikingly female mind, a small number are at the opposite end of the line and have something closer to a male type mind.

What this means is that a woman can be highly intelligent but yet still have a strikingly female mind, one in which the influence of floating emotions (and emotional insecurities) is still highly visible.

There are all kinds of possible mixes here.

This does complicate the attempt to apply a frame to society. For instance, there are some women who are relatively able and competent to aim at masculine standards and ideals rather than feminine ones. These women may have internalised the idea that the masculine ideals are the superior ones and the feminine inferior. And so they move into a kind of rebellion against their own created nature as women - a rebellion which is often accompanied by an existential rancour and rage.

Such women tend to form the dominant strain within feminism: the strain which wants to maintain the male frame, but with women running it (these women have an animus against men - they want to take men down).

So what should be the male attitude to such women? First, the danger has to be recognised. These women are not the true allies of men, they are not trying to serve the larger good. Second, as many of these women as possible should be encouraged to see the feminine more positively, even if they are capable of achieving along more masculine lines. The rage and the rancour is connected to a rebellion not just against society, but against created reality, so the solution is not to change society but to encourage these women to identify more positively with creation itself (including their own role as women within it).

Another group of women have nothing like a male mind; nor do they accept the imposition of a male social frame. From the ranks of these women is drawn the lesser strand of feminism, i.e. the strand which openly wants to assert a female, feelings-based frame on society. This type of feminism is more accepting of sex differences, but it is still hostile to men and it does not recognise the need to bring the female mind to virtue.

But there are also women who do identify positively as women; who are able to look at the good of society as a whole; and who are able to defend the good in a reasonable way. My own view is that it would be wise of men to draw these women into positions in which they can influence society in a positive way (but with men still taking ultimate responsibility for the maintenance of the social frame).

I'll finish on this note. There are now many men who are critical of women, in particular Western women. But it is inevitable that women would lose respect in a culture that, in a sense, abandons them not only to the best but also to the worst of their own natures. There is an underestimation of what is required to get the best out of people, of what traditional cultures did to try and achieve this. The culture, the social structures, the frame have been dismantled (for the purposes of "liberation") and whilst this remains the case, then how could we expect a better outcome?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

On the woman question 2 - the truth of the body

What is it that we are called to be? Our body gives us some sense of our telos, of our ends and purposes in life. If a man looks at his body he will see his muscularity; his angularity; a body shape built for strength, stamina and speed; a layering of hardness. A woman will see softness, flowing curves, elegance, delicacy, beauty. In both sexes, it is possible to see glimpses of nobility and dignity written into the body.

Our sexed bodies give us some sense of the truth of our created being, of what it means to fulfil our masculine and feminine natures.

Men are made to embody the "harder" virtues. The masculine virtues involve disciplining oneself consistently to a principle; striving to create a unity between thought, belief and action; acting to bring one's environment into line with a sense of right order; a willingness to submit oneself to rightful authority to achieve this; a willingness to bear a burden to achieve this. Integrity, duty, service, discipline, courage, perseverance, concentrated focus, right order, fortitude - these are significant to the male soul.

And women? It was thought until fairly recent times that women were the "weaker sex". I find it interesting, though, that the word "weak" has an extended meaning in the Germanic languages. In Old English it meant "weak, soft, pliant" and in modern German the word "weich" has the primary meaning of "soft".

And I'd like for the moment to focus rather on the idea that women embody the softer virtues. If women are beautiful and graceful on the outside, then we might wish them to be equally so on the inside. Ideally, we think of women as being warmly emotional; as giving unconditional love; of being immediately present to those around them; of being sensitive to others' needs and feelings; of being caring, nurturing and thoughtful; of being delicate in feeling and expression.

However, there is something of a paradox in all this. Women were made to embody the softer virtues, but the softness makes it difficult for women to become virtuous. Men can embody the harder virtues with will and force of character. But if a woman is softly natured, she won't have these same qualities at her disposal to direct herself toward the feminine virtues.

What seems to happen in practice is that many women instead inhabit the feelings that they happen to have at a particular time. They do not have the same drive as men to govern their feelings or emotions with their intellect or reason (this is a generalisation, not equally true of women, I will discuss the significant exceptions later).

In what particular ways does a woman's softness make it difficult for her to embody the softer virtues? It will help a man to understand this if he has an image in his mind of a woman who has feelings descend on her: she experiences them; enjoys or is discomfited by them; may act to alleviate the worst ones; but generally speaking has the sense that feelings happen to her and shape her reality. Feelings happen to her in a disconnected way, brought on by seemingly external forces.

What effects does this experience of the world have on her? We can see one negative effect when it comes to a woman's understanding of marriage. The traditional Western view of marriage is that it should be based on "caritas": on an altruistic, self-giving love that exists not only as an emotional experience, but is settled in the will as an ongoing commitment. It means being actively and deliberately oriented in a loving way to one's spouse. Marriage too was once thought to be based on a commitment to fulfil the offices of husband and wife, father and mother, with these being lifelong purposes.

But if you experience life as a series of disconnected emotional states that you passively experience, i.e. "that happen to you," then you won't understand marriage in the traditional way - you won't be able to participate in traditional marriage. Traditional marriage requires, at a minimum, that our feelings are governed by our reason.

There are many women today, even capable, well-educated women, who see marriage as contingent on feeling alone. If the feeling is right, then so too is their commitment to marriage. If it is not, then the marriage was not meant to be and is not considered valid.

It was once the case that men would note this aspect of a woman's softer nature humorously as being "fickleness" or "inconstancy". But today, in an era of easy, no-fault divorce, it has taken on a more serious dimension, in which lasting damage is done to a culture of family life.

Another weakness that can afflict women is a lack of accountability. If the softer mentality of women is that things just happen to them in a disconnected way, then what might women think when things go wrong? Women are then less likely to see themselves as being responsible for their own predicament. They will put themselves in the position of "recipient" and externalise the source of their misfortune. They might be tempted to see vague forces as determining the outcome of their life (and turn to psychics and the like to find out what is in store for them or what they should do). Or if they feel discontented in a marriage they might, in putting themselves in the "recipient" position, see their husbands as responsible for their negative feelings. They might even, when in this mindset, hold their husbands accountable for negative events that their husbands cannot possibly at a rational level have any control over, i.e. for acts of God.

If a woman is prone to an unhappy disposition, then this can end badly for her husband. His wife might then cultivate a bitter, critical, judging and unforgiving spirit, in which relatively small offences are held onto, remembered and thrown out at her husband as accusations, or internalised and expressed passive-aggressively through the withholding of love or affection.

The recipient mindset of women can have other negative effects. If it is held to deeply enough, then women can begin to see men instrumentally as existing to serve their own female wants and purposes. If women see men in a depersonalised way as instruments, they will lack empathy for the hardships or difficulties endured by men (in fact, readily dismiss these on the grounds of male disposability); they will feel entitled to the labours and achievements of men; and they will lack gratitude for the sacrifices made by men on their behalf.

The recipient mentality can also lead women toward sectionalism. A woman might make demands on society in terms of getting things for herself as a woman, i.e. for just one section of society, rather than seeing herself as responsible for the well-being of society as a whole.

There is also the issue of softer women being frivolous. It helps here to compare the harder masculine and the softer feminine experiences of life. A man who is committed to embodying the harder masculine virtues will seek to penetrate to the truth of things, to right principle, and then to master himself and his environment so that both conform to right principle. It is a quest that makes of man a seeker after knowledge of self and reality. A softer woman will experience life in terms of feelings that she is subject to, that she receives, one after another. Her feelings will lead her to thoughts, but there is not the same drive to tie these thoughts together to have effect in the world.

This can lead to men seeing a woman's purposes as relatively shallow. Women, it can seem, just want to have fun - to experience pleasurable feelings in the moment. A husband might experience demands from his wife to entertain her, to amuse her, to alleviate her feelings of boredom. A husband knows that he is at risk if his wife is bored - he is then on thin ice in his relationship with her.

For a man, the fun side of life is there as an occasional diversion and rest from his true tasks. A life that was just about seeking pleasure would make many men feel uneasy - it would not engage the masculine soul. Men sometimes have the instinct to deliberately choose the difficult and arduous path, over the easy and pleasurable one, as a way of coming to a better sense of who they are as men.

(I should point out that I am not arguing that a woman's purposes cannot be as deep or as worthy as a man's, only that a woman might struggle, from within her own nature alone, to realise these purposes.)

Which brings me to one final observation. It is obviously true that a man can be immature. In fact, in modern life, men are sometimes put in a position that encourages immaturity. However, if we look at the workings of the harder masculine spirit and the softer feminine one, then there exist reasons for women to be more immature than men, particularly over time as life progresses. If a man seeks to fulfil himself through masculine virtues requiring qualities of fortitude, endurance, integrity, duty, service and self-knowledge, then it is likely over time that he will develop a mature, adult persona. But if a woman is left in a state in which she sees herself as acted on by forces she cannot identify and has no control over; in which she seeks only for pleasurable feeling states; in which she sees herself as responsible only for herself rather than for larger communities; and in which she turns with negative emotions toward those she holds accountable for her feeling states - then the potential exists that she will not develop as a fully mature person, even into her adult life.

Why go to the trouble of pointing out the negative aspects of a woman's softer nature? In my last post I described the three most common approaches to the woman question. The first and dominant one, namely the liberal egalitarian approach, I criticised at length. The second one, the complementarian approach, I suggested was also flawed. I am in a better position now to explain this flaw.

The complementarian framework rests on the idea that men and women are different but equal. It is thought that the masculine and the feminine are like two pieces that together form a harmonious unity. Some complementarians, including recent popes, have concluded that women should have more power in society so that the feminine can have a wider influence.

I too was once a complementarian, but I no longer believe that it is an adequate framework. If I am correct in what I have written in this post, then it is possible still to view men and women as equal in an ontological sense (i.e. in the sense that both are made in the image of God, and in the sense that the masculine and feminine, in their essential being, are equal). However, the relationship dynamic between men and women cannot be equal.

This is because it is a woman's purpose to fulfil the softer, feminine virtues, but the logic of her softer nature does not bring her toward these virtues. To accomplish her telos requires that men establish a frame in society that gives encouragement and direction to the feminine virtues - it is highly unlikely that this will happen unless men lead the relationship dynamic.

Nor is it easy to establish such a frame. There is no simple fitting together of the masculine and feminine to establish a harmonious unity. Complementarianism is sometimes trite and superficial in its understanding of what is required to make things work.

I intend to look in greater detail in my next post as to why this issue is so complex. In brief, the situation is made complex because the nature of women does vary. There are some women who are so well-natured and feminine that they are able to embody the feminine virtues in a relatively easy and admirable way; there are other women who are more able to govern feeling with reason and who therefore may look to a masculine role and masculine virtues rather than identifying with the feminine; there are also women who struggle to avoid the feminine vices, and within this group some may look instinctively to men for guidance whilst others may attempt to assert a feminine feelings-based frame on society. There is complexity too in the issue of how men might ally themselves with the more capable women in establishing an effective frame in society. Finally, and most importantly, there is the issue of the frame itself. What have the different traditions identified as the means by which women might be brought from the feminine vices to the feminine virtues? How can it be done? What does it take? It takes more, I believe, than most people realise.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

On the woman question - preliminaries

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

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

2. Complementarianism

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

3. Biblical patriarchy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Crybullies need group therapy after Milo visit

The crybully movement is still going strong on US campuses. These are university students who combine aggressive demonstrations against their opponents with claims that their opponents are triggering their mental health problems.

The latest incidents occurred when the conservative media outlet sent their tech editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, to give talks at several campuses. Milo is a well-presented, plain-speaking, homosexual, conservative journalist. Not exactly what you think would be scary to 21st century students, but nonetheless his presence on campus triggered a mental health hysteria amongst left-wing student activists.

Here is what happened at Rutgers University:
Students at Rutgers University were so traumatised by Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ visit to their campus that they had to hold a group therapy session, campus newspaper The Daily Targum reports.

According to the paper, students and faculty members held a wound-licking gathering at a cultural center on campus, where students described “feeling scared, hurt, and discriminated against.”

“A variety of different organizations and departments were present to listen, answer questions and show support” to the apparently weak and vulnerable students, who just a few days prior had disrupted Yiannopoulos’ event by smearing fake blood on their faces and chanting protest slogans.

One student at the event told the Targum that they “broke down crying” after the event, while another reported that he felt “scared to walk around campus the next day.” According to the report, “many others” said they felt “unsafe” at the event and on campus afterwards.

“It is upsetting that my mental health is not cared about by the University,” said one student at the event. “I do not know what else to do for us to be heard for us to be cared about. I deserve an apology, everyone in this room deserves an apology.”

A number of organizations were at the event to offer support to the poor, traumatised students. These included Psychiatric Services, the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance, and the Rutgers University Police. However, as far as we know, none of the protesting students were institutionalized, arrested for vandalism, or for assaulting the peaceful attendees of Milo’s talk with red paint.

Even more astonishingly campus authorities are encouraging this kind of attitude amongst the students. The "student life centre" at the University of Michigan organised a group therapy session for students to heal from Milo's visit; and the University of California Los Angeles cancelled a similar talk by another Breitbart figure, Ben Shapiro, after students complained that it would be a "threat to their lives" and "would be damaging to their mental health".

A similar outpouring of anguish occurred after Milo's visit to the University of Pittsburgh, where the Rainbow Alliance organised a safe space "for those who have experienced trauma, been triggered, or felt any kind of pain because of the events".

But why? Why would leftist activists hold themselves open to ridicule in this way? I'm not confident I know the exact reason but I can suggest a few possibilities.

First, feminists and POC activists on campus are used to getting ahead by promoting their victim status. This means, first, that presenting yourself as a fragile victim may not have the same negative connotations within their circles that it does elsewhere. It might, too, disrupt the normal processes of building adult resilience and so lead to poor mental health outcomes.

Second, a liberal ideology claims that there is no objective right or wrong, but that value is to be found in the free act of choice that individuals make in defining their own good. Therefore, there is a problem for leftists in seeking to formally impose a one view orthodoxy on campus - it violates their own beliefs. Leftists do have a few ways round the problem. They can claim that the opposing views are not in line with the liberal idea of respecting others in defining their own good via qualities such as respect for inclusion, diversity, non-discrimination etc. In other words, they can use the catchphrase "hate speech" in shutting down views they don't like. However, there is also a history of liberals using the issue of health as a "neutral" and "scientific" standard of determining what is permissible. It is possible that this explains the appeal to campus authorities that "x cannot be allowed because it is detrimental to health".

Third, it is possible that some young women and POC don't find campus a congenial environment, i.e. that they are discomfited by an environment not designed around them, and that this really does create some psychological distress for them.

Whatever the case, it is extraordinary to witness university students carry on in this way: to respond hysterically to the presence of one person holding views different to their own.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Mary Kassian on weak women, strong women

Dalrock runs a website that criticises the feminism to be found even within the more conservative evangelical churches in the U.S. It is his area of expertise and he does it exceptionally well.

I have to admit, though, that in his most recent post I was more impressed than dismayed by the female preacher he takes aim at (Mary Kassian). Dalrock is concerned by her twisting of certain passages of scripture; he may well be right in this (I usually understand eventually), but I found much of her sermon to be insightful into the particular vulnerabilities or weaknesses of women, and how these might be overcome.

As I've grown older and garnered more experience, I have come to accept that the ancient view was generally correct: that men are more likely than women to use their intellect/reason to govern their emotions/feelings than are women. The problem is not in the having of feelings or emotions, but in how these are ordered morally and rationally.

The issue is a significant one because in the West one part of the stability of marriage and family was due to the Christian understanding of "caritas" - an understanding of love as being a commitment, settled in the will, by which we willed the good of the other person (our spouse). But caritas can only work if a person has the inner capacity to govern their feelings and emotions. Within the secular mainstream, women are now not expected to do this in their relationships - the general understanding amongst women is that family commitments are based purely on feeling, i.e. the decisive question is radically reduced to "how do you feel?"

A community has to decide not only what kind of men it wants, but just as importantly what kind of women. We need to not only challenge men to develop character to rise above their weaknesses, but women as well. And this is part of the thrust of Mary Kassian's advice to her female audience. Early on, for instance, she notes:
These women were weak in a way that diminished them. It was a negative and contemptuous term.

These women were childish and frivolous and silly and immature and wimpy. They deserved the triple W label: weak, wimpy woman. [laughter]

The point is, they ought not to have been. They ought not to have been that.

In the Proverbs 31 description of the godly woman, verse 25 says she is clothed with "strength and dignity."

Mary Kassian lists some of the sins women are particularly prone to if they weakly allow negative emotions to accumulate:
So many of you women in this room are dealing with sins that ... are just piling up. You haven't confessed them. You haven't repented. You think, Well, it's not a big deal. We'll just leave it there.

Critical spirit, bitterness, resentments, unforgiveness, slander, envy, pride.

And she goes on to observe that:
A weak woman is governed by her emotions. She puts her brain in park; puts her emotions in drive; rationalizes her behavior, excuses, and justifications-we've all done it. I've done it.

I know, but...

I know I shouldn't be daydreaming about that guy, but my husband is so unaffectionate.

I know I shouldn't be watching that movie, but I feel starved for romance.

I know. I know I shouldn't be having another drink, but it helps dull the disappointment.

I know I shouldn't flirt with my boss, but it feels good to be noticed.

I know I shouldn't gossip or stretch the truth, but I want people to value me and affirm me.

I know I shouldn't go further into debt, but those fabulous shoes are calling my name. [laughter]

So it's the "I know, but..." and fill in the blank.

I know, da-da-da-da-da, but da-da-da-da-da my emotions are going take me this way because I just feel like it.

Don't be a wimp, ladies. Don't be a wimp. A weak woman lets her emotions drive her mind. A woman of strength makes her mind drive her emotions.

You can choose joy. You can choose peace. You can choose to believe things that are good and right and true and beautiful and excellent and trustworthy. You can choose those things, and if you choose to walk in joy, your emotions are going to follow along behind.

The point to underline is this: "a woman of strength makes her mind drive her emotions". It is difficult to imagine stable, loving family commitments if women lack this strength.

It seems to me, too, that the higher form of love cannot but draw to itself the will and reason as an expression of the whole person, so that if love really does animate us it will not be thought of as an arbitrary force descended upon us, mysteriously to come and go. It will be with us in our heart and mind and will, and bear the stamp of each.