Monday, February 20, 2017

What are the feminine virtues?

Mark Moncrieff alerted me to an interesting post by Dalrock. It's about a Lutheran pastor, Hans Fiene, who thinks that Millennials are having less sex because young men are too invested in porn and social media to pursue relationships with women. According to Pastor Fiene,
As men pursue women, however, they come to develop a more robust appreciation of what women have to offer them beyond physical beauty and sexual gratification. They become more exposed to the various feminine virtues—things like kindness, compassion, selflessness, loyalty, tenderness. And the more decent men encounter “the imperishable beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit,” as St Peter calls it, the more they come to value this inner beauty over raw sexuality.

This jumped out at me, because I am of a generation of men that would not identify women with qualities like kindness, compassion, selflessness, loyalty and tenderness - certainly not when it comes to their personal relationships with men.

But all of this raises the question of how we define masculine and feminine virtues. And it seems to me that to qualify as one of these two conditions need to be met.

The first is that the quality should be characteristic of that particular sex. So if we say that courage is a masculine virtue, then we should expect that many men will have that particular quality, particularly relative to women.

The second is that the quality should be part of how we define what it is to be a man or a woman. The quality, in other words, should make up part of what we perceive to be the essence of the masculine or the feminine. We would therefore want men or women to deliberately cultivate these qualities so that they are able to play their necessary masculine or feminine role in society; so that they can reach fruition as men and women, successfully embodying their own created nature; and so that they can stand fully inside their own spiritual nature as a man or a woman and have that completing sense of genuinely feeling "this is what I am meant to be".

To give an example of how this works, there was a scene from Australian reality TV in which a group of people were sent to live in the African jungle. The women arrived first at the isolated jungle camp and saw that the open air beds were arranged in two circles, the inner one closer to the fire and the outer one bordering the jungle itself. The women immediately expressed fear about sleeping close to the jungle with its wild animals and hoped that the men would agree to sleep protectively in the outer circle.

This did not make the women seem to be lacking in feminine virtue, because we do not instinctively believe that courage defines a woman the way it does a man. We would not respect the women less, as women, for wanting to be physically protected this way. But if a group of men had been fearful and had urged the women to sleep on the outer, then we would have taken this to diminish their manhood.

So, to get back to Pastor Fiene, we have to ask whether his list of feminine virtues meets both criteria I outlined above. The answer, in my opinion, is that some of them do, but only with conditions applied.

It's easier to begin with the qualities that don't meet the criteria. The most obvious one is loyalty. There is no doubt that men would like women to be loyal and to cultivate this quality in themselves. But it just does not seem to me to be characteristic of women - it is a quality that is far stronger in men. So it fails to meet the first criterion.

In what ways do women fail to show loyalty? If you have ever worked in a female environment, you will know that there are women who seek in-group conformity by turning on some hapless member of the group and making them persona non grata. It can be demoralising as a man to watch this play out precisely because of the breach of loyalty on display. In personal relationships, too, many women appear by nature to be serial monogamists who find it difficult to retain attraction for one man over the course of a lifetime.

To say that loyalty is a feminine virtue is likely to blind men to the difficulty of maintaining a system of monogamous pair bonding. It seems more truthful to recognise that civilisations arise when men are strong enough to keep women within a system of marriage and family. The Roman historian Tacitus, witnessing the decline of the family in his culture, praised the Germanic tribes in this regard:
Much better still are those tribes in which only virgins marry and where marriage is performed only once for a wife with a hope and a vow. Thus they take only one husband, in this way both being of one body and life, lest there be second thoughts or belated desires, so that the women love not so much their husbands as their married state.

Tacitus here recognises the difficulty of women remaining loyal to their husbands in a personal sense, but thinks that if women are not given the opportunity of "second thoughts or belated desires" that they will at least stay committed to their married state (hat tip: David Grant at Social Matter for the translation).

And what of kindness, compassion and tenderness? The problem here is that women show more of these qualities than men in some aspects of life, but less in others. For instance, the best women do show these qualities when it comes to the care of their children, of the elderly and of the sick. But they do not show them when it comes to their husbands. It has been noted at the red pill websites, correctly in my experience, that it is a considerable error on the part of husbands to seek support from their wives for troubles they are experiencing, as their wives are likely to lose attraction for them, sometimes disastrously so.

It's important to make this distinction, because men should know, realistically, that it is not in women's nature to love their husbands compassionately. However, I do agree with Pastor Fiene that kindness, compassion and tenderness for children, the elderly and the sick are feminine virtues, both because many women do have these qualities and because it is a defining aspect of the feminine (i.e. if a woman did not show these qualities we would think that she was not meeting an aspect of her own feminine essence).

So, despite my initial scepticism, I do believe that Pastor Fiene has correctly identified some of the feminine virtues.

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  1. Women primarily look for power and wealth in men and are prone to treat with some degree of contempt men who lack these. Women by nature are often more ruthless than men, although men frequently do not understand this until they become victims of this trait.

    In societies which allow the young to select their life partners, women will always seek powerful wealthy men and treat the rest as second best options. Even after marriage, women will still aim to divorce and remarry if a better option comes along. Therefore freedom of choice is inversely related to marital commitment and the "open door" syndrome becomes the prevailing norm. Inevitably when people have free choice, they pursue their own agendas.

    Traditional marriage in which partners are selected by the families of bride and groom on the basis of family pedigree and land ownership immediately curtails and restricts the options to a very small number and personal agendas are subordinate to the common good and the good of both families. Limitation of choice entails greater commitment to the marriage regardless of the qualities of the marriage partner because that deal is the only one available, leverage from extended families brings pressure to make the marriage work and if it fails, there is no other option.

  2. With regards to your first condition, Mr. Richardson, I think that the relationship between the feminine virtues and feminine nature is less direct than you seem to be suggesting, unless I have mistaken your meaning. A virtue is a cultivated habit. There would be no need for such cultivation if the feminine virtues sprang out of feminine nature automatically but things being as they are is in the absence of cultivation we ought not to expect to find the virtues. The same holds true for masculine nature and masculine virtues. To use your example of courage, a man is not automatically brave because he is male. He needs to be trained to be brave, courage needs to be cultivated in his soul. Masculine courage is an ideal - what men ought to be - rather than what they automatically are by nature. The cultivation of virtues bridges the gap between nature and the ideal. The masculine and feminine ideals are different because male and female nature is different. You start with males and females as they are, recognizing the differences, then ask what they ought to be, these differences being taken into consideration, to get the masculine and feminine ideal. The next step is to cultivate the virtues that would help men and women move closer towards the ideal. Faithfulness is a feminine virtue, not because it is characteristic of women in the absence of cultivation, but because it is characteristic of what a woman ought to be, the ideal.

    1. Thanks for the considered comment. Our views are not entirely different, as I don't think the test of a sexed virtue is that "men are automatically x" or "women are automatically y".

      The question, though, is how we get to a specifically masculine or feminine ideal. I don't think something can be considered masculine or feminine unless it is in some way characteristic of the sex, or at least, something we consider to be essentially part of manhood or womanhood.

      I understand that we would like women to be faithful in relationships. But this is not characteristic of women. Women will break off relationships without really even knowing why they are doing it. They just feel an inner urge to do it. They will break off relationships even with men they love, consider good men, are not sure they can live without etc. Just because.

      The reality is that faithfulness in relationships is a product of women being enculturated into masculine values. It doesn't come from women, and is not part of the feminine soul.

      It is of course a good thing and a worthy thing for a woman to be faithful. We will admire a faithful woman more than a faithless one. But I think we should reserve the term "feminine virtues" for things that spring from female nature rather than from male nature.

      And these things do exist. There does exist a specifically feminine type of care and compassion that does not come as easily to men and which is especially prized by those who are vulnerable in society - children, the sick, the elderly.

    2. "Women will break off relationships without really even knowing why they are doing it. They just feel an inner urge to do it. They will break off relationships even with men they love, consider good men, are not sure they can live without etc. Just because."

      That is not true. Women break off relationships with men for specific, well defined, often calculated reasons which are not always obvious to the man himself. The most common reason for a woman to lose interest in a man is because she had an agenda on entering into the relationship of achieving a high standard of upper middle class living and the man cannot deliver this. The purpose of the relationship is negated and she loses interest and starts to look for a better prospect. This may not be obvious to the man who thinks he is working hard and doing a good job and he does not want to see or admit that his wife views him as a loser.
      She may think he is a good man, love him and have fond feelings but this does not compensate for the inability to provide the social or financial status she wants and she would rather be with a man whom she does not love and is not good but has the financial means to provide the standard of living and material goods she craves.

      The bottom line is that women need security and not necessarily love. Many women would rather be with a rich rogue than a poor saint.

      Faithfulness in relationships is not "masculine". Men are in general less faithful than women. Faithfulness requires leverage over a person such that the option of leaving a relationship comes with a heavy price. This can exist only when family, professional and business connections lock people into relationships.

    3. Anon, disagree on two points. Men are definitely more faithful in all sorts of relationships than women, including with male friends. Men are loyal to the pack in a way that women aren't. Second, if women left men just for financial reasons, then how do you explain the large numbers of women who are willing to go downwards financially post divorce? There are heaps of women who reach a point where they are happy to have their kids and live on welfare/child support, without having to work again themselves.

    4. Men may be loyal to the pack but they are not always loyal in marriage. In fact their rates of adultery and spouse abandonment are considerably higher than those of women.

      "then how do you explain the large numbers of women who are willing to go downwards financially post divorce?"

      Quite simply because the man has no money. If he had, the women would get a lump sum or maintenance payments on settlement and would in all likelihood end up better off than the husband.

    5. Anon, women initiate the large majority of divorces. As for post divorce, there are large numbers of women who are happy to "never work again" but live off their ex husband's chid support payments and government welfare. Women will divorce men with good jobs, even though their chance as middle-aged women with children in tow of getting a new man with a better job are slim.

      One thing the red pillers get right, is that women are only genuinely attracted to a small subset of men and will only fully give themselves to these men. However, there are women who will rationalise their way to accepting one of the "non attractive" men, but the relationship is likely to be a more utilitarian based one, without a genuine sexual component, and can end with a forceful repudiation by the woman after she has achieved her goal of house, children and guaranteed income stream. It won't matter what the soon to be ex husband has done for her, how good a man he was, how good a father - once there is no longer a need for the rationalisation, then there will no longer be any pretending, the fact of the husband being a mere utility will be expressed openly and rudely and the marriage will end.

      The reason to acknowledge this is that those of us who support marriage as a path to civilisation need to know how difficult it is to achieve a system of stable marriage. In particular, in a wealthy society with generous welfare and with a family law that transfers money to women, marriage is likely to be unstable, as women no longer have the same need to rationalise their way into lifetime marriage with the very large numbers of men who, by female standards, are considered unattractive.

    6. One problem I see in this analysis is that marriage is characterized as a secular contract. Marriage outside of a religious context would be considered strange in most eras, and even today worldwide. Absent its vital spiritual aspect marriage bows to the gods of autonomy, thereby making it a fraud with predictable results.

      The idea that the divorce rate in the West is something like 50% is something we have all bought into. But if you factor out marriages of the very young (under 18), childless marriages and married couples who do not attend church then it falls to something like 25%. This is very significant and says a lot about the fact that marriage is much more than two people living together.

      It is called holy matrimony for good reasons.

    7. leadpb, I agree that marriage tends to lose meaning in a wholly secular society. That, at least, is what has happened in practice.

      In the pre-modern period a young woman would have been enculturated into a community in which an individual would have placed themselves in the care of/under the protection of a loving God the Father, and then under a loving and authoritative father within a family. I suspect that this was the kind of cultural background that then carried over into a young woman being able to respect the "office of husband" headed up by her spouse.

  3. There are other communities living within the Western societies which are subject to the same culture and yet do not have the rate of family breakdown. The Orthodox Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims.

    The religious basis for marriage is one vital issue but the second issue is informal social control by family connections. Regardless of religious belief and Law, it is not possible to hold people accountable without having a degree of leverage over them provided by family, business and professional commitments. In the work environment, Family connections provide more control over potentially recalcitrant employees than any employment law can provide.

    In marriages, close connections and the leverage which these connections provide are essential to maintain family stability and by extension the social order. The threat of excommunication from family, employment and social life cannot be mitigated by a divorce settlement however attractive that might be. That is why the Mafia and organised crime, political dynasties and oligarchy are family businesses with strict exclusion of outsiders and leverage over insiders.

    When marriage is just a personal choice between unrelated people, each pursuing his or her own agenda and interests, it cannot last.