Thursday, October 11, 2018

Power without justice

I've written a lot on feminism at this site, mostly about the connection between feminism and the liberal project of maximising individual autonomy.

I happen to know a few high profile feminists and this has given me some insight into the way they think. I've come increasingly to believe that gender politics is used by these women not for the purposes of securing their vision of justice (maximum autonomy for women) but simply for competitive advantage against men in securing the markers of a successful upper middle-class lifestyle, such as professional status, income and cultural/political influence in society.

It's a dreary and demoralising vision of society, one in which men and women are divided into opposing social classes, competing eternally against each other for material things.

Which brings me to a review by Laura Kipnis in The Atlantic of a new feminist book. Laura Kipnis describes the vision of society outlined in this book in similar terms to what I set out above:
One of the unfunny witticisms going around during Hillary Clinton’s first presidential run was that she’d never get elected, because she reminded men of their first wife. When a male friend relayed the update during her second run—no, she didn’t remind men of their first wife; she reminded them of their first wife’s divorce lawyer—I recall barking with laughter. The joke distilled all the male anxieties of the moment: Something was being taken away from them, their balls were in a vise, pissed-off women wanted men’s stuff and were going to be ruthless about trying to get it.

I recalled this joke while reading Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, which shares what might be called a divorce-court view of the gender situation in America. Men and women are on opposing sides, and women will succeed only by quashing men and seizing the spoils: the big jobs, the political offices, and the moral high ground.

The rest of the review is by now very familiar. Social enemy no.1 is the white male:
The primary target for this accumulated rage is, of course, men—white men

But white women are also coming under attack:
83 percent of Democratic women were furious at the news at least once a day. But the oppositional fury isn’t exactly tidy, Traister acknowledges. For many of the women of color whom she quotes, the anger is equally directed at white women.

Rebecca Traister blames "white heterosexual marriage" for the continuing loyalty between white men and women:
the real culprit behind his election, as Traister sees it, is white heterosexual marriage. Analyses of 2016 voting patterns reveal a stark partisan divide between married and never-married white women

Imagine reaching a state of mind in which loyalty between a husband and wife is condemned as undermining the more perfect division of the sexes into hostile, competing social classes.

Patrick Deneen, in his book Why Liberalism Failed, writes about how liberalism, even in its earliest forms, preferred to base itself on "the low" (e.g. harnessing self-interest) rather than aspirations to the high (such as appeals to a common good). He notes of current social problems that,
These maladies include the corrosive social and civic effects of self-interest - a disease that arises from the cure of overcoming the ancient reliance upon virtue. Not only is this malady increasingly manifest in all social interactions and institutions, but it infiltrates liberal politics. Undermining any appeal to a common good, it induces a zero-sum mentality that becomes nationalized polarization for a citizenry that is increasingly driven by private and largely material concerns.

Instead of men and women working together selflessly for a common good (e.g. the family, the nation), and thereby creating stability, trust and improving social standards, the left is pushing a vision of a "nationalized polarization" with men and women standing against each other in competition for power and social resources.

It strikes me as being so bleak a vision of society that it is likely ultimately to bring about a collapse rather than an enduring social order.


  1. Liberals tend to view freedom as limitless, rather than of the zero-sum view that giving freedom from one requires taking it from another. Lived experience tends towards the latter view, as allowing women to divorce limited the rights of fathers to be involved in family life, and according civil rights to blacks caused the end of freedom of association.

    While the foundation of liberalism and feminism is written into the lawbooks, the courts are a tool of last resort when voluntary economic exchange, economic coercion and social shaming have failed.

    The remarkable thing about the longevity of liberalism is its abilities to continue to pay the bills. Paul Kennedy, the British historian, considered this one of the key reasons behind the growth of the Empire.

    This macro level solution also applies at the micro level, what would the power of feminism be if it were not inscribed into law, with a court system that can compel the payment of alimony and child support.

    Will the tide of "micro-level collapses" be able to do in the whole of society? There are certainly some nihilistic MGTOW types that may ironically favor this, but I think their enthusiastic pessimism ignores the reflexivity of liberalism. A few reforms here and there would act as a release valve, only the obstinate nature of an older generation that expects simaltaneous chivalry and feminism is holding it back.

  2. There are two possibilities. Either women were always selfish, spoilt, vicious and filled with irrational anger and feminism just allowed their craziness to blossom, or feminism changed the nature of women.