Sunday, March 31, 2019

Liberalism & the body

Below is a tweet from Teen Vogue:

The logic of liberalism is continuing to unfold. There is a strong assertion in this video from Teen Vogue that there are no male and female bodies, i.e. nothing about the body that would reasonably qualify a person as male or female.

Chase Strangio, an attorney for the ACLU, claims in the video that,
We all have characteristics that are typically male and typically female and it is really about political choices, social factors, ideological choices that we assign meaning to different parts of our body.

Katrina Karkazis says,
The body doesn't have just one place where we can sit there with a microscope or something else and say, hey wait a second, this is really who you are, this is your true sex. In fact, who you are is who you say you are.

There are people who are now claiming that their body parts are male or female depending on what they identify them to be. In other words, if someone has breasts then this is not objectively an aspect of female biology. They are a part of either male or female biology depending on what the person who has them identifies as.

One of the trans participants in the video asserts,
When I say I'm a woman I don't just mean that I identify as a woman, I mean that my biology is the biology of a woman regardless of whether or not doctors agree. 

It was almost inevitable we'd arrive at this point. In a liberal society what matters is maximising individual autonomy, which means that anything which limits our ability to determine who we are or what we do is seen as a limitation which the individual needs to be liberated from.

We do not get to determine our biological sex. Liberalism's first response to this "problem" was to say, well, we'll make a person's sex not matter in life. There will be no "sexism', meaning no sphere in life and no social role pertaining to one sex and not the other. To achieve this, it was claimed that traditional sex roles were based only on "gender" and that gender was an oppressive social construct that could be deconstructed.

But this was inevitably only a first step, as it still left people with a biological sex that they did not choose for themselves. Being a man or a woman no longer meant as much socially, but I still didn't get to choose for myself which one I would be.

And so the next step is to make the idea of biological sex itself something that is chosen by individuals. Hence the claim by Chase Strangio that there is no objective meaning to being born with certain body parts; the meanings are socially constructed, through political and ideological choices or through social forces.

Teen Vogue chose an interesting week to make all these claims as it coincided with the public release of research showing that differences between the brains of boys and girls begins in the womb, and therefore before any possible social influences. Science continues to suggest that at least some differences between the sexes are hardwired rather than being created by culture and socialisation.

Finally, it should be pointed out that Teen Vogue is not alone in pressing forward with these sorts of claims. The Tasmanian Government has just decided to put forward legislation that would make abortions legal for men:

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A Dutch turn?

I always enjoy being able to post positive news. Last month provincial elections were held in the Netherlands. These elections are significant as they determine the seats held in the Dutch senate.

A new party called Forum for Democracy (in Dutch "Forum voor Democratie" or FvD), led by Thierry Baudet, made great gains, becoming the largest party in the senate with 13 seats (out of 75). The party led by Geert Wilders (Partij voor de Vrijheid or PVV) won 5 seats, giving the two nationalist parties 24% of the total.

I can't say how much the politics of either of the parties genuinely agrees with traditionalism, as I'm not familiar enough with Dutch politics. What I do know is that Geert Wilders tends to appeal more to working-class people and that he does not focus on building party membership but relies on his own media exposure. I do like the advert that he produced for the election:

This seems to me typical of Wilders, in the sense that there is an eloquent appeal to a national spirit, but also that there is still sometimes a liberal frame of reference (as in "we have the freedom to decide for ourselves how we want to live" which works in the context of the video by asserting national sovereignty, but which if taken individually can dissolve the cultural and social forms of a community on the grounds of individual autonomy).

And what of Thierry Baudet? His party is said to appeal to younger people and to the middle-classes. He is an intellectual, having written several books, including one titled "Oikophobia: Fear of one's own". He is a Eurosceptic who wishes to limit immigration. He told supporters in his victory speech:
We stand here in the rubble of what was once the most beautiful civilisation.

We won because the country needs us. We are being destroyed by the people who are supposed to be protecting us.

Successive Rutte governments have left our borders wide open, letting in hundreds of thousands of people with cultures completely different to ours.

He is said to be especially opposed to the cultural self-loathing of the Dutch establishment.

Thierry Baudet of the Forum for Democracy

One final point. It is particularly heartening that both parties are attempting to counteract what Patrick Deneen in his book Why Liberalism Failed calls "fractured time". It's a brilliant part of Deneen's book (pages 72 to 77 if you have the hardcover). Deneen argues that a core aspect of liberalism is its "presentism" - its dislocation of the individual from both the past and the future. It seems clear to me that this process has gone so far in the Netherlands that both Baudet and Wilders are making it central to their campaigns, by reconnecting people in a positive way to the past and by insisting that this can extend into the future as well.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A tale of two women

This is a story of two young attractive women. Their lives have gone in very different directions because they have adopted such different life philosophies.

The first woman is Chidera Eggerue. She is of Nigerian descent and lives in the UK. Here is one of her recent tweets:

As you can see, Chidera has bought into a left liberal world view. She believes that the reason we don't have freedom and equality is that there is a power structure ("patriarchy") which only exists because one group of people, men, wanted to exploit another group, women.

This left-liberal belief goes back a long way. The power structure identified as being responsible for the world's ills changes over time. It was once thought to be the aristocratic order, then the bourgeois one, and is now a combination of whiteness and maleness. I've written about its earlier forms here.

What I'd briefly like to point out is one of the consequences of believing in "patriarchy theory". If you are a woman and you believe that throughout human history men have organised to exploit you, then what will you think about men, marriage and relationships? Inevitably, at least some of the women holding these ideas are going to lose a sense of warm, positive regard for men.

Chidera Eggerue

It's therefore not surprising that Chidera has become an advocate for the single life. She has written a book titled What A Time To Be Alone which has the following blurb:
In What A Time To Be Alone, The Slumflower [Chidera] will be your life guru, confidante and best friend. She’ll show you that being alone is not just okay: it’s just about the best freaking thing that’s ever happened to you.

Unsurprisingly the book also has the basic liberal message that what matters is our autonomy - our freedom to be self-determining individuals. A review of the book describes it as having:
a message of self-determination outlining that any woman can be who she wants to be

The second woman, Caitlin Huber, lives in the American Midwest. Her life philosophy is very different to Chidera's. She is a Christian with a more traditional outlook of cultivating feminine character.
Caitlin Huber

In her description of how she tries to live her faith she includes this:
4. Guarding My Mind & Spirit

I actively try to guard my mind and spirit from negative influences: this may sound a little "woo-woo" but hear me out. Scripture calls us to think about things that are "lovely and noble."

And in a post on cultivating feminine character:
A strong and beautiful character does not happen overnight however; it must be nurtured over a lifetime. As we nurture our character, we can lean into our naturally feminine traits and instincts to further cultivate femininity.

...We instinctively have the ability to nurture as women, but that does not mean a strong character will not help us nurture BETTER. In fact, a character rich in the virtues of discipline, kindness, faithfulness, and loyalty will allow us to nurture more effectively than one lacking in character altogether.

...The character is what we can fall back on when times are tough. Character helps us get through tough situations and moral conundrums. Good character built upon solid morals helps us make life-giving decisions so that we can live a stable, and positive life, fit and ready to nurture those around us and ourselves.

Character is different than your "Heart"

I see a ton of Women's ministries focused on our "hearts." We try to nurture our hearts, listen to our hearts, follow our hearts, and speak from the heart.

This advice has good intentions, but part of the problem is that hearts are wishy-washy. They are prone to emotional ups and downs, frivolous desires, constant confusion, and weakness. The heart should be relied upon sometimes in life, but I think that if you are going to put a ton of energy into nurturing anything in your life, let it be your character.

...Character can be created, nurtured, and forged through adversity, pain, and discipline. Through choosing the right way, the moral way, and the strong way, we will be able to forge strong character, and in turn, live effective, successful, and beautiful lives.

What can we say about this philosophy? First, it is not premised on a sense of being wronged by men. Therefore it is not surprising that Caitlin is married and looking forward to having children. Her tweets often describe the simple satisfactions of a happy domestic life:

Second, Caitlin's philosophy is a good example of what we might return to if we could only discard the influence of liberalism on our culture. Not being ruled by a liberal philosophy, Caitlin can freely accept that she has a distinct nature as a woman, one that has important virtues attached to it, that a woman will rightly seek to cultivate. She is also free to live by the standards that were once so much a part of the Western tradition, including orienting herself to the more noble aspects of character, as well as to what is lovely within womanhood.

Chidera's liberalism is a civilisational dead-end. It leads logically to solo development, rather than to family formation. It drives a wedge between men and women. It does not recognise the goods of personal character as this would limit choice - it emphasises instead that we be non-judgemental, even toward ourselves ("self-acceptance"). It preaches empowerment, but this only really means getting to follow any impulse or desire, no matter what it is.

Liberalism is unfortunately very deeply embedded in the minds of many Western men. It's not an easy thing to purge from our society. I would appeal, though, to any young men reading this to consider what is at stake, not just for the West, but for their own personal lives. If we were to jettison liberalism, and encourage women to cultivate feminine character, would we not have a better chance at living fulfilling personal lives, as husbands and fathers within a family?

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

We are playing by girl's rules

If you were to believe feminists we live in an oppressive patriarchy in which women lack equal rights.

And yet when it comes to relationships we are clearly playing not by men's rules, or even equal rules, but by women's rules.

Western culture once viewed individuals as having, like other creatures, an animal nature, but unlike other creatures, the faculty of reason. The idea was to use reason to guide our nature to higher ends or purposes. Human freedom was associated with self-restraint of baser impulses and desires, and with the cultivation of virtue and character.

But the formula has changed. To be liberated now means having an autonomous individual will, so that we are free to act on our desires or impulses, no matter what they might be (we are no longer even meant to judge these desires, we are supposed to be "non-judgemental").

And so a young woman will be told that she is being "empowered" by acting according to her desires or impulses, no matter what they are. It is her "right" to do so, a part of her autonomy. The culture of rational self-restraint has been overthrown (as described in my How Free is Cardi B? post).

There are three noticeable aspects of this experiment in liberating female impulse from a culture of prudential reason:

1. When women's primal nature is exercised unrestrained, there are observable patterns in their relationship choices at different stages of life.

2. Society is organised to enable these female choices.

3. Liberating and enabling these impulses has negative effects.

I'm going to make a foray into territory I usually avoid, by attempting to observe how women process relationships. I'll be drawing on the work of Rollo Tomassi in doing this. I can't endorse everything he has written (if for no other reason than I haven't read all that he has written). However, his way of describing the patterns in female behaviour fits closely with what I have experienced and observed. I therefore believe it to be useful knowledge that should be widely known (there is a useful graph illustrating his ideas embedded in this post.)

The underlying observation, on which the rest depends, is that there is a dual nature to women's sexual strategy. The kind of men that women are attracted to sexually are often different to the kind of men that women rely on for support in establishing a family. Rightly or wrongly, the first kind of men are usually termed "alpha" and the second "beta".

If a young woman is "liberated" to do so (i.e. liberated to follow her impulses, no matter what they are), she will often choose to spend her younger years attempting to attract the alpha males who she responds to sexually. Rollo suggests that this "party years" phase is at its peak from roughly ages 20 to 26 (I have heard women of my own age refer to it as their "wild years").

Who are these alpha men? It varies a bit, but it will include men who are edgy in their looks and behaviour, who are self-confident in dealing with women, who have a reputation as "players", who are muscular, who have a visible level of drive and ambition, who have some kind of social status (e.g. play in a band) and who don't play by the rules.

Women don't necessarily expect that relationships with these "exciting" men will be more than sexual. In this phase, women are using the sexual power they find themselves with to compete to be chosen by such men. As long as the women still think of themselves as young and attractive enough to vie for the attention of such alpha males they may well prefer a "sex in the city" lifestyle in which they aren't tied down to any one man. They like the experience of exercising their sexual power; some don't want it to end.

And does our society support women acting on these impulses? Rollo would say that we live in a "feminine primary social order", i.e. one that enables women's sexual strategies rather than men's. And he appears to be right. What is it, after all, that feminists call for at this stage of life? Younger feminists call for free abortion on demand, free and affordable contraception and for an acceptance of female promiscuity (e.g. the "slutwalk" movement). These are clearly aimed at enabling the party years phase of a woman's life.

Feminists are not really advocating for equality here. What they are doing is supporting women to act freely on their impulses, whatever they are. They are being "liberationists" in the sense that they are liberating women from prudential reason, from the self-limitation of desire. They are supported by the liberal state in doing so, in part, because they are able to argue for this as an expression of a woman's individual autonomy ("my body, my choice"). It is likely, as well, that the liberal state is supportive of women's traditional commitments being dissolved via sexual revolution, as this brings women more completely under the rule of a liberal, technocratic ordering of society.

Traditional societies never permitted the party girl phase to be so unrestrained. They were correct in this as:

1. It delays family formation, so that women's most fertile years are wasted, contributing to below replacement fertility levels.

2. Women spend their formative years engaging promiscuously in sex, damaging their ability later on to successfully pair bond, hence a higher rate of divorce.

3. Family oriented men are likely to be rejected for an extended period of time, leading to resentments or demoralisation, with less incentive to commit to careers.

The party girl phase ends when women start pushing up to their later 20s and can no longer compete as easily with younger women. They go through what Tomassi calls an "epiphany" phase, in which they are ready to stop competing sexually and instead focus on forming a family. In this phase, they might start considering men they had previously rejected, men who are conscientious, loyal, hard working and family oriented - so-called beta males.

It's common for women in this situation to start to ask where "all the good men are". They might surprise themselves by giving a chance to a man "they wouldn't normally go for." They might find themselves telling such a man that he is "not like all those other men" and that "all she ever wanted was to get married and have children". Her previous experience with men will be downplayed as she adopts a different persona.

The men in this age bracket (say 30s) will in the meantime be told they have to start "manning up" and take on traditional family responsibilities. If they are men who have been previously overlooked, they might be surprised at their newfound popularity. They might even have the experience of fielding interest from several women, something very different from when they were younger. They are suddenly and unexpectedly in demand.

Things might go well for a period of time. A woman might genuinely in this phase of her life be looking forward to marriage and motherhood and so hold her beta male fiancee in high regard.

For some years the marriage might go reasonably well. Husband and wife will buy a house together and raise their young children. If there is a difficulty it might be in the wife's lack of genuine sexual interest in her husband. She might not say this openly, not when she is looking to secure things with him, but it will emerge in an unwillingness or an inability to either have sex or to connect with her husband in sex. This is part of that difficulty of women having a "dual nature" in finding some men sexually attractive, but others attractive for family formation.

The next phase Rollo calls alpha reinterest. He sees it as happening typically in a woman's late 30s, though in my observation it reaches a critical point when a woman's youngest child is semi-independent (e.g. old enough for school). For some women, this phase is very powerful. She might, despite being middle-aged with children, want to return to her clubbing days. She might become a devotee of the 50 Shades kind of literature. Importantly, she might not just want her husband to act a little differently, she might want him to be a completely different kind of man. What she wanted in a man a decade previously is not what she wants now. It is possible too that she doesn't want someone else to marry, she just doesn't want to be married - she wants to go back to the intoxicating party years phase.

Some of these women will start to prepare to divorce. They won't tell their husbands of any discontent, because they don't want to save their marriages. They want their husband to be someone else and they want to be single again (some women will choose to stay married, though, perhaps because they fear the loss of comfort or security, or they are worried about how family and friends will react, or they might be concerned about their children).

Once again, the "feminine primary social order" steps in and enables these women to divorce with as little fallout as possible. It will usually be women who retain the family home, who have most of the custody of the children, and who receive income transfers from their former spouse. Many divorced men find themselves shunted out of their families, but still expected to fulfil the provider role for their ex-wives. They are financially propping up the new lifestyle of their ex-wife, as she seeks out an "alpha" relationship dynamic, the one she is familiar with from her formative years.

Efforts to reform family law have often been vociferously opposed by feminists. There are feminists who strongly support equal parenting during the marital life phase, but who are strongly opposed to it in the divorce phase.

Is it good for society to allow a woman's alpha reinterest to lead to divorce? I would have thought the answer to be clearly no. The childhood of the children involved will be disrupted; some of them will lose contact with their fathers. Some will be exposed to temporary boyfriends of their mother who will be a risk to their well-being. Some ex-husbands don't recover from the sudden impact of so many stressors: loss of spouse, children, home, assets and income. The women themselves will often need to be supported financially by the state as single mothers. Nor do these women always think clearly about their real prospects in the dating world after divorce.

My intention in writing this is not to discourage anyone from marrying - a good marriage is still a blessing in life. It's more to help spread the message that liberation from rational self-restraint is not compatible with a stable culture of marriage, in part, because it liberates women to pursue certain predictable impulses, as Rollo has described them.

The best response would be to return to the social standards, the cultural norms, the economic policies, and the family laws which once reinforced "prudential reason" as against "immediate impulse/instinct". Until this happens it seems to me that men who want to marry might be advised to do the following:

1. Try to combine at least some "alpha" traits, at least those compatible with family life, along with the family guy "beta" ones. There's no reason, for instance, why a family man can't demonstrate masculine energy in being driven to reach life goals and to have ambitions (not necessarily career ones). Similarly, there is no reason why a family guy can't aim for muscularity and physical health.

2. Avoid choosing a woman who has neurotic personality traits. Women who rank high in neuroticism are "prone to having irrational ideas, being less able to control their impulses, and as coping more poorly than others with stress". These women will be least able to successfully regulate their baser impulses during the course of life. The problem for men is that it's not always easy to identify these women; in happy times, they may exhibit a lot of attractive traits. Some of the "gives" are that they will be more irritable than most people, as they do not handle even low levels of stress well and often overreact to low level setbacks; and they might have a poor history of maintaining all sorts of relationships (work, friendships, romantic) because they are prone to irrational thinking. Long engagements are wise with these kind of women: even if they are able to mask neurotic thoughts from their partner, over time these thoughts will sabotage the relationship. Two, or perhaps even three, year engagements are advisable.

3. Women who exhibit self-control and conscientiousness are more likely to succeed in relationships. In other words, what matters more than a woman's feelings in the moment toward you are her settled personality traits. People with conscientious personality traits are more likely to "take obligations to others seriously".

4. Women who come from warm, intact, loving families and who have good relationships with their fathers do seem, in my observation, to be more likely to want a committed relationship with a man at an earlier age. These women often pair bond more readily, and at an earlier age, so a man might need to be ready at an early age to succeed with one of these women.

5. Men should not be too taken in by the sudden interest they might receive when women reach the epiphany phase. Much sober-minded screening needs to take place.

6. It's not wise for a man to invest everything in family. As important as it is, for himself and for society, a man's sacrifices are no guarantee of a lasting marital bond. Have other areas of life that also give a sense of purpose, achievement and identity.

7. It's not healthy for men to devote everything to winning female desire. If men were only to compete to prove their desirability to women, then masculine character would not fully develop. Women are not sexually attracted by character and virtue in men. The heroes in female romantic fiction are generally darkly natured cads, who have inherited high status and who act on impulse to take what they want. Masculine character develops when men work together in public life for the public good (polis life). That's when men have the opportunity to measure each other through criteria of loyalty, honour, probity, courage or service.

One final point: men have to exercise their higher rational and moral natures without overly suppressing their primal, biological, instinctual natures. Men might find that their love of a wife is based in their higher nature, but for her to sexually desire him requires that he has retained something of his primal masculine nature.