Ann Friedman writes in ‘The American Prospect’ to object to the Hanna Rosin article declaring or suggesting “The End of Men”. I had Posted on Rosin’s article here and on Katha Pollitt’s effort to spin it as a Good Idea here.
Why another Post? Because of all the Revolutions of the Identities the radical-feminist one was the most deliberate, the most shrewdly organized, and the most theoretically grounded. And it was, in a short-viewed ‘tactical’ way, hugely successful: it influenced – but alas also Deconstructed – a vast swath of American society and culture, drilling deep and fragmenting bore-holes and blasting vitally-placed chunks out of the bedrock.
And as well – by virtue of its shrewd catering to a sensationalist and purpose-hungry media and its deft carrot-and-stick manipulations of vote-hungry pols desperate to please – it set in motion dynamics or ‘new normalities’ that bethump Us yet.
First, at a time when the entire productive basis of not only American postwar economic primacy but also American economic viability was starting to slide and required serious attention, the radical-feminist agenda not only bethumped the country with its own purported Crisis, but actually made Deconstructing the ‘male, macho, working-male, Industrial economy’ seem like a Good Idea and then substituting for that awesome engine of productivity and economic security a ‘knowledge and service’ society that would not only turn most Americans into low-wage helots (undermining Democracy itself) but was in its essence nothing more than a ‘hope’ or a ‘dampdream’.
Second, it deranged long-established and hard-won principles of law in order to conduct a war on ‘males’, thereby deranging and corroding and corrupting jurists and jurisprudence as well as legislative integrity. Rules of evidence, presumption of innocence, the right to face accusers, and other key elements in the Constitutional ethos were ‘reformed’ into their opposites in order to provide ‘justice’.
Third, it introduced the Revolutionary Method of Lenin’s vanguard-elite approach: ignoring ‘the masses’ who ‘just don’t get it’ and sidestepping democratic deliberation and consensus in order to secure the imposition of their dangerous and dubious ‘reforms’ in the effort to make them – whether workable or not, whether compatible with the Constitutional tradition or not, whether popularly acceptable or not – ‘the new normal’.
Fourth, while claiming merely to ‘reform’, it initiated a sustained assault not only on such established and traditional and vital American principles as noted above, but also on such historically primary and profound social concepts as the Family, Marriage, and the division of labor that have since the earliest times of the human species been considered the most workable and efficacious way to conduct the responsibilities of sustaining and propagating the species.
Fifth, in the service of the above, it sought to Flatten the vision and the lives of all Americans by denying the usefulness – or even the existence – of any Higher Dimension to existence (whether ‘God’ as traditionally conceived or any Beyond at all), in order to pre-empt any obstructions to its agenda by means of appeal to Tradition, Common Sense, Reason, or the afore-mentioned ‘God’; and to achieve this again by imposition (of Political Correctness) and side-stepping, indeed ignoring and demeaning, the opinions and desires of the citizens individually and in their collective democratic role as The People.
Sixth, in order to lubricate the skids of this agenda it deliberately sought not only to side-step democratic deliberation, but to reduce to infantilism any adult civic and political competence, thus undermining and corrputing the quality of vital and indispensable civic discourse, such that for some time now the Citizenry has not even been able to assess the genuine facts of what has been happening to the country as the various elements of this agenda were imposed, or – even worse – as the elements of the agenda thus imposed began to demonstrate serious costs and short-comings and ill-consequences that had been a possibility or even a probability all along.
To try to distract from that cosmically repugnant record by claiming that it was the Right in ‘the past 10 years’ that simply wrecked a fine programme of the Left … constitutes an even further dishonesty, perhaps treachery, of cosmic proportions.
And while the Right is now as willfully treacherous as the Left, and deserves much to have its Tires Kicked, the radical-feminist agenda is even more to blame because it brought this whole frakkulent mess to a boil 40-plus years ago and because it shrewdly covered – and still seeks to cover – this rabid wolf of an agenda in the sheep’s-clothing of ‘reform’, ‘liberation’, ‘equality’, ‘rights’, and ‘justice’ – all the while undermining with a calculated ruthlessness the integrity of those concepts and their embodied structures within the American polity.
And yet after 40-odd years of the radical-feminist Revolution’s ascendancy, nobody is even sure that the seemingly endlessly expanding programme of that Revolution’s demands are achievable or workable or ever were, let alone whether the core assumptions of radical feminism are even accurate.
Which I believe explains to great extent why, again shrewdly, the cadres of this Revolution have always avoided all public debate, thereby preventing the profound questions about their project from ever being discussed, analyzed, or subjected to the test of public deliberation. Of course, this was a tactic learned from Lenin (if you already know you’re right and the other side is wrong and just doesn’t get it then why waste time arguing?) Which, also, nicely prevented him from having to confront the huge questions posed by his own agenda, his own utopian vision and his own voracious objectives.*
So since yet another feminstical of great status is speaking a piece, let me see what can be done this time.
Friedman starts off by wondering Why – even with so staunch a cadre as Rosin – there is still all this fuss about the demise/decline of men. After all, this has been the story all along: women “advance” and “their detractors fret about the demise of men”.
Why else would one worry about the demise of men except to “detract” from the advance (as it might be styled) of women? It apparently doesn’t’ occur to her – though she is writing in a magazine with national circulation and pretensions and impeccable Left credentials – that one might worry about the possible concerns for half the population either as a matter of moral responsibility or of simple political prudence.
No, in the Revolution’s moral calculus – as in all revolutionary calculus since at least Lenin – simply having committed the putative outrage of being on the wrong side of the Vision, or being – willy or nilly – its ‘necessary enemy’, is enough to satisfy the cadres that you are an egg that they can afford to break.
And with impunity – said impunity provided by the vote-addled Beltway, and a media witlessly eager to ‘create’ history rather than ‘merely’ report and analyze it.
Friedman takes Rosin to task – which may sound like ‘critique’ but merely reinforces the ideological core of the Revolution: Rosin is merely “worrying about the masculinity-crisis meme”. A meme is a term from literary theory: it means a unit of cultural thought or behavior that is passed on from one generation to the next – sort of the cultural, non-physical equivalent of a gene.**
This ‘meme’ bit also reveals a seriously dubious aspect of the whole radical-feminist gambit: it’s ‘justification’ originated in Continental and especially French literary theory; you’re dealing with words and meanings and how ‘readers’ interpret texts – rightly or wrongly … or whether you can ever interpret a text ‘wrongly’ at all and whether indeed the author’s intent when s/he wrote the ‘text’ is relevant to a reader’s interpretation at all (and you can see what that last question would do to any effort to ‘read’ the ‘text’ of the Constitution).
It’s not exactly rocket science here: there are no actual rockets, no physical laws of motion and gravity, no nothing in an actual, concrete, material sense: it’s all about ‘interpretations’ and who gets to make them (or impose them on others).
So when the cadres adopted all of this ‘Theory’ as the justifications on the basis of which they demanded immediate reforms be made by the pols and judges, there was precious little actual factual material ‘stuff’ upon which to base massive and sudden and deep changes in American law, policy, and the culture itself.
Neat. You not only avoid any debate as a tactical plan, but you have so mushy and play-dough a core to your agenda that nobody can really object because you don’t actually present any actual, debatable, core to your program.
You present your telegenic ‘victims’ or ‘heroes’, puffed up by a compliant and eager-to-please media; you put forth the ‘story’ and your ‘horror’ or ‘outrage’ emotions … and then having fired all those into the air you wait for the herd to stampede in the direction you want it to go. (The herd being the pols and the public, not a really robustly respectful view of democracy or The People.)
As one English writer, Adam Kuper put it in 2004, “And so, as so often in cultural studies, metaphor stands in for explanations and the quotes and anecdotes flow on … ‘as a river procures for itself the shape of the valley’”.
Which is spot-on.
Because I would say that this entire radical-feminist Hypothesis upon which so much of the frakkulence of the past 40 Biblical years is based was never intended to be debated or discussed, nor was there ever any intention to reach Consensus by democratic means.
Instead, the offending dams that had Shaped the river were simply to be blown away, and the raging waters would be let loose upon the land to carve their own new paths and valleys. And it would all work out well! How very Mao.
And the lumpen folks who ‘just don’t get it’ (The People, that is to say) would have to get used to it. After a while the herd would settle down to ‘the new normal’ and that would be that. The ‘winners’ would get to ‘write the history’ and before long nobody would be left who remembered any time before the changes.
Orwellian, in its way. And very Lenin and Mao: although those boyos didn’t have to respect Constitutions, and could simply speed things along by shooting or ‘re-educating’ anybody who didn’t go along with the Revolution’s stampede.
It’s not about the incapacity of males, sniffs Friedman. It’s all about “traditional gender stereotypes” – another non-material term, this ‘stereotype’: the Greeks meant “solid impression” by it … one observed a certain class or type of entity or event or pattern thereof, and one drew some “solid impressions”. This is a perfectly normal and indeed essential human competence: to draw inferences that will help you to predict the danger or usefulness of often-observed things; babies famously learn quickly that open flame and the skin of hands don’t go well together.
So you develop what are only ‘impressions’, but they are ‘solid’ in the sense that they are reliable: most of the time, a certain something will behave in a certain way. And thus you can develop some expectations as to where threats and dangers may be expected and where safety may be expected.
So at the bottom of a ‘stereotype’ there’s usually some amount of accurate perception.
Which doesn’t work as easily with human beings – hugely more complex than trees, rocks, and animals – which is why different groupings who were similar among themselves adopted this or that territory; to make things less complicated so they could get on with those tasks of sustaining and propagating the life of the human species as best they could manage.
The frenzy of the postwar era in the West, however, was to indict ‘stereotyping’ as purely inimical to human freedom and flourishing – which is not only not-true but is 180 degrees opposite from the truth of the human situation. A certain amount is not only useful but indispensable – otherwise you’re going to wind up having to re-invent the wheel every time you encounter anybody else.
But “gender stereotyping” is on the table here and let’s stick with that.
Friedman chides Rosin along now-classic radical-feminist lines: the problem isn’t with “men”; rather, Friedman pronounces, the problem is “traditional gender stereotypes”.
Now if there is any distinction in the human species that might have any lasting claim to validity, it is the distinction between male and female. Far more than ‘color’ or ‘race’ or the ‘characteristics’ of this or that group or nation, Nature itself has sort of set things up so that there are males and females. Or, you can legitimately say, Evolution has.
(Evolution is that thing that the Fundamentalists famously deny exists but that every good ‘liberal’ wants taught in schools because (and I agree) Evolution most probably does exist and certainly provides evidence of its existence in material, analyzable, forms that can be objectively studied by scientists.)
While racial and ethnic distribution and proportions are not really important to Evolution, the dynamics of species reproduction – the sex thing (which in one of a dozen different hypothetical ways is or may be connected to the gender thing) – most certainly is Evolution’s abiding concern. So ... No, Dorothy, ‘gender’ is not ‘just the same’ as race and ethnicity, nor even as sexual orientation.
This datum was not lost on the earliest humans. How could they avoid it?
Consequently they built their societies and civilizations around this insurmountable and unavoidable ‘given’ in human physical existence.
It probably was also not lost on them – although they wouldn’t have a modern scientific conceptual vocabulary to express it – that human kids seemed to be born particularly helpless and that, compared to the animal kingdom, human young took a lot longer to develop to full potency and command of their human physical strengths and capabilities (and that’s before you even get into ‘maturity’, ‘character’, the ‘self’ or the ‘soul’ and all that).
They may have noticed what is now a well-established objective principle of Evolution: that in order to give a species the best possible chance for continued flourishing, Evolution would take as its primary objective the task of ensuring that the young would have the nurture and protection they would need while they were developing from helplessness to competence.
Given that the human species requires the participation of both a male and a female, and that the female is actually ordained by Evolution to bear the young from inception, it might be inferred – and not unreasonably – that the female would be endowed with the special capabilities – in all aspects of physical, emotional, and psychological pre-disposition – to bond with and conduct the primary nurture while the male would be equipped to provide the protection.
This is not to say that it would be true in each and every instance and member of the respective sexes, but that was in general the way things were set up to work. Just like oxen would be best for pulling a plow and horses would be best for pulling war-chariots (don’t go running off with that image). You might every once in a blue moon find that an ox was able to run and maneuver as competently as a horse, or that a horse might be bred for pulling a plow … but overall, assuming you had both oxen and horses available to you, you would want your oxen in the field and your horses in the chariot-formations.
Nor would it be honest to compare the worst of field-work (boring, drudgery, repetitive) with the best of chariot-work (exciting, impressive, honorific). Oxen had a safer and far more non-violent existence, and providing food through agriculture was both a necessary and a constructive occupation; and chariot-horses ran the risk of being killed just like their drivers, or – in a pinch – eaten by their own drivers if they got stuck in a tough situation.
To the ancient humans Life was a Vale of Tears and there was no escaping the Tears, although they might come in different forms for the respective sexes of the species.
So you now reach the point where you can ask whether that insight is merely ‘quaint’ and outmoded or whether it is ‘perennial’ – and ‘perennial’ means that it’s true throughout Time and History. And it’s true like that because it’s built into the very nature of the species.
Built in by Evolution – that thing that Fundamentalists refuse no matter what evidence exists for it and that ‘liberals’ accept precisely because so much scientific evidence does exist for it.
So if you go with Evolution, then you might expect that it would be a reasonable ‘stereotype’ to expect that somehow the female has been given special abilities in the child-rearing and nurture department, and males not so much. Each sex is ‘wired’ – as would be said nowadays – for its particular task and competence.
The ‘stereotype’ flows from Evolution itself, as best humans ancient or modern can determine.
Friedman, a Correct radical-feminist, holds otherwise.*** The gender stereotype is nothing but bias imposed by a patriarchal oppression, long-established and maintained, which embodies the oppression of, even ‘war upon’, ‘women’ by ‘men’. The Evolutionary design for the species, endowing the female and the male for assorted essential tasks, is – and by the putatively quintessential ‘liberals’ – utterly ignored.
“Men are not biologically predisposed to jobs that require strength and aggression, just as women are not biologically destined to be better thinkers and caregivers”, says Friedman. So then … Evolution sort of stops just before it reaches the human species? Doesn’t apply to the human species although it applies to all the other life forms on the planet? Now THAT’S an interesting proposition – although it raises a hell of a lot more questions than it answers.
For openers, ‘biological predisposition’ is precisely what Evolution is going for 24-7, 365.
WHICH, I would say, is precisely why throughout the whole past forty-plus frakkulous years the radical-feminists have done everything possible to avoid having to discuss, let alone debate publicly, this core assumption and presumption of their entire Vision. Because when you get right to the heart of their Vision, you have to face the fact that they are denying Evolution – just as surely as any whack-job Fundamentalist who thinks Adam rode dinosaurs to work.
Evolution – when it comes to humans – doesn’t exist for any practical purposes: this is the core presumption of a Hypothesis that was promoted from Private to Field Marshal in the space of a couple-three years by the vote-addled Dems back in the late Sixties and early Seventies. (And then allowed to bring along a whole bunch of junior relatives along up the ladder with it.)
And it’s only the hugely enlightened cadres of today’s radical-feminism that can ‘see’ that; all the previous millennia of humans ‘just didn’t get it’, dumb and lumpish oafs or oppressed wrecks that they were.
Yet really – what else is it but a Hypothesis?****
All of the damage wrought by Points 1 through 6 above has been wrought on the basis of the Beltway’s sudden embrace of a Hypothesis that not even its proponents want to defend in open debate.
Once you realize that, then all the ‘schools’ of feminist thought – the divisions, sub-divisions, and sub-sub-divisions (that so curiously resemble the proliferation of approaches to Marxist and communist thought in the early 20th century) – become, I think, rather clear: their efflorescence does not represent a ‘rich’ and ‘diverse’ ‘scholarship’ but rather a whole bunch of different hyper-excited cadres who are making their bones by imagining what is itself nothing but an Imaginarium, a phantasm, a non-existent figment of the imagination that, being ‘totally autonomous’ in that it has no reality to Shape or boundary it, can be played-with like play-dough ad infinitum.
We have a Western version of the Ten Blind Men and the Elephant, only in this case the Elephant may very well not exist in the first place except in each blind person’s fevered imagination (such a Sixties twist, no?).
Compared to the presumption at the core of the radical-feminist Vision, the divinity and resurrection of Christ are as solid a reality as a ton of granite. (No wonder they want to get rid of as much ‘religion’ as they can.)
Thus too all the secondary issues can be seen in perspective: does race and class overshadow gender as a hermeneutic? Granted that “the working class” has “defined our notions of masculinity”, is the working-class now turning into a matriarchy? (Let’s not get started on how much the decline of ‘masculine’ ‘industrial’ culture and – not to put too fine a point on it – industry had the support of great herds of radical-feminist thinkers, doers, and camp-followers.)
Are the majority of single-mothers mired in poverty or working successfully? Or is the answer to that question all in how you crunch the numbers and select the ‘stories’?
So too are the quickie-zinger rhetorical buck-and-wings that constitute successful and acute thinking in the chardonnay-soused circles of those who ‘get it’: if Apatovian omega-males are such slackers, wouldn’t they be perfectly placed to pick up the slack in the evolving “post-masculine economy”?
(I’m going to say again here: a post-industrial, knowledge-and-service economy – referred to by Friedman here as a post-masculine economy – is really NO ECONOMY AT ALL; it’s just the corpse of the actual productive-industrial-masculine (if you insist) economy that hasn’t started to really decompose yet; it is the afterimage, or afterglow, of a once vibrant and robust living entity; and on top of that, no post-masculine, knowledge-and-service ‘economy’ can pay its way, but rather instead requires a hugely wealthy nation and government to pay its bills.)
And as for Friedman’s explanation for whatever male decline may be taking place – that “high achieving women … busted all sorts of gender stereotypes in order to get their piece of the economic pie” – a few thoughts: first, when the vote-addled Beltway has warned the entire country that ‘women will succeed or else’ you’d be well-advised to exercise caution when toting up the actual ‘success’ that results.
Second, following from that, a rather significant percentage of the population may already have come to that rather common-sensical conclusion although – the government and the sensationalist media being what they are – have opted like late-Soviet citizens to keep a straight face and their thoughts to themselves.
And I suspect that the Beltway and those who seek to spin all manner of illusions realize that and even now are worried – like so many revolutionaries before them – that deep down the masses really don’t buy their package. Which is why feministical legal thinkers like Martha Nussbaum – 40 years after the Revolution began – are now trying to get the courts to ‘protect’ the Revolution’s agenda by imposing it as a matter of ‘rights’ on a public that already can’t be trusted and a legislature that is apparently becoming less trustworthy as time goes by.
Third, the efforts of human beings from the beginning of recorded human history have been to keep things going – family, clan, tribe, society, civilization, nation. And once things cleared up to the point where humans could dare to imagine a reasonable chance at physical survival for themselves and their children, they could dare to hope not simply for their own children and descendants but for Posterity.
It is the position of radical-feminism (which does not mean ‘all women’) that women should be looking out for themselves and thus need “a bigger slice of the economic pie”, and that this is a matter of ‘rights’ and that therefore the government can no more justify hesitation in fulfilling this vision than it could have justified not-intervening for ‘the Negro’ in the first Civil Rights Era (1955-1965).You can go all over the field wrasslin’ with this assertion, looking at it from sociological, political, psychological, ethical, moral, and religious angles.
But it seems to me impossible to deny that such an assertion must necessarily unravel the fabric of Western – and perhaps human – civilization as it has been identified throughout such history as has been recoverable.
And while such a fundamental un-raveling (with a too easily-presumed ‘re-weaving’ to follow immediately, without consequence or obstruction) is not of itself impossible to imagine, its very scope and depth must give any sober government pause. Only the Soviets and the Fascists at their zenith tried to replace the Family and any working sense of the Beyond, and they failed in those efforts even before Communism and Fascism failed.
But for a democratic republic to try it – and not through the democratic Mode of public deliberation and achieved consensus, but rather through the Revolutionary Mode of imposition from above – is nothing short of fool-hardy and grossly imprudent. And to then insist to its Citizenry that such changes were either mere ‘reform’ or were ‘liberation’ … this constitutes treachery of a stunning order.
And such profound selfishness … erected into a Plan and an Ideal … cannot work out well, ultimately, even for its ‘successful practitioners’.
Of course, it can be argued that this entire misadventure will collapse as the cash-supply collapses; the government-heavy Mode of achieving the appearance of all this ‘success’ was also government-heavy in its reliance on government funding and government authority – both of which will suffer beyond any past national experience if the national economy or currency suffer a sufficient decline.
It stuns to think that a modern US government could do all of this, at the height of its power yet also at a moment of such substantial challenge to the national future: it not only initiated but then sustained over decades so comprehensive an assault on its own matrix culture and civilization, on the basis of a Hypothesis so un-tethered to any material reality, and so antithetical to everything known of the fundamental dynamics of Evolution and human civilization, that it could not and would not allow itself to be subjected to interrogation, debate, or critical inquiry; and that the officials of that government did so in a manner so antithetical to and corrosive of the fundamental principles of the polity that they had solemnly sworn to preserve, protect and defend, that the epithet of genuine treachery strongly suggests itself.
I wouldn’t call radical-feminism a victim of the Great Recession; rather it will have been a victim of the very ‘success’ it sought to achieve: the eradication of the ‘masculine, industrial culture’ and the matrix of economy that grounded it.
The Great Hypothesis shrewdly succeeded, but in doing so contributed in several ways – intentionally and unintentionally – to the Great Recession.
The Great Prosperity (to use Robert Reich’s phrase) dissolved even as its benefits and assets were thoughtlessly or cravenly frittered away; the Great Recession has claimed the cash so vital to the success of the feministical Knowledge-and-Service society that was supposed to replace the ‘masculine’ Industrial-Production society.
This is not ‘backlash’. This is a hell-hot irony. And, if you believe in a Beyond, it is Nemesis. And SHE is one tough cookie indeed.
Feminists, meet Nemesis.
But I don’t say it easily. We are all going to be on History’s stage for this scene – and before it’s over, many will be wishing for the curtain.
*Nor can We avoid noticing a much more contemporary influence: the Israeli Realm – that Staunch Ally Sans Treaty (SAST) – which also made up its mind in the very beginning that there was a) no reason to publicly debate their policies and objectives since they were going neither to admit them nor to change them; and b) given what had to be done by launching an invasion and eliminating as many of the previous inhabitants as possible, there was nothing to be gained by either public debate (the Realm’s success would be a matter of winks-and-nods among those in power who ‘knew’ how things had to be) or by running the risk of having to either deny the undeniable or assert the unassertable in a public (and quite possibly recorded) forum. Better to just keep trumpeting your own position, sliming any opposition, spinning whatever webs you could weave, and hope that eventually people just decided it was easier to be for you than against you.
**An excellent example of the abstractions upon which this entire Revolution is built; a meme is an abstraction naming a non-material entity that is asserted (or hypothesized) to operate as surely as a gene in the most fundamental dynamics of human behavior and culture.
***For a longer example of the radical-feminist assumption that Evolution doesn’t matter in matters of ‘gender’, you can read Professor Nancy Hirschmann’s ‘Boston Review’ article here, where she explains how she teaches her classes that such stereotyping is nothing more than patriarchal oppression and that actually the only differences between the male and the female of the species are those imposed by an already-patriarchal culture and tradition, and that thus both the ‘stereotype’ and the humans can be ‘changed’ as easily as play-dough, by those who ‘get it’. This link takes you to that Forum, including an Essay by Hirschmann, responses (including one by Friedman), and Hirschmann’s Reply to the responses.
****An alternative Hypothesis: That Evolution has indeed wired the female of the species for the primary assigned duty of nurturing the young (although some individuals may be less-well equipped; although again: between ‘choosing’ not to and ‘not being well-equipped’ are two different actualities); that therefore the general scheme of societal organization developed by humans over the millennia to best deal with that Evolutionary reality more or less conform to it; and that therefore demands or efforts to radically alter that long-standing human approach to the matter are conceptually doubtful and must be most carefully examined.
And then I’d add from a political science point of view that any effort – especially by a democratic republic – to make such profound changes must also take into account this prudential question: even if a sufficient Consensus is achieved in a full, democratically achieved way (i.e. through wide and deep and informed public deliberation), then such changes must take into account how implementation can be achieved without creating other profound problems in the areas of the public Sense of Meaning and Purpose.