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The Feminine Mystique (Betty Friedan)

In their eternal quest to remake reality, a perennial target of the Left is the family: man, woman, and children, the bedrock of all human societies. The family, by its existence and by what it brings forth, mocks the Left project, and so the Left has tried to destroy it for 250 years. But only in the twentieth century did this effort gain real traction, when our elites became converts to the fantasy that sex roles as they existed were artefacts of oppression, not organic reality. What followed was mass indoctrination in falsehoods about men and women, in which this infamous book played a key role. If you see a sad wine aunt (they are all sad), and you see them everywhere, you see a small part of the resulting social wreckage.

The Feminine Mystique was chosen in the 1960s, the decade that really began our decline, as the central pillar of the enormously destructive myth that a woman can “have it all”—both a fully-realized family in the home and a fully-realized career outside the home. Many elements of our present ruin can be traced back to this propaganda. The myth itself is duplicitous, however. For its purveyors, a woman’s career is far more important than the family—lip service is only paid to the family because women keep stubbornly insisting they want a family. To their great frustration, this is a problem our rulers have been unable to solve, causing them to resort to ever more extreme and ultimately self-defeating falsehoods about men and women. It would be funny if it had not been so catastrophic.

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I could spend hours amusing myself blowing holes in this execrable book, but I have sworn off reviewing books merely to show how they are wrong. Therefore, we will instead use this book to discuss some of the defects in societal structures in America today as they relate to men and women, and how those structures should be remade. A sneak peek: men and women are very different. They always have been, and they always will be. And from a societal structure perspective, the crucial truth is that men drive a society forward, while women bind a society together. So it will always be in any successful society, and any society that attempts to contradict truth will only find its own obliteration.

But you will be disappointed, I am sure, if I do not at least summarize this book, and doing so is helpful to frame discussion about recapturing our future. It’s not easy—a reader has to excavate in layers, removing all the primitive psychobabble and 1950s ephemera. Moreover, he must reconcile himself that there are no hard facts in this book with which to grapple. None. It is purely a series of cherry-picked anecdotes, presented in a pseudo-scientific manner in order to compel conclusions the author, Betty Friedan, had already reached about society.

She was born into and raised in a far-left family, and from her earliest youth to her death in 2006 worked unceasingly to impose on our society all her radical politics. Agitation was her life. In 1957 Friedan, bored with her part-time job writing for the radical press and unhappy with her marriage to an advertising executive, sent an amateurish questionnaire to her classmates from her 1942 graduating class at Smith College (an all-women’s college still extant). The survey has thirty-eight questions, all yes-no or multiple choice. None are surprising or all that interesting, and the survey is loaded: the desired responses are indicated by the choice of questions and by using guiding adjectives (e.g., “Is your marriage truly satisfying?”, meaning that unless it is truly satisfying, the only possible answer is “no”). Friedan claims that the responses surprised her, so she then conducted interviews with eighty women. Upon the supposed results of these interviews a book claiming to show a new understanding of all of American society is built.

What, then, is the “feminine mystique”? It is the “strange discrepancy between the reality of our lives as women and the image to which we were trying to conform.” “Our” and “we” here mean a small set of women very similarly situated to Friedan, but in a neat sleight of hand, Friedan manages to pretend that “our” and “we” is all American women, or at least all educated, married, upper-middle class American women. (Working-class women receive a grand total of zero words in this book, other than a suggestion career women hire cleaning women. LGBTQQIP2SAA people get more attention, at least—in the form of Friedan’s complaint that bored women without careers turn their sons into homosexuals.) According to Friedan’s “data,” women are “unsatisfied,” even though they objectively had gotten everything they wanted. They have “a hunger that food cannot fill.” They all say “I want something more than my husband and my children and my home.” The “mystique” is the supposedly-false belief that they don’t have a hunger, that they don’t want something more, but are instead very happy, or at least satisfied, with traditional sex roles, the “image to which we were trying to conform.”

OK, then, what do women actually want, if it’s not family and home? Well, Friedan meanders a lot, but basically she tells us women want self-fulfillment through “the life of the mind and spirit.” So do we all, I suppose, but to Friedan, this means a job, any full-time job, outside the home—nothing more. A housewife, that is, a woman who raises children, has a sound marriage, and acts feminine, but does not work full-time outside the home, is a sad and contemptible person in Friedan’s eyes. In an early instance of the scientism that has, during the Wuhan Plague, swallowed the world, Friedan lectures us that “In [the] new psychological thinking . . . it is not enough for an individual to be loved and accepted by others, to be ‘adjusted’ to his culture. He must take his existence seriously enough to make his own commitment to life, and to the future; he forfeits his existence by failing to fulfill his entire being.” This piece of infantile babbling is illustrative of the entire book.

Friedan faces a problem in selling this story, though, which she grudgingly admits—all other contemporaneous surveys showed that what women actually want is to be a housewife. This makes Friedan angry. She is greatly offended that at a time when more and more women are getting college degrees, an ever-higher percentage of women show no interest in a career. But there is an easy answer! They are not lying; they have been tricked. They have been bamboozled by women’s magazines written by men, which exist to sell them products they will only buy if they are kept in the home, just like Adolf Hitler did, you know. If these poor, deluded women could only be objective, they would all know they suffer “terrible boredom,” which can only be cured by working outside the home. Without a career, you see, a woman can have no identity at all; she is “barred from the freedom of human existence and a voice in human destiny.” She’s also “doomed to be castrative to her husband and sons” (a clear instance of projection by Friedan, who was nothing if not that to her own husband and sons). But good news! Friedan has uncovered the truth that has escaped us all.

The rest of the book, 500 sophomoric, tedious pages in all, is terrible. Repetitive anecdotes interspersed with bad history; cut-rate Freudian analysis (Friedan can’t get enough Freud) that no doubt seemed very daring at the time; praise for the ludicrous and discredited Margaret Mead’s fantastical lies about sex relations in primitive cultures; claims that colleges are failing women because women don’t choose the same subjects as men; demands for population restriction; psychological drivel about nuclear weapons; praise for the silly Dr. Spock; comparing the position of American housewives to that of inmates in Nazi death camps; endless pushing the idea that women are kept in the home so they will buy things (ignoring that they can buy a lot more things if they work outside the home); lecturing the reader that women forced to be housewives “offer themselves [sexually] eagerly to strangers and neighbors” because they’re so bored; and numerous variations on the claim that any woman without a career is infantile and prone to “severe pathologies, both physiological and emotional.” All this is gloriously evidence-free; Friedan’s usual technique is to make a sweeping statement, quote from an (always anonymous) “expert” supporting her, and blare triumphant conclusions.

The author’s contempt for children permeates the book. The only thing worse than a woman who wants to stay home and make her and her husband a happy home is one who wants to add children to her living nightmare, which only seems like a dream to her because she can’t see as clearly as Friedan. She herself threw over her family, including three children. In an Epilogue, written in 1970, Friedan crows about how wonderful the reception to her book was. As a result, she “finally found the courage to get a divorce,” from which she concludes that “I think the next great issue for the women’s movement is basic reform of marriage and divorce” (the wreckage of which we can see all around us today). She herself has moved into “an airy, magic New York tower, with open sky and river and bridges to the future all around.” She has “started a weekend commune of grownups for whom marriage hasn’t worked—an extended family of choice, whose members are now moving into new kinds of marriages.” She does not mention that she conducted a long affair with a married man (who refused to leave his wife); it seems likely that, like John Stuart Mill, she constructed an entire philosophy around justifying her own bad behavior.

You get the idea; there is no need to continue examining the details of this book, the pages of which are only useful to line birdcages. This is all propaganda, which we have been fed so long that we believe it as history. As with other, slicker propaganda, such as the television series Mad Men, it portrays a set of falsehoods, laced with enough true background facts to pacify the reader eager to agree and comply. (It is always crucial to remember that much of what “everybody knows” now about many periods in the past is simply lies, and there is no better example of this than the 1950s and 1960s, in nearly every facet of their history, fed to us through our screens.) Boring. Let’s talk instead about what a well-run society would look like.

But first, let me expand my thinking about why this book “succeeded” in its goal of massive social change. As with all major social changes, mere propaganda is not adequate explanation. The propaganda was successful because it hit our society at precisely the right moment, when it was open to the infection. First, emancipation was in the air; as Yuval Levin discusses at considerable length in The Fractured Republic, the 1950s were a unique moment in American history, when it falsely seemed like everyone could have unlimited freedom without cost, and this belief was not confined to those on the Left, but permeated society. Second, and tied to the first, intermediary institutions, and the thicker web in which families were set, had already evaporated. Housewives, at least the suburban housewives who are Friedan’s sole focus, were in fact very frequently alienated and atomized, because the organic social structures that had supported both men and women had declined sharply (and would disappear entirely, as Robert Putnam narrated in Bowling Alone). These women did have more free time as the result of labor-saving devices; Friedan claims work expands to fill the time available, but the real problem is that given their removal from the thick social structures of previous decades, free time had no satisfying social outlet, giving Friedan’s explanatory fantasies a surface appeal, like a poisoned apple.

Third, and perhaps most important, the Left goal of destruction of the family fit precisely, in this case, with the unbridled capitalism, the excessively free market, that has worked hand-in-glove with the Left for decades to destroy our society (aided by the government). As a result of this book, or rather the propaganda campaign built around it, we got a massive movement of women into the workforce. Did those women get fulfillment, as Friedan promised? Maybe a few did, but most of them got BS jobs of various types, and we all got a massive increase in consumerism, which we are told is wonderful, because “look how much GDP has increased as a result of women entering the workforce!” Of course, even this “fact” is a lie, because GDP excludes work inside the home. If two women raise their children, their work is excluded from GDP, but if each is paid by the other to raise the other’s children, GDP expands. As I have discussed elsewhere, GDP is largely a fake statistic and much of our economy a fake economy; and anyway it is simply false that any expansion in GDP is a social good, especially when the resulting costs, in the form of mass social destruction, are treated as disconnected, mere happening coincident in time but unrelated. Regardless, with the assistance of the government and free-market enthusiasts eager to enrich a rotten ruling class, now a two-income family is required for what is regarded as a decent lifestyle, or even just to make modest ends meet, and this was independently a goal of too many in our society.

Better yet for our neoliberal overlords is a one-income family consisting of a permanently single woman. If you want to shudder, read a completely insane CNN article from 2019, titled “There are more single working women than ever, and that’s changing the US economy.” The point is that single women spend an ever-greater proportion of the money spent on consumer goods, so we must further this trend, in particular by ensuring that those such women foolish enough to have children are given a place to park their children while they work to get money for the consumer goods that should be the real focus of their lives. As I noted in my thoughts on Matthew B. Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head, which pillories consumerism, there is more and more advertising, if you pay attention, to single women of luxury goods that in the past would be bought as gifts for those women—who now have nobody in their lives who will buy them any gifts at all, and must purchase artificial joy. It is enough to make one cry, if one wasn’t already fully occupied in flogging the cretins who brought us to this stupid pass.

So, enough abuse of the stupid. What should the social roles of women and men be in a well-run society? As you can doubtless tell, we are working our way to a call to limit women working outside the home. Let’s start by asking what women want. We are often lectured today, by the commissars of the loathsome ideology of “diversity and inclusion,” that fifty percent of all jobs should be held by women (or at least desirable jobs—men will keep all the dangerous and dirty jobs). The usual response of “conservatives” is to point out that, empirically, most women simply don’t want the same jobs as men, so in a world of perfect choice far fewer than fifty percent of most jobs would be held by women. This fact is on actual display in countries that are most egalitarian about sex-role choice, notably the Scandinavian countries, where women choose traditional roles at very high rates. The timid “conservative” naturally begins, as demanded by the Left, with a preemptive apology. “Of course, I think women should be allowed to choose the path they want.”

Wrong. I don’t think women should be allowed to freely choose the path they want (nor should men). They should make the choice for family. To that end, society should largely nullify choosing career over family as an option, and coerce women into certain occupations and modes of life—and should in like manner coerce men, among other things to lead a life of being the sole provider for a family (unmarried men, beyond say, thirty, and men who fail to provide, should also be socially penalized). In other words, society should reflect the natural division of the sexes, regardless of whether some people in society would prefer to make some other choice, whether because of their outrider nature, excessive focus on self, or because of ideology. We should return to social compulsion, shame and ostracism, to achieve this, as well as major changes to tax and legal structures, such as by absolutely barring no-fault divorce and offering (like the government of Hungary) massive payments to married couples with multiple children.

I’ll end with more thoughts on specific structural changes, but to expand on this positive vision, let’s begin with the end in mind. How should society recognize and beneficially implement the telos of both men and women? Therefore, let’s talk about astronauts.

That is, let’s discuss Space, the first pillar of Foundationalism’s twelve pillars, and the role of women in Space. The overriding principle of Foundationalism is reality, and restoring a realistic understanding of the roles of men and society is another pillar of Foundationalism. The crucial fact about men and women in society is that they are, and must be, partners. That women cannot do everything that men can do, and men cannot do everything women can do, and that even when each can do what the other can do, usually cannot do it as well, does not make one sex subordinate. But without recognizing and honoring this basic fact of different competencies, no society can operate for long.

Astronauts show how this works in practice. What is the purpose of astronauts? This is really one question in two parts. First, what is the purpose of astronauts in the present day, when astronauts are limited to short trips to, and short stays in, near-earth orbit? At most, perhaps, astronauts might visit Mars in the relatively near term, if Elon Musk has his way, although I’ll believe it when I see it. And second, what is the purpose of astronauts if humanity were to expand permanently, as often depicted in science fiction, such that astronauts are not just travelers, but off-earth inhabitants, the conquerors of a new frontier?

There are quite a few female astronauts today. If sex were ignored, would there be as many? Of course not. Far more men than women have the characteristics that make one want to be an astronaut, and make one a good astronaut. All our children are collectively assaulted from their earliest youth with massive propaganda pushing the idea of female astronauts. Try something—go to any museum exhibit related to Space, and count the number of female astronauts depicted. It’ll be around eighty percent of the total, always with hagiographic sub-exhibits about specific women astronauts who accomplished nothing at all. Women who express any interest in being an astronaut are giving an unmerited boost at every stage, beginning in kindergarten, and when the time comes to choose astronauts, are placed at the front of the line. I doubt if astronaut selection were sex-blind there would ever have been a single female astronaut.

The purpose of astronauts today is to increase our knowledge and make possible future expansion outside the confines of Earth, what I think is a very important part of our society’s work. What are the costs and benefits of distorting the reality of female astronauts? Among other costs, choosing inferior candidates must mean, on average, not only that inferior work is done. It also means that the pool of outstanding candidates diminishes, because there is a strong incentive for the most talented and driven, and thus the most prideful, all men, to walk away in disgust from a rigged system. A society that does not seek out and reward its best is a doomed society, and this is just one example of our such habits tied to sex roles. There are other costs to coddling female astronauts, of course—many of them very similar to the costs of allowing women in the military. What are the benefits? None, really, but I suppose the argument is that some women feel better about themselves, in the same way a child praised for crude finger painting by his parents feels better about himself. That is, unjustifiably, but in this case, knowing the praise is unjustified, and thus made simultaneously humiliated, and aggressively on the lookout for anyone adding to the humiliation by pointing out the obvious.

As to permanent human expansion, an excellent depiction of this is the books and television series The Expanse. Well, it’s excellent, except for its depiction of women, which is insane. In fact, there are no women at all in The Expanse. There are many men, each of whom acts like a stereotypical high-testosterone man, who are given female names and female physical characteristics, but none of them bears any resemblance to actual women (except for one, a Margaret Thatcher type, real but extremely rare). In real life, if our society were to expand into the solar frontier, no “female” character in the show would occupy any position she occupies in the show—even if there were no social barriers to occupying that position. Real women as characters are totally and completely absent. Children almost never appear, and never under the care of any female character (except the lesbian “wife” of one character, who abandoned her “family”). All this is extremely jarring, making the show difficult to watch, except if you are deluding yourself or have given it no thought at all. Yet, sixty years after The Feminine Mystique, this lying propaganda is not only ubiquitous, but ever more aggressive—probably because our ruling classes feel their hold on the greased pig of reality slipping away.

If we really got the frontier world of The Expanse, as far as sex roles, it would be like Little House on the Prairie with fusion drives and rail guns. Not only would no woman fight, and spaceships crewed only by men, both military and commercial, be the absolute rule, but women would have large families, over which they, embedded in a larger web of families and women, would exercise most of the responsibilities. The simple reality is that men, far more than women, are interested in what’s involved in conquering Space, or conquering anything: fighting, risk-taking, adventure and glory, as well as dangerous and physically demanding jobs. Men and women would partner to achieve the near impossible tasks required to push mankind forward, but men would do the pushing and take the risks, in large part to protect the women. Such natural partnership is demanded by any harsh environment—it is only in our current softness that we can pretend otherwise. When reality is busy asserting itself in the form of hard vacuum silently waiting to kill you and your children, nobody will pretend that women and men are interchangeable.

Sadly, we must return to today, and hope our future in Space will work itself out, or that we can work our future out to make that possible. What did women, and all of us, get when women were pressured for decades to work outside the home? Let’s see—the women got BS jobs, often makework funded by government dollars or the expansion of worthless work such as human resources or innumerable other forms of paper pushing (many the result of pointless and destructive government regulation of one sort or another). Friedan promises that women who listen to her siren call will be “mastering the secrets of the atoms or the stars, composing symphonies, [or] pioneering a new concept in government or society.” A wave of bitter laughter from millions of women can be heard, women who discovered too late that those type of jobs were not on offer, and they gave up children and a decent family life for a delusion. It’s not just women, though—only a tiny segment of men have a job that offers real accomplishment, “the life of mind and spirit,” either. The job does not give them fulfillment; it is a means to their real method of fulfillment, providing for and protecting their family. And two careers maximizes success for neither spouse, meaning that men, who in their nature do get meaning much more than women from their success in the outside world, are more damaged by the demand for two careers—not collateral damage, but intended damage in the Left’s age-old war on the family. The result, when the natural order of sex roles is upset, is that nobody benefits, and society circles the drain.

I keep banging on about the differences between men and women, as if they were self-evident. They are, of course, and that used to be a commonplace, but dispelling the fog of self-induced unknowing is, I suppose, necessary. There are many differences between the sexes, and I have discussed them before in other, but related, contexts, such as the insanity of allowing women into the military. As regards the question of work within and outside the home, the key facts are as follows. First, women are far better suited to, and far more interested in, raising children than men, and the point of the family is children—a family consisting of a childless couple has a great sadness at its core (yes, I know we’re not supposed to say that out loud). Second, men seek glory, power, and dominance. Women simply don’t. (Offering exceptions to this general rule does not prove anything; it is equivalent to pointing to hermaphrodites to argue against the unalterable truth that mankind is divided universally into male and female.) True, few jobs offer the chance for glory—but providing and protecting largely satisfy, for most men, this urgent drive. Women therefore don’t choose to do what it takes to have a successful career, meaning achievement in a hierarchy earned through competition. The vast majority of women lack the drives necessary. They may in fact be smarter, better organized, and have other traits associated with career success. But their essential drives are directed toward family.

By studying societies of the past, we can see how a non-ideological society organically develops. In Western countries, the usual structure for well over a thousand years has been a partnership between men and women, where each is supreme in one sphere of family life, contained in a larger family web, but consults the other. Women do hold up half the sky—it’s just that their role, in its nature, is inward-facing, and men’s is outward-facing. In the West, there has never been any equivalent of the “eastern” approach, typified by purdah, the separation and seclusion of women (driven by defective religious or cultural imperatives that, just as Friedan did, mar the natural order of a society). Muslims during the Crusades were famously scandalized by how the men of the Franks allowed their women not only to appear in public, but to scold them and order them about. To take a more recent example, one cannot do better than Matthew B. Crawford’s talk in Why We Drive about women and men in Appalachian motocross racing, where, on and off the track, men and women act in (sometimes coarse) partnership, together striving towards excellence (something Crawford heretically contrasts with the sickening inversions he sees in Portland).

As with any human society, within this broad truth, there have been many local variations. Even Friedan admits that until near her present day, American women were not oppressed or unhappy. (Friedan does not make the flatly untrue claims about historical “patriarchy” that are the norm now, such that “everybody knows” that The Handmaid’s Tale is both history and future. She doesn’t because everyone would have laughed at the obvious untruth and pitched her book into the trash; it is only now, after sixty years of propaganda, that we believe there ever was a patriarchy.) “Until, and even into, the last century, strong, capable women were needed to pioneer our new land; with their husbands, they ran the farms and plantations and Western homesteads.” (She should be cancelled for mentioning plantations.) Friedan doesn’t make the obvious conclusion—that if the subset of women on whom she is focusing are alienated by their circumstances, returning to the thicker social web even Friedan praises, not destroying the family, is the answer. But then, after all, destroying the family in the pursuit of emancipation from all unchosen bonds was her real end, not offering fulfilment within families to women.

This does not exclude women from ever working outside the home. Quite the contrary, actually. In the past, young women often worked. When rural life was the norm, women and men both worked, but neither could be said to have a career—this was division of labor, rather. As city life became the norm, young women often worked, until they found a husband. Often this was in work at which they excelled and tied to female talents and preferences, such as teaching and nursing. Higher-status women, like Friedan, went to college and found a husband there (something Friedan, famously masculine and no doubt finding it hard to find a husband, bitterly complains about). Women whose children had left the home might work as well, or women with children might work-part time upon necessity. There is nothing inherently societally destructive of this. What is destructive is where the woman prioritizes that work over family, demanding it become a career—that is, a main focus of her life, and the driver of her happiness, or more likely, the lack of it.

What of a woman who does not get married, not purely by choice? That is, some women, because of their personality or physical appearance, find it difficult or impossible to marry. Or maybe failure to marry is some combination of bad luck and bad management; past a certain age, as everyone knows, a woman’s ability to get married drops precipitously (hence wine aunts). Usually, in our modern atomized society, such women have no choice but to substitute career for family—in the past, they would be woven into the structure of an extended family. Until we can return to that latter, career is really their only option—like my own recently-deceased aunt, who chose a career in virology, after getting an M.D. from Harvard, and with whom I was close. She loved children, but never married (though she could have—she was indoctrinated into “career first”), and as a result was desperately lonely and unhappy for decades. I blame Friedan (and my aunt’s mother, my grandmother, who pushed anti-family ideology years before this book was published).

I have to admit, though, that had you had asked me twenty years ago, I would have largely bought into the myth that women having a career, and being treated as the equivalent of men in pursuit of that career, was a sound social choice. My wife and I met as big-firm M&A lawyers in Chicago; we presumed, early on, that we’d both end up with legal careers at large firms, with a nanny for our children. We were conditioned to believe that any other system is monstrous, and that women lawyers should be viewed the same as male lawyers, even though everyone knew that women lawyers dropped out of law firms at vastly greater rates than men, either after they had a child or simply because the aggressive, high-pressure, competitive hierarchy of a large law firm is not congenial to the nature of women in general. (That it is congenial to some is irrelevant; one can always find exceptions to most general rules, and social structures are built on general rules, not exceptions.) My wife soon realized that wasn’t for her, though, and quit her law firm job some time before I quit mine to become an entrepreneur. But what followed has been an organic partnership. I was the public face of our company, but it would have been a failure without her guidance, encouragement, and support, since she balanced, among other defects, my disagreeable tendencies and limited ability to judge character (although, contrary to questions I get sometimes, I am not in the least autistic). On the other hand, along the way we formed a spin-off company for which I suggested, or insisted, she be CEO, and that was a grievous mistake, only corrected after some years. But it all worked out great for us. For many of our friends, who refused to change course as we did, it has not worked out so well at all.

It is true that if women are discouraged from working outside the home, there will be some price to pay. Nothing is free. First, some women will be less happy than if they had careers—few perhaps, but not zero. Second, to the extent women working outside the home are producing real value, actual economic output will dip, and people will be able to afford fewer goods and services. This may or may not be a problem; the reason most two-parent families must have both parents work is to make ends meet, because unbridled capitalism has allowed employers to squeeze “efficiencies” out on the backs of the workers, in order to enrich executives and stockholders, and claim these steps are necessary (expertly covered by James Bloodworth in Hired). Yes, it’s also social expectations on the consumer side; if you “need” a large house, frequent new cars, and a $1,400 phone, you need more income. Changing this terrible system to make it the norm that one income adequately supports a family, by limiting the “free market,” will be essential.

Third, you will give up those relatively rare occasions when a woman working outside the home makes, through her employment, a significant contribution to advancing society. I don’t mean, say, women working as scientists at pharmaceutical companies—any discoveries made by them would also be made by men, and probably sooner and better, given the real differences in men’s and women’s capabilities and drives, and the destructive advantages bestowed on women in any male-dominated profession. I mean exceptional production. True, the bumper sticker phrase “Well-behaved women rarely make history” is only fully accurate if you delete the “Well-behaved.” As I say, men drive a society forward, while women bind a society together, and this necessarily means that all, or nearly all, spectacular achievements will be those of men. But this is still a potential cost.

What structural/legal changes should be made, other than the social compulsion mentioned earlier? No, not ticky-tack programs such as new family leave policies, which anyway just encourage women to work outside the home. Rather, government policies, tax and otherwise, should massively favor single-income married families where the man works. Employment discrimination (and all other types of discrimination) on the basis of sex, and marital status, should not only be completely legal, but socially encouraged, even demanded. Not only is sex discrimination, like age discrimination, almost always entirely rational, such discrimination is affirmatively necessary to accomplish the desirable society. Again, no-fault divorce should be banned, and modern technology that erodes healthy relationships between men and women, from Tinder to online pornography, should be rigorously suppressed. No doubt other matters will deserve similar attention, and a new propaganda campaign, especially in popular entertainment, to reverse sixty years of indoctrination will also be needed. Let’s get started!

Life being what it is, some women will always choose to work outside the home. Sometimes this is in their particular nature; sometimes they actually need the money. This should not be made illegal, but there should be a substantial social penalty for women who make work a career. In the same way as for decades women who choose not to have a career have been held in contempt, viciously portrayed across all popular media and vilified by our ruling classes, a married woman who chooses to have a career should be looked down upon, especially if she has children, and most of all if she chooses not to have children. (One can multiply special cases—what if a woman cannot have children? Hard cases make bad law, and bad social policy; the median case is what matters.) And a “career woman” should presumptively be discriminated against in favor of a man competing in the same career path, and most of all in favor of men with children.

It is doubtless true that we cannot turn a switch. If all women in the workforce today left the workforce tomorrow, much disruption would result. A lot of it, that tied to BS jobs, would be temporary. But in some jobs, such as family-practice physicians, where women are the majority, rebalancing jobs could only be done over time. And some jobs, such as elementary-school teaching and nursing, will always have women in the majority, since those jobs always appeal more to women, and it is possible to enter and leave those jobs as a woman’s life changes—most of all, before, and perhaps after, a woman marries and has children. The exact result will derive organically from general rules, not from an artificial ideology.

The goal, across all of society, is to return to a natural partnership between men and women. This is very much not a siloed partnership, where the man and woman each operate completely separately in pursuit of a unified goal. Instead, there is necessarily overlap—a woman advises her husband in his role outside the home, and the husband assists his wife in her roles inside the home, in particular with children, especially with boys as they come of age, but also simple relief of the drudgery that characterizes much household work. But human nature dictates that those spheres and roles be different, and only by a return to this can human flourishing be reborn, relegating this book to history as an unfortunate footnote.

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  1. Altitude Zero says

    Allen Bloom noted way back in 1987 that a glaring contradiction existed in most leftist feminism – the bourgeois way of life and the capitalist economy were relentlessly demonized, while membership in the bourgeois professions,and participation in the capitalist economy, were held to be the only life-enhancing options for women.Illogical, but it made sense, as long as one remembers that the happiness of women was never even remotely the main goal. And of course, happiness surveys ironically indicate that the reported happiness of American women peaked at just about the time Friedan’s book was written.

    • Charles says

      All true. I should go back and re-read Bloom; it’s been 20 years since I read him.

    • Thessalonian Monk says

      I noticed this myself. I’m happy to find when somebody said it before I’d thought it. It means I get to both read a good book AND pat myself on the back.

      Repeating Bloom’s point as it first appeared to me:
      P1. Feminists rail against “capitalism” and “the corporations” because they believe them to be intrinsically (not incidentally) exploitative, akin to coerced slavery.
      P2. Feminists insist women would only find fulfillment in career life (i.e. capitalism and the corporations).
      C. Feminists think women would be fulfilled so long as they’re given the chance of being exploited for money. (I find it funny that this characterizes “sex-positive” feminism well enough; an equally terrible and laughable idea.)

      P1 (although still repeated by hippies, or hipsters, or hippos, or whatever I’m supposed to call fat vegans these days) isn’t something I hear from feminists anymore except at the tail-end of an anti-everything rant. They’re down with the corporations now.

      PS: Referencing my last line, I will now refer to feminists as “down” and hippies as “dirty” as from the idiom “down and dirty.” It fits quite well from my experience of them.

  2. “To that end, society should largely nullify choosing career over family as an option, and coerce women into certain occupations and modes of life—and should in like manner coerce men, among other things to lead a life of being the sole provider for a family (unmarried men, beyond say, thirty, and men who fail to provide, should also be socially penalized).”

    When did force ever lead to a healthy society? By this reasoning, Jesus Himself would’ve been “socially penalized”…

    I believe there is a significant segment of US society that genuinely wants the kind of life you describe. But to be effective and sincere, it needs to be a grassroots cultural revolution, not a top-down, policy-driven one. Not to mention, approaching it from an authoritarian standpoint needlessly punishes those who are single – singleness not being a sin.

    • Charles says

      “Compulsion” and “coercion” are not “force,” meaning legal force. All of human society is run on compulsion and coercion–the expectations of society. When there are no expectations, there can be no society. Even today we have expectations, coercion, and compulsion–for example, that we worship “diversity and inclusion.” If I had a job, I could certainly not say anything that could even remotely be interpreted as negative toward those gods and keep my job. (Practically everything I write would get me instantly fired if I still worked for a law firm. I’m just completely invulnerable, but I’m in a nearly unique situation.)

      Jesus was socially penalized, by the Pharisees and Sadducees. Within the frame of their thought, this made perfect sense. We are assured, however, that Christ is not returning except in power and glory, so I am pretty sure we are free from the risk of socially penalizing God when we coerce women to not have careers.

      Yes, a cultural rework is necessary. But it is false that politics is downstream of culture. They are intertwined, and above them all is the truth that both are downstream of power. When the legal structures are changed, when the ruling class rolls out a massive propaganda campaign, when dissenters are punished by losing their jobs, when those who add poison to our body politic are exiled, then the cultural rework will be well underway. That’s all what’s happened over the past eighty years or so–it’s just that the decent people, and decent society, have been the targets. Time to reverse the process.

      People respond to incentives. When being single is disfavored, fewer people will be single. Of course it’s not a sin, but it’s a bad choice, if picked for selfish reasons. When no-fault divorce is outlawed, along with Tinder, etc., and cultural and legal practices strongly encourage not being single, then there will be far fewer single people, and most of all, those who want to not be single will have a much better chance at not being single.

  3. Karen Susan Bradford says

    Dear Charles,

    As usual you have given your readers insightful commentary and I agree with you about Friedan and this book. However, throwing out the entire women’s movement based on this book, or its’ unintended consequences isn’t the right approach. I believe the most important result of the women’s movement has been the extent men have become involved with their children’s lives. I lived in an era when fathers were considered “babysitters”. Over many years, I have asked several men of an older generation (mostly over 80 years of age now) about what they would have done differently in their lives. The most common remark was “I wish I had been more involved with raising my children”. It was said that as soldiers died in Vietnam, they cried out for their mothers. Those were mothers who stayed at home and raised children in the suburbs, sans fathers who, with long commutes, hardly ever saw their children.

    Before WWII, extended households were common. Sometimes it was a sibling or aunts or uncles renting a room, and perhaps a grandparent who was being cared for by the woman of the household. Extra work for her, but she wasn’t isolated as happened with the explosion of suburbs. There are so many factors that have created the morass in this society, that to point out one book, or one perspective of the women’s movement is myopic. There are so many things that have brought us to this terrible place for men and women and our culture. These issues are not solved with government transfers of funds or directives. They involve transportation, housing, education, etc., etc.

    Legal changes have become necessary and they do some good. I lived in a generation of women who were seriously threatened and beaten by their husbands. Remember, at one time, this was not against the law. More than a few women were told by police officers that the only recourse was to leave, get a gun and shoot to kill when he came around. And I am NOT exaggerating that scenario. There have been so many advances in human rights (not just women) that, surely I can’t believe anyone would want to return to those times.

    Remember, women have ALWAYS worked outside the home around the globe. They worked because their husbands did not earn enough income to support the family and that is true today. These women have not had the privilege of thinking about careers; they work just to survive. You have given this class of people short shrift in your commentary. If this earth has some remote chance of peace, we cannot marginalize anybody and when change comes, then the women who are struggling must be included.

    Thank you for bringing up this subject as it deserves a lot more studying, research and contemplation.

    • Charles says

      Thank you. Some thoughts:

      1) I don’t “point out one book” as the cause of the morass in our society. My point is that this book was used as a centerpiece of a propaganda campaign. If this book had never existed, the result would have been the same.

      2) I don’t necessarily think the trend to men being more involved in their children’s lives is part of the “women’s movement,” although it’s hard to tell. I suspect it’s mostly a fiction that men were not involved, or rather, were involved less than is appropriate. Societies differ, but contemporaneous accounts do not generally support that. To take different ends of the spectrum at the same time, the family of Theodore Roosevelt and the family of Laura Ingalls Wilder don’t show that at all.

      Rather, I think what we have now is the idea that men have to do half the childcare, and anything else is “not being involved.” I think the older, organic system was probably just about right. I mean, I wouldn’t take the English system, where C. S. Lewis was sent to boarding school at age eight or something (though his mother was dead and his father was derelict). There are always imperfections.

      3) All men throughout history have cried out for their mothers as they die on the battlefield (you can see this, for example, in Civil War histories, or Napoleonic War ones). That has nothing to do with how they were raised. In fact, I point this out to my wife, when she complains that our sons take her for granted. Both things are in their nature.

      4) I agree that extended households are a large part of the solution; I thought that was implied, but maybe not.

      5) It is false that beating and threatening one’s wife was ever not against the law in England or America; both were always crimes under common law. (Moreover, marital rape was punished as assault—it’s a myth that men were ever free to rape their wives, though as with so-called date rape, proof is always a problem, in a society that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt). Given the centrality of claims that wife beating was common to the propaganda campaign pushing the poison of feminism, it’s impossible to know how common spousal abuse was. It is possible that it was winked at or socially condoned. Or maybe that is just a myth into which we have been propagandized, similar to the completely disprovable myth that women died from illegal abortions when abortion was illegal. (You hear anecdotes from older women sometimes about how they know people who died, or from those in medicine, their personal experience. Those anecdotes are lies or fantasies. I can’t remember exactly, but the CDC’s official figure in the year before Roe v. Wade for deaths from illegal abortions in the entire United States was, I believe, less than ten.) No legal changes were necessary at all in this area.

      6) There have been zero advances in basic human rights since 1960, other than better legal and (to some extent) social treatment of black people in America, a unique circumstance due to American history. Leaving aside that “human rights,” at least as defined by such august bodies as the UN, is an incoherent concept, in fact all movement has been backward, as in the permitting of abortion or the restriction of gun rights.

      7) It is true (and I adverted to, though didn’t focus on it) that women often have to work outside the home to make money. That’s not a “career,” and it’s the extended family that permits a decent family life when the woman has to work. That’s the tragedy—the destructive fiction that Friedan peddled only caught fire when pushed because that system had already decayed (as I noted).

      I’m all for making it possible for women to not work outside the home. I don’t care that much about societies other than mine; most global cultures are terrible, and always have been, so what to do in, say, India, I don’t know, and don’t much care. That’s their problem, and they should take the blessings of the West and improve their condition. But here, in America, the single-income family should be able to be the norm, and in the 1950s it was—not just in Friedan’s class, either.

  4. Argylist says

    You spared the listener the hell that awaits most female attorneys. The endless horror stories of fertility issues, failed marriages, unsatisfying “mommy track”/reduced hours partnership-in-name only. Not to mention the impossible feat of being a good mother and a full-time lawyer. It’s funny that being a high powered attorney is one of the most common feminist tropes. Finding a deeply unhappy female lawyer in her 30s and 40s is like shooting fish in a barrel.

    • Charles says

      No doubt. My wife and I sometimes count the number of female lawyers we worked with who are now wine aunts. It’s not a pretty count. And those who aren’t, aren’t usually happy–except the ones who quit.

  5. Eugene says

    Charles, thank you for an interesting read, although I can’t say I don’t have any reservations.

    For example:

    ” . . . (unmarried men, beyond say, thirty, and men who fail to provide, should also be socially penalized).”

    What kinds of social penalties do you have in mind? A “bachelor” tax? I am all for an active promotion of family life and the institution of marriage, and I do believe that it should be a central tenet of government policy. However, there are men who are born homosexual (i.e., not homosexuals who make a “lifestyle” out of it and who do not at all want to make it a lifestyle, but who nevertheless, by virtue of their condition, do not – or cannot – marry), and there are also those who are sexually impotent (that last one affects a minority of men, but this is a rising problem, and the age of men who are afflicted is, as I understand, trending down, possibly for environmental reasons). One of your comments does suggest that only those men who refuse to get married for “selfish reasons” should be penalized, but selfishness is not always easy to prove, certainly not in the case of the categories of men mentioned above.

    I understand that the length of your review probably does not allow for nuance, but I do hope that the policies you have in mind do.

    • Charles says

      Thank you, and I am all for reservations!

      1) Social penalties are distinct from legal penalties. The latter have a positive and negative aspect. Thus, a tax benefit for married couples is positive, a fine is negative (although, to be sure, economically they are nearly indistinguishable). Here we’ll focus on social penalties.

      2) I’ll address the specific example, although often I think that we as a society, both conservative and progressives, focus far too much on homosexuals, a tiny minority of society. Conservatives are forced to do so because of the broader homosexual agenda that is used to destroy decent society and corrupt children today, but it’s really objectively a silly focus, once that specific offshoot is annihilated. Every society has outriders of various sorts along various spectra and the focus should be the norm, not small populations within the norm. Nonetheless, here we are, and in this immediate context it’s a good framing device.

      3) It is not true that homosexuals do not or cannot marry. In fact, in the past, it seems to have been the norm. This is merely a subset of the larger truth that our modern view of marriage, its purposes and drives, is completely distorted. Most people didn’t marry for love, and it wasn’t just the aristocracy. Homosexuals got married and had children; they still do today, though much less often, because society recognizes and honors alternatives. If it didn’t, homosexuals would go back to often getting married and having children, because of the social penalties (and benefits).

      4) This is not some terrible fate. The idea that we are all entitled to some type of sexual nirvana, or to indulge our specific sexual tastes, is a completely modern idea. It is also false that in the past gay men who married were all on the down low, or for that matter that dissatisfied heterosexual men, unmarried or married men, spent their time going to prostitutes (although both no doubt happened with reasonable frequency, especially in cities). People in the past were used to strictures that we are told today are insane and impossible. But the myth is what we are told today. Life is hard; people used to understand that.

      5) At the same time, it’s also true that a lot of societies tolerated homosexuality without persecution. England is a good example of this (Oscar Wilde is held up as some kind of martyr, but he was the one who insisted on his own martyrdom. And Alan Turing likewise—though I can assure you he’ll be elevated more and more until we’re told he was the greatest scientist of the past thousand years.) Many societies tolerated a wide range of deviant behavior (Dreher talks often of this in the Louisiana context, and specifically of “bachelor friends” living together and the like, without comment or social attacks, but without them demanding social structures honor their behavior).

      No doubt there are some Puritan-type societies that are the opposite. But those are repressive across the board, and an equally valid choice for a human society. Homosexuals are simply not, historically speaking, some terribly oppressed minority, and coercive social practices that impel many of them to marry and not indulge their deviancy are not some kind of torture that makes a society terrible. Sexual strictures of various types are in fact the absolute rule for any successful society; this includes those on homosexual acts, but also many others of more importance (e.g., adultery). We’re just fed the lies that any restriction is bad and the past was a nightmare.

      6) Sexual impotency, or asexuality, likewise. Women have always married, knowingly, homosexuals and men with other sexual problems. (Sometimes, no doubt, unknowingly.) Some women are fine with that, for one reason or another. Sexual nirvana for every couple is not a human right or a requirement for a decent society; as with all other relations between the sexes, it’s an aspect of the partnership through which men and women stumble and try to do a decent job—sometimes failing.

      7) My reference to “selfish reasons” wasn’t mean to suggest a parsing of reasons. I agree that’s impractical. It’s a reference to that in the modern world it’s easy to decline to marry, to accept the responsibilities and limitations that come with that. That’s a much bigger problem than homosexuals or the impotent, and it’s that problem at which social (and legal) strictures should be aimed.

      8) Noting one of my earlier comment responses, it’s true that this can’t all be done by fiat. But certain forms of fiat can lead cultural change. At the end, you’d need a complete cultural change, of course; there is no magic bullet. The precise outlines of “policies,” whether government or social, would have to be determined by circumstance and would vary widely by specific location.

      I hope this is of some use, and welcome responses!

  6. Eugene says

    Charles, thank you for a well-argued expostulation. Your points are, on the whole, well taken, although this doubtlessly also has to do with the fact that I sympathize with your core message!

    A couple of things:

    I do agree that sexual nirvana for every couple is not a human right or a requirement for a decent society but, at the same time, this is a vital element of the human condition, so to speak; and where sexual mores were strictly circumscribed in the past, people typically found ways to outsource them. For example, prostitution was once ubiquitous in western cities, and I’d argue that in this sense we’re ironically far more puritanical about the issue now than western societies were in the past. (Although this might also be for economic reasons – women do not need to resort to this kind of activity in modern societies to feed themselves. It is curious that some of the more “socially progressive” societies – Sweden, I believe – have actually moved to criminalize the purchase of sex, though, in a hypocritical bid to respect women’s right to do with their bodies what they please, not the sale of sex.) You fleetingly acknowledge that yourself in your response, but perhaps this particular point is downplayed a bit.

    With respect to what I’ll call unorthodox sexual practices, I strongly agree that these should not be honoured, celebrated, or promoted by society, and certainly the legal system should not accommodate them in order to equate these practices with what is traditionally considered to be the norm. That said, I don’t believe that the law should penalize those who engage in them (I am not saying that you do!).

    There’s also the fact that our society has – alas! – gone virtual (something exacerbated by the recent COVID-19 debacle), and I don’t see how this is going to be reversed anytime soon unless there’s a massive change in the way we collectively feel about the continued encroachment of technology upon our lives. Absent such a change, people will continue to consume online pornography and use online dating sites such as Tinder. Of course, governments could regulate online activity more, introduce harsh penalties for certain behaviors, etc. But, to use an example, do they ban all online dating sites? Or just “hookup” sites like Tinder? I am not trying to get into technicalities. My point is that in an increasingly virtualized world, people will look for “relationships” virtually. Online is how many young people meet these days. I am inclined to agree that many people didn’t marry out of love back in the day (and not just the aristocracy), but the way people socialized was radically different in the past. People didn’t move around as much as they do now; notions of space were different. I hope what I am saying here makes sense to you. It is perfectly possible that the modern world can accommodate the traditional way of life, but I just don’t see how.

    I absolutely agree that the modern view of the past as a hidebound society ruled by oppressive ogres is caricatural, and the modern view of family life is distorted. I spring from a traditional setting myself, but to a certain extent I’ve also been molded by modernity and its ideas, a fact of which I am conscious – though on the whole I’d say I am fairly impervious to the prevailing paradigm!

    I hope the above makes sense, and apologies if it’s somewhat rambling!

    • Charles says

      1) “Exposulation” is fine by me! I have a very high bar for not getting offended, at least from people I respect. And thank you for the careful and helpful thoughts.

      2) As always, I don’t think there’s too much different in our thought. Mostly in the details. So, while it is true that prostitution has always been ubiquitous in most cities, it does not follow that most men in cities patronized prostitutes. And outside of cities, clamping down on vice, even when the culture is against it, actually tends to work quite well historically. The classic example is Prohibition, which was a rousing success in most of the country, in the sense that alcohol consumption, and attendant evils, plummeted. (I don’t like Prohibition, because I think alcohol is part of Western culture, but that’s not relevant here.) It’s just that the ruling classes didn’t like it, and so evaded it—and that, combined with modern technologies and the nascent yellow press, made it seem like, and increased the reality that, crime exploded in narrow geographic areas—but the most visible and prominent ones.

      So to the extent Western societies have been puritanical about prostitution, it may or may not have sharply reduced the availability of it. But it probably does sharply reduce the consumption of it, by lowering demand, if law and custom frown on it. There will always be exceptions (the English upper classes, in this as other things, were notoriously lax in sexual morals).

      3) Thus my opinion about vice, which shows up occasionally, as in my review of Eumeswil, is that it has to be tamped down and controlled, not eliminated. Straight cost-benefit analysis, which also varies by the vice. That might involve legal penalties, but might not. I’d be relatively gentle on controlled prostitution and lightweight drug use; I would execute abortionists.

      4) Good point that a virtual world necessarily means looking for relationships virtually, and it is hard to put that into precise buckets. Yeah, this is a big problem, or rather one facet of a much bigger problem, and I also don’t see how the modern technological world can accommodate the traditional way of life. It is so well-designed (by happenstance) to encourage liquid modernity. Probably, if I am being honest, the only way is massive cultural upheaval, followed by taboo. The classic “example” is the Butlerian Jihad in Dune; the extermination of AI, followed by a key commandment of the Orange Catholic Bible, “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.” Seems unlikely. But it always does, until it doesn’t.

      • Eugene says

        Charles, thank you for addressing my points! It is as you say: there isn’t too much difference in our thinking, and most of the differences do seem to reside in the details. As always, the exchange was a pleasure! (By the way, I had to google the Dune book, as I’d had no idea what it was!)

  7. Eugene says

    P.S. Charles, I don’t think that my use of the word “expostulation” to describe your response was appropriate. Apologies. Read: clarification.

  8. spotted eagle says

    Whether we like these ideas or not, I think they could be implemented practically.

    1) An easy fix would be to shut down fantasy sites and dating apps unless they conform to pro-society standards, with a clear distinction between anonymous idea generation like a DIY forum, which should not require an ID, and personal solicitation like a dating app, which should require an ID because it is not about ideas, it is about the individual person. The person is the whole point of the app, so it needs ID verification, and all interactions should be made public like how it is in real life where everybody knows. Word spreads and that helps us make healthy decisions because our friends and family wont let us lie to ourselves and build up fantasies in our heads. If a forum wants to maintain anonymity, then it cannot permit photo sharing or personal info sharing, which would make it a dating site. These rules would make internet dating like how dating is in reality, so young people can’t delude themselves and waste time. Without the fake advantage of fantasy, the virtual world loses out to reality, and so does the nihilist version of life, which technology has made more convenient.

    2)The nihilist version doesn’t conveniently forget about real life using digital avatars, but it instead says real life *is* fantasy since I control everything like a god. We find out the hard way later (like the wine aunts) that actions have consequences, but it would be better to teach us that in school since it’s not a game where you get to decide whether or not to participate. Reality does not spare us because we ‘opted out’ of religion or conventional wisdom to explore things.

    3) Young people should have a university-type alternative to pure entertainment and corporate jobs, which would not pay a lot but it would teach skills and provide housing. Young people could meet other young people without having to live in a city and spend money they don’t have at bars and restaurants. It would get young people together for a common purpose that pays for itself and teaches them skills to be self-sufficient. There can’t be marriage if there is no prospect of owning a house and having a decent job. Even without any good alternatives, I would still limit TV and video game usage by pricing into them their cost to society. It’s sort of an all or nothing because if I stop doing things virtually but everybody else keeps doing it, the downtown with still be empty, main street will still be failing, so I don’t get to experience a lively public space where I can shop and people-watch, etc., and I alone pay the price by not knowing the latest internet things which everybody else experienced and is talking about.

    4) Children should be given more informal time with the other gender as long as it is structured towards solving a challenge. Kids have informal time now, but it is purposeless, and they have no reason to interact beyond their friend group. Parents micro-manage the situation for status and it becomes “too cute”. Kids don’t participate in dating because it feels like they are being used, or, they replace it with a form of nihilistic gossip as lottery-ticket courting with no oversight to call out indulgent relationships. It’s the guy from the other school which is literally an escape for the girl, and there is no connection back to her family and friends, so they can’t point out whether it’s destructive or healthy.

    • Charles says

      These are all excellent suggestions. We have all been indoctrinated into the libertarian idea that even any guidance, much less strictures, is somehow beyond the pale. The exact opposite should be assumed (as it has always been in all functional societies). Your ideas wouldn’t even cost much, and could start resetting expectations, leading to longer-term cultural change.

  9. steve says

    On very easy change: Stop using ‘gender’ when you mean ‘sex’. I sometimes think this is where we lost to the left.

    • Charles says

      Very true. You will note the fake term “gender” appears nowhere in my review.

  10. Jennifer says

    Would you consider reading your book reviews on a podcast?

    • Charles Haywood says

      I do! Go to the Narrations link on the top of the page.

  11. goodlander says

    On the one hand it’s concluded (and I agree) that the vast majority of men and women have biological drives to seek a life that more or less conforms to traditional gender roles. On the other hand it’s concluded that coercion, public policy, and incentives must be used to get men and women to act in accordance with these biological drives. Odd, but I think I see the sense if this prescription is to bootstrap a repair of the cultural damage done by feminism and libertarian principles that provide them cover.

    Perhaps there is a sort of uncanny valley of libertarianism and we are standing in the vale. Either more or less libertarianism improves the situation. My instinct and preference is for more. Anti-liberty forces conspire to keep the sexes miserable in ill-suited roles. These anti-liberty forces need only be marginalized and there is no reason to apply power merely so men can be men and women can be women again.

    To get the power necessary to coerce on the scale needed its likely the offending forces would already be marginalized. When the tanks and war elephants roll into Harvard and the like will you be left with a brainwashed populace that will need reprogramming to break the spell? Or will you find people eager to finally laugh at the absurdities of the old order now that doing so has no cost? I’d put bet the farm on the latter.

    • Charles Haywood says

      True enough, complete libertarianism might lead to a rational set of sex roles. But we don’t have that, and we’re not going to, because no society has ever had that, and it has other immediately fatal consequences.

      As to reprogramming, it’s not clear. Probably somewhat, but discrediting the Left is probably adequate, along with exiling all leaders. Very similar to denazification, which was quite successful, although what replaced it was little better, it is now clear in retrospect. I’m betting that you’re right, people will laugh at the absurdities of the old order.

      • goodlander says

        Say more. Surely it doesn’t take a heavy hand to get people to do what they already want to do. Perhaps I’m naïve but how far would Betty Friedan’s ideas get if there wasn’t a government lender for student loans for instance?

        • Charles Haywood says

          Very far. They are a logical consequence of Enlightenment fantasies of emancipation.

          • goodlander says

            The majority of feminist content (and all of popular feminist content) is an iteration of the humble smut women have been drawn to for centuries. It’s Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa for a modern audience who need more layers abstraction and possess a different set of hangups. Put bluntly, women love to read and talk about their holes. That’s all Betty Friedan was doing. Her project is closer to 50 Shades of Gray than to any high-minded enlightenment philosophy. The innovation in this case was that she could do it in lecture halls, gain clout from intellectual bug men, and be well paid for it. In the same way that Islamism promises a young man the chance to simultaneously be an action star, a respectable scholar, a moral authority, and an eternal Hugh Hefner–feminism gives women multiple things they want in a package that manages to also advance their position in social hierarchy. Peak feminism is telling a fact-free story about your holes in the halls of congress, gaining the gushing admiration of all the glittering people of society, and then gloriously ascending into progressive heaven.

            In our society, reality is produced and distributed by the academy. They are the unwatched watchman. Betty Friedan was successful because she was useful to power and this is the only reason these ideas have any legs today. Since no sane investor would give a teenager $100,000 in loans to study grocery story novel fan fiction, starving the beast is as simple as ending public student loans. It’s telling that our enemies aren’t even satisfied with this arrangement, outrageous as it is. They want to hook the academic human centipede directly to the printing press.

          • Charles Haywood says

            I’m not quite convinced, but I do think the entire academy should be both starved and directly attacked.

  12. stoecktecrime123 says

    I just wanted to drop a book suggestion which might fit well into your foundationalist Programme and is deeply connected to the issues you are describing; it is called “The weirdest people in the world” by Joseph Heinrich. It’s about the gene-culture coevolution of western societies and revolves a lot around topics which frequently pop up in your blog posts. Perhaps you might have already heard of it, if not I highly recommend it.

    Greetings from Germany,
    Luca Dittmer

  13. Riley says

    I don’t understand why you want to coerce people into parenthood who don’t want it? Isn’t that a recipe for disaster? We don’t need more unfit parents in the world.

    I can agree that employers shouldn’t hire someone just because they are female, but neither should they just because they are male. They should hire the best person for each role, and as you said, each gender has their own strengths, of which employers might want to benefit from. I don’t see how discriminating against women and childless people in work will in any way create more extended families.. since that is what is needed, not more 50s suburban isolated housewives. There’s a reason that only existed for a brief period amongst a small segment of society. Women are most happy when their family life also involves adult socialising and skilled work.. things that most women got throughout most of history when they would be working with either other women or their extended family while they cared for children, rather than being home alone with young children and nothing else going on. And men deserve to get quality time with their kids, not just slave away as nothing more than a provider. The greatest regret of men on their death bed is that they didn’t spend more time with their families.

    • Charles Haywood says

      This is a very silly comment. The entire point is that what people “want” should not be the measure of all things. Of course I want to coerce people to have children, primarily by using social pressures of various kinds, along with opprobrium from both society and state for those who “choose” to not have children. The idea that this will create more “unfit parents” is mere sophistry, and shows the unserious nature of the comment. Try thinking for yourself sometime; you’ll find it refreshing.

      And as to employment, wrong again. As I say, employers should prioritize men, and particularly men with families, for employment, for the reasons stated. No doubt it is true that this, of itself, will not re-create extended families, and it is true (as I note) that atomized nuclear families are unnatural and unenjoyable (though not nearly to the degree Friedan claimed). But you have to start somewhere, after all, and this is as good a place as any.

      What’s your evidence for the old chestnut about men on their deathbed? I doubt if that’s true for most men, except those who spent their lives on stupid activities. Admittedly, given that most jobs today are fake and gay, it’s legitimate to regret trading family life for more work. Either way, though, what men regret is not that they failed to participate more in child care, which should be the primary responsibility of the wife. It’s that they didn’t make more of their lives, including interacting with their children as they grew toward, and into, adulthood.

  14. Thessalonian Monk says

    Andrew Klavan (the crime novelist, and a host of The Daily Wire) talks about a debate/conversation between Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir.

    Women weren’t so keen on leaving their homes in order to go win bread, so Friedan and de Beauvoir commented on how they would fix this.

    De Beauvoir said women should be forced into the workplace.
    Friedan, horrified at the idea, said no no no, women should be shamed into the workplace.

    [I find leftists aren’t always these conniving, clever propogandists (they’ve done a good job, don’t get me wrong!) but often enough very open about their plans. Think of the UN’s PUBLIC de-population policies, the WEF’s bugmen program where we will own nothing and WILL be happy, or NZ prime mistress Jacinda Arden’s uninhibited ardour (I’ve not often seen a woman show SUCH a satisfied smile in public) at the idea of her lockdowns creating new classes divisions.]

    I haven’t seen the debate mentioned for myself but I haven’t looked for it very hard. I will someday.

    • Charles Haywood says

      I believe Scott Yenor talks about this in his “The Recovery of Family Life,” which I discussed.

      • Thessalonian Monk says

        Thanks for the lead! I’ll check out your review very soon.

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