Values & Ideologies
By Rod Van Mechelen
Men will be nice when nice guys get laid. -- Wilbur Wormwood
Men's oppressive choices?
1992 Bellevue, Wash. - For decades, pop-feminists have been complaining that men force women into an oppressively male perception of what femininity should be:
(Dr. Karen) Horney adduced that "women presenting the specified [masochistic] traits are more frequently chosen by men. This implies that women's erotic possibilities depend on their conformity to the image of that which constitutes their 'true nature.'" -- Against Our Will, Susan Brownmiller, p 362
They strongly believe the time has come for women to create femininity for themselves: "Women should set the standards, and not listen to 'male' standards." (Women and Love, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 301 - 302) That's fine. It's healthy for people to be who they are, and not what they think or know others want them to be. But isn't it also time for women to begin taking a little responsibility for their participation in life, too? After all, millions of women haven't been sitting around for the past 50,000 years passively watching life go by while men do all the living. They have created culture, too:
Could it be that females play a more dominant social role than anybody has given them credit for? Could it mean that males are more dependent on females than the other way around? Could sexual strategies, courtship and mate choice -- fundamental reproductive behavior -- influence not only intimate male-female relationships but also social relationships, political relationships, and economic relationships? -- Sexual Strategies, by Mary Batten, p 3
Just as men's real and perceived desires have influenced the form of femininity, so women's real and perceived desires have affected masculinity's build:
What women want in a mate influences how men act; at the same time, what men want in a mate influences how women act. Neither sex gets its ideal mate all the time; choice becomes a compromise between what one wants and the available options. The individual women and men who are most attractive, in reproductive terms, emerge the winners. -- Sexual Strategies, by Mary Batten, p 69
This is because both sexes configure our social structure: "The way we form relationships with others is the social structure." (Women and Love, St. Martin's Press mass market edition, 1989, Shere Hite, p 156)
The Victorian era provides a classic example of how the dance of gender conspires to create the roles we play. Together, women and men evolved a code of Chivalry that, in the end, oppressed both:
When the frockcoated and increasingly bewhiskered gentlemen of the Victorian era, in the grip of this strange nostalgia, cultivated the stilted and excessive courtesy toward "the ladies" that they fondly believed reflected the chivalric ideal, they also -- though without malice aforethought -- reduced them once more to the status of spectators at the tournament of life. ... And regrettably, women encouraged them, finding it pleasant to be worshipped, cherished, and deferred to, flattering to be considered vulnerable, virginal, and remote; pure angels to whom a man might turn for respite from the rough, cruel world of business realities. -- Sex in History, Reay Tannahill, p 349
Together, we have created our culture, and all the good and bad that goes with it. By our values, we determine, define, and dictate the essential characteristics of masculinity and femininity. (You Just Don't Understand, Ballantine Books Edition, June 1991, Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., p 287) Neither women nor men are victims or villains, they did it, and we do it, together.
Shared Need, Shared Responsibility
After the fact of sex, what do women and men want? Men want affiliation and intimacy. So women provide men with an abundance of emotional connections. In trade, men offer the ability to create or earn wealth and status. (You Just Don't Understand, Ballantine Books Edition, June 1991, Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., p 180 - 181)
Beyond this, we follow trends. Women said they wanted sensitive men, but chose virile or successful men, so Rocky told Adrianne, "I'm a sen-su-tive guy" and learned how to box. Meanwhile, the myth machines told women that "gentlemen prefer blondes" with "big boobs," so women dye their hair, and hundreds of thousands now worry about the integrity of their implants. These reflect the male and female ideologies.
In simplest terms, the male ideology is based on men's values, plus female values as men perceive them (a pseudo-feminine agenda), and the female ideology is based on women's values plus male values as women perceive them (a pseudo-masculine agenda). Together, these produce our cultural values and ideologies.
Our socio-sexual behaviors and expectations are broadly shaped by what we think the opposite sex wants from us. Thus, if, by their choices, women tell men they want "heroic" rapists, are most men likely to take sensitivity training? If women say they want nurturing men, but then date, mate and marry jerks, we will know that if we want sex and intimacy with a woman, we will be most successful by acting like a jerk.
If women truly want men to be sensitive, caring, and nurturing, then they can encourage men to adopt these characteristics by selecting men who already are sensitive, caring, and nurturing. The choice really is theirs: "Men will be nice when nice guys get laid."
While some pundits continue to promote a "liberated" lifestyle, concern for the problem of teen pregnancy and the plight of young single mothers grows. Is the liberated lifestyle really an option, or is it time for men to take responsibility and choose virtue?
In December, 1993, a female coworker asked, "Do you have any children, Rod?"
"No," I replied naively, "I've never been married."
"That's sexist!" snapped one woman. "How very moral of you," sneered another. And while the only two other men in our department scurried for cover, the rest of the women turned on their heels and stalked back to their cubicles.
Why? Because what they heard me saying is that I believe it's not okay to have children out of wedlock.
With roughly half of all first born children today being conceived out of wedlock, a growing number of young women are embracing the feminist ideology that says they have the right to sleep with the "bad boys," get pregnant, raise their children in single parent households and force men to support their "liberated" lifestyle, and anyone who by word or deed eschews such behavior is a bigot.
But they're running into growing opposition. When they assert that women have a right to be single mothers, others, from the religious right to the liberal egalitarians, speak of family values and children's rights. Everybody knows how Dan Quayle feels about this, but the Children's Rights Council, a liberal advocacy group in Washington, D.C., also promotes "Children's right 2 parents."
And when some feminists contend we should not construe protecting a woman's rights as a violation of men's rights, we point to men like Ray Ternes, of the Family Preservation Alliance, who was imprisoned for refusing to support a woman's "right" to a liberated lifestyle that included, among other things, membership in a Mercer Island* country club. (* Mercer Island is an upscale community located on an island in Lake Washington, between Seattle and Bellevue.)
The answer, some say, is a return to traditional patriarchy, and that it's time for men to dictate morality to women. Feminist writers like Susan Faludi, author of Backlash, disagree for obvious reasons, but she and others seem to feel that it is okay for them to dictate morality to men, that we should force men to financially support women who choose single-parenthood. Without taking anything away from women, we can reject that out of hand. If women have the right to choose, then as Dave Ault*, co-director of the Seattle-based Men's Rights, Inc. - Equal Rights Amendment Project says, "So do men." Anything less is a violation of the principals of equality these feminists claim to espouse. (* Dave Ault passed away a few years ago, and I don't know if MR, Inc., is still active.)
But what about the larger social issues? Do women and men have a moral obligation to watch out for one another? To do what is right not only for the individual, but for the children and community as well? To the point, shouldn't we demand that everybody accept the two-parent nuclear family because history proves that's what's best for all?
Maybe not. History doesn't prove the two-parent family is essential to create and sustain a stable community so much as it demonstrates what kind of communities arise from different family structures.
In ancient Taoist China, for example, polygyny (the practice of having more than one wife at a time) was common, and their civilization prospered. Yet, it was rife with acts that by today's standards, we would consider intolerable violations of individual human rights. And ultimately it proved unstable: contrary to the popular belief that most men would support polygyny, the historical fact is that it benefits the relatively few high-status men, and the relatively many low-status women, more than it benefits most men (William Tucker, The Amoral Case for Family Values, National Review, October 4, 1993). Consequently, polygyny, by depriving the relatively many low-status men of the opportunity for love and sexual connection, is often conducive to civil unrest.
But in such societies, men are dominant. What if women were dominant? That might change everything. Or would it? The closest thing to polyandry (the practice of having more than one husband at a time) and matriarchy we ever had was the matricentry (a community organized around female reproductive requirements) described in feminist author Marilyn French's book, Beyond Power. As a "back to earther," she found the idea appealing and idyllic; as Daniel Amneus explains in The Garbage Generation, however, matricentry represents the "family values" of the stone age. Assuming most of us don't want to return to a stone age "life style," matricentry is probably not an option.
One family structure espoused by some as the wave of the future is polyfidelity. The practice in which three or more adults marry. While this might resolve many logistical problems of modern life, such as who will take care of the kids while mom and dad are off pursuing their respective careers, only a few have practiced it successfully because it has the same disadvantage as polygamy -- namely, that most people feel very uncomfortable with the idea of sharing their mate.
The liberated woman lifestyle
Which brings us back to the liberated woman lifestyle -- what's wrong with making men support single mothers through welfare, alimony, and unreasonably high child support payments? While it might be a dream come true for some women, it will work only as long as men are willing to support it. And without the affection and connection a family provides, an increasing number of men are making it very clear they would rather be "deadbeat dads" than anonymous support objects. So, it just won't work. Which leaves the two-parent household.
Historically, the model embodied by the monogamous couple and the nuclear family has improved our overall standard of living, and while it is not the only one that can create and sustain a stable community, it has worked better than any other. It is, therefore, the arrangement we should encourage.
But even if monogamy and the nuclear family are conducive to an improving standard of living, does that give us the right to force it (or anything else) down women's collective throat? What about their rights as individuals?
Individuals have rights. As a conservative libertarian I take that almost as an article of faith. But there is a point beyond which the bare assertion of individual rights undermines the community that makes the protection and promotion of those rights possible. Unrestricted rights lead to a "dog eat dog" world where might makes right. And, as an increasing volume of data proves, women are no better than men in this respect. Given the opportunity and the motive, women dominate and oppress as readily as men.
So, while some feminists are doing everything they can to promote values that hinder rather than help the community, what should we do? The answer may be easier than the question suggests: Choose virtue.
If we should not impose a male morality on women, so what? We're civilized. We don't need to force them to do what we believe is right. Instead, we take responsibility for our own choices and seek relationships with women whose moral beliefs match our own.
This is not a new idea. People have been doing it for millennia. By our choices, we can persuade women to meet us half way. That's what most women want, anyway. Those who don't? Let them stew in their own pot and simmer in the consequences of their own choices. And if the extremists try to force us to do otherwise, we refuse. Without our support, they cannot survive.
Rod Van Mechelen