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February 04, 2003

Feminism and Femininity

{A lot of people are coming to this post from metafilter-please note that the poster of this piece is female, "duende." Also, she is not the only blogger on Gene Expression, and our views are diverse, so don't go confusing our posts. The resume you are looking at is that of "David," not "duende." I am "Razib," and I am the most prolific blogger in these parts, but my views do not necessarily reflect those of of everyone else, and vice versa. Also, someone mentioned that this site is pro-life-some might be pro-life here, I don't know, but I support abortion on demand. Additionally, I, like several other of the bloggers here am a "person of color." Please recalibrate your insults accordingly, also, any regular GNXP readers with metafilter accounts can clear up misconeptions here....}

A few of you noted that my recent post neglected to mention a primary reason that Oriental women are attractive to white men: relatively few of them are feminists. I purposefully left that question out because in recent months Iíve become unsure of what constitutes a ďfeminist. Ten years ago, there would have been a brighter line between the lesbo man-haters and the nice girls.

Since then, it has become much more easy, and trendy, to criticize feminism. Now, most of this criticism is richly deserved. As Christina Hoff Sommers and Sylvia Ann Hewlett have demonstrated, one can criticize feminism and still be loyal to womenís equality. However, it is little appreciated that one can criticize feminism and be psychologically indistinguishable from the prototypical feminist. Itís easy to laugh at hairy pits and bizarre conspiracy theories, and itís easy to convince people you dislike feminist mentality by eschewing the obvious trappings.

Iíve heard women scoff at the idea that womenís career opportunities are curtailed by the patriarchy, then turn around and declare that theyíd never ďsubmit my sexuality to any manĒ (i.e. be faithful). I have a beautiful sister who dresses carefully to impress and is always a knock out. Sheís charming and personable, and guys always like her. However, when seeing a pregnant woman walking through a parking lot, she once exclaimed ďThatís disgusting!Ē Neither of these women buy the patriarchy line, but both are contemptuous of marriage and motherhood. Are these women feminists? I donít know, but if I were a man Iíd want nothing to do with either of them.

Most women careerists have learned that feminist rhetoric is counterproductive in the workplace. So even if they really believe it, few make their case. Still, in Washington Iíve been struck by the similarities between Democratic career women and their Republican counterparts. There are some stylistic differences, but in my experience Republican career women are just as likely to not want children, to consistently put career over relationships, and to be utterly impossible at emotional intimacy.

Therefore, I donít see any specific political agenda or movement that renders so many intelligent white women unmarriageable. A larger cultural movement, independent of Marxist feminist rhetoric, is the culprit. Camille Paglia wrote in Sexual Personae ďMenís egotism, so disgusting in the untalented, is responsible for their greatness as a sex.Ē Paglia is no man-hater, but a battle-scarred veteran in the wars against speech codes, false rape accusations, and draconian sexual harassment regulations. However, she fervently supports the entry of women into the professions and corporate world. She correctly sees egotism as necessary for to conquer the world, and as a feminist properly encourages intelligent women to adopt egotism as a tool for the glittering success they are all supposed to want.

Here in Washington, at least, girls from affluent socioeconomic backgrounds are groomed for academic and professional superstardom from the cradle. They are encouraged to delay marriage, if the subject is broached at all by their parents. Usually, they are encouraged to work tirelessly in school and work and avoid serious relationships that are too ďdistractingĒ. Now, I can sympathize with this, since women seem particularly susceptible to give up their lives for men when the latter arenít anywhere near reciprocating their level of commitment. But the biggest impediment to these girlsí romance and marriage prospects is the promotion of the egotism necessary to rise to the top. Now, in and of itself this is not harmful. Self-promotion is appropriate tool for getting ahead. But frequently, by accident or design egotism, like the work ethic, becomes a general moral value. This makes it very difficult to confine egotism to the career sphere, and also difficult to understand why egotism isnít praiseworthy on general principle.

In my experience, women are much more willing to tolerate egotism in men than men are in women. I suspect that this is due at least in part to womenís expectation of a husband as breadwinner. Men donít demand career success to the same degree that women do. Having established that professional success isnít big factor for men, Iím faced with a nearly impossible question: in the long term, what do men want from women? Once the necessary-but-not-sufficient sexual requirement (compatibility and fidelity) is filled, it would be hard to imagine a more subjective question. There are different preferences for certain personality types, interests and life goals. However, my observations over the years of many men from a multitude of economic, racial, and national backgrounds have yearned, in differing terms, for a dream girl who is loving and sweet.

Clearly this is a broad continuum. What might be gentle and kind to Man A may be cloying and suffocating Man B. Man Bís perfect measurement of TLC might seem cold and unresponsive to Man A. Still, there comes a time in every relationship when a woman has to tender and empathetic. If she canít or wonít do that, it doesnít matter if she has the face of Helen of Troy with George Eliotís mind.

Thus, feminism is not completely to blame for cold, unloving women. Venomous, bitchy personalities are certainly not confined to feminists. Wives and girlfriends cannot, and should not, be expected to function as new mothers. Hopefully, with a principled, sympathetic debate, some career women will learn to understand the limits of workplace personae. But I close asking a compelling question: can a society that discourages femininity manage to get enough people to form stable marriages to maintain basic social order?

Update from the Comment Boards: "i am reluctant to speak on this topic as i believe in the primacy of individual choice and contentment, which might not always square with any given social idyll," (Razib). I believe in this as well. However, many, MANY people make stupid choices based on misjudgements of what makes people happy. Most twentysomethings lazily assume that what's fun now will fulfill them just as much in 20 years, or never imagine that they are sowing the seeds of their futures right now. At this point I think that bourgeois normality is most people's best shot for reaching retirement age with the fewest regrets.

Posted by duende at 06:56 PM




Your article is in its basic propositions reasonable but I wonder why you profess to equate career-mindedness with 'egotism' or seem to sugest that putting career over relationships **at some stage in one's life** is necessarily a bad thing and correlate all this somehow with 'being impossible to form emotional intimacy'. There are varied reasons why people are career minded - there are shallow careerists who value the consumption power, the careerists who value power and authority and those who set high standards of intellectual and other achievement for themselves. The first two traits are rather unpleasant and a 'turn off' whether they are found in men or women while the last is a very attractive trait and certainly one with strong eugenic fitness, certainly more so than women who think their sole purpose in life is spitting out babies and who are sufficiently gratified to do the laundry. While your sister's attitude to pregnant women is rather extreme, I think you are exaggerating the divide between men and your 'wicked feminists' on these. Personally women who aspire to be baby machines and devoid of ambition are to me the least appealing of the species and one I suspect most modern men would avoid at all costs, more so than careerists whom, as I have argued, we can usually distinguish into 3 types. Those who prefer anti-feminist fresh-off-the-boat Orientals are welcome to them.

Posted by: Jason Soon at February 5, 2003 12:30 AM


i am reluctant to speak on this topic as i believe in the primacy of individual choice and contentment, which might not always square with any given social idyll, but let me say that after reading THE OCTOBER HORSER by Colleen McCullough (the last of her series on late republican rome), i am struck by the strength of roman women, even their egotism. they might have been blocked from pursuing political careers, but they had their own sources of wealth and dominated many of the men in their lives (the first emperor augustus was for the last half of his life constantly manipulated-controlled even-by his wife livia drusilla).

Posted by: razib at February 5, 2003 01:11 AM


" ... certainly more so than women who think their sole purpose in life is spitting out babies and who are sufficiently gratified to do the laundry." [Feminine women love having babies and adore raising young children with a good husband at the head of the family, Jason -- count on it, those things in life are what fulfill them most. They DON'T enjoy drudgery such as doing the laundry any more than you or I do. Without complaining, they very admirably do housework that has to be done. Period. Because they do it cheerfully and uncomplainingly for the good of the family, some men imagine their feminine wives don't dislike household drudgery -- and, incredibly, may actually make fun of them for it. There is little more boorish in life than such men. If you as a husband can earn enough to pay a woman to come in a few times every week and do the laundry for your wife, she'll respect and love you all the more, and consider herself the luckiest woman on the planet. It's not easy being a baby-maker and baby-nurturer. It's also not something any man with any sense lacks respect for in the least. On the contrary, men of sense find it the most attractive thing in the known universe.]

"While your sister's attitude to pregnant women is rather extreme, I think you are exaggerating the divide between men and your 'wicked feminists' on these. Personally women who aspire to be baby machines and devoid of ambition are to me the least appealing of the species and one I suspect most modern men would avoid at all costs, more so than careerists whom, as I have argued, we can usually distinguish into 3 types." [Jason I respect most of your views as expressed on Gene Expression but here you show yourself not yet in possession of the most fundamental differences between men and women. Check out some of the bitter comments made by women who gave up starting a family so that they could attend to a career. The ones who don't bitterly regret it are a very small minority.]

"Those who prefer anti-feminist fresh-off-the-boat Orientals are welcome to them." [Men who prefer mannish women for their wives are welcome to them. They'll learn. I just hope they don't learn too late and contribute to the 60 percent or whatever it is divorce rate. One more thing about women making grimaces at seeing other women who are pregnant or hearing about other women who have more than one or two children: JASON IF YOU HAVEN'T FIGURED THIS OUT YET, THEY ARE INSANELY JEALOUS! I MEAN, GET WITH THE PROGRAM, MAN! THIS STUFF IS "UNDERSTANDING WOMEN 101"!]

Posted by: Unadorned at February 5, 2003 05:43 AM


Hmmm...
Since this post started out on cross-cultural differences, I think I should mention that in my view the hard careerist bitches you mention are mainly an American phenomenon. I find no trouble in meeting quite feminine women here in Australia or in Britain.
Careerist women are in my view the victims of an enormous con-job anyway. A career is a means not an end. We work to live, not live to work. I don't think I know any woman who regrets her children but a lot are dissatisfied with their jobs. A career is a pathetic substitute for a family.

Posted by: John Ray at February 5, 2003 05:59 AM


Brilliant post duende. Not a word wasted, right to the point.

Posted by: Diana at February 5, 2003 06:51 AM


1. First of all, remember this is Washington D.C. Probably third only to New York and LA for rabid careerism.

2. In baby-haters and baby factories, we are referring to extremes. Most women fall somewhere in between. I'm just saying that Marxist feminist ideology isn't responsible for all of them. And many homemakers were ambitious women who had a change of heart. My mother graduated from Georgetown Law School, but three baby-sitter disasters in a row made her realize what that taking care of her children was more important than her career. Having babies changes women in ways that men frequently have trouble understanding.

3. The guys who like those FOB Oriental brides are frequently divorced, middle-aged blue collar men that the sexual revolution and the information economy left behind. They have their problems, but they are a sign that huge numbers of Americans, men and women alike, are NOT coping well with the huge social shifts of the last 40 years. I can find it in my heart to pity them.

Posted by: duende at February 5, 2003 07:03 AM


John: if the "hard careerist bitches" are mainly a US phenom, then how do you explain the success of the British book, "How Does She Do It?" which is about a British hard careerist bitch? Tina Brown? Anna Wintour?

Razib, "i am struck by the strength of roman women, even their egotism. they might have been blocked from pursuing political careers, but they had their own sources of wealth and dominated many of the men in their lives (the first emperor augustus was for the last half of his life constantly manipulated-controlled even-by his wife livia drusilla)."

The point is that due to sexual segregration, Roman women did not compete directly with men. Women have always been able to "manipulate" men, but that is not direct political control.

In any case didn't the birth-rate of Roman women drop to below replacement level? Didn't one of the Emperors have to pass a law forcing Roman men to get married, as the marriage rate had dropped to alarmingly low proportions?

Posted by: Diana at February 5, 2003 07:04 AM


You make an excellent point, and demolish a favorite strawman of the right wing in the process, in your observation that political choices are not an oracle of the career and life priorities of women. I know a number of left-leaning women (at least one of them almost a stereotypical hippie granola-munching environmentalist :-) ) who decided at some point that kids were great and they wanted to have a lot of them. Granted, they're still not as prolific as a religious fundamentalist couple (that I only know second-hand) who have had ten children...

Posted by: bbartlog at February 5, 2003 07:18 AM


A poignant and obviously heartfelt post. I have asked your closing question for a long time. My mother was a career woman of the WW2 generation. It was not her first choice; she longed her entire life to be a homemaker and traditional mother. I also observed the professional battles she fought in a pre-feminist era. She works part-time today at age 77. This did give me a somewhat different perspective.

The conundrum you describe reveals the truth in the saying that a solution is not a solution unless it creates a new problem. We have, in America, opened enormous opportunities for women and are now faced with an unforeseen array of obstacles to social and economic tranquility for both men and women.

My nineteen year old daughter believes she wants to marry a house-husband to stay home and raise the children while she pursues her law career. I told her she would never marry such a man because he would not attract her in the first place. She didn't dispute this entirely.

The questions you have raised will not soon go away.

Posted by: Kimmon at February 5, 2003 12:10 PM


There's nothing wrong with female careerism per se. The problem is when it's accompanied by unrealistic expectations or by a "looking out for number one" attitude that is incompatible with strong relationships. Feminism encourages such expectations and attitudes, encouraging women to see life's troubles as someone else's fault rather than unavoidable features of the human condition or tradeoffs for choices made. Why should it be a surprise that men will avoid women who have uncooperative attitudes and lack common sense?

Feminism is the ideological equivalent of the woman who was mistreated by a jerk boyfriend and now has a chip on her shoulder for all men. What decent man wants to get involved with such a woman, given that there are plenty of better choices available?

Posted by: Jonathan Gewirtz at February 5, 2003 12:32 PM


I was recently flipping through a book of essays in the local B&N called "The Bitch in the House". Lordy, what a bunch of angry women! Married, divorced, single, with children or without - they were all committed feminists, and they all seemed really really, unhappy (not to mention hell to live with - I know I wouldn't want to marry any of them...). Is this what Friedan hath wrought?

Posted by: jimbo at February 5, 2003 02:17 PM


Interesting article on along this line in the Atlantic:

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2003/01/flanagan.htm

Posted by: jimbo at February 5, 2003 02:52 PM


women simply don't want to marry down-this is a human universal. problem is, if the women is hot enough, men will-so you get a deficit in the high income & status brackets of "eligible" bachelors for high-powered ladies. the serial monogamy that characterizes high status men is a way to have it both ways-trading in successful older wives you went to college with and are probably socioeconomically equivalent for really attractive younger ones that are less accomplished in income & education....

Posted by: razib at February 5, 2003 03:57 PM


" ... trading in successful older wives you went to college with and are probably socioeconomically equivalent for really attractive younger ones that are less accomplished in income & education...." -- Razib

But this cuts right to the point of Duende's query -- WHY would these men trade in their original wives? What are those wives (or these men) doing wrong? Are they doing anything wrong?

Posted by: Unadorned at February 5, 2003 04:11 PM


yeah, i read that atlantic article.

The problem is that "chip." Whether an American girl has it or not, the guy is questioning--should I open the car door? should I comment on how she looks? should I have a conversation about cooking (I like to cook, personally, and I like to talk about recipes, etc)--or will she think I'm checking out her "barefoot and pregnant" potential?

With all these worries floating around, it's no wonder to me why foreign women, not just Asians, are more attractive to American men. Many are more "traditional" or at least don't bite your head off for opening a door. (or seem like they might). Hell, the Russian girls I know don't even look at the check, let alone discuss it. Guy pays. Simple. Might be chauvinistic, but it's easy. Guys like simple rules.

Posted by: David at February 5, 2003 05:53 PM


David,
We're all in a terrible muddle right now, men and women alike. No one is born knowing how to navigate sex, romance and marriage. People used to recognize this, and therefore had a fairly clear set of courtship rules. The sexual revolution, which I generally support, threw that all away. In a way Europe is much easier than America because there are more ettiquet expectations, and people aren't as confused about how to interpret others' actions.

Posted by: duende at February 5, 2003 06:04 PM


"The sexual revolution, which I generally support, ... " -- Duende

"Generally" support? Which part of it don't you support, then?

Posted by: Unadorned at February 5, 2003 06:47 PM


Eastern European women, whatever they look like (and they are not all pretty) almost always ooze femininity, allure and charm.

How strange--when I was growing up, they were all thought to be overmuscled shotputters.

Posted by: Diana at February 5, 2003 07:08 PM


I'd think that the ability to be "loving and sweet" or "tender and empathetic" on occasion is part of what anyone, male or female, looks for in a romantic partner. Treating someone this way is simply part of what it means to care about them in the way we all want our lovers to care about us. Isn't it? I mean, isn't it equally true that there are times in every relationship where a man has to be tender and empathetic as well? Does anyone outside of an Ayn Rand novel have a satisfying romantic relationship without some reciprocal attention of this nature?

Perhaps the claim is merely that men put a higher priority on this need than women do. I'm not convinced of this, though I'm willing to be. I'm inclined to think that the individual variations duende referred to in the amount and style of such attention that one needs are larger than any difference we can demonstrate between the two sexes as groups.

I also wonder whether we're conflating two related, but different problems:

1) The posited inability of an increasing number of modern women to be "tender and empathetic" enough to sustain a romantic relationship.

2) The difficulty of reconciling careerist ambitions with the desire to have a family.

One might be fully capable of loving sweetness and still find 2) a difficult nut to crack.

Regarding Kimmon's comment about the undesirability of the kind of man willing to be "a house-husband to stay home and raise the children while she pursues her law career," I'd suggest reading James Lileks' blog for a while. His domestic life seems to be doing quite well. Of course, he doesn't stay home all the time, and he has a successful career of his own. Some self-sufficient source of identity like that is probably essential to keep someone attractive, whether it's a man or a woman. Another way to put this is that a certain amount of what duende calls "egotism" is an essential element of sexual attractiveness. Few people of either sex are attracted to doormats, even if they make good housekeepers. duende asserts that men are less tolerant of egotism than women. Yet men clearly desire a fair amount of it in their mates as well--else why would they have affairs with colleagues when there's a tender housewife at home?

I think perhaps the problem here is equating "egotism" with "lack of tenderness". It seems to me that "egotism" ought to mean such things as self-assertiveness, personal drive, independent-mindedness. The kind of things that make a person's judgment valuable--and hence make their expressions of tenderness toward you meaningful. I think the problem lies in the fact the primary way in which we are conditioned to recognize these traits in others is through their success in some career. Ironically, the feminist movement reinforced this problem. Instead of ennobling their own domestic virtue and arguing that men should aspire to it even as they aspired to have careers of their own, they denigrated it as mere oppression that no-one could possibly find fulfillment in. Instead of teaching men to value and feel valued for their roles as fathers, they taught women to regard motherhood as a contemptible form of subjugation.

It ought to be obvious that caring about oneself and one's own ambitions isn't incompatible with caring about someone else. Wanting a successful romantic relationship and a loving family is itself a self-interested ambition. The challenge--faced equally by men and women--is to figure out where your priorities are, how much of yourself to invest in each field, and to find someone whose needs and ambitions in these regards are somehow compatible with yours. A tall order indeed.

Posted by: CMN at February 5, 2003 07:10 PM


Unadorned,
I would not force gays back in the closet. Nor would I reinstate taboos on talking about rape, sexual abuse, and sexual dysfunction. However, I would toss out the ridiculous assertions regarding the empowerment of promiscuity, hormonal equality between the sexes, and create a some appropriately updated courtship rules.

And, I would reject the notion that sexual freedom makes people happy. Sexual freedom delivers only itself. It doesn't offer meaning, a sense of purpose, or lasting intimacy. The most common response I see in people who embrace sexual freedom as a principle is the utter amazement when they realize that such a beautiful dream is completely useless is beyond transient pleasure.

Posted by: duende at February 5, 2003 07:11 PM


I wasn't going to comment on this one because I'm sure to come off as an a*hole or a loser but I finally gave in. My own experience, as a middle-aged man, is that a woman with a career comparable to my own simply will not choose someone like me. She wants someone with an even higher profile career. Thus all the success I've had has been with women who make less money than I do and have less powerful careers. I've tried with women of comparable position and have some good female friends in that category but they won't choose me romantically.
Purely anecdotal of course but that's the situation here.
I have noticed a refreshing decline in hardline feminism among all women, which is good because I find that intolerable. Foreign and ethnic women are also less flaky than a lot of anglo women. Belief in astrology and newage religion is rampant among a certain category of woman and that too is intolerable. (For me.)
The fact remains that modern courtship is difficult, as duende says the rules are unclear, but we also have expectations that might be out of whack with reality. The old generation expected loyalty, some companionship and mutual support. The idea of a soul mate has been, I think, oversold.

Posted by: John Purdy at February 5, 2003 08:06 PM


I don't know why you say you "generally support the sexual revolution" then, duende -- you oppose its heart and soul, supporting only some stuff that's relatively peripheral as far as it's concerned.

Posted by: Unodorned at February 5, 2003 08:32 PM


duende wrote: "At this point I think that bourgeois normality is most people's best shot for reaching retirement age with the fewest regrets." I want to second that with a wholehearted endorsement.

I'm a 43-year old man who spent the last 25 years pining for an idealistic, chock-full-o-meaning life and from where I sit now a bourgeois life looks very appealing. "Bourgeois" has been given a bad rap. A comfortable life, with a good wife, children, a good job that pays a comfortable wage and offers opportunities for creativity, a home of your own; holidays with loved ones and friends, a vacation in the summer, a garden to putter about in -- that is the essence of a good life, I think. After all the sturm und drang, all the idealism about big causes and changing the world and being remembered for something great, it all seems to come back to the simple pleasures of doings things well, enjoying ones friends and loved ones, and appreciating the everyday pleasures of a comfortable middle-class life. What if that's actually the highest form of life?

Posted by: Mark J. at February 5, 2003 09:01 PM


To generalize, I think that Asian-American women tend to get what they want out of men more than white women do, because the typical Asian woman is better at convincing her man that whatever she wants was his brilliant idea.

Posted by: Steve Sailer at February 5, 2003 09:59 PM


i tend to think westerners have super-high expectations on the individual level. i know i have rather high expectations of what a "partner" should be. in contrast, my parents want to import some chick for the old-country for me to breed with and continue the family line. the latter is a sure thing, and not as stressfull. but i simply am not down with that. which goes to show-human beings are not simple utility maximizing machines. especially when normal social constraints (family input & veto) are removed....

Posted by: razib at February 6, 2003 01:59 AM



Mark: It *is* the highest form of life, and it's not too late for you. In fact, your spiritual journey sounds like the basis of an American bildungsroman.

Posted by: Diana at February 6, 2003 07:36 AM


Diana: I had to google "bildungsroman" to understand what you meant -- good word! Thanks for the encouragement. Hopefully I can find a smart gal like you who's unattached and ready to take up the quest for bourgeois bliss with gusto.

Posted by: Mark J. at February 6, 2003 09:56 AM


I think the primary problem is that we have lost our respect for both femininity and masculinity. A man can be masculine without being a bully. A woman can be feminine without being a bimbo. You give the example of your sister embracing her feminine appearance. "Pretty" doesn't have to mean weak-willed. It is perfectly possible to inhabit the traditional roles that men and women have held for generations and still have modern ideas about equality. It is possible to hold non-traditional roles, such as being a stay at home dad, and still retain your essential gender identity. A woman can be feminine and be a feminist and have a high-powered job and choose not to have children and love a strong, masculine man and respect another woman's right to be a feminine, feminist, stay-at-home mother of six. Couldn't we all agree that "What fulfills me and makes me feel like a complete person may do nothing for you. And that's okay!"

We as a society are still working it out. It's been such a short time since modern birth control separated sex from reproduction and made feminism possible. We don't have generally accepted courtship rituals anymore, which leads to the male confusion David mentioned. While we are working it out, we should try to be more flexible and less easily offended. If he opens the door, he probably isn't belittling you. If she opens the door before you get there, she isn't necessarily rejecting your manhood. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people of both sexes with no sense of humor. The answer is simple: don't date them. And even more importantly, don't think that they speak for their gender.

Posted by: shell at February 6, 2003 10:12 AM


"Couldn't we all agree that "What fulfills me and makes me feel like a complete person may do nothing for you. And that's okay!""

That's fine, but what about the long term? People making individual reproductive choices about their "personal fulfilment", can have major affects on society, even if it seems like it's nobody else's business. Everything we have is the product of previous generations; is there a concomitent responsibilty to future generations? I don't know. I'm not accustomed to thinking in these terms, but the logic seems inescapable...

Posted by: jimbo at February 6, 2003 10:55 AM


"A woman can be feminine without being a bimbo." -- Shell

Truer words were never written. In fact, there are no bigger bimbos out there than Naomi Wolff, Susan Faludi, Gloria Steinem, and the list goes on ... (of course, they'd all be MORTIFIED to find out this sad truth about themselves -- who wouldn't be?).

Posted by: Unadorned at February 6, 2003 11:02 AM


And on what basis do you classify Naomi Wolf as a bimbo? Wait - let me guess - her politics differ from yours...
Of course I suppose if you redefine 'bimbo' suitably, you can classify any feminist that way. But I thought that a lack of intelligence was a prerequisite, and Wolf at least is reasonably smart... haven't read anything much by the other two.

Posted by: bbartlog at February 6, 2003 11:35 AM


Mark: "After all the sturm und drang, all the idealism about big causes and changing the world and being remembered for something great, it all seems to come back to the simple pleasures of doings things well, enjoying ones friends and loved ones, and appreciating the everyday pleasures of a comfortable middle-class life. What if that's actually the highest form of life?"

Support from Diana may be more than enough, but I will add some from Montaigne (from his essay "On Experience"):
"We are great fools. 'He has spent his life in idleness,' we say, and 'I have done nothing today.' What! have you not lived? That is not only the fundamental, but the most noble of your occupations. 'If I had been put in charge of some great affair, I might have shown what I could do.' Have you been able to reflect on your life and control it? Then you have performed the greatest work of all."

Posted by: Eddie Thomas at February 6, 2003 11:36 AM


There has been much said on this thread about feminism, feminists, femininity and masculinity that I think may be confused by different definitions. The word feminism can be used to describe a formal theoretical system, (one I am aware of, though not versed in), yet it can also be used to simply describe the belief that women are as capable and as valuable as men and that they should not be treated unfairly based on the fact that they have ovaries. One can completely agree with the latter (perhaps essential?) belief, while having strong arguments with the theoretical system, or other ideas that are often all bundled under the rubric of feminism.

That said, I am most intrigued by what has been written here about courtship and marriage. A few centuries ago, there was an image often used concerning marriage that I've always found very beautiful: the description of a wife as a "helpmeet," or a helpmate. It meant more than simply the function of a housewife, though the woman's role was often the more than full time and back-breaking job of keeping a house functioning at a time when you not only baked your own bread, but also brewed your own beer. But there was also the sense that a wife was a life partner, and that each half of the couple was very important to the functioning of the family and household.

The biggest change is that now we can think of the husband as just as much a partner and helpmeet to his wife, and that the specific functions they have in a family should be not directed entirely by their biological sex but also by their personal inclinations. Does biological sex matter? Of course it does. No matter how much a man loves his children, it is still the mother whose breasts leak. But should it stop a woman from having a career? No. I think the main purpose of the women's rights movement (the current mainstream, if not the fringes) is not to try to turn women into men (unless they want to be, in which case power to them), but to allow women to be mothers, and also do what they like with their lives. The biggest problem now is that women have won the rights to have careers, but parents, both and female, need to win the rights to be parents. We all need more time off, more freedom from work to be with our families.

On the subject of dating habits, I can only speak from my experience as a young (and somewhat "career-oriented") woman. But I think that there is a lot of worrying about relationships, and relations between men and women that is unnecessary. I pay for my half of dates, because otherwise I feel guilty (my mother raised me to be financially independent, nothing to do with ideas of patriarchy), but I am clear, upfront and friendly about it. I gladly walk through when a man opens a door for me, and open the next (they always seem to come in pairs) for him. I would never get offended, and my dating habits just reflect my feelings that relationships should be reciprocal. But if there is tension, one should talk about it, be open, and most of all, never get offended, but have a sense of perspective that it really is not that important. Make a joke, laugh a little, and learn more about each other.

I do wonder, though, about what other women look for in men. I have heard that the idea that women "marry up," both financially and in age, is not a stereotype but a documented trend. How strong a trend, I am not sure; I once read that North American women marry men who are on average two years older than they are, which is really not much at all. But I don't understand it. When looking at a possible courting pool, I look for men like myself: men of a similar age (a few years up or down), in a similar field (in my case academics), and likely headed for very similar careers (and incomes). It is not that I would not consider dating someone very different (I certainly would, though probably in unusual circumstances), but these are the men with whom I have the most in common, and thus the most rapport. I would even be wary to marry someone much more successful than I, for fear that he would be possibly moving around, and that I would simply have to follow him, disrupting my own career. Of course, I am clearly looking for a helpmeet and life partner. But are other women looking for something very different?

Posted by: JB at February 6, 2003 12:16 PM


Another point to recognize is that Americans work too much. The driving ideology seems to be "I want more". But it is hard to square this with having time to raise a family since the demise of the single breadwinner. When both parents work high-powered, high-stress careers, there is not much time left for raising children.

Posted by: Ben Seigel at February 6, 2003 02:19 PM


Actually, I'd say the biggest change in marriage in the last few centuries has been the widespread assumption that romantic love is a central and indispensable part of it. To link back to a perevious poster, Montaigne had a wife and daughter, and in 2000 pages of autobiographical, soul-searching writing I think he mentioned them once.

And, although I just got married, I was in the dating scene recently enough, and don't remember I or any of my peers ever being especially confused about things. There is some slight uncertainty about what people expect, but I'm not sure that's such a bad thing, or any different than it ever was.

I dated essentially all professional women, and none of them were awful shrews, lacking femininity or crippled by overweening arrogance. I guess I'm missing any sense of the underlying crisis that the post seems to be talking about. Where is the evidence for all this terrible upheavel and uncertainty, the coldness of professional women? I've been around a lot of them, and don't see it. It seems to me to be a straining explanation to a problem of questionable reality.

Posted by: Doug Turnbull at February 6, 2003 02:39 PM


Jeez. I think the problem is that guys have become ball'less, and chicks have gained balls. Outside the transgenered spehere, few want chicks with balls, and vice versa, no matter what the rhetoric. In the end, a jack-ass incensitive guy that loves you, and a nice chick that knows she's dealing with an emotionally stupid but intellectually and brutish superior makes for the best long-term relationships (at least as much as one can generalize these things). People who find themselves outside this "outdated" model, find themselves peculiarly frustrated and unsatisfied. In the end, a big dumb guy can kill you. Sure he doesn't have the right, but as he sits in prison for doing something horrible, you'll be dead if you piss him off. That difference should be appreciated. In the end a guy does want his "mommy" taking care of him for the rest of his life. The author makes this seem like a bad thing. Outside motherly love and that of a dog, you'll find few if any sources of unconditional love. Considering a man is a just a source of protection, income, and sperm--a vessel to be used and not needed after children reach the age of 4 or 13 or so, at least the "illusion" of being loved for something other than our ability to provide (via our mind, income, good looks), namely, loved for our personalities, is highly attractive, even if highly unrealistic. Unfortunatly, women have adopted ego and selfeshness that were stupid traits left to men alone. The fact that masturbation or going gay is often preferable to dealing with an American/western woman should come as no surprise to women now.

Posted by: Get Some Balls at February 6, 2003 02:56 PM


It is neither necessary nor advisable to be an egotist in the workplace. To have confidence in what you say and do, that's about being competent and a good hire will always have their share of that, male or female. In this article, you are in a sense advising female egotists to bend, but not advising male egotists to do so. That's sexist. It undercuts your arguments. It also has the capacity to inform this discussion, as any observation, feminist or otherwise, might.

Another observation: You use a lot of epithets to describe unattractive women. Where are the equivalent epithets for men here?

Posted by: scott at February 6, 2003 05:18 PM


Scott,
I didn't mention male egotists because this essay is about women. I might address male egotism in a subsequent essay, but I can only cram so many topics into one essay without sacrificing coherence. Besides, I'm too busy with my studies to write a grand manifesto.

Equivalent "epithets" for men? Qualities that are unattractive in women are often attractive in men, and vice versa. I'm not sure that true equivalents exist. Anyway, it is not my purpose to defame anyone. I'm trying to be as honest as I can in my search for the truth.

Posted by: duende at February 6, 2003 05:27 PM


Re Montaigne: actually, I believe Montaigne had six children and a wife. In the midst of ruminations on life and death, he once wrote that he'd have to ask his wife exactly how many children they'd had, some having died young. We French majors assumed this was probably more due to 16th century mortality rates, than to total insensitivity.

Posted by: MaryClaire at February 6, 2003 05:32 PM


Jimbo: you've missed the point - that point being that neither society nor individuals should not impose a majority view on women (or either gender for that matter) as regards this kind of choice.

There will always be people who want children and marriage and a 'traditional family' and there will be those who don't. No choice is more valid than the other and neither should either group feel inferior, guilty, pressurised or emotionally blackmailed by society, family, friends, the medical profession, the church or whatever to go against their life choices.

Posted by: Vic at February 7, 2003 04:39 AM


Fool is me, I meant 'neither society nor individuals should impose a majority view' Oops!

Posted by: Vic at February 7, 2003 04:41 AM


No, I got that. The question is not "should society impose it's views on individuals about reproduction" ( a moral question), but "what is the effect if it doesn't" (a practical question). What I was saying was: regardless what you think about the moral issue, the practical issue is that a society that goes down the path of individualism about reproductive choices is doomed. It'll take a few generations, but ultimatly it willl die out. Remember: differential reproduction is the essence of evolution...

Posted by: jimbo at February 7, 2003 06:03 AM


Jimbo: You're using the old 'Appeal to Consequences' fallacy. You can't force that kind of emotional blackmail which I mentioned previously on women/men who don't want children. As I said, there will always be people who do want children, so your 'Differential reproduction' argument is redundant

My point was that people should not be judged according to their life choices - if humans become extinct due to lack of reproduction (and let's face it, that simply WILL NOT HAPPEN for reasons mentioned in this post) then so be it

Posted by: Vic at February 7, 2003 12:20 PM


You still misunderstand me. I'm not making a moral argument, here. I'm not trying to convince anybody to have kids, or not to have kids, or anything. Do what you want you and I are on the same side on this issue.

You are confusing "is" with "ought". (A common fallacy in evolutionary debates) I am not saying that a culture OUGHT to encourage fertility in it's members - that is a value judgement, one that I don't happen to share. What I am saying is that if you have a culture that doesn't encourage fertility, it will eventually be replaced by one that does. (And note: the issue is not "whether or not the human race will survive"; it will. It's what kind of cultural makeup it will have, going foward.) That is simple mathematics.

So I guess I'm just noting the paradox: you, like me, value a society that does not stick it's nose into individual's reproductive choices. But such a society cannot last; it is an evolutionarily unstable configuration. So enjoy it while it does, because your grandchildren (if any) won't...

Posted by: jimbo at February 7, 2003 12:47 PM


Just a brief note for any who are interested:

The nature of marriage from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries is currently under debate among historians. A few decades ago, some historians made the argument that the family over this period became much more affectionate than they had been before. But subsequent research has since argued that if you study it closely, you can see that affection and love in families was just as strong. They may not have created a whole Valentine's Day-esque culture around romantic love, but there is evidence that it was a primary part of marriage choices (of course restricted, as they are today, by financial concerns, etc).

In terms of the Montaigne diary evidence, one must ask what the purpose of the diary was. Ralph Josselin was a clergyman who kept a diary in the seventeenth century, primarily for the pupose of recording God's "providences" to him rather than recording everyday life. Thus his wife apppears mainly when she is giving birth to their children, and he is giving thanks that she and the child are safe. But this does not mean that they didn't have affectionate breakfast together every morning, just that he chose not to write about it. I have not read Montaigne, but it may be that the fact that his wife does not appear in his soul searching reflects a happy, uneventful marriage, rather than any lack of love.

Posted by: JB at February 7, 2003 05:58 PM


Jimbo: Yeah, those fecund Third World cultures are certainly overwhelming the Western troika of money, media, and military power with their fertility-promoting ways!

Speaking of common fallacies in evolutionary arguments, here's one: beginning from some abstract concept ("Producing more children is always better!") ill-founded in fact ("That's why humans usually birth their young in litters of three or more!") or even in evolutionary theory ("Of course, the same laws that apply to genetic propagation also apply to cultural propagation---genes, memes, what's the difference?"), arrive at some bizarre conclusion ("Cultures that actively promote fertility will be replaced by those that do not!") and congratulate yourself how impressive your pseudo-scientific chain of reasoning is.

Of course, you may be right. Even a broken clock, etc. I'll wait for evidence, and other readers would be wise to do the same.

Posted by: anonymous idiot at February 8, 2003 05:19 PM


you misrepresent his premises and then knock down the straw man you build up-how appropriate your moniker.

Posted by: razib at February 8, 2003 06:58 PM


Well, hoping this string is still alive --

When I was in Taiwan in 1983 (I'm an older guy) I noticed a bunch of things. One, as I mentioned in a different string, is that women were attracted to men with thick glasses and seemed to be afraid of big macho guys. A good thing.

Another is that the couples I knew seemed to be joined by affection and coziness more than by mad passion. Women who had mad passions for guys, or guys for women, seemed to be pitied, like people with addictions or other personal weaknesses.

Another is that, up to a certain size of business anyway, the wives of businessmen always seemed to be full partners with their husbands. The man would always be the front man but often you knew that the wife had the last word.

Sri Lanka, Bangla Desh, Pakistan, and India have all recently been ruled by women. China hasn't been, except once, but the behind the scenes ruler has often been a woman. This contrasts with the US.

Posted by: zizka at February 8, 2003 11:07 PM


yes, but the women in south asia almost always received their authority from a father or husband. in a ridiculous extension of this-the semi-literate wife of a populist politician from bihar "ruled" when her husband was jailed. he just made decisions by proxy as he instructed her on what to do.

Posted by: razib at February 9, 2003 12:20 AM


You're sooooo right, "Anonymous Idiot" -- Jimbo was talking nonsense about the importance of demographics! That's why the unstoppable juggernaut of Parsi ( http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=04062002-091157-4598r ) culture and influence has been overwhelming a helpless world, sweeping all before its onslaught.

Posted by: Unadorned at February 9, 2003 07:52 AM


Well,

I think this article is highly unresearched. You have made no clear examples to support your ideas. Could not find any? I suggest you read some Mira Schor from her book Wet on the masculinity and femininity and gener role theory. Interesting ideas nonetheless-howevever subjective and un-original.

I being a young woman do not understand gender, sex, role, or masculinity or femininity...Are you making an honest attempt at seeking to understand such things? Or merely bitching?

Posted by: Amy Gray at March 13, 2003 12:12 AM


Also, seek out some work of Acconci and Benglis-this should introduce you more to the idea of gender....

also Maggie Humm and Chris Weedon.
excellent

ta ta for now

Posted by: Amy Gray at March 13, 2003 12:16 AM


'History teaches us that men [people] and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives'
Abba Eban

Posted by: Deana Pitt at March 13, 2003 12:21 AM


Hi All:

After careful consideration I've come to the conclusion that women are truly empty vessels. I for one am very appreciative of the efforts of feminism, because that movement has enlightened me to the underlining thinking of women. I personally gain a great deal of pleasure from reading about women who have lost their fertility window for having children. I like watching their desperate attempts at seduction, which are for the most part obviously rehearsed from the last Sex and City episode. Moreover, I enjoy seeing the education, media, and legal systems of all western societies completely eroded by the feminists.

I for one am enjoying this show.

Regards.

Posted by: QuickVisit at March 23, 2003 12:44 AM


Hi All:

After careful consideration I've come to the conclusion that women are truly empty vessels. I for one am very appreciative of the efforts of feminism, because that movement has enlightened me to the underlining thinking of women. I personally gain a great deal of pleasure from reading about women who have lost their fertility window for having children. I like watching their desperate attempts at seduction, which are for the most part obviously rehearsed from the last Sex and City episode. Moreover, I enjoy seeing the education, media, and legal systems of all western societies completely eroded by the feminists.

I for one am enjoying this show.

Regards.

Posted by: QuickVisit at March 23, 2003 12:46 AM