© 2008 F. Roger Devlin. This page © 2008 WTM Enterprises.
All rights reserved.


Home economics


Natural erosion of male role under modern conditions;
deliberate erosion of male role by feminism



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Obviously the restoration of the marriage covenant is a necessary condition for the restoration of the family and any sustainable civilization. But is it also sufficient? Many female commentators assume so. This, I believe, is because women are naturally programmed to play what Michelle Langley, in her book Women's Infidelity, calls "the commitment game." They naturally see "getting him to marry me" as the entire goal of dating and courtship. Accordingly, they focus on their dissatisfaction as the cohabiting girlfriend, and call marriage a "simple solution" to the problem.

I disagree. The rate of female-initiated divorce is conclusive proof that dragging or driving the selfish bastards to the altar is not going to solve anything. As men vainly try to explain to their girlfriends, a marriage ceremony in and of itself changes nothing, and certainly does not cause anyone to "live happily ever after." Today, in fact, much of the same confusion and aimlessness observable on the dating scene is found in family life itself. The deeper problem, as I see it, is an atrophy of function.

People join together not simply to be together but to do things they cannot do alone. Traditionally, they have formed families to carry out the essential function of childrearing — along with various economic tasks subordinate to that end, and some secondary functions such as care of the elderly. Conversely, to remain strong, the family must retain some of those functions. Today, however, a father's upper-body strength is no longer needed to provide for children; his personal courage is seldom called upon to protect them. A mother can get clothing and even prepared food from stores more easily than produce those things at home. In other words, the domestic economy has been "outsourced."

As its economic functions wither, the family's sense of community fades: homes turn into warehouses for corporate "human resources" (telling phrase!) and nurseries for public school system fodder. The ancestral hearth becomes a suburban tract house, a site for eating, sleeping, and — decreasingly — procreation. These in turn lose their human (and, indeed, sacramental) significance and become merely animal functions. Leisure activity is replaced by the passivity of diversions such as television or music-listening that involve no interaction between family members. Child psychologists distinguish a phase of "parallel play" before children discover that cooperation will enable them to do more interesting things: our families might be seen as reverting to the parallel-play stage.

These developments are economic in the most proper sense of the term, for the family is still a more fundamental economic fact than the market where goods and services are exchanged. Most professional economists, however, find no place in their thoughts for procreation, or even for sexual dimorphism. And I do not believe that results from the direct influence of anti-natalist or feminist ideology, in which most of them take no interest. It is rather that the home has simply fallen out of the economist's purview.

For example, economists have produced cogent refutations of the feminist "57 cents on the dollar" canard, critiques of "comparable worth," "affirmative action," and so on. But they usually limit themselves to pointing out why men are more productive, i.e., why men's labor commands a higher price on the market than women's. They seem to accept the premise that women and men are interchangeable agents of production whose efficiency can be arithmetically assessed; they ignore qualitative social-role differentiation. That tends not only to undermine the dignity of the traditional female role of wife and mother, as gallant conservatives have long pointed out, but also the specifically male breadwinning role. For men are not simply more productive than women (although they are that as well); rather, they have a natural provider role with social and familial meaning.

The economy is not Wall Street; it is Dad dragging himself out of bed at six o'clock in the morning to go to an unglamorous job because he loves his children. It is a remarkable psychological fact that most men find satisfaction in providing for their families. They certainly do not take much satisfaction in paying income tax or meeting car payments. Children are frequently more expensive than taxes or cars, but most fathers take well to the provider role. Family life transforms what might otherwise be mere drudgery into a vocation; the father's work acquires a significance it cannot have for a bachelor. Is there not something missing from a science of economics that has no use for this fact?

It is, therefore, an insufficient response to the feminist slogan of equal pay for equal work to show that women are not doing equal work. We will eventually have to rediscover the forgotten concept of the "family income" — not only because men usually happen to be better providers than women, but also because the male role is vulnerable in the modern world, and must be shored up for the family to function properly.

The contemporary workplace is inherently unfavorable to men for a number of reasons unrelated to the direct influence of feminism. While classical capitalism of the sort celebrated by the followers of Adam Smith or Ludwig von Mises may not quite have been the Wild West, it did allow significant scope for such male traits as competitiveness, risk-taking, leadership, enterprise, and initiative. In a postindustrial bureaucratic corporation there is little room for any of these. The same psychological traits that once made women better at knitting than men, viz., a high degree of tolerance for routine and repetition, today give them an edge in common forms of employment such as word processing and data entry.

Similarly, the superior social skills that once fitted women to be hostesses now give them an advantage in the expanding customer-service sector of the economy.

Modern machines have lowered the economic value of upper-body strength while increasing that of multi-tasking skills. Women are natural multi-taskers. That is an evolutionary adaptation to the requirements of motherhood, well characterized by antifeminist Carolyn Graglia as a "cheerful responsiveness to constant interruptions." If the male inventors of our labor-saving office devices had known what trouble they were preparing for their grandsons, they might have become Luddites.

Government regulations have grown in such luxurious profusion that, as one executive put it, "We are no longer in business; we are only in compliance." Women are better suited than men to fastidious compliance with bureaucratic directives and regulatory minutiæ. They are usually untroubled by the enforced niceness of Political Correctness, such as governmental sanctions against anyone who forgets to call cripples "the differently abled."

The contemporary white-collar employee is dependent upon a boss for his livelihood, and must therefore be deferential, diplomatic, and often less than forthright about what he thinks. It is not hard to see which sex is better at this sort of behavior. Women are cunning and play their cards close to their chest: an evolutionary adaptation left over from the days when their survival and reproductive success depended on an ability to manipulate males physically stronger than themselves. Today, it makes them naturals at office politics.

Most men find the atmosphere of the modern workplace stifling and tedious, and women themselves are seldom attracted to the sort of docile, gelded drudges that manage to succeed in it. But men cannot find refuge at home either, because the women who might have made homes for them are out competing against them in the activities of the broader society.


To these intrinsic male disadvantages in the modern workplace must be added those directly created by feminism.

British philosopher C.E.M. Joad once characterized cultural decadence as "a sign of man's tendency to misread his position in the universe, to take a view of his status and prospects more exalted than the facts warrant and to conduct his societies and to plan his future on the basis of this misreading." [14] Feminism might usefully be viewed in this light as the decadence of European womanhood. It can only have been such a delusion of grandeur that led women with no experience of the world of industry to assert their "right" to a career — meaning, really, an easy and successful career. They pictured themselves, feet up on mahogany desks, barking orders at cringing male subordinates, and getting rewarded for it with fat paychecks and prestige.

The practical result of loudly proclaiming that careers will be opened to talents, as students of the "civil rights" movement know, is that vast hordes of formerly contented mediocrities start thinking of themselves as talented. When they fail at their endeavors, they feel cheated, assume someone else must be to blame, and call for punishment.

The gullible women who entered the workforce at the urging of feminists quickly discovered that they did not like it very much (despite their feminine advantages enumerated above). Work turned out to be ... well, a lot of work. Their response to the broken promises of feminism, however, was not to blame the ideologues for having made them or themselves for having believed them; it was to blame men. Men simply had to re-engineer the world of work until women found it "fulfilling." And feminism would lead the way again. (One of the movement's greatest strengths has been this ability to profit politically from its own failures.)

It would be difficult to calculate the number of laws and regulations promulgated in the last three decades with a view to the convenience of working women. And, although feminists have formulated the proposals, it is largely men who have implemented and enforced them — serenely confident, no doubt, that the new rules could only be used against bad men. But I am afraid women are no exception to the rule that power corrupts, and few of them hesitate to convert the novel legal protections into weapons the moment they sense it might be to their personal advantage.

At my own place of work there are posters prominently displayed to inform women of a toll-free number they can call if they dislike anything a male coworker does or says. There is no equivalent number for men, obviously; but even if there were, it is not hard to see which sex is more given to complaining. Other posters warn men against making any criticism, even casually and informally, of a woman's job performance.

Everyone knows what is going on, but no one says anything. The women have all read the stories about $6 million harassment settlements, and figure it beats working for $17 an hour. Their eyes are peeled for opportunities. The average corporate manager will unhesitatingly betray a fellow male employee (and smugly pose as a defender of wronged womanhood) in order to avoid a lawsuit, and both male and female employees know it.

"Gender equity goals," direct preferences for women in hiring and promotions, are established by corporations in order to avoid being dragged into court by the EEOC. The public pretense is that women are "advancing" in the workplace; in fact, they are being artificially hoisted on the backs of men. One of the most obnoxious aspects of the situation, to my mind, is the sugary rhetoric everywhere used to justify and conceal a reality of intimidation, cowardice, and injustice.

The feminists have undoubtedly made great advances toward achieving their economic aims. Wages of full-time year-round male workers in the United States have remained flat since 1973. In that year, full-time working women's wages were 57 percent those of men; by 2005, they were "earning" (in a manner of speaking) 77 percent as much as men. [15] The men, of course, need that money to start or maintain families; the women do not. Antifeminist women once warned that if their husbands' family-wage jobs were engrossed by spinsters the money would get wasted on clothing, cosmetics, entertainment, travel, and other frivolities. I do not have hard data on that, but certainly consumer-savings rates in general are extremely low today: it would be worthwhile to disaggregate the figures by sex. One thing no economist will ever tell us, however, is how many babies have not been born thanks to women's workplace "advances."

Another consideration that must temper our enthusiasm for these "advances" is the tax increases we have, not coincidentally, suffered during the same period. Shrewd observers have long understood the natural alliance between feminists wanting to nudge or compel women into the workplace and rapacious government wanting to tax their earnings. It is another instance of the common symbiosis between self-indulgence and despotism, the divide-and-rule principle applied to the family.

Finally, one of the great suppressed realities of the contemporary workplace is the widespread existence of mother guilt in female employees: pangs of conscience brought on by leaving their children to the care of paid surrogates out of a misguided belief that they are "supposed to" keep up with men by holding down full-time jobs. This probably contributes to the notorious personal unpleasantness of many working women, and it certainly affects their job performance.

Apparently it is not as easy to find examples of stay-at-home mothers torn up at the thought of multinational conglomerates deprived of their love and comforting.

October 13, 2008

To the conclusion of the series
(sections 11 and 12).

Back to sections 7 and 8.

© 2008 F. Roger Devlin. This page © 2008 WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

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