Saturday, October 29, 2011

The war of the sexes: once more into the breach

In my intimate life, being of the minority persuasion, I have never had to engage in the war between the sexes. In secondary places like work, etc. I have seen it. I sometimes wonder if the seeds of my conservatism were planted in part by some of the crappy and dishonorable things so-called enlightened feminists were up to when I worked in the HIV non/profit sector and the post-Vatican II church. But as a man, I feel the winds of the battle all around me in the larger world.

My frequent complaint about the humiliating images of (white) men in media is part of that. Men are in such trouble that they now need their own "men's rights" movements and foundations for male studies outside the feminist dogma of the academe. The change in the status of women in the West is the most breathtaking change in society I know of, in one lifetime, far more than changes in actual status in race.

This deep difference is one of the reasons I cannot be a liberal, since liberalism takes as dogma the conflicting beliefs that men and women are "equal", that men are inferior Neanderthals and women are superior victims, that gender is both a mere social construct and one of the defining issues of history, and that when it is beneficial to women, women and men are interchangeable.

I was thinking recently about an incident where a young collegiate wrestler was supposed to have a match with a female. He refused to take her on. I think he cited religious reasons. But it revealed a structural vulnerability in men's psyches that women certainly have learned to exploit to the max. And it indicates why, once women gain a foothold as "equals" in previously all-male turf, men will become aliens in what was their own land, with no clue how to regain it.

No accident that the woman is also brown-skinned.

The vulnerability is this: outside of an intimate relationship, if a man and woman are allowed to engage in direct, open, public and aggressive competition --that is, male-style agonic competition-- the man will always lose. Why? Because if he beats the woman, there is no honor in it for him. No more, perhaps even less, than if he had won a contest with a child. Just the experience of having had to engage a female like that is deeply disturbing to a man. And if he loses to her, his shame is catastrophic. He is unmanned.

Men and women can compete against each other in hedonic ways, but when the conflict turns agonic, different rules apply. The hedonic mode (from the Greek for pleasure) is competition through attraction; the Greek for a conflict of physical skill and strength, agon, gives us competition through intimidation. Men, when they find themselves in agonic competition with women --intimacies excepted-- become diffident and confused. And more often than not, they simply withdraw. To take on the female in the agonic mode is a no-win for him, no matter the outcome: to defeat her brings him no honor, to lose to her shames him utterly.*

I hold the opinion, once universal and as apparent as sunshine and, in the last ten minutes, now gross heresy, that men and women are truly opposite sexes to each other. Not just different, but opposite. And hence, not interchangeable. Even if there are realms of activity they both can do --and there are, of course, many and always have been-- there are essential realms where they exclude each other, where the specificity of their sexual, aka gender, identity defines them. And to define is to exclude. To be this and not that. This is why feminism loathes and fears fixed gender identity, because definition always excludes.

Perhaps not despite but because of my minority eros, this is apparent to me. A man cannot be a mother. A woman cannot be a father. Just for starters. And in my own thinking about the definition of a man, three things he is not are a. a boy, b. God, or c. a women.

I think there is a psychological compensation that a man can make when he is forced into agon-style competition with a woman, say, in business. He lets himself believe that she is his equal by masculinizing her in his imagination, making her an honorary male. This makes an intolerable situation tolerable. He may even indulge in reaction formation and celebrate the contest. But I don't believe it.

When women are admitted into field previously all-male or male-dominated, two things tend to happen: if the women get to dominate, then men flee the scene and the turf is virtually feminized, making male return highly unlikely, and if they remain in a minority or non-dominant position, they whine about discrimination --glass ceilings, old boys clubs, etc.--, using the potent victimization trope to try to force the field to give them what they cannot earn. And I also hold that, over time, either of these scenarios must include harm to men because while legions of females demand entry to male-only fields, few men want to go where women have anciently staked their turf.

Regardless of surface theology, it is dynamics like this which would make, for instance, the acceptance of women into the priestly castes of the Catholic or Orthodox churches suicidal for those bodies.

*A goodly chunk of gay males will not respond this way because their sense of male identity and male vs female belonging is thinner. I have opined elsewhere (I here, II here and III here) that the real problem with (male) homosexuality is that it too often provides a fifth column of support to feminists who want to bring down the male sex.

PS. I have some unformed thoughts about how, in matters of race, for example, similar complexities arise. Principally, that when formerly subordinate races or ethnicities begin to show up in positions of power formerly the province of the dominant group, many members of the dominant group --either through reaction formation, compensation or conversion-- grant to the new power-holders a kind of honorary membership in the dominant group in order to make their own new experience of being under the power of the subordinates bearable. A visit to most any city or state office in San Francisco will provide the material for this situation. The DMV or Parking & Traffic or MUNI are the most likely. The TSA screening process also comes to mind.

ps. a day or two later, famous Game meister Roissy, under a new name, takes on Catholic conservative Bill Bennett's advice to young men to "man up." The article bluntly and directly places the causal problem with today's men with today's women. 

Talk about war between the sexes. His point is that if today's young men, especially, are unimpressive, it is largely because the revolution in culture, work, law, education and morals produced by feminism gives them no real incentive to be otherwise. There is nothing to be gained and much to be lost by becoming real men. He bluntly advocates what traditional societies have always done: control and contain female sexuality. Could have been written in part by St. Augustine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suppose,then, it is easy to make seem advantageous to guys for guys to cheled or withdraw from civilization in the olam world, and put value only into one of those secret societies that GKC goes on about.

The olam courts and bureaucracies can't reach into such societies to abolish the old boys networks because, obviously, it's shamefully intellectually obtuse to believe in secret societies and conspiracies -- except those involving capitalist tycoons whose purposes are always only to make more money and preserve their "power interests."

Yet by guys' withdrawal from the olam, the olam is devalued -- e.g. giving over university theology to feminist critiques and other 'subaltern' critiques (e.g. that defunct Nestorian etc Christianities in the East and Africa should be far more significant for Westerners' understanding of Christianity than Augustine, Aquinas, the Reformation, Loyola, Trent, etc).

For the guys no longer project their Anima into the olam. And the feminists and motley subalterns aren't building up a substantive new Christianity in the olam. First, they're all anti-essentialist (no substance). Second, the don't love Nestorian Christendom or whatnot, but merely root around in nonWestern Christianities for material that proves Western Christendom happen'd the way it happen'd only because of power decisions made by white males. ... Arianism isn't loved: it merely validates hatred of Chalcedonian Christian doctrine as driven by a hermeneutic that served white males' power interests.

My new worry is that any male-only subterranean secret societies in the cheled merely reflect the anti-male etc critiques in the nondual olam: here or there everything's all only about power. Where is the value?

P.S. I emphasize that I'm merely taking up Chesterton's thesis on the instrumental importance of secret societies for hypothetical discussion. I don't want to be laugh'd at for rejecting both the official story and Noam Chomsky's daring theories that tycoons conspire to thwart the democratic process in order to make money off of stuff.

... As John Stuart Mill proved, scorn is impossible to endure, especially when one wants to be applauded by everyone for having the strength to walk alone à la Rousseau. As Mill establishes in "On Liberty," society will be uncreative if the conventional bourgeois don't applaud the unconventional for their unconventionalness. Fortunately, that's now what higher education is for.

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