Origin of the gender wars

Summary: In 1987 Allen Bloom predicted today’s gender wars. People laughed at him then. Nobody laughs now. Technology has made this clash possible, but he shows that the roots of it run deep in western history and philosophy. We cannot fix a problem that we do not understand. Bloom’s insights provide a firm starting point on the long road to solutions.

Boxing in the Gender Wars

 

Closing of the American Mind.

By Allan Bloom (1987).

Excerpts from Chapter Three: “Relationships”.
This is just a sketch of his rich analysis.

Relations between the sexes have always been difficult, and that is why so much of our literature is about men and women quarreling. There is certainly legitimate ground to doubt their suitability for each other given the spectrum — from the harem to Plato’s Republic — of imaginable and actually existing relations between them, whether nature acted the stepmother or God botched the creation by an afterthought, as some Romantics believed.

That man is not made to be alone is all very well, but who is made to live with him? This is why men and women hesitated before marriage, and courtship was thought necessary to find out whether the couple was compatible, and perhaps to give them basic training in compatibility. No one wanted to be stuck forever with an impossible partner. But, for all that, they knew pretty much what they wanted from one another. The question was whether they could get it (whereas our question today is much more what is wanted). A man was to make a living and protect his wife and children, and a woman was to provide for the domestic economy, particularly in caring for husband and children. Frequently this did not work out very well for one or both of the partners, because they either were not good at their functions or were not eager to perform them. …

The arrangement implicit in marriage, even if it is only conventional, tells those who enter into it what to expect and what the satisfactions are supposed to be. Very simply, the family is a sort of miniature body politic in which the husband’s will is the will of the whole. The woman can influence her husband’s will, and it is supposed to be informed by love of wife and children.

Now all of this has simply disintegrated. It does not exist, nor is it considered good that it should. But nothing certain has taken its place. Neither men nor women have any idea what they are getting into anymore, or, rather, they have reason to fear the worst. There are two equal wills, and no mediating principle to link them and no tribunal of last resort. What is more, neither of the wills is certain of itself. This is where the “ordering of priorities” comes in, particularly with women, who have not yet decided which comes first, career or children.

Closing of the American Mind
Available at Amazon.

The goals and wills of men and women have become like parallel lines, and it requires a Lobachevskyan imagination to hope they may meet. …

And {now} the whole business turns nasty. The souls of men —their ambitious, warlike, protective, possessive character — must be dismantled in order to liberate women from their domination. Machismo — the polemical description of maleness or spiritedness, which was the central natural passion in men’s souls in the psychology of the ancients, the passion of attachment and loyalty — was the villain, the source of the difference between the sexes. The feminists were only completing a job begun by Hobbes in his project of taming the harsh elements in the soul. With machismo discredited, the positive task is to make men caring, sensitive, even nurturing, to fit the restructured family.

Thus once again men must be re-educated according to an abstract project. They must accept the “feminine elements” in their nature. A host of Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep types invade the schools, popular psychology, TV and the movies, making the project respectable. Men tend to undergo this re-education somewhat sullenly but studiously, in order to avoid the opprobrium of the sexist label and to keep peace with their wives and girlfriends. And it is indeed possible to soften men. But to make them “care” is another thing, and the project must inevitably fail.

It must fail because in an age of individualism, persons of either sex cannot be forced to be public-spirited, particularly by those who are becoming less so. Further, caring is either a passion or a virtue, not a description like “sensitive.” A virtue governs a passion, as moderation governs lust, or courage governs fear. But what passion does caring govern? One might say possessiveness, but possessiveness is not to be governed these days — it is to be rooted out. What is wanted is an antidote to natural selfishness, but wishes do not give birth to horses, however much abstract moralism may demand them.

The old moral order, however imperfect it may have been, at least moved toward the virtues by way of the passions. If men were self-concerned, that order tried to expand the scope of self-concern to include others, rather than commanding men to cease being concerned with themselves. To attempt the latter is both tyrannical and ineffective. A true political or social order requires the soul to be like a Gothic cathedral, with selfish stresses and strains helping to hold it up.

Abstract moralism condemns certain keystones, removes them, and then blames both the nature of the stones and the structure when it collapses. The failure of agriculture in socialist collective farming is the best political example of this. An imaginary motive takes the place of a real one, and when the imaginary motive fails to produce the real effect, those who have not been motivated by it are blamed and persecuted.

In family questions, inasmuch as men were understood to be so strongly motivated by property, an older wisdom tried to attach concern for the family to that motive: the man was allowed and encouraged to regard his family as his property, so he would care for the former as he would instinctively care for the latter. This was effective, although it obviously had disadvantages from the point of view of justice.

When wives and children come to the husband and father and say, “We are not your property; we are ends in ourselves and demand to be treated as such,” the anonymous observer cannot help being impressed. But the difficulty comes when wives and children further demand that the man continue to care for them as before, just when they are giving an example of caring for themselves. They object to the father’s flawed motive and ask that it be miraculously replaced by a pure one, of which they wish to make use for their own ends. The father will almost inevitably constrict his quest for property, cease being a father and become a mere man again, rather than turning into a providential God, as others ask him to be. …

Plato taught that, however laudable justice may be, one cannot expect prodigies of virtue from ordinary people. Better a real city tainted by selfish motives than one that cannot exist, except in speech, and that promotes real tyranny.

I am not arguing here that the old family arrangements were good or that we should or could go back to them. I am only insisting that we not cloud our vision to such an extent that we believe that there are viable substitutes for them just because we want or need them. …

A dependent, weak woman is indeed vulnerable and puts herself at men’s mercy. But that appeal did influence a lot of men a lot of the time. {Now} a woman who can be independent of men has much less motive to entice a man into taking care of her and her children.

All our reforms have helped strip the teeth of our gears, which can therefore no longer mesh. They spin idly, side by side, unable to set the social machine in motion. It is at this exercise in futility that young people must look when thinking about their future.

Women are pleased by their successes, their new opportunities, their agenda, their moral superiority. But underneath everything lies the more or less conscious awareness that they are still dual beings by nature, capable of doing most things men do and also wanting to have children. They may hope otherwise, but they fully expect to pursue careers, to have to pursue careers, while caring for children alone. And what they expect and plan for is likely to happen.

The men have none of the current ideological advantages of the women, but they can opt out without too much cost. In their relations with women they have little to say; convinced of the injustice of the old order, for which they were responsible, and practically incapable of changing the direction of the juggernaut, they wait to hear what is wanted, try to adjust but are ready to take off in an instant. They want relationships, but the situation is so unclear. They anticipate a huge investment of emotional energy that is just as likely as not to end in bankruptcy, to a sacrifice of their career goals without any clarity about what reward they will reap, other than a vague togetherness. Meanwhile, one of the strongest, oldest motives for marriage is no longer operative. Men can now easily enjoy the sex that previously could only be had in marriage.

Under such arrangements the family is not a unity, and marriage is an unattractive struggle that is easy to get out of …

————————–  End excerpt! ————————-

About Allan Bloom

Bloom (1930 – 1992) was an American philosopher, classicist, and academician. He taught at Cornell University, the University of Toronto, Yale University, École Normale Supérieure of Paris, and the University of Chicago. Bloom championed the idea of education based on the “Great Books” of western civilization and became famous for his criticism of contemporary American higher education. Bloom denied that he was a conservative, saying that he sought to defend the ‘theoretical life’. {Paraphrased from Wikipedia.}  His major books:
Allan Bloom

For More Information.

Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about women and gender issues, and especially these…

  1. The feminist revolutionaries have won. Insurgents have arisen to challenge the new order. As always, they’re outlaws.
  2. The war of the sexes heats up: society changes as men learn the Dark Triad.
  3. As the Left’s social revolution wins victories, a revolt begins.
  4. The coming crash as men and women go their own way.
  5. MeToo discovers that there is always a counterrevolution.

Two books by Professor Regnerus about the revolution.

Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying (2011).

Strongly recommended: Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy (2017). See Cheap Sex is the Inconvenient Truth in the end of marriage. and Misadventures of a young woman in modern America.

Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying.
Available at Amazon.
Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy
Available at Amazon.

 

22 thoughts on “Origin of the gender wars

  1. A very clearly articulated assessment.
    What is surprising to me is how little impact this had.
    Bloom’s thesis was highlighted by the NYT and extensively debated, but there was no reformation that followed.
    Instead the trends he outlined deepened and accelerated, not only in the US, but also throughout the US’s sphere of influence.
    That suggests the problem is more fundamental and is not addressed by rational discussion. It is however self limiting, the social structure this produces is so deeply child hostile that it will age out, replaced by something else.
    That trend is already very evident in Europe.

  2. Allan Bloom showed which way society was heading, he identified the direction of the tide. As usual,Shakespeare got it right:

    There is a tide in the affairs of men,
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat;
    And we must take the current when it serves,

    Julius Caesar, Scene III

    1. Raymond,

      A very appros quote! Do you believe that we are at the “flood”, the point at which we can seize the day and achieve good fortune?

      Carpe Diem!

  3. Agreed with this on the whole. With the slight reservation that I grew up in a household where there was essential equality. “Very simply, the family is a sort of miniature body politic in which the husband’s will is the will of the whole. The woman can influence her husband’s will, and it is supposed to be informed by love of wife and children.”

    No, it wasn’t like this. They discussed things and arrived at an agreement. I can only recall one occasion on which my father acted like this, and it was at the end of their lives, when they had both retired. My mother wanted to do something which was actually seriously dangerous – she didn’t appreciate how dangerous, or perhaps it was wishful thinking. My father simply said, no this is off the table. I don’t think she would have been able to say that, in the relationship, with that authority. But this was untypical, and I don’t think either would have been comfortable with it being the usual pattern.

    She wanted a man to love, she wanted children, she wanted a career and intellectual fulfilment, and she had them all. I think my father wanted her to have them too. There was really, in my childhood, no choice to be made between children and career, it was just taken for granted that the woman was an equal partner and there was no reason why you could not have both.

    Bloom was amazingly prescient. This is one where I don’t have any reservations. Extraordinary, looking back, how much he saw, and also amazing and saddening how little used his insights were.

    1. Simon,

      Just a thought — I would be interested to hear your mother’s description of their relationship. I very much doubt if most children know how their parents arrive at decisions.

  4. Interesting. This is another piece of evidence of the law of unintended expectations.

    All these changes were wrought without thinking about how men would be affected. It is obvious everyone thought that women would change, but men would not. Men would just keep on doing what they had always done – getting skills, going to school, getting jobs, working hard, picking a girl to marry, and supporting her for the rest of her life or his or both. But it didn’t happen, mostly because women didn’t need men’s money so they wouldn’t marry, and pushed off marriage longer and longer and longer until the very last minute when she picks a man she’s not all that sexually attracted to because the good ones are either taken, or dropped out, or never developed and came to fruition in the first place.

    Women’s liberation also meant men’s liberation – liberation from having to get skills to work hard. Liberation from years of schooling, hard work, and responsibility. Liberation from marriage to one woman – if he was attractive enough he could have sex with many women with no strings attached; if he is not, oh well, at least he doesn’t have to answer to one, support one, or listen to one haranguing him all day and all night.

    No one thought about what all this was going to do to men.

    1. the deti,

      That nails it! Women thought that they could change to their hearts’ desire — and men would just have to accept it. I see that in the comments here. Women say that they have the right to change, which is incontestable. They say that men still have to marry them, produce children, and support them — even if she dumps him and leaves. That’s a game that men can desire to play. Unfortunately much of our society is built on the men running the rat race.

      That’s why so much of our literature and films shows men being socialized into becoming husbands and fathers. Women must undergo that to, but do so more willingly. Which is why we have so many articles about “getting your man to marry you” and few “getting your woman to marry you.”

      As I’ve said so often, we are monkeys in the control room — playing with dials and switches that we don’t understand. No need for experimentation and testing! I doubt this will end well.

    2. They say that men still have to marry them, produce children, and support them — even if she dumps him and leaves.

      Right. And more and more men said, “no, no we do not HAVE to do any of those things.”

      But the thing is, men are still marrying, it is just being pushed out to later ages, and a large percentage of those marriages end with her divorcing him and taking his children. So I don’t know how long that can go on, nor do I know how many men it takes saying “no marriage” to reach a critical point. I dont’ think anyone knows.

      The major problem here is that when you give men no incentives, when you give them no stake in society, they won’t work for that society. They won’t defend that society. They won’t sacrifice for that society. And they won’t live for it or die for it.

    3. the Deti,

      I agree on all points. Which is why I suggest watching the men now in their early 20s, the first generation raised in a fully feminist setting. If there will be a change in behavior by men, this is the first gen to do it.

      This is the gen that produced 4chan — one of the major sources of both creativity and rebellion in America today — and staffs the ranks of the alt-Right. My guess (guess!) is that things are happening in the corners of society in which the media don’t look.

  5. “Do you believe that we are at the “flood”, the point at which we can seize the day and achieve good fortune?”

    I believe that we are approaching one of those inflection points in history. These are periods of great peril and a beneficial outcome is not guaranteed.

    1. Raymond,

      This is an important question. I see no signs of an inflection point in the gender wars. But I’m far up in the peanut gallery. Most of what I learn is from my sons and the boys (now young men) I led as Boy Scouts (now in their 20s). Not a one-eyed witness, but a blind man singing tales that he has heard from adventurers.

      More detail about what you see would be helpful.

    2. Well as to what is seen, intially you could say we are on the edge of an 80 year cycle (or 4 generation cycle – take your pick)…. basically it has been observed that American/English history going back to about AD1500 there are observable cycles that are aproximatly 80 years apart of 4 generations. they are marked by some Crisis (1940 was WW2, ~1860 was American Civil War and Crimean war, etc). The crisis resolves something where the fundamental question is “what does it mean to be ‘us’ at this time” In 1940 the outside preasure had America asking “what is our place in the world” in 1860 “are we slave? free? both?” in 1770-80 “Are we English or American”. I see that today about us. What is it to be American? Is it a culture? or a Multicultural state? etc etc.

      I admit these are lose, and while I’ve noticed them, someother historian has written a book on them. I’m not sure if they also extend globally, I’ve not looked at all the other world histories, although there seems to be something to them, in part becasue men like Napolean forces himself not on France but all of Europe. Same with a man like Gangis Khan.

      But I suspect Raymond R is refering to something larger. While Columbus wasn’t the flood, he may have started one in 1492 by discovering America. The same might be said with the fall of Rome in the West. Yeah I know, about 100 years appart, and causing great change at each time. Anyhow, on some larger scale than the 80 years, I think there is a great change that occurs and it could be time. No idea what it would be. The two I mentioned all resulted in a change in how Western Europeans lived, and so dramatic that one can see the shift before and after. But only recognize it after.

  6. Surely, the future changes are too numerous to be sure of a single change or direction.

    Will our ageing population and mass immigration encourage more traditional values to permeate the host nations, or create further rejection of the old ways?

    Will a growing number of affluent, childless older sisters make more young girls think is this what I want, especially if like men in their 40/50’s they are seen as expendable in the next recession and the prime age to be made redundant. The career that they gave up children and family for cut short in their 40/50’s. I write that as a male whose finance career was cut short in my 40’s and does casual teaching and house renovations (my own houses) for a less than intellectually or financially satisfying income. I pay the bills and live with a traditional wife and two young children; I am increasing grateful for, reading about other’s gender wars.

    Men, especially the betas could turn on mass to robot wives; women the robot husbands?

    Continued childlessness and unstable family units could lead to demographic decline, so great the question will be unimportant. Like the great Roman families of the old Roman Empire or Japan and South Korea increasingly , today.

    Will our debt, resource depletion and ever growing global population just see taxes rising constantly, social welfare reducing and we will be forced to return to dual income households just to survive? 1984 style? Would a long term trade war or even a real war push us into the whole hog?

    I have two sons and a daughter, all I can say my eldest (living with his Mother) will have it hard first. The younger two and my second wife and I, will just have to watch the tides swell and ebb. I am sending the two youngest to Catholic School as I want traditional values taught and the fees are in our price range, unlike the exclusive schools.

    Perhaps that is the future, the rich look mainly like traditional families, in increasingly gated communities, while the poor are in greater poverty each year and very fluid “partnerships”. The rich are rich and the poor are poor. The pretty can move up by marrying up (especially as younger second wives), but mainly social status is fixed at birth, with vastly more chance of moving down for the less rich, rich; than for the poor to move up.

    Not a great future for avoiding a great replacement.

    Just need legalised Soma to complete the picture. Anti-depressants taken in plague proportions, I wonder why?

    1. Stuart,

      “Surely, the future changes are too numerous to be sure of a single change or direction.”

      Exactly. As I have said a hundred times, the only sound advice for the future is “expect the unexpected.” Next two generations might have a glorious future if the doomsters are again wrong. Or they might be partially correct, and we have another round of hard times (like 1939-45). Either way, I am confident that future Americans will do as well or better as those before them.

  7. “More detail about what you see would be helpful.”

    My view is from my observations of my children, all now adults, and their contemporaries. I see young people taking a pragmatic view of gender relations. Outside the university campuses, most young men and women seem to be rejecting ideologies and making their own arrangements. Right now the scene is chaotic, I am waiting for some order to emerge. That is what I mean by being at the inflection point.

    I also see the gender wars as part of a larger social crisis that arose out of a long period of abandoning social norms.. At 61, I hope to see the outcome of this drama in the next 10 to 15 years.

  8. This isn’t a war because if it was they would lose. Pure force on force. I find the pink and blue boxing gloves above amusing – like women would really stand a chance. A nut would think I’m advocating violence against women which I do not. We are where we are not because of women, but because of men. And I’m the end women will use men to force other men to bend to their will. Gawd we are fricking stupid.

    1. Gute,

      You are thinking of war in the past. Tanks, guns, where force wins. It has not been like that for several centuries. The moral high ground brought victory to America in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. In the age of fourth generation war, force is even less important. This should be obvious by now after insurgents defeats of powerful foreign armies in 4 score wars since Mao brought 4GW to maturity after WWII.

      Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr. (Chief of the US Delegation): “You know you never defeated us on the battlefield”

      Colonel Nguyen Don Tu (Chief, North Vietnamese Delegation): ”That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

      — From Summers’ On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (1982).

    1. Buttholes,

      “if she breathes, she a thot”

      “Liberated” young women, embracing their sexuality free of the constraints in patriarchy, economically independent, controlling their fertility, protected from consequences of VDs by medicine, sought after by men 18-60. This is the closest any large group of people has ever gotten to “having it all.”

      Of course, they (generalizing) want more. All that, then a nice beta provider. To be tossed away if that seems best to her (she keeps the kids, gets community property and child support).

      I said “misogyny provides a competitive advantage to men in the “dating” market.” With more space I would have said that misogyny is almost inevitable under these circumstances. The competitive advantage of young women is so large; resentment is inevitable.

Leave a Reply