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Saturday, December 27, 2014

War of the Sexes: Part 3 - Going Their Own Way

When I was growing up, there was a romantic narrative regarding relationships between men and women and marriage.  Men and women were different, yet complementary with different strengths and weaknesses, incomplete without each other, so that a union of a man and woman was greater, perhaps much greater, than the sum of the two individuals - Venus and Mars, the moon and the sun, Yin and Yang, etc.  A husband often referred to his wife as "my better half," sometimes with a little sarcasm, but with the grain of truth that the marriage helped make him complete, made him more than he was alone, made the two of them more than they were alone.

However, modern feminism (specifically of the Betty Friedan variety) has a rather different narrative.  It starts with "the fundamental assertion of feminism is that women are equal to men, and equal not as counterparts to men but in every respect" noting for example that "[f]eminist women refused to suffer a husband’s proud, or ironic, praise as “my better half,” which implied that women (and of course also men) have a natural role making them counterparts of each other as couples." Feminism's primary enemy is the patriarchy and it was the patriarchy that was responsible for the old romantic notions that kept women (and to some extent men) in their place(s).

Under this theory of feminism, a marriage of a man and a woman does not inherently produce a whole that is greater than its parts. In fact, if both partners are completely equal in desires, capabilities, needs, etc., all that overlap may mean that generally the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

In the romantic narrative, men and women inherently had a lot to offer each other.  But what does a man inherently have to offer a woman in a long term relationship in feminism's narrative (and perhaps any modern narrative)?

Not much.

Oh sure, a rich, attractive guy might be good for a fling, maybe even worthwhile to have a short term marriage with in order to have a child or two, followed by a divorce where she gets a great settlement.  But till death do us part?  Don't be silly, how naive and quaint.  And that's just rich, attractive guys.  The rest of us normal mortals? Fuhgeddaboudit!

The instapundit's wife, Helen Smith, has a website that focuses on the, in her opinion, poor treatment of men by women and what she thinks the effects of that poor treatment will be.  Until recently, I've been chuckling because it seems pathetic that men need a woman like Smith to stand up for them and so I hadn't taken her seriously.  She wrote Men On Strike about "Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters."

I haven't read her book, but in googling for statistics for this series of posts, I've run into some interesting data that certainly does not contradict her claims.  For example,
Between 1950 and 2010, the rate of marital formation dropped by 39%, with a 17% drop between 2000 and 2010 alone.1 Today, the proportion of men between 25 and 34 years old who have never been married is more than six times higher than it was in 1970. For men between 35 and 44 years old, the increase has been more than fourfold. Marriages that do form are about twice as likely to end in divorce today as in 1950.
Here is a related chart showing the trend of marriage formation for young adults (ages 25 - 34):

marriage rates among yound adults
Note that the above chart is for men and women, so the numbers don't exactly match the previous paragraph but it's easy to see that they are likely consistent.

Also, the share of never-married adults seems to be both rising and possibly even accelerating:

So the data is consistent with young people deciding to not get married in much larger numbers than in the past.  Some of them may be putting off marriage until they're older, but it looks like others will never get married. If the trend continues, within decades a majority of adults will never marry.

In The Sexodus, the acronym MGTOW is used and stands for Men Going Their Own Way.  In a mostly monogamistic society, for each MGTOW there is a corresponding female version (WGTOW).  It's still not completely clear to me whether the MGTOWs or the WGTOWs are the root cause of falling marriage formation rates.  It may not be that men are going on strike, but rather that women have no interest in them so they're simply retreating to alternative lifestyles and activities that they may consider inferior but achievable.

After all, the Friedian Feminist has very little use for men, so they may have no choice but to go their own way.


Anonymous said...

Based on purely personal anecdotal evidence about who considers this a personal problem, the evidence is that it is men going their own way and women being upset about it. Wasn't there a post a few back about the hook-up culture and how that was women trying it and suffering greatly as a result?

I think feminism has done massive damage to women in this way and that it's not a coincidence that ever fewer women identify as feminists. One might interpret that as a "if feminism means I don't need a man, then I don't need feminism" attitude.

erp said...


Men have traditionally kept women in bondage either physically -- harems, etc. or financially and emotionally -- patriarchy and inheritance laws and there was little recourse for us because for most of us once we had a child, willingly or not, we were bonded and would do anything not to be separated from them.

All that changed with the pill. Not content with a simple solution to avoid pregnancy, modern women wanted to further emulate men by not bothering with thinking ahead, so they now use abortion as birth control. While I am opposed to legislation banning abortion (it should be a medical decision between the parents and their physician, not a political matter) I find abortion for birth control utterly disgusting.

As fewer cogs are needed to run the engines of socialism, fewer babies will be required, so worrying about what kind of jobs will be available for future generations isn’t necessary. In future, very few actual human beings will be required. Robots will do the dirty and dangerous work, a few human(oid) cogs to keep them oiled and repaired perhaps and of course, elites to run everything.

I’m re-reading I-Robot (free on Kindle) – I read it last when I was about 10 years old. First thing I noticed is how well written it is, the other is how current are the situations. I’m not too far along and can’t wait to see how it ends. 

The nuclear family will be only a quaint memory within the lifetimes of our grandchildren. Thirty years ago at a high school sports banquet for athletes and their families, over half of the parents present were divorced and none were single mothers by choice or openly gay parents. I wonder what that number would be today? Certainly two parent original issue male & female parents would be a distant minority.

Howard said...


Not so fast. There is plenty of room for a renorming of society that consolidates the gains women made from first and second wave feminism while allowing for a rejection of third wave radical feminism and socialism. Of course, that does not make any particular outcome inevitable.

erp said...


Too late IMO.

What mechanism can you imagine could do the trick?

Total nuclear destruction of civilization with handfuls of survivors in remote corners of the globe starting all over, taming fire, reinventing the wheel … maybe?

You guys simply can’t see things from a women’s perspective. We really aren’t like you and when we try to be like you, it’s no more real than female impersonators wearing padded bras are like us. Our similarities are easy to see, it's our differences that are so difficult for you to comprehend.

We can't help if you guys are open books. You are hard wired to propagate the species at all costs. That's no longer required. End of story.


Bret said...

aog wrote: "...the evidence is that it is men going their own way and women being upset about it..."

That's definitely the conservative narrative. That's definitely not the progressive/feminist narrative.

I haven't seen any particularly great statistics on "who" is responsible for the falling marriage rates, so I'm not convinced one way or the other ... yet.

Bret said...

erp wrote: "The nuclear family will be only a quaint memory within the lifetimes of our grandchildren."

That's my guess as well.

Peter said...

Men have traditionally kept women in bondage either physically -- harems, etc. or financially and emotionally -- patriarchy and inheritance laws and there was little recourse for us because for most of us once we had a child, willingly or not, we were bonded and would do anything not to be separated from them.

Sounds like hell, erp. If socialism is going to end all that by making marriage and child-rearing unnecessary, why aren't you a socialist?

erp said...

Peter, I don't understand the question? What makes you think I dislike children or child rearing, it was, in fact, my vocation.

erp said...

Just when you thought the human comedy couldn't get more ridiculous, there's this.

David said...

The fundamental problem with feminism is that it's based on the premise that work is great and that women were being unfairly kept from working.

But the truth is that work sucks, and that it sucks by being exactly the opposite of what feminists thought it was. Work isn't fulfilling and horizon-expanding; its boring and soul-deadening. And as we become more and more bourgeois individualists -- all about self-esteem and following our individual passion -- work seems worse and worse. We used to have ditch-digging philosophers, but now when I work I have to think about things that other people want me to think about. And I have a great job.

Peter said...

Hey, how about a contest? Complete the following "The fundamental problem with feminism is...". My entries are: a) it can't decided whether it wants to force men to behave better or to demand the right to behave as badly as men; b) it has no sense of humour; and c) it is much too emotional and illogical.

erp: I have no doubt it was your vocation and that you were great at it. But I'm leery of these patriarchy narratives, which really express the chaffing of educated, talented women of means at a time when there weren't a lot of educated, talented men or women of means. Plus if you look closely at the ways that men supposedly kept women in bondage, you will find that in many cases, most men were similarly fettered and only obtained the freedoms (education, personal credit, the vote, etc.) feminists so cherish today about 1-2 generations after men did.

Peter said...

I meant "before women did."

erp said...

Complete the following "The fundamental problem with feminism is ..."

My entry is: Feminism has nothing to do with men or women or when or who got which right. It's all about the narrative in the same way as every other part of the gorgeous rainbow of lefty causes, e.g., civil rights, animal rights, global warming, etc.

Aside to Peter: You can be leery all you want. You weren't in my high school math classroom when the teacher called me to the blackboard and told me to solve the equation he had written there. It was well above grade level which I learned afterwards.

What he failed to take into account is that I wasn't intimidated by him and I turned around and said that if one of the boys in class could solve the equation, I would drop the class which is what he continually said out loud in class – the reason being because girls can't do mathematics despite the fact that I had gotten 100% on every one of his tests and eventually received the same grade on the New State Regents exam.

None of boys took the challenge.

I have plenty more stories like that. I wasn’t permitted to go to Cornell where I was accepted, not because my father couldn’t afford it, he could handily, but because in his world only prostitutes leave their fathers’ homes before they’re married.

This statement is absurd: … you will find that in many cases, most men were similarly fettered and only obtained the freedoms (education, personal credit, the vote, etc.) feminists so cherish today about 1-2 generations after men did.

erp said...

Peter, I took that into account and also corrected the punctuation error in your opening statement.

Peter said...

Pronouncing an argument to be absurd is economical, erp, but meeting it with facts and analysis is still better.

No one is saying your personal experiences were unique (The Imitation Game, playing now, is a wonderful film that deals with the issue), but they weren't universal. Men and women have been graduating from high school in equal percentages from early in the last century. Women graduated from college at a 60-65% rate of men during the same period until the 60's. More to my point, the total figure for both was 10% of the population at most. Plenty for career-minded women to grouse about, but hardly a patriarchical Jim Crow.

Peter said...


The legal disabilities of women respecting property (ended legally in the 19th century) and finance applied only to married women. Single women and widows have been pretty much equal in all respects since feudal times. Men for the most part only acquired modern freedoms to alienate their (real)property in the early 19th century.

As to the vote, here's the comparison showing the dates of universal male and female suffrage in most of the world.

Clovis e Adri said...


You started complaining about feminists and ended up lamenting the actions of the old conservative machist father of yours.

This is looking more like a session in a shrink's office.

erp said...

Peter, are you comparing Jim Crow laws, a temporary short-lived albeit very unpleasant bar to full citizenship experienced by Negroes in the south to age-old, worldwide restrictions on women that in many areas of the world still exist????? Is it okay to call that statement absurd?

Please check on the kinds of degrees women and men pursued. Most of the women's are in teaching, nursing and the soft sciences and while there were more men teaching in my day, practically no men we into nursing, perhaps aside from the military. I think there are more men in nursing now than previously.

I can tell you again from personal experience, the only option open to me with a degree in mathematics was teaching and getting a job teaching in a high school wasn’t always easy or acting as a human computer in the actuarial field.

Lucky for me when I was ready to go work in the mid-70's after my youngest was almost out of high school, computers were out there and very few people had computer science degrees or experience.

Knowing how to turn it on and off was entry enough.

The Imitation Game is a film about Alan Turing who was persecuted for being homosexual. What does that have to do with the subject at hand?

erp said...

Clovis, I've already explained my position on feminism in a comment above. Hint: It's not about women.

Peter said...

Peter, are you comparing Jim Crow age-old, worldwide restrictions on women

No way, Jim Crow was much worse, especially given that, unlike with women, there was no black constituency supporting it.

My university math professor (mid-sixties) was a woman.

Go see the movie and you'll find out.

erp said...

Your math professor was certainly one of very few and I know Alan Turing's story as well as the stories of the other gay Brits in intelligence during and in the aftermath of war.

Au contraire, there was a huge constituency of people of all colors all over the country opposing Jim Crow laws. That's why the states were forced to repeal them while after they got the vote, women made little further progress.

IMO it was a reaction to the status quo returning in the aftermath of the war when women after being autonomous while their menfolk were at war, were expected to get back to the stove and ironing board upon their return. I read their books back when and that’s what I took from them. Sorta like you can’t keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree for the girls.

The leaders of our cultural revolution recognized it as good hook for their narrative and Feminism was born.

erp said...

Clovis, please provide a link to my complaint about feminism or revise your statement.

Peter said...


You do not need to recount more tales of talented 20th century women whose paths to professional achievement were blocked by social conventions, gender prejudice or the separation of the sexes in public life. I have not been asleep for the past several decades. My point is simply that to attribute this to men traditionally keeping (sic) women in bondage is very poor social history that assumes men generally had long-enjoyed the freedoms denied women (which they built on female backs), when in fact many of those freedoms were of fairly recent provenance and children of modern times. Until the First World War at least, the basic unit of social focus was not the individual, it was the family. Both sexes were under a lot of pressure to marry and have children because that was the default notion of the purpose of life. Both led lives of fulltime duty unless they were wealthy, which most weren't. The strict division of labour between earning and protecting on the one hand, and nurturing and homecare on the other, made sense to most men and women as ordained by human nature and the gods of necessity. There are and always have been many frictions and conflicts that attend the relationships between the sexes, but I do not believe history reveals women fighting off marriage and family life in large numbers to devote themselves to careers (as opposed to vocations). There were some, of course, but they were a very small minority.

The vote (19th century), the whole notion of "career" (20th century), the right to alienate property (early 19th century), personal credit & leisure (mid-20th century), sexual freedom (1950's--thanks, Hugh), universal education (early 20th century), family planning (1920's), "career" (mid-20th century), personal fulfillment (2nd half of 20th century) are all values and freedoms important to modern women that few men would have enjoyed before the modern era. And when men won or adopted them, women weren't that far behind.

I believe you are well aware that tensions between duty to family and individual expression and achievement have always characterized the women's movement. To my knowledge, there were no black organizations comparable to this, and no black Schaflys fighting the 15th amendment. The path from the focus on societal duty to individual freedom that women have taken is one men took not all that much longer before them. How else can you explain that when all the career barriers fell in the 60s and 70s, there was so little resistance from men. No Selma, no martyrs, etc. If we had been raised to keep you in bondage as we had done "traditionally", surely we would have fought to keep our privileges a little harder. After all, we're bigger and stronger. But we didn't because, having adopted the individualist focus for ourselves, most of what you were saying seemed to make perfect sense.

Bret said...


Who knew you were such a radical feminist? :-)

I think Peter's point that neither men nor women have been particularly free throughout history is the important point. I might've also pointed out that being conscripted into militaries as cannon fodder is a good example of ways that men were even less free than women. They didn't even own their own lives.

erp said...

Bret, come on. Be fair, I didn't say men had complete freedom. I really do know a bit history, but there is no comparison between men and women on this issue.

I am NOT a feminist as it is commonly defined, but I was quite a radical in my day. Danced a lindy at a high school dance with a negro boy causing gasps. We were pretty good and got a standing 'O' -- raced my father's Pontiac with the boys on Cross Bay Blvd, the road to Rockaway Beach on New York well before I had a driver's license and caused no end of consternation in my family.

Equality under the law is not equality in all things. In fact, you guys have it all over us in heavy lifting and we have the advantage in heavy thinking!