Our old misogynist pal Camille Paglia wrote an article for Time with the fetching title "It’s a Man’s World, and It Always Will Be." That has been Camilla's schtick from the very beginning. She is the only self-avowed feminist whose idea of feminism is the exact reverse of feminism! Well, hatred of women, in any case. Other than herself.
Her argument, this time, is that feminists argue [sic] that men are obsolete, but that men will never become obsolete, that the end of men is nowhere near, that men have invented everything worthwhile and do all the shitty and important work in the society, and that when the society once again collapses it is men who will defend women and get food and water.* It's time for feminists to give them credit for that:
What is troubling in too many books and articles by feminist journalists in the U.S. is, despite their putative leftism, an implicit privileging of bourgeois values and culture. The particular focused, clerical and managerial skills of the upper-middle-class elite are presented as the highest desideratum, the ultimate evolutionary point of humanity. Yes, there has been a gradual transition from an industrial to a service-sector economy in which women, who generally prefer a safe, clean, quiet work environment thrive.
But the triumphalism among some — like Hanna Rosin in her book, The End of Men, about women’s gains — seems startlingly premature. For instance, Rosin says of the sagging fortunes of today’s working-class couples that they and we had “reached the end of a hundred thousand years of human history and the beginning of a new era, and there was no going back.” This sweeping appeal to history somehow overlooks history’s far darker lessons about the cyclic rise and fall of civilizations, which as they become more complex and interconnected also become more vulnerable to collapse. The earth is littered with the ruins of empires that believed they were eternal.
After the next inevitable apocalypse, men will be desperately needed again! Oh, sure, there will be the odd gun-toting Amazonian survivalist gal, who can rustle game out of the bush and feed her flock, but most women and children will be expecting men to scrounge for food and water and to defend the home turf. Indeed, men are absolutely indispensable right now, invisible as it is to most feminists, who seem blind to the infrastructure that makes their own work lives possible. It is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments. It is men who heft and weld the giant steel beams that frame our office buildings, and it is men who do the hair-raising work of insetting and sealing the finely tempered plate-glass windows of skyscrapers 50 stories tall.
That's funny. Let's take a few bits out of that quote. How about this one:
After the next inevitable apocalypse, men will be desperately needed again! Oh, sure, there will be the odd gun-toting Amazonian survivalist gal, who can rustle game out of the bush and feed her flock, but most women and children will be expecting men to scrounge for food and water and to defend the home turf.
Hilarious! I'm not denying the important role of men as roughly half of the human race. But come on, Camille, have you never read anything about prehistory or more recent nomadic tribes? The women don't sit cowering in a cave somewhere. They go out to forage, they trap small animals, they fish.
Fetching water? That, sweet Camille, is a female job in African tribes.
And that defending of the home turf? Well, it's unlikely to be against hordes of Amazonian survivalist gals. Then there's the much deeper point that there never was a time when men weren't needed. More about that below, but for the time being it suffices to say that Hanna Rosin sewed that "end of men" out of whole cloth.
OK. Here's another bit worth looking at:
Indeed, men are absolutely indispensable right now, invisible as it is to most feminists, who seem blind to the infrastructure that makes their own work lives possible. It is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments. It is men who heft and weld the giant steel beams that frame our office buildings, and it is men who do the hair-raising work of insetting and sealing the finely tempered plate-glass windows of skyscrapers 50 stories tall.
OOh. I like that false generalization of men being "absolutely invisible to most feminists." It really is a silly thing to say.
But I quite agree with Paglia that we should all be thankful for the people who do the hard infrastructure work, including the men she mentions.
Let's add to that list all the women who take care of the sick in nursing homes and the elderly both in those homes and outside them, all the women who cook meals, all the women who sew clothes, all the women who take care of infants and children, all the women who teach at schools so that the next generation has the skills necessary to function, all the women who clean and scrub (in most countries this is a female occupation) etc etc.
And the men who do those things and the women who do the kinds of things Paglia mentions. She makes her point by distorting facts. Perhaps certain groups of people are absolutely invisible to her.
The dirty jobs are not solely done by men, either. Most bottoms, whether belonging to infants, the sick or the frail elderly, are wiped by women, those who wash corpses in funeral homes in many countries are women, the nurses who clean the sores of the sick are mostly women, the people who scrub disgusting toilets and wipe vomit stains are usually also women.
I thank all those workers who do the necessary dirty chores. But Paglia's list forgets the women who do such work altogether, and people in her comments agree.
What about the dangerous jobs? Most of the listed ones are predominantly male occupations, but, as I have written before, prostitution is a very dangerous and overwhelmingly female job. It is not legal in most countries so it is not included in those statistics. It differs from other types of criminal occupations, however, by being regarded as legal in some countries when there is no trafficking.
And one reason there are not more women in dangerous jobs such as fishing is that women entering into blue-collar male dominated professions face anger and harassment.
But I'm not writing here to give our gal Camille the fame she needs to breathe. Rather, I want to talk about the connections to other matters I see both in her post and in the many comments to it.
First, on the post: When I first read about Hanna Rosin's "the end of men" stuff I was furious, because Rosin was wrong in her clickbait titles but more because what she wrote would, I knew, be interpreted as what feminists wrote. And here it is. It's so fucking boring to be right about shitty stuff. Pardon my parseltongue there.
What Rosin enabled, in short, is a debate where some nebulous group of undefined feminists (which is really mostly Hanna Rosin) are crowing happily because menz are dead. And so we get a response to that: NO, menz not only aren't dead (or undead, even), but menz invented everything and do all the hard work in the world.
Second, on certain types of comments: This story was disseminated by Matt Drudge, and my past experience with reading comments tells me that something like 70% of the comments come from people who have been immersed in the manosphere bubble, especially the MRA or MRM sites.
Warren Farrell is regarded as an inerrant historian in those places, and history is revised in interesting ways. Some of those sites are explicitly misogynist, most of them hate feminists (who are equated with man-haters and Andrea Dworkin), some want to bring back explicit male dominance in everything, others argue that the current system is in the hands of feminists and discriminates against men.
That a high percentage of comments to an article of this type would come from those groups is to be expected, because comments are a product of self-selection and what Paglia writes appeals to both the MRA types and the traditional patriarchal types.
But we get the weird takes on history from that group. They are weird because they go like this:
1. A commenter states that men have it bad because men have fought most wars while women were protected. He (or she) even argues that the wars were FOR the protection of women (against bears or other women, I guess), so in a way women caused those wars*:
Also thing of what must have started the very first war. It was likely over resources and/or land most likely needed to take care and provide for and/or protect women (and also children) something that has often held true until modern times, so one could easily say that women start all the wars.
If anyone points out that a) wars were between men and b) women didn't usually have the power to start or stop wars, we always get this very interesting and utterly idiotic SAME counterargument (so it must come from some center of the hive):
Men start 100% of wars? Tell that to Helen of Troy, Margaret Thatcher, and Hilary Clinton. Tell that to the White Feather bearers in England, women who handed white feathers of cowardice to young Englishmen during WW1 who publicly shamed any man who was not willing to to suffer in those disgusting trenches which destroyed the psyche of an entire generation.I agree that 100% of wars were not started by a man in power. Probably something like 99.5%?
Men handle the dirty work of society, and the acts of killing and dying to protect those at home is the dirtiest work, and when they come home they go back to doing the dirty work.
I adore the idea that Helen of Troy is a meaningful person to mention here. Was she a real person? Did she decide to send the troops over to Troy or was she more an object to be recaptured? If you have to go back to a probably imaginary figment of mythology then your argument is weak.
So skip to the present time, quickly, when a few women indeed have the power to start wars or influence them. But only spend a moment with the White Feathers bearers of England first! (They could have used Elizabeth I if they wanted to employ a female ruler with actual war-going power.)
This last thing came up so very often that I had to Google to find what all this was about. It was about those women in Britain who went around handing white feathers to young men who weren't in uniform. Some of those women were famous feminists. Other famous feminists, such as Virginia Woolf, worked on the opposite side of the issue. More generally, both men and women at that time had pro-war views and both men and women at that time had anti-war views. To single out the White Feather story as general proof of the way women cause wars is stupid.
2. The second scripted argument, by the way, that comes from this particular type of MRAs is the Titanic and the much greater survival rate of women, attributed to male chivalry. That most other shipwrecks don't show that chivalrous pattern is ignored altogether.
3. This one I find pretty awful: Many of those people argue that the legal restrictions based on women's roles until the nineteenth century both in the US and in Britain were For Women's Own Good. Because married women had little legal existence and no right to enter into contracts, their poor husbands had to go to jail if their wives committed economic crimes and so on. They even had to support their wives, what with the wives not having a right to their own earnings or even to their own inheritance or to custody of their children in the case of divorce(the latter two in Britain, at least)!
Thus, even a system which legally erased one group of women is turned into greater male protection and worse lives for men. It's a bit like defending the way dogs are treated in law today. The owner is responsible. Poor owner.
I don't usually get this irate, but that utter chasm between the data these commenters believe in (which I do study) and the data available outside their bubbles (which they don't study) makes it necessary to prick those bubbles a bit. And sure, lives were very hard for poor men, too. For everybody, really, but that is no excuse for unfair laws which did, of course, put certain extra responsibilities for husbands, too. Given that their wives were regarded as minors all their lives.
4. Finally, and this applies to both Paglia's piece and the comments: It is comments like this which partly lit the fire under the first feminist wave in England:
Why does Ms. Paglia not go a logical step further? Did not men create every higher civilization that has crept over the earth?
And another truth on this issue is that men, have been the single driving force, 'The Brain" behind the greatest nation produced in human history, America. Men are the objective, constructionist, who perfected the sciences, and continue to this day to keep strong the very foundation of all women's achievements, like it or not. And genetically, humans are made this way, with men leading the way to societal and economical success. The Brains made the Braun productive and efficient. Upon this platform women have successful lives and become economically and socially viable.Is funny. But making these types of argument leads more women into feminism, because the MRA alternative offers women only the task of biological reproduction in this world. And butt-wiping and toilet-cleaning which aren't dirty jobs at all. If you are told that men created everything and that doesn't sound quite right to you, then the obvious next step is to both figure out whether that is actually so and to find out to what extent women were kept away from places where they could have created civilizations or invented things or created art or music that was taken seriously.
Do take that trip. I did. You might learn something, and no, it's not going to be male bashing, because people, both men and women, have always lived in their specific cultures, and just like fish can't taste water, most of us can't see how our culture affects us.
But many of those who read on the misogynistic sites will not take that trip. Based on the comments I have read, there are quite a few whose idea of men's rights equals male dominance in everything, because male dominance is biologically decreed. That crops up in the Paglia comments threads a lot, too, the idea that if men are physically stronger then women can never be socially and economically equal and if men are most of IT people today (though not thirty years ago), then that means that women don't have what it takes. At the same time, however, women are responsible for more than half of all domestic violence (because the studies the MRAs use tell them that), though of course they cannot be soldiers because women don't have the testosterone-fueled aggression levels or the brawn.
The disconnect in the kind of data different people believe in makes reasoned debate almost impossible, sigh.
Third, the biological determinism in the comments threads ALREADY mentions that study I wrote about less than a month ago: How women and men are different, because women's brains are wired more to cross between the hemispheres and men's brains are wired more back to front. And the women's bitchiness studies are there, too! To prove that not only did women never create civilizations but that we are bitchy, too, I guess.
I find it fascinating how fast science popularizations of one type seep into the general discussion.
Most of the comments applying biological determinism simply state that "everybody knows" men and women are different. From that it seems to follow that traditional gender roles are biologically determined, that whatever jobs men or women in a particular society tend to do are obviously based on biology. So, say, when most typists were men that was biologically determined (using machines, strength of fingers). When the occupation tipped and became predominantly female, that, too, was biologically determined (nimble fingers). And technology plays no role there.
But the majority of the comments arguing for men's inherent superiority are about brawn. Which suggests to me that societies should be structured with the brawniest men on top, if that is logical.
Finally, I hate gender wars of this kind. My ultimate goal has always been to be able to see individuals as individuals, not as representatives of some vast group. But things like sexism and racism and so on work on group levels, and so do the responses to them. There is no obvious way around the problem of having to discuss the treatment of groups while ultimately not wanting to have so much focus on those groups in the first place.
My own approach has been to point out similarities between men and women, to question the accepted ideas of biological differences, to question how they translate into gender roles, to demand precision from those who cover scientific theories. There may be better approaches, who knows, but I haven't found one. Also, my sincere apologies for talking about Paglia.
*All direct quotes without a link are to the comments of Paglia's column. Not all comments in that thread take Paglia's side but the majority of them do, and the majority of the latter are MRA comments.
And added later. For just pure fun, note that this Paglia piece was her statement in the Munk Debates where the topic was whether men are obsolete. The topic is inane, utterly, stupidly inane. But have a look at who debated there! On the pro-side, arguing that men are obsolete: Hanna Rosin and Maureen Dowd... On the con-side, Camille Paglia and Caitlin Moran.