What are women for?

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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207 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    My favorite line is,

    the left’s alleged philosophical uniformity on the woman question is a complete fabrication

    Indeed it is.

    Report

  2. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    I like James too, but….

    Frankly I found most of that column incomprehensible.  And the rest was reprehensible.

    What are women for?  Women are human beings.  They are ends in themselves, not the means to any scheme that you or anyone else may have cooked up.  Women are for whatever they choose to be for.  Just like men.

    Can someone throw Simone de Beauvoir at him?  Maybe that’ll straighten him out.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Plus One.Report

    • Right, which is why I think the framing is either deliberately provocative, or – as you say – basically reprehensible. The thing I’d like is for him to just come out and say whatever it is he means in language that simple folk like myself can understand. Because I feel I have to spend so much time parsing it out that whatever it is becomes lost in the thicket.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        Forget simple folk.  Don’t confuse his pretentious abstruseness for actually sophisticated or difficult language or ideas.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        It’s my general experience that it’s actually harder to write straight forward prose than it is to obscure it in lots of long, arcane language.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          “Pretentious abstruseness” makes it easy to fool oneself and others into thinking there’s real sophistication, a grappling with things that aren’t easily defined or explained.  It’s almost always a cover for a person who finds it difficult to think with any real clarity.  But anyone who can think with real clarity recognizes that the assumption that women–collectively–are “for” some purpose is absurd.

          For one thing, we might reasonably ask “what are dogs for,” because we humans have consciously shaped the species to serve specific purposes, but that’s not true of women.

          For another, the question, in the absence of similarly asking “what are men for,” assumes either that the purpose of men is known and agreed upon or that men simply are, that they don’t need to be understood in terms of a purpose, whereas women–for reasons not explained–do need such explanation.  There’s a strong possibility that this assumption also includes the idea that women’s purpose is somehow “for” men; that whatever their purpose is, it somehow serves, or should, the ends of men.

          I’m hard-pressed to see this as the work of a quality mind. But never having read the fellow before, perhaps he was just having a bad day?Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

             the question, in the absence of similarly asking “what are men for,” assumes either that the purpose of men is known and agreed upon or that men simply are, that they don’t need to be understood in terms of a purpose, whereas women–for reasons not explained–do need such explanation.  There’s a strong possibility that this assumption also includes the idea that women’s purpose is somehow “for” men; that whatever their purpose is, it somehow serves, or should, the ends of men.

            Just ever so slightly to try to clarify what I take to be his intention here (based on some self-defending he tried to do on twitter), I think what he’s trying to suggest is that, as a historical matter, indeed “the” assumption (the olden-timey world being an uncontestedly Men’s World) was “that men simply are, that they don’t need to be understood in terms of a purpose, whereas women–for reasons not [in need of explanation]–do need such explanation,” though that explanation would also take the form of answering what purpose women served “‘for’ men.”  My understanding, to the extent I understand James, is that this remains of interest, because as a “postmodern” conservative, he feels free to reject notions of objective truth (equality among humans, etc.) that would render that question void, and as a conservative, pursuant to the postmodern rejection of modernist ideas of truth (including moral truth), he gives weight to traditional modes of thinking merely because they concretely existed at one time. He seems to be saying, “Because men once asked what women are for, and men are basically unimprovable, unlearning, unevolving (or whatever the preferred variant of ‘static’), they therefore continue to ask what women are for, but now they pretend their answers are less dehumanizing than they used to be.”  I think he thinks we can move beyond answers to the question that limit the full personhood and inherent autonomy and completeness of women as equal beings to any other beings (except maybe God), while still retaining the question.   Or something.

            The problem is that he seems himself still quite eager to ask the question in full voice in the here and now, and impervious to any perception that, just maybe, men actually have stopped asking the question.  Is our children learning? Maybe.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

              men are basically unimprovable, unlearning, unevolving (or whatever the preferred variant of ‘static’

              I don’t think he can be suggesting that, because he complained–or at least commented–about “quasi-feminized men.”

              Then again, I’m not sure he’s worth the effort if he’s a post-modernist. They’re the most wretched crew of destroyers of rational thought ever unleashed upon the human race.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

                I would think he could say that is an inessential/cosmetic change rather than an essential one (realizing I didn’t say he meant “essentially,”  – that’s what I ought to have said instead of “basically). I could also just be wrong that this notion plays at all in his muddled thoughts here, though.

                I have some use for postmodernism, but I’m definitely no postmodernist. I’m pretty fond of rationalism, but I definitely think it has its limitations as well.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Po-Mo has its virtue in that it reminds us that just because we define something in our language, and believe that definition in our thoughts, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s “Truth.”  Of course good rationalist knew that all along, but the popular masses who don’t have the luxury of spending time in intellectual self-gratification didn’t always get that message.

                But Po-Mos weren’t satisfied with reminding us of our tendencies toward foolish reification, and decided there is no real world, no possibility of objectivity, no “Truth,”–and then they said we had to believe that.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

                Some did. I think they’re right-on to in pointing out the strict impossibility of true objectivity and the non-correspondence of “Truth” with the real world. (Where I part from them on Truth is where they – and not all do – reject the notion of Truth completely, saying that because it is conceptually flawed at a fundamental level, that it is therefore completely baseless and without value. I regard Truth as a still very important concept to us inasmuch as the Modernist project continues to govern most all human thought [even of those who claim to have rejected it either for new or archaic ways of knowing], and Modernism/Rationalism has evidently, despite doing not inconsiderable damage, generally improved the condition of the human race inestimably since its rise.)

                I’m not at all sure that all or most post-modernists reject the notion of a Real World, or of a Reality that exists external to human experience, however.  I think they reject the idea that that world is reconcilable with and comprehensible to human consciousness or rationality.  And in that, they’re actually in harmony with much of the current thought of the rational/analytic modernist project in the state it has come to be in its later incarnations.  Are they not?

                And, of course, any argument is an argument that you ought to believe what the argument is arguing, so I hardly think they should get knocked for that.  I actually think postmodernists deserve a lot of credit for (though not all have done it this way) quite effectively advancing an idea that seeks to literally deconstruct an entire edifice of knowledge that essentially owns and operates its own media of communication (modern language is essentially The Language of Modernism) – largely within and with those owned media.  Even though I’m generally hostile to the strong version of their project, as you are (again – we agree that the tempering effects of many of their insights have been salutary: just because people ought ti have known a thing doesn’t mean they did; if they had perhaps then PoMos wouldn’t have been spurred into existence to  point it out), I still have quite a lot of respect for that achievement; I find it kind of amazing, tbh.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

            …. so the vast majority of men are for being easily led sheep, and the vast minority is for rulers? Hrrmmm… I’m sorry, even where we do consciously engineer folks, it still doesn’t fly.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          I agree that abstruseness can obscure bad ideas and should be avoided whenever possible. But, not always. I don’t know how Kant could have asked How are a priori synthetic judgments possible?” in a way that would have been clearer, while still asking the same thing?Report

      • Avatar Michelle in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        Has he ever just said what it is he wants to say without cloaking it in a fog of allusions, big words, and double-talk? I stopped reading Poulos a while ago because he writes in riddles.Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Yup, even considering his question seriously is an absurd exercise. And what the heck is that stuff about women having a privileged relationship with the natural world? Oh please, not that quasi-mystical dreck!Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to sonmi451 says:

        I’m actually a tiny bit more sympathetic to the natural world stuff. Women are the only people who can give birth. Having participated in two births (not counting my own I suppose) I can testify to the relationship women have with nature. It’s sort of a beautiful/horrifying relationship, though, and I think it depends on every woman whether or not they’d consider it a privilege.Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          It’s a privilege that throughout history, has been used to limit women’s lives. “There’s a sacred bond between mother-child that  can’t possibly exist between father-child, therefore the mother must be the primary caregiver and the stay-at-home parent.” “Only a woman can bear children, so it’s her responsibility to carry a pregnancy to term”. etc etc etc. I don’t actually believe that there’s no difference between men and women, but all this “women are special, women are nobler, purer, holier” bla bla bla are more usually used to oppress women, IMO.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          Despite only women being able to give birth this level of essentialism is really wrong headed. Once you admit to some essentialism then you defining people not by who they are but by mystical, culturally made up stereotypes. Nature certainly matters but so does nurture. But even where nature matters its pretty hard for us to always figure out how and where. Its also terribly easy to mindlessly acknowledge societal definitions by calling them nature. In fact most of what people call the effects of nature are just easy justifications for what they want to believe.Report

        • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          The connection to nature bit reads wierd.  Sex as a biological trait is arbitrary.  So is the fact that we have two sexes, and one happens to have one bit of the procreative material, while the other has the other half as well as a special place where said materials will combine and then gestate for some arbitrary amount of time.

          I’m leery of anyone who wants to draw deeper metaphysical truths from these facts, which discussions of “nature” almost inevitably lead to.Report

    • Despite my casual use of the term “chicks”,  this is 100% in line with how I responded to this question.

      When I read the question, my first thought was “What is Maribou for?”

      The question doesn’t even make sense.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      I kept blinking, wondering if it could be a serious effort.

      There was an unkind, unfair comment under the piece about conservatives and cocaine being a bad mix.  This was on The Daily Caller’s own site, mind you.

      For all I know I like the guy too.  I’ve corresponded with him on Twitter once or twice.  He seemed smart and perceptive.Report

    • Avatar JM in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Poulos plays a neat little game, in order to avoid getting called on it, of playing with tiny quotes and semantic irrelevancies in order to call leftists (in general) and feminists (in particular) a bunch of hypocrites when they fail to make sense of his own loaded questions.

      I think he was aiming for David Brooks, but he would up sounding like Erick Erickson raping a thesaurus.  George Will wants his mincing hat back.Report

  3. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    As I’ve noted previously, I think the framing of this as “What are women for?” itself serves to distract, and perhaps it’s just me but I think that while James is a fine writer his prose can be a bit inscrutable at times.

    I think he deliberately aims for inscrutability when he knows he’s making a controversial point so that he can wink and say “who? me?” when he’s criticized for it. Or claim that other people are just not intellectual enough to understand his brilliant prose.Report

  4. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    Jesus Christ, James, “What are women for”?

    There’s a staggering number of assumptions behind that question.  If you’re going to ask that question as if it’s a deep question, I’d suggest starting deeper in your thought process somewhere.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        There’s a couple of philosophers who have written more than a few words that could be interpreted as pretty blatantly -ist if you read those passages in a vacuum.

        On the other hand, if you start at the beginning of their stuff, and work your way to it, you see a lot of the context they’re trying to relate prior to getting to the tag line that would set off all your alarm bells if you saw it as the title of a standalone blog post.

        I don’t fault the idea of examining the question, mind you.  It’s just that if you’re going to talk about what half the human race is for, you probably want to start with something like, “Why I think we are here,” followed by, “The role of the family unit in society”, maybe, or maybe a couple dozen other chapters before you start talking about the differences between men and women and what (if anything) that means for the purpose question.  Then everybody knows where you’re coming from.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      What I find particularily galling is he somehow tries to fob accusations of treating women like this on the left in general and feminism in particular.Report

  5. Avatar Sam says:

    I suppose this comment isn’t helpful, but I’m frankly baffled that anybody published anywhere in 2012 has the temerity to ask, “What are women for?”Report

  6. Avatar James Hanley says:

    What are men for?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Teacher says:

        Cool, now I have an excuse to stop sharing the housework.Report

        • Yeah, you get to keep all the housework to yourself! How fortunate for you!Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            The problem comes when there are disagreements over what constitutes “clean”. Right now, I would tell you that the bathtub on the top floor is “clean”.

            Maribou would tell you that, hell no, it is not. It needs a scrubbing, she would tell you.

            How could this possibly be resolved if the solution of “it looks fine to me” is not considered a solution by both parties and the proposed solution of “if you want it cleaner than it is, you should clean it until it meets your standards” is equally unacceptable?Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

              Train a cat to do it?

              I believe however, that this is why people have children.Report

            • Avatar Plinko in reply to Jaybird says:

              If you asked Mrs. P. this, she would tell you the resolution is after I’ve scrubbed that floor, then we’ll both agree it’s clean now.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

              see… I don’t get those arguments. I get “the bathroom is actively generating mildew” along with “I’m allergic to mildew.”Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

              How could this possibly be resolved if the solution of “it looks fine to me” is not considered a solution by both parties and the proposed solution of “if you want it cleaner than it is, you should clean it until it meets your standards” is equally unacceptable?

              “It’s your turn to clean the bathroom by the chart.  By rule, the person whose turn it is not decides whether or not the bathroom is clean enough or not, ergo it’s my turn to decide whether or not it’s clean.  It’s not clean, ergo, you go clean the bathroom.”

              30 minutes later

              “Bathroom’s clean!”

              “No, it is not”

              “Yes it is.  I just cleaned it, which means it is your turn to clean it, and it also means that it’s my turn to decide whether it is clean or not.  I say it is.  You can clean it if you want, but it doesn’t count as your turn.”

              This works fine as long as both parties put forth an honest effort to clean to the other person’s standards.  And if they don’t, well, punishments always develop organically.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

            Yeah, you get to keep all the housework to yourself! How fortunate for you!

            Hah! (And pretty much how my wife would respond, too.)Report

    • The classic answer (it’s a punch line) is “parallel parking.”Report

  7. Avatar Kimmi says:

    Saa… *waterdroplet*

    Sadly, even his designated “what women are for” is both unscholarly, and flat out wrong. There was a reason prehistorical women-led societies got wiped out. They were Too Violent, and less interested in compromise than male-led or egalitarian societies.Report

  8. Actually, I think you’re all being conspicuously uncharitable. I read the piece as a criticism of the very idea you’re all attributing to Poulos and then crticizing.

    Of the excerpt, in paragraph one, Poulos references the inconsistencies of modern feminism. Then, in paragraph two, he points out that this inconsistency springs from the failure to answer the question “What are women for?” Then, in paragraph three, he suggests that perhaps our failure lies in assuming that this is the very question to be answered, that seeing as civilizations of men have failed spectacularly, perhaps it is men that should be treated as “other”.

    At least that’s how I read it.Report

    • Avatar Michelle in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      You must have the secret Poulos-to-English decoder if you managed to get all that out of his little essay.Report

      • I thought it was quite clear, actually. I just reread it now and got the same thing out of it, not that it’s the most-accessible piece of prose in the world or anything. But I think my broad reading is the correct one.Report

        • I think you need to make the case better then. Because you are leaving out huge swaths of the piece which you’ll need to explain away somehow, such as:

          So postmodern Cynthia Nixon, who used to be straight but now isn’t, tells The New York Times Sunday Magazine exactly what establishment liberals don’t want to hear when it comes to the sexual politics of women — “you don’t get to define my gayness for me.” As Laurie Essig understated it in The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Such talk is heresy among some people in the gay advocacy and the reaction was both immediate and predictable.” Nixon was swiftly accused by the left’s cultural policemen of “aiding and abetting bigots and bashers.”

          Lip service is often paid to the impression that the point of empowering women is to empower them to do whatever they want, but much of the left stops well short of the more radical implications of that easy answer.

          You think he’s really just driving home the point that civilizations of men have failed? Seriously? Are you ignoring the political and sexual implications buried here?Report

          • That passage clearly has nothing to do with men or civilizations of men.

            Here’s a translation:

            “So postmodern Cynthia Nixon, who used to be straight but now isn’t, tells The New York Times Sunday Magazine exactly what establishment liberals don’t want to hear when it comes to the sexual politics of women — “you don’t get to define my gayness for me.””

            I think that’s pretty straight-forward, but would you agree that here Poulos is simply stating that it is up to the individual (Cynthia Nixon) to define her own identity – i.e. the existentialist position that underlies postmodern conservatism?

            “As Laurie Essig understated it in The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Such talk is heresy among some people in the gay advocacy and the reaction was both immediate and predictable.” Nixon was swiftly accused by the left’s cultural policemen of “aiding and abetting bigots and bashers.” “

            I think Poulos is making an unsubstantiated specific claim here (but I’m also unfamiliar with the specific literature he references) – referencing someone else’s opinion isn’t really a reference at all; but certainly it’s true that every identity has a core group of people who advocate politically for it and this core group will want people to conform to whatever it believes to be superior norms of behavior in order to secure the advancement of the group – like MLK insisting his supporters dress well and speak politely. Harvey Milk stomping all over the individuality of Oliver Sipple fits this mold Poulos describes well I think although it’s not entirely analogous.

            “Lip service is often paid to the impression that the point of empowering women is to empower them to do whatever they want, but much of the left stops well short of the more radical implications of that easy answer.”

            Poulos is calling out “the left” for being hypocrites (again I don’t see it), for in fact paying lip service to individuality while at the same time vigorously enforcing group norms.

            As for the broader implication here – that some kind of dog whistle is being blown – I just don’t see it.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              Poulos is calling out “the left” for being hypocrites (again I don’t see it), for in fact paying lip service to individuality while at the same time vigorously enforcing group norms.

              There looked to me to be a whole lot more in there, particularly in that concluding paragraph.  But if all he wanted to do was point out left-wing hypocrisy, well, that’s pretty easy to do without writing a piece that confuses the hell out of a lot of people.  At best, he’s a craptastic writer, but I still think he’s just a particularly muddled thinker who’s hiding his lack of clarity behind a pseudo-intellectual writing style.Report

    • Christopher – I disagree. I think you are falling into the trap of his prose here and drawing the wrong conclusion. I think this is a basic critique of the left for being comprised of thought police. It’s similar to other conservative defenses of, say, gay people who want to become straight – these arguments undermine the very concept of sexuality *not* being a choice; conservatives say that’s policing thought, but then use it to go one step further and argue that the whole concept of sexuality is a farce. It’s a two-step subversion of definitions commonly held; an attack on language.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      I disagree as well.  In paragraph three of the excerpt, he’s telling us what women are for:

      Ironically, one of the best places to look for a way out of the impasse is the strain of left feminism that insists an inherently unique female “voice” actually exists. That’s a claim about nature. Much good would come from a broader recognition that women have a privileged relationship with the natural world. That’s a relationship which must receive its social due — if masculinity in its inherent and imitative varieties (including imitation by quasi-feminized males of quasi-masculinized females!) is not to conquer the world.

      We are to value women for their privileged connection to nature, their civilizing influence, and their uteruses: Kinder Küche Kirche.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      Chris,

      Based on your comment I just re-read the entire article.  I just can’t find where he’s criticizing the question itself.  In that third paragraph of the quote (the final paragraph of the full piece), he suggesting that the answer of “what women are for” is to prevent aggressively masculine males from conquering the world.  That is, they are our better, softer, more nurturing portion of humanity.  That’s not only not insightful, but it’s quite old-fashioned well-trodden territory.

      It also–stupidly–assumes that aggression and dominance aren’t every bit as much in tune with the natural world as nurturing is.  Poulos has a nice 19th century romantic’s view of nature, but he’s apparently not aware of much of what actually goes on in the non-human world.Report

      • I still don’t think he’s making any strong ought claims at all.

        “…a civilization of men, for men, and by men is no civilization at all, a monstrously barbaric, bloody, and brutal enterprise. A few inherently meaningful implications about what women are for flow naturally from this wise and enduring consensus, but no faction of conservatives or liberals has figured out how to fully grasp, translate, and reconcile them in the context of our political life.”

        I read this as being a dismissal of the very ideas everyone is attributing to Poulos, that a few meaningful implications flow out of the consensus that a civilization of men alone is bloody, brutal, etc. but ultimately it fails to jive with reality – it is just a fiction.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Christopher Carr says:

          Christopher, let’s look at the full quote you pull from, to provide further context for analysis.

          To the growing discomfort of many, that framework hasn’t come anywhere close to answering even the most basic questions about what women are for — despite pretty much universal recognition across the political spectrum that a civilization of men, for men, and by men is no civilization at all, a monstrously barbaric, bloody, and brutal enterprise. A few inherently meaningful implications about what women are for flow naturally from this wise and enduring consensus, but no faction of conservatives or liberals has figured out how to fully grasp, translate, and reconcile them in the context of our political life.

          Ironically, one of the best places to look for a way out of the impasse is the strain of left feminism that insists an inherently unique female “voice” actually exists. That’s a claim about nature. Much good would come from a broader recognition that women have a privileged relationship with the natural world. That’s a relationship which must receive its social due — if masculinity in its inherent and imitative varieties (including imitation by quasi-feminized males of quasi-masculinized females!) is not to conquer the world.

          It seems to me he’s taking this “pretty much universal recognition across the political spectrum” as his starting point, not to criticize the idea that a civilization of men is barbaric, but to use the barbarity of men–the “masculinity” that would “conquer the world–as a factual basis for the argument follows.

          Those “inherently meaningful implications” that follow from that assumed factual basis seem to be accepted by him. He never uses any terminology, such as “assumed,” “alleged,” supposed,” etc., which would lead me to think he’s not himself accepting the validity of those implications.

          Instead, his critique seems to be targeted at the failure of both conservatives and liberals to “translate and reconcile” those “meaningful implications” into something politically workable.

          And his solution to that failure of translation is to go back to the “woman as closer to nature” idea, because only that can prevent masculinity from conquering the world.

          And that’s where the article ends.  There is no critique of the concern about masculinity conquering the world; instead a flat and unqualified statement of that concern is his closing statement.

          I just don’t see any actual questioning of the concept that women are “for” some purpose here.  The more I look at it, the more I see an attempt to explain women’s purpose as being the tamer of men.  That’s banal on multiple levels.  For one, it uses men as the measure–men just are, but women are for men.  But even more, it’s banal because it’s not new. If he simply wanted to try to argue that this well-worn point was still worth considering, then that would be fair, but he’s writing as though he’s made a new insight.  He doesn’t say, “perhaps the way out of this impasse is to resurrect this really old idea that’s been hanging around for ever and ever” (hell, even the third-wave feminists recognize that they’re drawing from that old idea, they just treat it as a positive attribute, whereas men traditionally considered it something of a negative attribute), he says, “hey, look, isn’t this cool, “that strain” of feminism can be used to resurrect and justify my conservative view of women.”

          That’s really how it reads to me, and it’s all a bit of a yawner.

          [edited by Erik to fix the spacing issue caused by a flood of div tags]Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Christopher Carr says:

          There are many different kinds of sexism.

          One big branch of the sexism family says that women are the agents of Satan, that they are just inferior copies of men, and that it’s sort of a pity that men even need them at all.

          Poulos is rejecting that branch of the sexism tree in favor of the one that says that women have their place — it’s with nature, and children, and the home.  Women do have a role in society, this form of sexism says, and we’re glad they’re around.  Women help make sure that men are nice to each other.  Every man gets a woman, and the woman helps him to be what he ought to be.  That’s what women are for.

          That’s gentler, perhaps, but it’s still a sexism.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      Chris, I see where you’re coming from, but like the others I think you give him a bit too much credit for rejecting the question.  Rather, I think he thinks it can be answered without limiting what women can be/are thought to be.  But as others say, even that is strained by his essentialism.

      Here’s my stab (which should be understood with the essentialism as undercutting it –  I was attempting to represent his intentions here, not assess the position he actually ends up in).Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Not ‘a bit.’  Too much credit.  He clearly thinks the question can’t be avoided, because that’s just how men are.Report

      • Mike, I’m with you for the first half of your comment, but I think you draw too many conclusions for what Poulos offers in the place of that consensus, which I think, in the context of the original piece, is nothing much.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Christopher Carr says:

          Well, if he isn’t even proposing a new way to understand how to answer the question, how is he not just falling back on the old, unreconstructed, profoundly oppressive version of it?Report

          • Because I read him as dismissing the question entirely.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              I read it as saying: “Whatever else, the fact is it’s going to keep getting asked. And ehh…..  I’m more or less cool with that, or at least I don’t think there’s much we can do about it. The problem is that now, (mostly on the left) it’ll be asked all sotto voce, charming, PC-ized, coded, or pehaps quasi-feminized-style, which I view as basically just pretentious at best or dishonest at worst.  I’d rather we deal with the question – which, again, I accept b/c it is unavoidable, not because it is inherently a pressing question, because we (men) are flawed creatures and we will be asking it, either because it is in our nature to or else because we are simply not able to improve ourselves enough to stop ourselves from asking it… – straightforwardly and honestly.  And women should help us answer it too, because, after all, the question is about them.  So c’mon, people! Let’s put this thing to bed for our (if not for all) time:  What[.] Are[.] Women[.] For?[!]”  And so we got the headline we got.Report

  9. Maybe I’m being uncharitable. But while he claims that he’s not trying to engage in a “tit for tat debate” on the attitudes between right and left regarding women, I think that’s actually what this piece is.

    That said, I’d be pretty baffled about how to summarize this piece in a paragraph. Maybe… “The modern cultural dialogue seems to have shifted from: ‘what women want, to what are women for.’ In this no side has an actual answer, neither the right nor the left, but I’m going to spend a long time criticizing the “left” by using lots of complex metaphors and name drops like Potempkin.”Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      But while he claims that he’s not trying to engage in a “tit for tat debate”

      Well, but that’s easy, it should be the left one.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      This is about right.  With a dash of conflating Left gay politics for Left gender politics thrown in at the end for spice.  Cynthia Nixon says ‘I can be gay My Way!’ and the resulting freak-out from the gay-issues-activist community (which, to be fair to a nice guy on the right, does actually overlap a lot with with various groups of the left, certainly including people focused on women’s politics/feminists), ends up looking to James like the entire Left tying itself in knots because they can’t bring themselves to face up to the question that really animates their ire: What Are Women For? I guess it looks to James like this because… Cynthia Nixon is a woman?  Not sure.Report

  10. Avatar Infuriating Pedant says:

    Given all his accusations of lock-stepped  “thought-police” enforced  liberal conformity, perhaps someone should direct him towards this blog…Report

  11. Avatar M.Z. says:

    I think there is an implicit subscription to the theory of the moral superman in a lot of libertarian-ish critique.  Replying to the question, “What is woman for?” with “Whatever she want to be” is to bring other assumptions into the game.  The most basic assumption is that “whatever she wants” is really an available option.  Poulos’s commentary is quite simple.  The freedom of women is a direct consequence culture.  If elites offer contradictory norms into culture, it is unremarkable when they blow up.Report

  12. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I came across the Daily Caller piece via on of the writers of BJ, who insiutated that it was an essay on how women are supposed to stay home an make babies. I linked over and started reading, and quickly thought, “I don’t actually think that’s what the guy is saying.” And then when I got to the end, I realized I had no real idea what it was he was trying to say. It seems the type of thing that wouldn’t get much attention at all, but for the title.

    Past that, a pretty big +1 to Jason’s comment above. What a bizarre question.Report

  13. Avatar Michelle says:

    After re-reading his piece, and trying to strip away all the pretty jargon, I think the short answer to Poulos’s question “what are women for?” is reproduction. To me, that’s what he’s driving at in his assertion that  “much good would come from a broader recognition that women have a privileged relationship with the natural world.” That is, women menstruate; they get pregnant; they give birth. As mothers, with a natural instinct to protect their offspring, they’re a civilizing force on men, working to keep them in line and keep them from destroying each other.

    It’s a pretty old argument, generally used as a justification for keeping women at home where they can work their womanly magic on unruly men. In other words, the same old sexism disguised as concern for women’s well-being.Report

  14. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Perhaps it’s a meta-essay.

    Instead of asking “what are women for?”, he’s *ANSWERING* the question “what is the bare minimum that I can do in order to get a particular woman (or particular women) to leave me alone? At least for a while?”

    His answer is that essay.Report

  15. Avatar dexter says:

    I have not read the article because if the brightest around here are having trouble understanding it I know it will pass way over my head, but I think the entire thing could be answered with a short  ” a woman is for whatever she is not against.”  Trying to say what  female homosapiens are for  into one kettle is an absurd concept.Report

  16. Avatar Damon says:

    Given the number of single women that I meet that claim they can’t cook,  it sure as hell isn’t for that!  🙂Report

  17. Avatar Loviatar says:

    I keep trying to better understand James Poulos. I like James a great deal, though we disagree pretty fundamentally on many things.

    Why try to understand him, he is a person who espouses and supports vile and reprehensible things. How is he any different from the person who does vile and reprehensible things. I can understand liking someone who disagrees with my opinion on the highway infrastructure bill. I cannot understand liking someone does not who see my mother, sister, aunts, cousins, grandmother, nieces and any and all females as persons in and of themselves. Your friend would condemn them to second class citizenship.

    Pat Buchanan lived off of this dichotomy for years. Outside of his target audience his defenders primarily consisted of his Washington DC peer group (socioeconomic class -AKA- the Good Old Boy Network). They  who constantly defended their “friend” even thought their “friend” was advocating policies that would some of them back in the house barefoot and pregnant or consider them second class citizens based upon their skin color, sexual orientation or ethnic/religious background. Some friend huh.

    So I ask again, why try and understand him? He is who he is, a sexist, bigot who earns his paycheck demeaning others.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Loviatar says:

      Because we’re all human and the act of living together and crafting and maintaining a functioning society requires empathy and understanding. And because I give people the benefit of the doubt as much as possible.Report

      • Avatar Loviatar in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        Ahh, I see you’ve misread my comment. I’m not advocating any proactive actions against, poor discriminated against James Poulos. We don’t want to hurt society as a whole because you called out a bigot.

        What I’m asking is why are you friends with a sexist bigot” I’m sure their are many, many people who you could befriend who are sexist bigots.

        Final question, when does your benefit of the doubt card expires? I know it extends to his writing in favor of and support of  bigotry. Does he actually have to practice bigotry for you to say enough?

         Report

  18. Avatar Loviatar says:

    Part of changing society away from bigotry is to have a social cost associated with being a bigot. We know for James Poulos, Pat Buchanan and their ilk that their is no financial cost, in fact their is a financial benefit to being a bigot. If we could show them that hey you may make substantial amounts of money spouting your trash, but you and your family will be shunned in polite society I’m pretty sure some, maybe only a few may have second thoughts before emptying their bile into public.

    I’m just asking you to do your little part to help make it a little more unacceptable to be a sexist bigot.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Loviatar says:

      In my humble opinion, writing a post like the one I’ve written has done more to further the liberal cause than your shouting about bigots. That’s just my humble opinion though.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        By which I mean dialogue is important. Having a conversation is important. Just yelling “bigot!” at people isn’t very helpful.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          Yelling “bigot!” only works if they fear being called a bigot by you. At some point, they lose the fear.Report

          • Avatar Loviatar in reply to Will Truman says:

            I agree, that’s why I said the fear should come from losing out financially and socially. Financially its very difficult to make these guys pay because their is a network and and audience to support their nastiness. However socially if they were shunned and told in explicit terms that they and their family were not welcome, I could see that being start on them paying for their words.

            It needs to start within their peer group. Could you imagine the next time James goes out for drinks or meets up at a political/writing event and E.D. and others walk away from him and tell him why. Remember, peer pressure can also be used to achieve positive results.

            Keeping silent is not an option its an endorsement.Report

        • Avatar Loviatar in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          So from your standpoint there should be no cost to being a bigot; financially a bigot can do very well with the right target audience (ex. Ron Paul newsletters) and socially your friends would ignore your support of bigoted positions.

          And people wonder why it seems that there is less civility in society. I’ll tell you why its because people like you assign no cost to the spouters of hate speech. Look what you’ve done in three quick comments:

          Comment 1

          Because we’re all human and the act of living together and crafting and maintaining a functioning society requires empathy and understanding. And because I give people the benefit of the doubt as much as possible.

          Defend your friend by hiding behind the need to maintain a functioning society.

          Comment 2

          In my humble opinion, writing a post like the one I’ve written has done more to further the liberal cause than your shouting about bigots. That’s just my humble opinion though.

          Pumped your own ego by claiming you’ve done more for liberals by defending Jason than I’ve done by pointing that he is a bigot and asking why are you his friend.

          Comment 3

          By which I mean dialogue is important. Having a conversation is important. Just yelling “bigot!” at people isn’t very helpful.

          Insulting me by saying my comment is not valid criticism but just some random guy yelling bigot.

          ———

          Smooth, you went from defending the bigot to pumping your ego to demeaning your critic. Tell me is there anywhere within those comments where you called out your friend James for being a bigot and indicated that you may have second thought on associating yourself with him. Let me know when that happens and I’ll lay off the criticism. Until then there is no cost to James and you’re an enabler.

           

           Report

          • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Loviatar says:

            I’m puzzled by what cost you associate calling someone a bigot foists upon them.Report

            • Avatar Loviatar in reply to E.D. Kain says:

              Will’s comment

              Yelling “bigot!” only works if they fear being called a bigot by you. At some point, they lose the fear.

              My response

              I agree, that’s why I said the fear should come from losing out financially and socially. Financially its very difficult to make these guys pay because their is a network and and audience to support their nastiness. However socially if they were shunned and told in explicit terms that they and their family were not welcome, I could see that being start on them paying for their words.

              It needs to start within their peer group. Could you imagine the next time James goes out for drinks or meets up at a political/writing event and E.D. and others walk away from him and tell him why. Remember, peer pressure can also be used to achieve positive results.

              Keeping silent is not an option its an endorsement.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          Yes, of course, it’s better to call them a ‘racist’, isn’t it E.D.?Report

      • Avatar North in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        I’ll offer a hearty liberal +1 to this.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        “In my humble opinion, writing a post like the one I’ve written has done more to further the liberal cause than your shouting about bigots. That’s just my humble opinion though.”

        While I agree with you, it’s something that true liberals have to come to terms with. “liberals”, for the most part, those who call themselves “liberals”, are promoting some of the most violent, hateful, dangerous rhetoric that I’ve heard in quite a long time. “Liberals”, in general, or what pass for liberals, are very illiberal.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Loviatar says:

      If only we had more people willing to promote virtue and prevent vice.

      Or, at least, argue for exemptions from having to subsidize it.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        He pushed her down the stairs, at one point. I don’t think it had anything to do with her death, though.

        I had a professor as an undergrad who was a Schopenhauer scholar. Some of the stories he told  about Schopenhauer’s personal life — bar fights because he was insulting the other customers, for example — were hilarious. The man was one of the all time biggest assholes in history. I still think the 3rd book of The World as Will and Representation is one of the coolest things ever written, though. It would have made our recent discussions on aesthetics much more interesting, if nothing else.Report

  19. Avatar b-psycho says:

    James’ post sounds to me like he had a random slap at what he sees as contradictions within “feminism” (read: what he thinks is feminism in the world inside his head), and was forced to put more words around it.

    If you ask me, a better question than “what are women for?” would be “why do people still think freezing a culture is equivalent to saving it?”Report

  20. Avatar Jim Henley says:

    So back in his heyday, Larry Niven mentioned in an essay that he couldn’t figure out the evolutionary “point” of sentience among human females. He harmonized on the theme by creating the alien Kzin species for his “Known Space” novels and stories. This would have been the 1970s sometime.

    Then in the mid-1980s at one of the two Worldcons I ever attended, I heard an actual scientist, the eminent ecologist Paul Colinvaux (author of the popular treatment, Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare) give a talk about his own recent thinking on the origins of human intelligence. His provisional conclusion was that it enabled women to figure out how many children they were likely to be able to feed over the next little while – essentially to control their own fertility. (Yes, the only way available to them “on the veldt.”)

    What he couldn’t figure out, he said toward the end of his presentation, was what evolutionary value intelligence was for men.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jim Henley says:

      There’s plenty of evolutionary value in both sexes being sentient.

      For one thing, nature is really fucking stupid. It’s HARD for her to get rid of things — the vaginal orgasm is really just a modified male-orgasm, with things turned inside out.

      For another, Fire Made it Good (and healthier, and edible!).

      In a sexual sense, women being intelligent gives the idea of a woman selecting a mate (presumably for her second child, and presuming some reasonable amount of promiscuity — as seen in “reasonably widespread” neoteny preferences.)

      In a sexual sense, men being intelligent leads them to get better/smarter girls, and more of them. This is being explored in more detail in current society than previous ones, which had more of an advantage for teh more muscular/psychotic guys.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jim Henley says:

      Women also benefit from being able to figure out men–which ones are likely to stick around and provide for the little tike, and so on.  But, yeah, if they could get sperm from a penis that had no brain but was a good provider, that would seem to be sufficient to their purposes.  (And some women surely think that’s exactly what they’ve gotten.)Report

    • Avatar Jeff Wong in reply to Jim Henley says:

      Duh, the evolution of intelligence selected some set of men to become better tool makers, develop their killing tools, and kill (then pave) the way forward for their descendants to rule the world.Report

  21. I think much of the discussion may be based on a flawed, or at least less useful than the alternative, exegesis.  I’m not particularly interested in the personal virtue of the author, and the last thing a conservative postmodernist would want us to do is argue over what the piece “really” meant to the author (but am I reinforcing the privileged epistemological position of the author by posting this?  Allow me the small irony, backed up by the more substantial point that arguing over the true meaning of the text is usually countrproductive).

     

    I’m significantly more interested in, to what extent the points that he does make, are valid and deserve response.  Quoting the original article, E.D. Kain responds:

    So postmodern Cynthia Nixon, who used to be straight but now isn’t, tells The New York Times Sunday Magazine exactly what establishment liberals don’t want to hear when it comes to the sexual politics of women — “you don’t get to define my gayness for me.” As Laurie Essig understated it in The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Such talk is heresy among some people in the gay advocacy and the reaction was both immediate and predictable.” Nixon was swiftly accused by the left’s cultural policemen of “aiding and abetting bigots and bashers.”

    Lip service is often paid to the impression that the point of empowering women is to empower them to do whatever they want, but much of the left stops well short of the more radical implications of that easy answer.

    “You think he’s really just driving home the point that civilizations of men have failed? Seriously? Are you ignoring the political and sexual implications buried here?”

     

    I am perhaps ignorant of the context, and would welcome Mr. Kain elaborating on the political and sexual implications of the statement.  But even if it is a disingenuous rhetorical drive by from a partisan hack, the objection is also substantive.  Progressive epistemology is split in twain between strains that rely on personal testimony above all, and those that find personal thought is warped by structures of power and social conditions.  The two epistemologies are complementary in a privileged individual- trust the personal testimony of those from oppressed groups who are closer to the situation anyway, and recognize that your own thinking on the matter may be corrupted.  They tend to come into stark conflict when the two strains are present in a member of a marginalized group- do I trust my instincts or my social theory that says my instincts have been corrupted?

    It really is a tension for the progressive side, and for myself, that needs to be resolved.  For my part, I’m inclined to trust the individual over theory, and not repeat the cardinal sin of others dealing with my sexuality, and assume I know someone’s sexuality better than they know it.  If she says her sexuality was a choice, it is, though she speaks only for herself.  (Quite apart from the fat that she’s right that the “it’s not a choice!” is a losing rhetorical battle that implies that were it a choice, it would not be a valid one).  I, at least, as a committed advocate of sexual freedom hailing largely from the left( scope the link to my blog if you doubt it) find their papering over of someone else’s understanding of themselves anathema to the progressive project, even if it may cost us a few victory points in the rhetorical arena.

    When the two epistemologies come at loggerheads, I know exactly where I stand, but there’s no doubt that there’s lively debate in the left about where to draw the line.  Of particular interest here is the intra-feminist debates over BDSM.  One side says that, on the face of it, power dynamics in sexuality and relationships, even when negotiated and consensual, are straightforward recapitulations of the patriarchy and that those who indulge are at least symbolically aiding and abetting it, while the others point to the longstanding feminist commitment to sexual diversity, of resisting scholarly attempts to paper over individual women’s experiences, and the uncomfortable similarity the other side has to misogynistic slut shaming.  Both sides yell, “You cannot disable the master’s house with the master’s tools!” until they’re blue in the face.Report

  22. Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

    Okay, I’ve watched this long enough.    It is clear that nobody here really understands what women are for:

    My mother:   She’s for creating me, making me dinner, and lending me money when I’m broke.

    My girlfriend:   She’s for getting me a beer, helping me pick out shirts, and maintaining my bits.

    Mrs. Reed (my 3rd grade teacher):   She’s for teaching me the times tables, and letting us go to recess.

    You guys talk too much…Report

  23. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    I’m not really sure why Mr. Poulus is getting criticized. This essay seems straightforward enough: (A.) the Left, regardless of which definition one embraces, is so derailed it has failed to come to terms with the purpose of women in contemporary society (not to mention a myriad of other problems), and, (2) in his desire to hep the confused Left he points to the idea that, possibly, there’s an answer to the question in “nature.”

    Having said that, my own interpretation is that perhaps James is pointing to what Voegelin might identify as the singular failure of modernity (specifically the glorification of the world-immanent self) and by (re)turning to the idea that men and women are created ‘imago Dei” we may be able to begin the process of reordering civilization predicated on the good old noetic ground? But, maybe not?

     Report

  24. Avatar Jim Henley says:

    “No one has demonstrated more scholarly interest in women than I, yet the Politically Correct claimed to find only “sexism” and “misogyny” in my recent book on female archetypes, Bitch, Whore, Cunt, Mom . . . “Report

  25. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    All intelligent men are feminists. He who contemplates this issue for more than a few minutes can reach no other possible conclusion.

    What do women want? Curiously, all we have to do is ask them. There seem to be no shortage of women and many of them have thought about these issues for a good long while. Once folks have stopped condescending to them, women seem quite willing to tell the XY Crowd what’s on their minds. As with any other segment of the population, they can be just as conservative or liberal or libertarian as their male counterparts.

    Secretly snickering at poor ol’ Conor Friedersdorf, trying to take notes as Poulos natters on about Marilyn Manson and the Pink Police. Wandering around through the links, I came upon this weird little nugget:

    Is it any surprise, then, that where the mass pursuit of greater citizenship ends, the mass pursuit of greater sexuality tends to begin? Though almost any product can be marketed as offering sexual satisfaction, nothing beats the reality.

    Really? Mystery is the essence of romance. The essence of good sex resolves to the beauty of its intangibles.  Often it’s profoundly transgressive.  Reality, schmeality.   We are such stuff as dreams are made of, those dreams largely dependent on our appetites.   Sex is not love.

    Let’s put it this way: the Beast with Two Backs doesn’t thrive in harsh lighting.   Love benefits greatly from the mysterious and inventive gifts constantly brought to the beloved.

    Poulos has it completely wrong, utterly and stupidly wrong. There is no dichotomy between oppression and repression: to be liberated we must first liberate ourselves.

    We are our own worst critics. Sexuality, like politics, is a matter of transcending. Though none of us is particularly impressed with ourselves when we look in the mirror, first thing in the morning, why do we see something adorable in our lovers in those same moments? The Lover always sees something unseen in the Beloved.Report

  26. Avatar Wardsmith says:

    I’ll be honest here and admit that I not only did not read the article neither did I read the 180 comments. What I have managed to accomplish on my smartphone is to search but not find the term I will forever and fondly associate with our esteemed host and noted author Mr. Kain – “mansplaining”. I applaud his inveterate courage in wading yet again into the muddy swamp that is feminism. Gunga Kain you are a better man than I am. 🙂Report

  27. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Instead of writing a post (that most likely three people will read), I’m going to write a comment that even fewer will read. A few things:

    1. If you want to understand the writing style of Poulos, look into the works of Philip Rieff, who he’s influenced by I believe. Rieff’s writing style is very difficult and became more so as he went along. His later books are particularly obtuse and yield diminished returns, in my opinion.

    2. If you want to talk about the tragic fate of conservatives in academia, let’s talk about a particularly bright conservative who can’t possibly have the time to complete his dissertation while being absorbed into the mass media humbug machine, where the pay is better and the thinking is easier. There’s sort of an interesting question at the heart of that column. An advisor would tell him to make the question clearer, cut out the tabloid gossip level stuff, and avoid the desire to tell his conservative readers the stock ‘truths’ they want to hear. Finally, he tries to cover too much irrelevant material in too few words.

    3. That question, as far as I can tell, is whether biology gives women a distinct perspective and purpose in life that should also give them a distinct social role. Actually, the interesting intellectual historical question, and Poulos’s focus, is really how different political groups have tried to answer that first question, where they clash when trying to do so, and is there any way out of that clash? (I actually don’t think he’s asserting much of a position of his own about the question). Conservatives, as he notes, certainly think biology gives women a distinct purpose in life and a unique social role, although they seem to be of several minds about that role. Liberals, he believes, are more divided about the question than they claim, and he points to abortion, which separates biology from destiny, and then contrasts that with homosexuality, where some liberals get upset at the suggestion that one’s sexual orientation might be a matter of choice, instead of genetics.

    4. He seems to conclude that society is coming to the point of answering the question of what special purpose, perspective, or social role women might have with: “Nothing in particular”. But, he seems to believe, society has already enshrined a uniquely masculine and patriarchal perspective in ways that have been highly destructive. The reason he seems interested in nature-based feminism is that it asserts there is a uniquely valuable “women’s voice” that society should heed. The problem, of course, is that the flip side of saying women have a unique perspective rooted in biology is saying they have a special responsibility therefore to do whatever society says they should do. That’s highly contentious, and so I think he’s saying the only way out of the debate has been to assert that women’s purpose is nothing in particular, which aint much to hang anything political or cultural on.

    5. The above is my attempt at a summary. I guess I find the post less offensive than others, since I’m not convinced Poulos is actually asserting anything much about women as such. The three big problems I have with the column are very much the problems I have with Rieff’s writing and Poulos’s as well:

    a. The attempt to cover several disparate cultural issues at once, regardless of relevance to his central point. Seriously, who cares if Cynthia Nixon is gay, straight, or bi?

    b. The stock swipes at liberals, regardless of their relevance or accuracy- did you know that liberals resent the suffering Christ? Apparently so.

    c. He’s discussing an issue that countless feminist writers have addressed and continue to address in books from the banal to the brilliant, but he seems to have read very little of that body of work, which he makes sweeping claims about. Jason’s dead on- start with Beauvoir and work your way to the present. Instead, he makes these claims about what “the left” thinks that satisfy what his readers want to hear about the left, but don’t actually illuminate anything.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Thx, Rufus.  I skipped the whole thing.  Never heard of the guy and this seems more interesting to the left to criticize than the right to get much out of.  He seems after the left’s sacred cows more than the right’s truths.

      From what you yrself write, the hubbub is that women are the same as men but have a unique perspective we should listen to.  I’m like, whatever.  Good ideas and arguments do not have genitals.  People do, however, though, so I’ve always found this all a bit backwards.

       Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        No, he makes time to go after the the left’s sacred cows, while definitely hitting the right boilerplate sweet notes about the left for his crowd: confused, intolerant, thought police, hate Jesus, hypocritical, and barbaric. Rinse, repeat. Nothing new there. His evidence for most of this is as weighty as someone in the Chronicle of Higher Ed saying that someone else got upset about a tv actress being a bisexual this one time.

        The women’s perspective question is a bit more interesting, but I’m leaning way towards like whatever as well. People’s experiences shape their perspectives, and since we’re not clones, it’s safe to assume everyone has different experiences.Report

    • Avatar BSK in reply to Rufus F. says:

      “The reason he seems interested in nature-based feminism is that it asserts there is a uniquely valuable “women’s voice” that society should heed. The problem, of course, is that the flip side of saying women have a unique perspective rooted in biology is saying they have a special responsibility therefore to do whatever society says they should do.”

      That is quite a jump to make. Yes, women as a group are bilogically and physiologically different*. But a difference in genetics does not confer a difference in obligations. In general, we should select for taller people when choosing NBA centers. They are likely better gentically equipped for the job than shorter people. But that does not mean everyone has 6’10” and up has a responsibility to play ball or should be prohibited from seeking pursuits for which shorter people are better genetically equipped. Likewise for women… There might be roles or situations for which they, as a grop, would provide a better skill set or perspective than men and, as such, their efforts or thoughts should be sought and valued. But that infers no great obligation in these areas or restrictions in others.

      * If we view sex/gender as a binary (which it is not, but for simplicity’s sake), I believe the nature-nurture interplay is such that the two circle of the Venn diagram overlap. Consequently, there will be some men better equipped than some women in areas that are generally more aligned with women and vice versa. Thought I’ll trynto avoid overgeneralizing in such a way as to ignore this reality, I’ll throw in this one blanket disclaimer here.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to BSK says:

        BSK, I’m not great at writing clearly either. What I was trying to say is that, historically, the people who have asserted that biology gives women a unique and privileged perspective on the world have tended to follow that up by saying that women therefore have certain duties to carry out for society. Think of all the people (often men) who have said that mothers are blessed by their experience and then followed that up with ideas about what should be expected of women by society. I agree that it’s a heck of a jump to make, but plenty of people have made that jump, which is why I would imagine women would be very wary of anyone theorizing about their supposed “special connection” to nature.

        Admittedly, I think part of what Poulos is saying is that we already do this when it comes to abortion- we say that women’s unique role in childbearing should give them a more important voice in the decision than that of the father.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Rufus F. says:

      FWIW, as one of the three readers of this comment, I think it deserves it’s own post. Of all the posts and comments on this, I found this the most illuminating and helpful. (I really had no idea wtf he was trying to say.)Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Me either, RTod.  Although I was delighted to see him send the lefties into a tizzy, I didn’t get much of an affirmative takeaway for right-thinking persons such as meself.

        Mostly the 2 pieces made my eyes glaze over.

        As for women having more moral authority on the subject of abortion, that one has never appealed to me, any more than Warren Buffet or the Koch Bros. having more of a say about taxing the rich because they have more of a stake in it.  Ideas are ideas, right and wrong are beyond who articulates them.

        And for the record, pro-life and pro-choice split evenly enough by gender anyway, making the whole riff moot.

        Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Ecch, I don’t know about Tizzy.   It’s par for the course for this old Leftie.   Frankly, I’ve reached the point of resigned eyes-rolled-to-heaven when it comes to the ‘Bortion Debate.

          As I said upstream, every enlightened man is a feminist, or ought to be.   You make my point rather better with the Gallup data:  want to know what women really think?   Ask them.   There’s no consensus of opinion any more than there might be among men.   Nobody goes to an abortion clinic with a smile on their face, either coming or going.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Nobody goes to an abortion clinic with a smile on their face, either coming or going.

            Truer words were never spoken. Obviously abortion is number 11 or worse on the top ten methods of birth control.

            I just spent an enjoyable afternoon yesterday at a baby shower (yes, I’m that liberated as a male that I can go to a heretofore female enclave like that). There are going to be a TON of kids born to Asians this year, because as everyone knows the Year of the Dragon is quite auspicious.

            New life is just that, NEW LIFE! As I move into the autumn of mine, I thank the good Lord above that new life will follow me, and am saddened indeed at the regrets of life that never had the chance.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to wardsmith says:

              If the Conservatives had any sense, they’d lay off the rancorous denunciations and trying to pass laws about shoving cameras up women.    Here’s the approach I’d recommend.   It comes from a woman I knew quite well, who became something of a mentor to my sister, named Henrietta Vandermolen.

              The Vandermolen family came into a substantial fortune with the sale of their trash collection business.   Henrietta quietly opened her home to pregnant girls and arranged for its eventual transfer to a non-profit agency which continued her work.

              If these pro-lifers opened their homes to pregnant girls and made arrangements for these children, how much more powerful might be their advocacy for unborn life?   A dear friend of mine took in two unwanted children and has an excellent relationship with one of the mothers, who comes and goes to her home to visit her biological child.   Abortion might then be reduced to the domain of medical necessity and other extraordinary circumstances.

              Just a thought.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Anti-abortion groups actually do this sort of thing. It doesn’t get a whole lot of publicity, and when it does it is as often as not still not considered in a uniformly favorable light (that they’re doing the right thing, but we all know it’s for the wrong reasons).

                I agree that there ought to be more focus in this area, though.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Will Truman says:

                I think, if I’m understating correctly (and I may be reading too much in here), that there is an insinuation here that the good work you speak of doesn’t get publicity because it’s by pro-life folks.  If that’s the case, I’d beg to differ.  I work with scores of clients that do good works all the time, and unless they get accused by someone of dong something wrong the get zip in the way of publicity.

                That all of these folks, including the ones you mention, should be singled out more for their work I agree with 100%.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                That wasn’t really what I was getting at. I was kind of saying that when these efforts are brought up, they are often dismissed as a cynical exercise specifically in search of the publicity (that they’re not getting).

                If you’re anti-abortion and you want publicity, putting up a 20-foot picture of a torn-up fetus is a lot more effective than helping people in need. No matter how much of the latter is done, people (especially people who disagree with them) will associate them with deeds more along the lines of the former than the latter.

                 Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman says:

                WillT & RTod get it. Adam Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments” says exactly that:

                It [good works for unwed mothers] doesn’t get a whole lot of publicity, and when it does it is as often as not still not considered in a uniformly favorable light (that they’re doing the right thing, but we all know it’s for the wrong reasons).

                This is Smith’s contention to a T, how the human wiring works.

                I’d mention Michele Bachmann’s dozens of foster kids but that would just be a springboard for the Blaise-O-Matic to launch yet another nuke at conservatives…

                ;-P

                 Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

                I question the Effectiveness of the gruesome 20 foot picture.   Beyond stirring the pot and generating even more ill-will, what’s gained thereby?    The pro-life crowd, for all its much palaver, has never made a point of saying “The doors of our homes are open to you.”

                Why not?   Because the ‘Bortion Debate has been turned into a wedge issue, a litmus test and a vote-getter, the domain of a cabal of would-be Taliban insistent on foisting off their morals on everyone else by force of law.   There’s no mercy or compassion exhibited by these folks, and they’re not a tiny little minority who’ve rushed the stage and seized the bullhorn.   They’re the mainstream of a movement which has bedeviled this country for a century and more and they won’t go away quietly.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

                Nah.   Michelle Bachmann is one of those people who puts her money where her mouth is, as Henrietta Vandermolen did.   My problem with Bachmann isn’t the same as with all the other folks out there who’ve made this into a wedge issue:   they’re just stirring the shit as they’ve stirred it for years. Bachmann did something.

                And this isn’t a wedge issue.   It’s a question of human decency.    For many decades, the Catholic church used to run homes for pregnant girls in St Louis.   It was a central location where girls could go on the train.   They got in trouble, off they went to “Visit Aunt Nancy” for eight-nine months, the child would be given to a good set of parents at a ceremony at the altar of the chapel.   They’d come back to their lives.

                Would that as many pro-lifers opened their homes to pregnant girls as open their big mouths on a subject upon which they say much and do nothing.Report

              • Blaise, you seem to be shrugging off, doubting, and minimizing the efforts they are making. You’ve already decided who they are. They can’t prove otherwise. I know for a fact that there are pro-life groups who make a point of helping the women who make the right decision. You’ve apparently decided they don’t exist and that they should be defined by the ones you don’t like.

                I don’t know how effective the 20-foot signs are. But really, as long as they believe that abortion is a sin and a sin worth calling out, I get the sense they will always be the Taliban to you.

                 Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

                Okay, let’s get this straight.   Who’s the guy who said there are people out there who are opening their homes to these girls?   Who said there ought to be a good deal more of this sort of thing and it would be a far better approach than the current rabid pro-life snarling and snapping and 20 foot images of aborted fetuses?

                That would be yours truly.   I’ve gone so far as to say Michelle Bachmann, for all her many faults, took in all those children, though I don’t know if she actually took in any pregnant girls.   I do know about the foster children.

                His enemies called Jesus Christ a Friend of Sinners.   When I see the pro-life crowd acting like they give a damn about these girls, I’ll commend them as any honest person should.   Conversely, I will condemn those whose only response to the ‘Bortion Debate is to turn it into a fulcrum for political gain and demonize those of us who think the ‘Bortion Debate is a human tragedy which demands a meaningful response beyond the aforementioned snapping and snarling, one well within their power to control.Report

              • Blaise, my comment was excessively sharp, and I apologize for it. I guess I find it difficult to reconcile your likening of pro-life people to the Taliban with a genuine appreciation for the good things they do (and not an appreciation that is actually an offensive weapon against their ideological fellow-travellers). But, your giving Bachmann a pass tells me that you are sincere.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

                Sorry about my response, too.   Apology accepted.   Look, here’s the gist of my argument in three bits:

                Nobody wants an abortion.

                Thousands of childless couples want a child more than anything in life.   Those aborted fetuses might have come to term and entered the world and those loving homes. Those children are denied meaningful lives.   Each such abortion of a healthy child is a tragedy, one with a simple and obvious solution:  caring for the mother.

                The pro-lifers have made a harsh and merciless argument for their positions.   They have damned those of us who believe the mother and her physician have the final say in the outcome of her pregnancy.   They might have made a far better and persuasive argument.

                For what it’s worth, I’ve known quite a few people the US military would now call Taliban.   Back then they were just the mujahidin, useful enough for America’s purposes.    Now they’re more useful to Pakistan’s purposes.   Once again, people of faith harnessed to the plow of politicians’ goals.   Nobody cared about what they wanted back then and they don’t now.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman says:

                But you nuked the conservatives anyway, O Blaise-O-Matic. ;-P  It’s like a Doomsday Machine.

                Fact is, what the VA legislature is doing WILL lower the # of abortions [or would, because I doubt the law will hold in the courts].  Whether you approve or not, they are “doing something” about what they consider a great evil.

                And adoption, which you allow would be a good thing and which  is the absolute best solution to the problem of unmarried pregnancy, might become more common.  Right now, I believe it’s rather rare.

                That’s one we never talk about in these things.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

                I didn’t do a thing beyond telling the Conservatives how to argue this case from a more compelling position.   If that’s Nuking ’em, I’ve only disposed of the crappy 20 Foot Bloody Fetus argument which hasn’t made any friends or influenced anyone, ever.

                Now, Tom, when I see more so-called Pro-Life Conservatives getting on board this little argument of mine, we’ll both be far more content with our respective lots.

                Two human tragedies.   One obvious solution.   Some couple wants a child and cannot conceive, another woman is in no position to care for hers.   Solomonic, isn’t it?   Cancels out two human tragedies in the same stroke of fate and gives a child a chance and spares some poor girl’s conscience from a lifetime of regret.

                Alas that I am obliged to tell the Pro-Lifers how to argue their own case.   Jeebus Crispus, what do they teach people in school these days?   Rhetoric sure isn’t on the agenda any more.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I cannot agree, Blaise, per our very discussion today, Adam Smith & his theory of “Moral Sentiments” above, which you have ratified with your own rhetoric.  No amount of pro-life good works will ever be enough for their critics such as you.  We will stipulate that all your animus against the “Pro-Lifers” is justified because all men—right, left, pro-life, pro-choice, indifferent and concerned—all have feet of clay.

                The one constant in the human equation is our weakness, our inability to live up to our principles and beliefs, our feet of clay.  If this is the first wisdom, then that will do for one day.

                 

                 Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                That’s a completely bogus conclusion.   Look, Tom, you’re a sensible man but it’s as if you’re not paying attention to what I’m saying.   The Culture Wars are hugely destructive.   Good people are being gulled, suckered into this fight, over and over, to no good purpose.

                What’s so wrong with observing the Pro Life Crowd has a bad marketing campaign?    When I pointed out how Henrietta Vandermolen addressed this issue, all I got was a bunch of shuck and jive and po’ mouthing about how these good works get no press and adoptions are rare.   Well, whose fault is that?  You know the haranguing from the Right is going nowhere.  I’ve told you how to win this debate and you’re just insistent on losing it.

                Obama has played you lot for chumps.  Something as trivial as covering contraceptives with insurance and it’s just like someone teasing a dog, goading him into running the length of his chain and there y’all are, choking and barking and damned near breaking your necks, falling all over yourselves to look like a bunch of Hester Prynne’s tormentors.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Blaise, debates and marketing campaigns are politics: victories are transitory.  I don’t write you in those terms.

                Even if a single “pro-lifer” could ever “win” under your conditions– and you indicate that Henrietta Vandermolen did—you yourself just move down the list to the less good and more hypocritical.

                You win, brother.  You always win.  Which leaves us nowhere.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Have it your way, Tom.   The Culture Wars will always have their Bitter Enders.   Politics is the art of convincing people.   Victories aren’t transitory and finding common ground is not hypocrisy.   Is advocating for more adoption of unwanted children somehow a lessening of one’s pro-life convictions?

                Now I’ll tell you why the Pro Life Camp won’t take my line of argument seriously.   There will never be a bumper sticker reading “I love your unborn child enough to care for you.”   The Pro Lifers are too arrogant.   They’ll never open their doors to unwed mothers and feed and clothe them and make sure an unwanted pregnancy doesn’t derail their lives.   Frankly, I don’t think they give a shit about those children either.   Hate is cheap and simple and horribly effective and the Pro Life Camp is too vested in their current approach to consider how they come across to everyone else.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                The Culture War has barely started, Blaise, decades or barely a century old.  You’re writing me as though it’s over.

                It’s not too late to reassess our bland surrenders to the nihilistic tide, brother.  This is what’s been soaking in with me, anyway.  I have not been unreasonable: I haven’t been reasonable enough.

                We all know something is wrong here, and it’s our cowardice in the face of this, man, not the doings of others.  I feel nothing here, not outrage, not sanctimony.  Nothing but shame at my own silence to this point.  I want to be respected, and liked, as a reasonable fellow.  Who doesn’t?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

                I dunno.   A few are trying.   Not many and as you say, not visibly.   Not as visible as the Santorum out there, stuffing his oversized foot into his mouth this morning, saying prenatal testing leads to more abortions.

                There’s a hidden tragedy within the abortion statistics.  The girls whose parents can afford an abortion are usually white and they have white partners.   These babies are in high demand, almost unattainable on the adoption market, and let’s call it what it is, a market and an ugly one at that.

                The black babies, nobody seems to want them.Report

  28. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Reading some of the above, I’m reminded of a story where I experienced a profound sense of alienation and wanted to start yelling in the middle of a public place (I was with Maribou so I didn’t).

    Anyway, are you familiar with Bodyworlds? (Warning: website is not for the faint of heart but if you’ve read a book on biology recently, you won’t see anything surprising.) We saw Bodyworlds 2 when it was in Denver.

    If you don’t know about Bodyworlds, know this: it’s a museum exhibit where bodies that have been “plastinated” and you can see bodies, in any all states, after they’ve been plastinated and then… modified is the right word, I guess. Maybe they’ve had their skin removed. Maybe the bodies have been cross sectioned. Maybe the bodies have been opened from the front and the ribs open up like bird wings so you can see the heart and lungs and other organs hiding in the torso only well-lit and beautiful and grotesque.

    Of course they had a portion of the exhibit that was devoted to the gestation of the human.

    We saw humans that were one week old, two weeks old, three weeks old, one month, two months, and on and on and on (so very many plastinated little babies).

    When we walked out of the exhibit, one of the folks we went there with said “I didn’t like that part. It was so pro-life.”

    Maribou squeezed my hand. I didn’t say anything.

    Yelled a lot in the car, though.Report

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