JESSE POWELL writes:
The Economist recently featured a special report titled “Women and Work.” (November 26, 2011) What struck me the most about all of the articles in the report was their anti-human utopianism. The central theme was that we are moving towards a better world of equality but that we aren’t there yet and that there are still many pesky differences between men and women in the workplace that we should try to overcome with changes in cultural practices and attitudes and perhaps with outright government mandated quotas.
There was some acceptance by the authors that there are differences between the sexes, that men and women might have different temperaments and different preferences regarding the focus on work versus the focus on the family but even when these differences were pointed out there was a tendency to blame things on discrimination and cultural stereotypes; to suggest true inborn differences between men and women was condemned as “biological determinism.” The feeling was that maybe there are real differences between men and women but that these differences are bad and should be minimized.
The issue of childcare was brought up in passing; mostly the idea was that childcare might be somewhat negative in some circumstances, is probably good in some circumstances, but that most importantly a women’s work trajectory shouldn’t be thrown off too much by the presence of a child. To this end employers should offer more flexible work schedules and child care should be subsidized by the government as children are a “societal responsibility”. Furthermore a conscious effort should be made to make sure that women don’t spend too long out of the workforce after they have a child and men should be encouraged to take on more responsibilities at home and in the care of children; after all, it’s “not fair” that women should be expected to do most of the housework.
Statements such as “Of course it’s a huge waste of talent for women to not be in the workforce” and “To not fully utilize the talents of half the population is such a waste” and “Of course women have the same abilities as men” were thrown out liberally setting the boundaries of “civilized discourse” on the subject.
Problems such as increased divorce rates, falling fertility rates, and the increase in single mothers were mentioned in the articles briefly and in passing but the impression was that these things “just happened” or were a natural part of the landscape; no serious thought was to be given to such issues; they were surely “not relevant” to the issue of women in the workforce.
So, feminism has created a strange utopian vision of the perfect life where women are independent, in control of their own destiny, able to enter into a wide variety of careers to suit their tastes, equal in the workforce with men.
I guess what most strikes me as odd in this utopian vision is that children are absent; the “problem” of childhood is mentioned briefly but the point is to minimize the impact of children on women’s careers. Children are to be farmed out to paid strangers in group settings and the school day should be designed to be friendly to working mothers so that the child is in school while the mother is at work but otherwise the important priority is that children interfere with their mother’s money making ambitions as little as possible.
So, the purpose of life in this feminist utopia is for everyone to have interesting spiritually fulfilling and well paid work; and that’s about it. In other words, the workplace is the center of one’s life and the family is secondary and children are an outright burden whose effects on one’s life should be kept to an absolute minimum.
This is a complete inversion of what the natural meaning and purpose of life is. The purpose of work is to support the family in order to support children; children are the central organizing principle of life. The woman’s relationship to the child is what makes the woman who she is, the man’s relationship to the child is what makes the man who he is, the man’s relationship to the woman is based on what each parent’s relationship to the child is; the entire purpose of life is centered around the well-being of the child.
It seems that feminism is centered around the freedom and choice of the woman and that the entire world is supposed to be organized around the principle of maximizing the woman’s freedom and choices (as long as the woman shuns and denigrates motherhood which is obviously a waste of a woman’s talents). The traditional Western family is centered around the needs and well-being of the child, an organizing principle upon which all of social order rests.
So, feminism offers a woman-centered world while traditional Western patriarchy offers a child-centered world. Which is better? Of course, the child-centered world is better as we were all children before we grew into men or women. If we are not the recipients of a substantial cultural investment as boys and girls, we cannot grow up into well functioning and healthy men and women. Feminism steals from future generations and so is degenerative.
— Comments —
Charlie Nave writes:
I appreciated Jesse Powell’s commentary but I have one correction to offer. Mr. Powell argues:
“… traditional Western patriarchy offers a child-centered world. Which is better? Of course, the child-centered world is better as we were all children before we grew into men or women. If we are not the recipients of a substantial cultural investment as boys and girls, we cannot grow up into well functioning and healthy men and women. Feminism steals from future generations and so is degenerative. “
I agree with the conclusion (Feminism is degenerative) but the argument is flawed. I, and I believe many of your readers, wouldn’t exactly agree that we desire to live in a world that normalizes “traditional Western patriarchy.” Rather, our primary purpose is to glorify God.
Of course, the Bible teaches us that to do so, wives must submit to their husbands’ headship of the family and that husbands must love their wives and families as Christ loves the Church (sacrificially, and with forgiveness, love, and a cherishing heart). So “traditional Western patriarchy” is not inconsistent with a Biblical worldview.
However, the proper paradigm is a God-centered world, not a child-centered world.
Certainly a God-centered worldview cherishes (and disciplines) children much more than a barren world that makes a fetish of women’s pointless and unnatural aping of masculinity. But there are significant downfalls associated with believing that the world is, or should be, child-centered.
Thank you for steady stream of well-written and thought-provoking content.
I entirely agree.
A child-centered world is not necessarily better than a woman-centered world. [See my correction below.] The primary purpose of marriage and parenthood is not to create heathy, functioning individuals or to form a well-ordered society, but to glorify God.
There are many people who do inhabit a child-centered subculture in Western society. Unfortunately, their children, through no fault of their own, often become shallow narcissists.
Laura, you have written that marriage is “the desire for completion in the opposite sex,” which immediately sounded perfect to me.
Here you write: “The primary purpose of marriage and parenthood is not to create healthy, functioning individuals or to form a well-ordered society, but to glorify God.”
Could you tie these together for me? I’ve never experienced a healthy marriage, not as a child or as a husband and father. My older sister and brother fared even worse. I do have a terrific 22-year- old son who is high functioning, mature and very well adjusted. I’m forever puzzled that he has emerged from a mess that I generously call dysfunctional. It was a mix of secular Christians and Jews; and leading edge late 50s and modern feminism.
First, let me retract something I said. I wrote in the above, “A child-centered world is not necessarily better than a woman-centered world.” That was too strong of a statement. A child-centered world is always better than a world focused on the desires of adults.
It is best to think of the purpose of marriage as to create life and raise children, but this undertaking is only grounded in reality when part of an effort to glorify God and reciprocate divine love. Yes, we seek completion in the opposite sex in marriage. But two human beings can never be fused. To make emotional or spiritual fusion the ultimate goal of marriage is to seek the impossible. If we could achieve fusion, we would not want it. We would not want to lose our selves. God’s love for the individual is perfect. We crave it whether we are conscious of it or not.
For some reason, Charlie Nave has internalized the liberal conception of patriarchy as the representation of evil and repression. Our primary purpose is to glorify God but patriarchy isn’t wrong. Indeed this very quote “wives must submit to their husbands’ headship of the family and that husbands must love their wives and families as Christ loves the Church (sacrificially, and with forgiveness, love, and a cherishing heart)” doesn’t negate patriarchy but enables and support it. Traditional Western patriarchy is consistent with a Biblical worldview. It is the liberal worldview (women’s rights or men’s rights) which is inconsistent.
If that was his intepretation then I apologize. I interpreted his comment as a rejection of the patriarchy due to inconsistency with a Biblical worldview.
In response to Laura’s comment about a “child-centered subculture in Western society” leading children to become shallow narcissists I would respond that the parents’ responsibility is not to indulge the child’s every whim and to constantly praise them for how “special” they are, the parents’ responsibility is to raise a well functioning and responsible child. The parent acts on behalf of the child in the child’s best interest, not according to whatever the child themselves demands. An indulgent parenting style that does not put the long term interests of the child first is “adult centered” and not disciplined, it is not “child-centered” as it is not focused on the needs of the child; it is instead focused on the comfort level of the adult.
I would agree that it is better to view the ideal as being a God-centered world instead of a child-centered world; God comes first and is the true organizing principle of life. My hope is to describe things so that the secular point of view and the religious point of view will complement each other. Everyone can understand why a child-centered orientation is better than a woman-centered orientation for society; the reasons why a God-centered world is the ultimate ideal is not so easy to grasp for those who are not religiously inclined.