I’ve read your blog with interest over the last several months. You can call me your loyal (hopefully respectful) opposition. I’m perfectly willing to grant that many of the principles you articulate about masculinity and femininity are true across large numbers of people, and I oppose a great number of modern feminist tropes. However, both my natural inclinations/strengths and my admittedly short experiences have been the opposite of what you would consider feminine.
In your entry “Male and Female, Summarized” you list masculine and feminine qualities. Of the masculine, I strongly fulfill all except sexual conquest, physical strength (relative to men, of course), and naturally, genius, although I doubt that most men possess this quality either! [Let's leave aside for a moment the technical meaning of PATER-nalism and how I cannot possibly be paternal by definition, not being a man, and replace it for now with "protectiveness."]
Correspondingly, I am woefully deficient in emotional sensitivity and “feminine intuition,” the terrible state of my fine motor skills has been noted by my poor preschool teachers and by the endless parade of broken glasses that follows me, I have never been accused of gentleness, nor of manipulation of others. I am incapable of being coy or demure, or even commanding a socially-respectable level of pleasant artifice.
I fix cars, I shoot guns, I play sports. I delight in the “doing” and the competition.
This is not just my observation, but scientifically measured; in male-female brain tests that measure analytical and rational aptitude against relational thinking and social observation, I score more to the “male brain” side than 85% of men. As a consequence, I’ve followed a life path that plays to my strengths, culminating in my current study at a Top 10 law school.
On the other hand, I’ve never had difficulty finding men to seriously date with an eye to marriage. I’ve been proposed to twice (I’m 24), once by a relatively traditional conservative (I am politically right-wing, although of course you would not consider me a true conservative, and only date people with similar values). My current boyfriend, with whom I frequently discuss future marriage as imminent (we are waiting to get engaged until our families on opposite coasts can meet), has repeatedly stated that the qualities of mine that most attract him (other than the superficial – men are visual creatures, after all) are directness, independence, and ability to discuss analytical subjects. He says he’s never been attracted to demure women, and enjoys what he calls my “John Wayne attitude.” He supports my legal ambitions. When we discuss children, we plan to share child-rearing responsibilities. He’s an historian and an author, so he works from home, and is totally comfortable picking up kids from school. (This is not to say he’s feminine. He’s an easygoing man, but woe to anyone who tries to push him to do something he doesn’t believe to be the wise or moral course.)
All this to say, I think there are many men, even relatively conservative ones, out there who appreciate a more masculine woman, so long as she is not interested in tearing down HIS masculinity, and of course, doesn’t look masculine physically. In another recent entry you wondered at the appeal of the woman at a range. I think the “welcoming masculinity into her life” answer is not the whole story; many men like to marry women with whom they can relate to on a similar level as their buddies, as well as on a romantic level. Of course, this could be just my lucky experience, but I think the infatuation with the Palineque frontier woman, and the trend you have worryingly noted about husbands urging their wives to work outside of the home, testify to the broader existence of the phenomenon.
Thank you for your time and blog.
P.S. I am the only child of a woman who waited until 37 to have children. I have never been unhappy with my lot, nor longed for siblings, although my mother has always told me “early 30′s is better for children than late,” ha ha. This is an unrelated topic, obviously, but something upon which your blog touches upon freqently.
Thank you for writing.
In your entry “Male and Female, Summarized” you list masculine and feminine qualities. Of the masculine, I strongly fulfill all except sexual conquest, physical strength (relative to men, of course), and naturally, genius, although I doubt that most men possess this quality either!
But do you look like a man?
You also write:
He says he’s never been attracted to demure women, and enjoys what he calls my “John Wayne attitude.”
But do you look like John Wayne?
My point is, your feminine qualities are certainly of paramount importance. If you were a genius in analytical subjects and 45 years old or as homely as John Wayne, you would have relatively few men, traditional or not, interested.
That’s not to say that your intelligence isn’t attractive also. But often an intelligent woman has a different way of expressing her submissiveness than outright demureness. She may even be a feisty opponent, and men may find that exciting and attractive. Few men want a lump of mush.
A very young, attractive woman who is sexually available, intelligent and capable of supporting a man for life — wow, all in all, it can seem a fantastic bargain for a man. What’s not to like? But when we get down to the nitty gritty, it’s a bargain with serious drawbacks. For one, you may not be capable of feminine gentleness or motherliness, but your children are going to want a mother.
A friend of mine who works as a therapist — she is not anti-feminist at all — has told me in the course of our conversations that the number one reason people visit her, the subject they talk about more than any other, is their alienation from or disappointment with their mothers. So decisive and influential is the maternal bond. Now some of this resentment is obviously the result of a narcissistic culture. But I think it also reflects real maternal emotional neglect. A mother who has no time to express thoughtful affection, who is not quiet and calm, who cannot help a child define the purpose of life, and who does not nurture her family is a great hardship. She means the difference between a house and a home.
Your husband-to-be may say he likes the masculine side of you and perhaps he would like you to be the main wage earner, at least for a while, but in all probability he will not be interested in much of the business of running a home and rearing children. Good luck to him in trying to get the work of an historian done with the countless interruptions of child care. Egalitarian marriages in which men and women share the housework equally, as I have written before, have a significantly higher rate of divorce.
And there are some things your husband just can’t do. Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of the 18th century book, The Vindication of the Rights of Woman, was bitterly resentful that her mother did not breastfeed her. She felt that feeding at the breast was an important form of maternal love — and she was a feminist.
I’m not sure why you think being a lawyer is an ideal outlet for your rational side. Children are intellectual beings and a mother is their primary teacher. Your husband also will probably have intellectual interests and need advice and encouragement. Forgive me if I suspect that you prefer becoming a lawyer (and your possible husband-to-be prefers your being a lawyer) instead of a mother and wife because the former confers status and money. These may really appeal to your feminine, social side more than what you describe as your masculine, rational side. The legal profession certainly does not come with intellectual freedom. A lawyer has much less intellectual freedom than a housewife, who is free to think for the sake of thinking.
Finally, you say that you were content as an only child. I don’t doubt it, but most children are social and traditional in their instincts. They like being part of an extended family. Perhaps you can give your grandchildren the possibility of many cousins to fight with and cherish.
Feminine sensitivity and self-denial can be overwhelmingly powerful forces for good and are attributes greatly worth cultivating. But it will be an uphill battle for you to discover your inner woman given all the various interests — including one Top Ten law school and the selfishness of some men —- pitted against her. Remember also that you have obligations to the legal profession itself and, if you are rationally inclined, should consider what is ultimately best for it.
You will need God’s help to avoid the shallow alternative that awaits you. I wish you the best.
—– Comments —
Although I have been reading this unique blog regularly for at least several months, Inez’ submission is the first that has inspired me to comment, and this because I am also a woman in her early twenties and agree with so much that she has said. Like her I believe that “the principles you articulate about masculinity and femininity are true across large numbers of people” and I also disagree with many of the core beliefs and objectives of current feminism.
However, as a relatively masculine woman myself, I have to disagree with your assertion that a relatively masculine woman cannot be a proper mother. Men and women, being instances and not abstractions, can never be absolutely distinct. There is no greater truth to the significant differences between men and women than there is to our significant likeness. We are both alike and unalike, and both our differences and our likeness are necessary to the fulfillment of our human potential and destiny. There is no perfect degree of likeness and difference, nor is it possible to eliminate one or the other, and we can expect that each couple specifically and each society generally will have a certain degree of gender distinction between men and women. All mothers have been at least somewhat masculine, and it is not the masculinity of women that is a threat to their children so much as their mothers’ moral character or lack thereof. I do not deny, however, that femininity is fundamental to motherhood, but I question whether a woman like Inez has necessarily fallen below some hypothetical minimum degree of femininity necessary to be a good mother.
As a young American member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I have had multiple examples of somewhat more egalitarian marriages that do not ignore the important general differences between men and women. Our leaders encourage general and relative adherence to traditional gender roles in accordance with the general differences between men and women, but do not prohibit and even encourage some sharing of responsibilities. They also encourage young men and women who have the opportunity to seek higher education and vocational training. Naturally it is next to impossible to encourage women to develop talents and interest in various specializations within society but then expect that they will not want to act on these interests and use these talents.
My Mormon friend is an accountant with young children whose husband is an IT guy. Because her children are young she works part-time mostly from home for a few local businesses. She is also getting her master’s degree one class at a time. She has not completely given up her participation in the external sphere, but because she is a mother with young children she has reduced her extra-familial commitments. A Mormon co-worker of mine works two days a week for eight or nine hours a day at our office. Her husband has a job that allows him to work full-time hours in two days each week. Because they work on different days, when one of them is working the other can be with their children, and they have the same three days off together every week. Obviously there could be little reasonable objection to this arrangement: they are better able to pay their bills, they each get to spend plenty of time with their kids and they have plenty of time with each other to keep their marriage strong. (It goes without saying, however, that in our community there are plenty of women who do not work while their children are small.)
In other words, I’m not inclined to criticize Inez for her atypical degree of masculinity nor for her accomplishment of getting into a top law school, something for which instead I admire her. I agree that her femininity is of “paramount importance”, but I would argue that it is not necessarily much more so than her masculinity, entirely without which no human being exists.
I’m afraid you have misread some of what I wrote. You write:
However, as a relatively masculine woman myself, I have to disagree with your assertion that a relatively masculine woman cannot be a proper mother.
That’s not what I said. I said that a woman lacking in emotional sensitivity who does not value motherliness will deprive her children of the motherly qualities they need. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with a women who likes to shoot a gun or a one who enjoys athletics or a woman who has an intense interest and expertise in legal matters. All these interests do not in themselves make for a bad mother, or even what I would call a masculine woman. But a woman who feels that these interests and inclinations absolve her of the obligation to nurture and care for her husband and children is guilty of neglect. Some women are not naturally domestic or naturally affectionate, and many women are thwarted in these areas, but basic qualities of care and nurturance can be cultivated.
In your further comments about the the individuality of men and women, you suggest that I have said that we fit like cardboard cut-outs into these broad categories. In other words, it is not possible to make generalizations about men and women, and their respective tendencies and obligations, without denying their individuality. I disagree. We must differentiate the sexes because they are very different and have very different aptitudes and responsibilities. We don’t need to erect iron walls between the masculine and feminine spheres, and honestly I think it goes without saying that men and women share many things in common, but social harmony depends on some broadly different expectations of each sex.
All mothers have been at least somewhat masculine, and it is not the masculinity of women that is a threat to their children so much as their mothers’ moral character or lack thereof.
I’m not sure what point of mine you are refuting. Are you suggesting that intelligence is a masculine quality or having an aptitude in mechanical household matters such as carpentry is a masculine quality? Are you saying that I disapprove of women doing intellectual work or carpentry? I have never made such points. Again, my concern was with Inez’s feminine obligations, which do not change however masculine she may be or whatever her interests are. There are all kinds of mothers and all kinds of wives, with many different temperaments, personalities and talents. Some are more extroverted; others are introverts. Some have intellectual interests; others are artsy or good at organizational work. But all have duties as wives and mothers, and can fulfill these while also finding outlets for their interests.
When I referred to an egalitarian marriage, I did not mean a marriage where men and women help each other out in their respective work. Many men chip in with the housework or childcare and there are many ways women can earn extra money without being full-blown careerists. An egalitarian marriage, on the other hand, is one in which equality in these areas is stressed, so that there is little or no division of labor. In an egalitarian marriage, the man and woman do not have their distinct and separate spheres.
In other words, I’m not inclined to criticize Inez for her atypical degree of masculinity nor for her accomplishment of getting into a top law school, something for which instead I admire her.
Did I criticize Inez for being in law school or for the simple fact that she enjoys it?