"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, January 28, 2019

Toxic Femininity–Oops, Of Course There Is No Such Thing

Hadley Barker had been brought up in a traditional old school family – disciplinarian father, warm caring mother, church, school, and civic activities.  His father was strict but never abusive.  His mother caring and compassionate but never servile.  Male and female roles were well-established, complementary, and very well-balanced.   It was a man’s world in the sense that George Barker brought home the paycheck, and that Helen Barker had few professional opportunities outside the home; but it was a woman’s world because in addition to serving her husband breakfast, lunch, and dinner, she was as liberated as any woman many years later.  She was not only a sexual libertine but a savvy manager, ahead of her time.  She understood risk, transparency and creative evasion, contractual obligations and legal evasions, and time management.  Her dalliances with the most attractive and seductive men of New Brighton were many and she accommodated and managed them well.  Her husband had no idea of her sexual adventurism, her lovers had been chosen for their equally savvy ability to negotiate the town’s moral code, comings and goings, and best offerings. 

While her husband worked a nine-hour day at the office and the children were in school, Helen Barker did what was expected of her in American society.  She took stock of her beauty, allure, intelligence, intellect, and savvy; reviewed her options, and made the best possible choices within a carefully-calculated calculus of risk.

She never simply bedded a man, any man; but selected carefully from among the crème de la crème of Central Connecticut – Yale professors, Hartford insurance executives, and the Farmington well-to-do.  Her world, far from circumscribed was open, interesting, and challenging.  She never gave a second thought to working for a living, making her way up the corporate ladder, or becoming an entrepreneur.  She was quite happy as she was, content with her modest authority in her own family and her exciting social liberty.

There was nothing particularly new about Helen Barker if one considered the past.  Volumes of history, drama, and fiction are filled with stories of capable women, supposedly under a patriarchal yoke, who managed to influence husbands, lovers, and the course of contemporary events.  One has only to look at Shakespeare for tales of strong, determined, able women who never sought to change the social order but to work satisfactorily within it.  Shakespeare’s most attractive heroines are canny, devious, and manipulative.  Patriarchy, male autocracy, and male preference meant nothing to them.  Volumnia, the mother of Coriolanus, knew how precisely to manipulate her son and the powers around him to suit her own ends.  Goneril and Regan never gave their weak husbands a second thought while sending their father, King Lear, off to the heath with nothing and as nothing as ‘a bare forked animal’.  Nothing was out of bounds for Dionyza who attempted child murder to rid her daughter of any competitors.  Tamora mutilated the daughter of Titus Andronicus in her unholy rise to power. 

Image result for images goneril and regan

More restrained but equally powerful women such as Margaret of Anjou and Katherine of Aragon and Cleopatra were able to maneuver and manipulate the men around them to further their own political and social ambitions.  They gave nary a thought to the confining and supposedly abusive male dominions in which they lived.  Fighting, obstructing, and confronting the established order made no sense, especially when men were not so strong as they themselves assumed.  Shakespeare’s other heroines like Rosalind, Viola, Kate, Imogen, and Portia played with, laughed at, and bested the men in their lives.  They may not have had the same impact on history as their Tragic sisters, but they showed men for the less-than-able characters they knew they were.

Image result for images margaret of anjou

The best plays of Ibsen and Strindberg were about strong women who were beyond the traditional morality of their age and plotted to realize their ambitious by working it, stretching it, and using it to their advantage.  Laura in Strindberg’s The Father emasculates her husband in order to gain control over their daughter.  Hedda Gabler is a true Vedic destroyer without guilt or remorse.  Miss Julie, a product of Victorian society but never content with it, stretches the boundaries of social hierarchy, understands the fundamental nature of sexuality and sexual ambition, and governs Jean, the valet.

Image result for images hedda gabler

Women with less natural talent, ability, will, or ambition feel obligated to take on what they see as white male privilege.  ‘Angry feminism’ is a term which has social media life.  Looked at from a doctrinaire feminist perspective, anger is absolutely necessary when confronting the sexual, emotional, physical, and mental abuse to which women have been subjected for centuries.  Anger is the fuel for political activism, the sine qua non of unconditional protest.  The problem of male patriarchy and ‘toxic masculinity’ is so deeply-rooted in American society that only anger, hostility, and aggression can it possibly be addressed.  Men, set in their ways, content with their received authority and social position, will never respond to anything but aggression.

Looked at from a more historical and sociological perspective, such anger is a waste of energy.  A look at any social milieu – whether family, community, advocacy group, political party, or representative government – shows that canniness, deviousness, manipulation, and insidiousness work far better than shouting.  Women have always gotten what they wanted from their husbands; and every politician, businessman, and financier are no different.  Yet to do so requires supreme confidence and amorality.  One cannot succeed in modern society as Jesus Christ, only as Machiavelli.  If they don’t achieve their ends, then they have not sufficiently understood the nature of the opposition and the human vanity, arrogance, and presumptuousness which drives all men and women.

Image result for images machiavelli

Which leads us to toxic femininity.  The caricature of women in the past has been harsh indeed; but why have women been so insistent on taking their pound of flesh, hectoring the disappointing  men they have married?  Why have they stayed married despite all signs that point to dissolution and preferred to nag, irritate, and badger instead?

Successful modern day women have either acquired enough financial capital to leave a bad marriage; or have, like Shakespeare’s heroines, figured out how to get the best out of their husbands and their marriages to satisfy their needs.  The less successful revert to caricature

A confounding factor in all this is feminism itself.  On the one hand women are asserting their absolute strength, authority, ability, and independence; but on the other are demanding safe spaces, neutered men, congenial and protective institutional environments, limited free speech and civil rights.  What is a woman to do?  Which is she?  Strong, competent, and independent; able to negotiate the world of men easily and quickly? Or dependent, still needing shelter and accommodation?

In addition women are taught as part of the ‘male toxicity’ canon that men’s natural, biological, sexual drives – aggressive, demanding, persistent, simple, and undeniable – are wrong, retrograde, and destructive.   There is something wrong and suspicious about male pursuit.  Yet millennia of human history demonstrate just the opposite.  Human evolution has depended on male aggression, competitiveness, and pursuit.  While there is no doubt that such masculinity can have its excesses – the bell curve describes all human activity and ability – there is no reason to deny its reality or its legitimate place in modern society.

Therefore most women are caught betwixt and between.  They settle for bad marriages, bad jobs, and bad children and instead of doing something, complain, rage, nag, and harp and become as toxic in their own way as their wandering, dismissive, wandering husbands.  In being taught that the system itself is the enemy and that only by destroying it and remaking it in women’s image can women ever find reward, women have been sold a bill of goods.  Women need no institutional support, no self-interested twisting of legal codes, and no patrons.  True equality can only be achieved by asserting one’s moral authority, intelligence, and individual will.  In being taught that evolutionary biology is wrong, women have been further deceived.  Rather than dealing with biological difference – as Shakespeare’s daunting heroines did – women are instructed to deny it.  Certainly no good can come of that.

The war between the sexes, as hot as it has ever been, will cool down for sure.  Its anger, suspicion, and hostility is more a product of today’s identity politics, the politics of grievance and victimhood than it is any fundamental issue.  This era of over-sensitivity, inclusivity, and group identity will eventually wither and die.  Who knows what will come next, but one hopes at least some return to sexual reality, confidence, will, and individuality.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.