In response to a note by bluewavedruid, which you can read here:
which was a response to a note of mine, which you can read here:
I present a further response.
Blue: Your economic interpretation of the case of why young girls will eschew feminist values and deliberately conform to patriarchal values is interesting indeed. I like it. I wonder if there is something equally economic, and just as much a problem, operating in the male mind. For on that economic way of thinking, in which everyone is seeking to maximise their prospects for self-preservation, men presumably find that women are a resource too. A man needs a handsome woman on his arm in order to get the good jobs, the admiration of other men, the sex, the household services, the male child who will carry on the name, and so on.
For instance, a certain number of my male students, in every class I teach, say that the reason they want children some day is because kids can provide a kind of surrogate immortality. They will carry his name and his genetic heritage into the future. He needs a woman in his life for that – and, presumably, a woman who will not object to this kind of reasoning.
Knowing this, the male does the things which he thinks will attract the kind of woman who would be able to supply these things in a satisfactory way. Yet he also knows that there are millions of other men competing with him for the same ‘resource’. So he must also do the things which he thinks will fend off the other men. And he also knows, or thinks he knows, that what women are looking for in a man is someone who, as Blue put it, will “take care of her, provide for her, and physically protect her”. So he has to demonstrate that he can be that kind of man.
Qualities of humanity, such as compassion, empathy, prudence, and even to some extent self-possession and self-awareness, are ruled out by this strategy. The men think that women don’t want a sappy, emotionally aware, touchy-feely kind of guy, because they think that such an emotionally aware man would not be an effective provider and protector.
Qualities of reason and rationality are also ruled out. The men think that women don’t want a guy who is thoughtful, knowledgeable, well-read, world-wise, imaginative or artistically creative, spiritual, or intellectually curious. Again, such a guy is less likely to be an effective material provider and protector. Only once in a rare while does a mild-mannered bookish male become an alpha-male by reason of his intellectual powers alone. Arthur Miller attracted Marilyn Monroe that way – but that’s the only example I can think of right now.
The qualities that will help the man get the girl are the qualities of animal competitiveness, such as aggression, territoriality, bullishness, self-centredness, dominance, pride, spite, and possessiveness. These are the ways he can demonstrate to prospective women (of the sort Blue described) that he is a better material provider and protector than other men. Our economy is arranged in such a way that those competitive qualities are positively rewarded: competitive men get more money, prestige, attention, and power. And they are better able to attract the girls who want a protecter / provider.
Yet this also creates a generation of alpha-males who don’t know how to relate to women properly. Nor are these men able to relate to each other very well. The qualities of animal competitiveness excaberates sources of conflict and tension. It leaves people feeling paranoid and always on alert. And then it leaves men wondering why “their” women leave them after a few years.
And leave them the women often do. For the women who think that they want a provider / protector also want to be respected for themselves: they want their personhood acknowledged, their thoughts and feelings valued. Certain non-economic desires and needs always sneak their way in to people’s minds, after all. This is true even of girls who, in the effort to attract a protector / provider male, conform themselves to patriarchal values, as Blue suggests they may do.
The result is this: the girls who try and attract and keep the male by means of presenting themselves as flag-bearers of patriarchal values end up attracting the kind of male who is intellectually and emotionally unable to acknowledge a woman’s personhood or respect her thoughts and feelings. After all, the qualities of male animal-competition render the male unable to acknowledge even his own feelings, let alone those of “his” women. So, the women find themselves having to decide whether they can put up with the situation in order to keep their protector / provider, or whether they can “trade up” and find a better protector / provider who can respect them too. Or, they may decide to go it alone. And take their kids with them. And, on the recommendation of their divorce lawyer, take a big slice of his income too. After all, on this economic strategy for self-preservation, it pays women to be animal-competitors too.
This is what philosophers sometimes call a Hobbsean Trap, or a Prisoner’s Dilemma. This is what happens when people in some situation, who are not communicating with each other properly, all pursue what they think is in their own best interest vis-a-vis the other. Yet they end up with a situation which is bad for everyone, or which leaves everyone worse off, or which no one really wanted.
Bren’s Subconscious: Aha! That is the reason why you have no girlfriend, B. You’re not sufficiently aggressive, territorial, and domineering. Women want a warrior, not a nerd. That, and the fact that your Ph.D. hasn’t netted you the job with the six-digit income.
Most of Bren’s ex-girlfriends: Er – no. We liked Bren because he had more than half a brain in his head.
Bren: And I’m thankful for that.
There are a few women in the world who want a man who can think for himself, who respects “his” women, and who isn’t a bully. There are a few men in the world who want to attract an intelligent, self-aware woman who won’t sell out her social values to attract an alpha-male. These people tend to emerge when someone bravely refuses to abide by the self-refuting rules of the Prisoner’s Dilemma.
Hmmm. I think I see a chapter in my next book being written right in front of me. I better go and get writing.
My thanks to Bluewave for starting this conversation.