The Patriarchy is Bad for Everyone

Men are animals, and women are the only thing keeping them from raw, bestial fury. Contrawise, without men's creative genius, we'd still be living in caves.

If that sounds particularly insane, you obviously aren't a writer for National Review Online, where a discussion of sorts has broken out over which gender is the most important. As usually happens, the discussion is filled with broad generalizations, stereotypes, and bad assumptions. And as usual, the discussion is an object lesson in why the patriarchy is bad for everyone.

The topic was kicked off by a rollicking discussion of the difficulties men face with abortion. No, really. If you really want to scroll down, go ahead. But things really got cooking with this post by Yuval (I am not drummer Yuval Gabay) Levin, who, commenting on who is the moral and spiritual leader of the home, says:

Men are animals, but women don't like animals, so men behave. That's roughly my definition of civilization.
So there you go. Men are beasts. Subhuman. We have no moral or emotional control, and the only thing keeping us from murdering each other is that we like sex, and women make us be nice to each other in order to give us some.

Andrew Stuttaford responds with a mostly reasonable post (don't worry, he'll revert to form later), so Levin extends his remarks:
The taming of men, and especially the task of getting men to stay with women and help raise and rear children, is surely among the most essential challenges every society faces, and a great many of our (and every civilization’s) social institutions are designed to help make that happen, the family first and foremost.
Get that, everyone? Hey, men, you know how you thought you loved your daughters and sons, and actually wanted to spend time with them? Sorry, it's just society forcing you to spend time with the urchins. If you lived in a state of nature, you'd abandon the kids like a decent male.

So how do we keep the men down in the marriage? By bribing them with titles:
This has often been done by giving men a stake in staying and civilizing—especially by giving them some rewards of status or authority in return for good behavior. That, I would argue, is one reason for the Christian granting of the title of “moral and spiritual leader” to the man of the house (which started this whole discussion), even though the woman of the house is more likely to be providing children with moral education and making sure the family goes to church on Sunday. Jewish practice, with which I’m more familiar, is also full of this kind of stroking of male egos. A Jewish prayer service requires the presence of at least ten men, rather than ten people, and while the Rabbis have given all sorts of reasons for this through the years, it has always seemed to me that the basic reason is that otherwise (as Reform Judaism has found) only women would go to the synagogue.
Oh, you thought Levin was only hating on men? Au contraire! You see, we have to keep women subjugated to men in order to elevate subhuman men to the level of superiors, or else men wouldn't go to church, and then you know what would happen! You don't? Well, me neither.

But still, trust Yuval Levin, it would be really, really bad, and so women, you need to remember to always put yourself behind your man, and acede to his every whim, or else he might leave, meaning you wouldn't have that subhuman, beastial man around to help you raise the kids.

So what do men bring? Why, a heapin' helpin' of thumos!

[M]en should be held to the same moral standards as women and made to carry their weight and then some. But men tend to need to be held to these standards by women, whereas women are better at holding themselves to the standard, for reasons that are, among other things, moral and spiritual. It’s also not to say that men bring nothing to the table. They more often bring thumos, not morals, but thumos is essential too. To crush it (with saccharine) is to crush society, as our European cousins are learning. We need both.
Yes, those high-spirited men! We're not much for civilization and feelings and stuff, but we sure like to rassle! And incidentally, when we get in trouble, women, it's your responsibility to keep us in line. 'k?

Andrew Stuttaford comes back with an argument that is wrong the second he writes:

I'll close with a quote from Camille Paglia (someone I'll take over Rousseau any day).

As so often from her, it's wildly over the top, and as often from her, it contains at least a grain of truth:

"If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass huts."
So let's review: women are the only thing keeping men from devolving into a state of nature, but they also wouldn't have invented houses (I'm not sure why, probably on account of their girl brains not being good enough to do math.) Men are beasts, but brilliant, creative beasts who don't love their children and have no morals.

This is how conservatives argue gender in the patriarchy, folks.

Of course, feminists and pro-feminists would argue that ultimately, men and women contain both "masculine" and "feminine" traits. That there are rambunctious, slovenly women and calm, moral men. That there are brilliant, creative women and nurturing, domestic men. That ultimately, it is not for women to civilize men -- for men are no less naturally civilized than women. And it is not for men to provide thumos, because women are no less naturally rambunctious than men.

When we declare that men are beasts who want to roam and leave their children, we not only demean all of the men who love their families, love their children, and are perfectly capable of moral reasoning; we also put the onus on women to civilize men, to enforce the rules of the game, to keep men "in their place." And when a man strays, it is not his fault (any more than a wolf is at fault for killing a deer). It is his wife's fault. His nature is chaotic.

Similarly, when we declare that women are incapable of driving society forward, we not only shortchange the many brilliant women in the world, we also put the onus of innovation on men. We push men who would prefer to stay home out into the workforce. We ensure that men have to work, whether they want to or not, because our society's advancement depends on it, and we can't count on women to do so, because they simply don't have it in them.

In short and as always, the patriarchy hurts both sides. Though it hurts women more (as only a truly twisted system would place men in charge because men are beasts), it hurts men as well. And it's why those of us who work to change the social order of our society do so with no reservations -- because, quite simply, it is an order that is unjust to all but a very few favored individuals. And injustice should not be tolerated.

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