Making the Best of a Women’s World
Davd, May, 2011
I began reading adult writing—not erotic nor pornographic but written with a full-size vocabulary, on serious topics in newspapers, popular magazines and library books—in the 1950s, when men in North America and most of Europe were the main “breadwinners” and married women usually stayed home, “kept house”, and raised children. I began reading general rather than juvenile texts well before puberty; so i have thought about these texts before eros had any significant part in my thinking. Starting a few years after puberty, i thought about them with a sociological background; which includes asking what patterns of gender difference, then, now, and in the transition years from 1970-2000, are based on genetic differences between men and women, and what patterns are “socially learned”. Comparing the years 1950-70, when gender roles were different and balanced, with today’s “Women’s World”, can lead to some different, and in today’s situation better, strategies and tactics for modern men. (I do not assume my readers are all Christian just because i am; and indeed some of the advice below would not be given to serious Christians.)
Fifty years ago, give-or-take ten—say, from 1950 to 1970—the world of academic, factory, management, and research work was mostly a men’s world; and the world of city and suburban family homes was mostly a women’s world. Boys were encouraged to learn a trade or profession so they could support a family “well”; girls were encouraged to learn cooking, sewing, and household management. Some female peculiarities, such as pre-menstrual “crabbiness” and greater shows of emotional feelings, were treated as pathological by a few men and as evidence of male superiority for disciplined work, by many more. To some extent, women were allowed more latitude than men: They were not expected to be as rigorously truthful, for instance; they were allowed to assault men with their hands while men were forbidden even to hit back1; and women drivers were expected and usually allowed, to drive more idiosyncratically.
Our marriage laws “back then”, fitted the usual social “roles” of most men and women. Today, women’s prerogatives and privileges in marriage are still-there, with one major exception: Women cannot expect lifetime personal support from ex-husbands any more, if able to work for a living; but they still have preference for child custody, and can expect to be paid child support until the children reach the age of adult “majority”. Women’s obligations in marriage—fidelity, housekeeping, and lifetime commitment—are largely gone. This makes marriage, in the old pattern where a man chose a wife, married her, and supported her while she raised their children—a far poorer choice for men than it was under the old rules. Even the two-job marriage is a disadvantaged situation for the man2.
Today, girls are encouraged to learn trades and professions and boys aren’t encouraged much at all in school—unless, perhaps, they are good at sports or music. Schools [Kindergarten to Grade 12] are “female territory” and boys’ different psychology—especially, a greater need to be active and a lesser ability to tolerate sitting still for hours—are treated as pathological and often “treated” with drugs. This amounts to treating male gender as pathological. Some Feminist ideologues seem to believe that it is.
As CBC Moncton radio morning show host Dave MacDonald observed in 2010, the pictures of graduating classes in law schools showed mostly young men in the 1960s; and mostly young women in 2000-2010. The situation in medicine is not much different3: A man looking for a male physician today is likely to be disappointed; there are still many male physicians, but they tend to be older and their practices tend to be full—they aren’t taking many new patients. University faculties are gradually becoming mostly female; engineering still has a large male presence but not the huge male predominance it had “back then”.
In 1950-1970, marriage promises—which were worded “for life”—were legally respected. Divorce was granted for grievous fault—mostly, sexual infidelity, cruelty, or fraud. Because men were usually the “breadwinners”, women who won divorces for those faults were usually granted support; and because women were usually the child-rearers, they were usually granted custody of the children—but in cases where the grievous fault was hers rather than his, a father might win custody if he sought it.
Today, that picture of marriage is obsolete in Canadian law. Women are able to obtain divorces, custody of children, and support orders, without the husband having done anything wrong. (Equally at-variance from the situation in 1950-1970, women today are able to obtain abortions with neither the sire’s consent nor any proof that carrying the pregnancy to term would be unhealthy for them.)
Equally obsolete is the notion that men have an economic advantage. When men earn more pay, it’s because they do more hours, dirtier jobs, or more-hazardous work (or among older men especially, because of seniority, a principle that labour unions brought in to prevent exploitative discrimination. Among older workers, the men are more likely to have been longer on the job; this isn’t especially true among younger urban workers.) Among single urban young adults, with comparable hours of work, the women earn more.
There are some kinds of work for which men’s bodies are more suited. They tend to feature
large-muscle strength and grace (while women tend to do better at work calling for small-muscle dexterity, such as assembling small parts into products, and embroidery.) Farming, forest restoration, and ecologically sensitive hand-labour fishing all feature this kind of work—and Canada especially, but the “developed world” generally, need more of these workers—and less of the ecologically damaging heavy machinery that anyone can drive. Men’s work can be more valuable than machine “alternatives”, and we need more of it, but even if there come to be more such jobs and they are paid very well, it’s a bright spot in a largely dark scene.
In job and educational comparisons today, men are the disadvantaged among the under-30’s; and it is among the young that we see the present situation most clearly. Picture the situation twenty or thirty years hence, when today’s new professionals are leaders and today’s leaders have retired, when today’s schoolgirls are new professionals and today’s university students are faculty and mid-career professionals. The demographics of a world where men are pervasively and visibly inferior in the best careers, and no longer merely among the young, are already to be foreseen between Grade 1 and age 35. Demographic projection is more valid than treating pay differences whose origins go back before 1965 as indicating present [dis]advantages.
A conventional man’s life strategy from 1955-65 isn’t valid for most men today. Indeed, if we
look at the educational and legal disadvantages we face today and pretend they were based on race rather than gender, we’d be entitled to say we need a Civil Rights Movement.
If you’re a man in this Feminist society, you don’t have many of the opportunities that men had back in 1950—and that many men lost tragically in the transition years4. You can’t marry a promising young woman and confidently rely on the law or the culture to help her keep those lifetime promises. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t; definitely, she doesn’t have to. You can’t start out as the father of a new-born baby boy5 and confidently plan on seeing him through childhood to maturity (and then see him become the father of your grandchildren).6
You may have some opportunities that you haven’t noticed, though, especially if you are still thinking in terms of taking on responsibilities fitted to a time when men were most of the lifelong job-holders and a majority of women “stayed home”. Where your opportunities are more to cut losses than to enjoy new benefits that men 50 years ago seldom or never enjoyed, that’s still a reduction in suffering—and in some situations, you can do much better than merely suffering less.
For instance, you can choose work you enjoy, and-or you can choose to work less, if you don’t need to support a wife; and most women worth marrying today can probably support their men as well as, or better than, the men can support them7. That’s what “women’s advantage” means. You can ease-up on or just plain reject, any notion that you have to do work you don’t like, to accumulate property. You can re-think marriage—whether you marry, and on what terms you might marry if you do.
You can stop “being Nice” to please women. You can stop striving after sex—if you’re really sexy, women with money and no husbands can come striving after you. (You might even get paid for your sexiness.) If you don’t have an intense sex-drive, you might enjoy a few hours fishing, a few frames of bowling, or a barbecue with a few buddies, more than a “date”. And finally, you can be a father in action, enjoying the admiration of boys and occasionally girls and enjoying their growing-up—probably without the diaper years, though.
Let’s start with work: Many men might be wise to make different work and educational choices than men usually made under the old rules. We might be wise to worry much less about making money and care more about enjoying our work. Women can divorce wealthy men, or even live with them for a few years and then sue them, and get money based on their incomes and “net worth”. So don’t make big money! Let the women make the big money, pay the big taxes, and suffer the big stress when inflation and financial chaos take most of the money’s value.
We might be wise to hold property differently. If Sam owns a house, and he marries Eleanor and moves her into it, she can divorce him and get half its value. If Sam is a member of a co-operative that owns a row of houses, and he marries Eleanor and moves her into one of them, she can still divorce him—but she’s not divorcing the co-operative, and the house belongs to the co-operative, not to Sam. As the occupant who was there first, he will normally be the one who stays in a “one of us is leaving” situation. (The co-operative could imaginably choose to let Eleanor stay in the house and tell Sam to move—if she has become a member, and he has become a jerk—but Sam still has his membership; and if he hasn’t become such an awful jerk as to be voted out of it, he can expect to get housing from the co-operative, somewhere else.) As an owner, Sam loses tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars; as a co-op member, he loses nothing, or at most he “loses” the cost of moving.
We might be wise to design man-friendly marriage contracts and not agree to marry without one.8 (For the men who “do it” without marrying, we might be wise to design terms-of-copulation contracts, that specifically rule out child support payments by men who do not live with the children they support. In a generation whose women most often married and “stayed home”, refusal of support would have been “dastardly”. In a generation whose women most often earn more than their sexual partners, demanding support of men who are not fathers and might not even be sires9, is exploitation—or in a slogan from the American Revolution, “taxation without representation is tyranny.”)
We might be wise to stop trying to please women unless doing the things that please them is really fun in its own right. If Jane wants to go to the opera or the antique show and Dick wants to go to the hockey game or a barbecue, then let Jane go to the antique show with her mother and the opera with her friend Lillian. If Sally wants Bill to wear a necktie and Bill doesn’t like them, then either Sally offers Bill something—something other than sex, that Bill values enough to be persuaded—in return for wearing that silly thing; or Bill wears what he likes to wear. And interestingly enough, Jane and Sally are likely to find Dick and Bill more sexually and personally appealing as themselves, than when they go along with what the ladies like. Being Nice doesn’t really work very well.
We might be wise to give sex a much less important place in our lives. I’m not saying sex is usually unpleasant. I’m not even pushing a case for abstinence—though for many men, less than a majority perhaps but well more than a tenth, abstinence isn’t a big suffering. Many, many men don’t feel stressed if they go a month or a year without coitus or even without kissing. In fact, my best estimate is that more men over thirty-something feel a need to seek sex as a status symbol than feel a need to seek sex because they’re so “horny”… and the experts’ best estimates say that sex with more than one “partner”, is not epidemiologically safe.
I am saying that we should not make sex—not even kissing and fondling, much less coitus—something we will work hard for, “be Nice” for, or pay for… and if we marry for sex, it should mean monogamy and fathering children with a guarantee that 2011 Canadian law does not give, that we will have them in our households until they grow up and go voluntarily off on their own10. It should mean traditional marriage in the “Abrahamic” tradition that Christians, Jews, and Muslims share.
Fifty years ago, men courted women and competed for the most desirable wives; then they supported those wives while the wives kept house and reared children. Men were the breadwinners; women the consumers. Today, women have the educational and professional advantages; and if marriage role “differentiation” reflected relative educational and job success, there would be more husbands keeping house than wives, at least under age 40-45 somewhere. (There would still be proportionately fewer husbands keeping house now, than wives keeping house fifty years ago—because marriage is not legally durable, and proportionately fewer people are married than “back then”, as well as because a larger proportion of men work fulltime today than of women in the early 1960s.)
Maybe marriage just hasn’t caught up with legal and educational changes. Maybe marriage role “differentiation” should reflect relative educational and job success. Maybe women should be competing for the most desirable husbands—and the most desirable men should be demanding man-friendly marriage contracts, while those less sought after should be living in co-operative households with men friends rather than marrying11.
Maybe men should look at some non-married sexual arrangements from the past. If you are a good-looking and-or well-educated man and enjoy “sex”, in a world where women average more-educated and better-paid, you may be able to get a plain-looking, capable woman to
support you in return for cooking, housework, and sexual pleasure—to “keep” you. Women vary greatly as to how much and what kind of sexual activity they want—just as men do—so you should “shop around” for one whose likings match yours… and if you and she don’t marry, perhaps you should negotiate a pension provision in your cohabitation contract.
Men might even look at some non-married sexual arrangements from agriculture! When a top-rated bull, dog, ram, or stallion sires an offspring, and doesn’t go on to father it—which bulls, rams, and stallions, and most dogs, don’t—a stud fee is payable. It goes to the animal’s owner, not the animal—but we’re men. We own ourselves (unless we have married unwisely, perhaps). So when we design some terms-of-copulation contracts, in these days when women “own” their children, we might include a stud-fee clause. A woman who has signed an agreement to pay a stud fee, is going to have a challenge suing for child support!
Do stud fee contracts rule out fathering? No—the idea is they rule out paying child support without fathering. One can always negotiate to revise or replace a contract if the other party is willing.
Ironically perhaps, it may be easier, during these warped years we call the present, to father children if one did not sire them—because of a Feminist sense of conflict with men; because of the excessive prevalence of bitterness in marriages, especially urban marriages; because ex-wives are often too proud to admit they have made a mistake or even done something wrongful by leaving a marriage. More women seem to want a man to help raise their school-age children, than want to go back to their former husbands. Since marriage and divorce today are biased against men, and since we’ve noticed all our lives that many girls [and women] tend to be bossy with males they are close to—and since the bossy ones are probably more likely to divorce than the more egalitarian women—i’m not recommending anyone marry a woman just so he can enjoy step-fathering her children!
I’m recommending men’s institutions to help “mentor” boys through middle-childhood, adolescence, and early manhood. Some exist, of which the Boy Scouts were the classic example back in the 1950s. The Boy Scouts should still have an important place—and more men’s institutions should come into being: Men are diverse, boys are diverse, and the arrangements that link them should be correspondingly diverse. Anthropology provides very many examples; history, several.
If you’re a man who likes boys, you’re needed by thousands, indeed millions of fatherless boys—whose sires never got to be their fathers. There’s a stepfather shortage; and there’s a grandfather shortage. Researchers are discovering that fathers and grandfathers have a lot of value—but that isn’t stopping millions of selfish women from shutting them out from their children’s lives.
On this last point, i’m going to show my Christian attitude: It’s best to father your own children, because those genetic commonalities do make you more compatible with them than with children “drawn randomly”; but it is not the only fathering possible and it is not the only fathering you can deeply enjoy. Why do so many men who are not child-abusers, so enjoy being coaches, Scoutmasters, even teachers in those effeminate bureaucracies called public school systems? Because fathering is part of human nature—we enjoy it because we are men; and boys enjoy our mentoring because they are boys.12 Apprenticeship is the most natural form of education; and arguably, the most efficient. Before the Industrial Revolution, a majority of apprenticeships were between kin: Father-and-son, uncle-and-nephew, occasionally grandfather and grandson. (By tradition, Jesus Christ was St. Joseph’s apprentice. The best farmer i know locally, and the only one left farming full-time in his village, was his farmer-grandfather’s apprentice.)
So yes, we should love our children, even prefer them, when traditional marriage facilitates that and whenever we win custody. But as Christ and Muhammad both taught, all men of true faith are brothers; and from that follows genealogically, that all boys are to be treated as our nephews who are not known to be our sons. Our human nature comes from a long history of hunting and gathering; and men hunted mostly in teams13. Co-operation is built more solidly into men’s than women’s natures, because we were the hunters; but we are the learning species, and our co-operation is not done by mere instinct; it is learned by apprenticeship. (In today’s man-hating legal environment, perhaps especially in Canada, there is another good reason for team-mentoring. We can attest for one another that we’re not perverts.)
Christianity also teaches that life is not fair; that in this wicked world, we don’t usually get what we deserve. A few get too much, many more get too little. Sociology teaches us that people don’t always agree as to what is fair—that most people think they deserve more than others think they do, or in Robert Merton’s famous quotation of folklore, “I am firm, you are obstinate, she is pig-headed”14. It may be an oversimplification to write that some mean-spirited women, who didn’t get what they thought they deserved, resolved to “get even” by abusing men; but i have heard more than one Feminist say just that, in fancier words15.
Sometimes men will be the victims of such abuse; and sometimes we will not be able to get close to fair treatment. That women abuse us, need not make us abuse one another; it need not make us neglect the men and boys we can help, our brothers and nephews in spirit. The more we persist in the manly virtues, the shorter the dark years will be, and the more human will be the next generation of men.
1This gender inequality persists today. 50-60 years ago, (and apparently, long before then) my boyhood playmates and i would occasionally get kicked-in-the-shins, hard, by a girl who then danced away chanting “Can’t hit a gir-rul, can’t hit a gir-rul”. Most parents discouraged their daughters from this kind of aggression (some mothers seemed to believe that kicking was a legitimate way for girls to respond to merely verbal insults); but boys who fought-back after being attacked were generally punished more harshly than girls who attacked. The double standard of childhood verbal insulting was less clear, but again, favoured girls.
2Instead of Christian and Jewish men opposing Muslim men’s desire for Sharia law, maybe we should be negotiating with those Muslims for an “Abrahamic alliance” that promotes the elements Sharia shares with our own faiths.
3Around 1990, twenty years ago now, a Finnish physician told me that the medical school student body at Helsinki University, the most prestigious university in that country, was two-thirds female: Two women for every man. It’s a mistake to think Canada is broadly more female-advantaged than other industrialized states, though in some ways the United States is less a woman’s world than Canada.
6There is an almost-eerie similarity between the disadvantages and especially the marital instability urban Canadian men face today, and those bewailed in “the Moynihan report” which the US Government published in the 1960s.
7Farming and fishing are exceptions to this general rule; they demand hard manual work. Rural life is generally more man-friendly because more hard work, demanding hand-eye coordination and large-muscle dexterity, is involved; and much of the ecological restoration work that the earth needs is more like farming and fishing than like factory work [which is far easier to automate] or office work [which demands little strength and much sitting still]. The topic may deserve to be treated in a separate text.
8It seems likely that more than one standard man-friendly marriage contracts will be written, to reflect the interests of different faiths, ethnic groups, rural vs. urban living, etc. Most men, once even half-a-dozen standard contracts are available to choose from, should be able to use a standard contract which has a history of legal success, rather than pay for the expensive job of designing and wording a new one.
10”unless and until” is more accurate: In rural farm families, and some trade and business families, there may be children who never leave the house where they were babies, but stay and rear their own children in the same house. This has been called the “stem family”, and the classic type examples were described from Québec.
11Such arrangements are normal today and have been for decades and even centuries: Monasteries could be described as co-operative households of men friends, by social scientists who chose not to emphasize the religious rituals that distinguish them. University students often live in such arrangements, usually renting rather than owning the dwelling. What i write above, is that this well-known social pattern could be one normal way for adult men to live, who are neither monks nor students.
13Try hunting a mammoth or even a bison or moose, without a gun, and you’ll see the value of teamwork! Those ancestors of ours were tough!—and they were brothers-in-arms every time they went out for big game.