The Despair of Feminism

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

“The relationship between men and women,” writes Megan Fox in her recent book Believe Evidence: The Death of Due Process from Salome to #MeToo, “is a mysterious and beautiful thing. When each is acting within their boundaries, there is no end to the joy that comes from male and female love, familial or romantic.” The weakening of men and the empowerment of women, as “women claw their way to ever increasing power and fix men (especially young, white men), in their crosshairs,” destroy the sexual, romantic and institutional bond between the sexes. Similarly, the common preachment that men should jettison their manhood and become more like women is to distort the gender relationship and introduce a schism into the culture that can lead only to turmoil and unhappiness for both men and women. Male feminist Michael Kimmel ludicrously claims in Angry White Men that “abandoning that sense of masculine entitlement actually enables us to live happier lives.” On the contrary, the upshot is social misery.


“Radical androgyny,” writes Stephen Baskerville in The New Politics of Sex, is the consequence of the effort to control and punish men for their natural sexuality and to deny that “relationships between men and women should be regulated by social conventions that recognize the differences between men and women.” When nature is violated, domestic anarchy becomes the rule, not the exception, the feature, not the bug. This may partly explain why marriage is in decline and the MGTOW movement (Men Going Their Own Way) is gathering momentum.

Feminists have sold their birthright for a messy cottage, and will come increasingly to suffer for it in the coin of regret, loneliness and despair. In The Sickness unto Death, Danish philosopher and master ironist Soren Kierkegaard discussed the source of feminine despair, which he sensed gradually taking hold of the feminine psyche. Women, he felt, were being encouraged to file, so to speak, for self-divorce, to violate their own essential nature, which he understood as the capacity for devotion. “In devotion she loses herself, and only then is happy, only then is she herself…Take this devotion away, then her self is also gone.” “Devotedness” is her essential nature. Kierkegaard, a devout Christian, clearly had Matthew 16:26 in mind: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? The word “man,” of course, is intended generically. 

The concept of “essential nature” may be regarded in more ways than one. It can be considered as a spiritual donation from God or it can be understood as biologically determined—though in either case the possibility and temptation of deviance from the norm is inevitable. It is this swerve or deflection from origins, should it become extreme in the pursuit of unsourced ambitions or desires, that leads to a condition of unhappiness—in men when they forget their commitment to a higher purpose than mere accumulation, in women when they betray their capacity for devotion to another. Today, the concept of “essential nature” is fashionably denounced as a form of “essentialism,” as an attack on human freedom to choose one’s purposes and one’s identity, and as we now see, even one’s gender and racial heritage—in effect, one’s biology. 


Kierkegaard would have been appalled, but he would have understood the cultural distress and spiritual emptiness, the mix of narcissism and nihilism that dominates contemporary society. Men have surrendered their constitutive “portion” of martial valor and loving sacrifice and women have lost their “gift” of fidelity and loving-kindness. The responsibility of recognizing and abiding by essence does not mean that men and women are not free to pursue their personal goals in life or realize their individuality and talents, but that they must be wary of dereliction, of a digression into ideas, ideologies, movements, and passions that turns them into caricatures of themselves.

One recalls Plato’s Symposium, the famous dialogue on the “philosophy of love,” where Socrates introduces us to the legendary prophetess Diotima of Mantinea. According to Socrates, Diotima states that Love (or Eros) is the son of “resource and poverty” and helps us to ascend to the perception of the Divine. In another, little known dialogue, Menexenus, we meet the historical Aspasia, mistress of Pericles and acknowledged as one of the brilliant minds of the time. Contemporary examples of such accomplished women are “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, who rescued a moribund British economy and defended the Falkland Islands against Argentinian invasion, and Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, a loving mother and an exceptional legal mind. These extraordinary women begin in love for kin and country—the “resource” that rescues them from “poverty”—but in gaining power and authority they have not abandoned their essential nature in “devotedness.” 

Modern feminism, however, is determined, as Baskerville argues, “to depict everything pertaining specifically to women as ‘oppression’,” leading to a pervasive resentment that vitiates their “essential nature.” But feminists will have nothing to do with what they see as male condescension in prescribing for women and their behavior. Kierkegaard was a man. Socrates was a man. Baskerville is a man. Therefore, what do they know and who are they to “legislate” for women? Feminism condemns the patriarchal suppression of woman’s presumed inviolability, which, according to the feminist manual, envisions the reduction of women to the status of chattel. Feminism will have no truck with the male celebration of women as partners in the struggle of life. After all, modern feminism is not about love, it is about power. Men who deny that there is a concrete institution known as the Patriarchy intended to crush the female soul means only that they are part of a repressive regime that has normalized violence against women. In the weird, Mobius logic of feminist thinking, denial is tantamount to confession. 


Feminists, of course, have their male allies (known colloquially as “soy boys”; others, candidly speaking, are time-servers, careerists and predators), who now enjoy a substantial degree of cultural ascendancy. Kimmel is especially notorious, claiming in a prodigy of absolute nonsense that men “rarely, if ever, wax rhapsodic about the joys of fatherhood or the loving connections that fathers are capable of having with their children.” Where has this man been living? But he is far from alone in the propagation of prattle and balderdash. “Men need to feel a cold spike of fear when they begin a sexual encounter,” writes Ezra Klein in Vox, advocating the “creat[ion] of a world where men are afraid.” Men need to feel complicit in the exploitation of women’s innocence. They are guilty in their genes. 

Similarly, in the words of professor of Christian Ethics at Bangor Theological Seminary Marvin Ellison, in an article titled “Holding Up Our Half of the Sky” with its unfortunate Maoist echo, “social privilege fosters epistemological blindness and moral insensitivity to oppression.” Privilege involves a pattern of thought and behavior that goes unrecognized, he avers, thus allowing the continued perpetration of violence, bigotry and prejudice. If you admit that you are privileged, that proves your privilege. If you deny that you are privileged, then you also demonstrate that you are. The contradiction is ineluctable. There is only one solution to the dilemma. Privilege must be deconstructed, under feminist guidance. Men must become charter members of the feminist sorority.

I’m afraid the gender dialectic doesn’t work that way, except in theory and in social devastation. I have seen despair in the faces of men who have sold their patrimony to the feminist possession, and despair in the faces of women who have become shrill viragoes for a cause. The deprivileging of men goes hand in hand with what Henry Adams called the “unsexing of women.” As he wrote in The Education of Henry Adams, “The woman’s force had counted as inertia of rotation, and her axis of rotation had been the cradle and the family. The idea that she was weak revolted all history; it was a palæontological falsehood that even an Eocene female monkey would have laughed at; but it was surely true that, if her force were to be diverted from its axis, it must find a new field, and the family must pay for it. So far as she succeeded, she must become sexless like the bees, and must leave the old energy of inertia to carry on the race.” 


Radical feminism is the apotheosis of sexlessness in Adams’ puerperal sense of the term; indeed, in this sense, what Fox decries as “the sex-crazed feminist left” for which “No marriage was sacred enough to save” and which likes to flaunt effigies of the female genitalia in public marches is a morbidly ironic form of sexlessness, barren, ephemeral, non-committal and, whether one admits it or not, ultimately unfulfilling. Of course, one can have sex without love, which is normal human “intercourse.” But what amounts to the institutional decoupling of sex and love—no fault divorce, abortion on demand, self-pleasuring sologamy, the widespread and accepted practice of “hook-up culture,” the criminalizing of sex, that is, male sex, in criminal court and university tribunal—diminishes the joy of the former and the power of the latter. Feminism is a conspiracy against productive relationships, romantic love and the traditional family—a conspiracy disguised as a historical necessity, much like the anti-family communist doctrine with which it has close conceptual ties.

In The Erotic Phenomenon, Catholic philosopher and theologian Jean-Luc Marion argues that the first philosophical question is not Descartes’ “Do I exist?” but “Does anyone love me?” One may add that cognate with the latter question, and its inseparable companion, is “Do I love anyone?” Or, put differently, accepting that we all need to be loved, are we capable of loving beyond the boundaries of the self and its abstract enthusiasms, of reciprocating need with giving, particularly with a view to those in our care and our immediate circle? Will men work to defend their families and women strive to nurture them?


The age seems to have decided otherwise. With only saving exceptions, men as lovers, husbands, fathers and historical actors have lost what the ancients called their virtú, the ability to resist despoliation and to affirm their “essential nature.” And women who have embraced not the men and children they were meant to love but the cold and vengeful ideology of gender pre-eminence are the fathermuckers of the contemporary domestic scene. 

What we are witnessing, in Robert Curry’s terms from Reclaiming Common Sense: Finding Truth In A Post-Truth World, is a war on the crucial role common sense plays in our lives, for example, “the denial of plain fact that humans are either male or female,” with all that the genetic binary has implied since the beginning of recorded time. This “plain fact” has been routinely and programmatically denied by feminists and gender mavens, for whom sexual differentiation is “fluid” and a matter of choice or feeling. The real “deniers,” however, are the feminists and their male enablers among us who have rejected what Adams called “the axis of rotation” in the spirit of love, as well as the fixed Archimedean point in biology. As a result, the culture is in disarray and its future, as Kierkegaard saw, is despair.

David Solway’s latest book is “Notes from a Derelict Culture,” Black House, London, 2019.


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