(I’m not really happy with this article yet — too much musing and wandering and not enough step-by-step logic for my tastes — but it’s been a couple weeks, so I’m posting anyway. Sometimes publishing an idea helps it finally become clearer in my mind.)
The “feminine imperative” is getting another once-over at Dalrock’s this week. My favorite definition for the female imperative so far is, “a general deference to the desires of females in all areas.” Now, that only attempts to say what it is, not where it comes from, who causes it, whether it’s conscious or not, and so forth. By focusing on only one aspect of it — what it is — it’s easy to see examples all over the place:
Sex becomes what women (claim to) want it to be, and happens on their terms. Dildos are empowering and healthy; sex dolls are sexist and creepy. Ditto emotional “romance” novels for women versus visual porn for men. Family courts mostly do what women want them to do, and we’re told that men should “ask” for custody if they want it. Colleges are required to spend money on sports no one cares about except a few girls. A 15-year-old girl can get an abortion without her parents’ (or the father’s) knowledge, but a man can’t get a vasectomy without his wife’s permission. Nearly every ad on TV featuring a man and a woman will show the woman as classy and capable while the man is a clueless clod. Thousands of pages of health care legislation get whittled down to an argument over whether college girls should have to pay for their own birth control.
And on and on and on. Pick any aspect of modern society, and you’ll find an example of the female imperative impacting it. There’s no question that it exists and is influential in shaping our society today.
I’d also suggest that it goes well beyond the basic biological need to protect and coddle the mothers of the species. That’s always been there, but we didn’t even let women vote until very recently. Women always struggled with the sin of Eve — the desire to dominate their men — but we managed to keep that under control until last century. Not just in Christian societies that had the example of Eve, either, but in virtually every society we know of. Roman wives were considered their husbands’ property. Does that mean Roman men didn’t love their wives, or that Roman women weren’t affected by hypergamy? Were Roman men immune to their wives’ feminine wiles, or did Roman women never try to control their husbands? No, they had all the same drives we do, but their traditions and culture told them that the best way to support those drives was by maintaining a strong family structure with the pater-familias at the head.
Also, many of the things the female imperative have given us are not helpful in protecting women and children, so they can’t be attributed to helping the next generation. That may have been true when the men started going out hunting and risking their lives while the women stayed back in the cave to gestate, but it’s not true today. Abortion, birth control, even women in the workplace, are all harmful to women’s health and the size and health of the next generation. If we were all being driven by our genes to generate as many healthy babies as possible, we’d have nothing but two-parent families with the mother at home pregnant most of the time, because that’s obviously the most efficient way to propagate the species. When a man and woman making six figures and living in a nice suburban home agree to stop at two children, they certainly aren’t bowing to biological forces.
So it’s more than just the drive to protect women, kicked into overdrive. It’s too harmful to women and children to be just that. That may be one of the building blocks of it, but to that I’d add the individualism that grew out of the Reformation and blossomed with American independence — the idea that we are all capable of deciding right for ourselves, subject to no one (except maybe God, if He doesn’t get too pushy). Throw in the technology that made it possible for women to feel like they can live independently of men, and especially the contraceptives that gave them unilateral control over procreation, and you get kind of a perfect storm of influences all tending to push women into indulging their desires, whatever they may be.
I suspect that will make the female imperative a difficult thing to quantify — and a ripe target for trolls — since we won’t be able to narrow it down to one cause or starting point. It’s the result of many factors, none of which could have been decisive on its own, but all of which contributed. That also makes it hard to combat — where do you start? Repeal female suffrage? Overturn Roe v. Wade? End no-fault divorce? Those all seem like nibbling around the edges of it, because there’s no one cornerstone that holds the whole thing together; all the pieces just hang together like a web.
By the way, I may be swimming upstream on this, but I like “female imperative” better than “feminine imperative,” because there’s really nothing feminine about it or the usual poster girls for it. It’s a deferment to female imperatives, not feminine ones. In fact, femininity is one of the main casualties of it.