The Abolition of Woman

by Jerry Salyer on August 16, 2012 · 16 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Intrepid as always, James Kalb comments on feminism.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Aaron Spears August 16, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Let men be men and women be women…

or should I say let women be those saintly women who have no desire to vote or own property. That article is complete hogwash

avatar love the girls August 17, 2012 at 9:28 am

Aron Spears writes : “Let men be men and women be women…

or should I say let women be those saintly women who have no desire to vote or own property. That article is complete hogwash”

The article was a process of taking a principle to its logical conclusion. What step, or steps, along the process do you disagree with?

avatar Karen August 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm

The article is a bunch of rhetorical questions connected to some assertions unsupported by any evidence. I have read it four times and the only point I can see is that Kalb thinks women differ in some unspecified way from men. Please, enlighten me. What do you think women should be allowed to do and why?

avatar Marie August 18, 2012 at 12:07 pm

My favorite philosophical treatise on the subject is The Eternal Woman by Gertrud von le Fort. It’s beautiful (and I am not Roman Catholic)

avatar robert m. peters August 18, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Louisa S. McCord, a Southern writer who lived from 1810 to 1879, wrote that women were made for duty and not for fame and emphatically stated that men were not her equal but that they were her “different.” She also abhorred feminists and abolitionists, particularly the female ones. She would, I believe, agree with Mr. Kalb.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins August 18, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Kalb seems to me to be circling around some evident truths, but he is so entangled in making points he WANTS to make, that are merely his preference, that he never achieves coherence. I would approach the subject more like this:

Women and men have many similarities, and some significant differences. The differences are not such as justify inequality in political participation as members of the community, or the body politic. The differences are sufficient that, e.g., when we abolished separate restrooms for “white” and “colored” individuals, we did NOT abolish separate (public) restrooms for men and women.

It may well be true that fewer women are inclined toward engineering than men. Statistical differences are not ipso facto a sign of inequality. So long as each individual man or woman has equal opportunity to qualify as an engineer, we need not worry about discrepant outcomes.

As a member of a Protestant denomination that opened ordination to women in the 1870s, I don’t much care what roles the Roman Catholic Church opens to women. I’m not a member of that church. It is none of my business. Women who don’t like a church policy are free to join another church that has policies more to their liking. If they choose to remain RC, well, that involves obedience. There is a word for people who deny the authority of the Pope to make these decisions: Protestant.

What our post-Victorian age has lost sight of is that raising children requires time and work, lots of it. Before employment was separated from the home, both mothers and fathers worked, women did tremendous amounts of hard physical labor, and children were nearby, or underfoot, or learning their parents’ jobs as soon as they were old enough to walk, except among the elites. The division, daddy goes to work, mommy keeps house, at least devoted substantial adult time to child raising. But, there was and is no reason women should be satisfied with nothing else in life.

What our mercenary economy and consumer culture have not come to grips with is allocating the time to do the work of raising and socializing children. In previous modes, it didn’t have to be allocated. Now, we have to consciously work out how we will provide for children. It runs against the grain of Taylorism, but we must come to grips with it.

There remains a substantial definition of feminism. I forget which woman it is attributed to, but she remarked “I only know that I am accused of being a feminist when I make remarks which differentiate me from a doormat.” That is a distinction worth making.

avatar robert m. peters August 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Siarlys Jenkis:

Your words:

“The differences are not such as justify inequality in political participation as members of the community, or the body politic.”

Why does one have to “justify inequality,” as if the false goddess of equality were some right in the ether or some standard given by God.

“The differences are sufficient that, e.g., when we abolished separate restrooms for “white” and “colored” individuals, we did NOT abolish separate (public) restrooms for men and women.”

Actually, in the more “progressive” countries of Western Europe and in some organizations of our “progressive” federal government, abolishing separate public restrooms for men and women is well underway. Abolishing in the name of progress is inexorable; any noble cause du jour will do. Also, I am not sure who the “we” are that did the aforementioned abolishing; perhaps one of those abstractions we have to contend with.

“It may well be true that fewer women are inclined toward engineering than men. Statistical differences are not ipso facto a sign of inequality. So long as each individual man or woman has equal opportunity to qualify as an engineer, we need not worry about discrepant outcomes.”

Here again, your argument seems to be anchored to the false goddess of equality, as if a “sign of inequality” were some moral measure.

“There is a word for people who deny the authority of the Pope to make these decisions: Protestant.”

You would be much more accurate were you to substitute “the God who is revealed in the Christ” for the Pope. The Catholic Papa is an easy foil for Protestants.

“But, there was and is no reason women should be satisfied with nothing else in life.”

Were I going to undermine the Genesis understanding that man was created male and female and that the male and female were to become one flesh with the obvious purpose of having and nurturing children, then your sentence would suffice as a subtle but potent temptation.

“I forget which woman it is attributed to, but she remarked ‘I only know that I am accused of being a feminist when I make remarks which differentiate me from a doormat.’ That is a distinction worth making.”

I have never met a woman who considered herself or was consider by others to be a doormat, and I have known some wonderful and not-so-wonderful women going back five generations. While such might exist or have existed, their numbers in the social order in which I was reared were negligible such that they could not make a case for any definition of feminism.

avatar Karen August 19, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Robert Peters — did you ever meet men who thought women were stupid? I’m 49, and you’re at least as old as I am if you’ve know 5 generations of people, so surely in all that time you’ve met at least one man who believed that it was not possible to use both a brain and a uterus? I’ve known many, probably more who thought in that manner that who respected women’s abilities. You’re either lying, being wilfully obtuse, or you have led the most sheltered life imaginable if you have never met a woman who was mistreated or a man who mistreated women. I’m betting on lying.

avatar Karen August 19, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Also, the quote mentioned by Siarlys was Rebecca West, mid 20th C. journalist.

avatar robert m. peters August 19, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Miss Karen,

Infra is the quote which Siarlys Jenkins placed in the post and which you wrote supra contained the words of Rebecca West.

“I only know that I am accused of being a feminist when I make remarks which differentiate me from a doormat.”

Infra is my response.

“I have never met a woman who considered herself or was consider by others to be a doormat, and I have known some wonderful and not-so-wonderful women going back five generations. While such might exist or have existed, their numbers in the social order in which I was reared were negligible such that they could not make a case for any definition of feminism.”

As they say in baseball, three strikes and you are out: I am not sheltered, I am not being obtuse and I am not lying. A person who is a doormat, based on my understanding of that term, is a non-entity, a person struggling to find their voice over against another. I am even aware, if one can imagine that, that there is such a thing as the doormat syndrome; however, doormattedness, as I understand it, is not limited to the fairer sex but can also be found among us brutish folk as well.

No, Miss Karen, while I might have set across from a female doormat on a train in Germany, beside one at a football game in California, or next to one at a table in a Viennese Kaffehaus, never has one by her words, her demeanor or her actions indicated to me that she was a doormat. So, I left her presence without knowing that she was a doormat. In my family, among grandparents, aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, cousins and the like, I have never known a doormat nor have I known, obviously since I have never known a doormat, anyone to accused a woman of being a feminist because she used words differentiating herself from a doormat.

Now, of course, in closing your post, you changed the topic from “doormat” to “mistreated.” We fallen sons and daughters of the race of Adam are quite capable of mistreating one another. Any time we treat one another contrary to divine will we have mistreated one another, so with “mistreated” we can all point the finger at one another. That, however, we fallen sons and daughters mistreat one another is, again, no argument for feminism and is certainly not doormattedness.

That men exist who believe that it is impossible to use both a brain and a uterus has nothing to do with women actually believing that they are doormats or being labeled feminists because they use words which would suggest that they are not doormats. You seem to have a knack of adding elements to our discussion, elements which were not remotely a reference to my response supra. I will have to remember that.

We quite obviously run in incommensurable circles.

avatar Sarah August 20, 2012 at 10:33 am

Excellent post, Siarlys Jenkins. Thank you.

avatar JD Salyer August 21, 2012 at 9:09 am

Some readers seem to have misunderstood the purpose of this thread. My point in posting was not so the reader may dismiss Kalb’s essay with breezy generalizations and then proceed to broadcast his/her own opinions about feminism. I must insist that readers who wish to participate in the thread — whether they agree with Kalb’s words or detest them — at some point substantively address what Kalb actually says, and acknowledge the text under discussion.

If you do not wish to participate with the conversation on these terms then I will have no qualms about excluding you from it.

avatar Karen August 21, 2012 at 10:02 am

The problem is that he doesn’t actually sau anything. He asks a few rhetorical questions and makes a couple of evidence- free assertions that women don’t care about being respected as much as men do. He doesn’t like feminism, but he never says why or describes what he believes the role of women should be. Make a specific argument that can be answered.

avatar Kevin M August 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man where he wrote, “Traditional values are to be `debunked’ and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it.”

Kalb speaks here of getting “on with the real business of life: producers can produce, consumers can consume…” and “What could be simpler or better?”… “for the sake of a rational system that does what those in charge want it to do.”

If women wish to be abolished, as Kalb says, “get rid of messy stuff like sex and the sexes” and let them be producers-consumers; big business doesn’t mind. It was the Republicans after all who as long ago as 1955 supported the Conference on the Effective Use of Womanpower.

Nature has nothing to say so we’re just “a blank tablet for us to fill in our own meanings” and the pursuit of consumer happiness is as good as any. Go with the Zeitgeist, it’s good for business, unless your “business” is the human soul.

avatar Matt Weber August 21, 2012 at 8:10 pm

He does make a point, that the practical effect of feminism has been to render the sexes indistinguishable. This is certainly true, or at least it was until college attendance, employment, and other such indicators started developing inequalities in favor of women. Now, we are told that of course this has happened…women are just better.

Also that if feminism is true, then the Bible certainly isn’t, and so Christians have no excuse.

avatar RiverC September 1, 2012 at 8:24 am

I had not heard of CEDAW before. That’s somewhat troubling, not so much that it is an attempt to deal with misogyny, but the sort of attempt at dealing with misogyny it is. It is a very one-size-fits all solution which is either vague enough to be seen as a mandate for the feminism du jour (which might be very radical and actually misandrist) or uniform enough to fall into the round pegs/square holes problem.

I agree with Matt here, as one of the important strains of feminism has always been simply misandrist, (man-hating) which sees misogyny as a justification – perhaps – but mainly has always held that women are better at what men do than men are if given the chance to do it, and thus actually ‘better’ than men, since they’re better at being women too.

This sort of feminism is where the term feminazi comes from, for if you replace the Aryan nation with the Female sex, you have a general feel for the philosophy. I for one do not see Nazism as this irrefutable evil, but as a philosophical mistake, just like this ‘fraternal’ feminism is a historical philosophical trend related to common knowledge and social conditions, as well as common prejudice at the time of its inception.

It also goes without saying that such philosophical mistakes can cost the lives of millions. It did with almost all of these, didn’t it?

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