A blog for Christian men "going their own way."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

An Open Response to Elizabeth Nolan Brown

It seems the article by Kay Hymowitz that I mentioned in my last post has been the subject of discussion on a blog at the Beta Culture 11 site. Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes:

The reason, Hymowitz submits, for “all this dating chaos” is that the dissolution of traditional methods of courtship and gender roles have left young men paralyzed by confusion. I submit that the reason for these particular men’s dating chaos is that they are misogynists.

They disparage “gold diggers,” and women who expect men to support them once married. Okay, one would think, so these men want strong egalitarian women, women who make their own money, have careers, etc. But then the same men also complain about how “modern women” suck and they just don’t make ‘em like the wives of yore (or like those Russian girls on the Interweb). So which is it?

I don’t begrudge anyone a personal desire to marry and start a family based on “traditional” gender roles. I get a little peeved when they begin suggesting that everyone should do the same, but if a man wants to be the sole breadwinner and find a wife who desires to stay home and cook and clean and take care of the kids—great! Likewise, if a man thinks that is a totally raw deal and would never marry a woman who doesn’t work—great! Or if he wants a bachelor’s life forever—great, too! But listen, dudes in this article: you can’t proclaim you really want a girl, and it’s women’s fault for not living up to the maddeningly-stupid paradigm you’ve dreamed up; that you can’t find a woman who’s sufficiently traditional while still being thoroughly modern. That is not a tenable position, at least not one that anyone other than other MRAs will agree with. There is not something wrong with women as a whole; there is something wrong with you.

Well, Elizabeth, if you want the "dudes" to "listen", as you say, perhaps you should return the favor, eh? Your charge of misogyny is problematic on two counts ...

1. It assumes that you speak for all women. Just because you cannot understand or sympathize with the views of the men highlighted in the article does not mean that other women are unable to do so. In fact, there are intelligent women like Dr. Helen Smith, who "get it " as well as Angela Fiori.

2. You falsely assume that any concern these men might have about certain disturbing behaviors found among women somehow translates into antipathy for the women themselves.

Please drop the "M" word, Elizabeth. It's a shaming tactic and many of the "dudes" don't take it seriously as a counterargument anymore.

Anyway, the main problem with your discourse is that you oversimplify and misrepresent the grievances of the men in question. The reason some men have a problem with putatively "conservative women" is not that these women want to live off a single paycheck, per se, but that these women don't understand the challenges men face. Men are facing an uphill battle economically. The days are long gone when a man could go out and support his family with a high school education. It takes two income to make it in a lot of cases.

Also, lot of so-called "conservative" women want to have their cake and eat it, too. These women want all the perks and privileges of feminism: the careers, the empowerment, the pushing men out of the way in the race for the cup, etc. but they then want to fall back on traditional gender roles in their personal relationships with men. I ask this: How logical is it for a woman to demand to make more money than a man, except when that man is her husband?

Now, with regard to so many "non-traditional" modern women, the problem is not their having jobs, per se, but also wanting to have their cake and eat it, too--just like the "conservative women." Many of them are not truly for equality. Many of them are not truly "egalitarian." After all, if you compete with men, don't you think you ought pick up the tab like them, too? Where are all the liberated women to woo, wine, dine, and support men? Many of these women are also hypocritical regarding commitment (they'll complain about men and yet be the first to run to the divorce court when things are no longer fun).

All of this would be bad enough but then some of these women cry a jag when men refuse to "grow up" and "settle down." In other words, when there is a shortage of men who could possibly meet "the maddeningly-stupid paradigm" [to borrow a phase from you] of these women, these women want to point fingers at everyone else except themselves. I remind you that it was Hymowitz and others who fired the first shot across bow in the war against single men.

When it comes down to it, there is the illusion of choice here. "Non-traditional" woman vs. "traditional" women is, in many cases, a shell game. Women across the political and social spectrum show little or no interest in the problems that men face. Across the political and social spectrum, many of them are woman-centered (and thus self-centered) to a fault. Let's flip it around: When women complain about how men treat them, how much sense does it make to tell them that they can't make up their minds whether they want Bob Packwood or Bill Clinton for husbands? Or try this one on for size: Just how important are your social and political views to the man you treat like dirt, anyway?

In closing Elizabeth, I must ask you if you really want the "dudes" to listen to you. Or was your blog post for the benefit of those already disposed to agree with you? Because, as I have indicated, the old listening thing needs to go both ways.

27 comments:

Kuya Kevin said...

I've started up a new blog re: single issues:

http://single-issues.blogspot.com/

It isn't really a men's issues blog, but I think you'll find it to be man-friendly.

Amir Larijani said...

Anakin: I guess my question is how much of what Hymowitz addresses--in an article that is aimed at a secular audience--is in play in the Christian arena?

As for Brown to suggest that the "chaos" is the result of misogyny is not surprising either, as I absolutely expect secular authors to embrace that mindset whenever men express a desire for more traditional gender roles, or suggest that feminism is somehow playing a causal role in the protracted singleness issue.

Still, I'm not at all convinced that the "gold diggers" are prevalent in the Christian ranks. I'd suggest that both men and women--especially those with college educations--have certain expectations that are consistent with general society, with respect to material issues and achievement.

But does all of that constitute "gold digging"? I donno.

For example, if a gal is an aspiring SAHM, it would not be unreasonable for her to seek a potential mate who at least has the capacity to fulfill that. Such a one need not be the 5-Star hotel aspirant seeking "many luxury vacations".

People like that are pragmatic--some Reform circles would suggest too much so--but I would stop well short of calling them "gold diggers".

Anonymous said...

Nice response, Amir.

Amir Larijani said...

Anonymous: The larger issue here is the extent that materialism has impacted the ranks of Christians (single and non).

This isn't even a singles issue, and one need not be a "gold digger" to be materialistic.

"Gold diggers" are their own group. I don't--and I suspect most of us don't--make enough money to have to worry about them. After reading the latest article about them, I can't say I empathize much with the men in those cases. After all, how many of them were probably looking for the proverbial trophy wife?

Then again, you're dealing with a secular context in that article. Conflating this with the Christian world would be one heck of a stretch.

Still, one need not be a "gold digger" to fall prey to covetousness. Nor is this a gender issue in and of itself.

Most of Jesus'--and Paul's--audience was very likely in the lower-income brackets, and yet they each were quite emphatic about exhorting the Disciples regarding dealing with material things.

I'd say that with the economic meltdown going on, a lot of Christians and non-Christians are going to go from well-off to hard-up.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to convince me, I agree with you 100% -- for a change! lol

Triton said...

They disparage “gold diggers,” and women who expect men to support them once married. Okay, one would think, so these men want strong egalitarian women, women who make their own money, have careers, etc. But then the same men also complain about how “modern women” suck and they just don’t make ‘em like the wives of yore (or like those Russian girls on the Interweb). So which is it?

Her mistake is n assuming that the two types of woman she has outlined are mutually exclusive. They are not; an egalitarian career woman can also be frivolous and reckless with her husband's money. Alternatively, she can fritter away her own paycheck with the expectation that her husband's salary will pick up the slack.

It's not a zero-sum game. Women can make bad wives in more than one way at a time.

Amir Larijani said...

Triton says: Her mistake is n assuming that the two types of woman she has outlined are mutually exclusive. They are not; an egalitarian career woman can also be frivolous and reckless with her husband's money. Alternatively, she can fritter away her own paycheck with the expectation that her husband's salary will pick up the slack.

I would suggest, however, that when that happens, it is often--not always--at least partly on the husband.

It is on the husband to make sure that she understands what the expectations are before the wedding, and following through on those matters.

We all know she can change her mind after the fact, and--fact is--he might not always live up to his pre-marital hype either.

Still, it's on him to at least communicate expectations beforehand. Testicular fortitude is his responsibility, and that is part-and-parcel with traditional values.

If she doesn't agree with those expectations, then you move on, as material/money issues can be catastrophic marriage-killers.

gerican said...

Being frivolous and reckless with money is not only a female pursuit. Some of the problem behaviors that are overrepresented among men (ie. alcoholism, illicit drug addiction, gambling, etc.) certainly take a toll on family finances. Among men who don't have those kinds of problems, overspending can take the form of "big toys".

Well-intentioned but misguided business ventures are another, and in that case, often the wife has to go along with his big ideas despite her reservations, otherwise she's being "unsupportive" to his dreams.

Amir Larijani said...

gerican: Those things are entirely possible, but again...that comes back to communicating expectations beforehand. It also emphasizes a need by both parties to look honestly at their potential mates, and--as Reagan used to tell his staff--"never be afraid to see what you see."

Chances are, the man is not going to live frugally while single and then--once married--suddenly turn into a major "big toy" addict.

It would be fair to ask him what he expects to alter in his life as he embraces marriage, and it would be fair for him to ask you the same.

If a man--or woman--thinks that his or her spending priorities will not change, that he or she will continue to live as when they were single, then my advice is to run, do not walk, away from that.

As for business ventures, a husband who takes on those matters without being on the same page as his wife, is putting an awful lot more than finances at risk.

Even then, we need to face the sober reality: with the economic calamities that are likely on the horizon, men might have no choice but to go more independent and take more risk than they would have taken before.

This is because they may not be able to count on another business or company or corporation to have a job opening.

The wives and husbands will be forced to handle crises they never thought possible, and embrace courses of action that they never imagined they would have to take.

gerican said...

"As for business ventures, a husband who takes on those matters without being on the same page as his wife, is putting an awful lot more than finances at risk."

That's exactly my point, and I agree with you that people should check out the finances of their prospective partners before making major commitments. But it's difficult for women to bring these things up because it doesn't take much these days to be labelled as a "golddigger" as if money's not supposed to matter when love is involved. This is why fathers of the past screened suitors of their daughters, playing "bad cop" so she wouldn't have to.

Amir Larijani said...

That's exactly my point, and I agree with you that people should check out the finances of their prospective partners before making major commitments. But it's difficult for women to bring these things up because it doesn't take much these days to be labelled as a "golddigger" as if money's not supposed to matter when love is involved. This is why fathers of the past screened suitors of their daughters, playing "bad cop" so she wouldn't have to.

The business ventures--unlike other financial matters--probably are not things that are easy to address before the marriage. Why? Things like that are dynamic in nature, and may materialize long after the wedding.

There are, however, things that can be addressed, without invoking any "gold digger" cards. (And remember: the vast majority of us don't make enough money to need to be worried about "gold diggers".)

(1) Evaluate your own level of risk tolerance (or risk aversion). Compare that with his. It could be that you are more risk tolerant than he is, or he is more risk tolerant than you are. It could be that one of you is motivated by fear, or needs to embrace more prudence.

Evaluating that with a pastor or Christian counselor, you can make an informed decision as to whether you should go forward, or which things one or both of you might need to adjust before going forward.

(2) Compare your expectations for the handling of finances. Dave Ramsey suggests that both husband and wife work together as a TEAM in preparing and balancing and maintaining the budget, including investment decisions. I agree with this approach.

If he seems content to leave it all to you, then he might be a weak leader. If he has to have all the control, then you are in exactly the situation you have described. (The same things can apply to you as well.)

Personally, I'd be stating that up front, with the following expectations:

(1) There are going to be things that I enjoy now, that I will not enjoy--at least not to the same degree--once married. I will not be the gym rat that I am now. I will not be able to go out on a whim for the weekend. I will not be dropping everything I am doing just to meet some friends and go to a restaurant. This is because I will belong to my wife.

The same is true for her: she will have to sacrifice many things she once enjoyed to be my wife.

Fairy tales are for fairies. Covenants are for grownups. The marriage covenant carries covenant responsibilities.

(2) Whatever freedoms she and I enjoyed financially as singles, we'll both be forced to be more conscientious with money. I will be one flesh with my wife, which means she and I will make decisions TOGETHER. Especially with finances.

Any spouse who punts on financial responsibility--putting it on their partners--is asking for trouble. Ditto for one who is always demanding to make all the decisions.

I've seen women and men crowd each other out. I've seen women and men punt on their responsibilities. It almost always leads to substantial conflict which can include divorce.

ques.. said...

Anakin,

It sounds like a few people here are noticing the overstated golddigger claims on this site and other "MGTOW" cites. And that's what much of what ENB seemed to be saying in her post, so she may be speaking for more women (and men) than you think. Just as there has been a backlash rethinking feminism, the same thing may be happening to MGTOW before its barely even started.

If the feminists who made exaggerated claims about domestic violence by men are now considered to be misandrous, would not exaggerated claims about golddigging women truly be - however this word has been overused - mysogynist?

So are all of those MRA cites listed by Hymowitz consistently well balanced in their general statements about women? Or are some, perhaps more than others, "mysogynist"? Where do you draw the line?

Amir Larijani said...

ques..:

I wouldn't say that the "gold digger" canard is overstated; it's just not necessarily a threat to most of us whose balance sheets are not high enough to attract them.

(For those men and women with substantial assets, however, it is an issue worth considering soberly, as there are women like Anna Nicole Smith, and men like John Kerry.)

For most of us, though, it's not so much the "gold digger" who is the big threat as much as it is the lure of low-grade materialism.

Like I said, this is not exclusive to the women. And it is more prevalent in the Christian ranks than we want to admit. Trouble is, it is more insidious than the "gold digger" phenomenon.

It is easy for entire congregations to swallow it, hook, line, and sinker.

Elusive Wapiti said...

"...they are misogynists"

I love it when this word is thrown around, usually by someone who has little idea what the word means. Kinda like racist, fascist, or Nazi these days, the word has become an all-purpose slander meaning someone that doesn't subscribe to what the fine women at NOW or NARAL or whatever believe. I hear a woman or a feminized male use this word, and I instantly deduct a sigma off of their IQ for trying to shut down debate like that.

"They disparage “gold diggers,” and women who expect men to support them once married. Okay, one would think, so these men want strong egalitarian women"

I think ENB presents us with a false dichotomy. There are some men who want a traditional SAHM and are willing to support a woman in that regard in exchange for her tending hearth and home. There are others who want the more egalitarian woman who expect her to pull her weight in a, well, more egalitarian manner. Note that there is an implicit agreement in both cases as to what role the woman will fulfill (it is, of course, assumed by the woman that the man will work in both cases whether he wants to or not...perhaps a source of resentment, maybe?). Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

The problem...and another source of resentment...comes from when women who previously held themselves out as egalitarians suddenly want to be supported as they pursue their dreams of a life of leisure, nail salons, seaweed wraps, and gym memberships, all while expecting their schlub of a man to continue "doing his part" at home and at the office. And then there's the "traditional" woman who decides, post-marriage or post-natal, that she also wants to pursue her dreams of a life of leisure and renegs on her part of the economic and social bargain that is marriage. Both kinds of women use the specter of divorce as a billy club to get what they want.

The gold digging comes during all three phases of the relationship. During dating/courting, the man pays. If the woman is "traditional", this may not present much of a problem, but if she's egalitarian, well then there's something a tad unegalitarian about it. During the marriage, the expectation is that the man pays no matter what choice the woman makes. And during divorce, well, there's no question that the man pays. And I think that is where the chaos comes from...the men see that in a relationship they are liable to be held to traditional standards of behavior (where the man pays) whether they want to or not, and they compare that unlimited liability to the optional flexibility that woman have and query WTFO?

Amir, no doubt that many men don't forward their expectations prior to marriage, and bad on them for that oversight. That takes a bit of righteousness out of The fire of their anger over what happens to them subsequently. And the likely trophy-wife seeking dudes on that Times Online UK article deserve what they get somewhat. But I submit to you that a man would have a tough time indeed laying down the law with a woman who suddenly goes switchfoot on him, with the result that he gets taken to the cleaners. And it seems that even the strongest, most egalitarian women have no truck with soaking a man for all he's worth on her way out the door.

That I think is the ultimate source of the "gold-digging" accusations from the MRA set. Women who think that "what's mine is mine, and what's his is mine." It's not misogyny to resent or even hate that.

Elusive Wapiti said...

Forgot to mention that, contra Amir, I think that this gold-digging behavior is present at all levels of the income scale, and with "Christian" and secular woman alike.

Amir Larijani said...

EW: What, in your opinion, would be the difference between the "gold digger" and the low-grade materialism that I am describing?

How would the former be manifested, for example, in the case of a man with a decent income but not a lot of assets?

Elusive Wapiti said...

Amir, I think the difference between a Material Girl and a gold-digger is a matter of degree. Where that bar is set--how does one distinguish between a simply materialistic woman and a gold-digger--is another matter entirely, and I don't think I have a ready answer for that, yet.

The best I can do right now is to point at a person--man or woman but usually a woman--who is excessively materialistic or exploitatively pursues another's money and call that a gold-digger. Again, distinguishing between the two hinges upon a relative evaluation of the adverbs "excessively" or "exploitatively", not exactly a precise definition by any stretch.

As for your example, how about a woman who, upon finding a man with a lot of income, parasitically uses him for medium- or high-grade materialistic consumption. Particularly if her use of him is out of proportion to his use for her. Or that same woman who hits up that man for vast sums of dough on her way out the door of the relationship, again well out of proportion to her contribution to the home/relationship.

Amir Larijani said...

EW: Personally, I'd define it sorta like this...

A "gold digger" is someone who is seeking the easy life at someone else's expense. An online acquaintance of mine--who is my age--once said she'd settle down, "if a man with enough money came along and gave me a ring. That way I wouldn't have to work again." Sadly, she wasn't kidding.

How would that be manifested in a man? It could be that the man continues to work, but uses the new wealth to take on other aspirations, such as running for the Senate...

(2) The materialism of which I am speaking is related--both the "gold digger" and the materialist are dealing with similar issues spiritually, but it's not quite the same.

The materialist, as I see it, is never satisfied with what he or she has. The house is never big enough, the yard is never big enough, the cars are never roomy enough, she doesn't make enough money, he doesn't make enough money, they don't take enough vacations.

In the latter case, she could be a SAHM or a professional. Doesn't matter. In the case of the materialist, neither is necessarily aiming to bleed the other dry, or get a divorce as soon as the money gets tight. Trouble is, in their case, their covetousness is causing strain that may very well lead them to divorce.

In the case of the "gold digger", it's purely a case of one partner being a parasite.

In the case of the materialist, it's just purely a case of covetousness--in one or both partners--that may or may not include a parasitic streak in one of them.

Christina said...

And here I was thinking that when Amir referred to "low-grade" materialism (I don't consider what he described in his last comment as "low-grade"), I thought he was referring to women who won't settle for a man who can actually support a family with a house and food...but might need to forego Cable or (God forbid anyone live without it) T-Vo (sp?). Or maybe in exchange for a house to start off their family, they may end up sharing a beat-up Toyota (reliable, ain't always pretty).

And the "low-grade" materialism would come in the form of expecting cable tv, a decent looking car (or 2!), and a decently new house in a good neighborhood (which around Orlando cost upwards of $300,000 1 year ago - not gated).

And then there's the gold-digger...

As Bones put it while investigating the murder of a college basketball star (who was about to be signed) when referring to his girlfriend of the last 2 years:
"Is she crying because he's dead or because she doesn't get the big house anymore?"

Amir Larijani said...

Christina: The reason I call it "low grade" materialism is that it often lurks underneath the proverbial radar, and can be couched in terms that seem otherwise acceptable and reasonable but--in fact--represents an exigent spiritual issue.

And, like I said, that is not exclusively on the women.

Christina said...

I'd still consider what you described and moderate to high materialism...somewhere in that spectrum.

I'd consider "low-grade" to be the basic expectation that we have been trained to believe is common place in our consumeristic society.

Computers, internet, dining out, two standard vehicles, cable, tv, dvd player and dvd's...

All of those things are completely and totally unnecessary, but we live in a society where no one can actually imagine an existence without them.

I mean, there are people out there who will watch their children starve before giving up their computer and internet!

Amir Larijani said...

Christina: On a lighter note, I have only the most bare-bones basic DirecTV subscription. I decided to cancel most of my services because I have turned on my television less than ten times all year.

Christina said...

i don't have cable =p

I'm sorely tempted to get rid of internet...

but being the Computer junkies that I and my fiance are, I don't think we'll get rid of internet unless absolutely necessary =p

Preferrably before the children starve.

Amir Larijani said...

I'll probably kill what is left of my DirecTV susbscription when the contract runs out. I'll also do that with all my phone services.

I will, however, be keeping the Internet. I need it so I can work from home when the need arises, which is does from time to time.

catwoman said...

Amir's qualitative distinction between "gold diggers" and "materialists" makes sense.

Who really cares about the problems of the rich and famous anyways? Those who watch too much TV, that's who. And that just does not apply to those of us who'd rather whittle our time away on the far more superior medium that is the internet ;) (lest any man or woman should boast!)

Amir Larijani said...

Hey now waitaminute, Catwoman. Some of us make a living off the Internet. At least that's our excuse...

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