Undead sexist cliches someone should drive a stake through

This will be the first of three posts tackling sexist cliches that have been around for years.
One that’s been around at least since the early seventies is the idea that men’s success depends on women’s submission. The first version I read was that men attempt to build/create/make money to compensate for their lack of the ability to bear children. If women do all those things, plus bearing children, men will feel so emasculated they’ll just curl up and die.
Then there was George Gilder, in the 1980s, with his view that men can’t amount to anything unless they’re married. Women therefore have a moral duty to put their personal goals on hold, marry men and shape them up—preferably marry the meek loser-types who need inspiration rather than going for good-looking, successful men (as other writers have observed, it’s hard not to see a degree of self interest in this).
And now we have Mark Regnerus, who asserts that since men are driven to achieve by the drive for sex, if women don’t hold out sex until marriage, men will no longer achieve anything (“their sexual success may, ironically, be hindering their drive to achieve in life”). There’s more premarital sex available than there used to be; men are financially less well off than they used to be; therefore, male failure is women’s fault for giving it away!
As Echidne points out at the link, there’s little evidence of cause and effect in this. And I can think of plenty of counter-examples. Did John Adams, who was already happily married and a successful Massachusetts lawyer, feel the need to risk his future challenging the British Empire because he wanted to get laid? What about Cecil Rhodes, the 19th century multimillionaire, who built his empire while showing very little interest in women (I don’t mean he was gay—going off and doing Manly Stuff without women wasn’t terribly remarkable back then)?
And more to the point, why is this women’s problem, even if it were true? If men decide they’d rather party and sleep around than do anything with their life (and Regnerus doens’t make that point), shouldn’t he be yelling at them to get their act in gear?
Regnerus’ argument is that he’s really, really concerned for women: They’re giving the cow away and not getting the True Love they really want in return. Which is nominally the point of his article, with the Terrible, Terrible Consequences for society thrown in.
So I’m sure he’s recycling old sexist cliches with only the best of intentions.

18 Comments

Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

18 responses to “Undead sexist cliches someone should drive a stake through

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  15. Zosimus the Heathen

    This is one of those sexist cliches I’ve long hated myself, in no small part because I find it quite insulting to men as well as women (though that’s probably true of all sexist cliches). It implies that men are incapable of looking after themselves, and that they won’t do much of anything if they don’t have the carrot of sex constantly dangled in front of them. Given I’m pretty much asexual myself (while I’m attracted to women, my sex drive has pretty much always been “through the floor”, and “have sex” never seems to make it onto my list of things to do for the day), it makes me wonder where my own desire to engage in productive activities comes from. (To be sure, I’m as prone to procrastination as the next person, and it’s quite possible I’d have accomplished more by now if I’d had a wife to inspire/pressure me to do bigger and better things, but, oh well, I guess I’ll just have to muddle along on my own as I’ve always done.) On a vaguely related note, I remember someone once complaining that single men are often stereotyped in one of two ways: they’re either disgusting manchildren who simply need to “grow up” and get married, or they’re “single and fabulous” (ie gay). Looking at myself, I’d say I’m probably some weird combination of the two.

    I’ve heard of George Gilder before, though like many American cranks, he’s not someone you hear that much about in my part of the world (which may well be a good thing!). Like many cranks, he sort of fascinates me – from things I’ve heard about him, he’s an incredibly reactionary conservative who, bizarrely enough, is also something of a techno-utopian (ie someone who believes that modern technology is simply the bee’s knees and will solve all our problems). He also seems to epouse the typical conservative view that men and women are so unlike they may as well come from different planets (and may it forever remain that way!), yet at the same time, he believes that marriage is good for men because it essentially “feminizes” them (or at least imbues them with many of the qualities traditionally associated with women). As I say, what a fascinatingly contradictory character!

    • Yep, that’s Gilder. By his reasoning the broadcast networks should have rolled up and died by now.
      And yes, it is insulting to men. Nobody insults men as much as the anti-feminists. Until I read them I never realized I was a rake who would cast a woman aside as soon as she put out, laughing that I’d ruined her for all decent men.

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