The face of Classical Europe (I)

Were the Greeks blond and blue-eyed?


In 2013 I translated this article from the Spanish blogsite Evropa Soberana in fragmented form. Now that I am reviewing The Fair Race’s Darkest Hour for the 2015 edition, I would like to see it reproduced here in a single entry:


I remember a movie that came out in 2004. Troy was called. Naturally, many fans of Greece went to see it quite interested; some of them because they sincerely admired Hellas and its legacy. But some uncultivated specimens attended the theaters too. Everyone knows that, in our day, Greece is regarded as a mark of snobbery and sophistication even though you do not know who Orion was, or what was the color of Achilles’ hair according to mythology. The movie’s Helen (one with a look of a neighborhood slut) and Achilles (Brad Pitt) were rather cute. Adding the special effects, advertising and usual movie attendance there was no reason not to see this movie that, incidentally, is crap except for a few redeemable moments.

Upon first glance at the big screen, one of the many reactions that could be heard from the mouth of alleged scholarly individuals, was something like the following:

Outrageous: Achilles and Helen, blond and blue-eyed! Oh tragedy! Oh tantrum! Such a huge stupidity! Irreparable affront! It is obvious that Nazism, fascism, Nordicism, Francoism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and sexism are booming in Hollywood, because who would have the crazy notion to represent the Greeks as blond, when their phenotype was Mediterranean? Only the Americans could be so uneducated and egocentric and ethnocentric and Eurocentric and fascists and Nazis and blah blah…

These good people were not outraged by the desecration of The Iliad; for the absurd and fallacious script, for representing Achilles like an Australian surfer, or Helen as a cunt or the great kings as truckers of a brothel. No. They didn’t give a hoot about that. What mattered was leaving very clearly that they were sophisticated people, conscious of what was happening and that, besides being progressive democrats and international multi-culturalists without blemish, and able to pronounce “phenotype” without binding the tongue, they were also sufficiently “sincere admirers of Greece” to be indignant and losing their monocles before a blond Achilles.

The same could be said about the ultra-educated reaction to the movie 300. When it was released, we could see an outraged mass (and when we say “outraged” we are saying really outraged) complaining in the most grotesque way, by the presence here and there, of blond Spartans throughout the movie—fascist xenophobia by Hollywood and the like. How easy it is for the big mouths when there are large doses of daring ignorance involved, and when they have no idea what it stands to reason.

What I did not expect was to hear similar statements from the admirers of classical culture: people that one generously assumes they have read the Greco-Roman works or that are minimally informed—at least enough to not put one’s foot in it in a such a loudly manner. For Achilles, considered the greatest warrior of all time, and sole and exclusive holder of the holy anger, is described in The Iliad as blond, along with an overwhelming proportion of heroes, heroines, gods, goddesses—and even slaves considered desirable and worthy for the harem of the Greek warriors to seed the world with good genes.

The same could be said of the Spartans if we consider the physical appearance of their northern Dorian ancestors, who had come “among the snows” according to Herodotus. In fact, the movie 300 was too generous with the number of Spartans of dark hair, and too stingy with the number of blonds.

Whoever declares himself an admirer of classical European culture (Greece and Rome) and, at the same time, asserts that it was founded by swarthy, Mediterraneans-like-me folks is placing himself in the most uncomfortable form of self-consciousness. As I have said, if such individual really admired the classical world and bothered to read the classical works, he would have ascertained to what extent Nordic blood prevailed in the leaders of both Greece and Rome—especially in Greece. In short, those who claim being ultra-fans of Greece, Rome or both only throw garbage on themselves by demonstrating that they had not even read the original writings.

There are many truths about Nordic blood and Hellas but perhaps the most eloquent and overwhelming truth is that Greek literature is full of references to the appearance of the heroes and gods because the Greeks liked to place adjectives on all the characters, and nicknames and epithets representing their presence. So much so that it is really hard to find a swarthy character. In the case, for example, of Pindar, it is a real scandal: there is not a single character that is not “blonde,” “golden,” “white,” “of snowy arms,” and therefore “godlike.”

The blue eyes were described as γλαυκώπισ (glaukopis), which derives from γλαῦκος (glaukos), “brilliant,” “shiny.” The Roman writer Aulus Gellius, in his Attic Nights describes the concept of colors in a conversation between a Greek and a Roman. The Roman tells the Greek that glaucum (from which derives the Castilian glaucous) means gray-blue, and the Greek translates glaukopis into Latin as caesia, “sky,” i.e., sky blue. As Günther observes, the very word “iris,” of Greek origin, that describes the color of the eye, could only have been chosen by a people whom clear and bright eye colors dominated (blue, green or gray), and that a predominately swarthy people would have never compared the eye color with the image of the rainbow.

The Greek word for blond was ξανθός (xanthus), “yellow,” “gold,” “blond.” The xanthus color in the hair, as well as extreme beauty, light skin, high height, athletic build and luminous eyes were considered by the Greeks as proof of divine descent.

The physical appearance of Greek gods and heroes

DemeterDemeter as it was conceived by the Greeks. We must remember that the statues had a deeply sacred and religious character for the Hellenes and that, in addition of being works of art, they were also the height of geometric feeling and engineering, since the balance had to be perfect. The Greeks, who had a great knowledge of the analyses of features, represented in their statues not only beautiful people, but beautiful people with a necessarily beautiful soul.

There is a persistent tendency among the Hellenes to describe their idols as “dazzling,” “radiant,” “shiny,” “bright,” “full of light,” etc., something that very obviously correspond to a barely pigmented, “Nordic” appearance. To be more direct, I’ll omit these ambiguous quotes and focus on the concrete: the specific references to the color of skin, eyes, hair, and more. Where possible I’ve inserted the works, specific chapters and verses so that anyone can refer to the original passage.

• Demeter is described as “the blonde Demeter” in The Iliad (Song V: 500) and in Hymn to Demeter (I: 302), based on the mysteries of Eleusis. It is generally considered a matriarchal and telluric goddess from the East and of the pre-Indo-European peoples of Greece. However, here we should be inclined to think that, at best, she was a Europeanized goddess by the Greeks, integrated into their pantheon. The very name of Demeter comes from Dea Mater (Mother Goddess) and therefore would, in a sense, be the counterpart of Deus Pater—Zeus Pater or Jupiter, Dyaus Piter.

• Persephone, daughter of Demeter, is described as “white-armed” by Hesiod (Theogony: 913). At least it is clear here that Persephone was not a brown skinned goddess, nor that her physique coincided with the “Mediterranean” type. It is more reasonable to assume that her appearance was, at best, predominantly Nordic.

• Athena, the daughter of Zeus, goddess of wisdom, insight, cunning and strategic warfare in The Iliad, is described no more no less than a total of 57 times as “blue eyed” (in some variations, “green eyed”), and in The Odyssey a comparable number of times. Pindar referred to her as xanthus and glaukopis, meaning “blonde, blue-eyed.” Hesiod is content to call her “of green eyes” in his Theogony (15, 573, 587, 890 and 924), as well as Alcaeus and Simonides; while the Roman Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, which tells the perdition of Arachne, calls the goddess “manly and blond maiden.”

• Hera, the heavenly wife of Zeus, is called “white-armed” by Hesiod (Theogony, 315), while Homer called her “of snowy arms” and “white-armed goddess” at least thirteen times in The Iliad (I: 55, 195, 208, 572. 595, III 121, V: 775, 784; VIII: 350, 381, 484; XV: 78, 130).

• Zephyrus, the progenitor of Eros along with Iris, is described by Alcaeus (VII-VI centuries BCE) as “golden hair Zephyr” (Hymn to Eros, fragment V, 327).

• Eros, the god of eroticism, considered “the most terrible of the gods,” is described by an unknown, archaic Greek author as “golden-haired Eros.”


• Apollo as it was conceived by the very Greek sculptors. We are talking about a Nordic-white racial type slightly Armenized. Along with Athena, he was the most worshiped god throughout Greece, and particularly loved in Sparta.

Apollo is described by Alcaeus as “fair-haired Phoebus.” Phoebus is Apollo. On the other hand, Alcman of Sparta, Simonides (paean to Delos, 84), and an anonymous author, call Apollo “of golden hair,” while another epithet of his by Góngora—a Spanish author of the Renaissance but based on classic literary evidence—is “blond archpoet.” The famous Sappho of Lesbos speaks of “golden-haired Phoebus” in her hymn to Artemis.

• The god Rhadamanthus, son of Zeus and Europa, is described as blond in The Odyssey, and Strabo calls him “the blond Rhadamanthus” in his Geographica (Book III, 11-13).

• Dionysus is called by Hesiod “golden-haired” (Theogony 947).

• Hecate, goddess of the wilderness and also of the Parthians, is described by an unknown Greek poet as “golden haired Hecate, daughter of Zeus.”


• Artemis (illustration), the sister of Apollo is described by Sappho and Anacreon (Hymn to Artemis) as “blond daughter of Zeus.”

• The goddess Thetis, mother of Achilles, is called by Hesiod “of silver feet” (Theogony 1007), and by Homer “of silvery feet” (Iliad, I: 538, 556, IX : 410; XVI : 574, XVIII : 369, 381, XIV:89). Needless to say that a brown-skinned woman cannot have silvery feet: this is an attribute of extremely pale women.

• The Eunice and Hipponoe mermaids are described as “rosy-armed” by Hesiod (Theogony, ll. 240-264).

• Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, goddess of love, beauty and female eroticism, is always described as a blonde. Its conventional title is almost always “Golden Aphrodite.” Ibycus (in Ode to Polycrates) calls Aphrodite “Cypris of blond hair.” Aphrodite held the title of Cypris (Lady of Cyprus) because the Greeks believed she was born in Cyprus, where she was particularly revered. In Hesiod’s Theogony she is called “golden Aphrodite” (824, 962, 975, 1006 and 1015) and “very golden Aphrodite” (980). In Homer’s Iliad we have “Aura Aphrodite” (IX: 389), and in The Odyssey as “golden haired.”

• The Graces were described by Ibycus as “green eyed” (fragment papery, PMG 288).

Above I listed Wilhelm Sieglin’s conclusions regarding the Hellenic pantheon as a whole. Let us now see the heroes.

• Helen, considered the most beautiful woman ever and an indirect cause of the Trojan War, was described by Stesichorus, Sappho (first book of poems, Alexandrian compilation) and Ibycus as “the blonde Helen” (Ode to Polycrates).

• King Menelaus of Sparta, absolute model of noble warrior, brother of Agamemnon and legitimate husband of Helen is many times “the blond Menelaus” both in The Iliad (a minimum of fourteen times, III: 284, IV: 183, 210, X: 240, XI: 125; XVII: 6, 18, 113, 124, 578, 673, 684, XXIII: 293, 438) and The Odyssey. Peisander described him as xanthokómes, mégas en glaukómmatos, meaning “blond of big blue eyes.” In Greek mythology, Menelaus is one of the few heroes who achieved immortality in the Islands of the Blessed.

• Cassandra, the daughter of Agamemnon and sister of Orestes, is described by Philoxenus of Cythera with “golden curls,” and by Ibycus as “green-eyed Cassandra.”

• Meleager is described as “the blond Meleager” by Homer (Iliad, II: 642), and in his Argonautica

Apollonius of Rhodes also describes him as blond.

• Patroclus, the teacher and friend of Achilles, is described as blond by Dion of Prusa.

• Heracles is described as strongly built and of curly blond hair, among others, by Apollonius of Rhodes in Argonautica.

• Achilles, considered the greatest warrior of the past, present and future, is described as blond by Homer in the Iliad when he is about to attack Agamemnon and, to avoid it, the goddess Athena retains him “and seized the son of Peleus by his yellow hair” (I:197).

• The Greek hero Ajax (Aias in the Iliad) is described as blond.

• Hector, the Trojan hero,[1] is described as swarthy in the Iliad.

• Odysseus, king of Ithaca, Achaean hero at Troy and protagonist of Homer’s Odyssey, is generally considered as swarthy. However, this can be tempered. Although he is described as white skinned and “dark bearded” in The Odyssey, his hair ishyakinthos, i.e., color of hyacinths. Traditionally this color was translated as “brown” but it was also said that the hyacinths grown in Greece were of a red variety. If true, that would make Odysseus red-haired.

• Odysseus in any case differs from the Greek hero prototype: tall, slender and blond. It was described as lower than Agamemnon but with broader shoulders and chest “like a ram” according to Priam, king of Troy. This could more likely be a physical type of a Red Nordid [2] than a typical white Nordid Greek hero. It should also be mentioned that Homer used so frequently to call “blonds” his heroes that, in two lapses, he described Odysseus’ hair as xanthos in The Odyssey.

• Laertes, the father of Odysseus, was blond according to Homer’s Odyssey.

• Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, and queen of Ithaca, was blonde in Homer’s Odyssey.

• Telemachus, son of Odysseus and Penelope, was blond in Homer’s Odyssey.

• Briseis, the favorite slave in the harem of Achilles—captured in one of his raids, and treated like a queen in golden captivity—was “golden haired.”

• Agamede, daughter of Augeas and wife of Mulius, was “the blonde Agamede” according to Homer (Iliad, XI: 740).

• In his Argonautica Apollonius of Rhodes describes Jason and all the Argonauts as blond. The Argonauts were a männerbund: a confederation of warriors which gathered early Greek heroes, many direct children of the gods who laid the foundations of the legends and fathered the later heroes, often with divine mediation. They took their name from Argos, the ship they were traveling and did their Viking-style landings.

Below I reproduce some passages of Nordic phenotypes in Greek literature. Note that these are only a few examples of what exists in all of Greek literature:

• “Blonder hairs than a torch” (Sappho of Lesbos, talking about her daughter in Book V of her Alexandrian compilation).

• “Galatea of golden hair” (Philoxenus of Cythera, The Cyclops or Galatea).

• “…with a hair of gold and a silver face” (Alcman of Sparta, praising a maiden during a car race).

• “…happy girl of golden curls” (Alcman of Sparta, in honor of a Spartan poetess).


• “…blonde Lacedaemonians… of golden hair” (Bacchylides, talking about the young Spartans).

• Dicaearchus described Theban women as “blonde.”

The German scholar Wilhelm Sieglin (1855-1935) collected all the passages of Greek mythology which referred to the appearance of gods and heroes. From among the gods and goddesses, 60 were blond and 35 swarthy-skinned. Of the latter, 29 were chthonic-telluric divinities; marine deities such as Poseidon, or deities from the underworld. All of these came from the ancient pre-Aryan mythology of Greece. Of the mythological heroes, 140 were blond and 8 swarthy.

In this article, we have seen many instances of mythological characters, which is important because it provides us valuable information about the ideal of divinity and perfection of the ancient Greeks and points out that their values were identified with the North and the “Nordic” racial type. However, Sieglin also took into account the passages describing the appearance of real historical characters. Thus, of 122 prominent people of ancient Greece whose appearance is described in the texts, 109 were light haired (blond or red), and 13 swarthy.


See also:

“The face of Classical Europe (II):
Were the Romans blond and blue-eyed?”



[1] “Trojan”—i.e., a non-Greek.

[2] An explanation of terms like “red Nordid,” “slightly Armenized,” etc., appears in other article of the website Evropa Soberana, also reproduced in this blog.

Were the Greeks blond and blue-eyed?

– XXVI –

This piece has been chosen for my collection The Fair Race’s Darkest Hour. It has also been merged within a single entry.

Sparta – X

This specific chapter of Sparta and its Law has been moved: here.

If you want to read the book Sparta and its Law from the beginning, click: here.

Gibbon on Julian – 10


The History of the Decline and Fall
of the Roman Empire

Chapter XXII: Julian declared emperor

Part IV

The numerous army of spies, of agents, and informers enlisted by Constantius to secure the repose of one man, and to interrupt that of millions, was immediately disbanded by his generous successor. Julian was slow in his suspicions, and gentle in his punishments; and his contempt of treason was the result of judgment, of vanity, and of courage.

Conscious of superior merit, he was persuaded that few among his subjects would dare to meet him in the field, to attempt his life, or even to seat themselves on his vacant throne. The philosopher could excuse the hasty sallies of discontent; and the hero could despise the ambitious projects which surpassed the fortune or the abilities of the rash conspirators.

A citizen of Ancyra had prepared for his own use a purple garment; and this indiscreet action, which, under the reign of Constantius, would have been considered as a capital offence, was reported to Julian by the officious importunity of a private enemy. The monarch, after making some inquiry into the rank and character of his rival, despatched the informer with a present of a pair of purple slippers, to complete the magnificence of his Imperial habit.

A more dangerous conspiracy was formed by ten of the domestic guards, who had resolved to assassinate Julian in the field of exercise near Antioch. Their intemperance revealed their guilt; and they were conducted in chains to the presence of their injured sovereign, who, after a lively representation of the wickedness and folly of their enterprise, instead of a death of torture, which they deserved and expected, pronounced a sentence of exile against the two principal offenders.

The only instance in which Julian seemed to depart from his accustomed clemency, was the execution of a rash youth, who, with a feeble hand, had aspired to seize the reins of empire. But that youth was the son of Marcellus, the general of cavalry, who, in the first campaign of the Gallic war, had deserted the standard of the Cæsar and the republic. Without appearing to indulge his personal resentment, Julian might easily confound the crime of the son and of the father; but he was reconciled by the distress of Marcellus, and the liberality of the emperor endeavored to heal the wound which had been inflicted by the hand of justice.

Julian was not insensible of the advantages of freedom. From his studies he had imbibed the spirit of ancient sages and heroes; his life and fortunes had depended on the caprice of a tyrant; and when he ascended the throne, his pride was sometimes mortified by the reflection, that the slaves who would not dare to censure his defects were not worthy to applaud his virtues. He sincerely abhorred the system of Oriental despotism, which Diocletian, Constantine, and the patient habits of fourscore years, had established in the empire. A motive of superstition prevented the execution of the design, which Julian had frequently meditated, of relieving his head from the weight of a costly diadem; but he absolutely refused the title of Dominus, or Lord, a word which was grown so familiar to the ears of the Romans, that they no longer remembered its servile and humiliating origin.

The office, or rather the name, of consul, was cherished by a prince who contemplated with reverence the ruins of the republic; and the same behavior which had been assumed by the prudence of Augustus was adopted by Julian from choice and inclination. On the calends of January, at break of day, the new consuls, Mamertinus and Nevitta, hastened to the palace to salute the emperor. As soon as he was informed of their approach, he leaped from his throne, eagerly advanced to meet them, and compelled the blushing magistrates to receive the demonstrations of his affected humility. From the palace they proceeded to the senate.

The emperor, on foot, marched before their litters; and the gazing multitude admired the image of ancient times, or secretly blamed a conduct, which, in their eyes, degraded the majesty of the purple. But the behavior of Julian was uniformly supported. During the games of the Circus, he had, imprudently or designedly, performed the manumission of a slave in the presence of the consul. The moment he was reminded that he had trespassed on the jurisdiction of another magistrate, he condemned himself to pay a fine of ten pounds of gold; and embraced this public occasion of declaring to the world, that he was subject, like the rest of his fellow-citizens, to the laws, and even to the forms, of the republic.

The spirit of his administration, and his regard for the place of his nativity, induced Julian to confer on the senate of Constantinople the same honors, privileges, and authority, which were still enjoyed by the senate of ancient Rome. A legal fiction was introduced, and gradually established, that one half of the national council had migrated into the East; and the despotic successors of Julian, accepting the title of Senators, acknowledged themselves the members of a respectable body, which was permitted to represent the majesty of the Roman name.

From Constantinople, the attention of the monarch was extended to the municipal senates of the provinces. He abolished, by repeated edicts, the unjust and pernicious exemptions which had withdrawn so many idle citizens from the services of their country; and by imposing an equal distribution of public duties, he restored the strength, the splendor, or, according to the glowing expression of Libanius, the soul of the expiring cities of his empire. The venerable age of Greece excited the most tender compassion in the mind of Julian, which kindled into rapture when he recollected the gods, the heroes, and the men superior to heroes and to gods, who have bequeathed to the latest posterity the monuments of their genius, or the example of their virtues. He relieved the distress, and restored the beauty, of the cities of Epirus and Peloponnesus. Athens acknowledged him for her benefactor; Argos, for her deliverer.

The pride of Corinth, again rising from her ruins with the honors of a Roman colony, exacted a tribute from the adjacent republics, for the purpose of defraying the games of the Isthmus, which were celebrated in the amphitheatre with the hunting of bears and panthers. From this tribute the cities of Elis, of Delphi, and of Argos, which had inherited from their remote ancestors the sacred office of perpetuating the Olympic, the Pythian, and the Nemean games, claimed a just exemption. The immunity of Elis and Delphi was respected by the Corinthians; but the poverty of Argos tempted the insolence of oppression; and the feeble complaints of its deputies were silenced by the decree of a provincial magistrate, who seems to have consulted only the interest of the capital in which he resided.

Seven years after this sentence, Julian allowed the cause to be referred to a superior tribunal; and his eloquence was interposed, most probably with success, in the defence of a city, which had been the royal seat of Agamemnon, and had given to Macedonia a race of kings and conquerors. The laborious administration of military and civil affairs, which were multiplied in proportion to the extent of the empire, exercised the abilities of Julian; but he frequently assumed the two characters of Orator and of Judge, which are almost unknown to the modern sovereigns of Europe.

The arts of persuasion, so diligently cultivated by the first Cæsars, were neglected by the military ignorance and Asiatic pride of their successors; and if they condescended to harangue the soldiers, whom they feared, they treated with silent disdain the senators, whom they despised. The assemblies of the senate, which Constantius had avoided, were considered by Julian as the place where he could exhibit, with the most propriety, the maxims of a republican, and the talents of a rhetorician. He alternately practised, as in a school of declamation, the several modes of praise, of censure, of exhortation; and his friend Libanius has remarked, that the study of Homer taught him to imitate the simple, concise style of Menelaus, the copiousness of Nestor, whose words descended like the flakes of a winter’s snow, or the pathetic and forcible eloquence of Ulysses.

The functions of a judge, which are sometimes incompatible with those of a prince, were exercised by Julian, not only as a duty, but as an amusement; and although he might have trusted the integrity and discernment of his Prætorian præfects, he often placed himself by their side on the seat of judgment. The acute penetration of his mind was agreeably occupied in detecting and defeating the chicanery of the advocates, who labored to disguise the truths of facts, and to pervert the sense of the laws. He sometimes forgot the gravity of his station, asked indiscreet or unseasonable questions, and betrayed, by the loudness of his voice, and the agitation of his body, the earnest vehemence with which he maintained his opinion against the judges, the advocates, and their clients.

But his knowledge of his own temper prompted him to encourage, and even to solicit, the reproof of his friends and ministers; and whenever they ventured to oppose the irregular sallies of his passions, the spectators could observe the shame, as well as the gratitude, of their monarch. The decrees of Julian were almost always founded on the principles of justice; and he had the firmness to resist the two most dangerous temptations, which assault the tribunal of a sovereign, under the specious forms of compassion and equity.

He decided the merits of the cause without weighing the circumstances of the parties; and the poor, whom he wished to relieve, were condemned to satisfy the just demands of a wealthy and noble adversary. He carefully distinguished the judge from the legislator; and though he meditated a necessary reformation of the Roman jurisprudence, he pronounced sentence according to the strict and literal interpretation of those laws, which the magistrates were bound to execute, and the subjects to obey. The generality of princes, if they were stripped of their purple, and cast naked into the world, would immediately sink to the lowest rank of society, without a hope of emerging from their obscurity. But the personal merit of Julian was, in some measure, independent of his fortune.

Whatever had been his choice of life, by the force of intrepid courage, lively wit, and intense application, he would have obtained, or at least he would have deserved, the highest honors of his profession; and Julian might have raised himself to the rank of minister, or general, of the state in which he was born a private citizen. If the jealous caprice of power had disappointed his expectations, if he had prudently declined the paths of greatness, the employment of the same talents in studious solitude would have placed beyond the reach of kings his present happiness and his immortal fame.

When we inspect, with minute, or perhaps malevolent attention, the portrait of Julian, something seems wanting to the grace and perfection of the whole figure. His genius was less powerful and sublime than that of Cæsar; nor did he possess the consummate prudence of Augustus. The virtues of Trajan appear more steady and natural, and the philosophy of Marcus is more simple and consistent.

Yet Julian sustained adversity with firmness, and prosperity with moderation. After an interval of one hundred and twenty years from the death of Alexander Severus, the Romans beheld an emperor who made no distinction between his duties and his pleasures; who labored to relieve the distress, and to revive the spirit, of his subjects; and who endeavored always to connect authority with merit, and happiness with virtue. Even faction, and religious faction, was constrained to acknowledge the superiority of his genius, in peace a swell as in war, and to confess, with a sigh, that the apostate Julian was a lover of his country, and that he deserved the empire of the world.

Devlin on feminism

Yesterday I read the most insightful essay I have ever read about feminism, Roger Devlin’s “Home Economics” published in five parts at Counter-Currents. Since the original essay, “Home Economics” is 14,000 words I cut it by half (very few ellipsis added between unquoted paragraphs):

1. Two conflicting conceptions of feminine dignity

One of the hallmarks of Western civilization is the unusually high status it has accorded women. That has often been attributed to the influence of Christianity, which prizes certain typically feminine virtues (mercy, humility) more than pagan society had.

Feminists, as we all know, assert that women are rightfully the “equals” of men and deserve a “level playing field” on which to compete with them. In our time, it is a rare person whose notions about women’s claims remain wholly uninfluenced by these slogans; that is true even of many who think of themselves as opponents of feminism.

For example, certain would-be defenders of Western civilization believe Islam presents a danger to us principally because it does not accept “equality of the sexes.” Indeed, they sometimes make it sound as though they would have no objection to Islam if only Muslim girls were free to wear miniskirts, join the Army, and divorce their husbands. Or again, many in the growing father’s movement describe their goal as implementing “true” equality rather than recovering their traditional role as family heads. I have even known conservatives to earnestly assure young audiences that the idea of sexual equality comes to us from Christianity—a crueler slander upon the Faith than Voltaire or Nietzsche ever imagined. The extreme case of such confusion can be found in “mainstream” conservatives such as William Kristol, who claims to oppose feminism on the grounds that its more exotic manifestations “threaten women’s recent gains”: in other words, the problem with feminism is that it endangers feminism.

It is difficult to combat a movement whose fundamental premises one accepts. In fact, the high standing of women in our civilization not only long predates feminist ideology but is logically incompatible with it.

To understand why, one needs to keep two points in mind: 1) women’s traditional status was linked to behavioral expectations—fulfilling the duties of their station; and 2) it assumed qualitative differences and complementarity (rather than “fair” competition) between the sexes.

As to the first point: strictly speaking, it was never women as such who enjoyed high status but rather the social roles proper to them—those of wife and mother, chiefly. Being born female (or male) is merely a natural fact of no intrinsic moral significance, but the filling of a social role involves effort and often sacrifice. Accordingly, the respect paid to women was not an unconditional birthright; it was reserved for women who fulfilled their feminine obligations.

Among those obligations, marital fidelity was of supreme importance: so much so that in our language general terms such as virtue and morality have often been used to refer specifically to sexual fidelity in women. That is owing not to irrational prudery, as the apostles of sexual liberation imagined, but to the recognition that all which is necessary to destroy a race and civilization is for its women to refuse to be faithful wives and mothers.

The Western tradition also includes a strong presumption that women wish to fulfill their role; in other words, women are assumed to be “virtuous” until proven otherwise. In certain eras it was dangerous even to suggest that a lady might not be a paragon of sexual self-restraint if one did not have very strong proofs: an aspersion upon a woman’s honor was grounds for a duel. Of course, that does not make much sense when women have no honor; and today, the proponents of equality and liberation openly repudiate the very idea as an “oppressive social construct.” But to be frank, I suspect honor never was actually the primary determinant of women’s behavior. Good example (especially from their mothers), habit, lack of opportunity, religious instruction, and, in the last instance, the prospect of social disgrace and financial ruin were probably always more effective with them.

Men, however, have often been encouraged to believe that women are naturally monogamous, unmotivated by anything so base as sexual attraction, and only seek “good husbands” whom they disinterestedly marry out of love. This pleasing and edifying view of womanhood is the basis of the West’s cultural forms surrounding relations between the sexes: gallantry, chivalry, courtship, and companionate marriage.

But whether based upon knowledge or pleasing illusion, the regard in which our civilization has held women depends utterly upon their practice of monogamy, and makes no sense apart from it. As long as cases of female adultery were few enough, they could be passed off to men as freaks of nature, akin to two-headed babies. When, on the other hand, wives in their millions act upon the feminist plan of “liberation,” walk out on their husbands, separate them from their children, bankrupt them in divorce court, and shack up with other men, that system breaks down. That is where we are today.

It seems that many men have an emotional need to believe in the inherent virtue or innocence of women, a bit of sentimentality akin to the Romantics’ cult of childhood. Even today, under a burgeoning feminist police-state, male commentators not infrequently berate their own sex for an allegedly insufficient appreciation of the lofty claims of womanhood. The kindest thing one might say of such men is that they are condemning themselves to irrelevance. A somewhat less kind judgment might be that they are collaborators.

The chivalrous view of women is helpful for keeping in check the naturally wayward desires of young husbands in a substantially monogamous society; it is useless or positively harmful in a society being run by spoiled and tyrannical females who have “liberated” themselves from domestic obligations. As usual, conservatives are busy calling for the barn door to be shut long after the horse has run off. Our task today is not to “safeguard” or “protect” marriage but to rebuild it almost from scratch. The strategy for doing so will necessarily be different from the strategy for defending it when it was merely under threat.

2. Feminism as Male-Role-Envy

Let us now turn to our second point about women’s traditional status: namely, that it implied sexual complementarity and cooperation.

First, a caveat: most critical discussions of feminism concentrate on refuting its doctrines, such as the ascription of feminine traits to upbringing rather than nature. My approach will be different. While such formal refutation of doctrines is not valueless, it seems to me to mistake the fundamental character of feminism. The feminist movement consists essentially not of ideas at all but of attitudes, or even mere emotions. Feminist “theory,” as it is grandiloquently called, is simply whatever the women in the movement come up with in post facto justification of their attitudes and emotions. A heavy focus on feminist doctrine seems to me symptomatic of the rationalist fallacy: the assumption that people are motivated primarily by beliefs. If they were, the best way to combat an armed doctrine would indeed be to demonstrate that its beliefs are false. But in the case of feminism, even more than Marxism and other political ideologies, it is rather the beliefs that are motivated by various personal and nonrational needs. I propose, therefore, that feminism may be better understood through a consideration of the feminist herself. A feminist in the strict and proper sense may be defined as a woman who envies the male role.

Both feminist and nonfeminist women sense that these characteristically male attributes have a natural primacy over their own. I prefer to speak of “primacy” rather than superiority in this context since both sets of traits are necessary to propagate the race. One sign of male primacy is that envy of the female role by men is virtually nonexistent—even, so far as I know, among homosexuals.

The feminists’ response… desires to possess masculinity directly and the chance to control wealth directly (rather than be supported). Envy has a fundamentally negative character: it wants to bring the other down rather than raise itself up. The envier disguises his envy as a zeal for justice.

Envy is distinct from the sense of justice in being fundamentally unappeasable. The righteously indignant person genuinely wants to come to a settlement. By contrast, if the envied party grants what the envier demands, it merely further demonstrates his superiority and provokes more envy. One reason the feminists have gotten as far as they have is that many men are untroubled by envy themselves. These men cannot understand the psychology behind feminism. Sincerely caring about women and wishing to promote their welfare, they waste effort on futile attempts to reason or compromise. They imagine that limited concessions might persuade feminists that men are not really so bad after all. What the appeasers actually do is grant women some of the external appearances. The situation with racial preferences, incidentally, is precisely analogous.

In other words, feminists’ claim to be motivated by love of justice or fairness is flapdoodle. Feminism is a species not of righteous indignation but of hatred.

In practice, since the feminist can never be the equal of men at the male role, she concentrates her efforts upon sabotaging that role. In other words, because she cannot level up, she contents herself as best she can with leveling down. So the practical consequence of feminist political power is to make it impossible for men to “do their thing” (fulfill their role). For example, women may not be able to have careers as glamorous and successful as they imagined, but one accusation of “harassment” is all it takes to destroy the career of a man whose accomplishments she could never equal. And there is no question that many women get a sadistic pleasure from wielding such power. I myself once heard a woman boast of getting three different men fired.

A whole legal industry has mushroomed within a single generation based upon newly invented crimes and torts of which only men can be guilty and only women can be victims. Obviously, the Western tradition of high regard for women is not going to survive the spread of such behavior indefinitely. It is a mortal threat to any society in which it truly takes hold.

3. Modern Neglect of the Economic Side of Marriage

Having examined briefly—in the first section—the two principal ways in which feminism has undermined the former position of esteem enjoyed by women in our civilization, let us proceed to consider how that position used to be maintained.

The bedrock of the system, more fundamental than the ideal of chivalry, was the institution of marriage. The strictest possible fulfillment of the conditions of marriage by women is obviously necessary before men can be made to believe that women are ethereally pure, naturally monogamous beings selflessly devoted to the good of their families in a way earthy, lust-filled men cannot comprehend.

What, then, is a marriage? I define it as a lifelong sexual and economic union between a man and a woman. Contrary to the superficial views of many people, particularly women, a wedding is not the defining attribute of marriage: it is merely a ceremony that normally marks a couple’s entry into marriage. The only essential purpose of a wedding is to establish paternity, to declare publicly who the presumptive father of the woman’s future children is.

Going into a marriage, sex is the woman’s strong hand. In early adulthood, when humans normally reproduce, the male sex-drive is incomparably stronger than the female, and the female’s sense of shame or modesty is at its height. That is why women rather than men are the primary choosers in the mating dance. But the man is naturally the economically stronger party.

General affluence, female careerism, and hiring preferences for women all erode the man’s natural strong point. Furthermore, the modern overstressing of sex and the corresponding neglect of the economics of marriage amount to a focus on the woman’s natural strength rather than the man’s: the sexual revolution has not strengthened the man’s position as popularly advertised, but undermined it. Our current informal polygamy is in fact a product of [women’s] choices far more than men’s. In fact, viewed economically, the function of monogamy is not to improve the condition of women at all, but rather to ensure that relatively poor men are able to father children.

The tendency to disregard the economics of procreation has encouraged many commentators to adopt what might be called a sexual-extortion model of matrimony, i.e., its portrayal as the finagling of a reluctant and grudging “commitment” from a man by means of the threat of sexual frustration: a triumph of the female over the male, rather than the sanctification of their union.

Let us remind ourselves of some obvious facts. Sex has always been available to men outside of marriage by the simple expedient of direct purchase. Prostitutes, no less than wives, are supported by their men. But since the prostitute has numerous “husbands,” each one only has to provide a small fraction of her support. This makes prostitution a far better bargain for men than marriage, from the perspective of individual sexual self-interest. If men wanted nothing from women but sexual access, renting beats owning: there is no good reason for them to marry at all.

Marriage has a number of things to offer men apart from coitus, in fact, but the most important is children. Ours is the only species whose males are conscious of their biological responsibility for particular offspring. The discovery of fatherhood was a watershed event in human history greater than the discovery of the wheel, fire, or agriculture. Civilization is very largely a matter of high-investment parenting.

The human male finds satisfaction in fatherhood. Generally speaking, a woman marries a meal ticket; a man marries trouble and expense.

I am aware that many readers will be displeased by the frankness—some might say cynicism—with which I write of these matters. Traditionally, the raw sexual and economic facts of marriage have been politely concealed by superadded ideas such as romantic love and gallantry. In the years following the Second World War, such antiquated fashions were with increasing rudeness torn from the sexual act by fraudulent sex “scientists” and pornographers. But the economic realities have not similarly been dragged into the light of day. On the contrary, our prosperity has made it easy to downplay them even more than in the past.

An example of such polite concealment is found in the traditional etiquette with respect to greeting newly married couples. It was customary to say “congratulations” to the man, but never to the woman; to the bride one offered only “best wishes.” The pretense was that the man was receiving an unmerited windfall. The reality, of course, is that the man assumes the principal burden in marriage. For women, it is an economic bonanza.

One factor in the disintegration of marriage and sex roles is that, spoiled by prosperity, women actually came to believe the chivalrous pretense and forgot the underlying economic reality. They expect men to be grateful for the opportunity to support them. (Wendy Shalit is an outstanding example of this mentality.) It is a case of gallantry being abused by its beneficiaries. Under such circumstances, men cannot simply go on behaving in the old manner as though nothing were wrong. It is incumbent upon them to fight back against the forces arrayed against them, in part by emphasizing some home truths about the economic realities of marriage. Perhaps it is time for young men to stop paying for dates and coyly explain that they are “saving their wallets” for marriage.

4. Female Attraction to “Providers” Natural and Unchangeable

Most men eventually come to the melancholy realization that a woman’s choice of mate is largely, and often principally, motivated by economic considerations. A popular female self-help book of the early 1980s, for example, was titled Men Are Just Desserts.

As usual, the feminists treated as historically conditioned something that was in reality natural. The female tendency to seek provider-mates evolved long before the dawn of history, when economic considerations meant hunting ability and bare survival rather than Sports Utility Vehicles and Hawaiian vacations. Women attracted to men able to provide for offspring had more surviving offspring. So today they are simply hard-wired to seek such men. What actually happens when a woman starts earning $100,000 a year, therefore, is not that she ceases to seek a man who can provide for her but that she perceives men as providers (and hence potential mates) only if they are earning even more. When the feminist project is carried out, the majority of men do not get less-materialistic wives; they simply do not get wives at all.

Even if there were enough wealthy men to go around, such men are rarely interested in marrying the corporate spinsters frantically pursuing them. That leads to a kind of tragicomic situation. There exists today a whole genre of self-help literature aimed at well-to-do professional women, promising to show them, as one author phrases it, “how to flatter, tease, dupe, and otherwise manipulate a man into marriage.” Obviously, most of those women are going to fail in their quest no matter how many self-help books they read or how much money they spend. There is still a boy for every girl in the world, but there is not a higher-status boy for every menopausal career girl who foolishly sacrificed her nubile years to achieving wealth and status for herself. These women, in other words, are victims of their own success; their lives are what they have made them.

In an affluent society, even men of well-below-average provisioning capability can easily reproduce at above replacement rate. They may, for that matter, be better husbands and fathers than most wealthy men. Considered rationally, therefore, general prosperity ought to lead to a flourishing society of moderately large families. But the female sex instinct, as the reader may possibly have noticed, is not rational. It is triggered by relative rather than absolute wealth, and so men’s sexual attractiveness is still determined by their status within the social hierarchy as perceived by women.

Hollywood comedy, for example, has long pandered to the primitive female instinct to seek a mate with limitless provisioning capability. A stock hero is the handsome, jet-setting bachelor. His wealth is simply there.

In That Touch of Mink (1962), Cary Grant flies Doris Day to Philadelphia in his private jet for a plate of fettuccine. She tags along as he addresses the UN. They go to a Yankees game and sit in the dugout with the players (he owns the team, apparently). He furnishes her with a new wardrobe complete with private fashion show. He buys up all the tickets on a peak-season flight to Bermuda so she can have the airplane to herself. None of this fantasy is based upon the heroine’s rational concern that the children be adequately provided for; it is pure female luxury. Grant is played off against a “creepy” rival whose unworthiness consists in his having to hold down an ordinary office job, vacationing in East New Jersey instead of Bermuda, and dining on TV dinners and inexpensive wine.

This movie, along with the many others like it, actually gets cited as an example of wholesome entertainment from a more innocent age. The average dull-witted conservative media critic cannot perceive anything objectionable since there is no explicit or extramarital sex. In fact, such “romantic” pictures amount to a kind of gold digger’s pornography. In contrast to Jane Austen’s plot lines, where real risks and difficulties are encountered and moral lessons can be learned, these movies are mere wish fulfillment. They set women up for disappointment by teaching them to have unrealistic expectations about love and life. And, of course, they create absurdly unattainable standards for men.

Or consider the related phenomenon of pulp romance fiction. The market for such books mysteriously exploded around the same time women began entering the workforce in large numbers. The pioneering company, Harlequin Enterprises Ltd., saw its earnings grow two-hundredfold in the decade of the 1970s. Today, Harlequin has many competitors, and some sources report that the romance genre accounts for over half of paperback sales in the United States. The lesson to be drawn, it seems, is that when women become able to provide for themselves, they do not cease to think about men; instead, marriage to a real but imperfect provider is replaced by endless fantasizing about being swept up into the arms of impossibly perfect provider-mates. I once knew a professionally successful registered nurse who owned thousands of those books; the walls of every room in her house were lined with them. She must have read them every waking hour not devoted to working or eating. Not coincidentally, she had neither husband nor children.

Warren Farrell explained as early as 1986 why such literature is the functional equivalent of pornography for women. But while a great deal has been written to deplore the spread of pornography in our society, almost no serious attention has been directed to the causes and effects of romance fiction. My hunch is that its influence is actually more pernicious than pornography, because women have so much greater natural power than men to determine real-world courtship and marriage patterns.

5. No Property Rights within the Traditional Family

According to a paper recently published in Current Anthropology, better use of the sexual division of labor may even be what gave modern humans the decisive competitive advantage over Neanderthals. I would not wish to place too much weight upon an emergent and possibly untestable theory. But for many years, critics of feminism have been routinely dismissed as Neanderthals and Cavemen. It would be a gratifying vindication for us should it turn out that man’s more primitive predecessors actually became extinct through “equality in the workplace.” (It is also amusing to consider how our pampered feminists might have fared in the “hostile work environment” of the Middle Paleolithic.)We are fortunate indeed that the men of ancient Mesopotamia had no feminists around to convince them it was “sexist” to deny property rights to their wives. Those who generate wealth have a better idea of its value than those who are supported by others. It is doubtful whether civilization could have arisen with women in control of the prehistoric purse strings.

Few things generate more feminist ire than this traditional absence of female property. The father, in his role as provider, had a duty to manage his family’s property for the long-term benefit of the family as a whole (including, of course, his wife). A man’s right to control the allotment of the wealth he himself produced was essentially tied to that obligation. Feminists, as usual, perceive only the man’s rights and not the responsibilities from which they derived.

The sexes have not changed much since the Neolithic age, even if our ideas about “rights” have. Even today one can find men with six-figure salaries who cannot get out of debt. They do not live beyond their means; their wives do. In Schopenhauer’s words, “Women think men are intended to earn money so that they may spend it.” One of the traditional goals of rearing daughters has been precisely to disabuse them of this “natural” feminine way of thinking.

The consequences of failing to do so may be seen in certain recent developments in Europe. In 1999, a female British Labour Party politician announced plans “to compel employers to pay men’s wages into their wives’ bank accounts… Wives will have sole discretion over whether or not they receive their husband’s wages directly.” Meanwhile, in Germany a law has been proposed that “would require husbands to pay pocket money to their wives. Failure to pay pocket money … could result in the offender being hauled into family court and ordered to pay.”

A woman’s traditional economic role is “family realization.” A woman dedicated to fulfilling that role might have been bewildered as to how she would benefit from property rights that were legally enforceable against other members of her own family.

6. Family as Primal Form of Community

Elementary economics textbooks dutifully inform students that the word economy comes from the Greek term for household management. But no significance is attributed to that bit of information, and it may be the last time a student of economics ever hears households mentioned. “Economy” can still be found employed in its original domestic sense by Samuel Johnson and other 18th-century writers. Only gradually was its meaning extended metaphorically into “political economy,” the household management of the entire state, as it were.

Once political economy had become a recognized discipline, “political” was dropped from the name as cumbersome and unnecessary to make the speaker’s meaning clear. Subsequently, the original sense faded from men’s minds. Factories and banks, not homes, came to be thought of as the principal settings of “economic” activity. Today we see journalists sloppily referring to the securities market as “the economy.” So completely has the market driven out consideration of the household that one economist, Gary Becker, has recently used marginal-utility theory in attempting to reinterpret the natural family itself as being the result of economically rational calculation.

A second difference is that the home does not have a money economy. When the housewife of old spun wool to make clothing for her family, she was creating wealth—adding human value to raw materials—but the wealth found no monetary or numerical expression. So she could not calculate inputs and outputs, or the return on her invested labor. For that reason, muddle-headed feminists refer to the premodern woman’s domestic labor as “unpaid.”

Advanced societies are often marked by a nostalgic “quest for community,” in Robert Nisbet’s phrase, but members of such societies often fail to appreciate that a return to community would necessarily entail a sacrifice in freedom of personal action—and possibly in material standard of living as well. These are the waters in which cult leaders and demagogues fish. Prominent among such false prophets in recent times have been feminists, calling the duties of married life “slavery” when they are in reality the indispensable basis for the family, and therefore of all real community.

Tönnies himself saw that his typological distinction is not sexually neutral: men can thrive in loose, competitive societies; women generally do not, or, if they do, they lose their femininity in the process. In prefeminist America… supporting a wife need not, be it noted, involve giving her money. But today, after several decades of a state-sponsored cult of individual gratification, Western Man might just require a course in sociology to grasp matters that the rest of the world has always considered too natural and obvious for explanation.

7. Consequences of “Unlimited Choice”

Most leftist utopias involve enjoying all the benefits of tightly knit communities while paying none of the costs in individual freedom such communities demand. Thus, feminists propose to liberate women from “domestic drudgery” and replace it with unrestricted personal choice. Yet the drudgery of marriage and its duties are, quite obviously, the indispensable basis of the family, the model and source for all real community.

It is true that there is a measure of free choice even in marriage: a woman may choose whether, and to a certain extent whom, she will marry. But once a woman makes her choice by taking the vow and entering into the covenant, she ipso facto no longer has a choice. In other words, marriage is a one-way nonrefundable ticket. When a woman keeps her choice of mate open forever, it is called “spinsterhood.”

Ultimately, the fantasies of feminism and sexual liberation rest upon a metaphysical confusion that might be called the absolutizing of choice. The illusion is that society could somehow be ordered to allow women to choose without thereby diminishing their future options. Birth control, abortion, the destigmatizing of fornication and lesbianism, the “right” to a career, arbitrary and unilateral divorce—all these have been pitched to women as ways of expanding their choices.

Consider, for example, a young man’s choice of vocation. One of the charms of youth is that it is a time when possibility overshadows actuality. One might become a brain surgeon, or a mountain climber, or a poet, or a statesman, or a monk. It is natural and good for boys to dream about all the various things they might become, but such daydreams can breed a dangerous illusion: that, where anything is still possible, everything will be possible. That is true only in the case of trivial and inconsequential matters. It is possible to sample all of Baskin-Robbins’s 31 flavors on 31 successive days. But it is not possible to become a brain surgeon and a mountain climber and a poet and a statesman and a monk. A man who tries to do so will only fail in all his endeavors. The reason, of course, is that important enterprises demand large amounts of time and dedication, but the men who undertake them are mortal.

For every path we choose to take, there will be a hundred we must forever renounce. A woman’s sexual choices are analogous to a man’s in regard to his calling. For example, a woman does not have to think about a man’s qualifications to be a father to her children if a pill or a routine medical procedure can remove that possibility. There is no reason to consider carefully the alternative between career and marriage if motherhood can be safely postponed until the age of 40 (as large numbers of women now apparently believe).

The liberated woman who rejects both committed marriage and committed celibacy drifts into and out of a series of what are called “relationships,” either abandoning or being abandoned by her man (in her mind, it is his fault in both cases). A popular German novel satirizing this pattern of behavior is titled With the Next Man Everything Will Be Different. In place of family formation, we find a “dating scene”… based upon the practice in homosexual bathhouses, but it is now being forced upon young men and women as the normative ideal to replace marriage. We behold the self-centered pursuit of short-term pleasure claiming the moral high ground against self-control and lifelong devotion to family.

8. Reasons for Considering Marriage an Irreversible Covenant

Sex belongs to one transient phase of human life, viz., early adulthood. The purpose of marriage is not to place shackles upon people or reduce their options, but to enable them to achieve something that most are simply too weak to achieve without the aid of such an institution.

People cannot know what they want when they are young. A young man may imagine happiness to consist in living on Calypso’s Island, giving himself over to sexual pleasure without ever incurring family obligations; but, like Ulysses, he would eventually find such a life unsatisfying.

Such confusion about one’s desires is probably greater in the female, however. For that reason, it is misleading to speak, as old-fashioned men like to do, of young women “wanting marriage.” A young woman leafing through the pages of Modern Bride does not yet know what marriage is; all she wants is to have her wedding day and live happily ever after. She may well not have the slightest notion of the duties she will be taking on. One might even legitimately speak of a need to protect women from the delusions of feminism and liberation. Motherhood is what really forces young women to grow up.

But without the understanding that marriage is an inherently irreversible covenant, both men and women succumb to the illusion that divorce will solve the “problem” of dissatisfaction in marriage.

9. Natural Erosion of Male Role under Modern Conditions

Obviously the restoration of the marriage covenant is a necessary condition for the restoration of the family and any sustainable civilization. [But] the rate of female-initiated divorce is conclusive proof that dragging or driving the selfish bastards to the altar is not going to solve anything.

Economists have produced cogent refutations of the feminist “57 cents on the dollar” canard, critiques of “comparable worth,” “affirmative action,” and so on. But they usually limit themselves to pointing out why men are more productive, i.e., why men’s labor commands a higher price on the market than women’s. They seem to accept the premise that women and men are interchangeable agents of production whose efficiency can be arithmetically assessed; they ignore qualitative social-role differentiation. That tends not only to undermine the dignity of the traditional female role of wife and mother, as gallant conservatives have long pointed out, but also the specifically male bread-winning role. For men are not simply more productive than women (although they are that as well); rather, they have a natural provider role with social and familial meaning.

The economy is not Wall Street; it is Dad dragging himself out of bed at six o’clock in the morning to go to an unglamorous job because he loves his children. Family life transforms what might otherwise be mere drudgery into a vocation; the father’s work acquires a significance. It is, therefore, an insufficient response to the feminist slogan of equal pay for equal work to show that women are not doing equal work. We will eventually have to rediscover the forgotten concept of the “family income”.

In a postindustrial bureaucratic corporation there is little room for any of these.

10. Deliberate Erosion of Male Role by Feminism

British philosopher C. E. M. Joad once characterized cultural decadence as “a sign of man’s tendency to misread his position in the universe.” Feminism might usefully be viewed in this light as the decadence of European womanhood. It can only have been such a delusion of grandeur that led women with no experience of the world of industry to assert their “right” to a career—meaning, really, an easy and successful career. They pictured themselves, feet up on mahogany desks, barking orders at cringing male subordinates, and getting rewarded for it with fat paychecks and prestige.

The gullible women who entered the workforce at the urging of feminists quickly discovered that they did not like it very much (despite their feminine advantages enumerated above). Work turned out to be… well, a lot of work. Their response to the broken promises of feminism, however, was not to blame the ideologues for having made them or themselves for having believed them; it was to blame men. Men simply had to re-engineer the world of work until women found it “fulfilling.” And feminism would lead the way again. (One of the movement’s greatest strengths has been this ability to profit politically from its own failures.)

It would be difficult to calculate the number of laws and regulations promulgated in the last three decades with a view to the convenience of working women. No doubt that the new rules could only be used against bad men. At my own place of work there are posters prominently displayed to inform women of a toll-free number they can call if they dislike anything a male coworker does or says. There is no equivalent number for men.

Everyone knows what is going on, but no one says anything. The women have all read the stories about $6 million harassment settlements. The public pretense is that women are “advancing” in the workplace; in fact, they are being artificially hoisted on the backs of men.

Full-time year-round male workers in the United States have remained flat since 1973. In that year, full-time working women’s wages were 57 percent those of men; by 2005, they were “earning” (in a manner of speaking) 77 percent as much as men. The men, of course, need that money to start or maintain families; the women do not. Antifeminist women once warned that if their husbands’ family-wage jobs were engrossed by spinsters the money would get wasted on clothing, cosmetics, entertainment, travel, and other frivolities. One thing no economist will ever tell us, however, is how many babies have not been born thanks to women’s workplace “advances.”

11. Practical Consequences of Domestic Androgyny and Role Reversal

Feminists by preference focus on workplace issues, since their envy is directed at the primary male provider role. But they also have a program for revolutionizing our domestic lives: they call it “sharing the housework.” That may not sound particularly alarming to those still unaware that Spain has already passed a law providing for the arrest of men who fail to do half the housework. Similar moves are afoot in Germany.

The principal bait to women involved a promised 50 percent reduction in their housework—undoubtedly appealing on a first hearing. But men, too, were offered rosy prospects: having to bring home only half the bacon, and getting more time with their children. What sort of unfeeling beast could object to a proposal that would allow him to be a better father?

As today’s resort to police-state measures makes clear, however, things have not quite worked out as we were led to expect. What went wrong? One way to find out might be to study actual families that operate on feminist principles.

Feminist observer Janet Steil found that “couples will go to great lengths to conceal a high-earning wife’s income to protect the husband’s status as primary provider.” There is a sound reason for that: overt, prolonged role reversal is fatal to marriage.

Researcher Liz Gallese thought she had finally found an example of a happy role-reversal marriage: the wife’s career was more successful than the husband’s, so he began looking after their child to let her focus on work (the economically rational thing to do). The woman seemed proud of her accomplishments and happy with the arrangement; and Gallese must have thought she had a bestseller on her hands. The reality came to light only when she began speaking to the husband. It turns out that the couple had entirely ceased having sexual relations. Armed with that new information, Gallese began probing more deeply into the wife’s sentiments. The woman eventually admitted she wanted another child, but—not by her husband. “I absolutely refuse to sleep with that man,” she declared; “I’ll never have sex with him again.” Instead, she was now flirting with other successful businessmen. She did not divorce her husband, however; he was still too useful as a nanny for the child. Such would appear to be the thanks men can expect for accommodating their wife’s career and “sharing the housework.”

Some men will contentedly allow dirty dishes to pile up into the sink for days but insist that the yard must look like the putting greens at Augusta. From that alone it should be obvious why the feminist proposal of a “fifty–fifty” marriage is a recipe for endless strife. The traditional model based on sexual complementarity, on the other hand, is a 100–100 arrangement, in which both spouses fulfill their distinct roles to the best of their ability. Complementarity obviates conflict.

You cannot find out what people want by asking them, because their answers do not reflect the trade-offs necessary to get what they say they want. Many wives will answer “yes” if a feminist asks: “Would you like your husband to do half the housework?” But that only means they would like it ceteris paribus: if all other conditions were held constant. The feminist’s inquiry should be: “Would you like your husband to turn down promotions and cut back on his working hours in order to do half the housework?”

Women have difficulty thinking in terms of trade-offs. Some women, for instance, are wont to complain that their work-obsessed husband does not pay enough attention to them. He cannot permit an attention-seeking woman to come between him and his work in a vain attempt to remove all discontent from her life.

On the other hand, there are also some misguided men today who press their wife to stay in the workforce because they do not like to have the second family income cut off. These men are not ideologically feminist; they just do not want to give up the extra vacations or fancy televisions that their wife’s income makes possible. For reasons explained above, this is a devil’s bargain; instead, men should be acting to shore up their own role.

12. What is to be done?

How, concretely, can men do that? I believe two policy goals are fundamental: one for the home and one for the workplace. The linchpin of our family policy objectives must be the reestablishment of presumptive custody of children by their father. Women who wish to abandon their husband must forfeit their parental prerogatives and all claim to spousal support. That means dismantling the entire divorce industry. I have discussed these matters elsewhere. Second, and in connection with the subject of the present essay, men must reestablish their rightful position in the world of work: I propose the slogan “Take Back the Day.” This will require an end to antidiscrimination law as it relates to the sexes.

We need to reestablish a “masculine mystique” in the mind of young women, teaching them once again that they are insufficient unto themselves and stand in need of a man. That is rarely obvious to a modern young woman with a well-paying job and no children. A return to freedom of association, including the legalization of “discrimination,” would benefit the world of work itself as well as home life. Men share thought and behavior patterns that permit more effective cooperation in an all-male setting than in mixed groups. And feminism has created a “hostile working environment” for men in most industries. Plenty of men would be eager to work for firms that formally barred women, far more than would presently be willing to say so out loud. Under a regime of free competition, all-male companies might quickly rout their “gender-equitable” competitors from the field. I suspect a lot of feminists are perfectly aware of this.

These recommendations are not primarily motivated by material considerations. I cannot guarantee the reader that implementing such proposals would raise the value of his stock portfolio. But my position is that the economy exists for the family and not the family for the economy. Family scholar Allan Carlson likes to note that during the postwar economic boom the traditional expression “childless marriage” began to be displaced by a new coinage: “child-free marriage.” When a society values home entertainment systems more than children, something has gone terribly wrong.

Would Americans be able to accept a lower standard of living as a means to restoring the natural family? Probably not, but fortunately it does not matter what we can accept. Our long-postponed day of financial reckoning appears finally to be at hand, and it may well turn out to be something we should not wish away. When ordinary people are brought to understand that the State is unable to ensure their material well-being, children will again be perceived as long-term assets: necessary replacements for the Social Security swindle and state-seized or inflation-eroded private pension funds rather than obstacles to greater consumption. Amid the collapse of political finance, we may be able to regain a sense of the timeless purpose of labor and wealth. Our children may learn to find the satisfaction in the simple daily fact of family survival that we were unable to find in all our economic overreaching.


For the endnotes see here, here, here, here and here.