Feminism and a loveless future

Here’s something closely related to my last post.  At the Atlantic, Ann-Marie Slaughter calls us to commit ourselves more fully to the feminist dream:  more public day care so that women can spend their days self-actualizing in an office while their children are raised by paid professionals.  Sunshine Mary isn’t buying.

[...] The best option, both for individual children and for society as a whole, is high-quality, affordable day-care, either at the workplace or close by. High-quality means care provided by trained professionals who are specialists in child development, who can provide a stable, loving, learning environment that can take care not only of children’s physical needs but also provide stimulation and socialization.

Day care workers do not love the children they care for.  They may care about them, but they do not love them; it is dishonest and denies human nature to claim that they do.  Should children spend fifty hours per week with someone who does not love them?  Only a very sick society would choose this, but Mrs. Slaughter is fully on board with it.

We see that there is a very fundamental disagreement–a disagreement over ends, not merely over means–between people who think like Slaughter and people who think like Sunshine Mary.  Dependency is a fundamental fact of the human condition, especially where the ends of life are concerned.  What is the dignified, humane way to accommodate dependence?  When feminists promise women independence, they don’t mean that literally.  As commenter Martel pointed out, referring presumably to the enormous subsidies being demanded to support the feminist working mother lifestyle

It blows my mind how much women need us to do for them for them to be independent.

The question is what kind of dependence, and what kind of independence.  The fundamental principle of the patriarchal family is dependence on specific persons, and that is what feminism promises to deliver us from.  Yes, someone must take care of children, but in the “caregiving” society ultimate responsibility will be with an organization rather than two particular people.  True, on any given day some particular person must change a particular child’s diapers and read him stories, but it doesn’t always have to be the same person, and it could actually be a self-actualizing experience for the caregiver, since she’s doing it for career advancement rather than for love.  And yes, of course women will still depend on employers, market forces, and the government, but their relationships to such institutions are impersonal and–at least in the abstract sense of free market and social contract ideology–voluntary; therefore they are not degrading.

As I once wrote

The good toward which the patriarchal family is ordered is procreation. Its basic principle is the embrace of dependency. The child depends on his parents, and the parents depend on each other. These experiences of dependency, both of having others depend on us (and the responsibilities this creates) and of depending on others (and the humility this engenders), are regarded as positive goods.  The more deeply each member relies on the other, the more the family can be said to thrive.  Thus the family is not merely an illiberal institution; it is positively anti-liberal. Nothing is more opposed to its ethos than independence, in either the sense of autonomy or of self-sufficiency.

However, we have not completely specified the family just by identifying dependency as its principle.  After all, dependence on other people is an inescapable fact of human existence.  One can imagine an alternative to the family, in which children are raised by child-care experts employed by a large government bureaucracy.  The children would still be dependent, but it would be an organization rather than particular people who would be ultimately responsible for their welfare.  Of course, particular people (teachers, nurses, etc) would be assigned to care for the children in various ways, but this would be delegated responsibility; these technicians could be replaced by others at the bureaucracy’s discretion.  Parental dependency is personal dependency:  it is the mother and father who are fully responsible for the child, and this responsibility is not delegated to them by the state, society at large, or any other organization.  Similarly, the duties of a child to his parents belong to the child as an individual.

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30 thoughts on “Feminism and a loveless future

  1. Pingback: Feminism and a loveless future | ajrogersphilosophy

  2. The good toward which the patriarchal family is ordered is procreation. Its basic principle is the embrace of dependency.

    Well said, and I would add embracing self-sacrifice as well as dependency and even seeing it as a privilege. I feel privileged to have a husband and a large brood of children for whom I can sacrifice. I am mindful of the fact that just as our children are dependent on us now, someday we will likely be dependent upon them. I’m not going to dump my children in a day orphanage now, and I certainly hope they won’t dump me in one later. We read in Psalm 68:6 that God places the lonely in families, not government institutions.

    Did you notice the last paragraph in Mrs. Slaughter’s article? She wrote (highlighting mine):

    All those measures, as far-fetched as they may seem to our breadwinning-obsessed society, reflect the reality of the human, economic, and social need for care. Women have long been socialized into providing such care without recognition or compensation, something that a growing number of men are discovering as they become primary caregivers in their turn, either inside or outside a marriage. But care is not “women’s work.” It is human work, work that embodies and expresses the love and connections to others that make us human in the first place.

    Her article is so poorly reasoned that it is difficult to follow her logic and suss exactly what she wants to see happen, but in this paragraph she seems to be saying that unless mothers receive recognition and compensation for caring for their children, they are being somehow oppressed. And then in the last line she affirms that caring expresses love and connection, which makes it hard to understand why exactly she thinks we should create government funded “high quality” daycare instead of having mothers establish that connection with their own children.

    she’s doing it for career advancement rather than for love.

    Never underestimate how motivating a job title can be for a feminist. By their reasoning, it is better to be the Lead Poopy Diaper Project Manager in a day orphanage and making the equivalent of minimum wage after paying to abandon one’s own children with other “professionals” than it is to be an unpaid and unrecognized housewife.

    more public day care so that women can spend their days self-actualizing in an office while their children are raised by paid professionals.

    Do you mean to say that I am at this very moment sitting on the patio drinking lemonade, fooling around on my blog while watching my children romp in the yard, when instead I could be self-actualizing in a cubicle? Oh, will no one save me from this torture?!

    • Those aren’t the only two choices. False dichotomies are not helpful either. The delusion that women are supposed to raise children in atomic isolation and that this is better or even more natural than the American consumerist collectivism Mrs. Slaughter wants more of is a baffling one altogether too common to supposed traditionalists.

      • Supposed traditionalists?

        A Lady, just because a woman, a mother, doesn’t have support from an anarcho-tyrannical centralized collectivist government, doesn’t mean that she’s raising in atomic isolation. That’s the false dichotomy given by modernity.

        What’s worse, perhaps, is when the appearance of centralized big state government (aka communism), tries to establish itself as genuinely communitarian and to destroy organic intermediary institutions, which vary from small to medium in size, not to mention family ties.

        That’s another fall-out of the feminization of the family unit and the destruction of both nuclear and extended families. Even women want this dynamic from the government established in their personal lives and families.

        That’s not going to work. That will destroy what’s the already deadened patriarchy and marriage.

      • @ A Lady

        The delusion that women are supposed to raise children in atomic isolation and that this is better or even more natural than the American consumerist collectivism Mrs. Slaughter wants more of is a baffling one altogether too common to supposed traditionalists.

        You appear to be attempting to criticize something, but you don’t say what exactly. You also seem to be suggesting an alternative, but you don’t specify what that would be. Perhaps if you completed your thought, it might be easier to discuss your ideas.

        There was a woman who made a similar comment on my old blog months ago, and I’m trying to remember if that was you. As I recall, she (you?) was a stay-at-home mother with a housekeeper and a full-time nanny. Perhaps you mean that a woman should be wealthy and pay a nanny to help raise her children. Never having had a nanny, I couldn’t really say if that’s a wise strategy. I suppose if one is lucky enough to engage Mary Poppins, I daresay it just might work. But if you end up with Yoselyn Ortega instead?

        How’s that for a false dichotomy?

      • I think A Lady may be channeling Betty Friedan here, although, as I recall, her beef was that it was absolute hell to be a member of the female leisure class in a posh New York suburb. I know that raising children is often difficult, and that children are often tedious, but we must always measure difficulty and tedium of one situation against the difficulty and tedium of the most likely alternative situation. My wife is a stay-at-home mother, and yes, she is sometimes lonely; but her social life is a veritable banquet of variety and vivacity compared with the dreary necropolis where I spend my days.

        This doesn’t mean that A Lady does not have a point, though, and patriarchs who wish to make full-time motherhood an attractive option would do well to consider it. Politically, we should support the parks and playgrounds where playgroups meet. Tell your parks department to put in decent benches, and to place some in the shade and some in the sun. Personally, we should be willing to accept some sacrifices in our own careers, and not heedlessly uproot our wives (and children) from these important social networks. The life of a stay-at-home mother is not necessarily a life of “atomic isolation,” but it certainly can become one, and it’s part of the job of a husband to see that it doesn’t.

  3. A Lady worries about false dichotomies: Isn’t raising children (supposedly) in “atomic isolation” part of another false dichotomy?

    • Ok. I get it. Ma Ingalls is the only model traditional stay at home wives are permitted. Anything else is evil posh rich woman crap, maybe even evil posh Jewish rich woman crap. Righty-o. There are no stay at home women struggling and delirious with lack of sleep from having numerous closely spaced kids together thousands of miles from any network of home and family that could help. There are no stay at home Christian women who can’t get their churches to see that they need help and send fellow members out to them, but tell them that ‘motherhood is a blessing, you just need to pray moar’. There are no stay at home mothers who weren’t raised with homemaking arts, or even the idea that you have to get up in the morning anyway because the kids definitely will, and who struggle to adjust because they love their husbands and children and want to do right by them but don’t know where to start, because all the homemaking tools out there presuppose you already were raised by a SAHM in the Ingalls mode.

      But clearly, none of them need mother’s helpers. None of them warrant older women coming by, making the rounds of the local church/parish when babies are little and not sleeping to give mothers a chance to recover. Nope, none of that stuff anyone can read in non-fiction books about traditional life before the hippies (basically pre-1960s) ever happened. There weren’t communal cleaning gangs. Basic services weren’t sold door-to-door at low prices, leaving even many working-class mothers with time to rest and refresh for each day and week of tending the household and also meeting the higher social needs common to women without the women having to leave the house as a norm. The Mormon Relief Society is a fairy tale told to little traditionalist children, a magical tale of women helping other women with the labor of maintaining a household and raising children even though nearly all of the women involved stayed home and didn’t work outside the home.

      I’m clearly wrong. The only two options are insane consumption-based collectivism advocated by people who sure didn’t have to suffer that (Anne Marie Slaughter is just the most recent example) and a bunch of people on the internet saying that if you have someone hold the baby while you pee, or wrangle the littlest ones so you can homeschool the older ones, you’re a rich posh selfish lazy housewife and your husband clearly failed in his wife-choice and is doooooooooomed to be ‘frivorced’ at any minute. And also you don’t really love your babies because you need a break sometimes. This is clearly proof you aren’t truly feminine.

      Whatever. There is no woman who is cooking every day, cleaning top to bottom every day, homeschooling (what? infants? really? 2yos? really? in the real world, children were taught at home, when they were, after age 7. the current thing of trying to homeschool infants/toddlers is a carryover from the mainstream idiocy about education) every day and is getting enough sleep and food and break time. This is the lie that is fed to women who want, out of delusional but heartbreakingly sweet love, to stay home and raise up their kids in Christ and tend their hestia as good wives while their husband labors outside the home to pay for it all. This lie that tasks that historically required multiple people *even with labor saving devices* can be done by one exhausted, endlessly pregnant and breastfeeding woman, alone, with no time to see anyone but the little kids and maybe, sometimes, church people. If they can make it in, which is not always possible.

      Or less TLDR, this woman is not real and needs to stop being presented as real:
      http://traditionalchristianity.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/how-the-manosphere-turned-me-into-an-uptight-starving-wife/#comment-36196

      • Maybe I’ll take back what I said about you having a point. Listen, we all agree that some young mothers are in “atomic isolation;” we all agree that this is extremely difficult for them; and we all agree that, when this happens, other folks should notice the problem and help them out. My wife and I have done this many, many times. I think that all that any of us were criticizing in your comment was the suggestion that “atomic isolation” was the normal fate of any young mother who didn’t dump her child at a daycare and head back to the office as soon as possible. That sounded like the old feminist boogyman.

      • Ugh, threading means I have to reply to myself, but this is to JMSmith.

        The young mothers in atomic isolation ARE MOSTLY THE FREAKING TRADITIONALIST ONES. That’s my point! That’s it! Those young mothers are the ones nobody is making a collective effort to help!

        Any woman staying home with the kids and popping out more than 2 kids is pretty much a traditionalist-friendly woman, even if she might use some different Christianese. Yeah there are exceptions, but the general pattern remains that the stay at home mothering, homeschooling and increasingly homesteading (to some women really are the mules of the world) women are trying to live traditionally structured lives as far as strict gender roles and male headship and Christ-centered living are concerned.

        If you’re an alcoholic single mother, people, especially Christian people, will elbow each other out of the way to mow your lawn and help you out. Then the government programs kick in on top of that.

        If you’re a Christian wife with 4 kids under 5, people will cluck (not even sympathetically always) and won’t come help at all. And because such women are so exhausted, they don’t have the energy to raise the older ones to be useful, so you have these families of six or eight or even twelve where none of the children does anything (and yes, homeschooling totally falls by the wayside) and mother does it all even with teenagers.

        Now there are exceptions to my last paragraph. There are some Christian communities that provide the informal, not-government support that people just took for granted in the past because the culture itself wasn’t child-hating (which American culture is, that is part of why American parenting culture is so fruitbatty and control-freakish, but also in love with shoving the kids in daycare). It is because of those exceptions that I have hope that normal life will be restored in a generation or so.

        Children do belong to us all, not in the creepy government-collective way, but in the ‘households assist each other here and there, informally and lovingly’ way. The whole point of the mother’s helper was that it was a local girl from nearby that another family could spare. It was just that extra pair of hands all mothers could use from time to time. The old ways weren’t perfect, but the refusal to even acknowledge that they are there, that we do have alternative models of collective service to each other whilst still having independent households, is really a huge concern.

      • I would be very surprised if many young women are visiting the manosphere to get tips on how to be a good mother. Like everything else in life, motherhood can be better or worse depending on your efforts and attitude. as far as I know, no one has closed down public libraries or banned visits from friends and family. I did not have paid help when my children were young, but I did have friends, neighbors and family who helped. Most mothers can trade off with other mothers for a break. Why are you so angry? Who are you so angry at?

  4. I don’t understand the notion that a housewife who raises children is “uncompensated.” Is she obliged at the end of the day to scavenge her food and clothing from the neighbors’ trash cans? After tucking in the kiddies, must she go and sleep under a bridge? Does her pocket money consist of coins she finds on the sidewalk? Of course not! In every “patriarchal” family I can think of, the wife’s “compensation” is essentially equal to that of the husband: room, board, transportation, insurance, and a little pocket money.

    Here’s a little experiment for anyone tempted to fuzzy feelings about professional child-care providers. If you were placed in day care, try to picture your care-provider. It will have to be a composite, of course, but go ahead anyway. If you weren’t placed in day care, picture your kindergarten teacher. Now fudge her together with your first- second- and third-grade teachers. What do you feel about those composites? Do you feel guilty that you haven’t called them lately? Lonely because they haven’t called you? Do you pray for them? Do you suppose they pray for you? Would you cry at their funeral? Would they cry at yours?

    What Slaughter apparently desires, and what the preceding paragraph illustrates, is a world of contractual relationships, whereas the mother-child relationship is properly one of status. As we all know, the overall trend in modernity is from a society that is predominantly status-based to one that is predominantly contractual. This isn’t altogether a bad thing, but we are rapidly approaching the point where all relationships will be contractual. How would you like to come into adulthood and realize that most of the “love” you received as a child was bought and paid for, that most of the hugs and cuddles were purchased in the market at the going rate?

    • That’s good info, thanks.

      We did this for a while, and my wife hated numbers, and hated the stress. It didn’t help that I was totally not involved, and that we were in the red month after month. So now I do it, and if I even try to bring it up, she nearly faints. She’d much rather submit to my leadership; it’s especially easy for her to just submit in this area.

      • I don’t think it matters who keeps the domestic accounts. As you say, give it to the spouse who is best with numbers. It just irritates me to hear feminists say that the work of a housewife is “uncompensated” labor. It also irritates me to hear them suggest that my wife is my employee. When you get rich down to it, just about everything feminists say about marriage irritates me.

  5. I have a Japanese wife and we have more or less a traditional Japanese marriage, which is somewhat different from western marriage. In Japan (and most of Asia as far as I know) gender roles are “stricter” in a sense. In the ideal, the man works and the woman is a housewife. But, the financial arrangement is a lot different from how this works in the west.

    The man gives his ENTIRE paycheck to his wife. She is in charge of managing the home. She makes the budget, pays the bills, does the shopping, and whatever is left over after savings/investments is given as an allowance. Yes, I get an allowance from my wife the same as the kids (I get more but the important thing is we both get an allowance).

    This may seem strange but I really like this system. When you give your wife this kind of responsibility you will be amazed by her combination of thrift and generosity. She is constantly looking for bargains and finds ways to make your pay go way farther than it should, and always has plenty left over for fun money.

    I think western feminism mostly came from bored middle class housewives whose husband dealt with the money and many of them had help with the household chores. So they feel irrelevant and indulge in childish power fantasies. My wife has real power. She also has real responsibility. The Asian system is a way of “enclosing the family” and giving the wife a higher stake in the family’s success. I fully believe that putting your wife in charge of managing the home is the first and most important step in the formation of Proverbs 31 women.

    • This is also how things worked with my parents and with my wife and I. The husband is in charge of earning the money, and the wife is in charge of expenses. It seems to work out all right. I personally hate budgeting, and I’m often getting myself in trouble for not keeping track of the expenditures on my grants. So I run to the friendly female department budget specialist for help.

    • “I think western feminism mostly came from bored middle class housewives whose husband dealt with the money and many of them had help with the household chores. So they feel irrelevant and indulge in childish power fantasies. ”

      This is an ingenious way to position any argument about the devaluation of women’s work childrearing and maintaining the hestia as a distinct, valuable space or abuses that went unpunished under traditional societies as the ranting of spoilt women who can’t figure out how to properly keep themselves busy. It’s especially clever, because like so much really good (and thus really dangerous) polemic, it’s a little bit true. But only a little bit.

    • Mr. Smith

      The Asian system is a way of “enclosing the family” and giving the wife a higher stake in the family’s success. I fully believe that putting your wife in charge of managing the home is the first and most important step in the formation of Proverbs 31 women.

      That was interesting to read, thanks for writing it. I wonder how we could encourage “enclosing the family” in our culture?

      Managing the budget, paying the bills, and balancing the checkbook is my job as well. My husband doesn’t get an allowance, but we check with each other before we make purchases over $200.

  6. There is a reason why every love song says oh baby, baby. As I read the comments here I wonder where the sheer joy of motherhood is celebrated. Yes, as in all aspects of life, there are some tedious times, but most women find great joy in the care of their children. There are few other occasions in life when you can make another human being completely content. I can assure you that no one else has ever jumped up and down, applauding, because I walked into a room.

    My heart breaks for young women who have been led to believe that motherhood is nothing but trouble and woe. All too often, by the time they bear children they have financial obligations which prevent them from enjoying the full experience. I am so grateful that I was never pressured into turning my babies over to strangers. How strange that we willingly give our children to people whom we would never trust with our checkbooks. Strange days indeed.

    • I trust the nice young women who provide help for our household with our checkbooks. Because it’s not an either-or. Motherhood is a blessing, but the physical care of children is not something that anyone does uninterrupted without breaks. Except traditionalist-friendly SAHMs, who are excoriated for daring to want a potty break or an occasional nap.

      If I thought children sucked and weren’t that great, why on earth would I endlessly hammer that traditionalists need to be serious about alternatives to the current child-rearing models because those tired women are out there trying to have the kids? Kids are great, I want to live in a culture that supports *in the historical senses of the term, not government programs* having babies that grow up into useful, productive, mostly decent people.

      • “…I endlessly hammer that traditionalists need to be serious…”
        And you’re such a Barnabas about it, too.

      • If I thought children sucked and weren’t that great, why on earth would I endlessly hammer that traditionalists need to be serious about alternatives to the current child-rearing models because those tired women are out there trying to have the kids?

        I don’t know whether A Lady is fitness testing or whether this is satire.

      • A Lady
        No one has made this atomic isolation argument that you are so vociferously attempting to defeat. I don’t care if you have a nanny. I suspect no one else does, either. How is it even relevant to the topic of government-funded daycare centers? Do you just want group affirmation for your personal choices or something? If your husband approves of your having a nanny, then it is no one else’s concern.

  7. Pingback: This Week in Reaction | The Reactivity Place

  8. I’m sorry I missed this post. It’s one of the things that has given me the most pause about having biological children. I would feel I should be at home with them, but that would conflict with the work I feel called do with struggling families and their children. Even the most amazing working mother has to sacrifice something and it’s so difficult.

    That said, some families have to have one person work, may involve a widow or other circumstances (such as a woman not being maternally inclined) that make the woman the primary breadwinner.Working women do need to be supported for common sense reasons.

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