Monday, March 23, 2015

More Men and Marriage

Summaries and Restatements of Some of Gilder's Arguments

One way of expressing some of Gilder's arguments: Men who are acculturated to tie their sense of manliness to making money and caring for a wife and children do a better job of getting rich and caring for their wives and children than men acculturated differently. They are less likely to leave their families, commit violent acts against women and children, be sexually promiscuous, and contribute to other societal evils. Consequently, gendered differences are a societal good because the naturally beneficial impulses of women to nurture children and foster society shape the naturally selfish and detrimental impulses of men towards societally beneficial ends. Without those gendered differences, society and civilization will fall apart and make the world economically poor and physically violent.

Wealth is a primary moral good, and how wealthy a person or society is becoming is a sign of how morally healthy that person or society is (at least most of the time).

Men are not biologically well adapted to the cultural/technological reality that strength and risk taking are no longer necessary to success in human life. Society is experiencing serious problems as the result of this, because it has made the role of men in the family less secure. Gilder has drawn the correct conclusion that we must face this biologically influenced problem directly or we are living in dream worlds. Gilder's conclusion is that women should fix these problems by approximating their subservient, tribal role (what they evolved for) like they continued to do throughout the development of capitalism in Europe and the U.S.

In all of his analysis of biology and evolution (which is flawed in too many ways to address), he has missed the import of a couple of the facts that he himself points us toward. Culture has influenced human evolution. Our bodies adapt, over time, to new environmental pressures. Human dimorphism has already shifted (lessened) in response to technological and cultural changes in our evolutionary history, and this was known in 1980. Since then we have learned that sexual dimorphism affects far fewer traits, and is far less significant in defining a person's personality and motivations, than Gilder asserted. In fact, variation among males or among females is much greater than the differences between sexes on all but a few, mostly physically obvious, traits. By Gilder's kind of reasoning, this lessening in sexual dimorphism was an essential step in getting to the nearly wonderful capitalist present (that would be even better if it were more patriarchal and more capitalist). Why does he think pressures to lessen the dimorphism even further will result in the destruction of civilization when that same lessening resulted in the emergence of civilization? Apparently we have the variability in male biology to adapt to a stronger position for women in our society, but maybe accepting and fostering that will create a society where "masculine" men, by Gilder's definition, can't survive. I actually hope so. We can't afford the kind of dishonesty, war, and destruction that supporting such definitions of manhood has brought upon us throughout history. Humanity can't survive attitudes that take us back to our more violent past.

Problems and Changes Gilder's Solutions Don't/Can't Address

  • Technology has taken jobs in the past, is taking them now, and will take even more in the future. I'm surprised a successful futurist hasn't incorporated this fact into his worldview. Loss of the ability to provide for a family destroys marriage. This has nothing to do with feminism or sexual liberation. No amount of societal or sexual pressure will give jobs to people when those jobs don't exist.
  • Technology has removed many consequences of promiscuity, technology is removing the dependence of women on men for reproduction, and technology is beginning to remove the dependence of men on women for reproduction. No amount of societal pressure will undo these technological advances, and most people don't think we should. These advances serve many traditionally good purposes as well, such as healthcare research and helping infertile couples conceive and bear children.
  • We may very well be at a point where human culture is affecting biological evolution (in fact it is extremely likely). We won't solve the problems of this shift by fighting evolution and going backwards to more male-dominated, more tribal mentalities.
  • Sexual liberation and feminism are not responsible for high levels of female infanticide that have resulted in large numbers (hundreds of millions) of unmarriageable males in the Far East. The lack of economic value of women is more responsible, and the shame cultures that place high value on masculinity.
  • Sex and World Peace suggests three ways to make the world better for women: 
    • protect women physically through making and enforcing laws that protect their safety. Such laws often have the consequence of making women less dependent on their husbands to protect them, and according to Gilder's logic must undermine manhood and thus society. I say, such a society deserves to be undermined. Gilder's logic says reducing women's dependence on men will destroy society and make it worse for both men and women. Look at the evidence in Sex and World Peace. The world is measurably better for men and women in countries and cultures where women are dependent on law, not husbands, for their safety.
    • make women equal in family law. Gilder implies that family law already undermines manhood through divorce laws that typically take the family from the man and unman him. Even if Gilder's view were defensible (it isn't. Read Sex and World Peace to see how nations benefit from equality in family law), I say tough. Be a man. Deal with it. It's no excuse for anti-social or destructive behavior.
    • have women present in roughly equal numbers with men on ruling councils. According to Gilder such efforts would undermine the natural place of men and destroy society. Having a hard time making that connection? Read Gilder's book. It's pretty clear. Except Sex and World Peace provides evidence of how the world is better where women are present in large numbers on governing councils.
I have failed to find value in Men and Marriage. It is poorly informed and reasoned from a biological perspective. It is short on evidence and long on opinion (in contrast to Sex and World Peace and Poor Women in Rich Countries, which are long on the former). It looks narrowly at the U.S. most of the time and provides no quantitative controls or comparisons to help interpret most of the statistics provided (in the first eight chapters). It dismisses all feminism and sexual liberationism as leading to the extremes, and dismisses anyone who thinks otherwise as ignorant or intellectually dishonest. It fosters a black and white, either/or approach to the issues which helps his weak arguments (who wants the awful alternative of society falling apart?), but fails to suggest solid, actionable paths like those indicated in Sex and World Peace. It labels everyone who would give rights and autonomy to women as desiring the sameness of women and men. It overplays the differences between men and women and undermines the agency of both men and women to choose moral courses without being forced to them (men by their sexual urges and women by the men who control their laws and finances).

I have been kindly accused of being a bleeding heart liberal who just doesn't understand the economic or social implications of my political, economic, and religious views. If agreeing with Men and Marriage implies correct understanding of politics and economics, I can confidently state that I have more reason and evidence behind my bleeding heart liberalism than any Gilderian conservative, and in addition I have compassion for the plight of women and the poor. On rational, moral, and emotional grounds, I'd rather be where I am than go backward to Gilder's ideal manhood.

My Summaries

I didn't finish reading Men and Marriage. I stopped after chapter 8. I don't think Gilder's ideas deserve more air time, and I was tempted to not complete my review at all and just let the topic die. But I did this much work, and many people I know (and even some I love) are influenced by the supposed reasons of arguments like Gilder's, so I will publish my summaries of the first eight chapters. I do not pretend that my summaries are thorough or fair. At first I tried to be. Later summaries just tried to capture what seemed to be the main point of Gilder's argument without nuance or attempts to make it seem palatable.

Maybe in part three Gilder has some interesting and insightful things to say about economics and family. Maybe he points out some worthwhile things for us to do to make the world better. But his poor reasoning, dearth of quantitative evidence, and poor use of the evidence he does provide in the first eight chapters made me unwilling to continue. If I were to interpret his actions in writing this book, I might posit that he perceives feminism, sexual liberation, and socially liberal economic policies as threats to his masculinity, so he feels morally justified in playing fast and loose with evidence to protect that sense of manhood. That would be an evidence based opinion (see link in chapter 4 notes) as well established as many of Gilder's arguments.

Chapter 2 The Facts of Life

Gender binary is a biological reality, not simply a cultural construct. We need to accept these biological differences and shape our institutions and culture to channel them toward the optimal ends. (side note: people who don't fit the binary are abnormal.) Every human society has been dominated militarily and politically by men, and women have only had significant power when men were significantly absent. Hormones are destiny, and we should accept it and see it as good. [While I concede sexual dimorphism, recent measurements suggest it is neither as large nor as important as Gilder implies. I will question the conclusions later, if needed.]

Chapter 3 After the Hunt

Violence is a natural outlet for male hormonal impulses, so war ("defence") and hunting are good past times for men so they leave food growing/gathering/preparation and child rearing to women. Humanity has made advances that have problematized the natural, tribal gender and hierarchy roles, and this has had psychological consequences for our time. A developmental replacement for violent outlets of masculinity was to tie masculinity and approved sexuality to economic growth--you had to be financially independent to be socially approved more marriage and conceiving children.
"In terms of the relations between men and women, the industrial revolution, for all its violence and technological impetus, was probably dependent upon a draconian imposition on males of the long-term rhythms and perspectives of female sexuality. Men were made to feel that their identities as males were dependent not chiefly on religious rituals, or gang depredations, or hunting parties, or warfare, but on work, initiative, love, and responsibility for a wife and children. The new structure of motivation, which arose in agrarian England and Western Europe . . . prompted the ideas of individual responsibility, dignity, and equality that are the pride of capitalism."
In other words, behind every good male-dominated civilization, there's a good female civilizing influence. This has gotten us to the place we're at, and the burden of proof for the goodness of change is on the people who are calling for change.
[a la Sex and World Peace, that evidence is plentiful the moment you stop looking at the world from a male-centric viewpoint, and it's even evident from male-centric economic and technological viewpoints. Also, even from Gilder's narrative, responding to women made the industrial revolution possible. Why would you assume we have now arrived and that really listening to women on human councils (making them equal in numbers and power on those councils) would not continue human improvement?]

Chapter 4

Young men need to be civilized. Sex is the only power sufficient to control him, so society has to tie access to sex to socially beneficial behaviors. Work and women do this because they define masculinity and masculine success. Young men who don't find these successes will hurt society.
[Threatened masculinity does justify for men selfish and unethical behavior, but as the definitions vary culturally, so do the senses of threat. Gilder is proposing removing the threat to masculinity by increasing men's sense of masculinity based on economic success and dominance over a single family unit (as opposed to over women generally). But this means threats to a man's economic success will promote less moral behavior in the workplace. We will have more cheaters in financial and political realms who feel just fine about it. That's Gilder's "pride of capitalism"?]
American couples are happier with an ambitious male provider and unhappier with an ambitious female provider. Men who say they support equality for women in the workplace don't really because they are fighting a biological reality, namely that working women threaten their sense of masculinity. Gilder's solution? Women should fix men by staying financially dependent on them and either out of the workplace or in low paying jobs.
[Seriously? He puts it in a lot more words and from a male perspective so that it doesn't sound so brazen, but if you don't believe me read the chapter and summarize his solution for me, yourself.]

Chapter 5

Powerful men are the winners of social changes that have reduced pressures for men to be monogamous. Divorce and promiscuity [which Gilder equates with sexual liberation] yield more poor women, powerful men taking advantage of the freedom of women to choose because most women choose them, dangerously increased numbers of single men, and a less egalitarian and more dangerous society. Gilder's solution? Keep women financially dependent and enforce monogamy through limiting divorce.
[So it's feminists' fault for claiming that women should have choice and autonomy that is responsible for the abuses of powerful men because powerful men can't help themselves--it's just a biological reality. Again, show me that I'm misinterpreting this. The first three chapters were just about how men can't change, and those following are just about how we shouldn't ask them to, but those who control the economy (powerful men) and those who control sex (women, but not really because they don't have sexual autonomy) should use men's unavoidable impulses to control them. To me that sounds like the business model of the pornography industry, but it's women's lib that's responsible for the pornography industry, not Gilder's model.]

Chapter 6

Single men = poor, neurotic, and harmful to society. Here Gilder presents a few statistics that I don't doubt are real. We have societal problems that result from large numbers of unmarriageable men. Gilder presents a handful of very broad statistics, provides no controls or reference points other than some imagined past where the family was stronger and these problems were much less for that reason, and not given time to any competing explanations or multifactorial explanations. He's even goes so far as to say (it may have been in a different chapter) that looking for multifactorial explanations to some problems Gilder points out is a waste of time because it overlooks the biological and family reality (from chapters 1-3) that Gilder claims explains everything.
[If you want to talk about ways we can improve the world relative to any of the problems Gilder brings up in this chapter, I'd be happy to look into those issues more with you. I'm convinced these are serious problems we face, but as you can see from other comments I find Gilder's solutions intellectually and morally bankrupt.]

Chapter 7

Gilder blames homosexuality on increases in numbers of single young men.
[Why aren't there higher proportions of black homosexuals than white in the U.S., since there are higher proportions of single black young men? That's a convenient oversight. Plus, Gilder's biology on this was incorrect then, and has been shown to be beyond left field since then. He would have done better to stick with his hormones as destiny thesis on this subject, too.]

Chapter 8

Gilder blames high percentages of single parent homes (or "high illegitimacy rates" as he phrases it to emphasize the strength of his thesis) on the welfare state and how that has made poor women financially independent. He claims other experts don't have any good explanations.
[I admit the problems with the numbers of broken families in the African American community. Many of them admit it. But it couldn't possibly be the result of centuries of slavery followed by institutional racism and poverty that have destroyed Black families. It must be the financial "independence" of Black women and their resulting lack of need for Black men to  provide. It couldn't be that Black men feel like it is impossible for them to provide for a family adequately in any legal way because of racism in education and the work place. No, it's the welfare state that's to blame.]

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Men and Marriage: Necessities of Love

"civilization is the subordination of male sexual impulses and biology to the long-term horizons of female sexuality." "It is male behavior that must be changed to create a civilized order." "women transform male lust into love; channel male wanderlust into jobs, homes, and families; link men to specific children; rear children into citizens; change hunters into fathers; divert male will to power into a drive to create."

"The prime fact of life is the sexual superiority of women. Sexual love, intercourse, marriage, conception of a child, childbearing--even breast-feeding--are all critical experiences psychologically." "they all entail sexual roles that demonstrate the primacy of women."

The role of motherhood is defined biologically. The role of fatherhood is defined culturally. [note: this is a biologically ignorant viewpoint. For a fun and beautiful read on the topic of biological fatherhood, I recommend The Emperor's Embrace by Jeoffrey Masson. While Gilder's view is overstated, there is likely a kernel of truth, so we'll see what he does with it. His claims may rely on the kernel of truth rather than the false overstatement.]

In successfully civilized societies, the dominance of men using money has successfully replaced the primitive dominance of men using muscle.

Women's financial independence = "women must . . . psychologically disconnect from their wombs and adopt the short-circuited copulatory sexuality of males. Women must renounce all the larger procreative dimensions of their sexual impulse."

Women's connection to childbearing and rearing will always be more important than men's connections. [and when technology makes this untrue?]

Gilder then present historical and anthropological evidences that boys and girls growing into men and women are different. He does this to support the idea that women's sexual roles are taken for granted, but men's sexual roles are uncertain and easily threatened. I can accept this point. I even have some quantitative evidence to support it.

He cites a study indicating that "males almost everywhere show greater sexual aggressiveness, compulsiveness, and lack of selectivity. . . . men are overwhelmingly more prone to masturbation, homosexuality, voyeurism, gratuitous sexual aggression, and other shallow and indiscriminate erotic activity."

I'm having a hard time reading this chapter. Gilder makes claim after claim that women are better than men for essential and biological reasons, and men only become good when someone grants them the status of manliness and they have sexual release in marriage. Otherwise men can't control their sexual impulses. He provides no quantitative evidence directly supporting these assertions, and the evidence he does give is open to multiple interpretations (some contradicting Gilder's). Hopefully chapter 2 has more substance and doesn't rely so heavily on his intuition and common prejudices.

Men and Marriage: Preface & Prologue

I'm going to summarize what I see as substantive points and try as best I can to take the evidence at face value without judging the claims too much until I have a complete picture of what George Gilder is asserting in his book, Men and Marriage. The book began as an article for Harper's magazine titled Sexual Suicide. In that article, Gilder declared "the differences between the sexes are the single most important fact of human society. . . . the drive to deny them--in the name of women's liberation, marital openness, sexual equality, erotic consumption, or homosexual romanticism--must be one of the most quixotic crusades in the history of the species."


People were upset at this article, and feminist editors blocked it's expansion into a book until Pelican bravely accepted this expanded version and published it in 1986.

American culture has absorbed the ideology of "the obsolescence of masculinity and femininity, of sex roles, and of heterosexual monogamy as the moral norm".

"sexal liberals simply ignore or deny male nature." "American intellectuals and social scientists reduce manhood to androgynous mush. With men seen longing for the 'right to cry' or to stay home and nurture children, virility becomes a mere derivative of femininity." "the denial of male nature in modern life warps and perverts the natural play of male aggression, leading to violence and pornography, to fear and exploitation of women, to the quest for potency through drugs and alcohol, to punch-drunk music, and to fighting at sports events. Millions of men feed on the masculinity of a few heroes--boxers, football players, roch stars, entrepreneurs, macho film and TV avengers."

"Although some observers believe that feminism and sexual liberalism no longer threaten family values, little in fact has changed. Contemporary sexual liberals are merely less honest than earlier feminists in facing the inevitable antifamily consequences of their beliefs."

"sexual liberalism chiefly liberates men from their families"

Basically Gilder makes lots of claims about the effects of feminism and sexual liberalism without yet providing any evidence to support them, so rather than argue here, I'll get into the book and see what his evidence is. He does provide one piece of statistical evidence (without source)--illigitimacy rate is approaching 80% in Central Harlem and is over 40% in Sweden--and concludes that the welfare state doesn't work. Also, women who wait until their mid-thirties to marry have less than a 5% chance of marriage, so feminist arguments to delay marriage are more than stupid. Women earn less that 17% of income in intact families confirms his argument that wives would never make income their prime goal. Outbreaks of sexual transmitted diseases are proof sexual liberalism is bad. Low birth rates in Europe are proof sexual liberalism is bad. Basically, Gilder was a prophet in 1973, and he will show he was in this book (my words, but his ideas).


I'm going to skip the prologue because it tells Gilder's narrative but provides no evidence to support it.

So far

We have a few statistics with one hypothesis for their explanation, and logical ties between the hypothesis and statistics are left to the imagination and prejudices of the author or reader. It's worth noting that Gilder sees one of the same things emphasized in the books on women I am reading, namely that women earn less than men in intact families. I think Gilder would have us perpetuate this as a natural role necessary for the success of society, while the other books see it as a risk factor for poverty and a sign of the sickness of society. Let's see how things play out and see if we have good reason to choose one hypothesis over the other. One thing I don't like is Gilder's very black and white presentation. It's feminism against family. If you don't recognize this, you are simply intellectually dishonest (or ignorant). Maybe a good start for book sales and attention, but I don't think it's a good start for fostering understanding between different parties or arriving at the best possible solutions which, in my experience, tend to incorporate the best of many different viewpoints.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Women and Economics: Two book reviews

A study published 25 years ago (The feminization of poverty: Only in America? Goldberg, 1990) reported that women were disproportionately represented among the poor in the United States. 60% of poor families were lone mothers raising children. Elderly single women also were disproportionately represented among the poor. Several other countries were studied at the same time with varied results dependent on too many factors to draw very many unambiguous conclusions, but in my brief perusal of the book, it struck me with more force than ever before how simply being a woman--and especially a mother--is risky in ways I hadn't even thought about. I've experienced some fear about what my next job would be. I've had an employer that still gives me anxiety attacks when I think about him. I've known minor, but persistent financial worries, the inability to provide everything I would like to for my wife and children, and the necessity of saying no to friends in need because I would have to give up too much to help them out significantly. But I've never known the fear of my husband dying and leaving me dependent on others for charity, or the necessity of taking a low paying job because I raised children instead of entering the workforce or getting extra education. And that's just what it would be like to be my wife--a white, American woman with a large extended family and church community willing and able to help to a degree. Many women start out in much more precarious situations. There is no simple solution for removing those risks, but some recent reading and conversations have led me to two books that I just borrowed from my libraries. Over the next few weeks I plan to study these books and post excerpts and my thoughts on this blog. They are:

Poor Women in Rich Countries: The Feminization of Poverty over the Life Course, Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, ed.; Oxford University Press, 2010

Men and Marriage, George F. Gilder, 1986

Both deal directly with issues of economics and family, one from the perspective of women and the other from the perspective of a normative family advocate. I'm hoping to learn some interesting and useful things.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mormon Stories and Me

I discovered Mormon Stories podcasts a couple of years after they started. I was in love. Something I could listen to while I worked in the lab or around the house, or while I biked or drove places. Discussions of Mormonism that weren't scripted or saccharin or intent on proving one particular viewpoint. Real people's stories about their very real struggles with Mormonism--doctrine, history, and culture. I didn't know the people, except for Bill Bradshaw who was one of the most influential science professors in my development. I'd read a little from a few of the Mormon scholars interviewed, but not most. I was actively trying to figure out what I thought about some of the topics discussed, and here I was being pointed toward thoughtful, faithful sources for exploring my faith further. It was fantastic.

One year Ammie and I heard about a relatively nearby Mormon Stories conference, and we made the trip with our 1yo boy. It was so refreshing. We met John Dehlin, Anne Peffer, and Greg Prince, and we heard lots of moving stories, but what was most fun was the not so prominent people that we just got to talk with during lunch and dinner. We didn't make any fast friends, but we follow a couple on Facebook, and we just felt good about being Mormon. We didn't feel like North Carolina/Utah Mormon culture defined what it means to be Mormon, and we felt at home.

Up to this point, I'm not sure we really understood the depth of faith crises some Mormons were experiencing. I had experienced my sister and her family leaving the LDS church. Mormon Stories had helped me understand her choices much better, and I was grateful for that, but it wasn't the reason I listened. I listened to Mormon Stories because I love Mormonism, and nothing about the several dozen podcasts I had listened to had really changed that relationship. It still hasn't. If my life allowed it, I would be just as active as ever. It's my work and family situation that doesn't allow as intense an activity as I practiced for most of my life, not the changes I've undergone in my thought and knowledge. When those things change again, my activity will change again. I listened to John Dehlin's very public changes as regards the LDS church, and I was kind of amazed at how he said people were responding. He lost listeners when he became more critical of the church. He lost listeners when he became more positive about the church. I thought, I like John's story, but it is only one reason I keep coming back. There are so many stories here. While he's always there, Mormon Stories is good because of how often John just gets out of the way and lets other people have their say. He doesn't limit them to sound bite responses, and lets them even change his questions if they don't like what he asked. Real communication is happening.

I'm sure my delving into Mormon thought has changed me. I've gone from believing that we need to be kind and welcoming to gay Mormons to believing that the only way to really do that is to advocate for them. I've gone from believing that gendered divisions of labor are healthy to believing that division of labor is great, but the gendered aspects of it are hurtful, deeply embedded in our lives, very questionable in their application beyond this life, and should be struggled against in this life (the natural man is an enemy to God, after all). I've gone from believing in the essential infallibility of the Book of Mormon to believing its prophets were real people with all of the baggage that comes with that. I take what they wrote for my own edification and inspiration, but I take its perfect accuracy with a grain of salt. I've gone from being a defender of inspired polygamy to believing that, if some part of it was inspired, it sure got mixed in with a lot of reprehensible junk. I've gone from defending Mormonism and its leaders with all their faults to defending their goodness despite their faults. I've gone from feeling that I need to make everything fit Mormonism (since the gospel encompasses all that is true) to defining Mormonism to include all the truths I find and just throwing out the falsehoods in my church's history, culture, and theology as dead skin from a living church, or a sickness to be endured, blessed, and cared for. I've also delved into stylometry and become even more convinced that the Book of Mormon is a translation (however strange the process) and not Joseph's invention. Yes, I've changed, but it hasn't been a crisis.

I'm telling this story because there are things I wish for others who are encountering the aspects of Mormonism that get lots of airtime online and on podcasts. I hope that as you learn you will feel compelled towards a middle ground. Whether you stay in or leave the LDS church or Mormonism, I hope you won't trade one black and white perspective for a different one. I hope as you see the sins of our prophets you will find goodness in them, too, and your life won't be defined by fighting their errors. I hope as you see the sins of those who leave you will find goodness in them, too, and won't use their errors to ignore the very real flaws in ourselves. I hope you will continue a life of seeking and will neither retrench into a correlated fortress nor trade one false certainty for a new, premature certainty. I hope you will see that it is inevitable for children and young teenagers to live in black and white worlds where rules and roles are clearly defined and narratives are believed as truths (whether an LDS narrative or another). I hope you will help make space for those who are leaving that world of black and white, and sustain them in their unpracticed steps into color.

Maybe I hope for these things because I want company. Maybe they are just how I see myself, and not really accurate at all. Maybe I'm just as judgmental and hypocritical as ever, and maybe I haven't really grown in understanding. Maybe I'm not committed to truth and goodness, and I just don't want to live by someone else's rules--even God's. I know we are terrible judges of ourselves lots of times, but I feel like I'm improving. And I think Mormon Stories deserves some credit for it. It's not about John, but I do want to say:

Thank you, John.
Your brother, Jonathan