A quarter of a century ago Dorothy Dinnerstein wrote a book, The Mermaid and the Minotaur, calling for equal sharing of child care by fathers. She believed that women have an inner assurance based on the possession of a "magic early parental richness" which men lack:
So far, so good. She needs to be loved; and patriarchal society will assure her of this love by assuring her a place in the patriarchal sexual constitution via marriage. The place is so secure that Ms. Dinnerstein goes on to say the woman is often willing to accept it even if it is accompanied by a certain amount of infidelity on the part of her husband:
This observation is accompanied by reference to a story of Isaac Bashevits Singer about a long and happy marriage in which the husband has affairs and the wife doesn't until they get the egalitarian idea that this one-sided infidelity is unfair and the wife ought to have some extramarital fun too--whereupon the wife is devastated by her husband's willingness to share her and the husband is devastated by her resulting coldness to him. Here is the way it works out:
She thinks this is bad and the badness comes from the boy being raised exclusively or principally by Mom, something which she would change: she wants Dads to have equal child care responsibilities. Now dig this: she wants this sharing of child care in order that wives shall not feel the security of knowing they are needed by their husbands. That's what she says: we have to get rid of this in order to get rid of the double standard. The weakening of the maternal role is justified on the grounds that it ermits women to be unchaste. She quotes the folk rhyme "Higamous-hogamous, woman's monogamous; Hogamous-higamous, man is polygamous" and says that there is nothing in human nature which justifies this folk wisdom but rather that woman's monogamy is imposed upon her: it is a "deliberate conspiracy" of men to keep women under control:
So we have to make fathers get up with the baby at night not just so that Mom can sleep, but so that the baby doesn't get the idea that all good things come from Mom, the female, who has to be possessed as the source of good things for a grown man--thus making the woman wanted and therefore chaste. Feminism will do away with these bad things:
Ms. Dinnerstein thinks this is to be encouraged. She places the usual faith in contraceptives to prevent the threatened confusion of progeny:
This is the feminist golden age they foresee for us, in which the bonds of family count for less and less--as lawyers and educators keep undermining them.
All nonsense; and dreadful nonsense at that. As for contraceptives preventing illegitimacy and unwanted pregnancies, the Guttmacher Institute studies show that the longer young women practice contraception the more likely they are to get pregnant. 7.5 percent are pregnant after one month of using contraceptives; 22 percent after a year; 35 percent after two years (cited in California Monitor of Education, Dec 84). The result is what Maggie Gallagher calls the decline of the traditional family with 40 percent of never married women in their 30s having illegitimate children: "In 10 years, if currents trends continue, most American kids will be born outside of marriage," the fathers largely roleless and unmotivated, and "one-third of the girls in Tipton's High School's senior class," according to Gallagher, "either pregnant or already unwed mothers." This is partly why America has one of the poorest school systems of any industrialized nation. Also one of the costliest.
But to get back to the males' sense that to have access to thesource of life "he must have access to a woman," thus giving her a role and a sense of security, which is bad. This bad arrangement is the basis of the patriarchal society which Ms. Dinnerstein and her sisters wish to overthrow. Patriarchal society encourages this belief/feeling in its males, and it serves not only to give women a meaningful role via her maternal functions, but it serves to give men a meaningful role through their work--for the patriarchy teaches him that he can attain this desired access to a woman (or anyway a woman worth having) by means of working and creating wealth and status which he can offer to her as an inducement to marry him. It is the essence of patriarchal society that the man can get access to her in this way and only in this way: and that is how society is able to put a hook in him and make him work for the good of his woman, his children, his remoter posterity and the larger society. And that in turn is why the man's work is so much more meaningful to him that a woman's non-maternal work is to her, and why an employer is willing to pay a man more than a woman. The whole fabric of patriarchal society depends on this system of motivating the man to work; and the whole program of feminism is (as feminists themselves acknowledge) an attempt to undermine this motivation and to make women economically independent of men. It is no accident that when the world's greatest writer represents Othello as convinced of his wife's infidelity he shows him as desperate because he is thereby cut off from the sexual constitution of society, including his profession: "Othello's occupation's gone!" he exclaims. His work no longer has significance. He has no meaningful role. Such is the relationship between female chastity and male motivation to do the work of society. Most of the men in the ghetto and half those outside it who have undertaken the responsibilities of providing for families could utter the same poignant cry as Othello, now that the divorce rate has reached fifty percent. To use Ms. Dinnerstein's words, if "advanced industrial civilization survives" this arrangement of "asymmetrical sexual privilege" it "will crumble further," which, she thinks, is great and will liberate women.
To attain this end, in Ms. Dinnerstein's view, it is necessary to get men to take over half of the childrearing labor. (Ms. Friedan's complaint was that "society asks so little of women"-- FM, 338; now the complaint is that men don't do half of this "little.") Her motivation is no doubt in part a wish that Mom may sleep while Dad feeds the baby, thus reducing still further the minuscule 3 percent of a woman's lifetime which is at present demanded by her maternal functions (p. 25). But while shrinking this begrudged 3 percent, which is a modest blessing for an elitist career woman such as Ms. Dinnerstein who has a professional career to look after, it rather dangerously shrinks and therefore undermines the meaningfulness of the maternal functions from which most women derive their sense of worth, their meaning in life, their social status. The feminist-elitist solution for such traditional women is to tell them (this was the thesis of The Feminine Mystique) to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, to hire a cleaning woman (who doesn't need to be liberated) and demand meaningful jobs from government and industry, and thus participate in the larger world, the real world.
The actual observable effect is a massive role-disturbance, leading in turn to a feminist campaign to placate the resulting agitation and demoralization by offering a smorgasbord of undeliverable promises, and to blame men, government and the patriarchy for their unfulfilability.
Ms. Dinnerstein continues her attack on the double standard thus:
It "maims" women by forbidding them to be tramps, the sin for which the Book of Common Prayer says marriage is a remedy. Feminists like Ms. Dinnerstein make it a grievance that they are "restrained" from sex in that "special way" which is fun because it excludes deep personal involvement. In other words because it is infantile and socially destructive.
What need is there of further witnesses to prove that society and civilization are patriarchal creations which must be imposed upon these women who covet the forbidden lewdness to which this woman refers? The special fun of it derives as much as anything from its mere forbiddenness, from its being, in other words, a stealthy and treacherous attack on the patriarchy, even as Eve attacked it in the beginning, setting herself against man as well as God. What she would do is to separate sexual enjoyment (which is good and important) from sexually responsible behavior.
Here is the polarization: on the one hand patriarchy, chastity, sexual responsibility, the security of property, the motivation of work, the legitimization and proper rearing and socialization of children, the stability of society--and on the other hand being "erotically interesting." Feminists and patriarchs may disagree whether both can be had; but if they can't be, is there any doubt which choice is to be made? And if women, as Ms. Dinnerstein herself insists, prefer the latter choice, is there any doubt that patriarchy must be IMPOSED upon them? And if men are indeed more frightened of sex, is this not a reason why society should provide men with special props to assist them in encountering women in this "crucial realm" where women are superior--the most important props being social status and economic advantage?
Women, Ms. Dinnerstein complains, have less liberty to conduct a search for irresponsible sexual pleasure:
Woman had damn well better have less liberty to prowl around for sex playmates; it is to ensure that she has less that patriarchy must be imposed upon her for her own good and for the good of the race. Giving way to "simple physical delight," disrupting her rapport with any one partner," asserting her own sexual wishes"--these are the "good" things which Ms. Dinnerstein and her sisters want for themselves and whose lack they protest as "constraints." These good things have been achieved by millions of precocious females who are peopling society with the Garbage Generation; and their insistence upon being privileged to tread this primrose path is the reason why the patriarchy, recognizing the basic unchastity of womankind, has been compelled to offer women sufficient inducements in the form of economic and status advantages to submit to patriarchy and the double standard. And submit they do, or there would be no folkrhymes about higamous-hogamous.