The War Against Patriarchy-I
Thirty years ago, following the Watts riots which shocked the nation, a commission was created under the chairmanship of Otto Kerner to study why the disturbances had occurred. The conclusion of the commission was predictably liberal: that America was becoming two nations, unequal, one white and well off, one black and poor. The cause was racism.
Not so. American was becoming, and is still becoming, two nations, unequal, one still predominantly white and still (though decreasingly) patriarchal, one still and predominantly black (though increasingly Latino) and now, since the feminist movement, increasingly matriarchal.
The split in our society is not primarily along racial lines; it is based on the two kinship systems: father-headed families vs. mother-headed families. The father-headed families of Beverly Hills are happier, and produce better behaved and higher achieving children than the mother-headed households (not "families") of Watts, where the riots occurred. The switch from father headed families to mother headed households constitutes the most basic change (short of total destruction) which a society is capable of undergoing. Father headed families require that women accept sexual regulation--otherwise men cannot have families. Females don't want to be sexually regulated and would prefer to have female headed households, as in Watts. White females don't like to be sexually regulated any more than black females do, but they accept regulation because they have a clearer perception of the advantages males are willing to confer upon them in exchange for their sharing their reproductive lives with men and allowing them to have families. But increasingly white women are getting educated, getting jobs and discarding husbands and returning the larger society to the female kinship system. It lowers their standard of living and produces a lot of messed up kids, but it liberates the women from patriarchal sexual regulation. This is what feminism is all about. Here, from Rickie Solinger's Wake Up Little Susie, is an illustration of how the change has taken place:
She had become a "bad woman," traversing the border From Reverence to Rape, from Madonna to Whore, from the patriarchal system to the matriarchal system, from a woman with whom a man could have a responsible sexual relationship to a woman with whom a man could not, from a woman who might expect her boyfriend to marry her to a woman from whom the man might fear a paternity suit, from a woman who wanted a patriarchal family to a woman who wanted to be independent of the patriarchal system and who threatened to expel him from the patriarchal system, as ghetto males are expelled in order that ghetto females might be sexually emancipated and admired by feminists like Elise Boulding and Rickie Solinger and Marie Richmond-Abbott and Elizabeth Debold, Marie Wilson and Idelisse Malave and the rest of the feminist crowd. The males thus expelled from the patriarchal system can then be blamed by feminists and politicians such as President Clinton and Governor Wilson for not subsidizing the females who remove themselves from the patriarchal system, but still hope to exploit the male's sense of responsibility for offspring for the purpose of compelling them to finance "bad" women who prevent them from being fathers. This is how women have been liberating themselves. "For complex cultural, historical, and economic reasons," writes Ms. Solinger,
That is the reason why they live in ghettos and why their daughters are unchaste and why their men are underachieving non- fathers. It all begins with the unchastity of their women, now being imitated by white women. Politicians fall all over themselves to compel fathers to subsidize this switchover from patriarchy to matriarchy. "Social workers," says Ms. Solinger,
Expelling promiscuous white women protects the role of the white males who are fathers of white children and protects the children who benefit from growing up in patriarchal families. It protects the taxpayers who are still expected to subsidize the unchaste black females and their illegitimate children. The poor, minority women and girls and their illegitimate children are a drain on the system and generate a disproportionate amount of social pathology. In the ghetto "bad" women are as socially acceptable as "good" ones and that is why the ghetto is a mess. Murphy Brown is making this the way of the larger society and men are willing to pay for it and to withdraw the sanction of shame by which society formerly regulated white female sexuality. Ms. Solinger shows how this sanction works with two teenage girls, Sally, white, and Brenda, black. Sally gets pregnant and tells her boyfriend Tim, who starts to lose interest in her. Her father places her in the Crittenton Maternity Home in San Diego, where she is given classes in sewing, cooking and charm. In other words, she is trained to re-enter the patriarchal system, trained to be a "good" woman. She talks about wanting to keep her child, but changes her mind: "I don't think any unmarried girl has the right to keep her baby. I don't think it's fair to the child." The child is adopted by an infertile couple and Sally, warned by the social worker and her parents never, ever, to tell anyone of this episode, goes back home and acts as though nothing happened. She was salvaged for the patriarchal system and (let's hope) got married and lived happily ever after. Brenda's mother is disgusted that she was considering marrying Robert, her 19-year-old boyfriend and tells her "It's better to be an unwed mother than an unhappy bride. You'll never be able to point your finger at me and say, "If it hadn't been for her.'" Meaning, evidently, "If it hadn't been for her I could have been living happily in the ghetto matriarchy, with its crime, squalor and drive-by shootings, instead of being trapped in the patriarchal system where females are sexually regulated and can have sex only within marriage. But her child will pay, and also the taxpayer who has to finance the ghetto lifestyle and pay the costs of its social pathology. Mom tells Brenda "You put your child away, you might as well kill him. He'll think no one wants him"4
No one except his adoptive parents who do want him and will bring him up in the patriarchal system where he will have two parents and a far greater chance for a decent life, a better one than in the ghetto where Brenda and her mother want to keep her. Brenda goes to the Welfare Office to get some of the money of the patriarchal taxpayer and is given a lecture about young girls having sex that patriarchal taxpayers have to bear the costs of. She is told "she will have to find Robert if she wants to get welfare and that the welfare people would be watching her apartment building for him." The welfare people hope to compel Robert to subsidize his unchaste girlfriend Brenda, which will cripple him economically, possibly psychologically, in order to pay the costs of Brenda's unchastity and thus subsidize the female kinship system. Robert knows her to be unchaste and knows the chances of having a family with her are not too good, so he disappears to Florida. This is what happens when females are unchaste. A good woman, such as Sally hopes to become, can offer a man a family; a bad women offers him a paternity suit. Is Robert equally to blame with Brenda? No; a man cannot be held accountable for the unchastity of a bad women, and he ought not to subsidize her. Here's something patriarchy and matriarchy agree on: patriarchy says the women is responsible for safeguarding her own chastity; matriarchy says a woman has a right to control her own sexuality. She may also think that the male with whom she cohabits is bound to pay for her child or her abortion; but the man ought not to deem himself responsible for something over which the woman demands control. "The stories of Sally and Brenda," says Solinger,
Women and their babies are always vulnerable and that is why they need husbands and fathers; but they hate the sexual regulation which will give the husbands and fathers a secure role in their reproductive lives. Sally and Brenda both wanted to be sexually independent, as dogs and cats are; but Sally, operating within the patriarchal system, got around to accepting patriarchal sexual law-and-order, Brenda, operating within the matriarchal system, did not. Accordingly Brenda's child is condemned to grow up in the female kinship system.
This is why these two decades were the high point of American civilization, the most prosperous years in this nation's history or in the history of any nation. "Never," said Joseph Satin truly, "had so many people been so well off." Marriage and the family (except for 1946, when a lot of hurried wartime marriages broke up) were stable institutions. Men came home from the war singing "I'm going to settle down and never more roam, and make the San Fernando Valley my home." The San Fernando Valley had been empty farming tracts and in a few years was transformed into a great urban and industrial area. The American industrial plant, already the wonder of the world during the war, doubled during those twenty years. The GNP grew 250 percent and per capita income increased 35 percent between 1945-60--as much as it had during the previous half century. "The future," said William Baumol, "can be left to take care of itself." Baumol should have been right, but he could not have anticipated the destruction of patriarchy and the patriarchal family consequent on the rise of feminism and the acceptance of female unchastity, which is putting all this wealth and social stability at risk by undermining the male role, the Achilles heel of society--perhaps making this undermining permanent by mother custody in divorce which gives women the power to wreck the patriarchal system by wrecking the family.
Those were the years of "Father Knows Best," of "Ozzie and Harriet" and "The Best Years of our Lives." They were the years of the hated feminine mystique, of family stability and female chastity, when, as Ms. Solinger says, "single, pregnant girls and women were a particularly vulnerable class of females...when single, pregnant girls and women of whatever race shared the debased status of illegitimate mother," when "Sally and Brenda and the several hundred thousand girls and women in their situations each year between 1945 and 1965, illegitimate motherhood was a grim status." Ms. Solinger's concern is to make life easier for these unchaste females. Patriarchy's concern is for the welfare of children, who need fathers. And also for the welfare of the fathers whose role depends on the chastity of their wives. And also for the welfare of the wives whose standard of living is raised by 73 percent.6
Females were regulated by the economic benefits husbands bestowed on them and by the shame which Ms. Solinger wants to get rid of. Back then, Betty Friedan wrote "Society asks so little of women" without realizing that this little consisted primarily of female chastity which permitted men to have families and children to have fathers. She supposed the "little" was housework and today's feminists complain that husbands don't do half of this. What was asked of them was that they permit their husbands to share their reproductive life. Now they want to renege; their primary demand is for the right to be promiscuous, to control their own sexuality. This means the right to reject the patriarchal system. We learned on the Donahue show in 1991 that 33 percent more wives were cheating on husbands than in the 1980s. Betty Friedan speaks of creating "the new social institutions that are needed to free women, not from childbearing or love or sex or even marriage, but from the intolerable agony and burden those become when women are chained to them."7 The chains are those of the patriarchal system which imposes marriage vows designed to make women chaste and allow husbands to have families and children to have fathers. This is the agony Ms. Friedan seeks to free women from. If men allow women such freedom patriarchy and the family are doomed. Ms. Friedan speaks of "love-spoilers" including women's economic dependence on men.8 What she calls love signifies the extremely temporary collection of pleasurable feelings whose subsidence or evanescence are presumed to justify the termination of the marriage contract and the creation of fatherless families. When Ms. Friedan speaks of love "freely and joyously given"9 she means love not bound by contract, promiscuous love. When women are released from societal constraints, as in wartime, say Will and Ariel Durant, they become "dizzy with freedom, multiplying divorces, abortions adulteries....A shallow sophistication prid[ing] itself upon its pessimism and cynicism."10 A woman writes Dear Abby: "Where I work, there are 103 married women between 19 and 65, and just for fun, I asked each woman if she had ever had an extramarital affair. I didn't really expect an answer, but lo and behold--73 said yes, 21 said they would if they could get away with it, and nine told me it was none of my business."11 Here's a 1988 letter from Servant Ministries of Ann Arbor describing life in a coeducational college dormitory at the University of Michigan:
This picture is confirmed by the following letter written to Ann Landers by a student's mother:
Ann Landers tells her:
When Marian Wright Edelman says "Of course this country can afford to take care of its children. If we've got enough money for Star Wars we've got enough money for prenatal care,"13 she is saying this country can afford to subsidize promiscuous women, who accordingly don't need men. It is impossible for a man to have a responsible sexual relationship with a promiscuous woman and since the stability of society requires that most males be induced to support families and socialize children, Ms. Edelman is mistaken. Society cannot afford to finance matriarchy. The promiscuity becomes cyclical: daughters in one-parent homes are much more likely to engage in premarital sex and the increase in adolescent sex in the 1960s and 1970s paralleled the increase in proportion of children without fathers.14
The problem is the marginality of the male. There needs to be a way of persuading the male to accept the responsibility of fatherhood and there used to be. It was marriage, a public ceremony, sanctioned by church and state, accompanied with everything to make it memorable: archaic language, the presence of a clergyman, solemn vows, as lavish expenditure for flowers, caterers, champagne and musicians as the bride's father can afford, the bride's wearing of an expensive white gown to symbolize her virginity, and so forth. The purpose of all this is to ensure that the father can have a family and the children of the marriage can have a father. Society is a party to this contract and is bound to enforce it. Men are wholly dependent on this enforcement and they and the law don't realize this essential fact. The law whose responsibility is to enforce the marriage contract is destroying half of them and men are letting the law do this because they don't understand that the purpose is the creation and stabilizing of the patriarchal system, not its destruction, which is what is now going on. Men are being forced to subsidize this destruction of their own families and the placing of their children in the female kinship system. They are being told that this is just and right. This is what Jeffrey Nichols can't see and all the other men whose wives take them to the cleaners. This is why the wise Jew who wrote the Garden of Eden story three thousand years ago made its punch line God's saying to Eve "He [Adam] shall rule over thee." This is now reversed: the woman is master and the man loses everything. Women want things that way, which is why they must be held under regulation. Otherwise, they will restore matriarchy. When the Garden of Eden story was written, the two kinship systems were in a life-and-death struggle, as they are now once again, though the battle is today being fought in reverse: In Old Testament times the matriarchal system was the accepted rule and the religion of Jahweh was the new wave. Today patriarchy is the accepted system and matriarchy is the new wave.
It is now accepted that this ceremony, this acceptance of responsibility, are to be deemed temporary and that the woman retains the right to withdraw her vows and still claim her advantages under the marriage contract, whose purpose turns out to be to provide the woman with an ex-husband who is willing to accept, or can be made to accept the responsibility of performing forced labor for the benefit of another person, the ex-wife. Feminist Jessie Bernard complains of the unfairness of the marriage contract, which when it breaks down the wife loses not only her marriage but its economic benefits. It's not supposed to break down; it's a lifetime commitment. The woman gets married in large part for the purpose of obtaining the economic benefits; and if she imagines herself entitled to them from divorce she enters into the contract, as Ms. Bernard clearly implies, in contemplation of divorce--in other words, the woman intends the contract to be a fraud. And the legal system which gives her custody of the children for the purpose of perpetrating the fraud is her accomplice. As long as the judge can make the pretense of being concerned solely for the best interests of the children, this fraud will go on wrecking half of marriages, leaving the husband without his children and possibly his home and much of his future income. Men have got to understand that women hate patriarchy and it is men's responsibility to defend it and this is possible only on condition of father custody if the wife chooses to split.
Men have had a century of experience to convince them that judges are willing participants in this fraud. If judges have any discretion, they will abuse it. Few people know that father custody was formerly automatic and mandatory. The Seneca Falls feminists in 1848 made it one of their complaints that mothers lost their children in the event of divorce. The consequence was very few divorces, only a few thousand a year.
The reason judges discriminate against men is that men will submit to the discrimination, as women would not. If judges and lawmakers were to permit husbands to do to wives what they now permit wives to do to husbands--take their children from them, their homes, property, furniture and appliances and then compel them to work and turn a large part of their income over to the ex- spouse, those judges and lawmakers would be torn to pieces by mobs of frenzied women. But men submit.
1Rickie Solinger, Wake Up Little Susie (New York: Routledge, 1992), p. 5.
2Ibid., p. 6.
6This is Lenore Weitzman's celebrated statistic. I discuss it in Chapter 8 of my Garbage Generation.
7It Changed My Life, p. 144.
8It Changed My Life, p. 224.
9The Feminine Mystique, p. 248.
10The Lessons of History, p. 40.
11Los Angeles Times, 2 September, 1995.
12Los Angeles Times, 5 March, 1995.
13The Guardian, 1 April, 1987.
14The Family in America: New Research, August, 1987.