Sunday, May 15, 2016

Female Privilege and the Arc of Western Civilization (Updated)

Pompeo Batoni, "Purity of Heart" (1752)
A couple of the blogs I frequent have cited to an article by Amy Vowles at She Knows, entitled: "If equality means sending my daughters to war, I want no part of it." The author is an avowed feminist, but indicates that she is opposed to requiring women to register for selective service. Her argument for not drafting women into the armed forces is, of course, the very same arguments that had been made by conservatives for not opening up the combat arms of the military to women: that women are physically ill suited for combat.

Vowles writes:
When you are not included in something that no one wants to do — in this case, going off to war — it’s not discrimination; it’s a privilege. Some say women should give up that privilege in the name of equality between men and women. But here’s the thing about equality: Men and women are not equal. 
That’s right — I’m a feminist, I am a mother of two girls, and I am saying that men and women are not equal. 
In the event of a draft, sending women off to war does not present an equal opportunity to women by nature of the fact that women are physically different from men. As much as we may work to try to level the playing field between men and women, the physical differences between us as created by nature make us inherently unequal and cannot be universally overcome. 
Combat is not an equal opportunity situation for men and women, because the average woman does not have an equal opportunity to survive a combat situation. The Army's own studies have shown that women have more than double the rate of injury of their male counterparts in combat training. I can only imagine that those numbers would be even more dramatic in actual combat. I can't fathom sending my daughters off to fight in an already dangerous situation, where they are known to be at a physical disadvantage.
Notice that Vowles suggests that not being subject to the draft is a privilege; one that women are entitled to because they are less physically able than men. Left unsaid is why men should bear the burden of protecting women.

I had recently written on this subject and suggested that there were two reasons why women traditionally have not been required to take up arms: that their role is to produce and raise offspring; and that they are less capable than men for engaging in combat (smaller, weaker, etc.). I also argued that women should be required to be included in the draft because these points were no longer valid: we live in a society that holds to a legal and social fiction that women are equal to men in all ways; and, given the low birthrates in Western nations, women are no longer fulfilling their roles to produce and raise offspring. Hence, there is no reason not to draft women into the military.

Vowles concedes one of the points: that women are less physically capable than men. As a feminist, she cannot admit of women having a duty to produce offspring. Instead, she assumes that women are, for some reason, worthy of the privilege of being exempt from compulsory military service, while men are not. She does not explain, however, why women should be considered more worthwhile than men so as to excuse women from combat. She assumes that women, being weaker than men, are entitled to protection. But why? Well, the assumption is quite simple to ascertain because it is part of Western culture.

Cultures have taken different approaches on how they treat women, taking into account both the physically weaker nature of women and their role in fertility (and guaranteeing that the husband would not be cuckolded by his wife). Islam, for instance, views women not only as weaker physically, but also morally. That is, women are viewed as a source of sin and are inherently sinful. If a man has extramarital sex with a woman, it is because she enticed him into it. Thus the reason that in Islam women are segregated from men, forced to wear concealing clothing, and socially isolated (such as requiring a male escort before venturing forth in public). If a woman is raped by a man, it is assumed that the woman was at fault and punished since, according to that culture, she is the sinful one and somehow enticed the man into acting as he did.

Western civilization took a different tact, which derives from basic Christian beliefs--namely, the concept of Mary's immaculate conception of Christ. That is, Christ could only be born to Mary because Mary was immaculate, i.e., pure and wholesome. This belief transformed Western views of women. In the Christian West, the moral purity of Mary was extended to all women to the extent that by the time of the 19th Century, women were elevated on a moral pedestal on which they were presumed to be more pure and wholesome than men simply because of the fact that they were women. This, of course, led to a presumption that if a woman fell into sexual transgression, it was because she was seduced or raped by a man.* So strongly is this principle part of Western culture that, until very recently, it was a legal impossibility for a woman to sexually assault or rape a male because such were not recognized as crimes. And, of course, most Western churches hold to a belief that woman possess a moral high ground over men. In the LDS church, this has even led to a commonly held belief among many members that Eve's transgression was a conscious choice to do what was necessary, rather than her being duped by Satan into taking of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil; her inherent goodness prevented her from falling for Satan's lie.

Of course, there has to be some accounting for reality, and, until recently, there was the conception of the fallen woman--of which Lilith is the archetype--who does act as a temptress in order to lead men into sin. (This is why a woman's sexual history was, at one time, important as to the issue whether she had been raped). But that was the exception. Women in the west did not need the strict oversight of Muslim culture because women in the West were constrained from promiscuity by the need to maintain their reputations, and protected by a legal code that would assume a rape so long as she had, in fact, maintained her reputation.

So, although unspoken by Vowles, implicit in her argument is that there is some moral reason that men should lay down their lives to protect women: i.e., the thoroughly Western concept that women are the fairer sex (i.e., more pure and occupying a higher moral plane) and, for that reason, deserve protection. As a feminist, of course, she demands all the perks of the old gender system, without the burdens of such a system.

Spengler, in his Decline of the West, noted that every culture eventually transforms into a civilization, technically proficient, but barren of the creativity that marks the culture. He wrote his book during the time that Western culture (what he termed, Faustian culture) had already completed (or nearly completed) the transition--the early 20th Century prior to World War I. At that time, the West had already begun its decline.

What has intrigued me is the idea that another culture--the culture that replaces the Faustian culture--might already be in its infancy; that the first shoots might be discernible. To Spengler, arts and religion are the bellwethers of the growth of culture, as well as its decline. While it is questionable that Wagner's operas represent the peak of Western music, as Spengler suggests, it is self evident that rap, hip hop, and modern rock music represents a much lower plane of creativity and accomplishment in music than what was produced by Wagner, Mozart or Beethoven; and that modern art of all stripes, whether you are talking of Picasso or Mapplethorpe, are but degenerate works of those possession lesser ability than the great masters.

In Spengler's views, the key distinguishing feature of Faustian culture was its focus on space and the infinite. To Spengler, this is most keenly shown in the landscape painting (a type of art almost unknown outside of the West) and the compositions of Wagner which he holds to be music describing vast spaces and drawing one upward into the heavens. This can be traced through religious beliefs as well. The early Western culture (what Spengler refers to as Gothic) was dominated by Catholic beliefs: a strict hierarchy with the Trinity at the top, and various saints and angels below, reflected by the hierarchy within the Catholic Church; and a similar belief a Devil with its own hierarchy of demons and devils. Faustian culture, however, applied space and infinity to God (and Satan) such that eventually God was seen as being omnipresent, appearing in everything, with no room left for a literal Devil. It is only a few short step from God being present in nature, to communing with God through nature, to determining that God is nature, and then doing away with God altogether and simply worshiping nature. Thus, to the Romantics, nature was God, and therefore nature ("mother nature" at that) and anything in close association with nature was "good" (e.g., the concept of the "noble savage"), while civilization represented a fallen state. The Romantics gave rise to Darwinism, which eliminated God and argued that all is nature, which in turn led to the thoroughly modern religion of environmentalism that sees humans and civilization as an evil that must be eliminated.

As alluded to above, feminism is merely the extension of the Faustian belief that women were inherently more moral than men. While what constitutes morality has changed, the concept that there is a good, a higher morality, still remains. Thus, Vowles argument necessitates a belief that women are inherently better than men. Something that I see being rejected by the new culture that will replace Faustian culture.

* Now, of course, Western society is in the process of even eliminating the distinction between seduction and rape in favor of a presumption that all sex between a man and a woman is rape. Men are no longer viewed as less moral than women, but to actively be immoral and a source of sin.

Update (May 16, 2016): The American Law Institute will be voting tomorrow on whether to include affirmative consent as part of the model penal code, criminalizing sex where no affirmative consent was obtained. While not binding on the states, many states follow the lead of the ALI when it comes to criminal law, and the model penal code is widely taught in law schools. As the author of the piece I have linked to above notes, the risk here is not limited to just the law of rape/sexual assault, but is an attack on the broader concept of intent to support a criminal charge. More thoughts on the issue at The National Review, which warns that these type of laws shift the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defendant.

Update (May 18, 2016): The proposal was voted down by the ALI.

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