Sarah Hoyt asks today, if women marry the government, from whom will they sue for divorce?


Cass said...

Who marries the government?

Do they have sex with the government?

I suppose if one believes that women only marry to gain a Sugar Daddy or a fat wallet, one could say that women who vote for a welfare state are "marrying" government.

Sounds more like prostitution to me, though, and I can't help but bristle at the implied devaluation of what used to be considered a sacrament.

Grim said...

I thought Hoyt's last piece was good, and I think this one is good too. She gets at something I often observed, when I was a child and a teenager, about my sister's relationships with other young women.

But females – ah, females are something special, and anyone who has ever gone to an all girls’ school will know our species uses the same method – establish their dominance by bullying to such an extent that underling females stop ovulating, due to extreme stress.

That's certainly what it looked like to me, from the outside.

I think you're right, Cass, to say that this substitute for marriage is at best a gravely debased form. The goods of marriage are spiritual as much as they are of any other kind: the unity of man and wife is very difficult at times, but it creates something special that is otherwise not easy to find.

It was a sacrament because it was sacred; what is being put in its place is not, and does nothing to transform the spirit in such hard but beneficial ways. If anything, it does the opposite. There is such a thing as too much independence for your own good -- your spirit's good, in any case.

Cass said...

Females are not anything "special". The vast majority of females don't bully each other any more than the vast majority of males do.

Sorry, Grim, but I'm getting really tired of both female and male bashing.

Men and women can be aggressive in different ways. So what? Aggression and attempts to dominate each other are human.

"Our side" is starting to sound like the worst of the radical feminists, whipping up hatred and resentment and thoughtless nastiness. I detested that crap coming from them, and have even less patience for it from people I thought shared the values I hold dear.

The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach.

Grim said...

Do you think it's "female bashing" that she's after? I didn't get that impression at all, and certainly wouldn't support such a thing.

What I thought she was saying was that she didn't understand why 'rule by men' was supposed to be horrible, but 'rule by women' wonderful. I didn't think the point of her example was that women were uniquely bad, but rather that they weren't entitled to the privileged position that many would like to carve out for them simply because they don't engage as often in physical violence.

Now her final arrow is toward a target I have long argued, which is that men need to be liberated to enforce standards on each other in the old way. We have not improved society by making every fistfight into a crime, or eliminating the capacity of ordinary men to police themselves of bad men.

So perhaps I am not attuned to the slander you see in her opening remarks, which seem to me to be a kind of precondition for the conclusion. Violence isn't the real problem, she seems to be saying: the real problem is bullying, whether its form is violent or non-violent. Taking violence as the issue ends up making things worse among men, while not addressing the bad actors among women.

That's the kind of point you might make yourself, or so it seems to me, even if you would phrase it differently.

Cass said...

Yes, I would phrase it very differently, and yes, I have made that exact point many times.

What I don't get is the heat. The truth is that the vast majority of MEN don't engage in physical violence. Oh, they like to watch it in movies and talk (or brag) about it, but in the real world politicians are not running around punching and knifing each other. Neither are the vast majority of ordinary men.

When I look at a politician, I'm not afraid he'll be violent. I'm afraid he's be duplicitous, or corrupt, or weak, or unjust in the exercise of his authority. The whole violence/nonviolence premise seems a bit of a straw man to me, as I can't recall too many problems with violent politicians in recent history.

The truth is that physical bullying is a LOT tougher to deal with than social bullying. Social bullying is easily avoided by simply not trying to ingratiate yourself with people who would make lousy friends anyway.

I suppose the hyperbole is difficult for me to understand. Having dealt with both kinds of bullying, I'd much rather deal with female nastiness because it's far easier to shrug off and walk away from. Or just laugh at.

Sticks and stones.

Cass said...

I think you're right, Cass, to say that this substitute for marriage is at best a gravely debased form.

That was not my point at all, as I suspect you know.

My point was that voting for a welfare state is not, in any rational or reasonable sense of the word, "marrying" the government. It's an insulting and profoundly unserious metaphor.

Are male Democrats "marrying" the government too? I hope the sex is good.

Grim said...

What I don't get is the heat.

Well, let's talk about it in a non-heated way, and see if it makes sense. It doesn't read that hot to me -- it reads less like an angry person than like one who is used to writing for a younger audience who reads her partially for entertainment. It may be that the point could be made clearer to us if it is restated in a way that loses the heat.

I hear her saying these things:

1) We used to have a view of manhood such that it was OK -- indeed, it was proper -- for men to defend women from other men who were behaving badly. That has been replaced by a view that violence is bad per se.

2) Part of this arises from a notion that a man defending a woman at all is a form of patriarchy, which is foolish.

3) In addition, we shouldn't want to strip men of all their traditional powers, or we run the danger of matriarchy, which is no better than patriarchy. An ideal society will avoid both of these extremes.

4) She personally never felt the need of a man's defense, and never found men punching each other attractive, but she recognizes that there are times when bad men need to be restrained and other men are most capable of doing it.

5) So, she wants to ask: "A man can no longer come along and say, 'Hey, Miss, is this ape bothering you?' without risking the woman turning on him. Is our society better for it?"

6) The answer is no, she posits, because (a) it denies men the power to police each other, which was a very useful function, and (b) it means that women, who still do need physical protection, turn to government structures as replacements for the old cultural ones.

7) These structures are undesirable, because everything bad about the old cultural forms still exists with the new government forms, but you can't get a divorce. There's no escape from 'a bad marriage,' if the government has taken on the role and turns domineering. (This is where she is talking about 'marrying' the state -- the term is appropriate not because the relationship is a sort of marriage, but because it is being used to replace marriage and similar cultural structures.)


I think the argument, phrased that way, is completely reasonable. I also think there's a lot in it that is quite right. But even if it isn't right, it's reasonable.

So the question is, I guess, how much does my non-hot paraphrase of her argument resemble her argument? Is something essential lost by removing the heat, or is it merely a kind of decoration for a certain sort of reader? I tend to think it's the latter.

Cass said...

I think the argument, phrased that way, is completely reasonable. I also think there's a lot in it that is quite right. But even if it isn't right, it's reasonable.

I don't think much of the argument no matter how it is phrased, frankly. It rests on the notion that men are so afraid of a chilly rejection of well intended defenses of women that they won't step in to help women who truly need defending.

I have to say I find that hard to believe. The truth is that the vast majority of male advances don't actually require 3rd parties to step in. The ones that do are ones bordering on sexual assault.

So the "problem" here is supposedly that the chance of female disapproval is so daunting that it will prevent men from stepping in on the infrequent occasions when their help is needed to discourage/prevent other violent men.

That's not a terribly flattering view of men, Grim. You may find it convincing, but I do not because I think more of men than that.

I don't worry much about men not stepping in when their help is not actually needed because... well, it's not actually needed :p

Wrt this:

... she wants to ask: "A man can no longer come along and say, 'Hey, Miss, is this ape bothering you?' without risking the woman turning on him. Is our society better for it?"

People risk all sorts of things every day. Complaining about risk is like complaining about rain, or cold, or heat waves. Wait long enough and you're going to have to deal with some kind of risk.

Men in more traditional cultures before paternity tests risked being accused of fathering a child by a woman they were seeing, even if they never had sex with her. Shotgun weddings were a real risk, if we are to believe the conventional wisdom as well as contemporary literature of the times.

Different system, different risks. That's the problem with looking at only one side of the equation. You miss that whole "tradeoffs" thing.

Texan99 said...

I enjoyed the approach one of Hoyt's brawny commenters uses to sidestep the touchy issue of whether he's being presumptuous in intervening between a male boor and his female victim: "Sir, is this woman bothering you?"

I seem to have taken from the article something quite different from either of you. I thought Hoyt was exploring the social strategies that must be employed by individual women who are rationally aware that they are at a disadvantage in a physical fight with an unscrupulous man. A traditional approach was to team up with one strong man who would provide protection from all the others. A modern approach is to avoid the protection of individual men and farm the entire job out to the government in the form of the police or the armed services.

But either position poses some of the usual risks of abject dependency, and reliance on the government is not necessarily any safer than reliance on Charles Atlas if the woman doesn't think the situation through pretty carefully. There is no absolute security that is compatible with autonomy. There always is a trade-off that should be faced squarely. Women can start avoiding marriage and rely instead on the social safety net, but they haven't avoided the underlying problem and may even have exacerbated it. No wife-beating husband is ever quite as dreadful and inescapable a bargain as a totalitarian state.

Grim said...


Well, sexual assault happens sometimes -- didn't we all ask, in the recent case of a football team that either stood by or participated in the rape of a drunken minor, why no one of the young men thought to stand up and stop it? Without in any way diminishing the young woman's responsibility or agency, we can say that a decent society ought to produce not only wiser young women but better young men.

It needn't go all the way to violence. Didn't you just say the other day that I was perhaps the only male blogger you've ever seen stand up against the nasty talk that is often pointed at women?

You may not need me to do it -- no more, I expect, than Hillary Clinton needs me to do it, or Sarah Palin. But surely it's still right to do it. It's part of what it means to be a good man.

And it helps ensure that, if other men aren't made better by being trained, the bad ones are at least restrained by the better ones. Some of them may even learn their manners, and from it come to think differently about why we treat those manners as so important.


I was trying to formalize that aspect as point (7), above. Your paraphrase is doubtless better than mine, but I do see that aspect of her piece. It's one of the points I think she has right.