Pink Box

January 4, 2011 - 7:03 pm
Irradiated by LabRat
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Or: picking on Dennis Prager, continued. Now that we’ve fisked “What Do Men Want?”, we get “What Do Women Want?”. The answer to this question seems to be that Dennis has a much better idea than women, especially “feminists”.

I made the case that what men most want from the woman they love is to be admired.

If my answer is correct, and if we presume that the natures of men and women are complementary (a presumption many men and women understandably doubt given how often men and women do not get along), what women most want must be related to that which men most want.

I believe it is.

This is one of those things where worldview probably has a great deal to do with it. If you both believe in a creator God and believe that said God designed men and women to be complements, to live in lifelong pair-bonds, and to make each other happy, this is a perfectly sensible statement. To someone like me that believes humans evolved without intelligent direction, and also sees them as having had a very short history in evolutionary time during which our mating systems changed massively from our closest primate relatives, it’s a fairly nonsensical one. The biological story of males and females, mating, and rearing offspring is as much one of conflict as cooperation, though it’s common to put it entirely in terms of one or the other, depending on what point is being attempted to prove.

It’s difficult to look at species like Penduline tits, whose young are as dependent as human babies- and which abandon one in three nests because they either suspect infidelity or suspect they’ll profit more from it- and conclude that the genders in even a species with such needy offspring as us must have evolved solely to benefit one another. Either way, each worldview has an obvious explanation for why relationships are so often unhappy anyway- fallen nature, or evolution is always about the good-enough and never the perfect.

Although if you put “what women want must be related to what men want” in terms of “they’re both human and by dint of this they both want love, respect, and intimacy” it turns into another one of those dull and obvious unisex truths.

What a woman most wants is to be loved by a man she admires.

One of those “true for a given value of true” things, in that it’s something most women who are not lesbians have among their life goals, as more of us do desire love than not and generally aren’t looking for it from people they don’t respect.

I am well aware that to say this today is akin to announcing that the sun revolves around the Earth.

…Oh, for pity’s sake, Dennis. Get off that cross, we need the wood.

For half a century, we have been told that what women most want is professional success and equality.

Who is “we”, Kemosabe, and by whom? If you mean we have been told, by women, that they’d like the same opportunity for professional success and equality that men have, that would be accurate. Asserting that there is only one thing any given woman must want and it is either love or equality would be a shameless strawman, wouldn’t it?

And to the extent that a modern “liberated” woman does admit to wanting a man to love, she will say that she wants a “partner” who is her “equal.”

Why are all of those things in scare quotes?

I love my husband, and admire him, also he’s my partner and my equal. None of these are contradictory, or even silly statements. You don’t have to think that someone is literally better than you or above you to admire them.

And girls and women have been told — or, more accurately, have had drummed into them — that equality means that both sexes are essentially the same (except for the physical differences) and therefore want the same things.

Christ knows girls and women can’t come to conclusions on their own.

Also, we’re definitely in Straw Feminism territory at this point. Wanting to be equal before the law, and for that matter before the human resources department, isn’t the same thing as thinking that men are just bearded women. Of course men and women will often want different things, because they’re each different individuals- and some of those things are going to be heavily influenced by gender, for both cultural and even biological reasons. (I’m fairly certain Stingray will never share my strong desire for Aleve on a reliable monthly schedule, for example.) That is FAR from the same thing as “all men and all women want the same thing according to sex, and Dennis Prager knows what it is.”

Equality and sameness have been rendered synonymous. That is why she cannot say — and ideally wouldn’t even admit to herself — that she wants a man to admire; that would be “sexist,” as it would imply an unequal relationship.

Senor Quixote, I don’t think that’s a giant.

The notion that a woman most wants a man, admirable or not, has been scoffed at. This was encapsulated by the famous feminist slogan “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”

The point of the phrase was to emphasize that a woman is still a person and still whole without being in a relationship with a man, which was a pretty fucking important and revolutionary notion when the traditional paradigm- still very much in force in some places- is that she’s nothing without a husband and ideally children. If more women could successfully absorb this there’d probably be far fewer unwanted or very young pregnancies, and for that matter far fewer women in emergency rooms.

Even feminism that did not agree with the fish-bicycle metaphor communicated to young women that an “authentic” woman would not have as her greatest desire to bond with a man.

While I think Dennis Prager is every bit an expert on what feminists think as Stevie Wonder is an expert on schools of painting, it’s not so much an “authentic” woman as a “mentally healthy” one. Again, “you shouldn’t define yourself around another person or think you’re worthless if not attached to a man” is an entirely different message than “you shouldn’t want love, or a relationship with any man, at all”.

Today, feminism holds less appeal for young women than it did for the previous generation, but “equality” remains the liberal god of the day. That renders my theory — that a woman wants to be cherished by a man she admires — politically incorrect in the extreme.

Seriously, stop wailing away on that poor windmill, the owner’s going to be pissed.

It is problematic enough to say that a woman most wants a man. But that pales compared to the claim that she most wants a man whom she admires. That seems to affirm gender inequality. The image it conjures up is of a woman looking up to her man as if he were some sort of lord and she his serf.

You’ve certainly done enough work giving us reason to be suspicious that that’s what you mean since you seem to think no woman who feels herself equal to men could possibly not find the notion of wanting a loving relationship with someone she thinks a lot of completely heretical.

Yet, any woman who believes that she is married to an admirable man would laugh at such a dismissal. Admiring one’s husband doesn’t render a woman a serf. It renders her fortunate.

Well, yes. The actual problem the feminist harpy-creatures find with your reasoning is that you seem to think either women can’t or shouldn’t be admirable and a man could think as much or as little of his mate and it wouldn’t matter as long as he loved her, that men apparently don’t give a fig for love as long as they have respect, and that women define admirability and therefore lovability by degree of awe stricken, possibly by a car.

Well, one problem. The other major one would be that he seems to think that being for equality for women, women being opposite-day creatures and all, means being against men.

The truth is that almost nothing — including job success — elevates a woman in her own eyes as much as being loved by a husband whom she admires. That is why when married women get together, they don’t talk about their jobs nearly as much as men do. They talk, among other things, about their man if they are proud of him, and complain about him if they are not.

Add “what women talk about” to the list of things Dennis Prager is only an expert on in his own mind. In my experience, what women talk about, married or not, depends entirely on the individuals and specifically the points of common ground they have- which, in the case of a mixed group of married women who may or may not work outside the home, may indeed be their spouses.

Even most feminists are happiest when married to a man they admire.

People are happiest in happy relationships. Sky blue. Sun to rise tomorrow. Further reporting as events develop.

And what is it that women most admire in a man? From decades of talking to women on the radio and, of course, from simply living life, I have concluded that an admirable man is one who has three qualities: strength, integrity and ambition.

“Women admire admirable qualities”. Though I’d note that the people who call in to Dennis Prager’s radio show are kind of a self-selected group who share Dennis Prager’s worldview.

Women are drawn to strong men. Though many men, when asked the secret to their long marriage, answer, “I learned to always say, ‘Yes, Dear,’” the truth is that most women are not attracted to “Yes, Dear” men who always give in to a woman’s whim. They are attracted to a man who exhibits strength in the outer world and at home as husband and father.

I like how in his first column he cites what one set of individuals say as evidence for a human universal truth, and here he’s citing what a lot of people say and then categorically dismissing it as not suiting his theory. Few people find someone with no opinions or will of their own attractive, including, in my experience, most men. Likewise few people are terribly happy pushed around by someone who always insists on their own way. Neither of these should be terribly controversial assertions.

Also, apparently unlike Prager, I’ve known quite a few entirely happy relationships in which the involved woman cited her husband’s mild and gentle temperament as a lovable/admirable trait. Men and women both come in a variety of temperaments, and what will please one person will grate on another. That’s why not all men and not all women can ever possibly be suited for one another even following anyone’s template.

But that strength must come with integrity. If it doesn’t, he is a strong bad man. And while more than a few women fall for bad men (precisely because of the power of masculine strength to attract women), most women do not want such a man over the long run.

Actually I’m pretty sure it’s that very “I am nothing without a man, and my man is better than me” attitude the fish-bicycle feminists were trying to do away with that leads to women staying in abusive relationships, not the magnetism of assholes.

And ambition does not mean that he is necessarily rich, but that he is a hard worker who wants to improve himself; plenty of men who earn relatively little are admired and loved by their wives.

“Working to be a good person is admirable and more important than money”. If you’ve figured this out, Dennis, why all that business about cars and boys showing off?

Women get what they want most: to be married to and loved by a man they admire. Men then attain what they want most: to be admired by the woman they love. And society gets the thing it most needs: admirable men.

….You’re really not helping the impression you think only men can be admirable, are important, or that women are anything without one.

The basic problem with this is the same basic problem that lies of the heart of the traditionalist “men and women ARE equal, just in different roles they have to fill” is that men get all possible ways to go through life and potentially define themselves a success; career, family, good works, whatever. Women get only one: love a man and have kids. Equality and professional opportunity may not bring any given woman ultimate happiness, but it does give her far more of a chance to find something that will than family alone- including family.

No Responses to “Pink Box”

  1. Mousie762 Says:

    Dennis Prager does indeed deserve a lot of picking on here, and you do an excellent job as usual. It’s indeed mostly unisex truisms.

    What a woman most wants is to be loved by a man she admires.

    True enough. What I think I as a man most want is to be loved by a woman I admire, and that hardly seems like a controversial claim either.

    But there was a point on which I disagree with you:

    “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”

    The point of the phrase was to emphasize that a woman is still a person and still whole without being in a relationship with a man…

    I would like to point out that the point you describe does not particularly resemble the phrase you are attributing it to. A bicycle is perfectly superfluous and useless to a fish; inasmuch as the fish interacts with it at all it could constitute nothing but an obstacle. Either the original point was that a man is perfectly superfluous and useless to a woman, or else it’s one of the worst-formed phrases ever to become famous. Why did it become famous if people did not like the meaning? I’d say people probably liked it exactly because it was an attack, not because it was a remarkably poorly-stated metaphor for independence.

  2. LabRat Says:

    Fair enough. I would argue that the point needed to be very strongly made just because “a woman is nothing without a man” was that entrenched, but I also can’t argue the first wave had its share of women who would have agreed to ditching men entirely from their lives.

    I’d say it was repeated partly out of revolutionary fervor, and partly because… it was repeated.

  3. elmo iscariot Says:

    I love my husband, and admire him, also he’s my partner and my equal. None of these are contradictory, or even silly statements. You don’t have to think that someone is literally better than you or above you to admire them.

    Even further, I’m a man in a polyamorous marriage with a pair of submissive women. This is possibly the most “traditional”, “politically incorrect” (and I’ll get to that in a moment) relationship model out there… and my wives are my partners and my equals. These are also not contradictory statements, because they’re free, intelligent, autonomous human beings. Because they have social and legal options and legal recognition of their personal autonomy, and have _chosen_ our particular lifestyle as the one they find most fulfilling. Because humans are complicated.

    Every female lifestyle submissive I know would have a, ah, spirited reaction to any law _requiring_ her to approve her financial decisions with her paterfamilias.

    That renders my theory — that a woman wants to be cherished by a man she admires — politically incorrect in the extreme.

    There’s probably some truth to this, but I think the problem is with Prager’s estimation of its importance. There is most definitely a school of big-F Feminism that holds that women must live a particular way, or else they’re clearly Tools of the Patriarchy. We’ve seen it up close in our lifestyle, and it is, I think, the particular school Prager means when he talks about feminism, fishes, and bicycles (Mousie762 beat me to the punch on that one). It’s not incorrect to say that there’s a thread in our cultural discourse on sex that strongly disapproves of certain kinds of relationships and desires. I’m not sure how to put this–the idea seems to be that the only appropriate attitude for an unbrainwashed woman is a pointed disinterest in attention and approval from a man.

    Where Prager screws up, I think, is in failing to realize that this has always been an insular, extreme position far outside the mainstream, that has very little to do with how the average American–and the average American feminist–thinks about sex and society. The organized feminist movement has allowed extremists to be their public face now and then, and I think that was probably a mistake, but come the fuck on. What reasonable adult honestly thinks the spokesmen for political advocacy groups represent the character of half the people in a nation?

    Any “kernel of truth” here doesn’t come close to justifying his martyr complex. The dude’s obsessing over a fringe, and projecting his distaste for them onto a much broader group. In short, he’s the “Masculinist fringe”, doing exactly the same thing as the “Feminist fringe”.

  4. alath Says:

    I think elmo hits it just about right. Prager sounds like someone with a distorted, bizarre ideology criticizing another bizarre, distorted ideology, neither of which ideologies is held by anything other than a tiny fringe minority. LabRat’s characterization of “straw feminism” is apt, too – I’ve certainly encountered the kind of judgemental, dogmatic feminist orthodoxies Prager seems to be complaining of, but they’re a far out fringe, not a widely-held mainstream view.

    I do think LabRat strays off the other direction somewhat, in characterizing feminism as a uniformly moderate and reasonable stance. “Wanting to be equal before the law and the human resources department” is certainly reasonable, and I think only a far-out fringe minority would disagree with this generality. But there are certainly degrees when it comes to the specifics. For example, I think it is (or should be) non-controversial that an equally qualified woman should have the same opportunity and same pay for the same job as a male candidate. However, it’s not as self-evident to say that a professor in the female-dominated fine arts department should make the same money as a professor in the male-dominated biomedical engineering department. Certainly a woman should be able to own a construction company and have the same opportunity to compete for a government contract, but it’s not as clear to me that a woman-owned construction company should be given preferential treatment in obtaining contracts over a male-owned company.

    From what you’ve quoted here, it does seem that Prager has gone off the rails a bit. But there are certainly some views forwarded by some feminists that are subject to reasonable criticism and disagreement, and even a feminist fringe that’s just as far off the rails as Prager seems to be.

  5. LabRat Says:

    Prager was presenting a fringe minority as the majority of women period, so I was countering with what I’m pretty damn sure are the views of the majority of women period, at least that don’t deliberately identify as complementarians or otherwise not “liberated”.

    Which is not to take anything away from Elmo’s thoughtful and accurate comment, but I’m just clarifying that I didn’t write anything about fringe feminists because it wasn’t what either his column or my post was actually about.

  6. Ben Says:

    First of all, my view is purely anecdotal and not based on thorough scientific and historical study on the issue.

    I consider a healthy marriage to be an example of a partnership in which the gestalt is greater than the sum of the parts. Together with my wife we can accomplish more, reach goals more quickly, make better decisions, improve more rapidly, achieve greater happiness and generally do more than if we were merely two individuals. In that very specific context, I don’t necessarily consider it bad to say that a woman is less of a person without her husband. But that is another example that is equally true for the male in the same relationship. I certainly would be less of a person without my wife.

    Statements like: “A woman is nothing without a man,” are false, but a statement along the lines of: “A woman is greater with a man than alone,” is more accurate – though perhaps better stated in a unisex fashion thusly: “A person is greater with a partner.” (Or “partners” in elmo’s case.)

    I recognize that often that statement is presented as an inherent universal inferiority of the female, which is of course absurd.

  7. LabRat Says:

    Yeah, I don’t actually disagree with any point of this except that a person is always greater with a partner- I’ve seen way too many dysfunctional relationships where huge amounts of time and energy were sunk into the pure bullshit generated by two people who were fundamentally unhappy with each other.

    But yeah, I’d apply the sentiment to my own marriage as well. Which IS functional.

  8. Geodkyt Says:

    Labrat,

    Keep in mind to most people who are not actively involved in the feminist movement, the concepts of “equality before law” is not viewed as “feminism”. . . it’s viewed as “mainstream freedom”.

    They did a study a decade or so ago, and found that, while most young women (I think the age range was 15-30) supported the goals of “mainstream” feminism by an overwhelming majority, a majority explicitly rejected identifying themselves as “feminists” becuase of the widescale perception – by them – that official feminism WAS a pack of bitter, misandrist, unattractive screamers who run around writing “HIStory” and “wymyn”.

    The feminist movement has allowed (by ommission, not commission) the ONLY consistant face of feminism to be the shrieking harpies (who probably constitute, what, less than 5% of consistently active, “card carrying” feminists?). Yes, it’s hard to consitently repudiate people when their little extremist slice is the ONLY thing that matters to them, so they are willing to devote every waking moment to it, while normal people have lives, hobbies, and a variety of interests.

  9. LabRat Says:

    Yeah, but it’s arguable a great many groups and movements have this issue, with Christianity being an excellent example. How could it have become unfashionable to be noticeably an adherent of the overwhelmingly dominant religion of the country, except by association with its loudest, most obnoxious, and actively theologically misguided members? It doesn’t take the value out of either one of them, or make the representation any less wrong.

    Merely because feminism has self-created some of its image problem is still no excuse for Prager to create the false dichotomy he did in this column- either women eschewing men altogether, or women treating men as their betters.

  10. Ben Says:

    Perhaps I should have been more explicit and stated that: “A person is greater with a partner with whom a healthy relationship exists.” I’d agree that if you are partnered up with someone who is failing to hold up their end of the partnership or is actively working against it, the partnership is a liability.

    Anyhow, I’m just glad my fish has thus far kept her bike, whatever the reason.

  11. Geodkyt Says:

    LabRat,

    The difference is that feminists (and environmentalists, for that matter) are driving away people who believe the same thing the mainstream of their movement does! There is VERY little open condemnation of the freakazoids, and more of a quiet muttering within the organization (at best).

    Hell, I used to work in the environmentalism world. . . even in the mid-1990′s the serious professionals used to groan and roll our eyes when some blowhard like Al Gore showed up (and I’m including my co-workers who voted for Nader, not just Right-of-Rush little ol’ me).

    But nary a word of protest was uttered by insiders in public or to the press about the stupidity, venality, dishonesty, and arrogance of the prominent jackasses who got in the way of real science and effective antipollution, pro-biodiversity, conservationist programs with their budget-robbing grandstanding and schemes. It made Reagan’s 11th Commandment (Thou shalt not speak ill of thy fellow Republican) or the Mafia’s Code of Omerta look like a 15 year old’s Twitter feed. It made the Thin Blue Line of Silence look like the secret interview segment of any reality show.

    That both Active Stupid and a complete abrogation of any social responsibility (towards EITHER the group OR to the greater society) to not allow that jackass to hurt things.

    Secularization of modern Western society affects ALL religions, including Judaism and the imported eastern religions. The most obvious target of someone trying to reject “that old fashioned stuff” is going to be the religion that is claimed by the overwhelming majority of the population. For those who feel that they need SOME religious structure in their life, there is always professing a faith significantly different from the one yougrew up in or is the social norm. (Breaking News: Teenagers are also doing crazy stuff with their hair in rebellion!)

    However, an atheist isn’t going to suddenly believe in God even if “normal” Christian leaders condemned the freakazoids portraying themselves as Christian leaders. (And what would you have Christian leaders do beyond the immediate and public condemnations of freakazoids like Fred Phelps that they already do? Drumhead heresy trials and summary executions?)

    There are no people who believe in Christ, accept Him as their personal Savior AND still believe they don’t have any religious feelings or beliefs. Personal faith isn’t something one develops fromwatching an organization, but from seeing individuals in your own life.

    So Pat Robertson saying Haiti had an earthquake because someone made a pact with the Devil 200 years ago (and remember, EVERY serious theologial or religious Christian leader jumped his shit over that, starting the very day it happened — every network had guest segments with mainstream Christian leaders explaining how stupid those remarks were — When’s the last time you heard mainstream feminism or environmentalism do the same as is routine for mainstream Christian leaders?) doesn’t really hurt recruitment.

    No matter how nice the leadership is perceived to be, someone who is utterly convinced there is no supernatural being at all is NOT going to just up and say, “Well, those Mormon fellows are nice people. I think I’m going to go join the local temple.” The same goes for someone who has belief in the supernatural, but has utterly incompatible beliefs — there aren’t that many Muslims converting to Hinduism.

    It’s like expecting me to become a Vegan just because hotties like Alicia Silverstone and Olivia Wilde are prominent vegans. I’m not a Vegan because I reject the very ethical foundation of veganism, and I like my meat, eggs, and dairy products. (And I enjoy leather and wool products, which, even if not eaten, fall squarely within veganism’s ethical reach.)

    However, unless and until Veganism embraces bacon wrapped kielbasa, chased with eggnog, you cannot make it attractive enough to interest me. Nor would it be less attractive to me if the public face of Veganism was soley Paul Watson, Cindy Sheehan, and Dennis Kucinich. I’m not only not on the Vegan wavelength, I’m not even listening to RF right now. . .