Sunshine Mary has been digging into the feminine imperative, trying to understand the mechanics of it. In challenging the concept she is doing the sphere a favor by forcing a more rigorous examination of it.
In How doth the little feminine imperative grow? she describes the interaction of a group of mostly home schooled young men and women. The young women (American Heritage Girls) recently joined up with an existing group of Boy Scouts for a joint Christmas celebration. When it came time to enjoy the cookies, the girls all went first:
I noticed my daughters cutting into the front of the line at the buffet table, along with all the other AHGirls, and I heard one of the older Boy Scouts loudly instructing the cubs to stay back and let the girls go through the buffet line first. The girls all looked a bit startled by this but, faced with a long table full of treats, happily skipped right up to the front with nary a backward glance…
The thing is, no girl asked or appeared to expect to go through the food line first, though they also didn’t object to doing so (they also didn’t thank the boys). It was the boys who were enforcing this on one another, and they were doing it very proudly.
As Sunshine Mary points out, it was one of the boys who directed this.
It just appeared to happen spontaneously and willingly.
This causes her to question whether the feminine imperative is really a valid concept, or if this isn’t something strictly due to the nature of men:
While the feminine imperative may be a valid concept, I do not at present agree with Dalrock that it is women defining social rules to meet strictly female needs.
Numerous commenters on her post noted that it is very natural for men to look after women, and this has always been the case. Indeed, this natural protectiveness men have for women is part of the mechanism which leads to the feminine imperative. However, it is only part of the mechanism. The other side is vehement objection to reciprocity, and this very much does come from women. To the casual observer the scene Sunshine Mary describes where men defer to women and the women don’t bother thanking them (or truly even appreciating the gesture) seems to “just happen”.
The reality is that women’s passivity is far more superficial than it appears. Vox Day recently explained why women tend to be passive aggressive:
…passive-aggressive behavior is an intentional attack on another individual made with at least some degree of plausible deniability concerning the attack, the intent, or the target. The reason for the plausible deniability because the passive-aggressive individual wants to be able to attack someone else without giving his target a justification for striking back.
Should he be questioned, the passive-aggressive attacker will usually affect to deny he was making an attack, or that he intended any such thing, or that the person he was obviously attacking was, in fact, the target….
This is a perfectly reasonable conflict strategy for women, who are on average smaller, weaker, slower, and less intelligent than men.
The seeming passivity of women in the process of rewriting social norms to the exclusive benefit of women is what is throwing Sunshine Mary off. She can easily test this by coaching one of the boys to suggest that the girls show some reciprocal form of deference to the boys during a future celebration. Perhaps the girls should serve the boys refreshments during their next celebration, as Anonymous Reader suggested:
One way to damp down the entitlement princess training just received by the boys / young men deferring to the girls / young women would be to cause the girls and young women to defer in a different way to the boys and young men. For example, at some future time you might consider having the AH girls serve the Boy Scout boys, perhaps by seating the boys at table and having the girls bring trays to the tables.
If this is suggested the lie of the girls’ passivity will come out in force. It won’t come out in the form of a logical reaction, even if on the surface it appears to start that way. For example, they are likely to bristle at the idea of having their moxie damaged by deferring to the boys, and make a feminist argument for equality. However, if this is simply about equality one could then propose that instead of serving the boys the girls have the boys go first through the treat line, and agree to take turns at this from here on.
At this point the reality of the feminine imperative will become evident, because while the girls were seemingly passive when everything was going their way, any deviance from this will be met with emotional outbursts. Whoever proposes either true equality or simple reciprocity will become the object of great irrational anger, and at this point the passivity turns to aggression. While the girls (and their mothers) won’t know why they are so angry, they will know that whoever proposed such a thing is a terrible person. Sunshine Mary described just this sort of thing regarding Joseph of Jackson in a separate post.
Another excellent example of the passive aggressive enforcement of the feminine imperative occurred in August when Zippy Catholic linked to my post Losing Control of the Narrative in his post Rubbernecking Past the Death of Masculinity. Commenter Lydia was outraged that men were being allowed to notice very large numbers of women delaying marriage to focus on casual sex and career, as well as divorcing frivolously. That I could notice such things was in her mind proof that I am a defective man and husband:
If the blogger linked is supposed to be an example of someone who appears to care deeply about marriage and the family, you can keep him. I don’t care if he’s a Christian. I don’t care that he knows feminism is false or that lots of Christians are, unfortunately, feminists. (Whoop-de-doo.) Someone that callous and cynical, who freely thinks and talks in the terms of “Game,” who pretty obviously thinks that all women are prima facie sluts, has had his chivalry and his capacity for wonder permanently damaged if not destroyed. I wouldn’t want him or his followers in the so-called “Christian manosphere” (shudder) coming within a hundred miles of marrying one of my daughters.
…what does one expect from people who want to wander around the blogosphere wallowing in talk of the sluttishness of women and the needs of poor men to protect themselves from these predatory females?
…How would a man who thinks and speaks that way view his wife as a gift? Where would be that capacity for joy and wonder and blessing?
Lydia’s complaint is that I am being allowed to think differently than than she would permit, and that Zippy is compounding the problem by exposing his male readers to such subversive ideas. Her argument isn’t that the facts I’m presenting are untrue, but that I’m committing a thought-crime against the feminine imperative by acknowledging such a painfully obvious pattern. She is there to make sure no such thought-crimes occur in the minds of Zippy or his readers, lest they too become defective men:
…my conclusion is that the occupational hazard of being immersed (maybe perforce, because of one’s job, for example) in the situations in which women have ruined men’s lives is a particular level and type of jadedness and a damaging of that ability to see a woman as a gift. I think that _especially_ the fathers of sons should want their sons not to suffer that kind of damage, especially not when they still have the opportunity,hopefully, to go through life without suffering it.
She reinforces this further down in the discussion:
No one should even be able to *think* of nonsense like #1-#4…
She takes special offense at my pointing out that frivolous divorce exists and that it is in fact regularly encouraged by the church and the culture:
This portrays women as somehow determined by the outside world to behave wickedly and destroy everyone’s life (including, what the manosphere doesn’t seem to realize, her own life in a very real sense) on a whim. Wow, that’s darned insulting. *Not one* of my close female friends is “resisting divorce porn.” The idea is risible. They’re just happy and busy and living their lives, love their husbands, etc.
Having established that divorce porn isn’t a problem and having chastised men for thinking women are tempted to utilize a system designed for them to abuse men, she later explains what the real problem is. It turns out that homosexual husbands and “rape porn” have much to do with it:
Frankly, I think that some (indeed, numerically quite a few, though I won’t pronounce dogmatically on the total percentage) cases where a woman initiates a divorce are cases where _she_ has lost _her_ “bet” in marriage and has suffered the consequences of the risk she took–where, for example, her husband ended up addicted to rape porn and refused to stop, where he was keeping a mistress or sleeping around, where he was an active homosexual, where he was genuinely, seriously abusive, or plenty of other situations.
During the long exchange (130+ comments) Zippy and I both encouraged Lydia to point out where my post was either factually or logically incorrect. I don’t believe she directly responded to Zippy’s request, but to me she explained that she would not do so because I am not her friend. My specific request was:
I’m just trying to break through the internet tribalism and have an actual discussion. At some point can we break past claims that the other guys are “internet tough guys” who probably don’t love their wives, and have a real discussion? This is all I’m asking.
To which she replied:
No, not really. I have an extremely full Internet life, probably too full. In fact, certainly too full. Plus a real, in-person life. What you call “tribalism” I call friendship.
Yet, while she was too busy to point out where my facts or logic were incorrect, she wasn’t too busy to wage a one woman filibuster in the comboxes of Zippy’s blog post. She was sadly ultimately successful in this, to such a degree that Zippy followed up with a post asking if it is reasonable to consider such things.
Lydia’s marathon emotion driven objection to my post is evidently out of character for her, and according to Zippy she is widely known for her use of facts, logic, and reason:
You haven’t truly tasted irony until you’ve seen someone lecture Lydia McGrew about using facts, logic, and reason.
I’ll have to take Zippy’s word for that, because her lengthy filibuster of what she deemed crime-think displayed none of these qualities. However, assuming he is correct, this makes the example all the more pertinent. Threaten the feminine imperative and you will unleash an unthinking emotional tirade focused on you personally and not on the ideas being discussed. The woman enforcing the imperative likely herself can’t see how irrational she is being; she only knows how angry she feels at the men who are violating the imperative. Other men notice what happened to the previous thought criminal and are often cowed into silence.
This is how the feminine imperative “just happens”.
Update: Several other bloggers have written their own thoughts on the issue (Vox Day, Frost, Zippy Catholic, Sunshine Mary, and Ballista74). See also Rollo’s recent post on the feminine imperative and employment law.