Commenter James asks if there isn’t at least a kernel of truth to Stanton & Gilder’s view of men, women, and marriage, even if they have in the process mangled this kernel of truth:
Isn’t there some sense where the “woman civilizes the man” is true, or am I conflating two different ideas? In other words, the lament about the Peter Pan man-boys not desiring to achieve much in life, because there’s no reward for them in marriage, or the women are not choosing them, so therefore they don’t try too hard to better themselves, and this is understandable. In way then, this is saying that being able to get a nice female is a reason why young men would want to improve themselves or to become providers and have all the resources they need, instead of living at home with their parents and playing video games. Perhaps this “civilizing” is not done in the terms and conditions which Gilder says it is, but something like it is going on. Gilder’s terms for what he says is the woman’s role in civilizing men is horrendous, for sure.
James is right. There is a kernel of truth there. But while Stanton and Gilder have accurately noticed that marriage and civilization go together, they have incorrectly pointed the causal arrow. Stanton and Gilder think that women naturally civilize men. Starting with this catastrophic misunderstanding, Stanton and Gilder have created the conservative intellectual foundation for the destruction of marriage in general, and specifically the destruction of headship and fatherhood. As Dr. Daniel Amnéus explains in Chapter 1 of The Garbage Generation, The Pathology of the Female-headed Family, the feminist model of the family that Stanton and Gilder are celebrating is not a path towards greater civilization, but retreat from civilization:
“Men and women,” rejoices feminist-anthropologist Helen Fisher, “are moving toward the kind of roles they had on the grasslands of Africa millions of years ago….Human society is now discovering its ancient roots….The recent trend toward divorce and remarriage is another example of a throwback to earlier times….[T]he so-called new extended family [read: broken family] may actually have evolved millennia ago….At long last, society is moving in a direction that should be highly compatible with our ancient human spirit….The ‘traditional’ role of women is a recent invention.”
Biologically speaking, it is indeed a recent invention, scarcely older than the civilization which it made possible and which emerged coevally with it and created the wealth which reconciled women to accepting it. But women’s new economic independence is leading them to yearn for a return to the prehistoric mammalian arrangement. “[W]herever women are economically powerful,” says Fisher, “divorce rates are high. You see it in the Kung and you see it in the United States.” Let’s say, wherever women are economically powerful and there are no social guarantees to ensure male headship of families, divorce rates are high–such being the case among the Kung and the Americans. The Kung have no social guarantees to ensure male headship of families because the Kung never emerged from the Stone Age. The Americans have no social guarantees to ensure male headship of families because there exists an elementary confusion in the heads of policy makers, lawmakers and judges, who imagine that the obvious strength of the biological tie between the mother and the infant (the “biological fact” Margaret Mead refers to) means that it requires their assistance. A biological fact does not require the services of the legal system. What does require these services is the weakest biological link in the family, the role of the father. It was the creation of this role–only a few thousand years ago–which made patriarchal civilization possible. Prior to that, mankind had to muddle through the million years of the Stone Age with the female-headed reproductive arrangements of the ghetto, the barnyard and the rain forest.
Related: More ominous than a strike.