Thursday, 9 October 2014

Anglo-American Feminism: Just Another Post War Anomaly?

In the UK and US (but especially the UK, where class is the national obsession), social mobility (or the lack of it) has become a central topic of political debate. Britain, it is said, is suffering from social stagnation. Statistics suggest it is now much harder to rise in the social order than it was in the 1950s (or even the 1970s). Most of the top positions in society go to a narrow power elite defined by private schooling, residency in London and other trans-generational advantages. Moreover, various initiatives designed to tackle the issue have been conspicuous failures.

The United States, home of the American Dream, has experienced similar levels of social closure in recent years. In fact, its social mobility rates are only slightly better than Britain’s. Australia’s government is full of privately-educated politicians, a decidedly ‘un-Australian’ development; after all, Australia has traditionally been the most classless of all the Anglosphere nations.

One explanation of this ‘new elitism’ is intriguing. It argues that the socially fluid and prosperous post-War era was an anomaly, and that we are now reverting to ‘natural’ levels of social and economic inequality - the levels that have prevailed for most of history. We find this difficult to ‘see’ because most people have only ever experienced the post-war era and its social narratives. Also, we find this notion of ‘normative inequality’ difficult to accept because it confounds our deep-rooted attachment to the optimistic, narcissist values of the post-War era.

Many social problems of our age can be explained by this ‘normative inequality’ thesis. This is especially true of the mismatch between aspiration and opportunity that afflicts almost all young people in the West. Little wonder; they are still being inculcated with Post-War expectations of near-effortless upward mobility in a world where this is no longer possible. Virtually everyone under thirty wants to live in a mansion, drive a Maserati and work in a glamorous profession, if they have to work at all. Very few are adjusted to a life of socio-economic stasis; indeed, this is tacitly considered ‘failure’ by the vast majority of westernized youth. In sum, the broad masses have internalized narratives that arose in Madison Avenue during the early fifties, temporal nexus of post-War prosperity and optimism. In our own age of shrinking socio-economic mobility and general decline, these narratives are effectively useless and even potentially harmful to those who cleave to them. Misery is the only possible outcome for those snarled in such a schism between aspiration and reality.

But were the 50s really representative of  history?

This ‘aspiration as anomaly’ perspective illuminates several features of the Anglo-American gender war we like to discuss. Firstly, it is notable that feminism rose to prominence in the immediate post-War era. Of course, residual misandry defined the Anglosphere long before that. However, it has to be said that Anglo-American feminism became far more influential in the decades after World War Two, especially in the United States. This underscores its essential alignment with the prevailing values of Anglo-American culture.

Anglo-American feminism then, is an aspirational post-war lifestyle movement. Like the advertising and consumerism that emerged in the early fifties, it encourages all women to aim for a white, upper-middle class lifestyle. Despite its protestations, it is essentially hypergamous – virtually all post-feminist media aimed at Western women focus on ‘perfect’ relationships with wealthy, famous males. Again, this is an expression of ‘boom-town’ post-War values. Roissy has said (in my view, with some validity) that Anglo-Saxon feminism represents a collective rejection of marital monogamy, allowing women to indulge their innate preference for high status (or at least attractive) males. While there are problems with this interpretation (for example, many women seem attracted to criminals and deviants rather than high status men), it has to be conceded that marriage to ‘conventional’ males chafes with most women.

If feminism is another anomalous narrative from the post-War era, one would expect it to generate a mismatch between reality and aspiration, breeding alienation and misery among its adherents. And it does. Despite their relative freedoms and prosperity, Anglo-American women are less happy than they have ever been. This is because only a small minority can satisfy their new-found aspirations (hypergamous and otherwise) in a culture defined by restricted social mobility and economic polarization. And of course, unrestricted female mate choice only compounds their economic and social woes (for reasons we know only too well).

Similarly, many young males in the West resent their inability ‘to launch’. Inculcated with anomalous post-War narratives of effortless social mobility, they expect to buy houses, start businesses and make progress as their fathers did. Unfortunately, since the West has reverted to its ‘natural’ state of social ossification and immobility, these narratives are now hopelessly unrealistic and only a tiny few will ever realize them. Cue the widespread alienation, fantastical aspirations and grinding despair that define so many younger men.
The 50's Ideal: A historical anomaly?

What of the Men’s Rights movement? Conservative MRAs are obsessed with setting the clock back to an earlier era – typically, the 1950s, a decade defined by more ‘traditional’ gender relations that restricted female mate-choice. However, if the 1950s were the nexus of an anomalous era defined by idiomatic levels of social mobility, such a reactionary move would not improve the male lot as intended. Too few males would be able to support women in traditional marital relationships, leading to a surfeit both of single women and sexually-frustrated males – a kind of Handmaid’s Tale replete with extended families and re-runs of ‘I Love Lucy’.

One way or another, our culture remains attached to its post-War narratives of upward mobility, star-culture and trans-generational ‘progress’. They cajole and flatter us and besides, accepting a diminished reality is intrinsically difficult. The possibility that such narratives derive from an anomalous era of recent history and that economic inequality / social stasis are ‘norms’ represents a dramatic paradigm shift, one that many will find hard to accept. After all, even talentless dunces in housing projects now expect fame and riches as their inalienable ‘right’. However, unless alternative narratives are found to palliate the masses, some kind of conflagration is inevitable.

The 50s family: gone forever?