The absence of men due to war informs 20th century feminism

One klaxon-loud reason women wanted more hard economic power in the 20th century was because it was freaking hard to feed themselves under patriarchal restrictions on the type of work they could do when the patriarchs and patriarchs-to-be were all lying in pieces across various battlefields.

Patriarchy is fine when you actually have patriarchs.  When you don’t, it becomes harder to justify or enforce the strictures.  The astonishing loss of high-earning, high-status men in the Anglosphere during the World Wars had a lot of knock-on effects regarding female behavior that go utterly ignored by historically ignorant conservatives.  One of them is the whole “single middle class+ women haring about on mission trips” thing.  They went on missions because they couldn’t marry.  Their pool of men lay dead or hopelessly crippled beyond ability to produce, much less provide for a family.

One really can’t understand the grumpy feminist push for female independence without understanding the very real destruction of, well, patriarchal human capital represented by the shocking losses of the World Wars.

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3 thoughts on “The absence of men due to war informs 20th century feminism

  1. I still think capitalism is the main culprit mainly because it raised living standards, propagated new technologies and above all, by took production out of the family and placed it into the factory. Of course both World Wars greatly facilitated this process as well but I don’t think they are the cause. This is also why I despise nationalism/jingoism so much. It was rabid nationalism, not Christianity nor Marxism that destroyed Old Europe.

    Here is some more reading on this topic for those interested-

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    • Well, the loss of the men combined with capitalism was pretty devastating, as it meant a crippling blow to both the idea and practice of domesticity.

      Increased living standards are not exactly bad, I like antibiotics very well, and blood transfusions. That said, it would have been possible to have increased living standards without such aggressive destruction of domesticity if the Wars hadn’t been so directly devastating to the ruling classes of Europe.

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  2. Dear Scripta,

    rabid nationalism was a reaction to the evil twin sisters of communism and capitalism, both flowing from enlightenment ideas. Old Europe was destroyed between the hammer and anvil of Soviet Russia and imperialist America.

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