Apparently Unspeakable

Over at Thermidor, Nick B. Steves and PT Carlo sit down “to discuss the economic and social difficulties of family formation and patriarchy in the modern West.”  Guess how much time is spent on actual problems couples with multiple young children encounter and win a prize.




If you guessed zero minutes and zero seconds, congratulations. You win a sense of dull resignation to the fact that these people just aren’t serious.


23 thoughts on “Apparently Unspeakable

    • I’m not familiar with them, but that particular combination seems to be very popular in the Christian manosphere–praise MGTOWs/slam actual conservative dads and then complain about people being mean to husbands and fathers.

      That’s pretty much a day ending with -y at Dalrock.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anymouse is talking about a very different group of childless single men than MGTOWs. A group with lighter feet. There’s a whole subset of the dissident right that thinks such men are particularly masculine or something.


        • For certain values of “masculine.”

          You can’t be a Marlboro man striding about with a burp cloth on your shoulder.


  1. Isn’t there also a lot of “you can’t teach me how to live, old man!” in the young single manospherean treatment of married conservative fathers?


  2. OK, I’m not an hour-long manosphere podcast type person.

    Could anybody briefly summarize what they thought were the difficulties involved with “family formation and patriarchy in the modern West” without talking about actual family difficulties?


  3. TPC said:

    “He got a useless master’s including student loan debt during the 5->8 kid timeframe.”


    “He also was giving money to a “light-footed” young man for quite some time and was very weird when people asked about the exact (yay lack of boundaries in the alt right) nature of that “mentorship”.”



  4. To the substance of this post, you guys raise a good point. A large part of the reason why young marrieds (and even not so young marrieds) are putting off or refusing to have more than the standard 2.5 kids is because when you have kids as a young couple, you’re on your own for the most part and several young children back to back (the Trad approved plan) are a LOT of work. Yes, I know you know.

    People know that there will be little to no rescue or respite by a friend or family member offering to rock the baby so they get some much needed sleep after a long night with the baby, etc. And so they plan their families accordingly, as if they are going to be doing not the just the heavy lifting, but ALL of the lifting on their own. Because they mostly are.

    There is a running joke in our house that one of our twins (given her personality) would do well when she marries to have the standard 2.5 kids, even though I have pledged my assistance to all of our kids when the time comes.

    It doesn’t serve children either, to have parents stretched too thin,


  5. I was just looking at this:

    “The good Trad Dad is usually a humble and pious individual who works tirelessly to provide not only financially, but also spiritually for his large family. His wife is almost always a homemaker (who is usually profoundly pious herself) with the Trad Dad himself being employed in a respectable but usually not particularly lucrative field. This means many of those luxuries (two cars in the garage, a 4,000 square foot house in the exurbs, a boat, trips to Disney World, etc.) which have become trademarks of Upper Middle-Class life are usually off the table.”

    Two cars is not “upper middle class” in a suburban family. It’s basic middle class. You can find many less prosperous homes with a vast multitude of cars–hence the Jeff Foxworthy joke about how if only half of your cars run…you might be redneck.

    A boat is not “upper middle class.” It’s typical of the prosperous middle middle class.

    ” In fact, by most standards, the good Trad Dad lives in a state of pseudo poverty.”


    “Our “bad” Trad Dad, on the other hand, is another species entirely. While ostensibly “Traditionalist” in regards to his rhetoric (which consists mostly of G.K. Chesterton and J.R.R. Tolkien quotes) and style (which consists mostly of bow-ties) this type is, in practice, mostly dedicated to the pursuit of social status and comfortable living (such as the performative consumption of “artisanal foods.”) Hence the reason why they rarely ever have more children than their incomes allow, usually sticking to the perfunctory 2.1 in order to maintain their bourgeois standard of living (which for them, like most Americans, is everything.)”

    Query: is it a good idea to have more children than one’s income allows? By definition, that sounds bad.

    I actually know (from a distance) a trad dad who sounds a lot like this description, down to the bow tie and quotes and nice cocktails–but at current count they seem to have 6 homeschooled children and live in a modest home.

    I suppose Rod Dreher is the ur-example of the “bad trad dad”–but he has 3 children.

    So perhaps this taxonomy is inexact?

    “Hence why, upon closer inspection, the lifestyle of these Trad Dads and their Blue state counterparts in Brooklyn aren’t all that meaningfully different.”

    That is actually somewhat insightful. Upper middle class family culture is upper middle class family culture. There is a rule book, and the first rule is that the kids come first. This can lead to certain excesses, but it also has many virtues, for example that people of that culture are well aware that intact families are good for kids, so gosh darn it, they generally do their best to have a decent marriage.

    As a smart guy once said, ” When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

    Or to take it from another angle, the reason for the consistency in upper middle class kid-raising culture is that the formula works.

    Possibly more in a bit!


  6. More!

    “While pushing back against hedonic individualism and the cult of self-actualization is both good and necessary the answer isn’t a retreat back into the suburbs.”

    I don’t think we have actually demonstrated that Good Trad Dads and Bad Trad Dads disproportionately live in the suburbs, or that either Good Trad Dads or Bad Trad dads are especially passionate suburbanites compared to other middle class and upper middle class US fathers.

    The suburbs are primarily important to people who use public schools. Once you cut that cord of attachment to the neighborhood public school, you can live anywhere you like and can afford. Also, as income goes up, so does the likelihood of private school attendance:

    “Only 6 percent of kids in households with incomes under $50,000 attend private schools, compared with 26 percent of kids in households with incomes of $200,000 or more.”

    Interestingly, 25% of New Orleans kids go to private school.

    Also, there are US neighborhoods where 70-86% of neighborhood kids go to private school.

    OK, back to the Trad Dad piece!

    “As the nuclear family of the halcyon days of the 1950’s, for which many trad dads pine for with nostalgia, is just as much a product of modernity (in the worst sense of the term) as are the childless hipster neighborhoods where our SWPL’s congregate.”

    Are hipster neighborhoods actually childless? Having little kids in the city but then migrating to suburbs with good public schools is the SWPL life cycle.

    “In truth, the Post-War Suburbanization of the 50’s, along with the completion of the interstate highway system, helped erode the extended family upon which all previous understandings of family formation had been predicated upon. The “nuclear families” of the American Suburbs, now isolated in their cul de sac fortresses of solitude and cut off from the sources of tradition which had given marriage and child rearing their extended symbolic meaning, became ripe targets for the disruptive forces of American popular culture and boredom.”

    Cul de sacs are actually pretty darn fabulous for creating a safe-feeling place for kids to play outdoors and fostering relationships among neighboring families. I wish I lived on a cul de sac.

    “Isolated from a close network of extended kin and thus from meaningful congress with the traditions which had formed their parents, the children of the suburbs sat in front of television screens and consumed mass culture.”

    Are urban children typically more traditional or less likely to watch TV?

    “The truth that the Trad Dads will not face, in their hurry to condemn the vanity of the SWPLs, is just how difficult and unfulfilling family life is in the early 21st century.”

    Why then are we in such a big hurry to condemn the hypothetical Bad Trad Dad for his small family?

    “Even if one somehow accounts for the structural factors (difficulty in finding employment without relocation, the incredible expense of raising children, the frequent need for many households to have two wage earners, etc.), the cultural problem still remains.”

    Again, why were we so judgy about that small family?

    “Part of the reason for this hegemonic control is no doubt due to the ruthlessness and single-mindedness with which the Liberals in question pursued it, but the other part of it was the general passivity and cluelessness with which the conservative Trad Dads of the world treated the issue of culture creation.”

    I suspect they’ve got other fish to fry, what with the whole “surviving” thing.

    ” Too often they have been little more than arrogant philistines, focusing their time and energy into pursuing either purely domestic or purely monetary aims.”

    And yet he really, really doesn’t like Rod Dreher.

    Darned if you do focus on culture creation and preservation, darned if you don’t.

    “Ultimately the sin of the Trad Dad is one of both idolatry and neglect. It is idolatry because he has elevated bourgeois family formation, at any cost, as a Supreme good which surpasses all others.”

    In how many times and places have normal, traditional fathers been all about Art?

    The conflict between the Bourgeois and the Bohemian is pretty darn old at this point.

    Also, have a listen to older pop songs. Here’s one from 1919:

    In fact, there are a lot of pretty racy songs from then or earlier. (Kathy Shaidle had a piece on this, and I haven’t been able to dig it up, but trust me, it was a startling vision of what our great-grandparents got up to.)

    “The world needs more Houellebecqs and less Douthats, more unsettling but compelling works of art and less sanctimonious lectures on the value of bourgeois “family values.” In fact, not only should these grotesque American values, values which substitute “success” for “virtue” and “career” for “religion”, be downplayed, they should be actively destroyed. They are the values of a society of middle-class mediocrities, of paper pushers and used car salesmen…”


    So, what’s a normal Trad Dad’s family life supposed to look like? He’s supposed to have his huge family with all the difficulties P.T. Carlo mentioned, toil at his day job, and write deathless works of prose?

    This doesn’t even make sense, especially if the family is also supposed to be homeschooling, which is a pretty all-consuming task by itself. Plus, it’s pretty notorious that many great literary artists have been terrible parents and spouses.

    Also, what is the deal with complaining about modernism while quoting a bunch of modernists and no traditionalists?

    Plus, I think that he is being very unfair to traditional families who attempt to transmit the best literature and art of Western Civilization to their children. That is not a minor task, and I don’t see a lot of benefit in assigning Houllebecq to tots when they could read The Three Musketeers or With Fire and Sword instead.


    Also, I’m about to make a very controversial statement about art.

    What if the majority of the best art of the last 20-30 years is in film, not fiction? Call me a philistine, but I would struggle to name any fiction of the last 20-30 years that is of lasting value. I’ve tried, Lord knows I’ve tried, but I just couldn’t get through them (I made it probably 50 pages into I Am Charlotte Simmons). However, here are some movies that I think will stand the test of time:

    –Goodbye, Lenin! (German)
    –To Live (Chinese)
    –Blue (French/Polish)
    –The Deluge (Polish)
    –Lord of the Rings

    I actually keep a much larger list than this because we used to do a weekly movie for undergraduates and hope to get back to doing a monthly grad movie.

    US fiction is pretty dead as a medium for conveying reality. (Go to the bookstore and see for yourself.) Trying to use fiction as a medium for communication these days is like trying to write operas to accomplish the same thing. (A musical could work, though.)


    • Here’s a contradiction:

      1. Being a 21st century father is SO HARD and expensive.

      2. Y’all are materialistic philistines.


    • I disagree about fiction, but then again since I’m writing some, I kind of have to. I follow the PulpRev guys at Castalia House because they kind of agree with you regarding modern speculative fiction, but believe the people writing very different new fiction are building the potential pool of alternative work. And I do think that if you write it, they’ll appear is true enough to warrant the effort.

      I dislike Rod Dreher, and even hilariously for some of the same reasons these guys do (hipsterish, LARPy tendencies, sanctimony), but I can see with my eyes that “good” trad dads often have some of the exact same tendencies, just with less money to throw around on them.

      PS: The thermidor crowd labels any historical evidence to the contrary of the story they’re telling about the pre-50s America as “an exception”. So you can’t drop a binder full of census data down, because they’ll sweep it away as “exceptions”.


      • TPC said:

        “I dislike Rod Dreher, and even hilariously for some of the same reasons these guys do (hipsterish, LARPy tendencies, sanctimony), but I can see with my eyes that “good” trad dads often have some of the exact same tendencies, just with less money to throw around on them.”

        Dreher’s not my cup of tea, either, although I’d LOVE to have his travel and dining budget. (And that’s a big negative, in my view–he’s out there flitting from flower to flower while the people who do the stuff he recommends are going to find life much more of a grind, so he’s never going to understand what it’s like to be them.)

        But I don’t see why P.T. Carlo dislikes him, since Dreher is doing basically what P.T. Carlo describes as an ideal–you can’t really accuse Dreher of being a suburban philistine with a straight face.

        I feel like I get a lot more out of contemporary non-fiction and mom humor (like The Honest Toddler).

        Our family loves Terry Pratchett, though, and we’ve had many years of Harry Potter-mania.

        One of the big problems for me with fiction is that if I set it down (which I am very likely to do with contemporary fiction as I do most of my reading in the smallest room in the house), I lose the thread and the mood in a way that I don’t with non-fiction.

        “PS: The thermidor crowd labels any historical evidence to the contrary of the story they’re telling about the pre-50s America as “an exception”. So you can’t drop a binder full of census data down, because they’ll sweep it away as “exceptions”.”

        Well, there’s a data point in favor of anymouse’s theory. What liberal art, though? Not history, not English, what could it be? Some sort of generic blenderized Great Books program where you do a century every week? I just find the Thermidor view-from-35,000-feet very odd. There’s a major lack of specificity and getting down to brass tacks.

        I was also thinking homeschool graduates. There are a lot of the critters walking around nowadays. Or just plain autodidacts.


  7. Not Claude Akins commented: “What’s the difference between a blue-haired SJW who dies a cat-lady, and a virile right-wing intellectual who dies surrounded by great reactionary literature, but equally alone?”



  8. I should start paying rent here, but this is a fascinating subject.

    Dipping into the Thermidor blog, I’m wondering–could somebody send the Thermidor guys a red pencil…or at least a delete key?

    What makes alt-right guys so bad at editing?


    • I really wonder who is funding this whole op; maybe it is PT Carlo. I do think a big part of the problem is that we (the right) are being left with the dregs of the liberal arts majors; Jacobin is getting the people who know how to type.

      I think half of Thermidor’s strategy is to poke as many people as possible (just like Spencer), so we will all take about them and give them airtime.


      • Anymouse said:

        “I really wonder who is funding this whole op; maybe it is PT Carlo. I do think a big part of the problem is that we (the right) are being left with the dregs of the liberal arts majors; Jacobin is getting the people who know how to type.”

        That’s an interesting theory.

        I don’t think it has to be like that, because there really are smarter conservative graduate students and undergraduates, but I suppose there’s some self-selection going on. Birds of a feather and all that…

        By the way, this is part of the reason that I’m so positive about colleges and their value for conservatives. With regard to faculty jobs, there’s ferocious competition for slots, so you wind up with very bright conservatives getting jobs if they get them (for example–Robert P. George). And even just for undergraduates, a half-way decent college will beat these writing habits out of students.

        “I think half of Thermidor’s strategy is to poke as many people as possible (just like Spencer), so we will all take about them and give them airtime.”

        Yeah. Hence the debate challenges to Douthat and Dreher. I have never seen worse debate ideas. If you’re serious, guys, frame better debate questions that demonstrate that you are at least somewhat familiar with the authors.


  9. The degree he got did not sound superficially useless; I mean, I know someone well employed as a design engineer for a production firm with an MS Engineering degree; he is now continuing to receive his salary and live with and support his very new family while pursuing a PhD.

    I could however, see Nick Steves as perhaps having a poor foundation with where he started, too.


Comments are closed.