Rousseau vs. the Puritans

My beautiful children are making a lot of noise, so this will have to be blunt and unlinked.

American motherhood has been defined since the dawn of America as a nation by what we would now call a PUA (pick-up artist).  That’s right, if you’re an American woman promoting mother-only care as historical, the most natural and the best possible care for children, you’re promoting the views of a man who abandoned his own illegitimate children to be reared in orphanages without the least thought.

Rousseau’s view on motherhood was that women needed to be constrained in the domestic sphere by sole (not primary, but SOLO) care of their children so that they wouldn’t go out into the marketplace and rule over men.  Yes, that was what the man feared.  He claimed women were sooooo powerful that if they weren’t trapped at home constantly pregnant raising kids by themselves (only to be handed off to men at apprentice-age of 12-13 if boys and married off at 15-16 if girls) that they would TAKE OVER THE WORLD.  And yes, he comes close in his writings about motherhood to using phrases like trapped or constrained.

The entire point of Rousseau-style motherhood is to limit female power and influence and constrain women’s roles, even in the domestic sphere.  One must remember that in the 18th century, household production by wives and mothers was still economically important and a Rousseau-style program of childrearing would make it much harder to maintain that economic role.  This was intentional.

Rousseau’s framework of solitary childrearing by mothers has, astonishingly, continued down nearly unaltered in 200+ years in American society.  American society really is just that weird and started out with wacky theories about mothering propagated by a man who didn’t do any proper family formation of his own.

In contrast, the colonial Puritans had a view of motherhood as a primary role for women and marriage as the highest state for men and women (presaging the Mormons, who replicated some aspects of their views on family and community), but they didn’t believe women were supposed to rear children alone.  Women were expected to be part of a large, bustling household composed of husband, wife, servants and relatives, with the husband sometimes gone for months earning the giant wheelbarrows full of money needed to keep what was essentially the original home-based business going.  So Puritan women were expected to stand in their husband’s stead and have authority in both the home and the marketplace.  In this respect they diverged wildly from Rousseau while still holding to the idea that women were best suited to marriage and motherhood.

And while there were many young-married Puritans, there were plenty of older-married ones who started families later in life when they could get the cash together to set up the proper household structure.  So all the current fretting about people delaying marriage “too long” is just a lot of Rousseau-inflected hokum.

Rousseau is the source of the obsessive pressure for teen marriage no matter what in various eras in America, especially of barely-pubescent girls.  Rousseau is the real source of what many think is just from attachment parenting, the idea that mom is the only possible proper caregiver for children (and yeah, it’s always plural).  Because of Rousseau’s influence, women braved the frontier life and tried to rear children that way and enough continued encouraging it that, well, here we are today.

So if you are a mother struggling with small children in isolation, and you see people saying that this is what women really want and really feel fulfilled by, they are telling you a PUA fish story.

I remain a neo-Puritan on this subject and ever will.

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The military tail wagging the American conservative family formation dog.

Another intersection of many things discussed here, but military families are more likely to have more kids (about 1 full child more than other married families) and thus more likely to have YUUUUUGGGGGEEEE families as well, because of clustering effects.  Turns out a map of fourth births or higher has a bunch of the births happening near clusters of military presence even when there is no major metro nearby.  They don’t have all the fourth, fifth and tenth babies, but they have a huge chunk of them compared to the general population.

This also explains the relentless homeschool promotion since in that circumstance it often does make sense.

It explains the small biz/entrepreneurial mindset because you have this pool of people with PRIVATE INCOME AT AGE 40 giving advice about being “your own boss” to civilians.

Since the massive base closures of the 1990s, military bases are far more isolated from town than they used to be.  So there’s a closed loop effect.

Also, on base housing, you can have kids run around a heck of a lot more and of course walk to the commissary, which, you know, sells most of what you need to live.  So there’s a very distorted idea of what letting the kids run around really means, and that this kind of housing is not an option off-base.

And then there’s the fact that all this played out in the 1970s on, because the volunteer army started then, so there’s heavy selection bias.

While the military as a whole is slightly less religious than the general population, that’s driven by the high single-guy numbers.

And the military provides a lot of benefits that aren’t cash in hand (but sometimes are totally cash in hand, like hazard pay and bonuses) but which make living on the not-great pay a lot easier than the equivalent money in civilian world.  It also makes a lot of advice given by people who spent most of their child-having years in that environment of limited utility if they don’t actually say “but you’d need like twice the pay to do the same as a civilian of course”.

So you have a population that is a very tiny, very self-selecting slice of America punching way above their demographic weight in baby-having, which means there’s a disproportionate share of children of theirs running around and how those kids are reared exercises a disproportionate impact on the rest of the population, especially the conservative Christian one because their moms are very isolated except for internet and religious activities.

 

Lunks and their bright wives: conservative marriage through the years

A great deal of weirdness in conservative life can be explained by the theory that smarter women were more likely to end up out in the West/frontier and also be able to offset the consequences of marrying a relatively lunkish guy because their domestic labors were monetized.  They also could afford to take the chance of marrying a lunk because he didn’t need to be all that clever to make it in the West.

Over time as the domestic sphere lost its financially remunerative aspects, the general pattern was established, but that just left such women scrambling to compensate in other ways, leaving them prey to scams and schemes because they had income pressure but no easy way to integrate it into their increasingly narrow domestic sphere.

This was, I think, since it’s been sitting in draft so long, a prelude of sorts to my Grand Unified Theory of Spectrum Formation, in which the nuclear family in America converges towards fulfilling an Asperger or autism-spectrum norm because those are a bigger and bigger chunk of the married people still able to afford having kids.  And this is especially obvious with conservatives, who appear to be continuing to have children for reasons not related to religiosity at all and this explains some of those reasons.

Marriage and divorce data roundup

72% of married couples in 2009 were man and woman in first marriage.  22% were one or both spouses in second marriage.

Median duration of  first marriage for American women is 20.8 years and for remarriage is 14.5 years, with the South and Midwest having longer median durations in both cases.  West and East have shorter median durations.

Pdf report with more details on marriage duration here.

Longer life expectancy means the current later marriage ages aren’t so bad, since it means longer marriages.  Men have 15 or more years on their 1890 counterparts and women have decades more on theirs.  

 

The takeaway is that divorce isn’t as rampant as some make out and marriages are lasting pretty long, and, well, Americans have been taking the fertility hit to marry later and in a better financial position for a long long time except for a brief 15 year blip.

Heidi and its messages of God’s love

The original (1881) book of Heidi by Johanna Spyri is fascinating and charming and did not leave my eyes dry reading it.  It was written during a time when there was great concern about children leaving the healthy country air for the dankness and blandness of the cities.

Much like Pollyanna, it contains the peculiar frankness of tone that older children’s literature had.  If you’ve read the original Grimm’s Tales in their 1880s form, the language is very similar.

But what I didn’t know from watching random pieces of the several film versions through the years was that it provided the young reader with two different messages of God’s love regarding physical health.  Heidi loves people very much and wants to help them.  The book provides two instances of her being able to help people with love (and good food).  They are messages of God’s love because Heidi is taught why in one case that though she has done good and the person’s life is better and their joy in Christ is the greater the physical healing she hopes for will not happen in this world.  In the other case the physical healing happens, but it is not due to the love and good food, but rather to an opening of the person’s heart more fully to God and the manifestation was physical healing.

The first person was open to God already and was the means by which Heidi could learn more about God.  It was the other way around in the second case.

I can’t wait until my girls are old enough to read it for themselves.

A brief overview of mass pornography exposure from World War II until the 21st Century, part 1

 

Early Superwife fantasy.

 

Something that goes very unremarked is how many generations we’ve had of pornography exposure being a significant male rite of passage in America.  And how government funding injected enough cash into the industry to industrialize its production.  You can start a timeline with World War II, in which pornography was distributed as an alternative to camp followers and the “gifts” they brought (mostly venereal disease, but also babies).  There were millions of young men exposed to pornography in a mostly or all-male environment.  Then, after seeing hundreds and thousands of pictures of women dressed even less discreetly than the picture opening this post and doing way more than what that lady is, they went home to wives and future wives.

That was the Greatest Generation.

Their sons got exposed a little earlier, magazines under the bed, late teens high school bonding.  But it was already normalized as something a young man might want to do.  It was acceptable fringe.  Not to mention their sons were coming of age in the middle of “free love”.  There was now some idea that it might be ok to try a few of those things in the magazines out before marriage, just not with the girl you planned to marry.

Well, we all have a pretty good idea how the Boomers and Silents handled the influences of mass pornography getting even more normalized and mainstream in their young adulthood.

They were the swingers and nudists and the earliest waves of  what is now called “polyamory” on the secular fringe.  On the Christian-inflected fringe side, they were Flirty Fishers and sisterwivers in the 1970s and 1980s.  There was also the acceptable fringe of taking your date to a pornographic theater, although now that is moving more into Generation X.

It’s hard to accept, but these were the parents of the Millennials and Generation X.  And this is just part one.  Part two is going to note what the consequences were to those Millennials and Gen X’ers.

Might also want to notice that this is an early example of managerialism and modern efficiency thinking, too.

Trump, Cruz, and the Parent Tribe vs the Red Tribe

In the current year of 2016, the Republican Party is faced with a serious challenge in its nomination process.  Do they pick the guy the supporters of the Tribe of Parents want or do they pick the guy the supporters of the Red Tribe* want?

Trump voters are parent tribalists more often than Cruz voters, who are rock-ribbed Red Tribers.  Palin is relevant here as an example of a pure-outsider to the Red Tribe.

Members of the Tribe of Parents are interested in practical natalism and improving conditions for people who have children (implicitly, married people).

The Red Tribe is strivers.  Red Tribe folks are much more interested in affinity clubs/groups.  The Tribe of Parents is more interested in local community groups.

Trump talks like a parent, making practical and tangible promises.  Cruz talks like a striver, emphasizing in-group jargon and abstraction as a sign of superiority to the outgroup.

Palin was criticized within the right for being vulgar and interested in financial security for her family after her moment of fame passed.  She was criticized for thinking and behaving like a parent.  Now the same people are bringing very similar criticisms to bear on Trump, that he is a huckster and con artist and vulgar and just trying to use this race to increase his personal wealth.  In other words, that he is committing the crime of being a parent instead of a striver devoted to higher abstract principles than his own children.

Red Tribe strivers tend to engage in SJW style projection about how wanting to preserve something for people who aren’t bound by affinity is hucksterism.  Red Tribe strivers use the fact that Trump supporters aren’t articulate as a proof that they’re being conned by Trump.  But being inarticulate about basic beliefs in God, family and country are normal and human…and average.  Strivers are defined by their insistence upon and investment in the notion that they’re above average.  So the Red Tribe loves a wonkish personality selling them their comforting beliefs but presume that a non-wonk isn’t sophisticated enough to learn how to join their club.

This is a concept I’m working out in real time, but I think it’s key to understanding larger cultural shifts going on of which Trump is just one piece.

 

*The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.  This definition from Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex is not exactly right, but it’s not all that wrong either.  What it mostly gets wrong is the striver aspect of Red Tribe folks, who have buckets of strivers in their midst.