A scale is not a switch

In the wake of this epic 1996-level wild thread/discussion about marriage difficulty for young Christian men and women these days, the male blogger Deep Strength posted a long rambling thing about “feminine beauty” that made me realize a key part of where some men are talking past some women in these matters.

A scale is not a switch.  When some men use the classic 10 point scale for looks/beauty/attractiveness, they aren’t using it as a scale, but as a switch.  On/off.  Yes/No (to the question of whether they might, in the abstract, desire to know a woman in the Biblical sense).  That is why Deep Strength thinks the young woman in his post went from a “3” to an “8” when she didn’t budge much in the scale sense.  She wasn’t a 3 or an 8 to start with.  She was an average girl who now looks above average because she puts more effort into her dress and carriage and lost weight via exercise and diet.  On a ten point scale she went from 5 to 6.

But this blogger converted “went from girl I would never think of desiring to girl I might have desirous thoughts of right now” into ten point scale language. “From a 3 to an 8!”

This is, needless to say, confusing.  He could have simply used a switch and reduced confusion dramatically.

This explains the obsession with “becoming an 8”, or “so and so is an 8 for sure!” by some men discussing love, sex and marriage.   8 is the switch.

He may be too young to remember Hot or Not.  That is all he needs, and all anyone needs who insists on limiting female beauty to a switch.

Related to this, Deep Strength’s post concludes that young Christian women should wear the clothing the young woman (pictured in his example towards the end of his very long post) wears at 124 pounds to show that they’d like to be considered marriage-worthy by men around them.

Yes/No?  No.

ETA 4/12/17: Deep Strength responds here with “Girls are dumb and don’t know things, amirite?” but about 500x longer.

 

Gene Stratton-Porter and Me, Freckles

Freckles (1904) is the prequel to the much better known A Girl of the Limberlost. When it was first published, it was confused for one of her “pure” nature picture books.  I greatly hope to score one of those editions someday.

Stratton-Porter’s nature-worship permeates both books, as does what amounts to her HBD style racial views.  People are quality because they come from literal “good blood”.  There’s also a lot of modern touches, like limiting how many children you have to go all-in on one prized child, along with the obsession with diet and physical exercise as moral worth measures.

Stratton-Porter is a good writer, great when talking about nature and also adept at not letting her stranger themes overwhelm the core romantic nature of her books.  But it was a bit surreal to see many of the things I lament in modern American culture were present a century earlier and are American traditions, as it happens.  I’m still navigating this fact, that American traditions are so anti-social and self-focused, but there you are.  Another interesting aspect of this book is how the innocence of the pure young woman who is Freckles’ love interest is not gullible or naive, but cautious.

The girls in Stratton-Porter books are not steeped in the grosser ways of the world, but they aren’t deluded that some men are not honorable and that even men who look honorable might turn out otherwise if given license.  I think it’s interesting that early 20th century teenage girls were getting this kind of literature written for them, that encouraged them to be intelligent or at least self-directed in learning, well-kept in dress and manner, and to desire marriage, but to build interests before marriage that could be maintained in content singlehood if marriage never came around.

That theme is more developed in the sequel, but it’s still present in Freckles, where the Swamp Angel (Freckle’s love interest) is a soda artisan at the local soda fountain.  Her drinks are the very best and she makes them for new people in town.  She’s also the daughter of the richest man in town and exceptionally beautiful and in Austenian terms “condescending to all”.  She is especially kind to Freckles, who is missing a hand due to a brutal childhood accident that has major plot significance in the last quarter or so of the book.

Freckles is himself an orphan who ends up working for a tough, smart, meritocratic Scotchman guarding lumber and being quasi-adopted by the foreman’s wife.  The various digressions on the high-end lumber market are fascinating, as they show that even a century plus ago the “cheap luxury” of veneers and patinas was well established and a path to great profits for the ones who owned the thousands or hundreds of acres with the right kinds of trees on them.

Freckles does great at guarding lumber and winning the heart of Swamp Angel.  He does anger a lumber thief and there’s some confrontations and dramatic action sequences, including Swamp Angel having to stand down the lumber thief’s gang with just the power of her beauty and well-bredness.  And also a gun.

There’s also an author insert called the Bird Woman, who provides Swamp Angel with said gun and provides some support to Freckles in his quest to learn his parentage.  Everyone says he is just too excellent mannered and upstanding to be an orphan from some trash background with cruel ill-bred parents.  And, well, the reader eventually learns that indeed he is something else entirely and that the accident that cost him his hand had nothing to do with his parents.  Since I am going to discuss all Stratton-Porter’s books, I will spoiler the surprise.  Freckles is of noble birth and secretly very wealthy, and thus totally worthy to marry the daughter of the richest man in town.

I could easily spend a week’s worth of posts on each of her books.  But this is just a very little introduction as I go through them all in publishing order.

The Little House on the Prairie and its autonomous mamas.

This is kind of an overview of the Little House On the Prairie books, hereafter LHOTP, as is common when discussing them online.  I recently read the original eight book series and it was truly astonishing how much autonomy and independence Laura’s mother and Almanzo’s mother had.

There is a fascinating phenomenon in which this cultural bedrock of Americana is being transmitted solely through (mostly Frontier-American) women and Frontier-American men are basically ignorant of a major piece of where their women’s beliefs about home and family are coming from.

So Ma and Mother are these women who have a huge span of responsibility and authority, along with far above average native talent and skills in the homemaking arts of their eras, but this has not become codified as any sort of serious norm for housewives/SAHMs.  Caroline Ingalls was a truly astonishing cook, with a high level of natural understanding of chemistry and plants to be able to cook on an unreliable stove with inconsistent heat and a nearly random selection of ingredients sprung on her at any point in time.  She was also a truly above average hand sewer.  Mrs. Wilder was a weaver and a food processor extraordinaire, whose skill with cloth and butter making accounted for much of that family’s cash income and nearly all their clothing and linens.

And Mrs. Wilder’s workspace is arranged and designed to suit her, so she can be the most highly productive she can be for her family.  Almanzo’s child’s eyes view of her weaving room is very insightful, you see a little boy who expects a grown woman to have her own separate space that Father doesn’t have any input into, beyond making it to her specifications.  You see a little of this in how Almanzo sets up the house for Laura when they marry.  He assumes it’s important for her to have things set up so she can be as effective/efficient as possible.

This was actually an interesting subtheme in a lot of early 20th century writing, because men were still building a lot of the houses directly and the whole notion that you needed to make the wife-offices, so to speak, tailored to your own wife’s skills was one that crops up in a lot of the women’s writing of those early decades.  Like, you were supposed to get a spec list out of her and then make it happen.

It’s interesting that the Frontier-American subcultures who are most into LHOTP as a world and worldview tend to not allow the wives and daughters and sisters the sort of free hand that was clearly not at all outside the norms of the era (late 19th century).  There are a number of reasons for this, not least of which is the desire to believe there is no skill in domestic arts precisely because of the increasing arrival of mechanization and automation.

A lot of other things about LHOTP struck me as I was reading, but this one, that the two main mamas were badasterisk but also very lightly headed by (some) modern standards despite not at all being psychically of one accord with their husband’s desires and wishes was one of the bigger ones.

 

The Poison Red Pill, Misreading Proverbs 31 and promoting isolation as virtue.

To begin this series, I’ll start with discussing a post by someone blogging as “Girl with a Dragonfly Tattoo”.  It’s part of some interminable series on Proverbs 31, the love of Christian women everywhere.  I love the Proverbs 31 wife too, she’s a comfort and joy to read about along with all the other idealized portraits in the Bible.  It’s nice to see an ideal written up.  But it’s an ideal.  She’s not a real human woman like Miriam or Leah or even mother of God Mary.

Anyway, the basic overview is typical for Red Pill Women.  You’re supposed to get up super early, that part about servants is meaningless.  There’s of course no *real* obstacles to early rising, you just have to want to be holy enough!  She even references her mother as an early riser, because five year old children are great recordkeepers.

But more to my core points, she references *rich people who use stimulants and have paid staff* as her model for what housewives nursing and getting pregnant frequently should do to be more productive.  This is pretty typical of Red Pill Women.  They do the same thing the men they identify with do of hyperfocusing on a narrow group of privileged people as if they are the norm.  Only here SAHMs are supposed to behave like male executives on amphetamines who have wives, nannies and secretaries and personal assistants.  But the SAHM is NOT supposed to have those things, oh no!

Because a maid is “unimaginable luxury”.  Yes, in this TLDR; post about the Proverbs 31 wife, the OP conveniently declares the servant verses to be metaphorical, but the rising early verses to be worth charts and figures and paragraphs of hectoring.  But fifty bucks every other week so you can stay on top of the household cleaning more easily and have a little free time to try that getting up early?  UNIMAGINABLE LUXURY.  And clearly a teenage homeschooled girl coming over every other morning so you can be a little more rested on known busy days, well, that isn’t even in her blog post.  Even though teenaged nursemaids are a thing, historically.

Red Pill Women don’t appear to be aware there are any other women in the Bible except this one imaginary one and then they ignore the fact that she is a wealthy man’s wife and almost certainly the daughter of a wealthy man as well with her own dowered property/jewels/livestock.  The point of this fictional wife was to emphasize the rarity, the uncommonness.  Such a woman is supposed to be rarer than rubies, a beautiful ideal.  She isn’t supposed to have all her qualities peeled away and converted into exciting new ways to overwork married mothers of young children and deny them the historical levels of other-women support they used to have in the patriarchal days of yore.

I even agree with “Girl With A Dragonfly Tattoo” about the importance of sleep.  But you know what?  The average SAHM simply isn’t given the resources to get a full night’s sleep and “go to bed earlier” doesn’t work if you’re combining it with “do whatever your husband wants”.  A lot of men want to stay up late to relax.  You can read old books and see that this is just part of the beautiful sex differences men and women have.  Women used to be allowed to go on to bed on their own so that they could get some extra sleep.

But the Red Pill says that this would not be submissive, respectful, etc.  Essentially all the “tips” she suggests on how to get more sleep assume some or all of a husband who wants to go to bed early every night, kids who sleep well whether nursed or formula fed, kids widely spaced (4+ years apart), fewer than three kids, no special needs kids, a husband who doesn’t want to use electronics or television after hours, and the ability to have private areas to focus on self-care such as the basics of the female toilet and hygiene.  I can keep going, but my point is that under the current anti-social setup most housewives have, her tips and tricks *WILL NOT WORK* for months to years on end.  One bad sleeper can trigger responses in the female body that include phantom screaming or lowered ability to sleep deeply.

So she wants SAHMs to be as productive as executives functioning on very little sleep, but without their resources.  And yet if a woman does prioritize getting that sleep, she’s still somehow a badwife, since she chooses for her example of getting more sleep a woman who didn’t get up early to serve her husband and slept in instead.  Broad social norms are antimatter for Red Pill Women.  But they are the only way women can be protected enough to do their work and serve and love their husbands and families in a consistent way.

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.

Gene Stratton-Porter and me, Introduction and the Song of the Cardinal

I have been working on several approaches to talking about the writing of Gene Stratton-Porter, one of the most fascinating and idiosyncratic American writers of the early 20th century.  I clearly can’t write reviews, so I’ll just talk about her fictional oeuvre.

She loved nature and was purely self-taught, not even finishing high school.  She wrote romantic fiction novels often called “sentimental” these days so that her publishers would let her put out the nature books.  Her fiction is mostly available in ebook form, so I’ve read nearly all of it that way, but I haven’t purchased the picture books or her later in life religious work and poetry.  She was very influential in the nature-worship sort of Christianity that one can see little strands of through the decades in America.  It is part of the frontier mythos.

She was one of the many intense, idiosyncratic women of the frontier generations who wielded a huge influence on American feminine culture that got memoryholed by both liberal and conservative sides of the aisle.  She is currently only known for being omgraciss in one of her later fictional books (which is super awesome and funny and has AMAZING recipes, and in which anti-Japanese sentiment is one minor subplot) and for being a nature-lover who saved vast tracts of her beloved Indiana swamps and forests.  She died unexpectedly in 1924 in her early 60s when her car was hit by a trolley.

But this post will be about her first official fiction book, which doesn’t even feature a human couple being romantic.  (She published something else anonymously, but I haven’t read it and I like to read things in publishing order, and it wasn’t published under her name until after her death).

  • The Song of the Cardinal (1903).  It’s a short little novella length story of a young cardinal looking for love.  It’s also about the animals and plants she adored in her native Indiana, and about people having love for the wild things and protective feelings towards them as they try to farm the land but also keep safe spaces for the wild things.  It is very charming and is a word picture of what later became her preferred work, elaborate nature books with excellent photos and illustrations.  It’s interesting that she started out this way, with the love story being between two young cardinals.  It allows her to get highly descriptive about their lifecycle (and accurate too), and she begins to introduce the humans as people bonded to nature, almost like nature spirits.  She straddles that line between pagan sentiment and Christian faith and this is a major ongoing detail of her work.  In this early work, she doesn’t tip over too much, possibly because she’s talking about animals as the main protagonists, with the people as observers.

The Poison Red Pill, Mother-in-law edition

One of the reasons I am no fan of “Red Pill Women” is their blithe disregard for historical social norms around family relationships while claiming to have rediscovered “Red Pill Truths”.

This post is a case in point.  My responses are in bold

A friend of mine lives with her son, daughter in law, and their two kids aged 4 and the younger is 8 months, both boys. They have the average blue pill life going, and while they are frantically trying harder and harder to work the script, it’s just not working.

They both have better than average jobs. They live in a ritzy neighborhood in a brand new house they just built. They drive brand new cars, wear name brand everything, and from all outside appearances they are a success. Living the American dream.

Except it’s really a house of cards. The couple spends every penny they have and then some. They are fortunate to have my friend living there and taking care of the kids, the cooking, and the cleaning in exchange for room and board because if they did not have that, they would be thousands even more underwater a month than they are.

The blogger “Red Pill Girl” (who is in her 40s) is friends with a mother in law (husband’s mother) who is serving as full time live in household help.  This is important.

Despite this they are busy spending, spending, spending anyway. Planning a two week vacation to Hawaii. Buying a boat. Impressing their friends with their latest and greatest aquisitions.

But the cracks are beginning to show. He confessed to his mother that he hates his life, feels trapped, wants to run away to Hawaii and leave it all behind. He’s even hinted at suicidal thoughts, feeling he is in over his head and despite working 60 hours a week, just can’t get ahead.

This is a classic unhealthy dynamic between an adult son and his mother.  This kind of thing isn’t supposed to be for your mother once you’re a married man.  There used to be broad social norms about how this was inappropriate for his mother to dish to her friend “Red Pill Girl” that Red Pill Girl would have been very aware of and nipped in the bud.

His wife shows little interest in her children, leaving the majority of their care to her mother in law. She pops pain pills and laxatives and despite being rail thin worries that she’s fat. She’s constantly going to doctors, insisting something is wrong, but they can’t seem to figure it out. (I wonder if she tells them about the pills? That may be the problem…) She works in a medical office as an assistant, but she says she wants to do something else, from home, but she doesn’t know what or take any steps to make it happen.

We are not told how interested the wife was in having her husband’s mother move in and take a role as a backup wife, but Red Pill Girl is very quick to note the wife’s lack of child caring as a negative, along with presenting her hypochondria in a negative light and not at all connecting it with the fact that the mother in law does everything house-related, making a point to leave absolutely nothing to her son’s wife except fretfulness and discontent.  The wife is in a bind.  If she’s at home too, what’s the utility for mother in law now?  As long as mother in law makes wife feel constantly insecure and desperate for identity via work, she can continue to be the main woman in her son’s life.  Notice that mother in law makes no suggestions or offers support to getting wife into a work at home position.  And mother in law apparently is too busy talking smack about her son’s wife to her friend to include the wife in the running of the household.

Yesterday, a box arrives in the mail from Blue Apron. Despite the fact that my friend is a gourmet cook who makes everything from scratch, even putting entire meals together ready to just put in the oven and bake, the daughter-in-law decides what they really “need” to make life worth is this dinner in a box that all her friends are doing.

I suppose it’s convenient, it all comes packed together, just what you need, ready to assemble into a “home cooked” meal. But that convenience is expensive, about $40 a day and she’s signed up to get 6 dinners a week. The amount of packaging is another issue, there is an incredible amount of waste associated with keeping all the fresh ingredients cold and protected in transit. All that — trash.

Gee, the wife desperately flails at something she can do for her family that mother in law can’t and isn’t familiar with and she still gets sneered at for doing “what her friends are doing”…by her mother in law’s friend.  Hm.  Interesting.  Also note the complaints about expense when both parents work outside the home and don’t have free time, just income and credit access.  And a mother in law very set on maintaining her role as the household manager and lady of the house instead of the actual lady of the house.

I would predict this couple will soon crash head first into some serious financial problems, and their marriage likely will not survive. Another broken family, thanks to the blue pill. I hope not but all signs say they are hell bent on barreling down this path right toward their doom. Sad.

My friend advised her son, “Finish the landscaping around the house and then SELL IT. Get out from under all this mess and live a simpler life and be happy.”

I hope he listens….

The reason I picked this tale of a dishy, manipulative mother in law to discuss the problems with Red Pill thinking is that this entire post is presented to us by the mother in law’s friend as *#(%@)%)% “Blue Pill Problems”.  What colored pills have to do with your mother in law moving in and taking over your house is apparently not on the radar of this Red Pill Woman.  That is, this has very little to do with sexual dynamics of the normal sort.  And in times past, let’s call them Blue Pill days of yore, what this mother in law was doing to undermine the household and marriage would be considered socially unacceptable and she would be judged poorly for it by other women, not lauded as some kind of saint.  

What’s going on here is well known as a mother-in-law problem and there are several different approaches by culture for dealing with pushy and domineering mother in laws, but when one is blinded by the poison of Red Pill thinking, it’s impossible to see the actual problems that family has (as presented in this post from a third party) and instead it all becomes about how the husband is too beta and the wife just isn’t submitting enough.  Which is not quite what the problem is there.