Why I didn’t finish Somewhither by John C. Wright.

To be quite brief, I got to the Superwife section early in the book (less than 20% in) and I was done.  I couldn’t keep going much further.  The book is written in mostly teenage boy first person, which I had read from other non-spoiler reviews was a bit rough going in the early chapters, but that was not my real obstacle.  It was the teenage boy recalling his mother, who was Donna Reed (without the housekeepers of course) melded with mannish interests like woodcarving hot rods.  And also melded with the rude homeschool parent caricature growling at school officials coming over politely and reasonably.

It was too fantastical for me, and the book is a fantasy novel.

Hypocrisy does make women’s work harder

This meme has apparently been making the rounds of conservative mom town.

Which is great news, because it means people are beginning to Notice things. (h/t to Steve Sailer for that usage.)

But someone who has a relative living in, helping out domestically disagreed with the meme and further tossed out the usual cant about dishwashers and such in the comments to the disagreement-post.

The response is, in fact, hypocritical.  It’s not unusual among a lot of (often but not only male) conservatives when it comes to these matters of what women need to have a properly ordered domestic space.  They have some kind of support (NOT limited to the children), typically from relatives, but sometimes from non-relatives, often unpaid, and they just conveniently don’t connect their wives’ or their own (if a woman) relatively better ability to manage with their access to real support while berating other people for their “snark” at starting to think about the obvious implications of demanding Proverbs 31 performance out of a woman without giving her a fraction of the resources such a woman had.

She did have domestic help, and if you have it too (especially if you have it in the form of love from relatives), owning up to how that helps your own household be more functional and provide for the children in said household is a sight more Biblically loving and encouraging than ignoring or downplaying your own riches while telling others they should just imagineer that the dishwasher is their BFF and woman up more.

This is not quite what I was thinking about regarding husbands and communities in a different discussion, but it’s in the wheelhouse.

Introducing civic natalism

“The early 20th century was the summit of civilization and human accomplishment.”

I think there is a good argument to be made for that statement. However, that is not quite what this post is about.

It’s about the worldview I’ve adopted as I’ve come to appreciate and learn more about that era of human history, a mere century or so ago. I discussed the idea that this blog was a way to work out an alternative to Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, and now I think I’ve got a grasp on what that alternative is.

Civic natalism.

This post is just an introduction to the phrase as concept.  Civic natalism was what a surprising number of Americans had a century ago, but it was an effect.  We can look at what they had access to that we don’t have now and the goal is to find out how we can have those things in a modern society.  Theirs was atomized and global, too, they were the vanguard of globalism.  Natalism also is about more than just maxing your pregnancy numbers, it’s about making it possible for motherhood to be something fully human, so women don’t want to reject the natural outcome of marital intimacy.

They had the following:

  • Large casual labor pool, particularly of women.  This means that there were maids and nannies and cooks, but it means so much more than that.  It means that you could pay people to do a lot of normal things and lend occasional assistance.
  • No commuting. The commuting was, mostly, the long-distance travel type, which human societies have developed a lot of tools to deal with.  It typically wasn’t the hurry up and wait tension that daily commuting tends to put onto people.  It is very possible to reduce commuting, but a deeper analysis of commuting patterns with an eye towards family improvement and cohesion is needed.
  • Rational autonomy for children. This means society is structured so that children take as much responsibility for themselves as possible, appropriate to their age.
  • Advocacy for feminine leisure.  

Starts are always rocky, so I’ll just conclude with this.  I’ve finally secured enough readable copies of Gene Stratton-Porter’s non-fiction nature books and essays that I will resume a publishing order review of her work in the coming weeks. She was a fascinating example of civic natalism, even though she herself had only one child.  Her entire career as a housewife who wrote bestsellers and spent hours in nature studies that are a direct line to the Joel Salatin and Michael Pollan strain of environmentalism and farming is an Ur-example of what civic natalism can provide when “just” a side effect of wider social norms.  She was also an influential advocate for other women to have better homemaking conditions and society-wide support.

And yes, there will be some commentary about the politics of civic natalism.  They intersect with how the right wing in America used to have a pretty good deal for bright women to be housewives and how they threw it away.  But those same politics also intersect with radical feminist policy ideas about how to support motherhood.  To summarize those future posts, let’s just say Phyllis Schlafly was a radical feminist when it came to motherhood.

Blew my mind, too.

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.

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.

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.