The fungibility of frontier females

One of the woes of American women is the influence, not to the good, of frontier culture.  To sprinkle some evolutionary psychology sprinkles on it, on the frontier, women are fungible and men are individual.  Women are not strictly needed to cook, as the camp-style cooking is easy enough to learn and frontier life made hunger-spice the only one really needed.

There was also less opportunity for domestic niceties in setting up a home, since you were talking about stuff like slapped up shacks, lean-tos and dugouts to hold a claim.  They were all meant to be pretty temporary.

Although many frontier women had large families, children’s labor was not as needed either, as during much of the frontier era the homesteaders were on the cutting edge of using as much technology and machinery as possible to minimize how many people they had to share the hoped-for wealth with.  So even in that respect women were more fungible, as plenty of men were bachelor-homesteading.

Frontier culture is anti-domestic, and not terribly encouraging of feminine strengths beyond basic endurance and willingness to do repetitive labor under brutalizing conditions.  And the descendants of frontier culture still treat women as fungible. And this influence has made it much more difficult for women’s strengths and desires to be taken seriously as part of a complete, functional society.

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.

 

Gnostic Americans, Ted Cruz and why conservatives play to lose.

This was originally going to be about gnostic conservatives, but I came to realize while talking about the post instead of writing it down that it’s really about Americans overall.

To begin, there is a core to American-ness that is Gnostic.  It’s about retreating into a fantasy world of abstractions and perfections to take yourself away from the realities of your drudgery.  There is a divide in American society between those for whom suffering feeds that retreat away from reality and those who are more…practical.  For the former, political solutions revolve around embracing someone who promises a return to an abstract perfect time where Constitutionalism reigned supreme and people dutifully and legitimately followed process correctly and honestly.  Thus, Ted Cruz.  He did a lot of symbolic stuff that in the abstract was highly conservative by this measure, but in practice was useless because it was never going to be made law and could never be made law as it was written.

Conservatives tend to hail from frontier stock, and it’s long been a frontier staple to retreat into a fantasy world after the long, brutal, difficult days of frontiering.  And there’s been an Amish-ing, a longstanding tendency for the most conservative conservatives willing to vote Republican or otherwise be mainstream to marry each other and it’s been going on for quite a few generations now.

The kind of personality that can thrive with a frontier mindset will be detail-oriented and tend to hyperfocus, mildly to extremely anti-social and pathologically independent minded.  Yes, this sounds kind of spectrum-ish.  I think there has been a lot of intermarriage between men and women with those traits and that now a mindset even a little removed from that is considered inauthentic.  Anyway it leads to embracing abstractions over solutions because there is no sense of you personally being able to conquer it all.

Relating all this back to the Gnostic thing, there’s this idea in Americanness more broadly that beautiful symbols are worth more than practical results.  One first female x is worth more than better living conditions and social status for women in general.  In many ways the ridiculous left half of the political aisle is just taking that symbolism-love to its natural extremes.

But so does the right half, with their retreats into more and more disordered private spheres, constantly clinging to individual symbolic examples of how those spheres are perfectly functional and an effective substitute for numerous public goods.

What alt-right criticism of “cuckservatives” fumbles at is this long-range outcome of being worn down by that endless retreat into being unable to consider anything other than beautiful loserdom as your lot in this life.  Of course they commit their own gnostic errors with the over-emphasis on protests and populist politicking.

But as I watch God-fearing, pro-life Christians debate supporting the ($(@#*@$* Libertarian Party because oh golly gee that Trump feller is sCArY, I find this core gnostic tendency irritating and stupid.  I do have pity and sympathy because understanding where it comes from means it makes sense, but other people around them without that information will just think that Christians and especially Republican-voting ones are ignorant and hypocritical once again.

Oh, this is also why the SAHM situation is so hopeless.  Gnostic American SAHMs fall in love with obviously fake personas crafted by narcissists who tell them that they should feel great about getting a second load of laundry in that day precisely so they never feel they can ask for real society-wide or even family-wide support and assistance.  That woman obviously isn’t out thar a farm wifin’ in such expensive hair styles and clothes, but yet women who are truly struggling believe her to be a role model and “honest, authentic” wife and mother.  And they believe because they get caught up in the charismatic pantheism that says you should spend your time cheering the presence of God in a floorboard you’re scrubbing and that this will grant you a state of bliss and spiritual uplift no matter how much drudging your days seem to pile up.

The idea that a lot of SAHMs just have a technical problem and a maid twice a month or whatever would suddenly improve their personal quality of life and improve their families’ lives as well, this idea is too…practical.  Too concrete, not airy enough, not promising spiritual ecstasy in the middle of screaming kids and chopped hot dog dinners.

Because as Frontier-Americans disproportionately, conservatives bring to their version of Gnostic Americanism the unformed immaturity of a child, as the frontier mythos is entirely shaped by children’s views of the frontier.  The Little House books are the Ur-example.  The numerous adult memoirs never became mythical in American society, only the stuff written from the perspective of children and teenagers.

The Frontier was a massive subsidized LARP project and just because it was a game that could kill you doesn’t make it any less hugely subsidized and welfarist.

Anyway this is very much a beginning, as ever.