Since this space was opened to reader enquiries (Ask Spengler, Feb 12, 2004), numerous comments have arrived, some thoughtful, and some tendentious and even offensive. One of the latter sort reads as follows:
I am a society made up over a billion people. We have not progressed past AD 800. We believe women have no worth or rights and that people of other societies are pariahs. Is there any chance for us to advance from the squalor we live in?
Bandying about insults of this sort helps no one. I take strongest exception to the implication that “women’s rights” and human rights in any way are separable. Permit me to elaborate.
In every corner of the world and in every epoch of history, the men and women of every culture deserve each other. Permit me to call this conjecture “Spengler’s Universal Law of Gender Parity.” Of all the silly plans advanced by Americans to remake the world in their own image, raising the banner of women’s rights has the smallest chance of success. Where men subjugate women physically, women ravage them psychologically. That may explain why violence toward women and secret homosexuality so often are endemic in the same cultures.
By no means do I wish to condone ill-treatment of women. In the most successful cultures, wives order their husbands about; exemplary are the Chinese and the Jews, whose husbands have been hen-pecked since the time of the Three Kingdoms and the Patriarchs. On the contrary, the evidence suggests that where women are badly off, so are the men. To raise the banner of women’s rights against offending societies (as do American conservatives in the case of the Muslim world) misses the point.
Why, for example, do American lesbians fancy softball (a version of the national pastime of baseball), while European lesbians evince no interest whatever in football?
Americans view politics, business, and most everything else through the prism of sports. The locker room is the inner sanctum of American life, so it is not surprising that women demand their place in the sauna. American men complain that successful women become abrasive, harsh, and unfeminine – in other words, that they emulate male standards of power. American lesbians, who emulate male behavior, orient most radically to the locker room. For the same reason, funding for women’s games is a leading demand of American university feminists.
In consequence the “castrating woman” has become a commonplace of American humor, for example this October 28, 2003, entry from columnist Mark Steyn:
“Last month mass hysteria apparently swept [Sudan’s] capital city, Khartoum, after reports that foreigners were shaking hands with Sudanese men and causing their penises to disappear. One victim, a fabric merchant, told his story to the London Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi. A man from West Africa came into the shop and ‘shook the store owner’s hand powerfully until the owner felt his penis melt into his body.’ I know the feeling. The same thing happened to me after shaking hands with Senator [Hillary] Clinton.”
Hillary Clinton is an easy target, but she deserves a modicum of sympathy. No American woman ever has served as president of her country, nor even led one of the major political parties – unlike England, France, Germany, Spain, Norway, India, Israel, Indonesia, Pakistan, and so forth. Nature endows women with marginally more intelligence than men. Margaret Thatcher rose to the top of British politics because she was cleverer than her male counterparts. In US politics, intellect elicits mistrust. Unlike the elite-ridden societies of Europe, where the mandarins often wield more power than politicians, folksiness trumps brains in America’s political realm. The imperious Thatcher would not have lasted a month with American voters, who expect their leaders to listen to them, rather than tell them what to do. Exceptionally intelligent men, eg Dwight Eisenhower, must feign dullness to preserve the people’s trust.
In short, to appear powerful, American women must turn themselves into an imitation of a man. For every Bill Clinton, nature avenges itself by bringing forth a Hillary.
Outside the American mainstream, gender parity produces some bizarre results. African-Americans occupy an extreme position in the machismo spectrum. Not only have they succeeded through professional sports more than any other avenue, punctuated by many scandals of misbehavior toward women, but “hip-hop” now represents the most visible black contribution to popular culture, with repugnant expressions of misogyny and explicit descriptions of sexual violence toward women.
Rapper bravado belies the reality of the African-American predicament. Fifty-three percent of black children lived in single-parent households as of the 2000 US census, compared with only 22 percent in 1960. White American women may copy some of the habits of American men, but black women shoulder the lion’s share of family burdens.
Black American males, for that matter, are not quite as macho as they seem. Journalist Benoit Denizet-Lewis last year reported on the pervasiveness of unprotected homosexual relations among young black men (“Double lives on the down low,” New York Times, August 3, 2003). These relations, Denizet-Lewis observed, typically evince a high degree of brutality. Those interested in the unappetizing details may consult his article.
This in turn has led to a new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic among black college students. The following news report appeared on February 10:
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters Health) – A “dramatic increase” in HIV infection has occurred among African-American men who have sex with men in North Carolina, many of them college students, Dr. Peter Leone, of the University of Carolina, Chapel Hill, and colleagues reported on Tuesday at the 11th Annual Retroviral Conference. Between January 2000 and December 2003, “at least 84 college students in North Carolina were diagnosed with HIV infection,” Leone said. The HIV outbreak has affected 37 colleges in North Carolina, plus seven other schools in five other states in the Southeast. Overall, they identified “an epidemic in college students, primarily involving African-American men who have sex with men and men who have sex with men and women.”
Living “on the down low” appears to be a ritualized expression of power and submission. While young black men may rap about sexual violence toward women, a fair number of them are engaged in sexual violence to each other. Rappers often brag of inflicting damage upon women’s genitalia, a nasty sort of fantasy. But actual genital mutilation sadly is endemic in Africa and the Middle East. Bitter controversy prevails about the issue, but a great deal of anecdotal evidence suggests that endemic homosexual behavior is the antipode of violence toward and ill-treatment of women in these regions.
Scholar Bruce Dunne argued in a widely quoted 1998 article that “Sexual relations in Middle Eastern societies have historically articulated social hierarchies, that is, dominant and subordinate social positions: adult men on top; women, boys and slaves below In early 1993, news of President Clinton’s proposal to end the US military’s ban on service by homosexuals prompted a young Egyptian man in Cairo, eager to practice his English, to ask me why the president wanted ‘to ruin the American army’ by admitting ‘those who are not men or women.’ When asked if ‘those’ would include a married man who also liked to have sex with adolescent boys, he unhesitatingly answered ‘no.’ For this Egyptian, a Western ‘homosexual’ was not readily comprehensible as a man or a woman, while a man who had sex with both women and boys was simply doing what men do.”
The available literature on homosexuality in the Muslim world is argumentative and anecdotal. The compelling point, rather, is that sexual relations first of all are human relations. If men treat women brutally, it is because they are brutal to begin with, and will treat other men with the same sort of brutality. Women brought up in a brutal culture will raise brutal sons.
Where gentle and brutal behaviors diverge is another matter. In the past I have called attention to the importance of imitatio Dei – emulation of God (Mahathir is right: Jews do rule the world, October 28, 2003). Men act toward each other in emulation of their image of God. That is a long story, but focusing attention upon the mistreatment of women as such obscures the issue.