Coulter and God

An interesting description of Ann Coulter’s book, Godless, makes it sound more substantive than I had thought, including a withering critique of Darwinism and its atheistic implications. But why, oh why, on the cover of a book criticizing the “Godless” religion of liberalism, does she put this excessively revealing photo of herself?

Coulter godless.jpg

If Coulter’s purpose is to support God and religion against the attacks of modern irreligion, why the arrogant pose that seems emblematic of modern irreligion? What is Coulter’s message? To me she is saying that her free expression of herself, i.e., her liberalism, trumps anything she may have to say in the book against liberalism. True, she doesn’t like the liberal attack on traditional belief in God. But what she herself really believes in is her own half-naked self.

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Ben writes:

There you go again Mr. Auster, hitting the nail on the head. She seems to be promoting her body more than God.

It’s her arrogance, her complete love of herself, and this is what makes her in my book irrelevant to our cause.

She doesn’t recognize this love of self as one of the first sins committed that brought mankind down to where it is at. I’m bringing this up, not to preach but to observe that she says Liberals are Godless, then goes on to promote Godless behavior such as love of self. It’s not that we all don’t do this, it’s that she is flaunting it and it goes in direct contrast to the message she is trying to support. Love of self also has a lot to do with Liberalism. She would have been better served to be more humble if she was going to promote God.

Great observations Mr. Auster.

Cindy writes:

I never have understood Ann Coulter’s choice of clothing. When she appears on cable TV, she always wears something thin and clingy that seems to emphasize her false-looking breasts. One possibility about the black cocktail dresses is that they’ve become something of a costume for her that she knows rankles her critics…except that it also rankles a lot of her supporters! It used to irritate me when I first would see her on TV in yet another pale, styleless knit top or see her latest book cover with her seeming to revel in showing off her curves, but now I just think it’s funny. She’s probably wrong about the tide turning against liberalism, but it has been fun the past few days to see her expose liberals for their ruse of trotting out victims to be their spokesmen to preclude debate on ideas.

J. writes:

As far as I can tell, Coulter plays to two audiences without whom she would not be so well-known.

First, aging, Playboy-era, country club Republican men who like to hole up in their fairway retirement developments and congratulate themselves on what a success they and their Republican politics have been. These men are just frightened enough of their slide into old age, and of their dim sense that their world is increasingly bubble-like, that they cling desperately to younger, mildly attractive exhibitionist women like Coulter who reaffirm what a success they and their Republican politics have been.

Second, the bewildered children of the first group, who grew up in this self-congratulatory but somewhat delusional atmosphere while unknowingly imbibing most of the liberalism in which they have been immersed. Despite their essential liberalism on everything except money issues, they have the ongoing unpleasant experience of being told that they remain on the losing side of everything liberal, largely because they’re white. Coulter is held up by this group to show how hip a self-congratulatory yet liberalized Republican politics can be.

I think both groups sense deep down that their world is in danger, but as yet are still too personally comfortable and too frightened to admit it. Coulter justifies maintaining the illusion.

The point here is to try to understand/explain Coulter’s exhibitionism (and triumphalism, as you put it). She’s not attractive enough to merit praise such as “blonde bombshell,” or to present herself the way she does on the covers of her books—it’s sort of embarassing. Her supposed physical beauty and tough-talk conservatism is self-referential and exaggerated, just like the worldview of the aging and marginalized Republicans who lionize her.

LA writes:

I’m not crazy about arguments based on some group’s or party’s “aging.” Every one of us, at least as far as this world of mortal appearances is concerned, is aging, every minute. So to attack someone’s position on the basis that he is getting older is wrong, because, first, getting older is the fate of all of us, and, second, because it’s an ad hominem argument.

It comes down to saying that certain people’s position is wrong because they have some unattractive quality. And what is that unattractive quality? They’re getting older. And since this argument applies not just to your opponents in the discussion but to the entire human race, it is not just an argument “against the man”; it is, in effect, an argument against Man.

J. replies:
Boy, I didn’t intend it that way. Sorry it came across that way, a bad choice of words on my part. I intended it generationally, not as an insult to aging or age per se. I’m not all that young myself. The baby boomers have a certain outlook, that seems to include what used to be a respectable lewdness, like the Playboy magazines that were de rigueur in every gentleman’s barbershop when I was growing up. I think Coulter plays to this, as well as to the younger generations’ need for a “cool” conservative idol. You could drop the “aging” from my description without affecting the meaning of what I was trying to say.

LA replies:

I think there was a perhaps excessive sternness of tone in my reply to you which came from the fact that I tend to see people’s arguments in their larger implications, and then I go after those larger implications, and the result may sometimes seem excessively argumentative or unfair to the actual person I’m talking to.

A female correspondent had described Coulter as wearing a “cocktail party dress” on tv talk shows. I sent her the above photo and said:

This is not a cocktail party dress but looks more like something a woman would wear in a gym.

She replied:

You have to see the whole thing. it is a very short dress, and it has become her uniform more or less.

LA said to Ben:
I’ve been aware of this since I first saw the ads-photos of the book on the Web going back a couple of months. But my question has always been—what is in Coulter’s mind? She must be aware of how the photo blatantly contradicts her supposed theme. So it has to be deliberate, that is, she is mocking the very thing her book is supposedly about. Alternatively, maybe her idea is, God created us as free individuals, not leftist collectivists, and by posing like this, I’m showing my belief in God. It would be an almost Ayn Randian assertion of self, except, of course, Rand despised the very idea of God.

In any case, it’s very strange and bizarre. It betokens some deep disorder in things, that Coulter would have a book with that title, and with that photo on the cover.

And has no one else noticed? Have none of the conservatives said, “Gosh, that’s a wildly inappropriate photo for this book”?

Ben replies:

This in a way goes back to your article about a month ago where you showed a giant billboard in the middle of a German city showing a naked prostitute advertising her services and people were just walking by with their children in an Eloi like fashion. This is where we are heading and even people of faith have become desensitized to it. We are truly becoming totally liberalized and turned into Eloi which you have talked about in the past where nothing bothers us anymore.

But this picture of Ann goes beyond the stupidity of conservatism today, because she is promoting in a sense the idea that we need to return to the teachings of the Holy God while mocking him at the same time. I really do think though Mr. Auster, it can just be summed up as narcissism. I think it has become acceptable in the conservative movement to give lip service to the Judeo-Christian God while rejecting his commandments and calling people who truly believe in his teachings “right wing nuts.”

Ann however is a different breed, she promotes the “right wing extremism” while also promoting symbols that go against everything she writes about and displays such arrogance and narcissism every time I see her. Ann does stay in certain boundaries of what she will say such as never talking about immigration until it became fashionable, so I don’t have much use for her regardless of her rhetoric. I know she is nothing but a mainstream conservative who loves to bash “Dems” while praising the Republicans.

I also don’t expect the conservative movement to grasp the notion of what we are talking about. This subject of actually being humble is anathema to them. I have never seen such arrogance coming from people as I have seen come from the Republican party in 2006. It’s unbelievable to me that the Southern Baptist convention would give this administration standing ovations for their liberalism (as reported by Pat Buchanan even though I totally disagree with that article of his).

Randy writes:

It is interesting that so much interest has been generated by Ann’s book about Godless liberals. You recently posted a reiteration of your belief as to what is the root cause of our current malaise (and the purpose of VFR). That is, the rejection of God. Once a society rejects the true Christian God and the belief system he left with us, it loses its ability to comprehend reality. Ideas that were once a part of our collective thinking have been discarded (and replaced by Godless, liberal, PC nonsense). So, Ann and VFR have brought us back to the most fundamental truth about our current state of affairs-either we accept God or we elevate ourselves to the status of God and suffer the consequences. Maybe Ann put a mirror in front of the liberal establishment.

LA replies:

Yes, and I think this problem is especially evident and acute in Europe. The causative relationship between Europe’s removal of God from its common life and the transformation of Europe into a horror-movie parody of PC and civilizational death (notwithstanding the still existing wonderful things about Europe inherited from the past that are still there) is as clear as, say, the causative relationship between America’s lax approach toward Muslim travelers/immigrants and the 9/11 attack; and as clear as the causative relationship between homosexual liberation and the outbreak of the AIDS virus about ten years later.

Certain causal relations strike us in the face with overwhelming obviousness and can’t be denied. Yet the great majority of people go on not seeing them.

Stephen T. writes:

You write: “I’m not crazy about arguments based on some group’s or party’s ‘aging.’ Every one of us, at least as far as this world of mortal appearances is concerned, is aging, every minute.”

And, of course, one of the major proponents of the age-related argument is President Bush.

A frequent theme of Bush (along with Vicente Fox and L.A. mayor Villaraigosa) is that one of the reasons we should welcome millions of illegal Mexican nationals is simply because they are young. This is reported so grandly, and with such unalloyed enthusiasm, that I always wonder if Bush has convinced himself that these Mexicans are somehow exempt from growing old—or, at least, from aging at the same rate which millions of white immigrants from Scandinavia would be expected to, were they to begin arriving on our shores now (not that they would ever be allowed to do so as Mexicans are.) I think he HAS convinced himself of something along those lines. One does not hear from the president any equivalent regard for American citizens who are also young. Think about it: Consider how little the Bush administration has had to say to the young generation of America vs., say, a Ronald Reagan or a JFK. Yet, his zeal for the ever-young Mexican—his speeches addressing them in Spanish, his endless praise of their work ethic while disparaging that of Americans—seems to have no bounds.

LA replies:

Great comment. VFR has nailed Bush again.

Paul K. writes:

For all I know Ann Coulter may lead an unblemished private life, but her public persona is at least as sexual as it is intellectual.

Evidently her primary concern is what will sell, and in this she is no different from a number of “conservative” pundits who achieved success in the 1980s by mocking liberalism while embracing the hedonism of the 1960s. For example, P.J. O’Rourke, who votes Republican but maintains his hip credentials with frequent boastful references to his hard drinking and drug use. There are others cut from the same cloth, such as Rush Limbaugh and Dennis Miller. Their ridicule of liberalism often seems to be for its more redeeming virtues, such as a preference for locally produced vegetables, fuel efficient cars, and no smoking on airplanes. I decided to let my subscription to National Review lapse when Jonah Goldberg wrote an article extolling the conservative instincts of Howard Stern.

Maureen writes:

Whoa. These exchanges got way too ad hominem, or is that ad feminem? They got low-down, high-school level bitchy. Whew.

Regarding Ann’s alleged narcissism: It takes a heavy dose of narcissism to expose oneself to the mud of the envious crowd—whether by writing a blog or by debating the liberals on radio and tv. Let the “Neo-Barbie” Ann discomfit the liberals with her self-confidence, long blond hair, and on-target zings. Who says a smart woman has to conform to liberal (and, apparently, conservative) ideas about what conservative women should look like. Thank goodness Ann does not wear boring pearls and tweeds or sound stuffy like Margaret Thatcher or Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Has no one noticed how Hollywood (a la Kate Hudson) has set the style for the current generation of teenage girls? The style consists of exposing naked, pregnant bellies and wearing jeans to the point where the waist and hips are a distant memory. By comparison, Ann’s 1950’s cocktail dress is a gingham pioneer dress.

LA replies:

No one in the discussion including me used language within a thousand miles of “low-down, high-school level bitchy.” In fact no one used personally insulting language at all. We were discussing the meaning of the way Coulter, a public figure, dressed on the cover of a book attacking liberals for Godlessness.

It is precisely the kind of language Maureen has just aimed at me and others here, and the fear of being the target of such language, that has kept conservatives, particularly men, from discussing issues such as this and protesting the sleaze of our culture. No one, let alone a man, wants to be called “bitchy.” Maureen hasn’t noticed that people are no more willing to criticize the sleazy bare midriff look than to criticize Coulter’s relatively demure outfit on her book cover. No criticism of accepted social morés is allowed. And think of how unmanning it is to men, to have women exposing their bare bellies everywhere, like something lower than a whore, and the men are supposed to be completely cool about this. The men are tacitly expected both to be inflamed by this whorish display, and not to notice it at all. And even men accompanying women dressed this way are not supposed to mind that their date or their girlfriend is exposing her body to the world. Non-responsive, non-judgmental, “cool” acceptance of whatever is going on is the required attitude of everyone today.

Years ago, Nicholas Davidson, author of The Failure of Feminism, used to say that feminists would keep telling men to stop being manly, and then, if the men protested this assault, the feminists would say the men were not manly. Either way, central to the feminist project has been the intimidation and silencing of men, and thus the destruction of the order and authority that only men can bring to society. The current Esquire magazine has an article on how boys in our society are doing much worse then girls. At the end of the article, the author proposes that men need to do more “mentoring” of boys. The author never mentions the reason boys need more “mentoring”—they don’t have fathers, because their mothers have either divorced their fathers or never married the fathers in the first place.

It has become verboten, even among conservatives, to criticize out of wedlock birth. This used to be a central issue for conservatives, but GW Bush killed it when he ran in 2000 on the platform that “single moms have the toughest job in America.” Suddenly the social phenomenon that conservatives had seen as the single most damaging, had become something worthy of honor and state assistance. Single motherhood, with the state as the father, has now become entirely accepted and established in our society. Everything that women want must be seen as sacrosanct.

But to return to the use of language like “bitchy,” I’ve learned in the four years of VFR that as soon as I draw any firm line against something, I’m likely to be attacked in personal terms, as “thin-skinned,” “unable to take disagreement,” and more insulting language that that. But as I’ve written:

“The starting point, the indispensable condition of any conservative or traditionalist movement, as well as of our personal spiritual survival, is that we say NO to the prevailing values of the liberal order and that we keep saying no …”

Conservatives have fatally compromised themselves by accommodating the liberal culture. They don’t want to oppose it in any way, because as soon as they do, they’re attacked as being “uptight,” “repressive,” and other choice epithets. But if conservatives are to do their job, they must be willing to take the abuse that results from saying No.

Here’s a small example that I’ve mentioned before. Whenever someone is talking very loudly into a cell phone, say in a bus or a restaurant, and I ask them politely but firmly to lower their voice, their immediate first response is to snap back with some sharp comment like, “It’s a free country,” or “So don’t listen.” But after that initial angry response, they almost invariably do lower their voice. I know in advance that when I ask people to do this I’m going to get that sharp reply. The overwhelming majority of people are not willing to endure that reply, so they remain silent, while the loud cell phone talkers make them miserable.

Similarly when I’ve said that certain types of comments or arguments are off-limits at VFR, I’ve been attacked as though there was something personally defective about me. The prevailing attitude of our culture is that you’re supposed to be accepting of everything. The one thing that is not accepted is to be unaccepting. But if conservatives or traditionalists are to play a real role in pushing back the prevailing liberal culture, they must become unaccepting. They must be willing to say, about all kinds of things that today are accepted, “This is unacceptable,” and to keep saying it. Then they will change the culture.

KE, a secular pro-Western Turk, writes:

I was rummaging through a whole week’s volume of commentary on your blog (hard to believe how you come up with so many entries; I can’t catch up) and I saw the discussion on Ann Coulter’s dress code. Your last comments are the most relevant, and the most poignant I must say.

Maureen calls your—in my opinion—very justified criticism of Coulter or similar avowedly conservative women who don’t actually follow the primary conservative tenets when it comes to these very critical issues, as “ad hominem.” Which isn’t surprising because my guess is she too is actually liberal inside, and she judges the notion of “ad hominem” in a typically effeminate and liberal way: that it’s hard on Ann’s “self-esteem.” I noticed this on other blogs too that this is the way women perceive ad hominem. But in fact, the notion has nothing to do with self-esteem or how the target of derision would “feel” about the criticism. If I make a serious logical blunder in my argument, and you point it out, it’ll definitely be hard on my self-esteem, but it is emphatically not ad hominem. If your criticism is directed at my behavior, again the topic will be the “man” and it’ll be hard on my self-esteem, but again it is not ad hominem. Ad hominem only covers things which we, as men, cannot control, that which is beyond the legislation of our will and our moral or aesthetic faculty. For example, the example of “aging” which you touch in another comment, is a perfect example of it.

As for the vulgar new dress code, I wholeheartedly agree. The parts of Istanbul where I live are barely any different from other metropols of modernism/post-modernism like New York or L.A., and we are constantly forced into acquiescing in the vulgarities of modern women—our significant others included—who feel no compunction at all in advertising themselves, even in our presence, both with their outfits and their behavior to every man available. Naturally, we have to keep our mouths shut or else…

LA to KE:
Are you telling me that Turkish women in the Islamic country of Turkey walk around in public with their lower belly exposed?

KE to LA:

Of course they do, Larry. Whatever is fashionable in Western centers always ends up as the latest stage of “modernism” here.

Perhaps I should take a few pictures from my environment and send them over, but being of a conservative and reserved nature, I couldn’t possibly aim a camera at those damsels and shoot their bellies.

James N. expands on the theme of how women’s dress and behavior today, and the required non-response by men, unmans men. He writes:

I was very struck by your comment:

“And think of how unmanning it is to men, to have women exposing their bare bellies everywhere, like something lower than a whore, and the men are supposed to be completely cool about this. The men are tacitly expected both to be inflamed by this whorish display, and not to notice it at all. And even men accompanying women dressed this way are not supposed to mind that their date or their girlfriend is exposing her body to the world. Non-responsive, non-judgmental, “cool” acceptance of whatever is going on is the required attitude of everyone today.”

I’ve remarked on this phenomenon, many times, and I don’t think it’s about non-judgmentalism AT ALL.

I think it’s about power and control.

I was born into the Lost World in which exposure in a sexual way of part of a woman’s body provoked a physical response. This was why women, except for whores, did not do that.

NOW, that same physical response, so natural and automatic (unless it’s wanted, in the sole judgment of the woman in question), is a crime. You can lose your job, your home, your money, almost everything.

To live in a world where something as natural as breathing is a crime is profoundly alienating—it unmans men, which is just exactly what it’s intended to do.

The “hip, cool” posture just covers up how much mojo the hipster has lost. He’s been castrated, and he’s not supposed to care.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux said, “To be always with a woman and not have intercourse with her is harder than to raise the dead.” Men in today’s society have their work cut out for them.

LA replies:

This is a magnificent comment, but I think James is only getting at one half of the suppression that is being effected by contemporary sexual morés. It’s not just that men are not supposed to respond sexually to women’s extravagant and obscene self-display; more importantly, it’s that men are not supposed to be disapproving of it.

James N. wrote back:

“more importantly, it’s that men are not supposed to be disapproving of it.”

But we DON’T “disapprove of it”, not exactly.

Whores are what they are. No big deal.

You aren’t supposed to call a whore a whore, but that’s not forbidding disapproval, that’s Newspeak.

LA replies:

No, we’re not just talking about “whores.” If we were, it would be no problem. We’re talking about what has become the norm for all women, we’re talking about the whole society. (I add that this is beyond whorishness, as whores never exposed their lower belly like this.) The problem is that no one says, “this is objectionable, you shouldn’t dress this way.” And my point is that that prohibition on disapproval is just as unmanning as the prohibition on a sexual response.

But it’s more complicated than has been indicated so far. Suppose the prohibition on a natural response, which you complain about, were removed? What would happen? Men would start making very aggressive and rude come-ons to the women who were dressed this way, and as a result women would very quickly stop dressing that way. What this means is that the hyper-sleazy feminine fashion can only be maintained by suppressing the normal male response, which would be by turns lustful and aggressive and disapproving. Thus women are “liberated” by unmanning men, both as sexual beings and as bringers of social order.

This is among the blessings that feminism has brought to human society.

Ben writes:

I said…

I also don’t expect the conservative movement to grasp the notion of what we are talking about. This subject of actually being humble is anathema to them.

The idea of being humble is mocked in the West even among “conservatives.” Arrogance, self indulgence, selfishness, exhibitionism, narcissism, greed, and hedonism rule the day. Under the rules of liberalism, these times couldn’t be any better. Such freedom of expression is what makes us great eh?

I will say how sick and tired I am of seeing women of my Generation dressing like whores on the street corner. Everywhere I go I see it. It never ending, women showing flesh day in and day out and I’m suppose to say, wow this is great, isn’t freedom wonderful that you can walk down the street naked and nobody has any say about it? I just have to deal with it and never make any statement against it because that might offend the women wearing these clothes. I mean the children of our nation don’t deserve a childhood I guess, they must be indoctrinated into liberalism from the day they are born and must be exposed to all the flavors of hedonism. [LA adds: It’s not just the exposure of flesh, it’s the extremely tight-fitting clothese that virtually all women today wear.]

I wish some respect and dignity would come back to America. It’s interesting that Margaret Thatcher was brought up as one to revile because she was “overdressed” but the narcissistic, arrogant underdressed women we see today are ones we should love and respect. This is typical liberalism.

I recognize the level that liberalism has spread in our nation including the “conservative” movement and why women lash out like they do against men like us. We truly are loathed and we recognize it. Liberalism has become so standard in America and around the world it’s right up there with breathing.

It won’t stop us though, we are going to continue to talk about the rot of our culture whether we seem “bitchy” or not. Ann Coulter’s dress and arrogant pose doesn’t even come close to the real rot of our culture but if we do not address this to conservatives first, how are we going to convince the mainstream culture of this? That’s like asking the sun not to come up tomorrow. If conservatives cannot recognize the rot of our culture and how every year we are advancing towards the advanced liberalism of Europe because of cowardly undiscerning conservatives, then we are truly doomed to Eloi’sm like Europe and you will see that billboard that Mr. Auster showed from Germany hanging in your city very soon and why not? What’s wrong with it? That’s what you will hear as children walk by.

Its like the old saying, Clean up your own house first, then clean up your neighbor’s. This goes for the conservative movement. The “conservatives” need to stop criticizing the “left” for being Godless when their not doing to bad of a job of it themselves.

Rachael writes:

I admire Ann Coulter’s writing and her ability to defend herself in a debate; but I hate the way she dresses. I am glad the topic thread on Miss Coulter is also addressing modern -female- attire. The most obvious, least conservative thing I have to say is:

Ann could dress better/more tastefully, and at the same time look at least twice as attractive as she does now.

LA replies:

Agreed. And what is so great about that “sheath” look of hers, anyway? It’s so bare and plain. What happened to beautiful women’s clothing? So it is not accurate to describe what she wears as a ‘50s-style cocktail party dress. They were more attractive, they had more to them. Coulter’s style is post-modern, minimalistic, and depressing.

Maureen writes:

Yes, yes, yes, women shouldn’t dress like whores—but they shouldn’t have to follow “men’s” rules for dress either. Following “men’s rules for dress” means that in Muslim cultures women have to tippy-toe around men’s voracious and, if the discussants are to be believed, hair-trigger, libidos in a burka and in Western culture in a high-necked, long-sleeved cocktail dress. Ann’s cocktail dress is not indecent—just look at Jackie Kennedy’s presidential dresses in any photo from the 1960s. Jackie was never accused of lack of taste (at least until she married Ari). My main point, overlooked in the roar of testosterone, was that the “vehemence” with which Ann’s clothing was trashed FAR, FAR exceeded the stimulus of her cocktail dress. And this excessive vehemence was my main point—not to stifle debate but to keep it CIVIL. You’ll not convince me that those “discussions” were intellectual—they were PERSONAL, because under the camouflage of the much-needed and relevant discussion of the real and destructive excesses of Western sexual commercialism, the bitterest words were reserved for a denigratingly personal assessment of Ann herself.

LA replies:

I respectfully disagree. I have not seen anything that I would call excessive vehemence in the criticisms of Coulter. I think there is a tendency today to be so inordinately solicitous of women that any serious criticism of a woman will be seen as excessively vehement. If anyone was showing excessive vehemence here, it was Maureen, with her characterization of other posters as “bitchy” and her use of such feminist put-downs as “roar of testosterone.” It’s amazing how even intelligent conservatives will gravitate toward the “testosterone” trope in the heat of discussion. I remember a few years ago, before the Iraq war, John Zmirak, a traditionalist conservative, in an article at FrontPage Magazine, described war advocates as under the influence of “testosterone poisoning.” Really, such ridiculous characterizations ought not be used unless there is serious evidence for them.

A good rule of thumb is: If any idea, phrase, or attitude is derived from feminism, it is bad and ought to be avoided. Literally nothing good has come from feminism. Its influence has been wholly negative. Whatever positive gains arguably happened for women since 1960, such as greater ability to pursue a career of their choice, would have happened as a result of the general rising tide of prosperity and individual freedom. The feminist movement and ideology added nothing to this, except false ideas and destructive attitudes that have been ruinous for society.

Jim N. writes:

I think you’re being overly puritanical. I understand your point, and generally agree with it, particularly with regard to the midriff-exposing, hip-riding, breast-accentuating style of clothing favored by contemporary young women—or, more to the point, horny young men. However, this is a case where a certain balance must be sought. Your hardline principle ends up logically in something like the Muslim burkha, or maybe a cardboard box that hides all but the head. I don’t mean this pejoratively. It really does, as you (and/or your correspondents—it’s hard to remember who’s said what in this exchange) seem to be saying that certain physical attributes of women that men find attractive and which serve the purpose of bringing men and women together (ideally) in matrimony should be completely suppressed, or hidden from view.

On the other hand, I understand well the temptation to lust and the need to avoid occasions of sin. Thus, the necessity of balance. Women, it seems to me, must be allowed to make themselves attractive to men while at the same time minimizing the temptation to lust. How to do this is a tricky problem, though, since men—particularly young men in the throes of puberty—seem to find ways to lust after anything; even women in cardboard boxes. Hence, even a woman in a burkha or a cardboard box could conceivably at some point be accused of immodesty because, by exposing her beautiful eyes or head, she inspired lust in a male admirer.

So it does seem to all come down to a judgment call, and the question then becomes, who should make the judgment? Obviously, it can’t be that old liberal judicial favorite, contemporary society, since “contemporary society” might be composed of libertines, as it is now. Nor can it be the individual, for the same reason. The answer would appear to be that the communal judgment of morally fit men and women ought to be the guide in these matters, and this leads us back to my main point: it seems far from clear to me that everything you are finding objectionable in Coulter’s dress would be found objectionable in the common judgment of all morally fit men and women. I, for one—presuming for the moment that I am morally fit enough to count—do not find anything about the way she presents her upper or mid-body particularly objectionable. I do think her skirts tend to be excessively short, baring more leg than is required to make herself attractive to men, but that’s pretty much it.

So in principle I’m led to agree with you all about Ann: since she’s not perfect, she’s to that extent a walking contradiction of conservatism. On the other hand, her sin seems to me to be relatively minor, and not deserving of the amount of opprobrium you seem to be piling on her head.

LA replies:

What is the basis for Jim’s idea that the views of anyone in this discussion must lead to a Muslim burkha or a cardboard box? Since when does the rejection of one extreme necessarily lead to the opposite extreme? Has Jim never heard of the mean?

Jim is thinking in terms of Muslim society, where there is the idea that the woman’s entire form must be completely covered so as to avoid lust. There is no basis for his suggestion that such a Muslim reasoning process is at work or may be at work among Americans and Westerners.

Also, I don’t think I have condemned Coulter’s appearance generally. This whole discussion was about her appearance on the cover of a book attacking liberal godlessness.

In the end, all that Jim is really saying is that he has a different opinion from me and others. But instead he strongly suggests that his view represents that of the majority of “morally fit” persons, and ours doesn’t, and therefore he is right and the discussion should end. The fact is, different presumably morally fit persons have different opinions about the matter. I and those who agree with me are putting our views into the semi-public square of this website. Jim is free to put forward his. His suggestion that he (at least arguably) represents the majority and we don’t, and therefore his view ought to be authoritative and ours shouldn’t be, is similar to the argument used by pundits that society must be guided by opinion polls. But opinion polls, registering what people passively respond to on the phone, do not constitute public opinion. What constitutes public opinion is the actual opinions that have force and influence in society. Each of us argues for what we believe and tries to win support for that view. To the extent that we actively put forward our views, and our views have a public effect on the way people think and speak, then we become the “majority.” That is what politics is about. So, please, no more appeals to the authority of the supposed majority which supposedly requires us to surrender to it.

Even if such a libertine-supporting majority as Jim describes existed and could be empirically proved, I would still not accept their authority. I would say that they were wrong and would continue resisting their false views.

Rachael writes:

The plain look tends to be equated with conservative taste, but only in the negative sense that most people think of conservatives as scared little rabbits who don’t want to express any sort of individuality, but want to be part of a conformist herd. So in that sense (plain black) Ann is conforming to the mainstream-liberal Republican idea of what a conservative woman should wear, only “sexing it up” for attention and self-promotion.

I was going to say that I think her way of dressing may also be a form of self-defense for her opinions and the way she goes on the attack. I think it fits her rhetoric and gives a liberal no ability to criticize her as being a prude for wearing tweeds and pearls. But I don’t really think this is a defense for her conservative side, because if she cared more about true conservatism and what we can do to save our culture she would want to rise to the occasion and challenge modern women on their modesty, too. From the little I have read about her she seems to date for fun; I have often wondered why she didn’t get married and have a few kids. This would seem like the conservative thing to do.

About modern women’s clothing, I hate it. I hate going to the mall to look for clothing. The entire makeup of the mall is disoriented and detached from a woman’s clothing needs anyway. Blouses are usually transparent or too clingy, and one purchase involves three more as you try to find something to put on underneath something else to add opacity, or something to put on on-top to cover your arms and stomach. I HATE LOW-RISE JEANS. I want to put whoever invented them in stocks in the public square. Philosophically, something is wrong with centering the waist of your jeans at or below the navel, IMO. And people who wear pants or skirts at the natural waist are often skewered in the media as “squares”. I feel uncomfortable all the time when I wear low-rise pants. And, Mr. Auster, there was a season last year where I could not find ANY pants that were not either low-rise or super-low-rise, if you can believe it.

I also think that women should not wear pants unless they absolutely have to. I think the advent of women wearing pants signaled the beginning of sexual confusion and the blurring of men’s and women’s natural relationship to one another. I am learning to sew, in order to better live in my own traditionalist skin by wearing appropriate clothing that would not be available to me otherwise.

Thank you for the blog and addressing these issues. :)

LA replies:

I agree on pants. and when conservative women started wearing pants too, and at formal events, that was the proof of my thesis that conservatives insensibly follow the liberal culture, and that this makes it impossible for them to oppose liberalism seriously.

Andy K. writes:

A long but interesting thread. My thoughts on feminism for some time have been that its ultimate goal has not been about equality with men, but about power over men, and the reduction of men’s status to that of drones of the insect (bee) world, to be kept around for procreation, and then ignored and even discarded. The high levels of illegitimate births in this era of modern liberalism would seem to back this thought up, and GW Bush’s comment mentioned earlier doesn’t help…why make single motherhood sound honorable?

I will conclude by saying “Without a rejection of modern feminism, drones will never be Men, and Men can only be drones.”

P.S. BTW, drones are stingless…they pose no threat to the other (female) bees, and can’t fight back. One of the strangest of God’s creatures for sure!

Ben writes,

I think using the Muslim Burkha argument was a cheap shot to show us in the same light as Islam or in the least saying that what we believe will lead to that while giving no evidence that this is true.

But really, using the Muslim extreme to counter our argument, really should not even deserve a response (which you perfectly did not do) because it is setting up a straw man to attack our position using Islam, another complete religion and culture altogether that has no association with Western civilization or Christian thought and never has.

In reply to Brandon who had said that Coulter had helped young women become conservative, I had said:

That’s fine, but it’s theoretical. The question is, have young women been changed by Coulter in the manner you describe?

To which Rachael replies:

Mr. Auster, When I first discovered Ann Coulter it was a relief. I have always been more conservative than most people around me but I got the idea that there was no way to justify my beliefs, and my attempts at arguments usually resulted in embarrassment for me. When I found her I read every article of hers that I could find. She justified every one of her opinions like a pit bull: she made her point and she wouldn’t let go. Until recently I have looked forward to her articles and never missed one. It was her ability to stick her neck out and debate liberals with gusto that won me to look into more meaningful conservatism, and furthermore, traditionalism. After finding your blog (through a link I found NR’s The Corner), I have recognized where I am disagreement with Ann Coulter. I don’t think that it was Ann’s sexy persona that drew me to her over someone else, though I suppose if Sister Wendy were making the same argument it wouldn’t have seized my imagination as much; if only because I would identify with an older nun less than a smart, “sassy” woman. I think Ann helps people who are “closet” conservatives.

Ben writes:

Farah touts Coulter for President because she writes a book about liberalism? I mean come on….

LA replies:

First, I don’t think Farah was being entirely serious about that. Rather he was saying that what we need is a conservative candidate who will really fight against liberalism, as Coulter does.

Second, I note that Farah says he is not a conservative, and that Coulter is not a conservative, because to him conservative means someone who always fights on the defense, someone who accepts the rule of liberalism and is always retreating. This is a true description, as it relates to the mainstream conservative movement and the majority of conservatives. However, while I call myself a traditionalist instead of a conservative, I don’t think it is practicable to give up the term conservative altogether, for the simple reason that it remains the commonly used term for all people who see themselves as being to the right of liberalism, regardless of the profound mutual differences among self-defined conservatives. So I have two modes of dealing with this issue. When I am attempting to speak more precisely and scientifically, I describe myself as a traditionalist. When speaking in the vernacular, I refer to myself as a conservative.

Maureen writes:

I use “burka” as a metaphor—for what happens when men’s sexual drives are allowed to set the clothing rules for women—a burka is the equivalent of a long-sleeved, high necked cocktail dress in another, more repressive culture. Yes, it is meant to hyperbolize, and therefore illustrate, what is at issue for women’s freedom in the discussion.

For me, burka is a metaphor for the intense biological male sexual drive which, throughout history, has made women bear 9/10 of the the responsibiliy for controlling it. It seems to me that in the world today and in history, the more females are covered, the less the males take responsibility for their own sexual acts. Muslim cultures are still in the 12th century level of civilizational developement and are quite sexually sick; they drape women in burkas and chadors and keep them in separate rooms, etc. In Muslim cultures, the total sequestration of the sexes results from the following way of thinking: “I as a male cannot control myself if I “see” a woman.” So, in Muslim cultures, they solve the problem by draping the women in a blanket. It is barbaric. The more cultured a civilization is, the less women are sequestered and the more the men take responsibility for their sexual acts.

Nevertheless, Western women shouldn’t trip men’s more sensitive sexual triggers by walking around naked. The VFR discussion was right to be frustrated at the Western commercialization of sex, at the Madonna wannabes and bare midriffs—but they were not right to focus this discussion in derisive epithets on Ann’s body in particular (as in, “She’s not attractive enough to merit praise such as “blonde bombshell,” or she “wears something thin and clingy that seems to emphasize her false-looking breasts”) or to put her in the same league as the Hollywood navel-barers.


I repeat, and I think others have made the same point, that Muslim sexual morality, while it is an interesting subject in itself, is irrelevant to this discussion. European women, since at least the time when the Germanic tribes were described by Tacitus in the late first or early second century, have been astonishingly free and equal among men. Yet those Germanic tribes, like all other Western peoples until the Feminist Revolution of the 1960s-70s, were, ahem, ruled by men. Which throws into doubt Maureen’s notion that the main problem is male dominance.

KE writes:

The topic of women’s dress code seems to be raging. I congratulate you once again for raising a very painful issue, and leading your readers to an honest discussion of it.

Whether stricter dress code could or should lead to burkas is the crux of this matter.

I believe this issue exemplifies how Western conservatism is abused by liberals. To suggest that the culture of burkas is an “extreme” form of conservatism is misrepresenting the issue. The burka culture is a primitive culture of slavery which rejects the notion of moral agency and human free will which, according to the norms of civilization, is the basis of moral action….

A culture that considers women incapable of representing themselves morally, and should be kept under the cover of burkas—by force, if necessary—is a culture that doesn’t even begin to understand the notion of “moral agency.”

The issue in the traditional Western context is—or should be—quite simple.

Marriage is a contract. It is entered into by two parties of their own choice. The contract is traditionally based on the assumption that the parties have entitlements and obligations towards each other. Since the primary purpose of the contract is to regulate human reproduction, the idea of any party doing “whatever I want” to “express myself” is absurd.

Since the monogamous marital institution is traditionally the paradigm of sexual relations in the West, it is assumed that men and women will limit their sexual behavior so that since marriage is considered the legitimate context of “expressing oneself,” the other forms are spurious or secondary at best. This means, it is expected from men and women—of free will—that they act so as not to

—flaunt their physicality or sexuality;
—expose private activity publicly;
—act in ways suggestive of that private sphere.

A woman who claims that she can dress or act as she pleases is a woman who denies the following truths:

—that we live in a society;
—that no act in a social context cannot NOT communicate something;
—that communicational exchange covers all human acts;
—that therefore we, as individuals, have to adjust and fine tune all our acts to communicate only legitimate, morally acceptable “meaning.”

Given the above, a woman who dresses so as fully to expose her belly, cleavage, etc., even when she is with a significant other or a husband, is simply an irresponsible woman who recognizes none of the traditional societal contractual principles governing sexuality.

The reference is not the amount of cloth imposed at gun point. The reference is recognizing that human sexuality has to be socially regulated, and that it cannot be reduced to “expressing yourself” regardless of its impact on others (its consequences), that it has to be used in a morally responsible way.

The vast majority of the Muslim populations—like the chronically dimwitted demographic that they are (as cognitive science is able to tell us now)—have no sense of human “free will,” “moral agency,” “contract,” mutual communication through acts, self-regulating social ecosystems. So they choose, as is typical of them, the gunshot method, thinking that imposing a rule to a stultifying level makes it multiple times more moral.

It is not a coincidence that the society that uses the burka is the society that considers one of its members converting to the Christian faith a capital punishment convict, and yet considers its faith one of “peace” or its belief system the “most advanced” (a mere joke to anyone with a dozen functioning brain cells).

Islam is inherently—and fatally—contradictory. By reducing morality to a bunch of despotically imposed and ritualistically enacted acts, it obliterates the basis for genuine moral action: mutual recognition of rights by consent. This is emphatically not an extreme form of conservatism. It is simply “primitivism.”

If this still doesn’t convince your liberal readers, here’s a simpler analogy.

There’s a Murphy’s rule that says: “There’s no problem that cannot be solved with Brute Force.” For example, when your TV set is broken, all you have to do is to get a sledge hammer and smash it into pieces. The problem will disappear—along with the TV.

If Islam is still in the despicably primitive state that it is in after 15 centuries, the reason is its inherent primitiveness, its “Brute Force” approach to human existence. There’s nothing in Islam that addresses genuine moral sense. All there is, is whatever outward appearance of moral behavior it has picked up from other religions imposed by the sword against the jugular.

You can use conditioning to teach a chimpanzee to act as if it plays drums, that doesn’t mean it is actually playing the drums. You can talk mock French by repeating a few commonly recognized phonemes of French, that doesn’t make it French. The same thing holds for moral behavior: forcing a bunch of low-IQ higher primates to fake, at gun point, a few of the outward acts of those acting with a sense of morality doesn’t make it moral behavior, nor an extreme form of conservatism.

In fact, if there is no genuine moral sense separating acts, the only way to discriminate who is more moral is through the degree of adherence to ritualistic behavior, thus fanaticism.

LA comments:

I think this is a first rate example of traditionalist conservative argumentation. KE is saying that since marriage is the model and paradigm of sexual relations in Western society, therefore social behavior, dress, etc. ought to reflect that fact or at least not be wildly inconsistent with it. Yet at the same time, KE, with his emphasis on the contractual nature of marriage and on individual moral responsibiity, integrates individual freedom into his traditionalist analysis. The model he’s laying out is not pure “order” (not to mention the despotic and repressive “order” of Islam), and it is not pure “freedom.” Rather it is the balance of order and freedom that is the essence of Western culture.

Shrewsbury writes:

Dear Mr. Auster:

A couple of tangential comments….

1) Mrs. Shrewsbury, a keen observer of human beings (presenting the conundrum, Why did she marry Shrewsbury?), says that women do not dress for men, but rather to impress other women; and when Shrewsbury asks her, you mean even when they dress like hoes with their belly buttons hanging out it’s for other women? she says yes, says she, “They’re impressing other women with how sexy they look to men.” In other words, her point is that wimmen do not really dress this way with (at any rate direct) reference to male hominids at all, but in order to achieve some sort of status amongst the female creation. I don’t get it, but she insists that this is the way it is, and she’s a dame herself, so I guess we should listen to her. So a corollary of this would be that looking like a prostitute now enhances a woman’s status among other women.

2) Your correspondent Ben writes, “…we are truly doomed to Eloi’ism like Europe and you will see that billboard that Mr. Auster showed from Germany hanging in your city very soon….”

Indeed, they already have billboards like that in Vegas, aimed, one after another, at the scandalized motorist on his way from Southern California to Utah as he desperately attempts to buzz through that degenerate city on the Interstate….

LA replies:

Dear Shrewsbury,

I think Mrs. Shrewsbury is right in many instances, but there’s a problem with her theory.

Many of the females who dress with their navel almost down to their pubis hanging out are not doing it in any way to be sexy, either for men, or for other women . I say this because many females who dress this way, even quite young ones, are overweight, fat, and look like hell. So in those cases, it can’t have a connection with prettiness.

I have sometimes been stunned when walking down the sidewalk and some young, seriously overweight female walks past me with her fat belly sticking out of a too-low pants and too-short shirt. Why is she doing this?, I ask myself. With the pretty ones, it’s sleazy, but you can at least understand why they’re doing it. But a young woman who is overweight would ordinarily want to cover up her fatness with looser fitting clothes. Our culture is supposedly very averse to overweightness, right? So what is going on in her mind? What does looking like that, with her fatness exposed to the world, mean to her?

One answer is simply that this is the fashion, this is what’s in the stores, and so this is what females wear, regardless of how bad it looks on them, because they are such conformists.

But a deeper answer is that it’s part of the culture of the unbuttoned self, the liberated self, liberated even from the strictures of beauty. True liberation of the self from all higher standards means the freedom to be ugly, the freedom to look like a mess, and no one cares, no one judges, no one disapproves. I think this is the deeper idea that is being expressed through this fashion.

So, whether a woman is baring her midriff to assert her sexiness, or to assert her ugliness, it comes to the same thing. In both cases, what is being expressed is the rejection of God and of any higher truth. By dressing this way women are symbolizing what Ann Coulter calls the religion of liberalism—the belief that there is no God, there is only Our Bodies, Our Selves.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 16, 2006 02:01 AM | Send

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