By respecting the views of women do I contradict myself and turn into a wimp?

Though pedantry denies,
It’s plain the Bible means
That Solomon grew wise
While talking with his queens.
—W.B. Yeats, “On Woman”

Sam H. writes from the Netherlands:

I find it ironic, on multiple levels, that, under the influence of Laura W., a woman, you have now essentially adopted the position that women should not hold public office. A perfectly respectable, indeed traditional conservative position, although not one that many conservatives have defended in the West in the past fifty or sixty years. (I happen to disagree with it because I think that extraordinary women—and Palin clearly falls in that category, as I have maintained from the start—deserve extraordinary exceptions, but apparently you prefer to reason from abstract principles rather than concrete realities.)

But the point I really wanted to make is this: if women aren’t suitable, per se, as public leaders, then on what grounds should we listen to them in the public square at all? As you know, when we used to exclude women from politics we really excluded them. They couldn’t stand for or hold office. They couldn’t vote. They couldn’t join parties and we didn’t typically allow them to publish books or articles on politics. The place of the woman is at home? Fine. But then Laura W. and her womanly ways should have no place at VFR either. Traditionalists might think you are a wimp for publicly conversing, and agreeing with, and being influenced by, a woman like Laura W. And where does she find the time to write these emails anyway? Doesn’t she have children to take care of or a house to clean? What kind of example is she setting, that she thinks she can lecture us men about public affairs? By definition, as a woman she cannot fully understand them and her irrational female thinking clouds her reason. Like all woman, Laura is mostly interested in human relations, hence her gossipy emails about the beauty of Willow Palin and the social status of Mr. Palin. There should be no room at a traditionalist site for such inappropriate communications about public matters.

LA writes:

I initially told Sam H. that I felt his objections were carping, painfully literal, and not worth the effort of writing a replying to them. After all, how does it follow that if one thinks that as a general matter women should not occupy the major positions of leadership in society, one must also think that women have nothing worthwhile to contribute to public discussion, particularly about matters relating to the role of women in society? However, I sent Sam’s comment to Laura W., and she wanted to reply to it, so I changed my mind and posted the exchange.

Laura W. writes:

Sam H. raises some valid questions, points I thought someone would either privately or publicly bring up at VFR given the wonderful freedom at this website to speak one’s mind.

Let me answer his points one-by-one:

1. You say Mr. Auster has been influenced by me to adopt a position he otherwise would not hold. In fact, I am merely elaborating on a position he already does hold and came to on his own. If you read through his many writings on feminism, he had stated many of the things I have said before I ever even heard of VFR. Perhaps he likes hearing these ideas reinforced by a woman and perhaps the world today needs to hear women speak them. After all, it is not men who have been made most unhappy by feminism, it is women and children.

2. While I believe women should not occupy the highest positions of government, I believe they have a modest place on the lower tiers and certainly in a hundred community and national volunteer positions. Sam. H. apparently believes this isn’t good enough for them, while at the same time admitting women are more concerned with human relations. To say that women should not hold public positions of power is not to say they should not have any voice in community matters, by writing, by speaking to friends (both male and female) and by using community organizations and national forums to express their views. To say that women should not be consumed with careers is not to say they are too stupid and narrow-minded to influence society and participate in debate. I plead guilty to the charge that I’d be pretty much useless at this point in a debate on nuclear arms strategy or China’s economic growth. There are too many others good at parsing those things, so why should I even try? But, I think there are some domestic women who are competent enough on these issues to discuss them in a public forum.

3. I have mostly raised my children. The highest duty of a middle-aged woman, who is less consumed by the immediate tasks of motherhood, is to reinforce transcendent values and morals in her family, her community and her country. She often does so for no immediate material rewards. Personally, I could peddle my thinking ability elsewhere and receive money for it, having had a former career at a large metropolitan newspaper, a career I gave up voluntarily. I believe the times demand some women speak up. Besides, the readers at VFR are an exceptional audience, likely to be found nowhere else in America, a group of intelligent, independent-minded and cultured men and women who make up a virtual City on the Hill. Nevertheless, these e-mails entail sacrifice.

4. I’ve noticed many men make comments on the passing aspects of our world at VFR. The important thing is whether these comments are true or interesting, not whether they come from a man or woman. Whether they’re true or interesting is for Mr. Auster and his readers to decide. At least one reader believes that in my case, they are neither true or interesting. There are plenty of other commenters at VFR who may better suit your taste.

5. Matters of state are of the utmost importance and have always been discussed incisively at VFR. Matters of non-state are also vitally important not just to all people, but to the cause of traditionalism. Everything in this created world is connected. That idea lies at the heart of traditionalism. Our sins too are connected, sometimes causing a chain of human misery and unhappiness that spans the generations and confounds the most brilliant psychologists. VFR is, in part, about that chain of misery and about the obvious movement of this country toward conceivably irretrievable moral decline. I care about that decline more than my own life and will happily risk the censure of anyone at VFR or in the world beyond it to do my very small part to try and reverse it.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 06, 2008 08:23 AM | Send

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