Nathanson and Young on gynocentric feminism

Excerpts from the Nathanson and Young Misandry Trilogy

Legalizing mis

“Feminist calls for equality, or even equity, sound at first like nothing other than calls for justice. Lurking just below the surface, though, is often the call for gynocentrism. Whatever its underlying motivation, gynocentrism has already been institutionalized, either directly or indirectly, in laws or interpretations of them, constitutional amendments or interpretations of them, and bureaucracies at every level of government. The rhetoric has functioned like that of motherhood. Who would ever oppose that in public? Equality is not only the legitimate expression of egalitarian feminism, therefore, but also the ideal front for ideological feminism. Not only are students exposed to gynocentric indoctrination, but so are legislators, judges, bureaucrats, corporate managers, and employees.” [p. 116]

“Systemic gynocentric bias has led to more than a demand for quotas, usually known as “targets.” It has led also to a demand for social and cultural revolution. Ideological feminists measure progress according to a “female standard” and in view of “female knowledge.” Ideological feminists denounce equality of opportunity, insisting on equality of result. Ignoring the fact that the former has been greatly modified over the past thirty years to suit women, they claim that modifying it has prevented a critique of what they believe is the “phallocentricity” of knowledge. Women have nothing to learn or gain, in other words, from the experience of men.” [p. 116]

“[Gynocentrism] is a worldview based on the implicit or explicit belief that the world revolves around women. It is therefore the counterpart of androcentrism, a worldview based on the implicit or explicit belief that the world revolves around men. Our point was that gynocentrism has become de rigueur behind the scenes in law courts and government bureaucracies, which has resulted in systemic discrimination against men. “ [p. 309]

“Misandry and gynocentrism are not necessarily linked at all. People can be preoccupied with their own needs and interests without denying those of other people, much less hating them…. But wait. Even though misandry is not an inherent feature of gynocentrism, it is an inherent possibility (just as misogyny is an inherent possibility of androcentrism). If the world revolves around women, then it follows that nonwomen –which is to say, men- are irrelevant except for the purposes of sexual pleasure or reproduction. All it takes to produce misandry is the ideological proposition that “they” are not merely irrelevant, but inadequate or evil.” [p. 310]

Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Legalizing Misandry, 2006
______________

“Gynocentrism is a form of essentialism – as distinct from scholarship or political activity on behalf of women- to the extent that it focuses on the innate virtues of women. But this worldview is explicitly misandric too, because it not only ignores the needs and problems of men but also attacks men. Misandry is a form of dualism that focuses on the innate vices of men. In this moral or even ontological hierarchy , women are at the top and men are at the bottom.” [p. 58]

Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Sanctifying Misandry, 2010

Feminism: gynocentric or egalitarian?

Editor’s note: The pollowing post appeared on the ‘Alas‘ blog in 2009 and is repeated here as a qualifier of the difference between gynocentric and egalitarian feminism. The definition is a good first attempt to capture the essence of something which is pervasive within feminism. It is hypothetically possible to eschew all of the gynocentric criteria, while still being a feminist recognised by other feminists, though their number, if they exist, must be very small indeed.

Feminism: gynocentric or egalitarian?
By Ballgame (2009)

Superiority of women

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clear up what I’m guessing is probably a common misconception about the terms, “gynocentric feminist” and “egalitarian feminist.” The terms are not intended as descriptions of the particular feminist’s focus of discussion or activism. A woman could be focused entirely on preserving women’s right to access abortion … and be an egalitarian feminist. A man could be focused on male bonding a la Robert Bly and yet still be a gynocentric feminist.

The terms actually get at the principles of the feminist in question. If a feminist believes that men are universally privileged by gender and women are not, or that women have inherently superior insights into questions of gender than men, or that women are entitled to define the terms of gender discussions and that men must ‘check their privilege’ before entering into those discussions (and women don’t have to check theirs), or believes that men oppressing other men is an example of men ‘oppressing themselves’ (or other similar ‘men are Borg’ type notions), or has a habit of vilifying reasonable and respectful critics of feminist misandry, then that person is a gynocentric feminist.

If, on the other hand, a feminist believes that both men and women are oppressed by gender, and believes that everyone struggling against gender oppression deserves respect (regardless of which gender’s oppression they’re working against), then that person would more likely be an egalitarian feminist. (I say “more likely” because I’m tired and I suspect my ‘egalitarian’ definition here is probably pretty incomplete.)

Gynocentrism and its Discontents

by Hugh Ristik (2007)

Woman_at_a_Mirror__1907
 

Feminism and gynocentrism

 

Feminism focuses on women. It focuses on women’s perspectives, interests, rights, and victimization. In other words, it is gynocentric (literally, “woman-centered”). And there is nothing inherently wrong with that. That being said, there are ways in which gynocentrism can go horribly wrong.

I am starting a series of posts on gynocentrism from the premise that feminism is gynocentric, either by the definitions that feminists give, or by their works. If the gynocentric nature of feminism isn’t obvious to everyone, then I’m happy to back up.

Types of gynocentrism

Feminism didn’t invent gynocentrism. There is a heavily gynocentric tinge to some versions of paternalism and conservative attitudes that focus on protecting women. Feminism, however, took gynocentrism to a new level. Feminists not only focused on women’s victimization, they also focus on women’s perspective and experience. (One possible exception is postmodern versions of feminism that explicitly deny the meaningfulness of the category “Woman.” Aside from finding these versions of feminism to play dishonest semantic games, my intuition is that they engage in their own covert forms of gynocentrism.)

In What Good is Gynocentrism, I argued that feminist gynocentrism isn’t inherently unjust, and that it can have the side-effect of benefitting men. In this post, I discuss how the ways that feminists’ focus on women’s interests can be problematic. There is a short distance between focusing on women’s interests, and marginalizing men’s interests. Feminists often step over this line. As Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young argue, “even though misandry is not an inherent feature of gynocentrism, it is an inherent possibility.”1

I’m not saying that all, or necessary most feminists step over the line; I make no speculation about the proportion of feminists who fall into misandric versions of gynocentrism. I’m more interested in criticizing those versions when they appear.

How could gynocentrism go wrong?

Gynocentrism, as practiced by feminism2, entails a focus on women’s experiences, rights, needs, and victimization. That is because women have experienced—and currently experience—violations of their rights, denial of their human needs, and victimization at the hands of males, of each other, and of society.

Once feminist women figured out all the ways that women were getting the short end of the stick, they were justifiably pissed off. They concluded that they were oppressed, and that men were privileged. Many feminists went even further, and saw men as the “oppressor class” towards women. The ways in which men were getting the short end of the stick were typically not considered.

The odious “comparative suffering” argument

And here is where gynocentrism started going wrong. These feminist women were correct to identify victimization, denial of rights, and oppression of women. The mistake was in concluding that in general, men were “less” disadvantaged in society than women, simply because men weren’t necessarily disadvantaged in the ways that women were. This conclusion presupposes some metric or scale on which women’s disadvantages weigh heavier.

However, to weigh one thing against another, you need to know the weight of both. Yet feminists only had an idea of the weight of women’s victimization. Since, as part of gynocentrism, they examined only women’s experiences, and not men’s experiences, they had no idea of what disadvantages, harms, and violations of rights that men were experiencing. This ignorance did not stop those feminists. They placed women’s oppression on one side of the scale, watched the balance tip, and concluded that women’s oppression weighed heavier. Men’s oppression never made it onto the scale.

Nathanson and Young have called this attitude “comparative suffering,” and indepedently, Daran called it the “Odious Comparison.”

Dualism

Through their gynocentric lens, feminists figured out that women were suffering, and that the agents of that suffering were often male. Yet some of these feminists committed two fallacies. The first fallacy was to assume that if men were oppressors under the gender system, they could not be oppressed by it. The second fallacy was to paint men in general as victimizers and abusers of women. The attitude towards men became very dualistic; as Nathanson and Young argue:

The worldview of ideological feminism, like that of both Marxism and National Socialism—our analogies are between ways of thinking, not between specific ideas—is profoundly dualistic. In effect, “we” (women) are good, “they” (men) are evil. Or, to use the prevalent lingo, “we” are victims, “they” are oppressors.”3

The focus of feminism

In this way, gynocentrism slid into the tendencies for some feminists to focus on the experience, needs, and victimization of women, along with the oppressiveness, privileges, violence, and sexism of men. Simultaneously, this type of feminist discourse ignored or downplayed the experience, needs, and victimization of men, along with the oppressiveness, privileges, violence, and sexism of women.

But what is wrong with this focus? The experience of women is important. Women are victimized in society (regardless of agreement with specific feminist claims of victimization). Men do have (some) unjust privileges over women. Some men victimize women. Since all of that is true, what could be the problem with pointing it out?

The answer is that there isn’t one. The problem is not inherently with the gynocentric focus of feminism. The root of the problem is the content of feminism, which causes the gynocentric focus of feminism to become a problem.

————————

  1. Nathanson, P., & Young, K. (2006). Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, p. 310.[]
  2. By “feminism,” I mean feminists who don’t identify themselves as “equity feminists,” “egalitarian feminists,” or “individualist feminists.” These dissident feminists tend to not be gynocentric, and have fundamentally different philosophical and epistemological assumptions to other feminists. Mainstream feminists tend to dispute that dissident feminists are really feminists, which only underscores how gynocentric mainstream feminism is.[]
  3. Nathanson, P., & Young, K. (2006). Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Cultureen. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, p. xii.[]

Editor’s note: The first two sections above “Feminism and gynocentrism” and “Types of gynocentrism” are from the author’s longer piece What Good is Gynocentrism, and serve here as an abridged preamble to his article Gynocentrism and its Discontents. [I was unable to find a contact email for the author, but he is welcome to contact me if he has any concerns about the above reproduction]

Andreas Capellanus (1174) on ‘women’s nature’

Middle Ages Europe is widely considered the birthplace of ‘protofeminism’ – the forerunner to modern feminism. At that time a chaplain named Andreas Capellanus, whom we might consider the first antifeminist and ‘MGTOW’ of the period, wrote a book describing the escalating problem of female avarice, manipulativeness, narcissism, underserved sense of entitlement, and hypergamy. Interestingly, Andreas links all these problems with the birth of courtly love – the subject of his book – and recommends all men learn to reject romantic relationships with women and “trample under your foot all of its rules.”

While the piece is written in anger at the emerging gynocentric culture, it contains truths that echo much of what MGTOW are reacting to today – in particular the world’s encouragement, protection and enforcement of female hypergamy. The following is an excerpt from Capellanus’ amazing work. PW

The Art of Courtly Love
By Andreas Capellanus (1174)

Andeas_bookThe mutual love which you seek in women you cannot find, for no woman ever loved a man or could bind herself to a lover in the mutual bonds of love. For a woman’s desire is to get rich through love, but not to give her lover the solaces that please him. Nobody ought to wonder at this, because it is natural. According to the nature of their sex all women are spotted with the vice of a grasping and avaricious disposition, and they are always alert and devoted to the search for money or profit. I have travelled through a great many parts of the world, and although I made careful inquiries I could never find a man who would say that he had discovered a woman who, if a thing was not offered to her, would not demand it insistently and would not hold off from falling in love unless she got rich gifts in one way or another. But even though you have given a woman innumerable presents, if she discovers that you are less attentive about giving her things than you used to be, or if she learns that you have lost your money, she will treat like a perfect stranger who has come from some other country, and everything you do will bore her or annoy her. You cannot find a woman who will love you so much or be so constant to you that if somebody else comes to her and offers her presents she will be faithful to her love.

Women have so much avarice that generous gifts break down all the barriers of their virtue. If you come with open hands, no women will let you go away without that which you seek; while if you don’t promise to give them a great deal, you needn’t come to them and ask for anything. Even if you are distinguished by royal honors, but bring no gifts with you, you will get absolutely nothing from them; you will be turned away from their doors in shame. Because of their avarice all women are thieves, and we say they carry purses. You cannot find a woman of such lofty station or blessed with such honor or wealth that an offer of money will not break down her virtue, and there is no man, no matter how disgraced and low-born he is, who cannot seduce her if he has great wealth. This is so because no woman ever has enough money – just as no drunkard ever thinks he has had enough to drink. Even if the whole earth and sea were turned to gold, they could hardly satisfy that avarice of a woman.

Furthermore, not only is every woman by nature a miser, but she is also envious and a slanderer of other women, greedy, a slave to her belly, inconstant, fickle in her speech, disobedient and impatient of restraint, spotted with the sin of pride and desirous of vainglory, a liar, a drunkard, a babbler, no keeper of secrets, too much given to wantonness, prone to every evil, and never loving any man in her heart.

Now woman is a miser, because there isn’t a wickedness in the world that men can think of that she will not boldly indulge in for the sake of money, and, even if she has an abundance she will not help anyone who is in need. You can more easily scratch a diamond with your fingernail than you can by any human ingenuity get a woman to consent to giving you any of her savings. Just as Epicurus believed that the highest good lay in serving the belly, so a woman thinks that the only things worth while in this world are riches and holding on to what she has. You can’t find any woman so simple and foolish that she is unable to look out for her own property with a greedy tenacity, and with great mental subtlety get hold of the possessions of someone else. Indeed, even a simple woman is more careful about selling a single hen than the wisest lawyer is in deeding away a great castle. Furthermore, no woman is ever so violently in love with a man that she will not devote all her efforts to using up his property. You will find that this rule never fails and admits of no exceptions.

That every woman is envious is also found to be a general rule, because a woman is always consumed with jealousy over another woman’s beauty, and she loses all her pleasure in what she has. Even if she knows that it is the beauty of her own daughter that is being praised, she can hardly avoid being tortured by hidden envy. Even the neediness and the great poverty of the neighbour women seem to her abundant in wealth and riches, so that we think of the old proverb which says, “the crop in the neighbour’s field is always more fertile, and your neighbour’s cow has a larger udder,” seems to refer to the female sex without question. It can hardly come to pass that one woman will praise the good character or the beauty of another, and if she should happen to do so, the next minute she adds some qualification that undoes all she has said in her praise.

And so it follows that woman is a slanderer, because slander can only spring from envy and hate. That is a rule that women do not want to break; she prefers to keep it unbroken. It is not easy to find a woman whose tongue can ever spare anybody or who can keep from words of detraction. Every woman thinks that by running down others she adds to her own praise and increases her own reputation – a fact which shows very clearly to everybody that women have very little sense. For all men agree to hold it as a general rule that words of dispraise only hurt the person who utters them, and they detract from the esteem in which he is held; but no woman on this account keeps from speaking evil and attacking the reputation of good people, and so I think we can insist that no woman is really wise. Qualities that a wise man has are wholly foreign to a woman, because she believes, without thinking, everything she hears, and she is very free about insisting on being praised, and she does a great many other unwise things which it would be tedious for me to enumerate.

The feminine sex is also commonly tainted by arrogance, for a woman, when incited by that, cannot keep her keep her tongue or her hands from crimes or abuse, but in her anger she commits all sorts of outrages. Moreover, if anybody tries to restrain an angry woman, he will tire himself out with a vain labor, for you cannot keep her from her evil designs or soften her arrogance of soul. Any woman is incited to wrath by a mild enough remark of little significance and indeed at times by nothing at all; and her arrogance grows to tremendous proportions; and as far as I can recall no one ever saw a woman who could restrain it.

Furthermore every woman seems to despise all other women – a thing which we know comes from pride. No person could despise another unless he looked down upon him because of pride. Besides, every woman, not only a young one but even the old and decrepit, strives with all her might to exalt her own beauty; this can come only from pride, as the wise man said very clearly when he said, “There is arrogance in everybody and pride follows beauty.” Therefore it is perfectly clear that women can never have perfectly good characters, because, as they say, “A remarkable character is soiled by an admixture of pride.”

Every woman is also loud-mouthed, since no one of them can keep her tongue from abuses, and even if she loses a single egg she will keep up a clamor all day like a barking dog, and she will disturb the whole neighbourhood over a trifle. When she is with other women, no one of them will give the others a chance to speak, but each always tries to be the one to say whatever is to be said and to keep on talking longer than the rest; and neither her tongue nor her spirit ever gets tired of talking. A woman will boldly contradict everything you say, and she can never agree with anything, but she always tries to give her opinion on every subject.

No woman is attached to her lover or bound to her husband with such pure devotion that she will not accept another lover, especially if a rich one comes along, which shows the wantonness as well as the great avarice of a woman. There isn’t a woman in this world so constant and so bound by pledges that, if a lover of pleasures comes along and with skill and persistence invites her to the joys of love, she will reject his entreaties – at any rate if he does a good deal of urging. No woman is an exception to this rule either. So you can see what we ought to think of a woman who is in fortunate circumstances and is blessed with an honourable lover or the finest of husbands, and yet lusts after some other man. But that is precisely what women do who are too much troubled with wantonness.

Indeed, a woman does not love a man with her whole heart, because there is not one of them who keeps faith with her husband or her lover; when another man comes along, you will find that her faithfulness wavers. For a woman cannot refuse gold or silver or any other gifts that are offered her, nor can she on that account deny the solaces of her body when they are asked for. But since the woman knows that nothing so distresses her lover as to have her grant these to some other man, you can see how much affection she has for a man when, out of greed for gold or silver, she will give herself to a stranger or a foreigner and has no shame about upsetting her lover so completely and shattering the jewel of her own good faith. Moreover, no woman has such strong bond of affection for a lover that if he ceases to woo her with presents she will not become luke-warm about her customary solaces and quickly become like a stranger to him.

Avoid love and trample under foot all of its rules:

It doesn’t seem proper, therefore, for any prudent man to fall in love with any woman, because she never keeps faith with any man. Everybody knows that she ought to be spurned for the innumerable weighty reasons already given. Therefore it is not advisable, my respected friend, for you to waste your days on love, which for all the reasons already given we agree ought to be condemned. For if it deprives you of the grace of the Heavenly King, and costs you every real friend, and it takes away all the honors of this world as well as every breath of praiseworthy reputation, and greedily swallows up all your wealth, and is followed by every sort of evil. As has already been said, why should you, like a fool, seek for love, or what good can you get from it that will repay you for all these disadvantages? That which above all you seek in love – the joy of having your love returned – you can never obtain, as we have already shown, no matter how hard you try, because no woman ever returns a man’s love. Therefore if you will examine carefully all the things that go to make up love, you will see clearly that there are conclusive reasons why a man is bound to avoid it with all his might and to trample under foot all its rules.

If you will study carefully this little treatise of ours and understand it completely and practice what it teaches, you will see clearly that no man ought to mis-spend his days in the pleasures of love. If you abstain from it, the Heavenly King will be more favorably disposed toward you in every respect, and you will be worthy to have all prosperous success in this world and to fulfill all praiseworthy deeds and the honorable desires of your heart, and in the world to come to have glory and life everlasting.

Source

The Art of Courtly Love, by Andreas Capellanus, written in 1174, Translated by John Parry in 1941; Excerpt is from pp. 200-211

Box 1

● The image above shows a golden casket from the Middle Ages depicting scenes of servile male behaviour typical of the emerging culture of courtly love. Such objects were given to women as gifts by men seeking to impress. (Note the woman standing with hands on hips in a position of authority, and the man in blue being led around by a yoke or leash in a position of subservience).

Freedom from gynocentrism in 12 Steps

Written by August Løvenskiolds

endinggyno-538x354

Are you sick of seeing good men destroyed? Tired of being assaulted by women? Sick at craziness and brutality being tolerated when they come from women but swiftly punished when a man even hints at them? Worried at the prospect of your young children being taken from you, and turned against you, by a woman who wants to rape your wallet?

Disgusted at the thought of showing chivalry and deference to foul-mouthed, thieving, drunken, sloppy and disrespectful harlots[1]? Enraged at the thought that newborn baby boys are sexually mutilated in order to tart up ladies’ cosmetics?

These are but a few of the many paths that might’ve brought you to this red door, and many wounds and diseases can be treated with the red pill, but your recovery will take conscious effort and patience on all of our parts – I know, because mine sure did, and I still struggle with it every day.

An AVfM Commenter suggested recently that a 12 Step program for recovering feminists might be necessary. I’ve been kicking around a similar idea for a while now, but my version is for any blue or purple pill person interested in taking the red pill.

What are the red, blue, and purple pills? They are metaphors for your worldview. I’ll be using a lot of MHRM buzzwords in this article, and part of your recovery will center around your taking responsibility for researching them for yourself.

Now, 12 Step Programs have been around for a while (I even helped found one back in the mid 1980’s) and have mixed records of success, but since they are well-known they can serve as a helpful framework to map out what you can expect once you start breaking the chains of gynocentrism. So, stealing shamelessly from those who have blazed the trail, I give you an overview of:

The 12 Steps of Liberation from Gynocentrism

Step 1: Honesty
After many years of denial, recovery can begin with one simple realization – that whether from feminism or traditionalism, Gynocentrism means more than equal rights: it is about securing unearned and undeserved comforts, security, money and power for women and women alone, at the expense and often destruction of men, their lives, and their families.

Step 2: Faith in oneself
It seems to be a spiritual truth that before we can break the chains of the expectations that gynocentrism places on men, we must accept that men are worthy creatures undeserving of the shame, self-loathing and lies that are told about us. Men, and the happiness of men, matter. They are critical to the survival of both humankind and human civilization. When enough men give up on it, society dies.

Step 3: Self-liberation
A lifetime of deference to the whims of whining women will come to a screeching halt, and change forever, by making a simple decision to turn it all over to a higher power – one’s own good judgment that men’s needs matter, too. The only true liberation is self-liberation – a slave forced into freedom by others will remain enslaved until he embraces his freedom as his own.

Step 4: Soul-searching
Change is a process, not just an event. Recognizing how our previous attachment to gynocentrism damaged ourselves, the men around us, and yes, the women, too, requires a lot of thought into often unpleasant memories and past experiences. This soul-searching, though painful, will build our strengths and understandings for when we face future conflicts with those still committed to pedestalizing women.

Step 5: Commitment to Personal Integrity and Truth
A most difficult step to face, but also the one that provides the great opportunity for growth. When you commit to personal integrity and truth you will find the courage to face down your fears and stand up for the rights of men where no one else seems willing to make the first objection to male disposability.

Step 6: Acceptance of our Defects
Everyone has personal character faults but such faults are no reason for us to accept unjust treatment. A man with flaws can still be a good father, a hard worker, and a worthy person. No one has the right to shame us for our sexual desires, the choices or flaws in our physical appearance, our accomplishments, our failures, or our infirmities.

Step 7: Confidence and Humility
As we discover and embrace the newfound power that comes with liberation from gynocentrism, we must be cognizant of the need to balance our confidence with humility – not the false humility from shame, but rather, a knowledge that our strength has real limits and that personal growth can be a frustrating process at times. We must learn to be confident enough in our worth and skills that we can accept new challenges – challenges we are humble enough to understand that we might fail at achieving.

Step 8: Willingness to make amends
Making a list of those we harmed before coming into recovery from gynocentrism can be daunting – long-term feminists in particular may find they have numerous abortions, falsely accused boyfriends, amputated foreskins and penises, stolen job opportunities, and massive shoe collections hanging over their newly heightened consciences. Becoming willing to actually start the struggle to make amends to those we have wronged can be the most difficult part of recovery and many falter on this step.

Step 9: Forgiveness
Being willing to forgive others as well as asking for forgiveness for ourselves may seem like a bitter red pill to swallow, but for those serious about recovery it can be great medicine for the spirit and soul. Even the failure of gynocentrists to embrace forgiveness will help us in that it will throw their sociopathy into sharper relief.

Step 10: Maintenance
Nobody likes to dwell on past wrongs but continuing study into men’s human rights issues is necessary to maintain progress and vigilance in recovery from gynocentrism, lest we fall back into old habits and long-held, toxic beliefs about men.

Step 11: Making Contact
There is value and strength in contacting others in recovery to share our stories and plan our futures, whether as a group or on our own. In recovering from gynocentrism, the insights of one man or woman can and do enrich all our lives. Additionally, building a community of men who recognize the value in each other is a rare and powerful weapon against gynocentrism. Men don’t bond (in general) as quickly or seamlessly as women do, and whenever men build a space for themselves, women try to bully their way in.

Step 12: Service to Humankind
It is not uncommon for those in gynocentrism recovery programs to experience anger over the pain of our long enslavement to the Golden Uterus. Male anger is a good thing – it is how we heal; it is how we grieve; it is the motivation the drives us to help others. Reaching out to others caught in the violent abattoirs of gynocentric privilege can provide the rare gift of saving and enriching men’s lives rather than gratuitously destroying them. Even a lone MGTOW like me can add to the fight by cutting back and resisting the forces that feed gynocentrism’s ever growing need for power, money, and resources.

***

This is not the end but the beginning. I’ve got a lot more to say, but this article in overdue and overlong already. My warmest regards to you all.

Author’s note: although based loosely on (and sometimes in contradiction to) The Twelve Steps of AA, this article is intended as neither a criticism nor endorsement of AA or any other Multi-Step-based program.

[1] Yes, we are aware that the website for the Traditional Woman’s Rights Activists, or, more aptly named, We-Only-Submit-To-The-Men-Who-Obey-Us knitting circle and coffee clutch assembly no longer exists. Thank God and/or the Spaghetti Monster.

Courtly love described

Courtly Love

Courtly love as a literary phenomenon reflects one of the most far-reaching revolutions in social sensibility in Western culture — the dramatic change in attitude towards women that began in the late eleventh century, spread throughout western and northern Europe during the twelfth century, and lingered through the Renaissance and on into the modern world where elements can still be found. In its essential nature, courtly love, or fin’ amors, as the Provencal poets called it, was the expression of the knightly worship of a refining ideal embodied in the person of the beloved. Only a truly noble nature could generate and nurture such a love; only a woman of magnanimity of spirit was a worthy object. The act of loving was in itself ennobling and refining, the means to the fullest expression of what was potentially fine and elevated in human nature.

More often than not, such a love expressed itself in terms that were feudal and religious. Thus, just as a vassal was expected to honor and serve his lord, so a lover was expected to serve his lady, to obey her commands, and to gratify her merest whims. Absolute obedience and unswerving loyalty were critical. To incur the displeasure of one’s lady was to be cast into the void, beyond all light, warmth, and possibility of life. And just as the feudal lord stood above and beyond his vassal, so the lady occupied a more celestial sphere than that of her lover. Customarily she seemed remote and haughty, imperious and difficult to please. She expected to be served and wooed, minutely and at great length. If gratified by the ardors of her lover-servant, she might at length grant him her special notice; in exceptional circumstances, she might even grant him that last, longed-for favor. Physical consummation of love, however, was not obligatory. What was important was the prolonged and exalting experience of being in love.

It was usually one of the assumptions of courtly love that the lady in question was married, thus establishing the triangular pattern of lover-lady-jealous husband. This meant that the affair was at least potentially adulterous, and had to be conducted in an atmosphere of secrecy and danger. The absolute discretion of the lover was therefore indispensable if the honor of the lady were to be preserved. Though the convention did not stipulate adultery as a sine qua non, it is nevertheless true that the two great patterns of courtly love in the Middle Ages–Tristan and Isolt and Lancelot and Guenevere–both involved women who deceived their husbands.

Implications of Courtly Love

It is possible to discern two long range effects of courtly love on western civilization. For one thing, it provided Europe with a refined and elevated language with which to describe the phenomenology of love. For another, it was a significant factor in the augmented social role of women. Life sometimes has a way of imitating art, and there is little doubt that the aristocratic men and women of the Middle Ages began to act out in their own loves the pattern of courtly behavior they read about in the fictional romances and love lyrics of the period. The social effect was to accord women preeminence in the great, central, human activity of courtship and marriage. Thus women became more than just beloved objects–haughty, demanding, mysterious; they became, in a very real sense, what they have remained ever since, the chief arbiters of the game of love and the impresarios of refined passion.

Toward the end of the Middle Ages, in the work of Dante and other poets of the fourteenth century, the distinction between amor and caritas became blurred. Chaucer’s Prioress ironically wears a brooch on which is inscribed, “Amor Vincit Omnia” (“Love Conquers All”). The secular imagery of courtly love was used in religious poems in praise of the Virgin Mary. The lover with “a gentle heart,” as in a poem by Guido Guinizelli, could be led through a vision of feminine beauty to a vision of heavenly grace. One of Dante’s greatest achievements was to turn his beloved, seen primarily in physical, worldly, courtly love terms in his early work, La Vita Nuova, into the abstract, spiritualized, religious figure of Beatrice in The Divine Comedy.

Source:
Adapted from A Guide to the Study of Literature: A Companion Text for Core Studies 6, Landmarks of Literature, Brooklyn College.

Feminism: the same old gynocentric story

The Same Old Story
Lecture No. 2 by Adam Kostakis

“I’m not cut from the same mold. I don’t read from the same old story” – Pennywise

My readers must understand that the concerns which Gynocentrism Theory addresses are not limited to feminism. Feminism is still fairly new on the scene, while Gynocentrism has been around for as long as recorded history. The Men’s Rights Movement seeks to address problems associated with feminism, but does not limit its attention to these problems. Many of these problems existed prior to the emergence of feminism proper in the late 19th century, although they have been expanded and exacerbated since. Feminism is only the modern packaging of Gynocentrism, an ancient product, made possible in its present form by the extensive public welfare arrangements of the post-war period.

welfare

In spite of its radical rhetoric, the content of feminism, or one could say, its essence, is remarkably traditional; so traditional, in fact, that its core ideas are simply taken for granted, as unquestioned and unquestionable dogma, enjoying uniform assent across the political spectrum. Feminism is distinguishable only because it takes a certain traditional idea – the deference of men to women – to an unsustainable extreme. Political extremism, a product of modernity, shall fittingly put an end to the traditional idea itself; that is, in the aftermath of its astounding, all-singing, all-dancing final act.

Allow me to clarify. The traditional idea under discussion is male sacrifice for the benefit of women, which we term Gynocentrism. This is the historical norm, and it was the way of the world long before anything called ‘feminism’ made itself known. There is an enormous amount of continuity between the chivalric class code which arose in the Middle Ages and modern feminism, for instance. That the two are distinguishable is clear enough, but the latter is simply a progressive extension of the former over several centuries, having retained its essence over a long period of transition. One could say that they are the same entity, which now exists in a more mature form – certainly, we are not dealing with two separate creatures… It is an idea that has outlived nearly every other, and endures to this day in our American Empire. That men should sacrifice themselves utterly – their very essence, their being and their identity, to save women that they do not even know – is neatly encapsulated in that popular phrase, ‘women and children first.’ (And if you’re paying special attention, you will notice that it is never uttered as ‘children and women first.’ The very thought is absurd! This is because what is really meant by the phrase is ‘women first, children second.’)

The endurance of these social and class codes owes nothing to totalitarian control. Even when staging bloody revolts against tyrannous monarchs and landed elites, men aspiring to power left the Gynocentric code well alone. The self-sacrifice of men is a sexual constant which has survived all regime change. Gynocentrism, it seems, was not entirely without benefit to men; in peacetime, a man could be fairly assured of a stable familial structure and of his own paternity for the children he helped to raise. Regardless, what was offered to men was essentially compensatory. For most of history, men apparently considered this compensation to be reasonable enough – or perhaps, Gynocentrism was so deeply ingrained that they simply did not consider it at all. Through their actions, they affirmed (and renewed) Gynocentrism, and whether it went by the name honor, nobility, chivalry, or feminism, its essence has gone unchanged. It remains a peculiarly male duty to help the women onto the lifeboats, while the men themselves face a certain and icy death.

It is only now, with the political and social developments of the 20th century that have driven a wedge between the sexes, that the kind of thoughts found on this weblog can emerge. Late modernity provides us with new conceptual resources – new ways of thinking, which can be traced back to the Enlightenment of the 17th-18th centuries. Out of this intellectual melting-pot eventually crawled feminism, a vindictive blend of classic Gynocentrism, victim fetishization, radical utopianism and liberal presuppositions.

It would be an oversimplification to say that feminists set out to make gains. On the contrary, they made demands for both gains and losses. They wanted to gain men’s rights, but lose their traditional female responsibilities. This, it seemed, would put women in a social position equal to that of men. It was an argument rooted in the liberal tendencies of individualism, civic equality and self-definition. In rhetoric if not in reality, feminism asserted its points of concurrence with the most admirable aspects of traditional liberalism: equality before the law, the abnegation of arbitrary rule, and so on. Extending rights to all women appeared, logically enough, to be the successive phase of human liberation following the extension of rights to all men.

It was assumed – more fool us – that once granted equal rights, women would voluntarily adopt the accompanying responsibilities that men had always fulfilled. This did not come to be. Feminists were happy to gain men’s rights, and lose women’s responsibilities, but they were horrified by the suggestion that they should adopt men’s responsibilities as a corollary. Rather than men and women sharing the burdens of the world, we got the White Feather Campaign:

This campaign began in the early days of the First World War in Great Britain, where women were encouraged to pin white feathers on young men who were not in military uniform. The hope was that this mark of cowardice would shame them into ‘doing their bit’ in the war. The practice soon spread to Canada, where patriotic women, in response to declining voluntary recruitment figures, organized committees to issue white feathers to men in civilian clothes and publicly denounced the ‘slackers’ and ‘shirkers’.

It is surely worth remarking that many of these women were suffragettes; and thus, even as they campaigned for equal rights with men, they used shame as a tool for ensuring that men, and only men, fulfilled traditionally male obligations. Particularly, duty to give up their own lives, because they were men, for the sake of women. Whatever disadvantages women may have faced at the time, there is surely no greater coercion than death.

Much has changed since the First World War, and the feminist project to slack and shirk on women’s responsibilities while extending their license to act however they damn well please has met with wild success. And it is precisely this state of affairs which begs certain questions, made possible by the conceptual resources we have inherited from the Enlightenment: what if a man doesn’t want to live this way? Why should men continue to fulfill or perform their traditional obligations, when women will not live up to theirs, but neither will they adopt the responsibilities corresponding to their rights at present? The questions arise: were men wrong, all this time, to sacrifice for the sake of women? Should we, in fact, have no obligations to women whatsoever?

titanic

The reason why the Men’s Rights Movement arouses such hostility, from both the left and right, is because it is the first attempt in history for a sex to attempt to break out of its traditional role. Feminism is not this; it is the entrenchment of the power that women already held. The Men’s Rights Movement today goes far beyond simple accusations of feminist wrongdoing. Its adherents labor at historical analysis and social criticism, and with the benefit of two-and-a-half centuries of imagination and innovation stemming from the Enlightenment, can easily conceive of a world in which men, for the first time in history, are not required to self-sacrifice for women.

This is surely the future, and it is an inevitable reaction against – thus, an unintended consequence of – feminism itself. In times past, when men could claim compensation for their self-sacrifice, they accepted that this was simply the way of the world. In the absence of compensation, and with the screws being turned ever tighter on men in every sphere of life, they are provoked into questioning the new arbitrary rule, and into formulating their very own liberation project in response.

My statement above – that political extremism, the product of modernity, shall put an end to the traditional idea – should now be clear. Feminism, which is the extreme form of Gynocentrism, shall put an end to Gynocentrism altogether through the reaction which it creates. We are fifty years into the tremendous final act; a grand, orchestral performance, a theatrical display making unprecedented use of sound and light to confuse and cast illusion. But if all the world truly is a stage, then all men and women are actors – with roles of our own choosing, now free to toss aside the scripts we have been handed and create a new story in place of the old.

And when the curtain finally falls, I do believe that there shall be no encores.

Modern chivalry (1913)

The following article is an extract from Ernst Belfort Bax’ famous book ‘The Fraud of Feminism’ published in 1913. It is a fascinating article that describes the reduction of ancient chivalry to a mere function of gynocentric culture. Perhaps most remarkable about it is that as you read, you will not find yourself so much transformed back to a different age with different modes of thought. But rather you will read observations and conclusions that will, word by word and line by line, be largely indistinguishable from what what you would see today from any critical thinker when offering a candid review of the essence of feminism. You will see repeated references to the same shaming tactics and methods of manipulating the masses we find ourselves discussing today.

 
Chapter V
The “Chivalry” Fake

Ernest B. Bax - 1913

Ernest B. Bax – 1913

It is plain then that chivalry as understood in the present day really spells sex privilege and sex favouritism pure and simple, and that any attempts to define the term on a larger basis, or to give it a colourable rationality founded on fact, are simply subterfuges, conscious or unconscious, on the part of those who put them forward. The etymology of the word chivalry is well known and obvious enough.

The term meant originally the virtues associated with knighthood considered as a whole, bravery even to the extent of reckless daring, loyalty to the chief or feudal superior, generosity to a fallen foe, general open-handedness, and open-heartedness, including, of course, the succour of the weak and the oppressed generally, inter alia, the female sex when in difficulties.

It would be idle, of course, to insist upon the historical definition of the term.

Language develops and words in course of time depart widely from their original connotation, so that etymology alone is seldom of much value in practically determining the definition of words in their application at the present day. But the fact is none the less worthy of note that only a fragment of the original connotation of the word chivalry is covered by the term as used in our time, and that even that fragment is torn from its original connection and is made to serve as a scarecrow in the field of public opinion to intimidate all who refuse to act upon, or who protest against, the privileges and immunities of the female sex. [1]

I have said that even that subsidiary element in the old original notion of chivalry which is now well-nigh the only surviving remnant of its original connotation is torn from its connection and hence has necessarily become radically changed in its meaning. From being part of a general code of manners enjoined upon a particular guild or profession it has been degraded to mean the exclusive right in one sex guaranteed by law and custom to certain advantages and exemptions without any corresponding responsibility.

Let us make no mistake about this. When the limelight of a little plain but critical common-sense is turned upon this notion of chivalry hitherto regarded as so sacrosanct, it is seen to be but a poor thing after all; and when men have acquired the habit of habitually turning the light of such criticism upon it, the accusation, so terrible in the present state of public opinion, of being “unchivalrous” will lose its terrors for them.

In the so-called ages of chivalry themselves it never meant, as it does to-day, the woman right or wrong. It never meant as it does to-day the general legal and social privilege of sex. It never meant a social defence or a legal exoneration for the bad and even the criminal woman, simply because she is a woman. It meant none of these things. All it meant was a voluntary or gratuitous personal service to the forlorn women which the members of the Knights’ guild among other such services, many of them taking precedence of this one, were supposed to perform.

So far as courage is concerned, which was perhaps the first of the chivalric virtues in the old days, it certainly requires more courage in our days to deal severely with a woman when she deserves it (as a man would be dealt with in like circumstances) than it does to back up a woman against her wicked male opponent.

It is a cheap thing, for example, in the case of a man and woman quarrelling in the street, to play out the stage rôle of the bold and gallant Englishman “who won’t see a woman maltreated and put upon, not he!” and this, of course, without any inquiry into the merits of the quarrel. To swim with the stream, to make a pretence of boldness and bravery, when all the time you know you have the backing of conventional public opinion and mob-force behind you, is the cheapest of mock heroics.

Chivalry today means the woman, right or wrong, just as patriotism today means “my country right or wrong.” In other words, chivalry today is only another name for Sentimental Feminism. Every outrageous pretension of Sentimental Feminism can be justified by the appeal to chivalry, which amounts (to use the German expression) to an appeal from Pontius to Pilate. This Sentimental Feminism commonly called chivalry is sometimes impudently dubbed by its votaries, “manliness.”

It will presumably continue in its practical effects until a sufficient minority of sensible men will have the moral courage to beard a Feminist in public opinion and shed a little of this sort of “manliness.” The plucky Welshmen at Llandystwmdwy in their dealings with the suffragette rowdies on memorable occasion showed themselves capable of doing this. In fact one good effect generally of militant suffragetteism seems to be the weakening of the notion of chivalry – i.e. in its modern sense of Sentimental Feminism – amongst the populace of this country.

The combination of Sentimental Feminism with its invocation of the old-world sentiment of chivalry which was based essentially on the assumption of the mental, moral and physical inferiority of woman to man, for its justification, with the pretensions of modern Political Feminism, is simply grotesque in its inconsistent absurdity. In this way Modern Feminism would fain achieve the feat of eating its cake and having it too. When political and economic rights are in question, bien entendu, such as involve gain and social standing, the assumption of inferiority magically disappears before the strident assertion of the dogma of the equality of woman with man – her mental and moral equality certainly!

When, however, the question is of a different character – for example, for the relieving of some vile female criminal of the penalty of her misdeeds – then Sentimental Feminism comes into play, then the whole plaidoyer is based on the chivalric sentiment of deference and consideration for poor, weak woman. I may point out that here, if it be in the least degree logical, the plea for mercy or immunity can hardly be based on any other consideration than that of an intrinsic moral weakness in view of which the offence is to be condoned.

The plea of physical weakness, if such be entertained, is here in most cases purely irrelevant. Thus, as regards the commutation of the death sentence, the question of the muscular strength or weakness of the condemned person does not come in at all. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to many other forms of criminal punishment. But it must not be forgotten that there are two aspects of physical strength or weakness. There is, as we have already pointed out, the muscular aspect and the constitutional aspect.

If we concede the female sex as essentially and inherently weaker in muscular power and development than the male, this by no means involves the assumption that woman is constitutionally weaker than man. On the contrary, it is a known fact attested, as far as I am aware, by all physiologists, no less than by common observation, that the constitutional toughness and power of endurance of woman in general far exceeds that of man, as explained in an earlier chapter.

Be this as it may, however, the existence of this greater constitutional strength or resistant power in the female than in the male organic system – as crucially instanced by the markedly greater death-rate of boys than of girls in infancy and early childhood – should, in respect of severity of punishment, prison treatment, etc., be a strong counter-argument against the plea for leniency, or immunity in the case of female criminals, made by the advocates of Sentimental Feminism.

But these considerations afford only one more illustration of the utter irrationality of the whole movement of Sentimental Feminism identified with the notion of “chivalry.” For the rest, we may find illustrations of this galore. A very flagrant case is that infamous “rule of the sea” which came so much into prominence at the time of the Titanic disaster. According to this preposterous “chivalric” Feminism, in the case of a ship foundering, it is the unwritten law of the seas, not that the passengers shall leave the ship and be rescued in their order as they come, but that the whole female portion shall have the right of being rescued before any man is allowed to leave the ship. Now this abominable piece of sex favouritism, on the face of it, cries aloud in its irrational injustice.

Here is no question of bodily strength or weakness, either muscular or constitutional. In this respect, for the nonce, all are on a level. But it is a case of life itself. A number of poor wretches are doomed to a watery grave, simply and solely because they have not had the luck to be born of the privileged female sex.

Such is “chivalry” as understood to-day – the deprivation, the robbery from men of the most elementary personal rights in order to endow women with privileges at the expense of men. During the ages of chivalry and for long after it was not so. Law and custom then was the same for men as for women in its incidence. To quote the familiar proverb in a slightly altered form, then – “what was sauce for the gander was sauce for the goose.” Not until the nineteenth century did this state of things change. Then for the first time the law began to respect persons and to distinguish in favour of sex.

Even taking the matter on the conventional ground of weakness and granting, for the sake of argument, the relative muscular weakness of the female as ground for her being allowed the immunity claimed by Modern Feminists of the sentimental school, the distinction is altogether lost sight of between weakness as such and aggressive weakness. Now I submit there is a very considerable difference between what is due to weakness that is harmless and unprovocative, and weakness that is aggressive, still more when this aggressive weakness presumes on itself as weakness, and on the consideration extended to it, in order to become tyrannical and oppressive.

Weakness as such assuredly deserves all consideration, but aggressive weakness deserves none save to be crushed beneath the iron heel of strength. Woman at the present day has been encouraged by a Feminist public opinion to become meanly aggressive under the protection of her weakness. She has been encouraged to forge her gift of weakness into a weapon of tyranny against man, unwitting that in so doing she has deprived her weakness of all just claim to consideration or even to toleration.

Footnote

1. One among many apposite cases, which has occurred recently, was protested against in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, 21st March 1913, in which it was pointed out that while a suffragette got a few months’ imprisonment in the second division for wilfully setting fire to the pavilion in Kew Gardens, a few days previously, at the Lewes Assizes, a man had been sentenced to five years’ penal servitude for burning a rick!!

Eleanor of Aquitaine and her ‘Courts of Love’

By Amy Kelly (1937)

ANDREAS CAPELLANUS furnishes in his Tractatus2 the principal source of our notions, which are scanty enough, of the institution known as the ‘courts of love’ in the twelfth century. In his work we come as near as possible to the original character of the courts before their ideas and practices became a stereotyped element in the chivalric convention, a part of a shaping influence in the social customs and the literary traditions of the Renaissance. The Tractatus (published 1190 AD) is based closely in theme and substance on Ovid’s Ars Amatoria (published 1 BC). In both works the conception of love is that of illicit passion; but there is a significant difference. Whereas in Ovid man is the master employing his arts to seduce women for his pleasure, in Andreas woman is the mistress, man her pupil in homage, her vassal in service.

What operated to change men’s attitude toward women from one of gross cynicism in Ovid to one of homage and deference in Andreas? What was the significance of the cult of women propounded in the Tractatus to the society in which it flourished? Furthermore there are internal evidences that Andreas, in spite of being ‘sapientissimus’ (wisest) was unable, in his redaction of Ovid, to make the free doctrines of the classical poet lie down comfortably in his clerical mind.

The Tractatus, in dealing with the theme of love, is so full of this conflict between pagan naturalism and Christian restraint, that one is tempted to imagine that Andreas did his redacting under some compelling influence. What was that influence? To recapture at this date the quality the court of love had for those who elaborated it, is doubtless impossible. There are, however, such puzzling incongruities between the bald erotic precepts of Ovid and the mystical transformation of these precepts in Andreas that curiosity reverts again and again to attempts to divine what, in the twelfth century, gave impetus to those alterations of doctrine before they passed into the social and literary conventions of the chivalric order.

Andreas reports, where lovers actually brought dilemmas before highborn ladies for judgment, but have been disposed to see in accounts of them mere literary redactions of the sophistical discussions of coteries of precieux, or attempts to reduce such discussions to juridical form. Some reflections of contemporary life – dramatized elements of feudal relationships, the hairspun scholasticism of the day, the formalism of ritual – are indeed discovered in the chivalric code as set forth by Andreas and as elaborated in the chivalric romances following the middle of the century. But the actual enactment of the little drama of the court of love in the feudal castle has seemed too fantastic to be taken literally. Without for the moment questioning these interpretations, it is suggestive to approach the inquiry as to what was the early character and significance of the courts and their code by studying in other connections the personages alleged to have presided in them, the circumstances affecting these personages in the third quarter of the twelfth century, and the atmosphere in which they lived. The contemporary materials for such study are fragmentary, but such bits as can be pieced together lead to speculation as to whether there are not other important elements than those suggested above in the grand assizes of the ladies known as the courts of love.

What we think of the actual courts of love depends ultimately upon what we make of the background of the work of Andreas Capellanus, recently assigned to the period between 1174 and 1182, and in modern studies attributed to Andreas, a chaplain of Louis vii associated at some time with the court of Louis’s daughter, Marie, Countess of Champagne. The Tractatus, which purports to be a guide to one Walter, a young man seeking to equip himself for admission to elect society, discourses with the precision of dialectic on the science of love in all its branches, defines the principles of love, its effect upon lovers, its disciplines, its code, its etiquette. It records twenty-one cases in which lovers (as litigants might appear at a feudal assize) present their dilemmas for judgment by a court of ladies. In these courts preside as judges Eleanor of Aquitaine, her daughter Marie of Champagne, her niece Isabelle of Flanders, and Ermengarde, Countess of Narbonne.

The only specific clue in the Tractatus to the date of the assemblies is the dating of a letter by Marie de Champagne to two petitioners, as of May, 1174. This date, as an approximation for establishing the period in which the courts flourished, is supported by historical circumstances which will presently be related. Presumably, though Andreas does not so state, the place of assembly is Poitiers, where from about 1170-74 Eleanor of Aquitaine was maintaining her independent court in the interests of her son, the youthful Coeur de Lion, who was in 1169 recognized by the treaty of Montmirail as hereditary Count of Poitou and Duke of Aquitaine. That Marie and Eleanor presided together in the same court is intimated by the fact that they are associated as judges in the Tractatus, at least once in one and the same case. Nothing that we know of Marie’s life precludes the assumption that she was in Poitiers in the period in question. Though in the work of Andreas, Marie de Champagne appears more conspicuously than Eleanor as presiding genius of the courts of love, the queen herself is certainly the more dominant figure in Poitiers, the sustainer and patron of the society which gave substance to the chivalric ideal.

And as Andreas mentions the queen’s juries as including as many as sixty ladies upon occasion, it may be presumed that the revival of the ducal court brought to Poitiers the negotiable heirs and heiresses of the great counts’ fiefs of the south. The heirs of Poitou and Aquitaine who came to the queen’s high place for their vassals’ homage, their squires’ training, and their courtiers’ service were truculent youths, boisterous young men from the baronial strongholds of the South, without the Norman or Frankish sense of nationality, bred on feuds and violence, men with rich fiefs and proud lineage, but with little solidarity and no business but guerilla warfare and daredevil escapade. These wild young men were a deep anxiety not only to the heads of their houses, but to the kings of France and England and to the Pope in Rome. They were the stuff of which rebellion and schism are made. For two generations the church had done what it could with the problem of their unemployment, marching hordes out of Europe on crusade and rounding other hordes into the cloister.

The biographer of Guillaume le Marechal gives an idea of how this rabble of courtly routiers amused itself on the jousting fields of western Europe. To the tournaments, occurring in a brisk season about twice a month from Pentecost to the feast of St John, flocked the young bloods, sometimes three thousand strong, taking possession of the nearest town. Thither also flocked horse dealers from Lombardy and Spain, from Brittany and the Low Countries, as well as armorers, haberdashers for man and beast, usurers, mimes and story-tellers, acrobats, necromancers, and other gentlemen of the lists, the field, the road. Entertainers of every stripe found liberal patronage; troubadours singing of love and war and the ‘bel saison’ in the south country, story tellers out of Brittany, goliards from the Paris streets. The gossip of palace and fief and school, of shrine and cloister, of synod and assize, flew in the street. There were feasts in upper chambers, and forges rang in the smithies all night long. Brawls with grisly incidents – a cracked skull, a gouged eye – occurred as the betting progressed and the dice flew. To cry up their champions in the field came ladies of fair name and others of no name at all. There was dancing below the pavilions on the greensward, with heralds and knights clapping the measures and calling out the changes.
We do not suspect either Queen Eleanor or the Countess Marie of having invented the courts of love. But it seems possible that Marie, who knew not only her Ovid, but the poetical traditions of her Provengal forebears as well, appropriated its little drama, so apt for her purpose of dramatizing the disciplines of the renascent court of Poitiers. She made this familiar framework the vehicle for her woman’s doctrine of civility, and in converting it, she transformed the gross and cynical pagan doctrines of Ovid to something more ideal, the woman’s canon, the chivalric code of manners. For manners, she plainly saw, are after all the fine residuum of philosophies, the very flower of ethics.

So Marie began her academic program in the queen’s palace not with philosophies, but with a theory of conduct developing the ultimate refinements of the mind and heart. The lesson, if formal, was not dry. With Ovid for a model, she drew up, and her chaplain Andreas recorded for her, then or subsequently, the constitution of a society to be impelled not by force nor by casual impulse, but by an inner disciplined sense of propriety. What progress could be made in dialectic by untutored squires who rode hacks into mess halls, and by hoydens who diverted eyes from psalters in the very midst of mass? And upon what could one ground a code of chivalry save on the classic and universal theme of love?

‘How passing wonderful is love,’ exclaims Andreas, ‘which makes men to be effulgent in virtue, and teaches everyone to abound in good manners.’ And finally, to support the rather threadbare dicta of Ovid, who was after all in that court the passion of the elder generation, Marie’s code professed to derive from the authentic practice of chivalry in the court of King Arthur in Caerleon on Usk, than which nothing could afford a more unexceptionable pattern for chivalry. It elucidated for aspiring knights the true inwardness of Gawain, the sustaining principles of Arthur himself.

There is something ghoulish in exposing Andreas’s book, which is also Marie’s, to the callous scrutiny of an age hostile to sentiment. A faint odor of cloistral mould and feudal decay clings to it. But the soil in which it grew was valiant. The ideal of l’amour courtois which grew up in Poitiers had, as Mr Loomis has suggested, more than a little to do with freeing woman from the millstone which the church in the first millenium hung about her neck as the author of man’s fall and the facile instrument of the devil in the world. The court of Poitiers gave its high sanction to ideals which spread so rapidly throughout Europe that ‘the doctrine of the inferiority of woman has never had the same standing since.’

The code of Andreas gives glimpses of a woman’s notions of a society different in essential respects from the prevailing feudal scheme, which was certainly man-made. In the Poitevin code, man is the property, the very thing of woman; whereas a precisely contrary state of things existed in the adjacent realms of the two kings from whom the reigning duchess of Aquitaine was estranged. Incidentally, there is something to explain the puzzling conflict in the Tractatus between the secular and the ecclesiastical views of love in the fact that the clerk whom Marie employed to organize her code was earning his living by flattering feminine majesty.

There is reason to think that Andreas, sensing the perversive nature of the document upon which he was engaged, made good Latin of it only under a certain pressure from his sovereign ladies; and the Countess’s other servant, Chretien de Troyes, quite openly revolted from the too liberal implications of her scheme. As critics we may make what we please of this upside-down philosophy of women. There it is in the first two books of Andreas. There have always been two schools of thought about it.

With this anatomy of the whole corpus of love in hand, Marie organized the rabble of soldiers, fighting-cocks, jousters, springers, riding masters, troubadours, Poitevin nobles and debutantes, young chatelaines, adolescent princes, and infant princesses in the great hall of Poitiers. Of this pandemonium the countess fashioned a seemly and elegant society, the fame of which spread to the world. Here was a woman’s assize to draw men from the excitements of the tilt and the hunt, from dice and games, to feminine society, an assize to outlaw boorishness and compel the tribute of adulation to female majesty. The book, together with the poetry of the troubadours, enables us to catch a glimpse of those famous assemblies in the queen’s new hall to which lovers brought their complaints for the judgment of the ladies.

The female portion of the academy, disciplined by the fashionable example of the countess and the queen to a noble grace of bearing, a flattering condescension, mount the dais, an areopagus something sixty strong. They gather round the queen, and among them shine, besides Marie, Isabelle Countess of Flanders, who is the queen’s niece; Ermengarde Countess of Narbonne, doubtless familiar with some such proceedings in the South; probably also Henry’s sister, the lovely Emma of Anjou, perhaps also, if she was actually another sister of the king, Marie de France – all except Ermengarde, who was more nearly the queen’s contemporary, women from twenty-five to thirty, the notable high priestesses of art and beauty in the day.

The chronicle of Geoffrey of Vigeois leads us to conclude that the standards of the court impressed themselves upon Poitou and the Limousin. ‘Time was,’ he says, ‘when even the Bishop of Limoges and the Viscount of Comborn were content to go in sheep and fox skins. But today [the queen’s day] the humblest would blush to be seen in such poor things. Now they have clothes fashioned of rich and precious stuffs, in colors to suit their humor. They snip out the cloth in rings and longish slashes to show the lining through, so that they look like the devils that we see in paintings. They slash their mantles, and their sleeves flow like those of hermits. Youths affect long hair and shoes with pointed toes.’ As for women, he adds, ‘You might think them adders, if you judged by the tails they drag after them.’ The price of fur and cloth had doubled within the period of the chronicler’s observation.

While the ladies, well-accoutred, sit above, the sterner portion of society, purged (according to the code) of the odors of the kennels and the road, and free for a time from spurs and falcons, range themselves about the stone benches that line the walls, stirring the fragrant rushes with neatly pointed shoe. There are doubtless preludes of music luring the last reluctant knight from the gaming table, tensons or pastourelles, the plucking of rotes, the ‘voicing of a fair song and sweet,’ perhaps even some of the more complicated musical harmonies so ill-received by the clerical critics of London; a Breton lai adding an episode to Arthurian romance, or a chapter in the tale of sad-man Tristan, bringing a gush of tears from the tender audience clustered about the queen and the countess of Champagne.

After the romance of the evening in the queen’s court, the jury comes to attention upon petition of a young knight in the hall. He bespeaks the judgment of the queen and her ladies upon a point of conduct, through an advocate of course, so that he may remain anonymous. A certain knight, so the advocate deposes, has sworn to his lady, as the hard condition of obtaining her love, that he will upon no provocation boast of her merits in company. But one day he overhears detractors heaping his mistress with calumnies. Forgetting his vow in the heat of his passion, he warms to eloquence in defence of his lady. This coming to her ear, she repudiates her champion. Does the lover, who admits he has broken his pledge to his mistress, deserve in this instance to be driven from her presence?

The Countess of Champagne, subduing suggestions from the floor and the buzz of conference upon the dais, renders the judgment of the areopagus. The lady in the case, anonymous of course, is at fault, declares the Countess Marie. She has laid upon her lover a vow too impossibly difficult. The lover has been remiss, no doubt, in neglecting his vow to his mistress, no matter what cruel hardship it involves; but he deserves leniency for the merit of his ardor and his constancy. The jury recommends that the stern lady reinstate the plaintiff. The court takes down the judgment. It constitutes a precedent. Does anyone guess the identity of the young pair whose estrangement is thus delicately knit up by the countess? As a bit of suspense it is delicious. As a theme for talk, how loosening to the tongue!

A disappointed petitioner brings forward a case, through an advocate of course, involving the question as to whether love survives marriage. The countess applying her mind to the code, which says that marriage is no proper obstacle to lovers (‘Causa coniugii ab amore non est excusatio recta’) and after gravely deliberating with her ladies, creates a sensation in her court by expressing doubt whether love in the ideal sense can exist between spouses. This is so arresting a proposition that the observations of the countess are referred to the queen for corroboration, and all bend upon the opinion of this deeply experienced judge.

The queen with dignity affirms that she cannot gainsay the Countess of Champagne, though she finds it admirable that a wife should find love and marriage consonant. Eleanor, queen of France and then of England, had learned at fifty-two that, as another mediaeval lady put it, ‘mortal love is but the licking of honey from thorns.’ Of course they rationalize a conduct that has outburst the rigid feudal scheme for women; but disillusion speaks also in these noble ladies, who, though they divine some unattainable ideal value in life, know that actually they remain feudal property, but part and parcel of their fiefs. It is plain that each and every one of the judgments in the queen’s court is an arrant feudal heresy. Taken together they undermine all the primary sanctions, and are subversive of the social order.

REFERENCES:
1. Amy Kelly, ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine and Her Courts of Love’ Source: Speculum, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan., 1937), pp. 3-19 Published by: Medieval Academy of America

2. Title Tractatus de Amore et de Amoris Remedio referred to in English as ‘The Art of Courtly Love’

Sex and attachment

Woman2

Did the image above get your attention?

Male motivation is tied to sexual reproduction and men are motivated primarily by sexual urges to mate with a female, right?

Wrong… it’s more complex than that.

As far back as 1941 Scottish psychiatrist Ronald Fairbairn found that the desire for attachment in human beings, in terms of the overall psychobiological economy, is a more important necessity than the desire for sexual pleasure and reproduction.

This scientific finding, not controversial in the field of psychology, presents something of a heretical view to some of today’s Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) who, by contrast, seem to have come in recent years to believe that males are chasing sexual reproduction only — which, oddly enough, seems similar to the stereotype of the “all men want is sex” misandrist paradigm we’ve all come to find so annoying.

Fairbairn’s proposition is now many decades old, but his findings heralded a Copernican revolution within the world of scientific research that would culminate in today’s attachment sciences; it moved the discussion beyond the reductionist sexual theories of Darwin and Freud and into new areas–more complex, more subtle, more nuanced, and ultimately more human.

The question attachment scientists explored is: why do couples continue to stay with each other years after producing offspring, and indeed sometimes for decades after all sexual activity has ceased in relationships? The answer is because human beings are pair bonders who get more out of attachment than they do out of fucking.

Since Fairbairn, studies have confirmed that humans possess an array of distinct motivational systems each in communication with the surrounding environment. Of those systems two are singled out as particularly powerful in motivating humans to form relationships – the sexual urge (eros), and -separately- the urge to attach. Of these, attachment is quite simply the most important to the continued survival of the individual. This cannot be overstated: attachment is the more important to individual survival.

As studies reveal, an absence of close and consistent human attachment causes children to literally wither and die, refusing to thrive even when being provided with clothing, food and an adequate number of toys. Children need reliable and consistent relationships in order to thrive. Likewise adults literally sicken both physically and mentally, and often commit suicide, to escape feelings of isolation and loneliness, especially after a relationship separation.

A lack of sexual contact on the contrary is not as life threatening; you will never see someone die simply because they didn’t get to fuck with the opposite sex and reproduce. I would think that seals the case about what is really important to both men and women. Survival of the species depends on sex; survival of the individual depends on the vital bonds of attachment.

What does all this mean to Men Going Their Own Way?

Well, it means that we need to evaluate separately our attachment needs and our sexual needs, and avoid the common mistake of conflating them; especially if that conflation sees us rejecting both when in fact it may be only one of these causing most of our relationship angst. It may turn out that attachment and sex both need to be rejected, however that cannot be determined until we consider each factor separately and thoroughly.

In our psychobiological economy, various desires come into conflict with one another, each jostling for momentary supremacy where one imperative will usurp the claims of another. That game has reached a problematical impasse during the last 800 years because, during that (historically relatively short) time span, human culture has thrown the weight of its patronage into developing, intensifying and enforcing sexual gamesmanship (yes, including hypergamy) to the degree that our sexual compulsions appear pumped up on steroids and taken to extremes never before seen in the human animal (myths about widespread Roman orgies notwithstanding).

If we lived back in Ancient Greece, Rome or anywhere else we would view sex as little more than a bodily function akin to eating, shitting and sleeping – a basic bodily function without the hype. After the Middle Ages however it developed into a commodity to pimp and trade, and the new cult of sexualized romance that arose resulted in a frustration of our basic need for attachment – a frustration aided and abetted by social institutions placing sexual manipulation at the centre of human interactions.

During these fairly recent centuries of increased hypergamy and sexual focus, our drive to pair-bond continues to shout its demands even while being neglected. Observe for example the not-infrequent feelings of disillusionment and loneliness of serial partner upgraders (hypergamy) or of promiscuous gamers, or consider a beautiful young woman living in her mansion with an aged but wealthy husband to whom she has little or no emotional attachment; even if she is getting sex on the side her loneliness can eat away at her sense of contentment. These examples reveal an urgency surrounding attachment when it is neglected for the sake of secondary sexual or power gains.

Like men, women desire secure attachment beyond whatever sexual advantages they can and do exploit. However their hypergamous compulsions tend to get in the way and frustrate their powerful need to pair-bond. From the Middle Ages all the way to today we read of men and women bitterly disillusioned by the interference of hypergamy in the desire to form stable pair-bonds. Read for instance the bitter, antifeminist complaints of 12th century Andreas Capellanus or those of 14th century Christine de Pizan, or the disillusionment and ultimate rejection of the benefits of hypergamy in later works like Madam Bovary. These authors knew full well that sexualized romantic love had upset the balance of attachment security for both men and women alike.

The question those of us who consider ourselves MGTOW must ask ourselves is this: can our human need for attachment be indulged without men and women succumbing to the destructive manipulations of the modern sex code? As we stand atop our MGTOW mountains of freedom, rightly rejecting women and culture as bastions of exploitation, have we intellectually thrown out the attachment baby with the exploitation bathwater?

Sexual games need not get in the way of healthy attachment, so why should we live without relationships? Well no one ever said we had to, but in recent years I’ve sensed a trend both within and without the MGTOW community (which I’ve long been part of) that foregoing “relationships” is a necessary part of the deal.

This does not seem a prudent attitude to be cultivating, especially in young men who may now be reading about MGTOW philosophy and making extreme decisions about their lives; refusing to marry, cohabit, or procreate does not require a cutting off from human society. Even if we don’t suicide from loneliness (as so many men do) we need to question if the absence of an intimate relationship in our lives can leave us limping, or somehow unfulfilled. Some will say no, and some of these naysayers may well be what are known as ‘avoidant attachers.’ Of those who would say yes, some might recommend we fill our intimacy void with friendships, which is I think a very good starting point. But this leads to a further question of whether there is an adequate formulation of friendship that can satisfy our needs in a modern context – a relationship that doesn’t rely on the usual corruption at the core of sexualized romantic love.

These questions lead to an exploration of adult human attachment, and modern studies on the subject are abundant from psychological, biological and behavioural points of view. For those interested in following this subject further the Wikipedia entry on Attachment in Adults would be a good place to start, and to branch out from there. Of particular interest is the existence of four basic attachment styles in human beings, indicating that there must also be four main ways of doing MGTOW:

secure attachment (64% of the population)
anxious–preoccupied attachment (17% of the population)
fearful–avoidant attachment (12% of the population)
dismissive–avoidant attachment (7% of the population)

Only one of these styles (dismissive avoidant) involves a lack of desire for emotionally close relationships (relationships with minimal emotional intimacy may be tolerable to them), while the other three involve a desire to form emotionally intimate attachments. These are biologically-based traits appearing in each man before he elects to GHOW, and they help to account for the behavioral and ideological variability we see among MGTOW – for the most part we are working creatively with what’s already in our make up rather than changing our core attachment style. Based on this taxonomy we can safely say there are four irreducible kinds of MGTOW:

Secure MGTOW
Anxious–preoccupied MGTOW
Fearful–avoidant MGTOW
Dismissive–avoidant MGTOW (‘ghosts’)

The four attachment styles and their implications for “ways of doing MGTOW” deserve a follow up article. While some MGTOW claim men do not need attachment at all, evidence is not in their favour. Thus, for most of us, constructing new ways to form secure relationships with our fellow humans in a rich and rewarding way is an important long-term question, even if we cannot pretend to have all the answers now; we start by knowing what we don’t want: relationships of enslavement and entrapment to the opposite sex (or anyone else for that matter) in an environment that makes healthy attachment difficult. But how do we forge a more positive model for human relationships and attachment for ourselves?

We started this essay with an important question: are sex and attachment two relatively different motivations? The answer is a resounding yes! Yes, despite all the pop culture bombardment of sex, sex, sex, the sexual shaming of men, and all the rest, the answer is yes: sex and attachment are not the same. People can live their lives avoiding sexual games but they will not end their lives happily unless they meet their attachment requirements. And while this journey will be different for each man going his own way, we must not flinch from seeing the problem for what it is: not “overcoming our urge to procreate,” but rather, how to be healthy human beings able to recognize and fulfill our natural need for human intimacy.
Sources
– Frederico Pereira, David E. Scharff, M. D. Fairbairn and Relational Theory (2002)
– Fairbairn, W.R.D., ‘Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality’. (2013)
– Shaver, P.R., Handbook of attachment – Second Edition (2008)
– Shaver, P.R., Attachment in Adulthood: Structure, Dynamics and Change (2010)