Jordan Peterson’s Map For Oedipal Men

To understand Jordan Peterson’s prescription that young men become heroes in service to the maternal principle, especially within the context of marriage, we must turn to his ideological pedigree in the formulations of Carl Jung. Jung characterized the hero archetype as bound up with what he called ‘the Great Mother archetype,’ believing that male heroism rests on either resisting the negative mother archetype or, alternatively, acting as servant to a positive mother. Jung’s mother-linked concept of the hero is laid out in his Symbols of Transformationan idea that Peterson reiterates when he treats motherly women as an axis mundi who provide the necessary meaning to male striving, a position I touched on in a 2017 article titled The Gynocentrism of Jordan Peterson

Peterson refers to Freud’s claim that the Oedipus myth is a “failed hero story,” but he proposes, following Jung, that relationships men have with mothers or other feminine figures might be more positive and more inspirational than the taboo interpretation insisted upon by Freud. Whether such relationships with inspiring or nurturing female figures be positive or negative, Peterson appears to miss Freud’s point that both of these options still belie an incestuous entanglement with mother imagos.

In this video for example, Peterson claims that positive mothers give birth to heroes.  He illustrates this point by reference to an image of Hercules who floats on a chaotic ocean in what he refers to as a “feminine boat,” which is a metaphor for an uplifting, positive mother. In this lecture he reminds his female students of their role in creating and sustaining heroes: “That’s what you’re trying to produce if you’re a good mother, it’s this figure that can go out into the unknown armed, accurate and able to pay attention,” and he adds that mothers create male heroes who “can take on the troubles of the world.”

Might this be why Peterson places such strong emphasis on women becoming mothers – that they might breed and nurture the next generation of male heroes? That male heroes might then have a female boat to float their heroic mindset? Further, what might happen if replaced all of Peterson’s inspiring female figures with inspiring male figures?

There is no way, at least in my reading, of understanding Peterson’s kind of feminine-tied heroism as anything other than a mother fixation. The archetypalist James Hillman agrees that “contrary to the classical analytical view, we would suggest that the son who succumbs and the hero who overcomes both take their definition through the relationship with the magna mater… When mother determines the role, then regardless how it is played its essence is always the same: a son. And, as Jung says of assertive heroism:

“Unfortunately, however, this heroic deed has no lasting effects. Again and again the hero must renew the struggle, and always under the symbol of deliverance from the mother”1

What we are dealing with by over-emphasizing the role of mothers is the creation of two male archetypes: Mother’s son (Oedipus), and Mother’s hero (Hercules). Readers will be aware that Hercules’ relationship with female figures leaves him riddled with guilt and pathology, and Oedipus is the ultimate example of malignant, incestuous heroics who is unable to enact his heroism as anything but the result of his relationship with female figures. But the Oedipal path is not the only way to view the male hero, as Hillman describes;

The [maternal] dragon demands battle and the hero myth tells us how to proceed. But suppose we were to step out altogether from the great mother, from Jocasta and Oedipus and the exhausting, blinding heroics…. If Freud was right that Oedipus is the stuff of neurosis, then the corollary follows that Oedipus-heroics are the dynamism of neurosis. Heroism is thus a kind of neurosis, and the heroic ego is neurotic ego. Creative spirit and fertile matter are there embraced and embattled to the destruction of both.2

So far I’ve been referring only to a classical Jungian concept of the male hero, and to Jordan Peterson’s reliance on same.3 The hero archetype in Jung’s writings is intimately bound up with the mother archetype (being a hero for mother / or fighting against the dragon mother), or otherwise tied up with feminine figures (inspiratress, or muse). These are archetypes that can be contrasted with other kinds of male hero who have zero entanglement with feminine figures.

Aside from mother’s heroes described above, there are a number of variations detailed by Joseph Campbell in his famous work The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Campbell wasn’t a Jungian, and he was suspicious of some Jungian dogmas, claiming “I’m not a Jungian! I’m much more interested in diffusion and relationships historically than Jung was, so that the Jungians think of me as a kind of questionable person.”4  Likewise, Campbell’s conceptions of the hero are not beholden to Jungian or Freudian orthodoxies.

Campbell paints the hero’s journey as a stepping off into the unknown, into a more gutsy hero’s journey as compared with stepping out into the world as ‘mother’s hero’ to do her bidding. As Campbell characterized it, a more masculine hero’s journey might entail leaving the mother-world behind and seeking atonement with the father, which Campbell describes; “When the child outgrows the popular idyl of the mother breast and turns to face the world of specialized adult action, it passes, spiritually, into the sphere of the father—who becomes, for his son, the sign of the future task… Whether he knows it or not, and no matter what his position in society, the father is the initiating priest through whom the young being passes on into the larger world.”

As one facebook poster put it;

“The hero’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell begins by ‘Separation,’ the departure from the status quo. To me this personally I associate this to stepping out of and leaving the gynocentric view of the status quo.”

Leaving behind the gynocentric world is precisely what is entailed. To whit, Campbell writes:

This first stage of the mythological journey—which we have designated the “call to adventure”—signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight. The hero can go forth of his own volition to accomplish the adventure, as did Theseus when he arrived in his father’s city, Athens, and heard the horrible history of the Minotaur; or he may be carried or sent abroad by some benign or malignant agent, as was Odysseus, driven about the Mediterranean by the winds of the angered god, Poseidon.5

For the mother-bound hero, however, this broader journey is renounced in favor of remaining within the family complex and enacting a pale heroism on its behalf;

Often in actual life, and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered… The literature of psychoanalysis abounds in examples of such desperate fixations. What they represent is an impotence to put off the infantile ego, with its sphere of emotional relationships and ideals. One is bound in by the walls of childhood; the father and mother stand as threshold guardians, and the timorous soul, fearful of some punishment, fails to make the passage through the door and come to birth in the world without.5

Campbell entertained a few gynocentric beliefs of his own that were popular in academia in his time. Mercifully, he formulated the hero’s Journey on the principle of men stepping out into new horizons without the need for maternal or feminine fixations, and on that journey he said it is frequently male figures who serve to encourage, inspire and guide the male hero – fathers, brothers, ancestral spirits, male mentors and guides. Campbell’s hero provides a welcome change from Oedipal hero which sees men going from enmeshment with mothers straight into the married arms of a maternal wife. In other words Campbell’s hero template for men is explicitly Red Pill, as contrasted with gynocentric fixation on parental figures and roles.

Paul Elam, who has devoted much of his life to imparting the wisdom of self-determinism to men, made this incisive response regarding the comparison of Campbell’s and Peterson’s concepts of the hero:

After floating a description of this ‘Campbellian’ kind of hero on Twitter and describing his more masculine pedigree, a few people asked whether this path was suitable for all men; eg., straight, gay, soft, hard, nerd or Canadian lumberjack. The answer is yes, because we all have maternal influences dominating our childhood and have a choice to move into adult life remaining enmeshed or obsessed with feminine forces (Peterson), or otherwise to place the accent on atonement with the world of men and with adventure (Campbell). The choice, as always, is yours.

References:

[1] James Hillman, ‘The Great Mother, Her Son, Her Hero, And The Puer,’ in Fathers and mothersfive papers on the archetypal background of family psychology, Spring Publications (1973)
[2] Karl Kerenyi, James Hillman, Oedipus Variations: Studies in Literature and Psychoanalysis. Spring Publications (1995)
[3] Note: As well as deriving inspiration from Jung’s conception of the hero, Peterson leans heavily on the work of Jungian Erich Neumann (The Great Mother, and The Origins And History of Consciousness) whose writings display an obsession with mother imagery. For readers wanting to investigate how irrational Neumann’s ideas are, see the excellent critique by Wolfgang Giegerich titled ONTOGENY = PHYLOGENY? A Fundamental Critique of Erich Neumann’s Analytical Psychology (1975).
[4] Joseph Campbell. An open life: Joseph Campbell in conversation with Michael Toms. Larson Publications (1988)
[5] Joseph Campbell, The hero with a thousand faces (rev. ed.). Bollingen Series17. (1990)

The Open Court on ‘American Gynocentrism’ (1898)

The following is an excerpt from The Open Court 1898 (pp. 575):

The cause of the new woman has found an enthusiastic champion in M. Jules Bois, who has recently published a very readable book on the subject, L’Eve nouvelle. (Paris: Leon Chailley, 41 Rue de Richelieu. Pp., 381. Price, fr. 3.50.) M. Bois is unstinted in his praise and admiration for the inexhaustible potencies of the fair sex, and reviews their anthropology, or rather, if we may use the word in its literal sense, their gynaecology, less with the eye of the scientist than with the aim of the passionate special pleader.

With many sound and common sense claims he has mingled a few very doubtful sociological theories, evidently at second hand. He proclaims the judgment day of social anthropocentrism, the overthrow of the femme-poupee, the femme-reflet, the femme-victime, above all of that monstrum ingens the femme-homme, and hails the advent of the femme-femme. “Woman, before being a wife, a sweetheart, or a mother, is and should be first a woman. Her full freedom must be conserved.”

This new woman is not a new creation, moreover, but existed in the old woman, who was her undeveloped Platonic archetype. All the sides of her life M. Bois considers in brief, outspoken terms and shows great knowledge of her condition in all countries. We Americans have not so much need to take his admonitions to heart as need Continental Europeans, seeing that captious critics are prone to regard us as suffering rather from gynocentrism than anthropocentrism.

Be that as it may, and sticking still to the geometrical metaphor, what we have both to look forward to in the new dawning millennium is an anthropic, gynecic bifocism, preferably of curves with vanishing ellipticity; when which consummation has been reached, the eternal problem will be solved.

See Also: Historical quotes about USA as champion of extreme gynocentrism

Sexual Dimorphism Vs. Monomorphism in Humans

By Greta Aurora

Studying Sex Differences

When studying sex differences in animals, biologists divide species into two categories: sexually monomorphic and sexually dimorphic. In monomorphic species, males and females can be difficult to tell apart. In dimorphic animals, on the other hand, the sexes differ considerably in terms of size, colour or other physical characteristics. It’s possible to infer a lot of information about the mating behaviour of a species by determining whether it’s sexually monomorphic or dimorphic.

Most animals fit clearly into one of these two categories – but humans do not. We possess both monomorphic and dimorphic features. But before I talk more about humans, let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of monomorphic and dimorphic species.

Sexual Monomorphism

Sexually monomorphic species

When males and females are roughly the same size, it is safe to assume males don’t routinely fight each other to gain access to females. If males actively competed with each other physically, a larger size would be an advantage, so they would’ve evolved to be bigger than the females.

Monomorphic animals are generally monogamous and display long-term pair-bonding. If neither sex is much more colourful than the other, then sexual selection based on physical traits probably doesn’t play a huge role in their mating. Behavioural traits are a lot more important, and females prefer to mate with males who have proven they are willing to share parenting responsibilities.

Females expect to be courted by delaying mating, in order to assess potential mate’s dedication and paternal instincts. Female birds often act helpless to see how the male reacts.

Twin births are common in monomorphic animals, because the two parents can work together to look after more than one offspring at a time. Also, due to monogamous pair bonds, the majority of males get a chance to reproduce. But females do sometimes abandon their long-term mate and form a bond with another.

Some examples of sexually monomorphic species are wolves, gibbons, beavers, swans, penguins and bald eagles.

Sexual Dimorphism

Sexually dimorphic species

In dimorphic species, two sexes vary physically quite significantly. In many mammals, males are bigger than the females. In some spiders, on the other hand, females are a lot larger than the males. In a lot of birds, males are much more colourful and sing to attract females.

In some species, males have not only evolved to be noticeably larger and stronger than females, but they may also have unique body parts meant to be used as weapons when they fight each other for dominance. These males are also a lot more aggressive than their female counterparts, due to their higher testosterone levels. That’s why these animals are often referred to as tournament species.

In dimorphic species, females are attracted to physical signs of male health and strength. The largest male in the group is often the most desirable partner, because he is able to provide physical protection. These dominant males usually have a number of sexual partners, but they abandon their mates and offspring. Therefore, females tend to be the only parent looking after their young, and therefore they rarely give birth to twins.

Because a minority of dominant males has access to a majority of females, physically weaker males don’t get to reproduce. Wherever polygamy is practiced, there’s going to be a lot of incels.

In these species, the life spans of males and females tend to differ significantly, too, with females living longer than males.

Where Do Humans Fit in the Picture?

Humans may seem monomorphic in some ways and dimorphic in other ways. Of course, in most cases, it’s easy to tell men and women apart. But we don’t look as different from one another as, for instance, male and female deer, lions or peacocks do.

Although the average man is larger than the average woman, the difference in size is not as significant as in many dimorphic species. The most noteworthy physical sex difference in humans is in upper body strength: the average man has 75% more arm muscle mass than the average woman. The overlap between male and female distributions of upper body strength is less than 10%. This has some crucial implications in everyday life, especially with regards to physically demanding professions.

Men also tend to have higher bone density, which makes them less vulnerable to injury. This difference may not matter much at an everyday setting, but it could be a matter of life and death in the battlefield.

Muscle mass and bone density are largely influenced by testosterone. This hormone also has a significant effect on behaviour, and men clearly have a lot more of it than women do. This fact alone could possibly tilt the scale towards dimorphism in humans, but it’s not quite that simple.

It is true that the average man is more aggressive than the average woman, and testosterone is to blame for this. However, some women are actually more aggressive than the average man, despite having nowhere near the same testosterone levels. It has been established that more testosterone doesn’t make a woman more aggressive. In fact, it’s not clear what causes aggression in women. There are a few theories, centred mostly on brain function. One of the most likely candidates is the amygdala, but no one knows for sure.

This example illustrates that biological differences don’t necessarily make a species dimorphic, because biology doesn’t always translate clearly into behaviour.

Let’s examine some personality traits to see if we can identify any obvious differences in behaviour! Looking at the Big Five personality traits is a good starting point. These are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The Big Five personality traits

Numerous psychologists have replicated the same results when studying gender differences in these five traits. No one has found any significant differences in conscientiousness. In openness, some differences arise only if we break this trait down into several constituent parts. For example, women tend to score higher on their appreciation for aesthetic experiences, while men are more drawn to intellectual experiences. But the sexes don’t differ in their overall levels of openness.

Women tend to score slightly higher on extraversion than men do, but again, this is not a very pronounced difference. Women also score higher on neuroticism, which is the amount of negative emotions experienced. This probably results from women spending all their time with their infants after giving birth. In order to protect a tiny, very vulnerable baby from harm, women have to be incredibly cautious and protective. That’s why women generally worry more than men do. To paraphrase Jordan Peterson, the feminine unit is not woman by herself, but woman and child. The female nervous system is that of a mother.

The most significant personality difference between the sexes is in agreeableness. But even here, there is a great overlap, and the differences only become evident at the extremes of the curve. What we see here is that the most agreeable people are likely to be women, and the most disagreeable people are likely to be men. Combined with high testosterone levels, this is the reason most violent criminals are male. But the majority of men and women don’t diverge very much in terms of agreeableness.

Distributions of agreeableness in the sexes

Those who are following my work will know that I’m fascinated by evolutionary psychology. But the more research we read from this field, the more we’re going to find ourselves focusing on the differences between the sexes, especially with regards to mating. Evolutionary psychologists tend to think in terms of extremes: they represent men as highly aggressive and competitive in their pursuit of professional and reproductive success, and desiring not much more than youth and beauty in a woman. And they represent women as desperate to secure a successful partner, despite knowing he won’t be faithful. In this hugely simplified world, men and women both want one thing, albeit a different one: men only want sex, and women only want a family.

Although evolutionary psychologists like David M. Buss, Geoffrey Miller and Robert Wright have made significant contributions to our understanding of human nature, they often fail to look at the larger picture. They tend to apply the male competition – female choice model to human mating, which is generally true for sexually dimorphic species. But human mating actually resembles that of monomorphic animals is various ways.

Human males have traditionally been involved in parenting, and they are therefore a lot more selective about their long-term mates than the males of dimorphic species. That’s why women make such a great effort to look desirable.

Also, women tend to choose their partner more on the basis of their personality, as well as their ability to provide resources and their inclination to commit long-term. Women still carry the heavier reproductive burden, but they are not necessarily choosier than men are – they just take different considerations into account.

Proponents of sexual dimorphism in humans will point out that women generally live longer than men, and polygamy has been common throughout our history. It is true that men have traditionally died younger, but that used to be mostly due to fighting in wars and working in dangerous environments, such as mines. The life expectancy gap has been consistently narrowing. For example, in the UK between 1991 and 2014, it shrunk from 3.8 to 2.4 years.

As far as polygamy is concerned, it’s true that it had been permitted through most of history, in many different cultures. There were times when it was necessary, exactly because so many men had died in war. But, for the most part, monogamous relationships are the norm, even in societies that allow polygamy.

It’s important to note that our species is highly adaptable to extreme conditions. For instance, if needed, we can survive on an exclusively carnivorous or herbivorous diet for a long time. Thanks to our creativity, we can survive in a desert, as well as in Antarctica. Therefore, we have every reason to believe that our mating strategies are not carved in stone, either.

We don’t have to commit ourselves to being just one thing. We must accept that we have some monomorphic and some dimorphic characteristics, and we can express these in various combinations, depending on the challenges we face.

As neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky said,

“We are not a classic pair-bonded species. We are not a polygamous, tournament species either… What we are, officially, is a tragically confused species.”

We are not necessarily confused, though… We have a lot of potential, and we are the masters and mistresses of adaptation.

Frau Minne: Originator of Today’s Gender Roles

Gendered customs come in a variety of different models, and tend to have variance from culture to culture, and era to era. Each mythological representation of a god or goddess, for example, shows a different slant on gendered behavior; there’s no ‘one gendered model fits all.’

In the context of mythology I like to cite the example of Frau Minne, a medieval personification or ‘goddess’ as she has been called, who offers a template for gender roles in the context of romantic love – with romantic love being our most popular trope for organizing sexual relationships today.

Frau Minne likes men to look up to women as pure and transcendent creatures, encouraging men to serve them from a more humble position. In the words of Irving Singer,

Courtly love is often said to have placed women on a pedestal and to have made men into knights whose heroic lives would henceforth belong to elevated ladies. The idea arises from the fact that men frequently used the language of chivalry to express their servile relationship to whatever woman they loved, and sometimes they described her as a divinity toward which they might aspire but could never hope to equal… that he must prove himself worthy of her and so advance upward, step by step, toward a culminating union at her level; that everything noble and virtuous, everything that makes life worth living, proceeds from women, who are even described as the source of goodness itself. But though the lady now discourses with her lover, the men frequently cast themselves into the typical posture of fin’amors. On their knees, hands clasped, they beg the beloved to accept their love, their life, their service, and to do with them as she pleases.1

What sociologists like to refer to as “respectful relationships” can be seen a euphemism for Frau Minnie’s call to establish a gender hierarchy where women are cast as ‘nobles of love’ in relation to chivalric males – with women being spoken of with classist characterizations such as “esteem,” “respect,” “dignity,” “worth,” “praise” and “status.”

It would be a brave person who would attempt to count how many Offices for the Status of Women exist throughout the Western world today.

A man’s role, according to Frau Minne, is to “place a Lady on a pedestal” and to offer himself to her in a position of sacrifice and service. Minne’s archetypal formula constitutes the heart of romantic love, all three waves of feminism, and the Jungian infatuation with the notion of “the feminine” (which is the Jungian counterpart of feminism). These systems of devotion to women’s esteem each point back to the vision of Frau Minne whose religion, according to Joseph Campbell, triumphed over Christianity during the late Middle Ages to become our dominant worldview — which is why today the romantic love literary genre outsells all of the world’s holy books *combined*.

In summary, Frau Minne provides an example of how gender concepts are a result, to some extent, of the archetypal imagination.

Reference:
[1] Irving Singer, The Nature of Love: The Modern World, University of Chicago Press, 1984


For a longer exploration of this theme, see: ‘Frau Minne’ the Goddess who steals men’s hearts: a pictorial excursion

‘The Routledge Handbook on Identity in Byzantium’ offers critique of gynocentrism-theory

The following excepts are from The Routledge Handbook on Identity in Byzantium. The chapter (23), written by Adam J. Goldwyn is titled ‘Byzantium in the American Alt-Right Imagination: Paradigms of the Medieval Greek Past Among Men’s Rights Activists and White Supremacists.’


Despite this over-the-top title insinuating that all men’s issues groups are “alt-right” (a false claim) and that they are somehow aligned with “white supremacists” (also a false association), Adam has nevertheless utilized some valid source material for his critique of the theory that cultural gynocentrism emerged during the Middle Ages, and has presented it with some fidelity. I have limited the following excerpts to the author’s critique of material on this website – gynocentrism.com. At the Notes section at bottom, I provide a few corrections to the author’s comments.


* * *

The most detailed articulation of MRA views of the Middle Ages can be found in the work of Peter Wright, whose website gynocentrism.com exemplifies these trends of men’s gender based subjugation to women and the development of specialised pseudo-jargon for describing it.a Indeed, its tagline, “Gynocentric culture was born in the Middle Ages with the practices of romantic chivalry and courtly love. It continues today relatively unchanged,”12 with its Greco Latinate title, reflects the importance of specialised pseudo-academic language to the formation of MRA ideology, while also providing the Middle Ages as the moment for the rise of this new system of male oppression.13

Wright’s “timeline of gynocentric culture” centres the medieval romance in this narrative of historical development. He begins by arguing that “Priοr to 1200 AD broadspread gynocentric culture simply did not exist, despite evidence of isolated gynocentric acts and events. It was only in the Middle Ages that gynocentrism developed cultural complexity and became a ubiquitous enduring cultural norm.”14 Indeed, Wright identifies 1102 as the year when “Gynocentrism meme first introduced,” ascribing the fault to William ΙΧ of Aquitaine, who, in addition to writing troubadour poetry, “part[ed] with the tradition of fighting wars strictly οn behalf of man, king, God and country,” as exemplified by his having “the image of his mistress painted on his shield.”15

The second entry in the timeline comes in 1152, when William’s granddaughter Eleanor of Aquitaine began to “utilise poetry and song for setting expectations of how men should act around them, thus was born the attitude of romantic chivalry promoting the idea that men need to devote themselves to serving the honour, purity and dignity of women.”16 Thus, medieval romance becomes the vehicle by which gynocentric values were spread. Other dates in the timeline also suggest the centrality of the medieval romance: Wright specifies 1180, when Marie de Champagne directs Chretien de Troyes to write “a love story about Lancelot and Guinevere elaborating the nature of gynocentric chivalry” and the 1188 publication of Andreas Capellanus’s The Art of Courtly Love as moments of particular importance.17 The twelfth-century origins of gynocracy from within the genre of the romance is also important for MRA use of Byzantine literature since the twelfth century saw a similar revival of romance writing in Constantinople.18

For Men’s Rights Activists, the past is not a thing that merits dispassionate study for its own sake; rather, its value lies in how their interpretation of it can reveal the ways in which society continues to empower women at the expense of men. Thus, the timeline’s concluding entry, “21st century: Gynocentrism continues,” makes explicit the connection between the deep history of gynocentrism and the influence of the medieval romance οn contemporary society:

The modern feminist movement has rejected some chivalric customs such as opening car doors or giving up a seat οn a bus for women; however, they continue to rely οn ‘the spirit of chivalry’ to attain new privileges for women: opening car doors has become opening doors into university or employment via affirmative action; and giving up seats οn busses has become giving up seats in boardrooms and political parties via quotas. Despite the varied goals, contemporary gynocentrism remains a project for maintaining and increasing women’s power with the assistance of chivalry.19

Ιn addition to giving examples of how the underlying principles of medieval chivalry manifest themselves in modern culture, Wright’s conflation of feminism with the Civil Rights movement is also a standard tactic in MRA rhetoric. Donna Zuckerberg refers to the transference of racial discourse to gender discourse as “the appropriative bait-and-switch” by which MRA members “appropriate to disastrous effect a topic that is about race and the legacy of slavery and use it to support an ideology that allows white men to restrict women’s reproductive freedom by limiting access to abortion and birth control.”20 Thus, in this instance, a historically informed reading would acknowledge that affirmative action and ending restrictions οn bus seating were not policies rooted in gender; rather, they were policies of racial desegregation. The language of civil rights is thus turned to the empowerment of MRA.

[…]

Ιn “The Birth of Chivalric Love,” for instance, Peter Wright defines several key terms, each of which has its own modern parallel. “Damseling,” for instance, “is a popular shorthand for women’s projection of themselves as damsels in distress. [ … W]omen have been taught from generation to generation to mimic juvenile characteristics via the use of makeup and vocal intonations, along with a feigning of distress typical of children–which collectively works to extract utility of men.”22 Having laid out the historical roots of damseling in the Middle Ages and in the medieval romance, Wright applies this paradigm to contemporary politics in a post entitled “Damseling, chivalry and courtly love (part two).”23

Arguing that damseling has “been referred to as grievance feminism, victim feminism, and even fainting-couch feminism,” Wright offers the contemporary example of Anita Sarkeesian, who urged that game designers diversify the kinds of characters and plot arcs available to female characters in video games, concluding that “Sarkeesian’s case is particularly poignant because, from the many subjects she could have highlighted to damsel herself for attention, she chose to damsel herself over the very existence of damsels. This demonstrates that even when disavowing the medieval pageant of damsels in distress, feminists continue to enact it even while obfuscating their complicity in the tradition.”24 Thus, the medieval archetype of the damsel in distress becomes redefined in a way that actually gives the woman agency over the men in the medieval romance, and this then becomes the paradigm for modern ways of considering gendered power dynamics.

Similarly, Wright argues that “Courtly Ladies (= Feminists). Feminists today refer to courtly ladies of the late Middle Ages as the first feminists.”25 Having redefined a commonly understood medieval concept with a counterintuitive new definition, Wright then goes οn to make the connection between medieval and modern: “Not surprisingly this was the time [12th to 14th centuries] when powerful women were able to establish the female-headed “courts of love” which acted in a comparable way to today’s Family Courts in that both arbitrated disputes between couples.”26 The family court, as an institution in which women’s parental rights and bodily and economic autonomy are sometimes guaranteed by the force of the state, is a frequent target of Men’s Rights Activism. Parallel to the concept of the Courtly Lady as feminist is the Troubadour, further subdivided into Troubadour Ι and Troubadour ΙΙ. Troubadour Ι is a “PUA [pick-up artist] and Game promoter [ … whose] job was to spread the word about the virtues of chivalric love through music, song, poetry, and storytelling.”27

MRAs oppose this type of troubadour because, even though their behaviour is insincere in that they only perform chivalry as a way to “gain sex,” they nevertheless support the intellectual underpinnings of chivalry and thus gynocentrism.28 Troubadour ΙΙ is defined as “Protofeminist Men Sometimes derogatorily named ‘manginas’. Troubadour ΙΙ is a sincere believer in chivalric love, unlike Troubadour Ι, who uses the rhetoric of chivalry only to advance his own ends. Thus, where Troubadour Ι and Troubadour ΙΙ have the same function in supporting chivalry, Troubadour ΙΙ is a figure of greater scorn insofar as he voluntarily submits to this system: “Think of today’s version being the typical protofeminist men who work slavishly to pass οn the message of their feminist superiors, much as these troubadours slaved to advocate the narcissistic idiosyncrasies of their Ladies.”29

None of these figures is the subject of as much derision as the “White Knight,” whom Wright defines as “such heroic individuals, men who are gallant in so many ways, but mostly the wrong ways such as showing-off to undeserving women and concomitantly delighting in competing with and hurting other men.”30 Wright exemplifies this concept by comparing the ‘Έnterprise of the Green Shield with the White Lady … a chivalric order founded by Jean le Maingre and twelve knights in 1399 committing themselves to the protection of women” with the contemporary “White Ribbon Campaign in which male ‘ambassadors’ pledge an oath to all of womanhood to never condone, excuse or remain silent about violence against women, and to intervene and take action against any man accused of wrongdoing against a woman.”31

Wright here suggests that men who willingly submit to women are foolish and contemptible: these men abandon their own agency, believe all women who claim they have been the subject of violence, and, as importantly, pledge to fight other men. Such groups thus endanger men’s rights both by subordinating men to women and by acting violently against other men. This is particularly wrongheaded in that MRA ideology suggests that it is in fact men, not women, who are the object of gender-based violence and that men should never do harm to other men for the sake of women. From this, Wright again suggests the continuity between medieval and modern ideas of gynocracy: “The similarities in these gallant missions make clear that the lineage of white knights has progressed seamlessly into the modern era.”32 Taken together, these (and the many other instances of medieval redefinition) create a shared in-group idiolect that allows men to analyse both literary texts and contemporary behaviour.

Notes

12 “Gynocentrism and its Cultural Origins,” accessed August 20, 2019, http://www.gynocentrism.com/.
13 Zuckerberg notes that the “misuse of the language of scholarly interpretation” is also a key feature of MRA rhetoric (Dead White Men, 43).
14 Peter Wright, “Timeline of Gynocentric Culture,” October 11, 2013, accessed August 20, 2019, https://gynocentrism.com/2013/10/11/timeline-of-gynocentric-culture/. As a demonstration of the way that these ideas migrate around the manosphere, this timeline was also posted to avoiceformen.com, perhaps the main MRA site, accessed August 20, 2019, https://www.avoiceformen.com/gynocentrism/timeline-of-gynocentric-culture/.
15 For the significance of the figure of the troubadour to MRA thought, see below.
16 Wright, “Timeline of Gynocentric Culture.”
17 Wright, “Timeline of Gynocentric Culture,” also suggests, without any evidence, that “Chretien de Troyes abandoned this project before it was completed because he objected to the implicit approval of the adulterous affair between Lancelot and Guinevere that Marie had directed him to write.”
18 Though the contextual nuances of the rise of romance writing and the classification of various texts within the Byzantine revival are subjects of much debate, the broad contours of the field as outlined in seminal work οn the subject, Roderick Beaton’s The Medieval Greek Romance (Cambridge: CUP, 1989), remain largely intact. The revival is broken down into roughly two periods: those of the twelfth century produced under the Komnenian dynasty in the twelfth century and hence called the Komnenian novels and those published under the Palaiologan dynasty from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries. For translations of the three extant Komnenian novels, see Elizabeth Jeffreys, Four Byzantine Novels: Theodore Prodromos, Rhodanthe and Dosikles; Eumathios Makrembolites, Hysrnine and Hysminias; Constantine Manasses, Aήstandros and Kallithea; Niketas Eugenianos, Drosilla and Charikles (Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2012). For translations of three of the Palaiologan romances, see Gavin Betts, Three Byzantine Novels (London: Roudedge, 2019) and, more recently, Kostas Yiavis, Imperios and Margarona: Rhymed Version (Athens: Cultural Foundation of the National Bank of Greece, 2019). For a recent scholarly overview of the Palaiologan romances, see Adam Goldwyn and Ingela Nilsson, eds., Reading the Late Byzantine Romance: Α Handbook (Cambridge: CUP, 2019).
19 For Zuckerberg’s broader analysis of this as it relates to the appropriation of race, gender, and classical literature, see Zuckerberg, Dead White Men, 42.
20 Zuckerberg, Dead White Men, 41.
21 Adam Kostakis, “Pig Latin,” May 24, 2014, accessed August 20, 2010, https://gynocentrism.com/2014/05/24/pig-latin/. For “frame theory” or “frame control” as an MRA rhetorical strategy, see Zuckerberg, Dead White Men, 39.
22 Peter Wright, “Damseling, Chivalry and Courtly Love (Part One),” July 3, 2016, accessed August 20,
2019, https://gynocentrism.com/2016/07/03/damseling-chivalry-and-courtly-love-part-one/.
23 Wright, “Damseling (Part Two).
24 Wright, “Damseling (Part Two).
25 Peter Wright, “The Birth of Chivalric Love,” July 14, 2013, accessed August 20, 2020, https://gynocentrism.com/2013/07/14/the-birth-of-chivalric-love/.
26 Wright, “Birth of Chivalric Love.”
27 Wright, “Birth of Chivalric Love.”
28 For which, see Zuckerberg, Dead White Men, 2018, in which she notes that “Members of the men’s rights movement see pickup artists as participating in and contributing to gynocentrism; by placing so much value οn women as sex objects, they inadvertently afford women power over them. Pickup artists, meanwhile, believe that sexual success is a key element of being a true alpha male, and they believe those in the men’s rights movement channel their sexual frustration into social activism because they are unable to convince women to have sex with them” (17).
29 Wright, “Birth of Chivalric Love.”
30 Wright, “Birth of Chivalric Love.” “Gallantry” is another term of derision drawn from the Middle Ages to function in the present: gallantry is derided as a form of male acquiescence to gynocracy through which it lost its militaristic connotations and became associated with indulgent behavior towards women.
31 Wright, “Birth of Chivalric Love.”
32 Wright, “Birth of Chivalric Love.”

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Comments by Peter Wright

Paragraph 1. The author makes a claim that I use “pseudo jargon” and offers as the only example a google search byline: “Gynocentric culture was born in the Middle Ages with the practices of romantic chivalry and courtly love. It continues today relatively unchanged.”

The words used here, such as ‘chivalry’ and ‘courtly love,’ hardly amount to pseudo jargon, nor does the proposition that courtly love entails a degree of pedestalization of women – a practice that can be fairly referred to as gynocentric. The only other word cited as pseudo jargon is “damseling” which is shorthand for the universally recognized trope of the “Damsel in distress” – which again hardly amounts to difficult, or esoteric pseudo jargon. I will leave it to the author to clarify whether there are more troublesome words that he didn’t mention in his critique, or perhaps by ‘pseudo jargon’ he is referring to common parlance unfamiliar in academic fields such as his own which are infected with gender-studies jargon?

Paragraph 3. Quote: “For Men’s Rights Activists, the past is not a thing that merits dispassionate study for its own sake; rather, its value lies in how their interpretation of it can reveal the ways in which society continues to empower women at the expense of men.” Could not the preceding charge be made of the feminist lens which has, over the last 50 years, completely dominated most academic readings of history? If the answer is reasonably a yes, then a dispassionate emphasis on the gynocentric facets of historical writings & societies is a necessary step to balance the academic ledger.

Paragraph 4. Quote: “Ιn addition to giving examples of how the underlying principles of medieval chivalry manifest themselves in modern culture, Wright’s conflation of feminism with the Civil Rights movement is also a standard tactic in MRA rhetoric…” I’m not aware that I have done this anywhere on this website nor in my published books, and in fact don’t remember using the phrase “civil rights movement” in relation to feminism anywhere. This charge appears to be a completely fabricated one, as applied to my work. Not to put too fine a line on this topic I have, nevertheless, lost count of the thousands of feminists (both obscure and prominent) who do compare the feminist movement with the civil rights movement for African Americans – and I could provide an extremely long list of citations for same.

The author continues, quote: “Thus, in this instance, a historically informed reading would acknowledge that affirmative action and ending restrictions οn bus seating were not policies rooted in gender; rather, they were policies of racial desegregation.” Again, the ‘bait-and-switch’ appears to be the author’s own, substituting a bizarre strawman in place of proper analysis of the written word. Perhaps the author can enlighten about which offending text he is referring to.

Footnote 17. Quote: Wright, “Timeline of Gynocentric Culture,” also suggests, without any evidence, that “Chretien de Troyes abandoned this project before it was completed because he objected to the implicit approval of the adulterous affair between Lancelot and Guinevere that Marie had directed him to write.” – The source for this sentence was and remains hyperlinked in the original paragraph on gynocentrism.com (from its first publication date in October 2013). The sentence source is the Wikipedia article on Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart which reads in part, “Marie de Champagne was well known for her interest in affairs of courtly love, and is believed to have suggested the inclusion of this theme into the story. For this reason, it is said that Chrétien could not finish the story himself because he did not support the adulterous themes.” [Wikipedia citation for this claim is: Uitti, Karl D. (1995). Chrétien de Troyes Revisited. New York, New York: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 0-8057-4307-3.].

*Errors like those detailed above are extremely common in gender-studies informed writers – writers who rush to the apriori goal of establishing non-feminist approaches to literature as a bogeyman. That said, Adam Goldwyn’s above piece, while carrying several flawed assumptions, provides a superior effort to that of Christa Hoddap whose book on men’s issues literature titled Men’s Rights, Gender, and Social Media is saturated with transliteration errors, errors of attribution (sloppily ascribing several texts to the wrong authors), citing of debunked and out-of-date assumptions from gender-studies writers, and ultimately offering conclusions that reaffirm misandric feminist fantasies about non-feminist, male-focused writings. In her favor Hodapp does, like Goldwyn, isolate some representative sources of literature to analyze (as compared with the standard feminist practice of citing unrepresentative, extreme, outlier texts) even as her conclusions amount to hyperbolic misrepresentations for the most part. I will provide a short review of Hodapp’s book in future, if time allows.

Women Viewing Men as Dogs: A Study in Gynocentrism & Misandry

The following book titles are all aimed at female readers and were collected from a cursory glance at Amazon. This sample is nowhere near the entirety of those available in this, er, genre – but they are sufficient to paint a picture of how millions of women around the world apparently view relationships with men as experiments in animal behaviorism and manipulation strategies, with the aim of controlling men.

The tables of contents reveal the books as patently disrespectful toward men, misandric and certainly repulsive for any self-respecting male. But for the adventurous reader who would like to look more closely at the content, each of the titles are searchable at Amazon.com.

Early Men’s Movement: 1810–1960

 

The following is a sampling of men’s human rights initiatives constituting the early men’s rights movement, a list that could be easily expanded into thousands of initiatives by the diligent researcher. Bear in mind that although we are talking of a single men’s movement, it is more accurately defined as the aggregate of separate initiatives in the same manner as separate feminist initiatives are spoken of as one movement:

1810 A network of meeting places under the collective name ‘Henpeck’d Husbands Club’ are established for men who were enduring abusive behavior from wives. The club set up dozens of chapters across Britain and in Europe, which offered support and advice for men enduring emotional or physical abuse. 

1856  A long newspaper article entitled A Word for Men’s Rights is published in Putnam’s Monthly, which discusses sexist laws that oppressed men and benefited women, including the practice of frivolous, unjustified lawsuits for supposed breach of marriage promise.

1857  A Mr. Todd proposes a “Men’s Rights Conference” be held in response to exaggerations of the women’s rights movement.

1875  Article entitled Women’s and Men’s Rights appeared in the 1875 volume Historic and literary miscellany by G.M.D. Bloss

1886  Ernest Belfort Bax, England, writes his first major commentary on gynocentrism and misandry, ‘Some Bourgeois Idols; Or Ideals, Reals, and Shams.’

1890s  New York Alimony Club (informal)

1896  Ernest Belfort Bax, England, co-authors book, The Legal Subjection of Men (Twentieth Century Press).

1896  Anti-Bardell Bachelor Band, Atlanta Georgia. Formed to fight against a national campaign headed by activist Charlotte Smith (Women’s Rescue League) to promote a tax on bachelors. Another, similar effort was made by the Hoboken Bachelor’s Club in Hoboken, New Jersey.

1898  League for Men’s Rights formed by Mr. William Austin in London. The movement is reported in newspapers of the time as a “Men’s Rights Movement”.

1908  Ernest Belfort Bax, England, republishes his 1896 book, The Legal Subjection of Men (New Age Press)

1911  Anti-Alimony Association, New York

1912  Ernest Belfort Bax, England, writes a landmark book ‘The Fraud of Feminism’ in which he called feminism a fraud and discussed “female privilege”

1912  Anti-alimony leader: George Esterling – Denver, Colorado

1925  Samuel Reid, “Alimony Sam,” the “alimony martyr” of California

1926  Men’s Rights organizations formed Bund für Männerrechte, Vienna, founded by Sigurd von Hoeberth (Höberth) and Leopold Kornblüh in March 1926. In January 1927 the Bund split into two organizations circa: Aequitas (Hoeberth), Justicia (Kornblueh); journal “Self-Defense”

1926  Themisverbandes (Men’s Rights organization for female members, Sigurd Höberth von Schwarzthal). The founding of this organization led to a schism in Bund January

1927  Aequitas Weltbund für Männerrechte (Aequitas Word Federation for Men’s Rights) (international), Vienna, following a schism in Bund für Männerrechte (Federation for Men’s Rights). This was Sigurd Hoeberth’s new organization for men’s rights which welcomed female members.

1927  Justitia Verein für Männer und Familienrecht (Justitia Society for Men’s Rights and Family Rights), Vienna, founded by Leopold Kornblüh following a schism in Bund für Männerrechte (Federation for Men’s Rights). This group did not allow female members.

1927  Alimony Club of Illinois, Society of Disgruntled Alimony Payers, Chicago, founded by Dr. Vernon B. Cooley and second wife, Mrs. Bessie Cooley

1927  Alimony Payers Protective Association, led by Robert Gilbert Ecob

1927  Milwaukee Alimony Club, Wisconsin

1927  Fifty-Fifty League, London; manifesto “The Sex War”

1928  Tibet Men’s Rights organization (name of org. unknown), founded by Amouki

1929  World’s League for the Rights of Men’ formed in the UK, advocating for male issues, and holding an anti-“ultra-feminist” stance. The League had chapters in Vienna, Berlin, Munich, and other Continental centres.

1930  D. A. M. Association, Kansas City, Missouri, founded by French L. Nelson

1930  National Sociological League, Dr. Alexander Dallek, executive secretary

1931  Organization “The Modern Men’s Rights Movement” (formation date unknown) publishes broadsheet, The Gauntlet outlining goals for gender equality and “emancipation of man from feminist domination.”

1932  Alimony Club of New York County (Adolph Wodiska) (cited Jan. 9, 1932)

1932  Ohio Alimony Association, Cleveland

1933  National Divorce Reform League, Theodore Apstein (cited Feb. 14, 1933)

1933  Men’s rights” org ‘1933 Men’s Association’ started by lieutenant colonel R. A. Broughton, England

1935  Alimony Reform League, New York

1948  Society for Men’s Rights forms to address various forms of social and legal discrimination against men, London.

1948  Men’s rights magazine ‘Men’s Review’ launched in England, with at least two consecutive volumes circulated across the country.

1960 Divorce Racket Busters (incorporated 1961 as U.S.A. Divorce Reform, Inc.) – California – Reuben Kidd. This initiative continued to operate into the late 1960’s.

Feature image: Ernest Belfort Bax.

For a more detailed overview of the Men’s Human Rights Movement,
click on the following Amazon title:

BDSM/Masochism

The following articles explore the similarity of courtly & romantic love with the structural practices of BDSM. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) compared with gynocentric beliefs & behaviours

DSM criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are compared in the table below with beliefs and behaviours of the gynocentrism oriented woman (GW):

Table excerpted from: Wright, Peter. Gynocentrism As A Narcissistic Pathology. New Male Studies 9, no. 1 (2020).

Acquired Situational Narcissism

The following excerpt from Mental Disorders of the New Millennium describes how a narcissistic disposition may be ‘acquired’ by individuals on whom society projects special status: elites, doctors, actors, singers and so on. Acquired situational narcissism (as its called), may help to explain some of our cultural fixation with prioritizing women’s status, esteem, wellbeing, and dignity.

* * *

CAN NARCISSISM BE ACQUIRED?

The question remains as to whether narcissism can be culturally conveyed or whether it is inevitably the result of what Heinz Kohut called “repeated empathic failure” or an emotional developmental disability. Psychiatrist Robert B. Millman defined the concept of acquired situational narcissism, a temporary psychological dysfunction that often accompanies fame. Dr. Millman believes that his celebrity patients may act awful because of the situations in which they find themselves. He argues that they acquire their narcissism by being fed their image by the entourage and media around them.

In an interview with New York Times reporter Stephen Sherrill, Millman notes, “They’re not normal. And why would they feel normal when every person in the world who deals with them treats them as if they’re not? We’re all complicit in acquired situational narcissism. . . . We’ve created it. They’re just responding to us.” Millman also notes, as for all narcissists, “Their marriages fall apart, they make lousy parents, they take copious quantities of drugs, they get into trouble with the law. Because they truly don’t believe the world is real, they begin to think they’re invulnerable. Some even risk their lives, since the world can’t hurt them if it’s not real.”

Sam Vaknin, a prolific writer on this subject, disagrees. He argues that because every human being—regardless of the nature of his society and culture—develops healthy narcissism early in life, it becomes pathological only by abuse. For Vaknin, acquired situational narcissism is merely an amplification of earlier narcissistic conduct, traits, style, and tendencies. Not only are narcissists drawn to celebrity, but once powerful, rich, or famous, they gain immunity from social sanctions for expressing the underlying disorder. Whether or not cultures can create narcissism is an interesting question. What is not in doubt is how cultures support narcissism.

Therapists who believe in the process of Acquired Situational Narcissism or cultural narcissism naturally see positive results with major shifts in the environment. Thus, Jennifer, a woman known even among her most competitive colleagues as a “heartless litigator and shameless self-promoter,” found herself in a crisis when a disaster threatened the lives of her parents and siblings. Although it was with great regret and some anger, she “temporarily” returned to the small town in British Columbia to which they had relocated, to “see to their affairs and protect my inheritance.” Out of the San Francisco legal environs, she experienced a “new world” in which she didn’t have to prove herself at all. In the course of her six-month stay, and the deaths of both parents, she found, for the first time, an ease with herself and a relationship with a man who “should have been beneath me.” She decided to remain in British Columbia, transition to a far less aggressive career, and was reportedly happy for the first time in her 45 years. Ironically, that spring, her name appeared on a magazine touting the toughest ten lawyers in California. For the first time in her life, the accolade was unimportant.

Source: “Can Narcissism Be Acquired?” (subheading pp.43-49). in Plante, T. G. (Ed.). Mental disorders of the new millennium. Greenwood Publishing Group. (2006).

* * *

See also:

Wright, P. Gynocentrism As A Narcissistic Pathology. New Male Studies 9, no. 1 (2020).
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) compared with gynocentric beliefs & behaviours