Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Zenpriest #15 - Regarding the Marriage Strike

Regarding the "Marriage Strike" - I think there is a great deal of deep and subtle meaning in choices of words. Simply calling it a "strike" as opposed to some other term says a lot about the fundamental concepts which people use to construct this larger concept called "marriage." One goes on strike against a "job", therefore if men are on a marriage strike, marriage must be a job. That fits in completely with my experience of the past 20 years or so that first dates tend to turn out like long, unpleasant, job interviews that I pay for the privilege of having.

As a first stage in developing a more powerful thinking/emotional position, I would prefer to term what is happening as a marriage "boycott." One goes on "strike" with a job, and a job is something most of us have to have. But, is a marriage something we really have to have? And a strike basically always has to end at some time, once the workers demands are met. So, what are our "demands" and who is doing the negotiating for us?

A "boycott", on the other hand, connotes being against some sort of consumer goods, which are optional. A boycott can go on for a very long time, even forever. I have been boycotting TV since 1974, and I can't imagine ever stopping my boycott.

So, is marriage our "job" which we will return to once our demands are met? Or is marriage something we "purchase" and are deciding not to purchase at the present time? And, during the time we are refusing to purchase, might our consuming habits not change, and even if the product start to be of better quality, we have learned that we can live just fine without it?

So, in terms of strategic psychological bargaining position, I'd like to see guys start calling it a marriage boycott. The owners of the means of (re)production can just try shutting down the factory until the strike funds run out and the strikers start to get hungry. But, the producers of the boycotted item see their cash flow dry up and fear the risk of losing brand loyalty.

However, I think what is really happening is something else - I think some core social concepts are changing at a very fundamental level. In the past, men were more or less forced into marriage - because someone had to support women and children - mostly by social pressure. The only "safe" role for men was "husband and father" and single men were very suspect. Only those single men who were financially successful and involved in the community were able to escape the taint of pariah-hood which came from not being married. And that came about because a lot of men followed the path of building a career and then getting married about age 40. If a man reached 40, and had a successful career, he could get by with that. But, non-successful single men were always pushed to the fringes of society and regarded with great suspicion.

By destroying the role of "husband and father", women have actually knocked down the walls of men's prisons. Where before, men were trapped by social censure into the role of specialized beast of burden bred for the purpose of dragging around a financially and emotionally dependent wife and family, men were forced to find alternative means of getting validation and largely learned to self-validate. I don't really think the "strike" will ever be over. I don't even think that the commodity of marriage will ever get back the market share it has lost during the boycott. I can't imagine myself ever getting married. Not even one of the single men that I know has any desire at all to be married.

I think the net long-term effect will be that women get trapped in the jobs they were so anxious to take from us, and that men will end up being quite happy to have been relieved of the burdens of supporting a family's consuming habits. Someone has the sig line that a woman will spend $1 for a $2 item she doesn't need, where a man will spend $2 for a $1 item he does need. Men don't have the same need to consume and spend money, so when we only have to cover our own consuming habits we can work less hours at more fun jobs, enjoy life more, and probably end up living longer.

So, to return to the language you used, or close to it, I think we have several related mutations in the memes related to pair bonding and family structure. The first actually began back early in the century with the advent of mass produced manufactured goods which transferred the functions previously performed mostly by human labor, into commodities for which "labor saving devices" were purchased. With a washer, dryer, microwave, and no kids, I really don't need a wife that much.

The massive explosion of consumer goods after WWII led to several major inter-related effects. First, the cost of essential items like food and shelter decreased as a percentage of family expenditures. The amount left over for discretionary spending, or "disposable" income created many new or expanded markets - entertainment for example and the explosion of consumer electronics starting with music. Then, when women entered the workforce in massive numbers, service industries which performed the functions previously performed by stay at home spouses grew.

In effect, the family had been "outsourced." Everything which 75 years before had taken two people working as a team to accomplish, could now be had in the marketplace.

Lacking any real role or significance any more, women searched around for the meaning of life and decided "Let's take over men's." This threw men into free-fall basically having no ideological meme by which to define themselves.

Men who grew up under the old value system really floundered. Someone who had grown up and spent all his life shoeing horses, didn't immediately adapt to being an auto mechanic. But, the next generation was born with the technology and embraced it.

Likewise, younger men were born into a world in which the old male role was obsolete but there was not yet any substitute. Of course, the feminist fantasy was that men and women would just switch places and lots of men become house husbands. The reason that didn't work is because feminism is fundamentally wrong about female psychology. Even as women crowded men out of their old roles, those same women still wanted the men to fulfill them.

Thus, we had the Kobiashi Maroo.

So, men changed the rules of the simulation. I think the reason that the new meme is so virulent is because it is a survival adaptation. You cannot put pressure on every part of a system indefinitely and expect it to continue functioning and not break. The system became terminally broken when the old male roles got redefined from being "good" into being "evil" - when supporting a woman and children became "oppression" and when wiping one's own ass became "unpaid work."

Where you and I might differ in our formulations, I think is mostly due to the perspective of age and awareness of history. I liken your situation to the convicts hauled down to Australia, dumped out on the beach and told to "survive." The virulence and intensity which you describe as a feeling from the inside out, I think comes from the survival instinct and the need of men to survive emotionally and psychologically in a culture which seemed determined to pound them into dust. And, the anger and rage so many men feel toward that culture and women comes from the sensation that they were both out to destroy men and maleness.

Innovation has always come from men, and I would sum up by saying that I think we essentially agree, and that you are the first generation of men to have come up with the adaptation to the post-modern world.

None for me, thanks. I doubt that marriage will be the norm for people born after some time in the 80s. Social values and expectations are notoriously slow to catch up with the reality of what is going on in the culture. Future women are groomed to be such total consumers that the first thing they are going to consume is any man they can get their hooks into. The social and emotional value of marriage is already dead.


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