Monday, October 31, 2011
Blame the Sexual Revolution, Not Men
Kate Bolick stares out at the world from the cover of The Atlantic magazine. She's wearing a black lace evening dress. "What, Me Marry?" asks the headline. She isn't smiling.
In fact, she isn't smiling in any of the photos that accompany her several thousand-word essay on singleness, marriage and the changing nature of dating and mating in America today. Bolick, 38, is groping toward accepting the idea that she may never marry. She badly wants to convince herself -- and us -- that older ideas about "unhappy" spinsters are silly cultural baggage best dropped off at the curb. And yet, there are those glamour shots -- Bolick behind the wheel wearing a fetching red dress; Bolick in a gold evening gown holding a glass of champagne; Bolick in a black cocktail dress -- but her expressions range from pensive to sad -- never happy.
Bolick seems genuinely conflicted about marriage. The daughter of a committed feminist, she marched off to third grade "in tiny green or blue T-shirts declaring: A WOMAN WITHOUT A MAN IS LIKE A FISH WITHOUT A BICYCLE." She recalls that when she was cuddling in the back seat of the family car with her high school boyfriend, her mother turned around and asked, "Isn't it time you two started seeing other people?" She took it for granted, she writes, "that (I) would marry, and that there would always be men (I) wanted to marry."
So sure was she of the limitless romantic opportunities available that at the age of 28, she broke up with a wonderful boyfriend. They had been together for three years. He was "an exceptional person, intelligent, good-looking, loyal, kind." Why did she discard him? "Something was missing."
Ten years later, she writes somewhat (though not entirely) ruefully "If dating and mating is in fact a marketplace . . . today we're contending with a new 'dating gap,' where marriage-minded women are increasingly confronted with either deadbeats or players."
There is a great deal of interesting data in this piece. According to the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of Millennials and 43 percent of Gen Xers think marriage is becoming obsolete. As of 2010, women held 51.4 percent of all managerial and professional positions, compared with 26 percent in 1980. Women account for the lion's share of bachelors and masters degrees, and make up a majority of the work force. Three quarters of the jobs lost during the recession were lost by men. "One recent study found a 40 percent increase in the number of men who are shorter than their wives." Fully 50 percent of the adult population is single, compared with 33 percent in 1950.
But these trends, however interesting, shed only an oblique light on the problem of the decline in marriageable males. Bolick edges closer to the truth in her discussion of sex.
"The early 1990s," she writes, "witnessed the dawn of the '"hookup culture"' at universities, as colleges stopped acting in loco parentis (actually they relinquished that role in the 1970s) and undergraduates . . . started throwing themselves into a frenzy of one-night-stands." Some young women, she notes, felt "forced into a promiscuity they didn't ask for," whereas young men "couldn't be happier."
According to economist Robert H. Frank, "when available women significantly outnumber men . . . courtship behavior changes in the direction of what men want." And vice versa. If there's a shortage of women, the females have more power to demand what they want, which tends to be (surprise!) monogamy. On college campuses, women outnumber men by 57 to 43 percent.
But economic analysis can take you only so far. Men's capacity to insist upon promiscuity rests completely on female cooperation. And women have been foolishly compliant for decades.
They've conspired in their own disempowerment, not because they love their sexual freedom (though a few may), but because people like Gloria Steinem and Ms. Bolick's mother convinced them that the old sexual mores, along with marriage and children, were oppressive to women.
The resulting decline of marriage has been a disaster for children, a deep disappointment to reluctantly single women and unhealthy for single men, who are less happy, shorter-lived and less wealthy than married men. The sexual revolution has left a trail of destruction in its wake, even when its victims don't recognize the perpetrator.
British Housing chief admits demoting Christian to protect award from gay charity
A housing association that demoted a manager for speaking out on gay marriage has admitted that it feared losing a coveted award from a gay charity.
Father-of-two Adrian Smith, 54, was found guilty of misconduct and had his salary slashed by £14,000 after saying on his private Facebook page that same-sex weddings in churches would be ‘an equality too far’.
Publicly funded Trafford Housing Trust in Greater Manchester was widely condemned for its harsh treatment of Mr Smith, with critics ranging from Tory MPs to gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
In a letter to Mr Smith after it rejected his appeal against demotion, the trust revealed its concerns over tarnishing the ‘quality mark’ it received last year from the Albert Kennedy Trust, which supports homeless young gays and lesbians.
The trust’s commercial director David Barrow said Mr Smith’s Facebook comments had distressed several colleagues and ‘had the potential to seriously undermine the Albert Kennedy Accreditation, which we were proud to receive last year’.
He told Mr Smith: ‘It is clear that your comments did have the potential to bring the trust into disrepute.’
The Albert Kennedy Trust is named after a 16-year-old who fell to his death from a car park while being attacked and its patrons include Lord Of The Rings star Sir Ian McKellen.
It launched its awards to recognise supportive housing trusts. Trafford Housing Trust said on its website that it had ‘achieved the highest score so far achieved by any organisation’.
In his letter from Mr Barrow, evangelical Christian Mr Smith was warned about preaching in church. Mr Smith, who now collects rent, was told: ‘I explained that in a private capacity this is your right. ‘If, however, you were preaching in this vicinity where you might be recognised or linked to the trust, there could potentially be an issue.’
Mr Smith is the latest in a series of Christians who have clashed with employers over their rights to express their views.
In the Commons on Thursday, Mr Smith’s demotion was described as ‘despicable’ by Peterborough Tory MP Stewart Jackson. He asked: ‘Should we be putting public money into an organisation that is, effectively, propagating state-sponsored intolerance?’
Leader of the House Sir George Young said he, too, was ‘a firm believer in freedom of speech’ and he would alert Housing Minister Grant Shapps to the case.
Gay activist Mr Tatchell said: ‘Mr Smith was not threatening or intimidating. In a democratic society, he has a right to express his point of view, even if it is misguided and wrong.
‘Freedom of speech should only be limited or penalised in extreme circumstances, such as when a person incites violence against others.’ Mike Smith of the Christian Institute, which is backing Adrian Smith’s legal action against the trust, said: ‘By their own admission, their fear about losing an LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual] award was a factor in their decision to penalise Adrian, a decision that has damaged his career and plunged his family towards financial hardship.
‘Sadly, they seem determined to waste more public money defending the indefensible in court.’
Trafford Housing Trust said last night: ‘We expect employees at all levels to act respectfully and adopt our ethos of valuing, respecting, supporting and treating people with dignity regardless of their age, disability, faith, gender or gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity status or race/ethnicity or sexual orientation.’
Poundland backs down on shopfloor poppy ban after customers threaten boycott
Budget retailer Poundland has been forced to review its dress code after a row erupted on Twitter and Facebook following claims that it had banned staff from wearing remembrance poppies.
In a statement on Facebook, Poundland said it was not against employees wearing a poppy, but they were not allowed to do so on the shop floor because it is not part of staff uniform.
But the company said today that it will now allow workers to 'use their own discretion in wearing poppies' after hundreds of customers threatened to boycott its stores.
It had been claimed on Facebook that one member of staff was sent home from work and faced losing her job after refusing to remove her poppy. But in a statement Poundland said: 'On Friday 28th October a situation in Northern Ireland was brought to the company's attention where a store colleague was politely asked to remove a poppy by our store manager in order to comply with company policy. 'The store colleague decided to walk out and stated that she would return on Monday next wearing her poppy.'
The red poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day and is worn as a mark of respect to servicemen and women who have been killed or injured fighting for their country.
The claims that Poundland had banned staff from wearing them sparked the row on Twitter and the store's Facebook page, with hundreds of people expressing outrage at the policy.
Comments included 'disgusting' and 'shameful', and some customers said they would no longer shop at the store, describing it as a 'disgrace'. One Poundland employee, Vicky Hill, left the message: 'I don't think this is right. It's a sign of respect. Everyone has the right to wear a poppy.
'Of course, I shan't be wearing my poppy at work simply because rules are rules, and at the end of the day I abide by them. But I am not pleased with this at all.'
Shane Brown said: 'I'm a Poundland employee and I find this a disgrace tbh we should be allowed to wear them with pride and respect at ALL times!!!' Poundland customer Linda Williams wrote: 'So wrong of you! Have some respect for those who fought and died for this country.'
Poundland responded on the website yesterday saying it listens to its customers and was giving their views 'serious consideration'.
Today, chief executive Jim McCarthy said: "We have listened to the views of customers and colleagues and have, in light of their feedback, reviewed the policy. "We have decided in the case of the poppy appeal to allow store colleagues to use their own discretion in wearing poppies. "This change in policy is consistent with recent reviews of policy made by other leading High street retailers. "We apologise for any unintended offence that has been caused."
The 2011 Poppy Appeal was launched on Thursday and is the culmination of the Royal British Legion's 90th anniversary year.
Television presenter David Dimbleby ignored BBC guidelines and wore his poppy on Thursday night's edition of Question Time - 36 hours before the go-ahead from BBC bosses. David Jordan, director of editorial policy and standards, ordered that poppies should be worn on screen from 6am today until '23.59pm on Sunday November 13 — Remembrance Sunday.'
Last year the Armed Forces charity achieved a record-breaking total of £36million and hope to improve on this in 2011 with a fundraising goal of £40million.
The decline and fall of British Conservatism
Neil Davenport says that the Conservative Party may still live on, but its pragmatic defence of authority, tradition and autonomy are dead. There is something in what he says but the way the Canadian Tories have come back from the dead should limit pessimism
This week, UK prime minister David Cameron faced the biggest challenge to his leadership of the Conservative Party: the proposal for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. In the end, 81 Tory MPs defied a three-line whip by supporting the proposal, while others abstained in Monday night’s House of Commons vote. Pressure had been mounting on the Prime Minister as critics attacked his handling of backbenchers and his decision to have a confrontation with them over Europe. One rebel went so far as to describe it as a ‘monumental failure’.
The Commons motion was easily defeated, thanks to the votes of those Tories who observed the party whip plus Labour and Lib Dem MPs. But the large majority at Westminster against a referendum seems to be at odds with public opinion. A recent poll found that 70 per cent of people wanted to see a referendum on Britain’s EU membership - and 49 per cent would vote to withdraw from the EU, compared to only 40 per cent who would choose to stay in. Conservative voters were shown to be more eurosceptic than others, with 56 per cent saying they would vote to leave the EU. Among all voters, over a third said they would ‘definitely’ leave the EU if given the choice.
Of course, the Conservative Party has long been torn between its ideological commitment to British national sovereignty and the pragmatic needs of the UK’s economy. Eurosceptic former prime minister Margaret Thatcher lost both the UK premiership and the leadership of the Conservative Party in part because she failed to soft-pedal her eurosceptic rhetoric. The needs of UK plc won out in the end.
Cameron himself has displayed schizophrenic tendencies towards the EU, saying there should have been a popular vote on previous EU treaties; ‘it was wrong we didn’t have referendums on Maastricht and on Lisbon’, he repeated in the Commons this week. But while this internal feud has festered within the Conservative Party for over 30 years, there’s something new about why Conservatives across Britain have attached so much importance to opposing the EU.
In many ways, the EU has become a focus for a wider sense of political disorientation felt by an older generation of Conservatives. There’s an instinctive sense that, while the Conservatives are (just about) back in office, the wider political climate is no longer hospitable to conservative ideas and values. If only Britain could pull out of the EU, the thinking goes, then maybe we could see a return to conservative values dominating Britain. In truth, it would be far better to question whether Conservatism as a set of beliefs and values, rather than the Conservative Party as an organisation, will survive the twenty-first century.
Conservatism is, above all else, a belief in defending the existing social order achieved through a promotion of tradition, authority, paternalism and the organic society that attempted to legitimise existing arrangements. The organic society, the belief that society has evolved through the natural relationships between men and women, was core to conservative values, which is why conservatives were historically hostile to both feminism and gay rights. Support for the free market also has a place within Conservatism, but it’s a qualified support even from supposedly staunch free-marketeers in the past such as Thatcher and the New Right. What they liked about the free market was its connection with private property ownership and the way it provided discipline, order and personal responsibility in wider society. Nevertheless when the free market undermined existing social structures, traditional values and authority, conservatives could be equally hostile to the dynamic, disruptive drive of the free market – as many were during the 1960s (though this opposition had its roots in the failure of the market in the 1930s).
It’s also wrong to see Conservatism as a rigid and dogmatic belief system obsessed only with the past. A key source of Conservatism’s success was always knowing when to change pragmatically in order to conserve existing power structures in society. Whether it was the postwar compromise or Harold Macmillan’s proposal that multiculturalism replace imperial values in 1950, conservatives have often been skilful in knowing when to ditch out-of-date ideas. This was one of the reasons why the Conservative Party was once the most successful political party anywhere within the Western world. While many on the Left, from the Labour Party to Trotskyist organisations, tended to live forever in the shadow of 1945 even as late as the 1980s, conservatives were sensitive to genuine changes in society and seized the moment accordingly. So why does this normally flexible-but-firm belief system have so many difficulties today?
The first problem Conservatism faced is that, through the demise of working-class oppositional movements, its historical role as defenders of the status quo had become utterly redundant. As a major consequence, it also meant that the ideas by which it justified conserving the status quo – such as the family, deference, authority, holding the line, support for British nationalism - have all become empty and redundant, too. As an essentially reactive ideology, by the 1990s there was very little for Conservatism to react against and, in the process, define what it was for. The sheer exhaustion and meaninglessness of its former historic role, and the ideology that justified that, created an urgent need for new sources of morality and authority to be established throughout wider society. This is why the concepts of anti-elitist inclusion, non-judgementalism and therapeutic protection have dominated politics for the past 15 years. The demise of Conservatism has led to the complete re-organisation of the British state around ideas once associated with the cultural left.
Whereas conservative values once set the agenda that the Labour Party had to follow, particularly on race and nation, now it is conservatives who have to prove that they are reconstructed enough to be part of New Britain. A belief in the organic society, deference and authority has been replaced by the managerial society, inclusion and relativism. The old insistence on traditional family values has given way to support for civil partnerships and gay couples adopting. A Thatcherite championing of the free market, prosperity and growth has been replaced by green restraint, austerity and measuring ‘happiness’ rather than GDP. A quick glance at Cameron’s awkward ‘social conservatism’ suggests it’s not very conservative at all.
Nevertheless, the demise of Conservatism is not the euphoric victory for progressive politics that it should be. Conservatives had something in common with anyone seeking to dramatically change society – an understanding of the importance of winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of citizens through a wider ideological struggle. Conservatives recognised that politics and society are more effectively run through shared agreements, or at least seeking to strive for shared agreements, based on autonomous individuals. As a consequence, they often understood that it’s counter-productive, or at least ineffective, to run society based on passing petty laws, restricting autonomy and cranking up regulations (although admittedly the last years of the Thatcher and Major governments were heading in that direction). So although Conservatives would insist that their moral codes were the ones that were universal and absolute, most of the time they attempted to convince us of this view through words rather enforcing such ideas through regulations. The same cannot be said for the new breed of managerial politician today.
Of course, when it came to defending narrow class interests – as we’ve seen recently with the Tory shires over preserving Green Belt land – its backward attitude towards women and gay rights, its promotion of race and empire values, we should be saying ‘good riddance’ to such reactionary and oppressive ideas. Unfortunately, in the absence of a progressive alternative to current government policy, the defeat of Conservatism has ripped apart a political culture built on informal relationships and autonomous individuals. Ideas like informality, going on your instincts and a rejection of instrumentalism were key planks of Conservatism and, by default, British and Western society. Conservatives often believed in being pragmatic rather than instrumental about running society as they understood you have to be responsive to new problems and dilemmas that no end goal can account for.
In this sense, conservatives’ understanding of the relationship between the individual and society - based on consent rather than coercion - is far more nuanced and historically progressive than the policy of recent UK governments - to hack away at areas of life that were once rightly seen as private or informal, replacing personal choice with state regulation. The demise of Conservatism, unfortunately, has meant the demise of politics and the opportunity to act as political citizens, too. The withdrawal of Britain from the EU will not, as many old conservatives tend to believe, lead to a revival of Conservatism or of civil society. The problem goes much deeper than that.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.