It’s funny that everyone is all upset about the middle class. I mean, it’s not literally funny. It’s very sad, the state of current affairs. But, when you study history, you learn about “the rise of the middle class” as being the site of like everything currently wrong with the world. Capitalism, separation of the genders, materialism in art and music. Men becoming “rational” and “logical” and going off to work, women becoming “emotional” and “fragile” and staying home to provide a sort of external soul for their men, sullied by their lives in commerce. Here you see the rise of all kinds of psychological disorders, especially among women. Etc.
But also obviously the rise of the middle class is also cool, because what do you want, you just want a bunch of shitty feudal lords and kings running around chopping everybody’s head off? No, of course not. A man should be able to make his own way in the world.
It’s just that for so long the “middle class” is, in the history books, seen as this major player, this huge inchoate force “knocking at the gates” of rich people, tearing down centuries-old ideas about inherited titles and lands and serfs. It’s so empowering to think of all these random butchers and bakers and candlestick makers being like “wait a second, we literally run everything, how come we aren’t allowed to be the mayor or whatever?” and then just going ahead and doing it, in the face of so much scorn and bewilderment from the fancypantses at court. “I don’t need to speak French or know how to do the new dance steps in order to make a shitload of dough–and by that I mean money, not bread. SLAM.” So good job, middle class! Buy those pianos; send those children to fancy schools; dress your lady in velvet brocade and take her out of the kitchen and stick her in the drawing room where she must sit embroidering or lost in docile prayer!
So it’s weird that this huge fuming mass which changed the entire shape of the world has become so imperiled, has gotten to the point where it is sliding back into the obscurity from whence it came. My tendency is to be like “instead of worrying about the middle class, lets worry about poor people,” but I guess that’s sort of what the issue actually is. Because the middle class is becoming poor people again. Like our father’s father’s father’s father once was, banging out horseshoes in a dank alleyway in Yorkshire or whatever.
I’m middle class. I don’t want to be under the bootheel of some nobleman. However, we are all under the bootheels of noblemen. We shouldn’t aspire to be noblemen, we should aspire to end the tyranny of noblemen forever. And thus descend into a communist nightmare, of course.
My point is that the phrase “State of the Union Address” fills me with a shrill, shrieking madness and I must stuff my ears full of cotton batting and lock myself in the bathroom for many hours until the world stops spinning out from under my feet like a terrible frisbee of doom I’m trying to build a life on.
THE MIND OF WOMAN
Last night while my emasculated husband folded the laundry I read to him from this book called “History of Ideas on Woman.” It is a cool book wherein a bunch of feminists have excerpted all the stuff people have specifically said about women, starting with Plato (surprise hint: Plato thinks women should not be owned like slaves, and should probably take part in society. Who knew? This is the same man who advocated hiring large men to attend musical concerts and “beat with a stick” anyone who was disruptive).
The part that blew our minds, and which ties into the whole “dark side” of the rise of the middle class, is this amazing run from Hobbes to Locke to Rousseau. 16th century, 17th century, 18th century. And their respective essays are titled:
“Maternity and the Origin of Political Power”
“Maternity, Paternity and the Origin of Political Power”
“Paternity and the Origin of Political Power.”
What’s really amazing is that all of them are trying to prove that monarchies are stupid and that each individual human has their own rights, given to them by NATURE, not by a king. Which, back then, was an astonishing concept. The switch from subject to citizen is a major, major semantic shift. People didn’t think of themselves as having individual rights, in the way we bandy about the term today. This is something we forget when we harsh on America–in a lot of ways, that Declaration of Independence is pretty bad-ass. The French totally copied it 15 years later in their own revolution! DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAN. (To which Wollstonecraft responds with VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN, which is probably the most bad-ass thing I’ve ever read in my life, and you should all go read it right now. She accuses men of encouraging a “spaniellike” affection in their wives by keeping women stupid. She also uses the phrase “gruff mastiff.” What a kickass dame. She died in childbirth thanks to the rise of medical science and empiricism–the doctors kicked the midwives out of the birthing room and women died in droves. She died giving birth to Mary Godwin, who would become Mary Shelley, after marrying Percy, who I persist in totally despising even though I know Mary loved him. WHAT AN ULTIMATE WIENER.)
So here’s old 16th century Hobbes, writing about how women actually have just as much power as men, which is proved by the fact that women have total power over their children. He’s exploring this idea as a means to disproving the “paternal” right of Kings to rule over their subjects as a father supposedly rules over his kids.
“And thus in the state of nature, every woman that bears children, becomes both a mother and a lord.”
“the inequality of their natural forces is not so great, that the man could get the dominion over the woman without war.”
WOW. Hobbes is like “how can the King rule his subjects by divine right, by claiming paternalism and the right of fathers, when it’s obvious MOTHERS are the ones who control children?” SLAM!
Then you get to John Locke, who is also looking at the family to figure out where “authority” comes from. And like Hobbes he also rejects this idea that the father is naturally the boss of things. However, unlike Hobbes, Locke thinks the mother and the father have EQUAL control over their children. The introduction to the Locke section has this devastating phrase:
“When Thomas Jefferson, who is often accused of plagiarizing the Second Treatise in his Declaration of Independence, copied the phrase ‘all men are created equal’ from Locke, he did not mean what Locke had meant–all men, male and female.”
ALL MEN, MALE AND FEMALE!
(sidenote: this reminds me of a class I took on nationalism in music, which was an amazing class, and one day we were talking about Beethoven, of course, and I was pointing out that the Ode to Joy is supposed to be this paean to human togetherness, but it only talks about brothers, about “all men being brothers.” Everyone was like “but he MEANS all people,” but I was like, does he?? So then I said, “Ok so he means that all men AND women are brothers?” I was being derisive. But now I feel bad, because maybe like Locke he was including women in that phrase, in some dim Beethovenian fashion (dude did not have what we might call a “way” with the ladies). But really I doubt it, because this was the 19th century and the good work of Hobbes was long gone, in this area. By this time, people didn’t really think about women except to chastise them for not giving enough blowjobs (they don’t use the word “blowjobs”).)
So Hobbes! Locke! Good one, guys. Also gibes with older paintings of married people where they are depicted smiling and equally-framed and touching each other affectionately, but then in the 18th and 19th centuries married people are posed stiffly, with the woman sitting at the feet of the man, neither of them smiling. (Idols of Perversity by Bram Dijkstra, give it a read and you will never regret it)
So anyway then, THEN, you get to good old J. J. Rousseau, my favorite philosopher of all time, in spite of his withering misogyny. He is my favorite because he is a total kook. Not for him is the proper, careful phrasing of a Hobbes or a Locke. No. Jean-Jacques, he says THE darnedest things. Don’t believe me? Check this out:
“If ever there was in the world a warranted and proven history, it is that of vampires: nothing is lacking, official reports, testimonials of persons of standing, of surgeons, of clergymen, of judges; the judicial evidence is all-embracing.”
And that’s nothing. That’s just something I found by flipping open a book at random. The dude is amazing. He wants all his life to have sex with his mother, and he writes about how your stupid plodding wife is but a poor substitute for the lost mother. He was common-law married for years and years to poor Thérèse, but he never taught her to read (education being bad for women because it discourages them from concentrating on giving pleasure to men), and he took all five of the children they had together and abandoned them at the workhouse as soon as they were born, where they all surely died. Later he wrote a very popular book about how to raise a good child and be a good parent. Voltaire and Edmund Burke were like “YOU ASSHOLE! Are you kidding? You took all your babies to the foundling hospital!” and Rousseau was like “Yeah but I would have been a bad father.” Later he was asked to write the constitution of Poland.
He wrote his first essay in such a hilarious fashion, it kills me. He’s penniless, tromping around outside where he apparently lived in a ditch for awhile, and had this weird experience where he was walking in the woods and suddenly a great dane appeared and ran barking at him and sort of leaped over him, and this led to some epiphany I can’t remember, and some people think he must have dreamed the whole thing. Anyway, he’s like walking from Paris to Lyon or something, for some reason, when he hears of this essay contest being sponsored in Paris. The subject of the essay contest is, “Are the arts and sciences good or bad for humanity?” And of course everyone is going to be writing in talking about the virtues of learning, the great beauty of art stirring the soul, etc. But instead Rousseau is like “The arts and sciences have degenerated man and ruined all his natural goodness,” and everyone is like “whoa, who’s this guy?” And he won first prize, because who but a genius would say something so bonkers?? And that was the birth of his great theories on nature, technology, and the “noble savage” concept we still struggle with in our blockbuster 3-D animated films, plus most other films.
He also talks at great length about how Egyptians must have evolved from Chinese people because a friend of his went to Egypt once and wrote him a letter saying they all look like Chinamen. THERE’S YOUR EMPIRICISM.
So, here, with Rousseau, we see where it all began (not necessarily literally with Rousseau; I just mean “the late eighteenth century.” You know, Wollstonecraft wasn’t totally an anomaly, in the late eighteenth century. It’s only later that women are totally crushed under the bootheel of men in such a way as to make a Wollstonecraft seem impossible for like one hundred years. It’s kind of like how when “Alien” came out, it seemed really cool and normal for the star of a major action blockbuster to be a woman, but then it sort of never happened again, except for Terminator 2, which almost doesn’t count because the whole point of her being such a badass is in order to protect the Chosen Male Child who is the product of her womb, and anyway we’re like all still waiting for the initial promise of Ripley to be fulfilled but instead they just keep on making the same old shit where a white man becomes a samurai and saves all the samurais; or a white man becomes an indian and saves all the indians; or a white man becomes a 9 foot tall blue person and saves all the 9 foot tall blue people……………..AND HIMSELF.).
Rousseau goes against Hobbes and Locke, to explicitly deny women any power whatsoever. Which is funny, since he’s also against the divine right of Kings. You’d think he’d stick with their very reasonable arguments, based in naturalism, which prove the King’s bullshit about paternalism is just hot air. But no–Rousseau’s disdain for women is so great he can’t even do that to make a political point. He goes on and on and on about women, how stupid they are, how inane, how they can’t be trusted with so much as a candle! Rousseau is pretty much a REACTIONARY–he’s slamming down the early attempts of a sort of feminism (a bit later epitomized by Wollstonecraft, who was basically his contemporary) which was spreading through Europe, wherein some women were being like “Look! I learned Latin and I have thoughts about Genesis and I’m a good person and I’m tired of being raped by my husband,” but Rousseau is like NOOOOO! I WANT MY MOTHER! basically.
Check this quote out:
“Women should be trained to bear the yoke from the first, so that they may not feel it.”
He also points out that obviously women should be excluded from all positions of authority because sometimes they have “periods of inaction” (i.e. childbirth) during which they wouldn’t be able to perform their duties. Sound familiar? (Newt Gingrich)
To his credit, Rousseau did advocate that women start breastfeeding their children, instead of sending them out to wet nurses where 50% of them died (including his own children, ahem, at the foundling hospital where he put them because he didn’t want to deal with it). However, I personally think his views on breastfeeding were probably less nobly-motivated than he would like to claim (i.e. it just gave him a boner).
From here it all goes downhill, with the brief rallying cry of “Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” From here you get Immanuel Kant, the bane of my existence, pointing out that a woman should be a lady, and should be nice, so that men can have some damn pleasure in their hard lives. Oh, in a marriage, the two people combine to form one goodly person, how nice, except that the man contributes “learning” and “reason” and “noble strength of character” to this one person, while the woman contributes “taste and pleasantry.” In fact, Kant’s whole earth-shaking concept of the sublime and the beautiful is explicitly gendered. The sublime is like manliness–crushing waterfalls, the immensity of the universe, which man (not woman, who is incapable) must intellectually conquer in order to gain selfhood! Whereas beauty is much lesser, it is like a woman–it is that which is pleasing to the eye, but it can never stir the same passion in the bosom of man as the sublime. “The fair sex has just as much understanding as the male, but it is a beautiful understanding, whereas ours should be a deep understanding, an expression that signifies identity with the sublime.”
Here begins that insidious thing where men praise and extol the virtues of women, holding them up as somehow beyond the ken of men, while basically putting them in a box and setting them in the drawing room and never letting them out again forever and ever. Here is where women become LADIES.
Then you get Wollstonecraft, the crazy proto-Marxist and deep rainbow colored dolphin of history. “From the respect paid to property flow, as from a poisoned fountain, most of the evils and vices which render this world such a dreary scene to the contemplative mind.” WHOAAAAA!
“It is vain to expect virtue from women till they are, in some degree, independent of men.”
“love is not to be bought, in any sense of the words, its silken wings are instantly shriveled up when any thing beside a return in kind is sought.”
“Men are not aware of the misery they cause, and the vicious weakness they cherish, by only inciting women to render themselves pleasing.”
Slam to Jean-Jacques and to Kant! Slam to Edmund Burke! Fuck all y’all!
(I do have a place of love in my heart for the men who married these women. William Godwin! What must your dinners have been like? You were probably a pretty cool dude, relatively speaking. Also Percy Shelley, you are kind of a pathetic jackass, but I hope you told your wife how brilliant Frankenstein was, at some point, even just off-handedly, like over your shoulder as you were leaving to go have sex with that girl who followed Byron around, while Mary stayed behind to edit your manuscripts and never get any credit for it)
Then we get Hegel, another world-class j-hole.
Hegel is like “Ah yes, marriage makes two incomplete souls into one harmonious soul,” except it does not do this equally. To make the one whole soul, woman is completely sublimated into the marriage, into the life and mind of the man. But man, you know, he has to keep his wits about him and go to his job and stuff, while woman just has to stay home and raise children to adulthood singlehandedly, it’s not like that’s hard. So man only puts part of himself into the beautiful single-person created by marriage. This is because woman lacks the ability to reason on the “universal” level, instead being motivated by things like “feelings.” Woman can not cope with abstract ideas, only with things like, you know, getting pregnant and baking bread. Only baking bread is no longer ladylike, so not even that.
“Women can, of course, be educated, but their minds are not adapted to the higher sciences, philosophy, or certain of the arts. These demand a universal faculty. Women may have happy inspirations, taste, elegance, but they have not the ideal. The difference between man and woman is the same as that between animal and plant. ”
ANIMAL AND PLANT. He said that.
“If women were to control the government, the state would be in danger, for they do not act according to the dictates of universality, but are influenced by accidental inclinations and opinions.”
So now it’s set in stone: women are motivated by obscure “feelings” and “instinct,” whereas man can use his brain and figure out stuff. Here is the basis for so many terrible crimes against women! Or like Christine Collins (whose experience the movie “Changeling” is based on), whose son was kidnapped in 1928 and then the police brought her a totally random little boy they found in Illinois and they were like “Look! Here’s your son!” And Christine Collins said, “that’s not my son!” and they were like “IT’S YOUR SON, SHUT UP,” and she was like “But that’s not Walter! He’s only been gone 5 months, don’t you think I know what my son looks like?” and the police literally made her take this random little boy home to “try him out for a couple of weeks,” and Christine kept coming to them and saying it wasn’t her son, look, he’s circumcised and 3 inches shorter than my son! but the police didn’t want to deal with the PR nightmare if they admitted they’d given a woman the wrong kid–and the kid kept insisting he WAS her son, anyway, so obviously a 9 year old boy’s word has more value than the word of a grown-ass woman, because women don’t really “know” things, they just “feel” them, and we all know that feelings aren’t real. SO THEY THREW HER IN THE LOONY BIN, where she stayed for TWO WEEKS, confined with all kinds of crazy women but also women who the LAPD had thrown in there similarly for no reason. And anyway then the kid finally confessed that he was faking it, that he’d read about the kidnapping and decided to impersonate the boy so that he could go to L.A. and meet film star Tom Mix. Which just goes to show you that when a 9 year old tells you something, he probably saw it in a dream or something, I mean, my god, talk about being ruled by instinct. So even after the kid confessed, they left Christine in the insane asylum for TEN MORE DAYS, at which point they let her out and she sued the police department and was awarded $10,000, which she never received. Also they never found her real son.
I urge you to wikipedia “Wineville Chicken Coop Murders” for more information about this amazing story.
The point is: Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.