Some time ago I left a comment on one of Chris Burgwald's posts, and due to the various distractions never got around to reading, much less responding to, other comments directed at me. So I apologize for the delay, but here goes.
T.S. O'Rama asked:
But if women are becoming more masculinized due to capitalism's emphasis on competition, why are men becoming more feminized?
First Hefner domesticated men: he took them out of the field and stream and into the living room ... The Playboy universe encouraged appreciation of the "finer things"—literature, a good pipe, a cashmere pullover, a beautiful lady. America was seeing the advent of the urban single male who, lest his subversive departure from domestic norms suggest homosexuality, was now enjoying new photos of nude women every month.
But this is true for women as well as men. Most women of the past have had to work hard all day, bear many children without medicine, and tolerate disease and abuse without complaint. Moreover, this physical toughness is not the same as competitiveness. I've been reading Patrick O'Brian's novels lately, set in the early 1800s, and it's striking how much the Navy men have to display physical courage while at the same time appear humble and not strive above their position.
In other words, the norms of "masculine" and "feminine" encompass many different traits whose cultural stock may rise and fall independently of each other. We just notice more when the changes go against gender norms than when they conform to them: we wonder why men are getting softer and women more competitive, but not why the reverse is also happening.
Jeanne Schmelzer later says:
If children are devalued because of their being a liability, I also propose that children are devalued when they are an economic asset. Because then they aren't looked at as a person but what that person can do for me, rather than as a unique person created by God with all their gifts to be used to point to eternity and the betterment of society.
I think the main problem today's society has with childbearing is not that we don't think having children is good, but that we don't want the number of children people wanted in the past. Standards of childrearing have in many ways gone up -- the conditions most children were raised in throughout world history would be considered totally unacceptable today, and for good reason. But the demand for quantity has gone down, while our sexual appetites stay the same as ever. Commitment-free sex has always appealed of course -- hence the age of the world's oldest profession -- but the outright hostile relationship between sex and childbearing that seems to have pervaded a lot of culture is, I think, a function of the industrial age.
But even in the past, I think, the self-interest of family members could be destructive. Telford wrote a while ago that some of Jesus' anti-family statements might have been motivated by the suffocating nature of the kin network, which pressured people to put the clan above all else, including right. So, there may never have been a culture that was great at valuing children for purely spiritual reasons.Posted by Camassia at January 15, 2004 04:51 PM | TrackBack