Thursday, February 7, 2019

A Public Square with a "More Feminine Sensibility"

Some years ago I read the prediction of German sociologist about women in the public square:
Obviously, Simmel wrote, the public sphere, the world outside the home, in the short term would still be defined by men for men, but in the long term women would transform the public square to suit "a more feminine sensibility."
Of course, I said to myself, that makes complete sense. But what exactly would a public square with "a more feminine sensibility" look like? Ever since I have tuned my cultural antennae to be looking for signs and portents.

I last took a look at this in December 2017.

Let us examine the question again, and let us start with the question of honor, from Honor: a History by James Bowman.

According to Bowman, honor is very different for men and for women.  Honor for men is a reputation for courage, in particular the reputation for standing in line with your brothers-in-arms and not breaking line and heading for safety. Honor in women is a reputation for chastity, and I do not mean just sexual chastity, but the broader question of never doing anything wrong, never having made a mistake.

In my view, the notion of chastity in the public square is a problem, because the only way to avoid making a mistake is never to do anything.

And there is another thing. Men bring their masculine sensibility to the public square, both the good and bad. For instance, men have an insult culture, by which they playfully insult each other. This can be good, if insults are truly playful, or bad, if the insult hits a bit too close to home and leads to fisticuffs or the blood feud of the Hatfields and the McCoys.

It stands to reason, therefore, that women bring their feminine sensibility to the public square, both for good and for ill. For instance, women have a complaint culture by which two women chatting together will impugn a third woman: "I can't believe she said/did that." This can be good if the complaint is true, or bad, if the complaint escalates into a mean-girl ganging up on some individual woman in the kind of operation that has come to be called a witch hunt.

It seems to me that these two cultures, the insult culture and the complaint culture, represent two very different ways of dealing with social conflict.

I would say that the political system, with its eternal exchange of insults, is almost irredeemably male. How do you modify it to suit "a more feminine sensibility?" and the underground system of complaints about third parties?  The legal system, with its process of prosecution and defense, is as male as can be.

You can see "a more feminine sensibility" in the politically correct culture of today's university campus, where the students -- and I suspect  the administrators -- are now majority female. It is clear to me that the notions of "microaggression" and "safe spaces" represent "a more feminine sensibility" on campus. Women on campus are saying that it is unacceptable for a woman ever to be offended or challenged by another person. But notice that the effect of the microaggression/safe space" culture is to eliminate any discourse that might be construed by sensitive souls to "give offence."  How, for instance, does a group of people on  today's campus represent their experience of injustice if the feminine powers-that-be determine that their "peaceful protest" "gives offence?"

It seems to me that the male insult culture accepts that there will be disagreements between men that need to be publicly acknowledged and worked out. But if you ask me the women's complaint culture will tend to marginalize disagreements, and has no way of resolving disagreement. The mean girls rule, because they monopolize the air waves, and too bad for the rest of us.

For instance, all the women Democratic representatives dressed up in white at the recent State of the Union speech by President Trump. So how does that make the Republican women feel? Isn't this kind of behavior a microaggression that would make non-lefty women in Congress feel unsafe? Doesn't it send a message to all and sundry that you are either with us or against us?

And if we are talking about white uniforms, what about the KKK? Are we to understand these Women in White as the new street-thug department of the Democratic Party, just like the KKK was in the Jim Crow South?

I think the whole question of women in the public square is a huge issue, and we have just begun to scratch the surface.

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