In a Jezebel article on Why Men Vote Republican, Hugo Schwyzer wrote:
Conservative Republican appeals to men are filled with nostalgia for an era when women could not afford to be as choosy as they seem to be today. The historian-turned-gadfly-candidate Newt Gingrich rarely misses an opportunity to point out that, since the 1960s, liberals have carefully substituted the state for the husband in the lives of American women. Strong public institutions (as well as contraception and access to abortion) reduced women’s dependency on men. As women gained greater autonomy, they no longer felt as compelled to settle for unhappy or abusive marriages. In the traditionalist imagination, this liberation led to abortion, divorce, and promiscuity.
The end result of women’s emancipation has been, as conservatives like Charles Murray and Mary Eberstadt have argued, the psychological dislocation of American men. Raised to be “good providers,” young men cannot possibly compete with a “Leviathan” state that provides far more to women and children. The much-exaggerated contemporary masculinity crisis is the inevitable consequence of robbing men of their natural and primary source of self-esteem, the ability to provide for their families.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that more men than women vote Republican in this country for this very reason. Whether they are able to articulate it or not, I suspect a great many men sense that the weaker the state, the more dependent women become upon them.
As a liberal and former encamper at an Occupy group… This is all true. But I find it remarkable that honest liberals, like Mr. Schwyzer, do not consider it a real problem.
When I was growing up, the “Welfare Queen” theory was a hot topic. An utterly classist, misogynistic rationalization for withdrawing much-needed financial support from unwed mothers.
But in fact as an adult I’ve talked to Those People while waiting to apply for food stamps. It really is a lifestyle decision. Girls in the projects grow up, very often, intending to be professional, state-financed mothers, just as some good girls from Middle America grow up wanting to be housewives.
The difference is that a man making minimum wage simply cannot compete with Uncle Sam as a provider. And in terms of holding down a long-term relationship, that does indeed matter. Further, Uncle Sam bids up the costs of apartments and food…
I would ask Mr. Schwyzer to reconsider. If the goal is “happiness,” what about the children who are often not truly wanted or loved, but conceived as a means to a government income? Who do not know their fathers, or do not live with them?
The male complaint, the male desire for children, is not trivial and is not necessarily rooted in misogyny or a desire to control procreation. To desire to have a family is a wholesome desire, and it is one that men below the poverty line often do not realize; not in the Middle American way that is available to an affluent man like Mr. Schwyzer.
The implicit presumption that the romantic relationships of poor people are unhappy because men are abusive is just too simplistic. Poor people have miserable romantic relationships because of the stresses placed on them by poverty.
I told people at the Occupy group, “We live in a system that pries families apart like a big crowbar.” I saw again and again that that was the real reason people were there. America destroys families. Never one time was I quoted in this by the news reporters, who were good, nice people.
The reporters believed that families fall apart because of moral failure — because the parents lack “family values.” That is in effect what Mr. Schwyzer has written, that men lack families, lack the capacity to be fathers, because they lack good feminist values.
Human emotionality is not evolved to maintain the family in a welfare state. It is evolved to survive a hard struggle against a hostile environment. In such circumstance it is not a priority that couples be happy. It is a priority that the children be taken care of.
When the system creates enormous stresses on long-term relationships, and then pays mothers who never marry or who divorce their husbands, women and men respond the way they might in a little kingdom or tribe. If the King were to do this, we might often find couples fighting, women leaving to join the King’s harem, and men either drifting, work made useless by their “psychological displacement,” or going berserk and making an attempt on the King’s life.
We see these emotional patterns, in men and women. It does not reflect the success of feminism, nor the inherent lack of either traditional or feminist family values. It reflects the fact that we have created an economic system that pries families apart like a big crowbar.