2018 Conference Talk
The Two Faces of Modern Misandry
Note: subscribers can watch this, and the rest of the talks, on the Touchstone website.
While in accord with the spirit of this conference, when it came to speaking at it, I found myself weighted by the impression that I had little to add to what I had already said elsewhere on its theme, and, a bit weary of listening to myself, thought I might do us all the favor of getting out of others’ way by giving not a whole paper, but only a couple of thoughts. The first is on our principal business here, and the second is on the spiritual dimension of opposition to patriarchy, a perilous subject with which I have not previously dealt.
The Negative Force of Egalitarianism
In Sexual Politics (1970) Kate Millett wrote, “Perhaps patriarchy’s greatest psychological weapon is simply its universality and longevity.” Well, yes . . . to be sure . . . but one must add that universality and longevity are something more than “psychological weapons.” They are also the best evidence of what sociologist Steven Goldberg, to whom I am sure Allan Carlson and others will be referring, calls patriarchy’s inevitability. It is difficult for me to imagine that this observation, even apart from Goldberg, does not loom in the thought-background of all feminists as intelligent and deliberative as Kate Millett.
This inspires, in me at least, a certain admiration for their assiduity in pursuing what they may in their hearts fear is a lost cause. There is something heroic in feminist resolve, exhibited in their struggle against the hard realities of history. (And let me add that I am here treating feminism as a coherent phenomenon with an articulable philosophy, which may be summarized as the establishment of the female by the diminution or elimination of the male.)
That resolve is not unlike the Christian’s in the face of his Lord’s promise that “in this world you shall have tribulation”—although no comparable authority is there to give feminists the assurance, “Be not afraid, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Whatever comfort the feminist finds in her fellowship, she and her society are lonely in the world, fulminating Invictus-like at the stars in their courses. It is hard for her to kick against the pricks, hedged about as she is by intolerable maleness on every side, “the gold lion, the bearded bull—which breaks through the hedges and scatters the little kingdom[s] of [our] primness . . . the masculine that none of us can escape” (C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength).
The feminist successes at castration—much encouraged by men who use it not to advance any women’s cause but to frustrate competition from other men—fail with the dying of the cultures where it is done. The suppression of maleness, as Camille Paglia has indicated and Christina Hoff Sommers has explicated, is a form of cultural suicide. A stable containing only mares and geldings hasn’t much of a future. Like the parasite that destroys its host, those organizations that advance the anti-maleness of egalitarianism, the apparently more benign form of feminism, as a principle of operation, as so many churches do, are terminally ill, learning the hard way that the maleness of males is necessary for survival.
If it sounds odd, as it does to many today, to characterize mere egalitarianism as anti-male, we must understand what it is that patriarchy among Christians stands against. The faith is less concerned today with the blatantly misanthropic and ultimately genocidal fish-needing-bicycle variety of feminism, since that is so patently absurd that it needn’t be opposed by anything but its definition. Rather, the principal concern of the Church’s quotidian struggles against feminism is its more presentable and seemingly more reasonable egalitarian form. This is the kind that, in its elemental desire to equalize the sexes—its elemental desire to equalize the sexes—denies maleness to the male, the maleness that in the social context produces patriarchy as its natural result. Sexual egalitarianism is a form of misandry—hatred of the masculine—and is just as radical and destructive as the more explicitly negative varieties.
Egalitarianism is not a positive concept involving a just equipoise of identical valuations, for this is part of Judaism and Christianity, too, in which the man and woman share the same physical and spiritual ground. Rather, it cannot be understood until it is acknowledged to be, like radical feminism, a negative force that denies the full weight and meaning of maleness to the man, a forced symmetry against nature and therefore also against nature’s Maker and his self-revelation in maleness.
It is a necessary axiom of this denial’s corrupted Christology that the maleness of Christ, in which all believers are found and defined as Christians, has no vital significance in respect to the incarnation of God. It is invariably said by egalitarian theologians that only Christ’s humanness can bear the full weight of incarnational meaning—while we in this Fellowship insist that, on the contrary, everything about God Incarnate has fathomless, cosmic meaning, which we are called upon to confess, and any abridgement or denial of this is a mark of Antichrist, so no Christian can be an egalitarian except one in need of forgiveness for it. I hope I have, in this and other places, made this plain enough—even though at Touchstone conferences one is not burdened with the necessity of making things clear to the meanest of understandings.
All patriarchy, as understood and practiced by Christians, is represented in the first and principal article of the Creed: I believe in God the Father. We do not say God is equally something other than Father, or that he is like a father, or that his ineffability, or the necessities of apophatic theology, makes that identification in some regard abstract or metaphorical. Our faith does not place God’s Fatherhood outside the revelation of the unfathomability of the Father himself, as if there were any inadequacy in naming him in precisely the way we were instructed by his consubstantial Son, our Lord—for it is in our Lord Christ and in him alone that we know him as our Father in heaven.
Everything, existential and conceptual, that is good, true, and beautiful originates in and flows from the Father; all truth is suffused with the truth which is his very Person and is perfectly manifest through the Spirit in his Son. These are no new discoveries, but have been held, believed, and taught in his Church from the beginning. It is the herpetic denials of our age—especially those that claim to be Christian—that call for reaffirmations such as we are presenting here in what I hope will be the most dogmatic and unapologetic terms.
The Myth & Meaning of Lilith
The second thought of which I will deliver myself today is related to the spiritual world to which we are actively addressing ourselves here, and to which I referred in the introduction to my remarks on Nazism last year, namely, the apostolic observation that—and I will translate Ephesians 6:12 thus—our conflict is not with other people, but against ranked and organized companies of energetic demons who have temporary control over the affairs of the world.
Feminism in its most elemental form is the frank and decisive rejection of maleness. Its egalitarian arrangement is the same rejection and attempt at male erasure, only with a different mechanism—one that involves the substitution of abstract and unsexed personhood for real human personhood, which, as Eric Mascall and others have reminded us, is always sexed.
Feminism in egalitarian form is worked out through attempts to reform or repair or equalize or correct or humanize maleness. In the discovery of this active and persistent attempt to deny and alter, one begins to draw near the life of the invisible world to which St. Paul refers in Ephesians, our perceptions of which are—by God’s intention I believe—more limited and inferential because in general he does not wish for us to dabble in its affairs, and has relieved those who trust in him from regular commerce with demons, whose power he has broken in his Victory. The inferences are not, however, far from us, supported as they are by legends and myths that take form around these unseen psycho-spiritual realities to which the Scriptures refer.
In this world, suppres-sed but not yet fully extinguished by the victory of Christ, the spirit of feminism seems to bear a name: Lilith. Whether we are justified in regarding this energumenon as a “who” I do not know, although I doubt not that many evil spirits have been found under this name.
In Jewish legend Lilith is a night-roaming demon who seeks to destroy the lives of birthing mothers and young children. My edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica shows a photograph of an amulet such as was hung in rooms where women were giving birth and children slept to ward off Lilith, whose hatred is thought to be specially concentrated upon them.
There is more than a bit of irony in the widespread adoption among the more radical type of feminist of the Lilith totem when it bears every mark of being an accusatory invention of the patriarchy she so passionately abominates. The legend, which appears to be very old, makes Lilith out to be Adam’s first wife, formed not from his body but, like him, originated from the dust of the earth. In that sense she is equal to him in a more intense but also more detached way than Eve. She, however, is said to have rejected Adam, refusing to render him the submission necessary for the begetting of children, and so denying to him fatherhood and patriarchy.
C. S. Lewis in That Hideous Strength—his principal writing on the living relation of the sexes—was not the first to understand that obedience is an “erotic necessity,” and thus a necessity for the existence of the human race. This understanding is also at the foundation of the ancient Lilith myth.
The essential character of the proto-feminist Lilith in her refusal of the man is therefore made out in the legend to be that of a killer, and specifically a hater and destroyer of new life, which she in her rejection of the man had in her gift but refused to give. It is no wonder that so many feminist organizations should have adopted her as their symbol, or that her spiritual offspring are marked by their devotion to the prevention of conception, abortion, low living, drug addiction, easy divorce, the removal of children from their parents in order to put them in the care of “experts,” bad schools that keep children ignorant in early youth and later transmute that ignorance into foolishness in what is called higher education, and to other evils, all propagated in the name of good.
Lilith, one must think, is for several reasons an avowed enemy of homeschooling, which is notorious for teaching children obedience to divine and parental authority. She is the enemy of the submissive and fruitful Eve and her children, and even more the foe of Our Lady and the fruit of her womb, Jesus. Whatever form her existence may be said to take, she, in some way, does exist as a spiritual reality, a servant of the old Dragon, animated by hatred and enviousness of what she would not receive because of her refusal of it, to the end of eternal barrenness. This is the anti-Mary, the spirit that refuses to say “Ecce ancilla Domini: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”
The legend, as a story explaining many things, can hardly help but take the form of an extraordinarily powerful myth and, in accordance with the character of a myth, is objectified in history with the aid of a psyche predisposed, through its observation of creation, particularly its hierarchies, to understand it as such. The place for this in the mind, something like a Jungian archetype, also seems to be not just ancient and universal, but primal. We strive unsuccessfully, though, to find a personal identity in what we can detect with certainty as a malign spiritual influence. This inability is quite understandable, for the confusion of persons at which the demons strive does not favor concretions of identity, especially that of persons, flowing from the Creator who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, without confusion or separation. This may be inferred from the history of heresy, which involves a demonic struggle against not only the identity of God, but identity in God, and so also the creation formed in harmonic accord with his Person. The integrities we call a man, or a beast, or a tree, or a stone, receive from their Creator the identity in which they are themselves and no other (in Ipso, omnia constant!), and the devils don’t like it. They like to frustrate meaning by breaking things meant by God to be unbroken. (But never fear—God, to whom be all glory in heaven and earth, and who shall not be mocked, shall re-institute every good thing on even higher ground than before.)
Thus, St. Paul did not name the demons and give them poetic speeches as Milton did, but simply identified them as (and now we return to a standard translation) “principalities and powers, world rulers of this present darkness, spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” This is really as far as we need go in identifying Lilith, for whatever she may be, we know her works, and denounce them.
And that also, I think, is another way of saying what we are about here. God between us and evil.
S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor.