43 Years Later, The Implications are Clearer

Essay Review  of Morgan, Elaine, 1972. The Descent of Woman:
(London: Souvenir Press)
c) 2015, Davd

(from the dust jacket) Elaine Morgan was born in the South Wales Mining Valley; she was awarded an exhibition to Oxford where she took a degree in English. After a successful entry in a Television Play competition, she became a professional script writer of plays, series and documentaries. This is her first book.

The subject of human evolution has gone quiet recently, and that’s unfortunate. It ought to be one of several perspectives from which we can view the human predicament. Most complex problems are better understood from several different perspectives; so that among them all, we can see the whole fairly well. (“The Blind Men and the Elephant” is a simple, wry folk story about this point.)

Part of the human predicament (I did not say all of it), is the “battle of the sexes”, which has become much more acrimonious, much more like warfare than it was when this book was published and i was young.

The “intellectual position” Ms. Morgan takes combines Darwinian evolution and gynocentrism—the placement of women at the centre of things. She complains of androcentrism, which she defines as “(male-centred[ness])” [p. 9]—in other words, the mirror image of gynocentrism. In the first five pages of the book [7-11] she criticizes androcentrism but doesn’t really say straight out that she is being gynocentric. She says it clearly, though, at the end of the first chapter: “It is time to approach the whole thing again right from the beginning: this time from the distaff side, and along a totally different route.

The “totally different route” she takes in picturing human evolution, is to the seashore, where she postulates, following Sir Alistair Hardy (1960), that pre-human apes spent the dry, hot twelve million years of the Pliocene. Her gynocentric perspective on that possible littoral interval in human history includes some aspects of infant nurture especially, which gynocentrism makes it easier to notice: So let the reader please observe: I am not rejecting gynocentrism per se; rather, i see some merit in its use,  especially when balanced with androcentrism.

For context, i should mention another important part of the human predicament—ecological scarcity—that is quite distinct from the “battle of the sexes”; and was much less publicly prominent when The Descent of Woman was published, than it is now. The abundance-with-growth expectation, the expectation that each generation will be more affluent than their parents, that were hallmarks of the Industrial Revolution, went false sometime in the second half of the last century. Remember ecological scarcity when you listen to financial or political forecasts and promises: If they are based on any kind of assumption that young or even middle-aged people today can expect to live better than their parents’ generation—they are falsehoods at best; and if the forecasters “know or ought to have known” that affluence is not a trend any longer, then it becomes reasonable to call them lies.

I was more sympathetic to The Descent of Woman the first time i read it, in the 1970s, and ecological scarcity may be one ground for my sympathy being less today. The uses that Feminists have made of gynocentrism—and of misplaced chivalry—since then, are more important, for two reasons. First, some things Morgan advocated are now in practice, and the way they are practised is not humane to my sex. Second, i notice on this second reading, the onerous meaning of demands she made, that i might have treated as rhetoric deserving tolerance, on the first.

Forty-three years after publication, Morgan herself still reads like a strongly gynocentric writer, but not like a man-hater. The description of the book, on that dust jacket, is excessively laudatory and Feminist-triumphalist, and too keen for conflict; but Elaine Morgan herself seems less so; she evidently likes men. However, it would be misleading to say this book seeks equality. Women’s advancement, yes; removal of inequalities that favour men, yes; but equal social and political power for the two sexes—not from my reading, in today’s context, and especially of how the book concludes.

Morgan writes well—as does Ardrey, who also worked as a playwright before publishing a book on human origins1. She employs “scenaria” (my choice of term, not hers) whose style apparently derives from her playwright experience. For example, on pp. 22-25, she describes the efforts of an adult female pre-human to survive on the Pliocene African savannah, emphasizing the greater vulnerability of females to predation. In this scenario and several others, gynocentrism is working well for her, and for understanding human origins. Her point that a direct early Pliocene transformation from arboreal fuit eater to terrestrial carnivore (or even omnivore) was impossible in the time available, is quite credible… not proven, but believable … and thus supports her adoption and extension of the Hardy littoral theory as a more plausible alternative.

In another scenario [34-39], she argues that pendulous breasts and long hair well serve the needs of infants… in an aquatic environment. In still another, she describes how the glare of an aquatic environment might induce a primate species to learn to frown [47-49], emphasizing the infant’s need to locate its mother. So the scenaria, likely a playwright’s technique adapted to theorizing about human origins, can work well—but they are speculative (as are theories generally, before testing), and they are not guaranteed to be valid.

The book states its main theme several times, perhaps most explicitly on p. 153: “The theme of this book has been to suggest that a surprisingly large number of the differences between ourselves and our nearest zoological relatives may be explained by postulating that after initially evolving as a land-dwelling mammal, we returned to the sea and became aquatic.” (I write “littoral2” so as to group our ancestors ecologically with the beavers and otters rather than the dolphins, whales, or even seals. Whales and dolphins never come ashore. Seals come ashore to whelp. These species cannot walk. Otters and beavers rear their young on ground situated to as to combine land and water to protect themselves; they can walk. Pre-humans were far indeed, on Morgan’s and fossil evidence, from being able to bear and nurse their infants in the open sea.)

Its second theme is gynocentrism, the placement of women at the centre of things, which in Morgan’s use is more than a means to understanding. Morgan has ill to say of the mirror-image concept of androcentrism, the placement of men at the centre; but neither of the two is evil nor wrong in itself. Imposing androcentrism on women, who are naturally gynocentric, is at least “a wrong of sorts” and in some circumstances can be a serious wrong. Conversely, imposing gynocentrism on men, who are naturally androcentric, is at least “a wrong of sorts” and in some circumstances can be a serious wrong.3 When i first read this book in the 1970s, androcentrism was still more prevalent in “serious writing” than gynocentrism (though mainly because of its prevalence in works published in the first two-thirds of the 20th Century and secondarily because of its prevalence in works published in previous centuries.)

The themes are combined early, on p. 10: “One of these days an evolutionist is going to strike a palm against his large-domed head and cry: ‘Of course! We assumed the first human being was a man!’” Which utterance is not all-wrong; so much as it is far too individualistic. The first human being never was: Populations evolve, not individuals. Adam and Eve, if our species evolved as Morgan accepts, are both legendary metaphors. The first presence of humanity was a human group, not an individual. More than one sociologist taught me in the 1960s, the decade before The Descent of Woman was published, that it is impossible to be human in isolation: Humanity is a social condition.

Elaine Morgan, however, is not writing sociology. Her main contribution is to emphasize and develop the littoral theory; her valuable and productive use of gynocentrism, is to look at the implications of pregnancy and infant nurture for evolution. If “obvious” means much, it is “obvious” that a look at the implications of pregnancy and infant nurture for evolution is by nature gynocentric. Plausibly, it is more natural for a woman than for a man to take that look. It is also, we should not forget, infantocentric: The merit of gynocentrism in her work derives mainly from women’s reproductive biology and functioning.

Like Elaine Morgan, i took special notice of the “littoral theory of the Pliocene” in human evolution when i first met it. I spent more happy hours of my boyhood in the inter-tidal and shallow sub-tidal waters of the Pacific Ocean and its many bays, than anywhere else4. (Second and third most were with my grandfather, and gardening. .. which categories did overlap.) When i read Morgan’s littoral explanation for where pre-humanity spent the Pliocene, in the 1970s and again this year, i did so with sympathy formed long before she published.

Gynocentrism is not required for a good examination of the littoral theory—indeed, Hardy was male—but it directs attention to the practical problems of infant care in waist-deep water; “it has something to add.” Having added that important focus on infancy and reproduction, Morgan goes on to address violence, sexuality and eros, with lesser results.

Her “rape scenario” for the transition to front copulation [78-86] is entangled with her assumptions that [1] pre-humans had well developed appeasement gestures to which response was automatic, and [2] pre-humans did not copulate in the water. Neither of these is as well established on other evidence, as the littoral theory she adapted from Hardy (1960). Front copulation could quite plausibly have evolved from “funning around” rather than by force—even if there were appeasement gestures available and they copulated on land. Funning around in the water, and-or lack of appeasement gestures, could make it downright likely.

Given the playfulness of aquatic mammals [66] it might more likely be that those pre-humans, especially the females, found playful ways to enjoy their bodies pleasure responses; which modern humans call sexual but an oestrous species might not… and that those came to include front copulation as well as “breast play”, fancy kissing, earlobe kissing and fondling, …. I write, especially the females, because today it is the females of our species who spend much more time and money “looking sexy” with parts of their bodies that have nothing to with oestrus and take no part in copulation.

I doubt her claim that no other mammal females are ever “mated against their will” but do not have a handy exception to name. Suppose it were true, which it might possibly be if all other mammal females experience [o]estrus. Among most primates, as Morgan points out, copulation is brief and little fuss is made over it. Its trigger is [o]estrus, the female “presents” and during [o]estrus, “against her will” is nonsense… by the definition of [o]estrus. If there is no other mammal that lacks [o]estrus, that may be why other mammal females were mated only when they wish to be—because [o]estrus causes both the female wish and the male participation. A female in heat decides not whether to copulate but with whom—if even that.

A female without [o]estrus, must decide whether, and like male bonding (see below). the decision to copulate is not all-or-none, rather quantitative. Women and even men have sometimes copulated with great eagerness, but other times with the attitude “well, OK, if you want to that much…”. Feminism has taken Morgan’s “rape scenario” and other writers’ antipathy to heterosexual men, and extended the definition of rape beyond forcible copulation with violence, to include even intoxication and “morning after regret.” In another essay, i have criticized the use of all-or-none categorization on the gradated phenomenon of sexual consent.

I didn’t read much in this book, about the human female spending far more time and money on looking sexy, than the male spends5—much of the game is at her initiative; and in modern form, that initiative is less clear, less efficient than [o]estrus.

I don’t know how the ancestors of the cetaceans—the whales and dolphins—managed the transition; nor the ancestors of the sirenians; but Morgan reports, as do others, that they have done so, and copulate front-to front with mutual desire… which furnishes a handy transition to the related subject of orgasm.

We cannot be sure, until they are subjected to operational study such as Masters and Johnson performed on humans, that either sex of these big-brained sea mammals actually enjoys the pleasures of orgasm… and likewise for other mammals. Morgan, reasonably, supposed that most female mammals enjoy orgasm; more recent studies indicate that some seldom do. Abraham (2002) quotes Frances Burton, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, as reporting that female monkeys rarely experience orgasm when copulating “because the males did not engage them for long enough periods.”

Orgasm in most species [perhaps including birds as well as mammals] might be a rather ordinary pleasure when it occurs. Inviting and performing copulation, in most mammal species, is the routine consequence of [o]estrus; and as Morgan notes, a typical non-human primate copulation is brief [100] and ‘lower’ mammals “make far less fuss about everything than we do.”[95] Ergo, the absence of showy emotion implies neither the absence nor the presence of orgasm. But perhaps both sexes of [o]estral mammals enjoy orgasm less than “modern civilized” humans have been telling one another we ought to do … routine activity, routine reward.

Morgan’s ‘take on the human male’, overall, is sympathetic and basically friendly, but also subtly condescending. He is a worker, helping to keep society going; he is often helpful personally but also often confused, and stigmatized by her rape scenario for front copulation… and then, Ms. Morgan mistakenly states that male bonding depends on violence [227-32], a claim that will get some helpful androcentric attention in the Discussion.

At the end of the book, Ms. Morgan advocates three objectives for the women’s movement: “First, as for any other ex-subject population, greater self-respect.6

“Second, economic independence, because until every woman feels confident that she can at need support herself we will never eradicate the male suspicion that when we say ‘I want love. I want a permanent relationship,’ we really mean ‘I want a meal ticket. I want you to work and support me for the rest of my life.’ It needn’t mean, for everybody, the end of the division of labour family. [272]

“Third, the certainty of having no more children than she wants, and none at all if she doesn’t want any.” [273] Morgan makes plain that this entails “free abortion on demand” [274], and thus claims for women the power to deem any foetus they find inconvenient as non-human. That is an ancient temptation, which all three great Abrahamic faiths condemn; it will reappear in the discussion.

In 1972, when The Descent of Woman was published, Canada’s largest province in population, in which i then lived and worked, still held to the legal condemnation of adultery; so that for instance, an adulterous woman could not claim financial support if her husband divorced her. (The idea that a man might claim financial support if his wife divorced him, was “weird” in those years, and the man would likely be stereotyped as a “gigolo”; but conversely, a man who divorced a faithful wife or gave her cause for divorce—and in those years cause meant serious wrongdoing, such as adultery, violent assault, or grievous cruelty, not mere failure to keep her haaaapppy all the time—was normally ordered to continue supporting her financially.) The sex-role balance worked to her advantage in some ways, to his in others; and until some time in the latter 20th Century, the balance was considered to be fair and beneficial to both sexes. We have not yet found another mutually accepted balance.

Discussion:

It is well worth while remembering that Ms. Morgan’s main point is about a 10-12 million year Pliocene littoral phase in human evolution. She marshals evidence—quotations, citations, references—of enough quality and quantity, that i could regard her representation of pre-human Pliocene evolution as ‘default': Whoever argues for a different Pliocene scenario has at least a prima facie burden of proof to bear, and more likely, a burden of proof on the preponderance of the evidence. Early in 2015, this book seems to present a convincing preponderance of the evidence which i have not seen outdone in the intervening 43 years… for a littoral explanation of the Pliocene disappearance of pre-humans from the fossil record.

In “making that case”, Morgan makes good use of gynocentrism—and infantocentrism. She reports that tiny babies can indeed learn to swim safely on their own [34-5, quoting Anthony Storr], and using her scenaria, that pendulous rather than hemispherical breasts and women’s long hair provide infants with better handholds [38-9]. (Men, she argues, can go bald with relatively little ill effect because when infants need those handholds, they also need mother’s milk.)

Morgan is eloquent in depicting the predicaments of pre-human apes male and female; and fair-minded in depicting those of the males—if her scenaria be valid. She is not so eloquent in presenting the gradual nature of evolution; often, she doesn’t bother, or is it, doesn’t try? but instead writes evocative scenaria (no great surprise from a playwright.) There are alternative scenaria, such as the development of frontal copulation from mutually consenting erotic playfulness rather than by force. There are scientific difficulties with some of her scenaria, of which the gradual and the group rather than individual nature of evolution are arguably most important, to be resolved.

Having made Hardy’s point about a littoral transformation, and enriched it by attention to motherhood and infancy, she addresses human sexuality (seeing it as strained), and then propounds a Feminist agenda which is less onerous than some described by Nathanson and Young (2001, 2006), but goes beyond the equality of the sexes and well on toward female dominance.

Sex first, then politics: I infer from what i read this decade that women’s “Liberation” to be promiscuous has failed to increase women’s total sexual satisfaction. Perhaps, to quote a popular aphorism of the latter 20th Century, “Less is More”: Monogamy and modesty may well turn out to be more pleasurable norms!

If sexual behaviour today, is indeed an area of human life where conflict and distress are far more likely than not, to result; then Morgan has made a strong case for the general principle behind the old Roman Catholic doctrines which prevailed under Pope Pius XII, when i was a boy7: Sex is licit within marriage and for procreation; promiscuity is wrong, as is divorce. I doubt that was her objective, especially doubt that it was her major objective—but if she is telling us that sex-for-fun is very likely to produce distress instead, i suggest to her and those who hold today’s Feminist double standard, that sex-for-procreation will both serve procreation and, because expectations are not overly high as to the fun, might please both partners more because of its relative pleasance.

Eros by “hook up” is a source of much pleasure for many people despite its flaws—but so is alcoholic drink, which all Islam and a significant part of Christianity forbid, and so are many ‘recreational drugs’ more dangerous than ethyl alcohol, which drugs most legal systems somehow criminalize. Perhaps the liberation even of women should not include total erotic freedom. Perhaps cosmetics and sexy clothing of all kinds, should be taxed as alcoholic drink is taxed—and not at American, British, Canadian, or French but at Finnish rates. Finnish tax policy, when i spent a sabbatical year there, was intended to discourage consumption and also to fund all medical and other State costs which could be attributed to drinking. Cigarettes were similarly taxed. Methinks there be merit in similarly taxing cosmetics and sexy clothing, and using the proceeds to help prevent national budget deficits and even pay down the public debt.

I will not go on toward St. Jerome’s condemnation of non-procreative sex within marriage, as many in the Roman church did in the 1950s. St. Paul’s directions to married couples seem more sensible and few even among Christians would call Paul a libertine. I support the conservative Christian position held by many churches, that divorce should not be easy, rather a dire remedy for grievous wrongdoing (e.g. C.S. Lewis, 1952); that abortion and adultery are always sinful and often evil, that virginity at marriage is better than “being experienced”, and that both spouses should seek to please the other as well as themselves.

Morgan’s criticisms of “male bonding” as a part of human nature show an important failing of gynocentrism used by itself. She, as a proudly female human being, has never experienced male bonding. I as a man who was a boy, have: There be much i could report, beyond what Morgan has discerned and inferred from what she has read and what she has seen on screens.

The point with which to begin, i believe, is that male bonding is more a “quantitative variable” than it is a yea-or-nay condition like virginity and even more, pregnancy; like being or not being Jewish, Muslim or Sikh8. I was very strongly bonded with my “Granps”, rather strongly with my childhood pals Billy, Jeff, and Johnny, moderately so with my science-brat friends in Grades 10-12. But as an example of bonding sans violence, involving larger numbers, and widely known as a type, i could name the Boy Scout troop i went hiking and camping with, in between age 6-10 with Billy, Jeff, and Johnny, and the science nerd group at ages 15-17.

I recall waking up to snowfall in a tent some 35 miles south of my parents’ home, one December morning when i could quite as easily have waked up in bed in a heated room. We were not going out to fight anyone—we were there to refine our outdoor skills. Our Scoutmaster was a young man studying to be a schoolteacher, and he liked the outdoor part of “Scouting” much more than the parade-ground-like “meetings”. That troop, and Johnny and Scoutmaster Lynn Roper, have much to do with my comfort in moving from the city to the countryside—something that seems far more difficult than moving from rural life into the city.

We went camping in all weather, we built bridges of logs thinned from the woods on his or a kinsman’s acreage, we learned teamwork and confidence, and we never went to war—we didn’t even go hunting. From that troop, as from my fellow science nerds and from Granps and the old Finlanders near Thunder Bay and in Finland proper, i learned that men bond by sharing hard co-operative work and a little adversity. Violence is not a requisite.

What Morgan wrote, then, is mistaken at best:
Homo sapiens … living the moderate and mainly co-operative life to be expected of cousins of the hedonic apes. Almost all men spend most of their lives in this way. Most men spend all of their lives in this way.
“But because all our governance is based on male bonding, and male bonding on at best a low-powered rumbling of aggression, accompanied by the hallucinatory visions which keep that vision alive9, we are constantly in danger …” [229]

There is no need for aggression: My Scouting experience shows it false in that co-operative effort, combined with a little challenge and maybe even adversity, can bond boys and men without aggression. So also says much pioneer history.

The conduct of Lincoln and Grant in the American Civil War, show us more about that falsehood:

Abraham Lincoln was a wartime President if ever there was one. When his side won the war, he said, as President, With malice toward none, with charity to all, let us bind up the wounds of this nation … Lincoln’s successor as President and his best general during the war, Ulysses Grant, in accepting the Confederate surrender, said, “Tell your men to keep their horses. They will need them for spring plowing.” Real Men fight, when we must, to win and not to destroy.

It seems Morgan was telling us that politics selects for the worst in men, rather than the best. Lincoln’s and Grant’s examples tell us otherwise. (It might be worth mentioning at this point, that it was Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who ordered troops to storm the Sikh Golden Temple, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who chose military action rather than appeal to the UN, over the Falklands.) My Scouting experience tells us that male bonding is not about aggression inherently—though it can make a group of men more effective if aggression be required.

The New England town meeting, the pow-wow, voyageur teamwork, the circles of direct democracy in general, are not based on aggression, and it rarely occurs there. Indeed, while it rarely occurs in direct democracy, very large states these days have huge numbers of police whatever the sex of their leaders. Over-centralization would seem on the facts, to be a far more dangerous cause of violence in social control, than testosterone.

And the reason i can identify these errors of Morgan’s, these merits of men and of local direct democracy, is—androcentrism. As Morgan’s gynocentric perspective helped her examine the merits of littoral evolution and especially the infantocentric aspects, and her being a woman very likely made it much easier for her to do than for a man; so conversely, as a man, i could take a better formed androcentric perspective and recall, and observe in history10, the human goodness and fellowship of male bonding as well as its independence from aggression.

It might also be that Morgan, despite her later publication of a book praising rural life (Morgan, 1977), was somewhat too bureaucratic in this one. On p. 252, she writes a picture of a specialized child rearing space analogous to an office, concluding that a mother who had such a work site (as compared to an office worker husband)
might then begin to feel her job was as important as his—which God knows it is—and needs at least as much special equipment, and benefits at least as much from regular contact with others employed on the same task. If she had a mind free to concentrate on it, she might even rediscover that this job is far more rewarding and creative than most, and that young children are even more fascinating to watch than otters, and that a juvenile cluster is less clinging than an isolated tot, and that when her attention isn’t on a thousand other things [the child] doesn’t have to kick up hell to get a piece of it.

The points Morgan asserts about children and their nurture appear more valid than any inference that an office-analogue is the way to apply them to child rearing. Methinks it is worth while examining that analogy and its implications for job work as well as for childrearing. In an office, there are efficiency criteria; and the number of workers hired, and their skills, is set so that they are nearly always busy at something useful. One or two children is not an ideal number for their development, as Morgan’s reference to “a juvenile cluster” acknowledges. Neither will one or two children keep one mother busy in the way that a well designed and staffed office will keep its workers busy. There ought to be a more efficient and satisfying way to rear children, than a suburban nuclear family house.

But children are not office work: Paperwork never needs to be fed, doesn’t fight each other nor spill crayons all over the floor, and can be set aside for a long time without getting sick or stinking up its pants.

The optimum setting for childrearing is neither an office-analogue nor a nuclear family house. The traditional “stem family” living on a farm is much closer, for more reasons than just time efficiency:

  • The rural environment is safer and healthier for the children.

  • The parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and other kin are much better informed about the children, their playmates, and their activities, than in a city or suburb.

  • There are 3-10 adults instead of one or two, to do the work; and once the child is weaned [s]he can potentially choose which of those adults will teach her or him what skills. There are few skills that some family member or neighbour cannot transmit, until the child’s age is up into the double digits.

  • The adults can usually combine childrearing with other work, which gives the children a better picture of adult work life and makes more effective use of adult time.

  • The mother—and father—can take time away from childrearing without abandoning the children to strangers.

  • The children can begin to do useful, valued work at an early age, in small amounts, and develop the healthy attitudes toward work that come from seeing it appreciated when well done.

“It takes a village to raise a child”, goes an oft-quoted African maxim. A large rural family is far closer to the merits of that village than is either a pseudo-office “child care facility” or a nuclear-“family” house or apartment. Put a few other large rural families within walking distance, and arguably, you have the ideal child rearing environment. Shouldn’t children have the best we can give them?

Children should not be born in the shadow of easy abortion.

Morgan demands that every woman enjoy “… the certainty of having no more children than she wants, and none at all if she doesn’t want any.” [273] and specifies “free abortion on demand” [274] as part of this certainty. But such certainty, from business to health to weather, is more than humanity has in life generally—to demand it is to demand super-human power or privilege. The three great Abrahamic faiths condemn such hubris as extreme evil: It was the Evil One11, lying, who said “… in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5, which Islam honours, as well as Christianity and Judaism.). Instead of becoming as gods, the legendary story continues, Adam and Eve became ashamed. In early 2015, few Feminists have got so far as to know how much shame they are due.

As worded, Morgan’s demand could logically encompass infanticide, could logically encompass a mother selling her children into slavery if she ceased to want them after they were born… and as worded, even without the father’s consent. In 1972, there was more harmony and less conflict between the sexes, divorce and adultery were still shameful, and these implications did not so readily suggest themselves.

Your right to wave your arms about ends short of striking my face, if we are even close to equals; and so also the ‘right’ of women to control reproduction ends short of taking men out of reproduction decisions, if the equality of the sexes is any better than a vicious lie. A woman whose pregnancy begins in a drunken episode with a sailor whose nationality, even, she does not know; and who is far off on she knows not what sea when she finds out she is pregnant; may be forgiven, excused, even condoned, for deciding how to proceed without contacting the man… so long as she does not seek to make him pay her money.12. (The drunken episode definitely does her some discredit, though; and the foetus is still a distinct human body from her own. Morgan’s demand for easy abortion has been widely echoed since; but deeming a foetus not to be human, or not distinct from its mother, does not make that “deem” factually so—any more than deeming dark skinned slaves not to be human in the 18th Century, made them a different species.)

A woman whose pregnancy begins in marriage, whose husband is indeed the sire, if and as she disregards his concerns and wishes, claims a qualitative superiority over him which exceeds any superiority Western men claimed over women in this century or the last. She also claims the whip hand.

Men are not dimwits nor monsters, as Morgan agrees apart from her errors about “male bonding.” Indeed, we refer to monstrous conduct by a small minority of men as “inhuman.” We tend to love children by our nature—philios, not eros—and to suffer when they die or are kidnapped away. To guarantee a woman shall have no more children than she wants, given that wants can change with time, is to give her powers far beyond “human
rights”—and to deny human rights to children and men.

If ecological limits were not yet much noticed in 1972, perhaps also, the limited sum of “human rights” was not much noticed. A mother’s rights to her children, especially in case of divorce, are limited by what rights father and indeed the children themselves have. Today mothers have nearly all the legal rights (Nathanson and Young, 2006: ch 6); while fathers, sires, and children have few.

A pregnant woman’s right to abortion is limited by the foetus’s right to survive, as well as by the sire’s rights where he has any. Canadian law deems the foetus not to be a human being; which is biologically false. Feminists call that “a woman’s control over her own body.” Christian doctrine calls it evil, and as best i recall, so do Judaism and Islam.

A father’s right to his children, children’s rights to fatherly nurture and wisdom, conflict with a mother’s “right” to divorce and take the children with her13. Easy divorce has brought about increased conflict and left children worse-off. We would have been better off keeping with the Christian principle that marriage is for life and divorce, a remedy only for the grievously wronged… and yes, that means that neither women nor men “can have it all.” (The old Christian marriage ceremonies often included the words, “forsaking all others.” It is one of many paradoxes, that on average, those who did forsake all others and seek to make the best of the promises they made, turned out happier on average than those who pursued cheap thrills.)

Feminism claimed, in the latter decades of the 20th Century, that women could and should “have it all.” Few admit, even today, that “rights” can conflict; and that giving anyone all the rights to which she might have some plausible claim, that supporting the fullest development of women’s potentials, entails giving much less to men and even to children, entails even homicide in the light of the biological facts that a foetus is human and an individual. The very notion that women can or should “have it all,” once we realize that men and children cannot have it all also, nor anything close; goes beyond mere gynocentrism to gynarchy, and selfish gynarchy at that.

This “Feminist classic” did not read as misandric in the 1970s when i first read it. Today, some of its claims and demands clearly are being read and used in support of misandry and the subtle abuse of children, especially via removing fathers from their lives. It is still possible to believe Elaine Morgan meant well, that she liked men as long as they let women have the last word on the things that mattered to women. It is no longer reasonable to believe that if she meant well, things have turned out as she meant. They have turned out misandric, as an earlier book review (and even more, the Nathanson-Young book it summarized) detailed. Her final line, “Come on in—the water’s lovely” reads very false if as an assurance that men, even children, would benefit from or enjoy the Feminist agenda.

 

Other References:

Abraham, Carolyn 2002. “Mommy’s Little Secret.” Toronto: The Globe and Mail, December 14. Print Edition, Page F1

Hardy, Sir Alistair C. 1960 “Was Man More Aquatic In The Past?” New Scientist 7: 642-645

Lewis, C.S. 1952. Mere Christianity. NYC: MacMillan paperback.

Morgan, Elaine 1977. Falling Apart: The Rise and Decline of Urban Civilization. NYC: Stein and Day; London, UK: Sphere Books

Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2001. Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press

Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2006. Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Thatcher, Virginia S. and Alexander McQueen, eds. 1971. The Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language. Chicago: Consolidated Book Publishers.

Wells, H. G. 1961: The Outline of History Book Club edition, vol, 2. Garden City, NY

 

Notes:

1. Robert Ardrey was also a playwright, but his major [at the University of Chicago] was in the natural sciences.

2. The ‘littoral zone’ is the intertidal zone (Thatcher and McQueen, 497)

3. In logic, a converse is not necessarily valid. Politically, if a converse is invalid, then the two types or conditions are inherently, rightly, and properly unequal, and significantly so. Requiring men to be or even act gynocentric, amounts to oppression and-or to a declaration that men are a second sex that is vastly inferior to the first.

4. ..and yes, that’s a criticism of the way publicly funded schooling treated bright boys (and bright girls, but they could take it better) in the mid-20th Century. I did not enjoy school—yet if the school system had been biased in favour of boys, i ought to have enjoyed school! .. and if i had, school would have much out-counted tidelands first and second class, in numbers of happy hours—the hours i spent in school far exceeded those i was allowed to spend in the salt waters of the Pacific. I would also have been bilingual, trilingual, and-or very familiar with the calculus and other “advanced math” when i left Grade 12.

5. It seems safe to infer that women spend far more on “looking sexy,” from the fact that far more is spent on “looking sexy” advertising directed to women, than on such advertising directed to men. Advertising is published with the hope of profit, and where profits are less, so is advertising. On p. 269, Morgan does say, “it takes two to make a woman into a sex object: at the time of going to press most women are highly flattered to be so regarded, and would be insulted if their efforts to look sexy weren’t rewarded by precisely this ‘tribute’.”

6. 43 years later, “Beta” men are the subject population, as the Marotta case recently illustrated. How to increase our self-respect?

7. My parents were not Roman Catholic. Many of my neighbours were, and so i learned much Roman Catholic doctrine “as a fellow Christian of another church.” I agreed with monogamy and lifelong fidelity but did not condemn contraception as Rome did at that time. (As i write this, i have been entirely abstinent from erotic pleasuring for over ten years… without such strong legal incentives. I am simply following Christian doctrines to which i have assented.)

8. Christianity is not so yea-or-nay, all-or-none, as these faiths—though it is easy enough to read the words of Jesus in the Gospels to say that it ought to be. Most Christian ‘churches’ accept members who merely attend once a month as well as those who strive to live the Faith ahead of all other concerns and especially ahead of Worldly success. I should also note, that i have a few “Jewish” friends and correspondents who are not actively following the faith commonly called Judaism; and Wells (1961: 497) writes “of an Omayyad Caliph, Walid II (743-744), who mocked at the Koran, ate pork, drank wine, and did not pray.” (The brevity of his reign may indicate that many seriously devout Muslims still lived.)

9. Morgan seems biased toward perceiving men as preferring destruction—and if i take a default perspective of “gender-equality”, i might say ‘women do as well, but are destructive in different patterns’. Kali, the Hindu goddess portrayed as a personification of vengeance, is female.

10. The “Christmas Truce” on the first December 24-25 of World War I, is another important example.

11. “The Evil One” is too often portrayed as male. Spirits have no gender, no sex. We can quite plausibly envision the Evil One’s guise as that of a sly older woman giving crone’s advice to innocent ignorant Eve….

12. Barbara Kay has pointed out in a newspaper column on the Marotta case, as others have said in other contexts, that “… the state has no problem with lesbians having children via a syringe. What it does have a problem with is paying for that child to be raised if she can’t or won’t. The state will exploit any angle to ensure that somebody else – almost invariably the father if they can get hold of him – pays the child support. The state does not care if the man never intended to be a father, as in this case, or if he was tricked into being a father …” and in the Marotta case and some others, “father” is less accurate than “sire”. (Perhaps men who do not wish to be fathers, should start charging Stud Fees?)

13. Easy divorce with presumptive mother custody of children, did not get into my notes on this book, and since those notes were made in 2014, the obvious inference is that Morgan did not address the subject specifically, that it would have been noticed and noted if she had. Divorce with presumptive mother custody of children, has been used as a whip by many women in more recent years; but in 1972, divorce was shameful and so was adultery; today, neither is in secular Canada. Morgan’s generally positive attitude toward men, plus the persistence to that time of a cultural negative attitude toward divorce and “unwed motherhood”, may well have left the subject outside her concerns when she wrote this book.

 

Print Friendly
Posted in Book reviews, Book Summaries, Davd, Female Privilege | Leave a comment

No Fair Approving Violence Against Men

… the equality reason:
(c) 2015, Davd

It’s the first of the month, and at Angry Harry’s earlier suggestion, i’ll take the occasion to ask, again, Is there any good reason why i am a more legitimate target for violence, than a woman of my age, size, or strength? I asked this question last November 14, and stated my intention to follow-up with some specifics. Let’s start with equality.

Today, women have equal or better access to jobs and education. There are affirmative action programs for girls and women—even though university students are more like three-fifths female, than half (never mind fewer than half.) The school culture still favours girls over boys. More than half of young professionals are women. Except for jobs requiring large-muscle strength, of which men have significantly more on average, women have equal or better1 access to high-paid work.

With that access, comes access to the excitement and dangers of going out in public. If women be sequestered, their protection is both far, far easier, and also consistent with a “balance of inequalities”: Men have less safety, women have less adventure. I detailed this “balance” in my reflection on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and in my very first “blog”, and stated explicitly, the obvious fact that women’s exclusion from adventure was a thing of the past, a thing seen only in “backward countries” in this 21st Century.

A balance of inequalities can work out to approximate overall equality. A situation in which one sex has her traditional privileges and the other sex has lost his, works out to overall inequality. Protecting women from violence without traditional sequestration, is one of several Feminist demands which are evident—but subtle—demands for privilege.

Men have been shamed for not tolerating abuse against us, for which women could demand redress and get, at the least, sympathy. That might have had some justification when most women were sequestered and danger and adventure were men’s business; and that pattern has parallels in the ways hunting-and-gathering societies usually were organized. As i also wrote in my first, Titanic+99 years blog, one of Feminism’s chief double games has been to demand equality where men were advantaged, but not where women were.

When any Feminist, or any vote-begging politician, condemns violence against women; she or he, by omission, implies that violence against men isn’t so bad. Izzat so? … or more academically, when might that be so, and why? … and when is it not so, and men therefore the denigrated second-class sex in the 21st Century?

I am more likely, personally, to be a victim than a perpetrator of violence. When i was in my thirties, that was hard for many people to believe2. Now that i am in my seventies, it ought to be easy, because old men are not so strong, not so fast, not so well coordinated as young. There are millions of women who could ‘beat me up’, now that i’m old.

(My main point in the November blog was that opposing violence against only one sex, implicitly tolerates, or even approves, violence against the other—against my sex—including against me.)

So does my lack of ovaries entitle that 10%-20% of women, who readily can, to actually ‘beat me up’, because i’m male?

(I do oppose violence against anyone—and then, like most people, i make exceptions, of which the most common, for me and i believe for most people, is self-defence. So if you do come to exercise female privilege and do me violence—i’m not the easiest of targets, but at my age, i’m not the ‘hardest’ of targets, either—i might defend myself, even by violence.)

When i asked, Why is violence against a middle-aged or younger woman, worse than violence against me? Why is violence against any woman, worse than violence against me? Why is bullying a teen-aged girl, worse than bullying a teen-aged boy?—the only equality based answer i know, is: “It’s not worse.” Male humans have as much right to freedom from attack as female humans. I’m not trying to justify that, because it is the equality answer. Anyone who wants to contend that women have a right to assault men while being privileged against self-defence, has a burden of proof to bear—not me, and not men.

And we should say so. If a man is arrested or charged for hitting a woman who hit him first—we should defend him on principle. (If both are arrested, we should give some attention to what happens next.)

If someone accuses this blog of advocating violence against women, we should question the accuser’s sanity… or honesty, or both.

We should not, especially not, tolerate nor approve violence against men and boys, by omission.

Notes:

1. Better access? Yes, where jobs are subject to Affirmative Action (Nathanson and Young, 2010: x, 99, 112, 119-120, 311, 313, Appendices 7, 12) or require advanced education to which girls have better access due to both Affirmative Action and the
School Culture.

2. When i was in my thirties, the reason i was more likely was my reluctance to do violence to others; now that i am in my seventies, the more obvious reason is my age (the reluctance still holds.) I wrote approve in the title line, rather than tolerate, because—thanks to luck, a little Judo, and a part-Wolf companion dog—i have not lately suffered violence.

Print Friendly
Posted in Davd, Female Privilege, Gender Equality | Leave a comment

His Human Nature and Hers:

… The Different Humanities of the Two Sexes:
(c) 2015, Davd

It was a classic put-down, from her point of view: He had been talking of his work, his sports, his accomplishments. She retorted,
I’m a human being, not a human doing.” Which was not exactly, but close to, saying she was she and not he. The difference is relative, not absolute, but it is actions that more describe the man, and the visible self, that more describes the woman.

The epigram, “Anatomy is destiny” may annoy many Feminists. It is overstated, as are most absolute claims. But there is considerable truth behind it, when applied to women. (Applied to men, it’s a relative misfit.)

So how is anatomy, destiny? Reproduction, for the first part. The reason women lack the muscular strength and coordination for hunting and many kinds of important manual work, is that their anatomy is formed for pregnancy and lactation first, and all other things, second or much farther back in priority.

Such is the life of a young mother-to-be, that doing counts for less than being at rest, at peace and quiet, safe from danger and turmoil; while the uterus does its slow, vital, unconscious work of supporting foetal growth.

Birth itself involves vigorous muscular action—of the uterus, which for most of a woman’s life, is at rest. The action, however, is involuntary.

“Looks” matter far more to women. The beauty contests will always capture more public attention than their male counterparts. Women are much more likely to be described by physical form and measurements—apart from height, perhaps—than are men; who are described in terms of what we do, much more than what we look like.

Women also tend to be assessed on looks, much more than are men; and the huge volumes of cosmetics advertised and sold confirm that many, likely most modern women willingly go along with that. This makes good sense if anatomy is indeed destiny: Show off what you be, not what you do.

Elaine Morgan [1972: 269] wrote, “it takes two to make a woman into a sex object: at the time of going to press most women are highly flattered to be so regarded, and would be insulted if their efforts to look sexy weren’t rewarded by precisely this ‘tribute’.”

Most men would at least as soon be known as men of achievement.

To do is human; we have been called Homo faber. The anthropologists of the 19th and 20th Centuries had a slogan, “by their tools you shall know them.” Indications of tool using, were taken as indications of human and not ape caves. Morgan [187-9] concludes from fingerprint evidence as well as who did what work, that women invented pottery, while men invented hunting weapons.

Gathering—the defining subsistence work of ‘primitive’ women—is much less active than hunting. Things that one gathers, do not flee. Beasts that one hunts, can and often do. They can also injure the hunters, and Wade (2006) reports on research suggesting that it was because Neanderthal women and children hunted, that the Neanderthals died out and modern humans prevailed.

So a hunter, by the nature of hunting, is a human doing. Men’s nature was formed substantially by hunting; it makes good sense that we should describe ourselves in terms of what we do. A pregnant woman, comparatively, is a human doing quite little, that her body can give its strength to her foetus and that her activities will not cause her any harm, nor the foetus. For her, what she is matters more than what she volitionally does; the doings of pregnancy are performed by her body—and that of the foetus—without her having to direct them.

A mother nursing a wee baby, also sits quietly and lets her body, and the infant’s, do what comes naturally. Both enjoy the process [cf. Morgan, p. 124].

A gatherer, whose quarry need be located but not caught, much of whose harvest can be predicted by past experience, has a far more routine rhythm of work, than a hunter who must find, catch, and then kill. Her work is safer, less adventurous, and involves more taking-what-comes, less making-it-happen. If a hunter does, hunting, you could to a considerable degree, say a gatherer is gathering. The difference is of degree, not absolute; but it is there, and it is important.

“I’m a human being, not a human doing,” turns out to be a female thing to say. Her retort was actually a compliment to him, and one reason i wrote this short blog, was to encourage all us men to take it as such.

 

References:

Morgan, Elaine, 1972. The Descent of Woman: London[UK]: Souvenir Press.

Wade, Nicholas, 2006. “Neanderthal Women Joined Men in the Hunt”. New York Times, December 5.

 

Print Friendly
Posted in Davd, Male Lifestyle, Working | Leave a comment

Men’s Rights Amputation:

Essay review of Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2006
Legalizing Misandry:
From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men

Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
(c) 2015, Davd

Men in Canada, the USA, and inferentially much of Europe1 are second-class citizens not in the exact same pattern as, but to much the same degree as, Afro-Americans were second-class citizens of the US in the 1950s. The biggest difference may be that men, at least up to the year 2006 when Legalizing Misandry was published, were sinking in social acceptance and moral standing, while in the 1950s, Afro-Americans were rising.

In the words of the authors,
In both [Canada and the USA], using different mechanisms, advocates of feminist ideology have secured the collective economic interests of women and either ignored or attacked the collective economic interests of men: the individual women and men involved, their particular circumstances, have been considered of little or no importance. Because the resulting systemic discrimination against men has been achieved in subtle ways—incrementally, for instance, rather than suddenly—many people, including men, have either failed or refused to recognize that a major shift has taken place. As a result, misandry has been legalized—that is, misandry has taken the form of systemic discrimination against men.

There are different standards of treatment for men and for women
in cases of

  • accusations of domestic violence (ch 9)
  • acceptable levels of violence suffered [ch 9, e.g. 239-40, also p. 63]
  • divorce, and custody of children (ch. 6)
  • “sexual harassment” (ch. 8)
  • employment (ch 5… for instance, women, visible minorities, aboriginal people, and people with disabilities must be hired preferentially by contractors doing $200,000 or more in business with the Government of Canada [93]2)
  • even prim and proper language (e.g. ch. 3, the Anita Hill accusations against US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas (pp. 39-40), vs the language used on television in reruns of The Golden Girls; p. 49-50. Ontario secondary school policy advised girls who are called “chick” or “babe” to call either an emergency response number or a rape crisis centre3 [49] while the “Cosmopolitan mentality … see[s] nothing wrong with women being on the make in any setting” [50])

In each of the above, men are at systematic disadvantage relative to women.

Many of the “facts” on which discrimination against men is based, are falsehoods. Four examples:

  • “Domestic violence” statistics can be found that identify only men as perpetrators and only women as victims; some result from not inquiring about the reverse case of women attacking men, some from suppression of data [e.g. 355, 363]. Lenore Walker’s famous The Battered Woman includes nonviolent social pressure, even inattentive behaviour at a party [ 357], as “battering”; statistics that treat rudeness (perceived by the woman, of course) as violence remake or perhaps unmake the language. If laws are made and enforced based on such redefined terms, they could demand men be women’s puppets under threat of punishment4.
    When research asks about actual physical violence in both directions equally, the results vary from study to study—but do not differ much from “men and women are equally violent (on average) toward spouses5” [Appendix 3]. It seems women attack men somewhat more often but, probably because men average larger and stronger, suffer more bodily harm when attacked. (pp. 233-40. Unfortunately, the authors’ reference practices kept me from finding which of the several sources they cite should be named for which data; i recommend below that they use a clearer and more accessible reference system.)
  • Many acts that are considered “sexual harassment” when done by men (such as calling a woman “babe”) are considered acceptable if women do the equivalent. [e.g. pp 39-50]
  • There is substantial, some would say compelling evidence that fatherless children suffer for the lack. [p. 150, citing Seidenberg; 472, citing Bradley; 530-31, citing Whitehead; and more references can readily be found outside this book.]
  • Lenore Weitzman,in The Divorce Revolution, claimed the average mother lost 73% of her income after divorce, while the average father gained 42%. When her [Los Angeles] data were re-analyzed, the true figures were found to be 27% and 10% [351]. Stroup and Pollock (1994) used National Opinion Research Centre data, and found divorced women’s income had declined 22% and men’s declined 10%, very far from the widely quoted Weitzman errors… but the errors have much more influence on support orders. Today, with women’s incomes being higher relative to men’s than in 1994, i could believe that divorce reduces men’s incomes by somewhat more than 10% and might even increase women’s if they are awarded “child support”.

Bias against men has been “lobbied into law” by “ideological Feminists” using hostile stereotypes and in many cases, biased or downright false statistics (some merely outdated and some plainly false from the get-go) misrepresented as facts. Those who did the “lobbying” were leading Feminists of the past 50 years, and consistent with the semantics of the word “Feminism”, their perspective was gynocentrism, their fundamental premise that the social world and specifically laws and governments revolve around women, with men being peripheral, inferior legally and socially, (or in the visions of a few like Mary Daly6, Sally Miller Gearhart, and Valerie Solanas, almost absent from the human scene.)

Indeed, since the “ideological” Feminists have had far more influence on legal and bureaucratic changes than others who might be called “Feminist”, it seems quite accurate to call them the leading Feminists: They have directed social change; and as this quite long book details, it has been misandric change. I was not a second-class citizen when i reached the age of majority nor when i got my first academic jobs; but today, i am one, as detailed in this book and partly summarized above7.

Chapter 5, on two definitions of equality, is important to anyone who believes, or has been asked to believe, that Feminism is egalitarian. The difference between equal opportunity and equal-outcomes is only part of the falsity of Feminist “seeking equality” claims, but a part not widely understood nor recognized. What ideological Feminism seeks is entitlements for women: “Equality of results”, combined with an insistence that men’s historic privileges be deemed current [while in fact they have nearly all been eliminated, some even reversed] serves ideologues as a basis for claiming those entitlements. If men’s current disadvantages were acknowledged, men could also claim many entitlements and-or the closure of “Affirmative Action” programs which have achieved their goals. Instead, the advantages of e.g. preferential hiring and school subvention are given to female humans who are already the advantaged gender.

If that ain’t privilege, what is?

Discussion:
The book makes a persuasive case (outlined above) for its major premise, that men are second-class citizens today. Ironically, we second-class citizens are deemed politically to be privileged, and because this falsehood is “officially true”, women and girls are favoured systematically by law and bureaucracy. Those three points—That men are not privileged today, rather the reverse; that men are deemed to be privileged officially; and that women and girls are favoured systematically by law and bureaucracy—are the main message of this book.

Why are men treated as privileged at a time when we are in the reverse situation? One major reason is the word “historic”.  In response to Feminist lobbying, women have been designated “historically disadvantaged” [e.g. pp. 92, 93, 514], which they once were in the allocation of financial aid for university study (“bursaries”, “scholarships”, etc.) and in hiring for some jobs (because men were believed, probably correctly, to be more willing to work long hours and less likely to quit work to have children.) Men were historically disadvantaged in other ways—for instance, men could be conscripted to risk their lives in miserable conditions at war, and when the Titanic sank, 80% of all the men (likely over 90% of men passengers) on board died, but only 24% of the women. (Over half the men who survived were crew members “manning” the lifeboats.)

In the years after World War II, when i was a boy, memories of men’s disadvantages were fresher, and indeed “American” men were drafted and sent off to war in Korea (and over a decade later, in Vietnam.) The balance of privileges between the sexes did not clearly favour men or women; and those were the years of the “Baby Boom”—a strong majority of women were happy to stay home, have babies, rear children, and not suffer the hassles of holding an ordinary working class job.

Feminism’s resurgence in the latter 1960s and 1970s involved women whose job ambitions were higher than most men or women can achieve8, at a time when war and conscription ensnared a small minority of men—or in Canada and Western Europe, none. For them, anything less than full access to the elite jobs they felt they could win and do well, was far more of a disadvantage than being supported by a man, or having preferential access to lifeboats in a shipwreck9, could balance. Among working and lower class women, the comparison was quite different: Being a housewife in the 1960s and ’70s was at least as pleasant as many of the jobs working class husbands had to do to bring home a paycheck. [cf. p. 81]

(“Woman’s work is never done?” Labour saving machinery, ready-to-wear clothing, and improvements in commercially canned and frozen food, had changed that by 1960 (Lenski, Lenski and Nolan, 1991: 343-5, esp. 344: “The Young Housekeeper’s Friend”). Meanwhile, men whose forefathers had “worked from sun to setting sun” could work longer hours thanks to electric lights.10)

The “ideological” feminists Nathanson and Young name tend to be lawyers, other professionals (especially academics) and some politicians: Upper-middle-class and a few upper-class women whose expectations and ambitions go far higher than “having a good job and making a decent living”11.

Nathanson and Young describe “ideological feminists” as thinking and writing of women as a class whose interests they promote; but also as leading other women where they have not asked to go, and using fraudulent “facts” as means to these slyly promoted ends. Ambition was also to be found among Marxists who preached “classless society,” but somehow became a de facto ruling class (Djilas, 1957; cf. Crankshaw, 1966.) And where ambition is rampant, many individual ambitions will be unfilled.

One way to gloss over frustrated ambition is to blame others, and categorical blame, as of Jews by Nazis, various forms of political and ideological “incorrectness” by Stalinists, (of “communists” by many Americans in the 1950s) and of men by ideological Feminists, can pseudo-reconcile frustration with egotism. Revenge does not attain one what one expected and did not get, but for many people it seems to ease the feeling of frustration.

Feminist misandry partakes greatly of vengeance, and indeed i have heard women who are not well known as “ideological feminists” say “I want revenge for three thousand years of oppression.” In so doing, any who called themselves Christians denied their faith, for the Bible plainly says, (Romans 12:1912) “… avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” As a rather serious Christian, i suspect those who are motivated by revenge, because they are so motivated.

For what, we can fairly ask, are women claiming revenge? The word “oppression” rings false when we consider the privileges and protections women, and especially women of the high social status of most leading Feminist writers, enjoyed throughout the 20th Century and long before. I have mentioned the Titanic before, and in another blog published on the 100th Anniversary of its sinking. addressed “misplaced chivalry” more specifically.

An outcomes definition of equality (which was mentioned in “the Moynihan Report” earlier than the year of Nathanson and Young’s reference) can have seriously pernicious effects: If equality is more a matter of entitlements than of opportunity, for instance, then why work hard? Or as the saying went in the last years of the East German state, “they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.” That way lies social disintegration, as East Germany—and the Soviet Bloc more generally—experienced; and about whose possibility Nathanson and Young do worry [184, 326] . Societies that prosper, value and reward work according to its contribution to the general welfare; societies that fail, proliferate “entitlements” and reward a Ruling Class [and often, unproductive “special interests” as well] to such extent as to degrade the health and strength—and also the motivation—of those who actually produce subsistence.

Perhaps one Marxist the ideological Feminists did not read, was Milovan Djilas (1957). Or one wonders—did they read him and not admit it?

I was a bit surprised not to find some important works cited here, given how very many works were: Brinton’s Anatomy of Revolution, “the Moynihan report” [which mentioned the equal-outcomes criterion in the 1960s], and though it is less well known, Glubb’s Fate of Empires [or if they are students of Islam, perhaps instead Ibn-Khaldun’s Muqaddama, which i found summarized by Durant (1957: 693), and from which Glubb seems to have taken his theme of wealth and self-indulgence inevitably leading to decline and fall.]

Brinton, for instance, generalizes from the American, English, French and Russian revolutions to say that in revolution, power tends to go from moderate to extremist hands; and my chosen source for the parallel in recent Feminism is the late Sgt. Tom Ball:
In the Epilogue Chapter of the 20th Anniversary Edition of her book The Feminine Mystique, Betty [Friedan] relayed why she resigned as the first president of the National Organization of Women in 1970. Betty wrote that she, “was unable to openly fight the man haters and unwilling to front for them any more…” So man hating bigots not only existed 40 years ago, they were also grabbing power. Now Washington is funding them. Makes you wonder what bigots they will fund next. Maybe the Klan?

Feminists had always claimed that when women took over, we would have a kinder, gentler, more nurturing world. After 36 million arrests and 72 million evictions what we got was Joe Stalin.

Glubb compared 14 empires (13 explicitly and the USA implicitly) and found that the 13 which had begun more than 250 years before he wrote, had all lasted approximately 250 years, or ten human generations. As they declined, especially near the end of their times, empires tended to sexual libertinism, glorification of entertainers, a “welfare state”, and to give far more power to women than when growing and “at the top”. (Glubb, 1978: 17-18) “Decadence,” Glubb concludes, “is a moral and spiritual disease, resulting from too long a period of wealth and power, producing cynicism, decline of religion, pessimism and frivolity. The citizens of such a nation will no longer make an effort to save themselves, because they are not convinced that anything in life is worth saving.” (Glubb, 1978: 20 .. echoes of post-modernism, anyone?)

Moynihan, whose “report” was first published anonymously, cited “Civil Rights” leaders as demanding equal-outcomes, or in the phrase used by Nathanson and Young, equality of results. He also wrote, “There is, presumably, no special reason why a society in which males are dominant in family relationships is to be preferred to a matriarchal arrangement. However, it is clearly a disadvantage for a minority group to be operating on one principle, while the great majority of the population, and the one with the most advantages to begin with, is operating on another.” (“Anonymous”, 1965, ch IV, near the beginning). More than two years before reading this book, i posted a short essay reviewing the Moynihan Report and concluding that Feminists had put “a matriarchal arrangement” into effect. Legalizing Misandry would have been an obvious source to cite, had it been in a local library.

Simultaneous invention, and in science, simultaneous discovery; are common when a large number of thinkers are working on the same subject with the same body of knowledge “to draw on”. Nathanson and Young have done a far larger and more comprehensive job than i did, and this book should be a reference on which advocates of social equality and in particular, equal respect for men, can often rely. Unfortunately, the present volume’s citation system makes reference use much more difficult than it ought to be: Because of its great value in documenting misandry in law, and in government more generally, i suggest; the book should be “brought out in a second edition” with a more accessible reference system.

Structure of the Book, and its greatest weakness:
Legalizing Misandry ends in the middle: The last page of the book itself is numbered 326, while the last page number is 650—two short of twice 32613. After the last chapter come thirteen appendices (following only eleven chapters) and 127 pages of footnotes (more precisely, of endnotes). This is a reference book, i can infer from that structure as well as from my intuitive
impression14.

Much could be done to make Legalizing Misandry more accessible to readers who want to use it as a reference. I spent several minutes, which entailed serious distraction from my thinking about the main business of the book, looking back through the footnotes for a reference—dozens of times. The footnote to which i first turned often did not identify the source cited, not even implicitly! Several authors cited were cited for multiple publications, and many footnotes referring to those authors did not indicate which of their multiple publications was cited. Articles in periodicals were not always cited as to full page scope, not even in their first mention.

The citation practice used in most sociological writing, and much other “social science”, including this review, is far easier to follow and use; and thus facilitates thinking about the main work at hand: It has the form (Author[s], year: Page[s])—for instance (Nathanson and Young, 2006: 326) which refers to the last page of their main text. In the old “liberal-arts footnote system”, and with the notes actually endnotes as in this book, the reader might turn some hundreds of pages further-on, spending considerable attention on finding the correct chapter and then the footnote number in the group of footnotes for that chapter, only to read [e.g. ibid, p. 326 or Author, p. 74.] Looking back through the listing, the reader then finds [Author, op. cit preceded by comments and references to other sources. The luckless reader, who by now may have forgotten why the citation is being pursued, must then either give up the search or work painfully backward through the footnotes until the op which was cit can be found. (Randomly or haphazardly looking for a reference to the author[s] will not suffice, because they may have published more than one op[ere] and only by painfully working backward [sometimes for tens of footnotes, even into the footnotes for a previous chapter] can one find which [one hopes] is cited. Using the parenthetical system, each citation uniquely states the specific reference, which is fully listed at the end along with all the other references. If citing a reference is worth while, so is making its identity readily accessible to the reader!)

The parenthetical system does not eliminate footnotes. My short essay on the Moynihan report and matriarchal tendencies since its publication has 16 footnotes (as has this review), and uses the parenthetical reference system. The footnotes contain details whose inclusion in the body text would disrupt its “flow” and readability; obiter dicta; and material which anticipates possible dispute. Nathanson and Young use footnotes for a combination of these purposes plus reference citation, which especially in the absence of a full alphabetic list of references, makes identifying their sources far more difficult than it need be.

I estimate that the authors’ choice of the “liberal-arts footnote system” in endnote mode, without regularly distinguishing among multiple works by one author, cost me more than five additional hours of work reading their book for future reference; and it might have been more than ten hours—that’s not how long i spent studying the book (which was more like 40-50 hours), it’s how much longer than necessary. Multiply that by the number of readers who they hope will give the book serious use, and the total will surely exceed one full-time year of an 8-hour-per-day, five-day-per-week, 50-weeks-per-year job… perhaps by a factor of tens. Authors, it’s worth the trouble to use the parenthetical system and a complete reference list at the end of the book, alphabetic by author—if you take your book as seriously as i have15.

The fate and the weight of this book, weakened though it is by a difficult reference system, will be decided less by that reference system than by the uses that are made of the book by others than the authors. There is much said here which can be validated by the agreement of writers who cite Legalizing Misandry, as well as by the references its authors cite somewhat opaquely. I am convinced that the authors are not trying to deceive readers; rather, they are using citation practices that have better alternatives [described above].

When you, your brother, your son, your father is treated as one of the Second Sex—here’s why and here’s how. When some women complain that they are the mistreated sex—this book’s reference to “historically disadvantaged” exposes the dirty trick being played on us: The disadvantages were balanced-off when they existed; and today they don’t—but the laws and rules have been so written that women get compensation for back-then and men’s disadvantages now are deemed not to exist. If Feminism is about equality today, it’s about avoiding it.

Obiter:
The word Feminism is semantically biased in favour of women first and girls second, and thereby biased against boys, eunuchs16, and men. That semantic bias—structured into the combining of Femme and ism, into one word—gives the “ideological” feminists a linguistic advantage, in English and in French, over egalitarians. “Feminism” and “Feminist” naturally read as “pro women” rather than “pro equality.” To justify any action to (for instance) make school environments more amenable to boys, as “feminist” or even as “consistent with Feminism”, one would have to make a prima facie case or better, that doing so would improve the lot of girls and women. The good it might do for boys and men simply fails to accord semantically with the structure of the word Feminism.

Further References:

Anonymous, 1965.The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. United States Government Printing Office. (Written, as acknowledged on the US Department of Labor website, 2010, by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, previously co-author with respected American sociologists and later US Senator from New York.)

Ball, Sgt. Thomas, 2011. “Last Words.” Archived on the everyman.ca website.

Brinton, Crane, 1965: The Anatomy of Revolution. NY: Vintage. (First published 1938)

Crankshaw, Edward, 1966. Khrushchev: A Career. New York: Viking Press

Djilas, Milovan 1957, The New Class. NY: Praeger.

Durant, Will, 1957. The Reformation: A History of European Civilization from Wyclif to Calvin: 1300-1564. NYC: Simon and Schuster.

Glubb, John Bagot, 1978. The Fate of Empires. Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons Ltd.

Lenski, Gerhard, Jean Lenski, and Patrick Nolan, 1991. Human Societies: An Introduction to
Macrosociology
. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill

Locke, John, 1988. Two Treatises of Government. Edited and with a lengthy Introduction, and notes, by Peter Laslett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2001. Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics (UIS), 2009. “Statistics and indicators on women and men: Women’s share of tertiary enrolment”. http://www.un.org/esa/

Wells, H. G. 1949: The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Man. Book Club edition, vol, 1. Garden City, NY.
Wells, H. G. 1961: The Outline of History Book Club edition, vol, 2. Garden City, NY. Section on the Second World War and years since by Raymond Postgate; (revisions based on new research into prehistoric mankind by Prof. G. P. Wells apply to Vol. 1)

Zuckerman, M., K. C. Gerbasi, R. I. Kravitz, and L. W. Wheeler 1975 “The belief in a just world and reactions to innocent victims” J.S.A.S. Catalog of selected documents in psychology 5: 326

Notes:

1. There are some indications that Australian and New Zealand men are ruled by misandric laws and-or practices, but the book refers specifically to Canada and the U.S. and occasionally to Europe.

2. Page numbers in [] refer to Legalizing Misandry, not to works they discuss, unless otherwise stated.

3. If this reads like bureaucratic make-work to you, i won’t disagree….

4. Operant behaviour psychology has long shown that punishment is effective in making animals, including Homo sapiens, refrain from doing things but ineffective in making animals do specific actions.

5… and cohabitants to whom they are not married.

6. The Daly name is included because of a url reading http://social-science.otai.info/2010/04/11/do-you-think-mary-daly-was-right-to-want-forced-abortions-of-boys-to-keep-the-male-population-to-a-max-of-10/, Apparently, the article or blog to which it led is no longer on the web. It seems vanishingly unlikely that a url would assert that someone had made such an animadversion, if she had not… but i do not know where or how it was made. Nathanson and Young do refer to a Mary Daly [217, 219] in ways consistent with but not formally implying the proposal in the url.

7. Second-class citizens are not utterly suppressed. Carl Rowan (1991) describes his successes as a U. S. Navy officer, student, and journalist, while he was still to some significant (and gradually decreasing) extent a second-class citizen because “Negro.”

Second-class citizenship entails disadvantage when dealing with law and bureaucracy. In Genesis, ch 39, Joseph is falsely accused of sexual assault—and deemed guilty because he is a second or even third-class personage, (Citizenship as we know of it today did not exist then.) Canadian and American men today can suffer the same kind of bias.

8. The Great Faiths are critical of such ambitions: Jesus said few such folk would enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and told his followers to “take the lowly place”; Muhammad said “Three things in this life are destructive: Anger, greed, pride.” Gautama Buddha said “The mind always wants more,” and gave his followers rules by which to discipline their greedy minds.

9. I don’t mean to say Feminists were volunteering to relinquish their priority for rescue, nor their privileges generally. A few raised such considerations, but most, from what i read elsewhere, expected the benefits of chivalry as well as equal treatment where men had had advantages in previous generations.

10. Many of those forefathers who farmed or fished had actually worked past sunset and before sunrise with the help of kerosene lanterns and even candles; electric lighting was an improvement that lengthened their working hours further. (Loggers could perhaps sharpen tools after dark, but even electric lights weren’t much help to their work.)

11. cf. Lenski, Lenski and Nolan 1991: 343-5. It is not surprising that women with these occupations would be more successful politically than women whose work was other, and thus, that they “lead”.

12. The Old Testament reference, Deut 32: 35-43, does indeed refer to God taking vengeance. Paul’s letter goes on to encourage his Christian readers to be merciful, even generous to their enemies. The quotation is from the King James Version.

13. Legalizing Misandry is literally a weighty tome (1,1 kg on my kitchen scale, making it heavier than Vol. II of Wells’ Outline of History [2/3 kg] but lighter than Durant’s Reformation [1,6 kg]. Both those books use a similar-sized font, so their weight is a tenable estimator of their relative length in words.) There is much in it that did not get represented in my notes before i had to take it an hour’s drive back to the Public Library.

The book was not in that Library’s collection, but had been brought in via Inter-Library Loan; so going to check it out again the following week would have been difficult or impossible. It would seem the Provincial Government is not wasting much money on collecting scholarly books.

14. I use “intuitive” in a sense nearer the mathematical than the emotional.

15. Laslett (1988), in his lengthy introduction to the Cambridge University Press edition of Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, states that he has deliberately employed a scientific rather than literary reference citation pattern for the benefit of users of the text.

16. Why mention eunuchs? First, because some ideological Feminists have advocated castrating men [N&Y 2001: 8]; second, because i have a novel complete in second draft, that explores one possible expression of that extreme-Feminist dream world. Third, because even eunuchs would be second-class citizens, if citizens at all, of an ideological Feminist utopia. (Why not mention desexed women and girls? because they are vanishingly few, and unlike eunuchs, became desexed by way of medical treatment rather than social control.)

 

Print Friendly
Posted in Book reviews, Book Summaries, Davd, Female Privilege | Leave a comment

No Longer the Slave of Ambition…

A New Year’s Resolution Guide for 2015?
(c) 2014, Davd

Men, it does you more harm than good to look for a good job, work very hard, and make a lot of money, if you don’t get to enjoy both the job and the money. 20th-Century “North American culture” taught boys to study hard, work hard, and make good money so they could have pretty, good-housekeeping wives, and children who looked up to them—and in 1950, 1960, even 1970 for most men, the formula worked pretty well. Men went out and earned the money, wives spent it—at least fairly prudently, most of them—on the well-being of their children, their men, and also themselves. Marriage was a lifetime promise both ways, and the law supported that promise, including the lifetime aspect. The lifetime quality encouraged co-operation, and most families were indeed co-operative.

Does that read like ancient history in 2014? or a foreign culture? It’s where i grew up!—or more precisely, when.

In the later 1960s, men who had not chosen the conventional study-hard work-hard route, but had gone into sports or rock-and-roll instead, began becoming rich and famous much younger and more quickly than those who took the conventional route1. Star proficiency with a rock guitar, a hockey stick, or a baseball bat paid more, faster (and we should keep in mind, that those athletes and rock-musicians did study hard, and work hard, at their arts. It was more fun for them to study and work hard than it was for most of the diligent schoolboys; but there was serious, extensive study and practice involved. Choosing work you enjoy doing is an important lesson we can learn from them—and also from many successful men in quite different lines of work.)

Along with their success, as with the success of “movie stars” of both genders in the earlier 20th Century, came new kinds of gender relationships: More divorce, complete avoidance of marriage for many, even orgies. Women did not “make big money” in professional team sports, (quite a few did in skating, skiing, swimming, and tennis); but they definitely did in movies and music. The male-breadwinner pattern wasn’t part of these occupations.

Many of those now-famous “Baby Boomers”—born from 1946 through the 1950s—began to follow the “sexually liberated” ways of these famous hedonists. They did not completely leave-off the older ways, though; divorce still entailed ex-wives nearly always having custody of the children—who the ex-husbands were nearly always ordered to support2. Similar support obligations developed for the benefit of women who had not married their cohabitants, and their children—and of course, to the cost of the men who hadn’t married them and might or might not have fathered the children. Those persist to this day.

Margaret Mead is often quoted as saying “Never doubt that a small group of determined people can change the world. Indeed, nothing else ever has.” The Feminists who campaigned for abortion-on-demand, Affirmative Action for girls, and guilty-until-proven-innocent for men accused of sexual or violent assault against women, might be too many in total to call a “small group”, but they illustrate Mead’s premise well. They made themselves the voice of “womanhood” ….

I’ve written before about women’s legal, ideological, and educational advantages. They add up to gender inequality, with us male humans as the lesser gender. Back in “the 1950s”, women had legal advantages when it came to support and child custody in case of divorce, and men had social advantages when it came to looking for a job. There seemed to be a balance, close enough to even (that one couldn’t tell if it was or wasn’t perfectly so), with women specializing in the home and men specializing in the job. Men tended to spend a lot of their leisure time with other men and with boys; women, with other women and with girls.

Even as a boy in the ’50s, i wanted more men for company than women, so i spent a lot of time with my retired grandfather, who was more available than my employed father. He was a wise and a good man! A master electrician by trade, he had become an electrical engineer through self-improvement, (as best i could learn, with the company’s blessing and encouragement); and was on the team that invented railway air conditioning.

He was offered a fancy job in or near head office—and turned it down. His wife, my grandmother, was ill, and he wanted to be able to give extra time to her; his family and friends were on the West Coast; and he was about 60 years old when the offer came. Soon he retired on a modest pension, and was widowed—with a good conscience. He had given his Ella the best last years he could. Then he went back to work for a while, but not at Head Office, because he had friends and family where he was. And when i was old enough to spend weekends with him, i became one of a handful to a dozen priorities, that were more important to him than money.

He never really lacked for money. His life was organized frugally; he had a garden, a cherry tree, an apricot tree, and a big apple tree with two varieties: Yellow-Transparent for applesauce and King for cider. He bought new clothing, but not often; he wore the same familiar clothes for years (until he wore them out and replaced them) and fashion was something other people did. He heated with wood—sawmill slabs usually—and he had built his own house, so he owned it free-and-clear and had time to save some money before he retired. He hadn’t saved a huge amount, but he had something if a sudden expense came up. He helped out his neighbours, especially with the maintenance of their electrical gear, and they helped him out with their various skills. He was welcome in dozens of houses within walking distance—and until about the age of 80, he maintained his own car. I don’t ever recall him saying he was bored.

Such was my favourite man—my favourite human being—when i was young. One reason was that in his quiet way, he was happy nearly all the time. He had lived an honest, authentic life, with some failures but none shameful, some successes and none deceitful, and his story would bring him no especial shame when he had to meet his Maker. He ate well by his likes, he dressed warmly enough, his house was heated well enough, his friends were trustworthy and likable, and his welcome was sure in their homes.

He was wise indeed to refuse a fancy job in St. Paul, and keep instead, that quiet happiness.

I have sketched his story for several paragraphs because i believe that men today, despite our legal, educational, and ideological disadvantages, can claim such quiet happiness—though we can’t assure ourselves of a marriage until death-do-us-part, as readily as Gran’père was assured. His example is a good point of departure, a good specific case of a generally valid “life strategy”, for men who can admit that “it’s no longer a man’s world, if it ever was in our lifetimes”. It may even be a good basis, his life as example and his frugality and generosity as general strategy, for regaining gender equality and on a better foundation than we had in the 1950s.

One weekend when i was staying with Gran’père, he played a “country song”—in English, of course, this was the USA—that had the verse “O’ come you young fellers, with hearts brave and true: Don’t believe any woman; you’re beat if you do. Don’t trust any woman, no matter what kind; ’cause 21 years, boys, is a mighty long time.” That song was not about marriage: Marriage then had legal support. It was about betting your life, or any large part of your life, on the charms or the say-so of a woman. And while i can definitely remember i heard it once at Gran’père’s house, i strongly suspect i heard it a dozen times or more, along with “Arkansas Traveler” and “Turkey in the Straw”. He loved his Ella, he loved his neighbours men and women in a lesser way, and his ties with them were made of better than money. The world where money ruled, he did not trust; and wisely not.

“Feminist successes” have destroyed the lifetime quality of marriage as a legal entity; and it follows from that destruction, that saving up wealth in what was the conventional family system half a century ago, is now folly. There are two ways at least, to adapt to the change: Depend less on wealth, and store the wealth differently. Gran’père relied less on money and more on friendships than most people today; and it worked well for him—because it worked well also for his friends.

His reliance on friendships can work today—with people who are competent to be friends, as Gran’père and most of his neighbours were. Not everyone is—nor was everyone in Gran’père’s day. Relying on friendships is not the same as starry-eyed Hippie pseudo-communalism; it is a social practice, process, and relationship that takes time, thought, and attention. Fortunately, it is part of human nature to rely on friendships; and the time, thought, and attention come naturally—if we choose to give them.

Wealth can be stored, so-to-speak, in churches, common lands, co-operatives, fraternal organizations, and forms of tenure that are not marketable. I’m not saying we should keep no wealth in banks or Credit Unions, nor even that we should keep no wealth in the form of gold or silver. I am saying that from what i hear and see, men who are out of deft keep far too much wealth in bank accounts, compared to these other forms. Churches, common lands, co-operatives, and fraternal organizations, are social forms we could use more than we do.3

In the past few paragraphs, i have used the word “wealth” in two ways that are somewhat inconsistent with one another—though both quite conventional in English-language writing. One usage refers to money and things that can readily be converted to money; the other, to things that have subsistence value. They overlap, but there are forms of money-wealth that lack subsistence value and things of subsistence value that are not money-wealth. One theme of Gran’père’s example, is that subsistence value is the more important; and money the more conducive to deceit.

Of course, we Christians were supposed to know this for two thousand years by now, ever since Jesus of Nazareth said, “Lay up for yourselves not treasures upon earth, where moths and rust corrupt them and thieves break in and steal; rather lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Many commentaries read “heaven” as referring to an afterlife. It might also be understood to refer to a better way of organizing life on earth. Either way, it refers to human co-operation rather than individualist greed; it refers to honesty rather than clever deceit, it refers to blessing rather than bureaucracy and contract law.

Men whose lives express those preferences, won’t be the slaves of ambition, and less often the slaves of court orders or bossy women. Only good women are likely to choose them. If no women choose some of them, they also can still live well.

I’m not trying to give you a pre-written New Year’s Resolution here. “No Longer the Slave of Ambition4 is a general outlook, or you might call it an attitude. I’ve given some examples, and if you give the idea some thought, you’ll probably notice some examples in your life and those of men you know. You’ll probably see ways you can make sensible, reasonable New Year’s Resolutions that move you away from being the slave of ambitions that aren’t really improving your life.

Notes:

 1. Not just a very few “top stars,” as in earlier generations, but hundreds and then thousands of them.

2. Fewer ex-husbands supported ex-wives as it became normal for adult women to have jobs.

3. Forms of tenure that are not marketable, have existed through history: Arguably, common lands are forms of tenure that are not marketable; co-operative holdings can be; and we would be wise to develop more 21st Century analogues. If a man is rejected by his wife or “cohabitant” for whatever bad reason, she may well get his money; but his co-op membership and his church and community-forest membership can only be cancelled by those communities acting en groupe.

4. The title of this little essay comes from the usual last verse of a Puget Sound folk song, “The Old Settler”:

No longer the slave of ambition,
I laugh at the world and its shams
while enjoying my happy condition
surrounded by acres of clams…

Print Friendly
Posted in Davd, Male Lifestyle, Working | Leave a comment

The “Christmas” Holiday:

… some Explanations for a Secular Website,
and perhaps even a chance to help other men and enjoy it,

(c) 2014, Davd

As a serious Christian1, i look at “the Christmas season” somewhat wryly  and even sadly. There is so much going on that has “[bleep] all” to do with Jesus Christ, his teachings, even his birth. Much of it is a more-or-less pleasant diversion from the fact that the days are so short and the nights are so long (can you imagine how underwhelming all those lighted decorations would be in a Canadian late June with 16—24 hours of daylight?); or another occasion, not that different really from the Grey Cup or the first of July, to party and maybe get a little sloshed.

The lights and the partying could just as well be called Winter Solstice. Indeed, some Orthodox Christians spend “Advent”, the weeks leading up to Christmas, in austerity rather than revelry.

I’m not very surprised that there should be a shopping binge around the end of the autumn, in a recently wealthy country whose chief economic ideology is capitalist—but that has little to do with Jesus of Nazareth and more to do against him. Giving gifts to friends and kin is consistent with his teaching, but in my humble opinion anyway, the best Christmas gifts should be
——> made or grown rather than bought (I give oregano and other herbs from my gardens, for instance; and red-pine boughs for decoration, to friends and churches2)
——> given to Jesus—he’s the birthday boy, isn’t he?—rather than to people you want to impress. The poor, and children, are better to give to from a Christian perspective, than business connections, sales clients, or aged relatives from whom you’re angling for a big inheritance.

Here’s an interesting Christian Christmas gift idea, if you tolerate crowded shopping malls well or have a craft skill that makes things children like3. Find some children near you whose grandparents live far away, and arrange with the grandparents to buy or make gifts for those children in the grandparents’ name. Shipping “Christmas presents” can be mighty expensive if you don’t have a bulk rate with some courier service—so you’ll save the grandparents much more time and money than the effort will cost you. You give to the children and the grandparents, not your money, but your time and the benefits of your location.

Let’s develop that idea one step further: Do you know children near you whose fathers have been cast-off by their mothers? (It seldom seems to happen the other way ’round.) Preferably, you know each father also, or one of his best friends. Organize a party for those children, with two or more men as hosts (both for social efficiency and for mutual chaperonage.) Include Dad as part of the party (a phone chat if he lives a long way off), as well as fun and gifts, which means organizing for Dad to be available some of the time while it’s going on.

(If any mother whose ex is actually a decent man, refuses to let her children take part—shame her! Expose her [socially not anatomically] if you have ways to do so. Abusing fathers who are decent men, is evil, Jesus hated evil, and if this were a Christian website i could cite passages from Scripture to back that up. No matter how small his wallet, a decent, loving father is valuable to his children.)

So if you want to put up lights, have fun doing so; and if it’s not fun, don’t go doing it because of Christmas, ’cause it’s really about winter solstice and how long the nights are in Canada this time of year. If you want to party, have fun but avoid drunk driving and remember that STDs don’t take the winter off.

Bias what you eat toward fairly healthy fun food, like apple cider and good coffee, peanuts, popcorn and pretzels rather than highly processed fatty snacks, turkey and ham rather than sausages that contain much more fat than protein. (The ham fat, if it’s a regular ham with a layer of fat between the skin and the meat, can go to your dog—he should have some fun, too4.) If you’re eating alone or with just one or two pals [or children—i was once a single father] then roast beef and fresh home made bread can be a special and fairly healthy Christmas feast.

All Jesus himself had for his first Christmas dinner, was milk.
Some factual “btw”s:
Jesus probably was not born near the Winter Solstice. Luke’s Gospel tells that shepherds were out in the fields watching their flock at the time, and i have heard more than once, that even in that Mediterranean climate, sheep are not out grazing in late December. One of those who told me so said Jesus was probably born in the spring.

Luke’s Gospel also states that the reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem was—a Roman census which required everyone to go to his ancestral home town. Joseph and Mary, being of the lineage of the great King David, went to Bethlehem, David’s city, as the Roman Emperor had ordered. … and winter is no time for a sensible Emperor to order all his subjects to travel around.

So why not celebrate Christmas in the spring? One obvious reason is that Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection, is in the spring. Its place in the calendar is linked to Passover, the Jewish holy festival whose time has been in the spring since long before Jesus walked the earth.

Jesus’ Resurrection is more important than his birth: Everyone gets born; coming back from the dead is very rare. Birth is an ordinary natural event; resurrection is a miracle. Passover has always been celebrated in the spring, ergo: The spring celebration of Christianity is the Resurrection—so if Jesus’ birth is going to be celebrated, it needs another time of year… and late December, even in Mediterranean climates, is a quiet time for farmers… who made up much more of the population then, than now.

“Christ” is Latin for Messiah, and one simple way to translate that Hebrew word into English, is “saviour”. Christmas is the festival of the birth of the Saviour.

Why aren’t we feeling “saved”? Why doesn’t it seem like everything has been put right? One good reason could be that Jesus’ Teachings are not very well followed, and haven’t been. He taught humility; we see fuss and pride dominant in world affairs. He taught that the ways of the rich are contrary to the ways of His Kingdom; we see economic growth worshipped more than we see His Teachings worshipped, in modern politics.

He taught sexual restraint and marital fidelity; the trend during my lifetime has been rather the opposite. (Methinks a tough-minded Christian government would tax cosmetics and clothing designed to look “sexy”, at rates similar to those at which Canada taxes cigarettes and alcoholic drink—or maybe, at even higher rates.)

Christian Scripture does not approve, for instance, of easy divorce or active homosexuality. And however much fun some women and “gay men” may have had in recent decades—has either been good for public health? or the well being of children?

Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi has been cited as saying that Christianity is an excellent set of teachings, but impossible for human beings to keep. So far, while i have met a few men and women who do5 keep them quite well, that “impossible” seems true in the sense that the population as a whole isn’t keeping them and history doesn’t show large national populations doing so.

No great surprise, then, if the birth of Jesus is used as an excuse for putting up lights when the nights are long, commercial greed, and partying as if it were a sports championship. As a Christian writing for a secular website, i can regret the greed and encourage other men not to support it; i can bless the partying to the extent it is honest and relatively healthy, but not call it Christian; and agree that some of the lights are quite pleasant to look at without thinking they have much to do with Jesus Christ.

Me? born in a barn?
You are too kind .. my Master
was born in a barn.

Notes:

1. I have been told that i’m a more serious Christian than most. I do recite two Christian prayers each morning before i get up: “The Apostles’ Creed” and “the Lord’s Prayer.” Neither is about begging or nagging for what i want that day; i go over them in turn, slowly, as a discipline and reminder to influence my choices and actions during the day. I pray for a day and a life in harmony with Christian teachings, not for amusements, “stuff”, nor wealth.

2. Red pine is fairly rare around here, and its dark, fairly long ‘needles’ make good decoration material; i have a windbreak of them, and December is a good time to prune off the lowest branches. (There are spruce and white-cedar in the windbreak as well, most of them smaller than the pines; so pruning the pines improves their future timber value without letting the wind get through.)

3. For instance, you might be handy with a lathe. Tops—those wooden toys that spin like an upside-down onion—are fairly easy to make, they last a long time, and several little children will probably get more fun out of one well made painted or varnished top, than two or more of the [dreck] that is sold in those crowded stores.

4. I usually cut the fat into chunks, give Fritz a handful, and save the rest in the freezer for later; i think a huge amount of fat at once isn’t that good. And i’v’e been known to use some ham and bacon fat to brown the onions i cook with beans.

5 … in some cases, did, until their natural deaths in old age.

 

Print Friendly
Posted in Davd, Gender Equality | Leave a comment

Lazy Man’s Pickles:

..an Easy, Tasty way to Diversify Your Snacking:
(c) 2014, Davd

During the “Holiday Season”, at parties and even early in the sequence of fancy dinners, you’ll probably see lots of pickles. Personally, I generally like dills best; but bread-and-butter pickles can also be mighty good, and the peppery pickled mixed vegetables as well. If you serve store-bought pickles—save the brine. If you go to a potluck, anywhere that pickles are served, and you can “scrounge” the brine—save it. The brine from a jar of store pickles will almost certainly make you a jar of “Lazy Man’s Pickles” for snacking in the New Year.

I learned this technique from John Romaniuk, a good old Ukrainian-Canadian welder whose shop was in Nanaimo and who lived near Nanoose, where i rented a cabin from him for about a year. Like most men who have their own business, he valued efficiency, and when it came to pickles, he showed me efficiency i’d never noticed—and when he’d shown me, i never forgot.

Once in a while he’d invite me to his house for a beer or two, or for coffee, and one day he served pickled eggs with the beer. Dill-pickled eggs, and really good with beer and pretzels.

I’d always liked pickled eggs, but i’d never thought i had the spare time to work my way slowly through some recipes and find a few i liked, then gradually adjust the recipes to my preferences. Pickling recipes tend to be rather complicated, at least the ones in the cookbooks i had were; and i’ve always found plenty of interesting work to do with my time. Even if you can do anything, there’s not time enough to do everything, and pickling was one of those “not time enough” things, for me.

John had found an easy way: When he ate the last of a jar of dill pickles, he put the brine back in the ‘fridge [in that same jar]; and before long, he’d boil up six or seven eggs. When the hard-boiled eggs had cooled, he simply peeled the shells off and put them in that jar of brine; and let them sit in the brine, in the ‘fridge, for at least two weeks.

I started imitating his technique, and it worked in my ‘fridge, too.

This, to me, is classic “guy cooking”: A good result from a simple effective technique, with an absolute minimum of fussing. I get two jars of pickles to eat, from buying one; and more variety in my diet from less work at the cookstove.

However, i noticed that i was buying more jars of cucumber pickles than i was making of pickled eggs. So, of course, i asked myself: What else would taste better, or as good but different, if i soaked it two weeks in pickling brine? Two answers came over the next few months: Carrots and turnips. Yellow turnips (rutabagas in French) came out better as pickles than white ones, and their flavour improved more than that of carrots, for being pickled.

I also tried pickling eggs, carrots, and turnips in the brine from bread-and-butter pickles, which is sweet. Dill pickle brine, i learned, works well with eggs, carrot strips, and turnips cut more or less like potatoes are cut for “French fries.” Bread-and-butter pickle brine works well with eggs and turnips, and it’s OK applied to carrots but in my ‘umble opinion, not as special. Carrots are already sweet, so there’s less of a contrast to give the soaked carrots that tang we associate with pickles.

To cut turnips for pickling, i slice them about half an inch thick, “parallel to the equator*”, peel the slices, and then cut the slices into half-inch strips. The texture seems to come out a little better that way, than if i slice them pole to pole. Carrots, i cut lengthwise. You can make the strips a little narrower than a half inch, but i wouldn’t go narrower than one centimetre [3/8 inch].  Both go into the brine uncooked.

I suggest you write the date you put the egg or vegetable into the brine, on the jar label. I use a felt-tip permanent marker to do the job; and when i’ve emptied the jar, i soak off the label. If you make pickles in a jar with the label already off, the marker will write on glass, and the writing can wash off in the dishpan but lasts well enough in the ‘fridge.

(Just in case you didn’t guess this already: The trick only works once. When you’ve made a batch of pickled eggs, carrots, or turnips—you’ve used up most of the available spice and vinegar in the brine that was left after the original cucumber pickles. There’s not enough vinegar nor enough spices left to make another round of pickles—there’s a wee bit left, but not enough to flavour or to protect a second “round”. Your first round of “Lazy Man’s Pickles” should keep in the fridge for a month, imaginably a few months. If you tried for a second round, it might start to decay within a  week or two.)

Carrots and turnips are fairly often available “on sale” for a dollar a kilo (45 cents per pound) or a little less, around here; and 50-cent-a-pound ($1.10 per kilo) prices come on quite often. I haven’t weighed the strips i use to fill a jar, yet—because once they go into the brine, it’s very messy to take them out again for weighing, and until the jar fills, i don’t know how much exactly will go in it.  I’d suppose that a one-litre pickle jar will hold about a pound of vegetable, but not much more, using the simple rule “put in enough so the brine comes about as high in the jar as it was the first time.” So your second jar of pickles will cost you 40 to 65 cents, compared to $2-$3 for the cucumber pickles you bought at the store.

Not bad, eh?

Benjamin Franklin, i believe it was, said that laziness, at least as much as necessity, fosters invention. John Romaniuk was an inventive, self-employed master welder who didn’t leave his disciplined laziness at the shop—and now, you too can benefit: Tasty variety in the winter vegetables, pickled eggs that take 10-20 minutes of work and two weeks of waiting, and the cost is about as low as you’ll find.

____________________________________________

* Think of the root as the south pole and the top as the north pole. I find the sliced turnips are easier to peel than whole turnips—and i suggest you save the peels to make “vegetable stock.” Turnips give a good taste to winter soups and stews, even to some sauces; and for myself, i like the taste more than the texture of cooked turnips. By pickling the turnips and cooking the peelings into vegetable stock, i get both benefits.

 

Print Friendly
Posted in Davd, Food, Male Lifestyle | Leave a comment

The Shameless Prudes:

… a wry but true name for a social action network
whose time is long overdue:

(c) 2014, Davd

When a teen-aged girl comes to church wearing a mini-skirt, and panty-hose of a colour i remember as approximately what highway workers wear to make themselves especially visible to drivers, I call that shameful. There are many things people can do that are more shameful, to be sure: Abortion of a healthy foetus with the potential to become a capable adult, for instance, bullying, financial deceit, excessive greed, murder—even the seldom mentioned sin of blasphemy. So having said that the girl in her Look! Loook!! tights (which in detailed fact probably were not pantyhose, but like many celibate old men, I don’t carefully record such details) walking forward to receive Eucharist, was mildly rather than extremely shameful in her dress conduct; and having got nods of sad agreement from two middle aged ushers; i wondered how i might write some gentle admonition to modesty…

… when Lo! and behear, on the CBC News the next morning plus one, came an item stating [i report approximately from memory] that some Fredericton schoolgirls had attacked their school’s dress code complaining that it contributed to a rape culture1. Did they seriously believe that displaying their sexuality where it ought not be active, is more modest? Or were they flaunting a privilege girls have [or are politickling to have], and boys have not; to be openly and overtly sexual wherever and whenever and however they please? Is it not obvious that modesty forestalls rather than contributes to, the probability of unwanted sexual attention? Do we see construction workers and boys lounging on street corners, whistling at nuns in traditional “habit” dress? at old-fashioned Muslim women in their equally shape-concealing garb? or at chiquitas in form-fitting tights and T-shirts?

It seems, as of December 1st, that the Fredericton schoolgirls are getting much more media sympathy, at least from some media, than their demands merit. They are not even politickling to loosen the standards for beach attire or dance hall attire (which loosening also can have significant social costs)—these audacious adolescents are claiming the privilege to disrupt the work of the schools (and the churches).

The connection between sexuality display in schools and the Look! Loook!! tights in church, is probably obvious to many readers. My purpose in church, is prayer, reflection, ritual, … which are often grouped together as worship. Men’s eyes (and women’s also) naturally look at some extremely bright colours—which is why highway workers wear them. A healthy pair of adolescent female human legs tends to hold most men’s attention, and even that of some women2, a bit longer. Both the bright colour and the tightly covered legs, detract and distract from the purposes for which we come to church.

In schools, the purpose would be called learning instead of worship, and the disciplines are somewhat different; but the effect of attention grabbing dress (and posture, manner of walking, etc.) is to distract that attention from learning—in school as in church, modesty supports the purposes of the institution and immodesty detracts from them. Immodest dress and conduct, i would make bold to contend, generally reduce the efficiency and sustainability of the society in which they are tolerated. Rather than remove the school dress code, let’s explicate one at least as modest, for churches (where a few decades ago, even teen-aged girls knew better.)

Seems to me it’s time for a lobby group called Shameless Prudes! Prudes {1} because relative to nonsense like “girls should be free to display their sexuality as, and as much as, they choose and boys must behave like eunuchs until specifically invited to respond”, healthy socially beneficial modesty can be called prudish; and {2}because modesty is prudent. Shameless because of the word’s more ordinary usage—that is, for wry surprise value—and because in truth there is no shame, rather much virtue, in modesty, and in school and church dress codes if modesty is not kept without them.

“Shameless” is ordinarily used as a condemning adjective, applied to something for which people ought to be ashamed. If applied to something for which people needn’t be ashamed, it is vacuous—or wry. “Shameless prude” is an absurd phrase if shameless is taken in the ordinary sense, exactly because it is boringly ordinary not to be ashamed of something that is not shameful. (Calling anyone a shameless bus driver, cook, gardener, janitor, etc., is likewise empty of meaning. Bus drivers, cooks, gardeners, janitors, etc., can indeed do shameful things—but their work is not shameful when done in an ordinarily competent way.) If by using the phrase “shameless prudes” wryly, we can get some well deserved attention for the practical value of modesty—let’s do.

Anyone who cares to offer a better name to use when the surprise value has been exploited, is welcome to; i begin with this phrase to frankly, get attention. Modesty and Christian sexual restraint have had far too little attention lately, and even less respect. Serious Muslims and, as best i can estimate, Buddhists and Jews, would agree that women3 should dress modestly in public; this is not a Christian-only concern. I would tentatively suggest that there be Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, (probably Native-spiritual, Sikh, etc.) and secular subgroups within “we Shameless Prudes”, and that the overall group be interfaith and more. My main point is that modesty contributes to work and study efficiency (and thus to societal efficiency), to goodwill and harmony between the sexes, and to the wiser choice of mates, whether for marriage or not.

I would rather not see any woman’s display of her sexuality. I’m not looking to remarry, nor to “hook up”—nor to flirt, nor to get entangled in the likes of Genesis, ch. 39.4

I would rather be an old scold than an old fool or an old goat.

 

Notes:

1. It should be noted for clarity,. that the phrase “rape culture” as used by such Feminists, is tendentious to the point of fraud. A rape culture approves of a violent crime whose name has been extended by Feminist interests, to many lesser offences and even to consensual sex between two intoxicated persons. “Catcalling”, for instance, is not rape and not close to it, and a culture that indulges in catcalling is not thereby a rape culture. Immodest dress invites catcalling.

2 … whether for Lesbian or comparison purposes, i don’t need to know—but if Lesbian, perhaps it should be confessed to the priest.

3 … and men, but most men are modest while a far larger fraction of women than of men, are not.

4. This chapter tells of the false accusation of Potiphar’s wife against Joesph, and his consequent imprisonment.

 

Print Friendly
Posted in Commentary, Davd, Female Privilege | Leave a comment

Roast Beef and HomeMade Bread!

.A Hot Meal, a Warm Kitchen .. Harvest is Over and Winter is Near.
(c) 2014, Davd

Home-made bread, baked potatoes, and roast beef: That’s a fine dinner for when you have time to enjoy it at leisure; and to me enjoying it at leisure means at home—mine or a friend’s—not in a “restaurant” where “your table” isn’t your own and the management wants to keep it actively making income. Not in a restaurant from which you have to drive home—and the Law demands, drive home cold sober. Enjoying a good red wine with this fine meal, should not threaten you with a criminal record, nor tax you with a cab fare more costly than the meal.

(It’s a shame, really, that we rural men can’t just go home from a fine dinner with wine, in a horse drawn carriage [or even a mere wagon] and be able to tell any cop who stops us, “but the horse is sober, and the reins are tied around the railing. He’s driving, not me; he knows the way home ….”)

I began making bread at least 40 years ago. I think i’ve made all my own bread for two years or longer. (I’m not flat certain of that; i might have bought a loaf or two of rye bread in the past two years, and somebody did give me a bag of ciabatta buns last year—are those bread or not?—but for the most part, the overwhelmingly most part—the bread i eat is baked in my own kitchen. In the summer, i make “frybread”, usually the kind that is called flour tortillas or chapatis, because having the oven on at a fairly high heat for an hour or so, isn’t welcome when the house is already more than warm enough.)

September, sometimes October is when the baking resumes after the heat of summer: I bake long-rise bread in the shape most often called French or Italian. It has more flavour than most store bread—it’s really good with butter or good margarine, and nothing more. I often have it with garlic-margarine, which is easy to make at home. It can be made with white or whole-wheat flour; i suggest starting with unbleached “white” flour because it’s easier to learn with.

(Whole wheat produces a smaller, denser loaf that’s a little more nourishing and at least as tasty [to me, anyway], but the rises tend to take longer. There’s not as much “leeway”, to make the dough wait while you do something else. When you’ve made a dozen or so batches of white bread, i suggest you give whole wheat a try. It’s heartier, and for instance seems to me to make better ham sandwiches—even peanut butter and jam sandwiches—but i like white bread better with garlic butter. Rye bread?—rye dough is very sticky, and hard to work; so it’s something to tackle only when you have more experience and plenty of kitchen time for the dough.)

’round about the time that the Frost Warnings start to appear in the weather forecasts, is when the idea of a hot electric oven just before dinner time becomes pleasant again, and will stay pleasant until mid-late spring. It’s time to thaw a beef roast [in the fridge], or buy one if there’s a good price on offer. It’s time to get out the big Bread Bowl the next morning after breakfast, or that evening if i want dinner at mid-day, and do a little over half an hour’s work, spread over 10-20 hours time, to produce one of the best dinners a beef eating man can eat.

The timing is worth repetition: If you’re thawing a frozen roast—and frozen beef, protected from the air, can be excellent for roasting when thawed—put it to thaw the morning of the day before you plan to cook it. The bread dough, using my long-rising technique, should be started late in the evening of the day before it’s baked, or in the morning right after breakfast; so by the time you start the bread, the beef roast should be partly thawed but still not completely (unless, of course, it’s one you just recently bought.)

For this technique, the best roast thickness is a generous 3 inches [7-8 cm]. Stores in the Francophone villages near here often cut “roasts” as thin as 4 cm [barely 1½ inches] and any thickness less than 6 cm [a scant 2½ inches] is likely to come out “well done” all the way through. I prefer medium rare, and 3 inches or a little thicker, gives me a roast that is red inside but not bloody. My favourite cut is sirloin; round will roast well also; “strip loin” is tender but more expensive, it tends to have more fat “marbled” in the meat, and the few times i’ve tried it, it didn’t have as much flavour as sirloin. Chuck [sometimes called blade] should be cooked moist, and more slowly; it’s the natural pot roast.

With the beef part-way thawed, sitting in the ‘fridge which is the best place to thaw meat, and a big bowl on some work surface in the kitchen where you can push down hard [and i suggest, don’t use the freezer top because it will tend to be cold] warm up 1 litre [just over one US quart or just less than one UK quart] of water to about body temperature [38-39C, 98-100F]. It can be a little warmer, but if it’s a lot warmer it might kill the yeast. One litre of water will make two big loaves of bread, the shape of French and Italian loaves, that will fit on a single cookie sheet [mine are 40×27 cm in size or about 10½ by 16 inches]. In a compact oven such as i have right now, that cookie sheet leaves just room on the same shelf [wire rack], for a Pyrex glass baking pan that will hold the roast and a couple of potatoes. If you have a big oven, you can try doubling the recipe later; for the first couple of tries, i suggest keeping to two loaves and a roast.

I do mean “big bowl”: Mine is 16″ = 40 cm wide at the top, a little less than half that wide at the bottom, and 6″ = 15 cm high. The one you use should fit in the oven, because in most kitchens the oven will be the best place to put the dough while it’s rising. It should also have plenty of room for the dough to rise. Stainless steel is my favourite material for most kitchen gear, including mixing bowls and cooking pots, and that’s what my big bowl is made of; ceramic or heat-tolerant glass will also do.

When the water is a little above body temperature, pour it in the big bowl. (Water that you saved from cooking pasta will help the dough start rising, by the way, because of the starch suspended in it; but don’t use pasta-cooking water that is turning sour or fermenting—at least, not until you’re ready to try sourdough, which can make delicious bread but can also be very sticky.) Add a generous pinch [half a teaspoon or so] of salt, a teaspoon or two of sugar and of cooking oil, and then mix them all into the water with a big spoon or, if you have one, a whisk. When the oil, salt, and sugar are mixed into the water, add a rounded teaspoon of baker’s yeast. (I buy my yeast in bulk and keep it in the ‘fridge, where it will keep for a year or longer because of the temperature. If you buy yours by the envelope, one envelope should do.) Sprinkle the yeast across the top of the water and let it “proof”, or take up the warm water and begin to come to life. It keeps in the ‘fridge so long, because at ‘fridge temperature, it’s “dormant.”**

The check-list is: Water, salt, sugar, oil, yeast, flour. You can add the salt, sugar, and oil in any order. You can add a wee bit of flour before the yeast, if your big bowl doesn’t have a residue of flour from the last batch of bread; but it probably isn’t necessary and if you used pasta-cooking water it’s definitely not needed. The yeast should go in second-last, the water first, and all but a wee bit of the flour, last… after the yeast has been sprinkled on top of the sugared salted oiled water, and given time to “wake up.”.

While the yeast is softening and waking up, oil your hands with cooking oil, or fat (I suggest not using bacon or ham fat because they have a smoky taste) rubbing it in as you do hand lotion. Cooking oils and fats make good hand lotion, by the way… and for my part, i don’t mind smelling a little like a kitchen. When the oil is rubbed into your skin—you did wash your hands before starting to make the dough, of course—then add a little flour to your hands, and take a measuring cup or a coffee/tea mug for adding flour to the bowl.

(I keep a mug, a narrow bottomed one that looked too easy to tip over if i put tea or coffee in it, in the flour sack; and also, 2-3 bay leaves. The bay leaves repel insects, so the flour won’t get infested; and the mug might as well sit in the flour sack as get washed and dried after each batch of bread, because it is always dry and never touches anything but flour [and maybe the odd bay leaf]. I put the bay leaves on a clean surface while making the dough, and then put them back in the flour bag with the mug when the bread starts to rise as loaves. I close the flour bag with spring clamps—whether they come from an office supply store or a hardware store doesn’t matter as long as they’re clean. Clothes pins aren’t strong enough to hold a 10-kg flour sack closed, though the good ones work OK for a 2 kg sugar bag.)

After 10-20 minutes, the yeast should have expanded from granules to a soft tan covering at the top of the water in the bowl. Now add the flour, a cup or so at a time. As one well known Canadian cookbook put it, you mix the flour and water into a batter [pancakes are fried from the batter consistency] and then by adding more flour, into a dough. A dough is more solid than fluid, but “pliable”: You can work it into a loaf shape, or a cylinder, or a rectangular solid, and it will hold that shape, more or less. If you’ve never made bread dough, it would be a good idea to help somebody who has, the first time you try it; or have somebody experienced come coach you for the dough-making stage.

As the flour-water-yeast-sugar-oil-salt mixture becomes a batter, you’ll notice that the whisk isn’t working as well as a spoon would. Tap the whisk sharply on the edge of the bowl a few times, to shake the batter that clings to it into the bowl; then put it in a can or jar of water to soak, and proceed to stir the batter with a big spoon. As the batter becomes a dough, you’ll notice that the spoon isn’t working as well as you could with your bare hands, so peel the dough off the spoon with those hands, put the spoon with the whisk to soak, and proceed to work the dough to a fairly firm consistency. If there’s a little flour clinging to the bowl, that’s OK; and don’t try to force so much flour into the dough that it starts being “crumbly”. (To repeat: It’s good to have somebody experienced come coach you for the dough-making stage, first time.)

When you’ve got a lump of dough, damp but firm enough to “shape”, in the bowl, shape it into a slightly mounded form, centred in the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle a wee bit of dry flour on top—less rather than more. Cover it with a clean dry cloth, preferably linen rather than cotton. Put the bowl on top of a cookie sheet, and set them, covered with that cloth, in the oven. Turn the oven on to its lowest heat—less than 150F/60C,—when the light comes on indicating the oven has turned on, that’s enough … and put a tin can or small wide bottom steel bowl, at the bottom of the oven, with an inch or two of water in it so the air where the dough rises is slightly moist. (I prefer the 28-ounce/800ml cans in which i buy tomatoes after my own garden crop runs out.)

Making the dough, for me, is 10-15 minutes of work. Now the yeast goes to work for 3-5 hours, and can work for as long as 8-12, giving the dough its long, first rise. This long rise is part of what makes the bread taste special; and commercial bakeries almost never make long-rising bread because it ties up valuable space for too many hours (and because they don’t want to pay their workers to sit around and wait for a long rise… though maybe they can find the workers other things to do.)

If you started the dough in the evening, you’ll “work it” after the first rise, while making breakfast or right after you eat breakfast. If you started it rising after breakfast, you’ll work it some time after lunch, or perhaps while making lunch. The dough does not need to be worked a long time, in my experience; 5-10 minutes are often enough.

The pattern of “working the dough” is: Fold and press down. When you press down the folded dough, of course it becomes much wider than it is tall, and ready to fold again. Work more slowly rather than in a rush, so the dough can “get itself together” on each fold. You’ll find that while rising, the dough became damper in consistency than when it went into the warm oven; so you’ll add flour—and again, it would be a good idea to help somebody who has made bread for a while, the first time you handle dough; or have somebody experienced come coach you until your first batch of bread starts to bake.

The second rise should take 2-3 hours. When the dough has expanded to at least double its worked-down size, to where you could imagine it shaped into two good-sized loaves, then it’s time to make it into not those ready-to-bake loaves, but worked down into the shapes that will swell into loaves during the final rise.

At each “working”, the dough will take up some more flour. I’m not sure of the scientific reason for that; but i do know that when yeast “eats” sugar [and gradually, yeast converts starch in flour to sugar and “eats” that as well as the little bit of sugar you put in the initial mix], one of the reaction products is—water. Anyway, don’t be surprised when the dough, as you start to work it after the first and second rise, is wetter and stickier than it was when the rise began. Add flour until the consistency is good to work.

When you’ve worked it down at the end of the second rise, you shape it into two loaves [remember, this is based on 1 litre of water and the flour that much water needed, to make good dough]. The loaves should sit crosswise to the longer direction of the cookie sheet, with about twice as much space between them, as between each loaf and the end of the sheet.

Sprinkle a little flour on the cookie sheet before you put the dough-shape on it. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of each loaf. Put the linen cloth on top of the loaves, gently, folded so it covers them pretty well but does not run far beyond any side or end of the metal sheet. Then put the loaves back in the oven, still turned to about as low heat as will still heat at all, for the final rise.

(It is not very important to get the shapes of the loaves “just so.” Bread that tastes good and has its crunchy crust and soft interior, doesn’t really need to have any particular shape. In general, i enjoy loaves that are wider than they are high, biggest-around at the middle of their length, tapering very slightly toward each end until, for the last two inches [5 cm] or so, they form the graceful curved closure shape you know if you see much French and Italian bread.)

Meanwhile, if you don’t have potatoes waiting to be baked, get some from the sack or mound where you keep them for storage, and put them in a small bucket with enough water to cover. After half an hour or longer, the water will have loosened the very thin layer of dirt which it’s good to have on potatoes in storage, but not to eat. Then you can scrub them clean at—let me guess—a rate of two or three per minute… meaning there’s plenty of time to soak and wash potatoes while the loaves are rising, though you can just as well to it earlier. (If you bought potatoes from a store, you probably bought them already washed, and this part of the job will already be done.)

A good baking potato—for these baking conditions—will be up to two inches [5 cm] thick, wider than those two inches, and longer than it is wide. I typically put one such potato at each end of my Pyrex pan, and the beef roast between them, fat side up. If the potatoes push against the beef roast and cause it to stand a little taller in the pan, all the better … unless you have a thicker roast than i usually find in the stores. Pierce the top of each potato at least three times with a fork, four or five won’t hurt. (I find salad forks pierce potatoes more cleanly than many regular forks.)

The loaves are ready to bake when they’ve expanded almost to the size you want them to be when done. (They will expand just a little as they bake.) As with handling the dough, it would be a good idea to have somebody who has made bread several times, help you assess when the loaves are ready to bake, the first time or two.

The old cookbook i started from when i began making my own bread, decades ago, said to bake 50 minutes at 400 F[ahrenheit]. (My oven control is labelled in Fahrenheit, so that’s fine with me.) That temperature and time, i soon learned, cooks a three inch thick roast to a medium rare which i prefer anyway. I usually turn off the oven after about 45 minutes, if the light indicating heating, is off; and if the bread and roast are in the oven a minute or two longer than 50, that should be fine.

When you take the bread out of the oven, put it [still on the cookie sheet] on the stove-top elements, or something that can take heat well above boiling point, and cover the loaves with the same linen cloth. Put the meat and potatoes on a similarly heat-tolerant surface—but in this case, use a wooden board⁂, not metal, because the next and last stage of the cooking process is called “repose”. Cover the meat and potatoes with an upside down baking pan or mixing bowl—whatever’s the right size, clean, and made of thin metal. Glass might crack, a cloth would soak up juice from the meat, and plastic might melt. If the roast is on the thick side or you prefer medium to medium rare, take the bread out first; if you prefer rare or it’s less than three inches thick, take the meat out first.

Let the bread, meat, and potatoes “repose” for about 20 minutes. With the meat pan resting on wood, which doesn’t carry away heat as fast as metal does, as long as half an hour shouldn’t hurt. While the hot food is reposing, have your salad or soup course… or cook the vegetable[s]. Steamed broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower; frozen spinach heated just to boiling, or maybe boiled beets or peas, are what i’d choose… but sometimes, if i have lettuce and some tomatoes, i’d make a lettuce and tomato salad. Even carrot-raisin salad goes well with this meal, but i prefer broccoli, spinach, or lettuce-and-tomato salad. (Green beans are good too, steamed with mushrooms; but they’re not likely to be available fresh from the garden when the weather is cold enough for baking bread in the kitchen.)

This meal is worthy of a good red table wine—i prefer Merlot and Pinot Noir, which i make from kits, aged a year or longer. Rather than drink the whole bottle, if you’re eating alone, i recommend you save at least half for when you are enjoying the leftover roast beef.

That’s a good point on which to wind up one of the longest food blogs i’ll write: Like many techniques of cooking i write about, this one produces food enough to serve yourself plus some guests—or to enjoy some mighty fine leftovers. On the day i completed this in first draft, for instance, lunch was leftover baked potatoes with cheese and a little chive… warmed slightly in a frying pan, on low heat, until the cheese on top of them started to melt. Another meal was sliced roast beef and bread that had soaked up the drippings in the glass roasting pan. I don’t remember what the vegetables were, but i did have a deep red home grown apple.

The skills involved in this technique are not difficult to master. It is easier to learn them with an experienced bread maker for your coach, the first time or two; but that’s because they involve subjective observations rather than the kind that can be expressed in numbers: The moistness and texture of dough, the size of loaves when they’re ready to bake—these are things i can’t quantify, and you can’t measure with ordinary kitchen equipment—but you can learn them and it’s not so very difficult. Chili is a little easier to explain in writing, but it too has its “experiential” aspects.

This won’t be my last “Bachelor cooking” blog, but it may be a milestone of sorts: When you can present your guests with roast beef, baked potatoes, and fresh bread for dinner, indeed when you can sit down at your own table and enjoy them alone—and have mastered fish poached in homemade salsa, chicken cacciatore, spiced apple porridge, well-fried meat to go with that porridge, pea soup, homemade pasta sauce, black beans with bay leaf and onion, and the vegetable handling techniques i’ve posted—you’ve achieved a level of cooking such as my father and grandmother, both of them better cooks than my mother, taught me. You’ve probably gained the kitchen confidence any man smart enough to get a trade license, ought to have—and from what i hear this past few years, you’ve become a better cook than most women under 50.

If i think about that a minute, it occurs to me that there’s a conflict between the “job” that Governments have come to brag about “creating”, and good cooking. The hours that i let the yeast work while i do something else, and the minutes i spend working the dough, are available to a [wo]man who works at home, but not to a typical “wage slave” whose employer is miles from his kitchen. I became a regular bread maker while “self employed.” Egad! Perhaps the reason i grew up hearing that women cooked and men didn’t (though in my family, the best cooks were of both sexes) was an artifact of “the heyday of the job”… and if it’s not that simple overall, it is true that a man who goes his own way, alone or with some buddies, can eat well from the work of his own hands.

I mean to continue posting, from time to time, techniques of good cooking with a men’s perspective. There’s one i have almost ready, that’s as easy as this one is complex… so if you’re a pickle eater, and have fridge space, save the brine.

______________________________________

 

Obiter,
The bottom crust can get thick and rather hard. Doubling the cookie sheet is a trick you can try; but so far, i don’t think it adds as much as it subtracts; and the crust doesn’t get scorched, so much as thick and crunchy. Rarely, if a bit of crust is especially hard, i might give it to my wolfmutt Fritz. He has an impressive, powerful set of teeth.

Notes:

* I don’t heat the house until the temperature in the main room gets down to 16 or so.

** I know that some yeast is labelled as “instant.” Since that word “instant” doesn’t make biological sense to me, i let the yeast have 10-20 minutes on top of the warm water, to wake up and change form from little granules to a tan soft covering over the water. Then i add the flour.

Don’t set a baking hot pan on a plastic cutting board, or a plastic table or counter top. It might even stink enough, melting, to spoil the taste of the food. A cutting board, or a scrap of plywood or board from the workshop, ought to work safely, and leave the roast and potatoes at eating temperature rather than too cold, after 20-30 minutes. (This is one reason i use a Pyrex glass baking pan for the roast and potatoes. Another is that it doesn’t scorch their bottoms while baking as metal might do.)

Print Friendly
Posted in Davd, Food | Leave a comment

Easy Garlic Butter:

..or Margarine:
(draft) 2014, Davd

Soon i will post a technique for baking bread, potatoes, and a beef roast together, which has made me many a fine meal (worthy of a good red wine.) The bread it makes goes very well with garlic butter, and so, i thought, i should first tell readers who don’t know, how to make garlic butter.

It’s quite easy: You’ll need a cutting board (oak is best, cedar is good), a sharp knife (if you have a “vegetable knife”, that’s probably best), a frying pan (or a ceramic mug and a woodstove, which is what i use), some butter or quality margarine, and a “clove” of garlic. Cut off the root-end of the garlic and chop it fine. Put the chopped garlic in the pan or mug, add the butter or margarine (try a half cup, or “eyeball it”)* and heat gently on the stove. If the stove is electric, you should use a frying pan, and stainless steel is as good as cast iron for this job: Turn the heat on quite low. If you have a woodstove, stand the mug or frying pan on a spot where the heat is relatively mild. The butter or margarine should melt, but not boil. (There is water in butter and especially in margarine.)

Once it melts, the fat-water mixture will probably separate; but still, somehow, the flavour of the garlic will gradually work its way into them both. (Stir it back together a few times with a fork, to make sure the fat gets its garlic.) Give it at least 15 minutes melted but not boiling, and if you have a place where you can leave it longer, an hour is better. Then you can let it cool; the fat will solidify on top of the water.

If you have fresh or frozen chives handy, adding some, cut about a half centimetre [less than ¼”; and the right length to cut chives for freezing] long, seems to me to make it even better.

Just as the fat is solidifying, if you want, you can mix it and the water back together with a fork. (A spoon doesn’t work nearly as well—just as a spoon doesn’t work as well for stirring spaghetti while it boils.) I usually leave them separate, spread the fat on bread, and add the fluid to something like pasta sauce or beef soup, or a marinade, whose flavour it will improve .

On the West Coast, cracked (Dungeness or Pacific) crab and garlic bread are considered a gourmet meal. Here on the East Coast, lobster is [imho] at least as good dipped in warm garlic butter as with mayonnaise; and snow crab also goes well with garlic bread and dipped in garlic butter. Fried or grilled chicken filet [“white” meat] is also good dipped in garlic butter. You can even have pasta, hot, dressed just with garlic butter… and i’ll be surprised if you don’t think of more and more uses.

I’ve made myself a note to grow more garlic in next summer’s garden.

______________________________________

* How much garlic to how much margarine or butter, is a matter of taste; if the result you get seems too strong for your liking, you can warm it up again and add more margarine or butter.

 

Print Friendly
Posted in Davd, Food | Leave a comment