Authority has been in decline in Western civilization for centuries. The liberal dogma of individualism is widely accepted as received truth, despite the many ways in which it conflicts with observable reality. The authority of kings as God’s ministers of justice, the Apostolic authority of the Church, and the authority of all other traditional, social institutions, has been badly eroded. This is true even in the case of the most basic social institution of them all, the family. Parental authority in the family has come under severe attack, an attack which has intensified over the last century. This is especially true of patriarchal authority – the authority of fathers.
God said “Honour thy father and thy mother”. We have dedicated one day of the year each to our parents with which to honour them with our lips. We honour our mothers in May. Now, on the third Sunday of June, it is our fathers turn to have a day of their own. Having “honoured” our parents, we consider our duty to be done, and promptly ignore them for the rest of the year. For some reason I think this is not what God had in mind when He issued the first commandment with a promise.
Much of the blame for the recent decline in respect for fathers and their authority must be laid at the feet of television. The invention of television was a tremendous step in the development of propaganda techniques. It made it possible for moving pictures and accompanying sound to be broadcast throughout a region and viewed by people in their own homes. Television's potential as an instrument of social change was immediately apparent to social engineers and political radicals.
How are fathers usually depicted on television? Does television support the traditional role of the father as an authority figure in the family?
No. If a television program is about a traditional, middle-class, nuclear family, the father figure is typically portrayed as a boorish buffoon, the least intelligent person in the family, who only asserts his fatherly authority when he is obviously in the wrong. If, by chance, television portrays a father differently, that father is usually a sensitive “new male” and a political liberal or the family as a whole is an “alternative family” of some sort.
Can there be any doubt that this is done on purpose to undermine patriarchal authority?
This raises the question of why anyone would want to undermine the authority of fathers, creating instability in the family, leading to social chaos. The fact that someone does is indisputable. The question is why.
The answer to that question ultimately lies in the reason why the authority of the father in the family is important to society. Before we look at that, however, we should note that there is a prominent left-wing movement in society which has historically defined itself in opposition to father-authority. This same movement attacks motherhood as being an inferior choice for women to the pursuit of ambition and self-fulfillment in a professional career outside the home.
This movement is called feminism.
Feminism and Patriarchy
The technical term for the authority of fathers within the traditional family is patriarchy. This word comes from combining the Greek word for father with the Greek word for “rule”. Patriarchy, is the nominal enemy of the feminist movement.
I threw the qualifier “nominal” in for two reasons. The first reason is that what feminists mean when they use the word “patriarchy” is not what the word actually means. We will return to that momentarily. The second reason is that a good argument can be made that the real enemy of feminism is not patriarchy at all but rather femininity.
If that statement sounds outrageous to you then please bear me out as I attempt to explain what I mean by it. While the feminist movement cloaks its goals in the language of “rights”, “equality”, “dignity” and other such vapid totem expressions (1) its true goal, if we can judge from the positions it takes, the actions it calls for, and the policies it supports, is to eliminate femininity and masculinize women. Feminists accuse their opponents of believing that men are superior to women. This, however, is a classic case of what Dr. Freud called projection. The belief that men are superior to women is in fact the core belief of feminism.
Look, for example, at the absurdly titled “Women’s Liberation Movement” of the 1960’s. This movement demanded a number of things, such as universal government-provided daycare and the full legalization of abortion.
What did feminism hope to gain from such things?
It is the nature of things, that the consequences of sexual intercourse are not divided equally between men and women. A man can walk away from it with no lasting consequences other than moral and spiritual ones. This is not true of a woman. Pregnancy occurs within the female body and if a woman becomes pregnant that means nine months of bearing the growing child within her womb, and then, because the child is born dependent, a much longer period of nursing and raising the child.
The traditional way in which society addressed this situation was through moral and civil regulations that demanded that men shoulder their fair share of the burden of raising the next generation. Society demanded that men marry the women who bore their children and that they provide for their wives and children.
Feminism, however, took the radically opposite position that the situation should be alleviated by having government daycare freely available to all mothers and by allowing women to terminate their pregnancies at whim. Thus, a woman would be able to walk away from sexual intercourse with no lasting consequences other than moral and spiritual ones, just like a man.
What clearly lies behind the feminist position here is the idea that it is far better to be a man – to be able to walk away from sex with no baggage – than to be a woman. Therefore in the name of equality, the government must artificially make it possible for a woman to be like a man.
Feminism, which purports to be a serious movement seeking the redress of injustices against women, is in reality little more than a feminine equivalent of the mindset of a poorly raised, hormone-driven, adolescent boy.
There was, of course, another motivation that lay behind feminism’s demand for tax-funded daycare and abortion. If women were allowed to terminate unwanted pregnancies whenever they so desired and to have government institutions raise their children for them, then women could pursue careers outside the home and not be hindered, in competition with men in the workplace, by the burden of raising children.
This, however, just further illustrates my point. Feminism’s idea that finding self-fulfillment in careers outside of the home would be better for women than staying home and being wives and mothers is a manifestation of the idea that men are superior to women. For what was feminism saying here if not that the work men did outside the home in order to support their families, was more meaningful and important, than what women did in bearing and raising children?
In all of this feminism displayed an immature mindset that is only explicable as a counterpart to the irresponsible attitudes that were becoming popular among the male population at the time, brought upon in part by the naïve progressive notion that advances in the development of technology had rendered the maturity and responsibility society demanded of both sexes in the past to be obsolete.
Wisdom is something that people gradually gain as they mature and get older. This is as true of societies as it is of individual persons, and for this reason it is the uttermost foolishness to disregard the accumulated wisdom of the past. Society’s traditional response to the difference between the sexes in natural consequences to sexual intercourse was not based upon the idea that men had gotten the better end of the deal than women. For that idea would itself have to include the idea that it is more desirable to live entirely for yourself and to sleep around with no commitments to anyone than to settle down and raise a family. That is an idea which reflects immaturity and selfishness rather than wisdom. Traditional societies were wisely, more concerned with making men behave maturely, responsibly, and wisely, than making it easier for women to behave immaturely, irresponsibly, and foolishly.
Traditional societies also displayed wisdom in assigning roles to men and women. These roles differed from society to society and at different stages in the development of a particular society in accordance with economic, political, and social circumstances. Whatever the circumstances, however, the difference between the role assigned to men and that assigned to women was centred around the basic fact that women get pregnant and bear children which they give birth to and nourish, and men do not. Societies guided by ancient tradition are too wise to treat this difference as trivial. Whatever else women might do can never be more important to a society than the bearing and raising of the next generation. Therefore, whatever role a society assigns to women, it will be one that does not hinder or interfere with motherhood.
Thus, in a society which survives by hunting and gathering, the role of gathering is assigned to women because it allows them to stay near the camp with the children and the role of hunting is assigned to men. When agriculture becomes the dominant means of survival the roles change to accommodate the new economy as they do again when mercantile trading and industrial manufacturing are developed. These changes affect the kind of labour required of both men and women. What does not change is that the labour required of women is that which least conflicts with motherhood.
Feminists refuse to see the wisdom in this. Instead, they see traditional gender roles, including the roles of father and mother, as a system of societal organization designed to benefit all males by oppressing all women. This is what feminists mean when they use the word “patriarchy”. (2)
Patriarchal authority is essential to Western Civilization
The term patriarchy, however, more accurately refers to the authority of fathers than to a supposed millennia-long conspiracy on the part of all men to oppress all women. The authority of fathers has come under attack, not only from feminists, but from revolutionaries of all stripes. Painter, novelist, and social critic Wyndham Lewis, wrote in the 1930s that the father is the enemy of all revolutionary movements because he “has been cast to represent authority”. (3)
A father’s authority exists and is exercised within the family. The family is the basic building block from which all societies are built. It is the smallest, most organic, form of social organization that exists. Other offices of authority within Western societies tend to be patterned after a father’s authority. Sir Robert Filmer, in his Patriarchia, argued from the authority of fathers to the natural authority of kings.
Wyndham Lewis was therefore correct. The father, as the traditional authority figure in the traditional family, is the embodiment of all traditional authority in Western society and therefore the primary target of those who see traditional Western civilization as standing in the way of progress.
The attack upon patriarchal authority has never been stronger than at the present moment. The current campaign to glorify the single mother is a blatant attempt to declare fathers to be superfluous and unwanted. After traditional motherhood was bashed for decades, as being an inferior, boring option to the glamour of an ambitious career now motherhood is presented to women as an empowering choice – especially if it is out of wedlock and by artificial insemination.
Fathers are not redundant and unnecessary however. Studies have shown what common sense has always told us – that children are happier and far more likely to develop into responsible, law-abiding, socially-integrated adults, if they grow up in a home with both a father and a mother. Sometimes circumstances are such that this cannot be the case but it is madness to encourage women to deliberately have children without a father and to consider a father “optional”. That the deception of the non-importance of fatherhood has been able to spread at all is due to the modern state’s having turned itself into a surrogate husband/father.
Unfortunately there is no strong movement of resistance to these attacks nor any indication that one is about to arise. The “conservative” response to feminism today consists largely of complaints that its original “good” intentions have been de-railed by anti-male radicals or worse, attempts to use feminist ideas to bolster support for military action against the Islamic world. The “men’s movement” is a masculine equivalent of feminism. It is devoted to the idol of equality and speaks only the language of “rights”. Some Christian men’s groups have shown an interest in promoting traditional fatherhood. Many however, seem to be little more than support groups.
It is here that we see the single largest reason for the decline of fatherhood and patriarchal authority in the family and in society. Other than individual voices, both male and female, the traditionalist side has largely given up.
Why has this happened?
Authority and Responsibility
Authority and responsibility always go together. The word “father” describes a position that comes with both authority and responsibility. Traditionally, fathers would raise their sons to follow after them, in both shouldering the burden and responsibility of fatherhood, and exercising its authority wisely.
Responsibility is less appealing than authority, however, and at some point the liberating effect of technological advancement combined with the accumulation of a couple of centuries worth of liberal individualism to undermine the willingness of a great many men to take up the duties and responsibilities and burdens of fatherhood. Many of these still wished to exercise the authority – but found that in abandoning their duties they had given up their authority as well.
John Lukacs wrote:
In the 1960s American women found the predominance of the male fettering not because it was real but because it was unreal. They could not stomach those prerogatives of the male—including not only professional or intellectual prerogatives but also the protection habitually offered by the latter—that dated back to earlier centuries, when men were indeed strong. Now they saw—or, rather felt—that the men were weak. Just as the “revolt” of youth in the 1960s was, in reality, often a reaction not against “authoritarian” but against permissive fathers whom they could no longer respect, women, too, despite all of the silly slogans of “male chauvinism,” reacted against the assumption of strength and power on the part of their male counterparts, who were often weak. To be queen of a house in the times of a constitutional (that is, bourgeois) monarchy was one thing; but who would want to keep up the formal duties and the manifold responsibilities of a queen when the man of the household was but a chairman of a committee? (4)
Fatherhood still represents both authority and responsibility, and it is for that reason that so many men who dislike feminism, do not wish to stand against it from the position of defending traditional fatherhood.
Any other position, however, has already capitulated completely to the enemy.
(1) By “vapid totem expressions” I mean essentially meaningless terms that we are expected to mindlessly genuflect before whenever they are invoked by the enforced, secular, orthodoxy of the day.
(2) The feminists are not the only ones to use the word “patriarchy” to refer to a general system of male dominance. Dr. Steven Goldberg, who was the Professor of Sociology at City College of New York, in his The Inevitability of Patriarchy: Why the Biological Difference Between Men and Women Always Produces Male Dominance (William Morrow: New York, 1973) later expanded into Why Men Rule: A Theory of Male Dominance (Open Court: Chicago, 1993) uses the term patriarchy in a specialized, and therefore carefully defined, sense. He used it to refer to when all or the majority of the upper hierarchical positions in a society are occupied by males – which he argues occurs in every society. He documented the latter point from the studies of anthropologists and provided a theory as to why this was the case. He argued that societies will vary in what roles and positions are awarded the highest status, but that whatever those roles and positions are, men will have a greater interest in obtaining them then women, because men are biologically more aggressive than women. Since women are attracted to men with status, power, and wealth the incentives to compete for the highest positions will always be greater for men than for women.
(3) The quotation comes from The Doom of Youth, published by Robert M. McBride & Company of New York in 1932. This is a polemical collection of essays directed against the cult of youth. It was reissued in 1982 by Haskell House Publishers of New York.
(4) John Lukacs, A New Republic: A History of the United States in the Twentieth Century (Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 2004), p. 196.
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