The last eighty years has been a time of unprecedented liberality and emancipation for women at all levels of society. Indeed, in many spheres their success is beginning to eclipse that of their ancient and feckless foe: men. In an information-sharing economy not founded upon the sweat of labour (not western sweat, at any rate), modern woman is the Queen of the jungle. Despite the incessant wailing of the neo-feminists that can be heard like white noise emanating from the comfy lounge of every student union in the country, any sane person should recognise that, for the most part, women are freer today than they have ever been in history. Thus, the neo-feminist must invent new and ever more fantastical species of abuse as the days go by, attended by the invention of ugly and polarising words designed to brow-beat and neutralise opponents. Like most fundamentalists, the modern feminist is a tyrant and a schizophrenic, with a passionate hatred of free speech and a level of delusion that would make Mussolini blush.
But I digress, dear reader. The purpose of this article is not to pluck low-hanging fruit and lampoon the neo-feminists or denounce them in toto. Our fruit is in the upper branches; we must work for it. My purpose, then, is to discover what price western woman has paid for her unparalleled freedom and what price she may pay for it in the future.
I begin this tale of woe in the place where modern social enquiry should, for the most part, begin: the ‘Sexual Revolution’ of the 1960’s. Why begin here? Well, I believe that much of the freedom that western women enjoy is connected to and founded upon her sexual freedom. If a woman of 1915 were to be transported into 2015, this would be probably the most fundamental shift she would notice; all else follows from it. In a broader sense, sex is the key to the family and the family is the cornerstone of society. For, as Chesterton wrote ‘sex is an instinct that produces and institution…that institution is the family; a small state or commonwealth which has hundreds of aspects, when it is once started, that are not sexual at all’. The ‘Sexual Revolution’ saw a radical alteration of this instinct and the institution that it creates and consequently instigated a seismic shift in western society. There were three big changes wrought in the ‘Swinging Sixties’ that affect the lives of modern women and for each of these leaps of ‘progress’ there is a price; a price to be paid now or in the future.
The first major change was the universal access to contraceptives, especially the pill. It is commonly believed (or at least, commonly repeated) that contraceptives have freed women from the chains of that most horrendous of patriarchal inventions: pregnancy. In short, most moderns are taught to believe that the Pill and other contraceptives have guaranteed women equality with men in the sexual sphere, allowing them to ‘explore their sexuality’ free of fear. Of course the greatest ‘fear’ of the modern person is pure and unadulterated responsibility. Indeed, the siren call of this sexual freedom and equality with men really means the freedom to be as irresponsible as those certain men who sow their oats wild and wide with no care for their duties to both their women and their children. This irresponsibility is not, however, the main problem with the contraceptives championed in the 1960’s. No, the real though, hidden, problem is the exploitation of women by men. Now that women are as barren by choice as men are by nature, they are ‘free’ to be wantonly exploited by men for sexual gratification; whether vicariously, or in fact. This has had a snowball effect, whereby men are not only indoctrinated by an atmosphere of exploitation of the fairer sex but that women are taught (officially, in some cases) that they should expect nothing better. The culmination of this attitude was highlighted in a recent article in ‘Vanity Fair’ that revealed the dark heart of the new and fast-evolving Tinder culture in the West. In this piece, it was quite obvious that women have fast become resigned to the status quo of unrestrained indulgence of the sexual instinct with little thought given to the person used to fulfil this urge. The great majority of relationships described in the article are unworthy of the name; being little more than prostitution by both the men and the women involved, save in the fact that money did not change hands. In fact, Nancy Jo Sales’ article made a dire prediction: that the ‘dating apocalypse; the death of romance and love, was upon us. It is quite clear that this whole ‘hook-up’ culture of meaningless sex and fleeting relationships is only possible because of contraceptives. What this means for women and for society shall be elucidated below.
Now, to the second major change, good reader. This was the advent of widespread divorce that came upon the scene in 1969 with the Divorce Reform Act, at first with some stipulations, such as at least three years of marriage but later this was whittled down to twelve months (Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984). This pattern of the decline in marriage was true not only of the United Kingdom but of the West in it’s entirety (save Malta, until recently). No-fault divorce and so-called ‘quickie divorces’ have had a multitude of deleterious effects on society but we must focus our attention upon their effects on women. Firstly, new divorce laws have led to the phenomenon of single mothers. In some cases this is directly attributable to divorce (i.e. the mother has been divorced and left by her spouse) but in other cases, the vast majority, this single-motherhood occurs because no marriage took place at the outset. Because of the atmosphere of disdain towards faithful marriage inculcated over the past century and given free-rein by successive divorce laws, many couples simply do not get married, indeed, 47% of children are born to unmarried mothers (UK statistic). Furthermore, the mother is usually left to bring up her children alone (91% of cases in England and Wales). Faced with overwhelming odds, many single parent families slip below the poverty line. But just over 63% of these women work as well as raise a family; what freedom is there in that? The bonds that tied the family (and, thus, society) together have been unwound, bonds both of societal obligation and personal morality – and yet, despite the overwhelming evidence of unhappiness and of major psychological trauma wrought on the children of divorced parents, we are still told this has been a great victory for freedom.
Finally, we come to the third of the major changes initiated by the Sexual Revolution: universal access to abortion on demand. In the West, what was once a relatively rare event has become fairly main-stream. What was once a matter of shame and reproach has become a clarion call for the Feminist movement; a point of pride. In the UK yearly, around 190,000 children are aborted. In France the figure generally hovers around 210,000 children; in Germany around 110,000; in the USA the figure is very often over one million children. The evidence is growing that abortion is being used as a form of contraception, with many women having more than one abortion in their lifetimes (26%: two, 22% more than two). Abortion shares a direct connexion with contraception and the promiscuous society it’s use has created. Because contraceptive use has become so widespread and because these contraceptives are never one-hundred-percent effective, the abortion rate necessarily rises. Even the pro-abortion lobby admits this. In Britain, with a large ethnic-minority population, the greatest beneficiaries of this great ‘freedom to choose’ are female. Statistical analysis of the 2011 census showed that as many as 4,700 girls are aborted because of their gender every year in the UK, mainly in immigrant families. Doctors were caught on film by The Daily Telegraph assisting women in this so-called ‘gendercide’ in 2012 but the parliamentary Labour Party voted down any attempt at tightening the regulations on abortion. In summation, abortion has allowed women the freedom to do what they want with their lives and trample upon any innocent that dares get in the way. Perhaps Nietzsche was correct after all, but instead of a Superman, mankind is morphing into a race of Superwomen, unconstrained by repressive morality and notions of sin and penance.
So, the price of contraception is the destruction of the family, the abuse of women by men, the death of meaningful relationships and the burgeoning of narcissistic and irresponsible behaviour among women. The price of divorce is the breakdown of the family, the insecurity of women and men, the explosion in single parenthood and the destruction of children’s lives and happiness. In the case of abortion, the price is the lives of innocent children, the moral fecundity of the mothers themselves and the targeting of women for gender-based killing. So far, so ‘culture war’ – but what of the future?
But women have not only been enslaved by the ‘Sexual Revolution’, no, they have also been enslaved by the modern global system of economics. Due to those progressive leaps mentioned above, the multinationals and other corporate bodies of dubious morality now have access to a greater pool of talent and energy than ever before. Women are more conscientious than men; harder workers and more efficient. Saved from the restrictive bonds of motherhood and of the married life, they are free to become good sterile worker bees, just as the firms want them to be; for the ‘reserve army of labour’ has become the preferred army of labour. The spirit of our age says that the aim for any thinking woman is to work their whole life, give the best of their time and energy to a company, retire briefly and then die. It used to be men that were uniquely exposed to this exploitative model of economics, but no longer. Women have been emancipated! They have been freed to work themselves to death, just like men. With birth-rates falling in the West (save among newly arrived immigrant communities) this is no isolated phenomenon. Increasing numbers of women are attempting either to have it all (a career and children) or are simply giving up on children in order to pursue their careers. Many of these women also shun marriage and live alone or with a series of medium-term boyfriends. All of this tends to the isolation of the woman. Whither does she turn? To consumption of course! ‘Consume more and thou shalt be happy’ – the Eleventh Commandment. Indeed, in an atomistic society beset by what Durkheim calls ‘anomie’ (the breakdown of morality and purpose) the perfect distraction is a mixture of light-entertainment (too high-brow and it might remind consumers of the existence of higher truths) and endless consumption – clothes, gadgets, the latest box sets – all the better for the multinationals. This consumption cycle is echoed in John Jakes’ story ‘The Sellers of the Dream’ which features in the science-fiction anthology Spectrum IV. In the story, two mega corporations sell competing versions of the perfect: a woman merely has to enter the clinics of these companies, pay the agreed price and she will come out a totally different person, physically and mentally through the power of plastic surgery and brain manipulation. With each passing year there is a different ‘model’ to choose from and the fads and trends grow more and more outrageous (sexy, submissive blonde one year, thin and acquiescent 1920’s girl the next). That is, until the protagonist discovers that this greatly destructive race to the bottom between two firms, is actually a clever cover story: there is really only one corporation running the show and for what? Well, just because it can, because that is the way the economy is designed, for short-term gains and for constant consumption. Nothing more, nothing less, and anything that gets in the way must be eliminated.
Have all the changes enumerated above made the West any happier? Has this endless pursuit of the temporary over the permanent led to more fulfilled men and women in our progressive paradise? No, it has led to record divorce rates, to broken families and rampant adultery – in short: widespread misery. We have progressed, in the same way that a sinking ships progresses towards the ocean floor. We have advanced; and advanced with awful attrition. But of course, this is hidden from view behind a dark glass of wealth and plenty, of entertainment and constant banality. How can anyone be so pig-headed as to suggest we live in chains heavier than our grandmothers and grandfathers? How could one be so tiresome and judgmental? But these chains are all the heavier for being invisible, all the more fatal for being hidden. In the end, one comes to realise that the worst slave is the contented slave, for the contented slave does not even desire freedom.
III) Amis, Kingsley et al, Spectrum IV, (1967, Pan Books, England)
V) G.K Chesterton quote from: G.K’s Weekly, January 29th, 1928
VI) Vanity Fair ‘Tinder’ article: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2015/08/tinder-hook-up-culture-end-of-dating