"Beauty and the Beast: Review Article of George Gilder's Men and Marriage," Policy Review, Winter 1987, pp. 76-78.
I n this revision of his book Sexual Suicide, George Gilder continues and expands his lonely opposition to feminism. He is the one male who has the gall, or the courage, to say that “the woman’s place is in the home.” Because he is pretty much by himself, his arguments have certain bends, dents, and holes which will not be remedied by kicking him in a tender spot. I will try to follow a more cooperative policy, since the things Gilder studies concern us all and the things he says deserve a hearing.
Feminism has enjoyed a remarkable, almost unbelievable, success in the two and a half decades since its appearance in the books of Kate Millett, Germaine Greer, and Betty Friedan. Men have been utterly unwilling and unable to defend the oppressive privileges feminism denounced, thus justifying their elimination. Males have shown themselves to be a corrupt aristocracy, nothing more than a bunch of wimps, who surrender without a protest, much less a fight. Except for Gilder and one or two others, the only males who have been heard from are those who have deserted to the conqueror and are tolerated as useful idiots or kept as ideological gigolos. The only limits to the success of feminism have been those set by conservative women (above all Phyllis Schlafly) and by feminists with second thoughts about the dispensability of motherhood. But these concessions leave no doubt about the change in opinion that has made it no longer respectable to say that the woman’s place is in the home.
Unisex is the new norm, and unisex means that the woman has no “place”; she has a choice. Gilder correctly traces this idea to its proximate origin in a passage in The German Ideology, where Marx and Engels announce that under Communism, men will no longer live their lives in exclusive spheres. Marx and Engels criticized the formalism of bourgeois equality by asking where it left workers who lived fragmented lives under the capitalist division of labor. The feminists follow the lead of Marx and Engels while taking a swipe at their obvious sexism. They attack the male-dominated society that claims to live by the principle that all men are created equal; this principle, they say, remains a mere formality until we get serious about equalizing men and women. Equalizing, in their view, cannot mean protecting the separate roles and identities of men and women so as to render them equal through mutual dependence; this was the old-fashioned, separate feminism of the late 19th century responsible for the founding of women’s colleges.
To this older feminism, (its self-assertion masked by its appeal to male gallantry) the new feminists object that to retain any formal roles for the sexes leaves an opportunity for one sex, no doubt the male sex, to dominate. For what has women’s higher education produced, in the main, but educated housewives? To prevent this actual domination through formal roles, the unisex ideal provides for choice regardless of roles. Such choice, to be effective and exemplary, must be exercised against the traditional roles in the direction of unisex (the new term for androgyny). This means, as Gilder points out, that women do in effect have a role today-the paradoxical role of overcoming roles. According to feminism, the woman’s place is outside the home until such time as the point is made that she has no place-then she can choose. By choosing now, a woman might inadvertently betray the cause of women, which is also in the present phase the cause of humanity. At the moment (for NOW), a woman has no choice but to be pro-choice.