Complementary gender roles and parallelism

I like reading the blog The Thinking Housewife. Even when you disagree, the spicy insights into human nature and how far modern liberal society has gone off-track are worth the read.

There’s a downside to it. Like many conservative thinkers, the authoress feels backed into a corner because it seems like all but a few people in society are headed in the opposite direction. This feeling is normal; conservatives had to abandon the “follow us, or you won’t succeed” the instant the first rock star became a millionaire, so now they often fall into dogma and retaliation.

On a recent topic, I feel the authoress is off-base, and wanted to clarify my position here because I think we can all learn from the debate. With luck, and if we’re really lucky civility, others will join in and we can get a lively debate going — modernity outside of its technology will end up being a blip on the radar of history, and conservative ideas will prevail, but in the meantime it helps us to achieve clarity in the details of our beliefs.

This is a letter to The Thinking Housewife from a young woman:

ENNA writes:

I have recently discovered both the “manosphere” and the small number of anti-feminist blogs. While I disagree with some of the writings at both types of blogs, most of what is written has forced me to confront and deepen my conception of human nature, and I am glad of it. I have come to realize more (although I was already aware to some extent) the differences between men and women, and the general strengths and weaknesses that each sex possesses. However, I encounter some confusion when I try to apply these principles to myself. In your recent post, “Men are Slow to Ripen,” you wrote:

I used to be baffled by why men seem so much slower at housework. I now think this is a major reason. They are trying to figure out a system, like a boy building a castle with Legos. They are architects, not housekeepers. Most women, even those who are extremely neat, don’t create abstract plans as they work. If they were domestic strategists, the world would fall apart within a matter of hours. Similar disaster would ensue from the failure of men to conceptualize.

You see, I am (and always have been) a very conceptual thinker. Ever since I was a teenager, I have tested an INTP (nicknamed The Architect) in the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator; I am a “systems thinker,” very spatially oriented, and am always trying to discover the underlying plan behind any activity or way of thinking. I also have trouble with housework–I’m too caught up in the “abstract plan.”

I have been trying to cultivate a feminine attitude in myself, especially as I learn the toxicity of feminism, but am somewhat unable to reconcile this with my supposedly masculine way of thinking. I try not to think of it as “wrong” because my brain is God-given, and I could not stop myself from analyzing and abstracting any more than I could stop myself from breathing. Sometimes I am unsure of how to act or think because my experience as a woman does not match up to many of the generalizations I read here and on other blogs.

I guess my questions for you are these: If someone does not fit under the ideal woman, does that make her less feminine, or somehow inadequate for womanly tasks? (I have a hard time thinking so, as God made me a woman and not a man, but it’s hard for me to reconcile that fact with how women are supposed to act and think.) How far can these generalizations go? And what can or should be done when people don’t fit completely under them? – TTHW, “The Thinking Woman’s Dilemma”

I think femininity and masculinity are misunderstood here. When we say they are complementary roles, we are talking about the mental organization and strengths of each supporting the other.

Men approach the world from a contractual, ends-over-means, casual and architectural state of mind.

Women approach the world from an adaptive, stabilizing, context-derived and atmospheric state of mind.

The former requires less elaboration than the latter, because the latter translates less well to language. However, a good starting point is the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning.

Men are deductive: if all of the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. (All crows are black; this bird is a crow; therefore, it is black.)

Women are inductive: if all of the premises are true, the conclusion is not necessarily true. (All the crows I’ve seen are black; therefore, crows are black.)

These are valuable complementary intelligences. Deductive reasoning empowers choices, while inductive reasoning empowers adaptation when insufficient data exists.

Both contain the other, by the way. The idea that deductive reasoning always works requires an inductive leap of faith; the idea that inductive reasoning is valuable requires us to deductively assess the likelihood of us having perfect data. Even more, deductive reasoning is excellent for finding membership and categories and so manipulating those membes, but inductive reasoning works best when exploring either (a) a situation where the conclusion or goal is known but the methods remain a mystery or (b) a situation where nothing is known.

Further, both forms include emotional intelligence. Man emotions tend to fall into the lines of finding that which is out of its category, and setting things right; female emotions tend to involve finding what is important or beautiful in a situation, and pulling that out.

These are anecdotal observations but until our brains are fully debugged by science to the point where we can create an emulator for any given individual, and have it make the same decisions they would given identical stimulus, we’re not going to have any data either way except the anecdotal.

In my view, Enna’s thought process is not unfeminine. She seems highly intelligent, and at the higher end of the intelligence curve, people tend to be “androgynous” in regards to these divisions of approach. They are aware enough of what they are doing with their minds to program themselves, and so to adopt new behaviors; this is a degree of complexity removed from what most people can do.

In addition, as an identified INTP, she is acting as her personality type mandates.

Her logical approach is not unfeminine because complementary gender roles do not dictate how an individual thinks, or what an ideal is, but describe a generalization based on that gender and its emotional/personality approach to processing stimulus. The actual thought process can vary greatly within that categorical division.

To my mind, femininity is an acceptance of and expression of the feminine principle, which is induction and the ability to tolerate ambiguity that would break masculine thinking machines. On the flip side, masculinity is the acceptance of and expression of the masculine principle, which is deduction and forward-looking planning. Each exists optimally with the other, much like the cycle of winter/summer renews on either end what was depleted in the other.

Intelligent women exist and require an outlet for their thinking, and this is entirely independent of their acceptance of traditional roles. In ancient times, women were expected to have minds, think, and even fight when called upon — these behaviors, or means, did not change their approach to life and mentation, or ends.

These observations are entirely coherent with the philosophy of parallelism that I espouse, which includes several tenets:

  • Multiple factors must be considered at once in any situation, because no cause exists without context, and for an answer to be not just valid logically but correct in reality it must reveal a complementary accord between these multiple factors.
  • Thoughts, matter and energy are substrates in which patterns exist in parallel, including natural selection, which compute data not previously existing.
  • If divine beings exist, they do so in a space that is parallel to our physical reality much as our thoughts parallel changes in matter, and much as we translate from mental to physical parallels through action, transcendental actions translate from physical to divine levels of organization.

What concerns us most is the first point: men and women are complementary factors in the situation of life, and where they coincide in decision is likely the right course in any complex decision. In the creation of a home, the two work together and by balancing each other, are able to tackle any decision. On inductive decisions, the woman leads; on deductive ones, the man leads. Then the other contributes balance and the decision is smoothed out through a process like natural selection, where together they test their ideas against their environment and arrive at a refined idea.

Laura Wood hits on this in some important ways:

Men and women have general tendencies, with men given more toward the abstract and impersonal. But there are so many exceptions and differences within the sexes, with some women possessing a more masculine type of intelligence, that it would be wrong to say that women are “supposed to” think in a certain way. And no matter how masculine in thinking a woman may be, no woman is physically or spiritually a man.

Some women do have a special calling to do something other than marry and raise children, but even they possess the strong inborn drive to meet these feminine obligations, and the ones who are happy are those who are involved in work that allows them to achieve this feminine form of love in some way.

The women who are categorically unsuited to traditional feminine tasks are not those who are lousy housekeepers or who don’t enjoy festooning their homes with stencilled flowers or who think like architects or who have been influenced by feminist thinking all their lives, but the women who are selfish or unable to connect with other people because of some serious weakness or handicap.

The first paragraph makes sense where it talks about spiritual femininity and masculinity. You must identify with and accept your gender, and learn to love it, in order to grow into it; further, you must be able to make sense of the inductive/deductive principle as it pertains to you.

From the second paragraph quoted above, I get the somewhat genderless truth of life: if you are not able to find meaning in a biological role, you will starve your soul. Symbolically, rejection of the biological role of parenthood is rejection of your own parents and the culture that produced you. It is hatred. Parenthood does not need to be your only goal, but without it in your list of goals, you are missing out.

Her last paragraph rings true despite gender roles: selfishness is a subset of solipsism, or being unaware of the world outside of one’s self. Those who cannot connect to the world become abusive and crass.

However, I think she’s off-base with this:

Women who are more masculine by nature may have an especially difficult time being feminine. They may have to consciously cultivate the habits of thought and being that make it possible for them to live well as women.

Perhaps if you could devise a cure for lung cancer, a cure that no one else could invent, it would be more important than loving and serving others as a woman, but this is not likely. There is nothing of more value or significance than fulfilling this common spiritual role.

Women who are more masculine by nature may have an especially difficult time being feminine. They have to consciously cultivate in themselves the habits of thought and being that make it possible for them to be happy as women. The most important of these ends is to love and serve.

I suggest that instead of thinking linearly, or in OR states (if any condition is true, the assessment is true), we think in parallelist terms, or in AND states (all conditions must be true): women can be many things at once, but denying any one of these things is fatal. What unites the many parallel strands of woman-ness is femininity, or appreciation of and expression of the feminine principle.

When you read an older book and think about the women in it, you see an inner network to society run entirely by women. They knew music, sciences, literature and art; they communicated extensively by letters, and often were the supporters of ideas that others forgot because they could not justify them with the data at hand. They educated their children and instilled in them creative desires and an urge to seek the mysteries of life. These were educated, intelligent people who ran not only their households, but often their communities, in the parts of those tasks to which the feminine principle applies.

We cannot force women into femininity by making yes/no lists of activities. We need to celebrate instead what makes femininity unique, and by accepting it as complementary to masculinity and equally as vital, empower women in the only real meaning of that word which is to give them space to grow and discover themselves. Otherwise, we make the mistake that feminists make, but in reverse, by creating an adversarial relationship where none need exist.

7 Responses to “Complementary gender roles and parallelism”

  1. Laura Wood says:

    Thank you for reading and considering my post.

    I am confused by your last point. I do not say that intellectual women should abandon their interests. Perhaps I did not adequately enforce my view in this particular entry because I make it so often throughout my site. You will notice that I drum this point home on the Greetings page in my sidebar so that readers can understand this message from the beginning. The home is an intellectually stimulating world and, contrary to feminist propaganda, it offers many opportunities to deepen and broaden intellectual interests.

    When I stated that only a cure for lung cancer could be more important than raising a family, I did not mean that women should give up all scientific pursuits once they become mothers and wives, but that they pursue these as avocations, not consuming careers.

    I was anxious to address the reader’s concern that she wouldn’t be competent at traditional domestic work, that she would always be too distracted and preoccupied. A woman doesn’t need to be good at housework, at least not right away. She does need to love her family and make it the center of her life. This is something they and their families need just as much as the families of those who are less gifted. The needs of the children of an intellectual woman are not less than the needs of other children. In fact, children benefit from intelligent guidance and the presence of an adult who is engaged with the world and with them. The intelligent woman needs to have this love and the rest will fall in place. Or is a loving home somehow less important for the highly gifted?

    A woman can educate her children herself, which is as challenging and stimulating as being a university professor. She can explore the world from home or from her community in any number of ways and become engaged in her husband’s work. But intellectual women are never told this. Their femininity is actively discouraged. There’s no question about that; the evidence is everywhere. They are pushed from grade school onward to exploit their minds for profit and often they discover too late that an entire aspect of themselves has been denied. They receive no schooling in the feminine arts – the practical arts and social graces -so that these things seem like rocket science. They feel clumsy and awkward, almost like impostors, managing a home or playing the role of devoted wife and mother. They are like men doing a woman’s job. I have heard some sigh, “I wish I had a wife,” when they barely know what it is to be a wife.

    • I agree with everything above, and think you formulate it more clearly than on the original post (then again, reading my text above, “formulate clearly” may need some work there).

      I guess my contribution is that women need to exist in parallel: as centers of the home, as intellects, and most of all, as a “feminine principle” which orients everything they do, but is on a more abstract level than rational-aggressive/INTJ versus passive-emotional/ENFP.

      I found Paul Woodruff’s book “Reverence” useful for understanding complementary roles in life. Even within individuals, many complementary principles seem to exist.

      Thank you for an interested, reasoned reply.

  2. Great discussion says:

    Though I may not be very experienced with the world (early 20s), I do realize a lot of the failings of modern public school and society.

    I believe Ms. Wood hits a fantastic point about being pushed at a young age toward something at odds with one’s personality or inherent biological desires.

    As it stands, “education” is a symbolic institution that has long since departed with what made it a symbol. Parents that don’t know how to teach their children are happy to send them off to schools, encourage them to succeed in a system entirely devoid of actual life. Most children desire to please their parents on a pretty basic level, so they perform in school. Schooling continuously pushes school as necessary, and it is to the extent that the image is what employers generally look at. The children have children and the process repeats because it’s all they know – it becomes society and pressure to conform to it after enough generations.

    I think what it ends up amounting to is that we’re entirely lost as a civilization because we’re lost as ourselves – and this isn’t necessarily specifically a gender issue, although I do feel that women are affected the most by it.

    I think this is something of an elegant side point to the discussion – because I think it’s a combination of points that Mr. Stevens and Ms. Wood were alluding to. “Lost” civilizations are only interesting to history buffs and there’s a very large pressure to conform to this lifeless education system – where you have very little room to grow and discover yourself.

    It illustrates well that combining a feminine mode of thinking with a masculine mode of thinking can very accurately describe our world, our problems, and solutions to them (obviously no solutions are here, but you can probably deduce some ways to improve our current state based on seeing the problem in this light shed by both modes of thinking).

    • “I think what it ends up amounting to is that we’re entirely lost as a civilization because we’re lost as ourselves”

      I agree, but think that the two create each other. A lost civilization can teach its youth nothing, so they grow up casting about and hoping to someday find a path. In turn, lost people become liberals, destroy culture, and replace it with an egalitarian superstate that — while well-intentioned — leads to the externalization of values and retreat of the individual to a solipsistic state.

  3. […] Brett Stevens – “Complementary Gender Roles and Parallelism” […]

  4. Mike says:

    “Some women do have a special calling to do something other than marry and raise children, but even they possess the strong inborn drive to meet these feminine obligations, and the ones who are happy are those who are involved in work that allows them to achieve this feminine form of love in some way.”

    Very few men and women deviate totally from the male and female ‘essenses’ and this seems to be especially true of women. Butch lesbians for example, tend to work in social roles like teaching and welfare work and support leftist politics. It is rare to find a women who is both butch in her behaviour and in her work and interests. For example, how many butch lesbians with right wing political views and an interest in engineering are there serving in the police or military, not many.

  5. […] to live out my spirituality in that role with my own family. Neither do I agree with all of Stevens’ remarks, but the ones below make sense to me. This is a sticky subject, and I’m still trying to draw […]

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