Conservative Critics of Modernity: Can They Turn Back the Clock?

A second way to resist mass democracy is to re-examine women’s liberation or feminism. Such a re-assessment should begin by recognizing the familiar trade-offs of so‑called “progress.” The gains in freedom and equality by modern women are offset by declines in the higher, intangible realms—in romantic love (including decline in the grace of women as they are coarsened by efforts to imitate men), in the seriousness of marriage as a permanent commitment, in the responsibilities of motherhood and child rearing, in respect for authority as a result of feminizing authority, and in manly honor as men conform to the new code of androgyny. Driving the whole feminist movement is a notion of personal autonomy that equates moral worth with nothing higher than having a salaried career or a middle class profession. How durable and satisfying is this new social experiment?

It may sound shocking to hear, but it is possible that the new experiment will not last more than two generations because it goes against the practices of all pre-existing cultures and against Nature “herself.” The present trend assumes that men and women are interchangeable—that no distinct roles should be assigned by custom or by law to the two sexes and that both men and women find their fulfillment in bourgeois careerism. Yet all previous cultures have established different roles for males and females, usually assigning political, military, and religious authority to men while giving social and moral power to women in varying degrees. This pattern is often overlooked by academic proponents of multiculturalism, who seem to forget that non-Western societies have always distinguished the roles of men and women and nearly all have been patriarchal. How long can modern society defy the wisdom of the ages? It cannot do so indefinitely if the universal experience of peoples and cultures is rooted in Nature—and plenty of evidence suggests that it is.

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