Why is Feminism the worst in Anglo societies?
Men who have traveled and lived extensively in non-Anglo countries can easily tell that something is particularly rotten about white Anglo culture when it comes to women.
Compared to the U.S. and the U.K., the European continent is just as “feminist”, but the way that this plays out on the ground, and the way it looks in the culture, is much less extreme. Take for example Scandinavia, which ironically, people in the United States tend to think is extreme in its feminism compared to the Anglo world, and yet, this Nordic tribe has neither tax-on-income-based child support, nor chivalry.
In the period after 1700 something changed in Anglo culture that really elevated the status/esteem of women far above what exists even in other European cultures, and these developments have spread across the oceans to infect all other nations once colonized by Britain.
I believe the thing that changed after 1700 was the specific way that the Enlightenment played out in Anglo cultures as compared with other European countries. In general, the Enlightenment shifted social consciousness away from national identity, faith, community, and family and towards a range of “individual”-based ideals such as liberty, progress, toleration, the sovereignty of reason and the evidence of the senses as the primary sources of knowledge. Yet in Anglo countries, the “bite” of their individual strain of the Enlightenment has been substantially stronger.
So why do we see feminism in Anglo countries being so much more virulent than it is in continental European countries and elsewhere?
What is it that caused this divergence between the Anglo countries, on the one hand, and the Continental ones, on the other? Here, we’ll examine a few defining characteristics of English culture that have factored into the equation.
The Rule of Law and Order
One thing that is unique about Anglo culture is its ethical foundation on the English Common Law. Anglo culture interprets individual morality through one’s adherence to the law, such that if a person is law abiding, then he is considered to be a good person, whereas, those who don’t follow the law are seen as bad people. This is so extreme that people who grew up in an English speaking culture can’t even imagine any social structure that is based on anything else (like honor, power, authority structure, or tribal loyalties).
On the surface, this mirrors the Biblical concept of law, except that the Covenant Law of the Old Testament is based on the nature of God, not reason and the various human concepts of justice which came to the forefront during the Enlightenment.
Continental countries also had the rule of law … but it was a different approach to the development of legal principles and their understanding. Continental law — which after the French Revolution (1789-1799) came to be known as “Civil Law” after many countries adapted civil law codes based on the “Code Napoleon”, which was, itself, a codification of the existing Roman legal principles, with significant modifications to remove aristocratic privileges — is largely based on the principles articulated by Roman law, as modified over time legislatively, and therefore it views legal questions often from very different perspectives than those taken by the common law that developed in England.
The Civil Law system is a systematic philosophical approach to the law — the rules are drawn up in the abstract based on a total system and codified into the civil code (and the other main “codes” that cover the various areas of the law in the civil law countries). The common law system, by contrast, is a system in which the legal rules were drawn up on an ad hoc basis over the course of centuries based on rulings of judges in specific disputes, and the principle of “judicial precedent” (which is much weaker in civil law countries).
Broadly speaking, Continental/Civil Law is more a codified, statutory regime based on status, standing, procedure, category and formalism, whereas the “common law” that developed in England was more based on an ad hoc, judge-determined regime that emphasized property owners, the delineation of rights and duties based on property ownership and familial and economic relationships, and legal rules developed over the course of time by judges sitting in judgment of specific disputes.
The impact of this different legal system — which all of the Anglo countries inherited from the United Kingdom — is that binding precedential legal rules can be made judicially, without the involvement of the legislature. In fact, this was the norm in the Common Law, such that unless a statute “trumped” a specific matter, courts followed judicial precedent in resolving legal disputes — and even in cases where a statute applied, the interpretation of that statute was in the purview of the court, which has a broad authority to do so as it wished, subject, again, to any binding judicial precedents of other, “higher”, courts in interpreting the same or similar statutes. In the civil law system, there is very little “court made law” — the courts interpret the laws that are in the civil and other legal codes, and in cases where it is difficult to apply the codes to the dispute in question, the court refers to commentaries from learned law professors for guidance, as well as legislative history — other legal rulings are reviewed as well, but they are not precedential and therefore not binding.
This difference means, in effect, that it was significantly easier to change legal rules in Anglo countries than in the Continental/Civil ones, because the judges could do it themselves — and they did, as we know. It is easier to find an activist judge (or a few of them) to make up a new legal rule (such as the right to abortion) than it is to convince a majority of a legislature to do it. As a result, activists in the Anglo countries were able to get much farther using the Anglo legal systems (ironically, especially *outside* the UK, because since the time of the founding of the Anglo colonies, the UK’s own legal system has trended strongly in a statutory direction, with parliament’s laws and statutory instruments playing a larger role, in relative terms, than in places like the United States).
While it is impossible to adequately compare and contrast Anglo and Continental philosophical tendencies in a couple of paragraphs, the following discussion is intended merely as a general framework — it overgeneralizes and is therefore subject to criticism on that basis. It also must be said at the outset that there are various ways of characterizing the relationship between the ideas in question — the following brief framework does not attempt to address any of those variances, and therefore remains subject to that criticism as well.
Subject to those caveats, in general, the Anglo countries and Continental ones developed different philosophical traditions as well — “analytical” in England, and “continental” elsewhere in Europe, with people like Hobbes and Locke in particular, thinking and writing things based on issues pertaining to individual rights — especially property rights — that nobody else in Europe was focused on to the same extent … and that nobody else in Europe liked, because continental European thinking was, certainly at the time of Locke, not nearly as open to the idea of all property owners having essentially equal rights, and specifically Locke’s view that the right to property was not a matter of social contract or agreement but one which arose by right of nature and which inheres in the property owner as a matter of right, not social contract.
From the Anglo framework eventually came John Stuart Mill and the beginnings of “liberal” thought based on rights, and feminism came right along with it — Mill was really the first to articulate a feminist programme of women’s liberation as such, but the ideas that underlie feminism have their basis in the ideas of people like Locke.
In comparison, Continental philosophy had a very different idea of fundamental natural equality, a la Rousseau who introduced the famous “tabula rasa”, whereby natural humanity is regarded as more or less virtuous and equal, and only social conflict and bad relations create problems among naturally noble human beings. From this foundation, the path then merged with German philosophical trends from Feuerbach, to Hegel, to Marx, who was also a feminist but for very different reasons than Mill. Mill’s ideas were based on rights and freedom — the idea that women and men should be free to participate equally in pursuing their rights and freedoms, and were more or less interchangeable, because his philosophy viewed humans essentially as bundles of rights which activated such rights to pursue freedoms and thereby enable their own flourishing. The Rousseau to Marx line differs from this in that it views humans as egalitarian and equal in an essential sense, but concerning the matters in which most Anglo thinkers tended to see as naturally-inherent individual rights, Rousseau’s branch did not consider rights to be inherent to the human person by nature, but were rather a matter of social contract, and therefore were subject to the agreement of the society as a whole, and also therefore subject to modification and change by that same organ.
The impacts of these differences on the development of feminism were significant.
On the one hand the emphasis on naturally-inhering individual rights, which are not a matter of social contract or negotiation, positioned feminism in a very different vein in Anglo countries — essentially, it made feminism into a matter of vindicating what were described as a woman’s natural rights, which were being unjustly withheld. In Continental countries, the matter of feminism was less a matter of individual rights, but more a matter of the larger society deciding about what roles men and women should be empowered to pursue. As such, the argumentation was therefore less based on individual rights (and seeing the consequences as essentially irrelevant to the discussion), but rather based on a more holistic approach to changes, consequences, and systemic alterations to accommodate the rise of women in various ways.
This is why, for example, the United States ended up with one of the most extremely permissive abortion regimes in the Western world at a time when it was still, by far, the most religious Western country, and also the country that had the largest percentage of its population being opposed to abortion. The reason is that individual rights are viewed as sacrosanct and inviolable (other than for paramount, pressing reasons), and therefore once abortion was construed as an individual *right*, there could be no compromise on the issue — it was always going to skew very heavily in favor of abortion, because Anglo countries are based on a philosophical tradition that is itself based on individual rights. In Continental countries, by contrast, abortion was legalized by statute virtually everywhere (but not everywhere at once), but with restrictions in almost every country that would be considered illegal in the United States — because the European countries see abortion as a matter of the social contract, and therefore as a matter of balancing interests by the society as a whole, and not as a matter of individual rights which are essentially not up for negotiation.
The Influence of Religion
Stapled onto this was the fact that England was virtually 100% Protestant and the Continent was divided but mostly Catholic — Protestantism on the continent was dominant only in Switzerland, Holland, Scandinavia and Northern Germany, while the rest (all of Southern Europe, a good third of Germany, virtually all of France, all of Austria and the portion of Eastern and Southeastern Europe that was not Eastern Orthodox) remained Catholic until well after the French Revolution. As between Protestants and Catholics of that era, Catholics were more thoroughly accepting of the subordination of women, I think.
This is counterintuitive to the present crop of libertarian(ish) American Protestants who tend to see Catholics as worshipping Mary and thereby elevating women as a result of that devotional emphasis, but in reality, the Catholic countries (apart from post-Revolutionary France, which has been an anti-religious state since the 1790s) all subordinated women in family life, and socially to a substantial degree until recent history, generally more thoroughly than the Protestant ones did, perhaps because of the Marian cult itself, which provided a very limited and restricted view of female virtue as the exemplar which was always in one’s face as a Catholic, coupled with the presence of large numbers of celibate nuns present everywhere Catholics lived until the 1970s.
This, taken together with the prominent importance of all-male priesthood, which had the sole right and ability to celebrate the liturgy and to remit sins, created overwhelmingly subordinate role models for women, and gave men unique power that was not had in Protestant societies without sacramental priesthood, liturgies, or confession, even though the office of preaching was everywhere limited to men. The Protestant idea of the “priesthood of all believers” likely served as another support for the elevated role of women, and even among the continental countries today, the ones that have a Protestant background generally have more characteristically “liberated” women than the Catholic ones do — as in Scandinavia and Holland.
Love Knows No Rules
The British firm adherence to law, statesmanship, pomp, and decorum runs against human nature with respect to love and intersexual attraction.
This may explain why the British monarchy has always been rife with affairs, divorces, out-of-wedlock births, and in general, frustrations surrounding love and marriage. English kings disregarding their wives, and powerful queens disrespecting their husbands has been a recurring theme in English history ever since Henry VIII. This essay contains several photographs of British monarchs who either abused or suffered through their intersexual relationships under this regime. It might be argued that this is common among the upper class, but the British ruling families suffer from this malady to a much greater degree. This could be interpreted as a representation of the culture as a whole.
All of these things contributed to the rise of the “women are the superior sex” culture that began to lift its head in the Victorian era Anglo world. This really had no (and to this day does not have any) equivalent on the Continent — women were protected there, as they were everywhere, but the Anglos really, really pedestalized them. And I think this likely has the varied roots above that made Anglo places different: different legal system that allowed women’s rights to be added to over time by courts (rather than schemes produced by legislatures), different philosophical concepts which emphasized inherent natural rights for all humans (rather than rights being based on a social, contract and therefore negotiated with all of society), and the fact that the Anglo world was culturally basically entirely Protestant.
Of course, today we are moving well beyond these precedents into a kind of terra incognita. The Anglo world itself is convulsing in the throes of a comprehensive revolution of its entire way of thinking that very well may result in overturning the entire “Anglo system” described above, and its replacement with something new, and more radical. However, at this time, it’s useful to think about some of these differences when trying to understand just why things seem so much more off-kilter in these areas in the U.S. and the rest of the Anglo world than they do elsewhere on Earth, even in other Western societies.
- Σ Frame: Protestant vs. Cathodox (2020 November 20)
- Σ Frame: The Amalgamation of Western Culture (2020 December 2)
- A Voice for Men: Have women ever been oppressed in the United States? (2021 March 3)
- Do What’s Right: Genuine Faith is Unreasonable (2021 March 12)
- Radix Fidem: What God Has in Mind (2021 April 11)