There has been a great deal of discussion over the past few months in the manosphere/MANdrosphere/androsphere/whateverosphere about a term coined by Rollo Tomassi — namely the term “Feminine Imperative”. The principal post from Rollo about this is here, and there are subsidiary posts here, here and here. Over the course of the past several months, this term has been discussed and debated at length, and at some high degree of heat, at SSM’s blog and at Dalrock’s blog, with the conversations often tending towards the bitter, divisive and downright dismissive and abusive.
Although I have participated myself in some of these rancorous discussions, it seems to me that in order to address the issues raised by this concept, we will need to go about this in a more systematic way, with some more rigor and specificity. In the discussions to date, there has been a regrettable scatter-shot nature to them that is both the nature of the internet and the manosphere, but has created more problems than anything else.
Initially, I’m not going to address the actual substance of the concept behind this term, but rather the term itself, because I think that the use of the term itself is leading to additional problems which are — or at least which may be — quite separate from the concept(s), if any, which lay behind it. So I will not here be critiquing or endorsing Rollo’s definition, or “content”, for the term, but rather taking the first step of addressing the term itself, and suggesting how we may refine it so as to avoid certain preconceived misperceptions as to what we may be about when discussing this conflux of issues. Of course to a certain degree this will involve dipping into a bit of my own understanding of the underlying notion, but I will try to do so in as minimal a way as possible in this post, so as to preserve the fuller treatment for subsequent notes.
The specific words “feminine” and “imperative” both rankle, to a significant degree, many people who read them in sequence. I think that this relates to the implications of each of those words. First, the word “feminine”, to many on the right, denotes what is intrinsic to what is the “good” about women, what is the “natural good” of women, and something which pertains only to women. I think this leads to a good deal of misperceptions, which I will explain in some more detail below. Second, the word “imperative” has strong connotations of “drive”, “must-do”, “automatic” and so on — which, again, I think leads to some misperceptions.
When we speak of the “feminine” aspect of this concept, I do not think it is intended to refer to something that is a part of the “natural good” of women, nor necessarily something that is a part of what it means to be woman, in the true sense of the word. In that sense, it isn’t feminine in the way that other characteristics of the feminine, which men and women on the right tend to revere to some degree, are. Rather, the intention was to refer to both the aspect of social organization which has favored women over men due to reproductive pressures (i.e., fewer wombs/eggs than sperm available), and the panoply of rules, norms, laws, mores, customs and the like which support this — in essence, which favor the “feminine” or, rather, women over the “disposable male” — and the tendency of both men and women to support this tilt or bias. When viewed that way, the term has some descriptive usefulness, yet I still think it distracts more than is worthwhile, because it tends to suggest to the mind that the concept is proposing that there is either (1) some deep, dark evil that is intrinsically feminine and/or (2) some feminine/female conspiracy to arrange the social order in their favor. The substance of the concept isn’t really suggesting this, but rather that the entire panoply of what is being described operated, and operates, to favor the female over the male, as a matter or reproduction, and which, as a practical matter, therefore extends normative tentacles throughout the social order surrounding the relations between men and women. As many men, and perhaps more men than women, over the course of history have built up and supported this system — it is far from being a conspiracy of women, or of anyone else. But the word rankles because of the connotations of the word “feminine”, and the vehement rejection of any use of the term which would sully something that is seen by many as the “good side” of things.
Turning to the word “imperative”, we face similar connotation problems. An “imperative” is seen as something that is a “must-do”, a basic drive such as hunger or thirst which needs must be satisfied, and which every person will seek to satisfy. Again, I do not think that this is what the use of the term was intended to convey — rather the use of the term was intended to refer to the persistent tendency for the social rules, norms, laws, mores and so on to be tilted in a way such as to favor women over the disposable male. The term “imperative” is intended to convey how common and persistent this seems to be, and how it may relate to the underlying biology, but it probably does so rather badly, because it suggests that it is a base drive like sex, food and water — which it is not. Rather, the proposition is that it is an organizing principle which has undergirded much of the social organization around male/female relations, family life — a social “super-norm” around which the remaining social principles are constructed. Using the word “imperative” to describe this rankles because it suggests more than what is being proposed conceptually, and therefore can be misleading.
I would suggest, therefore, that we try to come up with a more neutral formulation for the propositions that are being discussed, even at this early stage, so as to minimize prejudicial reactions and maximize the ability to draw a wider net when debating, discussing, fleshing out and refining — or perhaps ultimately rejecting — the proposition.
As an initial suggestion, I’d propose something like the “super-norm” or the “social tilt” — something that conveys that it is primarily about the social organization and rules, rather than individual women or men or conspiracies or drives or what have you. Something along these lines as a placeholder will be of value, I think, as we continue to discuss and flesh out the ideas that underlie the concept. For now, I think I will use the super-norm term until a better one presents itself.
More to come on the substance in subsequent notes, but seemed important to me to say a few words, at the outset, about the terminology which frames the discussion.