All right. I’ve had just about enough of this nonsense.
Yes, the title is a dig at our alleged VP, one that Ace of Spades loves to make. It appears every time she fails — I knew someone who worked for her for a while. They don’t know if she’s stupid or lazy, but apparently her modus operandi is to sit in her office and browse for shoes, while people do her work for her — the journalists go on about how some male “failed to position her for success.”
If it were only her, though, I would grit my teeth and go on, which honestly is all I’m doing under this destructive mal-administration. (If they don’t get us nuked, it wasn’t for lack of trying.)
But I was reading Austen fanfic, and I realize this is a generational problem, starting with X probably and really horribly bad in my kids’ generation. Women really expect to be “positioned for success.” And if they fail it’s some man’s fault.
This Austen fanfic was exemplary of this, and I read it with awe and horror, in the same spirit one would watch a train wreck, disgusted and shocked but afraid to look away.
Look, the central conceit of Pride and Prejudice, if you haven’t read it, is that both the parents were objectionable, and the young ladies were cast upon the world with no a feather to fly with. This falls broadly under “author being an *sshole to characters, because it makes the story more interesting and their triumph greater.”
Mr. Bennet, the family father, is probably a raging introvert. He hides in his office and reads great works, emerges to make sarcastic comments, and finds “felicity in marriage” in an unusual way. This is because his wife is vulgar (she is a merchant’s daughter. In this case “Vulgar” is a term of art meaning “she never learned the complex interactions of the upper class”) and frankly dumb as a post. (Beyond being vulgar she doesn’t understand a lot of the interactions between people, pretty much anything people say that is even slightly involved or…. really anything. She is credited with the ability to set a good table (no mean feat at the time) but in no way intellectual.
Now this rings absolutely true. And milder than it might have been. I know many a brilliant man who, for reasons of being young, desperate and male, married a woman who creates beautiful music with the wind whistling in and out of her ears, when turned a certain way. The best ones are like Mr. Bennet. They develop their “felicity” by amusing themselves with the strange things their wives do. This is because, as I told my son long ago (about his classmates) if you laugh at people, you still love them a little. Particularly, if it’s a tender laugh as in “Oh, boy, she’s so silly” which unless Mrs. Bennet is being egregious is the type of laughter in P & P.
The middle type will leave the family.
The really bad ones turn abusive. Arguably that was my grandfather. (And grandmother wasn’t stupid. Just ignorant, and he was brilliant. She had practical knowledge, but the man read everything and was friend with authors.)
I was aware of the “It’s all Mr. Bennet’s fault and he’s the bad guy” faction mostly because (for weird but cogent reasons) older son took a Jane Austen course in college. The perspective, as someone who grew up with Jane Austen, puzzled the heck out of him. But I knew it was out there.
I mean, was he flawless? No. He should perhaps have done more to secure his daughter’s future, but at their income level people really didn’t have a season in London, so he wasn’t depriving them of that. (They might have taken the girls to Bath, maybe.) But mostly the reason they were having trouble marrying the girls off wasn’t even dowries. (And yeah, at 21 Jane, the pretty one, was practically on the shelf.) It was the Napoleonic wars, which were killing men in batch lots, and also taking away a lot of rural boys to go fight. which left rural hamlets curiously devoid of marriageable prospects. This is something neither of their parents could have foreseen when they were born. As the local gentry, Mr. Bennet probably figured out his daughters would marry the like from nearby hamlets, or perhaps wealthy farmers/merchants. (They were on the bottom of their class, so permeable.) Also, Mrs. Bennet’s marriage portion is intact, and not inconsiderable being five thousand pounds. The interest of that would keep widow and children in some comfort in a rural village, even if not in affluence.
It’s also obvious from the book that Mr. Bennet mostly gives way to his wife because “it’s not worth fighting.”
We don’t know if the estate is well administered, but since there’s no mention of debts or tenants leaving, we must assume it’s well enough administered. It’s just not that big or profitable, period.
Now, sure, part of fanfic is making assumptions, and sometimes the assumptions or outright changes to the characters are okay. This one annoyed the living daylights out of me, though, because one gets the impression that the author didn’t realize she was making changes. There was no “Because of her father, Mrs. Bennet actually had a lot of business acumen” or deep seeding you do for these things.
No, it was just “Mr. Bennet failed to support and help his wife, and that’s why she was this bad. Oh, yeah, he also mismanaged the estate, so we’ll have Lizzy manage it for him, and she’ll do brilliantly, even though in the book her main talents are snappy come backs and dancing, because she has a vagina and therefore is brilliant. Oh, and he’ll recognize he did wrong and spend the entire book apologizing to his wife and daughters, and being really impressed with his wife for taking him to task.” (Again, these young women idea of a strong woman seems to be being a b*tch on wheels.)
The entire book is a pile on on Mr. Bennet for failing to “support his wife” and “help her with what she needs to know.”
IOW, the author seems to think that Mr. Bennet should be doing both jobs — and we won’t even go into the fact here that yes, lady of the Manor was a job, as was Lord of the Manor (even though they weren’t titled) each with its specialized area of knowledge and management, and that Mr. Bennet probably had absolutely no clue what it took to do his wife’s job, since his mother would never have taught him that — and giving his wife all the credit.
Which seems to be like a subset of young women views as their due in life, because … because they were born with a vagina. Which means if they aren’t wildly successful, they’re being discriminated against and it’s some men’s fault.
I won’t go into the central contradiction at the heart of this, which I’d already noticed in the 80s, and which is apparently the central relationship-between-men-and-females neurosis of boomers, which is that women can do anything, but they’re being held down by men, and are fragile flowers who will met if looked at the wrong way.
But I kind of know at least some of the issues influencing this insane view that men should “position women for success” while giving them all undue praise and worship.
1- It starts with the women who were upheld while women were fighting for “equal rights” meaning for entry in the male world of male jobs (but only the indoor and clean ones, mind.) Keep in mind that in most western countries (well, not the one I came from) the barriers weren’t political or legal, but social. There was a strong “ladies don’t do that” that kept (mostly middle class. Lower class women always worked. They had to) women out of middle class jobs. Which means that women who bucked that were to begin with iconoclasts and odd. Those who succeeded weren’t merely crazy.
Women who first broke into … oh, professorships, or commercial writing, or even professional secretary, were exceptional. You see this a bit when you read thirties books, and you have the utterly devoted secretary who knows how to do everything in the office, and is unmarried because she devoted herself to her career.
They were exceptional, because it was very hard to break in. You had to be super-hungry, determined and focused to get a foot in the door.
So they were amazing and exceptional. From this a lot of people on the activist side took the idea EVERY woman was like that, and imagine the amazing things unleashed if they were “equal” to men, or even better took charge.
The just-so story that emerged in the heads of activists and theoretical thinkers was that if women were this wonderful, what force men MUST be exerting to keep them down in all sorts of ways.
(And since in most cases there was no legal barrier, this is why boomer females believe in a vast conspiracy by all males, ignoring that most males want their wives/sisters/daughters to succeed and also that they’re not a hive identity.)
2 – When women were pushed, harangued, shoved into professions many of them had no interest in, because culture had flipped and you couldn’t be “just a wife and mother” and if you tried you were called names and assumed to be dumb, most of them failed to amaze.
Which, of course they did. Look, most people are average. That’s why it’s called average, or normal. Heck, most men also have no interest in a career. If they’re wealthy and/or fortunate enough, most of them will happily putter through life doing this and that, and nothing of consequence. And 99% of men and women have jobs, not careers, much less vocations. Those of us who must do one thing, come hell or high water are very, very broken.
So, women failed to take over and remake the world into paradise. And the just so story went wild. There really must be a vast conspiracy of males and the patriarchy. And it’s so sneaky, you can’t see it, so micro aggressions, etc.
This is how we get to boomer females, ten years older than I who are sure their potential for a brilliant career in science was ruined by Mr. Jones in Third Grade who told them that girls just weren’t good at math. I mean, it’s possible Mr. Jones existed, though so many of them report this, I think they’re borrowing each other’s experience in the guise of false memory. There are asses everywhere. But if you had a real vocation and drive to science, you wouldn’t be deterred by that.
Me? I love science, but I transpose digits in math, so despite all encouragement, and because I didn’t figure out the digit thing was an actual brain glitch till my late thirties when I had to figure out ways for the kids to overcome it, my love affair with science remains mere flirting, including a lot of reading popularizations, and listening to scientist friends. And having known a lot of these women intimately, if Mr. Jones told them that girls couldn’t do math, he was lying to console them. He didn’t want to say “You, personally, my dear can’t do math. You can’t do much thinking either. You should stop trying to be an intellectual leading light and learn crochet or something. Also there are better channels for your fervor than grievance and feminism. Have you tried Christianity and becoming a missionaire?”
But their impression that “if women had free rein, they would all be amazeballs” sticks, and they won’t let go. So we’re now in the fourth generation of finding excuses.
And the women are actually factually handicapped by the fact that no authority figure dares judge them harshly, or judge them at all.
They can’t give the highest grades to boys, because someone will notice and accuse them of being misogynist. Look, NATURALLY in mixed classes, boys have the top three spots or so. And this is being told to you by a woman who always had the top spot, even if she had to half-kill-herself to do it.
This comes not because men are smarter — there might be more brilliant men than brilliant women but society rewards high-normal not brilliant — but because males in general are more competitive, so they care if they are the best. And also because statistically — which says nothing about the individual — men have more geniuses (and more morons) and women tend to cluster around the center of the bell curve (there are evolutionary reasons for this. I’m not going into them.)
But that’s not what we see in any classes today. Because no one would dare do that. In fact, they will distort the entire style of teaching and all the testing, and finally resort to outright lying to make women be in the top slots.
Look, older son is thirty. I have gone to a lot of graduations. I’ve read a lot of “Award winning” projects. ALL women. Sometimes a man snuck in, but 90% of them were women. And I have eyes/can listen to speeches/ can read the “winning” efforts.
When my kids were carrying high Bs and these girls had perfect As? They were doing at best C work. The boys were doing A work. (And no, not because I’m their mom. You should hear me critique their efforts when they’re subpar.)
Our acquaintance included boy and girl twins, both of average intelligence. The girl had straight As. The boy eventually dropped out of high school, because he felt there was no correlation between effort and grade. They are not anomalous. I keep hearing more and more stories like that.
These girls are being given praise and high grades for work that frankly should be taken to the woodshed and given a good drubbing.
Every time I taught or tutored, I found that by the end of high school girls were maybe three years behind the boys. They were also, by grade, at the top of their classes.
Not because girls are stupid, and in fact when I tutored and was ruthless with them, most came up to speed really fast. (So did the boys. I…. might be a bit scary.) (Why were the girls in tutoring? Well, some parents NOTICED they were little ignorant monkeys and wanted them to actually be prepared for college.)
It’s because girls aren’t being taught. They’re being praised, and glorified, and told they’re the best evah!
Here’s the dirty secret: no matter how much you mollycoddle someone, sooner or later they’ll come up against a test.
It might be in college, when it is required that you actually do that math you’ve been avoiding, because it’s boring, and some professor refuses to play along because vagina, and he has tenure, and you’re going to fail.
It might be as a young newlywed, when you can’t balance your checkbook.
It might be in a job, where they let you keep the title, but you realized you’ve been shunted aside and your subordinates are actually doing the job. (And you don’t want to spend your day shopping for shoes.)
Sooner or later you’ll get tested. You can’t mollycoddle someone into success.
No one can succeed for you, nor get you into a position where you’ll never make a mistake. For one, we are not born perfect, and we all make mistakes. Every day. It’s mistakes that really teach.
In that fanfic, if Mrs. Bennet had suddenly shunted her husband aside, because he had “failed to support me.” she would have rapidly squandered whatever money they’d set aside in fripperies and a new carriage, because THOSE not estate management, or preparing her daughters for society were obviously her areas or expertise. And throwing a 19 year old girl at regency estate management would mean ruin. Before or after her nervous breakdown.
If you have no other reason you’re supposed to be successful than “because I”m a woman” and if you think you should succeed without trying because you have a vagina, you are delusional.
Failing to do your job for you and give you praise is not failing you. Unless it’s you failing yourself.
Yeah, sure, some men — though mostly women — will stab you in the back and climb the ladder over your dead body. Humans, what are you going to do?
And some professions/jobs are closed shops and guilds, which mostly favor those who have family/parents already in them or in some contact with them. Like, it’s much easier to become a bestseller, if your parents worked for NYC publishing, or at least attended the parties. Oh, and if you have the right politics. (In publishing, liberal female is life on the easiest of settings.)
But that’s what life is like, and what a complex society is like. No one owes you anything. Not because you’re a woman, not because you can tan, not because you’re a cross eyed Pacific islander, with an interesting history.
People will try to give you breaks for all of those, even those in most cases those characteristics have nothing to do with professional competence. And people will try to push you into their idea of success.
But in the end, in the very end, short of cancelling you and making it impossible for you to be hired (and sometimes — feral grin — not even then) people will succeed at what they want to do, if they want it badly enough and are willing to work their tails off.
Yeah, they will sometimes have to work harder than other people, for various reasons. Well. That’s humans for you. You can’t really equalize access without ending up doing things like preparing women atrociously, because you’re afraid of discouraging them.
And also, most jobs that look glamorous and easy from the outside aren’t. Anything that pays really well, and a lot of things that don’t, are a lot of work for everyone. And a bunch of headaches, and often total lack of security.
Don’t go imagining that people of a difference sex, color or body type have it easier. Yeah, some do. Though in most closed-shops right now, the greatest advantage is leftist politics, and if you want it badly enough you’ll pretend that.
Or you’ll go away and do something else.
Despite a century of indoctrination, most humans don’t want “careers”. They want jobs that pay for the things they really want to do.
Trying to demand that men do everything while giving women all the credit is not only spitting on feminists like grandma, who fought to erase the legal distinctions, making women responsible for their own money and allowed to live alone even if widowed: it’s trying to take us back to when every woman was considered sort of an overgrown child.
Because you can’t keep telling people to believe you over their lying eyes without a reaction.
So grow up. Succeed or don’t. Work or don’t. Fight for what you want or don’t. Just stop blaming others for it.