H.L. Mencken defined a misogynist as “a man who hates women almost as much as women hate one another.” It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that the only truly woman-hating book ever to be written in modern times (or at least ever to be accepted by a mainstream publisher) was penned by a female hand.
Turning feminism on its head, Esther Vilar views women as “dim-witted parasitic luxury items,” living at the expense of productive male breadwinners. Women, in her cynical gaze, are little more than overpriced prostitutes. However, compared to the street prostitutes whom they so despise for undercutting their prices, they lack even the virtue of honesty about what they are doing.
Thus, Vilar observes, although “the old saying that a woman’s fate is her body is true insofar as it has a positive meaning... it is better applied to men” because, whereas “a woman profits from her anatomical peculiarities... a man is an eternal slave to his.”
With wit and style, Vilar exposes what may be regarded as the Fundamental Fallacy of Feminism – namely the assumption that because men earn more than women, this means men are better off. As Jack Kammer observes in If Men Have All the Power How Come Women Make the Rules, “Looking at men in business and government and saying they have all the power is like looking at women in the supermarket and saying they have all the food” – just as women shop for the whole family, men earn money and exercise power for the benefit of the whole family.
The feminist fallacy is therefore two-fold. It ignores:
As Schopenhauer observed in ‘On Women,’ his own much-maligned masterpiece of misogyny, “women believe in their hearts that a man’s duty is to earn money and theirs is to spend it.”
Vilar, perhaps inevitably given the satirical and polemical style she adopts, does not cite any data in support of her assertions. Thankfully however the data is available elsewhere. Writers like Warren Farrell (Why Men Earn More) and Kingsley Browne (Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality) have documented how, in return for their greater wages, men work longer hours than women, in more dangerous and unpleasant conditions and for a greater portion of their lives.
Thus, as Vilar observes, “the army of suppressed women eagerly awaiting the moment of liberation simply never materialised,” for the simple reason that “it is not much fun to repair water pipes, to lay bricks or to lug furniture” and “unlike men, women can choose whether to do drudgery.”
However, despite this additional work and the higher earnings that result, men are not financially better-off as compared to women. On the contrary, Vilar observes “according to statistics, it is the female sector of the population who spends the most money – money men earn for them.” Similarly, in the introduction to the 1998 edition of her book, she writes “it is well established that women make the majority of purchasing decisions.”
Again, unfortunately, she does not cite sources. Again, however, the data is available for those willing to hunt it down.
For example, Bernice Kanner in Pocketbook Power: How to Reach the Hearts and Minds of Today’s Most Coveted Consumer – Women (p.5) reports that women make approximately 88% of retail purchases in the US. Similarly, Marti Barletta in Marketing to Women (p.6) reports that women are responsible for about 80% of household spending. (A review of the evidence confirming women’s disproportionate control over consumer spending, albeit one focussing on the situation in the UK and now somewhat dated, is also provided by David Thomas in Not Guilty: The Case in Defense of Men.)
In this case, the data comes from perhaps a surprising source – researchers in the marketing industry. After all, these researchers cannot afford to manipulate, misinterpret, suppress or sugar-coat their findings for purposes of political expediency or ideological imperative in the same way that feminist academics are apt to do. Concerned with the bottom line of maximising sales, their research results must reflect reality or they and the companies they work for would go out of business.
As Vilar herself puts it:
‘The advertising man does not idealise women from any masochistic tendency. It is purely a question of survival. Only his exploiters, women, have sufficient time and money to buy and consume all of his products. To supply the woman inhabiting his ranch home with purchasing power, he has no choice but to cultivate legions of other women who have as much satisfaction as his own wife in spending. They will then buy his goods and keep his wife in pocket money. This is the beginning of a vicious cycle.’
Consumers are conventionally viewed as the victims of advertising, manipulated and deceived into wasting their money on the latest pointless unnecessary fad. Vilar turns this logic on its head. Who, she demands, is really being exploited: “Is it the creature whose inner-most wishes are sought out, coddled and fulfilled, or is it he who in his desire to retain the affections of the woman, seeks out, coddles and fulfils them?”
How, then, is it that men earn more money than women but women spend more than men? The answer lies in sexual and romantic relations between the sexes which function to redistribute wealth from men to women. Indeed, the entire process of human courtship seems designed to achieve this end – from the social obligation on the man to pay for dinner on the first date to the legal obligations imposed upon him to financially support his ex-wife and her children for anything up to twenty years after he has belatedly rid himself of her.
As David Thomas concludes “If... one class of person does all the work and another does all the spending, you do not have to be Karl Marx to conclude that the second of these two classes is the more privileged” (Not Guilty: The Case in Defense of Men).
A popular saying claims that ‘behind every great man is a great woman.’ This is, of course, a dishonest but appealing way for individual women to claim vicarious credit for achievements that are not their own, and for women in general to claim vicarious credit on behalf of womankind as a whole.
However, modified slightly, the saying has an element of truth. Although women do not contribute to the greatness or success of great or successful men, they certainly benefit from it. It would therefore be more accurate to say: Behind every successful man is a woman spending a portion of his earnings in addition to her own.
Feminists would no doubt claim that this analysis ignores women’s so-called ‘unpaid labour’ in the home from which husbands purportedly benefit. Actually, it is doubtful that men benefit significantly from the housework undertaken by women.
“Most men” Vilar observes, “prefer the plain and functional” and have “no need of lace curtains or rubber plants in the living room,” nor of pink carpets and flowered wallpapers. Frankly, most men have better taste.
The best evidence for this is the fact that single men do less housework than single women. Far from shirking on their fair share of the housework, it simply appears that men do not think the same amount of housework is necessary as do women. This is why single men do less housework than single women.
Data cited by Kingsley Browne in Biology at Work shows that, in America, the average married man does only one hour less housework per week than the average single man. This is hardly sufficient recompense for the level of financial support he provides for his wife.
Women frequently complain that men do not contribute enough to house-cleaning. However, as Jack Kammer observes, “you never hear a man complaining that his wife doesn’t do her fair share of polishing the chrome on the Camero.”
Housework therefore seems to be, not unpaid labour, but rather overpaid laziness. A person is no more entitled to remuneration for cleaning their own house than they are for cleaning behind their ears in the bath.
Much the same analysis can be applied to childcare provided by women. After all, unlike men, who are denied any say in the choice whether to abort a foetus yet nevertheless are obliged to pay maintenance, women have children out of choice, presumably because they see caring for children (or at least for their own children) as inherently rewarding.
Under Vilar’s unrelenting cynicism, children are relegated to “hostages” used to extract more money from men, ostensibly to provide for the children, but in reality for themselves. Thought extreme, there is some merit in this view. It is indeed the case that child maintenance is typically paid to the mother, rather than direct to the child and, whereas there exist extensive draconian mechanisms to ensure its payment, there are essentially no mechanisms to ensure that the money paid is actually used for the benefit of the child.
Vilar sees feminism as missing the point entirely. Feminists were interested only in the purported privileges of a small minority of relatively privileged men “and not the prerogatives of, say, soldiers.” The early feminists, she argues, were bitter because they had failed to attract a man to support them and had, like men, to support themselves (albeit without the additional obligation to support a wife and children). Vilar sees them as no better than other women (“there is no virtue in ugliness”).
Now, however, feminists are no longer ugly. On the contrary, feminism, she perceptively observes, has descended into “a branch of American show business.”
It may be protested that Vilar’s views are outdated. She describes a situation where the majority of married women are not in paid employment. Obviously things have changed since Vilar first published this book forty years ago. (Fitzgerald’s delightfully titled Sex-Ploytation: How Women Use their Bodies to Extort Money From Men purports to provide an update.)
However, things have changed less than one would think. In the UK in the 21st century, whereas 95% of married men work full-time, the majority of married women do not work at all, and, even among married women without children, only 58% work (Liddle 2003 p.18). According to Catherine Hakim’s Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century: Preference Theory (p.111), wives earn, on average, between one fifth and one third of the total income of the couple and this pattern has remained stable in the latter half of the twentieth century. Likewise, she reports that, in the US, even those women who work only earn about a quarter of the total household income.
Although much has changed, the reality of women’s manipulation and exploitation of male labour has changed little. This suggests, I would argue, that it is rooted, not in arbitrary cultural conditions, but in innate sex differences.
It is here that I part company from Vilar, who claims that “men have been trained and conditioned by women [mothers, girlfriends, wives], not unlike Pavlov conditioned his dogs, into becoming their slaves.” My own view is that the exploitation of men by women is not conditioned, but biologically based.
Sociobiologists have shown that, since females make the greater initial investment in offspring (an egg plus nine months gestation, followed by nursing) and males have a greater ‘potential reproductive rate,’ it is males who compete for access to females rather than vice versa (Trivers, 1972). Moreover, according to David Buss (The Evolution Of Desire), “the evolution of the female preference for males who offer resources may be the most ancient and pervasive basis for female choice in the animal kingdom.”
Since it is innate and based in nature, the key female advantage, namely their control over what might be termed in quasi-Marxian terms ‘the forces of reproduction,’ is unlikely to be reversed.
Therefore, perhaps the only hope for the salvation of men lies not in social reform or revolution, but in technological progress which may eventually liberate men from the need for women. With the development of virtual-reality pornography and ‘sexbots’ (see Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships), soon men may be able to achieve sexual satisfaction without the expense and inconvenience of real women. Instead, these ‘virtual girlfriends’ will be designed according to the precise specifications of their owners, will not nag, cheat, spend your money nor even grow older and uglier with the passing years and can be handily stored in a cupboard when not required.
Given that, like all significant technological advancement, they will surely be invented, designed, built and repaired by males, women will be bypassed and cut out of the equation altogether. Vilar herself anticipates this development, observing, “if men would only stop for a moment in their blind productivity and think... surely it would take them only a couple of days, considering their own intelligence, imagination and determination, to construct a machine, a kind of human female robot to take the place of women.”
After all, technological progress has already rendered countless professions obsolete – from cobblers and blacksmiths to thatchers and telegraph operators. Soon perhaps the oldest profession itself will go the same way. If this happens, women may find themselves reduced from their current privileged status to mere historical curiosities or museum exhibits.
For men, the future is bright. The real sexual revolution has barely begun.
Contemporary Heretic (2015). Unpaid Labour or Overpaid Laziness: Why Housework in Your Own House Isn’t Really Work.
Contemporary Heretic (2016). Pornographic Progress, Sexbots and the Salvation of Man.
Liddle, R. (2003) ‘Women Who Won’t’ Spectator, 29 November.
Lynn, Richard (1999). ‘Sex differences in intelligence and brain size: a developmental theory.’ Intelligence 27: 1-12.
Trivers, R.L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man, 1871-1971 (pp. 136-179). Chicago, IL: Aldine.