October 28th 2000
Dirck van Bekkum
What is wrong with women
Ladies & Gentlemen
On the subject of grandiose titles, we have a book on my
shelves at home called 'The Last Two Million Years'. I've often mused about
that title, why the author was so ambitious ;and whether he thought the
people buying it would be stupid enough to think he might actually zap
through the aons in a couple of hundred pages plus photos. Well I was, and
I must say it is a useful reference book. So, when I was casting around in
my mind for a title to focus my talk today, I decided to go for the broad,
offensively simplistic title and I've called this talk, 'What is wrong with
This title is rather pleasingly ambiguous in that it can be either a simple
question ie 'what is wrong with women?' Or it could be a foreshortened
statement, 'what is wrong with women' is the following... and that is
indeed what I'm going to talk about.
I pick up the thread of my argument from something GK.Chesterton said way
back at the beginning of the last century. He was a very prophetic writer
though often considered frivolous because of his brimming good humour. Both
Bernard Shaw and HG Wells were considered more serious writers than GK in
their day although almost everything they said turned out to be wrong and
most of what Chesterton said was right.
I was researching his novels 'The Napoleon of Notting Hill' and 'The Man who
was Thursday', and I came across 'The Flying Inn', which is about the last
pub in England. All the rest have been banned by law in order to conform to
the Islamic beliefs of the people who govern us. How did he work that out
in 1913/ or was it just a shot in the dark? No it wasn't. As an opponent of
imperialism, and a believer in the strong impulse of people to live
according to their own culture, he saw that it was inevitable that sooner or
later we should be told to pack up and go home from the colonies. He also
knew that the largely commercial interests which were the driving force of
imperialism would not abandon the effort to harness cheap labour in the
interest of trade simply because they had been thrown out of the colonies.
They would take steps to attract those they could no longer rule in their
own countries to come and settle where they might be similarly employed to
maintain profit margins on the world market.
The destiny of Empire in the eyes of the governing class, says the hero,
Dalroy, is in four Acts. Victory over barbarians. Employment of
barbarians. Alliance with barbarians. Conquest by barbarians. The story
of the Flying Inn takes place at the point at which the fourth Act is about
to be undertaken. By this time, the British have been stripped of almost
every sign of their traditions and their national identity. Everything
Eastern is praised and accommodated and everything the British believe, is
trashed. Divorce has been mad very easy, the better to accommodate
polygamy. Sexual morality has been declared completely irrelevant, the
better to lose the citizen in a welter of 'new ways of living'. The army
has been all but abolished, but a foreign army is on stand-by in case it is
needed; the police wear fezzes to demonstrate our admiration of all things
Into this scenario fits the question of votes for women. Chesterton was
scathing about the franchise in any case. Only men who could fulfil a
property requirement had it anyway and it was almost entirely, a sham. The
reality was that laws were made at the behest of powerful people, without
the slightest consideration of what the mass of people wanted. It was
obvious in 1914 that women would be given the vote sooner or later and this
showy gesture was considered much more pressing than that all men should
receive it. However, as Chesterton said, the franchise was always widened
when the governing class were up to no good or were in trouble. It was
because they knew it gave people no power that they gave them a vote. As a
character says, 'for whom would you cast your vote if you are against the
changing of Britain into something else?'
Very prescient, if one considers that the last time they widened the
franchise - to 18 was at precisely the time they were laying furtive plans
to absorb us into a federal Europe.
Incidentally, another little snippet I found whilst doing my research, that
brought a smile to my normally granite features, was Chesterton being asked,
at a lecture in Oxford, 'What would you do if you were made Prime Minister?'
'I would do what all Prime Ministers do', said Chesterton, 'I would
telephone round all the millionaires of my acquaintance and ask them what
they wanted me to do'.
But this was only one aspect of why Chesterton was against women having the
vote. The other reason is more important and I am laying it out - not
because I think women should not have the vote today - what is done is
done! But because I think it throws some light on a lot of things we do not
Chesterton's main objection to women having the vote was the entirely
complimentary one, that he thought women's instincts were despotic.
He thought the natural despotism of women manifested itself chiefly in the
home - where the woman was invariably the boss, whatever the social position
of the man of the house. It also manifested itself in the control and
education of children - which had been managed throughout time without
benefit of laws or regulations saying how it should be done. They had kept
the family going, along recognisably similar lines, fulfilling the needs of
husband and family, come hell or high water; in war, pestilence and famine.
The had been the rock and guide of what was arguably the most important, and
certainly the oldest, institution on earth and they had protected its
autonomy and their right to rule it, by instinct, common sense and
strength of character.
Beyond the home, women also controlled social behaviour and had not needed
the blundering interference of 'sexual harassment' laws to ensure that men
treated them with positively exaggerated deference, nor took liberties with
them in public.
This they did by possessing an authority that they cultivated, and which
was all the stronger for being real rather than the feeble fiction of power
that the vote gave them. It was, quintessentially their means of getting
what they wanted.
It goes without saying, at this juncture, ladies and gentlemen, that I
reject as a foolish insult, the idea that women were oppressed by the men
they bore, reared, and married, until the second half of the 20th century.
If that were indeed true, then there is no way that anyone could argue for
equality between the sexes. At the very best, women would be late starters!
The truth, however, is that men and women with power have always oppressed
men and women without power
Women were the biggest employers of labour until the first world War,
because they employed servants, and they showed themselves, throughout time,
to be just as capable as the meanest man, of oppressing their workers.
Indeed, domestic service still carries a seemingly inerradicable aura of
servitude and humiliation, as a monument to the many women who treated their
servants - both men and women, abysmally.
Now Chesterton thought that this natural authority of women would be
exercised quite differently if it were translated into political power. The
instinctive despotism would translate itself into two effects of which - I
think we have ample evidence today. One was that they would treat everybody
as if they were children - and create a 'nanny state'. ' They would turn
society itself into a great nursery' , Chesterton actually said.
The second effect would be that essentially tyrannical laws would be
enacted to uphold this re-creation of 'mother knows best'! Hence, despite
the vision of restraint and gentleness conjured up by devotees of female
power in the early days, the chief effect of women's influence on social
policy is laws that oppress parental authority. Parents no longer have the
right to discipline children as they think fit, nor to require other people
such as teachers and policemen, to give them the discipline they need to
reach adult life without a criminal record.
Moral education is undertaken by the State and children can be introduced
to gross sexual provocation in the classroom and then supplied with the
means to be promiscuous without their parents even being told. The results
of this have been howlingly counter-productive in terms of achieving the
expressed goals; lower illegitimacy, fewer abortions, less disease. But,
never mind, 'mother is always right' if she works for the Family Planning
Association or Brooks clinics and nothing will deflect them from their
Nor is it coincidence that bullying authoritarianism has made social
workers almost uniquely feared and loathed amongst the common people.
Chesterton thought that the big battalions of government, commerce and
bureaucracies would welcome this natural prescriptive tendency of women in
public policy, the better to further their own manipulative ends, whilst
seeming to be
impeccably 'pro-women'. And, indeed, it is remarkable how many 'dirty jobs'
are given to women in making public policy; the latest being Lady Gavron's
plans to turn us into a 'community of communities' rather than a nation.
The 'cover' is that women are being 'empowered' by such jobs. The truth, I
suspect, is that they are the fall guys.
Finally, an effect that Chesterton forsaw but not to its full extent, the
rest of society would lose its bottle at the same time as women outside the
closed ranks of the sisterhood lost their confidence. Men and women are in
an inseperable union because they both come from families and go on to make
families themselves. But the translocation of a feminine way of doing things
outside the family and community has narrowed, and therefore concentrated
their effect into more tyrannical government and a diminution of liberty for
They cannot get decent housing unless both of them work because of the
pressure on housing produced by the government maintaining its cheap labour
force by importing millions of new households into the country. Criticism
of such a policy is silenced by the new commandment that it is 'racism' to
say that people have a right to be consulted about who is settled in their
They are silenced over such things because the very idea of traditional
right and wrong has been dispensed with by the new morality of liberalism.
We have a unique and shameless collection of perverts, ratters on their
marriage vows, and takers of money from the highest bidder - and the media
turns a more or less blind eye because they too are afraid to break ranks.
Well, it's a mess I'll grant you. But, if it's any comfort, I'll tell you
how it was solved in 'The Flying Inn'. The clever plan to turn Britain into
something else failed because, clever as it was, it had in it the seeds of
its own destruction. If 'liberalism' means that people have lost the
ability to put a case for what is right and wrong - they have no choice but
to resort to other means. When endurance becomes worse than danger, the
hero says, then people will get not just what they want; but everything they
The collapse of communism is the perfect model for what Chesterton was
talking about. Because the most organised opposition to communism came from
Poland, it came via the Christian church - which has a concrete dogma that
the individual personality has a sanctity, dignity and responsibility beyond
anything politics or economics can demand. They won the argument so, in the
end, they didn't need to fight.
We must, ladies and gentlemen, learn to be more brave and to articulate
arguments for what we believe without fear of condemnation. We must not
allow ourselves to be silenced by the pipsqueaks of power. Another aphorism
of Chesterton with which I shall end, is that when a people have lost their
courage, they cannot rely on keeping any other virtue.
Thank you, ladies and gents. Thank you.
VULNERABLITY IN ENTERING MULTICULTURAL ADULT WORLDS
Congress ‘The age of violent young men. Causes and remedies’, London, October 28th 2000
The propositions of this presentation are:
a) In absence of more integral transitional structures towards adulthood offered by adults young people seek and develop their own >rites de passage=, such as gangs. (Yablonski 1969, Zoja 1989, Bekkum 1995)
b) Some over the last decades re-occurring patterns of structural violence connected with sport can be interpreted as (desperate) efforts to initiate themselves in a complex post-modern setting.
c) Choices for young males (and females) are abundant but >meaningful= frameworks of meaning are almost absent. (van Bekkum 1997a)
The transition towards adulthood does make male adolescents particular, ‘transitional’, vulnerable. (Gennep, 1908, Cohen 1978) In order to enter the adult world they have to learn to balance loyalties in five life domains:
a) between his ego, his peergroup and family worlds 7
b) between his leisure and occupational worlds 7
c) between his male and the female worlds 7
d) between his local/regional/ethnic and the national/global worlds 7
e) between his physical, mental and religious/spiritual worlds 7
Coming from a family with a migration history and structural discrimination enhances this ‘transitional’ vulnerability. Analyses and plans of action are meaningful and effective when young males and to their mentors-caretakers can recognise themselves in an interdependence of sport, violence and leisure. Leisure and sports are modern Western phenomena which diffused themselves to more and more subcultures in our societies. Leisure in Europe was at first connected with the nobility and was as a cultural pattern incorporated by the higher bourgeoisie when they had the financial means and power. It was diffused to the lower classes on a large scale only in the last century. Leisure and sport has become the counterpart and an outlet for tensions of the private and occupational setting. Leisure according to Lengbeek is a man-made reality and A.. is removed from the everyday and the obvious.@ (1994, 237) He argues:... the tension between the rationally organised everyday world and the contra-structure is at the heart of the issue of collective interest in recreation and tourism.@ (Ibid.) Lengbeek=s perspective leave space to connect with an intercultural approach of the interdependence of violence, leisure, sport and work.
Violence in sport and violence connected with sport can be conceptualised in Norbert Elias= civilization theory. More specifically in the interdependence between the monopolisation of violence by nation states and the changes within nation-citizens management of emotions: a development from ‘Fremdzwang zum Selbstzwang’ (Social to Self-control). (1994) The more a nation is pacified, violence monopolised by the state: army and police, the more the need for danger and excitement increases. (Elias 1986) Our moral and ethical conceptions of (group) violence (and sport) are, as Elias claims, strongly connected with these changes. Being active in sport and being a spectator are main outlets for this need. Groups of boys and young males who cannot connect with these social activities are can be marginalized. Next to pacification, marginalization and discrimination are important factors in the manufacture of violence.
The development of sports is directly connected with the de-ritualization of games and plays in European societies as argued by the anthropologist Victor Turner. (1969, 1977, 1982) Young males are major actors in the phenomenon of violence and sport. The impulses and motives of these (groups of) young men can be viewed from a transitional perspective on adolescence. (van Bekkum 1994, 1995, 1997a, b, 1998, 1999) From this transitional perspective intercultural analyses, applicable insights, training modules for professionals and action plans will be presented and discussed.
Bekkum, Dirck van, Craftsmanship in Ancient Egypt and Inuit Culture (Eskimo) An Orientation on the Importance of Traditional Technology in Vocational Training and Occupational Therapy for "Aboriginal" and "Ethnic" Young Adults. M.A. Paper, Nijmegen, 1988. (200 pages in Dutch)
Bekkum, Dirck van, Adolescence and Ethnicity: An Interdisciplinary Model in Occupational Therapy and Vocational training. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, p. 253-69, 4, 1994.
Bekkum, Dirck van, The Times, They Are A'Changin': Adolescence, Health and Ethnicity, Lessons from Anthropology, Contemporary Youth Problems and Cross-Cultural Solutions. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 8, p. 243-260, 1995.
Bekkum, Dirck van, Balancing Urban Female - Male Worlds, Crossing Gender Boundaries as Intercultural Socialisational Structures, paper for the congress: Beyond Boundaries: Sexuality across, Cultures, Amsterdam, 29th July 1997a.
Bekkum, Dirck van, Sport, violence and leisure in urban contexts, male adolescents in search for transitional experiences, Paper presented at >Elias Centenary= congress, Amsterdam, 18-21 December 1997b.
Bekkum, Dirck van, Beschaafde mensen vechten niet, (Civilised people don=t fight), In: Trouw, (national newspaper), February 7th 1998.
Bekkum, Dirck van, To Belong and To Be Different: Balancing National and Ethnic Loyalties in Male Adolescents, in : Dominant Culture as a Foreign Culture: Dominant Groups in the Eyes of Minorities, J. Mucha (ed.) East European Monographs, Columbia University Press, 1999.
Cohen, Yehudi A., Childhood to Adolescence, legal systems, and incest taboos, Aldine Publishing Company, Chicago, 1964.
Elias, Norbert, The Civilisational Process, Blackwell, London, 1994.
Elias, Norbert, & Eric Dunning, The Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilising Process, Basil Blackwell, London, 1986.
Gennep, Arnold van, The rites of passage, London, Routledge and Kegan, 1906/1960.
Lengbeek, Jaap, Een meervoudige werkelijkheid: een sociologisch-filosofische essay over het collectieve belang van recreatie en toerisme, Wageningen, 1994.
Turner, Victor, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969 .
Turner, Victor, Liminal to Liminoid, p. 20-60, in: From Ritual to Theatre, the Human Seriousness of Play, New York City, Performing Arts Journal Publication, 1982 .
Turner, Victor, Variations on the Theme of Liminality, in: Secular Ritual, S. Moore and others (eds), Assen, van Gorcum, 1977.
Turner, Victor, (ed.) Celebration: Studies in festivity and Ritual, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, 1982
Yablonski, L., The violent gang, Middlesex, Penguin Books, 1969.
Zoja, L. Drugs, Addiction and Initiation: The Modern Search for Ritual, Sigo Press, Boston, 1989.
MOIRA CTT Rijnlaan 45 A 3522 BC Utrecht, The Netherlands tel *-31-30-2800926 fax 2871722 email@example.com www.ctt.nl
Saturday 28 October 9.30 am
Friend's House Euston Road WC1 London
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