In Which I Finally Learn What Women are For

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

A few days ago James Poulos wrote an essay in the Daily Caller titled “What Are Women For?” After I saw it linked for the tenth or twelfth time I finally clicked through to see what all the clamor was about, and I’m not being snarky when I say that I simply couldn’t figure out what he was getting at. The writing was so circuitous and so pseudo-academic that it was inscrutable. Then, a followup essay declared that “The wave of anger and condemnation that has come from some quarters is dramatic evidence that the column’s central contention is right.” I sort of doubt that, but in any case there’s no way of judging this until we know what the column’s central contention is.

Luckily for me, Rich Yeselson has better antennae than I do, and he doped it out:

Poulos is actually up to something at once deeply derivative and banal, yet astonishing in the residual, reactionary power he brings to it….[The argument] comes down to this: he thinks that women are closer to nature because they are able to give birth, i.e they have a “privileged relationship to the natural world.” And, therefore, “what they are for”, as he argues in the second essay (which is actually the more lucid of the two) is to civilize those who “fill up the world with stuff — machines, weapons, ideologies, and so on — that often objectifies and instrumentalizes people, and often distracts us from its own sterility as regards fruitful human living.” That would be men.

Aha! The role of women is to civilize men! Apparently that’s the meaning of this sentence: “I’m not alone in thinking that women are uniquely able to help humanity avoid becoming enthralled to the more sterile cultural creations of men” — with sterile creations being “machines, weapons, ideologies, and so on.”

That is a musty trope, isn’t it? Yeesh. So I owe Rich thanks twice over. First, for letting me know that I wasn’t the only one to find these essays all but impenetrable. And second, for explaining what it was all about. For more on the illustrious history behind this, just click the link.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate