Saturday, 27 February 2016

Transcript | Feminism: Decline of the family and erosion of freedom

I was asked to speak at the Essentials of Freedom Conference hosted by the Economic Association of Alberta yesterday. EAA is a right wing libertarian group who asked me to speak in 2014 on the topic of political correctness. Footage of that brief speech can be found here.

Footage of this event will be uploaded eventually, at which point I'll post a link, but I wanted to post the transcript here for posterity. 

A lot of you who are familiar with this topic might think that feminism’s war against the nuclear family began in the 1960s with the second wave. Prominent writers, activists and thought leaders of that era certainly seemed to have quite the bone to pick with men, the nuclear family and the institution of marriage. 

Robin Morgan, Catherine McKinnon, Linda Gordon, Sheila Cronin, Andrea Dworkin, and others all viciously attacked marriage above and beyond any other foundational institution of society.

From Dworkin: “Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice.”

Gordon: “The nuclear family must be destroyed… Whatever its ultimate meaning, the break-up of families now is an objectively revolutionary process.”

Cronin: “Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage.”

Saner and more sedate feminists of the second wave objected to this kind of rhetoric. When equity feminist Christina Hoff Sommers told her husband what hardliners were saying about marriage and slavery, he reportedly asked her, “Which one of us is the master and which one of us is the slave again?”

But the feminist evolution of family life and marriage began long before the second wave. It was born in the discontent and resentments of radical suffragettes and militant feminists over a hundred years before. These women, some of whom you might be familiar with, also had many, many bones to pick with marriage as an institution, and family as a social construct.

1848 was a very interesting year for western civilization. It was notably the year the Communist Manifesto was published, but it was also in 1848 that another manifesto was published. This manifesto, known as the Declaration of Sentiments, was the end product of an historic conference on women’s rights held in Seneca Falls, New York. 

These two documents share some striking similarities. While the communist manifesto described society in terms of the class oppression by the elites of the working classes and called for revolution, the declaration of sentiments described society in terms of the class oppression by men of women. And it, too, called for revolution.

And a revolution followed.

According to the declaration of sentiments, 

“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.”

The document goes on to describe some of these injuries and usurpations. For the purposes of my talk, I will concentrate on those that relate to marriage and family:

He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.

He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes of divorce, in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given; as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of the women [please keep that word--"happiness"--in mind as we continue]—the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of a man [and keep in mind the word "supremacy", as well], and giving all power into his hands.

If I had an hour or three, I could explain to you all how these grievances are based on half-truths at best, false premises at worst. But in the limited time I have here, I will hopefully be able to convey to you the nature of the juggernaut that was unleashed at Seneca Falls with the publishing of this document, and how it has corrupted the relationship between men and women in western societies. 

I’m going to talk about two of the solutions feminism applied to these grievances, and how those solutions have undermined the institution of marriage and family.

At the time of the publishing of the Declaration of Sentiments, the body of laws governing men’s and women’s status within marriage was called coverture. The focus of these laws was to provide a realistic balance of rights and responsibilities between husbands and wives. Given the era we’re talking about, this necessitated a different set of rights and responsibilities between husband and wife, with the bulk of both the authority and obligations for the family resting on the husband. 

To put it plainly, coverture held a man 100% accountable for all the material necessities of himself, his wife and any children born into the marriage. Failure to do so to a reasonable standard meant social death for a man, and, sometimes, criminal prosecution under abandonment laws. As such, he held authority over jointly held property and the incomes of all family members. 

The flipside of this is that women bore no accountability for any of the material necessities of themselves, their husbands or their children. And, as such, they were granted subordinate rights as to the administration of income and property. 

Not NO rights, mind you. Different ones. And they were also granted legal protections and entitlements within the body of the laws—things like dower rights, which required a man to obtain his wife’s permission before selling a house he owned, due to her life interest in the property. A man was, essentially, barred from selling his house out from under his wife and putting her in the street. 

While single women could hold property and earn income, and enter into contracts, in their own names, once they married, they came under the umbrella of coverture laws.

Beginning in the 1860s, that began to change across the western world. Through legislation and legal precedent lobbied for by feminists, women’s legal right to property within marriage gradually took on the aspect of, “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is ours.”

This led to a number of legal complications. A married woman could, legally, enter into a contract like a loan, but it was her husband who was ultimately responsible for paying it back. She was assigned taxes on her income and property, but it was her husband who was ultimately responsible for paying them. And of course, he was forced by law to do so AFTER paying for all of her material necessities, and his, and the children’s, out of his own income. 

At the same time, he had lost any right or claim to administer her income and property, or to even demand she provide him documentation of it. He became entirely reliant on her voluntary goodwill and sense of personal responsibility to not abuse this imbalance of power. 

And, if you were so inclined, you could find some interesting stories from around 1910 of men jailed for tax evasion when their wealthy wives refused to pay their taxes, or to provide their husbands the necessary documentation to do so. 

When coverture laws were in effect, there were laws protecting women from a husband’s potential abuse of his greater authority. 

When feminists began dismantling that body of laws, they put nothing in place to protect men from a wife’s abuse of her new legal authority.

And abuse it, some women did, particularly in the case of legal separation. So long as neither party to the marriage could prove just cause for dissolving it, divorce was out of the question. But there were women who, for whatever reason, legally separated from their husbands, set up a separate residence at his expense, and were entitled to monthly alimony. Even if they were capable of supporting themselves, and even if they earned more money than their husbands. And if, after 5 or 10 years of legal separation, such a woman decided she wanted to move back in with her husband and he refused to take her back into his home? Yes, he could be charged with a crime—abandonment.

Alimony reform societies began to crop up in the US in the early 1900s through the 1920s, many of them led by enthusiastic and principled spokeswomen and promoted by female lawyers, judges and magistrates, to address the plight of the thousands of men mired in the limbo of legal separation and indefinite alimony, with no hope of remarrying or ever having legitimate children.

I can’t imagine this state of affairs did much to make marriage an attractive prospect for a man. I think such an arrangement might, to a man who had an understanding of the law, look like financial servitude. You know, like slavery. 

It would not be until after the failure in the 1960s of the Equal Rights Amendment in the US before case law began to catch up with this extraordinary situation regarding a married woman’s right to hold property as if she were single, while being entitled to the full financial support of her husband. 

How was this change brought about? Did feminists suddenly realize such a situation was unfair to husbands? Nope. They were vexed by the fact that, when applying for a loan, a woman was required by most lenders to provide the cosignature of the man who would be held ultimately responsible for repayment of the debt if she defaulted. 

They deemed this state of affairs to be “arbitrary sexism against women.” Only after this practice  by lenders had been made illegal did case law finally begin to catch up to the new reality, and women finally became legally responsible for debts they’d unilaterally entered into, and equally responsible for joint debts within marriage. 

But perhaps what had the greatest impact on the status of families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was something called the Tender Years Doctrine.

This legal innovation, which has its origins in feminist advocacy in the UK in 1839, and was further expanded in 1873, changed the presumption of custody of a couple’s children following divorce from default father custody to default mother custody. 

Keep in mind, this set of legal standards and policies did not rest on the fitness, or lack thereof, of any particular parent, or the best interests of any particular child, but on the assumption that sole mother custody was in the best interest of all children.

Keep in mind as well, this new legal standard did not affect the financial responsibilities of either parent toward the children. The father still bore sole financial responsibility to maintain the household of his minor children, of which his ex wife was now the head. This necessarily meant that no matter who was at fault for the divorce, and no matter what the incomes of either party, it fell to the man to provide material support to his children, their household and their legal custodian and guardian.

In other words, back under the misogyny of coverture laws, men got the kids, and they also got the bill, and feminists deemed that to be “male supremacy”.

Under feminism? Women got the kids, and… well, men still got the bill. And not just the bill for the kids, but for his ex-wife who was now entitled to his support as the legal custodian and guardian of his children. A man was now responsible for supporting a family of which he was no longer a member, and within which he had no paternal rights. 

From the UK, the doctrine spread across the western world, because it served "women’s happiness."

Once it was in place, despite the extreme difficulty involved in obtaining a divorce at the time, the divorce rate, which had been consistently low for centuries, rose 15 fold in just 50 years.

These reforms essentially turned family break-up into a profitable enterprise for many women, removing the costs to women of separation and divorce, and tilting the balance of rights and obligations within marriage, and post-divorce, fully in women’s favor.

It was so profitable, in fact, that in the US in the 1910s and 20s, there were scam artists whose con was to marry a man, legally separate from him and collect alimony, move to another jurisdiction and take on an alias, marry another man, then legally separate from HIM… and, well, there were some women who were married to, and simultaneously collecting alimony from, 4 or 5 different men before they were caught and prosecuted—usually not for financial fraud, but for polygamy. 

Which I suppose was good news for the first poor guy she targeted, as he at least now had grounds for divorce and could now remarry.

Yep. Stuff you’ll never hear about in a gender studies class…

Yet despite all of this, by the 1960s, feminists seemed less enamored of marriage than ever. Betty Friedan famously called the institution a “comfortable concentration camp” in her 1963 breakout bestseller, “The Feminine Mystique.” The book was an interesting new take on the oppression of women, in that its thesis seemed to be that married middle class women were oppressed by boredom more than anything else. Modern conveniences had made the life of a middle class housewife so easy, she now had plenty of time to ruminate on how awful everything was. 

Less generous in her description of marriage was author and scholar Marylin French, who said:

"All patriarchists exalt the home and family as sacred, demanding it remain inviolate from prying eyes. Men want privacy for their violations of women... All women learn in childhood that women as a sex are men's prey."

The 1960s saw a massive spike in divorce rates in the US as a concerted campaign of slander against men, and “patriarchal” institutions such as marriage and family, began with political leaflets, small press magazines and books and protest rallies, from there, seeping into news media and popular culture. 

Hating men was the new black. All the cool kids were doing it. 

Following so closely on this spike in divorce that the lines on a graph are nearly indistinguishable from each other, was what would become a 30 year rise in the rates of crime. 

Why? Well, however a given woman might feel about divorcing her husband, it’s almost never very good news for the kids. 

Growing up without a father in the home is correlated with 2 to 10 times higher rates of being suspended or expelled from school, dropping out at all levels of education, not going to college at all, committing crimes, suffering depression, anxiety and behavioral disorders, becoming victims of violence and abuse, becoming teenage parents, having children outside of long term relationships, and committing suicide. They also have a much higher likelihood of getting involved in gangs, abusing alcohol and drugs, and being incarcerated as juveniles and adults. 

Statistically, the situation in which a child is most likely to suffer physical abuse or targeted neglect is in the sole physical custody of a single parent mother. 

Statistically, the situation in which children are safest and most likely to do well in life is in an intact family that includes their biological father. 

And for all of feminism’s rhetoric about domestic violence against women and the oppression of the marital institution? An intact family is the safest place for a woman, too. 

And yet every single reform to marital and family law over the last 150 years, most of it at the behest of the feminist lobby, has been to facilitate divorce and family break-up, and to physically separate men from their own children if the mother sees fit. 

More than this, feminism has helped to normalize the unilateral decision by many women to create families without the consent, cooperation or involvement of fathers. Under feminism’s watch, the word family has morphed into the phrase “women and their children”. In defiance of every credible piece of social science and social psychology research, fathers are now considered unnecessary to children, a superfluous luxury at best, a potential abuser at worst. 

And what does this mean for freedom? 

First off, it means more kids, particularly boys, being shunted into the school to prison pipeline. It means shifting the dependence of mothers from dependence on a marriage partner to dependence on state social programs and subsidies. It means men being jailed for the crime of being laid off and unable to comply with child support orders. It means the government taking money from men, shaving off their nickel or dime or quarter, and handing what’s left to women and children. It means massive government bureaucracies and legal structures that are ever more interested in micromanaging relationships between men and women, and between parents and their children.

It means the erosion of due process protections whenever an allegation is made of a man harming a woman, particularly if she is his intimate partner. 

It means protection orders that can be obtained within minutes at the drop of a hat without any evidence, or even any CLAIM, by a woman that her husband is violent—just the suggestion that she’s worried he might become violent.

It means ever bigger and hungrier government systems to deal with it all. It means higher taxes, more people in prison, and the government getting to decide how often a man will see his children, under what conditions, and how much he will have to pay for the privilege. 

Just a month ago, I received a phone call out of the blue from a complete stranger, the distraught brother of a man in Northern Alberta who’d been jailed on several charges.

His wife, a drug addict, had left the family home, abandoning him and their two children for almost a year. He made do for that year as a single father while dealing with occasional court appearances regarding custody of the children, appearances brought by his estranged wife, but for which she mostly didn’t bother to show up. 

One night, a couple of months ago, she showed up at his door asking to stay the night and suggesting they reconcile. He allowed her to sleep on the couch. In the middle of the night, she removed the kids from the home and took them to a domestic violence shelter less than two blocks away. The staff there helped her to apply for an emergency order of protection, which she was granted, and to file a police report alleging he’d physically abused her.  

The next day he was picked up by police on the domestic violence complaint, and was jailed for violation of a protection order he, until that point, had no idea existed. How was he in violation? His home was less than 500 meters from the domestic violence shelter his wife had absconded to. 

He'd had no idea there was a protection order, and no idea where she had gone with his children, but he was in violation, so off to jail he went.

False allegations of domestic violence and child abuse have become known to family court judges and family lawyers as “part of the gamesmanship of divorce”. Such allegations can be brought by both men and women, but because of feminist influence on policy, it is overwhelmingly women who bring them, and overwhelmingly women who are ultimately successful at winning the jackpot through their abuse of process. 

There are typically no penalties assigned for lying about abuse in a family court, and accusers are rarely prosecuted after making false criminal allegations of abuse to bolster their case in a divorce or custody dispute.

We have weaponized a system of laws and policies regarding family violence and protection of women that, while well-intentioned, violate our constitutional protections. 

More broadly in terms of feminism’s war on the family and its impact on wider society, I want to tell you about a small, poor ostensibly matriarchal culture called the Mosuo that exists in China, near its border with Tibet. They have no land worth stealing, produce little more than what they need to survive, most don’t have electricity or running water, and all of their technology has been borrowed from other cultures. They’ve become little more than a tourist attraction, tourism now forming the bulk of their tiny economy.

They have a very different form of marriage from us, and their neighbors, sometimes called “visiting” or “walking” marriage. What this amounts to is that a man might visit the room of his spouse after dark and must return to the communal quarters of his own family’s home before dawn. The children belong to the mother and are raised by her and her brothers, sisters and cousins. The father might provide the child with small gifts, but is not expected to invest anything in its care or upbringing--in fact, he's discouraged from doing so.

At the same time, the social organization of the mosuo was historically feudal, and historically the elites practiced a more traditional form of marriage. 

Anthropologists have speculated that the “visiting marriage” system had been imposed on the serf class by the elites in order to weaken their social fabric and eliminate any possible threat to the power of the elites to subjugate them. 

If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. 

We have seen an unprecedented cultural shift since feminism from the expectation of self-sufficiency to one where the state’s got everything taken care of. 

From our expectation of both men and women to make responsible reproductive choices that will facilitate positive outcomes for kids, to one where family courts willingly handicap kids in the name of the best interests of the child. 

Where one of the data points officials in the US use to determine how many prisons need to be built is the reading scores of 8 year old boys. 

And all the while, government gets bigger and more powerful and feminists lobby for ever more draconian measures to protect women and children from the very people who are the least likely to harm them—their husbands and fathers—and the very people who are most likely to shield them from poverty, harm and adversity.

The nuclear family is the foundation of every successful civilization, and what makes our families different from the families of our closest primate relatives—gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees—and, indeed, from EVERY other species of mammal on the planet, is the expectation of voluntary investment, physical, financial, emotional and psychological, of every father in the children they help create.

You know. Marriage.

Feminists called that the enslavement of women, and were determined to destroy it. And we are now beginning to reap what they’ve sown. Millennial men are the first generation of young men in the US who will be, on average, less educated than their fathers. Young black men in the US have a 75% chance of being raised without a dad in the home, and a 33% likelihood of spending time behind bars.

Our social fabric is disintegrating from the bottom up, leaving all of us vulnerable. And whether this is merely the law of unintended consequences at work, or a tin-foil hat conspiracy by people with power and influence, the result will be the same. 

A bigger, more powerful, more intrusive government and an erosion of all our individual freedoms. 


  1. Great speech!

    One might note that the woman credited as the progenitor of the Tender Years Doctrine, Caroline Norton, fought her husband using exactly those privileges you describe.

    The account of her and her husband is hardly impartial, but one can glean that she was living above their (his) means - "the lifestyle she was accustomed to" - and he was unable to control her. He beat her (according to her), she cheated on him (according to him), and she finally left him. She started making money as a writer, and obviously didn't share that income with him, and she later started running up debt that he was forced to pay.

    Ironically, once she had helped get the Infant Custody Bill signed into law, her husband had fled with their sons to Scotland, outside English jurisdiction.

    Caroline Norton, feminist hero.

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  2. What an extraordinary essay. Gave you ten bucks for it.

  3. What an extraordinary essay. Gave you ten bucks for it.

  4. "“Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this institution."

    And yet in the end it is men who are abandoning the institution. Women kept marrying right through all this theorizing because they apparently saw things differently. it is the MGTOWS who agree that marriage is slavery.

  5. And people wonder why I get angry at feminism. Maybe because it's a major contributing factor - arguably flat-out the cause - of my civilization slowly unravelling and the social fabric of my people being torn apart.

  6. another really good write up by Karen.

    But I think the system is so stupidly blind that it will take an actual collapse before they wake up to their own part in their own demise... I notice the MGTOW movement is constantly growing in spite of continual bad mouthing... why is that? could it have anything to do with reality? you bet!

    1. I think you're too optimistic. A collapse isn't going to make everyone magically understand what they didn't before. They're not going to learn anything from it. They'll never wake up.

  7. Hello Karen,
    I'm somewhat new to your blog and channel but always try to watch videos with you in them when I have time. Correct me if Im wrong but in many of your speeches, videos etc. you mostly point out the inequalities between men and women and the damage it causes to men. I do find this very important. I was wondering however if you had any solutions for some of the problems. Like if a man's rights group similar to NOW were to go to the goverment and say "This is what we want", what would you want them to say? Should these issues be addressed legally or more in a general social way?

    When I think of the topic of divorce involving children, there seems to be no way to make it perfectly fair and 50/50, so how should the courts approach such situations?

    Regarding child support what might you suggest to be a fair solution? I agree that it is shitty that a father is forced to have to pay for a child that he didnt want and may not even be permitted to see. But Im curious to know what you or for that matter anyone would like to see happen to make this more equal.

    When I think about reproductive rights I think we can all agree that it is an asymetrical issue concidering the biological facts of reproduction which makes prioritizing the rights of the of the baby, father and mother a very difficult topic to which there is no perfect answer.

    Im interested in your opinion/solutions on those issues where men currently draw the shittier end of the stick regarding issues to which there is no perfectly equal solution. Things like quotas having a very simple solution...that is, get rid of them.

    Keep up the great work!

  8. A little off topic, but have you seen this?

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  9. Damn, you were speaking in Edmonton and I missed it. Would be cool if you had a public appearance schedule posted

  10. Karen, I don't say this likely: this was brilliant.

  11. I wasn't aware of the historical precedents. Thank you.

  12. I wasn't aware of the historical precedents. Thank you.

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