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De mulieribus Americanis

A common claim among dissatisfied men is that American women are the worst. European women, it is said, are are more feminine, less self-centered, and less concerned with their careers than their American counterparts.

American women do seem to be somewhat different. Even the northern and Germanic countries, which seem so single-mindedly egalitarian, have more traditional views of sex roles as a practical matter. It would be interesting to know more though. For example: do Europeans agree? What do American women say about American men? What do European men and women say about each other? And are the problems brand new or have they just gotten worse post-liberation?

Comments from foreigners suggest some background to the issue. Various observers, for example D. H. Lawrence and Bertrand Russell (see the comment by Mark Notzon), have complained about human relations and a general lack of emotional responsiveness in America. Read their comments. I wouldn’t choose those guys as authorities, but disordered people may be able to recognize disorders in others, and since Lawrence is talking more about men and Russell about women their comments seem to complement each other. Other less objectionable foreigners have also complained about life and human relations in America, that they’re superficial, that there’s no real friendship and so on.

It seems that women define themselves relationally, so a personally unsustaining environment might affect them more. Some say that there haven’t been many good female characters in American literature, which may suggest that the feminine character is not at home in America and doesn’t develop well here. Or maybe the problem is that America is based on contract and mobility, and doesn’t have much cultural depth, so male and female become caricatures of themselves, and the feminine character doesn’t do well caricatured. Barbie seems more stupid and useless than GI Joe, for example. Also, America emphasizes the useful over the lovely, and an obtuse and graceless woman seems worse than an obtuse and graceless man.

It’s hard to find a neutral judge of such matters. Kay Hymowitz and Maggie Gallagher would no doubt tell us that American women are just what they should be so the problem is the men, but if the complaints about American women are correct that is exactly what they would say. So it seems each is left to his own devices.

Thoughts? Theories? Rants? Raves?

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Those countries, especially Sweden, have embraced radical sexual egalitarianism to quite a degree; not merely in being pioneers in having women in high political office, but also, within relationships. And Sweden has really gone on a push to try to encourage parents to raise children ‘gender-neutral’, as far as, don’t dress boys in blue or girls in pink; give girls toy cars and boys dolls, etc.

So, I don’t know that northern Germanics (I wouldn’t think of the Dutch as particularly northern, for that matter) are any less feminist than North Americans, really.

“Northern Germanic” probably should have been “northern and Germanic” or some such. Maybe I’ll change it. Regarding Scandinavia, we’d have to get testimony from people who know American and Scandinavian women and how ideology filters down into daily life there. I remember talking to someone 10-15 years ago who insisted that at the level of daily social customs and interactions the Swedes were much more traditional and patriarchal than the Americans. That may have changed of course, and I’ve heard that the Swedes in particular are considered insane even by other Scandinavians..

Rem tene, verba sequentur.