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'It’s in women’s nature to be dominated by men'

Clem Bastow
Published: December 13, 2012 - 1:13PM

They shuffled around in “colour” pieces on current affairs shows, talking about how they’d given up all their power to their husbands, and how their lives had become that much happier since they decided to dedicate their days to kowtowing to The Man Of The House’s every whim. Their M.O made Destiny’s Child’s Cater 2 U read like a righteous screed of independence; Pru Goward memorably said of the movement, “There is no such thing as an adult who can entirely subvert themselves to another person. That's called slavery and I think we abolished that several hundred years ago.”

Well, I wonder if Fox News oped writer Suzanne Venker might have added Surrendered Wives to her bookmarks folder some years ago, because she’s back: after her mindblowing “war on men” twaddle, Venker has now announced that it’s in women’s nature to be dominated by men, and that all our romantic woes would be solved if we’d just learn to surrender.

In a rambling piece that can’t seem to decide if it’s a self-help column or a call to arms (or whatever a call to arms’ opposite is; I can’t tell you because reading Venker’s pieces has gaven me the dumb), Venker reckons that it’s our own damn fault that we’re all single and unhappy.

“If the ultimate goal is lasting love,” she says, “women are going to have to become comfortable with sacrifice and capitulation. Because those are the underpinnings of a long-term marriage – for both sexes. If you don’t believe me, ask your grandparents. Or anyone else who’s been married for decades.”

She drops some questionable “science” in her quest to get her fellow women to shut the hell up - and accept that they are genetically programmed to “nest” and “nurture” (while men “like to hunt”), chiefly Dr. Louann Brizendine’s The Female Brain. This is a book that was discredited in some quarters because it included such memorable snafus as sourcing “statistics” from a self-help author that turned out to be not just incorrect, but in fact, made up: “[R]eviewers for the British science journal Nature described the book as "riddled with scientific errors" [...] It turns out that the figures Brizendine reported had been taken from a book by a self-help guru who had simply pulled them out of the air.” Terrific!

What’s more sinister about Venker’s piece, however, is the way she makes it sound almost like a sort of feminism, employing the goals of the women’s lib movement to further her shonky ideas about how relationships work: “Surrendering to your femininity means many things. It means letting your man be the man despite  the fact that you’ve proved you’re his equal.”

See! You’re equal to a man! Rah rah, sisters! Now be quiet and cook dinner. It gets worse: “In other words, surrendering to your femininity means to put down your sword. It’s okay if your guy’s in charge. It’s okay if you don’t drive the car. In fact, it’s rather liberating.”

Equality, liberation: is this some sort of exercise in bogus reverse psychology, Suzanne? Did you read about that in a self-help book, too?

Fortunately I expect most people who subject themselves to Venker’s drivel in full are unlikely to come away with a renewed respect for the oh-so-functional relationship models of the 1950s (unfortunately for her, Revolutionary Road is likely still too fresh in most people’s minds). Only the truly daft believe that functional relationships can exist without compromise; they can, however, exist very nicely without “sacrifice and capitulation”.

But the fact that there are significant portions of the discourse being given over to this sort of retrograde tripe suggests that actual liberation - not the sort that Venker reckons magically descends when Hubby puts pedal to the metal - is still a way off. I don’t know about you, but I’m in no hurry to put down my sword just yet.

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