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

"Unfortunately for [the author] Revolutionary Road is likely still too fresh in most people’s minds."

"Unfortunately for [the author] Revolutionary Road is likely still too fresh in most people’s minds."

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.

74 comments

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

    Ehrmmm...none of the women I know ever seem to have got that memo. Maybe they are all just fighting against their nature. If so they appear to have the upper hand in the bout.

    Commenter
    Redsaunas
    Date and time
    December 14, 2012, 7:45AM
    • So some fool on a minor (it is really doesn't have that big an audience or influence despite the belief of many) cable TV station in the US says something moronic and we get an article out of it. This tends to point to US centric world view of our author more than anything

      Commenter
      Carstendog
      Location
      Here
      Date and time
      December 14, 2012, 10:02AM
    • If it's true, then it's also in men's nature to be dominated by women.

      Half of the disagreements I have with my wife I find are best solved by simply throwing up my hands, realising that it isn't worth the battle and giving in to whatever she wants.

      I'm sure she does the same to me sometimes.

      Commenter
      Christian
      Date and time
      December 14, 2012, 10:53AM
    • I wrote my honours thesis on a topic similar to this but in relation to the implications of the human nature concept on women and non-human animals. The entire humanist and patriarchal framework insists that there is an inherent human nature that dictates our interaction with others and creates a hierarchy and logic of domination between men, women, animals etc. I think it is so important to challenge the idea of human nature because it is a social construct used to perpetuate discrimination and oppression.

      Commenter
      toucans
      Date and time
      December 14, 2012, 11:00AM
  • How hilarious - do people actually still believe this sort of rubbish? In our house of one woman, two teenage daughters, three female animals and one husband, the suggestion that men are the 'dominant sex' is met with gales of laughter. We know who wears the pants in our house and we would suggest that this is the norm, based on our peer group.

    Commenter
    Wearing the pants
    Location
    Brunswick
    Date and time
    December 14, 2012, 8:01AM
    • Seriously, when people suggest to me that men are in control of society, I find that concept so alien to my own experience that I can't help laughing.

      Ultimately, it's always been the women in my life and in the life of the people I know who have been the final arbiter - if they had their mind set on something, woe betide him who failed to give them what they wanted.

      Commenter
      Christian
      Date and time
      December 14, 2012, 10:58AM
    • Sounds like you treat your husband really well then.

      The point is meant to be you both wear the pants or both don't wear the pants. Whatever.

      Equality means that neither dominates over the other.

      You and your daughters laugh at your husband? How awful.

      Commenter
      Adrian
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      December 14, 2012, 12:02PM
    • Hi Wearing...

      I'm all for equality between the sexes ... but the way you have worded it makes me feel a bit sorry for our husband. (I always feel for the outnumbered/oppressed/bullied)

      Commenter
      markx
      Date and time
      December 14, 2012, 12:45PM
  • I suspect some women will agree with Venker & some will agree with Bastow but the vast majority will be neither one nor the other. There's a fair bit of validity in both points of view but neither could be considered the definitive answer. To dominate or be dominated? Depends...............

    Commenter
    Basil
    Location
    Hobart
    Date and time
    December 14, 2012, 8:18AM
    • Or maybe - revolutionary idea - to be equal?

      Commenter
      pb
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      December 14, 2012, 10:25AM

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