How successful men freed women but forgot to free themselves
Abigail, a typical 1890s woman, had eight children. She almost died twice in childbirth. By the lime her last child left the house, she was dead.
Cindy, a typical 1990s woman, was single until she was 25 After she married, she bore two children. When her last child left the house, she had another quarter century to live.
Abigail never heard of a freezer. Cindy could pull a whole meal out of one. It took Abigail all day to shop and cook for her family of ten. Cindy often picked up gourmet food, put it in the microwave, and was eating twenty minutes later (She often joked, 1 don’t cook dinner, 1 heat it.") On other evenings, she and her husband, Jeremy, took the kids to McDonald’s, or had pizza delivered, or Jeremy barbecued, or made Cindy’s favorite thing for dinner – a reservation. Both Cindy and Jeremy, though, did face expectations Abigail never faced (e. g., to play chauffeur, to provide a college education).
Abigail shopped by horse and buggy or by foot. Cindy or Jeremy shopped by car or by phone. Abigail got groceries between nine and five – what she forgot she never got. Cindy or Jeremy got groceries round the clock.
Abigail had to wash dishes after every meal. Cindy gave the dishes to a dishwasher. (Sometimes she didn’t touch the dishes at all – Jeremy or her older son did.) Abigail washed clothing by pumping water, building a fire to heat the water, and then using her own hands to scrub every inch. If it was raining or snowing, she hung the clothes around the house a clothespin at a time in corners she could find. Cindy set the right wash and dry cycles. (Sometimes she didn’t touch the wash at all – Jeremy or her older son did.)
Abigail sewed by calloused hand in a cold house by candlelight. Cindy and Jeremy picked up wrinkle-free blends from discount clothing stores. It июк Abigail two days to sew a shirt for one child, times a family of ten. It took Cindy or Jeremy twenty minutes at the discount clothing store to pick up shirts for both children.
Abigail had eight children’s needs focused on her. Cindy had two children’s needs focused partially on a TV. And Cindy had one other thing: a husband who knew how to nurture as well as discipline.
In 1990, Cindy could still choose to bake bread in the oven or sew a shirt by hand – but now it was by option, not obligation; now it was occasionally, not daily; now it was for pan of her adult life, not 100 percent of her adult life.
Did Cindy face pressures that Abigail never had? Absolutely. But those new pressures were rarely additions, but substitutes for her old burden. Had they been additions, women’s life span would not have increased by almost 50 percent since 1920.’
Why, then, did men’s life expectancy go from one year less than women’s in 1920 to seven years less today? Because men’s performances – inventing, manufacturing, selling, and distributing – saved women, but no one saved men from the pressure to perform. She went from being a baby machine, cooking machine, and cleaning machine, to having time for love. I le went from being a performing machine near the home to being a performing machine away from home. And having less time for love.
Men did a better job creating better homes and gardens for their wives than they did creating safer coal mines and construction sites for themselves. Few cared that only men died by thousands clearing paths through mountains to lay roads for cars and tracks for trains that allowed the rest of civilization to be served in a dining car.
The location of a man’s work disconnected him from the people he loved, thus depriving his life of meaning. . . creating little deaths every day. And if he succeeded in all this, he became a male machine, if he failed, he suffered humiliation. Either way, the more he saved her, the sooner he died compared to her, leaving what he made to her and the children to spend. In these ways, successful men freed women but forgot to free themselves.
Despite this, feminists labeled ‘male technology" – and especially ‘male medical technology” – as a tool of the patriarchy designed to oppress women.6 So our entrance into Stage II was marked by criticizing men for the destruction to the environment created by a dam, but not acknowledging men for the electricity created by the dam, or asking women to take responsibility for the female consumption that also led to the demand for electricity that required more dams.
As for male medical technology, it was probably the single factor mast responsible for women’s life expectancy increasing by almost 50 percent. It prevented women from dying in childbirth and developed vaccines for almost all the contagious diseases (polio, diphtheria, typhoid fever, measles, chickenpox, bubonic plague, smallpox, tuberculosis).
During wartime, experimental drugs were often tried on men. If a drug failed, the man died But if a drug succeeded, it was used to save both women and men, but without women dying to develop it. Men were similarly used as guinea pigs in the development of emergency procedures, microwave ovens (a man was inadvertently "cooked" during the testing process7), and other advances that served both sexes. Later it was labeled sexism that physicians studied men more than women. No one labeled it sexism because men were used as guinea pigs more than women.
Feminists felt patriarchy and male technology conspired to restrict women’s reproductive freedom – women’s right to choose. But male technology created women’s right to choose – it created birth control. And it
created safe abortions. The male technology of birth control did more than any other single thing to reduce women’s work load; to move women from one-option sex to the only multi-option sex. Overall, technology led to the male role saving women more than the female role saved men. Ironically, some of the feminists who complained of male technology would have died in childbirth or via abortions without it. (They literally owed their lives to what they complained controlled their lives.)
Male technology did not create for men the equivalent right to choose. Thus, each lime a man had sex with a woman who said she was using birth control, he had to trust that she was, in fact, using it. If she wasn’t, he could be responsible for supporting a child for eighteen years. If a man used a condom but the woman later said she had nevertheless conceived, the Stage II unmarried woman now had the right to inform the man or not to inform him, to abort the fetus unilaterally or secretly put the child up for adoption; to raise it herself and make him pay the bills; or even raise it for ten years by herself without telling him it was his child and then sue him for child support retroactively. All this is legal.
Every woman knows that if there was only male birth control, she would not feel in control, she would feel out of control. Trust me" from a man is laughable; "trust me" from a woman is the law. Birth control created the right of women to choose and the expectation of men to trust. Today, every man who puts a penis in a woman’s body also puts his life in a woman’s hands.
In brief, male technology and male laws freed women from female biology as female destiny and created female biology as male destiny.