War and Conquest in a Gynocracy
Christopher Jolliffe examines male-female relations, virtue, and the concept of war, tracing historical instances from ancient Rome to the modern era, to argue against the dilution of traditional gender roles and the consequences of a society losing touch with its martial spirit.
Ancient Rome, if Livy is to be believed, was made possible by the kidnapping of the Sabine women. The Benjamites, in danger of extinction, abducted the maiden population of Jabesh-Gilead after sacking the city. Helen of Troy, who absconded with Paris, launched a thousand ships. Modern commentators are scandalised by such accounts; they’d prefer Wonder Woman 1984. But the past, like our nature, exists in spite of what we’d prefer.
A meme that went about a few years ago — that the only reason girls like camping is because it reminds them of being abducted and transported through foreign territory by an enemy tribe — rings true because the stakes of conquest are different between the sexes. Most things are different between the sexes, including virtue. Female virtue, properly cultivated, is the most generative force on earth. When it runs the other way, it is wantonly destructive. Our weak handle on female evil has led to vulnerability. This vulnerability is civilisational and existential.
Many commentators overstate the Longhouse. We do not live in a true gynocracy, because total gynocracy is as impossible as Wakanda. Our times are characterised by weak men moreso than strong women. Whatever power women wield in society is at the sufferance of men. Men today appear content to suffer a lot.
The Longhouse is not the reality of true female control, but the all-encompassing feminine ethic that has absorbed Western elite and middle-class values, an ethic that Western men have adopted. Why they did so could fill volumes. In large part it is because they were told. Accepting this dispensation contributed to the warping of our institutions that now seem beyond saving. These institutions enforce their whims with energy, even as the rest of society is enervated. They encourage women to be prideful and abrasive; they encourage men to be passive and fangless. In character they resemble a wicked stepmother.
It is also because old-fashioned virtue is hard, and the road has narrowed as our means of entertainment have become more expansive. Into the realm of entertainment has fallen relations between men and women. Other imperatives have faded. There are many providers now, and they ask little in return.
Unless everybody castrates themselves at the same moment, the fool who does ends up prey to the others.
In a physical contest women lose to men. Thus, their means of conflict are different. Effective in interpersonal relationships, the girlboss state does not bring to mind a superpower. Open conflict between women is usually avoided at all costs, and so conflict waged by a womanly state is likely to be rare, vacillating, and short-lived. War is not good for women.
Women suffer in war because their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers are killed. They suffer directly when war breaks its limited remit and cities are sacked or bombed into oblivion, or when they become spoils. Otherwise they wait for letters or black sails. Despite this, women encourage masculine virtù in healthy societies, because healthy societies know what both sexes are about. Ours is not healthy, hence our soft attitude toward war.
Yet war is worse for men. The son of Hector had his brains dashed on the walls of Troy. Every male occupant of Melos, as was the case in most protracted ancient sieges, was put to death upon conquest. Vercingetorix was strangled at the Temple of Jupiter before a baying crowd. Napoleon bayoneted and shot the defeated men at Jaffa. German prisoners of war languished in Soviet gulags for the better part of a decade; Russian prisoners of war starved in open fields. These are the highest stakes.
Men fight wars anyway. Boys fencing with sticks are practicing; sporting events dress rehearsals; the all-in gambler is not so different. This is of great consternation to feminists, who fill actual volumes on the subject. It is in our nature. In keeping with our nature, the warlike part has righteous and wicked elements. The righteous purpose of the warrior is to keep war from home. The rules of war tend to reflect this, but every generation or two, the rules are thrown out. This is in service to the arms race that is man’s lot on earth.
In defeat, men are killed and women are enslaved. It’s a crude version of “women and children first.” The stakes for women are generally secondary. They might end up like the Sabines, mothers to a different people. But they will remain mothers; their offspring will always be theirs. A change of status is not life or death. Modern women might have forgotten their purpose, but their purpose has not forgotten them. Other peoples will put them to it, while self-appointed spokeswomen wonder, in those voluminous works, how best to emasculate their own men.
They regard the wicked side of masculinity as a problem, as we all rightly should. But the answer to an unruly child is not to murder him, and evil exists in more forms than one. A society of castrati is a safe society, but it is not a generative one. Even if it could be done, ordinary women would have no interest in such a thing, because feminists do not represent them all and, like humanity generally, infrequently know what is in their interest.
War remains politics by other means, even if we like to pretend everybody is Hitler.
Ridding ourselves of masculinity serves as a version of the prisoner’s dilemma. A more masculinised society, unencumbered by notions of universal human rights, will maintain the advantage. Unless everybody castrates themselves at the same moment, the fool who does ends up prey to the others. A society that believes it has ascended beyond natural law, that for novelty’s sake makes bad versions of men out of women and bad versions of women out of men, does not know what it is about. The future, like the past, belongs to the great power that can best match man’s law to natural law.
Castrated men, in the figurative sense, are of no use to anybody. Knock-about male culture is instructive in creating useful males, the types women like. It is no good to pretend the buttery product of today’s zeitgeist is useful. Thucydides said that the society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools. Today’s society does no thinking, and increasingly looks as though it will do no fighting. We think no longer because our thinking is done for us. Thinking has become passive consumption, as have most other things. We consume information as we consume fast food. The result is intellectual morbidity.
We will do less fighting because military recruitment is similarly morbid in Western countries. This will worsen because Western women do not want babies, and foederati can’t be bound by ties solely temporal and pecuniary. Those long-lasting soldierly families who provided the iron of Western militaries are sending their sons elsewhere, in part because nobody wants to fight forever wars anymore. The forever wars were a mistake, because instead of acts of national interest and police actions, they were sold as moral crusades and liberalising missions. The over-zealous propaganda is essential because, since 1945, all war must have clear moral lines to dupe a voting public. War remains politics by other means, even if we like to pretend everybody is Hitler. No society does mass propaganda as well as contemporary democracies, but this doesn’t stop electorates from getting bored; listen to two women talking at a café. That’s today’s democracy, and nothing composed along those lines can fight lengthy wars effectively. The rest of it is explained by diversity quotas and the departure of the warrior spirit that together constitute the hubristic attempt to invert the natural order that proves so addictive to postmodern elites.
It remains to be seen if war by proxy, using automatons, is the future, as people have been suggesting for a long time. Drones will do our killing for us as, AI will write our battle plans, and pimply youths will command the future through an X-Box controller. In this imagining, the masculine warrior spirit is worse than useless; it is an encumbrance, prone to delusions of heroism. Yet all our technological innovations so far have not altered what it means to be human. They have merely made our lot better or worse depending. Warfare is unlikely to be different. The fantasies of technologists, all the way back to H. G. Wells, have never completely delivered.
Women must do their part, a part that has nothing to do with diversity quotas or military service or the delights of meaningless careers.
Ukraine demonstrates that artillery is still the king of battle, and war has always variated between mobility and its opposite, from the Hoplite to the Parthian to the Legionary to the Panzer. This is the axis war slides along; technology pushes it one way then the other. The human element remains constant, and does not seem poised to depart the scene, even if we’ve made an industrial abattoir of the thing. What will become of our depleted warrior ethos if we decide that, like so much else modernity promises, we can have only the detoothed bits we like? A safe war, like a safe playground, is the natural desire of the overprotective mother. There is nothing the overprotective mother won’t do to protect you, including unconditional surrender. Where are the Ernst Jüngers of today?
A society governed by a feminine ethos does not share the same sense of stakes as one dominated by a masculine ethos. Defeat in total war is a secondary stake for such a people, because life will go on. It might go on in slavery, but it will proceed apace. Death at Thermopylae is an unmistakeably male ethic. The daughters of the Sabines and Jabesh-Gilead made good; their sons went on to great things. For most modern women, female heroes are the suffragettes, who attained female suffrage through male sufferance. There could be no sufferance for Leonidas and his men, who fought when the sky went dark.
War might be a masculine preoccupation, yet for a reasonable future it is necessary but not sufficient that men remain men. Women must do their part, a part that has nothing to do with diversity quotas or military service or the delights of meaningless careers. The feminine impulse has broken its banks, and the masculine ebbs at low tide. A society like that, regardless of industrial output and defence spending, risks becoming prey. The society that reinforces chastity and unaffected femininity is the only society that has a sure future.