Sexual Politics

Man’s Thoughts and Woman’s Feelings

Do men have feelings? Are they in touch with them? The belief that men aren’t in touch with whatever feelings they have, while women are in touch with theirs, is central to a Western understanding of maleness and femaleness. It’s one of those truths that, while no longer fashionable, is true enough whenever it’s needed to demonstrate this, that or whatever. Before female heroes with male characteristics were mandated by feminism and Hollywood, the ability to resist the siren call of women’s feelings was a characteristic of the male hero.

This essay appears in April’s Quadrant.
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The belief was central to the Classical understanding of nature—the Correspondence theory of truth—where human nature and the natural order correspond. Each thing with an independent existence, say an apple or an orange, had attributes, qualities, essences necessary to their function or identity, without which they couldn’t be an apple or an orange. Gender essentialism is assigning masculine essences to males and feminine essences to females, assuming these are in some way grounded in nature as biological reality. Essences describe what’s innate or essential to any meaning given to an apple or orange, man or woman. Essentialism provided a rationale for taxonomy—the science of classification—at least until Darwin. It’s still normative, in those corners of the sciences where distinguishing between categories—apples and oranges, men and women—is still a requirement of sound methodology, although non-essentialist feminists don’t believe females have essences.

According to Plato’s theory of mind, the psyche is composed of three parts: a logical mind (logistikon) comparable with the head, a spirited mind (thymoeides) comparable with the heart, and an appetitive mind (epithymetikon) comparable with the lower abdomen. By crude analogy, the head is the most rational, because it’s the highest part of the body. The heart can produce noble feeling, provided it’s governed by the head. Sadly, noble feeling is easily corrupted by base appetite.

At some point, this theory was gendered by biological sex; males were linked with reason (the head); females were linked with feelings (the heart). Until recently, feminine intuition was construed as non-rational, therefore difficult to understand. At best, it was a balance, a corrective to male rationality. At worst, it was a recipe for chaos, an excuse for excluding females from the ordered male world. While these analogies are crude, and culturally determined, they endured for millennia.

According to Freud’s theory of mind, the psyche is also composed of three parts: conscious, unconscious and preconscious. While influential, Freud’s theory is derived from Plato’s. It’s metapsychological, which means it’s neither verifiable nor falsifiable in scientific terms. It’s opposed by the current hegemony of feminine–feminist psychology, which is a reaction against Freudian and other male-dominated views of women.

If maleness and femaleness are neither verifiable nor falsifiable in scientific terms, how can they be measured? What truth-claims can they be assigned in a world where the truth-claims of science take precedence? What happens when some sciences are driven by political imperatives or the need to create evidence for ideological agendas? This can be seen in climate science, essentially about ideologically motivated data modelling, and transgender science, essentially about creating evidence to support leftist ideology and behavioural contagion. These are the elephants in the rooms of feminised workforces—psychology, education, the law—where ideology and leftism are expressed in policy and legislated in practice.

In the law, for example, the burden of proof once meant “beyond reasonable doubt” but now means “not impossible”. At the Kavanaugh Senate hearing, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor of psychology who designs statistical models for research projects, was able to speak confidently about the brain science of remembering trauma, but was unable to remember when and where her sexual assault occurred, how she got to the party, or how she got home. Although her uncorroborated testimony was rejected she was thought a credible witness and has since received awards for courage. At the trial of George Pell, the verdict also rested on the perceived credibility of the uncorroborated witness rather than the remote probability of the assault occurring. The Kavanaugh Senate hearing and Pell trial are watershed moments in judicial politicisation; case studies of the feminist and leftist shift from “beyond reasonable doubt” to “not impossible”.

Then there’s Aspergers syndrome, which got its diagnostic code in 1994 but lost it less than twenty years later in 2013. By that time, the syndrome had gone the way of the Oedipus complex; popularised and randomly assigned by non-professionals. Since then, symptomatic individuals are included in the autism spectrum. What if anything can be made of the fact that the diagnosed are mainly male and the diagnosers are mainly female?

Aspergers is construed as a lack of non-verbal communication skills and an inability to understand the feelings of others. If most women know many men with symptoms, is that not because all such diagnoses now incorporate woman’s desire to read man’s mind, her frustration at his inability to read hers, and her newly-acquired power and influence in the diagnostic process? In this female future, does sound evidence still matter?

As the psychological and social science workforces become more feminised, their definition of evidence changes. This is true of qualitative research, which measures feelings. It’s useful when supporting quantitative research but means little by itself and is difficult to do well methodologically. It’s also true of psychometric tests originating in metapsychology: hence the disappearance of the Myers-Briggs personality indicator.

It’s a statistical fact that males are significantly more likely to be diagnosed on the autism spectrum than females. That doesn’t explain whether the phenomenon is caused by nature or nurture, although it does suggest males and females are different biologically, so feminists who promote extreme social constructionism are wrong. We live in a culture happy to diagnose Aspergers in males with a lack of non-verbal communication skills, and an inability to understand the feelings of others, because this fits in with current biases against masculinity. That same culture is unhappy about diagnosing females with anything politically incorrect which might challenge the constructionist, social-science biases of feminism.

Are biases wrong? In Truth and Method (1960), Hans-Georg Gadamer suggests that human nature is defined by prejudice. Some prejudices are true, others are false, and it’s the task of reason to distinguish legitimate prejudices from illegitimate ones. The question then becomes focused on rationality. Do males and females experience rationality differently? How is rationality performed in the constructionist environment of feminist hegemony? Does attitudinal, qualitative research, widespread in the female-dominated psychological and social sciences, answer the questions that need answering about rationality? The problem with qualitative research is not only its methodologies and sampling procedures, but the way they’re used, and the lowly position they command in the evidence hierarchy.

As women come to dominate more and more workforces, because the future is female, care is needed when prosecuting feminist demands, because all eyes are on the aspirational female, who is given the benefit of every doubt. One of the most confronting spectacles in recent years was watching a mob of women—deranged by #MeToo—screaming while pounding the doors of the US Senate during the Kavanaugh hearing, demanding the blood of Trump’s nominee, threatening to tear down patriarchy if they didn’t get their way. Many viewers must have wondered which is worse—life in a world man has built up, or life in a world woman is tearing down on her journey into whomever she wants to be or thinks she is. Regardless of whether it’s equality of opportunity, or equality of outcome, there must be better ways to win the hearts-and-minds campaign than mindlessly modelling Handmaid’s Tale costumes while trying not to look like collaborators.

Answers to many questions can be found in Jane Austen’s novels, as she explores the quid pro quo between men and women. In theory, women don’t need men. They have access to a menu of choices not available to Austen, who took the truth of male and female complementarity for granted. In practice, women still need their quid pro quo with men, because the life they can lead without men is somewhat limited.

Michael Giffin is a priest in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. He wrote “The Strange Death of Woman” in the March issue.


8 thoughts on “Man’s Thoughts and Woman’s Feelings

  • Lo says:

    Well, as a woman with a degree in applied science and a career in same, I am speechless.

  • ianl says:


    > ” … I am speechless”

    Afraid I don’t believe that.

  • lhackett01 says:

    Mythology and the power of the uneducated masses prevails. For too long, men have aquiesed to the vocal female lobby for the sake of peace and harmony. Qualative statements and “research” about the differences between men and women are without merit. If there are fundamental difference, as in genetics or “brain wiring”, then these can be determined absolutely by science, not opinion or qualatitive research.

    To argue thart there are no difference other than those imposed by conditioning is to ignore the obvious and extensive evidence of the diffferences throughout the natural world.

    Males and females are different and nature decrees different roles for each. That modern societies tend to smear the roles because of “political correctness” does not deny the underlying fact.

    When we stop feminising education to allow females to compete equally with males in the “stem” subjects (say) and we stop allowing females into occupations that require male strength and inate skills by changing the requirements at the cost of effectiveness, then Australian society particularly will be improved. Men and women are not the same and most of us are not equal. We need to recognize our abilities, inate and otherwise, and stop the madness of demanding equality, other than in rights and respect. The same applies in reverse to men.

  • norsaint says:

    What ianl said.
    Saul of Tarsus must have expounded his views on women for a reason. As Dr Johnson said, it was right that women once had so little power in society because nature gave them so much anyway.
    That’s all changed of course and now we’re living in a feminist dystopia. The public service bureaucracies in the west have exploded in size exponentially – basically they’re sheltered workshops for wimmin – but inimical to freedom and prosperity. Women shouldn’t be allowed within a bull’s roar of the law as Ferguson, Wallington and countless others in their quaint “specialist courts” prove day in, day out. I think the German philosopher Shopenhauer said they had little idea of justice. They certainly have none of liberty, probably because they never have to fight to defend or earn it. They also have a less than earnest disposition for truth. Womanly wiles does after-all, involve using subterfuge and fibs/lies/untruths/ to get what they want. Brute strength is out of the question. Until we reverse female emancipation, the west is doomed.

  • Stephen Due says:

    Gentlemen please! I must defend the honour of women. Certainly they are no less courageous, no less intelligent, no less creative, no less useful and hard-working, no less loyal, loving and kind, no less defenders of liberty and justice than are men, considered collectively.
    I think, however, your angst and the angst of the writer of this piece are justified for another reason. As women start to gain numerical parity with men in the workforce, we are seeing a huge shift in social dynamics. The role and responsibility of men as the family’s protector and provider is being eroded. This damages the self-respect of man. In addition, many of the manly careers in which men excelled, have vanished as factories are automated, and workplaces progressively feminised.
    But surely it is disrespectful and unmanly to write about women in a derogatory fashion? It is our noses, as men, that are out of joint, and we must work hard to restore men’s self-respect. Young men in particular need wise mentors to guide them into responsible, productive work suitable to their abilities and temperaments.
    A society of alienated, idle, directionless young males is a recipe for social disaster, as each one of them is a potential time-bomb in the family that could explode into violence at any time. Men must learn self-control. They cannot expect their wives to have to control them. They must learn to love and respect their wives. They must learn to take responsibility for their families. But they should also have a right to an education and a career that is productive and worthwhile.
    If anyone is at fault in this regard, I think it is governments, who have let policy be guided by a feminist narrative, without regard to the equally important needs of men. The move away from the natural family as the basic unit of society, in preference for ‘households’, is the root cause of much of the problem, in my view.

  • Pittacus66 says:

    “Do males and females experience rationality differently? How is rationality performed in the constructionist environment of feminist hegemony?”
    While it’s beyond my paygrade to comment, I did come across a statistic during the Brett Kavanaugh hearing that I found interesting—women are nearly 5 times more likely than men to show an automatic preference for their own gender [Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 87, No.4]

  • Richard H says:

    Readers who want to explore this question in more depth should look at Charles Murray’s book “Human Diversity”, published earlier this year. The book is a thorough summary of the social science research with sources fully documented, but is written in a style that is accessible to non-specialists.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    Henry: What in all in heaven could’ve prompted her to go,
    After such a triumph as the ball?
    What could’ve depressed her;
    What could’ve possessed her?
    I cannot understand the wretch at all.
    Women are irrational, that’s all there is to that!
    Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags!
    They’re nothing but exasperating, irritating,
    vacillating, calculating, agitating,
    Maddening and infuriating hags!

    [To Pickering]
    Pickering, why can’t a woman be more like a man?

    Pickering: I beg your pardon?

    Henry: Why is thinking something women never do?
    Why is logic never even tried?
    Straight’ning up their hair is all they ever do.
    Why don’t they straighten up the mess that’s inside?
    Why can’t a woman be more like a man?

    If I were a woman who’d been to a ball,
    Been hailed as a princess by one and by all;
    Would I start weeping like a bathtub over flowing?
    And carry on as if my home were in a tree?
    Would I run off and never tell me where I’m going?
    Why can’t a woman be like me?

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