I recently perused a book lying around the dentist's waiting room. As it seemed to be the work of an Anglo-American woman, I expected the usual farrago of puritanical, 'me, me, me,' misandrist nonsense. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find Debra Ollivier's What French Women Know offered some interesting insights on the Anglobitch phenomenon. The author is an Anglo-American expat female who married and settled in France. This has given her an unusual cross-cultural perspective. For example, she is aware that Anglo feminism is uniquely misandrist:
Though France has always been the land of love, let's not forget that it has also always been the land of sexism. That said, French women never danced on the hot coals of American-style feminism; their feminism burned with less militancy and lacked, as French historian Mona Ozouf saw it, the "unparalleled dimensions and unprecedented ferocity" of its Anglo counterpart. Put in racier terms, journalist Justine De Lacy pointed out in The New York Times during feminism's heyday that "French women, after all, did not exactly remove veils upon liberation; many did remove bras, but this was more in celebration than in protest against the female condition."
Precisely. And so it's come to pass (a turn of phrase that prunes away decades of complicated suffragette culture we simply can't squeeze into these pages) that enjoying the perks of femininity does not implicate French women in a plot to sustain their inadequacy, any more than sharing a deep complicity with men implies an abandonment of power. On the contrary, it tends to imbue them with a particular strength and commonsense wisdom about men that's been obscured in the Sturm und Drang of our gender-conflicted times.
However, her most interesting insight into the Anglobitch phenomenon involves her analysis of Anglo-American feminism's 'homosociality': a deep-embedded puritanical tendency for the sexes to be segregated from earliest childhood, leaving little room for mutual understanding and ultimately leading to an implicitly misandrist form of feminism:
Not long ago my husband saw an American ad for a mainstream cruise line selling Ladies Only cruises that featured a photo of women beaming together in what looked like a tropical paradise. I don't recall the headline, but I do remember my husband asking of the ad: "Are those women happy gay ... or gay gay?" It hardly seemed to matter. The point was that men were out of the picture and these women were overjoyed about it.
Indeed female-bonding industries are blooming all over the country, catering to the desire to keep men out of our hair - and provide welcome relief in the process. "I'd rather spend the evening with my rabbit than go out and deal with men," says Charlotte York in an episode of Sex and the City - and she isn't speaking of a fuzzy bunny. Maureen Dowd's Are Men Necessary? says it all in the title alone.
Think about it: by French standards we Anglos do indeed socialize in great same-sex packs. We have our Ladies Nights, our bachelor parties, and our chick nights; we have our bridesmaids and our grooms and even our ex-wives clubs. We have our sororities and our fraternities (which literally don't exist in France and which, once explained to the baffled French, appear medieval with their feuding same-sex
fiefdoms). We have such a stunning array of gender-specinc bars, associations, networks, and groups that 0 magazine headlined a recent article on bar-hopping, ladies-only, tail-guzzling excesses with the alarming question: ARE GIRLS THE NEW GUYS? Talk about a new spin on gender studies.
At a more theoretical level, it seems that serious French thinkers are well aware of this puritanical gender-distinction in Anglo culture:
"Men and women were separated socially in your society," social scientist Alain Giami once elabo¬rated in a phone discussion. "That's a very important historical element that distinguishes Anglo-Saxon culture and French culture. You have much more 'homosociality' in your culture." Let us forgive Giami the unbearably anthropological ring of the word homosociality and consider that he has a point.
Recollecting her own youth and childhood in the United States (presumably in some bourgeois enclave), the author cites many examples of homosociality at work:
...though even in the playgrounds of my youth and during some of feminism's brightest moments, I could recall the enduring seeds of "homosociality" in the way boys and girls were often segregated. (The day we were ushered into the school auditorium with the solemnity of a slightly alarming liturgical rite to watch gender-specific sex education films comes immediately to mind.)
Awareness of homosociality and its potential problems in fact enjoys a long and illustrious history in the francophone world. Many French writers - or expatriate Anglo-Americans viewing the Anglosphere from afar - have long made pithy comments on the effects of Anglo-American puritanism. The rather one-dimensional, blinkered nature of Anglo women is one particularly well-worn topic:
Like Alain Giami, Madame de Stael had a point, and it's interesting to note how that point has been observed by those who followed in her footsteps. A quick sampling of quotes over the centuries:
Alexis de Tocqueville took one good hard look at America's growing colonies and noted: "America is the one country in the world where the most continual care has been taken to trace clearly separated lines of action for the two sexes, and where the wish is for them to walk with equal steps, but always on different paths."
Living in France, Edith Wharton observed her American sisters from afar and offered these harsh words: "It is because American women are each other's only audience, and to a great extent each other's only companions, that they seem, compared to women who play an intellectual and social part in the lives of men, like children in a baby school." (Ouch.)
Of course, the Anglobitch Thesis maintains that Anglo feminism has always been an expression of Anglo values, not any kind of revolt against them. Ollivier's experience strongly confirms this. Most interestingly, the author also links the Anglo 'Princess Cult' to Anglo homosociality:
It's in accepting perfectly imperfect human emotions, with a certain realistic snap to her gait, that the French woman goes into marriage (if she goes into it at all, that is). And because she doesn't live with the enduring belief in Happily Ever After, the French woman also doesn't live under the shadow of its biggest mascot: the princess.
There's no denying that as the largest girl franchise on the planet, the princess is nothing if not spectacular in America. It's equally hard to deny the sagesse in the observations of Peggy Orenstein, who once opined in a New York Times piece ("What's Wrong with Cinderella?") that beyond the happy pink patina something cruel and unhappy looms. "There are no studies proving that playing princess directly damages girls' self-esteem," she writes. "But there is evidence that young women who hold the most conventionally feminine beliefs - who avoid conflict and think they should be perpetually nice and pretty - are more likely to be depressed." Orenstein goes on to describe that emotional axis of evil that snares the princess in the "paralyzing pressure to be 'pert' ...
In short, conditions like anorexia are merely expressions of Anglo puritanism and homosociality, not pathologies as such. Though there are problems with this book - for example, do these concepts apply beyond the French/American upper-middle class? - one cannot but feel that she is 'onto something' in her superficial, feminine way. Ultimately, there can be little doubt that the terrible relations between the sexes across the Anglosphere owe much to the puritanical homosociality at the root of Anglo culture:
Readers, let us bite into the Big Camembert with this: In France men and women actually like one another. A lot. There is no Anglo-style war of the sexes going on. French men and women actually want to be together. They enjoy their mutual company. They spar. They debate. They flirt. They seek out one another's company in a multiplicity of social settings. Anyone who's dined with the French will be struck by the boy-girl-boy-girl seating arrangements imposed by the host or hostess. This is more than simply stuffy protocol, of which the French are, of course, connoisseurs.
The Ubiquity of Anglo Homosociality
Anglo homo-sociality is so all-pervasive as to be ‘transparent’. Like air, it is everywhere, but we have ceased to notice it. The phenomenological philosophical school offers a profound explanation of this phenomenon, which can greatly enrich our understanding of the Anglobitch situation/disaster currently engulfing the Anglosphere. A good example of a ‘transparency process’ cited by German philosopher Martin Heidegger is learning to drive.
At first, the basic elements of driving present a huge obstacle to the learner. Steering, changing gears and using the indicators are all, initially, onerous tasks requiring considerable effort. As the learner progresses, familiarity with these tasks renders them ‘transparent’. They become so intimately enmeshed in our conscious being that we cease to ‘notice’ them. Heidegger also cites professional athletes whose mastery of ball or racquet reveals an absolute intimacy with items outside their own bodies: in short, the ball or racquet has become totally ‘transparent’. In some respects, this profound philosophy echoes the ideas of Antonio Gramsci: that an all pervasive hegemony rules every complex society, proving its framework of ‘common-sense’.
Of course, in time any hegemony will become ‘transparent’, just as driving becomes transparent. Sheer familiarity makes it so. Only when we step outside our own hegemony or venture into another do we truly perceive our own hegemonic indoctrination. What we considered ‘self-evident’ is revealed as entirely arbitrary, but one lifestyle among many.
In a general sense, these concepts have much to offer the pan-Anglosphere Men’s Movement. Male expendability, Princess Syndrome, hypergamy, misandry – all have become ‘transparent’ in the Anglosphere, hegemonic features so embedded by non-linear socio-cultural feedbacks that we no longer ‘notice’ them – they are, in short, ‘transparent’ (to borrow Heidegger’s concept). When millions of dollars of dollars are spent finding some white, middle class Anglobitch who trips on a woodpile, and the media mourn her with days of airtime, we no longer notice it. Absurdly preferential treatment for the Anglobitch has become ‘common sense’, a ‘transparent’ reflex. Indeed, the practical essence of the Anglobitch thesis involves exposing these ‘transparent’ assumptions and repudiating them. For example, the assumption that only males initiate domestic violence is another potent ‘transparent’ hegemonic assumption across the Anglosphere - and demonstrably wrong.
The PUA/Game subculture reflects the homosocial nature of Anglo-Saxon culture. Features like ‘chick crack’ – wherein PUAs carefully study characteristic ‘female’ preoccupations like astrology, healing crystals, palmistry and tarot cards – are implicitly rooted in a severe homosocial distinction between the sexes. Indeed, it could be rightly said that ‘Game’ largely involves teaching men how women think, in a culture where the sexes are severely divided in psycho-sexual terms. This is why Game is primarily an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon, and has its strongest proponents in the United States – the most implicitly homosocial and puritanical nation in the Anglosphere. Of course, being largely unaware of the Anglobitch Thesis, most PUA/Game experts are blind to the culturally-specific nature of their enterprise. Game developed to ‘bridge’ the sharp gender-divide in Anglo societies, allowing men to seduce women by teaching them female response patterns - much as hunters have to learn the migratory and behavioural patterns of their prey. In non-Anglo societies, the need for ‘chick crack’ and other PUA strategies is obviated by the fact that the sexes enjoy a far greater measure of existential overlap outside the Anglosphere.
The Dangers of Homosociality
A tragic tale indicative of the cultural specificity of Anglo-Saxon homosociality is that of Celine Figard. This young French student evidently expected to hitch-hike across Britain with impunity, and was briskly raped and murdered by a British trucker for her pains. She reckoned without the class-based homosociality prevailing in Britain, which has no direct analogue in her native France. This generally ensures that low-status males grow up with a pronounced sense of sexual disenfranchisement and grievance, especially in relation to young, attractive women. Figard was entirely unaware of this murderous working-class sexual rage, perhaps viewing the trucker as a helpful father-figure (as she might in her homeland). She found out that the Anglosphere is very different – that working class Anglo-Saxon males view attractive girls as unattainable sexual prey, not ‘friends’ or daughter surrogates. These Anglo feelings of homosocial, class-based rage explain why some of the most renowned sex-murderers in history are working-class English males: indeed, beginning with Jack the Ripper and Herman Mudgett, the serial sex-killer is largely an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon.