Feminist blogger and professor Hugo Schwyzer, writing about the three men who died shielding their girlfriends from a killer’s bullets during the Aurora Century 16 Theater shooting, suggests the reason why men should be willing to die for women is because women sometimes die for men in childbirth (HT: TrollKing):
The reality is that these sacrificial gestures, as impressive and touching as they are, belong to a tradition that dates back to an era when far more women died for men than vice-versa. Until the advent of modern medicine, childbirth was one of the leading causes of death for women; a conservative estimate places the historic rate of maternal mortality at 1 for every 100 births. Even now, at least 800 women die worldwide every day as a consequence of childbirth.
Throughout human history, more women have died giving birth than male soldiers have died in war. As a result, in many places, women had shorter life expectancies than men. The ubiquity of “wicked stepmothers” in old fairy tales is a subtle reminder of these high rates of maternal death. From a purely demographic standpoint, it was women whose bodies were more vulnerable and disposable.
Every woman who dies in childbirth dies as a result of sex with a man. Vaginal intercourse with a man was—and in many places still is—one of the riskiest activities in which any woman could engage. Though the pleasure in the act may have at least occasionally been equal, the risk never was. Throughout Western culture, when women died in childbirth they died not only as a direct consequence of sex with men, they died giving life to children who would carry their husbands’ name. While even in more violent eras, relatively few husbands would be called upon to lay down their lives for their wives, every pregnant woman knew she stood a fair chance of dying so that her husband’s family’s name could go on. If we look at all of recorded human history and ask “Who died more often for whom?” the evidence is that women made the ultimate sacrifice more frequently.
From an historical context, the kind of male gallantry we saw in Aurora is both compensatory and rarely required. When they reacted heroically to the start of the shooting, McQuinn, Blunk, and Teves surely weren’t thinking “I’m covering my girlfriend with my body because of the risks she might take in childbirth.” But the reason why we celebrate their undeniable bravery, the reason it strikes such a chord in us, may well be because it appeals to an ancient, partly-buried sense of fairness. In other words, perhaps on a subconscious level we still cling to the idea that men should be willing to die for women not because men are worth less, but because women have died so much more often for men.
For starters, Mr. Schwyzer’s fundamental premise, that more women historically have died from giving birth to the next generation of humanity than men did in warfare is false. His statistic regarding the worldwide historic rate of maternal mortality–1%–appears to be far lower–on the order of an order of magnitude or more–than the historic rate of male mortality due to violent conflict. An easy mistake to make, if for no other reason than the modern world is much less violent than it used to be, but a mistake nonetheless. Thus, while the mortality rate for men in war has fallen in the last 100 years (despite the horribly efficient lethality of modern warfare), the advent of penicillin has slashed the mortality rate for mothers comparably more in the last century. This is evinced by the death toll of women in childbirth cited by Mr. Schwyzer–800 women worldwide, per year–a number so low relative to the number of men killed in inter-group warfare each year around the world that I won’t even bother to research a precise figure.
This brings me to my next critique of Mr. Schwyzer’s essay…he implies a duty for the men of a developed country–in this case, the United States–to willingly sacrifice their lives for that of American women, using maternal mortality numbers from un- and under-developed countries as justification. Trouble is, these regions of the world are places where life for both men and women is much more nasty, brutish, and short. With all due respect to Mr. Schwyzer, this attempt at apples to oranges comparison does not pass muster. At most, Third World maternal mortality may be used to browbeat Third World men into “manning up”, as it were, to notions of Western chivalry. Yet as the Third World is literally littered with the graves of men who die for their families and societies, there is little need for Mr. Schwyzer to goad them further.
Third, Mr. Schwyzer exaggerates in his account of why women conceive and bear children. He seems to think that women go through childbirth as a favor to men, that somehow women volunteer to risk their lives, so as to bring children into the world for the sole benefit of men. Yet we see that, in a world with various methods of birth control and, failing that, abortion of the inconvenient, there are not many places in this world where a woman brings a child to term that she herself does not desire. Whatever benefit men secure from childbirth–parallelling the input they have in the decision that their child lives or dies in utero–is merely peripheral under this calculus. As a consequence, I suspect that childbirth, grueling and painful as it can be, is as much for the mother-to-be as it is for the father, and is probably more so.
With these three critiques–false maternal/male warfare mortality data, applying Third World maternal mortality data to justify first world male behavior vis-a-vis first world women, and selfish, rather than magnanimous female rationales for childbearing–Mr. Schwyzer’s thesis quickly flames out.
Shifting gears toward the socio-political angle, one thing I found interesting about Mr. Schwyzer’s essay hitching Messrs McQuinn, Blunk and Teves’ act of self-sacrifice to the Lifeboat Feminism mule-cart, is how their very selflessness undermines the sort of equalitarianism to which Mr. Schwyzer subscribes. For these three men’s sacrifice is evidence that, despite the multiple generations-long feminist campaign to eradicate masculinity and bring about a shiny happy androgynous matriarchal society, the instinct of the male to protect his woman and family is still very much alive. It is written on the hearts of men to protect their mate, family, tribe, and home, and that the three unrelated female companions of these three men are still alive today are a testament to that uniquely male drive. (I note here no Aurora woman shielded their boyfriend or husband from the shooter’s bullets). Contra Mr. Schwyzer, just as women give birth out of self-interest, a man’s instinct to protect has very little to do with a subconscious sense of cosmic fairness. It is instinctual. Not automatic, mind you, but a strong predisposition nevertheless, and most certainly not a social construct. For if it were, due to the social engineering efforts of Mr. Schwyzer’s ideological fellow travellers, in a society that boasts a sub-replacement birthrate (1 in 5 women will never have children), epidemic female serial monogamy, and easy divorce with cash and prizes for choice mommies, these men would likely have never given a second thought of sacrificing their lives to protect women who, odds are, will not hold up their end of the grand social bargain. Rather, they would have abandoned these women to the fate that equality demands…every person for him- and herself. Like this guy, who I note was roundly denounced by both men and women.
I also note that this latter fellow, this equalitarian guy, remains alive to propagate his genes, and is scheduled to marry later this year the woman and children he left behind in that dark theater.
This brings me to my last point, the hoary notion of the disposable male. While Mr. Schwyzer is superficially correct that societies on the edge of survival must protect their womenfolk, once a society achieves a certain number of breeding pairs, the need to protect the women at the expense of men falls away. After that population level, men and women are both resources to be conserved in equal measure. This is because, while the need for women as gestators of the next generation is obvious, the need for men wrt follow-on generations is less clear but no less necessary. A society cannot easily suffer the widescale loss of its men, be it by violence, incarceration, dissipation, or disenfranchisement. Each man, the carrier of civilization by dint of his created nature, is, today more than ever, necessary. Particularly those well-socialized men inclined to husband their women, children, and families. Specific to us as Americans, what do we need more of at this moment in time? More women whelping children irresponsibly? Or men interested and willing to right our capsized civilization?
As I wrote two years ago in my post “They Were Expendable”:
[T]o those–particularly men–who think that men are expendable and that a society can well withstand the loss, either through death, warfare, or social ostracism/incarceration of a large proportion of its men, I suggest that the data speaks otherwise. The example of the urban ghetto should demonstrate to all that a society that loses large proportions of its men is a society with its future very much in jeopardy. For it is men and men alone who bequeath the gift of civilization to women and children. The society that loses its men faces many of the same challenges that a society that loses a large segment of its women–the inability to propagate and socialize the next generation of society.
The equalitarians want you to undervalue your male lives and overvalue the feminine. You are disposable to them, because, well, you are disposable to them. They wish to appropriate your labors–and even your lives–in service to the matriarchy, and discard whatever shell remains. I say the opposite…you, my brothers, are not disposable. You are more necessary than ever…and the next generation of girls and boys desperately needs your contribution. How are they to know civilization without you? So ignore the reductionist scribblings of the likes of Mr. Schwyzer–your life is not worth less than a woman’s and is certainly not fodder to ensure an ungrateful matriarchal society keeps stumbling downward toward its eventual mud hut destiny.
In short, exhort you, my brothers, to be quite selective about whom you invite under your protective covering. No one is entitled to your sacrifice by mere virtue of their plumbing or proximity to you when disaster strikes.
About the author: EW is a well-trained monkey operating heavier-than-air machinery. His interests outside of being an opinionated rabble-rouser are hunting, working out, motorcycling, spending time with his family, and flying. He is a father to three, a husband to one, and is a sometime contributor here at Spearhead. More of his intolerable drivel is available at the blog The Elusive Wapiti.