Domestic Patriarchy

Another Guest Post by Jason Cockrell:

When is it appropriate for a woman to argue with her husband? My position is essentially never. She should obey him completely, including when he is totally wrong.

You might think the household jointly should act according to the man’s plan when he is right, and the woman’s plan when she is right. On the face that sounds reasonable, but it suffers a fatal problem of epistemics. By definition, an argument can only arise when the man and woman are in disagreement, that is, when they have two different ideas about how the household should proceed. There is then the problem of *determining* who is right (if either of them) and persuading the other of that fact.

Women, generally speaking, are not capable of assessing the correctness of their own ideas, nor their level of confidence in those ideas. This is not to say women can’t be right, nor that they can’t successfully argue a correct point. They can. The problem is that they are just as likely to be wrong, and just as capable of arguing for an incorrect idea as a correct one. Female arguing strategies don’t select for truth over falsehood.

Men do not exclusively or flawlessly apply logic and fact-finding in their arguments. However, they do *preferentially* apply logic and fact-finding. Male arguing techniques favor statements that correspond to reality over those which do not. Among men, an argument is won when one party makes a statement intimately tied to both reality and the subject at issue, and the other party cannot produce a meaningful response to that statement while remaining within the bounds of reality.

Female arguing strategies include the aforementioned, but also include: Shaming, nagging, pleading, diverting, and exhausting. Women win arguments when they have produced enough words with enough emotional effect that the other party no longer has the energy to respond. Women’s statements don’t need to correspond to reality, and perhaps even more critically, they don’t need to bear any relation to the statements made by the other party.

The preference men have for rationality is rooted in men’s need to confront material reality. Men have evolved to solve physical and logical problems in hunting, fishing, construction, and war. Ignorance is the enemy they seek to defeat when they argue. Women, being distributors of resources more than producers of resources, have evolved to defeat *men*. For a woman, the amount of resources she can secure for her children is essentially the amount she can convince a man to bestow upon her. Thus the purpose of female arguing is to enlist men into her service, whereas the purpose of male arguing is to enlist metal, wood, and fire into his service. A man’s argument has failed if he has not discovered the truth. A woman’s argument has failed *only* if she does not get her way!

Related and parallel to this, men with competing interests are more likely to engage in negotiation while women are more likely to engage in posturing. The distinction is subtle yet critical. In negotiation, each party declares their respective desired outcomes (the “I wants”) and then probes the other party to ascertain what can be exchanged (the “I haves”). The negotiating parties then haggle to some midpoint in which each surrenders some value in order to obtain another, presumably preferred value.

Posturing looks and sounds similar, but with an undercurrent of dishonesty. Posturing occurs when the stated desires aren’t sincerely felt, or come with threats or ultimatums that won’t be carried out. Posturing freerides on the credibility of negotiating to obtain more than what one could obtain honestly. The key distinction is the overstatement of preferences in an attempt to derive value where none exists. Women are experts at posturing, as can be inferred from the frequency with which they issue ultimatums that simply dissolve when they are ignored.

Women often confuse the making of demands with the offering of value, so much that it’s questionable whether they even know the difference. How a woman goes about securing loyalty from a man is one example. She could simply demand monogamy, condemn casual sex, and screech until every man who has other thoughts feels cowed and afraid. On the other hand, she could offer positive reinforcement for loyal behavior, such as by fulfilling her role in the bedroom with enthusiasm. The latter strategy adds value to the man’s life, and so is a form of negotiation. The former merely substitutes demands for offerings, and so is a form of posturing. That women don’t seem to understand the distinction is probably attributable to their primary resource – the “I have” – being their own good will. What women offer men in negotiating is, after all, essentially their kindness, deference, and availability to men, so to maintain their posturing they intermittently are cold, obnoxious, and screeching.

The purposes of legally instituting monogamous marriages are manifold, but central among them is that a man be legally – in property and in social responsibility – bound to his wife and his progeny in the same way that he is naturally bound to them through love and kinship. This means that a decent man, fully vested in his family, will *regard* the interests of the household *as* his own interests. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of this point. Any man worth marrying will necessarily view his wife’s happiness and his children’s well-being as centrally important to – indeed, indistinguishable from – his own. If he does not, he is a scoundrel.

It follows then that a married woman has no need to *enlist* her husband in her service. He is already in her service. Her interests are his interests, and chiefly among them, the interests of the children. Therefore the conventional female arguing tactics are moot. She does not need to nag for his resources, as he will provide them when it is appropriate. Whereas outside of marriage, disagreements may arise due to conflicting interests, in the context of marriage, disagreements are fundamentally only disagreements of facts themselves. It is no longer will the man serve himself or serve his woman, but what *actually* serves the best interests of the household jointly? Men always have the epistemic advantage in disagreements of pure facts, because men’s cognition is tailored toward assessing facts. It bears repeating that none of this implies men are always right and women are always wrong. The only salient point is that men are right more often than women, and women aren’t in any position to tell the difference, because they can’t distinguish disagreements of fact from conflicts of interest.

Therefore, my position is that the wife should be as submissive to her husband’s understanding of the facts as he is devoted to the household’s shared interests. This means that she should not question his judgment as long as his heart is in the right place. Sometimes he will be utterly incorrect, but she can’t tell when he is actually incorrect apart from when she merely thinks he is incorrect but is herself mistaken. Good will and affection is lost in the process of arguing who is right, and the outcome of such argument isn’t more likely to be accurate than the man’s assessment on its own. She can, of course, state her preference, but it’s up to him to interpret that in the context of the situation at hand, bearing in mind that women’s stated preferences don’t correlate particularly well with their actual preferences.

As a final note on this point, men are, for all of the reasons explained above, also more likely to notice when they are wrong and change course. If a man starts down a path with a certain plan in mind, he can detect halfway through whether the outcomes he was projecting are manifesting. If he has miscalculated, he can adjust the plan. Women struggle with this because they are marvelously talented at confabulating ex-post-facto rationalizations for all outcomes. Little if anything that occurs in a woman’s life is ever directly related to her own decisions, according to her telling of the story. Since women experience reality as something that happens to them rather than something they mold by their will-power, they won’t necessarily recognize when a plan isn’t producing the outcome they intended. This is one more sense in which a man’s cognition is preferentially truth-seeking while a woman’s is rent-seeking.

A counter-point is that women may, and indeed must, relieve their husbands of command if and when their judgment is fundamentally compromised. If a man is no longer putting the interests of the household at the front of his mind and the center of his heart, then he is not functioning as a husband and father. By far the most likely culprit in this scenario is alcohol. History is replete with instances of otherwise good men falling from grace because they allowed alcohol to replace their family as their greatest love. This is a *chemical* change in the brain which destroys a man’s reason and truth-seeking. If his wife steps in and takes over the household, she is not contradicting his judgment. He has lost his judgment – she is merely contradicting the bottle. This decision cannot be made due to a disagreement of facts, especially not of particulars. If an intervention is warranted, it is an evaluation of the entire man and the family dynamic, so it must be reserved for those situations where a man has truly lost his way.


One thought on “Domestic Patriarchy

  1. The only trouble here is with how a woman detects when her husband’s judgement is “fundamentally compromised”. She’s going to use the same heuristic she uses for everything else.

    In fact, churchian complementarians would probably agree with you, before proceeding to discover to their elaborately feigned horror that absolutely any given real world husband just happens to have fundamentally compromised judgement — darn the luck!

    You need a social context where if a woman tries to grab the wheel, her family and friends will need some real convincing before they support her. If they haven’t seen him showing signs of a drinking problem or some such, the default assumption has to be that she’s just a crazy bitch.


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