Two Time Capsules

Several specimens of the zeitgeist flop into my mailbox on any given day, and I wish I had time to put all of them under the microscope. Here is one that embodies the interesting orthodoxy that it is a discredit to white males whether they are over-represented or under-represented in any praiseworthy endeavor.

“Despite the fact that female students are in the majority in post-secondary education, only 30% of appointed college presidents are women. An even more staggering finding is that merely 5% of college presidents are women of color. Fighting this damaging, systemic imbalance must be a comprehensive effort. It’s time for higher education professionals to commit to becoming change agents for the benefit of everyone involved.”*

Females hogging the seats in college classrooms is an achievement for which females must be admired, but males hogging the mahogany desks in the administration building is an injustice for which males must be shamed. Female enrollment is presently fifty-six percent of the undergraduate total, but I have yet to read any thumb-suckers about toxic femininity or the hostile campus climate for young males.

What I do read are scornful denunciations of the video-game-playing slacker man-child, mostly penned by women who I suspect are “staggered” when “systemic imbalance” runs the other way.

A misogynist was once a man who believed that the correct number of female college presidents is zero. A racist was once a man who placed the same figure beside a question as to the correct number of female college presidents of color. But these are outdated notions from a galaxy long ago and far away. The misogynist and racist of today is any man who is laggardly in “fighting this systemic imbalance,” or who decline to act as a “change agent for the benefit of everyone involved.”

* * * * *

Here is a strikingly different specimen, from a galaxy even longer ago and farther away. It was written by the American historian Henry Adams and expresses a very different understanding of what is for “the benefit of everyone involved.” Adams would be astonished to learn that his opinions would one day be taken as pungently offensive misogyny, for he understood himself as a great admirer of women (and not in a prurient or carnal sense); and I suspect he would defend himself with the simple truth that there will be no college presidents of any description if there are no families making babies that grow into undergraduates.

“I insist that society, as an organism, has little or no interest in woman’s reason . . . . Intellectually, woman’s reason has been a matter of indifference to men. As an intellectual competitor she has never been formidable; but maternity is a monopoly . . . . which enables women to serve their great purpose as the cement of society.”**

Although Adams gives due weight to the inestimable social benefit of maternity, he does not reduce women to barefoot and pregnant baby-making machines. He calls them the “cement” of society because they also provide the inestimable social benefit of organizing mankind for purposes other than work and war. Women are, as a rule, the cement that holds families and communities together, and despite a certain amount of male grumbling, this is, or rather was, “to the benefit of everyone involved.”

Adams ends his observation with a remark that will sting the modern sensibility, but that repays a certain about of calm rumination. In his view, the feminist woman that was just then coming onto the scene was an inferior and redundant male. He calls her “a degraded boy.”

“As an intellectual being, as the modern feminist would make her, she has only the importance of a degraded boy, though she is far more dangerous to society than such a boy would be . . .”

So I ask you, what is the greatest threat to society? Is it a “damaging, systemic imbalance” in the presidents’ offices at colleges and universities? Or is it a surfeit of “degraded boys,” many of whom are not really boys and are thus “far more dangerous to society than such a boy would be”?


*) The paragraph is drawn from an unsolicited mass email from and outfit that calls itself Academic Impressions.

**) Henry Adams, The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma (1919)

17 thoughts on “Two Time Capsules

  1. “. As an intellectual competitor she has never been formidable”. Those were the fighting words that got so many women to jump the maternity ship. If only he had given due credit to the intellect that we now see is critical in women homeschooling their children. Instead women flooded the male job market just to show they weren’t dumb.
    I would compare Henry Adams ignorance of women’s gifts to be similar to to society of that times understanding of the intellect of the black slave.

    • I’m not sure Adams would disagree with you. He did not believe that women were fools, but that their intellect was of a radically different nature. My mother, for instance, knows the names and vital statistics of cousins to the fourth degree of separation, an intellectual achievement of which I am utterly incapable. Her mind is providing valuable “cement” to the family, whereas mine is fiddling away to no purpose on the internet.

      • If that were the case, “feminism” would be ancient. And yet it is new — along with a host of other confusions about the world. There have always been wrong ideas, but only in modern times have so many prospered, spread, and become dominant. Perhaps the power that technology has brought us has created many comfortable buffers that obscure (and delay) the dangers and negative consequences of mistaken judgments.

  2. The past speaks to the present with ruthless clarity. This is because the present is incapable of thinking, not least because it is a relapse into the matriarchy, whose conformism is a milky sameness that shuns actual thought and wraps itself in slogans.

    • That “milky sameness” comes of a refusal to respect the otherness of men. Some feminized women pretend that otherness does not exist, others see it as a blemish to be expunged or chastised, but all seem to be perfectly confident in their ability to fully comprehend the mystery of manhood.

  3. Or the thousands of degraded universities that will stay open only as long as the government prints enough money to keep them solvent.

    When that party ends, college towns become ghost towns.

    • It is an interesting question to ask how elastic demand for higher education would prove in the absence of subsidies. Withdrawing federal subsidies would certainly create an overwhelming demand for a more efficient system, but some sort of “college experience” has become a middle-class expectation. We often hear celebrations of “first generation college students,” but there is no equivalent for “first generation non-college-students.” Most parents will do everything possible to put off this cruel evidence of downward social mobility. College tuition has become the middle-class surtax, and people pay it for the perceived status rather than the imaginary education.

  4. Pingback: Two Time Capsules | Reaction Times

  5. if you have not read David Stove’s The Intellectual Capacity of Women, you should treat yourself. In approaching the topic, Stove gives a lovely primer on inductive reasoning.

    The article is difficult to find, but can be downloaded from this site:

    If that link doesn’t make it through, searching ‘PhilPapers David Stove’ should turn up a page from which it can be downloaded.

    If the experience of the feminised academy is not enough to suppress the conditioned urge to apologise for harbouring suspicions about women’s intellectual capacity, you need to read Stove.

    • I have a volume of Stove’s collected essays, and think I read the essay there, but thanks for the reminder. I remember bringing his essay on Darwinism to a reading group full of brash Darwinists. I’m not a brash anti-Darwinist, but simply wondered what they would make of what struck me as a powerful argument. They just got mad.

  6. From Christopher deGroot’s recent article, “The University of Narcissism,” at Taki’s Mag:

    “I do not think we can understand the steep decline of academia without considering the rise and role of women, who are very influential in university administrations, especially when it comes to identity politics. It is certainly not difficult to imagine an all-male or male-dominated context being insensitive, harsh, or cruel. Yet it is surely impossible that the tyranny of precious feelings that we now see in academia would occur in any all-male or male-dominated context. In these endless stories about hurt feelings on college campuses, women students, women professors, and women administrators are massively overrepresented, like the neurotic student who, failing to separate her personal ‘issues’ from academic performance, believed that she got a D because she’s a lesbian. (Of course, other groups—blacks, Jews, gays, trans persons—are also overrepresented in such stories, but of all these groups, women are by far the most numerous, and hence the most influential.)”

  7. I was once on a disciplinary panel that investigated a male professor charged with sexual harassment by a student. I was the only male on the panel. In the end, overwhelming evidence prevailed and the professor was found innocent, but my fellow panelists lost their minds when the bogus case collapsed. That professor was lucky there just happened to be dispositive disconfirming evidence. Without that, I’m pretty sure he would have been run off campus on a presumption of guilt and ambiguous circumstantial evidence. Although innocent, he was required to undergo an humiliating course of reeducation.

  8. I was lucky because philosophy and classics departments used to attract a peculiar type of female academic (though it looks as if this has sadly changed as the barbarians have stormed through even those noble gates). Consequently, I had some really superb female professors (so different from the feverish harpies in the English program — no offense to Dr. T.B.). They were a small minority on the faculty, but they did add much value to the programs. Vive la différence! My favorite classics prof. was a petite, spunky Jewess of endless enthusiasm and energy. The _Aeneid_ courses with her were some of my favorites. She was a delight. One phil. professor, an elderly Frenchwoman, would share with us that her graduate director complimented her by saying that she thought like a man. She would smile at her all male students, and we all knew the such really was a compliment — and that she was the better person for it by taking it that way. As a woman, she surely knew that she rivaled or excelled men in many domains. As a professional servant of philosophy, though, she recognized the unequal distribution of rational, theoretical talents among human beings.

    • I am friends an elderly former colleague, female, who is now in her nineties. She was good to me when I was an assistant professor, and gave me some excellent advice (“You can fight with the department head if you like, but you will lose and be out of a job”). She pretty lame in the joints, but still very lively in the head, and I enjoy her company. At least at the beginning of her career, women were a minority and she may not have been treated altogether fairly. She doesn’t have any deep resentment about this. But many of her female successors, who came of age in the near the turn of the twentieth century, wave her bloody shirt (which is really not all that bloody) whenever it is advantageous to do so. This is not the only example of an oppressed class that becomes privileged, yet by its own account is even more oppressed.

      • Joseph A @ In Glubb’s “Fate of Empires,” I believe he says that something like feminism appears in every great society near the apex of its power, and then persists to its demise. This along with traits like the veneration of pop singers. But I think your point is valid insofar as these traits a far more contagious under modernity. Decadence often killed the pre-modern peasant, but not by making the peasant decadent.


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