But one thing I read this week proved to be a real bright spot. It’s a delightful Dissent article written by Katie J.M. Baker and carrying the irresistible title, “Cockblocked by Redistribution: A Pick-up Artist in Demark.” C’mon: based on the title alone, you know you’re going to read it, right?
Expanding on that title: the “pick-up artists,” for those of you unfamiliar with the term, are a community of male misogynists who share tips about how to get women to have sex with them. They do this, in part, by peddling some very nasty, long-discredited ideas about social Darwinism. They are exploitative, manipulative creeps who thrive on controlling women and undermining their self-confidence. One of their classic techniques is the “neg,” or the back-handed compliment.
One of the best-known PUAs is someone who calls himself Roosh. This charming fellow, says Baker, is “the author of the ‘Bang’ series of travel guides, which trains readers to seduce women based on derogatory ethnic stereotypes.” There’s Bang Brazil, Bang Iceland . . . etc., ad nauseam.
Except, quite dramatically, there is one called Don’t Bang Denmark. Roosh cautions, “This book is a warning of how bad things can get for a single man looking for beautiful, feminine, sexy women.” Why did Roosh strike out with the ladies there? Baker says it was because of “[t]he country’s excellent social welfare services. Really.”
As Baker explains, in Denmark, health care and education are free. There is universal child care and generous paid parental leave. Women earn a significantly greater percentage of family income in Danish families than in American families. The takeaway is that Danish women are not as nearly so economically dependent on men as American women are, and that this results in far more egalitarian relationships and gender roles.
As Roosh put it:
The Danish egalitarian system and Jante Law [social norms of modesty and solidarity] feed on each other to form what is one of the most liberal, feminist-friendly societies in the world.
Therefore, when it comes to getting laid, your American attitude and belief system will cockblock the fuck out of you before you even open your mouth. Since basically the entire point of game is showing you’re better than the next guy, something that Jante Law specifically forbids, it’s no surprise to find that game efforts will not be well received in Denmark, especially if you consider yourself an alpha male.
Aw, I’m crying as I type.
Baker has written a fascinating and provocative article, but I don’t want to oversell her argument. Even in Denmark, gender equality remains more of an ideal than a reality. Danish women’s income is only 74 percent of men’s, just 37 percent of members of Danish Parliament are women, and the country’s rape laws do not adequately protect victims. But there can be no doubt that Danish society is far more economically equal than American society is, and that economic equality there has led to greater gender equality. Not only that: Denmark’s gender equality extends beyond the schools and the workplace right down to women’s family lives and sexual relationships.
Baker cites an interesting theory about why this may be so:
In her essay “A Marxist Theory of Women’s Nature,” philosopher Nancy Holmstrom argues that women’s lives are less free than men’s under capitalism “both because they are dependent on men and because they have children dependent on them.” Therefore, “traditional sexual values constrain women more than they do men,” and women “are less able to act to realize their own desires” and must be “more passive and oriented to other people’s wishes than men.”
Baker’s article reminded me of something I’ve long been wondering about. It’s been clear for some time now that women’s advancement in our society has stalled. Earlier this year, Stephanie Coontz wrote an essay that made a strong case to this effect. We started to see women’s advancement slow at about the same time we started to see economic inequality start to soar. True, the trends don’t exactly track each other; the women’s movement took off in the 70s, which is also when economic inequality started to kick in. But by the early 90s, women’s progress had leveled off, while economic inequality continued to skyrocket.
During that period, at the low end of the economic scale, things got much worse for several groups of women. Poor mothers lost their right to welfare as an entitlement. The life expectancy of white women with the lowest levels of education experienced a sharp decline. Studies have shown that the declining value of the minimum wage had a disproportionately negative impact on women.
Their more affluent sisters had a much easier time of it. And yet, the progress of this group of women began to slow as well, compared both to their male American counterparts and to women in other industrialized countries. For example, American women’s labor force participation rates have begun to decline relative to other countries. President Obama’s record of appointing women to high-level posts is significantly worse than Bill Clinton’s record was 20 years ago. And the richest country in the world still doesn’t have the kind of public policies that nearly all other industrialized countries enjoy and that would advance women in the workplace, like paid family leave or affordable, accessible child care.
The evidence strongly suggests that there’s a clear relationship between women’s stalled progress and rising economic inequality. Most directly, there are those public policy choices noted above which have not only undermined women’s equality but also contributed to economic inequality: getting rid of AFDC, letting the value of the minimum wage decline so dramatically, failing to enact a range of policies (child care and the like) that would keep women in the workplace and enable them to compete on the same footing as men.
But there are also more indirect ways that economic inequality has hurt women. For many women, professional life, with its 24/7 on-call culture, and home life, with the American middle class’s increasingly demanding standards of child-rearing, are on a collision course with one another. Part of the reason why child-rearing is more time-intensive these days is rooted in rising levels of economic instability and insecurity. Parents fear if they’re not constantly hovering around their kids will fail as adults and fall out of the middle class (Barbara Ehrenreich called this “fear of falling,” in her classic book by that name). Many elite women feel so torn by the competing demands of work and home life that they drop out of the workforce. But this only makes them more dependent on their husbands. And, in macro, when enough women drop out — as they are doing — women’s overall advancement in professional life stalls, or experiences reverses.
Deeply unequal societies like ours are also breeding grounds for a host of simmering resentments, petty tyrannies and everyday sadism. You see these in abundance with the PUAs. They are full of rage because they believe they have been denied the effortless access to the hot chicks to which they are inherently entitled. This rage is misogynist in nature, but it also contains more than a hint of a class element. The PUAs frequently express fury that the women they are attracted to are supposedly only interested in rich guys (see: their crackpot theories about hypergamy). But rather than doing something politically constructive with these resentments — like advocating for social democracy! — they end up taking out their rage on the women who are even more powerless than they are.
That’s depressing, for sure. Even more disturbing is the larger media and internet culture of rancid misogyny in which these guys operate. But Baker’s intriguing article gives me hope that there is a way out of this mess. Give it a read.