Possible Inauthenticities in the Transgendered Phenomenon

Possible Inauthenticities in the Transgendered Phenomenon

            In the cases I have come across through professional ethics consulting with families and youth, there are present three kinds of discrepancies from institutionally and commercially normative family forms; that is, those possessing two different but dominant gendered parents who have mutually come to terms with the birth gender of their children. They are:

            1. Single parent families: here, the child has adopted the gender of the absent or missing parent and if their sex at birth contradicts that of the one who has been so adopted, a transgendered child results.

            2. Conflict between parents who desire a different sexed child: here, the child internalizes this conflict and reproduces it in himself or herself, generating a transgendered selfhood in the effort to please both parents.

            3. Conflict within one or another parent whose own desires regarding their sexual identity do not match worldly outcomes regarding the child’s sex at birth: in such cases, the child becomes accustomed to performing as if they were the gender counter to their physiological sex, also constructing a transgendered identity for themselves.

            Often subconsciously, parents interact with their children as if the latter were simply smaller projections of themselves. If conflict is present beyond that inevitably associated with basic socialization processes – there is no culture that does not possess this more demographically based conflict; some cultures negotiate it with more compassion and gentleness than do others – also, in my sense, a pathological presence, the phenomenon of transgenderedness is understood by the child, once again, subconsciously, as the only possible response to the context around them. I must please both parents, I must take on the role of the absent parent, I must assuage my parent’s self-doubts.

            In each permutation, ethical interaction is scarce. In general, speaking as a philosopher, I would suggest that any time one’s actions are bereft of ethical reflection, inauthenticity, perhaps at best, is the result. My case observations have, in turn, suggested to me that parents overly and overtly concerned with normative gender boundaries can also produce transgenderism in their children, thereby generating a fourth category, slightly different from the three listed above. Here, by contrast, the conflict within the adult is transferred to the child who reacts not to assuage or please their parent but to instead defy them and thus also to deny the projection itself. These cases were also more challenging to resolve, as the adults involved were in patent denial that they were defending gender norms against their own self-doubts regarding them.

            The inauthenticity of transgenderism is a function of it being not only epiphenomenal to sources of conflict which orbit round self-conscious agrarian-based societal norms regarding gender roles and performances – that is, these conflicts are not personal but rather historical in scope – but as well, they represent avoidance of conflict in general; decoys constructed by the child who is either too young to understand the authentic conflict in the family, or later on, too anemic in character to confront such conflict which has by then become their own.

            As such, it is easier to understand why the gay subculture has been tepid in its support for transgenderism. They are utterly different phenomena in both source and result. For gay people, transgenderism might well seem to be reactionary, as it, in every case, seeks to shore up dominant gender models and roleplaying, and thus is nothing radical at all, let alone revolutionary. Thus, transgenderism has been misunderstood both by its critics as well as by its adherents. In sum, it is essentially a coping mechanism that is both inauthentic to modern selfhood – it seeks to cover over the conflict that is both necessary to distinguish the self from others as well as provide a bandage for the pathological conceptions of parents who have unethically allowed their desires to overtake their ideals – and an entanglement of one’s very being in the face of its essential mortality and condition of its happenstance birth.

            Though gender as a performance, however indirectly related to biological sex and to human sexuality in general, may be a ludic form which should not be evaluated as pathological in itself, that which is sourced in conflicts which are pathological should not be encouraged, but rather resolved at the point of departure. I suggest here that transgenderism is, in general, just such a negative form, and as such, must be gently retouched to the point that the victim in these cases, the child, is not further alienated by other social forces which are thence to be encountered at an interpersonal level.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 57 books in ethics, education, health, social theory and aesthetics, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades and has consulted for families and youth for three years.

Distractions, Decoys, Devils

Distractions, Decoys, Devils (Gender, Family, Sports, Sex)

            As long as the chief motivations of communication are profit and reproduction, what is said and what is heard will be only what we can say and what we can hear. Our ears are too large, by Nietzsche’s idiomatic standards, as they take in too much and lack discrimination. But using a obverse image, we can equally say that they are too small, narrow as befits the narrow-minded pursuit of wealth and the status quo, or the way in which wealth manifests itself within our contemporary social structure. Chomsky has dealt with the political aspects of the ‘manufacture of our consent’ to governance and the casual responsibility the State might exercise in times of either crisis or plebiscite. But there are both wider and deeper striations of a similar hue at work in more mundane arenas of social life; those that are enacted and endured in the day to day, by the vast majority of us, and experienced hardly at all by political elites or those with authority and access to culture-producing institutions and devices. Our narrowness is not inbred, but rather bred in.

            Media does not so much love a circus as it is the big top itself. Selling an ‘issue’ means rolling up a moral panic, and then providing that snowball with enough impetus that this faux feeling of outrage becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Media is not the source of the phenomenon in question – and we shall look at four, in turn, below – but is rather the medium by which this or that facet of human experience becomes larger than life, and thus is transmuted from the base metal of raw and perplexed Erlebnis into the very gold that profit seeks. The gee-whiz genuflections surrounding gender, the fastidious fetish of the family, the speculative spins of sports, the salacious scenes of sex, are perhaps the four foremost examples of this transmutation in current affairs. Their sources are, of course, wholly human, culled from the life of a being in the world, moments of existence without essence. But let us examine them from the point of view of how they in fact obscure our shared existential lot, at first subjectively, and then, when they are taken up as ‘issues’, as projective ‘things’ with a consequential reality about them.

            W.I. Thomas, the American social scientist, encapsulates our perceptual inclination in a most pragmatic manner, following William James. His famous epigram, ‘If people believe something to be real, it is real in its consequences’, sums neatly the transition between the murkiness of supposed source material to the hard objectivity of action in the world, however baseless the motives for such action may originally have been. In turn, his generational colleague, Robert Merton, coins for the human sciences the idea of the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’, some ten years later. Using the bank runs of the early 1930s as his examples, we are met with a clear exposition of the ‘if-then’ of Thomas under its own steam; people imagined the banks were going under, and so they put them under through their own actions. Just so, our current conflicts regarding gender and family, and our daily obsessions directed at sports and sex, are very similar exemplifications of both the Thomas ‘theorem’ and Merton’s conception. Let us now turn to each to try to understand their moral-to-moralizing alchemy.

            Gender: Without any sense of the defamatory, I will suggest here that the phenomena grouped under ‘trans’, ‘two-spirited’, ‘theyness’ and such-like, are the result of either a conflict of gender expectations between parents – one desires a boy the other a girl – or the absence of one or the other dominant genders in the family – the child then assumes the role of the absent mother or father without regard to their sex at birth – or again, conflicting general parental expectations regarding role and interest – one parent’s vicarious desires directed at the child are in conflict with the other’s and hence we have a ‘they’ persona, through which the child attempts to satisfy both parent’s sets of demands. If these are the social sources of the phenomena, such studies await the student. But it is well known that gender conflict occurs within the psyche of the child when parents are themselves in conflict, or when both parents desired a different gendered child than the one they ended up with, which is commonplace. Well known too are the studies in which boys are socialized much more roughly, and freely in terms of the lifting of limits, than are girls. It is known as well that what used to be called the ‘tomboy’ or even the gamin are results of girls being treated by parents as if they were boys, once again to accommodate the objectively unfulfilled parental desires.

            It is of the utmost to say that the pathology present belongs only to the parents in these cases, never the children, who are victims thereof. But this victimization is carried into the objective space of the public by the resistance other parents have to their own oft clandestine proclivities. They see in the other’s child the very child they feared they themselves would raise, and thus their bad conscience projects a vitriolic violence upon the one who has already been given a difficult start by their own parents. It is a classic example of double jeopardy, and insofar as the phenomena are real and not theatrical – in some, perhaps fewer, cases, a child may simply be trying to call attention to themselves due to the pressing and globalizing economic fact of families not being able to remain viable through a single income; in these cases there is the pathology of neglect, but no authentic transgenderedness – it represents one of the scandals of today’s domesticity. But insofar as the reaction to it is nothing more than a moral panic, it represents in turn nothing more than one tent in the for-profit media circus.

            Family: At its inception, the bourgeois family was immediately critiqued and its conception destroyed. But its self-conception lives on, shored up by entertainment delusions and advertising fantasies. Our feted yet fetid fetish for it apparently knows no bounds. The conflict over what ‘values’ it represents and reproduces has no ethical merit and little substance, which is befitting of what is essentially another form of entertainment fantasy, extant mostly in media and not at all so much in social reality. This is not the place to investigate the history of the definitions of family, though such an analysis would have to take place before one says too much about its current guises and how they were fashioned, but what can be said is that, in principle, a person emphatically avows the presence of what is in fact the most absent to him. This is done as a defensive posture against anomie in particular, and more generally, over against the perceptions the other has of the person in question: ‘What’s wrong with your family? Do you know where your children are? Don’t tell me how to raise my kids’, and so on. While social media for youth is a juvenile circus of comparative egotisms – and perhaps this is how it must be, developmentally speaking, though youth themselves appear to take it far too seriously – social media for adults is a painstaking exercise in one-upping the other’s familiality. Whether it is home décor, career, ‘look what my kids are doing!’, or even the daily dinner menu, all prepared by the woman who is half 1955 half 1985 for the man who is half 1955 half 1885, one’s face and one’s book alike mimic in subjective reality what these persons see in media. The magazines which bristle at check-outs in all kinds of stores attest in imagery to the theater that ‘you too can have’ with some dedicated, and still highly gendered, elbow grease. In its own way, women’s magazines are soft-core domestic pornography, whilst men’s are more directly the porn of virile power transferenced into machines, tools and the mechanisms thereof. The mockery directed at the post-war family is also a projection of our bad conscience, aware as it is of our lack of progress in these otherwise quotidian quarters.

            Sports: The faux drama of sports has recently been rivaled, and perhaps in the case of young men, even eclipsed, by sports wagering. Betting is a way in which one can vicariously experience the thrill of actual competition. Gambling is a sport unto itself, in this sense, but only secondarily to it being an addiction. Actual professional athletes are not in general addicted and obsessed by their vocation. They rather report enjoying it, even ‘loving’ it, and more humbly, graced by the blessing of being ‘paid for what one loves to do’, but rarely do they lose themselves in life because of it. The same manifestly cannot be said for gambling. This aside, sports, like sex, as we shall shortly see, is chiefly about money, and thus it contains the same tendencies as does media in general. Sports are platinum for media because not only do they appear apolitical, any game can become popular or at least, generate a niche market for itself. The throngs that follow golf overwhelm the audience for snooker, but they are equally riveted to the action at hand. And golf is made insignificant by North American football, football by world soccer, and so on. But in all cases, sports is at best a pastime. It in itself has no profundity, but rather a kind of false freedom in its relatively unscripted enactment, for it is artful without being art. Sports is the moral man’s pornography, the upstanding citizen’s barricade, the passive-aggressive personality’s war. As such, when confronted by the reality of the world and how most of humanity lives in that reality, it is worthless.

            And youth sports all the more so. Youth need to be helping the community, serving the weak and the poor, saving the environment from we adults, organizing politically for a human future which is in fact not ours but theirs, and learning how to love one another in all ways. In a word, not playing games. The foisting of organized sports upon youth presents both a con and a conundrum to them: ‘Teamwork’, but against a rival. ‘Character-building’, but in a non-ethical petty context. ‘Self-sacrifice’, but for the utterly trivial. No, no, and no.

            Sex: Certainly sex sells, and everyone is aware of this. Peddling our desires in flagrant flaneur has come to be an expectation of not only marketing – the presence of the beautiful girl and sometimes even the handsome young man in early advertising graphics was not only ubiquitous but oddly liberating in a time of suppressed desires – but also of media in general. The most ‘followed’ social media influencers, if they are female, must be attractive and young. The influencer persona is merely the digital live-action version of the pin-up girl, who in her turn, was merely the post-Depression guise of the Victorian-Edwardian advertising girl. What is being sold is not necessarily sex itself, but the sexualization of the commodity, including the human person and the human body. This is why we hear resistance in some quarters against portraying children in this manner. Such a call is mostly hypocrisy, as in the same cultural stroke the beauty and talent pageants flash-flesh-flaunt toddler-through-teen sex while off-stage utterly suppressing and ‘disciplining’ it. Just as we cannot take seriously pornography, the resistance to it is equally laughable. Yes, if it weren’t so dangerous to youth, and on both counts. Sexual imagery meant for profit from voyeurism of whatever stripe has such a universal market due to its expression of all that we would do to one another if we were not called to the stand in witness against our baser selves. In this deeper sense, all pornography is ‘revenge porn’. We view it with a sense of prurient satisfaction, to be sure, but more tellingly, I think, with a real feeling of vengeance: ‘I wish my wife looked like her, did what she is doing, was her.’ Not to target men, as it is well known that men and women imbibe in pornography equally, a sorry testament to both the intimate and wider relations between the dominant genders.

            Which may well be, for youth, another call-sign that binary genderedness isn’t working. Why not switch it up? What began as an effort to please conflicted parents develops into a manner of avoiding, or even denying, the reality which exists between men and women, whether gay or lesbian or neither. These two as well, alternate genders to those dominant but attracted to the same sex, challenge their human actors objectively – it is more difficult to be publicly gay than publicly straight – but, I would suggest as gently as possible, relieve these same persons subjectively. Because men and women are socialized so radically differently, every ‘cisgendered’ relationship is a constant exercise in cross-cultural anthropology. Sexual attraction is by far the easiest aspect thereof and therein. And though it is of course true that in a gay or lesbian intimacy, it is still two different people, nevertheless, a man generally knows what to expect of another man, and the converse. So, even if there is no biopower need for everyone to reproduce biologically, there remains the question of how we confront our own humanity. Is loving another like ourselves not the sexual equivalent of the lesser ethics of loving those who love us? And is the unfashionable, but still politically convenient, love of ‘the breeders’ not an exemplification of the challenging and still novel ethic of loving one’s enemies? In this other sense, it is straight people who are the truer radicals.

            Now it is part of the philosopher’s job to speak of things no one else wants to hear. To return to our small-eared imagery, the unexamined life produces a myopia in all of our senses. The eyes become accustomed to what is only at hand, the hands themselves feel what is only in hand, the nose scents the familiar atmosphere of social media dining, the tongue tastes only of the food the child adored, and the ears hear soothing sounds of soporific Sundays, when family was ‘together’, at least physically, and when nothing else needed doing. As distractions, our four examples are at their best. We cannot be working every hour, nor can we be constantly examining ourselves as if we were latter day penitents. But as decoys, we are duped into neither questioning nor changing the aspects of our shared world which are collectively doing us in. And when we reproduce those decoys for our children, we turn the decoys into devils, for to deny the chance for a child to live in a transformed world that within it holds a fairer future is nothing less than evil, incarnate in ourselves.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 56 books in ethics, education, health, social theory and aesthetics, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

‘Meet the Parents’ Today

‘Meet the Parents’ Today (self-righteous, incompetent, vengeful)

            And yet apparently possessed of ‘rights’. But the very being of a parent – that one has children – is not itself a right but rather a privilege. Not all those who desire children can have them, many lose children whom they wished to keep, and children themselves will eventually judge their parents, and some of those will vanish from the latter’s ken for whatever perceived injustice they had endured. Even so, if we do not speak of simply having children as a right, which we cannot, perhaps there is some other meaning to the desperate and disparate call to arms that self-styled parents’ groups have of late sounded? For they gird themselves against all other social institutions and even the family, of which they are generally and inordinately so proud, is seen as no longer the family anymore. For some it is the schools, for some the State, for fewer a church, this one or that, for others the ministries of child welfare, and for some it is other parents, judged lapsed and prolapsed in their moral obligations. But whatever or whomever may be the villain in the parental imagination, the lash of this lens is never turned toward themselves.

            So, I will do it for them. At once it is sage to recall that over 95% of child abuse occurs in the home, committed by persons well-known to the victim. The litany of largesse is not of specific interest, only the social fact itself. Almost all the remainder is perpetrated by coaches, teachers, trainers, and other adults who have some intimate contact and power over the child. Sports coaches are now belatedly living the infamy they deserve, at least some of them, as well as a few ‘Christian’ educators, but the vast majority of villains escape yet. The privacy of the household remains a bulwark against both investigation and prosecution, an oversize mute shoved down the very throat of any youthful horn, a bastion of iniquity that euphemizes discipline while it euthanizes childhood. In short, parents might well be by definition abusive, even if the very best of them practice only some silent symbolic force and never bellow, shame their child with ne’er a finger laid upon, or ignore their child entirely in the name of ‘progressive’ parenting. Neo-fascists and neo-communists alike, parents straight across the political spectrum upshift their pressing incompetence into a distressing defence of ‘parenthood’ in the abstract, bereft of any detailed accounting of exactly what they do or have done in the day-to-day travails of helping children attain young adulthood.

            So let us then ‘imagine’. Parents abuse officials of organized sports, they oust teachers and coaches from school programs, they get themselves elected to school boards and promptly ban books and other media, they rail against laws that protect children – for they well know against whom these laws are directed – and they seek at every turn to justify to their bad conscience, if they maintain one at all, that in doing so, they are good parents, yes they are. Parents dictate to teens long after any need of direct dependence has passed. They place limits of time, space, association, and activity upon youth, often contrary to the legal code. They crow about their ‘experience’, their ‘life wisdom’, and how ‘they used to be a teenager’ and now they know so much better. They enroll their children in summer camps after the legal age at which young people may stay by themselves, they choose at every turn the truncated lists from which only then such youth may choose, and they threaten their own children when, perhaps rarely enough, the young person demands a rationale, a reason, a right which indeed is their shared human birthright. Summarily, in the concise words of one of England’s poet laureates, ‘they fuck you up, your parents do’.

            High time to return the favour, in my opinion. For there seems to exist no publicly purveyed position of parenting that has anything to do with the child’s best interests. On the one side we witness with dismay a seething barbarism which believes in a vapid Victorian domesticity – adult women are victims of this outlook as well, though many appear to revel in it nonetheless; there are as many Juliettes out there as Justines perhaps – and more than this, far more, this side attempts to either convert or enslave the rest of us to its dreary druthers. On the other we find a patent and oblivious neglect of the most basic understanding that children do need our guidance and our skills, whatever little wisdom we might indeed possess in a world that is no longer quite our own, and of the utmost, the idea that being an adult means taking responsibility for things even when it isn’t your fault. For every fascism the controlling possessive parent exerts, there is a corresponding anti-fascism which, in its perverse sense of ‘freedom’, teaches children to think only of themselves and to be only whatever it is they fashionably imagine they are. On the one side there is a fetish for physical abuse, on the other, a reliance upon that emotional. The playground battle that exists between these two versions of parenting is not only cliché it truly is juvenile, far more so than almost anything an actual child gets up to or believes in. And these are the role models we wish to present to our children!

            Is it any wonder that social institutions other than the family have stepped in to do, well, something or other. Psychotherapy as an industry has heard the clarion call, education as a pedagogy, government as a morality; the counselor, the teacher, the politician – most of whom as well parents, we may presume – all proffering their vested interests to the by now numb and cynical youth whose future, along with our own, is ever in grave doubt due to the wider geopolitical actions of juvenile adulthood. ‘Your family made you suicidal? Here, let me fix that.’ ‘Your family can’t teach you everything you need to know, but we can.’ ‘I’ll pander to parents since they vote and you don’t, sweetheart, but you can still trust me.’ In every direction the young person looks today, she observes reality but sees evil. Where, she might ask, is the one place I can go where there are people who will love me, accept me for who I want to be, provide for me a livable future without unreasoned fear and unjustified death? Where is the place in my human heart that I was told the family occupied?

            I am rightly ashamed, as a philosopher and an ethicist, to respond with ‘I don’t know’. It cannot be an easy thing to be told, when still a teenager, that one is basically on one’s own. That is the reality, and though value-neutral in the objective sense, one as a person still has to live in it; endure the evil, savor the good when present, suffer the sorrow and enjoin the joy. The wisest thing I can say to youth today is the same thing that was said to them 2.5 millennia ago; the unexamined life is not worth living. Insofar as our world objectively promotes self-examination at every turn, all is not lost. As for myself and my wife, who are not parents, we have the somber solace of knowing that, in not being so, we remain in excellent company.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of over 55 books in ethics, education, social theory, health and aesthetics, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over twenty years.

Abortion and Ressentiment

Abortion and Ressentiment

            “The phenomenal peculiarity of the ressentiment delusion can be described as follows: the positive values are still felt as such, but they are overcast by the false values and can shine through only dimly. The ressentiment experience is always characterized by this ‘transparent’ presence of the true and objective values behind the illusory ones – by that obscure awareness one lives in a sham world which one is unable to penetrate.” (Max Scheler, Ressentiment, 1912-13, [2003:36], italics the text’s).

            In his perceptive introduction to Scheler’s classic extrapolatory work on Nietzsche’s concept of ressentiment, or ‘malicious existential envy’, Manfred Frings defines it thusly: “Ressentiment is an incurable, persistent feeling of hating and despising which occurs in certain individuals and groups. It takes its roots in equally incurable impotencies or weaknesses that these subjects constantly suffer from. These impotencies generate either individual or collective but always negative attitudes. They can permeate a whole culture, era, and an entire moral system. The feeling of ressentiment leads to false moral judgments made on other people who are devoid of this feeling. Such judgments are not infrequently accompanied by rash, at times fanatical claims of truth generated by the impotency this feeling comes from.” (2003:5). Such a description should be eminently recognizable to us today, as it is expressed in numerous contexts, including sectarianism, environmentalism, feminism, socialism, and nationalism. But these abstract manifestations of collective ressentiment themselves tend to ‘obscure awareness’ that we as individual persons often suffer from the delusions and the fanaticisms of deeply cherished existential envies. Such malice as can be found within envy or jealousy is indeed, ‘as cruel as the grave’, for it permits us to desire not only to replace the other with ourselves but to see that envied other destroyed. We do not merely want to be ‘like’ them, we want them vanquished from both society and its corresponding history. In a word, ressentiment seeks the death of the other via a projection of a self-hatred at one’s own personal drawbacks.

            Perhaps the most vocal space of the play of ressentiment today appears in the conflict surrounding abortion. In the USA, where such numbers have not varied much for about three decades, 41% of men and 35% of women feel abortion should be banned in almost all cases. About 38% of the population overall takes this line. A reasonable model of human belief and behavior must not only take account of the impetus behind such a belief, it must also account for the beliefs of the opposing two franchises, that is, the 59% of men who favor legal abortion and the 65% of women who do so, and thus around 62% of all persons in the USA. The governmental structure of said nation works to protect minority rights and in doing so, historically may have been said to over-represent any such minority on the political stage. The coincidence of this or that regime appointing chief justices also can lend leverage to specific points of view at certain moments in such a nation’s history. For the issue of abortion, this is one such moment.

            In saying this, we have touched the surface only of the ‘how’, and not taken the dive necessary to reveal the ‘why’. That is, why is abortion itself an issue at all, let alone a political one? It is well known in studies of gender development that males and females are socialized radically differently. Men are challenged by autonomy and fail to learn the skills required to ‘look after themselves’. This is reflected in their dependency upon women in conjugal relations and in child-raising. It is only very recently that the majority of men have taken up some portion of domestic labor; round numbers here are on the order of about one-third performing about half such labor, another one-third doing some of it but still the minority, and a final one-third doing nothing at all. During previous decades when men accounted for most of the public work force and almost all of the household income, this ‘balance’ appeared to function well enough. We should not put a valuation on such a symbiosis as was idealized in the ‘bourgeois’ family, since it has been well-documented that such an arrangement came at great cost for both dominant genders. Both Emma Goldman and Engels are to be credited with the most important critiques of this family type and insofar as it still exists, these critiques retain their validity. At the same time, if men’s impotency has to do with attaining a sense of independence, this is nonetheless an ideal of most men. For women, socialized to be caregivers and to give more generally without demur, the challenge is to simply preserve their own selfhood in the face of others demanding that they fulfill absent characteristics of an holistic self.

            The stage is thus set for mutual envy. On the one hand, men resent women’s self-sufficiency as well as their ability to provide emotional succor to others. They resent the female’s sexual energies and capabilities – no male virility can outlast female ‘availability’, so to speak – and, at least in the past, their general ‘beauty’ as defined by the esthetics of the day. Even now, for instance, supermodels are almost exclusively female. On the other hand, women resent men’s neediness, their immaturity when it comes to working with others, and their objectification of women as idealized sources of both Eros and the means to ward off the thanatic drive so prevalent in men, who have been socialized with correspondingly more violence than have women. The ethnographic work ‘Worlds of Pain’ wincingly documents this mutual resentment which gradually turns to the more malicious form of envy. For men, feeling ‘roped into’ marriage seems a cliché, but it is nevertheless a real sensitivity. They claim to be ‘trapped’ by the woman, whose own needs they struggle to satisfy in the present-day labor market and perhaps also in the boudoir. Yet the woman is equally trapped. Before ever actual children may appear, she is saddled with an ‘overgrown child’, to quote the many transcribed extracts, whose needs seem to grow in direct proportion to time served. The freedom and informality of a first date does not a marriage make.

            Children are mostly a bond upon the woman. They are thus potential leverage for a man to bring the freedom of the woman to ground. Not only is the cycle from conception to birth a dangerous one for women, post-parturition illnesses abound. But it is to the psychological burden of pregnancy that any ethical analysis must point. Children certainly suffer from this other resentment – it is no fault of theirs that they are born but many parents are possessed of the sense that children somehow ‘owe’ them; a clear delusion of ressentiment which the old also hold against the young in general – but it is more directly women who find themselves entangled within conflicting demands; the proverbial ‘second shift’, the idea of the ‘supermom’ and so on. We are not as certain when it comes to defining what it means to be a ‘super-dad’. We would argue here that the men who seek to ban abortion do so out of a patent ressentiment against women in general. By extension, the women who seek the same harbor that same violent envy against other women who seem more at liberty than they. This relative social freedom may be sourced in a variety of socialized beliefs and values, but the most salient variable that influences the relative rate of abortion between groups of women is status in the labor market. Professional or full-time long-term career oriented women have fewer children than meager status working women whose life of labor does not return many rewards. All of us live off this penitential form of labor, and it is global.

            We are also aware that the actual instances of abortion vary according to socio-economic status. In the USA this is simply due to the fact that the procedure is expensive. Indeed, in nations where medical care is ‘free’, we do not see widespread attention to abortion as a public or political issue. So the motivation for women who desire legal abortion access is that they wish to maintain this public status as well as a certain material level of lifestyle and consumption, and resent both their misgivings about being potentially self-seeking and thus also less of a ‘true’ woman. For men who favor legal abortion, they too desire a specific quality of life and may also feel that their dependence upon women is not tied to the woman being herself tied to children. Such men have themselves status and wealth enough to simply ‘trade out’ this or that intimate partner over much of the life course and thus are not bound to a particular marriage mate who is willing to ‘put up’ with their other male weaknesses, still very much present. True ‘no fault’ divorce is in reality based upon more or less equal access to resources, whether these are material, psychical, or emotional and ethical. Given the ratio of urban-rural, educated-less educated, and the distribution of wealth and access to cultural institutions and health care, the prevailing numbers associated with views on abortion in the USA reflect closely such numbers associated with the usual suite of ‘life-chance’ variables.

            While at first glance it seems that the levels of ressentiment and accompanying delusions – those who favor abortions are ‘immoral’, even ‘evil’ rather than in reality simply pragmatic and self-interested – weigh heavily upon those with negative views on abortion, those who favor legal abortion maintain a corresponding set of delusions about their opponents – they are ‘misogynists’ or ‘fascists’ rather than in reality being culturally impoverished and marginalized relative to the means of production – and thus also have to reckon with sources of existential envy which may have their expression in the denial of community or the import of familial ties. In sum, women who disfavor abortion resent the relative liberty of higher status women; men who disfavor abortion resent their dependence upon women in general; women who favor abortion resent men in general – specifically their would-be intrusiveness through the presence of children as a form of male leverage – and men who favor abortion resent any woman who would impinge upon their ‘earned’ status and idealized ‘freedom’ but who also must maintain the means to be relatively independent themselves. Though it does appear that ressentiment itself is carried more upon the side of disfavor in this issue, we should not be overly quick to clear those who favor abortion on this count given the highly polarized political division in the contemporary USA. Both masses no doubt imagine that ‘their’ country would be better off if all those on the ‘other’ side were dead and gone. This is ultimately the arbiter of the social presence of malicious existential envy.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of fifty books in ethics, education, health, social theory and aesthetics, and was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences of over two decades.