Ari Armstrong's Web Log (Main) | Archives | Terms of Use

Self in Society Roundup 49

Branden on gender, theocrats, faux heterodoxy, surviving Trump, capitalism, libertarianism, DEI, therapy, the movie Pig, and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
March 20, 2024

Branden on Gender

Nathaniel Branden, one-time associate of Ayn Rand (before a huge blow-up related to an affair between the two), has some interesting comments about gender. These remarks are relevant to everyone and have some bearing on discussions of transgender matters.

I thank Chris Sciabarra for help with the references. See also Sciabarra's essay on trans hysteria on the alt-right (including among certain self-described Objectivists).

In his To See What I See and Know What I Know, alternately titled The Art of Self-Discovery, Branden writes the following:

Often we do violence to who we are because of misguided notions of "masculinity" and "femininity." We attempt to disown whatever does not fit our image of what is appropriate. Thus, men often disown tenderness, sensuality, their ability to be nurturing, just as women often disown strength, assertiveness, sexuality, their ability to be self-reliant.

And in The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Branden writes:

The opposite-gender self is the component of the psyche containing the feminine subpersonality of the male and the masculine subpersonality of the female; not a generic "feminine" or "masculine" or universal archetype, but individual for each man or woman, reflecting aspects of his or her personal development, learning, acculturation, and overall development.

There tends to be a fairly strong correlation between how we relate to the opposite gender in the world and how we relate to the opposite gender within. The man who professes to find women an incomprehensible mystery is almost certainly completely out of touch with the feminine within—just as a woman who professes to find men incomprehensible is out of touch with her masculine side.

Quick Takes

Theocrats: Here are select notes from Kevin Vallier based on his tour of colleges; he has out a book critical of so-called "Integralism." "Generally, most students inclined toward what they call integralism think the 'pure' version I assess goes way too far. Most want Christianity to play a much more central role in shaping American institutions, and they want Christians to push the culture away from secular liberalism, often through the use of state power. . . . [T]he Protestant post-liberals [are] up for a Christian state, but they are often shocked that the core integralist thinkers would subject Protestants to canonical penalties for heresy. . . . Many students want to identify the social order that would stop the progressive social project and ultimately reverse it. They’re not precisely revolutionaries, but they are trying to think about how to beat the left once and for all. That’s a scary prospect, but the students often think we’re in a kill-or-be-killed situation."

Faux Heterodoxy: Radley Balko: "What I found in researching the series [about The Fall of Minneapolis, which defends Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd], publishing it, and the subsequent reaction is that for all their claims to be independent-minded alternatives to a mainstream media tethered to ideology and 'woke' orthodoxy, publications like The Free Press (motto: Think for Yourself) are just as guilty of the groupthink for which they consider themselves the remedy. They're just as likely to be captured by ideology, and just as unwilling to admit their mistakes."

Surviving Trump: Laura Jedeed and Lincoln Mitchell have thoughts about how to get through a second Trump term with our democracy intact. I worry that their main proposal, "demonstrations that grind social and economic life to a halt," would be counterproductive. People who vote for Trump will only lend Trump greater support if they see the left as trying to tear apart the country. Obviously, though, things like peaceful marches and boycotts can be effective. This idea is good: People should "understand the difference between the terrible policies we expect of any Republican president . . . and policies that threaten human rights and the structure of American democracy, like declarations of martial law or legal repression of minority groups."

Reisman's Capitalism: George Reisman, who combined the Austrian economics of Ludwig von Mises with the philosophy of Ayn Rand, announced that he's planning to put all of his works in the public domain upon his death. He's already put Capitalism on Google drive.

Kukathas on Libertarianism: I don't remember how I got turned on to this 2013 talk by Chandran Kukathas on libertarianism. Here are his main points. Although libertarians just tend to take for granted the existing property rights distribution, in fact, existing property rights came about, not so far back, through violence. Rousseau and Marx, typically loathed by libertarians, can be read has having strong critiques of the state as an interest-serving institution. So libertarians can start their project, not by presuming the justice of currently defined property rights, but by critiquing state power. This sort of thinking leads pretty straightforwardly to libertarian anarchism, and the Objectivists will hate it. Nevertheless, I am increasingly conscious of the ways that property was unjustly divvied up in the past, and I am also cognizant of the ways that the state can be captured by the powerful.

Sotirakopoulos on DEI: Nikos Sotirakopoulos says that DEI opposes individualism and reason. But a reasonable version of DEI recognizes that humans have the capacity for reason but also often succumb to biases; that biases can lead a person to misjudge others based on gender, race, and so on; that widespread bias can lead to systemic mistreatment of certain individuals (historically in the U.S., women, Black people, and others); and that often overcoming personal and cultural biases requires conscious and concerted effort. We shouldn't fall into the typical leftist trap of seeing people only or mainly as members of some group, but we also shouldn't fall into the trap of ignoring the continuing consequences of bigotry against individuals because of their race or gender or other comparable characteristic.

Herper on BS Science: Matthew Herper offers an appropriately skeptical take on health studies that do not rely on good randomized controls. He specifically focuses on "a study [that allegedly] found that caloric restriction, also known as intermittent fasting, has a 91% higher risk of death due to cardiovascular disease."

Courtesy Cards: Alex Tabarrok: "'Courtesy cards,' are cards given out by the NYC police union (and presumably elsewhere) to friends and family who use them to get easy treatment if they are pulled over by a cop."

Shrier on Therapy: Abigail Shrier's new thesis seems to be roughly this: Encouraging children to dwell on how traumatized and depressed they are tends to make them feel more traumatized and depressed. There's probably something to that, but I worry her story is too simple. One oddity is that Shrier seems to think that people are remarkably resilient in the face of all sorts of traumas except the trauma caused by misguided therapy! Also, at least in this interview, Shrier seems to suggest that the alternative to what me might call "therapeutic parenting" is traditional punishment-based parenting. Those are not the only options!

Movies: I absolutely love the 2019 film Yeterday, which I recently rewatched. The setup is a musician awakens after an accident in a universe in which the Beatles never made music. The film is about living authentically and welcoming love. Pig, starring Nic Cage, appears to be a standard revenge film about a guy whose truffle pig is stolen. But it's not that. It's a soulful film about family, love, mourning, and the integrity of honest work. Magnificent. Poor Things is very strange, and it features a lot of not entirely tasteful sex scenes. But it's worth watching. It's about a woman who loves pleasure and learns to seek it mindfully. Largely it's a feminist film about the ways that some men seek to control women. The documentary Julia, about Julia Child, is an amazing look at the woman. I hadn't realized she was a champion of legal abortion and for treating AIDS.

Ari Armstrong's Web Log (Main) | Archives | Terms of Use