Women in the Public Square
I think that the question of women in the public square is the big question of our time. I was alerted to this by German sociologist Georg Simmel.
Simmel recognized that 19th century technologies "made for less labor in the household." This caused unease among middle-class women, who now sought activity outside the home.
Obviously, Simmel wrote, the public sphere, the world outside the home, in the short term would still be defined by men for men, but in the long term women would transform the public square to suit "a more feminine sensibility."
But what does that mean?
For me, the point of the male-created public square is to create a public space where the old male culture of revenge justice (an eye for an eye, a life for a life) is replaced by the culture of law and politics. In this culture revenge is reduced to the "wait until next time" of failure in politics and sports. Men still fight, but not in blood sports. Today, men have a Culture of Insult where men exchange insults in a playful way, rather than in a lethal way.
Thus, the shape of our political institutions reflect the age-old need to curb the power projects of men. As politics is civil war by other means, the whole point of politics is in fact to direct the male aggressive instinct into political wars rather than actual fighting wars. And then, since men tend to abuse the rules of any political system, there is a need for checks and balances to limit the harm that can be caused by men of overvaulting ambition. That is what the public square is all about.
Now, the previous culture of women was different. They got on in the old village culture with gossip, which is two women talking together about a third woman. And they penalized defaulters -- the woman that all the women agreed was a problem -- by naming and shaming, and in extreme cases, by ostracism.
I have an example of how the women's culture works, from Spirit and Flesh, a book about a fundamentalist church by liberal sociologist James M. Ault, Jr. In the fundamentalist church the men held all the formal offices, but the women ran the church through their husbands. Notice that this means the women never get into conflict or suffer a microaggression or leave their safe spaces, or venture into the public square. But they still run the place.
But feminism proposed the notion that women could and should live openly in the public square. In the mid 20th century, Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex told us that the ideal was the "independent woman." She would live alone, work in a career, conduct sexual relationships as she pleased, and be subordinate to no male patriarch.
Only Simone was wrong. Women don't want male strutting careers, or casual sex, or exchange of insults in the public square. Women don't relate to the public square, not at all. But then, "what do women want," as Freud asked. They don't want, they expect. And what they expect is:
Women expect to be protected.
And thus women want nothing to do with the public square, which is a place where you go out unprotected, except by your wit and knowledge and ability to hold your own in a word fight.
The public square is a relic of the duel, the fight between two men for dominance, only conducted today with words rather than fists. That is not how women live, or interact. As I say, women communicate one-on-one over coffee and in that conversation they do not disagree with each other, not at all. They talk about other women, as in "I can't believe she said/did that." The public square is not just a thing invented by men for men. It is inaccessible to women because they are women and their brains are wired differently.
In today's culture we see the woman's culture penetrating the workplace with notions like microaggressions and safe spaces. Back in the Sixties, colleges abandoned the "parietal" system in which colleges took over the supervision of adult children from parents. But now colleges are involved in all the minor questions of college life; This trend is all about women disliking direct confrontation and calling it a microaggression and wanting to control people indirectly. A safe space is the complete negation of the public square, where you have to stand up and "act like a man." What happens to the public square if you are not allowed to confront other ideas with your ideas and if you run for a safe space if you hear something that makes you feel bad? I don't know.
Nobody should doubt the emotional wear and tear that come from living a life in a male skin suit, doing that male swagger and male hierarchy thing while still being a woman inside that instinctively is programmed to live a completely different life, a life not of deeds and glory, but of feelings and emotional responses to life.
Irregardless, the whole question of women in the public square is only going to become more and more important. As women slowly decide that they don't really want to live in the bracing air of the public square and would rather rule the world through their husbands, as of old.