Martin von Creveld – On Feminism (full version)




Want to know what the strangest thing about modern feminism is? Not the derogatory things many feminists say about other women (“only anxious to inspire love, when they ought to cherish a nobler ambition:” Mary Wollstonecraft). Not the foolishness of many of the claims its proponents keep on making, e.g. that men designed the famous qwerty keyboard specifically to make the lives of female secretaries hard. Nor the fact that it often comes at the cost of women’s health and welfare, as when they try to compete with men in fields where the latter’s greater physical force and resistance to dirt gives them a clear advantage; thereby inviting injury and shortening their own lives. Nor the truly nauseating combination of aggression and self-pity which has become its trademark. But the fact that so many men tolerate it, abet it, and even help push it forward.

Consider. When men demonstrate for their rights, which is something they have done many, many times throughout history, they are often shot dead. In the words of a nineteenth-century German proverb, gegen Demokraten helfen nur Soldaten (against democrats, the only remedy is soldiers). When women do the same as, qua women, some of them started doing during the last decades of the nineteenth century, normally the very worst they can expect is a short and relatively comfortable prison sentence. As, for example, happened to “the Pankhursts,” meaning mainly Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, when they adopted arson as their tactic. Even the Nazis, notorious for ruthlessness, did not treat their German male and female opponents equally. It was only in 1938, five years after “the seizure of power,” that the first female victim of National Socialist “justice” was put to death (along with two male comrades with whom she had been passing state secrets to the Russians). It was only in the same year that the first concentration camp for women, Moehringen, opened its gates. Later Ravensbrueck, the most important camp for women, was distinguished by its relatively low mortality rate. So much better did the Nazis treat male homosexuals than lesbians that, come 1942-43, some ministry of justice officials asked their superiors to please explain the rationale behind the policy. To that request, they never received an answer.

The Road to Herland

Starting around 1890 and continuing thereafter, the greatest single victory feminists have ever gained was that of the suffragettes. Today in every country where men are allowed to vote, women enjoy the same right. By the ordinary rules of social life, it should never have happened. Why? Because, at the time, men occupied all positions and held all the cards. So in the executive. So in the legislature, and so in the judiciary. So in the military and so in the police. So in the universities. And so in the media, of course. Not to mention the financial world. As late as 1999, when eleven countries formally inaugurated the Euro, the assembled ministers of finance did not include a single woman; it was only in 2018 that a woman became head of the NYSE for the first time. It happened because, women being women, men did not have it in their hearts to fight them. Least of all in the way they often fight each other.

The fact that men are so reluctant to fight women/feminists as ruthlessly and as brutally as they do each other has been taken for granted much more often than it has been investigated. Perhaps it is because they well know that, had they done so, the human race would have come to a quick and inglorious end; after all, they themselves started life inside women’s wombs and almost all of them sucked at women’s breasts. Or because, nature having made them physically stronger, for a long time they closed their eyes and refused to take women seriously. Or because, bemused by the ocean of accusations aimed at them by modern feminists, they could not believe it had anything to do with them. After all, almost every one of them thought, he had never done women any harm. On the contrary, wishing to attract them and please them and keep them he had done them all the good he could. Perhaps, as Aristophanes’ Lysistrate put it, it was because, when everything is said and done, a man’s pleasure is in a woman’s hand. Or because, since most men are considerably stronger than most women, when a man fights a woman and loses, he loses; when he wins, he also loses.

A century later, the tables have been turned. Feminist bloodhounds and their self-hating male supporters have constructed a monstrous propaganda machine, trained it straight at men, and made them pay heavily for the gratuitous concessions their great-grandfathers made. Day by day, tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of them are being penalized for offenses they did not commit and which, even a few years ago, not even the victims themselves would have considered offenses at all. They are prosecuted, put on trial, convicted, and incarcerated and/or fined. So much so that, as used to be the case and sometimes remains the case in Muslim societies, even looking at a woman in the “wrong” way can be considered sexual harassment. And so much so that defending the accused in court has almost become a crime in itself; which is one reason why so many lawyers who specialize in doing so are themselves female. As to the alleged victims, so mentally retarded are some of them that they take years, decades even, to understand that whatever was done to them; or which they thought was done to them; or which (in at least one famous case) they dreamt had been done to them; or which others told them had been done to them; did indeed constitute rape, or abuse, or harassment, or whatever.

Though there was no trial, a perfect example of the way this kind of retroactive accusations work is provided by Ilona Staller, AKA Cicciolina. Born in 1951, no sooner had she reached adulthood then she started épater la bourgeoisie. Publicly exposing her every orifice, sleeping with more men than she could remember, and loudly proclaiming her “free-thinking” woman’s right to (ab)use her body just as much as she wanted to. To do her bit for peace, and presumably gain some publicity a well, she proposed sleeping first with Saddam Hussein and then with Osama Bin Laden. On the way she wed a well-known artist, Jeff Koon, had a son with him, and was twice divorced. Looking back at her career, much of it as a pornographer and performer of bawdy songs (“Il Cazzo,” The Prick), she says it has all been a mistake; how much better to be married for thirty years and look after grandchildren. Now that she is a lonely old woman—her own words—whom does she blame? Men, of course. None of whom had understood her sensitive nature and truly loved her; and all of whom were out only to bed her and make money out of her.

President Clinton at one point engaged in some consensual, repeat consensual, sexual games with a woman, Monica Lewinsky. She actively pursued him—as he later said, the reason why he did it was because he could. Not only that, but she refused to give up even after he told her it was over. For this he was impeached and came close to being removed from office. Why? Because he should have known better. If a woman says no, then “it” is clearly rape. If she says yes, many modern feminists claim, then “it” is also rape. This time because she considered, or looking back considers herself, too weak or too much of a ninny to tell him so.

The latest example is Harvey Weinstein. His alleged crime? Sleeping with two young women. Hoping for advancement and money they, along with any number of others like them, followed him literally to the end of the world with the express intention of getting him to do just that. The evidence that he used force on them or abused them in any way? These are one on one situations. Hence, none whatsoever; except for what the women themselves said. That is why a third woman had to be enlisted so she could testify about something that, so she claimed, Weinstein had done to her decades ago. So long, in fact, that the statute of limitations should have been applied (but was not). Why was she brought in? To establish a “pattern” of sexual behavior on the accused’s part. All this, at a time when looking into a woman’s past in order to establish a similar pattern is specifically prohibited by law. Incidentally, so “courageous” and “intrepid” was this particular women that, even as the trial went on, she refused to be identified; this, while half the world’s journalists, always more than ready to cast the first stone, were doing his name harm that is in some ways worse than the 27-year prison term to which he has been sentenced.

A woman who has been raped or otherwise abused might be expected to be afraid of the perpetrator and keep her distance from him. This is a point many courts have recognized by allowing such a woman to testify without having to confront the accused face to face; so delicate are women’s souls said to be that any defense attorney who dares to cross-examine a female “victim” of abuse in earnest will ipso facto find himself at a disadvantage. Not so in this case as well as many others. Claiming to have been raped, the two continued to see Weinstein and sleep with him. From this, the prosecution argued, it was clear, not that the alleged abuse was not abuse at all, which is the logical conclusion, but that they were “in thrall” to him. A mysterious kind of thrall, previously seen only in witches, which he was somehow able to project over time and right across the globe.

Going further still, some states will refuse either to prosecute a woman for coming up with false accusations or allow the victim to sue her for defamation. At this point the entire system of justice, supposed to be fair and free and open to all, starts to totter. Any man is at the mercy of any woman, with no redress in sight. All he can do is keep saying that whatever he did, if he did it, was consensual. To no avail; as Woody Allen and many others found out, once an accusation has been made even a formal acquittal, in court, may not prevent a man from being hounded half to death. By now even boys as young as ten learn that girls are capricious, perfidious, and potentially very, very dangerous creatures. Always capable of returning the slightest sign of affection by stabbing their authors in the back and raising accusations against them, whether true or false.

But nothing lasts forever. Long ago, I had the honor of studying Hegel, Marx and Engels with one of the world’s greatest experts on those thinkers. As well as Lenin, the man who lit the fuse and turned his predecessors’ vision into a gigantic bloodbath. From them I learnt that history, unlike most physical and chemical processes, does not move in a straight line as a bullet does. Instead, it is a question of action/reaction. X comes up with an idea. A new force (such as feminism) appears out of nowhere, as it seems, and starts spreading across the historical stage. Hardly has it done so than a countertheory or counterforce emerges. As the two grow they recognize each other as opponents and wrestle. Out of this struggle a synthesis is born. That synthesis in turn forms a new force or argument, provoking a reaction. And so on, in a process broadly known as dialectics.

Having gained momentum, feminism now forms as powerful a social force as may be found in the contemporary world. For good or ill, a reaction is bound to happen. In Brazil (Jair Messias Bolsonaro), in Italy (Matteo Salvini), and in the U.S (Donald Trump) it had already begun. The number of anti-feminist organizations is growing. So, according to Google Ngram, is the use of expressions such as “Feminazis.” As well as statements like “feminism is cancer” (14,400,000 hits on Google, most by men but some by women too). Much to the loss of both sexes, probably never in history have so many men hated women as much as do so today. And the other way around.

And this is only the beginning. Being 74 years old, I consider myself lucky in that I am unlikely to live long enough to see the movement unfold in its full fury. I am, however, afraid that, unless something drastic happens, my children and grandchildren, both male and female, very likely will. What might such a reaction look like? I am a historian, not a novelist. That is why, looking for an answer, I turn to Margaret Atwood’s 1984 masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as its 2019 sequel, The Testaments.

Into the Breach

Should it occur to anyone to start curbing the excesses of feminism in earnest, then obviously the most important step will be to deprive women of the right to vote. In itself, doing so ought not to be too difficult. In most modern countries, feeding in the right computer program and pressing a few buttons would suffice to do the job. No longer will my wife and I receive our Israeli, blue and white, voting cards in tandem. Instead of pinning two cards to the fridge as, in the past year, we have done no fewer than three times, I shall do so only with one. To prevent disenfranchised women from disrupting the voting process, as some of them regularly did at the turn of the twentieth century, perhaps a few of the noisiest ones should be placed under protective custody for a couple of days. Having each polling station watched by a policeman or two would not present a problem either.

The real problem is a different one. In ancient Greece, women’s rights and democracy were entirely separate. Neither in Athens nor in any other city were women allowed either to vote or to hold public office. To the extent that it was democratic, as in some respects it was, the same applied to republican Rome. Not so in the modern world. In it, right from the beginning the demand for women’s enfranchisement has been riding piggyback on democracy. When Congress issued the Declaration of Independence Abigail Adams, wife of president to-be John Adams, complained that it mentioned men but not women. As the French Revolution broke out more than one woman insisted that the newly-adopted rights of men should be extended to women too. The best-known one was no other than Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792). Another, Olympe de Gouges, was actually executed; though less for denouncing the “despotic” rule of men over women than for advocating a return of the monarchy. Not accidentally did John Stuart Mill, the most ardent male feminist of all time, publish The Subjection of Women in 1869, the year that marked a vast extension of the British electorate. To this day it is almost exclusively democratic countries that pay attention to women’s rights. Neither Putin, nor Xi, nor Khamenei, nor Kim Jong-un seems to be very interested in them. Nor, since they do not put great store on attracting female voters, or any voters for that matter, is there any reason why they should.

The long and the short of it is, if women are to be disenfranchised democracy will have to be abolished as well. Given its deep roots in Western civilization, that is a much harder proposition. Who could make the attempt? For Ms. Atwood the answer is clear: the armed forces which, throughout history and until very recently, used to be the bastions of masculinity. Or, more specifically, some secret group active within them and ready to take the bit between its teeth. Perhaps we might add elements of the police, the intelligence services, and various private security organizations. Here it is important to realize that many of those organizations’ CEOs are themselves former generals and senior police officers, making it easier for them to communicate and cooperate.

Whatever their precise nature, what makes these organizations potentially dangerous is not just the fact that they are authorized to carry weapons and, in certain cases, use them. It is their members’ detailed grasp of the way the state security organs work and, therefore, how they can be subverted and/or harnessed to the conspirators’ purpose. Who is in charge of what? Whom does he report to? What channels does he use, and how to ensure that those channels either remain open or are blocked?

Mounting a coup is not cheap. In this case the money may come from the kind of billionaire worried about being made to share Harvey Weinstein’s fate—and, given the brave new judiciary climate as well as the growing menace of #MeToo, what billionaire shouldn’t be? In the novels, all we really know about the conspirators is that they call themselves the Sons of Jacob. The reference is to the patriarch of that name. Tricked into marrying two sisters, he discovered that the younger one was unable to have children. Jealous of her sister, she nagged him (“give me children, or else I die”) until he gave way and slept with her handmaid. Now it was the turn of the older one to become jealous, so he impregnated her as well.

Here it is worth recalling that, whatever feminists have said and done, all the above-mentioned forces, agencies, firms, etc. remain almost as male-dominated as they were five or six decades ago. Not only is the number of their female members fairly limited, but few of them occupy key positions. As one top Pentagon official in a position to know told me years ago when it was still relatively safe to do so, basically they cause little but trouble. Not simply by complaining; that is something women have no monopoly on. But because their complaints are so often self-contradictory. If female soldiers are not treated on an equal basis with men, e.g in respect to pay, promotion, and conditions of service, they complain about discrimination. If they are treated on an equal basis with men, e.g in respect to training and deployment, they also complain; this time because their femininity, meaning weaker physiques, greater susceptibility to certain diseases, pregnancy and motherhood is not given due consideration and does not lead to the privileges, such as shorter hours and better conditions, to which they feel entitled.

As anyone who has ever watched men and women engaged in co-ed training knows, there simply is no way out. If the same exercises are prescribed for people of both sexes, far more women will be injured and far fewer will graduate whereas the men, being stronger, will get hardly any training at all. If, to the contrary, trainees of each sex are made to perform to different standards, then the men will complain that, to gain credit, they must work harder than women. As, for example, by running longer distances, carrying heavier loads, and the like. The worst thing those responsible can do is to put men and women trainees into a situation where they have to physically touch each other. As, for example, in the now world-famous Israeli form of hand-to-hand combat known as krav maga (literally, “body-to-body battle”). Under such circumstances serious training becomes impossible. All that is left is a something more like Tai Chi or a ballet.

In some armies, these problems and others like them have long brought about a situation where male personnel are more afraid of their female colleagues than of the enemy. And no wonder: the U.S military e.g has more sexual assault response coordinators (SARCs) than it does recruiters. In my experience this fear has even spread to retired male officers; they are worried that walls may have ears. Responses to the problem vary. With Vice President Mike Pence providing the example, in- and out of the military a growing number of men refuse to be alone with any woman other than their wives, thus opening the door to complaints about discrimination. Many others will not meet with female co-workers unless a third person is present, thereby opening the door to even more complaints, this time about the violation of privacy.

Through all this, one thing remains clear. Should those in charge gird their loins and decide that enough is enough, then both in the military and in the civilian world a great many working women could be dispensed with fairly quickly and sent home. The place they occupied until 1965 or so; and which, to the mind of many men and such women as consider their children too precious to be raised by strangers, they should never have left to begin with.

Brave New World

To carry out a successful coup, four things are needed. First, a leader; as one of my professors used to say, would there really have been a Russian Revolution without Lenin? Second, a cause or ideology that will make others rally around him. Third, a polarized and paralyzed political system that will fail to act as quickly and as decisively as it should have. And fourth, a large number of ordinary people sufficiently disgruntled with the existing state of things to tolerate an uprising. What I am suggesting is not that such a coup is right around the corner either in the U.S or in any other democratic country. Rather that, when the time comes, restoring the balance between men and women could well be a central part of the cause in question. One for which a growing number of men, dismayed by the countless privileges women are enjoying and feeling at risk by the Niagara of often false accusations feminists are directing at them, might rally and fight.

As Ms. Atwood says, the Bible, especially the Old Testament with its strong patriarchal bias, might well be used to provide such a coup with the religious sanction it needs. That applies both to the Old Testament (“a fitting helper for him”) and the new one (“let woman in Church keep silent”). If victory comes quickly, as it did in Brazil in 1964, Greece in 1967, Chile in 1970, and Argentina in 1976 then the rest will be relatively simple. But if—and in quite some countries this is the more likely outcome—it does not, then the sequel will be about as kind and as gentle as the French Terror under Robespierre. This in turn may escalate into full-scale civil war complete with widespread destruction, countless atrocities, and heavy loss of life. As, for example, happened in Spain in 1936-39. Opponents who do not surrender will be exterminated. If necessary, as Ms. Atwood also says, with the aid of poison gas.

Having won, she goes on, the rebels will set up a dictatorial/clerical government. Living standards will drop dramatically. Civil liberties and every kind of privacy will be abolished. So will the kind of courts that are responsible for safeguarding them; in their place, we shall see the growth of bodies much more like the KGB or the Gestapo. As far as women are concerned, the most important measure the new government will put into effect will be to prohibit them from taking on high-level work outside the home. Also, from owning bank accounts, inheriting property, and generally handling any but the trifling sums needed for running a household day to day.

Children over the age of six or eight will be educated separately, just as they have been throughout most of history. It may be that Ms. Atwood is exaggerating—as a novelist, that is her good right. Contrary to what she says, I think that women may still be allowed to study for occupations such as teaching, nursing, nutrition, all kinds of therapy, and the like. However, everything they do will be under male supervision and control. To prevent feminism from reemerging women will be barred from acquiring a higher education in the humanities, the social sciences, and, above all, the law. In fact both The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments point to female lawyers as the new regime’s worst enemies, most likely not only to be suspended from school but arrested and shot as well.

Still loosely following in Ms. Atwood’s footsteps, every woman will be assigned a male guardian. Either a relative—father, husband, brother, son—or, in the case of single women and widows and divorcees who do not have them, a Miniwowe (Ministry of Women’s Welfare) official. In case, which seems likely, there are more such women than bureaucrats, the outcome will be a modern form of polygamy. In whatever way it is done, inevitably the best-looking young women will be rounded up for the officers’ exclusive use. Whether as wives, or concubines, or baby-bearing machines—handmaid’s, to use Ms. Atwood’s terminology—or elite prostitutes. Or else, in case they do not have a man or a male bureaucrat to protect them, simply as prey. Of the kind that is seduced with presents if possible and violently hunted down if it is not. As to the rest, who cares? Let the Economen, as Ms. Atwood calls them, look after their Econowives as best they can.

The doctrine of separate spheres having been firmly reestablished in this way, another measure the Junta will definitely take will be to recruit some women as auxiliaries. Not so they can rule or wield weapons, as feminists demand; never at any time have men had much need of women to help them either to govern or to kill one another. But to help control the others while at the same time gaining legitimacy and putting it on show. A few of the women in question will no doubt be given high rank, at any rate on paper. In return they will be required not to appear, or behave, in too feminine a manner. No expensive jewelry to make other women jealous. No ballroom gowns, nor cleavages, nor hand kissing, nor all kinds of wiles women have always used and will always go on using to get their way. Think of Lenin’s wife, Nadezha Krupskaya. Think, too, of Stalin’s alleged mistress Alexandra Kollontai. Not to mention Hitler’s Reichsfrauenfuehrerin Gertrud Scholtz-Klink. All three paid for what modest power they wielded, and the privileged lives they led, by serving some of the most terrifying men who ever lived.

Of the remaining women, many will be herded into a quasi-military organization and made to wear uniform. Judging by what previous totalitarian regimes have done and are doing, the uniforms themselves will likely fall into two kinds. Either such as make their wearers almost indistinguishable from men, complete with camouflage patterns, Kevlar helmets, heavy boots, and similar items that will conceal their femininity and create the illusion that they are more than just half soldiers. Or else a more feminine type with brightly colored skirts, nylon stockings, a unique kind of headgear to make them look nice on parade, and what in some cases appear to be plastic guns. As Russian, Chinese and North Korean female soldiers, goose-stepping past their invariably male, benignly smiling, superiors already do.

Amidst all this, feminists who refuse to recant will have clamps (branks as, back in the seventeenth century, they used to be known) pushed into their mouths if they are lucky and be burnt as witches if they are not. Or else they will be sent to the camps, the colonies as Ms. Atwood calls them, from which few if any of them will ever return. What makes these measures more plausible is the fact that few of them are really new; quite some were implemented in the past. Not just among illiterate tribespeople in their natural habitat, but in the democratic and enlightened Athens so many of us claim as our spiritual ancestor. And not just ages ago, but in nineteenth-century Europe and North America. In the latter, the English economist Harriet Martineau reported, the very idea of his wife working was enough to make a man’s hair stand on end.

Writing in the late 1920s, Virginia Woolf described how a beadle, or security guard, prevented her from walking on the grass at “Oxbridge” university as male students did. It was only in the mid-1970s that, in some Western countries, married women could so much as open a bank account under their own names. Not until 1976, when Swiss women were finally granted the vote, was the process of enfranchisement complete even in Europe. As I have seen with my own eyes, even today some Muslim women wear a bit-like piece of clothing, known as a battoullah, which makes it hard for them to speak. As Mao wrote, even a journey of ten thousand miles must start with a single step. In many countries, political polarization is growing and democracy is in serious trouble already.


What factor or event could trigger off such a change? In The Handmaid’s Tale it is a shortage of fertile women, brought about by a host of environmental problems that render most of them barren. In reality, it is perhaps more likely to be provoked precisely by something many feminists have been eagerly waiting for: namely, the development of artificial wombs. Such as will not only save the lives of babies, which is the declared objective of many research groups, but free women from the need to conceive and bear and deliver children; thus enabling them to focus on their careers the way men have always done. However, such a device might also open another possibility. Namely that, if women cease doing any of these things, men will need them much less; and that, as a result, their treatment of them, far from improving, will become worse than even feminists claim it has ever been.

A nightmare? For most of us Westerners who value the right of both men and women to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I myself emphatically included, very much so. But for the growing number of men who are being targeted, as well as their wives and mothers and daughters and sisters who partake of the injustices inflicted on them? Less and less. Unlikely? Considering the way history seems to work, not necessarily. Action, reaction; movement, countermovement. As inevitable, as inexorable, as the tides of the sea.

Impossible? Once upon a time there was a man called Domitian, son of Vespasian. From 81 to 96 CE he was the absolute ruler of Rome and, as such, perhaps the most powerful man in the world. Always something of a paranoid, his spies were everywhere and his victims, countless. On one occasion, asked about his motives, he said that no one believes there could be a conspiracy to kill the emperor until he is killed. Not long thereafter, he was.