November 9, 2010

What does it take for societies to make cool chicks?

Steve Sailer has a post up about what traits creative women tend to have, like whether they tend to be outsiders or more well connected. From the major figures he listed, along with ones that spring to my mind, the most noticeable thing they share is that they did their work during times when the violence rate was shooting up.

Recall from earlier posts that there are four eras of soaring homicide rates apparently across all of Western Europe: the 14th C., ca. 1580 to 1630, ca. 1780 to 1830, and ca. 1960 to 1990. In the US we also had a crime wave that began around 1900, maybe a bit before, and lasted until 1933. That one shows up in some European countries too.

There’s clearly a trend over the centuries of greater female creative output – they were nowhere to be seen during the first two major crime waves, aside from Gentileschi who worked during the wave that peaked around 1600. The next one, though, during the Romantic and Gothic era, sees women coming out of the woodwork. Some are pioneers in the new schools (Mary Shelley, Ann Radcliffe), while others are more (neo-)classical (Kauffman, Vigee Le Brun) or skeptical of passionate youth movements (Jane Austen).

During the Victorian period, though, they go back into hiding. There’s Wuthering Heights, itself set during the Romantic era, but not nearly as much as before. Once the 1890 or 1900 to 1933 crime wave takes off, they come out again – Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Dorothy Parker, etc. From the mid-‘30s through most of the 1950s, again they most retreat into the domestic sphere.

Once the Sixties kick off, they come out again, although the literary culture isn’t as prominent as it was before (still there’s Mary Higgins Clark, Joyce Carol Oates, and others), so now they show up more in pop music, the dominant cultural expressive form of that time. That includes the R&B girl groups of the 1960s (the Ronettes), the disco and hard rock groups of the ‘70s (Sister Sledge, Pat Benatar), and electronic/dance and rock of the 1980s (Madonna, the Bangles).

Since the crime rate began falling around 1992, however, girls have gone back into hiding. Some are still making pop music, it’s just not any good. Similarly, I’m sure there were female writers during the pre-Romantic part of the 18th C. and the Victorian period, but their work isn’t as enduring as that made during rising-crime times.

There’s a dearth of female movie directors no matter what time period, but spellbinding actresses fit this pattern too. I know some guys like the cold, bitchy type from film noir, which flourished only in falling-crime times, but not most guys. (The present-day counterpart is the butt-kicking babe of the post-1992 period.) The real sex symbols and girls you’d love to hang out with were most likely from the Roaring Twenties and the ‘60s through the ‘80s.

Getting even more general, it’s not just artistic creativity or skill as an interpreter of someone else’s creation – it’s an overall aura of coolness that girls get more of when times get more violent, and an overall cloud of boringness that hangs over them when times get safer.

Why is this? First, when the world gets more dangerous, girls start to socialize a lot more with guys, partly to have more protection from harm. And guys are more exciting than girls. Rarely is a girl the life of the party, the one egging people into thrills rather than being a wet blanket, and so on. Thus, by hanging out more with guys, girls in violent times absorb some of their wildness through osmosis and get a taste for it themselves. Who’s going to initiate a girl into punk rock or foreign movies? – not another girl, but some guy whose life revolves around having fun.

Plus there’s always more competition within sexes than between, so even if she could find a girl knowledgeable enough to make a good guide, she’d have to worry about her misleading her and sabotaging her, so as to not be replaced on the totem pole of coolness. Guys and girls stand on separate totem poles, so that’s no problem with a male guide.

Second and more importantly, when the world looks like it’s going to blow itself up, and that order is already breaking down, girls (and guys) are going to discount the future a lot more. In particular, they’re going to care less about the punishment that other girls (or guys) would inflict on them for acting wild. They’re more in the mindset of “I don’t give a damn ‘bout my bad reputation.” Normally this conformist fear of being looked at like a weirdo paralyzes an otherwise creative and fun girl from living out her potential as a cool chick.

But as we see with the higher rate of promiscuity during dangerous times, girls act with a lot less worry about how The Group is going to judge her. Hell, by the time that ostracism, persecution, or punishment would come around, she could well be dead by then anyway. When the world gets a lot safer, however, she expects to live a lot longer and is more certain of that. With no unpredictability or volatility to make her discount the far future, she can’t help but dwell on how every little choice will impact her reputation decades and decades from today. And because the primary basis on which females ostracize or punish other females is “standing out” or “being weird,” she will become more conformist and dull.

It is a mistake to look at the film noir women and today’s butt-kicking babes and see liberated, rebellious women with no regard for their reputation. Rather, they represent the default state of women – frigid, catty toward females and bossy toward males, preferring small and behaved groups to large and rambunctious ones, and mercenary in the use of their own sexuality. That is exactly the type you’d expect to succeed in the crucible of the tiny middle school clique or the cult of domesticity.

A truly liberated and rebellious personality in females shows up as having a general warmth toward others, at least tolerating the presence of other females, wanting the guy to control things (whether being swept off her feet during courtship or having a guy friend be her guide into the exciting areas of life), not wanting to be alone and constantly seeking out large wild groups, and having little control over her own sexuality (that is, being boy-crazy rather than a man-eater).

This is what’s behind the common observation that, compared to teenagers and 20-somethings from the ‘60s through the ‘80s, today’s young females are more like those from the mid-‘30s through the ‘50s – less passion, less exciting to be around, and generally more bitchy and nagging. Totally unlike the teenage honey bunnies who I had as babysitters back when the world still looked like it was all going to fall apart any time now.

1 comment:

  1. Steve Sailer has pointed out that the butt-kicking babe appeals mainly to male adolescents. Women understand that it's ridiculous. In other words, the butt-kicking babe is not a default state so much as a means of pandering to the core audience for movies.



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