Their Angry Creed: The Shocking History of Feminism, and How it is Destroying Our Way of Life. By Herbert Purdy. London: LPS Publishing, 2016. 507 pages. No price information on book; amazon gives price as $24.50. Review by J. Steven Svoboda.
Retired businessman Herbert Purdy makes it two LPS Publishing books I have reviewed in two months, both outsized books, both written by retirees, and both utterly indispensable. I will repeat what I recently said in my review of William Collins’ The Empathy Gap because it’s just as true here:
Let me say right off the bat, don’t even think about not buying this book. There is nothing like it.
Purdy starts us off, more or less, recounting the famous (or notorious) 1971 confrontation at Town Hall in New York City between Norman Mailer (who sounded eminently reasonable, it must be said) and extreme feminists such as Jacqueline Ceballos. The author takes us back in time for an overview of the swinging sixties, then through a review of the “angry generation” including John Osborne that eventually birthed the beat movement, and next an overview of early feminists including Andrea Dworkin, Valerie Solanas of the Society for Cutting Up Men, Shulamith Firestone, Germaine Greer, and Betty Friedan.
It is illuminating to read about the fascinating, brilliant, deeply troubled lives of the pederast partners Jean-Paul Sartre and his almost equally famous arch-feminist partner in crime (never a truer use of the word), Simone de Beauvoir, who endorsed barring women from choosing homemaker lives because if they were allowed to elect this route, too many would choose it!
Purdy deftly sets out the unsurprising yet potentially critical fact that almost all leading feminists had tremendously troubled family relationships, often particularly with their fathers. He also does so in a way that seems quite free of predetermination or vindictiveness. It is interesting, for example, to hear of how Friedan was “famously abrasive, thin-skinned and imperious, subject to screaming fits of temperament,” and this according to her obituary (!) in the highly feminist New York Times. The same obituary quotes her husband as adding: “She changed the course of history almost singlehandedly. It took a driven, super aggressive, egocentric, almost lunatic dynamo to rock the world the way she did. Unfortunately, she was that same person at home, where that kind of conduct doesn’t work. She simply never understood this.” And speaking on a much higher level of abstraction many leading feminists had an almost Aspergers-grade level of inability to perceive basic truths about humanity.
One thing I really appreciated the author doing, obvious though it may seem: Purdy stepped back and showed how positively ludicrous feminist attempts to justify a present that is huge oppressive to men through a past that was allegedly hugely oppressive to women. “The past can never be like the present, so what is the point in trying to compare the two?”
Purdy positively deluges the reader, but in a good way, with fact after fact about the history of feminism. How did I get this far in this movement and not already know all this stuff? Well, one answer is, no one talks about it much, and likely no one other than Herbert Purdy (and maybe a few others) knows that much about it either. The author really has a knack for recounting historical events while simultaneously rendering them accessible to the reader, maintaining the detail level of the particular story at hand, and also keeping the larger tale of feminism’s growth clipping along.
The author provides one critically important contribution here to men’s rights literature. I’m sure that to some extent it has been done before, but never in my memory with the level of historical detail. That contribution lies in sketching feminism from its roots to the present day and outlining convincingly how it is a power grab by a small group of elite, highly educated women and is not even nominally concerned with the “equality” of all women to men. Purdy has a trenchant point about the humorlessness of most feminist writing, as well as the shocking absence of any acknowledgement whatsoever “that the life of a man is also difficult.”
Coverture, the centuries old Anglo-Saxon doctrine made a man liable to protect women (and not men!) in his household, eventually evolving into what we know today as divorce law. The author aptly concludes that women have been free to leave their husbands for centuries while men had no such liberty. Thus it is that the toast Purdy reports has more than a little bitter truth to it: “Gentlemen – The ladies – who used to be our superiors and who are now our equals.”
Fascinating also is how Purdy lays out the whole long struggle for universal suffrage in a context where the vote was for centuries based on property ownership. The idea that women as a class fought for the vote against men as a class is quite false. There were lots of groups that gradually expanded their voting rights and sex was only one of several pertinent axes along which these classifications were made (and contested). “If the truth be known, the Suffragettes were barely a dot at the end of the sentence of the struggle for votes for all people.” And of course the women’s movement has always omitted the parts of the story not fitting its prejudices, explaining how Hillary Clinton could suggest that “women have always (or ever) been the primary victims of war.” Purdy again: “What the feminist narrative neatly omits to mention is that only about half of the men who went to the trenches in the First World War had a national vote, yet they went in their hundreds of thousands to almost certain death or maiming of their young bodies in order to defend a country in which women enjoyed an enormously privileged position.” It’s disgusting really when you think about it, as the author has so persuasively done. Shockingly, men not in military uniform were accosted in public by women and awarded yellow feathers. In one case a man treated this way was dressed in civilian clothing while on his way to a ceremony to receive the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the Gallipoli battle!
I was simultaneously appreciative and disheartened to be reminded of how deeply the tentacles of feminism have enmeshed themselves into every aspect of our current reality, even including, and this has never failed to strike me as so profoundly incongruous, conservative politics. For my money, Purdy somewhat overplays the Marxism card. I think he has some very valid points about the close links between feminism and Marxism, points that all too often are forgotten and certainly are not known to the majority of feminists. Yet at the same time, while I respect his politics, the author is so committed to his views that the writing sometimes seems almost tainted by this perspective. The last chapter is a good example, but Purdy there completely redeems himself by tying the whole picture together in a very instructive and enlightening way. “For most of history, men have been trying to survive, not rule.” Thank you!
The author provides a nice sketch of four different types of woman, all of whom suffer in different ways under feminism: First is the dedicated career woman unable to meet a man willing to settle down with her and form a family. Second is the more conventional woman who often decides to petition for divorce from her husband in her early forties. Third is the woman who leaves her career each time a child is born, and then on returning, discovers herself unable to advance as she would have if there was no pauses in her work history, and feels compelled by feminism to blame men for their inevitable success relative to her. Last is the woman at the bottom of the economic scale, living in “bureaugamy” or marriage to the state, bringing up her kids on her own. “None of these women, it seems to me, have benefitted from feminism. None of them are liberated in any meaningful sense of the word….”
Simultaneously another tragedy is taking place, one particularly personally relevant as my son prepares to leave for college, the phony “rape crisis.” As the author aptly shows us, “Widespread rape on campus isn’t happening…. The physical attraction men and women feel for each other: beauty, desire, and appreciation of the physical and yes, love and tenderness, are being debased and corrupted by this insidious feminist cant, which is replacing decency with indecency.” This in my mind is the saddest fact of all.
In discussing women’s different job choices, including part-time work and breaks in employment for bearing and raising children, Purdy notes: “True equality is equality of opportunity, and true diversity lies in everyone finding their own place in an organization based on merit and skills, not on the possession of privilege and a golden skirt.” Norway’s attempt to legislate a quote for female directors on corporate boards resulted in catastrophic reductions in productivity. Also, if we are talking about pay gaps, the author asks, why not also talk about taxation gaps, with men paying two-thirds of all taxes in the UK?
We have to agree with Purdy when he concludes that if he were hiring today, he would discriminate against women, simply because of the greater risk of hiring one and later facing a sex discrimination or sexual harassment suit. While a woman can also file a suit for not getting hired, the author no doubt accurately estimates this as a lower risk.
The author reprints a length exchange (fifteen pages of his book!) between Philip Davies, a rare Member of Parliament who understands the men’s rights movement, and a number of legislators debating him who simply would not accept the stubborn fact that men are discriminated against in prison term sentences and women (accordingly) benefit from positive discrimination.
Predictably enough, given all these considerations, Purdy shows us, men are as a result freeing themselves from women, saying “no” to relationships with women. Thus we now have young men no longer propositioning women for sex, deciding it’s all not worth the effort and risk.
It is disheartening to see how feminism is so determined to remove certain choices for women, such as being a homemaker and being a sex worker. The author trenchantly writes, “No one who has any semblance of common sense can sensibly say that women who engage in prostitution are devoid of social agency and that men are the cause of their ‘downfall.’”
Their Angry Creed is—like The Empathy Gap— a fantastically comprehensive book. I have again had to omit entire topics from this review. Don’t miss it! Let me close as Purdy does with a distillation of all that has been good about past male-female relationships prior to feminism: “There has never been a hegemony of men over women. Men have never held women back—or down. Quite the reverse: men have revered and honoured women, and in any case, for most of history, ordinary men had neither the time, the freedom, nor the power to hold women down, they were too busy trying to survive and get a life for themselves and for those whom they loved, and for whom they provided, protected—and died, in war, at work, and, all too often, prematurely…. In fact, if there is any hegemony over women at work in our society today, it is the hegemony of feminism, which seeks unreasonable and unjust social power over them.”
Bravo! Three cheers!