October 30th, 2005 | Though the focus on McLaughlin-Kraus’s newest collaboration, Citizen Girl, has been on their switching publishers at the last minute, to me it’s the themes of this book, and The Nanny Diaries before it, which are most worthy of examination.

Thanks to the combination of natural human perversity (all of us) and the sexual "revolution" (some of us), things are in a pretty sorry state today. McLaughlin and Kraus pick up on part of this, but their worldview is so deep in the haunted forest of the wrong kind of feminism that they cannot tell a maple from the poison ivy.

In their novels, men come in two flavors: the villainous “lion,” hungrily and constantly on the prowl for self- satisfaction and preservation, utterly careless of the needs of those around him. The other is a rather hopeful vision of manhood, with enough decency and class to be at least intermittently considerate. He is extremely cute, smart, funny, and of course, attracted to the heroine. (In the first book, he is also rather contrived: rich and altruistic.)

As for women, well—the "witch" part they have pegged also. Many are the worst type of feminists of the bad old variety, bitterly reacting to the idea of male dominance by eating their own kind—including our heroine. In The Nanny Diaries, there is the woman for whom fidelity only means something when her marriage is threatened, though she blithely wrecked another’s. She is so insecure that her useless life must be propped up with every accoutrement of the modern-day baroness. Then there is the competent, capable “Manley” of the second novel, who steps in to cheerfully run the porn site that emerges from the smoking ruin of the female-oriented “My Company, Inc.”

Scattered among these broadly-drawn characters are some decent folks such as those populating our heroines’ families: supportive, strong and wise. And of course there’s the heroine, Girl, herself, who is credible, lovable, devilishly clever.

So what’s the problem? Well, nearly every obstacle Girl flails against springs from the “liberated” culture to which she stubbornly clings. For instance, take Girl’s scary feminist boss at the “Center for Equity in Community,” author of the seminal tract Having Our Say: Teaching Young Women to Step Up and Speak Out.

Where do they think she came from?

And the hideous “lion” type, so careless he can not remember the name of the nanny who is raising his child, nor be bothered to be a father or husband now and then—which culture refuses to censure him?

And even the lovely boyfriends— definitely not men in the mature sense of the word—come off pretty badly. They are yanked in so many directions by their loutish friends, our heroine must keep pulling them back to decent behavior. She thinks she’s triumphed when her reproof has the desired effect—but doesn’t she secretly long for a man who will do the right thing on his own, without the input of his “cruise director”?

The sexual revolution has given license for men to be exactly what women have always complained about: self-centered, sex-obsessed drifters who cannot be counted on to remember a simple favor, let alone commit to a relationship. Innately “male” traits—linear thinking, aggression, a desire to dominate his surroundings—all these are qualities which, when tamed by the courtship culture, reap great benefits: put simply, manly virtue.

Of course, a return to modesty would mean Girl and Nanny have to give up something they think is priceless: the right to sexual freedom. This is the double-edged blade that keeps swinging around to whack them, like a boomerang—but they don’t see it. Ideally for them, attraction should be wrapped in caring and commitment. But when we unmoored sex from the commitment of marriage, it unleashed the male sex drive from any vestige of chivalry, and gave it license to become the self-centered pursuit that is the norm in the uncivilized human male. The culture becomes “pornified,” and women are expected not just to endure but to embrace the most crude and vulgar aspects of male sexuality.

Total sexual freedom is, in the long run, good for no one. It cheapens the currency of sexual relationships, trapping men in adolescence and women in subservience. But it does have two short-term constituents: immature men and young, attractive women. The benefits to the former are obvious. Together with the “reproductive right” to erase the product of casual sex, it’s a heck of a deal. And to young women at the height of their sexual attractiveness, what a thrill to play with that profound power over a man.

But it’s a devil’s bargain. The balance of power tips so easily and quickly back to the man; indeed, the moment he is satisfied. Without the leverage of a real commitment, a woman is often easily left alone, if not heartbroken, infected, pregnant, and jaded to boot. Absent social censure or personal regret, a man will move on to new lovers. As women get older and ‘less attractive’ to men, this arrangement makes unmarried women increasingly insecure.

Natural male power, unfettered sexual freedom, and women aping the worst male traits: this combination finds its pinnacle in a perfect storm of idiocy known as CAKE. Spoofed in Citizen Girl as “MUFFIN,” these real-life “HBO feminists” rally supposed enlightened and empowered women to revel in sex parties where they service men as the lowliest prostitutes would have done in years past. C.S. Lewis said that “nonsense in the intellect reinforces corruption in the will.” I suppose we should not be amazed that this infantilism is packaged and sold as “freedom.”

McLaughlin and Kraus are talented writers, but if they never challenge the wrong kind of feminism, I fear they and their characters will continue to live under the rule of the fabled White Witch of Narnia, so to speak. And as everyone knows, under the White Witch it’s “…always winter. Always winter and never Christmas.”

Elizabeth Neville graduated from Fordham University with a BA in Political Science and an MBA in Management/International Business. After a dozen years working in commercial finance, she moved on to Act II: raising her two children. Today Liz facilitates STEP Effective Parenting Training, volunteers at her kids’ school, and leads a Brownie Troop.

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