It might be a little bit complicated

My cousins Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin have sent me their latest book for Christmas, It’s (not that) Complicated: How to Relate to Guys in a Healthy, Sane, and Biblical way. They inscribed it to “our dear Katie, with much love from your cousins.” Honestly, such things always choke me up a little, because I know they sincerely mean it. However, love has never stopped me from saying something I think should be said, and I feel compelled to, as graciously as I can, argue some of their points.

They write: “The first time we ever spoke on the subject of boys and relationships, at ages 16 and 18, we shared the podium with a scion of Sigmund Freud… To encourage his female audience to exult in being girls, our Freudian professor pulled out statistics proving that today is a bad time to be a boy. He showed that their performance in nearly every field is dropping at an incredible rate. IQs are dropping, grade averages are dropping, crimes are rising. Women are outstripping them in every field. He said he didn’t know the reason.

“At the time, we didn’t know the reason either, but we were on the trail to finding out… America began moving more deliberately in this direction in the 1930s, when a group of European socialists got a foothold in American education and media. They were primarily working toward a goal that Karl Marx’s disciple Wilhelm Reich articulated: ‘to dethrone the patriarchal power in man.’ … shady socialists have tried a new tactic for un-manning men, and discovered a most effective weapon[:] Women” (pp. 41-45).

There are a number of scholastic errors here. The first lies in assuming that this man, whom my cousins did not know and otherwise disagreed with, was citing valid data. In addition, no actual studies of their own accompany the sweeping claim that, for example, “Women are outstripping [men] in every field.” In my own experience, this is simply not true, and here are some interesting statistics on women’s vs. men’s earnings to help back up my viewpoint. In all comparisons of full-time, year-round workers, men are still earning more than women. That holds true in comparing individual fields, education levels, races, ages, and so on. Additionally, married men earned 60% more in 2009 than they did in the 1970s, compared to a 16% increase for unmarried men. That is to say, being married to a pool of women who increasingly work outside the home has not hurt the pocketbooks of this nation’s husbands. Perhaps their wives’ work contacts or business acumen even helped them gain upward mobility.

The claim about IQ intrigued me. The accuracy of IQ tests is a matter of some debate, but here is a study from 1997 that notes “It is a fact that IQ test scores have risen considerably through the years, but the reasons for these changes are uncertain.” I decided to look specifically for any studies showing a drop in male IQ, and found one noting the effects of pollutants on Korean children. On a full-scale IQ test, “boys in the highest DEHP-exposure group scored 1 to 2 points lower … No such trend of some phthalate-linked drop in full-scale IQ emerged among girls.” That is to say, females seem to handle bodily toxins slightly better than males do, and high levels of pollution are making boys dumber. Their actual genetics may be the reason. Time notes that “in women, cells can perhaps be protected by a slightly better variation of a gene on the second X chromosome. Men don’t have this luxury and don’t get this choice.” If God himself designed the chromosomes, then he designed women to last longer than men.

This leads to my second point, and my cousins’ second scholastic error. Why did they not ask themselves why this professor might be telling a roomfull of girls that they had reason to rejoice in their birthright in the first place? One reason might be the worldwide preference for male over female children. “As we tried to understand the issue better,” says Rei Inamoto in Fast Company‘s recent article on gender, “we realized that this is not an issue of daughters versus sons. It’s an issue of the self-perpetuating and devastating belief that women have little value.” In the face of such a preference for males, it might not be such a bad idea to tell girls that, for example, God made them to last.

The third scholastic error was using presuppositionalism to provide their rationale. Presuppositionalism does not ask “why is this so?” Instead, it says “I am starting from the viewpoint of X, Y or Z, and I am going to look for something to back that up.” It could be argued that everyone presupposes to one degree or another — we all have our ideals and preferences through which we view the world — but the scientific method, after all, insists on approaching something with neutrality in order not to effect the outcome. To find a quote from a Marxist against patriarchy does not prove that Marxism has destroyed patriarchy. In fact, this is a logical fallacy:

A: Marxists are against patriarchy

B: Americans are against patriarchy

C: Therefore, Americans are Marxists or have been unwittingly duped by Marxists

My cousins are adherents specifically to Christian presuppositionalism, but even if you believe in the validity of Scripture, that does not necessitate that you hold the viewpoints found in their book at large. In fact, many Christians and Biblical scholars do not. But that is a debate for a different time.

Instead, I’d like to close with my favorite line from the book: “Being in this for the husband is just riding to hell in a hope chest.” That made me laugh, and put a bookmark on the page.

4 thoughts on “It might be a little bit complicated

  1. What did you think of their last book So Much More in regards to courtship. One would think that there would have been suitors for AS&E by now being that the book was written when they were 16. I wonder why that is?

  2. Dear Katie,

    Thank you for your thoughtful, intelligent response to your cousin’s most recent book. How large a following do they have? I’ve always been curious. Although it’s completely irrelevant, I think they’re both quite beautiful (physically speaking). Hard to imagine that they’re in their twenties and have never known the pleasure of a man’s kiss. I also think it’s a shame they never had the benefit of a real college experience. AS and E are obviously not dumb women, however flawed their logic. Do you think they’re genuinely happy in life?


  3. Dryan and Lexie,

    Inasmuch as I see them, I do think they’re happy. After all, they’re doing things they love — spending time with their family and writing, among other things. I think they have not bought into the idea that you need a husband in order to be a woman, and I don’t think they’re in any rush to marry just for the sake of getting married. Which is a good thing. Neither are they in a rush to run out for their first kiss, but then, very few real-life kisses tend to involve the heavens opening and Handel’s Messiah pouring from the clouds. I think they know this. I knew it too. Unfortunately, in my case, this knowledge contributed to me shrugging off the fact that there was no music at all when I kissed my ex, and that really should have tipped me off a little more.

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