Breivik’s Emasculation Paranoia Fueled Vision for Patriarchal “Reforms”

With very few exceptions, the unfolding story of Anders Behring Breivik has focused on his hatred of Muslims and multiculturalism and the question of whether or not he should be called a Christian.

Also central to his manifesto, though, is his argument that feminism is to blame for what he asserts is the success of a supposed Muslim plan for world domination. His view that we should go “back to the ’50s—because we know it works” is a central feature (along with those offered by Sarah) of how Breivik’s analysis could well have been lifted from the talking points of the religious right.

The driving anti-feminist thesis of his 1,500-page manifesto is basically this: feminists emasculate men such that they can no longer defend their cultures from jihadist efforts at world domination; and because feminism has made it possible for women to choose to limit reproduction, it has given a demographic advantage to supposed Muslim strategies to win control by outnumbering everyone else.

In a rather Hobbesian section that Breivik reprinted from the blogger Fjordman, we see the basic assumptions upon which he builds his claim:

if the men of your “tribe” are too weak or demoralised to protect you, you will be enslaved and crushed by the men from other “tribes” before you can say “Vagina Monologues.” Which means that if you break down men’s masculinity, their willingness and ability to defend themselves and their families, you destroy the country. That’s exactly what Western women have done for the last forty years. So why are you surprised about the results?

Freedoms need to be enforced by violence or the credible threat of violence, or they are meaningless. Even though women can take steps to protect themselves, the primary responsibility for protection will probably always belong to men. Women will thus only have as much freedom as their men are willing and capable of guaranteeing them.

Breivik’s manifesto is evidence of his profoundly sexist view of the world, where women are naive and lacking in rationality, but are useful for sex and reproduction. He expresses concern that his fellow Knights will have a hard time killing women (especially attractive ones) in battle, and praises the chivalrous who “revere women as they are the ones who will carry our offspring, the next generations.” Yet despite his critique of Muslims he says see Norwegian women as “whores,” he includes in his final plans his intentions to “rent” two “high class models” before his attack.

As for women he suspects would oppose his views of Islam in Europe, he explores several possible explanations before seemingly settling on the view that women have a deep-seated desire to be dominated:

Why is this (that women do not oppose Muslim immigration), considering that there is hardly a single Muslim majority area in the world where women enjoy the same rights as men? And (Denmark writer of “The dream of submission” Lars) Hedegaard asks a provocative question: Are women more stupid and less enlightened than men, since they in such great numbers are paving the way for their own submission? He comes up with an equally provocative answer: “When women are paving the way for sharia, this is presumably because women want sharia.” They don’t want freedom because they feel attracted to subservience and subjugation.

The English author Fay Weldon has noted that “For women, there is something sexually very alluring about submission.” Muslims like to point out that there are more women than men in the West who convert to Islam, and this is in fact partly true. Islam means “submission.” Is there something about submission that is more appealing to some women than it is to most men? Do women yield more easily to power?

He claims there is an evolutionary advantage to patriarchy because it steers women into reproduction by denying them most other options. Citing Phillip Longman:

Under patriarchy, “bastards” and single mothers cannot be tolerated because they undermine male investment in the next generation. Illegitimate children do not take their fathers’ name, and so their fathers, even if known, tend not to take any responsibility for them. By contrast, “legitimate” children become a source of either honour or shame to their fathers and the family line. The notion that legitimate children belong to their fathers’ family, and not to their mothers’, which has no basis in biology, gives many men powerful emotional reasons to want children, and to want their children to succeed in passing on their legacy. Patriarchy also leads men to keep having children until they produce at least one son.

Another key to patriarchy’s evolutionary advantage is the way it penalizes women who do not marry and have children. Just decades ago in the English-speaking world, such women were referred to, even by their own mothers, as spinsters or old maids, to be pitied for their barrenness or condemned for their selfishness. Patriarchy made the incentive of taking a husband and becoming a full-time mother very high because it offered women few desirable alternatives.

But while Longman is making a descriptive analysis, Breivik is explicitly advocating a return to patriarchy in suggesting two alternatives intended to increase the birth rate: The “return to the 1950s” which includes limiting access to contraceptives, abortion, education, and careers for women; and reforming the media such that 1950s gender norms are promoted and “sex and the city lifestyles” are discouraged. He claims the only other alternative to these “reforms,” which he acknowledges are restrictions on women’s rights, is “the creation of a network of surrogacy facilities in low cost countries and basically ‘outsource breeding,'” with the state as foster parent because “career obsessed” women would not prioritize caring for children:

As soon as women once again will be conditioned through just institutions and are raised in a strong and unified nuclear family lead by a confident patriarch she will know her place in society and further regulations will be unnecessary. Directly banning a multitude of popular feminist laws is not a wise approach as it would be labeled as despotic and would undermine us in the long run. Instead, we must change A FEW strategic laws which will act as indirect force multipliers.

Conservatives are strenuously trying to challenge parallels between the Norway shooter and the positions they themselves have been advocating. But Breivik’s call for a return to patriarchy, driven by a fear of emasculation by powerful women, is also a feature of American religious right rhetoric. Florida Congressman and Tea Party favorite Allen West, speaking last spring at a “Women Impacting the Nation” meeting, declared: “We need you to come in and lock shields to strengthen up the men who are going into the fight for you, to let these other women know—the Planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink the women—these women who are neutering American men and bringing us to this point of this incredible weakness, to let them know that we are not going to have our men become subservient.”