Amy Schumer, champion of feminine jealousy

One of the great tragedies of the modern era is that the people who are supposed to be championing the advancement of women know the least about the possibilities of womankind.  It doesn't help that the champions are women, and it doesn't help because if there is anything degrading to the intelligence of women, it is bands of women demanding ridiculous things of men.  In marriage, we call this sort of thing nagging.  In the world of socio-political philosophy, we call it feminism.

And I bring this up because Salon Magazine has recently gotten a very large crush on a very feisty Amy Schumer for a list of very bad reasons – most recently, their incessant approval of her attacks on beautiful young ladies.  Nobody realizes that this is whom she's attacking, of course, for the very special reason that Schumer has done the one thing women never really thought of doing when they're threatened by prettier rivals.  And that is to sidestep the obviousness of calling the prettier woman ugly, and call the men ugly for thinking she is prettier.

We admit, if nothing else, that this makes her approach novel (if not genius).  By shifting the issue from the woman to the man, she makes attraction an issue of equality instead of taste, and makes her rejection stem from his "unfairness" instead of a rival's superiority.  By sleight of hand, she takes every element of leftist envy and the energy of the Democratic Party – the rich against poor and black against white and men against women – and channels it into the timeless rivalry between romantic competitors. 

But there is a major problem with her problem.  Aside from the fact that she argues against the wildest ethos of the age, that attraction between two consenting adults is an almost (one might say) unalienable right, nobody so far as I'm aware has ever asked Amy what the alternative to favoring younger women would be.  Or to put it another way, nobody has ever proposed that beautiful women should date geriatric men for any other reason than money or power (which they frequently choose to do), and nobody until now has ever asked virile men to prefer Babushka to Emily Blunt, though Blunt will slowly transition into Babushka.  And this is the heart of my problem with these feminists who've mollycoddled the good sense out of their sisters: not that they fear inadequacy, but that the only cure we can possibly find for their jealousy is far worse than the disease. 

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of their whole argument is that what we think of as the disease is actually (and very literally) our health.  For when we question whether it's right for a man to not feel a certain way about an aging or unattractive woman, the question we are really asking is whether a man should have a special place in his heart for the woman with a thick behind and youthful spring.  And the answer, whatever fun Schumer makes of him, is that he should.  Not only because making love to octogenarians is unpreferable, but because our sexual selection is the health and fitness of our race.  If men preferred older or even middle-aged women to young, our children would frequently be crippled, or never even produced.  If we never called curves that unsteady balance between bones and rolls, we would never escape between the malady of malnutrition and the infirmity of obesity.  The feminist's objection is ultimately not even to unfairness, but to survival, and it is founded not on her appreciation of morality, but, like so many of her other objections, upon her inability to recognize and accept her reality. 

I admit a good deal of sympathy for the Schumerites.  The fact that sexual selection manifests itself in our feelings and against our reason makes beauty terrifying – not simply to men, who face the terrors of displeasure and heartbreak, but to women, who lack the means to radically change their appearance.  And living in a democratic age, we've come to think that everyone should have a shot at everything – that if there's one man or woman in America who can't do what everyone else can do, that we've somehow failed as a society.  And then we find this strange thing called beauty – this haphazardly distributed power that makes people say and do silly things – which magnifies virtues and covers faults, which someone is born into and can't really be made.  It is a thing magical, mysterious, and imperious – undemocratic, unequal, and elitist.  And we realize with or without serious consideration that we're nearly helpless against it.

I also sympathize because a woman's relations to beauty make her especially jealous of it.  If she's born with less of it, she spends her youth watching other women play games with men's hearts and overriding their minds, driving them to do stupid and reckless things, stealing attention without any merit other than accident.  If she is born with more of it, she has a feeling – deep within her, whether acknowledged or otherwise – that someday, this unreasonable force will abandon her and belong to someone else.  And caught between the jealousy and the dread lies a hopeful and enchanted creature called Man.  For the battle over beauty is really a battle for his most worthy brother's affections, and the truth is that these feminists are angry because they love and need great men.  But they are too proud to admit it, and so they pretend like all the other frustrated lovers that men are really only evil.  

In a hypothetical universe where feminists weren't Puritanical enough to censure our most natural and beautiful affections, driving us into suicidal self-loathing like some castrated 21st-century St Origen, they might have recognized a very old and special institution designed for man's, woman's, and child's mutual benefit.  We ask ourselves, if attraction is capricious and undeniable, and age and death are impending and unavoidable, whether Someone might be able to invent something that defends a woman against a constant deluge of rivals, enthroning a solitary queen in a special kingdom.  Or maybe one in which, if a woman's appearance eventually lost sway over her partner's heart, she might be able to keep his love with lifelong intimacy and a perpetual show of good character.  We might suggest that such an institution would be perfect for everything a woman needs: perfect to utilize her youth, cognizant of her inevitable decline, catering to her very hopes and fears.  But feminists have decided that chastity and modesty and marriage are prejudicial against womankind, and so they've decided to grow old in a market of strangers, against an endless tide of increasingly superior competitors, where mere moments of attraction reign supreme, and true and lifelong love (in the fullest sense of the word) is left for antiquated people like Christians.

It should be admitted that each of us fears death and our inevitable decline into it.  But fear, as Samuel Johnson once wrote, is implanted in us as a preservative from evil; [and] its duty, like that of other passions, is not to overbear reason, but to assist it.  The problem is not that feminists fear age – it is that they have let the fear of age overcome their reason, and thrown away the only romantic solution while trying to overcome the insurmountable.  The solution is marriage and the continual development of the qualities suitable to it.  The insurmountable is the feeling a healthy man experiences whenever he encounters a beautiful young woman. 

Jeremy Egerer is the editor of the troublesome philosophical website known as Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.