I’ve read an interesting section of The Economist (sometimes translated Economics or Oeconomicus), one of the more controversial classical books. Xenophon (d. 354 BC at Corinth) wrote this treatise concerning how to manage one’s estate. It is one of the more practical-minded ancient philosophy works. In the famous section, a man named Ischomacus gives instruction to his new teenage wife about what her role is. Today, there is either bad information on sex roles (most of society) or good guesses (the Manosphere).
Let’s see what the wisdom of the ancients have to tell us. Granted, being archaic does not necessarily yield truth, but it’s worth considering nonetheless. Another reason I chose this book is because it’s about a man teaching a woman how to be a woman. Society has the opposite dogma about a woman needing to tame a man. From a casual glance at people, I find Xenophon’s view much more plausible.
In some ways, I’m more woman than most women. Many girls brag about their lack of cooking skills, but I can actually make mashed potatoes and gravy from scratch. A girl will lean on a microwave like a cripple on a crutch, but I don’t even own one myself. A modern woman will flee from a sewing needle as a symbol of oppression, but I can actually make basic repairs in my clothing. Knowing basic home maintenance is a part of being an adult, especially if you’re single. Ideally I’d like to have a wife to do that for me someday.
Unsurprisingly, The Economist is not available in mass-market paperback, unlike more dubious ancient works like the Satyricon. You can download a pdf or an ebook for free on Kindle. It’s also worth noting that in ancient literature, a chapter is called a book. This is because they were written on scrolls, and it’s not until the late Roman Empire that the bound book appeared, called a codex.
At first I thought about reading the whole thing, but book one begins with Socrates dicking around with word games as usual. I figured that was just a Plato thing, but apparently the historical Socrates really was that much of an asshole. The famous part is books seven through ten, so I decided to skip ahead. If you’re on Kindle, it’s location 488, and if you’re on that pdf, it’s page 97. I wanted to write a single article on it, but there’s too much in there to fit. So I’ll outline book seven this week and finish with books eight through ten next week.
Taming the Unshrewd
Socrates tells a story about running into his friend Ischomachus. He asks Ischomachus why he is able to afford time to leisurely sit outside. Ischomachus proudly tells him that it’s because of how productive his wife is. She’s never named, so I’ll call her Mildred. It’s interesting because he uses the phrase “without my aid.” Apparently there is some virtue to a woman’s self-sufficiency (sic independence), at least within the context of the home. Then Ischomachus begins to tell the story of how he trained her.
Book seven recounts the first conversation Ischomachus can remember having with Mildred. She keeps badgering him about how useless she is. Frankly it’s refreshing to encounter a woman who can admit her own ignorance. It’s like she’s committed to her husband or something. Mildred realizes that she has adult responsibilities beyond following her dreams even though she’s only fourteen. Ischomachus tells her about their shared property and future children, as though they were united as one instead of two who co-habitate. He says,
We need not stop to calculate in figures which of us contributed most, but rather let us lay to heart this fact that whichever of us proves the better partner, he or she at once contributes what is most worth having.
This seems counter to the feminist claim that women were merely viewed as cattle. In fairness, it’s also in contrast to the aristocrats in Plato’s Symposium. I suppose there’s a different way you talk to your wife than to your drinking buddies.
Then Mildred says, “My business, my mother told me, was to be sober-minded!” This by far the greatest piece of wisdom I’ve ever heard given to a woman, and it was given by another woman too! A woman’s business is to be sober-minded. I’ve just regained my faith in humanity. God hasn’t abandoned us after all! Someone find me a wife like that.
The Purpose of Women
Then Ischomachus prattles on about the nature of sex roles and domesticity. He even uses the word “duties” while making a long speech that men and women are designed to fit together. Although he doesn’t mention homoerotic relationships, it really flies in the face of the “find someone you love” ethic of today, which in itself is a product of the “be your own independent self” ethic that has spiked the divorce rate. It also enlightens on the “Men are keys and women are locks” analogy. But I digress.
And for the very reason that their natures are not alike adapted to like ends, they stand in greater need of one another; and the married couple is made more useful to itself, the one fulfilling what the other lacks.
Many red pill men ask why a man would ever want to get married. Xenophon seems to have anticipated that argument. What good is a key without a lock? Yes, you can live a happy life without a woman, but there seems to be something missing. Manosphere writers talk about how today’s career woman will become a lonely old spinster, but, and I know this is controversial, will today’s Red Pill man become a lonely old bachelor who stares at the check-out girl in a grocery store?
But in fairness, I get the impression that many men on these sites secretly wish for a marriageable woman but just can’t place that much faith in the modern woman. Perhaps the state of American women is so dismal that cheap hook-ups are the best a man can hope for. God help us all.
The modern woman is anything but nurturing, and the red pill man tends to claim that this is by nature. But when Ischomachus tells Mildred that she will be caring for sick household members, he assumes that she will find this loathsome. Instead she says, “That will be my pleasantest of tasks, if careful nursing may touch the springs of gratitude and leave them friendlier than before.” It’s also worth noting that Ischomachus assumes that Mildred will enjoy the other tasks in the house. My guess is because it offers a measure of autonomy, responsibility, and hence self-esteem.
After hearing her eagerness to care for the sick, Ischomachus “was struck with admiration at her answer,” which is Victorian English for “He got a raging boner at her exuding femininity.” He goes on about how it will eventually be her job to teach other women domestic skills, which I guess is the ancient equivalent of finishing school. He says a woman who is “skillful, loyal, [and] serviceable” in “housekeeping or…service” is “worth her weight in gold.”
I looked it up, and unfortunately the weight in gold part is not an ancient idiom, but the point stands that a woman is valuable who can teach other women how to be feminine. So basically almost all modern women are worthless. Don’t you feel dirty just reading that? Odd how for a woman to pursue her dreams, a man has to give up his.
Ischomachus gives another interesting line, “But the greatest joy of all will be to prove yourself my better; to make me your faithful follower,” of course in reference to household management. He continues to speak how such respect and glory will follow her into old age. There’s something for you feminists who realize that there is some innate difference between men and women.
Do you want to make men look up to you as a great example of morality and prudence? Then be an awesome housewife. Nothing is more of a turnoff than a cut-throat business woman. They don’t make wives anymore; instead, there are she-dudes who co-habitate with males whom they may or may not breed with. Send me an email if you can get a hold of cyanide.
That’s the basic outline of book seven. Join me next Thursday for books eight through ten.
Source: The Economist by Xenophon. Translated by H. G. Dakyns. Published by Amazon Kindle.
Update: Part Two is now available.