After a recent reference to “female solipsism” in a HUS comment thread, I felt confused as to its meaning. I decided to learn a bit more about it, and started with a search for the term solipsism, which dates back to the Sophists of ancient Greece. They claimed that objective reality is impossible. This was the foundation of the theory that “the individual’s understanding of any and all psychological concepts (thinking, willing, perceiving, etc.) is accomplished by making analogy with his or her own mental states; i.e., by abstraction from inner experience.” Ultimately, Descartes concluded, “I think, therefore I am.”
Personally, perhaps especially as a female, this seems eminently reasonable, though I was surprised that the ancient Greeks and Descartes had concerned themselves with female nature to this degree. When I drilled down to research “female solipsism,” of course I learned they hadn’t. The only results were from the manosphere – MRA, PUA and Game blogs. I found this surprising, and asked the following question of Vox Day, who had most recently invoked the female solipsism claim.
What evidence can you offer that “female solipsism” is not just another manosphere circle jerk?…Unless someone can offer me some rational explanation for saying that women are especially solipsistic, I don’t accept it.
What I was driving at, in that rather inelegant turn of phrase, was that several of the concepts I have enountered in the manosphere do not appear to be recognized outside it. Rather, a principle often seems to have been coopted and reworked in some way. Hawaiian Libertarian explains:
When MEN first began comparing notes on their experiences with the female gender on teh interwebz, there were a few common characteristics they noticed that were generally applicable – hypergamy and solipsism were two words that sort of fit the bill as to what they were trying to name as generalized patterns of feminine thought and behavior.
…Just like hypergamy is literally defined as “marrying up,” solipsism is one of those terms for which it fits well enough to become a commonly accepted term in describing this observable, common female trait.
Solipsism, which HL defines as extreme egocentrism, “fits well enough” to jibe with ‘sphere denizens’ perception of female nature. HL continues:
In a general way, women are much more ego-centric in their communications and perspectives then the average man is. So from a man’s point of view (and this is the MAN-o-sphere we are talking about here) female solipsism does seem to be a good term describing ego centrism in the female as being extreme in comparison to the average man’s expressions of ego centrism.
That women personalize ideas whenever they partake in an online debate is something commonly recognized by many….NAWALT being the most common expression of female solipsism. It doesn’t have to be extreme, nor does it have to be to the point of deviant narcissism either.
What we see here is the appropriation of the concept of solipsism to be applied in a new way. As someone who has been taken aback by generalized claims of female nature (read: flaws) in the ‘sphere, I can certainly confess to frequent urges to shout NAWALT! (Not All Women Are Like That!) from the digital rooftops.
To be clear, I have no problem with the adaptation of language for one’s own use; it is a great thing that language is alive and malleable to any number of purposes. The term “female solipsism” is indeed a concept corralled by the manosphere and enthusiastically circulated among manospherians, in the service of men better understanding women as they discuss issues relevant to them. This is the answer to my original question.
As someone who draws readers, attention and also skepticism from the manosphere, it is relevant to me personally when I stumble upon the term in my own comment threads. I do have an investment in understanding precisely what the term means, in order that I may respond intelligently when it is leveled as a charge.
So. Are women especially solipsistic? The first step is to agree on the manosphere’s definition of solipsism. Sharing the view of HL that females are prone to extreme egocentrism, Vox states:
One of the hardest things for men to understand or even recognize its significance is female solipsism. What this means is that most women view everything from their own perspective. And by everything, I don’t mean everything that directly or indirectly involves them, I mean everything.
In his recent post responding to my question, VD defined solipsism in the following way, distancing himself from all talk of Greek philosophy and Descartes. (I agree that this distancing is appropriate in view of the phrase’s morphology.) He offers this definition:
extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption.
Blogger Private Man has gone a step further and identified a mental disorder called FADD (Female Attention Deficit Disorder). His examples of this include drunkenness, grinding on nightclub dance floors, and non-stop social activities. (Who, may I ask, does PM think these women are hanging out with?) In fairness, PM also sees tiny dogs in purses and prepubescent best friends as symptoms.
…It’s actually challenging to find a girl without FADD. It’s been said that attention is the emotional currency of women. A woman who isn’t a slave to her attention-getting behavior is rare.
Objective reality? You be the judge.
Cane Caldo digs deeper and gets at something interesting. He compares female solipsism to the Dark Triad personality, a constellation of narcissism, Machiavellian tactics and sociopathy, generally considered a male constellation of traits. Naming Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton as the epitome of Dark Triad traits (I don’t disagree), he draws an interesting parallel between Game and solipsism:
If Game is about overconfidence; that is: developing Oneitis for yourself (and it is), then Kim and Paris have Game down pat…What’s interesting about the Manosphere is we would never look to them for advice; yet men who act like (even if they don’t think like) Paris and Kim are, here, the teachers on how to get women. Not in the sense of, “Watch out for the sort of girls that behavior attracts.”, but in this way: “How can I attract girls like that?”
Game is the charade of solipsism to better emulate the Dark Triad traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and machiavellianism. These three traits can be practiced unto internalization; until you actually are some combination of narcissistic, psychopathic, and machiavellian. It’s a calculated attempt to become hypergamous, in the worst sense of the word.
Though Game is a perverse pose for a man to take, it is a quasi-logical response to the world around us; in the same way it was logical for Eve to desire to be like God, and for Adam to take a bite at egalitarianism to maintain his relationship with Eve. It is men parodying women to leverage this Feminist paradigm. Not feminine–Feminist.
Now that’s interesting.
Ian Ironwood offers an excellent post at Red Pill Room that is as interesting as it is objective:
According to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever in their book Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation, “Women often worry more than men about the impact their actions will have on their relationships. This can prompt them to change their behavior… sometimes by asking for things indirectly, sometimes by asking for less than they really want, and sometimes by trying to be more deserving of what they want (say by working harder) so that they’ll be given what they want without asking.”
In other words, women have a greater sense of self-importance and sensitivity to their personal actions than men — signs of solipsism.
Remember, solipsism isn’t “selfishness”, as many Manospherans mistakenly believe; it’s more akin to “self-involvement”, and that can be a positive or negative thing. A woman can be completely giving to the people in her life, sacrificing much, and still be utterly solipsistic. By putting nearly every issue in terms of ”how does that effect me?”or “how do my actions effect others?”, the female solipsistically maintains a frame that has herself at the center of the picture. She might be “self-less”…but she still has the “self” front and center.
Ian speaks truth here, and I can personally relate to this (solipsism!). Women filter their experiences via their emotions. This is undoubtedly reproductively efficient. If we are nurturers, made to carry, bear, and raise children, the question of how things affect us is inextricably intertwined with how our actions affect others, and this is right and good. In contrast, a man’s tendency to see the world logically and analytically, often seeking actionable solutions to concrete problems, is a natural outgrowth of male provisioning, and this is right and good.
Finally, while solipsism and narcissism are not the same – one being the belief that only the self matters and the other seeing the world as a reflection of one’s self – extreme egocentrism is common to both. And on that score, the U.S. is raising ever more self-absorbed young people, probably a reflection of our championing of individualism. Jean Twenge is the foremost authority on the increase of narcissism among college students:
- Two-thirds of college students score above the 1979-1985 mean of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.
- Scores for both college women and men rose on the trait ‘‘individualistic, particular to me’’ from the 1970s to the 90s.
- In the 1950s, only 12% agreed with the statement ‘‘I am an important person.’’ By the late 1980s, 80% agreed.
- The most recent college students score about the same on the NPI as a sample of celebrities.
- It also appears that women are driving the increase in narcissism, consistent with the finding that the generational increase in agentic traits and assertiveness was stronger for women.
Still, there is some evidence the tide is turning, as Millennials reject their parents’ tendency to navel gaze. Strauss and Howe, generational theorists and authors of The Fourth Turning, offer some reason for hope. “They describe the Millennials (in college early 2000s to late 2010s, sometimes called ‘‘GenY’’) as outer-fixated, group-oriented, and civically responsible.
Are they self-absorbed? No. They’re cooperative team players. Individualism and the search for inner fulfillment are all the rage for many Boomer adults, but less so for their kids, [who are] not as eager to grow up putting self ahead of community the way their parents did.
As a female Boomer, I will undoubtedly continue to exhibit robust self-esteem and a somewhat emotional view of the world, processed through the lens of my inner experience. I’ll happily cop to female solipsism, or whatever the guys are calling it these days. In closing, I’ll offer a comment from Mule Chewing Briars the other day.
Somehow, I get the feeling that the whole discussion of the unsuitability of ‘solipsistic’ female thought processes opposed to those of the ‘rational’ male overlook a very important concept – men and women ‘co-evolved’ to be complementary. I am a pretty rational ‘think things through’ kind of guy, but I rely heavily on my wife’s intuitions, as I believe they reflect an ability to see the emotional impact of my decisions on our family and on our community, that is to say, those people who are emotionally important to us, better than I can.
I have written of this complementarity before, and I too see it as a product of evolution. A world without female preoccupation with emotion? Be careful what you wish for, lads.
In any case, I support the right of the manosphere to discuss issues using whatever vocabulary is most useful, without interference, though I respectfully request a cessation of cheerful misogyny here at HUS. We are outside the circle, and this is right and good.