A first-grade teacher in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., concludes that while some of her pupils suffer various degrees of parental neglect, others seem to be experiencing the opposite extreme: such pampering at home that they cannot even tie their own shoes, and must have it done for them. It takes a while before she realizes that the latter children cannot tie their shoes because no one has ever taken the trouble to teach them.

A developmental psychologist at the University of Rochester is disturbed by the high rate—13 percent and rising—of “attention-deficient,” “hyperactive” six- to 12-year-old boys being dosed with Ritalin in that urban area. After reporting on her informal observation of several mother-son pairs (“Son cuddled next to Mom. Son ran the strings from the hood of Mom’s jacket through his lips. Son rocked his body back and forth. Son patted Mom’s face. Through all of this. Mom ignored him”), the psychologist writes, “What’s behind the alarmingly high incidence of ADHD, I believe, is the widespread failure of parents and teachers to help children learn to regulate themselves, including managing their attention. Many parents do not seem inclined to socialize their children” (Rochester Review, Fall 1996).

A young working mother is having a dreadful time finding someone, anyone to whose mercenary mercies she can safely entrust her precious two-year-old, and so she writes an angry little get-it-off-my-chest piece for Woman’s Day. “Day care in America is such a hodgepodge, antiquated affair that parents are forced to take a leap of faith with the well-being of their child that they wouldn’t take with any other part of their lives,” she whines. “We are so vulnerable. . . . Where is the affordable, decent day care that will let parents go off to work secure in the knowledge that their child is being well cared for? . . . Does it really have to be this gut-wrenching?” By now we do not have to be told what such whining precedes: still another demand for still another fix of big government.

When The Awakening was published in 1899, public reaction to author Kate Chopin’s hostility toward those lowly creatures she termed “mother-women” was disbelief that any woman could feel that way about motherhood, and scandalization at the sheer “perversity of her unnatural sentiments.” A mere three generations later, Ms. Chopin’s sentiments have been almost universally adopted by our society—most fervently, in fact, by mothers themselves.

Fatherlessness has been tagged as the biggest problem facing the family in this country today, and by extension the biggest problem facing our society as a whole. But it is really motherlessness that besets us. Nobody wants to be the mom. Motherhood is viewed as a sucker’s game. Yet what a wondrous system it was, admirable in its lavish economy, its unimpeachable irrationality, its gloriously selfish selflessness, its universal particularity. Every child was to have at least one person on earth who was absolutely crazy about him, a sucker for him. Every child was to be the diminutive king or queen of at least one person’s susceptible heart. The usual law of life—Eat or be eaten!—did not apply to motherhood, which gloried, up till now, in giving—Eat, eat! But big-government feminism has decreed that motherhood must go; taxes are levied against it; studies are concocted to prove it baneful; and so it is going.

“Feminism” is a misleading term for the culprit, however. What these infuriated women want to do is get rid of femininity altogether, to seize and wield what they clearly consider to be superior, masculine attributes. The movement should rightly be called masculism; it is the triumph of all values traditionally associated with the male: dominance, aggression, egotism, single-mindedness, profanity, promiscuity, toughness, brutal objectivity, aloof self-sufficiency. Even the bodies of men—the sculpted musculature of flat abs and steel glutes—are displayed as templates for the new woman to reproduce herself upon. Not for her the female body as temple wherein the race is reproduced. Everything women have historically been associated with, among every people, in every land and age, is being devalued and derided in the name of “feminism.”

With these acquired masculine characteristics, then, young women are to force themselves into the mold of citizen-soldier, power attorney, “extreme” all-out athlete. Arrayed in teams, sorted into rigid hierarchies, exhorted to “Go for it!” no matter who or what stands in their way, women are to become male impersonators. Not mere impersonators, of course: one of the central beliefs of masculism is that women are and have always been just as good (that is, as masculine) as men, and indeed will prove better at the game once they have taken it over. This belief was recently stroked by a Foundation for the Future study “proving” that females in the labor force are superior to males in 28 out of 31 ways.

But “masculism” is also a misleading term. It is not really the masculinization but the homosexualization of society that is occurring. True masculinity is unswervingly attracted to the feminine; as Isak Dinesen, a female Nietzsche, wrote in her epigrammatic fashion, “The love of woman and womanliness is a masculine characteristic, and the love of man and manliness is a feminine characteristic . . . [I]t is almost impossible for a woman to irritate a real man, and as to the women, a man is never quite contemptible, never altogether rejectable, as long as he remains a man.” In contrast, it is the homosexual mind that finds both the truly feminine and the truly masculine—that is, the heterosexual—unspeakably distasteful. It is the true natures of both men and women that have been targeted for denunciation and destruction. Why? Because the traditional familial order of society is an immovable object in the path of the irresistible force of the state and its plans for our improvement.

Thus at the same time masculine attributes are aped, their originators—men, and white men in particular—are savagely mocked and attacked for possessing or exercising them. The Virginia Military Institute’s “rat line,” a typically male institution for the breaking of young colts by stallions, is horrific if manned by males, but somehow terrific if populated by sweating, shorn, and swearing females. Men’s-club or locker room camaraderie is reprehensible, but the same behavior transposed to a female key is right on. Boys and men are ridiculed (and medicated) for having “testosterone poisoning,” while women bulk up on steroids to win Olympic medals.

Now there are those who suspect that this massive female invasion of male turf is only a scheme hatched by levelers and pacifists to neuter men’s warlike nature and thereby destroy “militarism” from within. And such may well be the case; certainly this is the aim of Patsy Schroeder and the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Any wicked fairy tale can come true in the Age of Clinton.

Nevertheless, the female masses are not wise to the plot. They have bought and swallowed the regendering program whole. In high schools and colleges throughout the country, it is verboten for girls to admit they would like to be wives and mothers when they grow up. The only way to escape the program—and a way increasing numbers of desperate girls are taking—is to get pregnant and opt out of “higher education” altogether. For the rest, their lives as women will be, and in many cases already have been, sacrificed to the dizzyingly swift ongoing inversion of all values. Thus we get the grisly spectacle of women lobbying passionately for partial-birth abortions while understandably crazed men shoot up abortuaries. The former protected status of women as the more vulnerable sex will probably never recover. Women face the worst of both worlds: vulnerability and “equality.”

Daughters brought up motherless do not learn to be mothers. Motherless sons do not learn to respect or love women. Such denatured generations are swiftly arising to overtake us. The underclass, from which “welfare” has banished fathering, experiences little but mortally wounded mothering, while the former middle class, now thoroughly proletarianized, manages its own demoralization along convergent lines, slavishly conforming to the state’s desire to turn all human activity into taxable wage labor. Particularly hard hit are young men, always more difficult to socialize in any case. Ironically, most high-achieving men have had mothers with strong, dominant personalities—precisely the sort of women least likely to have or stay home with children in the modern era. Hardest hit of all are young white men, whose precipitous drop from top of the heap to lowest of the low is surely the most spectacular sociopolitical descent in the annals of man.

What sort of world will motherless children make, these feckless youths and charmless maidens? An awful sullenness; a routine violence; an aggressive, gnawing sense of entitlement superimposed upon an even deeper conviction of worthlessness (euphemistically called “lack of self-esteem”); a cynical disbelief in any ideal, in anything noble or transcendent in the human project; a reductionist, materialist stupefaction unresponsive to beauty or truth; and in the midst of all this, a most superstitious credulity. The sudden wholesale return of pagan pantheism with its dreamcatchers and fetishes and angel apparitions—hallucinations born of religious deprivation—gives new life to G.K. Chesterton’s words: “When man no longer believes in God, he does not then believe in nothing, but in anything.”

The unsettling thing about modern youth is their lack, not of manners, but of souls. Among the many practices that should distinguish human society from animal life, the most important is the quality and intensity of mothering, supported manfully by fathering. No other species invests more time and energy, more nurturing, more love in its offspring than humans do. And this pays off: the offspring are humanized. They develop that special, species-specific luxury, a soul. It is solely for the sake of that soul that human beings cherish one another. When it disappears, the self-conception that makes possible the human social world dies with it.

And so does God Himself. As Ludwig Feuerbach observed, our idea of God flows from the physical reality of the family, die Heilige Familie: father-judge, mother-nurturer, child-beloved. What will God become once bereft of the family? What He is already fast becoming: the criminally negligent but judgment proof nanny state, jealously clutching its hoard of dead souls.