On this episode of High Noon, Inez Stepman interviews Madeleine Kearns, National Review columnist and contributor at The Spectator. Madeleine and Inez discuss a range of topics related to the female experience in 2021, from Gen Z’s waning enthusiasm for sex-positivity to generational fragility and the regrettable sunset of the womanly slap.

The discussion also delves into how women and relationships are portrayed in narrative and literature, from Anna Karenina to “The Sex Lives of College Girls.”

High Noon is an intellectual download featuring conversations that make possible a free society. Inviting interesting thinkers from all parts of the political spectrum to discuss the most controversial subjects of the day in a way that hopes to advance our common American future. Hosted by Inez Stepman of Independent Women’s Forum.


TRANSCRIPT

Inez Stepman:

Welcome to High Noon, where we talk about controversial subjects with interesting people. And my interesting person today is Madeleine Kearns, who is a staff writer over at National Review. She’s also a frequent contributor to The Spectator. You might have seen her cover story over there recently. And in the past, and currently, she writes quite a bit — although she writes on all kinds of subjects — she writes quite a bit on the subject of, let’s say, feminine allure or feminine strength and whether or not those two things are contradictory, whether we have perhaps lost something in our current generation of women. We have lost both the allure and the strength that used to hold up women of the past in pursuit of a type of equality that perhaps is elusory. But that has been one of her frequent subjects. So welcome, Madeleine Kearns, to High Noon. It’s so great to have you on.

Madeleine Kearns:

Thanks for having me.

Inez Stepman:

I’ll start with a really simple question that actually you once asked me on a panel for National Review, which is “what is a woman?” Maddie Kearns, define womanhood for us.

Madeleine Kearns:

So, I think if you looked this up in the dictionary, you would find a concise definition: adult human female. Female is, of course, a biological category. So, females are marked as being distinct from males because they have XX chromosomes and female reproductive organs. And females, like all other mammals, human beings, carry children, they just state and produce offspring. Of course, as a social concept, there’s a lot more to being woman than merely biology, but I start with biology because we live in an age which is obviously very deeply confused about just that basic biological category to begin with. And until we can establish that factual basis of what a woman is, it’s very difficult to actually have any meaningful conversation about the social, sexual, and psychological markers of femininity and what it means to be a female.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah because, of course, there’s that complicated social… Legitimately, this much I’ll give sort of the other team, so to speak, the construction-of-sex team. Obviously, one performs to some degree femininity and masculinity within a society, and that’s connected to biological sex, but not in a direct, one-to-one way. We all know men who might be a little more feminine or present themselves as feminine in society, women who present themselves as more masculine in society, and how those concepts connect, whether how you present yourself in society and how you relate to masculinity or femininity is obviously something somewhat different than one’s biological sex.

But do you think that they’re sort of wholly different, the way that they’re put on the gender unicorn? You have one axis that’s how you present yourself and your self-conceptualization, and then the other axis that is, I mean, they say the biological sex is not a binary, it’s a spectrum, but do you think those two elements are wholly unrelated or is how — let’s restrict it to women for a minute — is femininity a essential part of being a woman?

Madeleine Kearns:

Well, there’s obviously overlap with both the nature and the nurture. And I think this is just common sense and obvious by the arguments, the disproven arguments of people who take the opposing view. So, the biological essentialist — and aren’t really very many of them now, I don’t think — are people who, or at least be people who are characterized to be saying that because a woman is a woman, she therefore cannot, for example, write good literature, compose good music; her brain’s too small. She’s just, they can’t do that. And there have, of course, been people who write history who have made those types of arguments. If people are still making arguments like that, they’re very much on the fringe. What is more common is the people who are making the argument that it’s entirely socially constructed. And what’s slightly ironic is these people tend to meet up in the same ludicrous conclusions.

So, for example, the feminists were obviously very upset in the 20th century about stereotyping, and some of that upset I slightly understand; if you look at sort of advertisements from the 1950s, it was a bit silly and overwrought, but of course, now we have the idea that if a little girl plays with trucks and dresses like a boy, is a tomboy, she might really be a boy because those things are markers of masculinity. So, that’s the social constructionist becomes essentialist in its own way. Obviously, the truth is a bit of both. And your personality, I’m sure, has predispositions found in your genetics. I’m sure that, if you’re particularly aggressive, which is less common in females than males as a category, there might be some sort of biological component as to why that is the case, but it’s more of a disposition than it is a determination.

And I think that the tragedy of the way that we currently conceive with these things is that we, for all our talk of getting people out of boxes, we actually box people in probably more than ever with this gender fluidity stuff, which denies common sense. It denies biology and it is not actually helpful when dealing with categories of people. We tend now to focus on sort of the exception rather than the general patterns that you can quite easily observe in sociological studies about the types of choices that women make when left to their own devices, even in very progressive countries.

Inez Stepman:

Do you think it’s kind of crippling our self-understanding as women, the fact that we are not supposed to connect various aspects of our personalities or certain traits with being a woman? Do you think that that somehow makes us lacking, especially as a generation — let’s say millennials and gen Z — do you think that makes us in some way lacking in self-understanding of what it means? If we’re all kind of on this endless map and you can put your dot anywhere and that the combination of traits that you observe in yourself could be… We’re supposed to imagine it’s a scatter plot, that it’s completely random, but that seems to leave a lot of room for self-misunderstanding.

Madeleine Kearns:

Yeah. I think that’s definitely the case, and that’s why you get into all sorts of problems with the way that men and women relate to one another, because women don’t even know how to relate to themselves sometimes. They can’t really understand, for example, that because they bear the brunt of reproduction, they obviously can get pregnant. Even when you eliminate unwanted pregnancy, either through contraception or abortion, you’re not actually changing the way that they’re wired. So, for example, women release Oxycontin at much higher rates than males as a bonding hormone. This is one influence that makes them have a harder time with casual sex, for example, than men do. And it’s things like this where we tell women, you can be just like a man, you can have sex just like a man. That was obviously the message of something like Sex and the City.

And women do this, and they find that it’s not making them feel as liberated as was promised or as happy as was promised. And rather than join the dots, as you put it, and think, well, maybe this has something to do about my biological makeup, maybe this is less in my interests than it might be for a man, the thought is that it must be a cultural problem. So, it must be sort of like the consent model and men not being properly taught the consent model. Obviously, I’m making generalizations here. You really have to look at the specifics of any given case, but it is, I think, generally true that women just don’t really understand themselves.

There’s also a really interesting observation by — actually it was an art critic — John Bergman, who noted that men notice women, but that women notice being noticed. And I just think that’s a sort of fascinating difference in the way that you relate to yourself. If you’re considering yourself through the eyes of an admirer — you used the word performance earlier, I think that’s a good word for this — is you’re considering how your allure furthers your interests. So, we don’t really have that understanding, though, because we’ve kind of spayed and neutered everything culturally, which I don’t think is progress.

Inez Stepman:

How do you think that allure — we’re talking kind of a Camille Paglia-style feminine power, like allure we think about in sort of the [inaudible 00:09:37] to think about femme fatales, the truly feminine power and how it can be used appropriately or inappropriately between women and men —  how does that relate with strength? Because you have this really fantastic piece I want to read that you wrote a while back, in the first round of Cuomo accusations.

And I just wanted to read off a paragraph or two that you wrote about, essentially, men who make advances to women that are unwanted, and you write:

“There is a difference between a pig and a predator (and also, a difference between a regular pig and a pig who is also a bully). A regular pig can often be dealt with by using a healthy dose of womanly assertiveness and gumption, to be administered with swift and immediate effect.

“Both the pig and the predator require apprehending, naturally, but to stun a piggish man, one normally need only splash him in the face with a cold drink. Or, should such a beverage not be readily available, a hearty slap will suffice. … The predator, meanwhile, requires an intervention of an altogether more drastic nature. Pepper spray. Frying pan. Elegant silver pistol. Whatever happens to be handiest. In any case, the point is that proportionality is the better part of valor. And as for discretion — well, that is a woman’s art!”

It seems to me that you’re describing there something that seems so inaccessible to modern women, which is this combination of the allure that you and I were just talking about with a kind of assertiveness and strength that is uniquely feminine, as opposed to the aggressiveness that you were talking about earlier, which is we associate with the masculine. I mean, how do you think we relate these two things together, this kind of femininity and at the same time … possession and actual assertiveness in a way?

Madeleine Kearns:

Well, I think they fit together when a woman understands that she kind of has the power of refusal. And there’s a kind of irony in modern sexual politics, for want of a better phrase, in that women have really never had more support, societal support, institutional support in order to assert themselves in this way. It used to be that they really were the underdogs and really could be exploited terribly by employers and all the rest of it. And actually, now, women have never been better educated, never been better placed to say, “no, get your hands off me.” We just don’t encourage them to do this, because we’ve led them to believe that they are powerless in these situations. And so when a man — because the greatest assault to you is not somebody being presumptuous in the way that I think Cuomo was, and I articulate it in that piece — the greatest assault to you is somebody violating your consent, even if they’re violating your consent in a small way. Now, obviously in common sense may just go by, we would understand that somebody violating your consent through rape is so much worse than somebody touching the small of your back without your permission, but because the focus now is on consent and not on the acts themselves, we’ve lost that sense of distinction. Also, we just don’t encourage women to take the matter into their own hands because we’ve told them that there’s this terrible patriarchal system, which is against them, so that they can’t do that when, in actual fact, the reverse is true. They’ve never been better placed to stand up for themselves in these interpersonal encounters.

Inez Stepman:

Why is it, I mean, this really seems generational here. I’m thinking about Meghan Daum who wrote kind of an ode to the sort of ‘90s feminist tough girl. She’s generation X, I’m sort of middle- to elder- millennial. You’re five or six years younger than me. So, we span between — I would say between three of us — we span gen X and then kind of early millennial, late millennial. And it really seems like the further on we’ve gotten in the last few generations, the less women feel, ironically, even though we have those billboards with Beyonce and female empowerment and everything else, it really seems like the more time goes on, the less women feel empowered to do what you’re talking about, to slap somebody who gets out of line, to throw a drink in his face, or just to verbally push back hard.

I mean, I’m thinking here of one particular case that Meghan Daum kind of talked about on one of her podcasts and made the rounds in terms of the title IX cases that you used to write on. And it was the case of a college woman who went to a man’s dorm and got naked in bed with him and didn’t want to have sex with him but found that it was “too awkward” to make that known in a strong way. And the conclusion of this case was that the man had overstepped in assuming that because she was naked in his bed, that she was DTF as the kids say. And rather than … but it was something that was so difficult for Meghan to understand, the idea that a woman would feel awkward about just telling a man even in that kind of situation “no.” I mean, what is it about millennials and gen Z that we seem to have totally lost that generational quality? Because I think even as early, as late as gen X, there was this sort of empowered woman figure who was less concerned about male opinion and therefore not at all concerned about, for example, laughing at male advances or pushing back against them when they were unwanted. I mean, at what point and why did we lose this ability?

Madeleine Kearns:

I think it’s happened since we started being more okay with promiscuity. It’s an odd sort of quirk of this, but I think that women, it became at some point in history was totally reasonable and expected that a woman would decline sexual advances, in large part because of what I mentioned before: they bore the brunt of pregnancy. And so there was a lot for her to lose and not much for her to gain, especially in a one-night stand in terms of these casual hookups. But we changed that, and we deliberately changed that because we thought it would be liberating. And so it became harder in a social setting to decline for a reason that wouldn’t just be wounding the man. It would just be like “it’s you, I don’t want to have sex with you.”

Whereas before I think women, it was just that “I don’t want to have sex because I have a lot to lose here, and until you commit to me in a way that makes me feel safe and secure, I’m not going to do that.” Now it’s become quite personal. And so we have a popular culture that sort of mocks virginity and abstinence as one of the last taboos, funnily enough. And so it’s just expected. It’s just expected that sex is really not that big of a deal. The only thing that’s a big deal is whether or not you consent to it, but we haven’t given any guidance on what’s a good idea to consent to and what isn’t. Anything goes, literally anything. If you’re into sadomasochism or whatever you want, that’s fine, as long as you consent it.

But I think that young women especially need a little more than that. They need to be told, well, what’s in it for me? When’s it a good idea, when’s it not a good idea? So that when they get into these sorts of romantic encounters, they’re clear in their own minds about what their boundaries are. Because the problem is they’re not clear in the boundaries, and then something happens that makes them feel uncomfortable. They don’t know why it makes them feel uncomfortable because they’ve never really thought it through, nobody’s ever talked to them about it in a serious way, and so they think, oh, it would be terribly rude of me to decline this at this point. So then they end up being resentful because they gave more than they wanted to, and they feel sort of tricked or coerced, even though it might not have been that they were tricked or coerced.

It’s certainly not from the man’s perspective because men require communication as much as women do. You need to be told this is too far, this is my boundary. You’ve crossed it. Please stop. And if you don’t use words, I’m not sure how they’re supposed to pick up on your body language, especially if you’re talking about somebody who doesn’t know you that well. So I think we’ve just not really given women enough context or encouraged them to have enough context. We live in a society where everything’s permitted, nothing’s forgiven. And everything being permitted is really bad for women and nothing being … and everything being taken as too far is really bad for men. So, it’s just a lose-lose situation.

Inez Stepman:

How do we dig ourselves out of this hole that you’re kind of blaming the sexual revolution for? How do we dig ourselves … because I think one of the things that’s interesting about the last few years is how the left and right have kind of come to the same conclusion, although they have wildly different ways of dealing with that conclusion. I don’t think anybody is any longer in the camp of, “oh, the way that sex relations work right now in 2020 or 2021, this is good, this is how relations between men and women should be.” And you have the right, making some of the critiques that you’ve made, which is basically saying we need to return to a more biological understanding of the differences between the sexes, and then the consequences of those that biological understanding is that you, as you say, that a totally liberated sexual ethos might actually be, have negative consequences for women or more negative consequences for women than it does for men.

But I mean, how do we dig ourselves out? Because there was this article in the New York Times, just a few weeks ago, where it was about basically sex-negativity. The end of sex-positivity among gen Z. And so I think that’s just one more point in the arsenal of, oh, this is actually — we are coming to some kind of consensus that this, whatever it is, this is not good, particularly for women. But do you think that there’s any constructive way to take that sense among especially young women that this isn’t good and turn it into something that’s actually productive, or do you think it’s going to continue, that energy is going to continue to be channeled into the kind of legalistic solutions that, as you say, sort of overly punish men for not being able to read something as subtle as women’s discomfort without being really told in any clear way?

Madeleine Kearns:

I think it’s going to be difficult to undo, in part because we’re so committed to the ideological premises that underpin this. So, I think until we accept that women actually have quite a lot of power and responsibility for themselves — not for other people’s behavior, of course, but they have a lot of power and responsibility in these encounters; that this patriarchy concept isn’t really all that helpful and that men have feelings too, and that it’s nice to remember that when you’re rejecting somebody — which we used to be pretty good at actually, used to be quite tactful. Not any longer because the man in question is a symbol, a reminder of this terrible force, this patriarchal force. So, you can be as brutal as you like. And unfortunately, I just think we’re so committed to that ideology.

And I think we’re so committed to that ideology because it doesn’t force you to take any sort of accountability at all. You’re ever the victim. It’s always somebody else’s fault things go wrong. And we’ve bought into the idea that collective guilt is a useful concept. It’s a useful way of framing complicated idiosyncratic interpersonal encounters. So, sorry, it doesn’t really give you any sort of solutions. I think the only thing I can really suggest is that people, when raising children, or if they’re [somebody] who works with young people, just kind of urge caution and say sex is a great thing, and we don’t want to be puritans, and we don’t want you to be passive and terrified of a natural part of life, but it is also kind of a serious thing as well.

It could create new people, it can create a lot of problems. It makes your life a lot more complicated. And so you want to think very seriously about the kind of situations that you get yourself in. This used to be something that you would get, if not directly by the birds and the bees chat, but you’d at least get through good stories in literature. I mean, sex was what launched A Thousand Ships. It’s what fills 800 pages of Anna Karenina. It’s a really powerful thing and something that should be taken seriously, even in its positive aspects and not only taken seriously in its negative aspects, which is where you get into the failures of consent-only models.

Inez Stepman:

Do you think that that’s connected? Because I can’t think of — and maybe I just haven’t read enough modern literature — but can you think of any sort of stories? It seems like the genre, the literary genre that exists right now is less Anna Karenina novel or even something of a more positive — I think maybe like Jane Eyre — something that is “has a little bit of happier ending” than Anna Karenina, but these kinds of stories about relationships between men and women and about the relation between masculinity and femininity and how women can be self-possessed and still feminine. But it seems like the more modern form of that type of thing is actually that self-confessional essay kind of genre, the New Yorker or the modern love section of the New York Times, where it’s always these confessional first-person essays about… Or I’m thinking here about, what was that story? Cat, cat man —

Madeleine Kearns:

Cat Person. Yeah, Cat Person.

Inez Stepman:

Something … Cat Person, right, about a relationship with an older man that ended up feeling in some way violative. And then that story seemed to really resonate with a lot of women in terms of how they feel about their past sexual encounters with men. I mean, what does it say about us that we’ve moved from Anna Karenina to Cat Person?

Madeleine Kearns:

Yeah, no, there’s a great … sorry, this stuff you described, I’ve read more of it than I’d like to admit, but it’s just so dreary and confused — and by its own admission. It’s typically people who are depressed and unhappy, and so just their solution to this is just to do more of the same, which is obviously insane. Another one is Normal People, about this deeply unhappy girl who goes from unhappy relationship to unhappy relationship, and it’s all very toxic. And it’s supposed to explore damage in a really profound way, and it doesn’t. It’s just like what she needs, she needs a really assertive friend to be like “stop doing that. It’s making you unhappy. Try something else.” But unfortunately, that just doesn’t happen. Another one I watched recently for the purposes of review is a new HBO series called The Sex Lives of College Girls, where these girls, sort of 18-year-olds, who describe them — well, at least one of them describes herself as sex-positive — and in order to get into a club, a college club, she gives hand jobs to all the men, the young men of the committee, and this is supposed to be empowering. I’m not exactly sure how, but it is. There you go.

I think that there’s also something that happens that — I think you actually mentioned this to me before, and I read about it afterwards, but Camille Paglia I think has made the point that when there’s no taboos left and sex is really in your face all the time, there’s also a loss of eroticism. Sex becomes very unsexy. And this is something we see in popular culture, the WAP stuff or whatever Lady Gaga just sort of riding around on stage. And I think that, again, understanding female sexuality, we’re not so interested in ‘insert tab A into slot B.’ There’s actually a lot more to female sexuality than the mechanics of it, and that too is lost when we adopt this progressive agenda, and it certainly comes through in the literature. I mean, if you have a love story where the two people jump into bed together right away, there’s not really much to build up to actually after that. So, you have to fill up with lots of drama, which they have and now with series and certainly this sex … I think the sex lives with these college girls, the first episode, they’d already had so much sexual experience by the end of the first episode, I was just kind of like, I’m not really sure, just as a writer, if I was writing this, where to go from here. I mean, the story arc is just kind of like just completely done at this point. I guess they’ll just have to get more and more adventurous, but at a certain point short of selling themselves, I’m not really sure how they can pull that off. Inez, I’ve forgotten what your question was, but I hope that answered it.

Inez Stepman:

Meandering through the changes in —

Madeleine Kearns:

Literature. Yeah, it’s got worse. That’s the point.

Inez Stepman:

It’s a good point about HBO. I mean, I think the same kind of journey is taking place. I mean, you mentioned Sex and the City earlier, but we moved from Sex and the City to Girls, which is much, much more depressing. If Sex and the City is sort of the good literary promise of sexual liberation and the sexual revolution, I don’t think Sex and the City portrays the women as victims. They are very much sort of self-possessed and empowered and perhaps the unrealistic part of it — besides their ridiculous lifestyles as columnists in Manhattan — but the sort of unrealistic part of it is exactly how much power they do seem to have over their dating lives, whereas by the time you move to Girls, they seem to be desperately unhappy and confused. And all the adjectives that you’ve been using to describe this modern thing. And I’m wondering if The Sex Lives of College Girls is now sort of the final evolution of this. But again, I mean, this has to… What can’t go on forever will stop. I mean, I’m almost worried at this point, more worried about the backlash.

I can see this going one of two negative ways. One, that incredibly restrictive norms become popular. And two, that people just sort of become so atomized and digital. I mean, one of the contradictions of gen Z seems to be that they have 10,000 sexual identities, but they’re actually having very little sex. And we see this in all these kinds of surveys. We see that sexual activity by the time you hit 25, for example, is much lower than it was in past generations. What’s the endpoint of this? Is it just that it’s going to become so unpleasant to interact with the opposite sex that we just all become digital beings and we lay aside the pleasures of the flesh forever?

Madeleine Kearns:

Yes. Well, that’s a great question. And I think we are actually headed that way, unfortunately. I think ideology does have a wonderful way of sort of interfering with actual day-to-day living. And, of course, why is it important that the sexes get along? Well, because if they don’t, then who is going to produce and rear the next generation? That’s not clear. So, unfortunately, I just, I do see it getting worse. And I think we’ve already seen the fears that you’ve articulated sort of realize themselves. We’ve already seen this puritanical overreaction to all the wrong things.

It’s now really, it used to be that I think it was like 20% people met their significant other at work. And now I think people are just absolutely terrified to ask people out on a date because you could end up in front of a HR department, so why risk it when you can do apps or whatever else instead? And so you do have a kind of loss of meaningful human interaction. I think the younger generation, especially are going to have this more and more because they’re already facing that because of the way they socialize through social media. I was out for a drink recently with a friend, and she was commenting that her friend — who is a bartender and has been a bartender for 15 years or so — said it’s really strange because it used to be that you would see people in a bar hitting on … you’d see men in a bar going over to a group of girls and hitting on them, and you just don’t see that anymore.

You see people who are already on dates, presumably, but you don’t see men approaching women. And the tragedy of that is that women actually … I think women want to be approached by men. And in fact, something I’ve mentioned before that — I think it might actually be more widespread than I first thought — is that there is an element of sort of showing off that goes on with this like, “oh men these days just bother you all the time.” The objection to catcalling, for example. “Oh, it’s just like wherever I go, I just can’t stop being harassed by men. I’m just so desirable.” There’s an element of posturing that’s going on. It’s because that’s actually what women kind of want, isn’t it? They want attention.

They want to be thought of as beautiful and desirable. And of course they do. That’s perfectly natural. It’s just unfortunate that they kind of want two things simultaneously, which is for that to happen but then for the people who express it, who have the audacity to express it, to be punished for some social ill that they’ve done. So, I just see it getting worse and worse and worse. There will always be a subsection of society who ignore these trends.

I think we’re probably in that, and I’m sure there’s young people who will also realize that this is nonsense and they’re not going to do it, but you do pay a social cost for doing that if you ask out the wrong person or make a move on the wrong person and they overreact terribly. So, sorry, that’s just bleak. I don’t really, I’m not positive about anything in this subject. I think it’s going to get worse and we’re going to stop having children. And then we’ll be replaced by cultures that do have children. And those aren’t all good cultures, but I’ll save that for another discussion. Yeah.

Inez Stepman:

I was going to ask you to wrap it up that the [inaudible 00:35:13], but you’ve already alluded to it. The purpose of all this sort of back and forth self-actualization understanding is ultimately biologically to perpetuate the species. What is, I mean, you’ve alluded to it here, but what are the reasons for the massive fertility decline across the west? Because this is not just the United States. It’s not limited to particular countries in Europe. In fact, it’s a pretty universal decline across the globe; it’s just that other parts of the globe, like African countries, for example, started out at a very high fertility rate, but their fertility rates are going down as well. So, part of this seems to be inevitable shift of the global economy away from an economy where it’s actually a positive to have a lot of children, an economic necessity, in fact, to have a lot of children, to an economy where you have a few children and invest a lot in their educations and their futures in terms of launching them into the world.

So some of it, I think, is kind of inevitable and natural, but my question is why we seem to have gone from going down to a lower number of children to now, in most parts, the last … that number for a lot of couples, especially in our generation and beyond, to say that they don’t want children altogether. So, you know what’s this [inaudible 00:36:44]? What are the reasons behind the very steep decline in the west? And if you have any ideas for how to address that, because obviously their economic consequences to that, there are political consequences to that as well.

Madeleine Kearns:

Yeah. I mean, there’s lots of, there’s no one single reason as you alluded to. That obviously is just a fact that when countries become more developed, women enter the workforce, and then that changes priorities and you get smaller families, but I think there’s just also an element of people just can’t be bothered. It’s really hard work having children and raising them. And I mean, for the first five years of the child’s life, you’re basically making sure it doesn’t die, because they run around sticking their fingers in sockets and shoving things up their nose, and that’s like a very full-time occupation. It’s very demanding. It has an effect on your sex life, has an effect on your social life, has effect on your finances. I think a lot of people just really just can’t be bothered with that. And I think part of the reason they can’t be bothered is because they don’t really have a clear sense of purpose of why they’re living.

And I think what is the way of addressing this? I think reminding people that they’re going to die — and really old, if they’re lucky. And I think few people on their deathbed are thinking “oh, you know what I really wish I’d done. I wish I’d worked more. That would’ve been great.” I think they’re looking to their social network. They’re looking to their legacy. And for a lot of people, that has the potential to be children, family, and if people remember us at all 50, a hundred years after we’re dead, it’ll probably be people in our family that remembers.

And so I think there’s just, we live in an age of sort of perpetual distraction where you don’t really have to think about these things all that often, because it’s comfortable and there’s lots going on. And I think it’s that it used to be people understood phases of life, and one of those phases, that you would get married and you would have children because there’s not really that much you could do with your time that’s better suited to that, unless you happen to be genius and you’re going to contribute massively in your field. But I think my impression from people my own age is just that a lot of us just can’t really be bothered. Just too much work. I’ll do something else.

Inez Stepman:

So, to be clear, we’re closing out on a note of optimism, which is that death is coming for us all, from Madeleine Kearns of The National Review.

Madeleine Kearns:

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Which is a good thing because immortality would be rubbish. Do you not think?

Inez Stepman:

We do seem to want the things that are not good for us as human beings.

Madeleine Kearns:

That’s true. Think how overcrowded the planet would be if everybody was immortal. That’d be a lot.

Inez Stepman:

Then we might really have some Malthusian problems that climate change folks think we have.

Madeleine Kearns:

Exactly.

Inez Stepman:

In any case, it was wonderful to have you, Madeleine Kearns. Where can people find your work other than at the National Review and at The Spectator?

Madeleine Kearns:

Sure. So, Twitter, @MadeleineKearns on Twitter. And then I also have a website, madeleinekearns.com, where I post some updates, especially on non-writing things like music and speaking appearances, that kind of thing.

Inez Stepman:

Yes. Maddie is also a wonderful singer. She has a wonderful Christmas song that she put out last Christmas that I think it is just as relevant for this upcoming Christmas season. So, she is a woman of many talents. I highly encourage you to go read her writing, both at the National Review and at The Spectator. Maddie, so thank you so much for coming on High Noon.

Madeleine Kearns:

Thank you for having me.

Inez Stepman:

And thank you to our listeners. High Noon with Inez Stepman is a production of the Independent Women’s Forum. As always, you can send us comments and questions to [email protected] Please help us out by hitting subscribe button and leaving us a comment or review on Apple Podcasts, Acast, Google Play, YouTube, or iwf.org. Be brave, and we’ll see you next time at High Noon.