Saturday , May 25 2024

Bach’s wife

Many people think the greatest composer who ever lived was Johann Sebastian Bach.  There might be some debate about this. Some think Mozart was greater, others Beethoven. It doesn’t much matter. If you look at a list of the greatest composers these nearly always make up the top three. But who is the greatest female composer? Is there a woman composer who ranks with Bach? No. How many women composers would make a list of the top one hundred? Perhaps Hildegard von Bingen a medieval abbess might just sneak into the bottom of the list? Why should this be so?

The assumption made by feminists is that men and women are equal in every respect and that there is no real difference between us. For this reason whenever a difference occurs it must be explained as being not due to difference but due to something else. The absence of a female Shakespeare is explained by Virginia Wolfe as owing to the absence of a room of her own which the hypothetical sister of Shakespeare might have lived in. There is always someone or something else to blame for the lack of female success in any particular area. Usually the prime culprit is a man or men in general. There are no great female composers because women historically have been oppressed by a patriarchal society that prevented them from realising their talent.

The ability to blame someone else for your own failure is the key to that failure. Success is difficult to achieve, far, far easier to blame the dog for my failure to turn in my homework. If you give someone an excuse for failing do not be surprised when they grasp it. A struggling woman composer who is given a ready-made excuse that her failure is due to her sex will find that excuse far more palatable than that it is due to her lack of talent. This is the essence of the problem with feminism and one of the reasons why I am not a feminist. It provides a reason for female failure and someone else to blame other than the woman herself. It causes the failure.

If I count correctly Bach had twenty children. He had seven with his first wife Maria Barbara and thirteen with his second wife Anna Magdalena. Bach could achieve greatness and he still had the time to father twenty children. How could he possibly have done this? Could a woman have given birth to twenty children and still have had time to achieve greatness as a composer? My guess is that this would simply be impossible. While being pregnant it would be difficult to focus on composing and while looking after all these children it likewise would have been difficult to pay complete attention to your latest string quartet. Nappies and notes do not mix well.

The reason for the absence of female composers is probably due to the difficulty of combining motherhood with composing. But as many women know there is a difficulty in combining anything with motherhood. Having children is a full time job. It’s not the lack of a room that prevented Shakespeare’s sister from writing her plays, it’s that she married and looked after many children. If she hadn’t married she might like Jane Austen have become the greatest English novelist, but instead she chose to create something more important than novels. She created people.

I disagree with feminism and any other ism that strives for equality, because it fails to admit that there are real differences between people and classes of people. I don’t think that women are better than men, nor worse. We are different. Any particular woman is not limited in her talent and has the potential to be the greatest composer who ever lived. But it is contrary to experience to suggest that women and men in general have exactly the same talents. We don’t.

The fundamental difference between men and women is that only women can give birth. It is this general ability that defines who is a woman. It is this likewise which makes it ludicrous to suppose that someone can simply become a woman on a whim.  Approximately half the population can have children while half cannot. This is the difference that is at the heart of human nature. Disaster and nonsense follows if we ignore it. If a society wishes to continue, it is necessary that most women have children and ideally more than two. When Bach was composing many children died either in childhood or due to infant illnesses. It is partly for this reason that his wives had so many children. It was partly also because they didn’t have much choice. But the result was that Germany in Bach’s time did not face the problems that it faces today.

Partly because of feminism and partly because of the pill, Germany is slowly committing suicide. If you look at a list of countries by fertility rate, Germany comes somewhere near the bottom. Every German woman on average gives birth to around 1.4 children. In order for the German population to increase, this rate needs to be around 2.1. Germans are living longer than anyone else in their history, but the number of young Germans who are paying taxes to look after these elderly Germans is falling.

In most of the First World there is exactly the same problem. Japan also has a falling population because Japanese women give birth to on average only 1.5 children. But there is a difference. While the population of Japan may decline and this may bring with it major difficulties, the Japanese population will remain essentially the same. It will stay Japanese. The reason for this is that like other First World Asian countries, the percentage of the Japanese population who are from elsewhere is tiny.

In the Europe and the United States, on the other hand, we have responded to low birth rates by trying to import the missing part of our population. In many parts of the developing world there is a very high average birth-rate. It may not be as high as that of Bach’s wives, but there are many places where women have on average families of five, six or even seven children.

Where is Germany to find the missing children that German women don’t give birth to? It can’t very well get all of them from other European countries, because in practically every European country women have low birth rates. So Germany must look outside Europe.

If you continue long enough down this route, do you still have Germany? Perhaps, but Bach would recognise little about this future Germany. He might not even understand the language spoken.

If there is a solution, it is this. European governments have to make it easier for women to have children. It makes no sense to have free healthcare but not to have free childcare. There is no point spending billions on defence if there is no longer going to be a country to defend thirty or forty years from now. Women have a unique talent: the ability to create life. This is more important than all the symphonies ever written. Bach’s wives did not become great composers, but they gave birth to them. Not only to them, they gave birth to all the generations that followed them. We must pay women to have children or else pay their husbands enough to look after them. We must respect motherhood as the most crucial of roles in society. We must also accept that it simply is not possible to combine composing and childbearing.

Feminism is trying to turn women into men. It is saying we can only be great if we do what men do. But this is to misunderstand that our essence is to do what men cannot do. Women and men should not be limited. We should have the same opportunity and potential and the ability to choose what we do or do not do. But it is vital that we accept that there are inherent differences. The feminist attempt to eradicate this difference and insist that there is absolute equality between men and women means that women are unable or unwilling to fulfil the one role that we alone can fulfil. The role of the mother is more crucial to society than the frivolity of composing. If we had more women like Bach’s wife there would be no demographic crisis in Europe and no need to import people from elsewhere. But instead we prefer to elect women who will never have children and look to them and others like them as the example to be followed. We then complain about the immigration that results from this childlessness. Neither of Bach’s wives was a feminist. If they had been, there would have been no Bach. In striving to make people the same feminism instead sows discord and division. Instead of making people equal it strives to make one half of humanity superior. Far from improving the lot of women, feminism makes them barren, far from being a productive way of thinking it is quite sterile.

This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog:

About Effie Deans

Effie Deans is a pro UK blogger. She spent many years living in Russia and the Soviet Union, but came home to Scotland so as to enjoy living in a multi-party democracy! When not occupied with Scottish politics she writes fiction and thinks about theology, philosophy and Russian literature.

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