“Though they take the credit, feminists, radical or otherwise, actually had little to do with the progress of women in the latter half of this century. The trends that would of themselves produce today’s results were in place at least by the early 1960s. Once such things as the right to vote and the right of wives to hold property in their own names had been won, the difference in the opportunities open to women has been largely due to technology.
I am old enough to remember my grandmother washing work clothes on a scrub board, mashing potatoes by hand, and emptying the water tray from the bottom of the ice box. There was simply no possibility that she could have had both a family and a career. Were she young today, she would find that shopping, food preparation, laundering and much else have been made dramatically easier so that she could, if she wished, become a lawyer or a doctor or virtually anything that appealed to her.
Many people suppose that feminism today is a continuation of the reform movement of the past. They occasionally notice a ranting Bella Abzug or an icy Gloria Steinem but imagine them to be merely the froth of extremism on an otherwise sensible movement. That is not the case; the extremists are the movement. What the moderate academic feminists Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge write about radical feminism in the universities is true of the movement as a whole.
“Today’s radical feminism is not merely about equal rights for women…. Feminism aspires to be much more than this. It bids to be a totalizing scheme resting on a grand theory, one that is as all-inclusive as Marxism, as assured of its ability to unmask hidden meanings as Freudian psychology, and as fervent in its condemnation of apostates as evangelical fundamentalism. Feminist theory provides a doctrine of original sin: The worlds evils originate in male supremacy.”
Carol Iannone was drawn into feminism in graduate school in the mid-Seventies.
“I enjoyed, reveled in the utterly systematic property feminism takes on when used as a tool of analysis, especially when to the exclusion of all others. Like Marxism, feminism can explain everything from advertising to religion by following its single thread, the oppression of women.“
The Gender Code Word: United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in September, 1995
Feminists call their grand theory the “gender perspective.” “Gender” is a code word in the feminist lexicon. The enormous importance the radicals place on that term became apparent during the preparation for and conduct of the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in September, 1995. (The Beijing conference will be mentioned frequently because it demonstrated most of feminism’s least attractive features and its worldwide aspirations.) The object was to debate and adopt a set of proposals relating to women (the Platform for Action), which the various nations would, presumably, be under a moral duty to implement.
Each nation sent an official delegation, and many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), accredited by the United Nations to lobby the delegates, were present. The Beijing conference revealed the political and cultural agenda of the movement as a whole.
At a preparatory session in New York, Bella Abzug, the head of a major NGO, denounced “retrogressive” developments:
“The current attempt by several Member States to expunge the word “gender” from the Platform for Action and to replace it with the word “sex” is an insulting and demeaning attempt to reverse the gains made by women, to intimidate us and to block further progress. We will not be forced back into the “biology is destiny” concept that seeks to define, confine and reduce women and girls to their physical sexual characteristics.”
Remaking Human Beings
This heated oratory may seem puzzling—referring to men and women as sexes would not seem to “reduce” either to their “physical sexual characteristics.” What seemed to be nitpicking, however, is part of a larger feminist strategy. In feminist jargon, “sex” is merely biological while “gender” refers to roles and is claimed to be “socially constructed,” which means that everything about men and women, other than their reproductive organs, can be altered by changes in the social and cultural environment.
One of the major implications of this view is that human sexuality has no natural form but is culturally conditioned. Radical feminists concede that there are two sexes, but they usually claim there are five genders. Though the list varies somewhat, a common classification is men, women, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. Thus, heterosexuality, being socially constructed, is no more “natural” or desirable than homosexuality.
It is not surprising, then, that one of the most active groups preparing for Beijing was the Lesbian Caucus. Changes in the social and cultural environment to make the roles of men and women identical are what the feminists intend. This explains the Platform’s incessant harping on “gender.” While I am not sure of the final count, at one point there were 216 references to it.
Unfortunately, many people who would dislike the radical feminists’ project assume that “gender” and “sex” have the same meaning. They do not. Their attempt at Beijing was to incorporate the “gender perspective” into an internationally accepted document that would impose at least moral obligations on the governments of the world. The gender perspective of radical feminism is easy to ridicule but it must be taken seriously. It attacks not only men but the institution of the family, it is hostile to traditional religion, it demands quotas in every field for women, and it engages in serious misrepresentations of facts. Worst of all, it inflicts great damage on persons and essential institutions in a reckless attempt to remake human beings and create a world that can (of itself) never exist.
NO GOD, NO MASTER, NO LAWS.
…Given its aspiration to remake humanity, radical feminism could not be anything but totalitarian in spirit. Patai and Koertge note “feminism’s explicit assault not only on hierarchies generally but also on the boundaries between the public and private, the emotional and the intellectual.“ Radical egalitarians necessarily hate hierarchies. They attack institutions that are hierarchical by nature.
That is why feminists are, as we will see, anti-bourgeois, anti-capitalist, anti-family, anti-religion, and anti-intellectual. Erasing the line between the public and private is essential to politicizing the culture. Radical feminism is totalitarian because it denies the individual a private space; every private thought and action is public and, therefore, political. The party or the movement claims the right to control every aspect of life. *
Radical feminists must regard it as unfortunate that they lack the power and mechanisms of the state to enforce their control over thoughts as well as behavior. As we will see, however, the movement is gradually gaining that coercive power in both private and public institutions. The reason for insisting that the boundary between the emotional and the intellectual be obliterated is, as it was with the New Left and the European fascists, the realization that intellectual analysis would reveal that radical feminism is false. The convert must not be brought to doubt by logical argument. When the evidence and the logic are both against you, it is necessary to claim that evidence and logic are counterrevolutionary props of the status quo.
In the feminist case, facts and rationality, when inconvenient, as they usually are, may be dismissed as “patriarchal constructions of knowledge.” (A college student rejected criticisms of her paper on the ground that the criteria applied were “masculinist”) Intellect imposes hierarchies. The way out “is to feel and think everything all at once, without any hierarchical ordering. This mulligan stew approach to life is seen as the Answer To It All.“13 Emotion must be allowed to trump intellect if the whole enterprise is not to be revealed as the hoax it is. Even the language of the movement mirrors the mood of fascism. The apocalyptic and hate-filled rhetoric of radical feminists expresses their eagerness to inflict harm.
A radical magazine, using the acronym for the National Organization for Women (NOW), declared on its cover: NOW is the time to take back control of our lives. NOW is the time to make reproductive freedom for wimmin of all classes, cultures, ages and sexual orientations a reality. NOW is not the time to assimilate to bureaucratic puppeteers who want to control, degrade, torture, kill and rape our bodies. NOW is the time to drop a boot heel in the groin of patriarchy. NOW IS THE TIME TO FIGHT BACK.
NO GOD, NO MASTER, NO LAWS.
That short paragraph expresses the rage, the nihilism, and the incoherence of feminism today. “Wimmin” (or womyn, words ending in “men” must be avoided) have lost control of their lives, though it is not stated when they had control and how they lost it. “Reproductive freedom” means abortion on demand for heterosexuals and artificial insemination for lesbians who want to bear and raise children.
Then comes the standard feminist tactic of raising up male straw monsters. Nobody has ever come across the “bureaucratic puppeteers” of this fantasy, for the very good reason that such men simply do not exist. Nor does anybody know, and most of us would prefer not to find out, what it means to drop a boot heel in the groin of the patriarchy. The exclamation “no God” presumably refers to the feminist illusion that religion was invented by men to control women. The message is utterly disconnected from any recognizable reality.
The rage is a ritual, an institutionalized version of a child’s tantrum. Christina Hoff Sommers tells of attending a feminist conference at which the speakers, female professors tenured at good universities, were each introduced as “enraged.” Nothing in their professional situations would seem to explain why women so fortunately placed are furious, but that is a requirement for membership in the radical sisterhood. It is precisely the disconnection between reality and feminist claims that requires constant rage and hatred to keep the movement viable. And rage must be stoked with falsehoods and irrationality.
Try to imagine writing a reasoned statement about bureaucrats who want to torture, kill, and rape women’s bodies. It cannot be done. Attempting to construct such a statement would reveal the sentiments for the childish shams they are. Sometimes feminist rage is served with a large dollop of self-pity. Thus, Anne Wilson Schaef writes of the “Original Sin of Being Born Female”: “To be born female in this culture means that you are born ‘tainted,’ that there is something intrinsically wrong with you that you can never change, that your birthright is one of innate inferiority.“
This is a literary version of Karen Finley’s “performance art.” Before an audience, she would strip to the waist, smear her body with chocolate (to represent excrement) and sprouts (sperm), and wail about what men have done to women. The fact that this was supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts illustrates the corruption feminism, and political correctness generally, have introduced in our cultural institutions. Finley’s self-pity is common among feminists. It is, indeed, common among humans, but the feminist version is particularly destructive because it comes as part of an ideology and a program. It is inane to attribute victimhood and low self-esteem to all women and it is vicious to preach it to young, impressionable women. That may prevent them from maturing into the strong, self-confident women we see in business, the professions, and the academy. Rage and self-pity are much easier than accomplishment, of course, but they can hardly be satisfactory as a career…
As one might suspect from their hostility to men, marriage, and family, radical feminists are very much in favor of lesbianism. This involves more than the demand that lesbianism be accepted by society as just another “lifestyle “They want not only lawful lesbian marriages but “reproductive rights” for lesbians. That means the right to bear children through artificial insemination and the right to adopt one’s lesbian partner’s child. Since sperm is sold freely in the United States, much more freely than in other nations, there are lesbian couples raising children. It takes little imagination to know how the children will be indoctrinated…
Sensitivity training is often required even of people who have not displayed “insensitivity.” Cornell’s training session for resident advisers featured an X-rated homosexual movie. Pictures were taken of the advisers’ reactions to detect homophobic squeamishness.36 Thus, entering freshmen in colleges are increasingly subjected to sessions indoctrinating them in the correct attitudes not only to women but to homosexuals and members of minority groups. The object is thought control.”
— from Slouching Towards Gommorah, Judge Robert Bork, Harper Collins Books, 2010. Headings supplied.
Photo: Hillary Clinton United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in September, 1995
* “Hillary Rodham Clinton said that “remolding society certainly in the West is one of the great challenges facing all of us.” She mentioned alienation, despair, and hopelessness, and said we are “in a crisis of meaning.” She called for “a new politics of meaning” that would answer questions such as “What do our governmental institutions mean? What do our lives in today’s world mean? … What do all of our institutions mean? What does it mean to be educated? What does it mean to be a journalist? What does it mean in today’s world to pursue not only vocations, to be part of institutions, but to be human?” She wanted “a society that fills us up again and makes us feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.”7
Nobody knew what that sort of blather meant in the Sixties and nobody knows now. We do know what it is about, however; it is about self and the attempt to give life meaning through the quest for a vaguely imagined Utopia. The religious impulse is obvious, but it is only an impulse, a religious feeling without structure. According to journalist Michael Kelly, Ms. Clinton agrees that she is searching for a “unified-field theory of life.” He notes that her Wellesley and Texas speeches “share all the same traits: vaulting ambition, didactic moralizing, intellectual incoherence and the adolescent assumption that the past does not exist and the present needs only your guiding hand to create the glorious future.”
— from “Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline” by Robert H. Bork
—Louise Perry (who is, you will see, not Catholic), is author of ‘The Case Against the Sexual Revolution’, talks to Brendan O’Neill about the problem with porn, the case for marriage, and why washing machines have done more for women than feminism