The liberal starting point ends badly: in feelings of loss of humanity; in assumptions of oppression and inequality; and, for some, in a rejection of love and relationships.
A regular reader posted a comment suggesting that the feminist belief in inequality was more than an assumption, as men really are superior:
The inequality of men and women is not an assumption, it's a reality. It's evolved. Unless you are a female spotted hyena, you just have to like it or lump it.
I thought this comment worth responding to at length, as it involves some important issues. I'll say at the outset that I disagree with the idea that men are superior to women. This is not because I hold to a politically correct belief that everyone is equal. Furthermore, I think it's healthy for men to assert themselves confidently in their relationships with women.
So why don't I think men superior? The big issue, I think, is how we judge the quality of people. If we follow modernist ideas, and reject the existence of "transcendent" (i.e. really existing) goods, then the measure of man is power. I will be held to be superior if I prove my dominance by holding power over others. I can achieve dominant status through money, through a professional career and through political power.
If we accept this "proof" of superiority, then I cannot blame feminists for acting the way that they do. It's inevitable that some women will be too proud to accept an inferior status, particularly when they know that they have the ability to prove themselves dominant in careers, money and politics over many men.
It's a pity, though, if women accept such a proof of their own quality. It means that they are forced to compete to prove themselves on traditionally masculine terms; the more feminine side to life will inevitably be neglected.
Which leads to the question: what happens if we accept the existence of transcendent goods, as Western societies traditionally did? We then have an alternative way of judging the quality of people, namely according to how finely they embody some aspect of the good.
Looked at this way, there is a lot to admire in both men and women. Men, at their best, are loyal, courageous, persevering and good-humoured, and their dispassionate intellect serves them well in acting justly and in seeking knowledge. Women, at their best, are warm, vivacious, graceful, beautiful, empathetic, considerate and intuitive. Women, more than men, are often present in the moment for others.
So which constellation of goods is superior? The question makes little sense for two reasons. First, it's difficult to measure in any objective way whether the finer female qualities represent a higher good than the male qualities or vice versa. It might be possible to have a personal preference, but there's no obvious way to prove such a preference to be true.
More importantly, the question of superiority is misconceived because the male and female goods grow out of each other; therefore, if you think of the masculine qualities as being particularly fine, you must recognise that they wouldn't exist without the feminine qualities being strongly present (and vice versa).
If the women of a society no longer embody the higher feminine goods, then it's unlikely that men will be inspired to fully develop their masculine qualities. Similarly, femininity can only flourish when men are moved to create a protected space for it.
So it's not even so much a question of stating that men and women are equal, as this tends to miss the point of what determines our quality as men and women.