Monday, November 12, 2007

The worst of feminism

A popular feminist website carries this dark as night assessment of men, women and society:

all humans are conditioned to despise women. A woman ... can never be humanized. The American legal system, as a matter of fact, effectively outlaws humanity for women. It does this in many ways ... One of the most insidious is its assertion that women are in a perpetual state of 'consent' unless they specify in front of 147 witnesses that they have withdrawn it ... It is by this cunning method ... that the future of rape as the cornerstone of human social order is secured.

Rape is the dominant culture's most cherished method of controlling the female underclass, of moulding us into a self-replicating supply of fearful, impaired, coercible receptacles ... It is by popular demand that, decades after American women were first deemed "liberated", the countryside remains infested with unjailed rapists. These freely roaming rapists are patriarchy's enforcers.

One reader was moved to comment:

This idea that rapists belong in prison makes my head hurt. Damn near every dude on the planet is a rapist! As remarkable as the U.S. prison industrial complex may be, it is entirely unequipped to deal with the jailing of half this nation's denizens.

The solution to rape is not one that will ever be brought about under capitalism, as it involves the recognition of women as agentive, sentient humans. I don't expect this to happen during my lifetime, so I ... never go anywhere without a big knife in my pocket.

Where do such ideas come from? You might answer, reasonably, from unhappy souls. There's more to it, though. There is a progression of thought from mainstream liberalism to this kind of radical patriarchy theory.

It goes like this. Liberalism states that our humanity is contingent: that we are only fully human when we are self-determining, autonomous agents. Feminists then argue that women are less autonomous than men and are therefore treated as less than human. Leftist feminists then add another argument: the reason why women are less autonomous is not because of any natural differences between the sexes, but because a group of people ("men") have set up gender as a social construct to obtain a privilege over women.

This oppressive structuring of society is termed the "patriarchy". Those who believe in patriarchy theory view all social relations between men and women as serving male privilege. Therefore marriage, love, romance, sex, gender roles and sex identities are held to be oppressive to women. The more radical patriarchy theorists tend to be a glum lot: because they see women's oppression as systemic (as basic to the way society works), the only cure is a revolutionary overthrow of all social structures and the emergence of a hazily conceived non-patriarchal utopia.

The patriarchy theorists might have an unrealistic view of men and society, but they're grounded enough to know that such a radical transformation is a long shot. So they see themselves as doomed to a vulnerable existence as sub-human victims of a monstrous social system.

It's more likely that they are victims of their own belief system. It's not the "patriarchy" that they need to challenge, but the chain of political ideas I outlined above.

Do we really have to accept the idea that our humanity is contingent and not invested in who we are? Must we really accept the idea that it is autonomy alone, and not some wider set of qualities, which determines our humanity?

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. What we need is a less ideological beginning, so that we don't become alienated from important goods in life.


  1. In a sane world any technology that permitted women like this to reproduce, without attracting a man, would be quickly destroyed.

  2. 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.

    Desmond Jones

  3. Autonomy seems such a sad and lonely way to go through life. I enjoy the fact that my husband and children depend on me to do certain things for them. I love my husband being their for me to depend on for comfort, support, companionship etc. How cold and isolated their world is. Can you imagine how awful it would be to live in a society where all children are conceived in laboratories?

    It is our meaningful connections with others that truly allows us to experience what being human is all about.