My Beef with Feminism

February 11, 2007

There is a contradiction living at the heart of modern-day feminism; a contradiction that most feminists refuse to acknowledge or discuss.

The contradiction concerns two assertions within feminism that cannot co-exist logically, but are both asserted as fundamental to the movement.

Until these assertions are resolved by mainstream feminism, I, and many others like me, simply cannot take the movement seriously.

Which brings me to the second of what will be a two-part critique; that feminism, as currently conceived, is a political philosophy based on an appeal to emotions, rather than to logic or morality — and that formulation must change before the movement rises to the prominence and regard it enjoyed prior to the Second Wave.

But let’s take it one thing at a time.

The Competing Feminist Assertions

1) Men and women are equal; and therefore ought to be treated as equals with respect to jobs, opportunities, wages and earnings, fashion, sexual expectations, and every other sphere of life. So far, so good: this is a basic statement of desire for “equal treatment” or enlightened egalitarianism. In fact, let’s call it the “egalitarian assertion“. It is often trotted out as feminism’s chief assertion of moral superiority. It allows feminists to start with the principle that the entire feminist movement is all about reducing the oppression of The Patriarchy and making the playing field entirely level for both men and women.

2) Women’s values are different from, and superior to, men’s values. The presumption is that the world would be BETTER OFF if more women were in charge. This is what you are hearing when you hear women attack the “Patriarchy”: a.k.a. the male-dominated world, which is painted as petty, calculating, emotionless, aggressive, power-obsessed, life-denying, and basically responsible for all the evil in the world. The assumption is that the Patriarchy must be pulled down, destroyed, abolished, so that the communitarian, affiliative nature of women can replace it with a beautiful, benign Matriarchy.

And herein lies the first contradiction. If the egalitarian assertion is right, and men and women are equal in intellect and moral standing, why would the Matriarchy be any different than the Patriarchy it seeks to supplant?

Notice that this second pillar of feminism, which we should call the female superiority argument, is a strong affirmation of sexism — which feminism purports to fight against).

Some Examples

The contradictions generated by these two competing ideas are infinite; but let’s take just a few examples, from the realms of business, social conduct, sexual conduct, and politics. Just watch as feminists lay down the female superiority argument in the same breath as the egalitarian assertion:

“Women don’t earn as much as men; that’s wrong, because they can be just as good as a man at any business. In fact businesses wouldn’t pollute or exploit their workers as much if women were in charge, because women are actually MORE caring than men.”

That doesn’t sound like a philosophy of equality to me. It sounds like the flip side of “Patriarchy”.

“Women can be just as good as men at fighting in the military or boxing, so they should be allowed to do those things. To say otherwise is sexist. At the same time, women need to be protected from male violence in the home and on the street.”

First comes the assertion that women can fight just as well as men; so keeping them out of the military is sexist and oppressive. Then comes the assertion that men are MORE violent than women, and actually, women need to be PROTECTED from this form of oppression. So which is it?

In the above example, the same woman will also say, when presented with video evidence of a woman beating up a man on the street, “He shouldn’t press charges; he probably wasn’t even hurt. Men are tougher than women.” So a man hitting a woman is illegal, because men are tougher than women; but women can fight as infantrymen alongside men, because men aren’t tougher than women. Madness!

“Vibrators and dildos are sexual liberation and expression for women; but pornography is demeaning and a hazard to women, so we should criminalize it.”

So masturbation is OK for women but not OK for men? “Men should just use their imaginations, like we do”. Women should just use their fingers, like WE do. Both vibrators and pornography are masturbation aids; to treat them unequally is sexism.

“Women and men are equal; there should be an equal number of women holding political office around the world, because women are better at dealing with people, and more caring, anyway. If we had a woman President we would have fewer wars.”

Self-explanatory. Women are just as good as men at holding political office; no, they’re actually BETTER. If the latter is true, why don’t feminists just come out and say they think women should run the world? Of course some do, and completely miss the irony of their shouting and marching for “equality”, not realizing that what they want is not actually called “equality” but “DOMINATION”.

How can it be said that men and women are EQUAL in all respects, and then go on and try to hand men (via “the Patriarchy”) an UNEQUAL share of the responsibility for the evils of the world?

Either men and women are different, and ought to be treated differently by society — or they are NOT different, and ought to be treated exactly the same, and held to the same standards.

Feminism can’t seem to make up its mind.

But it is for damn sure that it is not politically, ideologically, or intellectually honest to cite differences when doing so would advance the cause of feminism, and dismiss them in all other cases.

Equality versus Difference

I want to be clear on the issues here: I believe in equality, and I think feminism is a fine philosophy, as long as it remains about promoting equality.

I believe in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, where it is written, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal…”

That is to say that we, as a human race, ought to work together in order to form a more perfect global union, each contributing the best of what our individual talents and intellect offer to the shared goal of the greatest good for the greatest number.

Notice I did not say that people were undifferentiated. On the contrary, I happen to believe — because the evidence is right in front of my face, all day, ever day — that people are very different. Everyone is born with different skills, abilities, limitations, handicaps, and strengths: nature and nurture, their genes and their environment, are to individual people as length and height are to a field — the total person or the area of the field are incomprehensible without considering the interactive and often reciprocal effect of the both on the one.

Plenty of people make the mistake of saying that a belief in equality must also mean a belief that people are the SAME. That is absolutely not so. People are different, but they are all equal inasmuch as they are all composed of biological material, immersed in a social context, and possessing an intellectual capability (though the latter is frequently under-utilized).

People are not the same; but they ought to be treated fairly.