The Feminist Mistake(s)

Let us begin by pointing out that there have always been “feminists” around. There were female protest movements in ancient Rome where women tired of home-making would insist on their right to fight in battle “just like men” – and even to do this bare-breasted, if they wished. Most men would likely agree that the mere sight of a pack of half-naked women rushing toward them in battle would be a very effective deterrent to warfare.

At any rate, then as now, discussions of feminism can get over-heated, so I want to clearly distinguish my topic – radical feminism – from the ordinary concern of reasonable men and women to be fair-minded with respect to the sexes. Most women who think of themselves as “feminists” today simply mean they believe that fairness, or equality, ought to be applied evenly to men and women in our society – unless there exists a good reason for differential treatment. For in some cases women have some advantages over men, and they don’t want to lose them. Couches in women’s washrooms, job exemptions from lifting heavy objects, immunity from military conscription, lots of special legal dispensations and biases in favour of separated or divorced women and mothers, and so on, are just a few examples. Of course, these they describe as “justified” or positive discrimination. And so do I.

But I also like to temper the whole issue of the war of the sexes by saying that there are many ways in which men have always been, and continue to be treated unequally (some of them reasonable). So woe betide us if men ever manifest the same lack of confidence in themselves as women have done for the past few decades and start a world-wide “masculinist” movement. They would have lots of fodder.

For example, men carry a disproportionate “death burden” in society. They die much younger than women do; there is a “life gap” favouring women all over the world. They are also vastly more often the victims of violent crime than are women. They also suffer outright discrimination in war-time: over 120,000 Canadian men have been killed in battle; but only a handful of women. Men also suffer an unfair anti-emotional bias, and a stereotype-burden: we say “men can take it” – so listen, don’t even think about crying, eh? Society also unfairly expects men (not women) to compete financially for their entire lives, and face scorn and failure if they can’t hack it. Boys can feel this expectation in a big way when they are about fifteen. They don’t have the same safe-harbour, default option of home-making and child-rearing as women do. Men also suffer a considerable child-custody bias, and an alimony-bias in favour of women: the wife has to be a raving suicidal maniac for them to get custody of their own kids. Fathers are also often jailed for non-payment of child support and alimony, but never women. Most painfully, men suffer a grievous abortion/child-support bias: they have no legal say whatsoever in decisions over the life or death of their own children in the womb if a woman wants to abort them, but if she alone decides to keep them, the father is legally forced to pay support until the children are eighteen. Men also suffer a prison-term bias, receiving far longer sentences than female criminals for the same crimes. They also suffer a strip-search bias; female-to-male strip searches are allowed, but not the reverse. As for the death-penalty? Men in all countries are far more likely than females to receive a death penalty for the same crimes. Male punishment in life begins early, for even as very young children, boys at home or in school are punished more often, and more severely, than girls.

Enough. I don’t want to whine (frowned upon in a male). I just wanted to set the record straight by saying that life is chock-a-block with biases and discriminations, some of them reasonable, some of them unreasonable. It’s just that a soft-minded and gullible public has let feminists get away with the “poor me” ploy as if, despite the fact modern Western females are the wealthiest, best-educated, most privileged class of women in world history, they were some kind of oppressed class of domestic slaves.

Radical feminism has gone even beyond this charge, however, and anyone who studies it in depth will soon see that in its most alarming form it is a program for the complete restructuring of society through government-funded social engineering of an insidious and unnatural kind. These angry people are not interested in equal opportunities for women; they want equal outcomes, or results, even if these have to be forced on everyone by the powers of the State; and even if men and women, left to their own free devices, would never choose such outcomes. Indeed, once dissected, every ill of socialism can be found in radical feminist practice: in its reliance on all the popular illusions described in this book; in its dependence on coercive power; in its Statist agenda; in its ignorance of the basics of economics; and in its angry psychology of resentment. On its own, in other words, radical feminism would be a tempest in a teapot. But with the power of the State, the courts, and millions in funding, it has caused profound social and moral dislocation, to be explained. Lest anyone think this is chicken-feed funding, The Trouble With Canada … Still! has a Snapshot in Chapter Ten that breaks out the $1.3 to $1.5 Billion spent on feminist programs in Canada since all this began to ramp up in1973, with notes that verify the sources.

Citizens of the future will be hard put to explain why government has so lavishly funded a feminist movement that has persistently mounted a fundamental attack on the whole idea of a free society as it has painfully evolved over the past five centuries, from principle to practice. We will look back at our crumbling walls and wonder: How did we so blithely allow the Trojan horse of radical feminism within our gates? Of course, sometimes moderate feminism can be just as dangerous as the radical form, because it alters social structures without this expressed intention. But whether the trigger be pulled by a sleepwalker or a revolutionary, the same explosive damage is done. Those of us who cherish the core values that have made this nation strong—freedom, family, free enterprise, individual responsibility, reward for effort, rule of law, and so on —must learn to recognize the very different values and tactics of those who are determined to destroy these core values, however unwittingly. In particular, we must learn not to be seduced by the gossamer language in which such aims are couched.

Undoing the Successes of the Past

In response to the widespread employment of women and children in factories that was threatening family life during the nineteenth century, social reformers fought hard to establish what was called a “family wage” sufficient to raise a family of five.[1] It was a policy created to protect men with families from unemployment. They would always be given preference over male or female singles in the search for jobs, because the social aim was to get children out of the workplace and into the home for proper care and schooling. Once it became established, the family wage – or “living wage” as it was sometimes called – was seen as a social contract fortifying the family, therefore all of society, and therefore the entire nation. Single women (or men who did not intend to found a family) vying for the jobs of men who had to support wives and children were quite normally seen as a direct threat to the general welfare of society, and maybe greedy to boot, because with no children or spouse to support, why did they want to, why should they, be paid more than their life-situation required? For this reason, women were regularly denied jobs, passed over, or even demoted or let go in favour of a male family-wage earner. After World War II women hired during war-time were let go in droves for this very reason—they held jobs needed by men returning from war. Everyone understood this reasoning.

What an irony that just after more than a century spent consolidating and protecting the central role of the family in society and the importance of investing personal parental care in our children, we are now assiduously breaking all this apart, lobbying for both parents to work outside the home, and for universal, free (tax-funded) and, by definition, impersonal government daycare. In the recent past, society chose family and children over individual material wealth: so we grew as a nation by natural increase. Now we are choosing individual wealth over family formation and children: so we are not replacing ourselves. Then, reformers struggled to help women and children get off the streets, out of the factories, and back into the home so that children could be properly raised and educated. Today’s reformers have been busy stigmatizing “stay-at-home” wives and trying to drive women into the marketplace once again. The only thing common to the two sets of reformers is the use of State power to do this.

Not long ago a commonly-held view was that it was not just money that brought social stature, as we tend to think so narrowly today, but a combination of the virtues for which rich and poor alike strove, the path to which was most often pointed out by the women of society. But modern women, thanks to sexual “liberation,” have yielded the high moral ground they once controlled. The good-better-best range of manners and morals that infused their world has been replaced by a general, feel-good, whatever-turns-you-on ethic. They may have wanted down from their pedestal, but that pedestal was also an altar at which men, however quixotically, worshipped. Having stepped down, however, they must now play on the same field as men. For this, alas, they are ill-suited, owing to their generally lesser offensive-aggression (which is not the same as the domestic control at which they tend to excel), and to the competitive handicap to which their biology leads – the natural desire to have and to care for their own offspring. Everyone knows, of course, that some women are just as defensively aggressive as men, or more so (especially when defending their children and families), and that men can look after children; but most men are unwilling, and to boot cannot carry them, bear them, or suckle them. Of course, in a free society any couple that wants to reverse such natural customs is utterly free to try, and for some this may be preferable. And if heads and hearts were interchangeable, an absolutely equal sharing of outside work (at least the banal, repetitive kind) might make something like that possible. But they are not.

So the traditional familial division of labour has always had a purpose: simple efficiency. It is an arrangement that has enabled societies great and small to do the important work of ensuring their own continuation. What the important nineteenth-century social arrangement did so clearly was to consolidate the idea of marriage, family, and the crucial importance of superior child-rearing normally available only from parents (or relatives).[2] The inevitable result of this was to make men dependent on women for sex, family, and children—and women on men for physical protection and financial support. This implicit and universal sexual-social contract of humanity has always specified that men will provide and protect, while women will process and nurture. The man finds and brings home the bread and protects family from enemies; the woman cooks the bread and suckles the babies. Both sexes were seen to need each other equally, if differently. Women always knew they could bring men to heel by withholding what men wanted most. Men, in turn, could bring women to heel by threatening to withhold support and protection. In order to prevent the wanton occurrence of the latter—especially during a woman’s child-rearing phase when she was naturally handicapped in terms of competitive wage-earning power—there were always extremely strong social and legal sanctions upholding marital vows, parental responsibility, and child support.

A key element in this division of labour was a general acknowledgement of the obvious fact that men and women are naturally and universally different in many, many ways (see the section on “Brain Sex,” soon to be posted). In short, “men are not better than women and women are not better than men; men and women differ.”[3] I would add that women and men are each in their own natural way, and in general, better at some things, and worse at others. Most women raise babies a lot better than men, and most men are better fighters than women. Much better. Everyone acknowledges such universal truths. However, in their effort to escape their own biology, it is these very differences that rile feminists so, because they correctly see that unless they can prove that men and women are the same, they haven’t got a case. Either men and women are naturally different, and these differences manifest themselves naturally in different values and life choices; or they are born exactly the same, and the different social outcomes are a result of oppression and discrimination. No sensible person has ever believed this feminist story-line, and so in considerable desperation feminists recently have adopted the lightweight so-called “post-modern” view that all human gender is “constructed,” or a product of the mind. This is a manifestly inadequate view of human reality that has traction only in university courses on gender politics, as the current battle against it fought so well by such as Professor Jordan Peterson at the University of Toronto makes so clear.

But by way of staying focused only on what can be discussed reasonably, let’s take a closer look in my next post at the feminist case for sameness, keeping in mind that the main reason for exploring this in depth is to test the ideological grounds for the feminist attack on traditional society.

[1] On the concept and history of the “family wage,” see Bryce Christensen, ed., The Family Wage: Work, Gender, and Children in the Modern Economy (Rockford, Illinois: The Rockford Institute, 1988); and David Popenoe, Disturbing the Nest: Family Change and Decline in Modern Societies (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1988). The latter traces the origins and changes in the family from mediaeval times to the present, then uses Sweden as the bellwether nation that went down the path of family destruction farther and sooner than the rest of us. In William D. Gairdner, The War Against the Family (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 1993), I have summarized Popenoe’s findings on Sweden, and also presented a thorough examination of modern anti-family policies and practices. See also Allan C. Carlson, Family Questions (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1988) for penetrating remarks on feminism and the demise of the natural family in modern times.

[2] Everyone knows that a good day-care facility may provide reasonably good care, equally to all the children in the center. But a parent will almost always give unreasonably good care to his or her own child; and it will unequal, which is to say – always better than what this parent would give to anyone else’s children. A daycare center must operate on an egalitarian basis, to the extent that a childcare worker will be scolded for giving better care, or more love to one child than to another. But a parent at home will always give the most possible care and love – will always favour – his or her own children. Children who grow up with that unreasonable love never forget it.

[3] Michael Levin, Feminism and Freedom (New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1987), p. 12. Readers will find this book remains a rigorous treatment and exposure of the philosophical and moral inadequacies of radical feminism.

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