SOCIETY: by Augusto ZimmermannNews Weekly
How radical feminists have betrayed women
, November 23, 2013
The basic dilemma of contemporary feminism is that its undeniable success in shaping social values has, in Joan Price’s words, “cut women off from those aspects of life that are distinctly female desires, such as being a wife and raising children”.
Indeed, the feminist agenda of disregard for traditional marriage and child-rearing appears to have failed women who have been taught to put their individual interests first and then blame men for their personal failures.
Such an agenda has not provided answers for the most basic questions that distress young women — questions such as, “Is work more important and fulfilling than raising my children?” or “Why does my boyfriend not want to get married as much as I do?”
Helen Gurley Brown,
author of Sex and the Single Girl (1962)
of Cosmopolitan magazine from 1965 to 1997.
Some have described the experiences of young women who have come to grief trying to resolve these conflicting imperatives.
The feminists who led the 1960s women’s liberation movement regarded marriage and family as so burdensome that they thought it actually approached slavery. These militant ideologues presented family as a sort of prison, and paid work outside the home as the true embodiment of women’s liberation.
And yet these radical feminists neglected to tell women that men did not necessarily go to work to find self-fulfilment. On the contrary, husbands undertook work not because they lacked other more enjoyable ways to occupy their time but because they had to work to earn a livelihood.
They made this sacrifice because they loved their families and felt obliged to provide financial support for their wives. They often worked long hours at jobs that they positively hated, or at least barely tolerated for the sake of the income they could earn. As Dr Kelley Ross points out, “Few men were so fortunate as to be doing something fulfilling or interesting that paid the bills at the same time.”
In a certain sense the undeniable success of feminism has lessened this commitment by men, who now feel a much weaker obligation to support their families. These days a young woman will find it quite difficult to find a man eager for marriage. If she decides to forego marriage, on the feminist grounds that it is an old-fashioned and irrelevant institution, then she will lose all the legal, social and psychological protection that only traditional marriage can provide. As such, radical feminism has added an extra cost on contemporary women by inadvertently removing society’s traditional restraints against all forms of “male sexual exploitation”.
The late American writer, Irving Kristol, explained in his 1995 book, Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea: “Sexual liberation, as it emerged in the 1960s, has turned out to be — as it was destined to be — a male scam. Easy, available sex is pleasing to men and debasing to women, who are used and abused in the process.
“Nevertheless, the agenda of a candid, casual attitude toward sex was vigorously sponsored by feminists who mistakenly perceived it as a step toward ‘equality’. Even today there are some laggard feminists who are firmly persuaded that mixed dormitories and mixed bathrooms on a university campus represent such a step.
“But true equality between man and women can only be achieved by a moral code that offers women some protection against male predators — and all men are, to one degree or another, natural predators when it comes to sex.”
Everybody knows that radical feminists were one of the most vocal groups to demand easily available divorce to enable women to escape from the supposed “oppression of marriage”. So it is quite justifiable to maintain that the complicity of the “feminist elite” in bringing about no-fault divorce has left thousands of working-class families much worse off than they would otherwise be.
The social and economic effects of the no-fault divorce “revolution” fall disproportionately on the poor, the less educated and the weak. Even more tragically, the burden of divorce falls particularly heavily on children, as American scholars Bradford Wilcox and Albert Mohler have shown. For example, careful studies in the United States reveal that 60 per cent of all rapists have grown up in fatherless homes, as have 72 per cent of all adolescent murderers and 70 per cent of all long-term prison inmates.
Of course, not every woman necessarily agrees with the radical feminist agenda of sexual liberation and no-fault divorce. On the contrary, some women have been very willing to debunk the great myth that such left-wing radicals represent the totality of the “women’s movement”.
Carolyn Graglia, for instance, comments that men are much less the target of those radical feminists than are traditional wives and mothers, who do not subscribe to their views. Their ideological agenda, as Suzanne Venker explains, “has never been about equal rights for women. It’s about power for the female Left.”
Women such as Venker, of course, are denounced as “heretics” by radical feminists who pursue this anti-family, anti-marriage and anti-children agenda.
The feminist movement, according to British philosopher Roger Scruton in his 2002 book, The West and the Rest, “seeks to replace or rearrange the core experience of social membership and therefore has the ambitious of a monotheistic faith, offering a feminist answer to every moral and social question, a feminist account of the human world, a feminist theory of the universe, and even a feminist reading of the Goddess. It drives the heretics and half-believers from its ranks with the zeal that is the other side of the inclusive warmth with which it welcomes the submissive and the orthodox.”
In this sense, it is traditional women and not men who have earned the undying enmity of radical feminism. Their mere existence reminds radical feminists that they do not speak for all women. Thus, a 1970 issue of Time magazine published a notorious essay in which Gloria Steinem castigated “traditional women” as “inferiors” and “dependent creatures who are still children”.
The late Helen Gurley Brown — founder in 1965 of Cosmopolitan magazine, that extolled the ideal of sassy female singleness, complete with (eventually) expletives and full-frontal male nudity — denounced the housewife as “a parasite, a dependant, a scrounger, a sponger and a bum”. According to British historian Paul Johnson, “this refrain was taken up by innumerable women academics who proliferated in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and ran ‘Women’s Studies’ departments at many universities”.
The characterisation of the housewife as a “parasite” is the worst kind of insult and a betrayal of women’s solidarity. Such demeaning language demonstrates that radical feminists do not speak for all women.
This being so, Carolyn Graglia draws the following conclusion. She says: “Housewives, not men, were the prey in feminism’s sights when Kate Millet decreed in 1969 that the family must go. Men cannot know this unless we [women] tell them how we feel about them, our children, and our role in the home. Men must understand that our feelings towards them and our children are derided by feminists and have earned us their enmity.”
In sum, traditionally-minded women, not men, are the main targets — and victims — of radical feminism.
Augusto Zimmermann, LLB, LLM, PhD (Monash), teaches legal theory and constitutional law at Murdoch University, Western Australia. He is also president of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA) and editor of The Western Australian Jurist. Earlier this year he published a widely acclaimed book, Western Legal Theory: Theory, Concepts and Perspectives (Sydney: LexisNexis Butterworths, 2013).
 Irving Kristol, Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea (Chicago, Illinois: Elephant Paperbacks, 1995), p.56.
 Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1999). p.322.
 Roger Scruton; The West and the Rest (London: Continuum, 2002), p.72.
 Barry Maley, Family and Marriage in Australia (Sydney: Centre for Independent Studies), June 25, 2002: CIS Policy Monograph 53, p.66.
 Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperPerennial, 1999), pp.973–4.