No, We Are Not All Feminists

Lindy West argues at Jezebel that we are all feminists and those that aren’t are horrible people.

How does she do this, by (snarkily) arguing that:

To identify as a feminist is to acknowledge that women are people, and, as such, women deserve the same social, economic, and political rights and opportunities as other styles of people (i.e., men-people).

This is of course complete bollocks.

The label of feminist has far more meaning than women are people. Not to mention that what feminists mean by “the same social, economic, and political rights and opportunities” is far different from what most people consider “the same”.

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Now, most people do accept most of first-wave feminism’s objectives: woman should be allowed to vote, own property, and be equal under the law. Even a reactionary curmudgeon like me doesn’t disagree with that (although, I’m not sure about Will).

But, feminism has evolved since then through the second, third, and post-waves and the term feminist has expanded far beyond the original goals of the suffragettes.

Accepting the goals of first-wave feminism no more makes a person a modern feminist than opposing slavery and absolute monarchy makes one a neo-liberal.

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So, what does modern feminism mean beyond “women are people?”

Most obviously, modern feminism has irreversibly tied itself to unlimited abortion-on-demand, something the majority of people oppose. The abortion debate revolves around whether the unborn are persons or not and has nothing to do with the the personhood of women.

Affirmative action, the preferential treatment of women, is another major plank of modern feminism and has nothing to do with the personhood of women. In fact, it gives women rights that men do not have.

Other feminist tropes and goals beyond “women are people” include: the personalization of the political, anti-patriarchy, male privilege, “free” childcare, “free” birth control, “equal” pay, etc.

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The second half of West’s definition of feminism is “women deserve the same social, economic, and political rights and opportunities.”

This, is essentially as what she means by “the same rights and opportunities” is unclear and likely not agreed upon by most.

The first problem is the distinction between “negative” and “positive” liberty.

Under a classical liberal approach of “negative” liberty, “the same rights and opportunities” means that everybody is allowed to live their lives without undue external coercion. This is the standard conception of rights and liberty in the English liberal and liberal-conservative tradition that have defined (or at least  until the last couple of decades) politics in the Anglosphere since Locke and Burke.

Under the progressive “positive” liberty approach, “the same rights and opportunities” means there can be external coercion if it helps an individual overcome internal constraints on their ability to act.

West talks positively of affirmative action and Title IX, so she obviously falls on the “positive” side of liberty, and she links these two strongly to feminism. She also talks derisively of those who have declared equality because legal discrimination has ended.

It’s obvious there is no room for “negative liberty” within her definition of feminism.

Yet, somehow we are all feminists now, even though “negative liberty” is the dominant (but declining) political thought in the US and the Anglosphere.

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The second problem is the distinction between equality and equity.

Equality requires that everybody be treated the same.

Equity requires that people be treated differently to achieve the same outcome.

In an equal regime, hiring would be based solely on qualifications.

In an equitable regime, hiring would be based comparable results.

Affirmative action is very much equity based and is anti-equality, yet it is linked heavily to and is strongly defended by the feminist movement.

“Equal pay”  is a a primary goal of modern feminists. Yet, the “wage gap” disappears when you account for hours worked, job type, specializations, and family arrangements.

Again, West strongly both affirmative action and Title IX to feminism. I’m also pretty sure where she’d stand on the “wage gap.” Is there any room for equality in feminism?

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These first two debates can be seen in feminism itself between the liberal feminists who generally take the “negative” liberty and equality approach, and the other types of feminists who take the egalitarian, “positive” liberty approach.

So there is some room for them.

Sadly, liberal feminists tend to be few and far between and they tend not to be the drivers of feminism, but rather the PR people.

The ones dominating the agenda are the “positive” liberty, equity feminists. Hence, why feminism pursues the “wage gap” so strongly, why Obamacare has “free” contraception, why there was so much feminist rage when religious organizations did not want to pay for contraception, etc.

****

The third  problem is that women and men are not the same. This leads to situations where “the same” is simply not possible.

The most obvious difference is that women can give birth, men can’t.

So, how do you give equal rights?

Is abortion only a women’s decision because it’s her body? Is it “equal” for men to have no say in the life or death of their unborn child?

If a man gets no say in the abortion decision, then would it not be fair to allow him to opt out of child support obligations? On the other hand, is it fair to expect a women to take all support for the child on herself?

There is no way the rights of persons in a situation like this can be “the same” because the decisions are not equivalent.

What of maternity/paternity leave? If we give them both similar time off, when the man isn’t even pregnant is that “the same”? But if we don’t give them equal time off, isn’t that differing opportunities?

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Statistical differences in natural aptitudes or interests between the sexes leads to the equity/equality distinction.

Men are physically stronger and and bigger than women. So, when hiring, say, police, do we have “the same” physical requirements for both sexes with different outcomes, or do we “the same” outcomes by having differing physical requirements.

Women are less interested in math and math-based subjects. Do treat the sexes “the same” and just accept there will fewer female engineers or do we try to have “the same” amount of engineers for each sex by incentivizing and strongly encouraging women to enter engineering when they don’t really want to?

Most feminists I’ve read fall into the latter category of each. How does this fit into “women are people” and “deserve the same social, economic, and political rights and opportunities?”

****

Slate, that bastion of modern liberalism, explains why feminists want everybody to be a feminist:

So as we adopt West’s definition of “feminism,” perhaps we can also start phasing out the term itself. Perhaps we can instead focus on labeling the outliers who are not feminists: the misogynists, chauvinists, and sexists. That would go a long way towards clarifying that feminism is now mainstream, obvious, and self-evident.

By defining feminism as the norm, they can then define anybody who doesn’t swallow the feminist agenda whole as “outliers”.

Oppose unlimited abortion on demand paid for by the state: you’re a misogynist.

Believe women should pay for their own birth control: you’re sexist.

Believe that the personal should be kept private: you’re a chauvinist.

Now, feminists already call anybody who doesn’t agree with their agenda misogynists, so that’s not the point, in itself. Rather, by having people accept feminism as the “mainstream, obvious, and self-evident” norm, they can force society as whole to accept that anybody who doesn’t engage in feminist group-think is a misogynist.

The point of normalizing feminism is to use it as a ideological weapon.

It’s a con-game: have society accept that the feminist label because they believe the uncontroversial statement that women are people. Most people don’t oppose the goals of liberal feminism all that strongly.

Then once society accepts the  feminist label, move the goalposts. Feminism now means supporting unlimited abortion, or affirmative action, or “free” childcare. You must support us, you don’t want to be misogynist, do you?

****

In conclusion, we are not all feminists.

We almost all agree that “women are people” and should be given “the same social, economic, and political rights and opportunities” as men, but feminism goes far beyond that. In addition, what most feminists mean by the same rights and opportunities is usually contradictory to what most people mean by that phrase and what the English classical liberalism which defines our political and economic culture mean by that phrase.

Normalizing the feminist label is nothing more than an ideological weapon.


25 responses to “No, We Are Not All Feminists

  • Will S.

    Hear, hear!

    The reason I wish women’s suffrage hadn’t happened, is that I believe that, inexorably, women voting has led directly to feminism.

    If you look at the rhetoric of even the early suffragettes (Laura Grace Robins has done excellent work in researching and documenting their pronouncements), it looks little different from modern-day feminism – much misandrist man-blaming, and female chauvinism, on display; while ostensibly they only wanted the vote, and the right to own property, etc. – which, if women could have been satisfied with that alone I’d have no real objections – they in fact wanted much more, and in time, got it, due to their clout at the ballot box, as well as ability to persuade men to go along.

    Unfortunately, I think it was pretty much historically inevitable, once the franchise was extended to some; hard to argue the logic of extending it to all. Hence, suffragism. (It was just as impossible to maintain slavery, when it was relegated to just one portion of society, rather than the feudal model of lords and vassals / serfs; once serfdom or slavery was limited to just one group, it wasn’t possible to keep that group from demanding their freedom, too. It’s impossible, if not holding pretty much everyone down, to hold anyone down, so to speak.)

  • Will S.

    To clarify, when I said “hard to argue the logic”, I meant in terms of appeal; I certainly think there were valid and logical arguments in favour of limiting the franchise. But they proved impossible to maintain, i.e. insufficient to persuade enough to stop the movement, due to social forces having a life of their own, so to speak; once the ball had gotten rolling, it would have been hard to stop.

  • Stephen

    A sane society would probably limited suffrage to male heads of household among property owners.

  • Free Northerner

    I’d agree with limiting it to property owners (or some other equivalent limitation); only those who have shown some level of responsibility and investment in society should be allowed to vote.

  • Free Northerner

    Does feminism have to flow from allowing women the vote?

    I think the problem goes deeper than that to the destruction of our culture and deviation from traditional English values over the last century and the increased power of the state. That’s what feminism comes from. Then again, the increased power of the state and liberalism has been linked to female’s voting by Lott.

    http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~iversen/PDFfiles/LottKenny.pdf

    I’d be against depriving women of the vote, but I would not be opposed to increasing the requirements for being able to vote to property owners, or those who perform civic service.

  • Ecclesiastes

    I maintain that all women are Feminists.

    Not because of or against any of those cogent and correct points you made. I agree with the ones I read as I glanced at the posting.

    All women are Feminists because of the risks of being wrong. It’s not about ideas. It’s about insurance.

    If I consider all women Femininsts, and I am occasionally – or even frequently wrong, it costs me nothing. I made a sincere and happy apology for my error.

    But If were not to think every woman a Feminist, eventually there will be hell to pay, and armed government collectors to assure Feminist justice.

    It like any other kind of risk management policy. I have one for driving my car every time I get in it and even on days when I don’t drive at all. It’s also like women’s policy about all men being potential rapists. I am assured that I should take no insult when I pledge my life to protect but those I would shield accuse me of depravity.

    I’m sure you understand. I’m sorry about this, really I am … not!

  • Will S.

    Well, the destruction of our culture over the last century corresponds with the time frame during which women began voting, onwards…

    And Lott and Kenny are right.

  • Free Northerner

    I understand. It’s better to be safe than sorry when one “sexist” joke could ruin your career.

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  • namae nanka

    “own property, and be equal under the law. Even a reactionary curmudgeon like me doesn’t disagree with that”

    You should. And there’s nothing reactionary about that.

    http://www.mypostingcareer.com/forums/index.php?/topic/5910-not-sure-if-rape-also-not-sure-if-wife-will-love-me/page__view__findpost__p__108843

    in more detail:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Legal_Subjection_of_Men#Matrimonial_Privileges_Of_Women.

  • Free Northerner

    If I understand, your objection is that their property rights were specially protected from taxation, marriage, and debt in a way that men’s weren’t.

    I would object to that to.

  • namae nanka

    My objection is to that starry-eyed narrative that goes with feminism, even MRAs have brought into the 1st wave’s goodness, or that feminism merely went a little too far.
    Their “property rights” (married women) were mere “what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is also mine”.

    The oppression myth just keeps inventing new tales so that feminism keeps up perpetually. (the child-custody one in the previous link)

    http://wombatty.blogtownhall.com/2012/05/14/early_feminists_moderate_or_radical.thtml

  • Free Northerner

    Interesting. I never knew of that much radicalism among the first-wavers.

  • Will S.

    Oh yes; like I said, Laura Grace Robins has done excellent work in highlighting just how radical those first feminists were.

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  • ainleyr

    anyone sitting around debating the merits of another person’s right to recognition as a full citizen needs to be lobotomized.

  • Will S.

    Anyone who goes onto the blogs of others with different political opinions than themselves just to insult them needs to get a life.

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