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September 23, 2005

More on (and from) Feminism

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Shouting Thomas recalls some of what the madness was like. Nice passage:

According to this political theory, all the problems of the world would be solved if only all men were sissified homosexuals. (This creates a dilemma for homosexuals who are not sissified -- but they are forgiven because at least they aren't straight.) War, pollution, racism and crime would cease to exist if only all men were sissies. (Whoops! I forgot. Black men alone are entitled to be macho studs. This provides a much deserved kick in the shins to white hetero men.)

Were the times as loony as all that? You bet they were. Shouting Thomas's posting brought it all back for me: the anger, the quarrels, the hyperbole, the accusations, the hostility ...

Suddenly I was in a mood to do some Googling, dammit! So here's a bouquet of quotations from the Loonier days of Loony Feminism:

  • From Gloria Steinem: "A woman reading Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual."

  • From Betty Friedan: "The feminine mystique has succeeded in burying millions of American women alive."

  • From Kate Millet: "The care of children ... is infinitely better left to the best trained practitioners of both sexes who have chosen it as a vocation...[This] would further undermine family structure while contributing to the freedom of women."

  • From Susan Griffin, who wrote a book entitled "Rape: The All-American Crime": "If the professional rapist is to be separated from the average dominant heterosexual [male], it may be mainly a quantitative difference."

  • From the immortal Shulamith Firestone: "If there were another word more all-embracing than revolution - we would use it."

  • Shulamith Firestone, on a roll: "No matter how many levels of consciousness one reaches, the problem always goes deeper. It is everywhere. The division yin and yang pervades all culture, history, economics, nature itself; modern Western versions of sex discrimination are only the most recent layer. To so heighten one's sensitivity to sexism presents problems far worse than the black militant's new awareness of racism: feminists have to question, not just all of Western culture, but the organisation of culture itself, and further, even the very organisation of nature."

  • Play it again, Shulamith!: "Just as the end goal of socialist revolution was not only the elimination of the economic class privilege but of the economic class distinction itself, so the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself."

  • From a 1971 document called "The Declaration of Feminism": "The end of the institution of marriage is a necessary condition for the liberation of women. Therefore it is important for us to encourage women to leave their husbands and not to live individually with men ... All of history must be re-written in terms of the oppression of women."

  • From a 1988 publication put out by the National Organization for Women: "The simple fact is that every woman must be willing to be identified as a lesbian to be fully feminist."

  • From Robin Morgan, the editor of Ms. magazine: "I feel that 'man-hating' is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them."

  • From Ti-Grace Atkinson (now there's a name from the past!): "The institution of sexual intercourse is anti-feminist."

  • From Linda Gordon: "The nuclear family must be destroyed, and people must find better ways of living together. ... Whatever its ultimate meaning, the break-up of families now is an objectively revolutionary process ..."

  • From Vivian Gornick: "Being a housewife is an illegitimate profession... The choice to serve and be protected and plan towards being a family-maker is a choice that shouldn't be. The heart of radical feminism is to change that."

  • From Phyllis Chesler: "[M]ost mother-women give up whatever ghost of a unique and human self they may have when they 'marry' and raise children."

Demented as these statements may look now, back in the day they weren't at all uncommon. At least in my part of the world -- college, grad school, bohemia -- language like this was thick in the air. And women like this weren't considered whackos; they were considered thinkers and leaders. These were the movement's figureheads, and they were taken very seriously by the American mainstream. Time magazine even put Kate Millett on its cover in 1970.

Here are some Kate Milett-isms:

  • "However muted its present appearance may be, sexual domination obtains nevertheless as perhaps the most pervasive ideology of our culture and provides its most fundamental concept of power."

  • "Many women do not recognize themselves as discriminated against; no better proof could be found of the totality of their conditioning."

  • "Homosexuality was invented by a straight world dealing with its own bisexuality."

Shake it, mama Kate!

I'm glad to see that these days even radicals are capable of seeing that the Loonies took the Looniness a little too far. Here's a page by a British woman, for example. She's no crusty conservative; she's a Marxist who reaches some conclusions that I find beyond-unpalatable. But she sets the context accurately, and her observations ring bells:

In 1975 Susan Brownmiller wrote "Against Our Will," a book which was to be profoundly influential amongst feminists. In many ways this book set the terms of the debate about rape and violence against women. It reflected the strength of radical feminism in the US women's movement, a current which theorised women's oppression in terms of personal relations between men and women, strongly emphasising male violence against women. Such ideas were often based on claims about human biology. Brownmiller argues that the sexual act itself is the key to understanding male domination: "Man's structural capacity to rape and woman's corresponding structural vulnerability are as basic to the physiology of both our sexes as the primal act of sex itself."

Brownmiller believes: "Man's discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear is one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe. From prehistoric times to the present, I believe, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear."

Once the terms of reference had been set, later work emanating from Rape Crisis Centres seemed to reinforce Brownmiller's analysis. The first Rape Crisis Centre was set up in Britain in 1975. By 1981 there were 16. The women reporting incidents to these centres made it clear that rape was far more common than the crime statistics revealed. The majority of women who have been raped do not, for all sorts of reasons, report it to the police. As a result of such work, many feminists came to the conclusion that all men are potential rapists. The following, taken from the report of the London Rape Crisis Centre 1984, Sexual Violence: The Reality for Women, is fairly typical of the conclusions they drew:

"The greatest myth of all is the one which tells us that rape is an aberration removed from the ways in which men relate to women emotionally, sexually and physically. Our experiences over the last eight years have shown that rape is the extreme and logical conclusion of this relationship."

From a correct insight that rape results from the structuring of men's relationships with women, many feminists concluded that all male behaviour is tantamount to rape. In the same report there is a dangerous tendency to define rape to include any kind of sexist behaviour:

"Rape is not confined to forcible penetration of a woman's vagina by a man's penis. It is all the sexual assaults, verbal and physical, that we all suffer in our daily contact with men. These range from being "touched up" or "chatted up" to being brutally sexually assaulted with objects. Throughout this book we use the word "rape" to describe any kind of sexual assault."

Viewed like this, all men must be rapists because there can hardly be any man who has not chatted up a woman at some time in their lives. Unfortunately this slide into including all forms of male behaviour as rape is also made by socialists. Ken Livingstone, for instance, has recently said, "Every recent authoritative study of the psychology of the rapist shows that there is no measurable difference between the rapists and men in general."

It is one thing to argue that rape is the consequence of a certain kind of socialisation, but it is quite another to argue that all male sexual behaviour is tantamount to rape. It is dangerous because it robs rape of its specificity and because, although rape is more widespread than revealed by crime statistics, it is still a minority experience for women. The overwhelming majority of men do not rape, as a wide range of studies have made apparent.

Ah, what a time it was.

I wrote a posting about '70s feminism here. Feminist profs discuss how to brainwash their charges here. Here's a 2002 visit with Kate Millett. I thought Christina Hoff Sommers' "Who Stole Feminism: How Women Have Betrayed Women" was awfully good. Like Shouting Thomas, I got a lot out of reading Warren Farrell. And of course Camille Paglia rules.

I find myself wondering about a very general question. Given that changes -- in some laws, in some customs -- did in fact need to occur, was this degree of hyperbole and hostility necessary? I mean, as a practical matter. I'm prone to think that the economic/demographic/educational pressures of the time were so great that adjustments were bound to happen anyway. But perhaps I'm being naive. Perhaps loudmouths and hostile overstatement are inescapable when it comes to the dirty work of making political change occur. OK, sure. But even so: to this degree?

And how do we view these spokespeople and their statements now? Do we shrug, think fondly back on how much fun it all was, and forgive them because, well, that's just what it takes to get progressive and necessary policies put in place? Do we thank them for being heroines? Or do we allow ourselves to throw things? After all, however settled and comfy we may feel today, it's a simple fact that for several decades many millions of lives were blighted by the atmosphere these women created, and by the kinds of advice and propaganda these women doled out.



posted by Michael at September 23, 2005


Michael -

Once again, you talk as if all this stuff in the past. I don't think it is. It's just become institutionalized. The radical feminists don't have to yell quite so loud anymore because they've succeeded in silenceing the opposition. As I've asked before, what about l'affaire Summers convinced you that the powers of PC and loony feminists are in abeyance?

Posted by: jimbo on September 23, 2005 1:46 PM

"... it's a simple fact that for several decades many millions of lives were blighted by the atmosphere these women created..."

Wow -- embedding in your own text precisely the kind of over-the-top rhetoric you were decrying above. So post-ironic and meta-referential -- simply brilliant, although perhaps too subtle for some.

Posted by: Monte Davis on September 23, 2005 2:12 PM

Jimbo -- What I'm mostly taking note of is a change in style and atmosphere. We can use the word "girl" and survive. Even in a big city, young women can talk about wanting to have kids openly. Young women can enjoy being desirable without feeling like they're betraying The Cause. Sex is, for better and worse, all around, everywhere, 24/7. The web seems to be making the opinions of the elites far less important and inescapable than they once were. The picture's a long way from perfect, god knows, but I do allow myself to breathe the occasional sigh of relief.

But I'm old, happily married to a woman who's even more irreverent about partyline feminism than I am, and I probably lack balls anyway. I basically think you're right, though it does seem to me that life outside Larry Summers' circle has grown a bit more sane than it once was, despite some silly new rules. Am I out of touch about this? Very possible, god knows ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 23, 2005 2:14 PM

Monte -- I think I was understating matters by quite a lot.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 23, 2005 2:17 PM

Three things:

- First, this stuff hasn't gone away. It's been codified and now taught in the classes that are labeled "Women's Studies" and "[Minority] Studies" - with [Minority] being replaced with whichever ones a school offers. It's also known as "Identity Politics." (And I know you know that, Michael, but just wanted to put it out there.)
I'm already preparing my daughters so they can avoid this virus of hatred. We speak of them, appropriately, as being the same thing as the KKK, the Nation of Islam (Farahkan's little hate group religion), and the like.

- One item that might have been in your first list had you found a reference is that the President of NOW at the time of the 1988 remark was married to a man, but openly had an affair with a woman, stating that it wasn't cheating because her extramarital lover was a female.

- I fell victim to this crap for about a couple years during college and after I finally got over the programming (not counting the couple years afterwards that I spent pissed off because I had been living under the presumption of an ugly lie), it dawned on me that the very women who profess this sort of thing have no interest in men, healthy society, or reality at large. You'd think that they'd understand that this kind of hostility and hatred against women who have children, including the hatred directed at the children, is about as counterproductive as any social movement can be. When you target children as the enemy, you've killed yourself, essentially.

What finally snapped me out of having any truck with this world of hatred was a high school classmate of mine who belonged to this radical society of feminists joined me and another old friend for a beer. The whole time she kept looking over her shoulder and when we finally asked what was up, she said that if anyone from her society saw her with men, they'd throw her out. Another tenet of that society was that if a woman demeaned herself by having children, if the child happened to be a boy, he could only be "with" the society until he turned 8, and then he would be shunned. When we asked her how she could belong to such a group, she just shrugged and blathered some of that crap you posted here. Of course, as fate would have it, she and her partner (yes, she was a lesbian) had a boy. Only then did they leave that society.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on September 23, 2005 2:21 PM

Was it necessary? No.

As Warren Farrell has written, men liberated women out of simple goodwill. The invention of the washing machine and dryer and the Pill really gave women the freedom to live outside the domestic sphere. Ideology did little except to engender anger. As my friend, Peter, said: "You mean, feminists took credit for the sun rising in the morning?" Yes, they did.

My older girl went to Antioch in the midst of this hysteria. She called home to ask me if I believed that women were oppressed. (She had grown up in middle class splendor in the mountains outside Woodstock, NY. A more protected environment cannot be imagined. So safe, it's boring.)

My reply: My great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S. in what were called "coffin ships" in the 1880s and 1890s. They had been virtually serfs, starving to death in Wales and Ireland. Nobody in my family had the franchise prior to their landing in the U.S. Less than 30 years after that, women in the U.S. were granted the franchise. And the men in my family supported this!

And, Michael, I feel as if I've entered into the inner recesses of Blowhardism. Thanks for the quote and the link.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on September 23, 2005 2:51 PM

When I was in college I met a 20 year old male exchange student from Saudi Arabia. I was in his presense when someone mentioned "Womens Studies" as a possible major.

His reaction was way over the top. His eyes bugged out. A warm, joyous smile consumed his face. He nearly got down on his knees to worship "this great country of America."

It was sad to watch his dissillusionment when he later found out what Womens Studies really was.

Posted by: The Holzbachian on September 23, 2005 3:09 PM

Smiley face first :0). I respect you Michael first and foremost for your neverending inquisitiveness and as a close second, for your gentlemanliness. I see you as a kind soul who is always looking at the world around him. So if what I’m about to say comes off as hostile, it’s because I’m not a very good writer. I mean no harm, I just heard the doorbell and came out to play.

Yeah, those hostile words of early feminists were well worth it. In any negotiation you shout loud and ask for the moon and reach a compromise, only to come back to the table at a later time for re-negotiation. Women now outnumber men entering medical and law schools. That’s only happened in the past couple of years. (It might also be noted that these professions don’t pay as well relative to a few decades ago.) It took a generation or two of little girls believing in their future without as much discouragement girls used to get. It is no longer legal (I hope in every state) for a man to beat his wife. I think the women’s movement helped there. So if we put a million or so men (and some women’s) noses out of joint for ten, fifteen years – I’m afraid that’s just not a big deal to me for the achievement of that kind of reward. Same thing for the availability of places where battered women and children can hide from their abusers. I believe that most men are like you, Michael. And the feminist movement never should have included men like you, or my husband.

There have been more double-standards towards women that I will ever be able to count, much less recount here. “Let women be educated but they should not put that education to any significant use.” “Let women be the fair and gentle sex, but we will not protect them or defend them well enough against violence.” “Woman should have children and stay at home but we will not support them should her husband die or leave her, and if she does get alimony and child support we will ridcule her and those like her til the end of time as the money-grubbing, do-nothing prostitutes they are.” “We want women to dress all fluffy and reveal those legs and some upper bosom, but if they get into trouble, well they were just asking for it.” Shoot Michael, I guess this paragaph has to stop somewhere….

When men want something they go for it with all of their strengths – their big voices, their big bodies and their big imaginations. This is considered good and things get done. What a big surprise that women might have done the same thing. Used our big voices, used our big bodies (just bigger a little further south – smiley face) and used our big imaginations. Sorry you didn’t care much for it, and I can’t blame you. The world had been without question men’s oyster for the most part. I think women, in order to get along with you guys better can stand to be more like you all in several respects, the first being men’s sense of humor. Women tend lose their sense of humor in a nanosecond when threatened. Men are used to being threatened since childhood and learn to not only get over it, but to run with it. Humor is the most modern way that men have advanced beyond the “fight” response. It is a beautiful one and one women could stand to learn from. Including your humble reader.

Won’t hog up anymore of your comments space at the moment, Michael. I suspect I’ll be getting some not-too-pleasant responses. I will go grab some coffee and try to find something like a sense of humor til then.

Posted by: bridget on September 23, 2005 3:14 PM

It saddens this philosophy grad to acknowledge, but change in social norms seems to have everything to do with visibility and the resultant normalcy, and very little to do with the validity or consistency of argumentation. Consider that gay rights as we know it gained much of its momentum from people in marxist and radical-feminist circles, who were inclined to extremely tabula rasa views of human nature and historical/conspiratorial views of social roles. And yet, here we are today, with a (perhaps the) primary argument for gay rights being that sexual orientation is genetically determined and resistant to authentic change via social conditioning. And, i'll tell ya, almost nobody from my generation (I'm a young "X" :-> ) seems to have any clue that a 180 in reasoning has occurred; most are astounded to hear that gay rights were ever defended without the "naturalness" argument. Yet, although the underlying argument about human nature is effectively opposite, the gay rights movement/culture/sentiment of 2005 is not opposite to that of 1970, but rather its beneficary and torch-bearer. Can this be generalized? I'm not qualified of course. But the question is interesting: whether social trends have momentum largely independent of the arguments used to advocate for them, and whatever reasoning seems most du jour just sorta rides along.

Posted by: J. Goard on September 23, 2005 3:16 PM

So lesbian porn is ok?

Posted by: rmark on September 23, 2005 3:20 PM

First of all, I have to say (cue rotten eggs and such), that there is some truth in all of the angry snippets quoted above.

I, too, think that cultural norms keeping neanderthals in us at bay are very thin and easily thrown away at the change of circumstances (note, I say *us* here, not just *men*) - just read any account of life in concentration camps or even trivial prison (no, I don't mean that special porno genre). Level of education, ideology, religiosity, etc. could only deter the inevitable, not eliminate it.

To my regret, I know too well how easily my gender can play against me, especially in workplace, but in my private life also. I don't need to listen to Marxist diathribes to understand what humiliation, manipulation and aggression by men are, and *taking advantage* has specific meaning to me.

At the same time, exactly because I'm a woman and therefore a higher organised mammal, I've learned how to deal with instincts and impulses, mine included. Like in that old now story (very small example out of my vast collection) about the contractors' meeting and my client's remark re: bathing with me I was referring to when talking to Yamdallah some time ago; I've controlled my immediate impulse to kick the jackass in the groin, put on charming smile instead and said "mineral spa isn't included into our scope of work on this hotel, sir".

OK. Since the stench from proverbial rotten eggs is getting too thick for my delicate senses now, I'll change the subject slightly.
Of course, not being physically in US in the 70's (and in elementary school at the time, too), I'm unfamiliar with the intensity of experience Michael talks in this post. Still, I thought all the above arguments were made much earlier, judging by Ann Vickers by S. Lewis (1933). As to the radical "children are better taken care of by the state" etc. argument, I accosiate with famed by her affair with Lenin Inessa Armand (here you'll find amusing summary of the book on the subject), as well as writings of First Soviet Lady-Diplomat, Alleksandra Kollontaj - both belong to the first quarter of 20th century.
(Aside: while googling for Kollontaj, I found this comparison, between her and Collette; great read. Sorry, only in PDF)

Posted by: Tatyana on September 23, 2005 3:27 PM

For all the supposed gains of the feminist movement, women today are increasingly being infantilized. We have "battered women's shelters" to protect them from Big Bad Men and a federal law actually known as the "Violence Against Women" act. Guess everyone's forgotten that men are *far* more likely to be the victims of violent crime. Gotta protect the helpless women. And women are considered totally incapable of supporting themselves, let alone their children, so therefore there's a huge government network for collecting alimony and child support. Do women really *like* being treated as helpless and infantile?

Posted by: Peter on September 23, 2005 3:40 PM

Let's all go watch "Oleanna" now...

Posted by: J. Goard on September 23, 2005 3:53 PM

Peter, if you're suggesting a single working person, men or women can comfortably support and raise a child on one income that has to be earned sometime between washing and feeding a child (a kid has two parents with equal obligations, after all), I suggest you revisit the article MB linked to before, about debt and middle class. Families with TWO working parents can barely afford to have a child and lead a middle class life!

As to infantilism, I tend to think a parent who had fathered a child but flee responsibility to provide for him, should be considered infantile, not the other one, who often is forced to work two jobs, take care of the housing/food/kid's education &c, all by herself.

Posted by: Tatyana on September 23, 2005 3:56 PM

Peter, I'm no fan of the victim mentality, and certainly no fan of the kind of feminism discussed in the post, but, underneath the hyperbole there are women who genuinely need help and need and places like battered womens shelters. My ex drank and was mean when he did - I tell you, it was nice to know stuff like that was out there. And yes, ultimately it was my responsibility to leave if he treated me badly, but that's a lot easier to say than to live through, and actually do. And yes, life is hard for some men too, that goes without saying. Wasn't easy for my ex to be an alcoholic, I guess.

Tatyana, it is hard being middle class these days, but I still can't get over the overconsumption part of it (even if the article MB linked pooh-poohed it). I just see the difference between the way my immigrant parents spent money, and the way neighbors around us did, and think that there is something to it. I mean, really, have you seen the way some people spend? It still shocks me. Here in Boston people work like dogs to live in the right school district and so they can send their kids to the right schools. If it was me, I'd move to a smaller town, and actually spend time with my kids instead of being in the office all day and then on the road, but that's me being all b*tchy and judgemental.

(And I can directly compare my education in small town fly-over country to the ivy's here, and I can tell you, I had better basics back home. Okay, I now have to make this post self-destruct so that none of my colleagues will read this......I deny that I ever wrote the previous)

Posted by: MD on September 23, 2005 4:46 PM

Reading about Saudi Arabia being given a pass by Bush for female-child slave trading; thinking of Musharraf's cute recent feminist jokes, lightly echoed by our newest SCOTUS nominee, this piece of complacency and contempt disgusts me. I remain "part of the union,til the day I die." The Marxists and rad-fems were more right than wrong, and I would much prefer Brownmiller and Dworkin to be in charge than any freaking Republican.

Or another of my favorite 'trite cliches':"I will get reasonable when you take your foot off my neck"

Posted by: bob mcmanus on September 23, 2005 5:04 PM

"Let's all go watch "Oleanna" now..."

Watched it within the last month, loved every minute of it.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on September 23, 2005 5:05 PM

Why is it when I read this post I feel the dander rise up on my neck? I pride myself on common sense and a rock-steady outlook on my heterosexual life. So why the quease? Maybe it is because I lived (albeit a very young babe) in the pre-feminist world for a short time, but thankfully not the hard existence my maternal ancestors experienced. Having little or no control over your reproductive system must have been one of the worst things to endure.

I never totally agreed with the weird far-out philosophy of my more politically rabid sisters, but like Bridget (very good thoughts, Bridget, BTW), I know that radical measures were perhaps justifiable for some part of the feminist agenda during "those" years.

So the mouse learned to roar instead of hiding in the shadows like a good little house rodent...

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on September 23, 2005 5:38 PM

I really have to question the whole feminist assumption that social organization prior to 1970 was the sole work of, and reflected the sole desires of, men. Once that has been conceded (and, I think, few bother to question it) then all of the premises of feminism, radical or otherwise, have to be granted. I just don't buy it, and I don't recall seeing any particular evidence supporting that point.

That sort of thinking just cuts less and less ice with me as I've gotten older. Women were not powerless in 1970 (if they were, they wouldn't have changed the entire social discourse in less than a decade.) I believe many women changed their ideas of what they wanted around that time, and society quite rapidly came around to their way of thinking. This is not the kind of helplessness that affected blacks in 1850 or European Jews in 1940.

Women weren't powerless in 1800. This is demonstrated by the fact that as they got access to birth control beginning around that date it got used and birthrates fell precipitously everywhere the knowledge of such techniques spread over the next 120 years (beginning in France, next in the U.S., and gradually throughout the rest of Europe, etc.)

I can't believe feminism has managed to relieve women of all moral and intellectual responsibility for the social order prior to five minutes ago. Am I the only person who sees this as a giant cop-out?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on September 23, 2005 5:56 PM

Freidrich, are you serious?

OK, I'll better go excercise my power over kitchen, immediately, or I'll just explode.

Posted by: Tatyana on September 23, 2005 6:18 PM

Actually, I agree with Freidrich. I wish leading feminists would take a more nuanced view of how societies form their views and roles for women than many have done in the past. It's probably a lot to ask for in an academic environment where Marxist views of power struggles have held the floor for so long, though.

My favorite (read: closest to my own) view of 1960's and 70's feminism comes from Henry James' _The Bostonians_. He features a circle of Boston feminists who gather to celebrate the inherent superiority of women to men (women are more nuturing, less violent, etc.), but vaguely disapprove of the woman doctor who lodges downstairs because she won't join in the sisterhood. Or, as one of the great women in my line of work has said, "Can we stop talking about women's hardships in the field and just go do some science?"

Posted by: C.S. Froning on September 23, 2005 6:56 PM

Btw, I'd like to point out that I am a feminist, even though my previous comment would not lead you to that.

I like the terms that Christina Hoff-Sommers coined in "Who Stole Feminism?". She describes the types of feminists that Michael quotes in this post as "gender feminists" because they declare men the enemy (as well as marriage, heterosexual sex, and children). She describes those of us who are interested in equality for women as "equity feminists", which I think does nail the idea.

So, I'm all for equality, but I can't support making someone the enemy because they are a man/woman/black/white/asian/atheist/Christian/Jew/Moslem/etc. and on. (Though Scientologists are still dweebs.)

Which reminds me, the folks who have said in the comments that gender feminism was a means to an end ... who do you think had better influence on civil rights: Martin Luther King or Malcolm X (the early Malcolm)? Of course, there are many black people who liked what Malcolm had to say because it was "white man is bad" essentially. But King really reached everyone: White, Black, and everyone else.

I don't think that vilifying men had any positive effect. In fact, it hurt the cause and made it easy to dismiss on the whole - even the valuable parts.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on September 23, 2005 7:10 PM

was this degree of hyperbole and hostility necessary?

Well, until recently, women's rights were most advanced exactly where there was the most stridency. Did the pill make these changes inevitable? Of course not, there was every possibility of the pill being banned (as it is in Japan).

It was a war of sorts, and yes, as in any war, innocents are hurt. But, in my opinion at least, the beneficial results far outweighed those who may have been harmed.

As for identity politics, we *all* play the game. It's simply for most of us, our identity is the mainstream identity. The less powerful groups in society have chosen an arena that they can actually affect. Do you blame them? They'd have to be pretty stupid to spend all their energy fighting in arenas where they had no chance of winning.

Posted by: Tom West on September 23, 2005 7:22 PM

According to Robert Anton Wilson (probably not the most reliable source, but hey...) in the earlier part of the 19th century (or was it the 20th?) it was widely accepted that society was matriarchal.

"Wow -- embedding in your own text precisely the kind of over-the-top rhetoric you were decrying above. So post-ironic and meta-referential -- simply brilliant, although perhaps too subtle for some."
-Monte Davis

Wow -- embedding in your own text a defense of the cretinous behavior Michael decries above, under the guise of not taking a stance and impartial observation. So post-post-ironic, and meta-meta-referential, although perhaps too subtle for some.

Posted by: . on September 23, 2005 7:24 PM

"Having little or no control over your reproductive system must have been one of the worst things to endure."

Do you really think we have that much control now? Over our reproductive systems, that is? I don't think we have much of any and control is just an illusion.

Posted by: lindenen on September 23, 2005 7:45 PM

Genuinely sorry to enrage you, Tatyana, and I don't mean to be insensitive to genuine suffering where it exists, or has existed, but I still don't see men as the sole masters of society, nor do I think they ever were. I just don't buy it. Huge amounts of male behavior is and always has been organized around gaining reproductive access to women and then fathering and raising children--including the vast majority of behavior considered 'macho' or patriarchal. Masculine behavior doesn't, and never has, existed in a vacuum, no matter how aberrant or reprehensible, nor have women ever been purely passive clay for men to sculpt.

And I continue to be amazed at the moral sleight-of-hand feminist theory has performed by relieving women of any responsibility for the state of the world prior to, oh, the late 1970s, or today, or whatever date one chooses.

Incidentally, I brought up the data about birthrates and contraception because it so obviously refutes the claim that men are all rapists, or are willing to use their penises to dominate and overmaster women...not because it proves that women are all-powerful. They're not, but neither are men.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on September 23, 2005 7:47 PM

I suppose this makes me a milquetoast, but I always saw this thing called "human life" as a collaboration between women and men. Life's tough; keeping life bearable and keeping the species thriving can be awfully hard, as well as a lot of work; and how great it is that we have partners to help us, and who we can help too.

Granted that the sexes have their spats, I'm still often struck by how much (and how well) they play ball together. Men after all invented the contraceptive devices and labor-saving devices that made it possible for women to start having a little more freedom, and women made much of life possible for their men. We fight for a decent life, and we do it together. What's not to love about all this?

I think what mystifies me most about '70s feminism was how extreme it was; how much it caught fire; how long it lasted ...

I can't see that America circa 1965 really needed to undergo that degree of trauma. What was so horrible? My mom worked. Many of the women in the neighborhood where I grew up worked (and some of them didn't want to). Something like 35% of American women worked in 1965, something you won't hear partyline feminists dwelling on. But most of them had to. Meanwhile, some of the most bitter, angry, and determined-to-act-out feminists I ever knew were girls and women who came from what I considered to be very privileged backgrounds.

America going through '70s feminism reminds me of some people I've known who aren't really all that screwedup yet who wind up in therapy for decades, agonizing over everything and then some. Why? To what end? Since all these people really need is some advice and some minor tweaking, I wind up thinking that a shrewd shrink has sunk claws in them, and that a general culture of therapy has seduced them. They fall into a kind of emotional-psychological tailspin. (Incidentally, this is not to diss people who genuinely need deep and complete courses of therapy, it's just to illustrate my point that America didn't need it deep-and-complete.)

But America has a tendency to take certain things very literally and earnestly. I like radical provocation, for instance: I tend to like extreme statements and acts, or at least I can enjoy them. But I don't take them too seriously. But America is so damn earnest ...

I wrote in some blog posting or other about how we constantly make the mistake of taking (for instance) French philosophy too seriously, far more seriously than the French do. For them, structuralism and deconstruction are topics for cafe chatter and flirtation. We glom onto French philosophers as though these peacock-radicals really mean what they say, instead of being the hustling academic careerist-entertainers they actually are. We assume they're as earnest as we are. Dumb dumb dumb.

So maybe it's all in how we take these things. I kinda enjoy some extreme feminist whackiness and language -- but I take it all as provocation, as something to play with. You may or may not wind up doing something with it, or about it. America, though, took extremist feminism very seriously, and let herself get very upset and traumatized.

What makes America such a sucker for certain kinds of movements? We're like a big, overenthusiastic child, always eager for the latest and greatest transforming experience ...

I'm with Yahmdallah generally, for what it's worth: 90% of the time, I think you'll do better in terms of getting what you want if you go about it non-antagonistically and non-confrontationally. Start barking in people's faces and making with the angry accusations and all you'll do is make everyone dig in their heels.

Though, of course, you might strut around feeling righteous for a bit. Which makes me ask: So was much of the feminist acting-out not done with any particular goal in mind? Was it most just primal therapy for feminists than it was anything else? Then why did our political elites cave into it so completely?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 23, 2005 8:09 PM

Sensitivity to suffering has nothing to do with my with your statement, Freidrich(you can see I had fortified myself in the kitchen). It's your premises of 1)women actively taking part in creating the very system that opressed and restricted them for thousands years and 2)birth control was widely available in 1800 and on throughout Europe.

There is no doubt in my mind the society was not matriarchal in the early part of 20th century, . , as well as in early part of the 16th, 17th and 18th cent. Let's not muddy the issue with reproductive functions, let's look at the bottom line: ownership of property, estate and family law. If I'll see some hard statistics proving French (or Russian, Italian, Prussian, Spanish &c) women had the same rights over property as their husbands, brothers or fathers; that they could divorce their spouse (by ANY reason) and still own half or more of commonly acquired property, not just part of their dowry; that they could establish businesses, apply to educational institutions, become professionals and take part in political process; and that they had same control over the fate of their children as men - than I'll say - yeah, they have had a hand in creating the ways of the world.

Your statement about birtrates from 1800 and on is very interesting; are you absolutely sure other reasons (like wars, epidemics or, in France at least, custom of sending one's illegitimate children to live in the country) didn't factor in?
Or even if it's true and there were surething methods (I can't fathom, though, what that might be, if even pill of various kinds guarantee 90% success) of contraception, I fail to see how getting rid of unwanted fetuses emancipated women of 1800 to the point of dominance in the society? Sounds like some science fiction story, pardon me. I even know which, come to think of it (I'm sure you haven't read it, it's by brothers Strugatsky, autors of the novels the movies Solyaris and Stalker are based on; the story I recall is called The beetle in the anthill)

Contraception in Napoleonic Europe: reminded me again of the story I heard 3 weeks ago, in Lisbon. (I've mentioned it in comments @ Tinkerty Tonk, apologies for repetition). A friend blogger complained of a houseguest, relative of her Portuguese husband (of educated and "old" family). The relative, a young women, refused to take a bath despite numerous offerings (the stench was truly unbearable) by this reason: "Everybody know if you wash up during your period, you'll never get pregnant. I'm not risking my having children, besides it's already 4 days so you just wait a bit more."

This anecdote gives me an excellent explanation, Freidrich: given the state of personal hygiene at the time, falling birthrates could be explained by women simply being dirty all the time!

Posted by: Tatyana on September 23, 2005 8:51 PM

I keep remembering that old phrase "the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world."

Ahem, I have rocked four cradles, but yet to be given a scepter...

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on September 23, 2005 9:02 PM

Your willingness to highlight, expose and question topics such as this makes your blog one of the most interesting on the internet. With 27 comments to date, you certainly are pushing the right buttons. Keep it up.

Posted by: Bob on September 23, 2005 9:06 PM

Wasn't Solaris written by Lem? Pretty sure it was, unless you're referring to a Solyaris movie other than Tarkovsky's.

Posted by: . on September 23, 2005 9:15 PM

Yes, ., you're right of course, I was just having short-term insanity episode what's with Tarkovsky being the director of both films. Apologies.

Posted by: Tatyana on September 23, 2005 9:22 PM

"Huge amounts of male behavoir is and always has been organized around gaining reproductive access to women"

And it's only getting worse, as the shortage of available women (at least for non-Alpha males) increases both the competition and the efforts required.

Posted by: Peter on September 23, 2005 9:35 PM

Peter, you're at your pet topic again. Where do you live? Come to New York, last I heard, there is statistical oversupply of women of reproductive age over men in the city. And beleive me, they are very much available for a serious relationship; just read blogs by NY women.

Posted by: Tatyana on September 23, 2005 9:45 PM

I actually work in New York and live in the suburbs. If indeed there were no woman shortage, we wouldn't see singles' bars offering incessant ladies' night promotions in usually futile efforts to attract enough women, and wouldn't have gross oversupplies of men among their memberships, and there wouldn't be a thriving mail-order bride industry targeting (and often swindling from) men who have no luck finding women through less extreme ways. As long as some Alpha males can snag multiple women, the average (let alone below average) man is going to have a tough time.

Also, have you heard about the recent sexual-behavior survey conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control? Among people under age 44, the percentage of women who have had lesbian encounters is more than double the percentage of men who've had gay encounters (11% vs. 5%). Even if we assume that many of the lesbian encounters were casual, youthful flings by essentially heterosexual women, the numbers still look unfavorable for men.

Posted by: Peter on September 23, 2005 10:15 PM

Peter, now think: you're a woman looking for a serious guy, not necesserily Brad-looking or Donald-wealthy, but reliable, attentive, good provider, etc, etc - a guy for serious relationship. Would you go skirt-sweeping thru bars or and such in search for a guy like that?

Depends what you're looking for in a woman, Peter, and what she's looking for in a man; eternal disconnect, I'm afraid.

Posted by: Tatyana on September 23, 2005 10:29 PM

"So was much of the feminist acting-out not done with any particular goal in mind? Was it most just primal therapy for feminists than it was anything else?"
Hi Michael,
Well, I'm with Bob, a few comments up. I admire the questions you chose.
The answer is, "I'm sure it would seem that way to you."
Maybe the primal therapy was useful for some rich or middle class college women who needed some way to scare mommy and daddy who weren't paying enough attention to them, but those kind of students weren't only feminists. They might be the rich little Marxists who could afford to rent a flat and have poor pot-smoking, acid-dropping poets come live with them, experiment with sex and music and art in order to infuriate their parents as if no generation had ever done THAT before (and then go home and what? Get married? Join the Garden Club?). The women's movement surely could do without that, but as a women's movement, they have to be included. So do the lesbians. And the man-haters. And the Stay At Home Mommies; and the lady doctor who lives downstairs who might be just too busy to give some know-it-all women a piece of her mind. And unfortunately, so does the media who absolutely LOVE lesbians and man haters and ESPECIALLY the radical provocation that you admire so well. In fact, I admire it, too and, doesn't it seem, Michael, that there hasn't been a generation since that did that sort of thing as well? They're just such good jumping off points - like you say - not to be taken so seriously, but as a kind of inspiration to act, or think something in a new way.
Tatayana wrote beautifully about a few things on the list of goals the women's movement had in mind. And thank you, Pattie, I like what you said, too. Mr. McManus and Mr. West and lindenen and others all pretty much wrote down what the goals were and still are – and that these problems that affect half the human race are indeed important enough to resolve. We owe it to all of our futures to live the in that wonderful partnership you mentioned but that starts with respect. Self-respect first, and then the earned respect of others.
How can women be any clearer as to What It Is We Want? Maybe the questions would be better put, “What is it exactly that you men don’t want us women to have?” Because what we want is what you have. From my point of view, what you have (it’s true Friedrich) is male privilege. But I also see that you do not understand, nor are you (Friederich) apparently appreciative what it is you have. You do not appear to be too selfish to share it, you appear to believe it doesn’t exist. I’d be happy to spell it out for you again, but read these comments, the best parts are there. There is an infinite supply of more, and just say the word, I’ll keep on going.
There was something the Marxists got right: cosmonauts, scientists just about every other profession – women do them just as well, the heck with whatever certain university professors have to say on the matter. The thing is, it’s just not pretty when a girl says, “Get out of my way.” But after a few generations of saying it, someday maybe a few generations further still, it won’t have to be said – they’ll be there alongside the guys, wherever they want their destiny to be.
The terrible thing in all of this is that the most wonderful men - the ones who truly believe there isn't anything they wouldn't do for the woman, daughter, women friends and family might be offended by our wanting something more. Something that they can only give us by their encouragement and faith, not by the wonderful craft of their own hands, or by their hard earned money and for them not to see that their encouragement and faith while not a tangible thing (and how the mens love the things visible to the eye) it is what women, especially the youngest of us, need the most. Their faith and caring and positive can-do spirit that built castles, bridges, spaceships and heart lung machines - that faith that we can do it too. Man, that would go a long way.

Posted by: bridget on September 24, 2005 1:13 AM

"Reading about Saudi Arabia being given a pass by Bush for female-child slave trading; thinking of Musharraf's cute recent feminist jokes,..."
-Bob McManus
This sounds like an endorsement of the neocon program of enforcing Western cultural norms worldwide; a project that necessarily requires force. Bob is implicity supporting Bush and the Perles and Wolfowitzes-he just doesn't think they have gone far enough.

Posted by: perroazul del norte on September 24, 2005 3:40 AM

"Bob is implicity supporting Bush and the Perles and Wolfowitzes-he just doesn't think they have gone far enough."

Implicitly, hell, I am explicit on a half dozen blogs over the last five years. Tom Friedman himself said the liberation of women is the number one problem of the developing and underdeveloped world, and the number one solution.
I also think male chauvinism has a direct relation to violence and religious fanatacism.

Bush is a coward and a crook and a charlatan. Nuff said. But I wanted at least ten times the resources in 2002 devoted to Middle East transformation, including a draft. The monstrous sexism of "honor killings" and other cultural practices, which I do not think essential to Islam, are the moral equivalent of chattel slavery of the majority by the minority, should not be tolerated, and should be changed by force.

It is the direct or indirect source of much resentment of the West, and a national security threat on several levels.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on September 24, 2005 7:15 AM

Pre-modern contraception: I remember reading that _coitus interruptus_ (a.k.a. "belly-painting") was widespread and much more effective than usually assumed, actually not too far behind modern contraceptive methods.

Posted by: Chris Burd on September 24, 2005 8:18 AM

Yes, it's a very effective method and requires conscious effort on man's part.
So are you saying if birthrates were falling because of it it's another instance of men willingly liberating women from unwanted childbirth? Just like MB's example of the Pill being invented by men as a favor and a precious present to women?
You know, this famous benevolence of men is another tiger repellent. People who invented Pill happenned to be men becase in the course of all painfull history there were endless barriers for smart willing women to became scientists. If 10-15 yrs before the invention there were as many women in biochemistry, genetics etc as in in these fields today I doubt there would be only men on that team. That doesn't mean affirmative actions of pushing women into science and, accordingly, obligating universities to promote women over men are required. Just the barriers had to vome down, so those who wants to, men or women, can enter the field on their merit.

If coitus interruptus

But may be that's exactly what you meant? Hard to know.

Posted by: Tatyana on September 24, 2005 9:15 AM

Oh, sorry, got last paragraph wiped out incidentally.
If coitus interruptus was in fact so widespread I see it as evidence of men taking a bit more responsibility for their actions, you know, maturing.
(although the high rates of venerial deseases would be the evidence to the contrary)

May be that's what you meant?

Posted by: Tatyana on September 24, 2005 9:18 AM

Call me a loony. I agree with Friedan (having read and understood the book), and Millett (ditto, the books), and I can see Steinem's point. What, OTOH, is the point of this hatchet job?

Posted by: Toby on September 24, 2005 7:05 PM

Apparently (based on some of the above posts) women want to be "Masters of the Universe" without putting in the - at a minimum - 60 plus hour workweeks necessary to even hope to attain those heights.

Charles Murray has pointed out - based on exhaustive surveys and testing - that a far higher percentage of men are, and always have been, career driven, than are women.

Wanting is one thing; doing's another.

Posted by: ricpic on September 24, 2005 7:32 PM

Rick, have you added 5 (at least) hours of housekeeping/cleaning/child care/cooking a day into your calculation? With Sunday being a feet-up+ beer/football day only for a man in the family?
Besides, you're bad reader; nobody who commented here dream of any Master status, only fair game conditions. So I will not have to smile and look gracious eating sexist shit from my client.

Posted by: Tatyana on September 24, 2005 7:47 PM

Oh, and as to wanting and doing - I wish you'd had a chance to work with my former boss, the best one I ever had. She did spend more than 60 hrs a week at work, bringing millions in revenue to the company, and the most pleasant non-invasive and encouraging manager there are; despite her being diagnosed with terrible desease. And she was terrific daughter to her parents who died recently, buying a house close by so she could take care of them, and having her own husband to accomodate, too. And she is doing great work for Polish charities, and a member of professional associations.

Count her hours, if you can.
And she's just a first example that comes to mind.

Posted by: Tatyana on September 24, 2005 7:58 PM

"Yet, although the underlying argument about human nature is effectively opposite, the gay rights movement/culture/sentiment of 2005 is not opposite to that of 1970, but rather its beneficary and torch-bearer. Can this be generalized? I'm not qualified of course. But the question is interesting: whether social trends have momentum largely independent of the arguments used to advocate for them, and whatever reasoning seems most du jour just sorta rides along" -

this is the finest bit of reasoning & questioning I've encountered in a while (not limited to gay movement exertions of course). exploring this line will hopefully occupy the minds of people far smarter than me.

btw, imo, the aesthetic retardation of Oleanna is a stunning thing to behold

Posted by: playrink on September 25, 2005 2:50 PM

playrink: I found that J Goard post particularly interesting, too. What came to mind was that old political maxim: "Issues don't win elections, constituencies do."

Posted by: jult52 on September 26, 2005 8:59 AM

only fear of a breach of protocol prevented me from quoting all of Goard's post (especially considering the slop/dullness, with few exceptions, which followed it). nice point about politics, & for entertainment, ain't nuthin like watchin self-described liberals doin song-and-dance routines about identity politics - I know, it's the evil Karl Rove up to his old tricks.

Posted by: playrink on September 26, 2005 10:42 AM

Actually, I find the question J.Goard is posing (reminder: "whether social trends have momentum largely independent of the arguments used to advocate for them, and whatever reasoning seems most du jour just sorta rides along?") sort of dull and not exactly a novelty.

Consider this Lenin'quote - and have in mind that October Revolution of 1917 was artificially constructed by bolsheviks:

...To the Marxist it is indisputable that a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, it is not every revolutionary situation that leads to revolution. What, generally speaking, are the symptoms of a revolutionary situation? We shall certainly not be mistaken if we indicate the following three major symptoms: (1) when it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is a crisis, in one form or another, among the “upper classes”, a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth. For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for “the lower classes not to want” to live in the old way; it is also necessary that “the upper classes should be unable” to live in the old way; (2) when the suffering and want of the oppressed classes have grown more acute than usual; (3) when, as a consequence of the above causes, there is a considerable increase in the activity of the masses, who uncomplainingly allow themselves to be robbed in “peace time”, but, in turbulent times, are drawn both by all the circumstances of the crisis and by the “upper classes” themselves into independent historical action.

Deficiencies of philosophical education, I guess: to each [of either side of the iron curtain] his own. We had no idea of Wittgenstein, Americans never memorized whole passages from the M-L classics...

Posted by: Tatyana on September 26, 2005 11:51 AM

All of the quotes MBlowhard notes just sound insane, and violent, except for Steinem's. A woman reading Playboy does sort of feel like a Jew reading a Nazi manual. Interesting that that one would have been included as being so outrageous. Hmmmm. Maybe just a touch of feminism isn't so bad. I think there is a huge difference between noting that and a comment like "the nuclear family should be destroyed." Wonder why no one else saw the difference.

It seems to me that NOW needs some major PR help. Is "a woman must risk being considered a lesbian to be a true feminist" supposed to ATTRACT membership???

Posted by: annette on September 26, 2005 1:01 PM


What do you think a man reading Cosmo feels like? I'll tell you what one feels like: "Oh God, I fervently pray that nobody I date is as cold, calculating, and happily superficial as this; but I fear that I lack the ability to detect the difference." Uh, oh. That just dropped my self-confidence quotient a few notches. Good thing my abs are nice and my fathering quotient is okay, because I wear glasses and my only car is 15 years old.

What, you think no dong-pictorials makes its hands clean in the matter?

jult52 and playrink,



I, too, would be able to see my question as dull, if it weren't the case that the majority of intellectual debate seems to come from the opposite paradigm, wherein noble movement leaders craft manifestoes against social evils, then recruit devoted followers, who then convince the masses to demand change. I don't think most of what I would call "progress" or "decline" happens in this way; I see as as more akin to social evolution within a vast ecosystem having many niches. (And, by the way, obviously in tight interdependence with the gene pool.) With respect to changing memetic populations in the area of gender relations, I can't summarize the many associated factors in a few sentences, nor be too confident in my analysis since I'm not a 20th century historian and demographer. But I do feel capable of making the assessment than, on the whole, things like technological trends, birth and death rate trends, lowered cost of travel, the increase and diversification of popular entertainment, and the rise of the information economy, play much greater roles in shifting the gender-role memepool than anything that the women quoted above might have written, said, chanted, or screamed. So in that sense, my response to Michael was that it doesn't matter so much how unreasonable they often were, except to make a small handful of present-day intellectuals less reasonable.

Posted by: J. Goard on September 26, 2005 4:36 PM

Did I defend Cosmo? I hate Cosmo. I feel the same way about it as you. I wouldn't be offended if a man said that reading "Cosmo" (or more to the point---whatever that magazine was that Steinem used to edit) made them feel like a Jew reading a Nazi manual. I would think it was an appropriate analogy. Just exactly how did I get accused of "Cosmo having clean hands"? I never mentioned the darn thing. However, I wouldn't
be proud of not being "able to tell the difference."

Posted by: annette on September 26, 2005 4:45 PM

Feminism has been remarkably successful in the west. The changes have been for the better. I find it hard to take a culture like Saudia Arabia seriously.

Posted by: Joe O on September 26, 2005 5:20 PM

Great discussion, although I got here a bit late... here are my 2 cents worth anyway: it was so extreme because it was an internal social revolution, not a natural social progression. Women decided to use their not inconsiderable power to transform society from the inside, and it worked. They ended up with the same social status as men, and thus actually *lost* most of their former power-base. And revolutions are nasty, dangerous, violent events, with long-lasting impact into the future whether or not the fundamental change they bring about happens to be good.

Like I said, 2 cents.

Posted by: Alice on September 26, 2005 8:36 PM


Ah, yeah, that was an unreasonable step I made. I apologize.

Posted by: J. Goard on September 26, 2005 8:42 PM

Hmm. Well, not that anyone should (or will) pay attention to my impressions here, but ...

1) If anyone had suggested to my mom (who worked), my aunts (who worked), my grandmothers (who saw themselves as their husband's partners, not antagonists), or the ladies in the neighborhood where I grew up (many of whom worked, not that they wanted to) that they were oppressed and that a comprehensive social revolution was needed to free them from their chains, they would have laughed. Had the time come to do some nontrivial tweaking of rules and customs? Sure.

2) Comparing a gal flipping through Playboy to a Jew flipping thru a Nazi manual doesn't strike anyone else as a bit ... overdramatic? Maybe even insultingly hyper-dramatic? I certainly understand that some women may wince when flipping through Playboy, much as many guys wince when filpping through women's mags. But, y'know, Nazis exterminated Jews. We're talkin' massacres, blood, death. Last I checked, most men have loved and done their best (if sometimes misguidedly) for women. Besides, the female loathing of Playboy isn't absolute. I've known women (including a few who self-identified as feminist) who thought Playboy, and the fondness many guys have for it, was pretty funny. One of them gave her hubby a subscription to it. Just to dodge a bullet I can sense coming my way: I don't like Playboy myself, so I could care less about defending it.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 27, 2005 12:21 AM

It strikes me as overdramatic, but also trite and unworthy of being listened to. I'm not an adherent to that oft-quoted internet law stating that the first person to mention Nazis or Fascists loses the argument, but... I certainly have begun to feel that way.

Yesterday I read an article about Warren Beatty "lambasting" Arnold, and apparently Warren called Arnold a Fascist.

I'm sorry, but I'm just sick of it.

Posted by: . on September 27, 2005 12:28 AM

I don't think a revolution was necessary at all, in fact I think it was pretty much of a disaster. 10% improvement for 90% collateral damage, not all of which we are even aware of yet. According to Wikipedia, there was a "consciousness revolution" between 1964 and 1984 (new idea to me) which included feminism and various other isms still around today.

I can only think that it is some kind of natural social phenomenon that happens when a few of the wrong angry people suddenly get more power than they have sense. It was a time of increased wealth especially among young people, and there was a serious generation gap, perhaps because of the difference in experience between the generations after the world wars. Lots of young bored restless folk, ripe for harnessing by a few mistaken and/or bad guys?

Posted by: Alice on September 27, 2005 9:03 AM

Overdramatic...OK...but I guess the analogy makes a point. Maybe she just should have said that a woman looking a "Playboy" feels like...a man at a NOW meeting! :) And if some women find "Playboy" pretty funny...well, hell, some women like to be insulted fifty times a day. Some women probably like getting beaten up. Your point isn't clear. Should Steinem have said "MOST women, when looking at Playboy..." instead of "Women looking at Playboy..." Yes, that certainly makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Thanks for the correction.

Posted by: annette on September 27, 2005 12:18 PM

Alice wrote:

"According to Wikipedia, there was a "consciousness revolution" between 1964 and 1984 (new idea to me) which included feminism and various other isms still around today."

My mother belonged to a feminist consciousness-raising group in the early 70s. Not that I knew this at the time, being about 7 or 8 years old. It was later on I figured out why she'd yell "male chauvinist piglet" at me over the dinner table once a week or so.

I guess the group broke up after the majority of women in it got divorces, and found other things to bitch about.

Posted by: James on September 27, 2005 12:30 PM

This Playboy tangent is kinda interesting to me, because one of the most embarrassing moments of my life was centered around just such a debate.

My student advisor in college, one of the best English Lit. profs the university had, threw a send-off party for his advisees who were graduating. Even though the division between men and women was pretty even for the Lit. major, that year I was the only guy at the party.

Somehow the subject of Playboy came up, I think because they were doing one of their college audition things, and one of the women joked she just might go. Fresh from all my gender feminist indoctrination classes (which had/have a dim view of normal heterosexual sexual expression as evidenced by the quotes in Michael's post), I spouted off about how I felt sorry for the women who allowed themselves to be exploited for such a thing.

Well, the reaction I got was as if I'd suggested we break out pogo sticks and hop around whilst trying to fart "Frère Jacques" in a frog chorus. Actually, the reaction I might've gotten to that suggestion would have been warmer.

As a group, they turned and glared at me in silence. Then it started:
"Who do you think you are judging someone else's choices like that?"
"Don't you like women?"
"Do you find the naked body gross?"
"What if I wanted to pose? Would you think less of me, and why?"
"Don't you think a woman has the right, the intelligence, the maturity, etc. to pose if she wants to?"
"What if I thought it was a lark/funny/etc.?"
And on and on.

Not one of them spouted the standard gender feminist line that pictures of naked women taken for the pleasure of men (or other women, or for the woman in the photo's own jollies, etc.) were inherently bad or evil.

Actually, they said as feminists that what they chose to do with their body, including displaying it in Playboy, was their own damn decision.

This is when it first began to occur to me that all the stuff I'd been taught by the gender feminists was bullshit.

It marred what would have been a wonderful evening for me. And I was kinda avoided for the rest of the gathering. Thank God we were graduating and I wouldn't see them again.

(By the way, even though I recognize that grown women can and should make their own decisions on such things, I still wouldn't want to see my mom, wife, or daughters in Playboy, even though I would say it's their choice if they were to pose. I feel their right to live their life as they choose trumps my feelings about the situation.)

So, I'm wondering, the women in these comments who equate Playboy with some sort of evil: Why so? Most of those women made a conscious choice to pose. They showed up and took their clothes off, etc. If they're willing participants, knowing full well that men and boys across the nation are going to be tossing one off to their picture, then why vilify it or them? (Even if you disagree with the concept of erotic photos?)

What's the thinking behind your opinion?

Posted by: Yahmdallah on September 27, 2005 3:42 PM

Some comments:

1) Given the great advances in women's rights and power in the 19th and early 20th century, I think it is obvious that there was no need for radical feminism in the late 20th century. It wasn't then and, really, never was like the Jim Crow South, with one group having a total monopoly of power and every member of it consciously engaged in a violent conspiracy to maintain it. If anything, feminist extremism had the same sort of effect as the "off-the-pigs" Black Panthers did on race.

2) The radical feminists allied themselves with cultural radicals generally, including of course pornographers and other votaries of deviance and promiscuity. They have sometimes protested the ubiquitous pornification of our culture, but they were and are vehement and implacable enemies of those who resist it, such as the Catholic Church. Their attacks on marriage and enthusiasm for abortion fit perfectly into the agenda of men who sexually exploit women.

The 'feminist' response to prostitution and human trafficking is to call for legalization and the 'empowerment' of 'sex workers'.

3) Radical feminism embraced and promoted the ethos of personal satisfaction uber alles. No doubt this enabled many women to break free of oppressive culturally imposed obligations. But it also enabled many (IMHO even more) men to evade responsiblities to wives and to children whose support was dumped on women. And it encouraged many of both sexes to break up functioning marriages and families in pursuit of a will-o-the-wisp.

4) Having declared Playboy and marriage to be the moral equivalents of Treblinka and the Middle Passage, radical feminists have no words (and no energy) for the genuine oppression of women in Islamic societies. They cannot admit that George W. Bush liberated millions of women from the Taliban. Indeed, their obligation as radicals to be anti-Western trumps even feminist principle. A case in point: a British Moslem girl (younger sister of a notorious extreme Islamist) sued to wear all-enveloping "Moslem" dress at school. Her barrister was Cherie (Mrs. Tony) Blair. An even worse case in point: some Arab-Australian youths committed several brutal gang rapes. A determined Crown Prosecutor, Margaret Cunneen, braved a storm of vituperation and threats to send them to prison. When she spoke on her work at a legal conference on violence against women, she was vigorously denounced for "racist" prosecution.

So, yes, I would say that on the whole, radical feminism has been a net destructive force.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on September 27, 2005 4:07 PM

This whole discussion seems to answer Michael's original question---should we shrug and say extremism is necessary for progress, or should we start throwing things? (My) Answer: We should start throwing things.

Posted by: annette on September 27, 2005 4:20 PM

Tatyana wrote (re: coitus interruptus:

Yes, it's a very effective method and requires conscious effort on man's part.
So are you saying if birthrates were falling because of it it's another instance of men willingly liberating women from unwanted childbirth? Just like MB's example of the Pill being invented by men as a favor and a precious present to women?

You know, this famous benevolence of men is another tiger repellent. People who invented Pill happenned to be men becase in the course of all painfull history there were endless barriers for smart willing women to became scientists. If 10-15 yrs before the invention there were as many women in biochemistry, genetics etc as in in these fields today I doubt there would be only men on that team. That doesn't mean affirmative actions of pushing women into science and, accordingly, obligating universities to promote women over men are required. Just the barriers had to vome down, so those who wants to, men or women, can enter the field on their merit.

If coitus interruptus was in fact so widespread I see it as evidence of men taking a bit more responsibility for their actions, you know, maturing (although the high rates of venerial deseases would be the evidence to the contrary).

May be that's what you meant?

You know, that's exactly what I meant, and how clever of you figure it out and translate for all the dunderheads reading this blog.

Seriously, my only point was to counter the Brave New World-ish notion that effective contraception, and the relaxed sexual mores it makes possible, were strictly a post-1960 phenomenon.

As to whether the practice was benevolent or not, I suppose that with an unmarried woman it was considerate, and in the case of a married couple it was prudent mutual decision. I doubt it was often disinterested benevolence on the man's part; the man who got a girl pregnant usually suffered consequences - not to the same degree as the girl, obviously.

Posted by: Chris Burd on September 27, 2005 5:01 PM

A lot of the confusion in many men´s and some women´s minds about feminism begins to be dispersed when they remember their first reaction, as children, to the realization that the penis penetrates and the vagina is penetrated:

boys: "Wow!!!"
girls" "What???"

Posted by: Pablo Zumarán on September 28, 2005 6:39 AM

Wow!!! a resident Freudian! Just how am I supposed to remember that first reaction when I can't remember most of the dumbass poetry I wrote at sixteen? I mean, it was like a whole year before that when I learned the penis/vagina stuff.

Posted by: J. Goard on September 28, 2005 11:06 PM

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