Monday, May 04, 2009

The Two Faces of Feminism

Here is a feminist blogger (and former chair of Planned Parenthood), Gloria Feldt, defending feminists who fail to respond to writers and activists who have used sexist language in attacking Miss California for her opposition to gay marriage.* When I saw it as it first aired Friday night I was shocked.

The first big shock was when Feldt seemed to say that Laura Ingraham (or "the likes of" her) had used the same sort of language against Feldt herself. I myself have never, in my entire life, called a woman the b-word (follow the last link above to see what I am referring to) and I find the suggestion that Ingraham would talk that way in public hard to believe. (Her notorious comment that Meghan McCain was only trying to be a political pundit because she was too "plus-sized" to be a model, though mean and tasteless, fell far short of this kind of thing.)

The second shock, at least until I had a chance to think about it, was Feldt's strange explanation of why this sort of talk is okay with her.

Here is the only way I can find to make sense of her seemingly contradictory remarks:

Feminism, she says, is "about justice." By this she must mean that feminism is opinions about what justice is, not that it requires you to treat actual women decently. Precisely because it is a collection of opinions, women who have the wrong opinions can become, in her words, "fair game." Language that would ordinarily be denounced as misogynistic hate speech is just one more thing that they have coming to them.

Feminism, on this conception of it, is not supposed to protect women as women. It protects women who are feminists, and women who do not give this sort of feminist any trouble. Women who wander off the feminist reservation can expect rough treatment from them.

Is this really feminist at all? Well, yes. There are actually two kinds of feminism. One is liberal feminism. It says simply that women have exactly the same basic rights as men, and that these rights should be respected in every case.

The other is radical feminism. It aims at the goal of eventual, perfect equality of the sexes, a sort of sexually classless society. It exploits the rhetoric of equal rights when doing so helps to achieve the goal. At other times, violating those same rights serves the same progressive purpose (eg., it might intimidate and silence enemies of progress). At those times, it violates rights without flinching. It's for the greater good, after all. Academic versions of this sort of feminism back up their radical methods with a theory the understands genders in more or less the way the Marxist understands economic classes. Harsh methods are needed to bust up male hegemony.

What we see here is obviously feminism of the radical sort. Something tells me we will be seeing a lot more of it.
* It is important to realize that there are feminists who have not failed to respond.


William said...

I look at feminism like punk or unions, a necessary movement that achieved its goal of social transition, and reached a plateau of stale redundancy. Feldt makes herself out as a particular ass here.

I marvel still at how the opinions of a girl in a beauty pageant outraged a nation and stirred such widespread political discourse. She didn't even win an imaginary competition for an irrelevant title.

Rick said...

I saw the original discourse on The O'Reilly Factor with Laura Ingraham, and the hateful Gloria Feldt. Feldt's who attitude stank and revealed how hateful she was. As William mentioned how a statement by a beauty pageant participant angered a nation, i.e., pro-abortionists, as they want no opposition whatsoever to their socialistic plans of forcing their beliefs on others, as they are pushing agendas which do not agree with most general polls. It is interesting to note that they are the same ones who don't want 'religion' forced down their throats.

pappy d said...

On the positive side, it's nice to see these women (& a few gay men) come together to promote their individual careers.

In Hollywood, it's called "irritainment".

Ann said...

I completely agree with William, the radfems have become a stale redundancy. I think they will fast sink into irrelevancy. If they possessed real power in the world, they wouldn't need to rant about beauty pageant competitors. The RadFems are about as much fun as the Taliban - a bunch of angry, tyrannical prudes. With shrill, whiny voices. They should all take a page from Dagney Taggart's world - there is a real woman of power. And she's glamorous and romantic - qualities most women still value highly. It did make me smile when I read Atlas Shrugged, that Dagney had no real female rivals competing for the three heroic male characters who all competed for her.

Lester Hunt said...

It is indeed amazing that America persists in discussing the opinions of a beauty queen. Probably the whole reason is that her enemies keep attacking her (the latest, as I write, being the publication of "semi-nude" photos for which she posed). Then we start talking about that. It becomes a story about a story. And then a story about people reacting to the story about the story. (I've been rereading Daniel Boorstin's The Image, which is a truly prophetic text for our times.)

Craig D said...

"The other is radical [fill-in-the-blank]... It exploits the rhetoric of equal rights when doing so helps to achieve the goal. At other times, violating those same rights serves the same progressive purpose (eg., it might intimidate and silence enemies of progress). At those times, it violates rights without flinching."

Applies to quite a few "movements" don't you think?

I've unfortunately let myself get sucked into considering various views across the "political spectrum" and am disgusted by how BOTH sides behave. All in the name of achieving whatever undefined power-tripping goals they might have.

Roderick T. Long said...

A positive libertarian case for radical feminism and against liberal feminism.