Methuselah lived nine hundred years,
Methuselah lived nine hundred years,
Say, but what’s good o’ livin’
When no gal’ll give in
To no man what’s nine hundred years?
I’m preachin’ this sermon to show
It ain’t nessa, ’tain’t nessa,
’tain’t nessa, ’tain’t nessa,
‘Tain’t necessarily so.
from Porgy & Bess
Intro note: I originally wrote this six years ago, and although a great deal has changed (including being exposed to authoritarian radical feminists and equally crazed men’s rights activists), the words and spirit of the post are still true. I’ve cleaned up the writing a bit, but as far as I’m concerned it was almost good enough to re-post without alteration (The server it was originally hosted on went down, but I’d posted it on Daily Kos and My Left Wing as well, which made it possible to re-post here). Basically, it doesn’t matter what you call it if you believe that the idea of one person being inherently worth no more than any other, I think we have a basis for agreement, though we may differ on what to do from there (which could be true no matter what label you apply to yourself).
Time to take on that demon of the right, the feminazi, and show her what’s what. Or in point of fact to show you that she is a construct used to bash a large and wonderful group of people. I don’t plan to spend much time on Limbaugh’s straw woman, because somewhere in here I hope to throw in just enough truth about what feminism is to make you curious and find out for yourself what’s really going on. Of the two goals, I’d much rather spend time devoted to people reading what I write as opposed to Limbaugh’s sound-bites. Knowing me and knowing Limbaugh, however, it will take longer to do the former than the latter. Without further ado, I present an excerpt from Limbaugh’s book (ghostwritten by professional douchebag John Fund), The Way Things Ought To Be:
This obsession with abortion and lesbian rights became entrenched in the woman’s movement in about 1978. That’s approximately the time when feminism became separated from its original concerns and veered into strange new territory.
You mean about the time the extension for ratification for the ERA was passed?
I date it from the 1978 conference in Houston that was chaired by Congresswoman Bella Abzug of New York.
You mean 1977. The positions were presented to Congress in 78, the conference was in 77.
Jimmy Carter had caved in and caused the federal government to pay for this women’s conference and it was taken over by the radical left.
This being the conference formed by the bill that was signed into law by Gerald Ford to be part of the Bicentennial celebration? The one funded by Congress?
Gone were concerns about equal pay, assertiveness, and expressing one’s individuality.
The conference adopted a platform consisting of 26 “planks,” named as follows: “Arts and Humanities,” “Battered Women,” “Business,” “Child Abuse,” “Child Care,” “Credit,” “Disabled Women,” “Education,” “Elective and Appointive Office,” “Employment,” “Equal Rights Amendment,” “Health,” “Homemakers,” “Insurance,” “International Affairs,” “Media,” “Minority Women,” “Offenders,” “Older Women,” “Rape,” “Reproductive Freedom,” “Rural Women,” “Sexual Preference,” “Statistics,” “Women, and Welfare and Poverty,” and “Committee of the Conference.”
Only the position on equal access to credit was passed unanimously. This was a diverse, active, thoughtful, and passionate set of debates on a huge number of issues, and the one about sexual orientation was the most divisive and hard-fought on both sides. I think that it is to the conference’s credit that this plank was passed.
In their place were women ensconced in bitterness, hatred and resentment. The NOW gang became a fringe movement, and lost a lot of women who no longer wanted to call themselves feminists. The women’s movement was taken over by radical leftists and became an adjunct of the Democratic party.
No support is ever given for this contention, because it didn’t happen. Rush, and the common Right-wing wisdom, is to take the most divisive issues at the conference that were decided with the narrowest margins, and characterize them as the most fervently embraced issues at the event. I believe that he portrays the entire group as if it spoke with one voice on everything. He mischaracterized what was said and why, and later in the text started slapping labels on the tiniest minority in that group while alluding to the idea that this minority not only represents the feminist movement as a whole, but the Democratic party. Note again that the bill which created the conference was signed during the Ford administration, and further consider that Congress appropriated the money for the conference, not Carter.
As far as NOW as it stands today? Abortion rights/reproductive issues and lesbian rights are two of the top six of NOW’s current “Top Priority Issues,” but the other four are violence against women, constitutional equality, promoting diversity/ending racism, and economic justice. Below that under “Other Important Issues,” we have Affirmative Action, disability rights, family, fighting the Right, global feminism, health, judicial nominations, legislation, marriage equality, media activism, working for peace, Social Security, Title IX, welfare, women-friendly workplace, women in the military, and young feminism. This is not a single-issue group – that would be NARAL, and even they branch out.
I prefer to call the most obnoxious feminists what they really are: feminazis. Tom Hazlett, a good friend who is an esteemed and highly regarded professor of economics at the University of California at Davis, coined the term to describe any female who is intolerant of any point of view that challenges militant feminism.
(Added 7/31/12) Funny thing is, a friend of mine is telling me that he recalls hearing Curtis Sliwa use the term on his radio show in 1990. If he or I can find a clip of this, I’ll link to it here. It would be amusing if Rush (really Frum) was wrong about that, too.
I often use it to describe women who are obsessed with perpetuating a modern-day holocaust: abortion. There are 1.5 million abortions a year, and some feminists almost seem to celebrate that figure. There are not many of them, but they deserve to be called feminazis.
At least he recognizes that the group he derides is vanishingly small, though this is lost in his broad generalizations both before and after that admission. The word “militant” has gotten thrown around a lot, and I’m wondering how it stuck on feminism, when what it usually means is somebody’s got a gun and believes that shooting people is the fastest way to further their cause. Now it may just be me, but I don’t recall hearing about gangs of feminists shooting up their rivals, or feminists heading into businesses run by subcultures they don’t like and violently expressing their displeasure. If it did happen, I suspect Fox News would be on it like white on rice, but that’s just me. As for the “modern-day holocaust,” if you believe that a human being is a human being at conception, then there’s very little point of agreement to work with, but I have trouble with drawing a moral equivalence between a fetus and a human being who has knowledge, opinions, memories and dreams, as it undercuts everything about us that makes us different and worthwhile as individuals. I also have serious problems with the idea that society can place a lien on a woman’s body for the duration of a pregnancy.
A feminazi is a woman to whom the most important thing in life is seeing to it that as many abortions as possible are performed.
I have never seen anyone advocate anything even close to this. The closest I have seen is the contention that the presence of the option has done society great benefit by allowing people greater freedom to begin a family (or not) at a time of their choosing. I have never seen an abortion drive, an abortion fair, or an abortion jamboree, and I doubt I ever will – because the number of people living on the planet who would hold such an event is vanishingly small, assuming there are any in the first place. I have never heard of a woman saying “She’s pregnant! That means we can take her to get an abortion! SCORE!” While there are stories running around of people expressing such glee, it just doesn’t happen. I’ve never managed to find someone who talks about these stories actually be able to point to a specific person who expressed joy over an abortion. Apart from that, here’s my general stance (which I will expand upon in another video or post).
Their unspoken reasoning is quite simple.
The nice thing about challenging someone’s “unspoken reasoning” is that you never have to prove that it’s actually their reasoning in the first place. This makes it an excellent way to jump from one irrational statement to another without a safety net.
Abortion is the single greatest avenue for militant women
These would be the imaginary militant feminists packing AK-47s and hand grenades which we discussed earlier.
to exercise their quest for power
“Quest for power” is a big phrase, large enough that it can accommodate some truth no matter what meanings you apply to it. Is registering to vote a quest for power? Signing a petition? Getting a medical check-up? Running for office? How about raising your kids the way you want to, within the boundaries of compassion, sanity, safety, and health?
and advance their belief
Unspecified but vaguely spooky.
that men aren’t necessary. They don’t need men in order to be happy.
Again pointing to a small group, and pointing at an extreme position – but to be perfectly fair, how often do you hear guys saying “women – can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em?”
They certainly don’t want males to be able to exercise any control over them,
As opposed to men, who want men to exercise control over them?
Abortion is the ultimate symbol of women’s emancipation from the power and influence of men.
This is really hard to disagree with, but contraception is up there too. Score one for Rush.
With men being precluded from the ultimate decision making process regarding future life in the womb, they are reduced to their proper inferior role.
And here we begin leaping giant exaggerated conclusions with Hulk-like bounds. Before it was a “modern-day holocaust,” now it’s about “future life.” I really wish he’d be consistent. The inferior role thing kinda bugs me, though. I didn’t hear anyone call for the sterilization of “Welfare Kings….”
Nothing matters but me, say the feminazi. My concerns prevail over all else. The fetus doesn’t matter, it’s an unviable tissue mass.
One wonders how such an irate, sociopathic, and mentally unstable type of person would manage to form groups with other such people without the whole bunch of them killing each other off the first time a desire were thwarted, or when a line formed for anything.
Feminazis have adopted abortion as a kind of sacrament for their religion/politics of alienation and bitterness.
In the spirit of presenting this fatuous conclusion with the derision it deserves, I point back to the conference planks cited above.
And that’s enough time spent with Rush. So now that we’ve pointed out what feminism isn’t, just what is it?
I’ll take you on a mercifully brief tour of my exposure to it in just four steps, that will leave you with enough information to do some real research.
The first step, a general definition and description. Like any movement or philosophy there are differing ways of expressing and acting on the ideas embraced by Feminist Theory, but the core idea is that women and men are of equal inherent worth as human beings, and should be treated as such. Very simple, direct, and straightforward. The vast, vast majority of feminists consider this to apply to all human beings (regardless of race, class, gender, or any other label you can slap on a person through birth or circumstance), which is why the women’s movement still has yet to do unto others the way it has been thrown under the bus by the abolitionists, the peace movement, the labor movement, some environmentalists, and many more. The GLBT movement has struggled for acceptance within feminist circles, but to be honest the fight has been easier there than with any other – because of the egalitarian core ideals of feminism. To me, that kind of integrity is worth more in an ally than gold, and should never, ever be betrayed. If you ever want to know what progressive movements are walking the talk, watch who a variety of feminist organizations support. These are dedicated people who have been dissed again and again and keep coming back, not for the abuse, but because they know a very important truth: that all of these seemingly disparate causes are actually integral to each other.
Next, how I got to where I am with Feminist Theory. Going to take quick looks at the first three books that got me thinking about the subject. Just teasers, you’ll need to read them yourself (and talk with someone else who has read them cover-to-cover) in order to get anything meatier out of them. This is not meant to be a substitute for real knowledge of these works, just an invitation to go learn more.
- The first real exposure I had to the study of feminism was Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents, which was written in 1930 just as the aftermath of World War I was turning into the furor that would become World War II. Yup, that Freud. In it he, in a back-handed, almost shamefaced way and at the very end of the essay, contends that the hyper-masculine nationalism sweeping the Western world is not only a scourge, that it is partially due to the rejection of the feminine civilizing influence, and that this rejection is at our peril. Heavy stuff, and laden with the notions of the woman as the teacher of moral authority, but certainly a contention that sounds very familiar today.
- The second book would be Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. Now since I cut my philosophical teeth on Existentialism, I flew (meaning rapidly, not casually) through this one three or four times back to back, re-reading it to catch minor points I missed and just plain enjoy how well she wrote it, and the translator presented it. Even the edition I read, which was badly and in some cases dishonestly translated from the French (since the first writing of this post a a new, better edition has been released) the text is accessible, yet filled with enough good stuff to be a serious read for those who dig deeper. Her presentation of Existentialism also is much clearer than Sartre’s, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. Her argument boils down to this: We are only free to act within the boundaries placed by our environment – whether these boundaries are physical, or the common wisdom we learn at mama or daddy’s knee. She takes this into feminism (to horribly and unforgivably oversimplify her words) by presenting the idea that even with some hard examination, we really can’t absolutely distinguish between what our society presents as the difference between men and women, and what differences beyond the naughty bits may or may not actually exist. Take the core theory above, and you end up with this: since we can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined in how we view men and women, you can’t justify unfair treatment at all.
- Third would be Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. While the first two books focused on esoteric and metaphysical aspects of humanity and culture, Friedan nailed the practical, by looking specifically at the cultural expectations and attitudes towards women in post WWII America. She focused on the hyperfeminization of women (like a bouffant hairdo is a natural expression of womanhood? Puh-leeze.) and the iconification of the “nuclear family,” and how this turned out to be immensely profitable for the business sector. It turns out from her research that the nuclear family was a product sold to America the way it would sell appliances, justified by the reasoning that you can sell many more clothes washers if people are living in single-family homes, thus increasing economic prosperity not only for the appliance manufacturers, but also for the repairman (maintenance contracts are always more profitable than the initial sale).
Next, the question “what is a feminist issue?” Truthfully, it’s anything that has to do with the living beings that we are, because Feminist Theory studies the human race, asking the question how do our assumptions and physical realities regarding gender and sex (and the two are very different) impact our lives, thoughts, and decisions? But to give you one example that is not directed specifically at women, wouldn’t it be nice if maternity leave was given to both of the expected child’s parents? It would make those early months a million times better for the entire family, both individually and collectively, but especially for the infant. You could even expand this to make both legal guardians eligible for leave, which would make it even more egalitarian and inclusive (providing both people pull their weight in the matter, of course). So really, it’s anything having to do with the process of living.
Now to the perennial question, “what about the men?” Well, considering that the male gender role is defined in relation to the female (and vice-versa), this is actually a pretty solid question in Feminist Theory. While some Feminists wish to exclude men from the discussion (a small minority of Radical Feminists who are extremely vocal would prefer to eliminate men, but there are crazies everywhere), the truth is that if you’re going to study a society you can’t eliminate half its members and get a useful picture. Taking the historical view that the course of events has been shaped by Great Men (to exclude virtually all women and the majority of men), is ridiculous, but it’s the history most of us are presented in school. It’s also fallacious to say that our history that’s centered on the experiences of average men, and say that only half of the population of the world has been represented (because history was not only written by the winning side, it was written by that small slice of the winning side which was paying the bills at the time). Even studying cultures like Sparta, where the men and women lived in strict segregation, the necessity of interaction between the sexes just for reproduction makes the study of one gender incomplete without an understanding of how the other helped to shape the larger culture. A People’s History of the United States is an example of a book that attempts to supplement the traditional oversimplifications in the narrative of U.S. History. No matter what the culture, barriers of race, class, and gender may restrict an individual’s ability to interact with different social spheres, but these spheres do not exist in complete isolation from one another, and so affect each other. I suppose the answer would be “what about everyone?”
Lastly, where do you go from here to learn more about it, since the media seems to be clueless on the subject? I have some good news and some bad news. First, the bad news. Just like the best way to get your teeth fixed is to go to a dentist, the best way to learn about stars is to talk to an astrophysicist, and the best way to get your toilet to stop backing up is to call a plumber (quick!), the best way to learn about feminism is talking with feminists (yes, plural, because there are many, many different kinds, and it covers many, many fields). You can also do reading on your own. You’re certain to find some things you agree with, and you’re certain to find some things you find horribly offensive and awful, and both categories will shift the more you learn (as with any learning process). The fact is, the more you know about human beings and what we do, the more you learn about (and can learn about) Feminist Theory, because it examines everything we are and do as human beings. The good news? You can start yourself, very simply: every now and then, just ask yourself “why did I do that?” Once you start digging into what you’ve been taught and what assumptions you make (and perhaps even why you make them), you’re on your way.