Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Century of Marxist Feminism and no Real Gains

It is International Women’s Day and we are almost finished marking it Down Under. This morning the New Zealand Herald ran an opinion piece from the British newspaper the Observer as its gesture towards the occasion. As the writer complained, people (especially the men who still control most of the world’s media) tend to be apathetic towards this annual celebration of what women have achieved and heads-up about what still needs to be done for the fair sex.

I must say that I felt a yawn coming on myself when it dawned on me what day it was, even after realising it was the 100th such event and therefore particularly significant. The next feeling was impatience. After more than four decades of second wave feminism, women in countries like mine really are mistresses of their own destiny, and if they are working the double shift, or bringing up a child alone, or being subjected to gender violence, it is very likely their own fault. Yes it is.

Then anger. Women were supposed to bring their unique values to public life and transform our societies into better places. Instead, in too many instances, we have sold ourselves short, debasing our sexuality, depriving children of fathers and a proper home life and even agreeing to the killing of unborn children as a way of burying our mistakes. Men could not have come as far adrift from family life unless we had let them.

In New Zealand five years ago 30 per cent of households with children were headed by single mothers. The figure is probably higher now. In the United States in 2008 out-of-wedlock births passed the 40 per cent mark. Many of these mothers were cohabiting with the father, but such relationships have proved unstable and very likely to break down. To the great disadvantage of the children -- especially girls, to be quite feminist about it.

Women have proved that they have brains -- they now outnumber men in graduating from universities in the developed world. They have shown that they can do a wide range of demanding jobs and that they can look after themselves financially. All good. What they have yet to show is how their education and earning capacity can be combined successfully with the one career that is exclusively theirs: motherhood.

This essential vocation and service remains the aspiration of the vast majority of women -- as does marriage, without which motherhood is a burden to the woman and an insufficient support to the child. Yet, as research by the US National Marriage Project has shown, the erosion of marriage has penetrated far into the middle ranks of society. There are several reasons for this -- economic, cultural and civic -- but one of them is surely feminism’s antagonism to the family as a “patriarchal” institution and its insistence on female independence as a lifelong state.

It’s thanks to this ideological stance that we still have Ministers of Women’s Affairs, their bureaucracies and their international Big Sisters pushing for gender equality policies which assume that husbands and wives -- or domestic partners -- should each do exactly half of both childcare and domestic chores and half of the paid work to support a household. Research has shown that this is not what women with young children want.

If women want to have the choice to be wives and mothers in anything more than a nominal sense, it is time to knock this sort of nonsense on the head. Whatever good feminism was going to do has been done; now it is time to tidy up the house and start living again.

But what of the developing world? Don’t women there still need Michelle Bachelet and her new improved, half-billion-dollar UN Women organisation? It is true that women in the poorer countries are at an even greater disadvantage than men when it comes to education, personal safety and economic opportunity. There is still much to be done to recognise the equal human dignity and rights of women and to give them concrete expression.

But the developed nations, with their tenuous grasp on what constitutes the dignity of women and on the relationships that underpin a healthy society, are a poor model. Ms Bachelet has complained that the money for her work is not coming through. Good. I would not give UN Women or any women’s organisation another cent until it can show that it understands the importance of marriage and motherhood. In that order.

When we have found a few more of those, it will be time to celebrate International Women’s Day with enthusiasm.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.

Related reading:  Alice C. Linsley, The Paradox of Feminism


George Patsourakos said...

Women need to concentrate more on family traditions -- such as marriage, motherhood, moral rearing of their children -- instead of living a radical lifestyle.

Today, too many women have become a part of an immoral lifestyle, because they believe that it is all right to have illegitimate children, abortions, and to live with a man as a "common law" husband. The number of women who are lesbians and bisexual has also increased remarkably in recent years.

Unless this unChristian trend of women's lifestyle is reversed, women will continue to suffer as a result of it.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Yes, and the Church must afform women in the traditional roles and recognize the biblical precedent for women leaders - not as priests, God forbid!

I worry that Orthodoxy will fall into the pattern of the Roman Church in relegating women to kitchen functions or the nunnery. It should be recognized that some women are called to positions of spiritual authority as were Huldah and Deborah. Those who do NOT seek position might be ignored rather than affirmed.

Unknown said...

George Patsourakos - there are three points you have made which I take issue with. Firstly, you say that women are increasinly living 'a radical lifestyle'. Surely a contradiction? Radical by definition is a deviation from the norm. You may find that your views are in fact radical by this definition.

Secondly, the assertion that there are increasing numbers of lesbians and bisexuals is flawed. Increasing acceptance towards homosexuality has led to more women being willing to come out and is not evidence for anything else.

Finally, suffer from what? More choice? More freedom?

Carolyn Moynihan - I've found this article both unsubstantiated and uninformed.

- In the first place, I can see from the comments that your article inspired that you are writing from a religious stand point, and yet you fail to highlight this at the beginning of your piece, or anywhere for that matter.

- The West is currently experiencing third wave feminism, not second.

- Gender violence is the fault of women who experience it?! The ignorance of this comment is unbelievable. Clearly, you know nothing of domestic violence. Please take a look at this site to see what sort of abuse women are suffering before you post more offensive and destructive comments on the internet.

- Whilst I cannot argue with you about what you consider to be immoral i.e. the breakdown of the nuclear family which you consider to be the fault of women,that is your opinion, your argument is flawed as you impose a double standard. You say that women were 'supposed to bring their unique values to public life' but how are they to do so when you would confine them to the home? And, apparently, abusive husbands?

- yes women are more than capable of doing the jobs of men. and yes our generation is faced with difficulties in terms of integrating motherhood with careers. But surely this is the task of the state and ethical business to make steps towards women having both?

- arguing that 'less developed' nations still need feminist influence whilst calling for women of the west to 'tidy up the kitchen and get on with life' is a slight contradiction no? Clearly you believe there is an ideal amount of freedom for women if you are willing to say that women in certain countries are too free and others are not free enough.

I'm not entirely sure where you got your title from either. You don't mention marxism once, nor do you analyse the interplay of capitalism and patriarchy.

All in all, misleading, bigoted and badly written.