Given the fact that the election of a Black president and hard economic times have rejuvenated America’s cultural/political right wing, it should come as no surprise that the latest “Pro-Lib” (that’s progressive/ liberal…) construct on their kill agenda is feminism. Of course, the Right has been fighting modern feminism since it began in the late 1960s, successfully defeating organized efforts to secure the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment); continuously fighting mainstream efforts to make and keep abortion legal and readily available; and in general, bad-mouthing feminism at every turn.
But now, with women marrying later in life, with 50% of marriages ending in divorce, and with the genuine possibility of gay marriage coming closer all the time, the well-organized, articulate, on-point and active right wing is taking on feminism big time.
Two books published last month are paving the way for a major trend-setting argument, garnering considerable press attention and providing the language and talking points for this new battle: Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys by Kay S. Hymowitz, and, The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know – and Men Can’t Say by Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly (yes, The Fly is back…).
Their messages are essentially the same: progressive-liberals aren’t fit to run a bowling alley let alone a nation; feminism, the demon seed of liberalism, is full of shit; women aren’t (and never have been) victims or oppressed or marginalized in any way; and most important, feminism has destroyed the American Family and emasculated men.
I want to say that for the past couple of years, I’ve been asking “Where is the New Feminism?” I’ve been saying that feminism and its resulting migration of women into the workforce has had a negative impact on family life – just as racial integration had a negative impact on black communities.
But, just as segregation allowed for strong black communities by default, because law and custom demanded that middle-class and poor blacks live side by side in neighborhoods filled with black-owned businesses, powerful and unifying black churches, and generally-united families, that didn’t make segregation a good thing or make integration any less vitally important. Similarly, while women living in the traditional role of wife and mother provided both stability for the family and clarity of gender roles, that didn’t make it any less important for women to be freed from their domestic cages, as well as the limitations created by law regarding property rights, divorce, employment, and personal freedom.
These Women of the Right would have us believe that the only solution to domestic instability is for women to cut out all this feminist nonsense and go back home – which can sound, to many, like a fine, easy, workable solution to a thorny social problem. The Right wishes they could also say that if blacks went back to second-class citizenship, we wouldn’t need all these Hispanics and Asians for menial work, but to their never-ending fury, they can’t say it. And of course, if gays just went back in the closet and shut the hell up, maybe this could be a decent, God-fearing country again. Yeah! Out with Jersey Shore, video games and the Internet, and back to Leave It To Beaver, Scrabble and stick ball! Why struggle with moving forward when it would be so much simpler to just move back?
Going back is both impossible and undesirable – regarding feminism, racism and homophobia. What is essential, however, is for the Left and the left-leaning but civically disengaged to become organized and creative in addressing the problems created by uncompleted social progress and counter the delusional Right with practical solutions and ongoing advancement.
Back in the `80s, I lived briefly with a man I adored, but the relationship didn’t work. During one of our rare serious conversations About Us, he said “I feel like there’s nothing I can do for you.” I didn’t appreciate the meaning and importance of that remark and really didn’t address it. I was wrong.
I don’t recall the feminism of my youth implying that women and men were the same, just that we were equal. But I do recall that we were so consumed with our own needs that we regarded consideration of men’s needs as somehow counter-revolutionary. We were wrong.
Clearly now is the time for everyone to consider everyone else’s needs and create a new kind of culture that will allow for the development of new kinds of families. New strategies. New compromises. More forthright communication on everybody’s part. And soon. Before the New Right destroys the good we’ve done and makes it impossible for us to do more.