Firstly, it could be argued that there is a lot of good that came out of what is known as the first and second wave of feminism. Here are some things I perceive as good:
- The right to vote was the good step when it comes to changing the public perception of women into something more honorable.
- Departing the idea that women ought not play sports was also a good step.
- The idea that women should have equal pay is also a good thing.
- The idea that prostitutes are much more like slaves than willful sinners was another good step.
- The idea that pornography is inherently harmful to women was another good step.
- Even the deconstruction of many ‘gender roles’ were a good thing, because not just men like cars and football.
These things are common sense, and any rational person who respects women would believe them. However, I would argue that none of these things represent the modern notion of feminism in all its doctrine and connotations. This is precisely why I do not identify as a ‘feminist,’ despite the fact I am a supporter of women in the deepest and most spiritual sense.
That said, I’m going to lay out some of my more nuanced thoughts on the movement in attempt to analyze the happenings within it.
It is commonly said that “feminism” has become a dirty word. It is common because it is true. Feminism seems to have been hijacked by leftist radicals during the second wave, and they have continued to become the megaphone of the third wave. In other words, the doctrines of feminism are preached loudest by the most radical demographic, and it has shaped the entire spirit and image of feminism at large.
These were the women who intentionally shaved their heads, burned their bras, and preached about patriarchy and heterosexuality being inherently oppressive. These were the women who thought they should be able to have as much sex as possible, with as many people as possible, with no repercussions. Thus, abortion was redefined as a “woman’s reproductive right” instead of seeing it as the blatant murder of unborn children by means of advanced technology.
Antagonistic groups like FEMEN can’t help but consistently expose themselves in public, and/or grab statues by the crotch, because somehow that is progress (had a man exposed himself and grabbed the crotch of a female statue, he would have been arrested and institutionalized). Inflammatory groups like Pussy Riot try their best to violate Russian Orthodox Churches for completely unrelated political reasons, because somehow tormenting innocent people is progress.
This inclination to act like a wild beast can only be described as demonic, and when you call yourself a feminist, you unfortunately associate yourself with these radicals also calling themselves feminists (who are normalizing radicalism and influencing young people at a rapid rate).
This type of thing is precisely why so many people left the Republican Party in 2016. They did not want to be associated with the normalization of the radically racist alt-right movement. Is it any wonder why so many people are dropping the feminist label?
The Priority Police
One thing that fascinates me is how the feminist leaders treat conservative women. You would think that because conservative women are women, they would get some respect among feminists. However, such is not the case. I listened to an NPR program recently, and they had a few feminists being interviewed. One of the central questions was, “Is there any room for Republican women?” The most vocal of the three said that she could not align herself with anyone who is against a woman’s “reproductive rights” (notice the rhetoric). A conservative woman voiced her opinion as a call-in comment, talking about the progress women have made in establishing a public political/legal identity. Her comment was met with, “She’s not a feminist.”
Notice with me what’s happening here. You have the most vocal demographic of feminism not only defining terms for the rest of the movement, but defining and enforcing “priority.” In other words, if you agree with 14/15 teachings of feminism, but disagree with abortion, that one issue is a deal breaker. The feminist community will reject you simply because you do not prioritize issues in their order. This phenomenon is what I find most interesting about the current happenings of feminism.
The Role of Men
Many feminists often say men ought not talk about feminism, though there are so many conflicting interpretations of feminism that I can not with confidence say if such a statement is representative of feminist thought. Regardless, more often than not, a white male talking about feminism is ignored (even if they support the movement), and is immediately met with lamentations such as, “Oh God, here goes another white man talking about feminism,” spoken with a dramatic Tina Fey eye-roll.
Hostility toward the male perspective is typically due to the fact that men do not have a firsthand experience of the female perspective. However, such a perspective is like saying women ought not talk about the effects of pornography on men, simply because they do not have a firsthand experience of the effects of pornography on men. Do women not have the ability to observe their own relationships? Do women not have the ability to observe the relationships of their peers? In the same way, men can certainly have valid opinions of feminism that are filtered through tangible secondhand experiences with the women in their lives. I have a wife, a mother, a daughter, and multiple sisters. One does not need a firsthand experience of womanhood to be educated or qualified to contribute to the conversation, because secondhand experiences are also valid.
The Nature of Liberation
Has any oppressed party ever successfully achieved self-liberation? Such a concept seems so bizarre to me. An oppressed people are never freed by themselves, they are freed when an outside agent of power is persuaded. Nobody is getting any rights without successfully convincing the people in power to establish those rights. This is why the groups which intentionally try to silence the male voice are actually running counter to their own agenda.
Laws against slavery were not passed by black men. Black men may march, but at the end of the day, it is all in attempt to persuade the white men in power to adopt the message and change the laws (this is what makes riots so destructive for any message). In the same way, if women want to be lifted from oppression, they will need to convince men to preach such a message to other men.
Women would also do well to make a more concise message. Protesting everything is not how you get things done. People generally latch on to singular issues, which is precisely how the LGBT community became so successful in attaining their goals. If women want success, they should limit the variety of content they talk about, and protest one issue at a time.
As someone with a wife, a mother, and a daughter, I want a world where they can flourish. I’m so thankful for Orthodoxy, because we declare every week that Mary, the mother of God is, “More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim.” If anyone wants to know how women should be treated, they need only come to church.