“Now it’s feminism from which women need liberating”

Joanna Williams at The American Conservative – Fourth Wave Feminism: Why No One Escapes

Today’s outsized Femocracy is more desperate and (self) destructive than its successful progenitors.

Feminism, in its second wave, women’s liberation movement guise, has passed its first half century. And what a success it has been! Betty Friedan’s frustrated housewife, bored with plumping pillows and making peanut butter sandwiches, is now a rarity. We might still be waiting for the first female president, but women—specifically feminists—are now in positions of power across the whole of society.

Yet feminism shows no sign of taking early retirement and bowing out, job done. Instead, it continues to reinvent itself. #MeToo is the cause du jour of fourth-wave feminism but, disturbingly, it seems to be taking us further from liberation and pushing us towards an increasingly illiberal and authoritarian future. It’s time to take stock.

There have been major successes.

Over the past five decades, women have taken public life by storm. When it comes to education, employment, and pay, women are not just doing better than ever before—they are often doing better than men too. For over a quarter of a century, girls have outperformed boys at school. Over 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees are awarded to women.

More women than men continue to graduate school and more doctorates are awarded to women. And their successes don’t stop when they leave education behind. Since the 1970s, there has been a marked increase in the number of women in employment and many are taking managerial and professional positions. Women now comprise just over half of those employed in management, professional, and related occupations.

Women aren’t just working more, they are being paid more.

I don’t think we are at ‘equality’ yet, but there have been major moves towards it and trends generally look positive.

But this is not just about the lives of women: it is feminism as an ideology that has been incredibly successful. For over four decades, feminist theory has shaped people’s lives. Making sense of the world through the prism of gender and seeking to root out sexual inequality is now the driving force behind much that goes on in the public sphere.

But there are growing controversies.

Not surprisingly, definitions of sexual harassment began to expand in the late 1970s. In education, the term came to encompass a “hostile environment” in which women felt uncomfortable because of their sex. By this measure, sexual harassment can occur unintentionally and with no specific target. Furthermore, a hostile environment might be created by students themselves irrespective of the actions of an institution’s staff. As a result, colleges became responsible for policing the sexual behavior of their students too.

Pressing forward under the Obama administration, sexual misconduct cases on campuses were tried under a preponderance of the evidence standard rather than a higher standard of clear and convincing evidence.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that women needed to be served better by police and justice systems, but basic tenets of justice should not be discarded.

Yet today, a feminist outlook now shapes policy, practice, and law at all levels of the government, as feminists seek to transform society through the state rather than by opposing it. Most recently this has taken form in the demand for affirmative consent, or “yes means yes,” to be the standard in rape cases. This places the onus on the accused to prove they had sought and obtained consent; in other words they must prove their innocence.

That’s a dangerous reversal in onus of proof.

The success of #MeToo is less about real justice than the common experience of suffering and validation. It is a perfect social media vehicle to drive the fourth-wave agenda into another generation.

In some ways #MeToo is an overdue campaign to address abuses by (a minority of) men, but it risks overreaching.

Problems with #MeToo are too rarely discussed. Violence and sexual assaults do occur, but these serious crimes are trivialized by being presented as on a continuum with the metaphorical abuse. The constant reiteration that women are victims and men are violent perpetrators does not, in itself, make it true. It pits men and women against each other and, in the process, infantilizes women and makes them fearful of the world.

In the meantime, demands for the punishment of bad behavior are inevitable. Male catcalling in the UK and France could soon be a criminal offense.

Harassment can obviously be a serious problem, but if subjective actions and relatively trivial interactions are demonised there are major risks of alternative injustices.

Fourth-wave feminism is increasingly authoritarian and illiberal, impacting speech and behavior for men and women. Campaigns around “rape culture” and #MeToo police women just as much as men, telling them how to talk about these issues. When The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood had the effrontery to advocate for due process for men accused of sex crimes, her normally adoring feminist fans turned on her. She referred to it in a Globe and Mail essay in January entitled “Am I a Bad Feminist?”

“In times of extremes, extremists win,” she wrote. “Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated.”

The fact is, men are publicly shamed every day, their livelihoods and reputations teetering on destruction, before they even enter a courtroom.

This is a growing issue – but should not be confused with legitimate and justifiable outrage over despicable behaviour and actions.

Frankly, it is disastrous for young women to be taught to see themselves as disadvantaged and vulnerable in a way that bears no relationship to reality. Whereas a previous generation of feminists fought against chaperones and curfews, today’s #MeToo movement rehabilitates the argument that women need to be better protected from rapacious men, or need “safe spaces.”

Some of it has moved to much towards playing the victim hood card.

When second-wave feminism burst onto the scene more than 50 years ago it was known as the women’s liberation movement. It celebrated equality and powerfully proclaimed that women were capable of doing everything men did.

Today, this spirit of liberation has been exchanged for an increasingly authoritarian and illiberal victim feminism. With every victory, feminism needs to reassert increasingly spurious claims that women are oppressed. For women and men to be free today, we need to bring back the spirit of the women’s liberation movement.

Only now it’s feminism from which women need liberating.

Just from extreme forms of feminism.

Women’s liberation was and can be also liberating for many men. It is important that one for of authoritarianism isn’t replaced with another.





  1. David

     /  September 12, 2018

    Not sure why you dont think we have reached equality and if its because a tiny minority of men behave terribly then equality is an impossible goal. We dont say women will never be adequate as mothers because the odd woman is abusive to her children.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  September 12, 2018

      Given that assault on a female is still a seperate offence, that the children generally go to the mother, that if a woman is violent to her partner, HE is taken away and not let back in, I can’t see that we are badly served by the law.

  2. David

     /  September 12, 2018

    Listened to a Ben Shapiro podcast yesterday with Christina Hoff Sommers which was an interesting take on where feminism is going wrong.

    • Gezza

       /  September 12, 2018

      Do you got a link, as they say in your favourite country?

      • David

         /  September 12, 2018

        His website is dailywire.com and it was his Sunday special, I use Castbox which is an app for podcasts and he has a 50 minute podcast each morning. You might enjoy him Gezza, he smacks Trump around a lot as well as others but in a very entertaining way, he is extremely smart and well read. He is an orthodox Jew but doesnt often cover the middle east and he is very very socially conservative. I just have him on when I am off to the gym each morning.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  September 12, 2018

    The infantalising of teenagers by the law that started with feminism is now biting back on women too. Some disgusting conduct by teenage boys against their female caregiver/teachers is happening not because their brains are immature but because they have been given legal immunity and arbitrarily and wrongly treated as victims. This has to be reversed.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  September 12, 2018

      Some boys filmed up a young teacher’s skirt and she was considered by rape prevention to have been the victim of sexual assault/violence. Unless she had a very short skirt on, they wouldn’t have seen much. I don’t blame her for being angry and upset, but to equate this with rape is a slap in the face for rape victims.

      One of RP’s videos showed a girl going to a party, ready to have sex with the boyfriend, pretty undies on for his benefit. As they are heading upstairs, she changes her mind but says nothing and he doesn’t know so goes ahead….is this rape, was the question. Yes, was the answer, because although the girl said and did nothing to show this, she didn’t want to do it.

  4. Gezza

     /  September 12, 2018

    Dunno if you should be platforming this woman, PG.

    Seems CIS-gender-female-normal to me. Obviously an anti-feminist. Probably anti-lesbian too, in that case.

    She doesn’t say a single nice, supportive, caring thing about transgenders, or androgynous, or gender-fluid people, or even anyone with plain, ordinary, common-or-garden weird, painful, or just generally frowned-on sexual proclivities – or people who never want to have sex, or people who are revolted by business suits and watches and want to dress asexually or walk around with birds nests in their beards or whatever.

    Hasn’t used any of the apparently 75 available self-described gender-fluid pronouns at all.

    Sounds like she could be a total bigot? o_O

    • Trevors_elbow

       /  September 12, 2018

      Ooooohhhh sarkie this am Gezza….

      • Gezza

         /  September 12, 2018

        Only briefly. Just testing whether the sarcasm nerve still functions. In case it’s needed.

  5. Kitty Catkin

     /  September 12, 2018

    Feminism as a word and meaning what it does now has been around for at least 150 years, it’s in an 1870s dictionary that I own.

    I have a book written in 1917 which has suffragettes saying much the same thing as some feminists are saying now…..

  1. “Now it’s feminism from which women need liberating” — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition