“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.

 

 

 

Comparing left wing and right wing authoritarianism

Authoritarianism and extreme tactics are not confined to the right or the left of politics.

From the British Journal of Political Science: Similarities and Differences Between Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals

Although some scholars have argued that authoritarianism is characteristic only of the right and not of the left, persuasive reasons exist for doubting this claim. Intuitive observation of left-wing and right-wing regimes as well as radical political movements of the left and right reveals striking parallels in their styles of political engagement, their reliance upon force, their disdain for democratic ideals and practices and their violations of civil liberties.

Political activists of any leaning tend to want to achieve their goals, and the more radical the political ideals the more radical the tactics are likely to be.

In the present article, through a series of surveys in which we have tried to idenify, as best we can, supporters of the far left and far right, we have systematically compared the two camps on a variety of political and psychological characteristics.

We find, in keeping with the conventional view, that the far left and the far right stand at opposite end of the familiar left–right continuum on many issues of public policy, political philosophy and personal belief.

They hold sharply contrasting views on questions of law and order, foreign policy, social welfare, economic equality, racial equality, women’s rights, sexual freedom, patriotism, social conventions, religion, family values and orientations towards business, labour and private enterprise.

That’s not surprising at all.

Both view American society as dominated by conspiratorial forces that are working to defeat their respective ideological aims.

Failure to get popular support has to be blamed on something other than themselves.

The degree of their alienation is intensified by the zealous and unyielding manner in which they hold their beliefs. Both camps possess an inflexible psychological and political style characterized by the tendency to view social and political affairs in crude, unambiguous and stereotypical terms.

They see political life as a conflict between ‘us’ and ‘them’, a struggle between good and evil played out on a battleground where compromise amounts to capitulation and the goal is total victory.

We see examples of this lack of compromise in New Zealand, notably with Green supporters (and some MPs), which is quite ironic given their stated democratic ideals.

The far left and the far right also resemble each other in the way they pursue their political goals. Both are disposed to censor their opponents, to deal harshly with enemies, to sacrifice the well-being even of the innocent in order to serve a ‘higher purpose’, and to use cruel tactics if necessary to ‘persuade’ society of the wisdom of their objectives.

Censoring opponents is a topical issue here with the Molyneux/Southern controversy.

Both tend to support (or oppose) civil liberties in a highly partisan and self-serving fashion, supporting freedom for themselves and for the groups and causes they favour while seeking to withhold it from enemies and advocates of causes they dislike.

I’ve seen quite a bit of that here in new Zealand lately.

When the two camps are evaluated on questions of political and psychological style, the treatment of political opponents, and the tactics that they are willing to employ to achieve their ends, the display many parallels that can rightly be labelled authoritarian.

I think that the more left wing, or right wing, a group of political activists is the more likely they are to want to suppress criticism, and more likely to want to impose their ideals on others, even to the extent of ignoring their own ideals (or making excuses for suspending them) to achieve what they think is right.

If these groups get into positions of power then some degree of authoritarianism is likely. We already grapple with it to an extent.

We have groups who want to ban tobacco, van cannabis, ban meat, ban sugar, ban selective religions, ban selective immigration, ban fossil fuels, ban plastic, ban choice on abortion, ban choice on euthanasia, and ban people from speaking who they disagree with.

The source is an extract of an Oxford Press publication in 2009.