Don't get me wrong. Women's liberation is a good thing. Women deserve equal pay for equal work, equal opportunity and equal responsibility. I am a strong supporter of women's liberation.
But feminism is not the same as women's liberation.
I am going to engage in a couple of broad, sweeping generalizations here. These tend to be more true than they are false, but there are always exceptions. Women tend to be relational, feeling & nurturing. Men tend to be action oriented, visually stimulated and challenging. What do I mean? Women talk, men do. Mothers care, fathers push. Chick flicks, action movies. I could go on.
The fundamental problem with Feminism is that is isn't about women at all. Webster's says that the definition of Islamism is
a popular reform movement advocating the reordering of government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam.(For our purposes here, I will not comment on how popular I think it actually is and will stipulate to the definition.) Taking this as a corollary, once could argue that feminism ought, then, to be a reordering of society in accordance with the needs, interests or rights of women. Which, it would seem to me would be the logical end of the second Webster's definition of feminism:
organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests.The problem is, that is not how it has played out. Instead, Webster's first definition is what has transpired. That definition is
the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexesWhat is wrong with this? In attempting to achieve social equality, women have allowed the male stereotype to set the agenda. Rather than bring what might be called women's values to the table, women have adopted men's values and elbowed their way into a marginally functional old boy's club.
There is no place where this is clearer than in the expressions of sexuality. Again with the sweeping generalizations: women crave relationships; men crave sex. In the best of all possible worlds, both would get what they want, because the traditional delivery system for both of these things long term was marriage, and while it was imperfect, it had a near monopoly on the delivery of sex and there was strong social pressure to keep it that way.
If the pundits are correct, one of the places that this monopoly has broken down almost completely is the college campus. There was a great article by Danielle Crittendon in the WSJ a couple weeks back. It describes a book, Unprotected, by an anonymous campus physician that describes the medical and emotional consequences of a sexual-boundary-free campus on women.
[T]he danger of sexually transmitted diseases is too often overlooked in the lifestyle choices of the young women ... But the dangers go far beyond the biological. A girl named Heather, for instance, has succumbed to an intense bout of depression. The doctor presses her to think of possible causes. She can't think of anything. Then she says: "Well, I can think of one thing: since Thanksgiving, I've had a 'friend with benefits.' And actually I'm kind of confused about that."When looking for this article again after a re-boot, I came across the blog Et tu, Jen. She writes:
Heather continues: "I want to spend more time with him, and do stuff like go shopping or see a movie. That would make it a friendship for me. But he says no, because if we do those things, then in his opinion we'd have a relationship--and that's more than he wants. And I'm confused, because it seems like I don't get the 'friend' part, but he still gets the 'benefits.'" It finally dawns on her: "I'm really unhappy about that. It's hard to be with him and then go home and be alone."
Heather is not an unrepresentative case. The author meets patients who cannot sleep, who mutilate themselves, who exhibit every symptom of psychic distress. Often they don't even know why they feel the way they do. As these girls see it, they are acting like sensible, responsible adults: They practice "safe sex" and limit their partners to a mere two or three per year.
They are following the best advice that modern psychology can offer. They are enjoying their sexual freedom, experimenting, discovering themselves. They can't understand what might be wrong. And yet something is wrong. As the author observes, surveys have found that "sexually active teenage girls were more than three times as likely to be depressed, and nearly three times as likely to have had a suicide attempt, than girls who were not sexually active."
And should all this joyous experimentation end in externally verifiable effects--should girls find themselves afflicted with a disease or an unwanted pregnancy--then (and only then) do their campus "women's health" departments go to work for them. They will book the abortion, hand out a condom or prescribe a course of antibiotic treatment. And then they will pat their young patients on the shoulder and send them back into the world, without an admonishing word about the conduct that got them into trouble in the first place.
"Look at how different health decisions are valued," the author advises. "When Stacey avoids fatty foods she is being health conscious. . . . When she stays away from alcohol, she is being responsible and resisting her impulses. For all these she is endorsed for keeping long-term goals in mind instead of giving in to peer pressure and immediate gratification. But if she makes a conscious decision to delay sexual activity, she's simply 'not sexually active'--given no praise or endorsement."
I was in my early 20's at the height of the Sex and the City craze and saw this sort of thing play out over and over again: girl meets guy she doesn't know very well --> girl sleeps with guy she doesn't know very well --> girl tells herself and everyone else that she's totally cool with this --> girl is actually conflicted and unhappy about it.She is right on point. And while I believe that a drive for no-strings-attached sex is, for men, a consequence of physiology, it is not good for us. We need relationship as well. Genesis 2:18 describes this necessity well.
Having a lot of female friends and hearing the intimate details of their lives actually convinced me early on, even before I had any sort of belief in God, that we'd been sold a bill of goods on this whole so-called sexual freedom thing. Whether it's just evolution or something given to us by God or both, for whatever reason, it's just not good for women's mental health to have no-strings-attached sex. (Not that it's good for men either, of course, but it seems to be disproportionately detrimental to women.)
As for Sex and the City being the model for the lifestyle of the modern single woman, it isn't. It is a show based on the lifestyle of gay men.
Even Marge Simpson has recognised the secret to Sex and the City. "That's the show about four women acting like gay guys," she said in a recent episode of The Simpsons. She's always been a thinker, that Marge.(As a corollary to this, and to expose yet another lie, the supposedly sweet romantic relationship between the gay shepherds in Brokeback Mountain [sorry, I missed the movie] is actually based on a short story by a woman. Brokeback Mountain is what a woman thinks gay men should act like, just as SATC is about what some gay men think women should act like. Does anyone else see a deception going on here?)
Author Camille Paglia recently said the series was a victory for "the huge wing of us pro-sex feminists" over the "1980s anti-porn, anti-sex wing of feminists". Some see Carrie, the New York columnist, as a feminist icon for her candid struggles with uncaring, uncommitted males. Others see Samantha as the real statement about women enjoying sex as much as men once they detach from emotion.
But let's go back a few steps.
Dipping into the series over the years, I was always reminded of an old American theory about writing comedy - you write black and cast white. In other words, you add style and cool to your white characters by writing as though they were black. A variation is writing Jewish and casting gentile to add personality and humour.
For Sex and the City, it seemed the formula was to write gay male and cast straight female. Its (gay) creator, Darren Star, devised one of the gayest hit series featuring straight characters in television history. The lives of the glamorous central characters - and apologies here to gay readers who dislike the stereotyping as much as anyone - revolve around sex, shopping, gossip and bawdy humour. As City Journal has noted, the show is a Yellow Pages of Manhattan's status fashion objects, including Prada skirts, DKNY jeans and shoes by Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo. "The heroines lust after these pricey and au courant accoutrements of success ... They size up men with a similarly calculating eye for surfaces."
So, back to my original point: feminism has not been about women at all, except in its demand that women act like men. Women's liberation = good. Feminism = bad for women, good for horny college guys. Egged on by radical feminists (like Camille Paglia, quoted above) women like Heather (also noted above) have exchanged relational intimacy for, in some cases literally, a pig an' a poke.
Feminists call this a victory for women.
I call it surrender. And society is worse off for it.