NCR Blog: Why I Am Not a Feminist: When Conventional Wisdom Isn’t Wise
By Carrie Gress, Ph.D.
It has been a busy week for feminists. Glamour Magazine is celebrating ersatz womanhood by knighting Caitlyn Jenner as Woman of the Year and Gloria Steinem is out promoting her new book at all the familiar places: NPR, The Boston Globe, and Cosmopolitan (too awful to link). She talks everything from gender to politics to travel and a few winsome memories of her abortion.
Sadly, at the heart of Gloria’s ideology is the basic idea that women must be just like men -- and men like women. Equality can only be gained when what men and women do is interchangeable. “Until men are raising children as much as women are, women won't be able to be equal in the work place,” she explains to the gals over at Cosmo. The 81-year old Steinem, who famously said, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle,” hasn’t changed her playground girls-against-boys tone in the fifty years of activism, just turned up the rhetoric.
Every woman today is supposed to be a feminist. If you are not, you either do not have a mind of your own or the mind you have isn’t nimble enough to understand why you should be one. As I see it, being dubbed an idiot by my feminist elders is preferable than adopting the Gloria Steinem way of thinking. There are a myriad of reasons. First among them is the simple fact that the decades-old conventional wisdom of feminist ideology isn’t panning out so well. Here’s a short list of items that were touted to be the bees-knees for all woman who wanted to be happy, empowered, successful and free:
The Pill – currently categorized as a class 1 carcinogen, right up there with smoking and asbestos, by the World Health Organization.
Abortion – looks like the breast cancer link is getting harder and harder to deny.
Nursing – oddly, as everyone was getting-back-to-nature sexually in the 60s, formula was introduced as the best thing to happen since sliced bread. And while there are always reasons to use formula, it turns out that old-fashioned breast milk is still really better for baby.
Pregnancy – while feminism approach has been to avoid, delay and/or terminate it, studies show it is actually better to not only to have children, but to start having them early.
This short list could be much longer (data from divorce, day-care, dieting could all be added), but what I find most troubling about feminists is their reason (or lack there of).
Doesn’t it seem a bit ironic that the movement still calls itself feminism? There isn’t a single thing about it that is feminine. Isn’t the whole goal gender neutrality. Why not neutralism or even femalism and leave femininity out of it? Lena Dunham seems to be the most contemporary example of the feminist creed. Few would accuse her or the Girls lifestyle of being remotely feminine. They look a lot more like the worst of masculinity - self-absorbed, promiscuous, tossing others aside when no longer useful. Hardly a recipe for women's happiness.
Next, Steinem repeats how urgently feminism is needed because there are fewer women than men on the planet. She has a long list of reasons why that could be – but she leaves out the most significant, especially in China and India – sex selection abortions. But somehow, because a baby is under the skin of a woman, the octogenarian argues awkwardly, this tiny tidbit of data didn’t make to the table. Again, isn’t this something of a disconnect? A female is a female unless she is under female skin and then she isn’t, thus allowing her to be disposed of at will?
Finally, Feminism requires the suspension of logic by insisting that what is true is not, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Promoters of it must deny that women are different than men – ignoring hips, wombs, breasts, elbows. And with this kind of thinking, it then suddenly is logical to make a man in a dress the woman of the year.
The sad reality is that a large segment of American women believe that feminism is the only gig in town that promotes women. It’s the 1960s left-over that simply gets a make-over by some adoring fans in the liberal press – this week fawning was over the brash, roguish, and boundary-breaking Steinem -- and suddenly, it looks hip again – instead of just tragic and intellectually bankrupt.
As for Catholic feminism, many adherents reject Steinem's genderless ideal. These difference feminists recognize the fundamental uniqueness of men and women, while still acknowledging equality among the sexes. Its an important argument to make, but difficult in the context of what modern feminism has come to mean. Feminism as a brand is now so tainted, we might be better served by finding new language altogether (if you really want to see brand-taint, read the Cosmo article). In the meantime, Catholic women need to find better ways to spread the ancient but beautiful teachings of the Church that honors both our dignity and our uniqueness. The Church has been saying this longer than anyone -- just not louder or better -- which is now our job.