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My torrid affair with feminism

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I have a confession to make.

I, Scott Wagner of the College Libertarians, am a feminist. Yes, it is true. In my intellectual pursuit of practical libertarian philosophy, in opposing oppression and coercion in its myriad forms, I have developed quite the infatuation with the female liberation movement. Indeed, American feminist author Marilyn French said it best when, in her novel “The Women’s Room,” she proclaimed: “Whatever they may be in public life, whatever their relations with men, in their relations with women, all men are rapists and that’s all they are.”

Wait a moment. Perhaps I’ll take off my “boys are stupid, throw rocks at them” T-shirt for a second and ponder that quotation. I mean, such misandry seems somewhat counterproductive to the primary goal of feminism: equality.

So as Susan Brownmiller, author and historian, said: “[Rape] is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.”

Okay, now I am confused. Or how about former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan: “I believe that women have a capacity for understanding and compassion which a man structurally does not have, does not have it because he cannot have it. He’s just incapable of it.”

Maybe my point has been made. Feminism has, in many ways, correctly or incorrectly become synonymous with misandry; I vividly remember hearing Rush Limbaugh on my grandparents’ radio ranting about the “feminazis.” Ideas of “lesbian separatism” and “testosterone poisoning” are aspects of an intellectual field that has, in many ways, lost sight of its own importance. Instead of building support, much of feminist theory isolates it from the mainstream. Even “moderate” feminism, such as that espoused by the National Organization for Women, is anything but moderate. All of it is slanting left (unnecessarily, in my opinion) to some degree.

Radical feminism emerged in the late 1960s. In many ways, not merely politically, it still shares a fundamental mentality with Marxism: oppressor vs. oppressed, us vs. them. Many feminists associated the existence of Western patriarchy with class division, and Marxism became fairly popular within many radical feminist circles. Much of feminist ideology is concomitant with left-wing principles of economic redistribution, centralized state power and pseudo-egalitarianism.

Despite what you may be thinking, however, I stand by my first two sentences. In using the term “feminist” to describe myself, I also choose to reject the socialist sentiments that gave birth to much of today’s contemporary feminism.

The important question now becomes: is it even possible to disassociate feminism from the left?

In fact, it is. A newly energized movement within feminism is gaining popularity; it does not build itself around a collective, sexual identity that fosters “gender war.” It is termed (appropriately enough) “individualist feminism,” and its roots go back to the 19th century when many female abolitionists found themselves in an uncannily similar struggle against their own legalized repression. Why fight for the rights of slaves when, for all intents and purposes, you were still a slave yourself?

Wendy McElroy, editor of the website www.ifeminists.com, is a major force within the ifeminist movement. She defines ifeminism in the following way: “The 21st-century feminist is anyone – female or male – who rejects gender privilege and demands real equality for men and women under the law. She makes her own choices and takes personal responsibility for them.” McElroy identifies at least three major goals of ifeminism: 1) The removal of all laws that distinguish between men and women; 2) defense of all lifestyle choices, whether they be to “stay at home” or run a multinational corporation; and 3) inclusion of males in all aspects of feminist discourse. To quote the ifeminists’ website: “It is folly to ‘solve’ a human problem without consulting and co-operating with one-half of the species.”

Those of you who are in the least bit acquainted with libertarianism may find the idea of ifeminism somewhat dubious. The fact is, ifeminism – at its core – is libertarianism, though specifically focused on the “role” women have within it. But like I said, if you are already familiar with libertarianism, you know that the philosophy makes absolutely no legal or political distinction between men and women. So the female “role” in society is, elementally, the same as the male: make your own choices, deal with the consequences and harm no one.

There is no “damaged chromosome” theory. There is no massive “anarcha-commune” necessary, nor a reevaluation of gender roles on a civilization-wide scale. Instead, there is the simple notion that men and women are equal, and justice must be “gender-blind.” It does not get any simpler than that, or more beautiful.

So that, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of my love affair with feminism. Have a happy V-Day today, whatever that may mean to you.

Scott Wagner is the president of the College Libertarians, which is the coolest club on campus. He can be contacted at swagner1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.