Feminism’s Choke Point

Rosie the Riveter was created by a man.

That’s not all. The model and real-life inspiration for “We Can Do It!”, Geraldine Hoff Doyle, was faithfully married for 66 years till her husband’s death. She was also mother to six children, grandmother to eighteen grandchildren, and great-grandmother to twenty-five great-grandchildren.

Who introduced this brave young woman to such nontraditional work as the wartime factory, only to return her to the debasing position of wife and mother? The patriarchy, it seems, lurks where we least expect it. Even in our beloved iconography.

Rather, in a society that currently attempts to tolerate all things in all people, feminism seems to have finally reached a bottleneck. Originally seeking tolerance for women in their plight, it was later disposed to tolerating the views of no one but women, and finally, no one but its own strictest ideological adherents.

Thus by the force of its own ire, and empowered by memories of the good it once did, feminism can wriggle around a bit more. But stuck it may be.

According to polls, routinely less than one-fifth of Americans self-identify as “feminist,” even though a vast majority agree that the sexes should be social, political, legal, and economic equals, as well as with a list of “feminist” issues. Christina Hoff Sommers explained this seeming paradox by describing two types of feminism that have emerged from history.

The first type, called equity feminism, is based on Enlightenment principles and opposes sex discrimination. It saw the “first wave” through to the achievement of property and voting rights for women in the early 1900s, and initiated the “second wave,” which helped outlaw workplace and wage discrimination in the 1960s.

The second type, called gender feminism, is based on Marxist social principles and advances such un-falsifiable hypotheses as “the patriarchy” and “rape culture.” It is described as the “third wave” of feminism originating in the 1970s, although with the millennial generation it has arguably taken on a life of its own. To be specific, its ideas have intellectually stagnated in university environments, virtually unchallenged and even catered-to in the interest of a subculture of political correctness — which includes such phenomena as “microaggressions,” “safe spaces,” and “trigger warnings.”

The latter variety is what “feminism” has come to mean, no matter with what good intentions one invokes the era of Susan B. Anthony. As a result, average people identify with the ideals of equity feminism while they reject the label “feminist” based on the reputation of gender feminism.

While it would be most appropriate at this point for feminists to diagnose a branding issue on the movement’s part, they have instead turned the screw even tighter by claiming that regular people (on whom feminism’s very survival depends) simply “don’t get feminism.” But again, one might see why.

To be fair, it has not just remained popular but become a matter of government policy to get more women into fields in which they are “underrepresented.” Unfortunately, this goal accounts for no significant effect of biological inclination on the priorities and career decisions that men and women generally form.

The danger here is that pushing women into roles in which they may not actually be interested or comfortable, while undermining the roles that they traditionally take, is likely to produce much cognitive dissonance among the female population. (And according to the intellectual left, to which many proud feminists subscribe, cognitive dissonance is the primary cause of society’s ills — although that point is usually made only as it concerns the practice of religion.)

To this and a similar host of concerns, some feminists resort to astonishment at the idea that men, having mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters of their own, could ever wish oppression upon their loved ones by not siding with feminism. And indeed, when I encounter so unbelievable a cause-and-effect, I tend to disbelieve it — not assume the worst.

But, what is more important, feminists are hastily ensuring that generations of mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters will continue to find feminism as disagreeable as the rest of us do, and inspire their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers to feel the same.

Relationships are important, after all. Especially in a tight spot.