QED

Skirting the Matter of Feminism’s Culpability

One of the most obvious massage-the-ego ad campaigns of recent memory is L’Oréal’s slogan ‘Because you’re worth it’. Its message is that women should pursue their dreams, which, of course, is a platitude, but the underlying philosophy is one of female entitlement. If you don’t believe this to be true, imagine the reaction by feminists to a slogan with the same premise directed at men. I was reminded of the ad when I read the feminist philosopher Kathleen Stock’s excellent, if uneven, demolition of the logic of transgenderism in Unherd magazine. At the heart of her much-needed essay, though, is a lacunae the size of the Grand Canyon, which, true to feminist form, shifts to men and misogyny the blame for the epistemological collapse occurring in liberal democracies while ignoring the real culprit, feminism. To give an example of this trend, we have recently witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of a likely American Supreme Court judge declining to inform a US Senate confirmation hearing what a woman is, this refusal based on the fact that she is “not a biologist”.

The lacunae, to put it in simple terms, is that feminists can’t view anything without seeing their own reflection looking back at them. It’s all about them, even when the issue in contention is something that affects the despised male half of the population as much as it affects women. A new metaphysical understanding of the world, though, based on irrational postmodern philosophy, is not gender specific. If our understanding of the world changes, men, as well as women, are affected.

The most serious issue, however, is that feminists are reluctant to admit it was feminism which weaponised postmodernism and launched the irrationalism that underpins the crisis engulfing our institutions. And it was feminism’s ‘sisterhood’ concept which stopped traditional feminists of every stripe from calling out the anti-reason and anti-science madness when it first became fashionable in academia. It is admirable that feminists are finally addressing the ‘gendered social constructivist’ philosophy that is the main driver of the current madness, but it is intellectually and morally dishonest to pretend they are not responsible for the crisis. Ideas, to be clear, have consequences and irrational ideas have negative consequences, even feminist ones, which have unfortunately become the shibboleths of the twenty-first century.

Marx famously said that ‘history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce’. Much of modern feminist history can be summed up in Marx’s pithy insight. Feminism’s rise began in the shadow of the Age of Reason and its anti-rational philosophy can be viewed as the sign of a culture in decline. Feminism can also, moreover, be understood as a warning of the danger of good intentions when denied the counterweight of intellectual rigour. We now have a generation of entitled young people, to give an example of feminist pedagogy, with no concept that their dogmatic opinions are — ironically, considering feminism’s embrace of Derrida’s philosophy — binary adolescent nonsense. The epitome of black-and-white thinking, in other words.

Feminism is both the cause and the effect of this situation. What began as the belief women are entitled to the same rights as men transmogrified into a rejection of reason, common sense and tradition, without qualification, across our institutions.

How did this happen? The answer is simple: it’s the politics of envy, what Nietzsche called ressentiment. Because men have traditionally been the creators of art, science, engineering, philosophy (pick any field of human endeavour), feminists latched on to the one philosophy that rejected every form of human accomplishment, postmodernism, in an intellectually dishonest attempt to create a female intellectual tradition.

Explaining why females were stymied throughout history because of biology, childbearing and being physically weaker than men, and how things will be different in the future, was not enough for feminists. They had to rewrite the past as a patriarchal conspiracy against women, and what better way to accomplish this agenda than to use the illogical philosophies of Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard, etc., whose ideas can be crudely summed up in one all-encompassing idea: there is no such thing as truth or, at best, truth is relative. What feminists did with the philosophy, however, was to disingenuously reject truths they didn’t like and substitute feminist ideology as a new metaphysics. It was politics masquerading as philosophical principle. When feminist domination of third-level education became absolute, the ideology was channelled through academia, first in the humanities and social sciences, and then throughout the university system, to the point where we now  called upon to view even physics through a social justice lens.

To give two examples of irrational ideas from the feminist criticism of science and reason (they are legion), Luce Irigaray argued that E = MC2 is a ‘sexed equation’ and Sandra Harding called Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica ‘a rape manual’. The same approach, for example, inspires the feminist reading of art history. Because there are no female Michelangelos, Leonardo Da Vincis or Picassos, feminists claimed that quilts are as important to art, relatively speaking, as the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa and Guernica.

I give science and art as two examples of feminist ‘theory’, but every discipline has been framed by the same skew-eyed epistemological lens, distorted or destroyed. The irony is that feminists never saw that the same ‘logic’ would be applied to their ideas and that the notion of what a woman is, and what rights she is entitled to, would eventually, like nemesis on steroids, return to bite the progenitors of the theory and confuse the minds of a generation about the difference between biological sex and culturally derived gender.

How, you ask, have feminists tried to divert attention from their responsibility for the current malaise after a 40-year campaign to control third-level education, thus the minds of teachers and their students and hence of society? Again the answer is simple. By diverting attention from the philosophy and claiming that women are disproportionately, unlike men, affected by transgenderism and also by falling back on the old reliable — that everything is ‘misogyny’. These ideas, though, to put this in perspective, are partial truths.

There are two reasons why ‘male spaces’ are not under threat the way women’s spaces are. The first is biology. Men’s upper body strength is 40 to 60 per cent higher than female upper body strength. No matter how many push-ups a transman (a woman who identifies as a man) like Elliot Page does, the threat to men in changing rooms, toilets, and prisons from transmen (or women competing in male sports) is minimal. The opposite is true for women. Transwomen (men who identify as female) retain their upper body strength and are a physical threat to women in female spaces. Men, of course, are also responsible for most rapes and sexual assaults, so caution and prudence rather than idealised compassion are common sense.

The second reason is one that Kathleen Stock, Helen Joyce and other transgender critical feminists skirt, which is that many female rights are privileges granted to women that are not granted to men. Men can’t abstain from something they were never given. And they can’t be held responsible because female privileges are under attack by the trans movement. It’s not misogyny; it’s reality. Men don’t need the privileges afforded to women because female rights and privileges are based on the imbalance in physical strength between men and women. Women also give birth and menstruate, which are added burdens. You can’t argue for privileges, justified privileges in my view, and then claim that only women are being treated badly around the issue of transgenderism because female rights are being eroded, and that it’s misogyny because men aren’t being treated the same way. It’s what Paula Wright has called, in another context, “the feminist two-step”: women are the same as men, but they need help because they’re not the same as men. Describing this as misogyny would mean that every imbalance in physical and intellectual difference between people is now a form of discrimination or hate speech.

Feminism, as Nietzsche said of all ideologies, looks at the world with a squint and sees what it wants to see, and it is incapable of comprehending the world in its full complexity because it’s impossible. Creating the world according to an idealised vision is always a disaster for individual dignity and human rights. We’re reaping the whirlwind of feminist empathy, compassion and ‘knowledges’, which is the postmodern rejection of reason. It’s not a pretty sight.

A quote from W. B. Yeats is apposite to explain the current moment.

That twenty centuries of stoney sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Feminists have only themselves to blame for the bizarre anti-rational world we’re inhabiting. It’s time for feminists to take responsibility for their actions. Feminist leadership, we’re constantly told, is more mature and empathetic than the ‘toxic masculinity’ of men. Prove it. Admit feminism was wrong to focus on anything other than equality before the law and equality of opportunity for women, then apologise and move on.

12 comments
  • padraic

    The cartoon says it all. This extreme feminism is blowing back in the faces of its supporters and practitioners.and largely lacks rationality (mansplaining??) The latest is quotas for artists exhibited at the National Gallery based on the “gender” concept. Assuming that as a minimum you have 3 categories of “genders” does that mean that there will be different exhibition rooms for paintings from each gender and only people of that gender can view paintings from the same gender? And what about purchasing art? Can those identifying as one gender purchase only art painted by the same gender? It’s total madness, if you take the process to its logical conclusion.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    There is no doubt that the output of women in history and even today has often been culturally sidelined and the reasons for that are many. It is also the case that much of that output may be less than impressive, again perhaps due to lack of independent opportunity, perhaps due to definitional context, or perhaps due to biological creative capacities and differences. So it is complex. To me, rectifying that is part of the rational process of rectifying obvious inequalities; to the extent that that reasonably can be done. That said, it is not done by quotas but by a fairness of vision, an examination and allocation of reward without noting gender at all, of any sort. And that applies to many aspects of achievement.

    For the rest of it, yes, I agree that feminism has over-reached itself, gone down some acutely silly philosophical pathways which produce a failure to recognise that equality has its limits. The main limit, as noted in this essay, is that we are not men. Our bodies function reproductively in ways quite dissimilar to the male; evolution has produced us just as it has produced the different bodies of men and our different bodies count for quite a lot within culture – motherhood is still precious to us. We also have slightly different brains – much commented on by male commedians and sometimes honesly and wryly by female commedians. Comedy is rather close to tragedy and as humans of two sexes living together and needing each other, we have now to steer our way through, removing feminism from its wrong path.

  • Alice Thermopolis

    DM: “How did this happen? The answer is simple: it’s the politics of envy, what Nietzsche called ressentiment.”
    Agreed. As Nietzsche wrote in Die Frohliche Wissenschaft (1882), “One thing is needful: that a human being attain satisfaction with himself [herself]….only then is a human being at all tolerable to behold. Whoever is dissatisfied with himself [herself] therefore is always ready to revenge himself [herself]; we others will be his [her] victims….”
    Freud, controversially, called it something else in Lecture 33 of his New Introductory Lectures (1933) and it wasn’t physical education:”The infantile factor sets the pattern in all cases” but it does not always determine the issue.”

  • Michael

    In addition, feminists were central to the change in terminology and thinking from sex to gender. They did so in order to neutralise arguments for different roles or outcomes based on biology, evolution etc. Consequently, they have pushed the line that if you explain outcome differences between the sexes by anything other than patriarchy, misogyny, etc, that is, by definition, sexism.

    Let me also add that the reason men don’t have as much of an issue with transmen (women who think they are men) is that the men expect to take on all comers and are used to it. The men’s competition is the open competition. It’s just that women would not qualify, for example, for almost any Olympic event unless they competed in a protected, women-only category. And that’s why transwomen competing in women’s sport is an issue. If it’s allowed to continue, pretty soon there will be no born-female winners. Pretty soon after that, there will be no born-female competitors. Women athletes should immediately go on strike and refuse to compete in competitions with transwomen.

  • tommbell

    “Receptionist: How do you write women so well?
    Melvin Udall: I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.”

    ― Melvin Udall played by Jack Nicholson in AS GOOD AS IT GETS.

  • 27hugo27

    Many thanks for this article Mr Mansfield ! For years, to anyone who would listen , I have opined that feminism is largely responsible for most of what ails the west . They have sided with every movement and protest group for 5 decades and counting , reaching peak shrillness and insanity this millenium . As long as the “Patriarchy” existed ,no matter how benign , it had to be destroyed. That millions of female (and male) students have been completely brainwashed by this toxic ideology cannot be disputed as the hegemony of ALL education from day care to post graduation is palpable . While the difference between men and women can be debated (except physically) , to me , vindictiveness is far greater among women than men , and this trait , above most others is the most dangerous for society.It has made social media a total net negative for human relations , turned potential decent citizens into tattooed, face pierced solipsists and attention seekers , and seemingly every woman given a public platform , must , must represent the “Sisterhood” and whatever cause du jour . Grace Tame , anyone ? While they have made inroads into every male dominated field such as the armed forces, police force,Fire depts ,construction, roadworks, truckdriving , sport , professions (and good on them) they are never satisfied. The reverse is not so , as health industry (not doctors) , education , reception , local councils, HR depts, bureaucracies and most of public service are female dominant , and anyone noticing the changing nature of councils into nanny state busybodies intent on telling residents what to do , can just behold the female Mayors , councillors and the -on triple pay – women who drive around in council cars , in pairs , to harass ratepayers on a Sunday . Having said all that , My preferred PM , would be Janet Albrechtsen , with Judith Sloan as treasurer, and hefty portfolios for Peta Credlin, Jennifer Oriel , Caroline Overington , and Angela Shanahan . The only sane voices at “The Australian ” other that Chris Kenny .

  • 27hugo27

    Oh , BTW tommbell , love the Melvin Udall quote from “AGAIgs”! Nail , meet hammer.

  • Citizen Kane

    An excellent, much needed and brave article. As much as the reality of universal binary systems has been trampled by postmodernism the naturalists of the taoist tradition essentially had it right and neatly summarised with the symbolic manifestation of the yin/yang symbol. One can argue from a postmodernist perspective until the cows come home that there is no day & night, no light and dark matter / energy, no north pole or south pole ( although they do flip but remain polar opposite), no positive ions and no negative ions, no black and no white, no men and no women but of course you would be wrong now, wrong ten thousand years ago and wrong in ten thousand years from now. The only other observation I would add to the article is that the postmodernist school is fundamentally narcissistic and this is now manifestly evident in its preaching and that the influence of feminism is also largely responsible for the overbearing safetyism that has infected public life and has been and continues to be so prominent in the response to the largely benign head cold that is COVID.

  • 27hugo27

    Yes , CK I should have included the “Safetyism”aspect in my diatribe also. The creep into our lives , from the hideous Hi-viz clothing , to speed restrictions as low as 30kph , from bike helmets to swimming pool fences and councils forcing green ratings on new builds , the homebuilder footing the bills .All have a grain of merit to them , but are backed up with crippling fines from the ever increasing regulatory state , a bureaucrats dream where , to quote CS Lewis “Do so with the approval of their own conscience”. The plandemic has been the gift that keeps on giving for these types , who will never want it to end and are actively perpetuating it – Sixth jab , anyone ? I fear they have altered the psyche of a whole nation , indeed hemisphere when I see so many willingly masked up on the streets , and gleeful about more boosters to come . Went to a small concert Sunday- Slava and Sharon Grygorian (sublime !) and 90% of the audience were masked !Thankfully the musicians weren’t , but the sheeplike mentality of the crowd was dismaying .”We’re all in this together! ” I’m sure they’d say . Well , count me out . And your observations could have added more verses to the worst song ever written , “Imagine” !

  • pgang

    Eliazbeth, there is no doubt that the output of men in history and even today has often been culturally sidelined and the reasons for that are many.

  • whitelaughter

    Feminism cannot withstand the current madness because the madness is based on their lies, and they don’t want to because they’ve never cared about women.

    Caring about women is a male obsession.

  • guilfoyle

    I note that there is a sense by the true believers, exemplified by your response, Elizabeth, with all due respect, that feminism has perhaps gone down some, to quote, “acutely silly philosophical pathways”, but in your saying that, I venture to respond that the underlying causation has not been noted – that is, there are a vast number of women who truly believe that women have been oppressed by the patriarchal system and that it is necessary to achieve “equality” (whatever that means), through feminism. They also seem to believe (despite the evidence to the contrary), that feminism “has their back”, and that it is the sisterhood. In this, the dichotomy that feminism has never said a single word about the treatment of women under Islam, and that feminism denigrated women who stayed home to raise children, is not noted – it is rendered invisible – never commented upon, relegated to that uncomfortable place that politically incorrect statements by embarrassing relatives are sent to. There is a further silence by all regarding the recently-fashionable “right to a child” that we see championed by gay couples; the process remains enveloped in silence – there is no feminist expose of the fact that invariably the attaining their “right” to a child involves the insertion of semen into the body of a woman in a third-world country for money, as a result of which the purchaser gains possession, at the culmination of the pregnancy, of the product, the child. On any analysis, the mother (who is not called “mother” by any organisation facilitating the purchase), can only be described as an incubator – a role that is not seen as oppressive or demeaning of women? A process that is not cast as the exploitative and imperialist act of privileged western entitlement? In all of these instances, feminism is silent – a silence that reveals two things: First, feminism has, at its very core and as part of its innate structure, a philosophical inconsistency that must, of necessity, eventually result in the descent into exactly those silly philosophical pathways – because, if one looks hard and objectively into the history of feminism and its philosophical foundations, one finds that feminism is not about women at all. Any person who truly cared about women or “injustice” or “inequality” would be raising one’s voice in regard to these examples. The silence shows that it is a political movement directed to the ends that those people who resent others always gravitate to and is designed to use the cause of, (in this case), women, to further a political objective, not to further the situation of women. And secondly, in the fight to win hearts, minds and allegiance, feminism draws upon sentiments that would be agreed upon by everybody, but which are so amorphous, oleaginous and sweeping, that they are of completely different sentiments depending upon the subjective understanding of the person and the factual circumstances in that particular situation. That is, I am sure, Elizabeth, that you, and many intelligent and honest women are appalled by the sense of any “injustice” within our culture. However, it is not the existence of “injustice” – it is what constitutes “injustice” in any given situation – in using what can only be motherhood statements, the moral accusations can be endlessly applied to any given, changing situation – “Inequality”, “exclusion” “Diversity” “Inclusiveness” and of course, the endless name-calling of what is only bullying, of all the titles ending in “- phobia”. It is no accident that we see feminism in conjunction with trans rights/gay rights and that same sex marriage was suddenly rendered invisible five minutes after it was passed and “trans” rights was substituted.
    It was Hillaire Belloc who defined “heresy”, saying:
    “The denial of a scheme wholesale is not heresy and has not the creative power of a heresy. It is the essence of heresy that it leaves standing a great part of the structure which it attacks. …”
    Speaking of communism, he said: “We think of it only as a political or economic system and when we speak of communism our vocabulary does not suggest anything theological. But this is only because we have forgotten what the word theological means.

    Communism is as much a heresy as Manichaeism. It is the taking away from the moral scheme by which we have lived a particular part, the denial of that part and the attempt to replace it with an innovation. The Communist retains much of the Christian scheme of human equality, the right to live and so forth – he denies part of it only.”

    Interestingly, Mr Belloc next stated that: “The same is true of the attack on the indissolubility of marriage.
    No-one calls the mass of modern practice and affirmation upon divorce a heresy but a heresy it clearly is because its determining characteristic is the denial of the Christian doctrine of marriage and the substitution therefore of another doctrine, to wit, that marriage is but a contract and a terminable contract.”

    In considering the objectives and mode of attack of feminism, one can consider that the nature of the movement itself is one of division – it is characterised as a “fight”, a “War” and is justified by perceived notions of “inequality”, which, of its nature, is seen as bad. However, all the indices as particular factual composites are always changing, always adaptable to any given situation – and always justifying a war, a battle – except this time, the battle is between the two sexes – within the society itself. And it is no coincidence that it is at this moment in time that the attack on marriage and the family is at its most focussed – in same sex marriage, in feminist contempt for the family, for women who stay at home and for marriage itself and in the encouragement, both by feminist discourse and in the general culture, of a sense of entitlement that justifies women to completely abandon any sense of selflessness, sacrifice and focus on the “other”, in order to use those aspects of home-life and the mundanities of house-care as somehow oppressive of the woman, in an environment where the man is portrayed as escaping from any responsibility at all.
    One must bear in mind that we are seeing a massive attack on women that reaches into the very essence of what a woman is. We have female politicians and heads of public institutions, (including medical heads), who refuse to state publicly “what a woman is” because they know they will be targeted by a vicious group of activists who are seeking to impose their will and who will attack endlessly, to a degree that would be insane to any person, anyone who publicly counters or rebuts the imposition of their world-view. This is not a random group of people – entitled millennials, misguided academics – this is a powerful group who are using vicious attack and who have succeeded in making our public officers, politicians, heads of medical institutions, cower to the extent that they cannot say publicly what a woman is. This is obviously pathetic and ridiculous in the face of common sense and life experience and is, painfully, the worst example of the Emperor’s New Clothes, which, hitherto was always seen as a harmless children’s tale and not a factual history. However, more importantly, this is something that would never have been tolerated or countenanced in the bad old days of the patriarchy when men opened doors for women and were expected to marry those with whom they had sex. Anyone who says to themselves that, if the Nazis were in power, they would take the moral high ground, they would be in the Resistance and would be speaking publicly against the totalitarian regime and persecution of minorities had better look closely at themselves. We are in a society that is denigrating and denying womanhood to a degree that has never been countenanced in history and there is not only complete silence by the feminists, the denigration and denial of womanhood is furthered by them – successful women who have achieved professional success on the tail coats (excuse the sexist description), of feminism; in other words, successful women in public professions (professions they say are denied to women), who have achieved that success by reason of the cause of women. Yet they cannot say what a woman is – even when the very essence of a woman has been reduced to breasts, nail polish, outfits and shopping. The presence of men in women’s sports is the destination reached by the silly pathway – but it is a pathway that has been made possible by feminism. Feminism is about the destruction of the family – the hated institution which was seen as necessary for destruction by Marx, along with religion (Judeo-Christian), in the rebuilding of the socialist utopia. Feminism was never about elevating the woman in her essence of what a woman is – that is one of the dilemmas of those refusing to define what a woman is – it was about shaping the woman into the male version of success – it was about power. In chasing this design of women, the feminists have denigrated the female and cast her as a male – there is no Hollywood action movie now that doesn’t feature women hitting men and beating them up as if they were SAS operatives. There is such inherent conflict in the philosophical underpinning of feminism that, (besides pure fear of attack by the trans movement), those female politicians cannot say what a woman is. Feminism has cultivated a hatred in our culture for “femininity” and any of those aspects of the feminine that are mysterious, threatening and life-giving – aspects that are so intrinsically powerful and which are mystically connected to life-giving and nurturing – it is these characteristics of women that are despised and trampled on by feminism and we have arrived at a moment in our culture now where the wonderful, mysterious, mystical and uplifting feminine capacity of being able to carry a human being in the body and sustain life means that women are now called “birthing people” – reduced to incubators, (just like those women in the third world); The miracle of life which is biologically enabled by menstruation (by which women are now called “bleeders” and which is somehow attributed to some men, under the guise of hurting their feelings). Women now cannot even claim the hated “periods” as their own – and this is female advancement? Now, let us look back through all those histories written by feminist historians, and we see that the institution that achieved the uplifting of women is the institution most attacked by the feminists – the Christian faith, the authoritarian patriarchal Catholic Church. It was the cult of Mary that was single-handedly responsible for the raising of the status and which overcame the servitude and oppression of women under the pagan powers. It is quite interesting that the full-scale attack on women has come about at a time when our culture has embraced a (convenient) version of paganism, and in which the worship of self, (an idolatry), has become the predominant faith.

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