Do ideologues use the name of feminism to further an agenda that does not have popular support? By ‘feminist’ I mean those who accept equality of opportunity and equality before the law, but who do not believe that women, except in particular circumstances, should have more rights than men. The greatest triumph of feminism has been to persuade everyone that feminism is about nothing more or less than the pursuit of equality between the sexes.
Whenever I’ve offered the slightest objection to feminist dogma, the response has always been the same. I’m asked, ‘Do you not believe in women’s rights?’, so I ask what ‘feminism’ means. The answer is always that feminism equals equality. When I ask, ‘Do you believe the feminist claim that ‘everything is socially constructed?’, including science, reason, logic, and, most notably in recent years, biology, a look of bafflement will usually cross my feminist interlocutor’s face. When I further ask, ‘Do you believe that, since the beginning of time, across all historical periods, among countless multifarious cultures in different geographic and climatic regions, there has existed a patriarchal system designed by men for the sole purpose of keeping women subservient?’ the same look of incredulity will flit across my friend’s face. When I point out that these notions are the foundation of nearly all modern feminism’s philosophy and that, to some extent, all feminists believe in a form of this anti-intellectual nonsense, my feminist friend will simply deny that feminists make these claims. The script and the reaction never vary.
Hardcore feminists don’t believe in equality between the sexes. This is proven by what extreme feminists do rather than by what they say, although the slogan ‘Kill All Men’ may have somewhat given the game away. So, I ask again, how many actual feminists exist who reject extreme feminist theory and who believe in simple equality? This distinction is vitally important.
To put this even more clearly, are there two mutually conflicting strands of feminism? One, the vanilla version known to the public, and the other a dogmatic, ideologically driven feminism which, if its policies were implemented, would have grave consequences for freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and liberal democracy. Have feminists, in other words, used a strategy of linguistic equivocation, saying one thing and meaning another, in a constant game to fool people into thinking that feminism is only about equal rights for women?
The pattern of feminist activism, to be clear, has always pointed in the same direction — that of female chauvinism — and is based on a simple and disingenuous calculation: always increase women’s rights and decrease women’s responsibilities. Name one instance, for example, where feminists have, as a matter of principle, campaigned for anything that reduces female advantage and increases male rights without an obvious quid pro quo hidden somewhere in the legislation. As far as I’m aware, this has not happened in decades of feminist activism, which gives the lie that feminism is only about female equality.
I POSE these questions just weeks after the Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report (2020), otherwise known as the Jenkins Report, was released. It contains recommendations of which hard-core feminists would approve but which are antithetical to the everyday understanding of feminism I cite above. Embedded in the report are words and concepts that should worry anyone dedicated to justice and equal rights. The Jenkins Report has, sotto voce, introduced intersectional feminism, gender politics, and wokeness, into the political and legal system. The new model is evidence-based, victim-focussed and framed through a gender and intersectional lens. Group rights, rather than individual rights, are now the default method of adjudicating sexual relations between men and women, with the entire legal system deliberately tilted in favour of women and minorities, including minorities who demand adherence to self-identified status rather than biology. The more points you score on the intersectional discrimination scale, according to this philosophy, the more you are a victim of institutional sexual harassment, which the report states ‘occurs in every industry, in every location and at every level, in Australian workplaces’. In other words, systematically, which is the obverse of the intersectional matrix because, conveniently, intersectional theory holds that sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination are so embedded in society that they are like the fish which doesn’t know it’s in water. Here I am reminded me of an aunt who joked that every child should be smacked because if they haven’t yet done anything wrong, sooner or later they most certainly will.
First, we’ll give men a fair trial and then we’ll hang them. That’s a fair paraphrase of the Jenkins Report’s main recommendation.
Intersectionalism explicitly rejects any conception that justice is blind or the idea that immutable characteristics should have no place in adjudicating claims in a legal system. Intersectional feminism claims that minorities, all the time and permanently, suffer different and mutually enforcing forms of discrimination. Women are discriminated against because they are not men. Black women are doubly discriminated against because of their colour and their sex. A black lesbian, then, is triply discriminated against. The problem for liberal democracy and a legal system based on individual rights is that intersectional feminism rejects objectivity as a white male way of understanding the world. Only members of a group can understand and speak for members of that group, intersectionalism preaches, stressing an extreme form of in-group relativism. How a person within a group feels about a perceived incident trumps objective fact. Lived experience determines truth and, because power bestows privileges on dominant groups, truth is always judged by the yardstick of relative victimhood.
Where one is placed on the intersectional scale determines the justice or injustice of an accusation. Everything else, including neutral, traditional concepts of justice, are discrimination. The irony is that, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we have returned to a pre-modern conception of rights. It’s not too long ago that this experiment was tried in different forms which were not a success. Communist and Nazi conceptions of justice, for example, were based on group identity — proletarian and völkisch conceptions of justice respectively. We should know better, looking back at recent history, to privilege the group over the individual. Intersectionalism corrodes any notion of individual rights.
Social justice, that hazy catch-all for instituting the latest feel-good trend is also embedded in the Jenkins Report. The report states that inequalities lead to greater levels of sexual harassment among the poor. If ‘minority’ is a synonym for being poor then the statement is obvious. But it’s a platitude to say that the less money you have the less power you have. Unless the report’s authors know how to cure relative poverty and its attendant social ills, the holy grail of First World economics and which is impossible because human beings are not machines, they’re blowing smoke into an empty bottle, deliberately gaming the system to advantage women. Or, more likely, the feminist establishment.
Intersectionalism, or wokeness, which is partly based on the postmodern, feminist theory of social construction — and which some feminists are now rejecting because of, in a supreme irony, its effects on women’s genuine rights — is like a stealth bomber: you don’t notice until the blast goes off and plane is gone. The Jenkins Report is a perfect illustration of this tendency: it was either written by a group of, to paraphrase Lenin, woke useful idiots who don’t know they’ve been played, or diehard feminist ideologues who, like all extremists, should be kept at arm’s length in any civilised society.
The report claims, for example, that 33 per cent of Australians in the last five years have experienced sexual harassment at work. If that figure seems astonishingly high, that’s because it is. The old feminist ruse of redefining words and concepts is at play. “The two most commonly reported types of behaviour were sexually suggestive comments or jokes and intrusive questions about private life or physical appearance, ” we are informed. This is casting the net so wide that anyone, in any situation, could be deemed guilty. Entirely subjective feelings about sexual harassment are proclaimed the measure of whether sexual harassment has occurred! The report also states that “overwhelmingly … gender inequality was the key power disparity that drives sexual harassment. Gender inequality related to the unequal distribution of power, resources and opportunity between men and women in society….”
THE TRAP is set and there’s no escape: sexual harassment is pervasive, it’s whatever the purported victim believes it to be, and because women are somehow denied the “power, resources and opportunities” which are thought to be routinely afforded to men, it’s always men’s fault. Of course, to arrive at this conclusion — that disparities between men and women are drivers of sexual harassment — numerous examples of male inequalities in relation to women must be overlooked, the most obvious being that, by any actuary’s reckoning, men die younger than women, which I would argue is prima facie the greatest evidence of ‘systemic’ discrimination that has ever existed. If we are honest, though, the discrepancy in life expectancy could be linked to biology. But, of course, biology only exists when it suits feminist rhetoric.
The constant equivocation of feminists between the common understanding of feminism and what extreme feminists believe, which is a subset of what I call the feminist two-step, is intellectually and morally dishonest. Feminists can’t claim, to give just one example, there is no difference between the sexes and then ask for extra rights for women. If men and women are the same, because biology is a social construct, there is no reason why women should need rights not afforded to men.
Women are either rational and the intellectual equals of men, which is what I believe, or they’re not. One of the great ironies of the age is that it is feminists, who once railed against claims that women are childlike, overly sensitive, irrational and immature creatures, have systematically legislated to treat women as if every ancient stereotype and caricature is true.
Unfortunate things happen, bad people do evil, and men and women misunderstand each other all the time. But legislating that some people are to be classified as perennial oppressors while others are always their victims is the quintessence of injustice. Adopt the everyday understanding of feminism and dispense with the linguistic equivocation.
Man-hating, no matter what pseudo scholarship it’s dressed up in, is as great a crime against equality as any other form of discrimination.