Monday, September 15, 2008

The Roots of Palin Derangement Syndrome

On August 1, 2008, long before Sarah Palin became a national figure, an academic & author named Christina Hoff Sommers authored this lengthy but fascinating essay that documents the history of feminism and how it has evolved (devolved?) into its current state.

She was vilified in despicable ways by the same feminists for the same reasons they attack Palin: both women do not subscribe to the extremely radical left-wing views of the "official" feminist movement.

Her essay is indeed a long one but well worth reading if you want to understand what is fueling PDS. Here are some key parts:

Pick up a women's studies textbook, visit a college women's center, or look at the websites of leading feminist organizations, and you will likely find the same fixation on intimate anatomy combined with left-wing politics and a poisonous antipathy to men. (Campus feminists were among the most vocal and zealous accusers of the young men on the Duke University lacrosse team who were falsely indicted for rape in 2006.)

But modern "women's liberation" has little to do with liberty. It aims not to free women to pursue their own interests and inclinations, but rather to reeducate them to attitudes often profoundly contrary to their natures. In "Professing Feminism: Education and Indoctrination in Women's Studies (2003)", two once-committed women's studies professors, Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge, describe how the feminist classroom transforms idealistic female students into "relentless grievance collectors."

In 1991, the culture critic and dissident feminist Camille Paglia put the matter even more bluntly. She described women's studies as

a jumble of vulgarians, bunglers, whiners, French faddicts, apparatchiks, dough-faced party-liners, pie-in-the-sky utopians and bullying sanctimonious sermonizers. Reasonable, moderate feminists hang back and keep silent in the face of fascism.

Truth be told, there are also great numbers of contemporary American women who would today readily label themselves as feminists were they aware of a conservative alternative in which liberty, rather than "liberation," is the dominant idea. Today, more than 70 percent of American women reject the label "feminist," largely because the label has been appropriated by those who reject the very idea of a feminine sphere.

In a 1975 exchange in the Saturday Review, the feminist pioneer Betty Friedan and the French philosopher and women's rights advocate Simone de Beauvoir discussed the "problem" of stay-at-home mothers. Friedan told Beauvoir that she believed women should have the choice to stay home to raise their children if that is what they wished to do. Beauvoir candidly disagreed:

No, we don't believe that any woman should have this choice. No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.

In Beauvoir, we see how starkly the ideology of liberation has come to oppose actual, practical liberty--even "choice." Her intolerance and condescension toward family-centered women is shared by many in today's feminist establishment and has affected the education of American students. Historian Christine Rosen, in a recent survey of women's studies texts, found that every one disparaged traditional marriage, stay-at-home mothers, and the culture of romance. Perhaps there is a sensible women's studies text out there somewhere, but, for the most part, the sphere of life that has the greatest appeal to most women and is inseparable from traditional ideas of feminine fulfillment is rejected in the name of liberation.

Today's feminist establishment in the United States is dominated by the radical wing of the egalitarian tradition. Not only do its members not cooperate with their conservative sisters, but they also often denigrate and vilify them; indeed they have all but eliminated them from the history of American feminism. Revisionist history is never a pretty sight. But feminist revisionists are destructive in special ways. They seek to obliterate not only feminist history but the femininity that made it a success.

[Young women of the U.S. can] make the movement attractive once again to the silent majority of American women who really do not want to be liberated from their womanhood. And then take on the cause of the women who have yet to find the liberty that Western women have won for themselves and that all women everywhere deserve.

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