Now, I put scare quotes around “reclaim” because feminism never belonged to conservatives in the first place. It certainly never sought to conserve anything, and it had only a tangential relationship with any conservative principles even in the best of times. Likewise, though feminism has accomplished some good, I’m not convinced it was ever best described as “a force for good and freedom” as Loftis suggests. But apart from these lesser issues, the biggest problem with feminism is and always has been the heavy cost to any of its triumphs—a cost so heavy that these “triumphs” cannot help but be quite minor in comparison. Bearing that cost in mind, it’s mystifying that any conservative would want apply it to themselves at all.
After all, we are talking about an ideology that is largely responsible for the slaughter murder of tens of millions of unborn children over the past half-century.
Loftis does (very briefly) address feminism’s close ties with the pro-abortion movement, but only to quickly dismiss it:
One might object about feminist association with abortion. But pro-life feminists exist. They are currently ostracized, but they exist.
Yes, that’s her entire treatment of it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an argument so trite applied to an issue with such gravity before. One cannot simply brush off the murder of tens of millions of innocent children by means of the tiny handful of ostracized pro-life feminists any more than one could use the existence of National Socialists who weren’t down with the whole genocide thing to wipe the slate clean for Nazism. Did non-Jew-murdering Nazis exist? Sure, but so what? Did they have accomplishments like making the trains run on time? I’m honestly not sure, but neither do I care. How could such trivialities compare to the Holocaust? Likewise, in what way can feminist achievements like fairer wages and more educational opportunities for women balance the scales enough to try and salvage a word which has been so saturated by innocent blood?
It boggles the mind that someone could look at that and suggest that a little elbow grease will get that stain right out. There are contexts in which “Not All _____ Are Like That” is a meaningful observation—places where recognizing diversity of thought is truly important. When it comes to feminism and abortion, however, we are no longer talking about mere ideas and conversations, but about actual human lives that have been lost en masse. One cannot blame liberals for failing to notice these things, but one must blame conservatives.
Although it is both sufficient and the best reason to abandon feminism altogether, we need not hang our hat entirely on the issue of abortion when considering whether to try and (re)claim it. Even if one could somehow manage to ignore all that blood, it is not the only stain on the polluted garment of feminism. Though ensuring the ability to murder the unborn for any reason at all is mainstream within the movement, lets try approaching it with one of the less “radical” understandings: belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes—something very much akin to the “equality of opportunity” that Loftis suggests. No bizarre academic concepts, no slut-walking or armpit dye, just a straightforward statement the typical feminist would find adequate. It’s still nothing a conservative should want to rehabilitate.
Attempts to achieve social equality between the sexes have not been kind to society. One of the most pressing contemporary issues for conservatives is marriage. But though we whine and moan about all the damage the homosexual lobby wants to do to the institution, its nothing compared to what feminism already has done.
Legally speaking, one of feminism’s major accomplishments on the social front is the ubiquity of no-fault divorce (or as it could more precisely be called, unilateral divorce.) For the sake of liberating those truly unfortunate women who are trapped in genuinely abusive relationships and ensuring their ability to be self-sufficient, feminism abrogated the filial and marital responsibilities of all wives across the board. The result of this scorched-earth policy is that almost half of marriages end in divorce (most of which are unilaterally inflicted on husbands by their wives), many children are forcibly deprived of their fathers, and former husbands are sent through the meat-grinder of our heavily biased family court system. Meanwhile, men are beginning to respond in kind by abandoning marriage altogether, for a purely one-sided commitment is hardly in their interests.
In terms of interpersonal relationships, feminism’s major accomplishments is the injection of equality into the marital relationship and thereby diminishing both husbands and wives into equal and androgynous spouses. But as I’ve written before, equality is marriage-poison. It is entirely alien to the kind of self-giving love on which family and marriage depend, and obscures the complimentarity by which they function. Instead of protecting women from oppression, it kills romance, whets the appetite of resentment, and establishes incoherent expectations for resolving conflicts. Inasmuch as no-fault divorce provides the legal mechanism for destroying marriage, exchanging male-female complimentarity for an unnatural equality within marriage provides much of the motivation for doing so.
Social equality of this kind is not a good thing for civilization, nor is it the kind of thing conservatives should think they can fix by applying a little spit-shine. Oh, and by the way, social equality between the sexes—even equality of opportunity—requires abortion as well. Biology has given women a unique relationship with the unborn with substantial social consequences that, in practice, are not shared by men. It is not fair, but it is reality. If social equality between the sexes is something that must be realized, then the availability of murder as an option is the only practical means of accomplishing it.
One could go on ad nauseum about the havoc wrought by social equality—we haven’t even mentioned aspects such as the feminist attacks on virtues like chastity and modesty which, though necessary for both sexes, quite naturally found different manifestations among them. But even economic equality is a mixed bag at best. Take, for instance, the so-called wage gap. Women supposedly only make around 75 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work. But invariably, when one looks at these studies, it’s never really the same work. Once one accounts for the additional hours that men tend to spend in the office, most of this gap disappears. The reason women tend to work fewer hours outside the home is the same as its ever been: children inside the home. Feminists try to work around this by promoting generous leave policies for mothers and similar policies, but a mother on official leave is still putting in fewer hours of office work than a man who is not, and a mother on paid leave is still a greater cost to a company than a man who is producing something for them.
Fifty years ago, the wage gap was a more meaningful phenomenon. Even the starting salaries were lower for a woman in the same position as a man. If, contra the professional feminist complainers, we actually treat this reduction in the historical wage gap as an accomplishment of feminism, can we still treat it as a win for women and society? Not unequivocally. The reason the wage gap existed fifty years ago was the expectation that while men would remain with the company for a good long time, women would eventually take a great deal of time off to raise children—often indefinitely leaving their field altogether. In other words, it was a stronger effect of the same difference in hours worked that we see today.
So what changed? Two key things: first, most employers no longer see their employees as people in whom they ought to make a long-term investment. Today, many companies are more likely to see interchangeable human resources—mere cogs that can be and are replaced at will. If this change can somehow be legitimately laid at the feet of feminism, I cannot fathom seeing it as an triumph. Second, and most importantly, there has been a shift in the expectations for women. Though a huge number of exceptions have always existed, women in general had been expected to devote much of their work to bearing and raising the next generation. Other kinds of work were considered more as add-ons or accessories to life: sometimes necessary, sometimes desirable, sometimes odd, but never the expectation. This allegedly tyrannical expectation is something feminism has indeed diminished or removed, and it indeed makes it easier for women to pursue careers. So can we consider this a clear improvement for women? Is it something that (if you ignore the deaths of tens of millions of innocent children) could lead a conservative to say, “maybe this feminism thing isn’t so bad—it just needs to be taken from the crazies who failed to give it the necessary TLC?”
It would be more precise to say that it’s an improvement for some women at the expense of others. While it is much easier for women to pursue to careers, it is simultaneously much harder for women to dedicate themselves to family. Economically speaking, simple supply and demand indicates that the influx of women into the workforce depressed wages across the board (if you increase the supply of labor without a corresponding increase in demand, you lower its cost.) It is consequently much harder for a husband to financially support a household on his own, and so it is much harder for a woman to stay home and raise her children. Likewise, if the expectations that society places on women are tyrannical, then the tyranny has not ended; it has merely changed course. Women are now expected to have careers while marriage and motherhood are treated as the add-ons or accessories to life, and they are prepared accordingly. The kind of crushing student loan debt that is now just a regular part of the college experience just adds another financial burden on the family—one that women are expected to help discharge by entering the workforce regardless of what they may want.
So if society cannot help but favor one decision over the other, which shall it choose? What does “equality of opportunity” even mean in such a situation? Does it mean women must have the same opportunity to meet traditionally masculine expectations as men do, or does it mean that they must have the same opportunity to fulfill their own natures as men do theirs? It seems that society cannot have it both ways. The only way one could consider this a clear win for women is if they consider career to be fundamentally more important and fulfilling. While this is certainly the case for some personality types, it is a hard sell for others seeing as how careers are undesirable enough that most people actually have to be paid to pursue them. The cost of this shift to our civilization as a whole is also worth considering. U.S. Birthrates have now fallen to a record low of 1.86 children per woman—significantly below the replacement level of 2.1. There is literally no work more important to civilization than raising children well, but for the sake of some women, other women have been denied their opportunity to participate in it.
So far, there is very little unequivocal merit to feminism—certainly not enough to make a sensible conservative look past all the bloodshed and, as even Loftis acknowledges, the societal destabilization that it continues to acheive. While there may still be “oppression” that requires action, and ideas must become a banner around which to rally, feminism is just about the worst idea one could possibly use for that purpose. The kind of people who are generally drawn to its call have no coherent understanding of oppression in the first place. You would find more who feel that women are more oppressed by the male gaze, or by social ineptitude, or by skepticism about obviously false rape accusations, than by the mere peccadilloes of, say, the Religion of Peace (you know, genital mutilation, honor killings, and that sort of thing.) And to think, you get get all this for the low low price of whitewashing the end of civilized marriage & sexual virtues, the loss of much of the next generation of children, and last but certainly not least, tens of millions of tiny corpses.
Some words are too bloodstained to reclaim; feminism is one of them. If there was ever a word that no one should ever want to touch with a ten foot pole, it’s this one.