The Clare Spark Blog

January 10, 2015

The case for feminism

Ad from Avant Garde "blowout sale" January 2015

Ad from Avant Garde “blowout sale” January 2015

I have written numerous blogs tracking the second wave of feminism (1960s-1970s and on).  See for example This blog is part of a two-part series:

Many of my prior blogs lament the automatic alignment of second wave feminists with their New Left male “oppressors,” abandoning the situations of women who were not either pro-choice, in the civil rights movement, or against the war in Viet Nam, especially as much of the Left and even those older ex-leftists who became neoconservatives remained at best ambivalent about gender issues. Perhaps these differences between liberal and conservative women are too deep to bridge, since many conservative women deny that they are subservient to males. Some liberal males feel differently, but don’t necessarily act on it.

For instance, cultural historian David Brion Davis once gave a series of lectures at an Ivy League university on race, later published, that stated that the subject of women was as grave a matter as subjection by race, but he saved that remark for his last chapter, and has, to my knowledge, never developed it, not have his students who now dominate the profession at Yale and other prestigious venues.

When I reviewed David Horowitz’s recent book Radicals (, criticizing it for excessive moderation and for putting quotation marks around the word “feminist.” I send the piece to him, for David is my friend, and he welcomed the dialogue, but DH clearly doesn’t see feminism as a political priority, while I do, very vehemently.

Why do I care? For one thing I have five granddaughters and two daughters, who are coping with, or will cope with the same choices that I have done all my life: they will have to choose between stereotypes: Madonna, nymphet, femme fatale, happy mother, party girl, dominatrix, bluestocking, etc. My female descendants are all intelligent and creative, but most might not have the support network commensurate with their brains and talents. Nor are they likely to depart from the “normal” subservient posture in relationship to men, which may combine all these attributes as the illustration I have posted above:  Women as child, yet menacing in black, with short skirt inviting movement of the male hand up her thighs. (This was an ad for a sale from the boutique Avant Garde.) This teen ager is sexually provocative, yet wholesome looking with that pony tail. She will nab an upper-class mate. But will she be emancipated from the tyranny of stiletto heels for very long?

I was told by a nurse who did my blood work that there was a rule at the UCLA famed medical school and home for excellent doctors who tend to all classes of persons, that the female administrators must comply with a dress code that demands “heels”—not flat shoes, or nurse’s shoes, even though any orthopedist will warn women that high heels will inevitably lead to back, knee, and ankle problems as they age. Women must please male authority in the workplace or be fired.

Then there is the issue of androgyny, and the continued preference for hyper-masculine males and “girly” females. This combination of good father and apron-wearing mother, both God-fearing, will lift minority children out of poverty—a common viewpoint among conservatives. The same faction will go to the mat to prevent reproductive rights for women, and will oppose all but heterosexual love and marriage. Behind the opposition to gay marriage, I sense that there is a fear of effeminacy and subjection to the influence of mother, now embodied in the so-called “nanny state.”

I will not belabor the rise of “the moral mother,” or the diminution of paternal authority in the household after the Industrial Revolution, culminating in the welfare state as a bulwark against socialism, for I have written at length about the progressive movement on this website.

But I have no doubt that hierarchies, such as the domination of most women by males, “breed deceit, terror and catharsis” as I stated in passing here: Men will never know what their female mates are really thinking, as long as the extreme difference in sex roles persists, no more than did the slaveholder know what his slaves really had on their minds, nor does the employer know what his employees are really thinking about his conduct and their jobs.

Perhaps Nietzsche, and not Marx had the correct solution to the organization of advanced societies. But I would hate to think that the battle of the sexes, though insoluble owing to biological differences, cannot be more flexible in what men and women (or homosexual couples) expect from each other.


  1. There is a strong argument that men respond to what women expect of them. If you want gender differentiation to lessen, then women have to be taught not to freak out when men don’t perform in those gender roles in the way prescribed.

    Comment by wien1938 — April 20, 2016 @ 10:05 pm | Reply

    • Can you give an example? I find it hard to respond to general statements.

      Comment by clarelspark — April 20, 2016 @ 10:08 pm | Reply

      • Maybe I’m still speaking in generalities but it strikes me that instead of adopting a crude dialectic approach (man acts, woman is acted upon, thus woman is oppressed), we look at models of human behaviour that we exist in a dynamic relationship of expectations whereby women’s expectations shape male behaviours towards them and vice versa.
        If men are expected by women and rewarded by women by being “hyper-masculine”, then we have a dynamic established that encourages these behaviours, not least because the reward is genetic propagation. If women chose to allow men to be less “masculine” and still be rewarded with relationships etc, then the nature of masculinity may alter.
        What women seem to fear is men failing in those “masculine” roles and men who fail are cast aside or treated as inadequate.

        Hope that helps.

        Comment by wien1938 — May 23, 2016 @ 10:36 pm

      • Not all men act, nor are all women acted upon. One of the problems with modern sociology is that we deal too much in gross statistics. I hope that my website defends individual difference above a collectivist discourse.

        Comment by clarelspark — May 23, 2016 @ 11:11 pm

      • I think you make a good point there.

        Comment by wien1938 — May 24, 2016 @ 2:33 pm

  2. “no more than did the slaveholder know what his slaves really had on their minds, nor does the employer know what his employees are really thinking about his conduct and their jobs.”
    I dont think this is a core requirement for owning a plantation or a business. This is very much a liberal middle class preoccupation. If one were forced to worry about everything that liberals worry about I suspect that we would be overwhelmed by a sort of paralysis of decision making – oh wait, we are!
    This type of behaviour can be very rational. You agree that biological differences have defined the roles of males and females. So have economic imperatives. That they have resulted in abuses should be condemned.
    Unfortunately nobody talks about the benefits!
    Look forward to your analysis of another current liberal preoccupation – income/wealth inequality!

    Comment by Romanoz! — January 20, 2015 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

  3. […] I wrote in my blog, as long as hierarchies exist, free speech is a fond dream. We are all more or less tongue-tied; we […]

    Pingback by What “free speech”? | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — January 12, 2015 @ 9:04 pm | Reply

  4. My comment is certainly not going to reverse the centuries of cultural training or its poisons. But in the individual home or workplace one can learn and teach to one’s children another perspective. Often you can see in marriages that last decades that this female wisdom has taken hold and released some of the chains. But what is so striking is how often you don’t see that.

    Comment by jilledelmanlcsw — January 12, 2015 @ 3:32 pm | Reply

  5. Your statement “Men will never know what their female mates are really thinking, as long as the extreme difference in sex roles persists” leads me to reverse that thought. From my perspective as a couples therapist what empowers women to set aside many of the destructive burdens of a male dominated culture is their acquisition of an understanding of what makes “men tick” so to speak. In other words, as these women grasp the fears, cultural burdens and insecurities of males in their lives and how they are acted out in their relationships with women, the women no longer need to enable gratify or be crippled by them. In short women understanding men is a short cut to no longer needing to be reduced by them. Women need to know what men are really thinking to release them from their bonds – they no longer have to drink the Kool-Aid.

    Comment by jilledelmanlcsw — January 11, 2015 @ 3:35 pm | Reply

    • Jill: Knowing what men are really thinking is a consummation deeply to be desired. Most of my blogs are about the mysteriousness of our inner selves. Socialization and peer pressure are powerful determinants in the assumption of sex roles. I’m glad, however, that you have had success in bringing couples together.

      Comment by clarelspark — January 11, 2015 @ 4:01 pm | Reply

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