YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

November 29, 2017

“What do women want?”

Charles and Mary Ritter Beard, Amazon.com

Are today’s feminists “extremists”? Does the spate of “sex scandals” have a hidden agenda? A quick Google search reveals that feminists are linked with “progressives.” And conservatives denounce “progressive feminism.”

But were leading populist-progressives friendly to feminism? Do women have too much power in “the machine age”? I had been saving a quote from Charles and Mary Ritter Beard’s popular volumes, The Rise of American Civilization (Macmillan, 1927) because I was stunned by a passage condemning “extreme” feminism in a massive popular work that emphasized female contributions to our culture throughout. This is what I have read in wonderment for I had not connected feminism with paternalism, silly me.

[Charles and Mary Beard quote:] …Over law and precedent…women advanced toward the goal of equal rights in their children.
Having won the ballot, enlarged economic opportunities, freedom to bob their hair, wear men’s clothes, smoke and swear, and extensive powers in the domestic relation, women looked for new fields of enterprise. At this point a group of the more intransigent demanded “absolute and unconditional opportunity” in every sphere. To give effect to their doctrines, they proposed an amendment to the Constitution providing that there should be no discriminations against women on account of sex in any national or state regulation.

…the more extreme of this feminist school called for a repeal of all protective legislation not applicable to men, such as laws limiting the hours of women workers and closing to the sex the heavier and more dangerous trades such as mining and brickmaking….among the advocates of equal opportunity were those who looked forward to a day when industry would be regulated, if at all, on the basis of the common interests of men and women, whatever those might be.
…[quoting Edmund Clarence Stedman] “a united head would be a monster.”

[Clare:] It turns out that this apparent tirade by Wilsonian progressives (the Beards) was directed not against feminism as much as it was against the machine age that had displaced “patriarchal authority” for a monstrous equality in heading the family.
These Wilsonian “progressives” go on to condemn modernity/the rule of money:

[Beards, cont.:] In the new order prodigal members of the plutocracy set standards of reckless expenditure and high living which spread like a virus among all members of society, making the spending of money a national mania and casting the stigma of contempt on previous virtues of thrift, toil, and moderation.

JFK and Marilyn (alternet.com)

… the father, in losing his prerogatives, lost few of his obligations; indeed they were multiplied rather than diminished, especially for the males of the upper classes. Ever more relentlessly the increase in the number of things that could be bought with money and the rising standard of life drove him to the task of acquiring wealth. And his wife, besides defying and divorcing him, could still secure alimony if he possessed an estate or any earning capacity. The “lord of creation” appeared to be on the verge of an eclipse. (End Charles and Mary Beard quote: Vol. II, 725-727)

[Clare:] Add to the sins of “machine age” capitalism as opposed to (capitalist) agriculture: “extremism”, worship of The Almighty Dollar, the end of paternal authority in the home. So radical farmers (Populists) were virtuous (i.e., proper parents)? Who would have thought that “progressives” like the Beards were down on Progress?

Who would have thought that, if you scratched the surface of progressive feminism (in its original formulation), that an agrarian radical would emerge, or that the Beards were feminists only as long as paternalistic authority was unthreatened?

Are the recent sex scandals entirely unrelated?

Populist Weinstein cartoon, Federalist Observer.com

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July 1, 2014

The Rightist Culture War Strategy Won’t Work

culture-war1It is not surprising that persons who make their living in publishing or writing on behalf of conservative or libertarian causes would envision “culture” as the battleground on which to halt the slide toward “fascism” or “totalitarianism” or “statism” or whatever you want to call the direction of the Democratic Party. The latest to enter the fray is publisher Adam Bellow, son of the illustrious Saul Bellow. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/381419/let-your-right-brain-run-free-adam-bellow. (For my one and only blog on Saul Bellow see https://clarespark.com/2011/11/12/the-woman-question-in-saul-bellows-herzog/.)

Leaving aside for the moment, whether there is a single, coherent right wing culture to spawn artists, let me ask some related questions: Do artists and filmmakers make revolutions in human relationships, or do material factors that are often avoided, put down, or erased by mystical science-hating organic conservatives? For these persons often view themselves as postmodernists or moderates or entirely alienated anarchists.

Think about the onset of modernity in the West for a moment. What factors enabled the elevated status of women? Novels and tracts by soi-disant feminists, or the Industrial Revolution that removed patriarchs from the home, hence raising the status of the women who were now, by default, more in charge of socializing children and supported by John Locke’s empiricist idea of the tabula rasa (i.e., by the outcome of experience and study on our judgments, as opposed to Plato’s innate ideas and shadows on caves)?

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As for the sexual revolution, how can we discount the effect of “the pill” that prevented unwanted pregnancies and enabled greater freedom in sexual pleasure for both partners? Or do we want movies that take us back to the good old days when women were entirely subservient to husbands and children, lived for the family alone, and endured endless pregnancies? (See Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse (1927): her portrait of “Mrs. Ramsay.”)

It is true that the mass media have had a great effect publicizing social movements, but close examination of their politics reveals a motion toward populism, not social transformation in human relationships that would lead to wider acceptance of free markets, the end of racism and sexism, and to an aversion to overregulation by the State. Populists are not leftists, but petit-bourgeois radicals angry at “elites” (perhaps stand-ins for authoritarian parents). Such resentment may be found in much of the conservative movement, currently in an uproar over “progressives” in disguise as “RINOS.”

No culture produces so many geniuses that we can simply call out brilliant artists and/or critics who can move mountains and change consciousness to the degree required by our current polarization and sense of injustice on both sides of the great divide.

But we can read good literature from many sources to our children, and we can teach them to extract the messages contained in specific texts. The same goes for music and art. That is what European and American “elites” did, and they ended up ruling the world, enhancing life for the billions, and continuing to ask the big, still unsolved questions. If we want to let “the right brain run free,” we have still to look for excellence in whatever genre or artist we can find. Forget political correctness on both left and right: Study how individual works of art work on us to get us thinking and moving again.

Will satire and spleen of the sort recommended by Adam Bellow and other culture warriors change hearts and minds on the liberal Left? Or will it be taken as yet more agitprop and bad faith emanating from reactionaries?

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