The Clare Spark Blog

April 1, 2016

’70s feminism and its bizarre legacy

MegynKellyI have written so frequently about the “second wave” of feminism that I didn’t think another blog was merited. But this week, the media attention to Donald Trump’s alleged gaffes, supposedly indicative of his vile sexism and aggressiveness in “the war on women” made me change my mind about a feminist blog that would reveal the base media distortions directed against advocates for female equality.

First, the flap against abortion. One extreme conservative smear consists of the proposition that pro-choice feminists are “pro-abortion.” To be sure, there exist women who use legal abortions as a form of birth control, but I have never known a case where agonizing ‘soul-searching’, extreme youth, or poverty did not accompany the termination of a pregnancy. (https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states.)

As for Trump’s gaffe, he was plainly reacting to the necessity to conform to the rule of law. Of course, he should have refused to discuss the subject, since it was obviously a Chris Matthews trap. Indeed, the subject had never come up in the Republican debates (except for Planned Parenthood), since it is assumed that all Republicans would be “pro-life” (though I have long insisted that Republicans might better focus on the feminist question “Is there life after birth”? See https://clarespark.com/2015/10/10/is-there-life-after-birth-states-rights-and-controlling-our-children/. A more interesting question would have been regarding Trump’s view of embryonic stem cell research. See http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/pages/basics5.aspx.)

Second, the class basis of ‘70s feminism. As I have stressed over and over, the “second wave” of feminism came out of the civil rights/antiwar movement, and its chief publicists appealed to middle class educated women, resentful of male put-downs, relegating them to secretaries at the beck and call of “movement heavies.” Or, alternatively, ‘70s feminism may be seen as a revolt against domesticity (Betty Friedan was the chief instigator on this front.)

What Friedan failed to recognize was that, since John Locke’s idea of the tabula rasa and the Industrial Revolution that removed the paterfamilias from the home, domesticity gave women unprecedented influence in the home/child-rearing and also in the Progressive movement that was striving “to make the whole world home-like.” To displaced patriarchs, this was an outrageous turn of events that one might surmise helped fuel the opposition to votes for women, who already seemed to have too much power, especially in their uncanny sexual power (too reminiscent, perhaps of Mother).

Although some lesbian feminists had a different agenda, liberal heterosexual feminists mostly failed to focus on such crucial issues as the co-option of feminist demands that failed to challenge “the beauty myth”, deficiencies in women’s health, and the dumbing down of American culture owing to the growing power of mass media (including Fox News Channel), which were all too eager to promote hyper-sexuality, blondes, cosmetics, plastic surgery, fashion fetishes (such as stiletto heels), and role reversal where the dominatrices ruled.

Third, the uplifting conception of “victimology.” Enter the second Trump scandal of the week: the Michelle Fields affair. Independents, libertarians, and conservatives alone seem to be objecting to current widespread practice in the schools to enforce “safe zones” where allegedly bullying (white) males must be isolated, reformed, and punished. (Other victim groups usually get off the hook; such is the power of academic social justice warriors.)

Predictably, the glamourous female journalists (who don’t self-identify as “feminists”) promoted by Fox News Channel and mainstream television outlets generally fail to question or probe the negative aspects of 70s feminism. Why should they?

angryfeminist

Advertisements

July 8, 2014

What is sexual freedom?

applesnakeIn my last blog (https://clarespark.com/2014/07/06/the-hobby-lobby-decision-and-the-war-on-women/), I predicted that the issue of sexual freedom would strongly affect the outcome of the next election cycle. A Facebook friend asked me what I meant by that. He took my ensuing response to express “responsibility” as the controlling value. I only partly agree with that judgment, but the issue bears more elaboration.

This blog expands the answer to my online acquaintance. It is partly  an opinion grounded in my particular experience, but also the result of historical research into changing mores. It is not a romp into relativism. I could come off as some kind of female ‘puritan’ and killjoy, though I don’t see myself that way.

First, consider the vogue for expensive weddings as no more than conspicuous consumption, female narcissism, and often absurd demands on the parental pocketbook. Note too that sentimental literature and romantic comedies are focused on that delicate period between puberty and marriage, where adolescent rebelliousness must be reined in for the sake of the status quo. Romantic love has long been associated with revolt from below. So a certain amount of order must be imposed on a process that could get out of hand. Free love, like free thought, has its limits.

The drama of the hunt and courtship dominates the mass media genres preferred by women, but stops at the usually humdrum period of marriage and parenting, where sexual passion almost inevitably fades, to be replaced by parenthood, community/political involvement, and the unforeseen demands of the aging body. Almost all our ideas about sex are shaped by maintaining our sexual attractiveness, including fashion, hair and skin care, “working out” and of course plastic surgery as if it is normal to be sixteen forever. While shopping the Bloomingdale’s July 4th sale, I heard one woman snort to another that Eileen Fisher’s flowing minimalist designs are meant for “menopausal women.”

wedded-blissswarovski

What I have already written should be obvious. No pop culture group celebrates companionate marriage and growing old together, let alone the day to day challenges of managing family life; nor are there trendy analogs to the Thomas Moore poem and touching popular song “Believe me, if all those endearing young charms….” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Believe_Me,_if_All_Those_Endearing_Young_Charms.) Instead we have the dubious passion for redecoration and home-building—a creative act in some cases, but also escapist. Old people, a growing part of our population, are stowed away out of sight and out of mind, unless they are fabulously rich and can attract gold-diggers of either gender.

Second, I rejected libertinism (often a consequence of “existentialist” despair, and “what the hell”), mostly because, though Casanovas and Don Juans probably think it is their birthright to cat around, for women it is most certainly the case that sex is not a drink of water. There is not only the rational fear of STDs, there is the partly irrational (?) fear of abandonment. Add to that the rational fear that birth control technology is imperfect, and you have anxiety during and after the sex act. (I am not suggesting that males do not have their own anxieties, partly over performance, partly over arousing usually buried feelings about Mother and the mother-son bond that may be problematic; the same goes for women, who may be anxious about “unresolved” relationships with Father.)

But all these considerations pale in contrast to the issue of abortifacients and abortions—an issue that is said to be highly “emotional.” Let me make a more materialist observation: the timing of her pregnancies is the single most important economic issue that women make. That is why many feminists are adamant about controlling “reproductive rights,” and take it to be a women’s health issue, not to be negotiated under any circumstances.

I understand that many religious persons see the “pro-choice” position, a symptom of mass media-induced “hyper-sexualization,” as the moral issue of our time, for eternal hellfire is often at stake. Some of the faithful are ready to go to the mat to overturn such laws as Roe v. Wade. Hence the polarization that complicates every election, for no Republican candidate who deviates from the pro-life position, or the related stipulation that stem cell research cannot be conducted with discarded frozen embryos, only adult stem cells, can expect to be nominated or elected (except in New England, perhaps). Meanwhile, in much conservative propaganda, late term abortions and infanticide are trotted out as talking points, as if all liberals and libertarians were potential baby-killers and communists.

The controlling context of this debate over abortion rights is the growing power of the state in surveilling and presumably controlling even the most intimate affairs of individuals. Many conservatives are appalled by “feminism” as if all feminists marched in lock step over “women’s issues,” or were out to destroy the family as the only haven in a heartless world.

Because of cultural/religious pluralism, institutionalized in the law of the land, pro-lifers can practice their religion without imposing a theocracy. It puzzles me that some media conservatives take a triumphalist tone, as if they were theocrats. It should not be a requirement that all Republican candidates are forced to conform to the Catholic/Evangelical social agenda, opposing not only abortion rights, but gay marriage. If statism is to be reduced, then religious conservatives should get their priorities straight and lighten up: as I have written before, capitalism/free markets are on the line. The women’s vote cost Mitt Romney the election of 2012, did it not? (https://clarespark.com/2012/11/07/capitalism-is-on-the-line/)

Here, finally, is how I view my most important feminist commitment, in which the welfare of children trumps individual preference—say for no-fault divorces. Having been through one such divorce in the early 1970s, I was in a position to observe the grief and confusion inflicted upon my own children. I don’t understand why feminists have not written more about the complicated fates of She Who Is Dumped and her offspring.

My own conclusion: if you are unwilling to put children’s emotional stability above your own whims or passions, then don’t have children. Obviously, if the marriage is so abusive, physically and emotionally, to spouse and kids that divorce is the only possibility of rescue from a disastrous home life, then divorce is the only remedy, but be prepared for the fallout affecting every member of the broken family.

divorcegg

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.