One of the accusations traditional-minded, conservative types make against feminists is that feminists hate men. From my experience both in reading about feminism and in observing the feminists around us, I don’t find this accusation to be well-founded. At the very least, the accusation is an oversimplification of the ideology and attitude of feminists.
Men are Feminists too
One of the first feminist manifestos was written by a man: John Stuart Mill, the influential liberal thinker, wrote The Subjection of Women in 1869, in which he argues for “perfect equality” between the sexes.
Liberal feminists, the ones that have influence and have shaped our world into a feminist-ruled one, hold to the liberal ideology of John Stuart Mill and follow his lead of applying liberalism to the woman question. Liberal men are the friends of feminists because both groups hold to the same ideology of the “natural” equality and liberty of man. Feminists have simply applied this to women, and liberal men have not objected. Leaving aside the radical fringes of feminism that had their heyday in the 60s and 70s and are now relegated to a minor role in campus politics, the feminists that matter, the mainstream liberal feminists—followers of Betty Friedan not Simone de Beauvoir—are just that, mainstream liberals.
When I began researching feminism one of the things I found interesting was that many of the feminist historians whose books I read were happily married women with children—at least insofar as I could gather from the love and gratitude they expressed towards their husbands and children in their acknowledgments. Feminists are thoroughly ideological people: they, like all liberals, seek to create a new world based not on facts about the way we are, but based on ideas about how we could be. But feminists are also women, and it turns out they are normal women in that they desire marriage and motherhood.
Today’s highly visible feminists such as Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg or Megyn Kelly are successful career women and wives and mothers (Sandberg is a widow). These women are products of the “having it all” incarnation of feminism. Despite the “problem of the baby”—what to do with one’s children while one is pursuing her career—these women have highly successful careers as well as a husband and children. The “having it all” feminists have laid waste to the problem that plagued the early modern woman, that is, how to combine a career with motherhood. In the first half of the 20th century, personal achievement for women seemed to be attached to spinsterhood, while on the flipside marriage was seen as a perfectly acceptable full-time vocation for a woman.
Feminism, as we know, changed all this. While feminists have been talking about daycare since the early 1900s, the movement didn’t have the will or the capacity to lobby for it until the 1970s. Included in the first set of demands made by the National Organization of Women (NOW), the lobby group set up by Friedan and others in the late 60s, was publicly funded daycare centres. Now, there is a daycare on every corner of every city in North America, and daycare is often subsidized by the government. The feminism of the second wave was based on the same liberal principles of the first wave in the 19th century, but the 1960s brought out the selfish aspect of feminism and taught women to get everything they want—to “have it all.”
But back to feminists not hating men.
Feminists don’t need to hate men because feminists are liberals and so they get along with other liberals, male or female. Liberal men, who are the majority of men in the West, are feminist’s brothers in arms.
Mr. Mom—A Modern Day Hero
I’ve described the situation on the ideological level, but what about on the level of personal relationships between men and women?
At this level too, feminists don’t hate men.
While feminists do not hate men, and indeed fall in love with and marry them, the very nature of feminism seeks to destroy distinct masculinity and femininity and consequently promotes an androgynous ideal. This is not the extreme of the transgendered (although it is related to it), but is simply a more masculine female and a feminine male. The feminist ideal of what a man and a woman should be are now the mainstream ideal: assertive women who can lead a multi-national company or fight on the front lines of battle and the “Mr. Mom” type who quits his own job to stay at home with the children. These are the modern day “heroes” that feminism has created.
The ultimate reason feminists don’t hate men, then, is because feminists have remade manhood according to their own prescription. He is no longer the forceful leader, he is the accommodating partner. Feminists turned the alpha male into an ugly caricature of a wife-beater, a rapist, a groping boss, a dumb “jock,” etc. so that no man would want to be known as an alpha. A sense of ridicule has grown up around men in relation to women—the bumbling dad in contrast with the no-nonsense, take charge mom in commercials, sit-coms and even children’s books (think Roy Romano in Everybody Loves Raymond or the father bear in the Berenstain Bears children’s picture book series). Once traditional manhood was crushed down into a pulp by feminists and their co-conspirators, the new vision of man rose up: Mr. Mom.
Feminists don’t need to hate men because what men have become—Mr. Moms—fits cozily with all that feminism has ever desired: for women to be able to do what they want, when they want, as they want, with no man as an authority over them. Men as the head of the household or the head of the corporation stood in the way of woman’s so-called “freedom” and so, they had to be removed from their traditional posts.
Feminists do not hate men because they have made them to order—which is really disorder.
The order between man and woman as set down by God and explained to us by St. Paul in Ephesians is what feminists have sought to destroy. Just as liberalism seeks to destroy the authority of the Catholic Church, feminism seeks to destroy the authority of man over woman as set down by God. It would appear that liberal feminist ideology has triumphed over St. Paul’s teaching in Ephesians, but appearances are not necessarily reality. While androgynous marriages seem to flourish around us, the “seepage” of the attempt to subvert the natural order is apparent in the pro-abortion movement, in the casualties of divorce, the men, women and children broken down by it, and in the new confusion over gender identity with children as young as 4 claiming their “gender” does not match their biological sex.
Feminists have remade manhood to suit their goal of power and control and autonomy and freedom—to be their own bosses—and most men have graciously (or cowardly, depending on how you look at it) complied. Most men are liberals after all, who believe in the lofty and wrong-headed ideas of equality and liberty.
Feminists marry modern men—not necessarily passive wimps (who are attractive to no woman), but “enlightened” men who look up to women who are ambitious over-achievers. These enlightened men are happy to share in the housework because they too have been brainwashed by liberal ideology.
One might object to my theorizing that feminists don’t hate men by suggesting that feminists have remade men and now marry their remade versions because they hate “real” men who possess traditional masculinity. This is a valid objection. After all I’ve said about feminists not hating men, there is something to the assertion that feminists hate manly men. As I mentioned earlier, feminists have destroyed the ideal of the masculine man and put in its place an ugly caricature of the alpha male—the rapist, the wife beater, etc. (Ironically, though, feminists have taken on masculine traits to compete with men. So, feminists have won their goals by taking on masculine traits, losing their femininity, and forcing men to change similarly—take on feminine traits and lose their masculinity.)
Perhaps feminists do hate “traditional” men and have forced them to become Mr. Moms so they could love them and live with them. Yet, there is another layer to the story.
Feminism: The Great Denial
Feminism is a denial of what one is—a woman. Feminists divest themselves of what has been called “woman’s lot.” Woman’s lot is having babies. That’s what she is made for in body and mind. Having babies involves a ton of self-sacrifice, small and large sufferings, and is no walk in the park. Feminists thought that men had it better, and wanted a piece of their pie instead.
Feminists want to disown the hardship and struggle that are part of woman’s lot. They seek to disown that which keeps them essentially tied to the home—motherhood. They won’t disown it altogether because they are still full of human desires, and it is natural for a woman to desire a child. However, they will constrain their motherhood by planning and contracepting and even aborting. Ultimately it comes down to—if I have a lot of kids I can’t have a career. So, they have one or two carefully planned out children who are taken to daycare or looked after by a nanny. Self-sacrifice is out and “having it all” is in.
When you read about the lives of feminist leaders a pattern emerges. Their feminism springs partly from liberal ideology and partly from their personal experience with men, usually a father or a husband. These experiences are negative ones—lacking in love, acceptance and security. Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s father told her that he wished she were a boy which affected her deeply, and her marriage to Henry Stanton was a distant one. Betty Friedan and her husband had a volatile, abusive relationship and their marriage ended in divorce. Mary Wollstonecraft, the “mother of feminism,” had a child out of wedlock and tried to kill herself twice when it turned out the child’s father, whom she loved, didn’t want her. Simone de Beauvoir is perhaps the saddest figure of them all: she would “groom” her female students to be Jean Paul Sartre’s lovers just to have some semblance of control in her “open” relationship with the infamous seducer of women. To stay close to the man she loved she enabled his liaisons with other women.
Feminists hate the fact that women by nature are dependent on men. Women who turn their relationships with men into power struggles hate the power they perceive men have over them. However, men don’t really have power over women. Rather, they have a duty to guide and protect the weaker sex. Feminists though, hate that they are the weaker sex, and reject man as protector and guide thus throwing into discord the right ordering of relationships between men and women. De Beauvoir is a case in point: she forfeited the joys and benefits dependence on a man can bring a woman in marriage, and instead lead a life of false independence, which really is an abject dependence. Many feminist-oriented women have followed in de Beauvoir’s footsteps in this regard.
St. Peter calling women the “weaker vessel” is anathema to feminists. However, the line from 1 Peter 3:7 is, “Ye husbands…giving honour to the female as to the weaker vessel…” The weaker vessel is to be honoured. Doesn’t that sound like a good thing for women, something to be embraced by them rather than rejected?
The topic of woman’s dependence on men, which is related to the fact that woman is the weaker vessel, is one that is rarely if ever discussed. Feminism has made it a non-topic since they deny that women are dependent on men. That is feminism’s raison d’être, to insist and ensure that women are independent, emotionally and economically.
Women, however, cannot change their nature, try as they might. Women are dependent on men.
This dependence comes not only from the fact that women are physically weaker than men (typically), or that they need continual steadying due to their emotional natures, or, that bearing and raising children makes a woman vulnerable and requires all kinds of support.
The Italian anti-feminist Gina Lombroso in her book, The Soul of Woman (1923), writes:
The fundamental fact which determines woman’s attitude toward life is that woman is alterocentrist, that is to say, she centers her feelings, her enjoyment, her ambition in something outside herself; she makes not herself but another person, or even things surrounding her, the center of her emotions; and usually this person is someone whom she loves and by whom she wants to be loved, husband, son, father, friend, etc.
Man, on the other hand, is egocentrist: “he makes himself and his pleasures and activities the center of the world in which he lives.”
Lombroso relates this to feminism because feminism essentially arose out of woman’s unhappiness with her lot:
But if inherent with woman’s mission in the world is the necessity of making another living being the center of her life, this fact constitutes a tragedy in woman’s life and the most insurmountable obstacle to the solution of the woman question. It is because woman’s happiness is dependent on others that it is so hard to give her the happiness that should be hers by right. As woman makes something outside herself—not her own person—the center of her joys and ambitions, she is absolutely powerless to attain happiness by her own means. Because of her fatal love for others woman inevitably depends on others.
Lombroso writes, “…not laws nor the malevolence of men are the cause of the unhappiness in woman’s life, but her mission in life which makes her dependent on other living creatures whom she has a need of loving and by whom she wants to be loved.”
Feminists blame the “patriarchy” or men in general for their unhappiness. However, their unhappiness comes from the fact of their womanhood. Unlike men, women are fundamentally dependent creatures, regardless of whether or not they have young children in tow. In our modern world of backward values and misguided beliefs, this dependence is viewed as a negative, but it is not a negative. It simply is the way we were created. Recall that St. Peter says woman’s weakness is to be honoured.
In Alice Von Hildebrand’s The Privilege of Being a Woman, she discusses how “the glorification of strength and the denigration of weakness…has become the shallow core of modern thought and feminist belief”:
Our first parents’ minds were darkened by sin, their wills were weakened, their judgment became distorted. The hierarchy of values being upset, male accomplishments became overvalued. Physical strength became glorified and weakness was looked down upon…As women are weaker than men, and as they do not bask in the limelight as much as men do, as they are less “creative” than the strong sex, they are bound to be the victims of this distorted hierarchy of values.
Von Hildebrand has stated the source from which the woman question arises—“the glorification of strength and the denigration of weakness”—as well as an answer to it: restoring “the proper hierarchy of values.” (Restoring the proper hierarchy of values is not the same thing as the feminization of society that is taking place under feminism right now.)
To say that feminists hate men is to skim the surface of a much deeper problem. Feminism is essentially a rejection or hatred of womanhood, by women themselves. St. Peter and Alice Von Hildebrand hint to the solution to woman’s unhappiness, which feminism attempted to fix in a most misguided and even murderous way.
Gina Lombroso also discusses remedies in The Soul of Woman in a chapter titled, “Justice”:
It would be unjust for women, who have shown such ability as home-makers and housekeepers, to be obliged to drive automobiles, to observe the stars or to talk in the public forum, just as it would be unjust to oblige men, who have distinguished themselves as philosophers, engineers or mathematicians, to keep house or bring up new-born babies. These are tasks for which man is not fitted.
It is not unjust that woman, who has aptitudes different from man’s, should occupy a position in society unlike his; the contrary would be unjust. The fact that men and women are materially, morally, intellectually different is a reality, and it is just to recognize this, as it is just to admit that to different aptitudes must correspond different rights and duties.
Injustice begins when woman does not receive for the work she accomplishes, which work includes housekeeping and the bringing up of children, that glory, esteem and public admiration which are so readily rewarded for masculine work.
Injustice begins when society fails to reward and decorate the women who fulfill perfectly the functions of mother, wife and daughter and when that same society rewards men who have best fulfilled their masculine careers.
St. Peter says the weaker vessel should be honoured. Feminists, instead, hate their weakness, their maternal role, their womanhood. Feminists don’t hate men, they hate the Truth.