One of the aims of feminism is to transform the world from a patriarchy into a matriarchy. In the late 19th century, the daughter of feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriot Stanton Blatch, following in her mother’s footsteps, stated in a speech that some form of matriarchy would be the best system for “human improvement” to “be carried to a high point of perfection.”
Feminists then and now have drawn more on their own feminist ideology than on anthropological research to support their belief that in prehistoric times a matriarchy existed. Friedrich Engels may have latched on to this theory, but anthropologists and archaeologists have not. The evidence just isn’t there.*
The myth of the existence of a prehistoric matriarchy aside, have feminists succeeded in creating a matriarchy now, today? Is our feminized world a subtle matriarchy? Is it now indeed a “woman’s world” as suggested by the article “The End of Men” written by Hanna Rosin for The Atlantic back in 2010?
The “world”—especially the workplace around which so much of life now revolves—does appear to be feminized. For example, the leadership style of the future has been deemed “altrocentric.” Altrocentric leaders put others before themselves and lead by principles such as, you are only strong when you make others strong. Altrocentric leadership is non-hierarchical and nurturing. However, women in executive roles say they do act like men. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway once said in an interview with The New Yorker, “I tell people all the time, ‘Don’t be fooled, because I am a man by day’.” If the workplace is feminized, why are women honing masculine traits to get ahead? Isn’t this a contradiction?
What is really going on in the workplace and the rest of society is the feminization of men—that is, the suppression of their masculinity—so that women can achieve. The altrocentric leadership style that works on the principle of “you are only strong when you make others strong” translates into “men need to step back and support women being promoted to leadership positions.” Because men are the natural leaders of a society, if they don’t step back, women won’t get the opportunity to lead. The flipside of men stepping back is women masculinizing themselves to fit in and get ahead at work. Why? Because the patriarchy is not so easily destroyed.
It still is a “man’s world” at heart, so women are aping men to succeed and the real men are being told to step aside.
What we have is an artificial layer of matriarchy spread over the natural patriarchal structure of society.
Men and women today have, to varying degrees, become feminized and masculinized, respectively—either wholeheartedly accepting the new ideals of the strong woman and the sensitive man, or adhering to the ideals in order to survive in this “brave new world.”
Feminism is one of the great ideologies of modern times—and like all man-made ideologies—it does not deal in reality. While feminism has been successful in implementing much of its program, it did not succeed in creating an actual matriarchy, because matriarchy is not natural to us. It will always be an overlay on the natural patriarchal order, and this overlaying will involve suppression of what is good and natural.
While the truly feminine woman tends toward passivity (she likes to be guided by a man she looks up to—her father, husband, Our Lord), and is much more comfortable and content in being so, assertiveness is now the ideal for women and is fostered in girls from an early age.
Passivity does not mean a woman mindlessly submits to a man and has no part in problem-solving and decision making. It does not mean she is a slave or a drudge. Whatever we mean in our usage of the word “passive” today—and today it has only negative connotations—the etymology of “passive” is traced to the Old French passif “suffering, undergoing hardship” (14th century) and to the Latin passivus “capable of feeling or suffering.” In the 17th century it came to mean “suffering without resistance.” From the viewpoint of its etymological roots, passivity is something beautiful and heroic, and is related to self-sacrifice and patience in suffering. This is very much related to women’s role as mothers. Patient suffering and putting other’s needs before one’s own is the defining characteristic of motherhood. This is the old heroism of the mother—giving up one’s own life to serve her husband and children—which feminism has sought to belittle and extinguish. But a mother’s quiet heroism served untold benefit for society. Selfless suffering has incomparable value.
Obviously mothers still suffer out of love for their children, but this act of self-sacrifice is no longer recognized as the central fact of women’s lives. The busy working mother who “has it all” is admired, but the “giving up it all” for one’s husband and children is not recognized as something of value in our newly-fashioned society.
This is something women once understood: within the bounds of woman’s passivity—which is not the same thing as helplessness and neediness—there is ample room for her to exercise her free will for the good, and to use her talents and intelligence to teach the children well. The “antis” (women who campaigned against woman suffrage) were against women voting because they cherished their roles as mothers and wives and understood the influential position these roles put them in, and they wanted to retain it. They felt they were accomplishing great things by “making men” and did not want to give that up merely to ape men.
Before feminism, the masses of women were generally content with their lives as wives and mothers in the home.** If they were forced to work out of economic necessity they wished they could return to the home. And, if a woman felt called to another life there was the religious life.
Further, the world outside the home was influenced by women despite early feminist complaints that the “separate spheres” doctrine kept women from having any influence outside the home. Women viewed their role as mothers as highly influential because they were “the makers of men,” as I’ve already noted. There were a handful of women that were particularly active outside the home in the civic reform movement of the 19th century, such as Octavia Hill and Beatrice Webb in England. It should be noted that these women were more interested in bettering social conditions than empowering themselves as women. They were not necessarily feminists, and several of these women were strident anti-suffragists.***
Some women did achieve great things outside the realm of the home before and without the aid of feminism. This truth is unknown to us today because feminism introduced myths and caricatures of women and men that have thoroughly taken hold—the frazzled, unfulfilled housewife chained to the kitchen sink, held back from fulfilling some great talent she has, and the barbarous alpha male slapping women’s behinds whenever he gets the chance.
These myths and caricatures have served feminism well in suppressing the truth: women don’t need feminism (independence and equal rights) to be happy, and what is more—and this is the opposite of what feminism would have us believe—women only truly “rule” when they sacrifice their own fulfillment to serve others (typically a husband and children, but let’s not forget that religious life for women once flourished.)
Although feminists have tried to institute a matriarchy, what we have now is a feminized patriarchy with masculinized women running around frantically trying to prove themselves as competent to take on leadership positions. Women now distance themselves from their most endearing feminine qualities, such as their deep need to be guided by and taken care of by a man. Feminism has succeeded in masculinizing women and feminizing men, but feminists can’t stamp out the patriarchy no matter how hard they try, because it is the natural order for us.
Conservatives tend to cite “radical” feminism as the problem—represented by such figures as Gloria Steinem and Simone de Beauvoir and the angry young women on college campuses that continue to protest against the patriarchy. Radical feminists, however, the ones who openly cite patriarchy as being evil, are the vocal, sensationalistic minority in feminism. It is the moderates—and this encompasses most if not all women to varying degrees—that are the force behind the successes of feminism. These moderates are liberals and conservatives, men and women, Republicans and Democrats.
It is moderate feminism that instructed women, “by all means, get married and have children, wear dresses and make-up, shave your legs and paint your toenails, BUT MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A CAREER OUTSIDE OF THE HOME.” For the modern woman, the dual path of career and motherhood is the only path to personal fulfillment and is the only way by which to achieve success.
While moderate feminists may insist that they don’t want to bring down the patriarchy, that they only want men to be nice to them while they take up equal positions to men in society, the latter has by necessity induced the suppression of masculinity in men. For women to compete with men, men have had to step back.
It is this moderate feminism that has feminized husbands, sons, co-workers, and Presidents and Prime Ministers.****
Because feminism made a caricature—a very negative one—of the alpha male, the man who leads, we no longer know what a man is to be. Feminism would like us to believe a good man is “sensitive” to and “respectful” of women.
It becomes rather obvious why feminists set this ideal for men. So that they will suppress their masculinity, their inherent leadership abilities and competitive nature for example, so that women can rise to power.
It’s not so obvious why men and the women who love them have fallen for such an ideal. “Sensitive” and “respectful” are rather paltry expectations. The good man of old would have gone into battle against the infidel in the morning and in the evening knelt down and prayed the most tender prayers of devotion before an image of the Holy Virgin Mary. It was such men who fought for and honoured what is good and true in the world. It was men, not women, who saved civilization time and again.*****
Now, with men’s masculinity suppressed and women aping men, the patriarchy is disrupted, and Western civilization is sinking into the pit.
The masculinization of women and feminization of men is a symptom of the disorder that was introduced into the world at the time of the Protestant Revolution. This disorder was furthered by the 18th century Enlightenment and the French Revolution. This general revolutionary spirit—in essence, anti-Catholicism—has continued its reign down to today.
All our problems today can be traced to the social order in the West being informed by a disordered Protestant, liberal ethos instead of an organic, traditional, Catholic one.
Bringing out the best in men and women is not happening because we have allowed ourselves to be guided by liberal and feminist ideology. What is the best in men and women? We have little idea of this in our materialistic, secular society that constantly flashes images at us of an idealized, purely materialistic life. A return to a sane order—an organic, Catholic social order—will assist men and women to understand their respective roles and to live the Christian lives we are all called to live.
*See The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory, Why an Invented Past Won’t Give Women a Future by Cynthia Eller.
**It is not true—but a myth created by feminism—that women en masse were ever unhappily chained to the kitchen sink. Gertrude Himmelfarb in her 1995 book, The De-Moralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values, points out that in Victorian England men’s and women’s spheres were not as separate as is popularly thought. Himmelfarb also discusses Elizabeth Roberts’ study of women’s lives in Victorian England: A Woman’s Place: An Oral History of Working Class Women 1890-1940, which found that women showed a sense of satisfaction with their roles as wives and mothers. George Gilder in his 1986 book, Men and Marriage, points to research of suburban post-war America (for example, that of sociologist Helen Lopata) that paints a more positive picture of the lives of housewives than the one drawn by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique. Carl Degler does the same thing in his 1980 book, Against Odds: Women and the Family in America from the Revolution to the Present, repeatedly observing that women were generally content with their traditional roles whether on the Oregon Trail or in 1950s suburbia.
***This is discussed at length in Gertrude Himmelfarb’s 1995 book, The De-Moralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values.
****Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wears his feminism on his sleeve, but Donald Trump’s administration is also oriented toward feminism. His daughter Ivanka’s feminist agenda is no secret, and his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, recently said in a press briefing: “Empowering working mom’s is the heart of the President’s agenda…” (July 26, 2017). Whether or not this is pure politics to win over women is beside the point. The point is promoting the feminist-created working mom ideal is front and centre for the Trump administration.
*****Women of good will assisted men at this task, but save for a few exceptions, this assistance came through women fulfilling very different roles than those of men.