The Failure of Feminism

In a recent article written by journalist Claire Berlinski about the ongoing sexual harassment “hysteria,” The Warlock Hunt, Berlinski pleads with women to stop the hunt because they might lose the freedom and power they’ve gained from feminism and the sexual revolution. She writes:

Like so many revolutions, the sexual revolution risks coming full circle, returning us right where we started—fainting at bawdy jokes, demanding the return of ancient standards of chivalry, so delicate and virginal that a man’s hand on our knee causes us trauma. Women have long been victims, but now we are in so many respects victims no longer. We have more status, prestige, power, and personal freedom than ever before. Why would we want to speak and act as though we were overwhelmingly victims, as we actually used to be?

According to Berlinski, men of the “old world,” by which one may assume she means the pre-feminist world, were “brutes” and of course, “women don’t want the old brutes back.” She writes: “No woman in her right mind would say, ‘I want the old world back.’ We know what that meant for women. Nor would we even consciously think it.”

Putting aside the fact that Berlinski deals in caricatures—damsels in distress and brutes—as opposed to the flesh and blood reality of the past, how can she be so sure that women don’t secretly and genuinely desire that “old world?” (And if they don’t, do women, at this point of their feminist indoctrination, know what is good for them?) In other words, is woman’s so-called freedom and power making them happy?

It should be evident by now that women are not happy with what feminism has forced upon them, least of all the women of Hollywood at the forefront of the sexual harassment hysteria. All women face the pressure of looking young and sexually attractive, but in Hollywood, a woman’s career depends upon it. How many of the accusers are part of a milieu where women’s existence hinges on their being a sexual object, desirable on screen and off? Women today face unprecedented pressure to “have it all”—a successful career and a family, as well as appearing youthful and chic well into their 50s.

In a 2016 article by Julia Vidmar, All the Boxes Have Been Ticked, But Single Career Women Are Still Not Happy, Vidmar goes over some of the evidence, focusing on single women, of woman’s new unhappiness.

Vidmar writes:

All in all, the new single woman seems to have it all: She has the money to pursue the lifestyle she chooses, she has grown up with a plethora of educational and athletic opportunities at her disposal, and she has been taught to have no sense of shame about her sexuality.

Yet, strikingly, though these advancements seem to mark a progressive step for woman’s equality, they also signal new set of struggles and issues. As stated earlier, the young women of this generation are finding it difficult to maintain lasting relationships with members of the opposite sex. Although they have had many pleasurable “flings,” these women complain that the men they date do not want to marry them.

Vidmar cites the book, Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too!), by Carol Platt Liebau, the thesis of which, as the title suggests, is that the new single woman’s sexually liberated lifestyle is damaging to her. Vidmar writes that Liebau “insists that the so-called liberation offered to young women needs to be re-evaluated, asking if it really is empowerment for a young girl to see her primary objective as the eliciting of lustful reactions from men.”

Vidmar goes on to discuss the root of the problem: feminism “gone wrong.”

Vidmar’s article and the research she cites is relevant to the discussion around the sexual harassment hysteria and provides somewhat of a counterpoint to Berlinski’s view. However, Vidmar, like most critics of the sexual revolution and its effects on women, does not dig to the ultimate root of the problem. It is not feminism “gone wrong” that is the problem—it is feminism itself, in every way, shape and form.[i]

The sexual revolution is another phase of the original feminist movement that began in the 19th century and was known as the woman’s rights movement. The abortion rights campaign is not separate from the suffrage campaign. (This is where the concept of “waves” of feminism comes in.) The idea of women’s right to vote stems from the same ideology as does the idea of a woman’s right to control her own body, a.k.a. abortion. The 18th century Enlightenment philosophy of the “rights of man” was extended to women—this is the basis for all of feminism. Because women’s equality with men is the goal, and she cannot achieve such equality if she is on the unequal footing of having to carry and care for babies throughout her 20s and 30s, she needs contraception and abortion. This is what ties her to the home—motherhood—and how can she compete with men at university and in the workplace if she is tied to the home?

A missionary priest in Colorado, Fr. Machebeuf,[ii] said it well in an anti-suffrage speech he gave in 1877 (emphasis mine):

Then, when the wife is carried away by political excitement, or is discharging the duties of the office to which she has been elected, as judge, sheriff, representative to Congress, what is to become of the family? The mother will have little leisure and less inclination to attend to her children. A stranger, or even the father, cannot supply her place. Children need a mother’s care, nobody can supply the place of a mother. Children, then, must be neglected, almost abandoned they will be in the way, and looked upon as an incumbrance. Mothers will repress their maternal instincts, and the horrible crime of infanticide before birth, now so fearfully prevailing, will become more prevalent still, and the human race be threatened with destruction, in open violation and contempt of the command and blessing of the Creator, “Increase and multiply.”

The rise of women as mere sex objects, abortion as an acceptable “choice,” and women competing with men in the workplace to “achieve” are parallel developments stemming from the same source: feminism.

In Pope Pius XI’s 1930 encyclical, Casti Cannubii, he makes this prescient statement in his discussion of the feminist movement (emphasis mine):

This, however, is not the true emancipation of woman, nor that rational and exalted liberty which belongs to the noble office of a Christian woman and wife; it is rather the debasing of the womanly character and the dignity of motherhood, and indeed of the whole family, as a result of which the husband suffers the loss of his wife, the children of their mother, and the home and the whole family of an ever watchful guardian. More than this, this false liberty and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has been raised within the walls of the home by means of the Gospel, she will soon be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man.

He was right, this is exactly what happened. But what could such an authority figure as a pope teach the modern woman about herself? Nothing, according to feminism. Feminism is a daughter of the anti-Catholic Revolutionary[iii] spirit which sets up man as his own god. Woman, therefore, is her own authority and the ruler of her own world. She is autonomous, independent, free. Free especially from the “old world” views of the Catholic Church as expressed so well by Pius XI in Casti Cannubii.

“Free” modern woman is not. Unrestrained perhaps, but not free. The sexual revolution and women’s sexual freedom dis-empowers women, turning them into cheap playthings for men. F. Carolyn Graglia wrote about this in her 1998 book, Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism:

While vehemently insisting that women should not be viewed as “sex objects,” feminists ironically adopted a model of female behavior in which the woman became nothing but a sex object, the status of prostitutes and women depicted in pornography.

She continues:

The only result feminists have accomplished by endorsing the sexual revolution has been to deprive women of the societal support they need to refuse to engage in casual sexual intercourse in the fashion of sexually predatory males.

Then there is this section, which perhaps everyone involved in or interested in the sexual harassment hysteria should read (emphasis mine):

Women once confidently controlled the sexual aspects of their dating relationships, setting and enforcing the rules while viewing the male as suppliant who would be grateful for any sexual favours he received (which would usually be something short of vaginal intercourse). Not yet misled by feminist teaching, women knew these were favors. Cultural mores entitled us to rebuff sexual advances because no one believed male and female sexuality were the same or that women’s craving for casual sexual activity equaled men’s…

…Having absorbed feminist teachings, however, women became confused and diffident as to their right to control the nature and extent of premarital sexual activity. They feared that less than enthusiastic participation in such activity (which was now usually expected to be vaginal intercourse, not some lesser range of sexual favors) would establish their difference from, and hence their inequality with, men. Today, well-educated professional women, who are embarrassed to defend the unsophisticated concepts of virginity and chastity, are less competent to control men’s sexual advances than high school girls were in the 1940s. One result is the invention of concepts like “date rape” and an expansive law of sexual harassment in an attempt to provide protection for women against seduction that unsophisticated high school girls once felt completely confident in securing for themselves with a graceful—and we sometimes thought, even elegant—refusal.  

The sexual harassment hysteria is the consequence of woman’s sexual freedom and her release from the restraints once imposed upon her by a Christian social order. The freedom to be promiscuous is not freedom at all. The feminist idea that a woman who is sexually liberated is empowered is false. It is the opposite that is true—she is demeaned by and enslaved to a false ideology of the role of woman and what makes her happy.

Regardless of whether or not this or that complaint has any merit, there is something of a collective cry for help that can be heard behind the din of accusations: “Help me, I hate myself, I’ve bared my body to make money and have men desire me, and now I feel used and ashamed.” Or, “I regret my abortion, posing nude, my divorce, etc.” On the flipside of any guilt or wrongdoing on the part of the men, is the shame, regret and self-hatred of the women for the immodest, unchaste life the modern woman, to varying degrees, typically leads.

It is as if women are reacting to the failure of feminism to make them happy by heaping on more feminism. Women are attacking men, turning them into the guilty party, but it takes two to tango, and it is women who first asked men to dance the dance of the Revolution.

While Berlinski does not want a return to the days when woman’s delicacy caused her to become disconcerted by a man touching her knee, it is exactly this sense of modesty that is associated with woman’s happiness. That “trauma” she feels is the correct reaction of a modest woman. It is the kind of reaction that builds up a civilization, instead of tearing it down, which is the stage we are now at.

Contrary to the lies of feminism, when woman’s primary role was that of wife and mother in the home caring for her family, before feminism forced women en masse into the workplace and made their happiness dependent on a successful career, she did not feel oppressed and unhappy as a rule.[iv] Berlinski’s statement that in the past women were “overwhelmingly victims” does not hold up to any thorough investigation of women’s lives in previous periods, whether it be medieval Christian Europe or Victorian England.[v]

Modesty and chastity protect women and make them happy. It brings them security and contentment. The “old world” where brutish men supposedly went around raping and pillaging was the “really old world” of pagan barbarians. The men of the “old world” of medieval Christianity and Catholic Europe were, as a rule, not brutes, nor were the women oppressed. But that is the topic of another essay.[vi]

Berlinski does not mention the word “feminism” once in her article. This is telling. Most women still don’t make the connection between their unhappy, stressful lives and feminism. However, the underlying cause of the sexual harassment hysteria is the misery created in women by feminism—and only the rejection of feminism will put an end to this unhappiness. What is now needed: a return to the “old world” of chivalry, chastity, piety, and every medieval notion that has been wrongly discredited by the liberal agenda.

Along with shame and regret there is a good deal of anger behind the sexual harassment accusations. Perhaps, though, it’s time for women to own up to their weaknesses and mistakes. This doesn’t seem likely though, as women are caught in a feminist-induced state of perpetual victimhood, and so, they deflect their anger with themselves, and the feminist system that indoctrinated them, onto men. Instead of raging against men and male sexuality, perhaps women should rage against the machine of feminism that turned them into sexual objects—“reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man.”

The sexually-liberated woman who has, as Berlinski states, “more status, prestige, power, and personal freedom than ever before,” is angry and more than a little sad because while she may have those things, she traded in her self-worth and dignity for them, and they are not what she truly wants: to be loved and honoured by a good man, and to have a lasting marriage and a happy home.[vii]

No woman in her right mind would want the old world back? Feminism has piled on so many lies about what the “old world” was like for women, and has indoctrinated her so completely with its destructive, anti-woman ideology, no woman is in her right mind at this point.

[i] I’ve written on the topic that all feminism is bad many times on this site, beginning with The Total Anti-Feminist and The Many Faces of Feminism and Why Catholics Can’t Be Feminists.

[ii] Fr. Machebeuf, Vicar Apostolic of Colorado, on whom Willa Cather based her character of Fr. Vaillant in Death Comes to the Archbishop, was a tireless missionary and is considered to be instrumental in establishing the Catholic Church in the American West.

[iii] “Revolution” here does not refer to a specific revolutionary event but to the slow and violent sweeping away of the Christian social order, starting in the late Middle Ages. The Protestant Revolt, the French Revolution, the American Revolution and the Russian Revolution are all specific revolutionary events that are part of the overall “Revolution.” The Revolutionary spirit is characterized by anti-Catholicism and the worship of “liberty” (a.k.a. license). Under the Revolutionary order the rights of man usurp the rights of God. See Revolution and Counter-Revolution by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira for more on this topic.

[iv] 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.

[v] For Victorian England see Gertrude Himmelfarb’s 1995 book, The De-Moralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values, for medieval Christian Europe see my previous essay, Turning Medieval Queens into Feminist Heroines.

[vi] I discuss this in my previous essay Turning Medieval Queens into Feminist Heroines.

[vii] I would add that woman’s deepest desire is to submit to her Creator, God, and for her life to be in harmony with His Divine Law: “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You,” wrote St. Augustine of Hippo in Confessions. In this woman is in complete equality with man.