Feminism Got It Wrong

The thought started forming 25+ years ago while taking women’s studies classes at Northwestern, and it’s become clearer and clearer to me as I’ve gotten older and become a mother, that feminism got it wrong. Even as a young liberal, I recognized the strategic error in demanding “equality” by supplanting men in the workforce. The very premise implied that accomplishments in the traditionally male professions merited more respect than those in the traditionally female realm. I saw the women’s lib movement and their desire to compete in a man’s world a curiously disempowering admission that women valued male accomplishments over their own.

My sense is that the women’s movement got hijacked and has been used as a tool/method of destabilizing the family and growing the automaton class. Obviously, I am grateful for the right to vote, that my daughter’s sovereignty of self is legally protected, and that women have the same rights as men when it comes to starting a business and owning a home. (And protecting these Western world freedoms might be a more prudent goal than staging massive Trump protests in “Pussy hats” and waving “Abortion on Demand” signs, but that’s just me.)

For generations however, feminism has worked to erode the fabric of the family and devalue its critical foundation for a free and independent society. I suspect the forces behind the ERA are the same forces which hijacked feminism and planted a seed which turned women on themselves and their most precious family unit. Perhaps I’m naive, and women were already foolishly diminishing their venerated role as mothers and stewards of humanity, but I don’t think so.

I am not an advocate for farming one’s children out to caregivers, schools and the state — most critically when children are young — in order that a woman go “fulfill her potential” or “pursue her career.” And I say this as a woman who had quite an enjoyable and fulfilling career pre-children, and then upon having children, decided to leave that career (at least while my children grow up) and help grow and manage my husband’s business from home in order that I can raise and homeschool our children.

I have tremendous respect for and support all mothers who need to work in order to support their families. I’m one of them, and my husband and I have twisted ourselves into contortions for nearly a decade in order that I remain our children’s primary caregiver and teacher, and so that he can take over when I work during the “off hours.” However, I live in one of the wealthiest counties in the US, and I am surrounded by mothers who choose to work instead of stay home with their children. These mothers are encouraged by husbands who, themselves a product of a liberal intellectual upbringing, attach women’s value to professional standing.

I am largely disappointed and disheartened that parents have lost their way and purpose, as they’ve forgotten that mothers have the most important and critical responsibility to humanity — which is to devote themselves to raising the human beings they were privileged to bring into the world. And I think the hijacked or otherwise feminist movement has contributed a great deal to this tragic departure and its ramifications on the integrity of our society.

I say this as a product of a liberal intellectual upbringing myself, so it took me years to look beyond the feminist demonization of Phyllis Schlafly to understand more clearly what motivated her to almost single-handedly mount a campaign which successfully blocked the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. She perceived that such an amendment to the Constitution would actually be used to strip women and families of protections and privileges which would undermine us all. And her insistence of women’s equality argued that women were not victims who needed the government to create opportunities already afforded them and within their grasp.

“The feminist movement is not about success for women,” she said in a 2009 interview. “It is about treating women as victims and about telling women that you can’t succeed because society is unfair to you, and I think that’s a very unfortunate idea to put in the minds of young women because I believe women can do whatever they want.”

The fabric of our society has transformed such that the cultural norm 50 years ago of the mother at home raising her children has become the exception, regardless of income status. In the wealthy county I live in, many women choose to go back to work because, as one mother explained to me, “I like that sense of completion and satisfaction I get when I finish a report I’ve worked on and get feedback and praise from my colleagues. I never get that from my kids!” Other wealthy women hire nannies or put their children in daycare almost from birth, even if they don’t intend to go back to work, in order that they can pursue their hobbies and personal interests. The importance of “Me time” is emphasized in conversations between mothers everywhere I go.

The women’s lib and feminist movement have encouraged women to indulge in a shallow and base self-centeredness, emphasizing the importance of “self” and “self fulfillment” as if this were the worthy and rewarding pursuit, even attaching lofty notions of nobility to it — “Pave the way for our daughters!” Anyone who has had the privilege of personally raising and schooling their children knows how deceitful such advice is. It is the giving of self on behalf of one’s children which is the most fulfilling and rewarding of pursuits. It is a joy, it is growth, it is the ultimate purpose and therefore the ultimate form of satisfaction. It fills one’s heart, one’s soul, one’s life.

Generations of women and parents and children have been robbed of this experience and truth. And depression and skyrocketing rates of anxiety are on the rise, with most adults we encounter in our lives on one prescription drug or another. And our nation’s children spend most of their lives in the care of strangers, in front of screens, on prescription drugs themselves, with parents generally looking to “experts” and “authorities” to tell them how to parent and what’s best for their children.

Finally, there exists such a nuanced complexity of dynamic and balance — and intangible mystery — between men and women which feminism’s reductive and base competitive approach has nearly obliterated. If there is anything I’ve learned in my 46 years on earth and in the professional world, as well as in male/female relationships, it’s that I alone am capable of commanding the respect I feel I deserve. No one else, no movement, no edict, and no societal acknowledgement that I’ve been treated with callous disregard is going to provide that. I want laws which protect my bodily integrity in place, and I don’t want to be legally owned by anyone. Once that’s established, the rest is mainly up to the individual to teach others how to treat them, regard them, respect them, pay them. I don’t identify with any “feminist” movement, because I am more powerful than any common denominator.