Thoughts on the previous post
We’ve had this debate on “feminism” before — I even invited in representatives of many of the big feminist blogs to make their cases — and I’m sad to say McCain is wrong here: to be classically liberal is to be a feminist, and this is not some sort of “me-too” feminism, but rather actual feminism, of the first wave variety. Belief in equality of opportunity — and an equality between the sexes with respect to the law — is a hallmark of the ideology. No fungibility or sameness of the sexes is required.
What McCain is talking about when he critiques Feminism is what I termed “establishment feminism” — mostly a ramped-up version of the second-wave or “Women’s Movement” variety — that has laid claim to the feminist narrative. But allowing them to determine who is a “feminist” and who is an “anti-feminist” is absurd: doing so cedes the ground of feminism to those who are perpetually aggrieved and who are looking for special dispensation for women — a sign that they believe woman need help from Big Brother to compete on a “level” playing field.
First wave feminists and post-feminists make up the majority of what are actually feminists, in the most direct sense; and these are precisely the people Establishment feminists wish to bracket from adopting the feminist label so as to own “feminism” (and to own it in a way that they would most certainly rail against were it men, or first-wave feminists, or post-feminists trying to define them into oblivion).
Control of the narrative of feminism should be the other way round. And we should work to make it so, because the term feminism — while we all realize how it’s come to be polluted by radicals and those who consider the goals of feminism to be perpetual (that is, feminism as an advocacy process, not as a definable goal) — still carries with it the idea of equality. And that is not a label those of us who advocate for true equality before the law should surrender so quickly.
The goals of feminism have largely been reached — a fact that chafes today’s establishment feminists. And so they must always create new grievances to rail against, and new “enemies” to label “anti-feminist” — be those enemies successful women who don’t share their beliefs on abortion (because hey, some of those fetuses may have turned into actual women!), or women who believe feminism as a movement has met its goals, or even the designers of laundry baskets.
See also, from some time back, Cathy Young
update: In a comment over at RSM’s place, Andrew makes a point that I believe is important here with respect to Schlafly’s argument:
I think the problem is not with the statement that unmarried woman vote for Obama, but that they “kicked their husbands out” and want a government handout.
Men sometime abuse their spouses, woman have marriages that don’t work out, and woman live longer than men and therefore there are lots of unmarried woman, who did not kick out their husbands.
I doubt that woman choose to leave their abusive or otherwise unacceptable husbands or do not remmarry because then they can rely on government aid.
There are lots of reasons why a woman may be unmarried other than her love of the nanny state.
This is precisely correct. And the way Schlafly states the problem suggests that single-mother / single-woman homes are a result of some sort of whim on the part of a capricious wife or man-hating woman.
While I’ve no doubt this is sometimes the case, I have no doubt, too, that often times women divorce (or don’t marry to begin with) for reasons most of those who call themselves “conservative” would still find quite legitimate.
Yes, the Democrats are cynically rushing to use Schlafly’s formulation for political purposes; and yes, their outrage is largely feigned. Still, their poor behavior doesn’t excuse ours — and while defending Schlafly isn’t poor behavior (because I think her larger point about Democrats looking to build a client state is spot on), it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge that, at least in part, her argument deployed an unfortunate trope about single mothers, one that most of us don’t happen to believe.