Freedom used to stand at the heart of feminism, but modern feminists have succeeded in strong>erasing history
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No, we don’t believe that any woman should have this choice. No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one…
In Simone de Beauvoir, we see how starkly the ideology of liberation has come to oppose actual, practical liberty—even “choice.” Her intolerance and condescension toward family-centered women is shared by many in today’s feminist establishment, and has affected the education of American students. Historian Christine Rosen, in a recent survey of women’s studies texts, found that every one disparaged traditional marriage, stay-at-home mothers, and the culture of romance. Perhaps there is a sensible women’s studies text out there somewhere, but, for the most part, the sphere of life that has the greatest appeal to most women, and is inseparable from traditional ideas of feminine fulfillment, is rejected in the name of liberation.
Today’s feminist establishment in the United States is dominated by the radical wing of the egalitarian tradition. Not only do its members not cooperate with their conservative sisters, but they also often denigrate and vilify them; indeed they have all but eliminated them from the history of American feminism. Revisionist history is never a pretty sight. But feminist revisionists are destructive in special ways. They seek to obliterate not only feminist history but the femininity that made it a success.
Contemporary feminism needs to make peace with Hannah More and Frances Willard and their modern-day heirs or face a complete loss of appeal and effectiveness. Eve Ensler and her most devoted disciple, Jane Fonda, may not be amenable to change. But there is hope for the younger generation. Over the years, I have lectured on more than 100 college campuses where I meet both conservative and radical women activists. The former invite me and the latter come to jeer and wrangle—but as a rule we all part as friends. “Why do you like the Vagina Monologues so much?”, I ask them. Most tell me that, by acting in the play or supporting it, they are both having fun (girls, too, like to push the limits) and serving a good cause (funds raised by the performances support local domestic violence shelters). I have yet to meet a single one who shares the play’s misandry.
These young women can be reasoned with and many are fully capable of allying themselves with moderate and conservative women to work for common interests. My advice to them: Don’t bother “taking back the Garden.” Take back feminism. Restore its lost history. Make the movement attractive once again to the silent majority of American women, who really don’t want to be liberated from their womanhood. And then take on the cause of the women who have yet to find the liberty that western women have won for themselves and that all women everywhere deserve.
Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women (1995) and The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Young Men (2001). This essay is the sixth in a ten-part series being published in successive issues of The American Spectator under the general title, “The Future of Individual Liberty: Elevating the Human Condition and Overcoming the Challenges to Free Societies.” The series is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this series are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.
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H/T to National Review Online