The Spectacle Blog

No One Marginalizes Megatron

By on 7.1.08 | 5:10PM

Megan McArdle brings some meat to the table in a post on how she's a feminist, yet not. She boils down her feminist inclinations into 3 points, and then notes her heresies. (Quick plug: This makes reading Christina Hoff Sommers's feature in our July/August issue all the more necessary.) To wit, McArdle's a feminist because she believes:

1) Society is set up in ways that limit women's choices and opportunities--men's too (it's awful hard to make the choice to stay home with kids, or become a nurse), but women more. Men are not, for example, socially punished for monogamy the way that women are socially punished for promiscuity.

2) Privilege exists, and is in many unfortunate ways invisible to those who possess it.

3) We should try to change those things.

Her heresies focus on "how we should change this," i.e. she doesn't like the idea of forcing equality at the end of Uncle Sam's magnum. It should be no surprise I like her heresies, but I still quirk my head a little at her reasons for being a feminista, which she collapses into the basic point that she "endorse[s] the project of changing social values to increase the scope of human possibility."

Her point assumes that it is possible to reach a near-perfect equilibrium in which the social pressures can be neutralized. I'm assuming here she's not suggesting that tax codes are structured to favor men as the primary breadwinner, but instead that the organic traditions of the population are biased toward moms being traditional moms and dads being traditional dads. In that case, though, I always wonder. If you have a group of traditional moms who have chosen to be mothers, perhaps because of false consciousness, or perhaps because of their own free will, they will be inclined to believe that different choices made by others are in some way flawed. We see this behavior currently, and we see the opposite coming from feminists who think that the traditional moms have sold out The Cause.

In other words, I can't imagine a world in which everyone will be okay with what everyone else will be doing. If you don't buy that there are systemic legal obstacles inhibiting female achievement at companies (aside from the possibly sexist dispositions of the men who run them), I don't really even see her point about the existence of privilege as being relevant. But maybe I'm misreading.

My point is that I think that getting the more lukewarm responses from people might actually be more difficult to achieve than getting the more volatile ones. I think it's easier to polarize people on the points of Ultimate Feminine Liberation vs. Be Tradition, than it is to get people to say, "Eh, whatever you want."

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