Recently, it has come to my attention that some fellow Conservative bloggers have resurrected the argument over the word and philosophy of ‘Feminism’.
Of course, Stacy McCain instigated the discussion with this article. It was in response to an article in the Dusty Gray Lady(NYT) by Maureen Dowd who attacked Santorum and his family. I’m not a Santorum fan by any stretch of the imagination, but the attacks and snide remarks made against a politician’s family should be off limits in political discourse as far as I’m concerned.
Pete The Tech Guy wrote a piece delineating the difference in choices made by Mizz Dowd and Mrs. Santorum;
In Ms. Dowd’s piece, she goes after Mrs. Karen Santorum. This is no accident. The senator’s wife represents every choice that Ms. Dowd has rejected.
Mrs. Santorum is a faithful Catholic, long married, a mother of seven who has experienced the joys and the tragedies of motherhood, a person who has not let those tragedies destroy her or her faith. In an age when the popular culture rejects her choices, Mrs. Santorum decided to homeschool her surviving children to make sure they had an education that represented the culture and values that she found important.
Ms Dowd has taken a different path. As she approaches her 60th year, she is at the top of her profession, a columnist at one of the most famous newspapers in the world. She has money, fame and awards for her writing. No one can honestly contest that she has earned these accolades though hard work and effort over decades. As a person newly trying to make a living with words written and spoken I appreciate her success an, if I reach even one-tenth the level of success she has, I’ll be proud of myself.
Both Mrs. Santorum’s choices and Ms. Dowd’s come with a price. I have no doubt that Mrs. Santorum could have, when she was Karen Garver, pursued a successful career in any field she chose. I’m sure on occasion, when the kids have been particularly difficult, she briefly wished it was so.
Ms. Dowd choice has left her alone. I’m not privy to her dating history and, frankly, it’s not my business. Suffice to say she has not chosen marriage and I see no reason to believe she will. As for children, at 60, that’s unlikely even with the aid of modern science.
These are two different paths. This is only my opinion, but it seems to me that the difference is I see no evidence that Mrs. Santorum begrudges Ms. Dowd’s choices while, reading her column today (and from my memory of her writing) I can’t say the same for Ms. Dowd, who seems to resent the very thought that in 2012 a woman might choose Karen Santorum’s path. And perhaps Ms. Dowd resents that Mrs. Santorum can, once her children are grown, choose a new path …
Which brought on an article by Roxeanne DeLucca panning McCain’s article;
Men and women are different, and the differences are so obvious, intrinsic and profound that to prohibit “discrimination” between the sexes is to require people to pretend to believe in a transparent falsehood. No sane person could actually believe that men and women are equal – that is to say, fungible – in this way, and therefore the entirety of the feminist worldview is premised on a susceptibility to insanity.
Okay, let’s take this apart. Yes, men and women are different. But men are also different from other men; we would not presume to interchange Stacy and Smitty, or Smitty and Pete. They are all men – and white, middle-class, college-educated, married-with-children men – and they are still not fungible. Ergo, fungibility and equality are fundamentally different concepts, no matter how much Stacy may blithely equate them.
Now, I suspect that the retort is “That’s not what I meant by fungible,” but that leads us to the question: in what way are men fungible with each other but not with women? Can we really not take a male scientist and replace him with a talented female scientist, but he could be swapped out with another male scientist? In that situation, the premise of not being fungible is downright sexist – assuming that men can do things competently but women cannot.
One little word brought about this argument from Miss DeLucca, “fungible.’ So here’s a definition of fungible;
Fungibility is the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution, such as crude oil, wheat, precious metals or currencies. For example, if someone lends another person a $10 bill, it does not matter if they are given back the same $10 bill or a different one, since currency is fungible; if someone lends another person their car, however, they would not expect to be given back a different car, even of the same make and model, as cars are not fungible.
It refers only to the equivalence of each unit of a commodity with other units of the same commodity. Fungibility does not describe or relate to any exchange of one commodity for some other, different commodity.
Perhaps Stacy meant that the differences between men and women have liquidity? But one thing we can say for certain is that men and women are as different as night and day. That’s not to say that a woman can’t be as good an engineer or a lawyer, ect. as a man, but they are still different.
One thing will never change, though…men can’t procreate without women, although with the advent of artificial insemination and sperm banks, the same can’t be said of women.
Since this seems to be a sore spot in the Conservative lexicon, others have thrown their two cents worth into the fray. Here’s Bob Belvedere’s take on it;
I spend so much time in these Dispatches praising Jeff Goldstein [going so far as to call him the James Madison of The Restoration] that I figured it was about time I took him to task for something, least you think I think he’s some sort of God…
That the term feminism has been corrupted — just as the terms “liberal” or “tolerance” or “fairness” have been corrupted — does not mean we as classical liberals / legal conservatives need give up the fight to take back ownership. In fact, ceding ownership over such terms has enabled the left to claim the mantle of being liberal, tolerant, and fair — to claim that it is they who are advocates of the equal rights of women, even as their corruption of feminism has rendered them particularly cynical special pleaders — which of necessity suggests of their political opponents the obverse: legal conservatives / classical liberals — now framed as racist, homophobic, misogynistic and patriarchal right-wingers — must be illiberal, intolerant, unfair, and resistant to allowing the “equal rights” of women.
It has been my argument here over the course of the last ten years that by rejecting and then countering the left’s attempts to usurp the language of individual liberty, we as conservatives are able to then forcefully and consistently make the case that the left’s entire political facade is based on the ideological perversion of what are fundamentally classical liberal principles.
He writes further, in a part that Smitty does not quote:
[Stacy McCain’s] argument, conversely, concedes the game by conceding the term — an admission on his part that the designation “feminist” has become so completely corrupted that we as conservatives should distance ourselves from it. That is, because feminism, as it has been appropriated by the academic left, has become one fulcrum for a particular political bloc with aims toward radical egalitarianism (and there are various splinter groups representing various ideas, among them notions of social identity construction, gender fluidity, etc.), it is Stacy’s contention that what is now feminism is inherently anti-conservative.
And it is. But then, that’s because what is now “feminism” has so diverged from the origins of the feminist impulse that it is a perversion and, in fact, a direct rejection, of the principles from which it sprung.
I can understand wanting to take back the terms ‘liberal’, ‘tolerance’, and ‘fairness’, as their original definitions are politically neutral [they
are words which describe conditions in Reality], but why would we want to take back a term [‘Feminism’] that has always been a Leftist term?
Jeff Goldstein takes Stacy to task here ( emphasis mine);
Okay, here’t goes: Stacy’s mistake here — and it’s been a consistent one in his critiques on feminism over the years — is to allow the feminist project to conflate egalitarianism with equality before the law, the latter making up much of the basis for first wave feminism, which concerned itself with de jure inequalities and suffrage. Equality before the law — and the protestation of officially mandated inequalities that stand in the way of such an equitable arrangement — is a perfectly classically liberal / constitutionally conservative concept. And it differs importantly from the idea that men and women are fungible, which as Stacy notes (correctly) is absurd.
And this is precisely why feminism shouldn’t be surrendered to those whom I’ve called the “establishment feminists,” whose goal has been to turn what was originally a classically liberal concept into a progressive morass of grievance peddling and cut-throat identity politics. Stacy would deny that one can be a conservative and a feminist simultaneously; in fact, he admonishes that “[c]onservatives who defend feminism are not merely wasting their own time, but wasting the time of those of us who are required to leave aside useful work in order to refute their misguided arguments.”
Conversely, my position has always been that, to be a feminist in the original sense (what Christina Hoff Sommers has termed “equity feminism”), one need merely be a classical liberal / legal conservative: because feminism itself was born of Enlightenment principles of individual justice — an idea that permeated the then “radical” thinking of of Founders and Framers — one can’t NOT be a feminist, if one pledges fidelity to the foundational ideas upon which this country was constructed. And that’s because first-wave feminism desired that women be granted the same legal and moral rights as men — and the opportunity to vote their interests in the political process.
Y’all are beating this argument like you’d beat a red-headed stepchild or a rented mule, as the sayings go. The Progressive Left has pretty much usurped the original meaning of the word to their own ends, much as they have usurped the meaning of the word “gay.” Back in the day, if you said someone was “gay”, you meant that they were happy-go-lucky or carefree. Today, “gay” has an entirely different meaning which is not the premise of this article, so we won’t go there.
As Kenny Rogers said in that song;