According to Merriam-Webster, the first use of the word feminism happened in 1893. It didn’t come into everyday use until about 1970, shortly before the disastrous Roe v. Wade decision. Its definition is relatively simple – “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”
The word “equal” is easy to use, but its definition is far from simple. Its simple meaning is a state in which several things are identical. This is problematic when applied to people. Each person is so different that claiming all persons to be equal is absurd. The more traditional meaning interprets the word to mean equality of opportunity. Leftists mean equality of outcome.
Equality is the watchword that defines most modern social movements, including feminism.
The Tension Between Feminism and Family
The easiest way to understand the feminist concept of equality is its position on the family. Feminists feel threatened by the family because it is anti-egalitarian.
First, families create inequality by providing for the accumulation of property. Those with more members, and therefore more skills and abilities, will, more often than not, be more self-sustaining – an essential measure of prosperity. Exercising family virtues – temperance, stability, marital faithfulness, etc. –helps families gain and retain wealth. Families without those virtues often decline.
The family also provides a protected atmosphere for individuals to develop their full potential. This individuality presents a second threat to the egalitarian feminists. This effort to excel conflicts with the left’s constant desire to put people into communal groups of equal beings – to make each individual a part of the Marxist “masses.”
Destroying the Family
Thus, the feminists must destroy the family. However, such a naturally occurring institution cannot be entirely obliterated. To accomplish their goal, the feminists must “redefine” the family. They do this by slandering the traditional family with the menacing term “patriarchy.” As the family became increasingly “nuclear,” it lost much of the strength of its normally extended relationships. Artificial contraception and procured abortion further destroy the family by depriving it of children.
At the same time, the term “family” is watered down to include just about any relationship, whether it be a firm, school or club. Same-sex “marriage” and other forms of union redefine the family to mean whatever liberals want.
Inside the feminist movement, there are several angles through which the family can be attacked. Modern sociologists divide the feminist movement into three camps; Liberal Feminists, Marxist Feminists, and Radical Feminists. Each attacks the family in its own way.
Of the three, the Liberal Feminists are the most familiar. This feminism is rooted in the Sexual Revolution and the “Women’s Movement” of the sixties and seventies.
The Rise of Liberal Feminism
Liberal Feminist objections are based on egalitarian principles. The family keeps women from being like men. Thus, large families prevent women from pursuing their careers. Such women were “subservient” to their “breadwinner” husbands. Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminist Mystique, popularized a caricature of the family. The unhappy mother was isolated at home while her husband prospered in a stimulating workplace culture. The childrearing function was portrayed as exhausting and repetitive. When the children left home, the “housewife” was condemned to years of boredom.
Since the sixties, Liberal Feminists have wreaked great havoc. They successfully lobbied for “no-fault” divorce laws. Procured abortion became legal with the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. The liberal feminists remain a key constituency for the Democrats. These women also entered the government, winning seats in Congress and other public offices. Liberal Feminists almost eliminated any legal distinction between men and women, but their efforts were scuttled by more traditional women who led the charge to defeat the “Equal Rights Amendment” to the Constitution.
Of course, liberal feminism did not always deliver on its promises. Many younger women do not find the career track so attractive. Today, youth see the liberal feminists’ list of demands as “pre-millennial.” The “career woman” archetype inspired by Mrs. Friedan’s dystopian tale has degenerated into the now lonely old woman. Many did not find the economic security that they were promised. Older women now mourn the loss of families that they never produced.
The False Premises of Marxist Feminism
The lesser-known Marxist Feminist has an older pedigree. Their view of the family goes back to the mid-nineteenth century.
The Marxist argument against the family is that it is a microcosm of the capitalist system. Like Liberal Feminists, the Marxists believe that the “patriarch” oppresses the other family members. However, the nature of that oppression is more economical than social. The wife and children become free laborers that provide for the patriarch’s comfort and power.
The family also perpetuates capitalism through human reproduction. The care for children leads to passing on “unearned” wealth to future generations. It provides reasons to “hoard” wealth.
Marxists claim the family robs the state of women’s labor. Instead, they use their time and energy caring without pay for their biological children in a single home. For Marxists, most women should labor in factories or agriculture, which increases industrial production. The Marxists argue that relatively few women should do the childrearing and food preparation in multi-family nurseries and kitchens.
Marxist Feminism would even deny women the choice of homemaker. The notorious leftist thinker, Simone de Beauvoir, expressed her sentiment: “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…. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one…. In my opinion, as long as the family and the myth of the family and the myth of maternity and the maternal instinct are not destroyed, women will still be oppressed.”
Like Liberal Feminism, Marxist Feminism has not delivered on its promises. The failures of economic Marxism showed just how miserable women fared under Marxist rule.
The Unholy Combination – Radical Feminism
Radical Feminism is a weird combination of Liberal and Marxist Feminism. Like Liberals, the Radicals see men as the source of women’s problems. “The Patriarchy” oppresses women, exploiting them as breeders and doers of mundane tasks. Radicals also focus on increasing levels of domestic violence as a symptom of patriarchal control.
However, the Radicals, like the Marxists, prescribe social revolution. For them, the patriarchal system cannot be reformed by legislation and economic opportunity – it must be destroyed. They are unable (or unwilling) to suggest meaningful alternatives beyond the system. Perhaps tribal arrangements not unlike those showcased at the ill-fated CHAZ in Seattle might serve as a model for the radical society of the future. Their present agenda appears to be focused on violence and the destruction of the system as a means to set society on the radical course.
Feminisms Are Roads to Nowhere
For the goals of any form of feminism to succeed, all women need to see themselves as members of a single, downtrodden class. This majority group even sees itself as an oppressed minority. Like all radical utopias, however, the different feminisms are roads to nowhere.
Feminists fail to live up to their promises since their beliefs are so contrary to human nature. In addition, they deny their femininity and thus, who they are. The fiasco of the 2020 Women’s March is evidence that the women’s movement, after all these years, still has not managed to deliver a message that resonates in the hearts of women.