May 11, 2008
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is in a tailspin; Phyllis Schlafly is getting an honorary degree from a prestigious university; even the painfully hip Juno has given the Left’s picture of abortion as “just a choice” a thumbs-down. Such hard times for feminism leave us with one question: who’s bringing the keg?
Perhaps it is uncharitable to dance on feminism’s grave today; I’m sure that some feminists are also mothers who would appreciate the chance to enjoy their special day in peace. However, while the saints who raised us are enjoying breakfast in bed, conservatives should take the holiday to consider how best to spend the political capital that the flailing feminist Left has handed us.
There’s no reason to turn back the clock completely. “Feminine,” like “humane” or “radical,” is an idea that’s in constant flux. Some of feminism’s advances are worth keeping, but only those advances that have contributed to the gradual and organic evolution of femininity, not to its radical transformation or destruction (which are the same thing).
However, as anti-feminist lines go, “If a woman wants to stay home with the kids, she shouldn’t be criticized for it” is too modest; it sidesteps the fundamental question of whether being a woman is more or less incidental than having blonde hair or not liking green beans, and instead makes a bee-line for freedom of unstigmatized choice?very liberal territory.
If we believe that conforming to femininity is every woman’s responsibility in the same way that conforming to manliness is every man’s, conservatives (especially conservative women) shouldn’t be shy about saying so. A lifelong adventure of discovering what femininity means is both more daring and more fulfilling than granting oneself (thoroughly illusory) freedom from one of humanity’s most important and universal traditions, just as “it is not free love but the vow that is daring.” This shouldn’t be a hard idea to sell, given that lots of people from every point on the political spectrum have rejected both “feminism as the elimination of female and male as cultural categories” and “feminism as arbitrary tribal loyalty.”
Maybe today is a good day to give feminists a hard time, if only to remind them that “motherhood” is a very different thing from “parenting,” and something altogether higher.
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