Why I’m Not a Feminist, Reconsidered
Trigger warning: not a feminist
I’ve written about this before, but I’ll say it again with a somewhat different argument.
I am not a feminist.
Why do I not consider myself a feminist, even though I believe in and practice equality of the sexes?
It took me a while to realize what my instinct about this matter was, but I’ve finally realized it and can put it into words. Basically: there’s way too much philosophical baggage for a conservative like me to sign on.
So here we go:
When a feminist considers themselves a “feminist” nowadays, they almost always mean that they are a “third-wave” feminist. Third-Wave Feminism is steeped in postmodern deconstructionist theory, which has all sorts of epistemological and moral implications that most third-wave feminists probably haven’t thought through. You start talking about how everything is constructed (which is partly true but partly false,) how everything is an unjust power relation (which is manifestly untrue,) and how accordance with the true beliefs is equivalent to virtue and wisdom (which is so untrue as to be silly.)
I can’t accept deconstructionism and postmodernism.
I just can’t. I CAN treat women as equals, though. And I do.
As I have indicated, I am conservative. I’m also a Catholic. I have a traditional view of human nature along the lines of what Thomas Aquinas subscribed to- a synthesis of the Classical rationalist view of man and the Christian sinful view of man. Sprinkle some Machiavellian pessimism about human nature in there and voila, you have me. In my opinion, Aristotle, Paul, Thomas Aquinas, and Machiavelli were all basically right about human nature, in different ways. Reinhold Niebuhr and Isaiah Berlin figured it out in the 20th Century.
Postmodernism and deconstructionism do not view these old ways of thinking as valid. Their very purpose has been the deconstruction and invalidation of all traditional, antiquated, and “oppressive” means of thought. They reject all tradition, culture, and inheritance, unmooring society from the anchors of stability and true progress. Their blank-slate idealist/materialist (or just chronically confused?) view of human nature is disgusting to any believer in and practitioner of virtue ethics and political realism.
So, when I’m asked “are you a feminist?” and I answer “No,” it’s not equality of the sexes that I’m rejecting. I’m rejecting the postmodernism and deconstructionism from which Third-Wave Feminism undeniably grew. If I were to accept third-wave feminism and thus accept postmodernism and deconstructionism, I’d be rejecting the foundations of my personal philosophy and worldview- I’d be surrendering my intellectual identity to the crank philosophers of the 20th Century and rejecting the sages who’ve stood the test of time.
You don’t want to take away my identity, do you?
Look at my personal behavior- indeed, look at my political positions and beliefs- and tell me that I don’t support equality for women. Tell me that.
You can’t, because I do support equality.
But that is rooted in my Judeo-Christian/Classical ethics, properly understood, rather than the drivel of Derrida and Foucault.
And if I hear one more time that tired old argument “You can’t support equality and not be a feminist, because that’s just the definition of the word!” I’ll explain that “feminist” is a word with a social meaning rooted in a particular historical context, and that the word itself cannot be disassociated from its intellectual and cultural background- in this case, Third-Wave Feminism, postmodernism, and deconstructionism. And that is a background I will not be associated with.
Now, bring me a First-Wave Feminist, tell me THAT’S what feminism is, and I’ll say I’m a feminist any day. People like Susan B. Anthony who weren’t bent on finding the patriarchy in everything and who really were just concerned about equal rights rather than overturning the foundations of Western Civilization appeal to me, because that’s me.
Anyway, some of you might think this is a regressive repeal of what I said in my post on true conservatism. That couldn’t be further from the truth- here’s the crucial passage from that piece:
“True conservatism is about preserving what is worth preserving, through incremental reforms and cautious experimentation. It’s about cultivating nobility of spirit and demanding not conformity but character from every individual. It’s about looking squarely in the eye the evil nascent in human nature, accepting it, and having faith that through institutions, traditions, and moderation, individuals and societies can curb the bad and promote the good. It’s a disposition and a temperament– never an ideology.”
The Judeo-Christian/Classical view of man is foundational to Burkean conservatism, because in order to preserve values over the centuries, you must believe that something exists worth preserving. Deconstruction and Postmodernism deny that.
So there you go. I’m not a feminist, I support equality for men and women, I believe in the importance of the Judeo-Christian/Classical view of man, and I reject Third-Wave Feminism, Postmodernism, and Deconstructionism.
That must make me one regressive son of a bitch.