Archives For Radical Feminism

In her 1981 magnus opus, ‘Public Man, Private Woman’, American political scientist and Lutheran, Jean Bethke Elshtain presented a painstaking analysis of feminism.

Her work as a political theorist is one of the best all rounded academic introductions to the origins and branches of feminism, which comes from within the feminist movement.

Elshtain is best described as a classical feminist. Although she accepts certain criticisms made by feminists, Elshtain is honest about the fact that feminism can, and does go too far. Her chief aim was to present the ideological nuances and obvious contrasts of each branch of feminism.

What makes ‘Public Man, Private Woman’ unique is how her experiences within the feminist movement, particularly radical feminism, allow her a high degree of objectivity.

In the late 1960s, Elshtain and a friend were confronted by the exclusionist ideology of feminist supremacism.

They both linked up with a feminist group, only to find themselves silenced because they raised genuine questions about the prevalent anti-familial force within feminism. According to Elshtain, they attended the group, looking for a community who could help them embrace both the healthier side of early feminist critique and motherhood. However, they soon found out that for some within the feminist movement, there was no reconciling of the two. In the middle of her friend’s turn to speak, the group’s facilitator ‘abruptly and publicly’ cut off their discussion declaring, “We will have no diaper talk here. We’re here to talk about women’s liberation”.

Elshtain recalled, ‘my friend and I left, for we could not treat our children as abstractions, as nuisances to be overcome, or as evidence of our “sad capitulation” to the terms of patriarchy.’

Alarmed by her confrontation with female supremacist exclusivism, Elshtain not only saw the dangers it presented to those outside the feminist movement, but how female supremacist ideology threatens legitimate feminist criticisms about what defines a woman, and how women define themselves in the traditionally male dominant public space.

Other than a general analysis of the state of feminism in 1980-81, Elshtain was also preoccupied with a personal quest, seeking to answer the nagging question about whether feminism could be reconciled with motherhood. And if so, what kind of worldview would this look like?

Her conclusion rejects Marxist feminism, Liberal Feminism and Radical feminism, and instead embraces a politics of compassion which works towards reconstructing a woman’s place in public and private, by ‘truth-seeking’, not ‘truth-construction’.

Elshtain describes a ‘politics of compassion’ as a ‘robust opposition to despair and cynicism’, noting it as being a ‘recognition [on the part of feminists] that no good can come from the widespread dehumanization and destruction of others.’ This would help protect legitimate parts of feminist criticisms, because a politics of compassion recognizes that feminism is undermined by a radical feminist supremacism which feeds on ‘the enchanting lures of resentment and the poisonous destruction of rage.’

Abortion isn’t a key concern for Elshtain. However, her conclusions and personal experience are relevant to the abortion debate.

Elshtain agrees that reproduction doesn’t define women. However, feminism shouldn’t reject the stability of the familial unit. It should be mature and flexible enough to embrace the unique-to-woman, gift of reproduction and maternalism. Motherhood shouldn’t be so easily thrown out by the feminist critique. This is because motherhood is the quintessential definition of an empowered, liberated woman. Strength and servant leadership are a core elements of being a mother. The woman capable of choosing to look, not just to their own needs, but also to the needs of others is not only liberated, but engages in the act of liberating others.

What Elshtain offers is clarity. Her criticism of the feminist crowd, which was ironically awakened by the feminist crowd’s rejection of her (as a patriarchal cliché, because she was married and had children) gives us a vantage point from which we can join with her and say,

‘the presumption that some universally true, ubiquitous, and pervasive misogynistic urge explains everything is simplistic and wrong.’ (p.xv)

When it comes to abortion and the feminist death grip on it, there will be disagreement, but that disagreement doesn’t have to be destructive. There is another way around the ‘radical and destructive social surgery’ pushed by those who demand uniformity in an ideological alignment with abortion and its accompanying progressive platform.

Elshtain’s inherent “no” to this kind of forced allegiance, especially to supremacist ideology is something to applaud. Her “no” is spoken from under the shadow of remembrance, as she recalls the blood that followed the ‘Nazis and Stalinists, the most destructive instances so far of this sort.’

Noting,

‘if everything every basis of human existence, every rule and prohibition not excluding  the incest taboo, is “up for grabs,” those who unscrupulously grab will inherit the earth and we will no longer have  the earth as out inheritance…Each successive generation must respect some moral necessities, must have some “taken for granted,” rules without which even the minimal aspects of a human existence that propelled our prehistoric ancestors to place flowers on the graves of their beloved, will be jeopardized.’

This supremacist ideology is seen in abortion advocates adoption of Simone de Beauvoir’s incongruent use of the term ‘parasite’ in reference to both women and the fetus (The Second Sex).

Supremacist ideology is prevalent in the inherent historical parallels between the Nazi doctrine of “life unworthy of life” and deceptive new term for abortion, “reproductive healthcare”. Abortion is an outworking of radical feminist supremacism. The “choice” argument underpins this because it advocates the totalitarian supremacy of a mother over against the life of her unborn child and the choice of his or her father.

How is a woman living out her liberation, if she’s coerced to kill her unborn child because of pressure from a pro-abortion society, state and peers, in the name of what they deceptively call freedom?

How is a woman living our her liberation if all the information necessary to make the best “choice” possible is hidden from her by her pro-abortion society, state, and peers– “for her own good”?

It would seem that the liberated woman, under the shadow of pro-abortion and the supremacist ideology of Marxist, liberal and radical feminism, is not so liberated after all.

We cannot miss this point. We cannot afford to overlook the fact that pro-abortion, and even pro-euthanasia laws, remove protections for the citizen against a tyrannical state. They remove protections for citizens from supremacist ideology.

Anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia laws are restraints that don’t just apply to one individual having absolute power over another; they hold back the overreach of despotic, crony corporations and these laws restrain the creation of authoritarian governments. These are necessary limitations which protect freedom, rather than being a denial of it.

So it is that we should, and can legitimately stand with Jean Bethke Elshtain and those like her, such as the brilliant Dr. Mildred Jefferson, and say:

“Today it is the unborn child; tomorrow it is likely to be the elderly or those who are incurably ill. Who knows but that a little later it may be anyone who has political or moral views that do not fit into the distorted new order?[i]…I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged and the planned, have the right to live [ii]…I say “no” and I am not willing to give up the role of doctor as healer to become the new social executioner…If the destruction of life is permissible for social and economic reasons, why not for political reasons? [iii]


References (not otherwise linked):

Elshtain, J. 1981, ‘Public Man, Private Woman: Women in Social & Political Thought’ Princeton University Press

Photo by Cassidy Rowell on Unsplash

First published on Caldron Pool, 13th August, 2019

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Karl Barth and Roger Scruton make unlikely conversation partners. Barth, was a Reformed Swiss theologian, who held up the distinction between theology and philosophy, and Scruton, is a British philosopher, talks theology, but knows his limits on the subject.

The meeting between the two takes place in Barth’s On Religion and Scruton’s, The West and All the Rest. Together they provide a telescopic view of modern religio-politics and the socio-political landscape of contemporary Western society.

One big theme for Scruton is the relationship between the ‘social contract’ and Creed communities[i] (or communities bound by religious law). One clear example of a Creedal Community is a community living under Shari’a law.

Shari’a is held up by the Muslim community as unchangeable divine law. ‘The gate of itijiahd is closed’, meaning that the divine law, the Shari’a, can no longer be adjusted or added to, but merely studied for meaning that it already contains.’ [ii]

Within Islam, salvation comes through the law. Routine obedience to both ritual and law ‘makes and unmakes a Muslim’s relationship with God.’ [iii] Islamic ‘communities are not formed by doctrine, but by obedience, established through ritual and law’. [iv] There is no objective, separate political body, such as the separation of the Church and State.

Scruton asserts that,

‘like the Communist Party in its Leninist construction, Islam aims to control the state without being a subject of the state […] Islamic jurisprudence does not recognise secular, still less territorial, jurisdiction as a genuine source of law. [v]

This is unlike what is found in Western Civilisation. The foundations of which were laid by Judeo-Christian doctrine and Roman law, where ‘law is defined over territory [territorial jurisdiction]’. Jesus’, “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, to God what is God’s” (Mt.22:21). From the two, emerged the so-called “social contract”. This consists of the rights and responsibilities of free citizens, lived out, and governed within the boundaries of classical enlightenment liberalism and its ‘’culture of toleration’’.

Scruton explains that even though in the Western sphere, ‘religion is the concern of family and society, not of the State’ [vi], the “social contract” between both Church and State, has an undeniable foundation in the Judeo-Christian experience, which advocates the love for God and love for neighbour, whether that neighbour be a Jew, Christian, Muslim or neither. Neighbour serves neighbour, just as that neighbour would serve himself (Leviticus 19:9-18, Deuteronomy 6 & Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31).

This implies personal responsibility, which functions under the covering of this basic agreement. An agreement that works for social and political cohesion; a ‘common loyalty to a single [secular] political culture’ [vii], within in an ethnically diverse, vibrant and free society.

Rather than within a coercive society, or politik, that is grounded in allegiance to one overarching ruler, party or carefully structured narrative – theocratic mythology.

In other words, the “social contract” exists within a house where freedom is governed responsibly; it cannot exist in a house of slavery, where freedom is squashed by opposing extremes such as Islamism,  Nihilism, subjective relativism,  or communist/Marxist doctrine.

Barth’s major theme meets Scruton’s precisely where Barth asserts that religion, when it’s abstracted from God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, becomes idolatrous and toxic.*  E.g.: Works righteousness; where the focus is not on what God has done, but on what man and woman do, and how they can supposedly reach God, without God.

Scruton and Barth, both present a tangible argument for the importance of recognising the dangers of severing the “social contract” from the Judeo-Christian experience.To do so, is to lose its unique critique and affirmation.

Responsible freedom and civics (the “social contract”)  facilitate true freedom, because it understands that true freedom only exists when just limitations, are applied to protect freedom from the challenges which threaten its existence.

Such as post-enlightenment nihilism (manifested as militant secular humanism), cultural Marxism, Islamism and radical feminism, all of which, through revisionism and deconstruction theory, seek to sever society from tried and true, Judeo-Christian doctrine and experience, without regard for the anchoring of true freedom that it provides.

For Barth, men and women act against God’s grace (His unmerited salvation). In man and woman’s quest to reach God, on human terms, his and her ‘erecting of towers of babel’, are faithless acts, built on flawed and faithless human arrangements.

These human arrangements are absent of any involvement or acknowledgement of or faith in the Divine. Barth points out that, as history proves, when one religion fades or is usurped, another inevitably takes its place.

Scruton appears to agree, stating that both Marxism and Feminism, share the ‘ambitions of a monotheistic faith [religion]’

‘It seeks to replace or rearrange the core experience of social membership and therefore has the ambitions of a monotheistic faith, [like Marxism] offering a feminist answer to every moral and social question…a feminist [and Marxist] [account of history], theory of the universe, and even a feminist goddess. It drives the heretics and half-believers from its ranks with a zeal that is the other side of the warmth with which it welcomes the submissive and orthodox.’  [viii]
‘…we should acknowledge that the worst forms of nationalism and socialism arise when their adherents look to them to provide the equivalent of a religious faith. –  an absolute submission that will sweep away all doubt, demand total sacrifice and offer redemption in exchange. This is what the latter-day Marxists are demanding.’ [xix]

This goal is also evidenced in the remarks of, György Lukács, one of the founders of “Western Marxism”, in Record of a Life:

“You cannot just sample Marxism […] you must be converted to it.” [x]

Scruton and Barth share a common protest. Connected to Barth’s discussion on religion without revelation, Scruton helps build a strong theological critique of Islamism, Marxism and Feminism. All of which exist as religions without the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

Just as religion without the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, is bound for destruction, so is Western political philosophy that jettisons its Judeo-Christian foundations; foundations that hold up a moral and faith basis for Classical Liberal enlightenment principles, such as the largely successful independent working relationship between Church and State.

In Islam there is no equivalent to a separation between Church and State. Like Marxism, the State is the Church (or Mosque). All moral opposition is treated as treason. (Exemplified by ex-Muslim & secular humanist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her book, ‘Infidel’ and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his 1971, Harvard address).

As neighbour betrays neighbour, family member betrays family member, all politically incorrect discussion or dissent [talk not approved by the State] is reported to organisations like the Morality Police (Gasht-e Ershad) or the Soviet Cheka, The Soviet Union’s equivalent to the Gestapo[xi].

Scruton makes it clear that, what is at work behind the scenes, in the West, is not a denial of religion, but a quest to replace it. Barth makes it clear that any religion completely absent or synthetically veiled with lip service to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, is one to be resisted.

Like Barth’s admonishment of natural theology during the rise of Hitlerism and the Third Reich. Like his warnings of how faithlessness leads humanity towards inhumanity. Like Barth’s meticulous warnings of any religion which exists without the sublimating [raising to a higher status] of religion through the revelation of Jesus Christ [God’s unmerited salvation – grace], Scruton points a telescope towards a storm that’s been darkening the horizon, but has been dangerously dismissed, by far too many for far too long.


References:

 

[i] This term is attributed to Oswald Spengler, The Decline of The West.

[ii] Scruton, R. 2002 The West & All The Rest: Globalization & The Terrorist Threat ISI Books

[iii] ibid, p.21

[iv] ibid, p.103

[v] ibid, pp.6 & 66

[vi] ibid, p.63

[vii] ibid, p.63

[viii] ibid, p.72

[xix] Scuton, R. 2014 How to Be a Conservative: The Truth in Socialism, Bloomsbury Publishing (p.64)

[x] Scruton, R. 2015. Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, New Thinkers of The Left. Bloomsbury Publishing

[xi] Another example comes from Alain Besancon, who wrote: ‘Muslim states, according to strict adherence to law, cannot authorize the reciprocal tolerance asked of them by Christian states. In calling for this, Christians show their ignorance of Islam.’ (Forward to Jacques Ellul’s, Islam and Judeo-Christianity).

*(Such as: any religion [claim to the way of salvation] that holds a veneer of revelation, but ultimately rejects both covenant and Jesus Christ as the promise and fulfillment of God’s revelation; God’s free choosing and acting in and through the covenant of grace.)