It does seem curious, doesnt it? Scholar Christina Hoff Sommers wrote the definitive expose of feminism Who Stole Feminism? yet calls herself a feminist. To facilitate this apparent contradiction she delineates equi-feminists, who believe in equal treatment of men and women, from gender-feminists, the elitists who use the rhetoric of equality but mean it only for themselves.
Wendy McElroy is a pro-equality columnist who has written extensively about the crooked thinking of feminism and in defense of men. Yet she, too, calls herself a feminist. She distinguishes herself as an iFeminist: Individualist feminist, proclaiming a right-wing stance. (Hmm. A right-wing feminist.)
While there once might have been legitimate complaint about the treatment of women, by now most identify feminism with the new, PC gender bias. Accusations of rape do not require corroborative evidence; girls must even further exceed boys at school; violence against women is much worse than any committed by them; and the feelings and needs of men should be ignored.
Both above women have objected to all this and more, yet insist they are feminists.
I will not launch into some scholarly tracing of feminist philosophy. Answers do not lie there. Instead, Ill use this apparent contradiction to highlight one of the more profound, yet least recognized, genuine gender differences. Like the others it is a precious difference to be treasured; of benefit to both. But also like the others it can create tragic misunderstandings.
Men use individual identity. Women use group identity.
Students of Joseph Campbell will recognize what I mean.
Cultural anthropologists use many axis to describe a culture. Most common is Apollonian versus Dionysian, but another is the axis of identity. Textbook examples of group identity cultures are the Jews and Japanese. If you follow Star Treck, the Borg are how the Japanese appear to Americans: the collective, acting as one. An individual is not an individual as we understand it, but one organ of the whole.
The textbook example of an individual identity culture is the Celts. To find the Holy Grail, each knight had to take his own path. They did not go off together. Its as though each cell of the body has its own, independent mission.
If you find your identity as an individual, you will never understand the sheep of the collective. If you get your identity from your group, you will never comprehend the selfish individualists who never consider their social context and its worth. Each considers their way, superior.
This may seem subtle, but think carefully. Men see themselves as individuals and take things on themselves, while women seek others for everything. Consider the implications.
It is why there will never be a mens movement to anything near the extent as a womens.
It is why, if you say anything negative about any women, all of them take offence. (The old joke has a man and woman at dinner. He says, Women taken things personally. She says, I do not!)
It is why feminists love to say, I, as a women, and refer to women as, a class, when that would occur to a man.
It is why, when I was a child, my mother would say, We have decided, referring to her and my dad, when only she had decided.
Our endless tribalism, such as liberal-conservative, Protestant-Catholic, and now, male-female? Women have always defined our tribes: our groupings.
And it is why McElroy and Sommers, the most articulate critics of feminism, still insist that they are feminists: its the defining identity with all women of their generation.
It joins the many, usually comic, reasons why men and women will forever be a mystery to each other. But it is also why, or should be why, we deeply and intuitively need each other, and need each other to be healthy in our differences, not sick and distorted and appalled by them.
©2007 KC Wilson
To nourish children and raise them against odds is in any time, any place, more valuable than to fix bolts in cars or design nuclear weapons. - Marilyn French