Friday, May 11, 2007


Another one of these articles that is actually starting to become a genre, and predictably so: the It Looks Like We’ve Won And We Have But Really We’re Still Losing jeremiad put out by this or that revolution.

In this instance, it’s submitted by Robert Jensen, a feminist university professor. The article itself (“Snatched from the jaws of victory: Feminism then and now”, is by Paula Rothenburg, presently on the faculty of The William Paterson University of New Jersey. She has recently edited a college textbook the title of which includes the phrase “Thinking Critically”, which holds out a sunbeam of encouragement in an otherwise darkling wood. But the wise medieval traveler does not lightly trust lights that appear in darkling woods. And our world, now that we are post-Enlighentment, is becoming increasingly shadowy and shadowfied … we get rid of enlightenment and things get murky and dark: who knew? Such progress.

“The Women’s Liberation Movement [her capitals] that began in the 60s was originally a radical movement.” We may brace ourselves and infer that the Revolution, in addition to fighting the huge and unending fight against the Oppressor, has also now been betrayed from within. Again, as noted in a recent Post, this is a plaint that Stalin ensured that he would never need to make. If the phrase ‘betrayal from within’ ever passed his lips, it was only drowned out by the sound of firing squads efficiently solving the problem forthwith. In that sense, the feminist revolution is bethumped by the stubborn solidity of American democracy even more than by the rock-hard solidity of male patriarchal institutional entrenchment and of the male ‘part’ itself. Not that the revolutionistas haven’t been working hard themselves to hew themselves a clear path, unobstructed by quaint and oppressive technicalities of law and Law, of fact and reality and Reason and Truth.

Though, following the example of that insightful Dead White European Male guy, the quondam governor of Judea, they might retort: “And what is Truth?”

It’s interesting to continue reading this stuff to see just how it resembles and diverges from the Soviet praxis that was its forebear. A wife-husband team – the Bems – point out in a book that “even if discrimination were to end tomorrow, nothing very drastic would change, because discrimination is only part of the problem.” Now this is news: I seem to recall that We had been led to believe some decades ago that the demands of the feministas were no more than a logical extension of the demands of the Civil Rights movement. Now it seems that all along the problem was not just one of reducing or even removing ‘discrimination’ (a more or less do-able do for civil and criminal law) but rather it was a matter of something else.

The true monster (in addition to Man/Men) was “an unconscious ideology about the nature of the female sex”. A marvelous Enemy and Outrage! “Unconscious” so that in terms of validating or evaluating the Revolution’s demands and claims you will have to operate in the almost spectral terrain of concepts and of the human unconscious; ditto you will have to deal with the huge and very ethereal abstraction of “the nature” of something; and ditto ditto you will have to successfully engage the many-headed and ever-changing concept of “the nature of the female sex” (nor am I engaging in sophomoric ‘guy’ mystification; science and philosophy themselves face a formidable challenge in getting a grip on this abstraction). A revolution with an Enemy like this is guaranteed to be in business – in a life-and-death Revolutionary Struggle, if you will – for pretty much ever. You've got an 'enemy' so amorphous that you could be waging war forever, unable to tell when you've won or you've lost because you can't even pin down that 'enemy' and you didn't have a solid plan or objective that could be used to judge the war's progress or your own performance. And does THAT recipe sound familiar?

One is reminded of that moment in 1965's film "Battle of the Bulge" when the SS tank-colonel reveals to his long-suffering batman just before the strategically hopeless campaign is begun: Of course we won't win, but that's not the point: we will prolong the war, retreat to the Alps, and fight and fight and fight. The old enlisted man, Everyman, realizes the madness and the folly. In 1965 the audience would (safely and comfortably) direct its revulsion at the long-gone, thoroughly defeated Nazis. Today the audience might direct its anger at the Bushist Imperium. But already back in '65 there were in the wings those revolutionistas who sought to wage endless 'war', on half the citizenry - the hot ironies of history, rendered even more so when one realizes that one was awake for it and yet didn't connect the dots.

And like the witchcraft mania and more recently the sex-offense mania there is the inestimable value of ‘invisible’ enemies and outrages. And on top of that, ‘pain’ and the ‘sensitivity’ to it will deter all but the hardiest inquirer: who wants to cause pain?

The “Women’s Liberation Movement of the Second Wave” … it’s getting impossible to know your players without a program. Which is kinda odd for a Revolution whose Need and Purpose was, as loudly presented to Us long ago, so clear and obvious that even a child could grasp the need and rightness of it. In fact, it sorta raises the same type of question that huge Fundamentalist commentaries on Scripture raise: if the Bible is literal and in English, then who needs some preacher writing a dense Commentary to explain it to the faithful? But of course … literal though the Bible may be, the Southern Babdizzies are gonna drink grape juice, not wine, and they can demonstrate just why that’s God’s Will – if you’ve got a couple-three hours, and don’t mind maybe gittin’ a whack upside the head. Oh brave old world.

“But the world is still a dangerous place and bad things happen to women and girls.” But not to men and boys? Or would that dilute the revolutionary focus? Truth has a nasty habit of doing that, which is why revolutionaries handle it only in very very small and carefully-selected quantities. If the raw stuff reaches critical mass … who knows what would happen in this darkling wood of a world?

“In a world that is not safe for us …” Sooner or later We are going to have to ask Ourselves: was it wise to so whole-hoggedly embrace the feminine emotional stance to the world and to life? Fearful, anxious, ever suspicious? Grounded more in emotion rather than reason? Has this worked well for Us domestically or in foreign affairs? Has it been good for Us that the police and military power of the government has been put into the service of such a sensibility, such a Sense of Things? That the police and military power has developed such an Attitude Toward Things?

In the current generation of young women and girls’ embracing overt sexuality, the author (speaking for the revolution’s Old Bolsheviks) laments that “we have come full circle”. Perhaps. Or perhaps the revolution’s journey never left the station and the partying in the cars was only made possible by drawing the curtains and imbibing large quantities of Old Outrage and Fresh Utopia. Perhaps the very grounds of the revolution’s programme are not and were never do-able because they never corresponded to reality. (Of course, the revolution’s answer would have been that there was no such thing as ‘reality’ anyway; but then again, perhaps the Titanic’s captain thought there was no such thing as icebergs – at least, not such that a chunk of frozen-water could slice open thick hard steel like a tuna-can. The personal may be political, but the Real can be personal, and Truth can get personal real quick.)

“The right to choose” - that absolute and brass-like revolutionary maxim for which so much culture was creatively destroyed and so much Democratic political treasure was sunk - is now apparently to be understood in the context of its times (“the 60s and 70s”); ‘choosing’ per se is not the end-all and be-all of the revolution. It’s not a bad thing that the revolution’s changing; consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, as the Americans say. But the danger the feministas run into here is that people can talk about it and that the representatives of the revolution have to address the point. Hitler was shrewd enough to point out – once he had grasped power – that there would be no further revolution in Germany for a thousand years. This was not only to prevent somebody rebelling against the Nazi Reich, but to prevent anybody questioning it (if it’s here for the next thousand years, why ask why?). Stalin was more thorough in the execution of the same concept; he executed not only any questioners ‘from without’, but any questioners ‘from within’, Communist Party members who felt that the current direction of the revolution diverged from their own remembered, ‘traditional’, and more ‘genuine’ revolution that they had signed up for back in The Day.

So now, confronted by the conceptual ‘ferment’ and – frankly – confusion, We may move quickly beyond smiling pleasantly at all the ‘work’ and cut to the chase: have We really ripped so much out of Our society and Our culture on the basis of what apparently were claims and hypotheses rather than facts? (Sounds like Iraq, no?)

Remarkably, the author then suggests, as the revolutionistas of the first (i.e. Second) Wave – or at least the ones from those 60s and 70s – were wont to emphasize: it’s not the individual woman, it’s the societal structures (so drenched in male privilege and oppression) that cause pain and harm. Thus for example (she continues) post-partum depression may well not be a sign that women – or any particular woman – are given to emotionalism (outrageous stereotyping!) but rather that a new mother is depressed because deep down she knows she’s facing society’s oppression. What is now known through neurobiology and neuro-chemical dynamics within the self – let alone if there is any substantive difference between the ‘female’ and the ‘male’ body in the ‘neuro’ stuff – makes such a conceptualization seem outmoded at best, and perhaps even incapable of grounding major social changes (such as the ones already made, and that now constitute “facts on the ground” whether We like it or not).

Occasioned in part by the need to keep the faithful from going slack over joy that another three-name woman heads a university (and Hahvahd, dahlings … which itself makes us wonder if the Harvard faculty – so enmeshed in the Summers brouhaha – should really be entrusted with the giving of counsel on matters of world and national import) the author points out that the enemy is still “masculine culture” or – “a masculine culture”. My God, what have We done? What did the Democrats do – 35 or more years ago?

And is it working for Us – do We think – this war on ‘masculine culture’? Are We better off with a ‘woman’ as National Security Advisor or Secretary of State or Assistant Press Secretary? Has that been any better than a Bush or a Blair or even a Colin Powell?

In the beginning, We were going to be chivvied into the broad sunlit uplands of a kinder, gentler, less macho and less violent culture and world. Has that happened? Is the military less Pentagoonish because of female senior officers?

But perhaps those initial promises were just to get Us onto the lot. Perhaps now that the paperwork’s been signed We can be told that – really – it was all just about some folks getting a slice of pie, whether things got better or not, or ever could get better or not.

I’m not ‘against women’ here. It’s the Feminist Revolution – in its muddled content and its deceitful, coercive, manipulative process – that I’m exercised about. There are capable women – one thinks of Carolyn Lam, one of the axed U.S. attorneys – and We are the better for their work. But this Revolution has had some hugely unlovely elements to it and those have helped generate some awesomely bad consequences for Us even unto now. Shouldn’t We move the discourse beyond the Feminist-flattering Script and genres?

“Equality is not enough” says the author. Well, that’s all the law can provide in the American system. And obviously, to the revolutionistas, the American system was part of the problem. And We wonder how civic capability as well as civic structures of Law and Justice, and cultural values such as Truth and Decency, have disappeared. Hey, hey, ho, ho, Masculine Civ has got to go! Well, although the revolutionistas are still in need of an enemy, Masculine Civ has lost its Trellis – which was one of the few things holding the unstable energies of humanity onto some sort of livable shape in the first place. And now what do We do? Rely on Outrage and Princess Di-like sentimentality? Will this keep Us from other Iraqs? Will this enable Us to deal with the coming change in America’s place in the world? Will emotion, any more than Sex, give Us a better shot at ‘fulfillment’ for Ourselves or Our nation and Our world?

So many questions. So many consequences. So much to do. Thank God it’s Friday – We’ve got all weekend to give things some thought.

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