We conclude this mini-series on Catharine MacKinnon’s 1989 book “Toward a Feminist Theory of the State”.*
One note before I begin: I put ‘women’ in quotation-marks often here to recall that the term as MacK and other such deploy it refers not to all female human beings but to the specific beings envisioned by R-Feminism as being the only truly Correct, liberated examples of the sex – and indeed, of the species. The majority – the vast majority – of these females, according to R-Feminst theory, ‘just don’t get it’ either, and will have to be re-educated.
Her last Section (of three) is entitled ‘The State’.
Quoting Karl Marx’s observation that “a nation and a woman are not forgiven the unguarded hour in which the first adventurer came along that could violate them”, MacK then proceeds to quote a lengthy snippet from Adrienne Rich urging “the repossession by women of our bodies will bring far more change to society than the seizing of the means of production by the workers”. (p.155)
You can see here where the Marxist vision and project provide the soil for the Radical Feminist (henceforth: 'R-Feminist') vision.
But also that MacK and Rich are certain that they can undertake (and achieve, and without undue ill consequence) “change” and “change to society” that will leave Marx’s efforts in the dust.
It was not Correct in the late 1980s, and is not Correct now no doubt, to wonder if the failure of Marx’s vision – at such stunningly awful cost to so many and so much – could legitimately premise the brazen assumption that an even more and hugely intensified application of his paradigm (with the key change from ‘workers’ to ‘women’) would fare any better.
But as in all revolutions, one is not supposed to Kick Tire; one is supposed to cheer and get on with it and no further questions asked.
Plus, of course, the R-Feminists had been presented by the Dems in 1972 with the keys to the Beltway, a manna-from-heaven situation that not even Lenin or Gramsci ever imagined could happen for them because no Western government would ever willingly mule an attack on its own polity and Culture.
And then, in 1989 when this book was published, R-Feminists were giddy with the realization that Bush 1 was courting them eagerly to get re-elected but that the alternative was Billary, and both husband and wife members of that greasy, buttery-glowing tag-team were eager to usher in what would be called the era of ‘governance feminism’ when the White House would put its fat thumb and gimlet-eye to the task of ensuring that the Agenda got everything it wanted from government (if not – ominously – from the voters).
MacK continues with Rich: “The female body has been both territory and machine, virgin wilderness to be exploited and assembly-line turning out life.” This snippet neatly assumes the Marxist form of dividing the Russian people according to their roles (peasant or worker, field to be plowed or machine – hence the hammer of the worker and the sickle of the peasant combined to make the marquis Communist Party logo).
No room here for ‘Citizens’, let alone ‘human beings’ as roles or conceptual categories by which to envision people. Those categories, so long ‘traditional’ in the Christendom-grounded West, were merely tools of sustained oppression, so long and deeply accepted that now they were simply manipulative masks by which the ‘consent’ or acquiescence of people (women, specifically) in their own ‘domination’ could be sustained and continued. But not any longer, enlightened sistern!
Would such an envisioning have a weakening effect on the Framing Vision? So what? That Vision was merely a super-mask enabling the sustained hegemonic and oppressive dominance of the genderist equivalent of Marx’s ‘capitalism’: patriarchy.
Not taken as relevant is the fact that while human-designed capitalism assigned to workers the role of manning the machinery (that Produced the stuff that created the ‘achieved wealth’ of a nation), yet it was Nature (or Evolution) or some mysterious force or forces beyond any human ken that assigned to the female of the species the task and specially-evolved predisposition to bear and nurture the young of the species: a ‘natural’ reality which all human civilizations had dealt with by divvying-up the tasks (nurturing on the one hand, providing security and food on the other) as efficiently and usefully as possible.
This R-Feminist ‘change’ was not directed against some human-developed economic arrangement but rather against some far more profound ‘given’ that seemed quite clearly a largely immutable arrangement far beyond humans’ poor power to thoroughly and totally (or even largely) alter.
This new ‘change’ was going to require removing the foundations while the skyscraper of culture and civilization still stood, chock full of human beings on all its levels.
The Beltway was up for it.
And then Rich slyly reframes the ur-necessity: “We need to imagine a world in which every woman is the presiding genius of her own body”. Meaning – ‘logically’ in terms of this ‘imagining’ – that women needed to be freed from the requirements of bearing and nurturing the young of the species … unless they felt like it. Which, in less cheerible terms, means that women would not only have to be given legal authority over the lives they bore, but that they would have to be hugely and profoundly ‘re-educated’ to realize that this was all Necessary and Good.
‘Women’ – the vast majority of whom ‘just didn’t get it’ – would have to be taught to ‘get it’ by the infinitely insightful cadres who really did ‘get it’. ‘Women’ were their own worst oppressors, in a sense. The vanguard cadres of R-Feminism would have to terraform their own sistern even as they spear-headed an assault on the ‘other’ human sex. And – queasily – an assault on ‘heterosexual sex’ itself.
How would government assist not only women “bring[-ing] forth children (if and as we choose) but the visions, and the thinking, necessary to sustain, console and alter human existence – a new relationship to the universe” (still p.155).
Shades of late-night collegiate bong sessions and the chai and chardonnay-soused excitements of the oh-so-very speshull (and very particular and exclusive) ‘consciousness-raising’ and ‘sharing’ sessions. Wheeeee!
She was right about the ‘visions’ part but the “thinking” would have to be only that certain type of “thinking” that justified the whole thing. Any thinking that entertained doubts or objections or merely sought to analyze the ‘visions’ in terms of costs and consequences, in terms of whether the whole enterprise was workable … phooey to all that ‘backlash’ and ‘dominant, oppressive, hegemonic’ refusal to yield the old power.
It’s eerie to realize that this gambit reflected very much the same dynamics as the antebellum Southerners’ insistence that the nation not only allow Slavery but also accept and acclaim Slavery as Necessary and Good. That would be the only – to use a later term – Correct way to respond to their demands. Otherwise, they would make sure there was no America at all.
And on the basis of that, antebellum Southern society and culture would have to clamp down even on independent thought within its borders, censoring speech and even the mails to ensure that not-Correct ideas didn’t reach the public discourse for general analysis and deliberation. But it would all be done tastefully, Scarlett, and oh-so-Correctly, as befits people who really know the score while the lumps all around them ‘just don’t get it’. Mah, mah, mah.
That all sounds kinda too familiar.
The bit about ‘women’ “creating new life” starts to veer into the theological as well as the hubristic, but what’s a little overstatement or even self-aggrandizement when you’re trying to sell your program to the government? And anyway, God was dead – Nietzsche had already signed the death-certificate – and people would have to be their own gods now. Wheeeeee!
‘Bearing new life’ would have been more accurate, but that would raise the queasy questions about just what ‘women’ needed to rid themselves of in order to clear their path to this “new relationship to the universe”. They needed to get themselves free of the child-bearing bit; “just getcha-self free” as Simon and Garfunkel put it in that mid-70s song “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”.
Funny how the night moves. In those macho old Westerns of the patriarchal age, folks who wanted to ‘get free’ would just ‘ride West’ and see what happens. The R-Feminists’ equivalent of riding West in order to ‘get free’ is equally as aimless. Leave that thing in your belly behind and then see what happens. Whatevvvverrrrrrr.
This is what happens when you have freedom without any deeper concept of what human liberty – or human life – is for or about. But hey, like the West-riding rider, you can sorta make things up as you go along. Western movies wisely faded out at that point, the rider heading into the sunset, and didn’t stick around to see how a life conducted like that would play out. You might go to California now and see for yourself. Or maybe, like the two feminist heroes in that 90s flik, just hold hands and drive over the cliff – and fade out and cut.
Only, in the real-life of this nation, We are all passengers in the backseat of that Vehicle the keys of which the Beltway has given to MacK and her pandemonium of hand-holding sistern.
Happy trails! Happy motoring! “Jus’ getcha-self freeeeeee”.
In fact, Rich concludes, in order to pull this off “thinking itself will have to be transformed”. After all, you can’t make the ‘new normal’ normal if folks are still going to have the temerity to notice that this ‘new normal’ is on the level only if you hold your head at a certain pronounced angle. Folks have to be made not only to a) hold their heads at a weird angle permanently, but also b) be made to not-notice that fact, be made to accept that they are not holding their heads at a weird angle at all, but instead are simply ‘normal’ in this brave new way, this brave new definition of ‘normal’.
How will the State, the government, fit into this plan?
After all – MacK (p.157) quotes John Chipman Gray, a noted American law professor of the late 19th and very early 20th centuries – if Isaac Newton made a mistake in his calculations about the orbit of the earth, the whole planet wasn’t going to go spinning off its axis forthwith; whereas if judges get it wrong in a decision, then their mistakes are still now ‘the law’.
And – not to put too fine a point on his thought – the society and culture thus affected by those mistaken decisions would indeed forthwith be sent spinning off their axis. Which, amazingly, is precisely what has happened here to society and culture. Such marvelous progress. Such ‘change’.
But ‘the liberal state’ is so soused with oppression and hegemonic dominance that no simple ‘reform’ will “liberate” nor can the cadres accept the boundaries imposed by “legalism” (p.160).
Meaning that American society’s law (even unto the fundaments of it in the Framing Vision) cannot be allowed to stand in the way since it is not – in the R-Feminist visions – any law that deserves respect or obedience. (And can you see how this bit fuels not only a new Leviatha from the Left, but summons back the Uber-demon of Leviathan from the Right? The ‘law’ that obstructed the R-Feminist agenda also kept the government power and the corporate power in check. And thus pooh-poohing the rule of law because it gets in the way of your agenda served darkling interests on the Right (corporatism, neocon militarism) as well as the fevered dreams and visions of the profoundly authoritarian R-Feminist Left (the government is going to have to manhandle the Citizenry and impose all this ‘change’ on them because so many of them ‘just don’t get it’).
The ‘state’ is masculine and male (p.161) and ‘the law’ embodies that male-serving interest even in its very conceptual approach to things, emphasizing such masculine inventions as facts, formulas, tests, evidence and the processes of judicial neutrality, detachment, and observation (of some presumed ‘reality’). Whereas everything “tends to merge in women’s experience” – sort of like a hash or a mush or a stew.
All of that needs not simply to be ‘reformed’ but to be turned around 180 degrees into the very opposite. And you can say goodbye, then, to the legal evolution – so hard and bloodily won – in Western law since the Roman Republic, up through Medieval Constitutionalism (in the development of which the Catholic Church – yes – played a great part), the era of Protestant constitutionalism in England, and the insights and foundations upon which the Framers then grounded the Constitution and the Framing Vision itself.
Is it mere coincidence that after 40 Biblical years of all this – in matters of jurisprudence and government functioning as well as in the dampdreams and cocksure assertions of so many ‘scholars’ and elites and politicians – none of our legal and constitutional capabilities seem robust any longer?
“Law, as words in power, writes society in state form” according to the dictates of “the phallus” (p.163), and law then and thus “writes the state onto society”.
So ‘Law’ is going to have be turned around 180, or on its head, or ‘reformed’ (‘deformed’ might be closer to it) because “the state is male jurisprudentially” (p.163). That’s all there is to it; more than this, the vanguard elites brassily bray, you don’t need to know.**
“Objectivity” and “rationality” are “male”, and “liberal legalism” simply reinforces and sustains all that, and continues the illusion that all of it is “rationality” (p.162). So down with objectivity and rationality then. And do just the opposite, do – therefore – what ‘women’ do and see things the way ‘women’ see them.
A government that embraces this agenda is heading down dark paths indeed.
All that this “objectivist rationality” does is to “reinforce the existing distributions of power” (p.163) – so sweep away the infamous thing! It’s all about “power” anyway, and nothing more. (Which illumination was erected into a Plan when American elite and lesser law schools embraced Critical Legal Studies in the late 1970s, as a result of which there are now academic generations of law students now practicing law or judging or holding political office who have been taught this dreck.)
“The Constitution – the constituting document of this state society – with its interpretations assumes that society, absent government intervention, is free and equal; that its laws in general reflect that, and that government need and should right only what government has previously wronged” (p.163).
The freedom and equality the Constitution is specifically aiming for is a political freedom and equality before the law, thus preventing the arbitrary deployment of government power against the individual Citizen and preventing the government from slipping out of the control of its ultimate governors and the source of its authority (and legitimacy); that is to say: out of the control of The People.
What MacK wants to do is to insist that there is a profound cultural unfreedom and inequality in the American arrangement. Though to what extent Nature and Evolution have had a role in that, and to what extent government can undo that, and to what extent and in what ways such unfreedom and inequality are actually defined … these are Questions she doesn’t bother with; simply to ask the questions is kind of ‘male’ and proves that the questioner ‘just doesn’t get it’.
And that therefore, she goes on, “this posture is structural to a constitution of abstinence” (p.163). She wants, as the old Progressives sort of wanted, and as FDR opened the door with his enumeration in his 1941 State of the Union Address of ‘the Four Freedoms (of speech and expression, of worship, and from want and from fear), a ‘positive’ government that is not simply ‘negative’ about its role but rather abjures ‘abstinence’ and gets down to actively terraforming not only the laws, but culture and society and the foundations of human civilization itself.
FDR shrewdly tailored his Four Freedoms to strategically distinguish the US and the Western democracies from the Fascist and militarist regimes of Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Stalin’s Soviet Union (that one would later be downplayed after June 1941) and imperial Japan.
But while the first two Freedoms that he came up with conform to a government boundaried by the Constitution and by a certain acknowledgement of the limits of human and governmental intervention and direction, the last two lay the groundwork (I doubt he thought this through completely) for a government that does not and cannot acknowledge such limitations on its activities and initiatives.
Clearly, any Party that got control of the government and presumed FDR’s vision as dispositive of American governance was going to imagine itself possessing a conceptual Warrant to terraform whatever came to mind, foreign and domestic.
Which is pretty much where matters stand today. With such results as you can examine for yourself.
LBJ, an old FDR hand, jumped in with both big feet, domestically and over in Vietnam, (and embracing the Israeli Realm for political bennies in the process).
And it has gone on from there.
When the government signed itself on to not only legitimately disassembling the odious regime of state laws sustaining Jim Crow in the South (which was its right and responsibility) but also to terraforming the culture and society of the South, and then extending that to the entire country in the matter of Race, and then in the 1970s accepting Gender as an even more outrageous category of oppression, hegemony, and dominance, then the government clearly could not accept any limits upon itself at all in the imposition of its ‘wars’ against this and that in the service of all its Great and Good Cause(s).
This was surely a matter for public deliberation. Which the Dems’ 49-1 electoral defeat in 1972 might well have been construed to be. But that rather clear voice of The People couldn’t be allowed to stand; and needn’t be allowed to stand, since – neatly – the government was assured by the likes of MacK and a pandemonium of other vanguard elite ‘thinkers’ that The People ‘just didn’t get it’ in the first place, so why listen to The People? And why oh why allow yourself to be limited by the patriarchal Framing Vision and its tool, the Constitution?
Which is pretty much where matters stand today. With such results – foreign and domestic – as you can examine for yourself.
And matters have progressed – as it were – to such a state that even an iconic black ‘liberal’ President (and law professor, and constitutional law at that) continues the ever-intensifying governmental march against boundaries and limits, masked by the burbling assurances that this is all just a form of ‘presidential liberalism’. Which, I would say, is merely a mask for something far darker and far worse for the Republic.
The leader becomes an emperor while the Senate diminishes and relinquishes its genuine responsibilities and contents itself with voting him a god and his horse a Senator. You recall your Roman history as the Republic fell into imperial dictatorship.
She takes an offhand swipe at “medieval law”(p.163), apparently unaware that it was Aquinas who approved a ‘mixed government’ whereby the people (created in the Image and likeness of God and thus possessing a certain ineradicable dignity and certain immutable rights which no earthly power could tamper with) would have a dispositive role in their own governance.
(Indeed, the constitutional arrangements of Aquinas’s own Order of Preachers provided for the election of the Prior by the members of the religious community over which he would preside. “Medieval constitutionalism” is not an empty phrase. Nor a secular one.)***
R-Feminism, therefore, she says, is against the “negative” (i.e. restrained) state and also against “passive” judges and courts (p.164).
If they are only going to “reflect society back to itself”, and if society is so profoundly infected with patriarchy, the judges as well as legislators have to get ‘active’ and do their bit to help terraform society and culture.
Of course, that all presumes that the R-Feminist analysis of what’s wrong with society is right, and that a human government can effect the desired changes and ‘reforms’, and that it can do so without substantial ill consequence for the society and its ancient Culture, and that it can all be done without deranging the government in its Branches by wrenching it loose from its Framing Vision and that Vision’s first principles.
That’s a lot of presumption.
But, she insists, such a boundaried and ‘negative’ state is simply going to keep the status-quo going, more or less, and so it has to go. And it has to go now. Either because the ‘outrage’ is so great and profound, or because you don’t want to give people (and The People) time to think about it – but anyway they ‘just don’t get it’ so why listen to The People at all in the first place?
Nor therefore does she allow that there is any abiding wisdom that resides in The People (Lincoln’s vision, among others) and so there’s no use trying to use up all the time it would take to persuade The People since they’ve been soused since about the beginning of recorded human history in ‘patriarchy’ anyway. And anyway, they might Kick Tire or otherwise decide not to go along with the R-Feminist agenda, and that is clearly unacceptable.
For R-Feminism, as for its Marxist-Leninist forebears, democracy is not the way forward.
The Beltway has bought into that game – using Us as chips, markers, and collateral.
You can’t embrace MacK and her pandemonium and still remain committed to ‘deliberative democratic politics’, no matter how ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ you intend and envision and declare yourself to be. And Obama’s track record (not that at this point any recent mainstream Republican candidate could or would have done much better) is clear demonstration of that. The infection of this pandemonium is now – alas – rightly characterizable as ‘structural’.
And, but of course, activist legislators, judges, and chief executives (to say nothing of the government bureaucrats) are only acceptable to her so long as they hold her views. Any other type of activity is patriarchal, dominant, oppressive, and hegemonic. And backlashing and backsliding and regressive and fill-in-the-blank.
Lenin could not have established the dynamic and more effectively. Well, actually, he had Terror (government imposed) to impose on the masses; but that still didn’t work in the long run, although it drew enough blood, wrack and ruin.
Judges, she notes, are especially useful because in their arena one can avoid “messy political intercourse” (p.164). So much for ‘deliberative democratic politics’.
“The law of privacy treats the personal sphere as a sphere of personal freedom” (p.168). But, she says, this is only true for men; for women “the private is the distinctive sphere of intimate violation and abuse”.
So then it can hardly be a coincidence that within a year of this book’s publication the pols unveiled the first Violence Against Women Act and the domestic-violence and sex-offender police-state regimes (all so ‘male’ in their targets). Because “the male’s realm of private freedom is the woman’s realm of collective subordination” (p.168).
The realm of the private – free from government’s interference and imposition so that the Citizenry can carry on the vital work of society and culture and socializing the young whom they have begotten – has to go. Government, even its police power, has to be everywhere and especially in the realm of the private. After all, since heterosexual sex is everywhere, then the government has to be everywhere to stamp out patriarchy, dominance, and oppression as it is everywhere and every instant reinforced by heterosexual sex acts.
And the ‘family’ is transformed overnight into the biggest and longest on-going crime-scene in the history of the planet.
I hold no brief for violence of any sort, but surely this gambit is fraught with profound problems that reach to the very foundations of American and human society, civilization, and culture.
And that’s presuming that reports of such ‘violence – sexual, interpersonal – however defined and however credibly (or otherwise) ‘reported’ through ‘surveys’ accurately yield a picture of the state of affairs. Which is a big presumption indeed.
But the Bolsheviks saw too, and quickly, that to impose their visions and their regime they would have to reach into every nook and cranny of society and culture. In the previous Post I noted that point in regard to MacK’s quotation from Trotsky: he was trying to figure out how to get women to give up their children to Party-State run ‘collective creches’ (the Bolshevks knew how to deploy nice euphemisms too) where the kiddies wouldn’t be infected with the nasty blathering of parents who ‘just didn’t get it’ and could instead be terraformed from the get-go by vanguard cadres into their bright future as New Soviet Man (or Woman).
Women, as Trotsky sadly observed, were even more recalcitrant and obstructive in their insistence on holding on to their kiddies then men were in holding on to all those outmoded beliefs and traditions that the Party was committed to wiping out as quickly as possible.
But – Trotsky wondered – how can we do this without shooting all the parents? And then where would we be? (In this, he was actually a voice of moderation in the highest counsels of the Party; there were those vanguard cadres who just wanted to send in the secret police and scoop the kids, at gunpoint if need be, and shoot as many objecting parents as necessary to ‘encourage the others’. The little wall that marked off your hearth and property would make a fine backstop for any police bullets that missed and the bullet-pocked walls would remain as reminders to every other village parent that there was a new regime now and they’d better ‘get it’ or they would most surely ‘get it’ in the chest or the head.)
“The rule of law and the rule of men are one thing, indivisible, whether official or unofficial” (p.170). In case you were wondering where ‘the rule of law’ has gone in the estimation of the Beltway these past years and decades.
And in that matter of the government’s position on heterosexual sex: “Rape is indigenous, not exceptional, to women’s social condition” (p.172). And it is “indicative of male violence and sexuality generally”. So for all practical purposes, American Culture and the Framing Vision and any laws that support same are and always have been nothing more than an ongoing criminal enterprise and massive conspiracy (patriarchy, to use the handy short-hand).
How could anybody respect any of that Culture or that Framing Vision? How many any longer do?
How could anybody want to embrace and remain loyal to such a monstrosity as American Culture and its Framing Vision and first principles? And how many any longer do?
How can any house so divided long stand?
How could any government embrace what is in essence a ‘war’ against half its population?
How could any government do so and still reasonably expect to maintain any sense of commonweal and common purpose and bond among the Citizenry?
How could a Citizenry so divided, distracted, and in divers ways bethump’t by its own government and putative elites also find the time and energy to govern the government that putatively serves that Citizenry?
And how now to legally distinguish between heterosexual sex and sexual violence? For MacK (and she is not alone among that pandemonium) there is only a distinction so razor-thin as to be functionally non-existent.
All of this is, I will say again, a lesbian dampdream come true. Courtesy of the Beltway and all the Branches.
After all, every woman – according to MacK’s theory (or Knowledge, take your pick) – is from the get-go so enthralled by the fake ‘naturalness’ of heterosexual sex that she can be characterized as unable ever to truly ‘give consent’ to heterosexual sex.
Did nobody actually read this book in the Beltway before they went into the non-smoking smoke-filled rooms to do their deals?
But really, she asks, what is heterosexuality? (p.178). It’s nothing more than the eroticization of dominance and submission. (Again with this queasy lesbian undertone.)
Nothing about the vitality and vital role of the heterosexual sex act among the species and in its various societies, cultures, and civilizations since the beginning of recorded human history.
Nothing about how Christianity – for one – has tried to somehow frame sexual activity as having an ennobling purpose when it is seen in the context of human meaning and purpose and loving responsibility (rather than, as in the current usage, a form of entertainment or a pick-me-up when life seems blah and there’s nothing else worthwhile to do anyway or because as far as you can feel, sex is pretty much the only thing that does give meaning and purpose to a human life and self).
Such insight. Such progress. Such a civilization and culture and society you can build and sustain on ‘knowledge’ like this.
And any government that buys into an agenda premised upon such ‘Knowledge’ is going to have to become forthwith a police-state beyond even what the daffy but bloody-minded Bolsheviks in the Central Committee ever imagined, or dared to, or were witless enough to try to impose.
Because “the injury of rape to a female has nothing to do with the mens rea of the male” (p.180).
In other words, the male commits this outrage without even ever intending to; his intention when engaging in the heterosexual sex act is irrelevant. He is prosecutable simply because he has performed the act because the act itself reinforces the fake ‘naturalness’ of heterosexual sex that is actually reinforcing dominance, oppression, hegemony, and submission; and then further torts the enthralled female by luring her ever deeper into her benighted enthrallment to her subordinate role in the patriarchal scheme. The male, because of his (biological?) urge to heterosexual sex is a member of a class that is criminal by its very nature, and the act – regardless of any legal niceties and hairsplitting about ‘intention’ – is criminal in and of itself, malum in se.
So much for Western justice and jurisprudence. So much for the propagation of the species. So much for family and parenting. So much, even, for the role of the female as a free and independent agent in the commission of the act (the heterosexual female must be terraformed by the vanguard elites and their pandering government just as much if not more as the oppressing male).
Stalin would instantly recognize and approve of the dynamic here, but not even he dared imagine to deploy it in this arena of sex and with this scope. It was job enough to police ideological purity, but to police every sex act encounter or its preludes? Not if you had all the OGPU and NKVD and KGB ever sworn in could you enforce that level of surveillance and prevention.
Lenin might have imagined it, but even he (with Trotsky’s help) saw that you can’t shoot everybody and still keep the country going.
But at least you can ‘register’ them, the ‘governance feminists’ who read MacK quickly saw. And the computer revolution enabled the government to dispense with the rooms-full of 3x5 file cards and file folders so distastefully and obviously reminiscent of OGPU or NKVD or KGB or Stasi or Gestapo files from back in the day. Computers, apparently, only serve liberating and protective objectives and don’t work if put to any darker purposes. Yah.
The government stamping out heterosexual sex? Can you think of any world-class tyrant or government that ever imagined itself able to carry out such a plan?
Cue the Bhagwan and the Beltway. (And maybe, for a while back there, Mao’s cadres and officials.)
So “what women want” turns out to require – whether they realize it or admit it or not – a sex-addled and hugely invasive police state. And MacK and the rest of the pandemonium will provide the ‘philosophy’ that justifies it.
Nor did the devotees of Leviathan, long caged by the Framers here, fail to notice that such a government would serve their purposes as easily as the purposes of ‘women’. It could be a bipartisan police-state! So democratic and liberating! So useful! So indispensable to the world’s ongoing progress!
“Most women who become pregnant became pregnant while having sexual intercourse with men” (p.184).
It’s hard to know what to do with such illumination. What is going on in the mind of somebody who would make or vigorously approve of such acute insight? But you can’t dispute her observation.
However, MacK then immediately goes on: “Most did not mean or wish to conceive” (p.184).
How does MacK know that? You might certainly wish to question, if not dispute, this assertion.
After all, it might well imply that ‘women’ take part in the sex act without really knowing the possible outcome. This limns a rather demeaning picture of women, to say the least. Do so many females not know? I refuse to believe it.
But MacK has to take this unappetizing route in order to cover her tracks. What she really and ultimately wants is for ‘women’ to be able to have sex ‘like men do’; in other words, an ‘equality’ that consists in the woman not having to put up with the possible outcomes provided for by Evolution and – if you wish – Nature. (Let’s leave God out of it for now.) It’s unfair, that is to say, that women cannot have ‘sex without consequences’ like males can – and it’s the government’s fault, or at least within the government’s putative responsibility and authority to do something about it and make that ‘inequality’ go away.
As if ‘sex without consequences’ was a government-permitted state of affairs just like the voting-obstruction laws of the Jim Crow South. Pass a law, get the judges to approve it, send in the federal marshals and maybe the 101st and 82nd Airborne, and stop this now! The whole country, in MacK’s analysis, is just the Jim Crow South except even worse, because (though the R-Feminists are tactically tactful enough not to mention it) the outrages based on Gender are so very much hugely worse than the outrages based on Race.
Woman’s inequality in this matter – I infer from MacK – actually consists in the fact that when you come right down to it she is biologically born with the capacity to conceive children. This is a form of ‘inequality’ that doesn’t automatically suggest itself to any coherent theory of ‘rights’. A ‘right’ guaranteed by a human government to avoid a reality that seems rather conclusively built into you by dynamics far beyond the power of any human government to alter? Dynamics which originate in some place far beyond the power of any human government to initiate or to extinguish. Sort of like the tides of the ocean, which no king or government has ever managed to reliably command, though at least one is on record as having tried, and perhaps many have wished.
This alone was a conceptual gambit that should have received wide public deliberation.
But the whole idea of a revolution is not that you deliberate but that you act. You act to ensure that your agenda is enshrined as the only power in the land. And nothing can be allowed to stand outside it, nothing against it, nothing above it (to use Mussolini’s eternal and pithy phrase).
And this is the kind of government that We now seem to have. By amazing coincidence.
After all, she asks, what does a baby really mean to a male? (p.186) If you infer – and rightly – that she means that men don’t really care about their children, then you can see the stilted, acid, corrosive, demeaning, narrow view she holds of men. She extrapolates – you might say – from the stereotypical unripe male to all males, and on the basis of her ‘finding’ dismisses the best instincts of males as if they were so much fake posing, masking a fundamental disinterest in anything except the high of ejaculating during the sex act and somehow ‘dominating’ the ‘submissive’ woman. (And who can deny that nowadays such unripeness has hardly diminished, where it exists, after decades of government-supported cultural terraforming? Such progress.)
It is, I will say again, a statement that bespeaks a rather nasty and greatly under-informed lesbian-tinged attitude – which is not to say that it is the attitude of all non-heterosexually inclined females.
MacK’s theory is a perfectly legitimate statement for an individual to make, or for a ‘school of thought’ to hold, but what I object to is that such a position was taken at face value by the Beltway and forthwith incorporated into so many profound changes imposed upon the Citizenry.
Because when you come right down to it, so much of this sort of stuff – held by MacK and so many others among that pandemonium – is dangerously corrosive not simply because it is their position (as whacky and nasty as it may be) but because it was so quickly and thoroughly incorporated by a government without any public deliberation and imposed under the repugnantly widespread assurances that it was True and Good and represented Progress and could not be delayed by any messy democratic public deliberation (or vote).
Which, again, was precisely what the antebellum Southerners wanted to achieve in the national discourse and consciousness in regard to Slavery.
And so this is why, she says, “the personal is political”: because “for women there is no privacy to lose or to guarantee” (p.191). Any boundaries that prevent the government from intruding into any imagined ‘private’ or ‘personal’ sphere in the lives of the Citizens have to be quickly taken down. (There is that vision, etched in the grainy black-and-white of newsreel film, of Hitler’s border guards happily tearing down the striped border-gates at the frontiers of Czechoslovakia and Austria – the Poles got the bombs first, with no cheerible photo-ops at the border. And those images of doors to houses and apartments – Jewish and otherwise – being matter-of-factly kicked in by government agents and officers.)
Do We not see where these concepts are leading? Where – it was clear as a bell to anybody who wanted to think for a moment – they always had to lead?
Boundaries on government action, she insists, only protect ‘men’. Get rid of all the boundaries on government’s will and authority to act.
Because “the private sphere is therefore a political sphere” (p.191).
There are thus “two alternative paths toward sex-equality for women” (p.219). Either be the same as men or be different from men. Or, I suppose, be both and take both paths at the same time, and build laws that teeter precariously over the chasm yawning between the two paths.
“This equal recognition of difference is termed the special benefit rule legally, and the double-standard philosophically” (p.219). But since it’s easier to get control of some eager-to-pander pols and judges and elites than it is to refute logic and ‘valorize’ illogic or highly dubious logic, then she isn’t going to waste time on the philosophical (philosophy is so masculine anyway).
And so laws – passed by deal-making legislators and upheld by grossly illogical judicial justifications – must impose double-standards without admitting that that is what they’re doing. So much for equality before the law. So much, even, for the integrity of the legislative and judicial processes. So much, even more so, for the validity of the legislative and judicial authority.
And, in terms of legal process, get rid of the mens rea requirement and – while we’re at it – get rid of the burden of proof in sex cases, because women are – if you buy MacK’s theory (or Knowledge) – presumptively raped in all cases of (heterosexual) sex and to hold otherwise or to support the ‘old’ evidentiary and mens rea requirements merely serves to “deny that social reality is split by sex inequality” (p.231)
And what divisiveness is now introduced – injected, actually – into the entire sense of common weal among the Citizenry? What happens when that kicks in? (Current Beltway answer: distract the Citizens with continuing wars and financial concerns and assure them that by supporting all the government’s actions they are taking a huge bite outta crime and oppression, foreign and domestic.)
“Feminism”, she asserts neatly, “radically questions whether the sexes are ever, under current conditions, similarly situated even when they inhabit the same conditions” (p.232-3) (italics mine).
How in any Universe can any legislative or judicial power legitimately clear a path through a swamp like this?
If there is a case at law, say, and the presumption is that each of the two participants inhabited a different situation internally even though they inhabited the same bit of the time-space continuum physically … how then do you legislate or adjudicate in such a science-fiction universe (or universes)? Or – and MacK would be happy with this – do you simply decide to throw your legislative or judicial weight and authority (and credibility) behind the ‘universe’ inhabited by one of the parties, and on that basis take a stance hostile to the other (male) party?
This is something not so very far from insanity. Recall how the 17th century Massachusetts judiciary wrecked its integrity trying to adjudicate between both the earthly and demonic universes in the Salem Witch Trials. MacK re-introduces as unique, rich, bright, fresh, progressive, liberal and utterly indisputable ‘Knowledge’ an egregiously mistaken governmental approach that was exposed for the lethal witlessness it was three centuries ago.
And while R-Feminists have every right to ‘question’, the problem is that they have done a hell of a lot more than that: they have, with the eager pandering collusion of the Beltway and all the Branches, gotten their ‘answer’ to that still-hazily limned ‘problem’ erected into public law and policy with no substantive or wide public discussion at all. Just the assurances of the vanguard elites and their fellow/sister travelers who ‘get it’.
And she denies that “gender neutrality” as a putative “expression of objectivity” is “adequate to the non-neutral objectified social reality of women’s experience” (p.232).
In other words, she most very surely does want to see partiality and non-neutral responses from the pols, the judges, the bureaucrats, and the Executive.
No doubt it was put to the pols in 1972 (as it was put to the Constitutional Convention by the Southerners in 1787): you give us this or we walk and there’ll be no country.
So the pols cut a deal, and then another one, and then another one, until now they’re so enmeshed in the overlapping swamp-matrix of deals they made and the consequences that those deals spawned, that they can’t see how the hell to get themselves – let alone the country – out.
For legislators and jurists educated and experienced and mature enough to have achieved their high offices … for such persons to imagine that such a scheme could work, in this country as its Citizenry and political competence existed 40 Biblical years ago, with this country’s Framing Vision and its Founding philosophy of government, without corrupting not only itself but everyone involved with it – that has to be one of the most glaring dissonances in an age full of glaring dissonance.
Better, then, for the Beltway denizen to take a page from the Soviet nomenklatura of the 1970s and 1980s: just cut your deals, collect your swag, and get out of town with your nut when you feel like you’ve got enough. And none of your pals (and pal-ettes) remaining on the job will prosecute you because they are in it as deep as you were. Let the games continue!
No wonder this place is coming more and more to resemble the latter-day USSR.
In regard to Gender (as distinct from one’s sex), it’s (neatly and shrewdly and slyly) merely a “social construction” and the law in its most profound foundations merely “reifies and ratifies” the inequality built not into the biological sexes but into the humanly-constructed “social constructions” of Gender (p.238).
So maybe – she apparently hopes – folks can stop worrying that R-Feminism is trying to get the government to change Nature and Evolution (she never raises the E-word) which might be construed by those who ‘just don’t get it’ as being beyond the government’s authority (and beyond any rational explanation or justification).
Instead, she’ll settle for the government in all its Branches engaging in whatever societal and cultural terraforming is required to change the “social construction” of Gender, because at least those social-constructions are something that humans created (over, she neglects to say, all of recorded human history).
But even if you grant her that such a demand is somewhat symmetrically balanced (humans created social-constructions so humans can change them), you still have to ask yourself if any government – especially a putatively democratic one – can simply go and start massively fiddling with the foundations and vital structural innards of a culture while that Vessel is still at sea and greatly burthened with souls.
And even that has to presume that her analysis and her solutions are correct and workable.
That would be a world of work for the greatest conceptual and political minds the species has ever managed to produce. And for any Citizenry asked to pass ultimate judgment on the plan.
But to do what has been done here over the past 40 Biblical years … is nothing like that at all.
It has to be done, she says, because “control over being produces consciousness … dominance reified becomes difference … coercion legitimated becomes consent … reality objectified becomes ideas; ideas objectified become reality” (p.238).
This is straight out of the thought of Antonio Gramsci at the beginning of the 20th century as he tried to come up with a way to insinuate Marxist-Leninist revolution in the established democracies of the West. (Though nowhere in this book’s text, nor its Index, does she ever mention him.)
It presumes that human beings are blank slates that can simply be inscribed upon by the power of tradition and law; that they are mere blank clay that can be shaped by cultures into any shape that the culture (or its government) chooses; that they have no nature and no inborn spirit and no conscience and – but of course – no qualities or capabilities or ideals or principles or any human nature at all imparted by anything such as having been created in the Image of a God, let alone the Christian God of benevolence and justice.
And that human beings are, in essence and primarily and fundamentally, victims (or victimizers). Who does what to whom? – as Lenin pithily described his definition of politics.
Lenin built Marxism into an actual operational (not to say successful) governance regime by demonizing several classes of Citizens (including sub-dividing even the ‘peasants’ into ‘good’ property-less peasants and ‘evil’ Kulaks, who were a class of peasants who had committed the egregious (in the Bolshevik schematic) crime of owning a cow or their own bit of land. He had to create a form of civil war within and among Russians).
The Gender revolution derived from all this has done the same thing, with ‘men’ playing the part of the ‘capitalists, aristocrats, and Kulaks’ who – simply be being members of the proscribed class – must suffer the consequences of the entire weight of the regime’s opprobrium upon and against them.
Such progress. Where Reagan wanted to turn the clock back to 1940s America, R-Feminists have turned the clock back to 1917 and the early years of the Soviet revolution.
And indeed, it seems to me like these Marxist-Leninist vanguard elites have now managed a re-do of Mao’s monstrous and self-created famine that killed so many of his own people in the 1950s: the necessarily secularist R-Feminist campaign here has created a spiritual and moral famine where there had been sufficiency before. Was that wise? Has this been worth the cost and consequences that now are becoming increasingly and un-spinnably clear?
In order to lever open the conceptual and social ‘space’ for their agenda, R-Feminists had to attack the carrying-walls and the foundation of the national Building. Somehow they either imagined that it could all be done without ill consequence, or else they figured that such a rotten structure didn’t deserve to remain standing any way.
But it’s a funny thing about conceptual foundations: they don’t just do what you want them to do. You knock them away or skew them for your own purposes, and the next thing you know they have not simply ‘made room’ for you and your agenda, but they then take the building itself (or a good-sized chunk of it) down.****
As the callow owner of Titanic discovered, you can screw around with the ship’s design so that you have more space for your first-class multistory grand staircase (which is what he did, reducing the height of several of the watertight bulkheads and thereby reducing her watertight integrity) and the ship did indeed make a grand impression as you descended that marvelous staircase for your first-class dinner. But then the ship also filled much more quickly than she otherwise would have, failing to stay afloat for the extra few hours it took Carpathia to reach her and take off her passengers.
That’s the funny thing about ‘changes’.
In order to ‘get at’ the allegedly myriad (and male) perpetrators of ‘rape’ (however broadly defined), conceptual constitutional watertight bulkheads were breached so as not to obstruct the pursuit and prosecution of the perps, or perp-class (aka ‘men’). Women were “disadvantaged” as a class by patriarchal sexual oppressive dominance of heterosexual sex (pp.244-5), and – surfing the spirit of the age – the government had to do ‘whatever it takes’ (as the Israelis like to say) to root out this ‘existential’ (ditto) threat to women’s very existence.
But as Thomas More’s character said in Robert Bolt’s play (and later 1966 film) “Man for All Seasons”: once you have flattened the laws in order to chase the devil, and then the devil turns around on you, what can protect you, the laws now being all flat?
Or as Martin Niemoller – former WW1 U-boat commander turned pastor – ruefully observed of the Hitlerite era: First they came for the Communists, but I wasn’t a Communist so I didn’t speak up; then they came for the trade-unionists but I wasn’t a trade-unionist so I didn’t speak up; then they came for the Jews but I wasn’t a Jew so I didn’t speak up; then they came for me and there was nobody left to speak up.
The monstrous Leviatha-Leviathan (bipartisan and bi-gender, if you will) government into which all the changes from Left and Right have now mutated, has no boundaries left to obstruct its ‘turning around on’ anybody and (as the Framers well knew about this type of beast) it’s only a matter of time before it seeks fresh targets among whatever and whomever is left of the Citizenry. Only a matter of time.
As her designer – also aboard that fateful night – told the captain, after inspecting the rate of flooding in Titanic’s lower decks: The tipping point where she loses her reserve buoyancy is engine-room 5; once you lose engine-room 5, her sinking ceases to be a probability, and becomes a mathematical certainty.
Have we reached that point yet? The continued Beltway reliance on the assertions of such ‘philosophers’ as MacK (actually, a law school professor, held in high esteem by her sister elites of whatever gender) – and make no mistake about it, these ideas of hers (and Gramsci’s) are still very active and still operating within the hive of the Beltway-elite collective – can only lead to a steeper rate of sinking.
The laws and policy changes and assorted regimes enacted and imposed based on the putative accuracy of her ‘philosophy’ are still in place and chewing and churning away deep within the nation’s foundational structures like oversized mutant termites in a 50’s B-movie sci-fi flik.
I think what was once said by one of Nietzsche’s defenders about that gentleman’s ruminations and illuminations also applies to MacK and many of her associated pandemonium: they are not ‘system’ thinkers, but rather ‘Problem’ thinkers.
Meaning that they don’t look with a wide lens at the comprehensive set of interlocking elements that underlie this or that specific phenomenon that has captured their attentions. Rather, they look with a narrow lens at the particular ‘Problem’ that agitates them, and then simply ruminate and agitate on until they have ‘addressed’ that ‘Problem’.
Imagine a surgeon who conducts surgery for a damaged vital organ, effects the necessary repair to the organ, but takes no thought of blood loss, consequent impact on associated physiological systems and organs. And yet, considers him/herself successful, even though the patient died from the deeper and unconsidered sequelae of the whole procedure. Your loved one had a damaged organ, I fixed the organ, and that’s what I said I’d do. If your loved one died of blood-loss or blood-poisoning or shock or sepsis or circulatory problems … well, I said I’d fix the vital organ and I did and your loved one, you may rest assured, died with a very well-repaired vital organ.
We don’t let surgeons with such tunnel-vision operate on people around here any longer.
But the Beltway and its pandemonium of elites let philosophers with such tunnel-vision dictate the grounds of huge matters of national law and policy.
And how much longer does the patient – which is Us as The People – have?
When does it all cease to be a probability and become – like it became for the Roman Republic and for Titanic – a mathematical certainty?
*My copy is the hard-cover edition published by Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-89645-9.
**It comes to me, writing this Post, that some readers might think: this is all silly stuff and why waste time on it? But I answer that while it may indeed be silly – to put it too charitably – yet this stuff has become the elite thinking of the Beltway and governs the government approach to matters foreign as well as domestic now.
***You might want to take a look at Carl J. Friedrich’s work, and his short 1964 book “Transcendental Justice” is a good place to start.
****For example, just recently a group of Oxford University profs declared that allowing women the privilege of “post-birth abortions” is merely the next logical conceptual step towards the equality and liberation of women. Human life is not really initiated, they assert, until the being has the capacity to exercise human faculties; since infants and young children (otherwise quite healthy) cannot do that, then they are not rightly classified as humans and can be – under proper supervision, of course – done away with.
This is as clear a reversion to the Nazi concept of Lebensunwurdiges Leben as you are likely to run into this side of 1945. But once you’ve gone and flattened the carrying walls and retaining walls and ripped out the foundations, what’s to prevent such a ‘theory’ from appearing as if it made sense and as if it were at least possibly morally credible? Who’s to judge? And on what basis?
The best a secular state could do at this point is to insist that it will not allow it and no further discussion allowed. But in order to ‘make room’ for all the necessary social-space of the past 40 Biblical years, there are no moral grounds left to absolutely and clearly judge this proposal to be profoundly immoral on its face and at its very root and core, malum in se.
An alternative explanation for the R-Feminist position might be this:
In order to justify so huge and profoundly revolutionary a political and cultural agenda it was essential not only to have a Necessary Enemy (or construct one) but to have a really really big Necessary Enemy.
Because to explain her theory’s profound and sustained and pervasive place of ‘women’ (or of those who occupy women’s roles, as she might put it) over all of recorded human history, then you have to have a huge, pervasive, sustained and possibly deliberate and purposeful or possibly not deliberate and kinda of ‘unconscious’ conspiracy or synergy, and thus she constructs Patriarchy.
But ‘ideas’ are notoriously non-flammable when you’re trying to ignite a stampede of support so you need a real flesh-and-blood enemy, and thus ‘men’ have to be demonized. After all, the Salem Witch Trials did not prosecute ‘witchcraft’ as a concept but rather real men and women as ‘witches’ (or warlocks).
If you don’t do this, and if you don’t get the fire going really really hot as quickly as possible, then folks may well simply wonder if there isn’t something more ‘natural’ (however defined) about the role of women or women’s roles in the great scheme of things in human civilizations – and then they start asking all the questions you don’t want to be asked about all the possibilities you don’t want them to be considering.
Once you have decided upon your Necessary Enemy, then you skew all of the Correct ‘thinking’ around that Enemy in order to preclude any un-Correct thoughts or questions and keep the stampede going in only the direction you want it to.
In his assessment of Critical Race Theory (one of the hot items from back in the heyday of Identity Politics and Multiculturalism in the academy), an emeritus professor recently writes (concerning the minority professor who invented this Theory): “[He] knew that he was not qualified to teach at Harvard. He invented a theory by which Harvard could not judge him.”
This, I think, succinctly captures a dynamic that has been operative in all of the Identity Politics ‘theories’ and assertions and claims: they knew full well that their demands to be both i) accepted immediately as ‘Knowledge’ and ii) to be erected immediately into national law and policy were impossible to justify.
And their solution for that was to invent a theoretical justification why nobody had a right to judge them:‘Patriarchy’ had confused everybody and delegitimized all tradition and culture so that ‘males’ could not be trusted because they were patriarchal; women who did not ‘get it’ could not be trusted because they didn’t really understand what being a women was genuinely all about; intellectuals who disagreed couldn't be trusted because they were merely shills for the status-quo (an idea straight out of Antonio Gramsci); and clearly no tradition, law, practice or thinking that disagreed with them could be trusted because it was all just part of the great big illusion called Patriarchy.
So nothing and nobody could 'judge' them or their ideas or their demands. Because everything else and everybody else was tainted. Since MacKinnon, the pomo thought evolved into even more treacherous and daffy depths: nobody can judge anything or anybody else because there are no 'objective' standards and - indeed - no 'objectivity' and for that matter no Reality and so it's all just a power play and when you are a revolutionary/liberal that's all politics is ever about: power - the power to keep everybody off your back and the power to get on theirs.
And the Beltway bought into the whole thing.
Labels: American political development since the Sixties, Catharine MacKinnon, consequences of radical feminism, Marxism and radical feminism