Was Feminism Always Bad?


Most fair-minded people deplore the excesses of modern feminism—its triviality, its mean-spiritedness, and its claiming of special privileges for women on the basis of their putative suffering under patriarchy.

What happened to “equal rights”? What turned feminism into a shrill, rancorous movement that hounds men for a plethora of claimed sexual crimes, harps on female moral superiority, and seeks to rid the world of masculine energy, competitive drive, and frank humor?

Did rape crisis feminists such as Andrea Dworkin, who saw all sex as rape and presumed all men guilty, ruin what was otherwise a reasonable, egalitarian program for reform?

Or was the strain of man-blaming always there?

In “The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015,” PJM’s Susan Goldberg suggests that the suffrage activists of the nineteenth century had it right: these were God-fearing women who loved men and wanted to take their fair share of the world’s work, ridding themselves of the privileges and liabilities of traditional femininity.

Goldberg writes compellingly of what happened to the feminist movement when it lost God and put Woman/the Goddess in God’s stead.

But it is worth noting that even amongst those good-hearted evangelical ladies who campaigned for the abolition of slavery, the promotion of temperance, and all-round godly living—many of whom would not have called themselves feminist—the seeds of the present movement’s ills were being sown.

For always in the heart of the women’s movement, as in all well-meaning movements for reform, was the poison of utopianism, the dream of social perfection and the concomitant hatred of what seems to stand in its way. In declaring what women could offer the world, the suffragists inevitably flirted with the idea of female moral superiority, from which we can draw a straight line to the male-exterminationist fantasies of modern feminism.