The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The MacKinnonite View: Power, Gender, Sexuality and Social Oppression

Posted on | March 26, 2014 | 44 Comments

From time to time, it seems necessary to remind readers that there is no such thing as “moderate feminism.” Feminism is inherently radical — indeed, revolutionary in its aims — and if you are not a radical, you are not a feminist. This is not what I say, this is what feminists themselves say. Women who think of themselves as “moderate feminists” simply have not paid attention to actual feminists.

While searching for a quote earlier today, I came across a complete PDF of Katharine MacKinnon’s 1989 book, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State. MacKinnon is not a marginal fringe character. She was influential in the development of sexual harassment law, and this particular book was published by Harvard University Press. These excerpts are from page 54, and from pages 113-114:

[W]oman’s social inequality is not an inevitable attribute of her biology but biologically inherent in the heterosexual sex act. The current meaning of sexual relations between women and men is taken as biologically inevitable. The only thing that is not inevitable is woman’s social oppression through them. Woman’s biology oppresses her only when she relates to men. The basis of the inequality of the sexes here is seen as the inequality inherent in heterosexual intercourse as a result of sex-specific anatomy. To transcend or avoid this in personal life by having sexual relations only with women — lesbianism — eliminates the gender-based underpin­nings of sexual inequality in this view. [Quoting Jill Johnston, 1973:] “For if the phrase biology is destiny has any meaning for a woman right now it has to be the urgent project of woman reclaiming herself, her own biology in her image, and this is why the lesbian is the revolutionary feminist and every other feminist is a woman who wants a better deal from her old man.” Biological problems have biological solutions. . . .
Sexuality, then, is a form of power. Gender, as socially constructed, embodies it, not the reverse. Women and men are divided by gender, made into the sexes as we know them, by the social requirements of its dominant form, heterosexuality, which institutionalizes male sexual ‘dominance and female sexual submission. If this is true, sexuality is the linchpin of gender inequality.
Feminism has a theory of power: sexuality is gendered as gender is sexualized. Male and female are created through the erotization of dominance and submission. The man/woman difference and the dominance/submission dynamic define each other. This is the social meaning of sex and the distinctively feminist account of gender inequality. Sexual objectification, the central process within this dynamic, is at once epistemological and political. The feminist theory of knowledge is inextricable from the feminist critique of power because the male point of view forces itself upon the world as its way of apprehending it.

MacKinnon is not a stupid woman. Her writing is nuanced and carefully worded and, for example, you can’t say she explicitly endorses Jill Johnston’s viewpoint — she superficially maintains objectivity by use of the phrase “in this view,” so that she (or her defenders) can say she is merely describing a certain perspective, and may dismiss as unfair any critic who points out that MacKinnon does not explicitly reject Johnston’s lesbian separatism.

However, skipping forward from page 57 to page 113, we find MacKinnon saying that “heterosexuality . . . institutionalizes male sexual ‘dominance and female sexual submission,” from which arises “gender inequality” because of “the social meaning of sex.”

It is difficult to read this as anything other than a condemnation of heterosexuality, per se, and especially of the male role in heterosexual relationships. Perhaps there are men and women who could enjoy a relationship that would not offend MacKinnon’s feminist sensibility, but I have a hard time imagining it. What she seems to wish to dictate are relationships in which men have no agency, no initiative, no prerogatives, and no rights. It is not equality, but absolute female hegemony, which MacKinnon seeks.

However strange this anti-male, anti-heterosexual view may seem to most people — including some women who might (mistakenly) think of themselves as “feminists” — it is in fact very influential within academic feminism, a view taught in all university Women’s Studies programs. And as this MacKinnonite perspective has suffused its influence throughout academia and, from there, throughout society — in culture, in politics, in law — what is the practical result? Men on Strike, as Helen Smith calls it.

If male-female relationships are merely a contest for power, as MacKinnon proclaims, then these relationships will necessarily be a source of constant conflict, and who needs that? Men therefore avoid relationships, keeping their interactions with females as casual as possible — “friends with benefits” or short-term “hook-ups” devoid of emotional content — so as to limit the risk of conflict.

Of course, women will blame men for this unsatisfactory stalemate in the War of the Sexes, but that’s what feminism is really about: Whenever a woman is unhappy, some man must be to blame. What MacKinnon calls “the feminist critique of power” means that all men are always wrong about everything, because “woman’s social oppression” deprives women of responsibility for their own problems. Ultimately, feminism teaches that every woman is a victim of patriarchy, and she can only escape by becoming a lesbian.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

 

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  • Anon Y. Mous

    I think I flat out disagree with you about the definition of the word feminism. If you go to:

    http://www.onelook.com/?w=feminism&ls=a

    You see dictionary after dictionary define the word in language such as:

    fem·i·nism

    NOUN:

    1. Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
    2. The movement organized around this belief.

    There are some, like Merriam-Webster, that go a bit further by saying, “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes”.

    But, I think most Americans, men and women alike, have in their mind that feminism is about equality between the sexes, and they fundamentally agree with it.

    I realize that you are focusing on the people behind the movement and what their political agenda is. I agree with a great deal with what you say about it. But, you can not prevail in your attempt to define the word in only your terms. Most people will continue to believe that the word means what the dictionary says, and not accept RSM as a greater authority on the subject.

    It’s kind of like Andrew Sullivan in his attempt to define Christians through his insulting Christianist formulation. Even he realized that he couldn’t just be the final arbiter on the word Christian, so his transparent tactic of using a modified term. (I hope you don’t take offense at my comparison of you to Sullivan. I have a great deal more respect for you than I do for him (none), but it seemed a fitting example.)

  • Zohydro

    I’m not convinced that “feminism” is categorically or inherently radical, socialist, lesbian, or anti-male…

    Let the “down twinkles” commence!

  • G Joubert

    Go try to sit through a women’s studies class or seminar at your nearest state university and get back to us on that one.

  • Anon Y. Mous

    Disqus changed their voting system so that you can’t “earn” down votes anymore. If you down vote someone, it just shows up on your own computer. LOL You can tell that you have successfully registered your disapproval of someone else’s comment with yourself because the little down arrow on your computer screen turns blue.

  • RKae

    Words get hijacked. Words get kidnapped and twisted around. Political causes take them over and stick their flags in them to claim them. It’s no use going to a dictionary. “Feminism” is now owned by the lunatic fringe.

    I might have a colorful and jaunty jacket, but I would never refer to it as “gay.”

  • Anon Y. Mous

    As a political theory, you are absolutely correct that it is owned by the leftists, or as you call them, the lunatic fringe. If you take a university course or read the scholarly publications, it’s socialists and other assorted wackos all the way.

    But, if you head out into the popular culture, if you look how the word is used in the media, if you just stop a random person on the street, the word is still about the equality of the sexes.

    Your “gay” jacket is a perfect example. If you were to go to your corner bar and talk about your wonderful, gay jacket, you would get laughed out of the place. That’s because the word “gay” has been taken over in the popular culture. But, if you talk about how your girlfriend is a moderate feminist, people are not going to immediately think she is some radical, Marxist, wannabe lesbian. They will just assume she is for equality of the sexes; and especially with the “moderate” qualifier, they will think she is your basic, stand-up-for-her-rights, modern American woman.

  • concern00

    It’s amazing the things that count as empowering these days. Carpet munching, degrading porn acts…

    I was, obviously erroneously, taught that empowerment comes from self discipline and taking responsibility for yourself.

  • maniakmedic

    My first thought reading these feminist posts is always that these women are having a laugh at everyone’s expense. That nobody could POSSIBLY believe this crap. My second thought is that, if these women are actually seriously spouting this tripe, it is because they desperately want to have heterosexual sex but for some reason (e.g. they are supremely unattractive, they have the personality of a perpetually pissed off honey badger, etc.) they can’t, so they are spending a lot of time and energy very publicly convincing themselves that there are good and valid reasons why they don’t really want to have heterosexual sex.

    It must be incredibly confusing to be any flavor of liberal as it requires you to believe at least two mutually exclusive things at any one time; such as that lesbianism is the true order of female sexuality but that the end all be all of science totally proves evolution and natural selection, which necessarily incorporates heterosexual reproduction because every freaking mammal on earth reproduces sexually, and according to science humanity is just another mammal with no divine qualities to lift it above the other animals.

    I’d feel sorry for these women not getting what they so clearly desire, but I know for a fact that life does not revolve around getting boned, no matter how turned on you are all the time. If you fill your life with other things, it’s entirely possible to live without being perpetually aroused and, therefore, without constant sex. Of course, this requires self control and a sense of responsibility for one’s actions, neither of which is a quality these women are capable of exhibiting.

  • Zohydro

    Just because I cannot see them does not mean they are not real!

  • scarymatt

    Your second thought is spot on. It’s Rush’s 24th Undeniable Truth of Life.

    Believing in two contradictory things at the same time cannot possibly be difficult (just look at the people who do so). The key seems to be to FEEL it, not think about it.

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  • DavidD

    Oh, let’s just give them their own planet already and be done with them.

  • Esther Williams

    All marxism, all the time. And yet, the democrat party has the gall to claim that they are somehow not marxist.

  • RS

    I’ve observed before in comments to posts on this topic, that the Left must devalue all human interaction except that interaction with the Collective. Thus, in the pursuit of the never-attained ideal of “equality,” they construe all human relationships as zero-sum. My happiness or fulfillment can only exist at the expense of someone else’s happiness and fulfillment, because in the Left’s view, there is only so much happiness to go around at any given time. In every human relationship, there must be an oppressor and a victim; if you don’t see it or refuse to acknowledge your own role, you are either the oppressor or you have been socialized to the point of utter passivity in the face of your own victimhood.

    Feminism is the perfect example of this phenomenon. The fascinating thing is, on its face the quest for “equality,” is doomed to failure. If life and relationships are merely an accounting ledger with debits and credits, someone will always have a greater amount of relationship “capital.”

    “Look! I took out the trash, now what are you going to do to even the accounts?”

    What a horribly bleak worldview.

  • Anamika

    It is incumbent on those who feel persecuted, to treat those feelings in such a way as to use them more as an impetus to overcome perceived challenges where they feel discriminated against. Thus, beating the odds of being taken in by deeply ingrained archetypes of social oppression, rather than becoming angry or blaming others. Of course this requires a certain level of awareness be present, where there is the ability to thwart knee-jerk reactions before they occur.

    If the ability to do this isn’t there, then those issues still have a stranglehold on that psyche no matter to what political or religious group that person may have been associating with, what level of spiritual experiences they may have had, or the amount of peace, love, bliss and joy they have had at times. Spirituality has to be practical, or, what good is it?

    When the feeling of being persecuted turns into victimhood, it is also sign that there is a condition of lack of self-esteem, which is as much ‘spiritual’, as psychological. (There may or may not be a difference between spiritual and psychological, depending on whether or not the premise that mind = psyche is accepted. I suppose those terms would have to be defined first.) Nevertheless, victimhood and lack of self-esteem isn’t part of the solution.

  • http://www.journal14.com/ Dana

    Mr Mous wrote:

    But, I think most Americans, men and women alike, have in their mind
    that feminism is about equality between the sexes, and they
    fundamentally agree with it.

    Now, define “equality,” because that’s where the problems lay. If you say something as universally agreed upon as “equal pay for equal work,” you immediately get into the question of what equal work is. When our esteemed President repeats the old whine, “women are paid 77¢ for every $1.00 men earn,” no account is taken concerning the different types of work being done or time taken off of work for child rearing or seniority or experience or professional credentials.

    Eben when it comes to sex, as Mr McCain’s favorite whipping girl, Windy, who calls all penis-in-vagina intercourse rape, must we define the penis as somehow superior to the vagina, as opposed to complementary to it? That’s what Windy and, apparently, Miss McKinnon, do?

    Equality does not mean identical, and equality does not mean the same, but far, far too many people are unable to see the distinctions.

  • Anamika

    Those who feel persecuted should become immune. Immune doesn’t mean being numb, or being in denial or deluded or ignorant. It means being aware enough to see a reaction coming to a perceived insult and being able to choose not to react in a knee-jerk way to the same tape running in the neural pathways.

    Why do people stay invested in their wounds? Because it feels comfortable there and they are comfortable with the level of pay-off that they receive from remaining there. For instance, when it comes to gender issues among men and women, (also race issues) double standard is often operating, both ways–for a pay-off.

    Women prostitute themselves (and not just in the sexual ways) and men do, too. They sell themselves out, or act in a less than integritous to themselves way, for some kind of security, even if that security is just the comfort of the same old dysfunction. It’s familiar and it feels right, it feels good. (At some point, they may awake to the fact that there is something wrong with that, but they don’t know what it is, do they, Mr. Jones?).

  • http://www.journal14.com/ Dana

    Uhhh, I like having women around.

  • Anamika

    A woman or a man trying to get something or get back at someone using the gender card is prostituting through the use of their ongoing investment in their issues; a woman or a man trying to get something with the race card is also prostituting. I think people are not as aware and would be surprised at how often they engage in this. These identities are sceneries, they are not who we are, but we give these identities the power to define who we are.

    These identities as victims and their wounds are often used, in order to get what they think they want to insure their survival. It is not entirely their fault however, and social roles and expectations are deeply ingrained, but, then, this is where the awareness comes in. The good news is that shining the light on these archetypes helps us to see where we are invested, so that eventually we can resist the impulses to act not in knee-jerk ways, for the benefit of the survival of our identities, but in more mature ways, with mind and heart working together, not at odds with each other.

    Interesting times we are living in!

  • scarymatt

    Sorry, I thought we were talking about feminists.

  • http://www.journal14.com/ Dana

    During the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Enterprise came upon this planet, politically and socially dominated by (very pretty white) women, in which the (few) males shown were dressed kind of like we would expect arm candy girls to be dressed, and who were all smaller; the show reversed the sexual dimorphism typical in humans.

    The Enterprise was there because a Federation ship had crash on the planet, a ship with several human men aboard, men who were as large or larger than the women on the planet, and, gosh, gee wilikers, this was an attack on the social order of the planet. This was seen as an evolutionary process on this planet, and, of course, the controlling women didn’t like the idea of these changes. (The head of government’s title was Mistress, which is a feminine form of Master.)

    It was a predictably silly episode, and the series just barely survived its first season, but, in a way, it projects one of the problems for the feminists: men are simply physically bigger and stronger, on average, and you cannot (rationally) claim that biology is sexism.

  • Anamika

    Saying “I like women” means “not generally as a human being” but “as a woman” meaning whatever neurotic game a man has received as a bond between his mother and himself. So love could be some blows on her eyes, treating her like a dog, totally ignoring her, or expecting to receive such treatment from her.

  • RS
  • Anamika

    “you cannot (rationally) claim that biology is sexism.”

    Of course not. And the same biology is used to depict women as “birth giving machines” and “baby making devices.”

    “…said women of child-bearing age should perform a public service by raising the birthrate, which fell to a record low of 1.26 children per woman in 2005. Experts say an average fertility rate of 2.1 children isneeded to keep the population stable.”

    The problem of too few young and too many old is affecting quite a few countries. It ruins the economy to have twice as many retirees as workers. The damage has already been done, population wise, but the solution of making sure enough babies are born is done out of human kindness rather than cold reason. In fact, the real solution is not with more babies but with less old people. It reminds me of a Star Trek episode where on one planet, it was expected for those having reached the age of 60 to kill themselves. Not to do so was considered a terribly selfish choice.

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  • Kirby McCain

    But. If a tree falls in the forest…

  • Kirby McCain

    This extremely anti – male philosophy can only flourish in society where women no longer need men for protection or strenuous labor.

  • Kirby McCain

    Divorced 20 years ago. Thank god for Subway.

  • RKae

    I am indeed a man. But the picture is Johnny the Paperboy from one of my favorite ’80s movies: “Better Off Dead.” “Two dollars! Two dollars!”

  • RKae

    How ’bout sending them to that big yellow one at the center of the solar system?

  • Eric

    The good news is – since these Feminazis hate everything concerned with pregancy and having children, they simply will not reproduce more of their own kind whereas those who actually *enjoy* children will have more of them, and we will defeat the swine by virtue of pure numbers.

  • http://deadrepublicanparty.wordpress.com/ rmnixondeceased

    He’d better go in drag if he hopes to survive …

  • http://www.journal14.com/ Dana

    What kind of bat-feces crazy response is that?

    You didn’t even read it correctly; I said that I like “having women around,” as in general company, not that I want or expect to copulate with all of them.

    When the people I work around are exclusively male, and the vast majority of the people with whom I interact are men, it’s nice to talk to women occasionally.

    Yet, to you, it’s some sort of “neurotic game?”

  • http://www.journal14.com/ Dana
  • http://www.journal14.com/ Dana

    Though I must admit, it was much more fun to see your previous gravitar: http://www.unsungfilms.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feldman01.jpg

  • Daniel O’Brien

    If a man is talking in the middle of a forest and there’s no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    It was a jigglocracy. Christie wants in on the action.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Hey, what’s your favorite planet?
    Mine’s the Sun!

  • S. Matt P.

    If heterosexuality institutionalizes male dominance, and since I gather feminists like McKinnon are against male dominance so consequently they’re against heterosexuality, tell me again why these feminists demand per Obamacare their employers pay for those contraceptives and abortifaceants? Either that makes zero sense or I must have missed an interesting day in biology class.

  • http://www.journal14.com/ Dana

    And then, it lasts for exactly one generation. Biology is heteronormative.

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  • cmdr358

    Oh, okay.
    I was wondering how I could have been the first while showing up 2 days later.

    Just checked it out….Do you show a tally for the number of down votes?

    No. Disqus uses voting to surface the best comments, however only up votes are displayed publicly to others.

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