Posted on | September 30, 2014 | 87 Comments
“I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Maybe some women just don’t care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word? . . . Feminism always gets associated with being a radical movement — good. It should be. A lot of what the radical feminists [in the 1970s] were saying, I don’t disagree with it.”
— Ellen Page, interview with the Guardian, July 3, 2013
“I’m here today because I am gay.”
— Ellen Page, Feb. 14, 2014
She was right. It could not be more obvious if it were stated as a declarative sentence: “Feminism is a journey to lesbianism.”
Still, we must not ignore the chicken-and-the-egg question: Which came first, Ms. Page’s lesbianism or her feminism? We don’t know, although when a gay gossip blogger “outed” Ms. Page in 2011, I defended her right to privacy (“‘Outing’ Ellen Page: The Politicization of Sex and the Sexualization of Politics”). The feminist maxim that “the personal is political” has always seemed to me a formula for divisiveness, to say nothing of its explicit invalidation of any idea of social good that transcends narrow self-interest. In feminism, extreme individualism becomes a justification for collectivism, whereby the personal grievances of any woman are transmogrified into political demands delivered as an ultimatum on behalf of all women.
The fact that a majority of women reject feminism, per se, has been claimed by feminists as proof that most women are too stupid to know what feminism actually is. However, when the convergence of feminist theory with lesbian practice is demonstrable — “Could it be any more obvious?” — we must presume that women comfortable with their own lives are fit to judge their own interests, and reject feminism rationally. Under a limited government that protects the liberty of individuals under the Rule of Law, we have no political need of any theory to explain Ms. Page’s homosexuality. Feminism says otherwise.
“The radical feminist argument is that men have forced women into heterosexuality in order to exploit them, and that lesbians, in rejecting male definitions of sexuality, are undermining the patriarchy. . . .
“Lesbianism is . . . fundamentally a challenge to patriarchal definitions of women.”
— Celia Kitzinger, The Social Construction of Lesbianism (1987)
Some have claimed lesbians are “born that way,” a claim rejected by radical feminists who insist that their lesbianism is a deliberate political act of resistance to male sexual oppression. Some feminist psychologists, notably Lisa Diamond, argue that women’s sexuality is flexible and adaptable, so that shifts in female orientation — straight to lesbian or lesbian to straight, or the endless indecision of “bisexuality” — are not surprising. Yet radical feminists, including psychologists like Professor Celia Kitzinger and Professor Dee Graham, insist that women who “choose” heterosexuality can never do so freely, because heterosexual women are either brainwashed into it or coerced by what Professor Graham called male “sexual terror.”
What would be the reaction of a happily heterosexual woman upon being told that her normal attraction to men is a mental pathology akin to post-traumatic stress disorder? We don’t know, because Professor Graham’s theory has never been subjected to the widespread public ridicule it deserves. Yet when an unhinged feminist blogger declared that normal sexual intercourse “is always rape,” it was Professor Graham’s theory which informed her claim. How many other unhappy women have talked themselves into lesbianism with the assistance of feminist theory?
“Sex, love and romance seem like natural events — instinctive, unlearned, and universal. For example, think about a kiss. Perfectly natural, right? . . . Yet in many cultures, kissing is unknown. . . .
“Strange as it may seem, sex, like kissing, is not a natural act. In other words, sexuality is not something that can be understood in purely biological terms. Instead, it is a social construct.”
— Mary Crawford and Rhoda Unger, Women and Gender: A Feminist Psychology, Fourth Edition (2004)
The etiology of Ellen Page’s lesbian preference (or of any other woman’s preference) presents itself as a subject for political debate only because feminists insist the personal is the political. Radical feminism demands that lesbians must come out of the closet, because a woman’s purely private preferences cannot be useful in the political struggle against male oppression. Having made this young woman’s intimate life a public spectacle, however, feminists insist that no theorizing about Ellen Page’s sexuality is acceptable unless it conforms to feminist doctrine. So it is unacceptable to describe lesbianism as a problem. No one can be permitted to explain homosexuality as a socially harmful maladaptive response in the context of developmental psychology. If Ellen Page had sought therapy to help her understand her same-sex attraction and to attempt to learn coping strategies that would make it possible for her to live a normal (which is to say, heterosexual) adult life, the Southern Poverty Law Center might sue the therapist. It is now evidently a hate crime to say that gay people can live straight lives.
FACT: 97.7% of American women are heterosexual.
They outnumber lesbian/bisexual women (2.3%)
more than 40-to-1. Why do feminists believe
it is wrong to call heterosexuality “normal”
or to say what is normal is also natural?
A free society can tolerate disagreement, but feminism is implacably hostile to freedom. Feminist pioneer Simone de Beauvoir once made this clear, after Betty Friedan remarked that women should have the choice to stay home and raise their children. “No,” replied Beauvoir, “we don’t believe that any woman should have this choice. No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”
Beauvoir said this in 1975, and you might think that her declaration of feminism’s totalitarian aspirations — seeking the power to abolish the traditional family by decree — would be more widely known. Yet if that 1975 quote is taught in any Introduction to Women’s Studies course, it has escaped my notice. The fact that Women’s Studies textbooks are edited by lesbians has not escaped my notice, but this potentially significant correlation is not generally acknowledged by college administrators. One suspects that American University’s proficiency at indoctrinating “raging lesbian feminists” isn’t something they advertise to the parents of prospective students. Honesty is perhaps not the best policy if your business model involves charging parents $20,000 a year to fill their children’s heads full of radical ideology.
Yet we return to the chicken-and-egg question of Ellen Page: Which came first, lesbian sexuality or feminist ideology? You think about this when you see lesbian feminist Carmen Rios describe herself as someone who “failed at being normal.” This is the sort of frank admission I truly appreciate; feminists are rarely so honest. Did Ms. Rios earnestly try to find happiness in heterosexuality before she became a Women’s Studies major? Has she ever tried, outside the framework of feminist theory, to explain her failure to become normal? It is vain to ask for such an explanation; feminism has long since become the only framework within which anyone talks about female sexuality. Even the defenders of “traditional family values” often speak the rhetoric of feminism, however unwittingly. You’re more likely to find a college student fluent in ancient Greek or Latin than to find one who can discuss sex in a way that doesn’t conform to feminist ideology. To speak of romantic love between men and women nowadays requires us to learn a lost language.
Thanks to the tip-jar hitters, today I ordered from Amazon ($98.24) five more books about radical feminism, including Theorizing Sexuality, a recent academic textbook by two British feminist professors, plus Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, Volume 1, An Introduction, which is essential to understanding Judith Butler’s theory of gender. My intention to dismantle Professor Butler’s theory presents a challenge that is both daunting and mystifying.
On the one hand, it is daunting in the way that any multi-thousand word writing project is always daunting. My career as a journalist required me to orient myself to cranking out daily bylines in a hurry, not spending several days on one massive treatise. However, what is mystifying about the challenge of dismantling Professor Butler is that no one has ever debunked Gender Trouble before, as the key to doing so seems to me so obvious. Three key sources — Foucault, Monique Wittig and Gayle Rubin — form the intellectual crux of the theory that Professor Butler turned into a 200-page bestseller.
Each of these sources is flawed and biased and, except as a sort of special pleading for the social and political acceptance of homosexuality, Gender Trouble cannot be viewed as a useful contribution to the understanding of “gender” (sex roles) or human sexuality. Certainly, Professor Butler’s Big Idea about the performativity of gender is an intriguing concept, but it is really only a restatement (in gay-friendly terms) of what any careful student of developmental psychology has always known. To be a man or woman, to take on the adult duties and responsibilities of manhood and womanhood — especially as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers — requires young people to psychologically adjust themselves to those roles. Conversely, if one wishes to avoid these adult roles, to find a justification for not marrying or becoming a parent, then your psychological need must find an argument to rationalize your unwillingness or inability to perform those socially necessary duties. And this is what Gender Trouble really is, a psychological defense mechanism (rationalized self-justification) dressed up in intellectual theory.
Because the fundamental problems of Professor Butler’s theory seem so glaringly obvious to me, and because Gender Trouble is one of the most influential texts of the past 25 years, I am mystified that no Ph.D. — a psychologist, biologist or anthropologist — has undertaken the task of dismantling her argument. To say that “gender is a social construct” (as Professor Butler’s insight is usually phrased) is really no different than saying “sex roles are socially necessary.” That is to say, if we wish men and women to form stable families through marriage, to procreate and care for their young, then boys and girls must learn the behaviors and attitudes necessary to success in this work. Adulthood requires us to escape the egocentric selfishness of childhood. We cannot be successful adults if we are unwilling to suppress infantile narcissism and do what is good for others (for society), and the responsibilities of adulthood — marriage and parenthood — are certainly incompatible with reckless sexual hedonism. Because the social good conflicts with our immature selfishness (the imperious “I-want-it-now” demands of our inner Veruca Salt), then what society requires of boys and girls in their growth to becoming men and women can be said to be “socially constructed.” However, it is an error to say that, because the duties of adulthood limit our egocentrism, society is wrong and our ego is right.
Once upon a time, people sought psychological counseling to help them cope with the demands of adulthood. Nowadays, the hopelessly maladjusted enroll in Women’s Studies courses, where professors teach women they are unhappy because they are oppressed.
As a substitute for therapy, perhaps feminism is useful. As politics, it’s divisive. As a basis for public policy, it’s insane. Believing you’re a victim of heteronormative patriarchy — “gender roles,” “the male gaze,” etc. — may help unhappy women feel better about themselves. Yet their sense of entitled victimhood leads them to denounce the rest of us as haters for not joining their feminist pity party, and these denunciations require a response. What we say in response is likely to hurt their feelings.
My response? Baby, I get paid to bring the pain.