Blogs > Liberty and Power > Individualist feminism

Mar 22, 2004 2:52 pm


Individualist feminism



I am not familiar with the debate that previously occurred on Liberty and Power over Naomi Wolf's recent article on Harold Bloom nor do I have the time at the moment to acquaint myself with it. I apologize, therefore, if I cover ground already ploughed or misinterpret someone based on the most recent exchange alone. I have written a column on the savage response of virtually all feminists and most mainstream media to Wolf's article, analyzing it as an indication of a cultural shift on the issue of victimhood. For example, what I consider to be the most vicious attack on Wolf occurred in The New Statesman; in 2000, that periodical uncritically published Andrea Dworkin's similar confession of having been raped - an account with far more questionable aspects than Wolf's but one which received only muted skepticism or respectful silence from the media. The synopsis of my take on Wolf's confessional: I have no sympathy for her, which my article makes clear. On the other hand, I have little sympathy for most of her feminist critics, for two reasons: 1) their attacks resemble a gleeful catfight; and, 2) many of them would have been her cheering section a few years ago. But rather than discuss Wolf, I want to address the question of what is individualist feminism in today's society. Robert Campbell opens his series on Wolf,"Some feminists, in today's world, believe that women have the same rights as men; that this equality of rights is getting close to being consistently recognized in countries like the United States; and that further feminist efforts, in this part of the world, should be narrowly targeted at those remaining areas where the legal and political systems privilege men over women." He refers to this position as individualist feminism, and I basically agree with some slight disagreement. For example, there are still important issues of inequality for women under law/policy in North America that require attention. One of them is the widespread legal persecution of lay midwives by governmental health professionals. But, by in large, the main task is to end the"gender war" by dismantling the laws and other institutions that continue it through mandating privileges for women over men. Roderick Long responds to Campbell's definitional description,"what concerns me is the implicit suggestion that to regard something as a legitimate object of feminist concern is ipso facto to regard it as an appropriate object of legislation?as I see it, both sides are making the same mistake: they both think of feminist concerns and legislative activity as going together." (I will leave Robert to indicate what he did or didn't implicitly suggest.) It is the curse of almost every current movement that legislation is the goal and individualist feminism hasn't. escaped. There is a division of opinion on whether to use legislation and the State; that division breaks down to whether the person arguing accepts or rejects governmental authority over anything beyond direct protection of one's physical person and property. (As an anarchist, I don't even accept that.) Thus, Joan Kennedy Taylor and I vigorously debated each other two decades ago because she supported the ERA and I opposed it. Neither of us has changed our position over the years. My position: More legislation wasn't and isn't going to produce more justice. For me, the entire connection between individualist feminism and legislation is properly a push for repeal, disobedience, or other tactics that would render such laws"dead letters." (When I use the word"legislation, I refer specifically to governmental law.)

My opposition to legislation may not always come across in brief, popular columns because - in the 850 words a week I am allowed by FOX - I often make comments like"rape should be illegal" without further specifying that the legal system I advocate is a free market one. Equally, I have called for radical changes to e.g. the Child Protective Services that would effectively hand power back to parents and away from State agencies. Quite frankly, I have mixed feelings about advocating reform rather than the flat-out elimination of such agencies even if the reforms I call for would be the de facto death of the agency. But, back to feminism.

There is an aspect of feminism that has been largely ignored in individualist writings: the creation of a positive culture through non-legal means. I don't denigrate the power of culture - religion, morality, ethnicity, etc. -- to define and redefine the world. Indeed, if I wish to dispense with government, culture becomes all the more important. Perhaps it is time to start throwing a bit of passion behind the"how do we get there from here" question. My answer is basically: non-violent resistance and education. The construction of alternate paradigms and institutions. A celebration of what is now most reviled within mainstream feminism: the free market.

In any case...just a clarification.

Best to all. Please visit McBlog


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