Friday, 12 June 2015

Women Against Feminism

The latest edition of The Salisbury Review (Summer 2015) is out and here is my contribution:

As early as 1949, Simone de Beauvoir, (who pimped young girls for her lover Jean-Paul Sartre) in her book The Second Sex touched on the problem of what we might call ‘liberal feminism’ versus ‘socialist feminism’. Being a Marxist of sorts, de Beauvoir wondered whether or not an individual woman achieving any kind of personal success in Late Capitalism struck a blow for the liberation of women in general, given that genuine human emancipation – for both men and women – would have to await the revolution and the founding of an international socialist community.

Rosemarie Tongs took up the subject in her Feminist Thought (1989), differentiating between what she classified as ‘liberal feminism’ and ‘radical feminism’. The former emphasised the primacy of individual choice and political rights including suffrage. Some liberal feminists disagreed with the concept of affirmative action while others approved of it, at least as a provisional measure. In either case, these liberal feminists do not have a problem with individual choice and equal opportunity for all. What they do have a problem with is radical ideologues who, in the name of women, commandeer ‘feminism’ for their own bitter and divisive agenda.

Evidence for the bitterness and divisiveness is everywhere. The radical Australian feminist Clementine Ford, (‘Killjoy to the stars’) a regular columnist for the leftist Fairfax press, (her articles bring to mind Jeeves’ advice to Bertie Wooster. ‘You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound.’) does not even begin to hide her hatred for men. One recent piece was actually titled ‘Misandry Island’ and gleefully provides her vision of feminist utopia: sail away on an ocean of male tears and live on an island that recognised the inherent humanity of women. Over cold cocktails, where the twizzle sticks are actually dehydrated penises, we’d marvel at how much better it is to live in a society that doesn’t see us as peripheral to the real experience of what it means to be human... Free and easily accessible abortion clinics with exclusion zones out the front which reach all the way to the sun.

Ford loudly decried as sexist any criticism of Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard (2010-13), but then produced and sold ‘F... Abbott’ T-shirts immediately after Tony Abbott came to office. Ford defends her hypocrisy by arguing that the vile T-shirts were ‘ethical’ since the proceeds would go to the victims of social injustice, illustrating once again how the modern-day left disguises its own bigotry with high- minded PC rectitude.

The anti-male crusade is not confined to journalist vitriol but runs like a poisoned stream through every aspect of Australian society, from the legal system to everyday prejudices that – to paraphrase Clementine Ford – deny the inherent humanity of men. When the female TV personality Chrissie Swan went away for six weeks, notes Herald Sun journalist Wendy Tuohy, she was attacked for leaving her children with their dad: ‘Swan’s critics thought they were landing a punch on the polarising figure for being a ‘bad mother’ but they were really insulting her competent stay-at-home husband, Chris Saville, and, by extension, all hands-on fathers.’

A more extreme example of the prejudice against male parents is the notorious Tommaso Vincenti case, in which a loving, kind and thoughtful father went through hell after his estranged wife, Laura Garrett, abducted his four daughters. The case has now been settled in court and the children returned to the custody of Vincenti, but not before he spent two years of his life and all his savings seeking restitution under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. As Australia’s National Parents Organisation acknowledges: ‘With never a phone call to Tommaso for his side of things, Australian television and newspapers channelled Laura’s allegations of violent abuse by Tommaso.’

The two most powerful women in Australian political history are the current Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and previous Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard. At the time of her resignation, in June 2013, Gillard claimed to be the casualty of a gender war. Her victimhood, or so she suggested, went some of the way to explaining the brevity of her tenure. In Gillard’s first year of power there had been little talk of a so-called gender war. Once her administration’s popularity went into terminal decline, however, criticism of her government’s ineptitude was increasingly denounced as sexist. At her lowest point, Gillard attacked the (male) Leader of the Opposition as misogynist for daring to censure one of her government’s more ham-fisted decisions. Nevertheless, in her memoirs, My Story (2014), Gillard rejects as ‘dumb’ any suggestion ‘of playing the gender card, of playing the victim’.

A strong contender to be the second female prime minister of Australia is the aforementioned Julie Bishop. She declared very publicly at the National Press Club in October 2014 that she refused to define herself as a feminist: ‘I’m a female politician, I’m a female foreign minister...get over it.’ Pointedly, Foreign Minister Bishop insisted that she would never ‘blame the fact that I’m a woman’ for any disappointments or setbacks in her political career. Numerous feminist commentators, including Jane Caro, blasted Julie Bishop for her ingratitude to the feminist movement: ‘Women who benefit from feminism and then refuse to embrace the term is not a position I have any respect for.’

Around the same time Julie Bishop was rejecting the feminist moniker, a social media trend titled WomenAgainstFeminism started in Australia. (See It has since become a worldwide phenomenon. Every day women post photographs of themselves holding contrarian messages, ranging from ‘I don’t need modern ‘feminism’ because I don’t need others to fight my battles for me’ to ‘I don’t need something that demonises men’ and ‘I don’t need feminism because my son should not be made to feel less of a person simply because of his gender’. One of the original self-proclaimed anti-feminists, Danielle Gieger, has reported receiving death threats for posting her missive: ‘My self worth is not directly tied to the size of my victim complex!’

The vast majority of those posting at the WomenAgainstFeminism site are not asking to be subjugated in a brave new world of patriarchy. Rather, they are expressing sentiments that, à la Rosemary Tong’s Feminist Thought, might be called ‘liberal feminist’. However, as the American writer Christina Hoff Sommers has been arguing since at least 1994, the radical feminists long ago won the culture war with the moderate or liberal feminists and thereafter the term ‘feminism’ has become synonymous with the hatred of men and extreme politics: ‘So colleges are now full of gender scholars who instruct students on the ravages of the capitalist, hetero-patriarchal system and its ‘rape culture’...It’s as if George Orwell’s Anti-sex League has occupied feminism.’

According to those of the radical feminist sisterhood, the current wave of beheadings and bombings by Islamists is triggered not by the fact that they follow ISIS, but that they are men. In the aftermath of Sydney’s December 2014 Lindt Café outrage, Ruby Hamad, a Sydney-based writer and filmmaker, posted the following op-ed on The Drum, a high-profile Internet site run by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC): ‘While it is true that this gunman put Islam front and centre by utilising that flag, let’s put the emphasis where it belongs. He may have made it about religion, but the operative word here is ‘he’, and not ‘religion’’. The two deaths in Sydney, in other words, have nothing to do with Islamic jihadism and everything to do with traditional Aussie male entitlement and domestic violence. The problem for Australians, then, is not the danger of being taken hostage or shot or decapitated to the cry of ‘Allahu Akbar!’ but Australia’s ‘reluctance to confront its own violent tendencies’ and ‘the history of our attitude to Muslims’.

Along the same lines, ‘postcolonial feminists’, such as Sahar Amer, Chair of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Sydney, argues in her book What is Veiling? (2014) that Westerners often ignore the fact that Muslim women want to wear the niqab or burqa. Modern-day feminist Julia Gillard frequently repeated the mantra that ‘sexism should always be unacceptable’ but when, in the final throes of her prime ministership, an Islamic group insisted on the segregation of women in one of its ‘information sessions’ at Melbourne University, Gillard remained conspicuously silent. It was up to the conservative Tony Abbott to brand the demands of the Muslim organisers as a ‘leap back to the dark ages’.

In April 2015, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visited the Islamic Republic of Iran ostensibly to discuss the people-smuggling business and the return of Iranian asylum seekers. Australia, unlike the United States, has always maintained full diplomatic relations with Iran and so the trip also offered the possibility of official state-to-state discussions about the ongoing war against the Islamic State in neighbouring Iraq. Prior to the foreign minister’s arrival in Tehran, Masih Alinejad, an Iranian political journalist who runs the site My Stealthy Freedom, called on Julie Bishop to eschew the mandatory headscarf to demonstrate support for the subjugated women of Iran: ‘This is the time for her to ask the Iranian government about the compulsory hijab and human dignity.’

Some in Australia criticise Julie Bishop for sporting a fashionable hat in Tehran, and yet Masih Alinejad was gracious enough to acknowledge as ‘quite good’ the foreign minister’s avoidance of ‘a proper hijab’. Had an Iranian woman been caught in public wearing Julie Bishop’s apparel she would have been ‘definitely arrested’ and eventually ‘deprived of her right to education’ or ‘to find a job’. As the latest posting on WomenAgainstFeminism says: ‘I don’t need feminism because equality does not have a gender.’

This article was first published in The Salisbury Review, Summer 2015