Because I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than kick a hornet’s nest — noreallyImenthat — I’m throwing in my two cents’ worth to the debate among Stacy McCain, Peter Ingemi (a/k/a Da Tech Guy) and Joy McCann about whether feminism can be a philosophy to which conservatives can subscribe. And to make it even more entertaining, I’ll also opine on whether feminism can be a philosophy to which Christians can subscribe. Apparently this sinus headache that’s beset me since sometime last Friday isn’t nearly enough pain. Anyway, here goes…
First, a look at what revived the formerly dormant debate. Maureen Dowd wrote a typical Maureen Dowd hit piece against Rick Santorum, managing to drag his wife Karen into the discussion:
While Karen Santorum was home-schooling their seven children in Virginia, Santorum soaked the Pennsylvania taxpayers to the tune of $100,000 by enrolling the children in a Pennsylvania cyber charter school.
The preface to Mrs. Santorum’s 2003 book of moral parables teaching children good manners was written by Joe Paterno, who warns against “a decline of civility and a coarsening of society.” And he knows how that goes.
Nothing like cheap shots by association, eh Maureen?
Ingemi (who has yet to put me on his blogroll, by the way… but I digress) fired back:
This post however is not so much about her piece as it is what occurred to me as I read it.
In Ms. Dowd’s piece, she goes after Mrs. Karen Santorum. This is no accident. The senator’s wife represents every choice that Ms. Dowd has rejected.
Mrs. Santorum is a faithful Catholic, long married, a mother of seven who has experienced the joys and the tragedies of motherhood, a person who has not let those tragedies destroy her or her faith. In an age when the popular culture rejects her choices, Mrs. Santorum decided to homeschool her surviving children to make sure they had an education that represented the culture and values that she found important.
Ms. Dowd has taken a different path. As she approaches her 60th year, she is at the top of her profession, a columnist at one of the most famous newspapers in the world. She has money, fame and awards for her writing. No one can honestly contest that she has earned these accolades though hard work and effort over decades. As a person newly trying to make a living with words written and spoken I appreciate her success an, if I reach even one-tenth the level of success she has, I’ll be proud of myself.
Both Mrs. Santorum’s choices and Ms. Dowd’s come with a price. I have no doubt that Mrs. Santorum could have, when she was Karen Garver, pursued a successful career in any field she chose. I’m sure on occasion, when the kids have been particularly difficult, she briefly wished it was so.
Ms. Dowd’s choice has left her alone. I’m not privy to her dating history and, frankly, it’s not my business. Suffice to say she has not chosen marriage and I see no reason to believe she will. As for children, at 60, that’s unlikely even with the aid of modern science.
These are two different paths. This is only my opinion, but it seems to me that the difference is I see no evidence that Mrs. Santorum begrudges Ms. Dowd’s choices while, reading her column today (and from my memory of her writing) I can’t say the same for Ms. Dowd, who seems to resent the very thought that in 2012 a woman might choose Karen Santorum’s path. And perhaps Ms. Dowd resents that Mrs. Santorum can, once her children are grown, choose a new path(.)
Next, McCain chimed in:
This is what the self-declared “conservative feminists” refuse to acknowledge: Feminism has no meaning outside the context of rights and equality. Once you begin defining the roles and relations of men and women in such terms, you have taken an irretrievable step down the slippery slope toward radical egalitarianism. The very fact that people who call themselves conservatives are incapable of recognizing what should be self-evident – that the radical conclusion of the egalitarian argument is implicit in its premises – should profoundly trouble those concerned about the future prospects of conservatism in America.
Stacy, your argument is based on the false notion that “alike and equal are the same thing.”
There is such a thing as “equal but different.”
It’s a shame you are unable to grasp this.
There’s more in the comments area of McCain’s blog post whence McCann’s comment came, including a rather heated exchange between her and Zilla of the Resistance (who didn’t include me as a winner in her First Annual Zilla Awards for Awesomeness in the Dextrosphere!… ah well, maybe next year… but again I digress).
And here’s where I chime in.
If one accepts the dictionary definition of feminism as accurate (“the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men”), then certainly there can be no objection to McCann’s insistence that the term is applicable, given how it is a philosophy of equality without denying the differences between men and women. However, the Left has long co-opted the word and used it to mean not simple equality but further claiming that there are no differences between men and women. This, as I read it, is the crux of the dispute between McCann and McCain, with the former insisting the dictionary definition is all that matters while McCain argues the term’s additional meaning, courtesy of a leftist agenda, renders it unsuitable for conservatives to use.
Of the two, I believe McCain’s argument carries more weight. Feminism’s prevailing connotation is not mere equality, but, rather, an aggressive agenda demanding gender neutrality — an agenda which simply does not work in the real world. Certainly there is no Scriptural support for such a view; men and women have clearly defined roles in relationships. While in a technical sense the word is usable, common sense and current culture dictate it to be one conservatives had best leave alone. We need our own term. ‘Nuff said on that.
There is a remaining topic begging discussion. Ingemi refers to it (in the above quotation) in the context of Dowd and Mrs. Santorum (he goes on to reference Meghan McCain’s negative statement about Sen. Santorum). Namely, he contends that Dowd disparages Mrs. Santorum for choosing the life of a stay-at-home mother. I’m not as convinced as he is that Dowd is doing so, but given Dowd’s track record it is entirely possible.
Sooner or later in life, we must all choose between family and solitude. Not everyone is cut out to be a parent, or even a spouse. But eventually, those who choose solitude must come to the realization of Walter Gripp in The Martian Chronicles: I’m all alone.
Which isn’t the fault of those who choose otherwise.
ADDENDUM: Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom lays out the case for not abandoning the term “feminism”:
Conservatives need constantly to remind people that such perversions of the language — easy deconstructions and refigurations that then disguise themselves beneath terms that they hope will continue to elicit positive connotations (liberal, fairness, tolerance, equality, diversity) — are how the left routinely pretends to seize a moral high ground they have not otherwise earned, capitalizing on the veneer such terms carry that redound to our foundational ideals of individual liberty and equality before the law while those who’ve usurped the terms simultaneously and ironically work to replace individual autonomy with political collectivism, and an legislated inequality that redounds to their favor.