"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

Why Do We Live In A World That’s Petrified Of Women Who Love Sex?

In Uncategorized on March 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Oldspeak:Men are expected to be constantly-horny fuckbeasts, and women are expected to not want sex all that much, but trade it for things they do want, like trinkets, cuddling, and babies. This ugly idea that women are the gatekeepers of sex, doling it out carefully as a reward, the entire conception behind “sexual economy” nonsense and most misogynist conceptions of women: made up by the church 400 years ago…. Women who are afraid to give enthusiastic consent because they don’t want to be seen as one of those women, those rare freaks who really like to fuck, those awful sluts. Unable to ask for what they want or even admit how much they want it, they end up feeding the same kinds of thinking, the same stereotypes, the same ugly behaviors. Lacking the freedom to say yes, they lose the ability to say no, leading to a terrible and all-too-common outcome: a woman who wanted to fool around a bit with a guy, but didn’t want things to go as far as they did, and now she isn’t sure if it was wrong, because if she wanted something, she must have wanted everything, right? There’s no middle ground in the virgin/whore dichotomy.” -Noah Brand Unbridled patriarchy is a hell of a thing. Women are having their genitals removed, their vaginas sewn shut, physically and psychologically abused and made to feel like whores and sluts for expressing their sexuality. Why? Why is our culture dominated by disdain for the wonderful perpetuators of our species?

By Noah Brand @ The Good Men Project:

I recently came across an interesting post about a very interesting study concerning high-libido women. It was striking for me how much it resonated with my own experiences as a high-libido man, and very revealing in how it differed.

The study talks about how the women interviewed all described needing multiple relationships to be sexually satisfied, and I thought “Whoo, I know how that is.” It’s not practical for me to ask any one woman to be everything I want in a lover, so I stopped trying ten years ago. Polyamory has proven to be a much better fit for me emotionally and sexually. The study also talks about high-libido women consciously organizing their lives around sex to some degree, and again I thought “Oh yeah, right there with you.” I prioritize nookie over some things other folks might consider more important, and when I think about the things I consider successes in my own life, getting laid a lot tends to be near the top of the list.

Of course, that’s easy for me to say. My culture tells me I’m supposed to like sex, supposed to make it a high priority, indeed supposed to define my worth as a person by it. I’m a man, after all. The study also talks about very sexual women having to fight slut-shaming, both internal and external, and having to deal with a culture that wants to pretend they don’t exist. These are not problems I have as a very sexual man. One of the perks of male privilege, I guess.

Except that like all privilege, it’s got the fucked-up dark side. Yeah, I get validated by mainstream American culture, because I largely fit the stereotype of the horny dude. What about low-libido guys? They get erased and denied as much as high-libido women do, to say nothing of asexual folks. A guy who would rather finish his homework than fuck is basically flat-out told that he’s not a real man. That’s not cool, and it can’t be good for anyone’s GPA.

Hell, there have been occasions when I’ve told a sexual partner that I wasn’t in the mood. Of course, as a guy who questions gender assumptions and thinks deeply about these issues and so on, I was totally cool with saying that to them.

Nah, just kidding. It was awful. It was wrenching. I literally spent a lot of time trying to think of any alternative or excuse I could offer other than “I’m not in the mood,” and when I did say it, I felt like a failure. It felt like an admission of something shameful. I very keenly felt the idea that I had failed as a man by having one evening where I wasn’t wildly horny. And that’s going into it knowing that this stuff is bullshit.

So that’s the situation with regard to high-libido folks: horny men and horny women have, in my experience, a lot in common in terms of desires and lifestyles. However, we both deal with the same cultural shit that damages and constrains us in different ways. Not trying to say those ways are perfectly symmetrical or equivalent, just that I’m as validated by the current system as anyone is likely to be, and I still get mindfucked by cultural expectations.

Of course, assumptions about male libido, as godawful as they are, pale in comparison to the incredibly creepy cultural ideas about female libido. One of the earliest known postclassical joke books is the 15th-centuryFacetiae of Poggio, in which we find the following anecdote, presented in the painfully stiff English translation:

A woman who was once asked by a man, why, if the pleasure of cohabitation was equal for both sexes, it was generally the men who pursued and importuned the women rather than vice-versa, replied:
“It is a very wise custom that compels the men to take the initiative. For it is certain that we women are always ready for sex; not so you men, however. And we should therefore be soliciting the men in vain, if they happened to be not in the proper condition for it.”

Somewhat later, in the first season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, we find this bit, described thus in the DVD package for those who don’t want to watch the video:

Larry is drifting off when Cheryl asks him, “Why am I the one that always has to initiate sex?” Larry explains that he’s always available, and all Cheryl has to do is tap him on the shoulder. Otherwise, he tells her, “I’ll just be mauling you all the time.”

In other words, it is the exact same joke, but the genders have been reversed. (Also, the original version had a perfectly good boner joke, but 21st-century assumptions are forced to omit it. This is not a net gain, from a comedy-writing standpoint.) What the hell happened between the 15th century and the 21st?

Okay, admittedly, several things happened. But the one we’re concerned with is that women’s libidos went from being considered as powerful or more so than men’s to being essentially erased. Pre-Renaissance examples of horny ladies abound, from the Greeks onward: make your own list, but do include Chaucer. He’s such fun. This change in attitudes appears to have been religiously motivated, and based on the idea that women are more spiritual and sacred than men, meaning “less horny.” Again, make your own list of contemporary leftovers of this attitude: there are plenty.

By the 18th century, it was taken as read that a woman who did experience (or at least express) sexual desire was suffering from a disorder. One important 1775 study of the subject linked the problem to “secret pollutions,” i.e. wanking, and (I swear I am not making this up) eating too much chocolate. I guess that’d go a ways toward explaining this advertisement. Women were diagnosed with, treated for, and often operated upon for “nymphomania,” the dread condition that causes a woman to want sex. (Talk to your doctor; you may suffer from it yourself!) And yes, by “operated upon”, I mean clitoridectomy. And yes, that’s fucking appalling.

Now, this is not an attempt to draw an equivalency, but I for one can’t help thinking of drapetomania, a disease discovered in the antebellum South which causes slaves to want to escape. It sounds like a tasteless joke now, but back then, it was the subject of serious research. In both cases, we’ve got authority telling people how they’re supposed to live, and then labeling any desire not to live that way as a mental illness. Again, not saying women’s libidos are the same issue as slavery, but there’s a structural analogy between the two “diseases.”

So yeah, this ugly idea that women are the gatekeepers of sex, doling it out carefully as a reward, the entire conception behind “sexual economy” nonsense and most misogynist conceptions of women: made up by the church 400 years ago. Total construction, and a relatively recent one at that. Commence dismantling all worldviews and Cosmopolitan articles predicated on it, please.

So, those are the two gross, ruinously fucked-up stereotypes we’ve got: men are expected to be constantly-horny fuckbeasts, and women are expected to not want sex all that much, but trade it for things they do want, like trinkets, cuddling, and babies. Both of these are wrong, but they remain insanely prevalent.

Take, for example, the “porn for women” joke done both by 30 Rock and the utterly godawful Porn For Womenseries of books, calendars, and assorted junk. The joke here is that women don’t want men to have sex with them, they want men to do housework, listen to their tedious female jabbering, and explicitly promise not to fuck them. So since women hate sex, porn for women should depict no sex whatsoever! Tee-hee!

In the real goddamn world, porn for women looks nothing like the joke. The two examples linked are all about images of hot men, but as the late, lamented On Our Backs demonstrated, lesbian porn for women is also hot and joyous. The disconnect between the joke and the reality is too wide to be funny.

We live in a world where yaoi manga sells too fast to be kept on the shelves, where slash fiction is one of the largest gift economies on earth, where romance novels comprise fifty percent of all paperback book sales, and we’re told women don’t like porn. Some of you may think romance novels aren’t porn. I suggest you read one. That’s how deeply invested our culture has become in the women-don’t-like-sex lie. We have to throw out basically all of the data to make that theory fit, so we blithely do just that.

This grotesque misrepresentation of women’s experience has, with the usual cruel duality of gender stereotypes, created a terrible problem for men. Because straight or bi men want to have sex with women. That’s… kind of the definition, really. We are told, however, that women don’t want sex. Thus, those of us who desire women must believe that we our desire is unwelcome, barely tolerated, and kind of gross. It’s like being biologically driven to fart in crowded elevators.

This, of course, feeds rape culture. Because after all, if there is no situation where any woman genuinely wantssex, then having sex with women who don’t want it… well, that’s just how it works, isn’t it? So if you have to trick her or get her insensibly drunk or lie to her or ignore all the times she says no… that’s basically how everyone does it, right? And there we start down the road of a lot of rape apologists, the “I’m entitled to sex, and women dole out sex as a rationed commodity, so if I rape a woman that’s basically like a starving man stealing bread” theory. I trust I don’t have to explain to anyone reading this how impossibly fucked up that line of thinking is. Short explanation: REALLY fucked up.

The other rape-apologist meme that arises out of this set of cultural assumptions is “Men always want sex, so they can’t help themselves.” Geez, your honor, she shouldn’t have tempted my urges like that. You shouldn’t dress that way because you know what men are like. If you dangle meat in front of the animal cage, don’t act surprised at what happens. You’ve heard these lines. They’re a perfect example of dual-direction ugliness, as they reduce men to animals and blame rape victims for the crimes committed against them. That’s horrible coming and going.

Male rape victims being mocked or disbelieved, or simply afraid to come forward? Arises from the same shit. Because after all, how could he say he didn’t want sex, when everyone knows all men constantly want sex? It’s on simply every sitcom! These poor guys may even tell themselves they must have wanted it, it couldn’t have been rape, because they’re normal healthy guys, right, so they couldn’t have not wanted sex. People will go a long way to rationalize something if it means finding a way to live with it.

The libido meme feeds the same culture from yet another angle too, with women who are afraid to give enthusiastic consent because they don’t want to be seen as one of those women, those rare freaks who really like to fuck, those awful sluts. Unable to ask for what they want or even admit how much they want it, they end up feeding the same kinds of thinking, the same stereotypes, the same ugly behaviors. Lacking the freedom to say yes, they lose the ability to say no, leading to a terrible and all-too-common outcome: a woman who wanted to fool around a bit with a guy, but didn’t want things to go as far as they did, and now she isn’t sure if it was wrong, because if she wanted something, she must have wanted everything, right? There’s no middle ground in the virgin/whore dichotomy.

High-libido women may not get caustic agents up their ladybusiness any more, as was a popular 19th-century treatment for “nymphomania”, but they still get slut-shamed for being on the wrong side of that same old dichotomy. Being told that only sluts and whores want what they want may lead them to decide “Okay, I’m a slutty whore” and behave according to what they think that means. This can lead to a lot of bad and painful choices, when thinking “I’m a woman who likes plenty of sex” might have led to some better ones.

Then, too, there are the low-libido fellas, the guys for whom fucking just isn’t that high a priority. They’re told that they don’t exist, that they’re not men, that their experience is either mythical or deeply wrong. A lot of these guys will try to have sex just to prove that they’re “normal,” and being driven by a desperate need to fit in, rather than by their own natural urges, may lead them to make bad choices. Maybe they’ll hurt themselves with those choices. Maybe they’ll hurt someone else. Maybe they won’t hurt anyone, just feel lonely and freakish and wrong their whole lives. None of these outcomes are okay.

The way we think about libido in our culture now is deeply broken. It involves denying the experience of damn near every person alive, everyone who doesn’t fit into a binary men-horny/women-not framework, and since human experience falls into a spectrum far more subtle and complex than that, that’s everyone. Feminism has made a good start on helping women embrace their sexuality in a healthy way, as some of our blog friends are living exemplars of, but that’s only a start. We have a lot of work yet to do.

Noah Brand is an author, editor, raconteur, and man-about-town.

© 2012 The Good Men Project All rights reserved.

 

 

A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not “Crazy”

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Oldspeak:The worst thing to call somebody is “crazy”. It’s dismissive. I don’t understand this person, so they’re crazy. That’s bullshit! People are not crazy. They are strong people…Maybe the environment is a little sick.” – Dave Chappelle I have been guilty of this more often than I’d like to think. “This concept of women as “crazy” has really emerged as a major issue in society at large and an equally major frustration for the women in my life, in general. From the way women are portrayed on reality shows, to how we condition boys and girls to see women, we have come to accept the idea that women are unbalanced, irrational individuals, especially in times of anger and frustration.” -Vashar Ali We have all, men and women assimilated this conception of women as “crazy”, and rarely recognize how much harm it does to us. I’m pledging to be more mindful of dropping the C bomb, it’s not cool.

By Yashar Ali @ The Current Conscience:

You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive. You’re overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You’re crazy! I was just joking, don’t you have a sense of humor? You’re so dramatic. Just get over it already!

Sound familiar?

If you’re a woman, it probably does.

Do you ever hear any of these comments from your spouse, partner, boss, friends, colleagues, or relatives after you have expressed frustration, sadness, or anger about something they have done or said?

When someone says these things to you, it’s not an example of inconsiderate behavior. When your spouse shows up half an hour late to dinner without calling — that’s inconsiderate behavior. A remark intended to shut you down like, “Calm down, you’re overreacting,” after you just addressed someone else’s bad behavior, is emotional manipulation, pure and simple.

And this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It’s patently false and unfair.

I think it’s time to separate inconsiderate behavior from emotional manipulation, and we need to use a word not found in our normal vocabulary.

I want to introduce a helpful term to identify these reactions: gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a term often used by mental health professionals (I am not one) to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy.

The term comes from the 1944 MGM film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman’s husband in the film, played by Charles Boyer, wants to get his hands on her jewelry. He realizes he can accomplish this by having her certified as insane and hauled off to a mental institution. To pull of this task, he intentionally sets the gaslights in their home to flicker off and on, and every time Bergman’s character reacts to it, he tells her she’s just seeing things. In this setting, a gaslighter is someone who presents false information to alter the victim’s perception of him or herself.

Today, when the term is referenced, it’s usually because the perpetrator says things like, “You’re so stupid,” or “No one will ever want you,” to the victim. This is an intentional, pre-meditated form of gaslighting, much like the actions of Charles Boyer’s character inGaslight, where he strategically plots to confuse Ingrid Bergman’s character into believing herself unhinged.

The form of gaslighting I’m addressing is not always pre-mediated or intentional, which makes it worse, because it means all of us, especially women, have dealt with it at one time or another.

Those who engage in gaslighting create a reaction — whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness — in the person they are dealing with. Then, when that person reacts, the gaslighter makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure by behaving as if their feelings aren’t rational or normal.

My friend Anna (all names changed to protect privacy) is married to a man who feels it necessary to make random and unprompted comments about her weight. Whenever she gets upset or frustrated with his insensitive comments, he responds in the same, defeating way, “You’re so sensitive. I’m just joking.”

My friend Abbie works for a man who finds a way, almost daily, to unnecessarily shoot down her performance and her work product. Comments like, “Can’t you do something right?” or “Why did I hire you?” are regular occurrences for her. Her boss has no problem firing people (he does it regularly), so you wouldn’t know from these comments that Abbie has worked for him for six years. But every time she stands up for herself and says, “It doesn’t help me when you say these things,” she gets the same reaction: “Relax; you’re overreacting.”

Abbie thinks her boss is just being a jerk in these moments, but the truth is, he is making those comments to manipulate her into thinking her reactions are out of whack. And it’s exactly that kind manipulation that has left her feeling guilty about being sensitive, and as a result, she has not left her job.

But gaslighting can be as simple as someone smiling and saying something like, “You’re so sensitive,” to somebody else. Such a comment may seem innocuous enough, but in that moment, the speaker is making a judgment about how someone else should feel.

While dealing with gaslighting isn’t a universal truth for women, we all certainly know plenty of women who encounter it at work, home, or in personal relationships.

And the act of gaslighting does not simply affect women who are not quite sure of themselves. Even vocal, confident, assertive women are vulnerable to gaslighting.

Why?

Because women bare the brunt of our neurosis. It is much easier for us to place our emotional burdens on the shoulders of our wives, our female friends, our girlfriends, our female employees, our female colleagues, than for us to impose them on the shoulders of men.

It’s a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don’t refuse our burdens as easily. It’s the ultimate cowardice.

Whether gaslighting is conscious or not, it produces the same result: It renders some women emotionally mute.

These women aren’t able to clearly express to their spouses that what is said or done to them is hurtful. They can’t tell their boss that his behavior is disrespectful and prevents them from doing their best work. They can’t tell their parents that, when they are being critical, they are doing more harm than good.

When these women receive any sort of push back to their reactions, they often brush it off by saying, “Forget it, it’s okay.”

That “forget it” isn’t just about dismissing a thought, it is about self-dismissal. It’s heartbreaking.

No wonder some women are unconsciously passive aggressive when expressing anger, sadness, or frustration. For years, they have been subjected to so much gaslighting that they can no longer express themselves in a way that feels authentic to them.

They say, “I’m sorry,” before giving their opinion. In an email or text message, they place a smiley face next to a serious question or concern, thereby reducing the impact of having to express their true feelings.

You know how it looks: “You’re late :)”

These are the same women who stay in relationships they don’t belong in, who don’t follow their dreams, who withdraw from the kind of life they want to live.

Since I have embarked on this feminist self-exploration in my life and in the lives of the women I know, this concept of women as “crazy” has really emerged as a major issue in society at large and an equally major frustration for the women in my life, in general.

From the way women are portrayed on reality shows, to how we condition boys and girls to see women, we have come to accept the idea that women are unbalanced, irrational individuals, especially in times of anger and frustration.

Just the other day, on a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a flight attendant who had come to recognize me from my many trips asked me what I did for a living. When I told her that I write mainly about women, she immediately laughed and asked, “Oh, about how crazy we are?”

Her gut reaction to my work made me really depressed. While she made her response in jest, her question nonetheless makes visible a pattern of sexist commentary that travels through all facets of society on how men view women, which also greatly impacts how women may view themselves.

As far as I am concerned, the epidemic of gaslighting is part of the struggle against the obstacles of inequality that women constantly face. Acts of gaslighting steal their most powerful tool: their voice. This is something we do to women every day, in many different ways.

I don’t think this idea that women are “crazy,” is based in some sort of massive conspiracy. Rather, I believe it’s connected to the slow and steady drumbeat of women being undermined and dismissed, on a daily basis. And gaslighting is one of many reasons why we are dealing with this public construction of women as “crazy.”

I recognize that I’ve been guilty of gaslighting my women friends in the past (but never my male friends–surprise, surprise). It’s shameful, but I’m glad I realized that I did it on occasion and put a stop to it.

While I take total responsibility for my actions, I do believe that I, along with many men, am a byproduct of our conditioning. It’s about the general insight our conditioning gives us into admitting fault and exposing any emotion.

When we are discouraged in our youth and early adulthood from expressing emotion, it causes many of us to remain steadfast in our refusal to express regret when we see someone in pain from our actions.

When I was writing this piece, I was reminded of one of my favorite Gloria Steinem quotes, “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”

So for many of us, it’s first about unlearning how to flicker those gaslights and learning how to acknowledge and understand the feelings, opinions, and positions of the women in our lives.

But isn’t the issue of gaslighting ultimately about whether we are conditioned to believe that women’s opinions don’t hold as much weight as ours? That what women have to say, what they feel, isn’t quite as legitimate?

Yashar will be soon releasing his first short e-book, entitled, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy — How We Teach Men That Women Are Crazy and How We Convince Women To Ignore Their Instincts. If you are interested and want to be notified when the book is released, please click here to sign-up.

I hope you will join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.


 

A Short History of “Feminist” Anti-Feminists

In Uncategorized on June 8, 2010 at 12:32 pm

From Amanda Marcotte @ Slate:

Sarah Palin made quite the splash recently with her comments to the anti-abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List about conservative women reclaiming feminism, asserting that anti-choicers were “returning the woman’s movement back to its original roots.” Because no central authority exists to control use of the word feminist, Palin’s cooption of the term caused anxious questions: Is there such thing as conservative feminism? Can you be a feminist who opposes abortion rights? Does the word feminism mean anything at all? Does merely wearing a power suit and smart-girl glasses automatically make you a feminist?

The invocation of the word feminist at a meeting of anti-abortion women can be confusing, but it shouldn’t be. There’s no real reason to consider Sarah Palin a feminist. She’s just the latest incarnation of a long and noble line of feminist anti-feminists: women who call themselves feminist but also object to the existence of the feminist movement and organize in opposition to it. Feminist anti-feminism has evolved in the shadow of feminism since the days when many women adamantly insisted they didn’t want or need the right to vote. And as feminism has morphed rapidly since the early days of the second wave, so has anti-feminism changed arguments and strategies, going through three distinct phases.

Phase I: Plain Ol’ Anti-Feminism

Iconic Leader: Phyllis Schafly of the Eagle Forum

Other examples: Beverly LaHaye and the Concerned Women for America, Connaught C. Marshner of the Heritage Foundation, Judie Brown of the American Life League, Janice Shaw Crouse.

Basic argument: God/nature made women and men different so they could play different roles. Women are well-suited to stay at home, submit to their husbands, and dedicate themselves to the task of supporting a man. Anything other than this is an assault on the family. Those looking out for women’s best interests want to encourage women to adopt sweetness and submission in order to better catch a chivalrous husband.

Classic quote: From Phyllis Schlafly: “It’s very healthy for a young girl to be deterred from promiscuity by fear of contracting a painful, incurable disease, or cervical cancer, or sterility, or the likelihood of giving birth to a dead, blind, or brain-damaged baby (even 10 years later when she may be happily married).”

Motivation: They were alarmed by a rash of feminist victories in the ’60s and ’70s that secured the right to equal pay, access birth control and abortion, and no-fault divorce, coupled with a stampede of women into the workplace. Young feminists, who embraced a form of sexy that involved breathable underwear and hair that didn’t take much time to do, were easy to resent. Anti-feminists were able to mobilize by appealing to women who felt left out of the feminist revolution and hinting to housewives that more women in the workplace meant more opportunities for your husband to cheat.

Major victories: Overturning the Equal Rights Amendment; creating the anti-abortion movement; stopping federally subsidized day-care; stalling further action on equal pay; sending the feminist movement into remission.

Why they eventually faded: Economic necessity drove more women to work, which meant that even women who might have been sympathetic to feminist anti-feminist arguments found themselves taking advantage of actual feminist advancements. Susan Faluldi injured the anti-feminist movement in her bookBacklash, when she demonstrated that many of the leaders enjoyed both professional careers and husbands who shared domestic responsibilities, even as these leaders argued against these perks for other women.

Phase II: “Independent Feminism” Anti-Feminism

Iconic Leader: Camille Paglia

Other examples: Christina Hoff-Summers, Wendy McElroy, Kathleen Parker, Heather MacDonald.

Basic argument: The important work of feminism is over, and whatever movement is left exists primarily to demonize men and the awe-inspiring male sexual spirit.

Classic quote: From Camille Paglia: “You have to accept the fact that part of the sizzle of sex comes from the danger of sex. You can be overpowered.”

Motivation: In the ’80s and ’90s, the feminist movement kicked into high gear to fight sexual and domestic violence. Independent feminists saw touchstones such as the Take Back the Night rallies, the Clarence Thomas hearings, a rash of anti-sexual harassment policies, and the emergence of the phrase “date rape” as nothing more than feminists telling women that they were delicate flowers unable to handle the intimidating ribaldry and exciting hints of violence that mark the true male spirit.

Major victories: Maintaining a cultural and legal framework that made it difficult to prosecute rape; convincing the public that most acquaintance rapes were nothing but bad sex later regretted; turning Andrea Dworkin’s name into a punchline.

Why they eventually faded: The emergence of third-wave feminists, pro-sex feminists, riot grrls singing “I like f*cking,” and, eventually, hip, young feminist-bloggers made it hard for “independent” feminists to maintain the argument that feminism was a hairy-legged, anti-sex monolith that used sexual assault and harassment as a pretext to bash men. The indisputably sex-positive gay rights movement fell more in line with mainstream feminism. Camille Paglia’s increasingly incoherent missives became an embarrassment.

Phase III: Co-opting Feminism Anti-Feminists

Iconic Leader: Sarah Palin

Other examples: Feminists for Life, Patricia Heaton, Caitlin Flanagan, Susan B. Anthony List, Laura Sessions Stepp

Basic argument: 19th century feminists who struggled for the vote and education did a great thing, but modern feminism only exists to trick women into thinking they want abortions, higher taxes, electric cars, and unfettered access to orgasmic experiences.

Classic quote: From Caitlin Flanagan: “[T]he forces of feminism have worked relentlessly to erode the patriarchy—which, despite its manifold evils, held that providing for the sexual safety of young girls was among its primary reasons for existence.”

Motivation: With the exception of Caitlin Flanagan, most of them have wised-up to the fact that it’s hypocrisy to oppose professional careers for women while maintaining a professional career. They like feminist victories that make it possible for them to be taken seriously at their own jobs but object to feminist innovations that make it easier to for all women to delay or even avoid marriage and childbirth. The popularity of Sex and the City, while not written or endorsed by any major feminists, seems to have been what really set many of them off.

Major victories: Pushing abstinence-only education into schools; creating a whole new class of abortion restrictions based on the faulty premise that women who have abortions don’t know what they’re doing; inventing the term “hook-up culture” and convincing the public that young women are having a new, scary kind of sex; sowing confusion about where the suffragists stood on family planning.

Still going strong: Few Americans can remember what it was like in the days when abortion was illegal and shotgun marriages were the norm. It’s easy for anti-feminists to exploit this to paint a rosy picture of how much better life was then, and much harder for feminists to convince the public of the necessity of these hard-won sexual rights.

Should feminists celebrate any aspect of Sarah Palin declaring herself a feminist? In a sense, yes. Every generation of anti-feminists concedes more ground to feminists, and sometimes feminist anti-feminist women switch sides to support policies like Title IX and the Lilly Ledbetter Act. But with women like Palin claiming they’re the real feminists, the public might grow to think of “feminism” as a movement that only supports women if they’re lucky enough to be independently wealthy, married mothers.

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A native Texan, Amanda Marcotte recently moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., and blogs at pandagon.net and rhrealitycheck.org. Her most recent book is Get Opinionated: A Progressive’s Guide to Finding Your Voice (and Taking a Little Action).

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