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Feminism's Little Problem
In Dissent, Number Ninety-Two
by Brian S. Wise
7 March 2003

Feminism's next major crusade is sitting at its feet, ignored.

Sadly, my great dissertation on modern feminism, “You’re Adorable When You’re Angry,” went unfinished despite the Great Book Writing Fit of the mid-1990s. The title summed up the conclusion; with feminism’s important battles long since fought and won, the movement has collapsed onto itself, becoming in the process an odd parody of something that once mattered. Conservatives are often asked what they have against feminism – the correct answer is, conservatives don’t hate feminism, but they are annoyed by its modern leanings. Whatever its intentions, all it succeeds in doing these days is providing airtime for very angry women who 1) cannot find happiness in anything, 2) feel disenfranchised by life generally (and men specifically) and 3) would have virtually nothing to say if not for misplaced outrage.

The point is well served by Martha Burk, in the throes of her own outrage, directed at Augusta National (home of the upcoming Masters golf tournament), and CBS to a lesser, but still fierce, degree. Burk’s problem is, there can be no such things as female members at Augusta National; they can play, but they can make no claims to membership. Of course, Augusta cannot be forced to bring women into the fold, it can only be cajoled. Martha Burk’s particular brand of sweet talking involves arranged boycotts of all tournament sponsors and threatened protests, despite the specter of potential arrests. The controversy has been well handled by Augusta and CBS; they will not bend, which is as it should be.

Augusta’s right to select its own membership is acknowledged with a wink – Augusta National is a distinctly Southern institution, founded and legislatively maintained by a few Good Old Boys, some of whom at some point may have actually said, “All right, no women allowed … and while we’re at it, no blacks or Jews, either.” (Hopefully the assertion is conceded by the readership, but as I am sure there will come those voices denying it, I say: Read a little more about Augusta National.) The point Martha Burk would most like you to consider is that there is no difference between racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny, but even the three things written together read like an odd new installment of “One Of These Things Is Not Like the Others” than anything else.

How seriously should one take allegations of misogyny? Well, if you take misogyny at its literal meaning (“a hatred and distrust of women”), then very seriously. Hatred is for religious fanatics and children, a state of mind so vexing it can only come across as empty headed anti-intellectualism, a blatant insult to reason. However, if by misogyny you mean someone who would prefer to partake in social exercises (say, golf) without a lot of women hanging around, then no. There is a difference between hatred and selective indifference; one of modern feminism’s many problems is that it cannot tell there is a difference, therefore it believes that wherever women cannot gain access, a cold blooded hatred thrives.

Meanwhile, honest-to-goodness hatred of women does exist, untouched, in the Arab States, the location troublesome to modern feminism; it would rather badmouth Augusta National than offer concurring opinion on the matter of Arab States, as that sort of speaking out can be easily misunderstood as support for a Republican (and we cannot have that). The Wall Street Journal helpfully prints a column by Kay S. Hymowitz (helpful because it’s good to be occasionally reminded of such things) entitled “The Women Feminists Forgot,” briefly outlining feminism’s little problem: “As the feminists of the Western world take to the streets, there will be no speeches denouncing Saddam Hussein who, in an attempt to garner support from Islamists, accuses female dissidents of adultery and has them stoned to death …. [Instead] of seizing the moment to revive an anemic movement by raising their voices against genuine female oppression, they have given the ultimate illustration of their preference for partisan politics and smug resentments over principles.”

Feminism could struggle from irrelevance by wondering loudly what the administration expects the next Iraqi government to do when Hussein is conquered, and when, as Hymowitz details, young women are murdered “because they have held hands with or kissed a boy or, worse yet, because they have been raped.” If an unsatisfactory answer is given (and there is really only one satisfactory answer: that woman are human beings, and will be afforded the right to exist with as much freedom as men are allowed), then there is nothing unreasonable is saying the administration is offering the wrong answer to what is a very simple question. Augusta National is a pointless crusade, especially when women a world away are much more deserving of the effort, most especially when those who have anointed themselves the protestors of all females will say nothing.

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