***Originally posted last year on my malfunctioning/defunct Townhall blog. Laura Grace Robbins, whose blog I extensively refer to below now blogs at Unmasking Feminism. All links to her blog below are to her previous blog, which is still functioning. Thanks also goes to Christian Manosphere blogger Dalrock, who has labored mightily to expose the spreading rot within the Church given place by unthinking acceptance and witless promotion of feminidiocy. Updated & revised 12-08-2013***
There is a common myth regarding feminism that the ‘first wave’ feminists (e.g. Elizabeth Caddy Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, etc.) were not at all radical, but simply seeking what author Christina Hoff-Sommers, in her otherwise excellent (she buys the myth) book, Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women, terms ‘equity feminism’. These ladies of the halcyon days of feminism, the story goes, were simply out for equity and fair treatment. Despite these reasonable beginngings, the feminist movement was high-jacked by radical man-haters and turned into the loathsome beast we quarrel with today. This myth usually finds its home on the conservative/traditional side of the political and cultural divide and is most often trotted out when a conservative denounces some manifestation of modern feminism, presumably as a means of blunting the inevitable charge that ‘you’re just a male chauvinist pig who wants to keep women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.’
The latest conservative to appeal to early feminism is Glenn T. Stanton of Focus on the Family. Like most, Stanton is probably unaware of the history of early feminism, so it’s no surprise that he buys the myth (though he is a known believer in another fairy tale). In his article, Two Women Tell All, he reviews two books on feminism:
Feminism’s failure to capture the female heart and its success in hurting women is documented, in different ways, in two insightful new books. Both are written by professional women coming from different generational and life experiences.
• The first author came of age in the 1940s and 50s, discerned the poison of radical feminism from the outset and chose a different life-road. (F. Carolyn Graglia, Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism, Spence Publishing)
• Another tried to live the feminist ideal, met incredible professional success, but found that it all ultimately left her empty. To her own surprise, she discovered her fulfillment in a most unlikely place (Iris Krasnow, Surrendering to Motherhood: Losing Your Mind and Finding Your Soul, Hyperion Books)
Both speak from their own experience. These are not dry theoretical arguments, informed only by data and untouched by the reality of the real world. They are human, real-life cases against feminism. They are, of course, the most compelling kinds.
The first book is of interest here. Of it, Stanton writes (emphasis added):
Graglia explains that contemporary feminism did three primary things that were very destructive to women, children and society. First, it distanced itself from the early, more moderate, turn-of-the-century feminist efforts and destroyed what she called the “women’s pact.”*
Second, in ironic contrast to the breaking of the women’s pact, it held up self-determination as the primary good for women.
Third was an attack upon faithful, marital sexual relationships. The new feminist engaged in indiscriminate, or what Erica Jong called in Fear of Flying, “zipless” sex: sex unencumbered by emotional attachments. The old taboos encouraging women to be chaste were deemed foolish. There was nothing to be lost, and everything to be gained by sexual assertiveness and self-determination. This philosophy failed, however, to calculate the heavy price of promiscuity in broken bodies, broken psyches, broken hearts and broken promises.
This is Graglia’s first book and she wanted to write it since the early sixties in reaction to the rabid works of Simone de Beauvior and Betty Friedan. Both women painted a venomously negative picture of homemaking and rejected the life of domesticity as unsuitable for anyone. This made Graglia angry but she was too busy enjoying the life of caring for home and family to write her book. She waited until her children were grown and out of the house to take on that project.
Thus, Stanton posits three ways that contemporary feminists have supposedly broken faith with their first wave sisters. Actually the second two points are simply subsets of the first, for if the latter two are false, so is the former. This gives us some meat to chew on; can these assertions stand up to scrutiny? Said scrutiny comes courtesy of Laura Grace Robbins at her superb blog Full of Grace Seasoned With Salt (the best, if not only, place where you can find first wave feminism unmasked).
As to Graglia’s second point – self-determination – Robbins writes of a 1922 Ladies Home Journal article entitled Women as Dictators in a post of the same name. A taste of the article itself (emphasis added):
TWENTY-FOUR hours after the dedication of the Woman’s Parliament in Washington a representative of The Ladies’ Home Journal asked me what I really meant when I said that henceforth women are to be dictators. She was the fortieth or fiftieth person who had put the same question to me in that very limited space of time.
I meant then and mean now exactly what I said.
Our first task is an educational one. We mean to plant the idea of independence in the mind of every woman. Our party will be a woman’s party, and a woman’s party only. It will have no members, no officers, no employes who are not women.
This was no fringe feminist either, but Mrs. Oliver H. P. Belmont, President of the National Woman’s Party. I strongly recommend reading Mrs. Robbins’ post for an excellent analysis. For that matter, browse her entire blog starting with the Anti-Feminism University section.
Regarding Graglia’s third point, that contemporary feminism differs from its progenitor in that it is ‘an attack upon faithful, marital sexual relationships‘ and that ‘[t]he old taboos encouraging women to be chaste were deemed foolish. There was nothing to be lost, and everything to be gained by sexual assertiveness and self-determination’, consider Robbins’ post entitled Progressive Marriage, where she links to a 1922 article entitled Marriage by one Jane Burr wherein the author lays out the first wave feminist re-imagining of marriage. She advocates what she calls Progressive Monogamy (emphases added):
“The code of marriage towards which the civilized races are tending is what might be called Progressive Monogamy. This means that one man and one woman will live together in absolute faithfulness as long as they find rest and peace in one another, and will separate when this love and rest and peace is no longer possible.”
“The thing that progressive people want to abolish is marriage as it exists today–in other words, the marriage of cast-iron convention no longer suitable to emancipating womanhood.
“The liberation of marriage will automatically cause the commercial and vulgar standard of luxury to go down and the standard of love will rise; conventionality will be swept into the ash-heap and a comradeship established between the sexes in which the opportunity of choice will be enlarged. Technical virginity will cease to be offered in exchange for life support and all stigma removed from a girl who has loved and given herself in love before marriage.”
Sounds eerily modern, doesn’t it? Burr explains that the indignities and deprivations of traditional marriage make this necessary, as:
“It forces us out live in the same house, to spend every possible moment together, to give up our old haunts and our old friends, to involve each other in the dull grind of domestic and economic machinery, only too often to suffer untold miseries”.
“The result is the wearing away of our finer sensibilities, the warping of our personalities, the slow on-creeping of monotony from which even a hibernating bear would struggle to escape.”
Reading all of this one might wonder, ‘what of the children?’ Surely, even ‘Progressive Marriages’ will bear fruit. Never fear! These wise, tenderhearted souls have their priorities straight! Behold, the blooming flower of first-wave feminism in all its radiant glory:
“Children will, of course, be the greatest gift possible to the State, and the woman who produces them will provided for, protected, and honoured. After all, this is a question of education.”
Clearly, these women preferred the provision, protection & ‘honor’ of an impersonal government to that of a loving husband. I suppose, then, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they also seek to abandon their children to the tender mercies of the same. How utterly feminine of them.
This differs from the Friedan’s Feminine Mystique exactly how? Again, read the entire post. As if that wasn’t enough, read Robbins’ post Forcing Men to Improve… where she finds a 1933 feminist proudly proclaiming that (emphasis added):
“Marriage is on the remake,” she declares, ” and divorce is the assertion of woman’s independence. Women, who obtain most of the divorces, are forcing men to improve.”
Whatever else you want to say of these early feminists they did not, as Graglia and Stanton would have it, respect tradition, marriage or the ‘woman’s pact’. In fact, they sought explicitly to overthrow these things. Modern feminists who hold up ‘self-determination as the primary good for women’ are not breaking faith with their first wave sisters; this has been the whole point of feminism since its inception. All of which goes to demolish Graglia’s first point above**, that early feminism was moderate, not radical.
It is clear that today’s culture of easy divorce was the goal at the outset, not some johnny-come-lately mutation of feminism. First wave feminists had no more respect for marriage than do Beauvior & Friedan.
Any who doubts that the pretty picture of first wave feminism painted by many unwitting conservatives is indeed a myth, Are challenged you to spend some time at Mrs. Robbins’ blog Full of Grace Seasoned With Salt.
It’s telling about how deeply embedded this myth is that Focus on the Family, a prominent, if not the preeminent, voice for traditional marriages and families gets sucked in by it. Conservatives must educate themselves on this issue and start fighting lies with truth instead of myths. We don’t need the fig leaf of ‘early feminism’ to defend our traditional, complimentarian view of the differing roles, strengths and weaknesses of the respective sexes. Appealing to the myth never really does blunt the charge of sexism anyway. In other words, there is no reason at all to keep propping it up.
Stanton writes (emphasis added):
Contemporary feminism’s disconnect from experience has been its primary Achilles Heel.
It’s not just a disconnect from experience, it is a radical deviation from God’s ‘original design intent’ of the feminine soul; a design marred and corrupted by sin. And here is where Stanton really goes off the rails. Recall that I mentioned that he is fairy tale believer. If you followed the link, you were treated to Dalrock‘s excellent exposition of Stanton’s preposterous and unbiblical belief that women are innately good. I suspect it is this delusional belief that leads him to uncritically swallow the myth of a radical disconnect between the roots of feminism and its present day fruits. Behold:
It’s why it has failed in its mission to become the mainstream sentiment of women. It wars against the most basic habits of the female heart: the deep desire to commit oneself to a loving, caring protective man and bear and nurture their common children.
Feminism, at it’s root, is a rebellion against God’s ‘design intent’ for woman as a helpmeet for and complementary partner to man. Sentiments notwithstanding, feminism has succeeded in greatly influencing the behavior of modern women. Freed by the government from the necessity of securing the attention and devotion of a good man (recall Burr’s Faustian bargain: ‘their’ children in exchange for provision and protection from the State), modern women are proving themselves every bit as depraved as modern man. From lusting after badboys in the glory days of their youth through the epidemic of single motherhood** to frivolous divorce to escape unhaaaapiness, women are proving Stanton wrong and God correct:
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? ~ Jeremiah 17:9
This passage and others like it are just as true of women as they are of men. From Potphar’s wife to Delilah, through the book of Proverbs, where we find women who are faithless & alduterous; those who are wayward & foolish; crafty seductresses, bimbos not to mention discraceful, quarrelsome & wayward wives. And let ‘s not forget the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well. Note well the fact that these women are the enthusiastic authors of their own sin; many of them active PREDATORS, not passive victims of bad men.
I list all these examples, with links to the biblical passages, not to belabor the point, but to underscore the fact that God does not flinch from laying bare the depravity of the female heart; the Bible is shot through with such testimony. To believe, as Stanton does, that women are innately good is to not only to deny this witness, but to shut your eyes tight against the world around you. He is mistaking what is for what ought to be. Unfortunately, Stanton is all too typical of church leadership in modern America; preferring delusion to truth.
What a Stanton claims are ‘...the most basic habits of the female heart‘ are not any more so than are a man’s ‘the deep desire to commit oneself to a loving, submissive woman and provide for and protect their common children.’ The habits he lists are instead the carefully cultivated fruit of one who has consciously submitted themselves to the discipline and self-sacrifice required to overcome the most basic habits of the human heart: sin and deceit. This is just as true for women as it is for men.
*“This unspoken pact held that the three primary paths available to women (to not marry and/or bear children, to marry and bear children but have a surrogate raise them, and to marry, bear children and make these two relationships one’s primary career) could all co-exist peaceably and no one’s choice would be maligned.“
** Absent rape, there is no sex and thus no fatherless children if she doesn’t willingly spread her legs, oftentimes repeatedly for different men.