I. Compulsory Niceness And The Failure of Nerve
The unquestioned acceptance of feminist goals has become almost universal in European political and intellectual life. That is not to say that the populations of European nations have been converted to feminism en masse. On the contrary, feminism and feminists themselves are probably more objects of revulsion and ridicule than ever before. That revulsion and ridicule is now accentuated by fear. Fear stems from an awareness of the power that feminist ideology exerts over academics, educators, policy-makers and the media, over those who make intimate decisions about other people’s lives, such as doctors and social workers, or those who interpret and enforce the law. It explains the tendency of institutions, including highly traditional institutions, to give in to feminism and become vehicles for dogmatic social engineering. ‘I am a feminist,’ protests the conservative commentator. ‘I am not a sexist,’ the Anglican traditionalist assures his critics. ‘Of course “equal opportunity” is a good thing,’ declares the Infantry officer, defensively. Such protestations effectively neutralise moral arguments for the traditional family, theological arguments against the ordination of women, or the case for the all-male regiment, with the pride, stability and esprit de corps that it engenders. Thus important and valuable arguments are being lost before they even begin. This has nothing to do with whether they are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. For each of the arguments I have listed raises distinctive questions, moral, social and in one case theological. They can be resolved, therefore, only as individual problems on a case-by-case basis, not in the context of an abstract, all-embracing doctrine of ‘equality’. But as soon as the word ‘equality’ is mentioned, feminism’s opponents suffer a failure of nerve.
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