Saturday, January 26, 2002

Zenpriest #26 - Second Wavers vs. The Suffragettes

Quote: "The Women's lib movement started off like ours, with some legitimate grievances and a desire to right them."

That is one of the most dangerous and destructive myths of our time. Virtually all the early names of "Women's Lib" - Friedan, Steinem, DeBeauvior - were dedicated radical Marxists, or virulent man-hating lesbians like Kate Millet and Valerie Solanis.

I have a copy of The Feminine Mystique that I purchased and read (if I have your age right) 2 years before you were born. This is what is says on the cover: "Today American women are waking up to the fact that they have been sold into virtual slavery by a lie invented and marketed by men."

Another interesting tidbit from the cover - "For years American women have been assured that they had all they needed to be perfectly happy and fulfilled - hard working husbands, lovely houses, and wonderful babies, babies, babies."

Fast forward the 41 years since TFM came out and what do we have? Women who want (high-earning) husbands, lovely houses, and babies enough to have them as single mothers or go to court and fight their husbands tooth and nail for those babies, babies, babies. Gee, the brainwashing they have endured to make them want these things must have been subtle indeed in a country swimming in feminist propaganda.

Feminism has always been about women blaming men for the choices they made and how things worked out as a result of those choices. Frieden goes into a huge long diatribe about the contents of women's magazines without ever once seeming to grasp the notion that women were buying the things voluntarily.

DeBeauvior, in a now very famous quote, even went so far as to state that she believed no woman should be given the choice to stay at home and raise her children, because too many women would make that choice. Thus, feminism has actually been the opposite of what its PR has said - it is about giving women fewer choices rather than more choices


"No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one." -- Interview with Simone de Beauvoir, "Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma," Saturday Review, June 14, 1975, p.18


I just think we need to be very careful in identifying the social movements that are being discussed. The movement for suffrage accomplished its goal, and then had no further reason to exist. When you called it "Women's Lib" I assumed you were referring to the movement which sprang up in the 60s based on victimhood. As far as I know, that term was never used to describe the push for voting rights.

I think it also clouds the issue terribly to over-simplify the issues which went into voting rights. The current notion of popular democracy was considered and specifically rejected by the architects of the US government. It was intended as a Republic and federation of States, and was never intended to be as powerful as it has become. One of the framers of the constition even went on record as saying that a pure democracy will always degenerate to mob rule. Institutions such as the Electoral College were designed specifically to moderate the effects of large population centers being able to impose their collective preferences on less populous states.

Just as today we are told that driving is a privilege not a right, the franchise was never intended to be handed out to anyone and everyone simply because they happened to be born here. At the very beginning, only landowners were given the vote, because they not only had a vested stake in the community, but they were also instrumental in building it. Interestingly, the "Poll Tax" which was later used to deny people the ability to vote was originally conceived as a way to expand voting rights beyond land and business owners. It was a measure of fiscal responsibility and success very similar to the requirement today in many states that one cannot license a car without proof of insurance or other demonstrable means of fiscal responsibility.

What women had to do was to convince those in control of the system that they (women) would use the franchise wisely and responsibly, and not frivolously by doing things like voting for a candidate because they liked his hair or the way he kissed his wife. In short, there was a sort of voting test much like today's driving tests which serve the purpose of testing certain basic minimal qualifications and competencies required for a complex process.

Such principles were not directed toward women specifically, because the franchise was also denied to most convicted felons, transients, and people who could not read well enough to know what the ballot said. The concept of women as flightly, irrational, and irresponsible certainly has more than enough proof today to make the point that concerns over whether they would use the franchise responsibly were probably quite justified in the 19th century. The overall risks and fragility of the country were certainly much greater then than they are today.

I know it is a sound-bite world, but I think we do need to be very careful in how we state our points. The "Women's Lib" movement of the last part of the 20th century relies heavily on the suffrage movement for its legitimacy, but I believe there is no continuity at all between them aside from the fact that they are both about women.


Further Reading:

Republic versus Democracy?


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