‘The Personal Is Political’: Feminism and the Problem With Keeping Score



One of the basic problems with feminism is that, by making equality the measure of human happiness, the feminist purchases an infinite supply of resentment. If you convince yourself that everything in the world should be divvied up equally, and that any observable instance of inequality is proof of oppression — social injustice! — you will become permanently angry, and perfectly miserable. Ronald Reagan once mocked the fundamental error of the egalitarian worldview: “We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one.”

If you believe inequality is a synonym for injustice, then you must see injustice everywhere, because in order for everyone to be “equal,” we would all have to be identical. This is exactly what feminists have in mind, of course, when they speak of achieving equality by abolishing “gender.”

“Gender is a hierarchical system which maintains the subordination of females as a class to males through force. Gender is a material system of power which uses violence and psychological coercion to exploit female labor, sex, reproduction, emotional support, etc., for the benefit of males. Gender is not natural or voluntary, since a person is not naturally subordinate and no one chooses to be subordinated.”
Rachel Ivey, 2013

Only if you view the world through the warped lenses of a crypto-Marxist ideology is it possible to see male-female differences as a “system of power” characterized by “violence and psychological coercion.” Yet this bizarre worldview is what inspires the feminist T-shirt slogan “Raise Boys and Girls the Same Way,” which presumes that a gender-freeandrogynous childhood will eliminate inequality (“the subordination of women as a class”) by eliminating differences between men and women.

Actually, what gender-free childhood will produce is failure.

Common sense plays no part in feminist discourse, or else the problem with their egalitarian androgynous idealism would be obvious to them.

Normal women like masculine men and normal men like feminine women. Why are my teenage sons hitting the gym and drinking protein shakes? Enhancing their muscularity is a way to gain an advantage in the grand Darwinian competition against other young males, and if your teenage sons aren’t doing their reps on the bench press and the squat rack, guess what? They’re going to lose that competition.

“Women are attracted to successful men, and the competitive drive for success is therefore intrinsic to men’s ‘sex role.’ Every attempt to escape this logic is doomed. . . . Winners winand losers lose and, ultimately, no political agenda can change this.”
Robert Stacy McCain, 2015

Boys compete with boys and girls compete with girls. This is the natural order, which produces a natural hierarchy and, whatever our own situation might be in terms of this hierarchy, no one with common sense would think the way to “fix” it is to have girls compete against boys.

Feminism is based on a zero-sum game mentality which conceives of every interaction between men and women as a manifestation of unjust “male privilege” whereby women are exploited and oppressed. From the feminist perspective, whatever any man has — in terms of career achievement, financial resources or social prestige — he has gained by oppressing women. The more success a man achieves, the more “male privilege” he possesses, according to feminism, and so the most successfulman must also be the most oppressive man. Therefore, to bring about “equality,” the goal of feminism must be to prevent male success.

This is insanity, of course, but this is where the logic of feminism leads.

“Women are an oppressed class. Our oppression is total, affecting every facet of our lives. . . .
“We identify the agents of our oppression as men. . . . All men receive economic, sexual, and psychological benefits from male supremacy. All men have oppressed women.”
Redstockings, “Manifesto,” 1969

“Feminist consciousness is consciousness of victimization . . . to come to see oneself as a victim.”
Sandra Lee Bartky, Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression (1990)

“Feminism involves the implicit claim that the prevailing conditions under which women live are unjust and must be changed.”
Carol R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim, Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives (2003)

“All women are prisoners and hostages to men’s world. Men’s world is like a vast prison or concentration camp for women. This isn’t a metaphor, it’s reality. Each man is a threat. We can’t escape men.”
Radical Wind, Aug. 8, 2013

“Radical Feminism is, and has always been a political movement focused on liberating girls and women, those who are born into the sex caste female, from the unnatural, yet universal roles patriarchy has assigned.”
“Radical Feminism,” Tumblr.com, July 26, 2014

Viewing life as a quasi-Marxist “class struggle” between men and women, as collective groups with mutually antagonistic interests, feminist ideology makes cooperation between men and women impossible. Cooperation in the sense of teamwork assumes that each member of the team has some individual ability to contribute to the overall effort, and in terms of male-female cooperation in marriage and parenthood (which is the fundamental basis of human society) such cooperation inevitably requires role differentiation. This does not mean that the definition of male and female roles must be “rigid” or “polar” (the kind of pejorative language feminists use to disparage “gender roles”), but still we see that certain general patterns of male-female roles persist in family life, despite decades of feminist efforts to eradicate these differences. From the perspective of economics, these patterns can be viewed in terms of division of labor, specialization and efficiencies of scale, but there is no need to do a complete analysis of “gender” in search of an ideal system of male-female cooperation. At the level of individual behavior, each couple works out their relationship and family life as suits them best, within the constraints of the available resources and in consideration of their own abilities. Each of us does the best we can, for ourselves, our spouses and our children — but this is never good enough for feminists.

“The personal is political,” a slogan coined by Carol Hanisch in 1969, was essentially a denial of individual agency in private relationships, an argument derived from feminist “consciousness-raising” groups:

One of the first things we discover in these groups is that personal problems are political problems. There are no personal solutions at this time. There is only collective action for a collective solution.

By intruding the politics of “collective action” into personal relationships, feminism thereby annihilates privacy. This is a totalitarian principle, very similar to the ideas of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution.” There can be no individual freedom — “no personal solutions” — because this might permit people to behave in ways contrary to the egalitarian goals that “collective action” is aimed to achieve. Insofar as everything in society is not perfectly equal between men and women, feminism requires that every private action and personal relationship be subjected to political scrutiny, to determine how it reflects the “prevailing conditions” of oppression from which women must be liberated.

This is insanity, as I say, but feminists are utterly serious about destroying “the unnatural, yet universal roles patriarchy has assigned.” Nothing is off-limits to the surveillance of our totalitarian Gender Commissars.


Every hookup between two drunk teenagers who meet at a college party is subject to feminist analysis to determine if it conforms with “affirmative consent” doctrine or whether the drunk girl was somehow victimized by the “psychological coercion” of male power, in which case the drunk boy is a rapist (because “regret equals rape”) and he will be expelled. However, feminism actually encourages the pursuit of casual sex as “empowering” — an exercise of “sexual autonomy” — and any criticism of promiscuity is rejected by feminists as “slut-shaming.” Feminism thereby promotes exactly the kind of behavior that puts young women at risk of “date rape.”

Robert Tracinski has criticized the rhetoric surround this issue:

Dubious claims about “rape culture” are an attempt to create an all-purpose scapegoat for the emotional dark side of promiscuity.
College campuses have long since been taken over by a culture in which casual sex with acquaintances is considered normal and where slightly outré sexual experimentation is strongly encouraged, all of it spurred on by alcohol, which figures prominently in most of these cases. But it’s clear that some young women are not psychologically prepared for this. They have casual relationships and hookups, but then feel regret and emotional trauma when the experience ends up being emotionally unsatisfying or disturbing. Then they are encouraged, by the feminists and “rape culture” activists, to reinterpret the experience as all the fault of an evil man who must have coerced them.
It’s a system which systematically preys on and exploits the emotional vulnerability of young women in order to use them as publicity fodder for an ideological agenda.

This emotionally damaging culture of casual sex flourishes with the approval of feminists who have spent decades encouraging promiscuity and attacking marriage as an inherently oppressive institution.

“Marriage means rape and lifelong slavery.”
Ti-Grace Atkinson, 1969

“The first condition for escaping from forced motherhood and sexual slavery is escape from the patriarchal institution of marriage.”
Alison M. Jaggar, Feminist Politics and Human Nature (1988)

“[P]atriarchy is a system of male domination in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality. The control of female sexuality through the institutions of patriarchal marriage is not incidental to patriarchy, but rather is central.”
Carol P. Christ, 2013

Feminists condemn marriage as “sexual slavery” and “male domination” in large part because it is within the context of marriage and motherhood that natural male-female differences are manifested as behavioral roles.

Never Underestimate the ‘Domestic Goddess’

In a university classroom or a professional office environment, people perform tasks where differences between males and females are irrelevant, or at least are not obvious. Yet parenthood necessarily places greater demands on women than on men and, although most fathers now strive to be more involved in childcare than was common in previous generations, “equality” in the division of domestic duties is an elusive goal, if not impossible. While few households are now characterized by strictly traditional roles — husband as breadwinner, wife as homemaker — many women actually would prefer such a division of labor within marriage, especially when their children are infants and preschoolers. Women who take pride in being wives and mothers may agree with comedian Roseanne Barr’s famous joke, “I don’t like the terms homemaker and housewife. I prefer to be called Domestic Goddess.”

However, from its beginnings in the 1960s, the modern feminist movement targeted the marriage-based family as a site of sexist oppression. In the Women’s Studies textbook Feminist Frameworks, the editors Alison M. Jaggar (University of Colorado) and Paula S. Rothenberg (William Patterson University) include Alix Kates Shulman’s influential 1970 article “A Marriage Agreement”:

When my husband and I were first married a decade ago, “keeping house” was less a burden than a game. We both worked full-time jobs and we each pretty much took care of ourselves. . . . Our domestic life was beautifully uncomplicated.
Then our first child was born. I quit my job to stay home with him. Our domestic life was suddenly very complicated. When our second child was born, domestic life, the only life I had any longer, became a tremendous burden. . . .

Here, let me interrupt to add: Sic semper hoc — ’twas ever thus — and shall forever be. A couple without children can live like college roommates, but once the babies come along, the demands of motherhood necessarily change their domestic arrangement. Shulman continues:

Once we had children, we totally accepted the sex-roles society assigns. My husband worked all day in an office and I was at home, so the domestic burden fell almost entirely on me. We had to move to a larger apartment to accommodate the children. Keeping it minimally livable . . . took hours of every day: children make unbelievable messes. . . .
But ven more burdensome than the physical work of child-rearing was the relentless responsibility I had for the children. There was literally nothing I could do or even contemplate without having to consider first how the children would be affected. . . . They were always there. I couldn’t read or think. . . .

Here we observe the bias of feminist theory, with Shulman condemning the typical division of labor as “the sex-roles society assigns,” and construing her responsibility as a mother as “burdensome.” Shulman seemingly took no pleasure in motherhood, viewing her children as unwelcome intruders in her life, depriving her of independence. Perhaps, instead of teaching Women’s Studies as an attack on “the sex-roles society assigns,” students could be asked to examine Shulman’s article as an example of what happens as a result of society’s failure to prepare young women to handle the psychological demands of motherhood. And, I hasten to add, young men also should be taught to appreciate how stressful motherhood can often be. Lesson One for young fathers: Never criticize your wife for neglecting other tasks while she’s caring for infants and toddlers. Laundry piles up, the living room becomes cluttered, the kitchen sink is full of dishes and, buddy, don’t you dare complain about it. Either pitch in and do the housework yourself, or else shut up.

Marriage and parenthood require cooperation, and this becomes impossible if the couple engage in what I call “scorekeeping,” mentally keeping track of their spouse’s failures and tallying up a list of grievances as a sort of indictment: “You did this and that wrong thing, and look at all the good things I have done, and you never do anything right!”

Love cannot survive such a hostile attitude, which is exactly what feminism’s anti-male rhetoric encourages. If men and women are natural enemies, as feminists suggests, then male-female relationships are a rivalry for power characterized by mutual antagonism, and there is little likelihood of cooperation between men and women. Feminism incites so much suspicion between men and women that love becomes impossible even to imagine. By making radical ideology the measure of all things —“The personal is political” — feminism tends to convert every private conflict and disappointment into a collective grievance.

We return, then, to Alix Kates Shulman’s 1970 article:

As the children grew up, our domestic arrangement seemed increasingly odious to me. . . . My husband, I felt, could always change his job if the pressure was too great, but I could never change mine. When I finally began to see my situation from a women’s liberation point of view, I realized that the only way we could possibly survive as a family . . . was to throw out the old sex roles we had been living by and start again. Wishing to be once more equal and independent as we had been when we had met, we decided to make an agreement in which we could define our own roles our own way. . . . We recognized that after a decade of following the traditional sex roles we would have to be extremely vigilant and wary of backsliding into our old domestic habits. . . .

Shulman then proceeds to provide details of the “agreement” she imposed on her husband. Despite her use of the first-person plural (“wedecided”), it is obvious that this “agreement” was actually her unilateral demand, an ultimatum with which her husband attempted to comply.

The Sudetenland Is Never Enough

“Peace for our time” was Neville Chamberlin’s infamous boast when her returned to England from the conference at Munich where he had agreed to Hitler’s demand for the German occupation of the Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia. Of course, in hindsight, this “compromise” proved fatal. Within a year of Chamberlain’s betrayal of the Czechs in September 1938, Hitler launched his blitzskrieg against Poland, and by July 1940, Hitler had conquered Holland, Belgium and France, forcing the desperate British forces to escape via Dunkirk. Soon the German bombers were raining destruction on England, and only the heroic courage of RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain staved off the threat of invasion.

“Peace for our time,” indeed.

Comparing feminists to Nazis is perhaps unfair, but this history lesson is still quite relevant. A dictatorial temperament can never be appeased by compromise. Chamberlain and the other proponents of appeasement were feeding the crocodile, hoping to be eaten last, as Churchill said. The essential root of all totalitarianism is a resentment of the natural order, which Shakespeare long ago described:

Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark, what discord follows! each thing meets
In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters
Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores
And make a sop of all this solid globe:
Strength should be lord of imbecility,
And the rude son should strike his father dead:
Force should be right; or rather, right and wrong,
Between whose endless jar justice resides,
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself.

If we lose respect for natural order, so that everything in life is aboutpower, then the “universal wolf” shall sooner or later come for us.

Anyone might reasonably celebrate feminism as a check on unlimited “male supremacy” — a defense of women against abuse or unjust discrimination — if only feminists were content with such reasonable aims, but this has never been the case. From its very inception as the Women’s Liberation movement in the late 1960s, modern feminism has been led and controlled by radicals, and devoted to radical goals. It is nowadays fashionable to forget how modern feminism emerged from the extremist fringe of the New Left, and how the movement celebrated would-be assassin Valerie Solanas, as well as terrorists like Jane Alpert,Angela Davis, Susan Saxe and Katherine Ann Power.


Feminists have repeatedly declared their determination to destroy civilization as we know it — to eradicate “gender” and abolish the family — and I have often quoted at length feminist statements of their totalitarian goals, but here let me just briefly quote Catharine MacKinnon:

“Sexuality, then, is a form of power. Gender, as
socially constructed, embodies it, not the reverse.
Women and men are divided by gender, made into
the sexes as we know them, by the social requirements
of heterosexuality, which institutionalizes
male sexual dominance and female sexual submission.”

Now, this statement is either true or false, yet it does not matter to me whether any reader agrees or disagrees with Professor MacKinnon. The point is that this is what feminists believe about sexuality and gender, and as Richard Weaver said, Ideas Have Consequences. Feminism’s goal is to end “male domination” and, Professor MacKinnon argues, equality can only be achieved by abolishing heterosexuality and destroying the “social requirements” that produce the divisions of “gender.”


That feminist T-shirt slogan isn’t just a cute phrase, you see, when you understand the radical theory which inspires it. Feminist attacks on “gender roles” and their advocacy of “gender-neutral parenting” have profound implications which I have previously explained:

When I began my in-depth exploration of feminist gender theory — the social construction of the gender binary within the heterosexual matrix — it was immediately apparent to me that (a) Professor Judith Butler’s argument assumed as its tacit premise feminism’s opposition to heterosexuality, per se; and that many adherents of so-called Third Wave feminism had either (b) failed to recognize this premise, or else (c) were being less than honest about what “gender theory” actually implies and where its application as policy is likely to lead.

To “raise boys and girls the same way,” as feminist T-shirt sloganeers demand, is to prepare children for failure as adults. In identifying “gender” as originating in “the social requirements of heterosexuality,” Professor MacKinnon meant to condemn the society that “constructs” male-female differences, but why? Is it wrong for parents to hope that their sons will grow up to become husbands and fathers, and to teach them how to succeed and be happy in those adult roles? And if we expect that our daughters will want to marry men and have children, shouldn’t we likewise prepare them for success and happiness?


Belated Victims of the Culture of Death

So much feminist attention has been devoted to the goal of equality in the paid work force — the mythical “gender gap” in wages — that parents and educators seem willing to neglect the question of how children should be prepared for their social and domestic lives as adults. Look, if you want your daughter to grow up to be a man-hating crazy cat lady, or if you’re OK with your son becoming a transvestite pornographer, then go ahead and take parenting advice from feminists. My own advice is otherwise:

If all you knew about sex and gender was Third Wave feminism’s endless celebration of androgynous confusion, you might suppose that very few young people in the 21st-century are normal. However, while researchers have recently observed “a slight increase in self-reported bisexuality,” the vast majority of Americans (substantially more than 90%) are heterosexual, despite every effort of feminists and LGBTQIA activists to convince Americans that heterosexuality is bad and wrong.

Believe it or not, raising normal kids is still possible, and happy marriages are still possible, too. Feminism destroys normal happiness, however, and Alix Kates Shulman’s unhappy marriage to Martin Shulman ended in divorce about a decade after her humiliated husband (“one of the great masochists of the twentieth century,” as Caitlin Flanagan described him) signed the agreement she imposed on him. Love cannot survive the scorekeeping mentality and the cycle of hostility, suspicion, conflict and retaliation to which it inevitably leads. Here, we may again interrogate the meaning of “the personal is political.” Were the problems of the Shulman marriage a product of male supremacy, requiring “collective action” rather than “personal solutions,” as Carol Hanisch said? Or is it possible that Alix Kates Shulman was so easily persuaded to support this “collective action” because it offered her a political belief system through which she could rationalize her own personal unhappiness?


Alix Kates Shulman, with her husband and children.

A great irony is that Martin Shulman had actively supported his wife’s feminism, driving her and a carload of her radical friends to Atlantic City for the first major public protest of the Women’s Liberation movement, the 1968 demonstration at the Miss America Pageant. And this was by no means the limit of his support for “equal rights.” At a 2005 screening of the pro-abortion film Speak Out, Alix Kates Shulman told the audience that she had had four abortions “and not one was the result of carelessness” (by which she meant that she had used contraceptives, but gotten pregnant anyway). Can anyone imagine a marriage in which a husband encourages his wife to have repeated abortions?

Such fanatical devotion to the Culture of Death calls to mind the biblical warning against those who have “their conscience seared with a hot iron,”their spiritual disease manifesting itself as cruelty.


There was an interesting coda to this story a few years ago.

For years, pro-life activists had faced terroristic threats and harassment that escalated after Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller was murdered in 2009. A pro-abortion blog called Operation Counterstrike declared: “Right-to-lifism is murder, and ALL right-to-lifers are bloody-handed accessories. Swear it, believe it, proclaim it, and act on it.” The proprietor of that blog made ominous threats, including one to pro-life activist Jill Stanek: “I’m looking forward to watching a documentary entitled ‘The Assassination of Jill Stanek.’” A phone call to pro-life activist Cheryl Sullenger warned: “Convert to pro-choice during the few months you have left on this earth.” And then, in February 2011, the threats stopped — because the FBI had made an arrest:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested abortion supporterTheodore Shulman, 49, yesterday and charged him with communicating interstate threats against two pro-life activists. He is currently being held without bond at Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in New York City, a Federal holding facility. . . .
“This is a huge relief to us that Ted Shulman is behind bars where he belongs,” said Sullenger. “He often posted threatening comments to our web site and called me on my cell phone too many times to count. He was always brazen in his threats and openly identified himself, telling us not to bother calling the FBI because they would never do anything for us. Thankfully, he was wrong about that, and we hope that, in addition to his New York charges, he will also be charged in Kansas.”

In May 2012, Ted Shulman reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors:

A self-described “pro-choice terrorist” now faces up to 5 years in prison after pleading guilty in federal district court in Manhattan last week to posting an online death threat against two well-known pro-life advocates in 2010.
Theodore Shulman, 51, pleaded guilty to “one count of transmitting a threat to injure another person by threatening to kill two pro-life advocates,” on May 10, according to Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. . . .
Numerous pro-life figures say they have been the target of Shulman’s threats, including nurse and pro-life advocate Jill Stanek, who said she had received threats and assisted the FBI investigation by providing over 4,000 comments from Shulman to her Web site over a four-year period. . . .
In a statement, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk said that the FBI takes death threats very seriously.
“There is a distinction between advocacy of one’s beliefs and making threats against those who disagree,” Fedarcyk said in a statement. “Advocacy is a right protected by the FBI. Making threats is a serious crime.” . . .
Sentencing for Shulman, who faces 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, will take place on Sept. 12. He has been held without bail since his arrest.
Shulman is the son of feminist Alix Kates Shulman . . .

Congratulations, feminist mom — your son’s a convicted terrorist!

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