Elizabeth Fox-Genovese is a teacher/writer/historian that I've just discovered this morning, thanks to a link from a friend on Facebook. I read a short article by her this morning, and thought I'd post a few quotes from it that caught my attention. Fox-Genovese grew up solidly in the feminist movement, and lucidly evaluates its roots and causes, and its devastating effects for women and world culture at large, particularly the family.
"We now have women who serve as police chiefs or sheriffs, serve in the armed forces, serve as fire fighters, and who have made it impossible for any to doubt women's ability to excel as athletes. The growing popular recognition of women's abilities paved the way for radicals to conflate this new (and often guilty) acknowledgment that women had been excluded from many opportunities, with the claim that there is no natural difference between the sexes. The sleight of hand is worthy of an accomplished magician, and, like the best feats of magic, it has successfully displaced public attention from what is really happening."
She addresses the global effects of materialism and self-advancement, and the world's tendency in the 20th century to abandon traditions and mores that have given stability to people, and women, for centuries.
"The global economy is drawing peoples into a tightening web. It gravitates to the cheapest labor, continually strives to reduce the number of workers, and, by its very material success, promotes a growing social, political, and moral disfranchisement among those it touches -- whether rich or poor.
"The same tendencies that are consigning the poorest among us to the scrap heap of crime, drugs, disease, and early death are seducing the wealthiest into the moral bankruptcy that inexorably derives from the repudiation of responsibility for others."
The modern, and particularly American, tenet of independence, individualism, and self-advancement has loosened the cultural connections that bind people together. A teen-style rejection of authorities becomes the norm.
"Throughout the most highly developed nations, secularism has launched a full-scale attack against tradition, especially against belief in any form of divine or natural authority. The privileged of the earth deny that any authority may legitimately limit the freedom of the individual, who obeys only the dictates of personal will or desire. Meanwhile, within the developed nations and especially beyond their borders, religious fundamentalists are vehemently rejecting what they view as the social and cultural corruption of modernity. "
Fox-Genovese launches a scathing attack on the modern world's proclivity for war, a tolerance for violence and an increased deadening to the sufferings of those touched by war. She notes that our traditional social institutions -- the family, the church particularly -- are struggling to maintain cohesion against these forces opposed to them. Feminism especially battles against these institutions as it advocates for a woman's independence from any responsibilities to anyone other than herself.
She portrays the feminist movement as biting the very hand that fed it: "feminist hostility seems sorely misplaced since the very institutions they are attacking fostered the emergence of modern feminism. The ideals of individual freedom and political democracy are distinctly Western -- and Christian -- and their political vocabulary of freedom, equality, and democracy has provided women with the principal justification for their campaign to enjoy the full status of citizenship."
As the article winds down, Fox-Genovese narrows her focus to feminism's promotion of abortion as an individual right, intended to expand women's sexual freedom and to limit either the family's or the government's ability to control any aspect of her life choices. But this rabid attendance to independence and individual freedom comes at a personal and social cost: "Symbolically, the reduction of privacy to the privacy of the solitary individual sounds the death knell of social institutions, especially the family, as organic units with claims upon their members."
Feminism has produced the isolation of the woman, she claims. She becomes effectively untouchable by her husband, her children, or her culture. The free woman is a loose cannon. But the brutality -- or as she terms it, the 'barbarism' -- that attends this trend, creates an objectification of others that destroys society. "For feminists the right to abortion is necessary to the defense of women's sexual liberation. For elite men and women, it is too often the defense of their freedom from economic responsibility for those less fortunate than they. The consequence of both attitudes is to reduce an unborn baby to the status of a material object -- a possession to be disposed of at will. It should make us thoughtful that, on this point, the largest and most powerful business interests and the feminist activists agree. " She states this again later in the article: "In the simplest possible terms, to grant one person the 'right' to kill another is to succumb to the ultimate objectification."
Fox-Genovese calls the feminist movement's defense of abortion, its "moral bankruptcy." This sentence perhaps best sums up her assessment of the impact of feminism: "The right to woman's 'liberation' from the thralldom of womanhood to which her foremothers were bound ultimately depends upon her liberation from binding ties to others and especially to tradition or historical precedent."
These "binding ties," she shows, are not chains but ties of love that keep our society's structural integrity well-oiled and functioning.
[Fox-Genovese digresses briefly to the topic of ordaining women as priests in the Catholic Church. I enjoyed reading her brief but excellent answer on this issue: "the simple answer is that the case for women priests depends entirely upon secular arguments and, whatever the intentions of those who advance them, effectively encourages the subjection of the Church to Caesar's laws.]
There are more pithy, exciting quotes in the article than I can give room to. Here is another: "Sadly but inescapably, the sexual liberation of women -- appropriately known as the sexual revolution -- has led to the disintegration of the family, the objectification of the person, and the repudiation of all binding ties among individuals." I believe that Fox-Genovese's Catholicism contributes strongly to her dislike of feminism's dissolving of these binding ties. She bemoans the loss of the unity of community, the pleasure and security found in the singleness of the 'body of Christ.'
"In practice, the sexual liberation of women has realized men's most predatory sexual fantasies . . . . Binding ties constrain women, but they constrain men as well. " She claims that the feminist movement has subjected women to real danger, removing protections that served their interests, that the traditions of family life were more than a prison.
If you want to read the entire article, it is posted at "Women for Faith and Family" here. I plan to read more from this woman.