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The sexual revolution killed feminism Fetishising freedom harms us all

Defending women means defending the human (Alvaro Fuente/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Defending women means defending the human (Alvaro Fuente/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


November 1, 2021   9 mins

It’s often noted that the Right generally has a better grasp of the Left’s motives and arguments than vice versa. The Right thinks the Left is mistaken, while the Left thinks the Right is evil. There is one exception: feminism.

I have sympathy with some critiques advanced by friends on the Right, of the excesses and uncounted costs of feminism. I have made a number of those critiques myself.

But I’m often frustrated by conservatives’ refusal to engage with feminist arguments or history much beyond the ‘pop’ versions you might find in the pages of Vox. The result is, regrettably, a Right-wing treatment of the women’s movement that is often as ignorant of what it decries as modern liberal feminists are of the conservative case against abortion.

We can do better. And we must, because today defending women’s interests is properly, and rightly, a defence of the family. Which is to say of all humans  including men – understood as relational beings.

This isn’t easy to see from a conservative vantage-point that blames feminism for many modern societal ills. Some of this critique is not without justice. But nor is the women’s movement without justice.

I don’t believe in progress, in the ‘arc of history’ sense. Nor do I believe that there exists an eternal conspiracy against women, called ‘patriarchy’. Worked free of these fairy tales, what we think of today as ‘feminism’ is a story of economic transitions.

Specifically, it’s a story of how men and women re-negotiated life in common, in response first to the transition into the industrial era, then into twentieth-century market society. If everyone today seems to be arguing about men and women again, it’s because we’re in the throes of another economic transition.

To illustrate, I’ll take a short detour through that story. Of course this is complex, and varied by factors such as class, race and geography. But since what we think of as ‘feminism’ today is mainly driven by bourgeois white American women, and serves their class interests, I’ll focus on their story.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century America was mostly agrarian. The typical American matron was a disciplined, skilled, devout individual who worked alongside her husband in a productive household. She processed raw materials and foodstuffs produced by male family members into meals, clothing and so on, usually while caring for multiple children.The patriarchal legal system of ‘coverture’, which subsumed her legal personhood and property into that of her husband, rendered her technically a subordinate class of citizen. It also served to shield her from market pressures.

By the end of the nineteenth century, though, America was more industrial than agrarian. Families were smaller. Work took place outside the home, forcing a much sharper split between sex roles. In the new private household, the bourgeois woman was more economically dependent than her agrarian grandmother. Her main activities were the education of children, the management of servants and the consumption of goods produced elsewhere. She may have been more materially comfortable. But this woman had in many respects less agency than her foremothers.

This prompted a frenzy of debate about sex roles. Some women moralised the new feminine role. They framed the home as sanctuary from competitive life in America’s capitalist economy, and the non-working bourgeois housewife as its guardian. Her task was to tend this sanctuary, and to shape the children whose ability to flourish in industrial society depended on having the right moral and intellectual education. This was the so-called ‘cult of domesticity’.

But it takes a while for social norms to catch up with changing material conditions. The old legal system of ‘coverture’ still existed. Women had lost their agency in the agrarian productive household, and as yet acquired no other kind. The result was an economic and political helplessness that resulted in some deep injustices. It was this imbalance that drove the first feminist campaigns for property ownership and enfranchisement.

Fast forward a century. Labour-saving devices and booming consumerism have shifted society once again. This set off another round of re-negotiation between the sexes as to the proper division of roles. Phyllis Schlafly observed that women were liberated more by the washing machine than feminism. And for bourgeois twentieth-century housewives, labour-saving devices combined with an increasingly atomised, individualistic social world to trigger a renewed search for agency, this time within the workplace.

I take this detour into women’s history to illustrate a core underlying argument. In each case, sex roles have been re-negotiated not by some abstract process of moral advancement but in response to changing material conditions. And in each case, this has been necessary because social and legal norms change more slowly.

So what about the central event in twentieth-century feminism: the sexual revolution? I come to this separately because in my view the sexual revolution was not the start but the end of feminism.

In its nineteenth and early twentieth-century incarnations, the women’s movement sought a positive negotiation of sex roles for prevailing material conditions, in the interests of life in common. But feminism in this sense ended in the 1960s. It was killed by the twin technology shocks of contraception and abortion.

Up to that point, the women’s movement encompassed both women who understood personhood in the context of family life – women as relational beings – and those who argued for women to be treated primarily as individuals, irrespective of the givens of sex or relational obligations. Medical control of fertility constituted a fundamental material change to this debate: it enabled the final victory of the individualist side.

As my friend Erika Bachiochi has argued, treating access to legal abortion as a necessary precondition for personhood implies a liberal male-centric understanding of what a person is: a radically separate individual. Within that framework there’s no conceptual language, for example, to describe the ‘more than one but less than two’ nature of pregnancy, or the radical sense of merged selfhood that comes with mothering a newborn baby.

For women to be human on this model, we must have total ownership over all these aspects of our bodies that differ from those of males. Even a conflict between total autonomy and an unborn human life must be resolved for autonomy.

There exist feminist thinkers who contest this, but they have been marginal since the 1960s. For the mainstream, the entrenchment of this radical bodily autonomy in law as a baseline for human personhood signalled a conclusive defeat of relational feminism.

Instead of calling for both men and women to embrace a human duty to be dependent others, we embraced a supposedly empowering pursuit of universal, de-sexed radical individualism, and outsourced care to the welfare state.

Received opinion today frames this shift as a victory. Conservative critiques of feminism usually boil down to enumerations of its uncounted costs: the meltdown of family life, the tiny infants in daycare, the degradation of sexual intimacy, the collapsing fertility rate, and so on.

But we need to understand that what we’re fighting is not feminism, properly understood, but something I’ve characterised elsewhere as bio-libertarianism. A worldview that for fifty years now has claimed to act in women’s interests but is increasingly obviously at odds with those interests. It’s a worldview that believes human freedom necessitates radical unmooring from the givens of our bodies.

The transgender writer Jennifer Finney Boylan recently observed that the campaigns for medical abortion and transgender surgeries have a great deal in common. This is correct. Both causes champion the right of atomised individuals to exert absolute mastery over their bodies. They are not feminist but bio-libertarian.

I disagree with Boylan only on whether this is desirable. Because conditions have now changed again. And our norms and laws haven’t caught up yet.

Bio-libertarian causes may have appeared in women’s emancipatory interests, in a broadly democratic consumer society. That era retained some shared social and cultural norms, along with a sincere belief that things could go on getting better, richer, freer, more comfortable forever. As such, working loose those old-fashioned social norms and physiological givens seemed an unalloyed good.

That world is gone. There are no shared norms. We’re past peak oil. Living standards are falling. So is life expectancy. Variously in the name of economic progress, digital disintermediation, Covid, net zero or the Great Reset, the middle class is being methodically cannibalised to shore up the 1%. Pluralism has birthed a Hobbesian moral anarchy, held together only by the technologies that mediate our meme wars.

This is the new normal and it’s not going away. Against this backdrop, the interests of men and women no longer align with the bio-libertarian agenda of mastery over the body. And this brings me to the three main types of response I notice to the new tension between emerging conditions and our legacy social and cultural frameworks: trads, cads and radfems.

Very reductively, these three positions break down as follows. The Trads say: all this could be fixed if only we could put second-wave feminism back in its box, and return to something more like the cult of domesticity. This has the appeal of both familiarity and nostalgia.

But we no longer live in the industrial society that produced those roles. The economic landscape has changed beyond all recognition. Arguing over the merits of those changes won’t reverse them. And today’s reality is that the ‘Trad’ argument is pure fantasy fiction, for the millions of twentysomethings who can barely make rent, let alone support an unwaged carer for little kids.

Nor is the sexual revolution going back in its box, a fact that today produces ‘Cads’ of both sexes. Men and women who have internalised the radically individualist, bio-libertarian belief that sex is merely a fun leisure activity that can be managed via contract theory.

Among high-status men, this looks like Tinder hookups summoned as casually as a Deliveroo pizza. For the less fortunate it looks like the embittered life of a porn-sick ‘incel’. Among women, the same dynamic looks like classes for college freshmen on how to launch yourself on OnlyFans; like consenting reluctantly to violent or degrading sexual practices in the hope that it will make a boy like you enough to hold your hand in public.

For both sexes, it means an interpersonal landscape marinaded in pornography, actively hostile to intimacy, and governed by a false belief that male and female sexuality are the same. Under its rubric the pursuit of pleasure becomes a degraded search for thrills: one which leaves both sexes numb and jaded, scarred by having traded in love for violence.

The cads have accepted this situation and resigned themselves to just scavenging whatever kicks they can get. Others revolt against this nihilistic nightmare by calling for the re-imposition of power, in the interests of a final victory for one sex over the other. In this sense, ‘radfems’ in fact encompass both feminists and anti-feminists. They have a surprising amount in common.

Radical feminism is a rich and fractious tradition that I clearly can’t do justice to here. But its contemporary inheritors take for granted the individualistic liberal anthropology I have described. The anti-feminism that opposes this view is just as individualist. It simply prefers not to extend selfhood to women.

Both believe in the same patriarchy. They differ only on its merits. Both are similarly hostile to interdependence. Both these groups, in different ways, argue for the use of power to settle the war between the sexes, in either for or against the “patriarchy”.

These groups are both wrong. Because patriarchy doesn’t exist, either as a good thing or a bad. What does exist, has always existed, is the ongoing negotiation between men and women, over how we can best live together in the world as it is.

And we are in the throes of renegotiating now. For the age of abundance is over. Neo-feudalism is already here. It’s underwritten by an emerging bio-security state that disciplines and surveils our bodies even as it proposes to terraform our souls. It would de-regulate human nature itself. Open up our bodies as markets for biotech. Applaud males for embracing a surgically feminised ‘gender identity’, while re-branding females as ‘gestators’, chestfeeders’, ‘birthing bodies’ or just ‘uterus-havers’.

Men and women face this disunited; no longer sure how to live together. Family formation is collapsing. Anti-natalism is hip. Millions of young people are trapped in a hell of transactional sexuality ordered not to love, or meaning, or the future, but to bare, squalid, hyper-mediated commerce.

The pursuit of freedom is not just delivering diminishing returns. It has long since turned against women. It is now turning against life itself. What we need to face this challenge is not more freedom. It’s more and better obligations. That means, for feminists, a reckoning with some of the unpaid debts of the age of emancipation. It also means that we’ve run out of road for the kind of movement that seeks to pry women free of our fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.

To respond, first and foremost we must stop treating the question of family as a women’s issue. It’s a human one. And we need to accept that men and women are equal in dignity and personhood but different in physiology. The core question is how we reconcile our interests.

At the centre of this is how we understand marriage. The twentieth-century consumer society trivialised and individualised marriage, as a vehicle for personal fulfilment. That no longer works. But marriage does, if we pry it free of the ‘patriarchy’ baggage and treat it as the first and most crucial step in a fightback against radical atomisation, and for life in common.

At the bigger scale we must fight for policies that support this. That defend the human body against enclosure by biotech, human interiority against enclosure by digital transparency, human desire against enclosure by the sex industry. That defend children against enclosure by ‘reproductive healthcare’ or identity medicine. That support family formation, incentivise solidarity in marriage, and proactively seek to shield the domain of human intimacy from the market.

To those of my feminist friends about to denounce me as a reactionary, I say: under current conditions, defending women means defending the human. And if you do that, people are going to call you reactionary. A feminism fighting back against the bio-libertarian nightmare must centre embodied care and dependency. Marriage has the power to convene radical loyalty, in the interests of life in common. For a feminism that centres care, this is self-evidently a good thing. So here the interests of twenty-first century feminism converge with those of conservatives.

Such a feminism also defends human nature and the body, against technologies that would remodel us in the name of utopia. Commercial surrogacy, transgender ‘medicine’ and experimental human-animal chimeras are just the start. Resistance requires a willingness to re-open the question of those embodied ways in which men and women are different. Here too the interests of feminism converge with those of conservatives.

To those well-meaning progressives who argue “you can’t be a feminist and not be for freedom”, I say: wake up. The agenda you ushered in is now the stuff of nightmares. To those on the Right who say “feminism got us here; you’ve made your bed ladies, now lie in it” I say: I get where you’re coming from, but don’t be stupid. You might enjoy watching trans activism abolish sex dimorphism, to own the feminists, but the ideology is coming for your kids too.

At its best, conservatism has always been pragmatic. It seeks the eternal Good, not from nostalgia for bygone days but from where we are. We can’t go back, but the future doesn’t have to look like a nihilistic hell, or like the final victory of one sex over the other.

In terms of how men and women live together, there may be nothing left to conserve. But that means there is everything to build. What we have is the rubble. Our bodies. Each other. And our willingness to try. It’s time to begin.

This is a version of a speech delivered at NatCon 2. 


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago

To those of my feminist friends about to denounce me as a reactionary, I say: under current conditions, defending women means defending the human. 

This could easily be applied to men too.

To those on the Right who say “feminism got us here; you’ve made your bed ladies, now lie in it” I say: I get where you’re coming from, but don’t be stupid. You might enjoy watching trans activism abolish sex dimorphism, to own the feminists, but the ideology is coming for your kids too.

There’s growing awareness among the middle classes about what trans activism really means for children, hence the many battles currently surrounding American public school boards. It’s becoming increasingly clear to parents that schools are engaging in psycho-sexual confusion in order to instill ideological conformity among the young.

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

a good article from an american author on Spiked on the current battle in american school boards –
https://www.spiked-online.com/2021/10/30/loudoun-county-and-the-cruelty-of-trans-ideology/

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Same case but seen from the progressive side –
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/loudon-county-sexual-assault-bathroom-b1945937.html#comments-area
progressive seem to have moved from #believeallwomen to #shewasaskingforit

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago
Reply to  George Glashan

last one, the establishment take –
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/in-case-at-center-of-political-firestorm-judge-finds-teen-committed-sexual-assault-in-virginia-school-bathroom/2021/10/25/42c037da-35cc-11ec-8be3-e14aaacfa8ac_story.html

“The defendant initially told detectives the second sexual act did not occur, but later said it may have happened briefly and accidentally when a knee-length skirt he was wearing got caught on his watch as the pair were fumbling around in the bathroom stall.”

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
2 years ago

An excellent analysis of so many of the key developments since early feminism. But it was not the sexual revolution that killed feminism, it was gaining the vote for women. There has never been a single ‘feminism’ but a continuously increasing number of ‘feminisms’. This was true leading up to winning the vote and it is true today. But those feminisms were able to cohere around the single issue: the aim of gaining the vote. Since then, any view qualifies as feminism as long as the view-holder insists it is in fact feminism and is a woman.
One minor mistake Harrington makes is to put economic change before technological, where in fact it is technological advance that drives economic change and then social (including sexual) relationships are renegotiated. This is significant only because it was technological advance that unlocked the door to female empowerment, feminism only had to push the door open.
The problem women face today is defining womanhood in the age of technology. The answer, as Harrington rightly states is: “not more freedom. It’s more and better obligations. That means, for feminists, a reckoning with some of the unpaid debts of the age of emancipation.” Or to put it another way, responsibilities as well as rights. But when did feminism ever demand responsibilities rather than just rights for women? And given the rapaciousness with which so many privileged women use feminism for both professional and personal advantage, and given the wholesale abuse of boys in education, perhaps the confrontation with trans-ideology is part of feminism’s unpaid debt.

Greta Hirschman
Greta Hirschman
2 years ago

Technological advance has not always plaid in favour of women. Women were cheap labour at the early stages of the industrial revolution. It took a century for women to retake their position, and another to regain property rights, not fully reached in France before the 1980s. Only to be threatened by transgender ideology 40 years later.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Great speech, Mary. This was very encouraging:
we need to accept that men and women are equal in dignity and personhood but different in physiology. The core question is how we reconcile our interests.”
Not only are we equal in dignity but also surely complementary. We have to work things out together. If some of us have a ‘wrong view’ of feminism, is it entirely our fault or just the way it is presented? The two views of feminism which are unhelpful to us reconciling would be, firstly: women are capable of doing everything that men can do and if that is not achieved (as measured by metrics) then the patriarchy is oppressing. Although men don’t seem to think they should be capable of doing everything women can do (unless it is a ‘trans’mogrification such as ‘chest-feeding’). This is where being complementary reconciles us.
And secondly, that all problems for women are the fault of men (the patriarchy). That’s just a meme really but that conclusion often seems to steam out of some feminist writings (reluctantly I admit, Julie Bindel’s articles come over like that – but I’m glad UnHerd gives her a voice). It’s patently untrue, but is a simplistic way of avoiding the need to reconcile where there is the need for nuance in our understanding of conflict.
Reconciliation and working together would allow us to banter over our differences and gendered weaknesses (something my family engages in hilariously). We have gendered weaknesses and ought to make allowances for these rather than emphasise them in order to gain some kind of unhelpful dominance. As an example, I was intrigued by the row recently about school uniform. Girls were asked not to wear coloured bras under white blouses. This was framed as ‘victim blaming’ from the female point of view, I suppose it could equally have been framed as ‘hormone blaming’ from the male adolescent point of view, boys at that age being ambushed suddenly by testosterone and so taking a revelatory interest in the female figure. And there is contradictory output from feminists of different viewpoints: the one side advises, “when you dress to go out make sure you keep plenty of flesh on display to keep him thinking about sex”; while the other states, “I can wear what I like and it should make no difference to how you look at me”. Can’t we reconcile on this and learn mutually beneficial behaviour that make allowances for ‘physiological difference’?
Yes, mutual reconciliation; or how it used to be put: learning to love one another.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

Teaching is 76% female in the UK. The public sector is 68% of full time employees in the UK, or 74% if you include part time workers, or healthcare (80% of NHS employees) are prime examples. For most financial, clerical or administration jobs, the workforce is mostly women.
Men still dominate in making and growing things, or areas that involve machinery. And although currently men account for more of the higher status director and manager jobs, this is changing. There are growing numbers of female leaders.
So feminism has won. Effectively women control the law, finance and government, run HR, and then educate and socialise the children. What now?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

What now?
Proclaim that women can do anything, then start campaigns on women’s issues demanding that men do something.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

We need to see feminists arguing for women to achieve equality of incarceration, equality of underachievement in education, equal representation in dirty and dangerous jobs (97% of those killed at work are men; this needs to get up to 50% or so), and equal incidence of suicide. If they genuinely seek equality, they will argue for these. Otherwise the suspicion forms that it’s all about seeking advantage and calling it equality.

T N
T N
3 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

What u wrote is that feminists need to argue for women to start committing violent crimes & be repeat offenders so they’ll go to prison, being lazy in school & not going to college (play video games instead), commit suicide instead of getting mental health help & risking death & sexual harassment/assault (common for women in male dominated jobs) for a paycheck, until their numbers equal mens, so we can all be equal. So very logical & smart!

Of course it’d make more sense for men to just stop commiting crimes, work hard in school, get therapy, choose different jobs & actually help each other..like women do. But I guess that’d be silly & expecting way to much.

U didn’t make the argument u think u did! U just pointed out terrible choices MEN are making & u think FEMINISTS/WOMEN, not men, are supposed to do something about it. This kind of entitlement & insecurity when women do well just fuels feminism even more!

What exactly have u done to help these men & boys? I suspect it’s NOTHING bc u don’t really care about mens issues at all!

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

There is one simple downside to “winning” in job markets which require being paid by taxation, and involve no building, inventing or risk taking….

You are still reliant on the “Losers” to actually run the country, build roads, defend the country, do all the real police, firefighting or truck driving work…..while also continuing to pay taxes to pay for your nice safe government jobs.

Today’s African American community is the result of women “winning” in the 60s, so that they wouldn’t have to put up with men while continuing to be paid for by other men.

I think that the majority of women in the West are about to share that winning feeling in the next generation.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Teaching, public sector and healthcare are dominated by female workers but these are all traditionally female nurturing/caring/serving roles and among the lower paid. The same applies to the low grade financial clerical and admin jobs where they are in the majority. But males dominate the higher echelons of the law, finance and government with higher pay and the actual power, so I don’t think feminism has ‘won’ at all. Look at the imbalance in the House of Commons and the Boards of top companies.
I think women have traditionally educated and socialised children, so no change there. It has long been an issue for feminists that women have made some inroads into non-traditional areas but have not managed to persuade numbers of men to take on traditional feminine roles, leaving women also with the ‘double shift’ at home.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago
Reply to  Hilary Easton

The modern difference is the number of women in senior positions – not just in traditional low-paid roles. I checked the numbers and the top is currently more split than the topline – so lawyers are about 48-49% female, doctors 48-49% female, senior civil servants 48-49% female. However, even if the pinnacle positions still have men in position, the bodies they lead are institutionally female in make up. With more women going to university than men, time and natural demographics will end up with women in charge. If feminism hasn’t quite won, it’s very very close to winning.

T N
T N
3 months ago
Reply to  Saul D

Since you’re in the UK you should be very aware of the investigations into mistreatment of female firefighters & police, which found men were blatantly working together to force women out. The rampant sexual harassment/assault & brutality against those women is sickening, but nothing new for women trying to enter male dominated professions, all over the world.

“Feminism has won. Effectively women control the law, finance and government.”

Absolutely absurd!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

An excellent essay, though I would point out that patriarchy is not dead… just cast your eyes outside of the developed Western world.
Then: “To those on the Right who say “feminism got us here; you’ve made your bed ladies, now lie in it” I say: I get where you’re coming from, but don’t be stupid. You might enjoy watching trans activism abolish sex dimorphism, to own the feminists, but the ideology is coming for your kids too.”
You have made your beds ladies….. where have I frequently heard this before? Oh yes, right here in the comments of Unherd. It will be interesting to hear what the Usual Suspects have to say about this. Fact is that most reasonable feminists simply want equality of opportunity for women. They do not preach equity or hatred of men, brothers, husbands and sons. They want safe spaces for biological women and do not want this at the expense of safe spaces for men and boys.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

I’m afraid I really struggle to remember any member of a feminist group asking for things for men and boys …
Many seem to be demanding “equity” not just equality of opportunity.
The absence of this “balance” does make you wonder whether the majority of feminists just want “stuff for women” – and if so – why would they expect to have high levels of sympathy from men ?
This absence feels like misandry by the back door ….

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Most of the feminist articles you read, are from the more activist feminist and some say some inflammatory things at times… this is the way of many activists and I think it divisive but probably necessary. It is a fine line.
I support the ‘emancipation’ of women and their fight against the control of men. I’m old enough to have witnessed this in my childhood (e.g. I wasn’t sent to university, but my brother got the opportunities), the workplace and in society, so it is a ‘big thing’ and I’m cognisant of the fact that millions of women paved the way for my opportunities. That said, opportunities are now more equal but only in the West or slightly more monied. GBV remains a huge concern in the world… that is not to say that men don’t experience violence, but men are far and away more likely to commit violence and most women at some stage have been physically afraid of a man as they are physically weaker.
What rankles is some of the commentators whose comments are aggressive and quite misogynistic. I cant think they have female partners or daughters. More surprising are the comments from some of their ‘handmaidens’ 🙂

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

All good points, and loads of important work has been done.
Maybe we are “equal enough” now in the West, to have discussions that also include accepting things like “weaker men” are statistically more likely to suffer street assault from violent people than women are.
You are of course right that it is the most vocal (and entrenched) feminists that are likely to ignore some of these realities.
I’m not sure they are helping their causes by doing so.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago

There’s an aura of unreality to what you say, for me anyway. It’s as if you (and most feminists) refuse to accept your femaleness, reject it even. I don’t particularly like Freud but he had a point that at the end of the 19th century women had begun to envy men their penises even if only symbolically. You seem to want to maintain your “rights” as a woman and yet have everything men have as well, but you cannot. It is not a realistic demand, and it appears to be quite damaging to society.
I just don’t understand how any sensible person can imagine that “male violence” can be controlled more than it already is in the West at present. We are talking about 3.9 billion males from a huge variety of circumstances. The evidence shows that peace and prosperity are the best pre-requisites for minimal violence of all kinds. Criticising all men, most of them innocent, and demanding they “do something”, do what ? is not sensible I think.
Your final paragraph is passive/aggressive, if you disagree with what other female commenters say, step up to the mark and respond with a decent argument.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

I have always struggled with this apparent concept of being equal but also being different.
It seems like wanting to “have one’s cake and eat it”
Things like perpetuating “Women’s Hour” on the BBC – and “Women’s Day” in parliament – without having male equivalents – surely does nothing to make males more sympathetic.
Possibly that says more about certain female broadcasters and politicians than it does about professional activists…

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Aah Claire.. My last paragraph wasn’t particularly passive/aggressive (I think quite a hackneyed slur) – rather it was a hook. I very frequently debate this issue – in fact on every single article on this topic I make comment. Have you not seen the comments? Are they not ‘decent argument’?
Firstly I can’t honestly claim to be a feminist, as much as I admire them – rather I am female. Hmmm, don’t mind being called a feminist though at times…
Your comment is a strawman argument. Let me address your post: I haven’t at any time suggested that men and women are the same – please point out where I have suggested that women should ‘have everything men have as well’? It continues….
a. I don’t ask for equity, just equality of opportunity. b. I don’t think men and women are the same and never have done – I do think women and men because of their wiring are often suited to different jobs and chores (think Jordan Peterson) c. I don’t think male violence can be controlled, but I do think that females have a right to ask for safe female only spaces like prisons, rape centres, toilets, changing rooms and the like d. I don’t ‘criticize all men’, just some of them – in fact only a few on Unherd whom I would clash with consistently – I must say that most here on Unherd are fine men. e. I don’t demand men ‘do something’, I just ask that men appreciate and support women who want reasonable things viz f. I believe that women should have equal rights in terms of things like voting, property ownership, rights over their bodies, their opinions, thoughts and actions, sexual autonomy and the like. Many women do not have this.
Hope that clears up my position?

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago

Fair enough, but I think if you believe in the patriarchy, that signifies you are a feminist, the patriarchy is a central tenet of feminism. I agree with Mary that it does not exist.
https://britannica.com/topic/patriarchy

Add on:
To describe a comment as passive/aggressive is not a slur (unlike say “handmaidens”). It describes a particular type of behaviour or communication which pretends to be friendly on the surface while being unpleasant underneath. It’s a valid criticism of a way of behaving which spoils debate.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

TBF, when Lesley refers to the Patriarchy, she commonly implies that it exists in places like the Middle East but not the West.

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

so Patriarchy = Sharia Law? so why not say that then?

Last edited 2 years ago by George Glashan
Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Trouble is the patriarchal societies of places like the Middle East are not the same thing as the feminist concept of “the Patriarchy”, which is a hostile and deliberately oppressive force that has kept women down for millenia (according to feminists).
Your average patriarchal society has developed naturally as a result of biology.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

I specifically made the point that patriarchy exists outside of the developed West in my original post. In fact I should expand on that and say that patriarchy still exists in certain cultures within the UK. Where I live, many women are routinely beaten up by men on a weekly basis. I still think Mary should be clearer in her description of the patriarchy. This is not an unreasonable criticism if she reaches a wide audience… as she does.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago

Lesley, you hold the opinion that something called ‘the patriarchy’ exists, but it is only a hypothesis (see my link to the Encyclopaedia Britannica) not an established fact. I don’t think the patriarchy has died because I don’t think it ever existed.
Mary’s words in the article:
“Both these groups, in different ways, argue for the use of power to settle the war between the sexes, in either for or against the “patriarchy”.
These groups are both wrong. Because patriarchy does’nt exist, as a good thing or a bad. What does exist, has always existed is the ongoing negotiation between men and women, over how we can best live together in the world as it is.”
This seems very clear to me.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Lindsay, I did more than imply, I said patriarchy exists outside of the developed West. It is staggering to me that people don’t know that patriarchy still exists and flourishes in many parts of the world.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago

I don’t ‘criticize all men’, just some of them…
But from your 1st comment you saymen are far and away more likely to commit violence and most women at some stage have been physically afraid of a man as they are physically weaker. In my view, the wording of the 1st observation implicates all men in a negative behaviour – the likelihood of violence.
I pondered whether my interpretation was valid and came to the conclusion of the general negative implication, because following that 1st observation came a 2nd – most women – that contains a qualifier that the 1st observation doesn’t.
I think not all men are likely to commit violence is a valid objection to the negative generalisation about a whole group based on the immutable characteristic of being male – as in, men. I don’t think that reading was your intention but the wording IMO is imprecise.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

I will stand by my point that almost all violence is committed by men. That is widely and often published. Surely I don’t have to point out that if there are 100 violent incidents on a particular weekend that is a small percentage of men that committed violence? How long do you want comments to be? I don’t underestimate the general intelligence of people on this site… which is why I am here.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago

Well said, in the end its just commonsense, fair-play and decency much of it, something that seems lacking in so many folk these days.
I respect you for all you have written here. There is not a thing you said from a) to f) -that, I as a man, a husband, a father of a boy and girl, a grandfather of six grandchildren would really take any issue with ( except perhaps male violence, which I think a percentage of my fellow males could do much more to make socially unacceptable within all types of social circles).

Last edited 2 years ago by hugh bennett
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

One thing we hear quite a lot that is at best grossly ignorant, and at worst grossly insulting, is the idea that men should do something about men who commit crimes against women.
The presupposition baked into this is that men discuss their hatred of women and intention of attacking with other men, and the other men all nod along with it. Men who attack women do so because other men assure them that it’s basically OK. If only men would tell other men not to do it, they’d stop.
This is, of course, arrant ba11s, but you hear it a great deal. What men actually think of such criminals is perhaps made clearest by the fact that sex offenders in prisons have to be kept isolated from the other prisoners. If they aren’t, they can expect very serious attack from other prisoners, who although moral incompetents nonetheless regard the attackers of women and children with especial contempt.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I see where you are coming from but I don1t totally agree I think men could do more.
For one thing, a simple thing, we as men (collective sense) can start by simply listening to women more, talking to them to hear what they have to say, we might then find out ways that we as men can support women best.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

I would agree with your proposition if you followed it to a specifically articulated conclusion. Just saying men (collective sense) listening, talking, to women more to hear what they have to say doesn’t tell me anything. How ‘we’ are meant to collectively do that at a practical level in your view?

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago

who are these Usual Suspects? are they working for the Patriarchy? Is Mary one of them, is she working for the Patriarchy too?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Nah, they are few, but they appear on every thread that has a feminist bent. Mary is certainly not working for the patriarchy – she is quite the opposite. Though she does live in the UK – people in the UK (US, Aus, NZ, Canada and the like) might come across patriarchy in some cultures but it is a minority. In parts of the rest of the world it is very widespread, commonplace and often very violent. Women are unprotected.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Fact is that most reasonable feminists simply want equality of opportunity for women. 

Leaving aside the temptation to comment on the obvious potential oxymoron, the trouble with this rather complacent assumption is that “reasonable” feminists aren’t driving the discussion.
It’s in fact being driven by malignant fringe nutters. Similar nutters are the mainspring of the whole gender / trans attack on western society (it’s not an attack on women per se but an attack on western society’s most privileged demographic).
In neither case do they want mere equality. Loony fringe feminists want explicit bias in women’s favour cemented into everything, but they do not likewise also want equality of unpleasant opportunity. I’m not aware of Julie Bindel having demanded that 50% rather than 3% of those who die at work be women, for example, nor of any feminist demand that the incidence of female suicides rise, nor of a change in divorce courts’ presumption that the father should lose his children to his wife and most of his wealth as well, nor of any insistence that women should be inserted by quota into dirty and dangerous jobs as well as plum ones.
You’re either in favour of equality or you aren’t. One reason why feminists fail to recruit male allies is that it’s abundantly clear that they aren’t.
In this respect they could learn a lot from the gay liberation movement. Almost all reasonable people would agree that it’s unfair to discriminate against people on the basis of some feature they didn’t choose, can’t alter, and in possessing which they harm nobody. As a result, almost everybody saw the fairness of their campaign and agreed with it, which is why they’ve now achieved equality. If they had been led by feminists their approach would have been “we hate you all and we want what you’ve got”, and gays would be still be getting beaten up by skinheads.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Equality of opportunity and equity are completely different things.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

“what we think of today as ‘feminism’ is a story of economic transitions.”

It was that a fair amount, but somewhere along the line it turned a corner from the physical reality of work and economy and became, essentially, spiritual, in as far as ‘Atheist-Secular-Humanism’ can be spiritual. And throw in Post-Modernism, as that was the Middle/Upper Class Bohemian Intellectual, Left /Liberal philosophical direction from the 1930s to now.

Those directions have a deep seated component of wishing to destroy all that which reflects traditional morality and values. ‘Post-Modernism’, the philosophy that we need to leave all the old thinking behind. Modern in this word is the last 500 years of rational, Philosophical, Religious, Liberal, Intellectual, Artistic, Political thinking. Post-Modernism is utter rejecting of all that, A position that all truth can only be found in the Dialectic, and that as all discussion is to make ones point superior to the others, that all Discussion (and the only way to see truth) is Oppressive, Oppressor, conflict – thus all is Identity (another topic), all identities are collections of qualities, and immutable, and all based on oppressor/Oppressed. Family does not fit in Postmodernism.

With this Nihilistic and solipsistic world view the ones captured by it (all academia, and thus all educated) want to tear down that which is traditional and valued by society, and replace it with the cult of Nilos, Identity, and Oppressor/oppressed. And as we see everywhere, all which traditional society thought right and good is under endless attack – and they are winning.

Having been around the world a lot, and in some really hard places, I have come to know good and evil exists. (A visit to Auschwitz and one can feel it in the very ground and air of the place) And so I wonder if this is all really evil winning out. I know most here are hard atheist, but some bad goes beyond bad, and is evil, and I think it tries to work on us when we quit our struggle to morality – like being in a religious community where we are always warned of evil did for us- where today we only have Correct and Incorrect. We no longer believe in the ultimate, and so do not believe in evil, and so cannot fight it.

CS Louis said Satan’s greatest weapon was making people believe he does not exist – and I wonder if this is the case, and like Screwtape, he is not in the background persuading and directing the useful idiots… Because modern Western society is pretty sick.

PS, In the coming Nth wave feminism (gender non-specific) AI and Automation will eventually make a great many of no use for working. A life of not reproducing quietly and out of the way will be thought best for them as otherwise they will cause endless disruption. That is where this Nu Feminism and its weirdness is headed. All to have their Sex doll/partner rather than a family, custom drugs, and live in the AI VR Metaverse without being a bother. Zukerberg is bringing this part of the plan out now. It is a Matrix we are being groomed for.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

Another fine essay, where the author makes her stance clearer and more explicit. But there are still many gaps in the analysis, which no doubt she will fill in the details over time – potentially with answers many find unpalatable. For example, the author makes the exhortation: “What we need to face this challenge is not more freedom. It’s more and better obligations” in the quest for a more family oriented society, – and my instant question is, what does this mean, in both cultural and legislative terms? Because you know terms like ‘obligations’ are loaded – as the recent mask-wearing stuff has shown. Does the author’s phrase mean new orthodoxies, followed by cultural pressure, a-la the cultural revolution? Or the recent, more familiar western form of campaign carried out by trans activists with an undercurrent of all-too-real threats to careers and livelihoods? Does it mean laws in government and official advertisements on social and terrestrial media? For example, if the author is advocating a halt and reversal of the killing-off of tax breaks which might allow a family to thrive on a single income for a few years while the children grow up stable, secure and free under the full time tutelage of their mother, I’m completely on board. If she is advocating a coercive and stifling cultural pressure which is a mirror of the trans activists but in reverse, then count me out.

There is another aspect to the essay I would like to raise for debate. The author asserts, societies are undergoing a renegotiation between the sexes as to their roles, and proposes a particular direction she would like to see in the next settlement. My point is, the gaps have been growing exponentially shorter and shorter between the renegotiations, from stability for millennia in the past, to multiple upheavals within the last few decades, all under the pressure of technology. Any settlement reached now will likely be short-lived to the point of being undermined even before it can actually be called a settlement, to be replaced by something else even more short-lived, because there is no reason to suppose that technological advance will plateau, on the contrary it is going to keep ramping. You eventually get to the point where you are living in the midst of a perma-revolution.

The author makes a magnificent cri de cœur, but I suspect sadly in vain. Isn’t St. Jude (Thaddeus) the patron saint of lost causes?

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

You make many interesting & excellent points. Yet it’s not really correct to say there’s been “stability for millennia in the past” The “woman question” has been an increasing thing in Western civilisation since the 1400s. Progress towards women’s liberation seems to happen in allmost all civiisations, only getting reset when they collaspe (a short essay that covers this is ‘The fate of empires’ by Pasha Glubb).

I agree about the gaps getting shorter due to tech, but there is no reason why said trend is likely to remain unidirectional for ever. If we’ll really lucky, once AI starts delivering to its potential, tech may even become a benign and stabalising force.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

Please could you give some examples of the “woman question” expanding since the 1400s, I’d be particularly interested in the 15th and 16th centuries, + some examples of women’s liberation in other civilisations ? Which civilisations do you mean ? . That would be helpful.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Thanks for the questions Claire. I used the term “woman question” as it was on my mind as I’ve recently re-read Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, where the term is used several times. Dostoevsky noted that even in the 1800s, the women question had already been debated for centuries. Also, if one Googles “the woman question” , there is an Wikipedia article giving examples from the 1400s onward.

In terms of other civilisations, one of the examples in the Pasha Glub essay is the Abbasid Empire in the 10th century, where women began to gain entry into jobs previously reserved for men, like the practice of law and as university professors. Soon after, the empire fell to invaders, and the feminist movement their collapsed. The essay also mentions “The later Romans complained that, although Rome ruled the world, women ruled Rome”. There wasn’t much in the way of specific examples. I have read about the actual advances women had gained by the late Roman empire, but it must have been somewhere else.(Sorry cant remember the details.) I should also say that while there may be a general meta trend toward women’s liberation across the life courses of civilisations, if often in a snakes and ladders way, with periods where oppressive gender norms get more strictly enforced, inline with Mary’s speech.

In terms of the 15th & 16th centuries here in the west, all that comes to mind is that newspaper lonely hearts add first appeared in the 15th century, and then missed connections/once seens in the 16th. Even back then, one could see evidence of how capitalism / individualism was beginning to erode tadeonal relationship formation – often to the benefit of the high status male. (The wording of many of the adds often show women as desperate for a male provider, even if its someone much older, Francesca Beauman has a book that’s excellent for this.) It wasnt’ until the 20th century that women often began to have the upper hand in the “dating market”. Hmm, that wasn’t exactly the sort of info you wanted on 15th & 16th century, but was the best I can do, hope it’s of some interest.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

Thank you Adam, much appreciated.
I have to say I don’t think there is much evidence at all that the “woman question has been an increasing thing since the 1400s.” There was the pope’s attack on Elizabeth I, his ‘monstrous regiment of women’, and a few bits and pieces, but nothing significant as far as I know. The “woman question” did’nt really appear until the French and Industrial revolutions in the late 18th century.
Perhaps there was something going on in Russia earlier if Dostoevsky makes reference to it.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

You might be right Claire – I get the feeling you’re probably quite a bit more learned than myself on these matters.
For me the significant change from the 1400s was the decline of Chivalry. Leading to more high status men abusing their power over women with out widely held chivalric values to constrain them. And to less respect for femineity.  Hence more agitation for women’s liberation, even if there was little concrete change until the late 19th or early 20th century.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

Chivalry is not so clear cut. The problem is we tend to think of chivalry in 19th c. historian terms, which is what you describe, this is the popular version today, but it is not the chivalry of the 12th – 15th centuries. Medieval Chivalry was about elite warriors gradually adopting all sorts of refinements to distinguish them from men lower down the hierarchy. They were only romantically chivalrous to elite women not women in general. The Victorian version is much more appealing than the historical reality for obvious reasons. It’s a fascinating subject (imo), there’s a great book, Medieval Chivalry by Richard W. Kaeuper.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

While agreeing with your points, medieval Chivalry wasn’t just about self interested elites (not saying you’re claiming it was). Azzize of bread is a law from the age of Chivalry that benefited the common people. Noblesse oblige can be seen as partly the afterglow of chivalry, and not all examples can be viewed as self serving even by a cynic, such as 5x higher death rate for upper class officers in WWI compared to enlisted men. I’ll check out the Kaeuper book if time allows.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

In England men of all classes were armed and from 1285, the archers were the mainstay of the English Army.
All had to train in the longbow but volunteered to fight for the King where they stood next to the knights in battle. Consequently, there was not the class divide as on the Continent. In the Peasants Revolt noble women were untouched which was very different to the Jaquerie Revolt in France. The ability of an archer to kill a knight at 250 yards with an arrow from a longow encouraged all woman to be treated with respect.
The status of women changes as positions of military power become inherited which leads to an aristocracy developing and hence importance of the bride being a virgin. Amongst most people, female fertility and ability to undertake work were the important qualities for a woman.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

In warrior societies, for example Spartan, Mongol and Viking success of group depends upon fitness. In societies where men go away raiding, women run the farms. In nomadic societies women have to be able to move at speed of tribe, so no foot binding or restrictive corsets.
Women tend to have more freedom in rural societies than the urban Athenian or Florentine. The shepherdess is an example of freedom a country women exercises which few those living in an urban one can achieve.
In Britain women worked in the mines and mills and owned pubs. Women could vote before the Reform Act if they owned property of sufficient value as could Africans.
Where societies require people to obtain the food they eat, women work – hunter gatherers and subsistance farming. The house bound non-working woman is largely the middle and upper classes of about 1850 to 1914 in NW Europe and NE America.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Thanks Charles for this input, it usefully shows how men and women have worked and co-operated side by side in order to survive throughout our known history.
Industrialisation and perhaps Liberalism do seem to have put a spanner in the works between the s e x es

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

A good example of this phenomenon was the case of Hipatia, the woman lecturer in philosophy at the university of Alexandria in the late 4th century. The city was threatened by a violent Christian mob bent on bringing down Graeco-Roman classical civilisation, replacing it with a fascistic Middle Eastern monotheistic – and highly patriarchal – culture.

After burning non-Christian places of worship, they targeted Hipatia,, whom they raped and tortured for her “sins.” Even the Roman Prefect could not save her from their wrath, in spite of a valiant effort.

In the end, the radicals succeeded in removing women from their prominent positions in society, and packed them off to nunneries, where the hope was they would pray themselves into subservience.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

I just meant from hunter-gatherer societies to bronze-age to the first agri-societies. That gender roles negotiation the author has discussed then no doubt started to speed up considerably with the first cities like Uruk, followed by further acceleration when civilization states (imperial or otherwise) started forming, and subsequently with every major technological advance. Although the picture is much more fragmented outside the west, in the west from say Rome onwards to the beginnings of the 20th century, gender sensibilities were recognisably on the same line (you can completely comprehend where Roman writers are coming from), and then started to morph into something entirely new, losing links to the past at a startling pace, mostly shadowing technology. This process has now begun to accelerate even further literally over the last half a dozen years this century.

I like to sometimes claim ‘nothing new under the sun’, but that hasn’t been true since the mid 50’s – and much of what is happening now is pretty much completely new, never happened before in history.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Agreed, epescially with your last sentence; hence no lesson from history can definetitively prove all this tech driven social disruption neccesarily ends in tears, even if it sometimes feels that way.

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago

I agree with much of this analysis but I don’t think or believe the talking/ideas can lead the way. Like Jonathan Ellman I think invention, technological invention, comes first, eg, the Spinning Jenny was invented a few years before Mary Wollstonecraft wrote her Vindication. The talk/analysis reflect what is actually already happening after the impetus or spring of the invention, ie, the market, economics, events, personalities, talk/ideas, stream along like a river from it.
Us humans can plan, hope and demand but so many unknowns are involved in the future . . .who knows. However, surely it is a good sign that we are talking like this, that Mary has written such a fine essay/speech that is so relevant, the winds of change maybe blowing in a way that is life enforcing and not so degrading as they have been.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago

Interesting essay and take on feminism. I stopped considering myself a ‘feminist’ a while back when the negative fallout began to become apparent. Just this past weekend, my 29-year-old lovely daughter, a former model-now-nutritionist (educated & licensed) sat in my kitchen and quietly sobbed, telling me she just wanted a boyfriend, and hopefully 3 kids someday soon. And it’s not for want of dating but rather so few men of her age are ‘stable’, ie have jobs, and/or are psychologically willing to have a steady relationship, etc. There’s no reason why these seemingly simple desires couldn’t be had. And never would I have imagined that perhaps today that’s the case.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Julie Bindel’s feminism isn’t based on economics. It’s based on hate.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago

Outstanding speech, rather bleak but also truthful. It’s not chiefly feminism that’s to blame for the decline of loving & lasting heterosexual relationships, but individualism. Which explains why women don’t seem to have been net gainers from recent social change, the big winners being the high status, mostly male “cad” personalities.

A lot of us on the left also buy much of this analyses, I recall a discussion a few years back with some hardcore pro Corbyn activists where all agreed that corporate feminism had been co-opted by the individualist/capitalist / upper middle class interests. There could be surprisingly broad support for any rebuilding of the social infrastructure that helps sustain enduring marriage and other loving relationships. Iain McGilchrist’s recent work in support of right brain thinking might be another reason for optimistic about the hopeful note at the end of the speach.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
2 years ago

Give the lady a Ph.D. This is outstanding.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago

Interesting, thought provoking, educational. Thankyou.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago
Reply to  Karl Francis

Agreed.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

Most members of families do not see themselves as part of a single-sex collective but as part of a family unit, us against the world, an unbeatable unit.
To divide and conquer, totalitarians first go for the children and convince them they have more in common with external cohorts.
Then the women …

Jason McSpadden
Jason McSpadden
2 years ago

Damn Mary! Great thinking! Great writing! Thank you for giving me so much wonderful food for thought.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago

“At the bigger scale we must fight for policies that … defend the human body against enclosure by biotech, human interiority against enclosure by digital transparency”
I have idea what this means. Women in the UK have now got the vote, access to the professions, the protection of the criminal law, equal pay legislation, the pill and, for better or worse, abortion [effectively] on demand. So far as I’m concerned their legitimate grievances have now been addressed. The rest is psychobabble.
Transwomen are blokes pretending to be women. Fair enough, so long as they don’t interfere with real women, for example by butting into their changing rooms.

David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

They are not pretending, anymore than a mental patient is pretending to be Napoleon. They really do believe it.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
2 years ago

I have never considered it a “feminist” ideal to defend the twisted trans-rights ideology that places children in danger. Though I publicly defended a trans-person in my law school in 1978, I would not do so again today. The truth is, the lesbians in my class could not grasp this trans-person but at that time we were talking an adult professional environment and none of us were thinking about “the children”. My “feminism” extended to the adult world, only, and still does.
Trans-communities are abusing a system that gives it air to breathe. A line must be drawn between toleration and harming the well-being of the children. Yes they were in the closet, and in the bedroom, where they belonged. They absolutely do not belong in the classroom.

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
2 years ago

Wow.

The scale of Mary Harrington’s thinking is on another level. She is working in algebra while most of us are just mastering the abacus.

I wish for more recognition for both Mary and her views.

Trevor Q
Trevor Q
2 years ago

A compelling and thought provoking argument. Thank you.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

I hate this right V left stuff. Most of us are more than capable of seeing both sides, pros and cons and nuance.. No-one is speaking for the middle that most of us occupy.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cheryl Jones
Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

I’ve upticked you because I think I’ve got the gist but your first sentence is a mystery.
later: was a mystery, no longer is.

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago

Ms Harington is an oasis of sanity in a world gone insane

Ultimately it’s our biology that limits us as I think Ms Harington observes, and it’s what will separate the sane from the insane in the days to come.

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre Emre
David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago

I don’t see what the problem is. Marriage is rape, and women need men like a fish needs a bicycle. Feminists have achieved every single goal that they have sought in the last 100 years. Mission accomplished.

And yet women are unhappier now than they have ever been according to the happiness index which has been taken since I believe the 60s. The opposite is true for men whose happiness has been rising steadily since then.

And yet these same feminists are still offering their “solutions”. Laughable. Men want women, but don’t need them. Whereas a woman will tell you she don’t need no man. But who really believes that’s true.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Batlle
Julie Kemp
Julie Kemp
2 years ago

Gee Lady/Mary you sure are clear, incisive and comprehensive.
I found the extract above superbly nuanced and cogent. A jolly good read i must say.
I am female, 72, Australian, and have made some key mistakes based mostly on fear, confusion, self-pity and obvious lack of confidence – ‘bak in tha day’! Nothing criminal i might add!
Adult studies (from age 30) at university decades ago (before their overt decline), along with some psychodynamic therapy in my 40’s, re-ignited curiosity and wonderment at our amazing and tragic Human history – from the times of the Anunnaki down through their and our deep pre-history and its enormous range of horrors to our current ones display so much of the same or similar – battles all over the place – gross carnage in every direction. Imbalances raged. Minimisation of the Feminine and Female led to very fraught times and remedies. But the Masculine also lost out too. They were entrained into fighting and brutality. They could not rest either. Or if they did they or most resorted to all the ‘….icides’.
Accompanied by a long albeit intermittent registered Nursing working life (Australia-wide, New Guinea Highlands and St Mary’s, London, England) i felt strengthened, confronted, assisted and uplifted by a merging stream of events and forces along with many tears and laughter. Altogether though ‘it’ helped me to encounter anew, then embrace ‘Nothingness’ – theoretical and experiential.
That state of apparent ‘non-being’ or ‘meaninglessness’ is rendered only by the ideologies of socio and/or psychopaths who have always existed whether they be some of the ‘gods’ of old (as in the ‘Anunnaki’) or those registered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (and since) who wanted to be such albeit in the guise of remediating some social maladies. Being ‘captured’ by such ideologies or dictates, has resulted in repeating evil (ie negative, anti-Human) doings with their formats and formulae and more recently their digital reductionisms for apparent social intercoursing.
Within the mystery of my ‘growth’ process apprehending the ‘Laughing Buddha’, satirical Sir Francis Bacon/’Shakespeare’, ‘Gentle Jesus’/Yeshua and modern greats such as Thomas Merton, Bede Griffiths, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, has allowed me to sing with joy and even ‘rapture’.
Thank you Mary, Mary quite un-contrary, your Garden is surely growing!
In admiration,
Julie.
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia

Michael Loudon
Michael Loudon
2 years ago

Thank you. Understood.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

Wow, “you’ve come a long way baby!”

Arild Brock
Arild Brock
2 years ago

MEN
Yes, «we» should start building.
I guess “we” should include both sexes. Unfortunately there is only one sex which can be counted as anything like a collective agent. The one missing is the male side. For the latest 50 years or more men taking part in the debate have been reactive to the women agenda, mostly by taking on the “task” of yielding.
In order to make up a proper “we”, men shall also have to develop a kind of collective, with some collective consciousness as a minimum. True, women are not united in anything like a homogenous movement. But in comparison women make up a collective whereas men are mere individuals.
I guess the first step would be men permitting themselves to think of themselves as one out of two sexes. Think of that! As ONE of TWO. Men are collectively ONE, but we are not alone.
I believe this alone could bring a lot. Men used to think of themselves as the number one responsible sex. The other sex was perhaps loved but not considered responsible. To be the number one responsible sex may have sufficed as identity.
Of course today such a belief in primacy (should be the right word) is not only ideologically less desirable, but a total illusion. As others have pointed out, women are very much in charge of society, and where men are in charge, they do not “represent” men. There is no men’s agenda to represent! Most men in charge then fall back on women’s agenda.
If men would constitute themselves, women would be surprised and find themselves less alone. Any one of two cannot develop properly as a responsible being – alone.
Thus the intra-sex discussion of men is the key to the future. As concrete themes I will suggest:
1)     Fatherhood and its relation to motherhood including conception, abortion, toddlers in kindergarten and custody.
2)     How shall we love women and what can we expect from them?
3)     What is proper work for a man when we have enough food and already too many things?
This could be enough for some time.
(Yes, I am a man.) 

less.goudarzi
less.goudarzi
2 years ago

If the family is not the center of humankind then we are domed to living out our worst nightmares where we don’t procreate and we die off (or kill each other). We need to raise our children to recognize differences in the sexes, respect them and the roles they play to advance our species and to hope they can make a better future for all.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 years ago

All very wordy; all very worthy, I’m sure but so little care for the innocent victims…'[f]or women to be human on this model, we must have total ownership over all these aspects of our bodies that differ from those of males. Even a conflict between total autonomy and an unborn human life must be resolved for autonomy.’
Perhaps the males you refer to, and who object to women’s total autonomy when it comes to children, are aware that abortion is a dog whistle for murder?

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

https://youtu.be/3pWc4NZ0lX4
for a very funny—because so insightful—consider RP’s explanation of feminism. Starts About 6:30 or so, though the whole set is brilliant.

Don Lightband
Don Lightband
2 years ago

I’m curious as can be as to what can actually be known of the quality of intimacy in the epochs before that ‘revolution’ Harrington describes as happening in the 1960s?. Given that only a relative handful of especially talented people were at all capable of *representing* same in any way during those times, does Mary and do we, just assume it had to be something beautifully expressed and even experienced as ‘divine’? Or was it far more often brutish, domineering and incredibly short-lived?

Last edited 2 years ago by Don Lightband
2A Solution
2A Solution
2 years ago

When I hear the words moral and just one hand goes to my wallet and the other my pistol. Morality & justice have robbed more people into poverty than all other robbers in history and killed more than all the other killers times ten.

Sandi Dunn
Sandi Dunn
2 years ago

When all is said and done women must have equal access to enough money so as not to have to be reliant on a male. Also, she must be compensated for reproducing the next generation who capitalists need to make profit for said capitalists.
Otherwise, women will stop reproducing so that capitalism will be ever more dependent on POACHING poorer countries skilled workers which is highly unethical! Think about it, it is already happening, yet both left and right (especially the Left) are ok with stealing away other countries people – hence Wokish PC re immigration which allows Capitalism to use as its fallback policy, notwithstanding the trail of human sadness for family members, left behind – given that migrants so often get trapped by this rotten policy.

Last edited 2 years ago by Sandi Dunn
Sandi Dunn
Sandi Dunn
2 years ago

When all is said and done women must have equal access to enough money so as not to have to be reliant on a male. Also, she must be compensated for reproducing the next generation who capitalists need to make profit for said capitalists.
Otherwise, women will stop reproducing so that capitalism will be ever more dependent on POACHING poorer countries skilled workers which is highly unethical! Think about it, it is already happening, yet both left and right (especially the Left) are ok with stealing away other countries people – hence Wokish PC re immigration which allows Capitalism to use as its fallback policy, notwithstanding the trail of human sadness for family members, left behind – given that migrants so often get trapped by this rotten policy.

Last edited 2 years ago by Sandi Dunn