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#YesAllWomen and the Failures of Modern Feminism

Modern feminism has failed. I proclaim this as a modern woman: I will soon graduate with a master’s degree, I am training to become a half-marathoner, and my fiancé and I make our major decisions together. My gender has never prevented me from education, sport, ownership, or participation. I owe a large debt to the men and women of the early twentieth century feminism, who fought for my right to vote, who petitioned for Title IX, who set the precedent of complementary yet equal roles in marriage. Yet, my experience with modern feminism, culminating into the recent hashtag activism of #YesAllWomen, has made me realize how feminism has now failed. The second wave of feminism has sought not equality, but rather it has created a war of women against men and, although this deserves another discussion, women against women.

As Heather Wilhelm wrote on The Federalist blog at the end of May 2014, the #YesAllWomen movement has appropriated a tragedy of violence against both men and women into a male-bashing Twitter take-over. Wilhelm argues, “In fact, if your only experience with feminism was the # YesAllWomen Twitter extravaganza, you might be convinced that the greatest concern of America’s female population is the right to be studiously ignored while wearing hot pink pleather hot pants to that entry-level analyst job at Goldman Sachs,” and then asserts that #YesAllWomen has nothing to do with feminism.1

#YesAllWomen certainly has nothing to do with feminism, or at least real feminism. Women brandish the hashtag with the claim that all women have suffered from some form of sexual violence, discrimination, or harassment. Wilhelm admits that sexual assault is a serious problem. Sexual assault, domestic violence, workplace harassment, and even catcalling are all very serious problems – for both men and women. A survey from the Center for Disease Control in 2010 states that 40% of victims of domestic violence are men. #YesAllWomen tweets include proclamations that police blamed the victim for a rape attempt because of what she was wearing; yet police have also ignored the claims of men who were raped, because of the grave misconception that rape does not happen to men. Recent news stories have highlighted the abduction of young women, but I remember vividly also when Shawn Horbeck escaped from abduction at place only a few blocks from my all-girls high school. Real feminism recognizes that these monstrosities target both men and women, and strives to empower victims of both genders, because real feminism should be a branch of a humanism that also encompasses masculinism.

Real feminism, that of the men and women who earned us ladies the right to vote, entry into universities, and shattered the glass ceiling, is the type of feminism that understands this murder spree in California as something troubling to all men and all women. Yes, this young man believed he was entitled to women’s attention, desire, and their bodies, and no man is entitled to a woman’s body. No woman is entitled to a man’s body. He also believed that he was entitled to the happiness of his male roommates and to power over the lives of these men and women (God rest their souls). Real feminism sees the shared human dignity of these male and female victims; #YesAllWomen sees only the murdered women, and the tweeters by extension, as victims.

The evidence of the failure of feminism seeps through many pressing current issues. The Nigerian schoolgirls still are held captive and endure the broken reality of sex trafficking. Our American feminism, however, has let this issue fall to the wayside, feeling that a series of hashtags fixed that issue, in order to appropriate another tragedy for its agenda. Even the pregnant actress Mila Kunis’ intention for a natural birth has, in the reactions it received, demonstrated the failure of modern feminism, for women have unleashed harsh judgment and the “Mommy Wars” upon her decision. Indeed, the “Mommy Wars” are filled with judgment, marginalizing, and a sense of superiority that characterizes far too much of modern feminism. This time, however, it is women against women, as women in general perceive an individual woman’s choice to have a drug-free birth or epidural, to nurse or formula feed, to sleep train or not, as subject to judgment.

Finally, there is issue of birth control and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate, which has dominated the news for a couple of years now. This is where feminism has truly, deeply failed. Real feminism sought to bring women into the workplace; it was the feminism of Virginia Woolf, who urged women to write and “earn five hundred a year by your wits.”2 Yet these feminists never urged women to sacrifice their femininity; Woolf asserted that what made Aphra Behn and Jane Austen great was that they wrote with a woman’s voice. Modern feminism, however, has sought to make women into men, and do away with men, especially in the workplace. While I firmly believe women should pursue careers if they wish, modern feminism troubles me as it elevates career above all else and sacrifices marriage, children, and friendships for it. Thus modern feminism has struck a Faustian deal, that woman trade their femininity, particularly fecundity and motherhood, for high-flying, all-or-nothing career ambitions. This deal came in the package of 28 pills, which of course these women decided the “patriarchy” of government should pay for. Meanwhile, these so-called feminists shame the women who retain and embrace their femininity, who balance children with full-time or part-time jobs, or who follow the calling of motherhood to devote all their time to the arduous task of raising children, and raising them well.

A Christian woman such as myself, who wants marriage, children, and career, who wants to earn her living by her words and her wits, thus struggles in this world. My struggles, which many women share, come not from men, and will not be resolved with a tweet of #YesAllWomen. Rather, many faithful women, including myself, are seeking out a voice that affirms, in the midst of all the feminism failed, the complimentary dignity of men and women, a voice that affirms both feminism and masculinism. The recently canonized Saint Pope John Paul II provides this voice in so much of his theology, especially his apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women).

Although Mulieris Dignitatem deserves a much more thorough treatment than this, part of the letter argues for the dignity of women as found in the two vocations modeled by Mary: virginity and motherhood. Except for a few women who enter religious orders, most Christian women are called to the vocation of motherhood. Saint John Paul II states, the “truth about the person [as one created in the image of God] also opens up the path to a full understanding of women’s motherhood.”3 Motherhood engages the physical, genetic, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a woman in the most lifegiving manner. Significantly, a woman’s vocation in motherhood embraces the dignity and encourages the vocation of her male counterpart. From conception throughout the rest of life, male and female work together in a complementary manner as husband and wife, mother and father, provider and nurturer.

Mulieris Dignitatem affirms the role of both mother and father in parenthood, but rightfully recognizes the “special part” of motherhood. “Although both of them together are parents of their child, the woman’s motherhood constitutes a special ‘part’ of parenthood, and the most demanding part…It is the woman who ‘pays’ directly for this shared generation, which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul.”4 An essential part of the vocation of motherhood is carrying the baby in pregnancy, birthing him or her into the world, and nourishing the infant from her own body. With a hint of disparage to modern feminism, John Paul II then states, “No programme of ‘equal rights’ between women and men is valid unless it fully takes this fact into account.”5 Any striving for equal rights, work opportunities, pay, etc, for both men and women must affirm the female vocation of motherhood. It must not, as modern feminism has done, sacrifice it for some ill-perceived “equality” (which, given the attacks this sort of feminism wages on men, is no equality at all).

Modern feminism, especially as demonstrated in the #YesAllWomen movement, does not provide a full understanding of women (and a much less full understanding of men) as human people. #YesAllWomen implicitly claims to know the struggles, experiences, and desires of all women. If you read the tweets, these desires include playing with toys other than Barbies, taking ballet and math classes, walking down the street without catcalls, and helping men understand sexism. I agree that both women and men should not have to endure catcalling, and should be able to play with a variety of engendered toys, and be able to study what they please; yet few to none of these #YesAllWomen affirm that all women have the genetic predisposition and the potential calling to be mothers. #YesAllWomen does not assert that the women who chose to be mothers, especially stay at home mothers, should be free from the judgment and condescension of other women. #YesAllWomen posits generalizations about men that degrade the gender as a whole, thus failing because it neglects the complementary dignity and roles of men and women. #YesAllWomen, because it neglects so much of the truly shared experience of women, fails as feminism.

Thus I leave you, dear reader, with the exhortation to seek for full understanding of both men and women as human people. It was a lack of this understanding that spurred the Isla Vista man to murder, and it is a lack of this understanding that bashes men and judges women in the #YesAllWomen campaign. Both men and women were created in the image of God; if we pursue any sort of feminism to address the abductions of Nigerian girls, the stoning of women for alleged unchastity in some countries, and the struggle many girls in other nations face to even attend school, then let us also pursue a masculinism that listens to the men whose suffering of abuse and violence too often is ignored, that affirms them as thinking and feeling people rather than debasing them as only driven by hormones, and that does not turn every man into  the scapegoat for a few people. With feminism must come masculinism, because within both genders are people are subject to domestic violence, rape, harassment, and discrimination. If we must have #YesAllWomen, then we must have #YesAllMen, because what this should really be about is all people.

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Laura Norris

Laura Norris

Laura Norris is a Catholic, freelance writer, running coach, and outdoor enthusiast. She holds a master's degree in Theological Studies and now works as a running blogger and coach as, in the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, "a woman for others" in helping others live a healthy life and achieve their goals. She and her husband live on the Eastside of Seattle and spend their time running their own businesses and hiking in the mountains.

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