The importance of feminism to liberalism
This is one of my pet topics that I don't actually write about much, because I feel like a broken record, but today I think the topic needs to be refreshed a little. Hugo Schwyzer linked to this nauseating jerk-off of an editorial that was supposed to be "satirical" but was pretty much just the writer, Michael Lewis, bragging about how he talked a smart, beautiful woman (Tabitha Soren) into giving up her career in order to be just the Missus. Believe me, those men who don't see a big problem with that kind of ego-stroking, if I wrote an an article bragging about how I found a man to give up fame and fortune in order to stay and home and look after my children, you'd be pissed, too.
Anyway, Hugo left this comment about his views on marriage and staying at home to raise children:
I'll catch some flak for this, but in my opinion one of the greatest gifts a husband can give his wife is the freedom to choose to what degree she wishes to remain in the public sphere after they've had children.
Meaning that men should be gracious if their wives want to keep their jobs but willing to shoulder the financial burden should their wives want to stay at home. I told him he was being classist in the comments, and I was right. Most men don't have an opportunity to be the big champion for "letting" their wives work or the big supporter for "letting" their wives stay at home; most married couples need two incomes to get by, so the whole subject is irrelevant to their personal circumstances.
The problem with comments like this is that men in this country are already oppressed by the American Dream, the male version, at least. As far as I know, there's no female-centered version of the American Dream. In the American Dream, our hero Ward Cleaver is a Real Man because he has a job that pays for him to have a big house, a family and a most importantly, a wife who is financially dependent on him and under his direct control. This is how masculinity is defined for so many, many men in our country. The problem is that fulfilling that dream of having a woman sequestered away at home tending to you and your children is that it's out of the financial reach of the majority of men.
Of course, what this means is that we have a huge population of men in this country that both believe that in order to be Real Men they have to have a wife that is both at home and subservient, but out of financial necessity, they have wives who work. And it's hard to get subservience out of someone when you can't tell them, "Well, who makes the money around here?" There's a lot of resentment there.
In step the Republicans, who can't give these guys what they really want--jobs that pay enough to have a family with one income--but they can give them an endless list of people to scapegoat: welfare moms, illegal immigrants, disobedient women getting abortions, gays who want marriage when you can't even have the Leave It to Beaver one you wanted for yourself, and so on and so forth. Plus, the President is all too willing to be a walking phallic symbol for all sorts of masculine fantasies of power to be projected on. Maybe you can't be Ward Cleaver, conservative men of America, but at least you can pretend you're Dirty Harry.
I see some pontificators who have toyed with the idea of "compromising" with the Resentful Male Republicans by kicking feminists around a little, I mean, "compromising" on women's right to an abortion, etc. This strategy isn't going to work. Every attempt to assuage those who vote from anxious masculinity is just going to be topped by the Republicans, who I have no doubt would go so far as to strap a codpiece on President Bush and parade him around riding on the back of a woman on all fours, especially if they could do it out of sight of the female voters they are trying to lure by saying "children" a lot.
Gender issues are not of secondary importance to conservative politics at all--they are front and center. Ultimately, the resentful NASCAR dad voters are voting for a return to unquestioned straight male dominance. And when liberals ghettoize "women's issues" or suggest that they can compromise with the right-wing on what rights to "let" women have, it reinforces the belief that male dominance is the way of the world, and thereby weakens the liberal position.
There's been a lot of ink spilled as of late bemoaning the lack of direction and lack of goals for progressives. This sort of thing really perplexes those of us who concentrate on feminist progressivism--I have no problem whatsoever stating what my direction and goals are for feminism. Feminists want full legal equality for women, parity between the sexes in every aspect of public life, social relationships between men and women based on equality, the rights of children to be acknowledged and respected, the right of women to use every tool science has to offer to maintain control over our bodies, wage equity, social policies to help parents, and healthy social attitudes towards sexuality. We also have tons of plans and ideas that we'd like to implement. You want goals and ideas? Feminists got 'em.
Liberal Democrats need to enthusiastically embrace feminism, and have the courage of our convictions. Courage is what attracts voters--if you don't think that's so, then look at all the women who vote against their own interests because they are lured by the confident way conservatives put the boot to the neck. Oh yeah, and in case we forgot, women are half the voters out there, but women voters are wishy-washy about supporting the Democratic party. Why? Well, because the Democrats are wishy-washy about standing up for what women want. Enthusiastic support for women's rights and women's needs is the best way to get the attention and support of women voters. I cannot tell you how many women I know who express feminist opinions and vote for the Republicans. They would probably be more inclined to rethink their choice if they saw the Democrats outlining programs that woudl be of a direct benefit to them.