Monday, April 25, 2005
Why, oh why, is the feminist movement more associated with the left?
In response to this post where I cite Jacqueline to argue that women would be safer arming themselves instead of engaging in show marches, Matt (and others) argues that the reason that feminists are leftists is due to the their dislike of some on the right who have made statements that are disagreeable to the feminist position (while somehow ignoring the feminist transgressions of Condit, Kennedy, and Clinton).
If nothing else, this rationale supposes that feminists have a juvenile capacity for reasoning most commonly seen in the teenager rebellion phase.
“Dad/Mom pissed me off when they did X, therefore I’m going to to do Y because my parents would want me to do Z.”
I, however, am willing to believe that feminists are rational. Further, I believe feminists are leftists (and are associated with the left) because ………… they’re leftists.
But let’s not base this belief on mere suppositions. Let’s do some empirical work on the subject. Let’s consider the luminaries of modern feminism - Simone de Beauvoir, Andrea Dworkin, Shulaminth Firestone, Betty Friedan, Catharine MacKinnon, and Gloria Steinem - and see where they fall on the political spectrum. If I’ve left off a modern feminist of approximately equal caliber, let me know, but I don’t believe I have (and good luck convincing me that the less-well-known third wave of feminists didn't start on the Left).
Simone de Beauvoir was a socialist. In fact, her whole feminist theory was predicated on socialism. Writing in 1949’s The Second Sex, de Beauvoir wrote that equality would come, “when the socialist society is realized worldwide, when there would no longer be men and women but only workers equal with one another”
Andrea Dworkin was an active protestor of the Vietnam war and was also a socialist thanks to her father’s teachings: "Andrea Dworkin was born into a Jewish family on September 26 1946 at Camden, New Jersey, where she attended a progressive school. Her father, a teacher and a committed socialist, inspired her political leanings. "It would be hard to overstate," she wrote, "how much he taught me about human rights and human dignity, how to talk and how to think."
Betty Friedan was an active Marxist in the early 40’s.
Catharine MacKinnon, by virtue of being a radical feminist is by definition on the Left. But she was also far enough to the left that she merits the appellation Stalinist feminist.
Gloria Steinem is an active socialist, specifically a member of the Democratic Socialist Party.
So the luminaries of feminism aren’t just left leaning, they’re socialist/marxists. I think that has a lot to do with feminism’s connection with the Left and not Limbaugh or Schlafly, both of whom came on the national scene long after feminism was already wedded to the Left.
But we were talking explicitly about the “Take Back the Night” marches. These were started in 1978 in San Francisco which says to me a high percentage of leftists involved in the creation. (Note Dworkin gave the kickoff speech and I believe MacKinnon was a big player in the feminist conference against pornography that preceded the 78 San Fran march).
So if we wish to discuss, "Why, oh why, is the feminist movement more associated with the Left?", the position that feminists are Leftists because of bogeymen on the Right is a flawed position from which to begin.
Just a thought, but perhaps feminists are more associated with the Left because the leading feminists are indeed Leftists.