Saturday, February 14, 2015

My take on feminism

Posted to this blog at Crooked Timber.

I would mandatorily self-describe as "feminist."  On my own terms, which includes an absolute right for a woman to choose abortion.  I would take it as until natural childbirth, but Roe v Wade is a fine compromise.  Strangely, I suspect a lot of the feminists with whom I disagree on other matters might disagree on this also.

I'm a fan of Ellen Willis, and her notion of pro sex feminism, as compared with very common in USA anti porn feminism.  An anti porn stance in the broadest sense (which many well known feminists subscribe to, and some of my friends) is that any female image that men find erotic should be banned--could be a completely clothed model lounging on her own website, no matter.  This is not unlike how Islam bans human images.  I argue that objectification is the essence of human though, not some evil process, and anti porn feminists are simply using a rhetorical curse to selectively roll back liberty where in the historic traditional sexual compromise women were given absolute power.  Masturbation, and sexual images that were lewd, were prohibited.  But there were a lot of things where women gave up power--involvement in politics, participation in many careers, and, arguably, they were prompted to submit to men.

My second, and further out objection to a lot of feminism is how it essentially rejections the old traditional marriage model for all people.  Call it serfdom, but I think something like a traditional marriage model fits many people better than total subjection to wage slavery.  Perhaps even a majority if done on an appropriate basis (I suggest a very liberal basis, which actually is open to either sex as 'breadwinner', and unconditioned and guaranteed support for the homemaker, but there are also endless traditional models, and conservatism is very common in my country).  This was the norm until the 1970's, and what has happened since?  Not entirely coincidentally, median wage growth plummeted compared with earlier periods.  Doubling the potential labor force was not at coincidental--it helped make it possible.

In my vision, there are fewer wage slaves, but nobody lives in poverty, there is more time to devote to things other than work, activism is more sustainable, there is lots more sex and  more fun.  The downside is a loss in investment products and possibly some loss in consumer products.

Many women it seems, including my best friend, are dedicated to work as sort of self-proof.  No matter how much suffering and/or how little reward it delivers, it is worth it, to be free and independent of any single man.  Instead, the capitalist boss become the new ultimate boss, and he demands endlessly increasingly sacrifices in today's neoliberal wage slavery, ultimately leading to the death of all other relationships, each person with only a job and an a video screen.

My mother was actually a pioneer in this movement, despite being a lifelong conservative who had been an early admirer of Ronald Reagan, later a fan of Limbaugh.  She took advantage of the availability of work during WWII, and ended up spending far more time living away from my father than with him.  My sister opined how much materially better off she might have lived as a housewife of the time, and how much more she might have ended up with when my father, a senior manager, died.  Not even counting the possibility he might have been more successful or lived longer to make wiser investments.  She had lousy jobs--some of which probably long-term poisoned her--but economic freedom.

I don't understand it myself.  A life married to someone far richer than myself, in which I could pursue art, politics, and technology on my own terms, and get a healthy stipend so I have no material concerns, sounds like paradise to me.  And I have a great and successful career doing stuff I love doing, so I'm actually fine right now, not slaving away under a totally unreasonable boss demanding more and more time as I hear so many women complaining about.

The neoliberal capitalist disorder has been fine to me directly.  I have no complaints about how much material is available to me, or how hard it is to get.  The number one concern of my life is how little time I am able to spend with my love partner, and how most of my life I couldn't find one.  I trace that limited amount of time exactly to the neoliberalism enabling aspect of feminism that essentially abolished anything like traditional marriage in the the segment of society (not the most elite) I inhabit.

I don't want to say this as a curse, and I hope I'm wrong, but it seems to me that until there is a great improvement (and in part, a restoration) of our social and sexual lives, there is little hope, I believe, in any sort of social revolution of the kind needed, which would be back toward and increasing social democracy.  We face a spiral into global collapse of all kinds which cannot be stopped.  I continue to live as much as I can as if this is not true, I join movements, including many feminist ones.  But I fear that sexual neoliberalism, which is a core part of feminism for many feminists, has destroyed the future.  If people have no time to spend together, the bonds that it needs for social cohesion are never formed.  I feel that many in the Crooked Timber crown are protected from the lower social reality which I face--the one that exists for liberals and leftists who self identify as feminist, but aren't university professors or rock stars or hedge fund managers.

But this reality isn't necessarily so for many extreme religious conservatives.   Even the less than elite have with traditional models of marriage and sexual roles.  Not surprisingly, their influence on geopolitics has been increasing--in particular since the 1970's.

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