The biggest threat to women and feminism today is not whatever feminists on the left would like to imagine about President Trump’s Supreme Court appointee Amy Coney Barrett, but what was implied in Kamala Harris’s and Joe Biden’s performances in their debates.
Amy Coney Barrett is vilified for her religious beliefs and judicial philosophy, particularly in anticipation she may overrule Roe v. Wade, which her detractors inaccurately believe would criminalize abortion in the United States. Most leftist sources paint her as anti-feminist, and a self-hating submissive woman.
While abortion is the cornerstone of contemporary feminist orthodoxy, the underlying assumption of the women’s movement lies elsewhere. Mary Wollstonecraft laid the foundation of feminism in her French Revolution-era tract, “A Vindication of The Rights of Woman.” In it, she extended the ideas of the Enlightenment to the female sex, proposing that women have the same faculty for reason as men, and deserve to be treated as equal.
Everything else — every Women’s March or NOW agenda item — is secondary to this premise. It would be easy to argue that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, or be trusted with decisions regarding the unborn if they are not as rational as men. Not to mention that the “mansplaining” about which mainstream feminists complained following the vice presidential debate makes complete sense if women are incapable of reason.
Although I base my own feminism on it, “A Vindication” is often overlooked by trendy feminists. Is it too basic of a book? Having been raised outside of Western civilization, I don’t take the idea of equality of sexes for granted.
Here, for instance, is how the supermodel Paulina Porizkova describes the male-female dynamics in the Eastern Bloc: “In Czechoslovakia, women came home from a long day of work to cook, clean and serve their husbands. In return, those women were cajoled, ignored and occasionally abused, much like domestic animals. But they were mentally unstable domestic animals, like milk cows that could go berserk you if you didn’t know exactly how to handle them.”
The top two Democrats share this assumption. The Biden-Harris campaign is aggressively courting the suburban female vote, treating the women in question as cows whom they desperately need to go berserk. To that end, they are playing up whatever fears of COVID Americans might feel.
Harris answered the first debate question with a reminder of just how insecure we felt in March when most of the country went on lockdown. She specifically pointed out that people were stockpiling toilet paper. The executive hopeful took viewers back to a place of panic. Yet we now know much more about the virus: we know who is in danger, and we can treat it better. With reason, there is no point in experiencing that feeling again.
Biden’s pitch was tangibly less rational. He insisted that the country can’t go back to normal until we “solve COVID,” and that President Trump has failed the country, as evidenced by the number of people who died from the respiratory virus over the last half-year. The former vice president claimed there are empty chairs at breakfast tables all over the country because so many people have passed away, adding that “suburbs are dying from COVID.”
These statements are pure hysteria, and their intended audience is women. It is quite obvious that the suburbs are not dying from COVID. It was New York City that was hardest-hit by the disease, the measures against it, and the wave of riots that followed, sending some of its wealthiest inhabitants to suburban and rural locations across the nation.
Even then, the hopefully temporary decline of New York City can only be described as “dying from COVID” in a metaphorical sense. With only 32,000 dead in the entire state, it is not the coronavirus itself that’s killing the eight million-strong city, but the fear of it.
There is certainly a lot of fear of the WuFlu in many suburbs. Lots of masks, nervous busybodies, closed schools, and taped-off playgrounds. A lot of this fear is irrational: up to 80 percent of the U.S. population appears to be not susceptible to serious danger from the infection, and for the under-70 demographic the chances of dying if falling ill are less than 1 percent.
Regardless of how individual women feel about the trade-offs of returning to normal, or keeping the curve flat, we can all agree that neither suburbs nor our society is dying from the disease. There is a very real fear that someone might catch it, and develop complications or pass on. That fear is fanned by the media, as well as day-to-day social interactions with equally petrified neighbors.
Biden’s comment about the empty chair at the breakfast table speaks not to the personal experience of ordinary people — many of us don’t know anyone who has been infected with COVID, let alone has died — but the fear, however irrational, that we may lose someone we love. This fear keeps people from going to a restaurant, hugging friends, and sending kids to school.
Biden’s hyperbolic rhetoric rests on the assumption that women are hysterical and easily emotionally manipulated. It’s wrong, and it’s bad leadership. Fear-mongering produces panic, and panic breads irrationality. Successful societies have values that are mirror opposite of that; they are based on reason.
That’s why real leadership is reassuring. What the country needs right now is a president who sticks to the facts, doesn’t seed panic, and doesn’t make political theater out of mask-wearing. I don’t like Trump’s braggadocio about overcoming the illness either, but I’d take it any time over his challengers’ panic porn mill.
What women need to understand is that a man who treats them like berserked cows doesn’t have their back.