Watching the left exile feminists combines farce with the inevitability of Greek tragedy. Conservative observers may be torn between amusement and pity as some feminists are ostracized for insisting that women exist biologically, and not just as social constructs or gender identities. But we should also take this opportunity to explain the truth about our physical embodiment, as well as the implications of the sexual dimorphism of human persons.
Indeed, the left’s feminist narrative has become divided and incoherent as transgender ideology has advanced. For instance, we are told to believe not only that the actress Ellen Page is now the actor Elliot Page, but that this has always been so (in some sort of unexplainable metaphysical sense). Yes, the Wikipedia and IMBD pages must be rewritten, along with credits on past films — what of the Oscar nomination for Best Actress? — and even the once-proud lesbianism of Ellen Page must be erased or converted into a generic “queerness” to serve the narrative of the trans Elliot Page.
Any feminist dissenters from this new Orwellian orthodoxy of sex and gender are hated by the left. “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has been the most prominent example of a liberal woman who has drawn fire from the new radical leftists. As it’s hard to cancel the most successful writer in the world, Rowling’s wealth and fame have inured her to the full fury of cancel culture.
Still, other nonconformists have been less fortunate. Suzanne Moore was recently pushed out from the Guardian after her deviation from the new gender-identity dogma was greeted with fury by many of her colleagues. There is pathos in Moore’s realization that her radical “history and activism was irrelevant” to her former allies now that she is deemed a TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist) — a term that has become an internet slur, often accompanied by threats of violence.
Sure, it’s easy for conservatives to blame this state of affairs on the feminist ideas she promoted, which insisted that “gender is socially constructed, and it can be reconstructed.” But “I told you so” smugness, however justified, will not win people over to a conservative understanding of sex and gender. Furthermore, conservatives should display some humility. We still have a lot of work to do developing a vision of womanhood that gives credit to the full capabilities of women, their unique abilities as mothers, and the capacities they share with men (such as intellect).
Nonetheless, there are opportunities for conservatives, and not just because many self-described feminists have acquiesced to transgender ideology’s insistence that men are the best women. Rather, it is that professional feminists are out of touch with what women want.
For example, a recent New York Times piece by Isabell Sawhill and Morgan Welch of the liberal Brookings Institute wondered “What’s the Matter With White Women?” The authors profess themselves befuddled that any woman would have voted against Joe Biden, and suggest that many are “simply following their husbands’ lead” in voting for culture war issues over economic ones — don’t these women realize how much better Biden’s proposed policies would be for their families?
The proposals the article champions are almost a parody of corporate feminism: a vision of sterile self-hatred in which women are worker drones with easy abortion access. The only suggestion that would increase a working mother’s family time is paid family leave; the rest consists of government programs to get women away from their children and into the workforce. These policies are aimed at maximizing the 9 to 5 labor pool, thereby serving the interests of the Democratic Party’s corporate donors rather than the majority of mothers who want a work-life balance and do not want to work outside the home full-time.
Ironically, given the Democratic Party’s current flirtation with socialism, these policies would expand the market further into family life. Childcare and education would become increasingly professional rather than family-based. In this scheme, a woman who professionally cares for other people’s children (and whose children are in turn cared for by other professionals) is valued more than a woman who simply raises and educates her children.
This focus on getting women into the workforce arises partly because of the divide between the professional-class feminists and the working-class women they claim to represent. The former glamorize working outside the home as an essential part of their identity, while the latter know that most work is, well, work, and that it is no more glamorous or satisfying than raising children (often less). Such people work to provide for their families; they do not want to sacrifice their families for their work.
Thus, contra the Brookings Institute writers, the women who voted against Biden may know exactly what they were doing: rejecting a vision of womanhood that is antithetical to the interests of their families.
It’s a terrible idea to push as many women as possible into the workforce, and their children into government schools and daycares. It harms children and is not what most mothers want. Just as it ignores the biological reality of womanhood, so too does it ignore the unique role mothers have in their children’s lives.
Conservatives should not respond to this divide by promoting reactionary sex stereotypes and roles but by presenting an alternate vision. Too many conservatives, and conservative Christians in particular, have promoted strict roles for men and women that are based on the worldly norms of a couple of generations ago.
Male and female are essential aspects of our identities, but this does not dictate who should earn more money for the household. Both men and women should make economic and career decisions for the overall good of the family and the best use of their talents. Husbands, as well as wives, must be willing to shelve their egos and care for the family first, rather than maximizing their careers at the expense of the family. Ultimately, what matters most is the good of the family as a whole.
Thus, the idealized 1950s model of a breadwinning husband and housewife should not be seen as normative. Rather, conservatives ought to encourage households as places of economic production — the historical norm — rather than just consumption. For the biblically inclined, it’s worth noting the virtuous wife of Proverbs 31 is, among other attributes, a shrewd businesswoman.
Conservatives ought to be more open to declarations that “it’s not my place in the nine to five world.” For some people, the nine to five works well, and for others it is unavoidable. Instead, we should support alternatives that help families balance their particular needs and abilities, as such flexibility is often essential for women to succeed as both mothers and as professionals.
In contrast to Democrats’ plans to shove women into the nine to five and their kids into government daycare, conservatives must develop family-friendly economic policies. As many feminists abandon the realities of biological womanhood in favor of gender ideology, and others turn feminism into a tool of corporate power, conservatives can offer a vision of women flourishing in family and community, as well as in the market.