by Karen Straughan (a.k.a. GirlWritesWhat)
Years ago, when I embarked on my investigation into the feminist movement and what it has become, I subscribed to the understanding that there had once existed a magical age of feminism. Of course I did. It was common knowledge, even among anti-feminists, that early feminism was a noble and well-intentioned movement, and that somewhere along the way it was hijacked by lunatics and man-haters bent on female supremacy.
I was curious as to exactly when, and by what means, this virtuous movement had been corrupted, so I went on something of an archaeological expedition, digging through piles of documents and old news articles and treatises from as far back as the late 1800s and earlier, transcripts of speeches given by well-known suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony.
My unexpected findings were as follows: Feminism has never been a righteous movement seeking equality. The “noble” Suffragettes were soaked in sexism, classism, racism, eugenics enthusiasm and the mindless pursuit of female privilege. The Declaration of Sentiments, widely believed to be the official manifesto of the First Wave, was nothing more than a hate-filled screed, simultaneously indicting and convicting the male sex of the wholesale criminal enslavement and subjugation of all women, through all of history.
I found a First Wave populated by terrorists and elitists who did little to conceal their malice, dishonesty and thirst for power. They were skilled at isolating any given statute from its full context and declaring it as discrimination against women, even when the overall set of laws to which it belonged conferred immense privilege on women. And always, their “reforms” focused on the one, isolated statute, always leaving those privileging women untouched.
They sought, and received, the automatic right of mothers to custody of children after divorce, but did nothing to change the financial obligation of fathers to provide all material necessities to said children.
They sought, and received, the right within marriage to hold and keep their own property and income untouchable by their husbands, but did nothing to change the legal obligation of husbands to financially support their wives, to pay their wives taxes, or to repay their wives debts.
They sought, and received, the right to vote, but did nothing to change the civic obligations of men toward the state, including military conscription, which had informed the primary justifications for universal male suffrage, nor did they campaign to impose any such obligations on women.
And through every effort on the part of those early feminists ran a vein of resentment, blame and indifference toward men. Resentment of “privileges” that were bought and paid for by men through their formal obligations to others. Blame cast on men for single-handedly constructing the entire system with no care or concern for women’s wellbeing, safety or happiness, seats in lifeboats nothwithstanding. Indifference to the responsibilities imposed on men by this same system, or the male sacrifice, hardship and suffering which resulted.
While men were dying in their thousands to win the right to form a union and earn enough to support their wives and children, early feminists were campaigning for a woman’s right to take a man’s children away from him through separation or divorce, and still enjoy the same access to his wallet she’d become accustomed to in marriage.
While men were dying in their millions to protect societies in which most men didn’t have the vote, early feminists were terrorizing and injuring innocent civilians, demanding votes for women.
I was, to be honest, appalled by the entitlement of those early feminists, and by the nonchalance with which they portrayed men, as a sex, as not just capable of, but guilty of, treating their own wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters with sociopathic disregard. Little wonder these selfish, elitist, divisive women were, contrary to the revisionist history we’ve all been fed, no more popular among ordinary women back then than their modern counterparts are today.
A friend of mine has said that modern feminism is simply feminism without the mask. But my investigations showed me that feminism has never worn a mask. It has never needed to conceal the bitter core of hatred, blame, prejudice and supremacy that form its nucleus
Suffragettes were notorious domestic terrorists, lobbing bombs, lacing letter boxes with acid, setting fire to train stations, and even attempting to assassinate the British Prime Minister. But far from attempting to conceal their crimes, they relied on traditional notions of chivalry to shield themselves from the consequences of their actions. And the very subjects of their ceaseless hate campaign — men — eventually gave them everything they wanted, and more.
Pretending that First Wave feminism was virtuous not only erases the systemic injustices of which they were the primary architects, it erases the anti-male resentment and blame that have always infected the roots of the movement. It’s time we stop idealizing them, and begin seeing the entirety of feminsism for what it really is.
History is written by the victors, and feminism has been on a winning streak since its inception. Within that official history we are told only good things about the “brave women who risked their lives for women’s equality”. Some may find it deeply upsetting to discover that feminism has never been the righteous movement we’ve been told it was, but we have a moral obligation to examine political movements and history with our rose-tinted glasses off before we form an opinion. To do otherwise is to indulge in the wishful thinking of children.
Posted by Karen Straughan