The Home Front

Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

What Feminism Means


If I had a dime for every time I heard a young woman tout her definition of feminism, I’d be rich. “Feminism to me means . . .” It’s true that feminism is a word that means different things to different people, but the goal of feminism is still the same no matter how many adjectives we ascribe to it.

When people ask me to define feminism, I go straight to the source: feminists themselves. Gloria Steinem defined it clearly just last month. She said the goal of the feminist movement is to “free everyone from the prisms of gender.” The system, she says, is crazy: We must change it. Like their friend in the White House, change is feminists’ favorite word.

What, exactly, must we change? In a word, biology. Feminists want to change male and female nature, which as most of us know is like trying to stop the ocean from producing waves. But more to the point, why? What’s wrong with more wives than husbands choosing to care for their babies and more husbands than wives choosing to slay the beast to make it all possible? What’s wrong with more women than men choosing nursing or relationship-oriented fields and more men than women choosing math and engineering?

If you’re a feminist, everything’s wrong with it. Biology separates women and men and makes them different. And the goal of feminism is sameness. Feminists want men and women to be exactly the same, so much so that we cannot distinguish between the two. They should live parallel lives, coming together as necessary and breaking up at will.

That’s what feminist Linda Hirshman pronounced in our debate this week. Hirshman is No. 77 in Bernard Goldberg’s 110 People Who Are Screwing Up America for her elitist stance that no mother (no parent, actually) should stay home with her children because an educated adult’s place is in the office (which begs the question as to who, precisely, should rock the cradle — dimwits?). When asked whether she believes the number of women checking out of their marriages today is a good thing, Hirshman proudly claimed yes. It’s evidence, she said, of their willingness to get out of a potentially damaging relationship and stand on their own.

That millions of women are getting divorced for reasons other than spousal abuse is lost on Hirshman. That’s because feminists begin their day with this mantra: “men bad, women good.” They never preach this message in an obvious way, of course — which is why they’re able to get so many young, impressionable women on their side. Feminists talk only of fairness and rights, and who could argue with that? Young people are always looking for a way to assert their rights. So when Gloria Steinem says reproductive freedom equates to the “right to decide to or not to have children,” young people absorb the idea that abortion is critical for women to be able to determine how many children they will have — as if there’s no other method available. As if without it they’d be stuck at home with ten screaming babies.

Over and over I hear young women’s misconception about feminism: that it’s about choice. No, feminism isn’t about choice. It’s about so much more — and, hopefully, when young women are older and come out of their feminist fog, they’ll understand this. Lord knows they wouldn’t be the first.


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