Culture

Feminism Has a Ferocity Problem

“Fearless Girl” statue on Wall Street (Reuters photo: Shannon Stapleton)
Self-appointed women’s advocates pressure girls and women into paths they may not be suited for.

Let’s imagine a person — let’s call this person “Pat” — with the following characteristics. Pat is extremely aggressive and extremely ambitious and doesn’t take crap from anybody. If somebody punches Pat, then Pat punches back twice as hard. Pat wants to get ahead and will face down anybody standing in the way. Career achievement seems to be Pat’s highest goal. Pat’s spouse needs to understand and facilitate Pat’s dreams, and if children are involved, they’re to be timed and spaced precisely so that Pat’s climb to the top is unimpeded.

If Pat is a man, then he’s consumed with “toxic masculinity.” If Pat is a woman, however, then Pat is leaning in. Pat is “fierce.” Pat is our hero.

We are living in the age of the fierce girl. That’s the new feminist ideal. Do you want to make online feminists furious? Just try writing a television or movie script that even implies that “damsels in distress” need any man to rescue them from danger. No indeed. The modern female action star can take down any number of burly men. Doubt me? Watch Charlize Theron destroy man after man in this trailer for Atomic Blonde:

I know fantasy is fantasy, but it’s fantasy with a very intentional message. Essentially, it’s crafting girlhood into stereotypical boyhood, and pop culture is going to extreme lengths to give girls that boyish fighting spirit.

Perhaps nothing personifies this effort more than the “fearless girl” statue now squaring off against the charging bull of Wall Street in downtown Manhattan. It’s become a place of pilgrimage, where women pay homage to the new feminine ideal and woke men pledge allegiance to female ferocity. Here’s Elizabeth Warren yesterday:

The ideological result is a kind of forced fiction, one that belittles both men and women and tells them that there is something essentially wrong with them if they choose to live according to the entirely natural and moral desires of their heart. In some quarters, it represents a failure — a loss — if a brilliant young woman chooses to drop out of the workforce and stay home to raise children. Conversely, it’s also deemed a failure if natural male aggression, natural male strength, and natural male competitiveness together create either male-only or primarily male spaces at the leading edge of physical danger, geographical exploration, and entrepreneurial risk.

And so we set up our educational systems and our popular culture to poke, prod, heckle, and punish until men learn to be more passive, women learn to be more aggressive, and even our infantry platoons are one glorious melting pot of male and female badassery.

You can fight human nature all you want, but you won’t win. Yes, there are “fierce” women, and a just society gives them an equal opportunity to succeed in the fields where they’re able (ground combat isn’t one of them). Yes, there are gentle men, and a just society doesn’t mock them or scorn them simply because they don’t share the aggressive nature of many of their peers. But a just society also recognizes reality, and it recognizes that it’s a form of cruelty to treat men and women as blank slates for fashionable ideological wish-casting.

In addition, while any given movie or commercial or television show is certainly free to indulge in fantasy (I love Rey in the new Star Wars films, but The Force is a great leveler), it’s also wrong to lie. Not all women are fierce, and in general they’re not nearly as “fierce” as men. Ferocity isn’t a virtue, it’s a characteristic, and it’s a characteristic that not all (or even most) women share. To the extent that feminists portray this as the new ideal, they merely construct yet another ideological prison for women and young girls. Try as they might, modern feminists can’t turn girls into boys and boys into girls. They can, however, make members of both sexes miserable. That’s one thing the radicals do all too well.

— David French is a staff writer at National Review.

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David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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