Ed West Ed West

What would Mary Wollstonecraft make of today’s feminism?

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and no doubt it will be marked by plenty of discussions about internet misogyny, everyday sexism, the war on women and all the other things that get people worked up. So I’d like readers to have a look at this blogpost from Australian forensic psychologist Claire Lehmann, on the subject of feminism, which begins:

‘“Pop-feminism,” as a movement, valorises feelings above reason, cynicism above hope. It has regressed to a point where anything at all, no matter how irrational or how narcissistic, can be celebrated as ‘feminist’.

‘Articles such as: I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry, or How Accepting Leggings as Pants Made Me a Better Feminist are shared wide and far on social media as feminist political statements.

‘Anyone can identify as a “feminist”. Even men who openly admit to domestic violence… Tare no boundaries, no benchmarks and no standards to which feminism will hold itself accountable.

‘It was not meant to be like this. In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft published The Vindication of the Rights of Women. Her basic hypothesis was that women are capable of reason; just as men are. Yet because women are denied a rigorous education, this capability is rarely expressed.

‘Wollstonecraft’s achievement was to extend Enlightenment principles to women. Women were rational. Women were not innately ignorant, or naive, but socialised to be that way because their educations were neglected. She wrote that the more educated women became, the better off society would be.’

Read the whole thing there as Lehmann pretty much sums up what a lot of people (like myself) feel about the F-word; we support the basic aims of feminism, but not much of the analysis or prescriptions, and the tone of debate makes it difficult to make any concrete progress.

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