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Thursday, May 12, 2016

The backgrounds of prominent feminists

The recent posts about Frances Lear, upon whom the television character Maude was based, got me to thinking: how many feminists have come by their feminism by substituting a vague resentment of all men for a hatred of one? How many prominent feminists hated their fathers? How many were molested as children?

So I took a look at the "Early life" section of the Wikipedia bios of some of the other recent prominent feminists. What I found was that some had mothers who were crazy.

Gloria Steinem's parents divorced when she was 10, and her mother Ruth was "an invalid, trapped in delusional fantasies that occasionally turned violent." Ruth was in and out of mental institutions all her life, and couldn't concentrate long enough to finish reading a book, but Gloria chose to interpret Ruth's inability to hold a job as "evidence of a general hostility toward working women."

So, no abusive father there, but a crazy mother, whom Steinem identified with, and whose insanity Gloria chose to view in political terms.

Germaine Greer is the author of The Female Eunuch, a 1971 bestseller. She was born in Melbourne n 1939. As per Wiki: "According to Greer, her mother suffered from what was probably Asperger's Syndrome, and as a result they had a difficult relationship. Greer left home because of it when she was 18."

(Aha -- a pattern!)

Greer, by the way, was not the kind of rigid, doctrinaire thinker so many of today's feminists are. She lived an adventurous, open-minded life, was obviously intelligent, and -- this is what really sets her apart -- had a sense of humor. But, she was an early proponent of what was then called "women's liberation," and thus merits mention here.

Kate Millett was born in Minnesota in 1934; she is most famous for writing Sexual Politics in 1970. From Wiki: "According to Millett, she was afraid of her father, an engineer, who beat her. He was an alcoholic who abandoned the family when she was 14, 'consigning them to a life of genteel poverty'."

Okay, that time it was the father. (Millett herself, by the way, was bipolar, and in and out of mental institutions.)

Andrea Dworkin, the anti-pornography crusader, seemed to have trouble with the truth (she claimed to have been drugged and raped in a hotel at age 53, a point in her life at which she was grotesquely obese). But there was nothing mentioned about her family history which spelled out insanity.

I then took a look back at some of the more famous feminists of the past, expecting more family dysfunction. But most of them came from large, intact families, with parents with whom there seemed to be nothing wrong. What's more, many of their parents were liberal in their outlook, so many of these feminists were in fact not even rebelling all that much.

Susan B. Anthony was born in 1820 to a Quaker family which favored social reform, and which had strong Abolitionist leanings.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was introduced to activism by her father, who was a judge. She had ten siblings, but six of them died by the age of 20. (Her mother was "devastated by the loss of so many children, [and] fell into a depression, which kept her from being fully involved in the lives of her surviving children and left a maternal void in Stanton's childhood.") Okay, a little bit of dysfunction there, but begin depressed about losing six of your children is understandable.

Carrie Chapman Catt, a suffragist, born in 1859, had a relatively normal upbringing.

Julia Ward Howe had a stable upbringing.

Lucy Stone, another prominent suffragist, also came from a stable home, though she resented her father's authority.

Alice Paul, another suffragist, came from a Quaker family and basically followed in her mother's footsteps in becoming an activist.

Simone de Beauvoir, famous for The Second Sex, published in 1949, grew up in a sort of genteel poverty. Her mother was a conventional thinker, and her father more of a rebel. But her father was proud of Simone's intellectualism, and Simone's feminism couldn't be described as a rebellion against her family.

So, what with all these early feminists coming from stable backgrounds, there went my theory.

But then it occurred to me that the causes these old time feminists were espoused were completely just. All they wanted was the opportunity to become doctors, or lawyers, and to control their own fates. And, they wanted to be able to vote.

Who can argue with those causes?

None of these old time feminists argued that women should be combat soldiers, or that men who looked at women the wrong way were guilty of sexual harassment. None proclaimed that everything a man could do, a woman could do better. None believed that a woman who later regretted having sex ought to bring rape charges, or that a woman who'd had just one drink was incapable of sexual consent.

They were merely arguing for equal rights. They were sane women, from sane families, arguing for a sane cause.

It's the more recent feminists who tend to come from dysfunctional families, and who argue for today's more loony feminist theories.

The women listed above are far from a big enough sample from which to draw any really solid conclusions. And no one is responsible for having a dysfunctional parent. But, parents are inevitably strong influences, for better or worse, and always have an effect on their children. And the intersection of psychology and political outlook is always fascinating.

You can tell a lot about a movement from the type of people it attracts.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Check out the writings of Kate Millett's sister Mallory. She shares what it was like to deal with a sister who was bats--t crazy, as well as the craziness of the movement crazy sister helped found.

John Craig said...

Anon --
I can believe it. Reading about Millett, I was struck by the fact that she would be taken seriously by the feminist movement, despite obviously being crazy.

Rifleman said...

The newer generation of feminists were disproportionately Jewish freaks and resentful weirdos.

Here's another one:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shulamith_Firestone

Of course the feminists would reverse the order and say it's the sexist/patriarchal/racist/capitalist society that makes people crazy especially those who notice and rebel against it's existence.

Lucian Lafayette said...

Broken families produce broken offspring. This is a historic (though politically incorrect) fact that has been discussed for decades by equally non-PC writers. These current feminists are not so much cultural philosophers as somewhat glib, broken, attention hounds.

John Craig said...

Rifleman --
Yes, I did notice that a lot of the recent prominent feminists have been Jewish, or half-Jewish. Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Andrea Dworkin, Lena Dunham, etc.

John Craig said...

Luke --
It sure seems that way. And those broken offspring produce broken ideologies and crackpot theories.

And these families aren't just broken due to divorces; I'm talking about parents that are in some way really, certifiably loony themselves, as with Steinem, or abusive, as with Milllett or Frances Lear.

Steven said...

Think of it in terms of first wave (19th-early 20th century), second wave (1970's) and third wave (1990's-present) feminism.

Christina Hoff Sommers, a bastion of sanity, intellectual integrity and fair mindedness made the distinction between equity and gender feminism and declared herself the former but not the latter (for which she was ostracised by her contemporaries and called an anti-feminist.)

The original feminists were basically equity feminists. I'm not sure they even called themselves feminists.

Good work btw. I might do some further research on your hypothesis.

John Craig said...

Thank you Steven.

Yes, Sommers is a breath of fresh air in the middle of all that insanity. So is Camille Paglia, by the way. Paglia is brilliant, and also incisive about today's feminists, who now hate her for that reason.

Anonymous said...

Before your post, I'd never heard of some of these feminists. I looked into Kate Millett. Due to one of your commenters, I read an article by Kate's sister, Mallory. The online article that I read spelled it out about Kate - the woman was a Communist who was bent on destroying the USA, turning it into another failed socialist country. Her feminist theories were designed to bring about her Communist agenda within our country.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan --
Kate was just crazy enough to think that bringing communism to the US would somehow benefit it, or the people in it. Obama subscribes to that philosophy too, though he's wily enough to -- somewhat -- hide his true colors.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know that Obama is a Communist, along with Jarrett (who in my opinion is the president's "boss," doing her bidding).

- Susan

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this entry. As much as I detest the direction that the state religion of Social Justice has taken, and the caricature feminism of vehemently anti-American academics, you are exactly correct in your observations about the first women feminists.

What no one has teased out to my knowledge is what the immigration pressures were in that early era of feminism.

I know that the original Progressives were eugenic, pro-white, pro-European, and deeply concerned about the flooding of America's larger cities with outside-the-Hajnal-Line immigrants. This was the seedbed of public education, public health, and other movements we take for granted. The idea was that all these people could be elevated through institutional intervention, but that in the end, genes would win out.

Unfortunately the masses were taught to be too squeamish to continue thinking that way...plus these policies could actually break certain power blocs...who felt America was theirs for the taking.

I was taught that feminism of that early era existed under similar concerns. That my Norse Scots and founding stock GGMs and GGGMs did not want a bunch of Sicilian Catholics (e.g.) telling them to be baby factories under the heels of their IQ 85 husbands. They wanted the vote to counterbalance the proliferating franchise of the new arrivals and their political machines.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this entry. As much as I detest the direction that the state religion of Social Justice has taken, and the caricature feminism of vehemently anti-American academics, you are exactly correct in your observations about the first women feminists.

What no one has teased out to my knowledge is what the immigration pressures were in that early era of feminism.

I know that the original Progressives were eugenic, pro-white, pro-European, and deeply concerned about the flooding of America's larger cities with outside-the-Hajnal-Line immigrants. This was the seedbed of public education, public health, and other movements we take for granted. The idea was that all these people could be elevated through institutional intervention, but that in the end, genes would win out.

Unfortunately the masses were taught to be too squeamish to continue thinking that way...plus these policies could actually break certain power blocs...who felt America was theirs for the taking.

I was taught that feminism of that early era existed under similar concerns. That my Norse Scots and founding stock GGMs and GGGMs did not want a bunch of Sicilian Catholics (e.g.) telling them to be baby factories under the heels of their IQ 85 husbands. They wanted the vote to counterbalance the proliferating franchise of the new arrivals and their political machines.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Yes, the early liberals had much more common sense about the influence of genetics than do the current day ones. And you're right, that transformation was due to the influence of "certain power blocs," who have successfully managed to inject the population with a certain brand of politically correct egalitarianism which has made looking at genetics taboo (while ignoring that nonsense themselves).