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The Tragedy Of ‘Conservative Feminism’

14 April 2012 @ 15:58

I thought you might be interested in an exchange Joy McCann, Adobe Walls, JeffS, and I had over at Stacy McCain’s place on Feminism.  It touches on the origins of my thinking on Feminism in general and specifically conservative women who claim to be Feminists.  I’ve been intending since last summer to write a mini-essay on the subject, but have neglected to do so.  So perhaps this will spur me to action…finally.

First of all, let me quote the relevant part of Stacy’s post, which is not really the main subject of what his post is about [I do urge you to read all of it – you’ll find much food for thought]:

Speaking of careers and raging conflagrations . . .

“One thing that is difficult to convey . . . is just how respectable it was to denigrate female competence and intelligence before the women’s movement gained a foothold — and before it was prevalent.”

– Joy McCann, “No, We Aren’t the Party of 1950s Gender Roles

She was spurred to this by a Wall Street Journal column in which James Taranto dared to mention an “overlooked truth about contemporary feminism,” namely its observable hostility to housewives. Joy responds, as always, by asserting her prerogative to define feminism in a manner reminiscent of Humpty Dumpty:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

No man can disagree with Joy McCann about feminism, and any attempt to explain that the word has an etymology and a history — that it describes the radical ideology of a left-wing political movement — is rejected as an infringement upon her prerogative.

As with most ‘conservative feminists’, and unlike with the Leftist kind, Joy’s piece is thoughtful and not malicious towards men in any way, but it is quite wrong-headed in it’s reasoning.

The exchange starts at this point in the Comments section.

I’ll just list my responses and the relevant quotes from those people I am replying to…


I see that Stacy is continuing his argument with the dictionary again. If anyone here is acting like Humpty Dumpty . . . well . . .


Sarah Palin is a real feminist; Hilary Rosen is a fake feminist.

-My response:

By God, Stacy is right: you are trying to say the word means whatever you want it to mean [and the same goes for Mrs. Palin if she describes herself as a Feminist].

This is the kind of behavior Leftists engage in – the distortion of Truth.

A is A; you can call it B, but it will always and forever be A.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘feminism’ thusly: the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. Right there you see that it is a product of Leftist Thinking because what is being advocated is unrealistic. The sexes are not equal in Nature. What you are also seeing in that definition is that Feminism is [an] idea developed in the sterile laboratory of Leftist minds – in other words, it is an ideology. Conservatives reject ideology because it is, by it’s nature, fantastical, devoid of relevance in the Real World.

-Joy’s response to me:

So do you believe that the sexes are “unequal” because, like Stacy, you confuse “equal” with “fungible” (that is, that equality implies interchageability), or because you believe women are genuinely inferior to men?

-My response:

They are, indeed, unequal in their natural abilities. Males and females are complimentary, the two together making a good team because they bring different qualities and skills to surviving and thriving in life.

I’ll take Woman’s Intuition over Man’s anyday in judging people.

-Joy again:

Complementarity implies symbiosis; symbiosis implies symmetry.

Symmetry implies equality.

So I will take it that you do believe in the equality of the sexes, but don’t like saying it out loud, because to you equality implies sameness, and you can’t wrap your head around the fact that it is no such thing.

-Me again:

The OED defines ‘complementarity’ thusly:

a relationship or situation in which two or more different things improve or emphasize each other’s qualities:

[Example] a culture based on the complementarity of men and women

It defines ‘symbiosis’ as:

[the] interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.

Notice the word ‘different’ is present again. So far, so good.

Your reasoning breaks down with the statement, ‘symbiosis implies symmetry’

The OED defines ‘symmetry’ thusly:

1 a correct proportion of the parts of a thing; balance; harmony….

2 a a structure that allows an object to be divided into parts of an equal shape and size and similar position to the point or line or plane of division….

3 the repetition of exactly similar parts facing each other or a center.

Notice that with symmetry’s three definitions [I left out the fourth, which concerns Botany] we clearly see that similarity is the spirit behind the definition, not difference [although, to be fair, ‘harmony’ can be the melding of two different parts into a beautific whole].  Symbiosis does not, therefore imply symmetry.

As to you final sentence: equality does, indeed, imply sameness.  The OED And Thesaurus [American Edition, 1996] offers this regarding that word:

n. the state of being equal.

-parity, sameness, uniformity, equivalence, similarity, egalitarianism

Words have specific meanings; A is always A; Humpty Dumpty was a Pinko; the fluff gets up your nose.  Reject the mutated thinking called Leftism.


[quoting JeffS] “And the Narrative says ‘Hilary Rosen good, Sarah Palin bad.'”

Yes, but 1) the Narrative is not the same as the truth, as I’m sure you’ll concede, and 2) the Hilary Rosen vs. Sarah Palin issue has little to do with feminism, since both women wear that label.

Stacy’s mental meanderings aside, feminism is not a left-right issue, unless or until we’re willing to identify which strands within it are helpful, and which are destructive. Because on its own, the proposition that men and women are equal is not particularly controversial, except in the minds of a few folks who are . . . well, confused.

-My response:

Joy wrote: …feminism is not a left-right issue, unless or until we’re willing to identify which strands within it are helpful, and which are destructive.

As with an -ist or -ism, in other words, as with any ideology, Feminism finds it natural resting place on the Left, for, as Russell Kirk pointed out:

…For there exists no Model Conservative, and conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order. The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata. It is almost true that a conservative may be defined as a person who thinks himself such. The conservative movement or body of opinion can accommodate a considerable diversity of views on a good many subjects, there being no Test Act or Thirty-Nine Articles of the conservative creed. In essence, the conservative person is simply one who finds the permanent things more pleasing than Chaos and Old Night. (Yet conservatives know, with Burke, that healthy “change is the means of our preservation.”) A people’s historic continuity of experience, says the conservative, offers a guide to policy far better than the abstract designs of coffee-house philosophers….

While there can be no ‘Test Act’, as it were, a person cannot embrace any ideology and still claim to be conservative.

-Adobe Walls responded to Joy’s comment thusly:

You assert that Palin is and Rosen isn’t yet most people who would label themselves feminists would at least dispute that Rosen is not and the majority of them would dispute that Palin is a feminist.

No matter how many times you make the assertion you have already lost this fight. You can no more recapture the word feminism from the left than those who refer to themselves as “classical liberals” can recapture the word liberal from the left. Once upon a time there used to be dragons, they are windmills now (they are actually much harder to slay) accept that or not what is is.

P.S The argument isn’t about whether or not men and woman are equal (they are before the law) but whether or not feminism is left or right.

-The relevant part of JeffS’s response to Joy:

Feminism is a left-right issue, but not because of women rights. It’s a left-right issue because the left has hijacked it. Until you stop pretending otherwise, you have no chance of being on the same screen as NOW President Terry O’Neill as a peer. Which you should be. As long as lefties politicize Feminism™, you won’t be.

-My response:

Adobe: The one flaw in what you wrote is the statement: ‘You can no more recapture the word feminism from the left than those who refer to themselves as “classical liberals” can recapture the word liberal from the left’.

As Stacy pointed out, Feminism has a history that shows it was developed by the Left.

-Another response from Joy:

This is in reply to Bob, Jeff, and Adobe….

If you remove the term “feminism” from the lexicon of Terms That Are Permissible for Conservatives to Use, there is no effective means left to say assert that you stand against sexism, which of course most conservatives do.

Besides which, this attempt to erase the term strikes me as totalitarian in flavor, and therefore about as anti-conservative as it gets.

The concept of women being equal to men shouldn’t be treated as if it were some exotic rarity, and the assertion that it is any such thing drives females away from the conservative movement.

I mean, I get that you guys are having fun doing it, but if the goal is to build up conservatism, I fail to see why you persist in this harmful tack.

Why not simply have bumper stickers printed up that read “Republicans Are Sexists: Vote for the Other Guys!” It amounts to the same thing.

-My response:

Well now, Joy, you’ve crossed over into the theater of the absurd: who here has advocated that the word ‘Feminist’ be banned from the lexicon, the vocabulary, of conservatives?

What I have been arguing is that you cannot be a Feminist, in the actual definition of the word, if you are a conservative and that those women who do are committing an error in their thinking, in their application of Right Reason.

The fact of the matter is the ‘concept of women being equal to men’ is an ‘exotic rarity’; it is a concept that was only developed in the sterile laboratories of minds, like Mary Shelley’s, in the 18th Century.  It is a perversion of the Truth, a mutation of the Reality, known for millennia, that men and women are different biologically, physically, and mentally.

What you mistake for me ‘having fun’ is the fact that, as a true conservative’ I know that one can never take Life too seriously [this belief is also enforced by having been brought up as a Roman Catholic] – those who take it seriously all the time are those who have made themselves incapable of accepting Life for what it is, Tragic and Absurd, and insist on re-engineering it to achieve a fantastical and nonsensical Heaven On Earth.  These types inevitably descend in the madness known as Nihilism.

You’re last sentence is a typical retort from a woman suffering from a mild form, as all women do, of Hysteria.  Why don’t you have a nice lie-down before you make my dinner, like a good girl.

There’s much much more good stuff to be found in the thread. Take note: it’s a bit hard to follow because of the constraints imposed by the Disqus Commenting System, so be prepared to jump around a bit, but I think it well-worth it – especially in understanding how Leftist Thinking has distorted the way good people reach false conclusions.

One Final Note: In a response to something JeffS wrote, Joy replied, in part:

Jeff, the question I asked about equality was directed at Bob, and it had nothing to do with establishing anyone’s bona fides; it had to do with finding out whether there was material disagreement on a fundamental issue.

It was also important to me in terms of considering Bob as a friend, since I wanted to ensure that I wasn’t entrusting my friendship to someone who regarded me as a lower form of life.

So that there is no misunderstanding between myself and Joy and any other women who agree with her: I have never said nor implied that women are a lower form of life.  I must admit to being a bit insulted by the remark [and, therefore, Joy should be thankful we men do not believe the code duello applies to women].  Men and women are different in their natural abilities, skills, and creative thinking.  Neither is, on the whole, superior to the other.  The fact is, as I’ve stated many times, they complement each other, they are Yin and Yang.  Together a man and a woman make a positive force for Good [this is why I believe ‘gay marriage’ is a fiction, a fantastical delusion, and why it is imperative for a mother and father to be present together to raise a child]. 

The only place where men and women are equal is in the sight of God.

ERROR FIXED: I had failed to put Stacy McCain’s comments in a blockquote, to distinguish them from mine.  Apologies tendered.

  1. 14 April 2012 @ 16:46 16:46

    Dude, that’s one helluva post!


  2. 14 April 2012 @ 16:50 16:50

    She has a better chance taking back ‘Gay’ to mean really happy than ‘Feminists’ from the femi-nazis..

  3. Adobe_Walls permalink
    14 April 2012 @ 17:07 17:07

    Tennwriter commented:
    “Women and men are largely apples and oranges. Why do we critique the apple for not having a thick peel like an orange to keep out the worms? We do so if we’re feminists.”
    An excellent analogy and entirely accurate.

    While ultimately pointless debating Joy on this subject has it’s amusements, tho we never did get our sandwiches.

  4. 14 April 2012 @ 17:38 17:38

    I have yet to see or hear anyone identify the “Feminism Movement” in a truthful or honest manner to this day.. No one wants to because it will bring the dregs of the “domestic female enemy” down on them and put the unallied at their door screaming epithets of doom because the truth of it is undeniable to both sides of this battle, not of the sexes, but of the genders.

    The entire purpose of the creation of feminism was to divide and demoralize the family unit from within its core, the mother figure. By destroying the mother insticnct prepubescently the childish manner of selfishness and immaturity was allowed to take control and divert the plan from procreation to a legal form of socially acceptable prostitution, ie: work and career, wherein the woman becomes to bread earner and foundation of the single parent family with the govt as patriarch
    .Like it or not.
    All communists, progressives, marxists and socialists are evil bastards who deserve everything they have coming to them.

    Yank lll

  5. littlemissattila permalink
    14 April 2012 @ 18:03 18:03

    Men and women are different in their natural abilities, skills, and creative thinking. Neither is, on the whole, superior to the other.

    Thank you for asserting the equality of the sexes. Had you done this earlier in the discussion, it would have saved us all a lot of time, Bob.

    • Adobe_Walls permalink
      14 April 2012 @ 20:32 20:32

      Good then we are all agreed. Men and women are different but neither is “superior” in general.
      Wait a second, different but not superior isn’t the same as equal is it?

      • littlemissattila permalink
        15 April 2012 @ 00:32 00:32

        I’m afraid, Adobe, that that is exactly what it means.

        • Adobe_Walls permalink
          15 April 2012 @ 01:51 01:51

          Interesting choice of words. “all men are created equal” means equal before the law. Since obviously all humans are not created equal that is as far as it goes.

        • littlemissattila permalink
          15 April 2012 @ 02:36 02:36

          Equal before the law, and equal in the sight of God. Which means, unless they are acting like an asshole or a criminal, worthy of being accorded some respect.

    • therealjeffs permalink
      14 April 2012 @ 22:39 22:39

      LMA,you keep on using that word “equality”….I do not think it means what you think it means.

      • littlemissattila permalink
        15 April 2012 @ 00:30 00:30

        It can mean a lot of things, and the only truly objective time that one can evaluate it is when one is talking about numbers.

        If, in stating that men are superior to women (excuse me: that “the sexes aren’t equal”), you mean that men have greater upper-body strength, with the exceptions being so few they are less than merely “statistically insignificant “. . . well, I’d probably agree. But there are few arenas in the contemporary era in which upper-body strength is paramount for success.

        So perhaps those of you who are insisting that the sexes are not equal should should specifically how you mean it: Are you referring to muscle mass, or upper-body strength? If not, then what? Intellect? Morality? Organization prowess? Ability to multi-task? Empathy? Abillity with words? An affinity for maps? What?

  6. therealjeffs permalink
    14 April 2012 @ 22:43 22:43

    Nicely summarized, Bob. I went to bed after my last post, and spent the day at a non-political event (hence following your dictum of not taking life too seriously), and thus missed responding to Joy.

    Still, I see that your point has failed to sink in, as per Little Miss Atilla’s comment above. Not that I expected it to, of course, but I did have hopes….

    • therealjeffs permalink
      14 April 2012 @ 22:45 22:45

      BTW, I’d completely forgotten about my WordPress registration, having abandoned my old nome de blog long ago. Hence the old screen name pops up….

  7. therealjeffs permalink
    14 April 2012 @ 23:01 23:01

    Oof. I just went back and read the comments in their entirety. Perhaps I am way off base here, but this comment from Joy:

    Bob, if you regard me as inferior to you because I’m female, that’s also too bad. I’ll try to overlook it for the sake of the friendship, but I am a bit disappointed.

    LMA? Playing the gender/victim card? I’m the one who’s disappointed. That’s a standard leftie rhetoric ploy.

    • littlemissattila permalink
      14 April 2012 @ 23:25 23:25

      Well, the sex/race analogy isn’t perfect, but if you were listening to an exchange between whites and one black person that went on for hours in which the whites continued to insist that blacks were inferior–that the races were not equal–isn’t there a point at which you’d expect the black person to call them on the implications of this statement?

      That is, if we’re inferior as a class, is that going to affect the friendship?

      There are only two real answers to that: (1) most women are inferior, but you aren’t, or (2) all women are inferior to all men.

      I don’t care, because my emotions aren’t engaged in this. But I’ve asked you a question about the implications of the stance you’re taking. Which of the two options above are you taking–or are you starting to re-think the premise?

  8. LD Jackson permalink
    15 April 2012 @ 06:56 06:56

    I would tend to agree with your last paragraph and statement. Men and women are different, but they are equal. God recognizes them as such, but there are some in our society that do not. It’s a shame, really, because there is no stronger relationship than one between a man and a woman who realize this fact for themselves.

    • littlemissattila permalink
      15 April 2012 @ 14:19 14:19

      “Men and women are different, but they are equal.”

      Finally–someone with a bit of common sense. One doesn’t have to call this philosophy feminism, but the sexes are equal, albeit different. Why this has become so controversial among some on the right is beyond me.

  9. 15 April 2012 @ 11:42 11:42

    So you’ll “I’ll take Woman’s Intuition over Man’s anyday in judging people.” Women put Barack Obama in the White House breaking for him by an enormous percentage. You’re buying into another prog cliché, that women are somehow more perceptive than men. You’re one step away from embracing the notion that a ‘wise latina’ is of more value than a competent jurist on the SCOTUS.

    Joy is trying to reclaim another institution — female equality– from the left, and you’re objecting because it seems to threaten your He-Man Treehouse Club.

    As for the whole equal = identical false hare, let me start that from cover as I did with Joy on line.

    Here in LA I can buy a Mossberg pump at Big 5 for $399. I can go to WalMart and buy a flat-screen TV for $399. Both are of equal value, but I wouldn’t try to chase a fox away from the chickens with a flat-screen TV, Equal value, not interchangeable. Not fungible.

    • littlemissattila permalink
      15 April 2012 @ 14:21 14:21


      And I concur that women sometimes vote very badly, driven as we can sometimes be by our emotions. (That’s good when we’re raising children and managing small teams. It’s bad when we’re trying to pick a Chief Exec for the entire country.)

      • Adobe_Walls permalink
        15 April 2012 @ 20:34 20:34

        Finally a bit of common sense.

    • 15 April 2012 @ 20:49 20:49

      On the whole, Richard, in general, Woman’s Intuition is more reliable than a Man’s. This is especially true when it comes to hiring people – I have seen it proven many, many times. Women are better at ‘reading’ strangers. This is a belief that has been held for centuries and has no connection with Leftism. In fact, the Bolshes think this is a form of misogyny – saying that women are better at evaluating the emotional make-up of strangers.

      When it comes to the specific area of choosing political candidates, their Intuition often, indeed, fails. But, in general, it is a valuable skill that is worth relying on.

      • theo9geo permalink
        18 April 2012 @ 01:38 01:38

        The Russian Red Army in WWII comprised many, many women snipers who did extraordinary execution on the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS. Not in every case but often enough to be a remarkable phenomenon, women, “out of the box,” are better shots than men. This certainly is the case vis-a-vis my wife and I.

  10. theo9geo permalink
    18 April 2012 @ 00:15 00:15

    Why does littlemissattila always sound so resolutely omniscient, shrewish, superior? She seems to take her posture as strength. I see it as weakness: tendentious and brusque, sniffing about for ideological rectitude on the flimsy grounds of gender whatever or even just her snark-ability. It’s ot appealing. Nor is it helpful. In fact it is harmful.

    There is no equality of man and woman beyond their is-ness, their common root (essence) in the Abyss of Being. Functionally (existence) they are fundamentally different, as Bob points out, and difference, as a logical type, is not equality, as others point out. The difference between the male and female principles is, in fact, necessary to the creation, sustenance and dissolution of life. It takes two (unequals) to tango, to conduct the dance of life. That duality (i.e., separation) is the root of delusion but it is also the cause of life and the first occasion of bliss. That difference of consequence (delusion and life) from the same cause (duality/separation) is a jarring, shredding and inescapable phenomenon that subdues pretense.

    I think McCann/Attila will never be loved as Sarah Palin is. She bitches. Sarah talks.

    • littlemissattila permalink
      18 April 2012 @ 00:45 00:45

      And yet Palin’s position on this is the same as mine: she is antisexist. She is feminist.

      By the way, when you guys repeat that “equal” means “the same” as it relates to human beings, it doesn’t grow more true via repetition. It remains false every time it is asserted.

      And my ideas don’t rest on whether I am likeable or not: they are ideas only. If you have decided that I am unlikeable, that does not affect whether or not I’m speaking the truth.

  11. theo9geo permalink
    18 April 2012 @ 01:30 01:30

    “If you have decided that I am unlikeable, that does not affect whether or not I’m speaking the truth.”

    It certainly does. The truth is easy, relaxing, humorous, appealing. Truth has no hard edges. It does not cut. It does not rip, poke, bite or tear. It draws one to itself in softness, quiet and ease. Your draw is that of a chick with a pierced nipple or a nose ring, aka, a self-mutilator. Attracts attention and desire but not for its truth. For its notoriety, which diminishes daily as such aberrations reiterate in the population.

    Furthermore, ideas are person-based, person-sourced. Their existence depends on a person advancing/promoting them. They have no existence independent of their advocate(s). That far, but no farther, Abelard was correct. Only Being Itself has aseity. Ideas do not. Plato’s effort to identify Being Itself with ideas did not withstand scrutiny. One is self-caused and self-sufficient. An other (two/ideas) is not.

    • littlemissattila permalink
      18 April 2012 @ 01:37 01:37

      “Truth has no hard edges. It does not cut.”

      That sounds like something that you would really like . . . to be true.

  12. 04 June 2012 @ 11:23 11:23

    The thing people need to really realize is that there are things that a man can and can’t do. It is also the same with women and the only thing to realize too is that we have to learn to respect each other.


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