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On Womanhood: A Personal Perspective
I’ve been formulating a post in my head for some time that reflects my thoughts on some of the topics raised in various posts around Ricochet about women. Former posts, which I can’t find, where we discussed whether women having the right to vote was a good thing. @susanquinn excellent recent essay on feminists. I thought I would try to write one, although I don’t think my thoughts are fully formed. But generally, writing and discussing helps bring your thoughts into focus, so here it is.
Womanhood is under assault, it seems. Not women — we ceased to be oppressed, at least in the West, a long time ago. But womanhood: the state or condition of being a woman. If one forms impressions of womanhood from Hollywood, the feminine ideal is masculine. Women are warriors, don’t you know, and it is only the patriarchy that has kept us from taking up arms against each other all these millennia. Not inferior physical strength, not hormones, not children. Masculinity is only toxic if it is exercised by men. Then again, it often seems these days that so-called feminine traits are only celebrated when displayed in gross parody by men. Would Drew Barrymore have bowed down to an actual sorority girl giggling in a bubble bath?
It is ironic that for many feminists, the masculine has become the feminine ideal, because for many years, feminine traits were not necessarily valued in the workplace. If you acted overtly female in the workplace, through dress, through talking too much, through not getting to the point right away, you might be dinged for that. I grew up in a male-dominated profession, as they would call it today, and did fairly well. I became somewhat hard and never had any “me-too” moments. (I was told by one male colleague when he had too much to drink that I gave off an aura of being completely unapproachable).
But as I matured, I dropped much of the armor. I finally reached an age and a status where I no longer cared whether some male colleague thought I was running a meeting correctly or not. I received many an eye roll and a few angry comments over the years if I strayed from the agenda or let a conversation go on too long.
A male colleague said to me once that I had a very female style of running committee meetings — he always thought it amazing that we wandered through topics over the course of the meeting, going here and there, but somehow we got to the point at the end and came to consensus. He meant it as a compliment, and I took it as one. I said that I believed that a good chair listened carefully to the back and forth, even when it might seem off-topic because people were trying to work things out. Through that back and forth, you could see them coalescing around themes while approaching them from different angles. It was my job to listen, synthesize and summarize. If the results weren’t good, then the powers that be were welcome to find someone else — they almost never did — but I wasn’t going to change. But that confidence took a long time to develop and exacted quite an emotional toll on the way, I have to say.
Was I a feminist? I rarely felt the need to define myself as one, thanks to those who went before. Entering adulthood in the late 1970s, I never once questioned that I had a right to work outside the home, vote, establish my own credit and own property, all things which were out of reach to many women of generations before. I assumed if I were qualified, I would get the job, and I generally did. The pay gap? Yes, it bothered me in some circumstances but not in others. Every time I asked for a raise, I got one. But I very rarely asked. It just wasn’t in my nature. Is that on me or my bosses to fix?
I never felt oppressed — well, maybe once. When I learned in college that women took some biological hits to accommodate childbearing, I was, for a time, quite peeved. It seemed quite unfair that we were not as efficient walkers as men due to our pelvic structure. Growing up with three brothers, I was already well aware of the strength differential. And those hormonal cycles — really? So I took it up with … nobody. To whom was I going to address my grievances? Against what was I going to rebel? I got over it.
Was I feminist? If fairness equals feminism, then yes. When I was young, the boys had two beautiful baseball diamonds for little league. The girls wanted to start a softball league. We were given a small park, overgrown with weeds and a rusty backstop. Our moms got mad and demanded that the town fix up the girls’ park. They did and we were happy. I played junior golf, but there was no 18-hole group for girls, only for boys. But you couldn’t be approved to be able to play by yourself unless you were in the 18-hole group. So our moms said again: that isn’t fair, we need an 18-hole group for girls. They said fine, we got to play 18 holes and then by ourselves, and we were happy.
The National Institutes of Health finally realized, only fairly recently, that many clinical trials and most pre-clinical research were done on males to avoid having to deal with hormonal cycles. Yet women respond to drugs and treatments differently than men. Researchers are now required to include males and females in all studies that aren’t looking at a sex-specific intervention. This development seems obvious and right; I don’t think anyone would object.
So I guess I very much buy into the basic tenants of the garden-variety feminism. In all the above cases, an imbalance was pointed out and rectified. Times had changed. We wanted some things that were only fair, we got them, and we were happy. And I suppose that is the key — we were satisfied.
So am I still a feminist? Today I wouldn’t define myself as one. I laid down my arms after reasonable terms were established. Modern feminism seems more of a rogue army, always looking for reasons to be eternally angry and miserable. That’s what the oppression lens does to you: keeps you eternally at war over one slight or another.
But I would take them up again if the terms were violated. And that is what is happening with the incursion of biological men into our rightful and total claim to womanhood. For that, I will join with those rag-tag elements of the rogue feminist army to stop the mutilation of our children.
But what do I wish for conservatives to teach young women today? A future that is not female, and not male, but both male and female. Where the masculine is not the norm to which we aspire as females and measure ourselves against, but where we establish norms that are consistent with mental and physical well being of females. And that is neither being subservient or masters. We are not the weaker sex; we have strengths and weaknesses, as do men, and that is why we work well together.Published in General
Great post, GC! I want to comment on this statement:
I hate to say it, but I think the rogue feminists of today aren’t going to want you to join them. I think they are in bed with the progressives and I haven’t heard feminist protests of the incursions of males into female areas. Maybe you have?
Magnificently presented and argued post.
Good post. At least the softball ladies made some advancements. Check out the OU softball team. Think about 35 Ws in a row.
Yes, there are so called “TERFs”: trans-excluding radical feminists. JK Rowling is one, Martina Navratilova another, at least where preserving women’s sports is concerned. So they are a rogue element of a rogue army, but they are allies in this fight.
So you support the incursion of women into manhood, but are incensed by the incursion of men into womanhood.
As with so many issues, the radicalism of feminism is now supported by many people who think of themselves as conservatives.
Marriage and family are in ever-steeper decline, the obvious consequence of feminism, but it doesn’t matter to people.
Being upset at the biological differences that allow you to be a mother, but make you small, weak, and slow compared to men, is a red flag. This is upsetting if you compete with men in male activities, rather than embracing womanhood.
By “incursion of women into manhood”, do you mean women entering the workforce? If so, …
Why would anyone, man or woman, NOT support that?
I accept that women have moved into fields that were traditionally male, but I do not consider most of them to be by necessity male professions. Some of them are and I’m happy to cede them. But I don’t, never have and never will consider working outside the home the sole purview of men.
Why is this your takeaway?
Why is this always your takeaway??
Not quite sure how you took this away from my perspective. I indicated that it was a brief phase of juvenile thinking, that’s all. But honestly, the mood swings, the physical discomfort, the joint problems that plague women more than men? I accept them but I can’t say that I embrace them. They are just part of being a woman, howsoever much I might wish otherwise.
Apparently if you don’t love being physically weak and bleeding every month for 45 years, you are all in on the radical trans agenda!
I’m interested in the ‘reactionary’ feminists, Mary Harrington and Louise Perry. I think what Louise Perry is writing about is very important. Where it falls short for me is the abortion issue which they see as a necessary advancement. But there are some pro life feminists like Fiorella Nash, who rarely appear at interviews or podcasts.
I wonder if people get tired of you telling us we’re all phony conservatives?
Sorry, Gossamer, for letting Jerry distract me from your very thoughtful post. I don’t agree with everything you’ve said, but I totally get where you’re coming from and I appreciate your sincere reflections on this topic. I especially liked the bit quoted above, and hope to steal that last sentence if the opportunity arises. :-)
Thank you Charlotte. I appreciate that and steal away. Jerry’s comments did cause me to reflect a bit more and perhaps I’ll do a part 2!
Thank you. I wasn’t familiar with either of them, but looking at some of their work, I am going to delve in a bit. I just saw this synopsis of Harrington’s new book: Feminism against progress:
“Feminism” has been captured by well-off white-collar women, who use it to advance their own economic and political interests under the pretense that these are the interests of all women—all the while wielding the term like a club against anyone, male or female, who dissents.”
That does seem to be the essence of modern feminism!
Thank you for your timely post – and well expressed. I think we could go further, in that feminism as it was intended, i.e. equal pay, voting, respect in the workplace etc. has failed miserably in protecting the dignity of womanhood today. In fact, women are under attack like never before in history because they carry the potential of future generations and this is being stifled.
Today’s gender confusion is pushing trans, abortions, add the Covid vaxes, plus marriage is no longer viewed as necessary, and that all equals less children and less healthy families.
A man cannot give birth no matter what they think, he cannot become a she no matter how much surgery or drugs are introduced. A woman’s strength is never diminished but enhanced when she protects life.
Yes, I think that is the logical conclusion. It went too far, as humans almost always do, and has started to produce greater unhappiness and mental illness in women rather than greater happiness and life satisfaction. We shed some of the previous restrictions on women’s activities based on technological advances and other reasons-and I am happy that we did. Women enjoy playing sports, participating in civic life and challenging career opportunities as much as men. After my mom raised us, she picked up her interrupted educational pursuits, got her college degree and went on to a career. She was proud of that, but she was also proud of raising four children. I never saw them at odds with each other-she was a great role model. And that is what I meant about redefining societal norms so that they are more consistent with the unique epicenter of womanhood. And that, as you point out, is the ability to bring life into the world.
This book is copyright 1977. My mother had this edition (I had to go spelunking for the right cover) on her bookshelf for decades. She described the problem that you mention above. I believe that this book is what clued her in, but I haven’t read it. But I do recall her describing the testing issue that you mentioned — in the 1980s.
If not for that, none of us would be here.
A certain sinister spiritual entity who I will not name has always especially hated women and the influence of that being is pervasive. Women are not allowed to be content with their bodies, hair, or looks. A steady avalanche of “advice” and advertisements tell women they are failures as parents, wives, and lovers. They are ordered to feel guilty for careers that impinge on family time and/or they must feel that they have betrayed themselves and the entire sisterhood if they limit career choices to accommodate family.
Some “waves” of feminism too readily tossed away the Western heritage of reverence for women and the notion of the “pedestal” in exchange for the right to live a cartoonish imitation of masculinity. Think of the vast array of variations on the female business suit–ruffled cuffs, shoulder pads… All reflective of the ongoing struggle to reconcile (preserve) the feminine in functional environments with masculine origins.
And the final insult of “identity” ought to force a genuinely feminine pushback to all of the negativity imposed on women.
There have been several openly lesbian women on my tweet feed who’ve apologized to everyone for how the demand for gay marriage has become a slippery slope leading to this ubiquitous trans issue.
I see no reason for such an apology.
Why? Because I am quite aware that the best civil rights movements usually become co-opted by those people running the show to become a former shadow of what the movement was originally about.
Then that new scum-baggy movement is used to control the Left’s base & to demonize the people in the center.
For example: Feminism in its original form was needed. Prior to the feminist movement, widows and divorcees found it impossible to support themselves and their children if circumstances put them in the position of being sole provider.
Also prior to the movement, some women could only rise to the position of executive secretary. The director of their department was usually trained by this woman, but even though she had seniority in the department, and knew the department backwards and forwards such that she was needed to teach the male director his job, the job description demanded a person with a penis. Why?
But now that movement has been co-opted to decree that a woman cannot be a feminist unless she approves of abortion. Again, why?
Our societal agreement that those who are gay deserve to be able to marry is seen by many of us as necessary.
But now this movement has been turned inside out, to lay out an insisted upon expectation that a person is a hateful bigot if they do not accept the dysphoric gender-transitioning individuals as some type of heroic martyrs.
Bruce Jenner can do whatever he/she wants, and I could care less. But to have media bandy “Caitlyn” about as though “she” single handedly conquered cancer while climbing Mt Everest is going way too far.
At least Jenner had at one time an interest and talent outside of the need to swap out his sexual parts. But Dylan Mulvaney has never had any talent other than to unabashedly chortle and preen. Yet he/she has been installed as “the fresh voice” of the newly enshrined heroic trans movement, who must not only be tolerated but allowed to replace real women in commercial acting gigs and sports events. (With applause for such “achievements” also being required.)
“Fanatical orthodoxy is in all movements a late development. It comes when the movement is in full possession of power and can impose its faith by force as well as by persuasion.” — Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, 1951
“Up to now, America has not been a good milieu for the rise of a mass movement. What starts out here as a mass movement ends up as a racket, a cult, or a corporation.” — Eric Hoffer, The Temper of Our Time, 1967
Not new news, but the policy was not enacted until 2016.
Very insightful and well stated.
I’ve been really interested in reading and listening to Mary and Louise recently. I’m glad these issues are being taken up at Ricochet. It seems like former lefty feminists get most of the attention on the increasing assaults on womanhood, while “conservative” women (and men) are less interested – DailyWire personalities excepted.
This issue is also discussed in detail in the more recent book by Sarah Hill: This is Your Brain on Birth Control.
Just bought that for an Audible credit. Thank you!
I think some of her work made the popular press; it was really fascinating and again, apropos the trans stuff, attestation of the powerful effects that hormones have on one’s brain.
I think that conservative women have been speaking out but the MSM doesn’t cover us (we’re just a bunch of ho hum right wing transphobes-nothing to see here) and more right leaning outfits just speak to the choir.