Have Conservatives Turned “Feminism” into a Dirty Word?

Cultural journalist Suzi Parker thinks so. Writing for a Washington Post blog, she claims feminism has lost its noble messaging to the criticisms of Rush Limbaugh and the Right, and she, for one, has had enough of it. “It’s time for women to take back the word feminism,” she writes, and she proceeds to make several points to back up her claim that feminism has become a tragic victim in the conservative war on women:

(1) “Have conservatives so corrupted the word ‘feminist’ that it is now tainted like the word ‘liberal’ or ‘environmentalist’? The fact that this is even in the realm of discussion in 2013 makes my head ache terribly — and makes me angry.”

Your question makes my head ache, Ms. Parker, and I bet you’re not half as angry as I am. The main culprit for corrupting the word “feminism” is the feminist movement itself. What was once a movement about, as you say, “equal rights for women . . . equal pay, legal, voting, education and reproductive rights and protection from domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment” has digressed into a movement about social justice, wealth redistribution, anti-Constitutionalism, big government, feministic chauvinism, sex, sexualization, and self-objectification. And, as you said, “No, you don’t have to be a militant and burn your bra to be a feminist.” You’re right. The bras were burned long ago, the breasts are out, and militancy is mainstream.

(2) “When I was growing up, my mother, who was of the generation where women married after high school, took their husband’s name and had babies, always told me that I could do anything a boy could do. I sometimes doubted that in the 1970s South, when girls were still dressing in frills to attend cotillion and enter beauty pageants. But I gave it my best shot. I skateboarded, popped wheelies on my bike and played baseball – not softball – with the neighborhood boys. And like the boys, I suffered skinned knees and bruised arms (mine were visible when I wore my sundresses). I felt equal, if not at times better, than they were.”

Yeah, well you weren’t that unusual. A lot of us girls climbed trees and skinned our knees in the 70s. So what. I grew up in the South, and like most of the girls in my neighborhood, I wore my brother’s secondhand clothes and cut my hair short. And I even chewed some tobacco too. You couldn’t have distinguished me from Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird except that I wore a leather Kansas City Chief’s jacket, and, unlike you, I never wore a sundress. I too played sports, ran with the boys, got in fist fights, and did everything they did. I was equal to them, and, yes, even better at times (especially in the fist fights).

Sounds like you and I have the same story, particularly the Southern bit. So what’s your point? That we had opportunities our mothers didn’t have because of the women’s movement? You’re right. But where you’re wrong is your claim that the women’s movement today is the same as it was in the 70s. Look at you and me. A similar past, a very different present. You see feminism through the rose-colored glasses of history and your own idealism. I see it for what it is today—an immoral faction controlled by statists to undermine women’s freedom and power by expanding laws and regulations and replacing personal choice with government bureaucracy.

Do my views make me anti-woman? I’m just as much a “feminist”—in the 70s, tree-climbing sense of the word—as you are. But where we’re not the same is our understanding of government’s role in our lives, equality under the law, and the difference between beautiful sexuality and base sexualization.

(3) “Some 20-something, millennial women say that feminism has corrupted their femininity and their wish to stay at home and raise children. Not at all. Feminism is about the opportunity for a woman to choose whatever path in her life she wants, but, also to have the same rights as her male counterparts, whether in the boardroom or the bedroom. If men feel intimidated by this modernity, it’s their problem.”

You’re just living in fantasyland on this one. Modern feminism, of the statist kind that is rampant today, does not support women who stay at home. Women who want to care for their children and husbands are looked down upon, criticized, mocked, and ridiculed. Even those who have jobs and have been successful, if they value life, family, church, and country, are not supported by the feminist movement.

In claiming that feminism hasn’t corrupted a woman’s femininity, you are either lying to yourself or lying to us. And if you truly believe that feminism today represents and supports ALL women in their free choices for themselves, then you’ve got blinders on. Feminism supports those who toe the statist line. Period. All others who refuse to worship at the shrine of sanctified sexualization and statism are treated worse than chauvinistic men (and many of those are on the Left. Calling Bill Clinton!).

Exhibit A: Sarah Palin. Where were the feminists when Bill Maher called her a dumb t**t or a stupid c**t? Exhibit B: Michelle Malkin. Where were the feminists when Keith Olbermann called her a “big mashed up bag of meat with lipstick”?

You say feminism is all about equality and support of women no matter what their choices? Really? Well, it seems to me that its message is more reflective of Ellen Barkin’s rant as Tropical Storm Isaac moved toward the Republican Convention in 2012: “C’mon Isaac! Wash every pro-life, anti-education, anti-woman, xenophobic, gay-bashing, racist SOB right into the ocean!” Spoken like a true feminist statist who has met the full, logical realization of her philosophy—kill anyone who disagrees with you. If you don’t have gas chambers, maybe a storm will do just fine.

(4) “The tainting of the word ‘feminism’ has a lot to do with Rush Limbaugh, who has made it his mission for the last 20 years to try and put women in their proper place. In the early 1990s, he repeatedly used the term ‘feminazi,’ a slur to describe a dozen or so women – Gloria Steinem, Anita Hill and Susan Sarandon – whom he found repulsive for their beliefs. Limbaugh later adopted the term to describe any woman who supported abortion rights or, essentially, who he didn’t like.”

Now you’re just whining. First of all, as popular as Rush is, he isn’t that powerful. You give the “harmless little fuzzball” too much credit. Again, this harkens back to my first point. The fault for the “tainting of the word ‘feminism’” isn’t Rush or conservatives, it’s feminists themselves. And it’s about time they stop whining and playing the blame game—particularly toward Rush—and own how they’ve corrupted the women’s movement started by our mothers and grandmothers.

The term “feminazi,” whether you like it or not, was applied to a fringe, as you said, “militant,” side of the feminist movement. The problem is, that fringe group is now mainstream, and, no, that is NOT a good thing, not for women, not for anyone. And, by the way, Rush didn’t find these women repulsive for their beliefs. I don’t think Rush finds anyone repulsive, particularly women. But he did find their agendas repulsive, as do many women—the lies of Anita Hill, the abortion-on-demand extremism of Steinem, and the statism of Sarandon—are all offensive to WOMEN.

The term feminazi fits when you’re describing agendas that put big-government control over individual liberty, sexual freedom over religious conscience, and factionalized politics over a commitment to the Constitution. I know this will make your head ache even more, Ms. Parker, but in this instance, Rush is right.