Editor's note: This interview was originally published in February 2017.
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
What does it mean to be a feminist?
“FEMINISM, a term, supposed to have originated in France in 1890, which includes all phases of the modern tendency of women to assert their equality in the social life with men; their right to enter the professions on an equal basis with men, equal suffrage for both sexes in political matters, and a general recognition of the rights of women to interest themselves in public affairs,” Collier’s Encyclopedia told in 1921.
More recently, Michael Che, while performing his act on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, asked “what makes a feminist a feminist? It’s confusing …. A feminist is really just someone who believes in equal rights for women, and that’s easy to get behind. That is until you see an actual feminist screaming into a cop’s face, wearing a homemade uterus hat, and then you’re like, ‘Oh, there are different levels to this!’”
Indeed, there are.
Few people can navigate these choppy waters so well as Wendy McElroy. She is a feminist – of the pro-capitalism individualist anarchist variety. There are not many women’s rights activists who connect the dots between limited government and female empowerment, but McElroy is undaunted at being outnumbered.
That should be unsurprising. After all, how odd would it be if an individualist anarchist liked the idea of being but a face in the crowd?
An ardent opponent of sex-negative propaganda, third-wave feminism, and social justice warrior culture, McElroy is one of the few people who can say she has gotten a rise out of religious rightists – she vociferously supported the right to watch pornography in the 1980s, when Los Angeles County considered legislation which countered this – and movement progressives – she praises free enterprise and dislikes the trigger warning-prone nature of modern liberalism – alike.
I like her already!
She recently spoke with me about several issues of the day. Some of our conversation is included below.
Joseph Ford Cotto: What do you anticipate the primary legacy of Donald Trump's presidency will be; specifically as far as American conservatism is concerned?
Wendy McElroy: I believe he will enlarge and cement into society the worst aspects of American conservatism.
I admire much about what is called "Old Right" conservatism which was prominent during Franklin Roosevelt's presidency and much of the Cold War era. Specifically, I am attracted to its emphasis on small government, free trade rather than military intervention abroad, free markets and civil liberties domestically.
By contrast, Trump expresses many of the worst aspects of American conservatism. Despite claims to oppose sprawling government, his high-price tag policies will almost certainly bloat the bureaucracy no matter how many regulations he removes. Trump is anti-free trade as illustrated by the threatened tariffs on foreign manufactured goods. His hawkish stance against terrorists, which includes talk of torturing them and "taking out" their families, is frightening. Trump seems willing to replace many civil liberties, such as freedom of the press, with an intrusive rule of law.
As his legacy, I expect these disturbing aspects of conservativism to rise in dominance.
Cotto: What is likely to be the most important way in which Trump's presidency impacts American progressivism?
McElroy: I hoped it would highlight the errors both of advancing political correctness and of doing so through political means, which is coercive. I hoped progressives would return to the earlier more benevolent form of liberalism which stressed themes of anti-war, the common man, anti-corporatism and freedom of speech.
So far, however, the most prominent leaders have hardened behind political correctness; they have become more shrill in their fury and in accusations such as "all disagreement is racism or sexism or..." So far, progressivism continues its march toward becoming a fanatical secular religion.
Fortunately, more reasonable voices give cause for hope. These voices are crucial because there needs to be a coherent and cogent anti-Trump movement. The current division and hysteria are a gift to him.