Thursday, April 25, 2019

Interview: Wendy McElroy says "third-wave feminism" has no "commitment to female empowerment"

Editor's note: This interview was originally published in February 2017.

This is the final article in my discussion with Wendy McElroy. The firstsecondthird, and fourth parts are available on-line.
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: Third-wave feminism is quite different than what came before it. What is its most important distinguishing element?

Wendy McElroy: The differences are multitudinous and immense but a key one is often overlooked. The liberal second-wave movement overwhelmingly aimed at reform rather than at revolution. Some of the issues and impacts, like abortion and sexual liberation, may have seemed revolutionary but the calls for change were aimed at specific laws or specific freedoms like equal access to jobs and education. Basically, liberal feminists called for inclusion within the system as well as for personal freedom.

Third-wave feminism was called "post-Marxist feminism" by its pioneering intellectual Catherine MacKinnon; the label reflected both the revolutionary nature of the new feminism as well as its ideological content. Why not just call it Marxist feminism? A major difference between Marxism proper is that the key concept of class warfare shifted to include gender warfare as well as the traditional anti-capitalist variety. Marx himself did not deal with gender oppression or make a political distinction between men and women. That task was left to Engels whom the third-wave movement often quoted in its early days.

Otherwise stated, the third-wave movement believes capitalism and the oppressive power hierarchy rests on white male culture, white privilege. To complete the revolution, therefore, it is necessary to sweep away (or deconstruct) white and male privilege. This focus also explains why third-wave feminism is considerably more hostile toward men than the second-wave version was.

Cotto: Many third-wave feminists seem to dislike men more than love the idea of female empowerment. Do you believe that this is a fair assessment of the situation?

McElroy: Yes, as a general assessment, I believe it is fair. That's a personal belief based on decades of interaction with and observation of gender feminists. But, however informed my assessment may be, it is still subjective and will almost certainly not be true of every SJW. I suppose the general reaction against males is inevitable. If I thought gender or class warfare was raging between males and all other sexual orientations, if I thought men were my sworn enemies, then I'd probably approach them with a clenched fist too. As it is, I think there is a natural harmony of interests between peaceful individuals.

As for third-wave feminism's commitment to female empowerment...they have none. If they did, they would encourage or at least tolerate the words and presence of dissenting women who are, after all, exercising their own empowerment. Instead, dissenting women are gender infidels, and infidels are always hated more than heretics.

What third-wave feminism seeks to empower is a specific ideology which has become a secular religion.