©By ILANA MERCER
A version of this column appeared in The North Shore News
August 23, 1999
I recently heaved a sigh of relief. Judy Rebick, host of the Canadian National Broadcaster and feminist extraordinaire, is on record saying “it was possible to be a good feminist and like to have sex with men.” Not that I have ever been a good feminist, but to hear Ms. Rebick graciously sanction sex with men convinced me feminist thinking was as original as ever.
To fortify the ideological sludge within which feminist thought has been mired, Rebick dredges up in her “Elm Street” column some quotations from Germain Greer’s, “The Whole Woman.” In this highfalutin version of “Men Are From Mars and Women Are from Venus,” Greer offers up a Kafkaesque vision of women’s situation in the world. We are oppressed by everyone from retailers, to gynecologists to cosmetic companies (don’t women work in these fields?). And we are subjugated by our other halves who, when they are not scheming on incest with their daughters, or beating up on us, are driven by feral appetites to lap up pornography. Pornography is always the crucible for feminist angst. That some women enjoy, make, and produce it is evidently beside the point.
The stagnant nature of feminist debate leaped out from over the pages of the Vancouver Sun’s ever-so au courant “Mix” magazine. Two feminists teemed up against the white, middle class journalist, Douglas Todd, who had opined that feminists should retire. To disabuse them of their ignorance, the feminist writer recommended males read some original feminist tracts. When the name Andrea Dworkin surfaced on the recommended reading list, I had to chuckle. Andrea Dworkin is the feminist whose supple mind gave birth to the notion that all sexual intercourse between man and woman is rape. Over to iconoclast Camille Paglia for Dworkin’s credentials:
Dworkin…has turned a garish history of mental instability into feminist grand opera. She publicly boasts of her bizarre multiple rapes, assaults, beatings, breakdowns and tacky trauma, as if her inability to cope with life were the patriarchy’s fault rather than her own. Dworkin’s shrill, kvetching, solipsistic prose has a sloppy, squalling infantilism.
For Paglia the teacher, “the Girl with the Eternal Cold” is hard to take. Dworkin was “the pudgy, clumsy, whiny child at summer camp who was always spilling her milk, dropping her lollipop in the dirt, getting a cramp on the hike, a stone in her shoe, a bee in her hair … this type—pasty bilious, and frumpy—is constantly sick from fall to spring.” Enough said.
We shift venues from print to a real-life puke-fest. The scene is the much-hyped “Power of Women Conference.” The panel consists of the world’s most influential women. Among them is “feminist icon and co-founder of Ms. Magazine” Gloria Steinam. Also present are former astronaut Mae Jemison and Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes.” The Vancouver Sun spoke glowingly of an atmosphere packed with Oprah moments. As women cried, laughed, hugged, and massaged one another, they also regurgitated tired anti-male agitprop: “A woman who strives to be like a man lacks ambition.” Sentimental obscenities kept flashing on a giant screen, one of which read, “You are the altar of love upon the planet, your responsibility is to impart to your children that they are the light of heaven upon the earth.” (Mum’s cheesy self-adoration “Don’t Impress Kids Much,” back at the day care center.) The slick production cost $329 a head. So much for the alleged inclusive, non middle-class nature of North American feminism.
Like a black hole whose collapse becomes increasingly likely as its center of gravity grows heavier women—especially feminists—risk vanishing into self-centerdness and self-preoccupation. “New feminism,” wrote Melanie Phillips in the “Times Literary Supplement,” embodies an oppressive and authoritarian culture of grievance and chronic offense.” When it comes to longevity, the propensity for suicide, unemployment, and death or injury on the job, men, in reality, are at a considerable disadvantage. What dames like Germain Greer claim is that none of these disadvantages begins to compare with the misery that is a woman’s daily lot.
To get on track, feminists would have to quit their anti-intellectual, mythical, dishonest thinking, give up their bogus statistics on violence against women and lack of parity in the workplace, and cease striving for preferential treatment and equality of outcome. Above all, give up the priggish disdain for the man-woman tension that makes the world go round, and show some compassion. To men, too.