by Connie Chastain*
No, I'm not talking the title of World Heavyweight Champion for boxing, although no doubt about it, that title has to be fought for.
I'm talking about the current squabble over which women will claim the title "feminist" -- conservatives or liberals.
A couple of months ago, feminist writer Jessica Valenti blasted Sarah Palin for "adopting the feminist label." Apparently, leftist feminists believe conservative women cannot, or should not, share the title. Nevertheless, most of the female candidates who won primary races in June identified as conservative Republicans -- and feminists.
You have to be careful with labels. Many political writers have questioned Sarah Palin's conservatism, and I'm not in total disagreement with their doubts. But when it comes to the feminist label, it is most interesting to see what self-identified feminists say it means.
Numerous definitions, explanations, discussions of what a feminist is can be found on the internet; none of them sticks with me more than more than a highly misandric piece written in 2008 by Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts titled "I Am a Feminist." I've often wondered if Pitts realized how greatly he was demonizing his fellow males in this column.
You can read it here: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08039/855735-35.stm
The column concludes, "We have lost collective memory of how things were before the F-word. Of the casual beatings. Of the casual rape. Of words like 'old maid' and 'spinster.' Of abortion by coat hanger. Of going to school to find a man. Of getting an allowance and needing a husband's permission. Of taking all your spirit, all your dreams, all your ambition, aspiration, creativity and pounding them down until they fit a space no larger than a casserole dish."
Shortly after this piece was published, I recapped it in a chatroom as, "Men = casual beaters, casual rapists, heartless insulters, irresponsible impregnators, rigid controllers and haters of women..."
When some of the chatroom members hotly took exception to my recap, I explained further that it was logically implied in what Pitts wrote.
"Of the casual beatings." Requires casual beaters -- does it not? -- who would be men, unless you imagine Pitts is talking about women casually beating other women?
"Of the casual rape." Requires casual rapists, who would be men --unless you imagine Pitts is talking about women casually raping other women.
"Of words like 'old maid' and 'spinster.'" Heartless insults that require heartless insulters, and since we know the feminist tenet that women are not heartless, we can infer that Pitts is talking about men.
"Of abortion by coat hanger." Abortions are performed on pregnant women, and women cannot impregnate other women, so the impregnators are men, and since the woman is having an abortion to get rid of the child, that means she was impregnated by a man too irresponsible to practice birth control, or to take responsibility for the baby.
"Of going to school to find a man. Of getting an allowance and needing a husband's permission." "Allowance" and "permission" imply control, and men are doing the controlling.
The violence and abuse, the heartlessness and insults, the reproductive irresponsibility, and the rigid control all adds up to men's hatred of women. That is what Pitts is saying about men in this article and he implies these things, these effects of men, would be running rampant and roughshod over women--but for feminism.
In a recent column for RealClearPolitics, Cathy Young opined that conservative feminists speak to "an audience that seeks individualistic and market-oriented solutions, rather than big-government-driven ones, and focuses on women’s empowerment rather than oppression.... The women who embrace it are likely to transform both feminism and conservatism. The feminist movement ignores them at its peril."
I have my doubts. Feminism, as Pitts so ably demonstrated, is man-hating at its core. Any woman--or man--who does not accept and promote that concept does not deserve the title. In my humble opinion.
*Connie is a member of the FRS team. Her weekly essays appear every Friday. Her personal blog is http://conniechastain.blogspot.com/