Women are women

women are women

Mary Harrington’s new book Feminism Against Progress boldly asserts that women are women.

Human embodiment matters because we are our bodies rather than being some sort of disembodied minds that happen to be piloting meat suits.

Consequently, feminism focused on effacing the differences between men and women does not serve women’s interests.

Harrington writes from experience.

After an extended adolescence exploring and experimenting with sexual liberation and queer theory, she lost her faith in progress and discovered the value of marriage and motherhood.

She explains that she had

“taken for granted the notion that men and women are substantially the same apart from our dangly bits, and ‘progress’ meant broadly the same thing for both sexes: the equal right to self-realization, shorn of culturally imposed obligations, expectation, stereotypes or constraints. The experience of being pregnant, and then a new mother, blew this out of the water.”

A unisex world of atomised individuals freed from the limitations and obligations of tradition, faith, family, and even embodiment is not good for women.

Harrington traces the sources of this ideology through material and intellectual developments, emphasising the importance of technological change in driving social change.

She begins with the Industrial Revolution, which increased economic asymmetry between the sexes by moving production out of the home.

Consequently, households became consumers of wages earned elsewhere, and labour became defined by wage earning.

This shift away from a home-based economic interdependence provoked an emphasis on companionate marriage and the “cult of domesticity.”

This was an attempt to protect women’s interests and assert the continued interdependence of the sexes, even as men became the sole breadwinners.

The home was held up as a refuge amidst the competitive instability of the market—a haven in a heartless world.

Men and women alike, then, the sexual revolution has not delivered in practice.

Given the reproductive asymmetry between men and women, in which the latter bear far more of the risks and burdens, this division between breadwinners and homemakers was defensible as the genuine pro-women view against more liberationist strains of feminism that sought to have women compete with men in an androgynous world of autonomous individualism.

The Pill ended the duel between these two forms of feminism.

Contraception seemed to liberate women from the perceived handicap of their natural fertility.

Control over fertility meant that sex would no longer render women at least potentially dependent upon men for support, and they could pursue education, careers, prestige and sexual pleasure with all the freedom and independence of men in the modern liberal world.

But it was not so simple.

Nature persists, and contraception and abortion did not eliminate all of the sexual asymmetry between men and women.

As Harrington puts it:

“A few short decades of sexuality unmoored from reproduction via technology are no match, it seems, for millennia of evolution.”

Sexual liberation has established a ruthless relational and sexual market that creates a lot of losers and inflicts a lot of pain.

Far from establishing solidarity, the sexual marketplace exacerbates the war between the sexes. Instead of encouraging stable interdependence, it pushes men and women to exploit each other in highly sexed ways.

The result is increased alienation, loneliness, and—despite the promises of the sexual revolution—sex that is less frequent and less satisfying.

Harrington concludes that for “men and women alike, then, the sexual revolution has not delivered in practice.

Rather than grant all a marvellous new world of polymorphous sexual freedom,” it has delivered “mutually antagonistic caricatures of those features of male and female sexual differences which persist despite our best efforts.”

The result is a world of dating apps and camgirls, incels and OnlyFans. And in this world relationships and commitment are declining, and fertility is falling. Continue reading

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