Feminism and ideological evolution

In response to Shouldn’t Conservative Women Just Admit They’re Feminists?:

That’s an intriguing notion, Ace.  I suspect most feminists of the movement’s early era would readily agree with your three-point summary of their ideas.  So would a lot of average women who consider themselves loosely or actively feminist today.  

But the hard-core movement leaders would probably get angry at you for distilling it to those three logical elements.  They’d accuse you of attempting to shanghai the Movement, and would react contemptuously to your assertion that you consider yourself a “feminist” – which, under your terms, most men and women of 2013 probably are.  (I’m not even sure Michele Bachmann or others who cleave to the Scriptural philosophy you outlined would disagree; she might speak of differences from men without inferiority.  But I won’t go any further toward answering the question from her perspective.)

What your outline of feminism is missing is tribalism.  You don’t have that sense of a shadowy, powerful, oppressive Other who must be fought at all costs.  We had some laughs over how absurd their efforts to conjure the Other were… but they worked, at least well enough to preserve a sense of group identity with political utility.  To modify Eliot: I will show you fear in a binder full of women.

When conservative women try to retake feminism, they are portrayed as agents of the Other.  It’s fairly common to see their very womanhood impugned, as if their sex can be rescinded due to ideological impurity.  That’s why liberals who style themselves as stern feminists are completely relaxed while vicious misogyny is flung at the likes of Sarah Palin or Michelle Malkin.  Totalitarian politics defines identity.  Those who practice such politics will not easily relinquish their valuable ability to control identity.

But for those who aren’t hard-core ideologues, feminism has clearly accomplished its primary goals.  The points that formed the core of a great struggle in decades past have triumphed, and are now accepted as a matter of routine, to a degree that might surprise a visitor from just four decades ago.  Nothing turns sour faster than an ideology that refuses to accept victory.

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