Shailene Woodley, who starred in the recent film “Divergent,” managed to take over from Kirsten Dunst as the Hollywood feminism freak-out target of the hour, after Time magazine asked her if she considered herself to be a feminist:
No because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance. With myself, I’m very in touch with my masculine side. And I’m 50 percent feminine and 50 percent masculine, same as I think a lot of us are. And I think that is important to note. And also I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. We have to have a fine balance.
My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism. I don’t know how we as women expect men to respect us because we don’t even seem to respect each other. There’s so much jealousy, so much comparison and envy. And “This girl did this to me and that girl did that to me.” And it’s just so silly and heartbreaking in a way.
Woodley’s equation of feminism with man-hating, and her thoughts about the “balance of power” between the sexes, inspired such hysterical rants as Ms. Magazine portraying her as the poster child for ignorance, and calling for more aggressive feminist indoctrination of captive public-school children:
The overwhelming impression we give children as they grow up in the United States–that there is a kind of equitable balance between men and women in the public sphere–is so outrageously laughable that the only way to describe what we teach them is as propaganda. By any metric you care to consider–political, religious, corporate, and practically all forms of media and cultural production–we are nowhere near parity. Girls and women are the vast bulk of humans being sold and traded as sex and forced labor products on a global open market. Most depictions of girls and women continue to create an environment of denigration that make the expression “powerful woman” an oxymoron. We can’t even visualize the concept appropriately. And, while a recent spate of books, movies and music videos featuring strong, female role models (like those played so well by Woodley) is a significant positive development they are, functionally, drops in a bucket. As for depictions of feminists, well, we produce such a steady stream of straw feminists you could hold a yearlong bonfire and have some left over.
It’s au courant to be perturbed, as far as children are concerned, with the effects of entertainment media as a “fourth parent” with undesirable influence. However, schools are the most immersive media environment that children live with. And our schools, androcentric by default, are disasters when it comes to growing children with equal senses of competence and authority. Girls may have higher academic achievement, but that has yet to alter the fact of male dominance. The number one job for women today is what is was 60 years ago, when women earned less than 10 percent of college degrees: secretary. Schools are, despite efforts of the occasional individual teacher, vectors for male overconfidence and female under-confidence, and petri dishes of implicit biases and stereotypes that undermine equality of all kinds. And yet, the overwhelming concern for many people is making sure women don’t “take power” from men and take over. It’s surreal every time I hear it.
Apologies if you lost consciousness and ended up face-down in that word salad; I thought quoting two full paragraphs was necessary to adequately convey its flavor.
There’s been a long struggle to redefine the “feminist” brand after the movement made itself into a laughingstock by defending Bill Clinton. After years of breathless crusading against “sexual harassment” as the ultimate, pervasive crime of patriarchy, feminists added the little caveat that it’s perfectly acceptable for a powerful man to use his position to exploit a young woman for sexual gratification, provided he has the right politics. If I were a feminist leader, I’d be worried about Hillary Clinton’s impending presidential campaign requiring me to make a fool of myself on behalf of her philandering husband all over again.
But maybe they’re right to be worried about the intriguing resurgence of interest in those old-fashioned sexual values, which are really just basic human nature. After years of hardcore feminist extremists trying to reprogram society to believe men and women are utterly interchangeable – neither the sex or number of participants in marriage matters anymore, don’t you know? – a substantial number of young people are rejecting their indoctrination and rediscovering the truth. It’s driving power feminists nuts.
I hesitate to put words in Shailene Woodley’s mouth, because she didn’t elaborate on her “balance of power” idea, but my supposition is that she means men and women have different forms of influence over each other – “power” is a rather crude term for it, imputing conflict and conquest into a joyously voluntary, delightfully complex interaction. It’s a bit early to say that power feminism’s mission to teach young women to view men as enemies and oppressors has failed, but it doesn’t appear to have succeeded. A towering edifice of social custom and moral judgment grows from the intersection of two simple ideas: men and women are different, and that’s a good thing.