Before I begin, let me emphasize again: I am a traditionalist Christian with a strong patriarchal bias. If you don’t like your worldview challenged, stop reading. I’m writing this because I gave my word to Xhloid (on twitter) that I would address some rebuttals he had to my post about rejecting modern thought. His main contention, if I remember correctly, is that I lumped feminism and racism together as the negative spawn of modern thought, even though the former is ostensibly a fight for equality which would put it on the same side of the fight as anti-racism and other virtuous movements of our day. I want to explore why I think both these issues though opposed to each other,in reality flow from the same erroneous assumptions.
At the foundation of it all is the very idea that equality is the rightful state of human society, a la, all men are created equal. This idea was a creation of the Enlightenment and has been accepted as a fact. It follows then, that any apparent inequalities between groups of people, have to be explained away. Pre-enlightenment, across all cultures from Africa to Europe to Asia, the concept of slavery was not new, the concept of subject peoples was not new. Some cultures overcame others, and ruled them, and masters owned slaves without a need to define them as less than human because of it. With the advent of enlightenment, where Europeans had to justify the overthrow of monarchies across their societies (French, American and even British revolutions), they held on to the universal equality of men as their raison d’agir. Having convinced themselves that all men are created equal, and had no right to rule over his fellow man, they had to square that with the reality that they themselves were suddenly ruling vast swaths of the world of men. They thus invented to themselves the belief that these subjects did not infact qualify as men and therefore were not equal to them. Thus, racism was invented. It’s the same logic that made the American revolutionaries define slaves as three-fifths of men rather than outlaw slavery. To quote Sartre, when he discussed Fanon and the Algerian revolution, he says “one of the functions of racism is to compensate the latent universalism of bourgeois liberalism: since all human beings have the same rights, the African* (sic) will be made a subhuman.” If you read a lot of the Enlightenment thinkers, you will see the origins of those kinds of sentiments. It’s not accidental.
Feminism was born of the same equalist doctrine. Women and men were always understood to be different, in what we cared about, what we were most capable at and what spheres of society fell to which gender. Yes, men were the authority figures, but only in their own house. And yes, there were exceptions, but most societies, as much as I can tell, made allowance for that. My own hometown was ruled by a Queen for decades (her statues riddle the small kingdom) who led the town to war at a time when her husband was too old to, despite the fact that everyone said it had never been done. There has always been a lot more room to rebel, conform, or submit according to your individual predisposition. At the dawn of the enlightenment however, this was no longer enough. Saying that the sexes are constitutionally different became an anathema. The idea had to be stamped about genders being equal and they must be, regardless of the constitutions of particular individuals. Blanket universalisms like that go against everything organic and unique about individual members of society. But it is what it is. Every revolution, even one of ideas, usually exchanges one tyranny for another. And that’s fine.