Free Radical no. 40 (2000)
Glenn Lamont claims that feminism is incompatible with Objectivism and an invalid concept. I've never seen a definition of feminism that is incompatible with Objectivism. There are feminists who are not Objectivists, and positions called feminist which are incompatible with Objectivism. But I've never seen a definition of feminism which is at the same time representative of feminism and mutually exclusive with Objectivism. I challenge Lamont or anyone to present such a definition. Definitions of feminism are available in feminist literature and in dictionaries.
Neither feminism nor Objectivism/Randianism are monolithic entities. Feminism much less so, for several reasons explored below, one of which being that it wasn't formulated by one person. Even Objectivism, which was formulated essentially by one person, is going through a process of dividing into different groups and interpretations, as Rand's impact and following increases. More people means more positions, more dialogue, more voices, more cacophony. And this is the way the world moves forward, this is the nature of progress.
1. The belief that women and men are, and have been, treated differently by our society, and that women have frequently and systematically been unable to participate fully in all social arenas and institutions. 2. A desire to change that situation. 3. That this gives a "new" point-of-view on society, when eliminating old assumptions about why things are the way they are, and looking at it from the perspective that women are not inferior and men are not "the norm."
It does not follow the classical Aristotelian genus-species structure of definitions, yet clearly refers to and identifies an aspect of reality.
As noted, this range of ideas is bigger - and fuzzier - than a corresponding Randian range of ideas. Objectivism was designed in a hierarchical way as a philosophy, including an emphasis on thought and cognition as fundamental and other mental aspects and activities as derivative. Feminism wasn't designed, but grew out of experiences of certain times, places and factors of social organization. ''Correct thinking about the right ideas'' would be sufficient to call oneself an Objectivist, but it is not enough to be a feminist. Without a commitment to action and social change one is not a feminist, even if one holds feminist ideas. So in feminism there is a form of ''equal worth'' between ideas and activism. Feminism is more than an ideology, more than a philosophy. This is why feminism, unlike Objectivism, cannot be defined by a genus which is only an ideology or a philosophy.
The common thread running through these different periods and places is captured by the definition above. Feminism involves a theory about and a commitment to men and women being equals, in all spheres of life. Equals in standing, possibility, freedom and range of choice.
This is the core of all feminist theories. This ''core feminism'' or ''core feminist theory'' doesn't prescribe or presuppose neither differences between men and women nor similarities between men and women, nor does it require excluding men or only furthering women's causes.
Feminists, as a rule, assume that there are few if any inherent, unchangeable differences between men and women; only a lot of individual differences and variation. Patriarchalists claim the existence of many universal and immutable differences between men and women, seeking to understate, marginalize and suppress individual differences in an attempt to create two universal gender forms or essences that everybody must be squeezed into. In other words, Lamont's claim that most feminists are polylogists is wrong. Only a minority of feminists are polylogists; but virtually all patriarchalists are polylogists. They follow a schema of rationalizations starting with biological, immutable gender essences that are used to justify polylogist beliefs about men's and women's minds, and from there they move on to justify different treatment and expectations of girls and boys, women and men, pretending that gender roles are natural, inborn and immutable. One typical example is John Gray's Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, which has been concisely and extensively criticized by feminist women and men from Earth (see Kathleen Trigiani, http://web2.airmail.net/ktrig246/out_of_cave/index.html).
I myself have never been able to figure out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.This quotation - Rebecca West in The Clarion, 1913 - shows that Lamont is wrong when he claims that the term ''feminism'' was not commonly used in earlier times and that the term was retrofitted by feminists in the 1960s and 70s. The early use of ''feminism'' is well documented.
The soc.feminism Terminologies file lists 16 different types of feminism. They cover a large spectrum and convey the diversity of feminism. Of these, 7 can easily be embraced by Objectivists and Randians, while 5 are clearly incompatible.
A Randian feminism must be individualist. You could use individualist as an adjective (''individualist feminist''). Or - probably better - you can use both as nouns, saying that you are an individualist and a feminist. There is no reason to fear the word feminist.
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Index to the Post-Objectivism web site: