Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Children pay the price of gender feminism war

Divorce, child care and pensions have grown as radicals urged women to flee the family 'monster', writes Barry Maley.

Barry Maley
Sydney Morning Herald

For some radical feminists, males are patriarchal oppressors and the family is their torture chamber. So they impose a taboo on men talking about the effects of feminism upon family life and the rearing of children. Yet these feminists have dismissed the preferences of a great many women, gloried in the expulsion of men from the family, and made life harder for many children.

But first, an important distinction. There are two kinds of feminism: "liberal" or equal opportunity feminism, and gender feminism. Liberal feminism has essentially won the battle for equal legal, political and property rights and for fair treatment in the workplace. Apart from a few sullen neanderthals, men in general have endorsed (and often helped) these victories for women.

Any remaining inequalities are less the result of unfair, systemic discrimination than the reflection of different choices arising from female and male preferences based, ultimately, in biological differences between the sexes. Which brings us to the essential thesis of gender feminism.

This is that biological differences between the sexes are of no significance in shaping the behaviour of men and women. "Gender" is entirely a social and political construct fashioned by men as an instrument with which to segregate, disenfranchise, and oppress women. Dependence on men, exclusion from the world and banishment of women to the kitchen and the nursery, Betty Friedan said, were the results.

After asserting that women have the same needs as men for power and control, Friedan says: "When woman was denied access to satisfaction of those needs in society as a person in her own right, she made home and the family into a vehicle for her power and control, status and self-realisation [which] then became her Frankenstein monster."

Copyright © 2001. The Sydney Morning Herald