Editor's note: The following is the text of a speech the author had planned to deliver at Williams College as part of the school's "Uncomfortable Learning" Speaker Series. The student-run group cancelled her talk several days prior to the event. Read more about the cancellation here.
Good evening. I’d like to begin by talking about what it means to be truly educated. An education rests upon an exchange of ideas. It requires a free mind, one that is not swayed by groupthink.
Groupthink, or being told what to think rather than how to think, undermines the purpose of an education. Another term for groupthink is "political correctness."
You’ve no doubt heard this label used in the media lately with regard to the 2016 presidential election, but I believe it’s a concept that’s misunderstood. A lot of people think being “P.C.” means to be kind or tactful, or to simply avoid saying things that might offend someone. It can mean that. But more often than not, it means something else entirely.
The choices you make in your personal life will have far more impact on your happiness and well being than the choices you make in your professional life.
In "The New Thought Police," Tammy Bruce defines political correctness, or groupthink, as the notion that “only certain things can be said, or considered, or thought—and that some group out there has the authority to decide, for everyone, what is appropriate.”
That is the America we live in today, and it’s a blight on our culture.
My goal for you all, my purpose in being here tonight, is to inspire you to think for yourselves. Do not be swayed by groupthink no matter what your friends, your family or the culture believe. Do not be afraid to ask yourself questions that may make you uncomfortable. And do not be afraid of the answers.
With that in mind, let’s get to the main topic I’ve come here this evening to discuss: feminism.
Do not be swayed by groupthink no matter what your friends, your family or the culture believe. Do not be afraid to ask yourself questions that may make you uncomfortable. And do not be afraid of the answers.
In 2008, Rebecca Walker, daughter of Alice Walker, who wrote "The Color Purple," said this about feminism:
“Yes, feminism has undoubtedly given women opportunities. It’s helped open the doors for us at schools, universities and in the workplace. But what about the problems it’s caused for my contemporaries? Far from taking responsibility for this, the leaders of the movement close ranks against anyone who dares to question them—as I have learned to my cost. I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations.”
Ms. Walker is right: feminism is an experiment—a monumental experiment—that needs to be assessed on its results, not on its intentions or on its leaders’ proclamations. In this particular case, Walker was referring to the women of her generation who ended up childless, or almost childless, because they listened to feminists who told them motherhood wasn’t important, or shouldn’t be important, to an educated woman.
Fertility struggles are indeed one of feminism’s great casualties.
There are more.
As you know, feminism is a large umbrella for an enormous range of topics — from its signature issue, abortion, to sex and relationships, women in the workplace, marriage, divorce, domestic violence, women in the military and work-family balance.
There isn’t a person among us who doesn’t have a stake in at least one of these issues.
But they are not “women’s issues,” as the media often claim. They are everyone’s issues.
Men have opinions on these matters as well, as they should, yet their voices are rarely heard.
Same goes for women who don’t consider themselves feminists — which, for the record, is most women.
We hear from feminists the most for good reason.
A. Feminists pride themselves on being the arbiter of all things female.
B. They have the microphone. Indeed, the feminist elite run the show.
The feminist elite is comprised of left-leaning professors, journalists, writers, psychologists, actresses and lawyers whose beliefs have seeped into the culture to such a degree that anyone who takes a non-feminist view of any topic is branded either sexist or a misogynist.
This group uses their clout to bully people into silence, and the result is a lack of reasonable dialogue.
Since people don’t wish to be attacked for simply questioning an idea, they say nothing — giving feminists free reign of the conversation.
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot over the years about liberal media bias, but feminist bias is an offshoot of that — and it’s far more toxic.
As former CBS News journalist Bernard Goldberg wrote in his book "Bias," “I know a few top male producers who would rather walk barefoot on cut glass while drinking Drano than have to face the Missus back home after giving the green light to a story on the excesses of feminism.”
There are even doctors, scientists and researchers in this country who can’t publish their findings if what they’ve discovered undermines a feminist worldview. That’s the insidious nature of feminist bias.
The assumption is that to be a woman is to be a feminist. Because after all, a feminist is someone who believes in equal rights, and who wouldn’t believe in that? You’d have to be a nut to not to believe in that.
But Americans do believe in equal rights, so a feminist label is unnecessary — because that is not what feminism is about.
The reason there’s so much back and forth about what feminism means is because Americans have caught on to the fact that the movement is not what it claims to be.
So what is feminism? What do feminists believe? Namely, that American women are oppressed by a patriarchy hell-bent on keeping women down, and that men and marriage are expendable.
If you think I’m exaggerating, consider these newspaper and magazine headlines:
“Who Needs Marriage?” (Time, Nov. 18, 2010)
“The End of Men ”(The Atlantic, July/Aug 2010)
“For Women, Is Home Really So Sweet?” (The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 18, 2012)
“Is It Time to Retire the Word ‘Wife’”? (The Huffington Post, Feb. 15, 2012)
“Do You Hate Your Husband?” (Yahoo, Dec. 5, 2010)
And here’s a headline from The Wall Street Journal just three weeks ago: “Two Careers, Still Unequal” — which claims yet again that working mothers suffer more than working fathers. That is patently false.
Both mothers and fathers work equally hard, just in different locales.
A study in the Journal of Economic Literature reports that while women perform roughly 17 more hours of work inside the home, men perform roughly 22 more hours outside the home. When comparing the total amount of work men and women each do inside and outside the home, women average 56 hours and men average 61 hours.
That I even have to give you those statistics makes me sad, but that is what feminism has come to. It has made marriage, or just relationships in general, a virtual battleground. Love has become a game of oneupmanship. Except no one wins.
All of this has been done in the name of empowerment, yet feminism is rooted in victimhood. Indeed, feminism is riddled with inconsistencies. Either you’re empowered, or you’re a victim. Which is it?
Same goes for sex differences. Feminists believe gender is a social construct, that parents and society make children the way they are. But feminists also support gay and LBGT rights for people who they insist are born that way. So which is it? Is gender biological, or isn’t it?
But the worst part of feminism, the part that really irks those who are able to think for themselves, is that feminists claim there’s one way to be a woman. If you’re not pro-Choice, if you’re not a Democrat, and if your goal is to make family the focal point of your life, you’re anti-woman.
I know, I know—you’re going to say I don’t understand feminism. “Feminism is about choice!” you’ll shout. It is not about choice, any more than it’s about equal rights. Those are red herrings.
It’s true women today have more opportunities than they did in the past, and thus more choice. But there are reasons for that that are unrelated to feminism (though feminism certainly helped pushed things along). Birth control, laborsaving devices and technology — for which we mostly have men to thank — gave women what they needed all along: time.
Time is what allowed women to turn their attention away from the home in record numbers. We should be thanking men for liberating women.
It is also true there was a time when women who did not want to live conventional lives felt marginalized. But it is equally true that women today who do want to live conventional lives feel just as marginalized, which proves feminism was not about accepting women who didn’t fit the mold. It was about re-making the mold. It was about changing the natural order of things so the natural order no longer feels natural.
Feminists’ obsession with gender equality is simply that: an obsession. And it has changed the character of this nation.
Hanna Rosin, author of "The End of Men," describes the new ethos this way: “Thanks to the sexual revolution, [women] can have relationships — and maybe some drama — through their twenties and early thirties and not get tied down with a husband and babies. If the price is a little more heartache, so be it. These days women have a lot more important things on their horizon.”
You will never be happy or successful in love if you adopt an attitude like that — unless, that is, you plan to never marry. If that’s the case, fine. But statistically speaking, the vast majority of you will become wives and mothers (and husbands and fathers) someday.
And if we know this to be true, which we do, why not talk about it? Why don’t we talk about how to incorporate what will, for most of you, become your future?
The choices you make in your personal life will have far more impact on your happiness and well being than the choices you make in your professional life.
You can become president if you wish, but even that accomplishment will pale in comparison to the state of your personal relationships.
That’s one of the reasons I’m not a feminist. Rather than push women to become CEOs to prove some faux notion of equality— which is not to say there’s anything wrong with becoming a CEO; you’ll just have to accept the trade-offs — I’d rather help you plan a life that makes space for marriage and family, since that’s what most of you will choose to do.
I could spend these two hours telling you how great you are, or telling you to reach for the stars and to shatter glass ceilings, but why beat a dead horse? You’ve been told that same thing since the day you were born.
We wonder why women have fertility problems or why working mothers can’t find balance in their lives. Perhaps if someone had to said to them, “You know, a woman’s life has seasons — a time for this and a time for that. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but there will come a time when being a wife and mother will become your primary focus, so make sure you consider that when mapping out your life.” Or: “You know, motherhood may seem a long way off; but don’t wait too long. Your body has an agenda of its own.”
I tell you these things because despite being relatively successful in the professional sphere, nothing in my life has been more fulfilling than being a mom. If you choose this route, it will add to your life — not detract from it.
That is not something a feminist will tell you. Women who put family first are a real problem for feminists because they undermine the feminist goal, which is to change society.
What feminists want is to make men and women interchangeable.
As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg famously said at a 2011 graduation speech. “I believe the world would be a better place if men ran half our homes and women ran half our institutions.”
Anne-Marie Slaughter is another example. Slaughter is the self-described feminist, and former Princeton professor who wrote an article that went viral in 2012 called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” In it, Slaughter concedes, ironically, that the “feminist beliefs on which I had built my entire career were shifting under my feet.”
When I first read those words, I was dancing a gig that a high-profile woman had the courage to admit that feminism is flawed — particularly when it comes to work-family balance, which is what her article was about. But rather than end with that observation, she went marching back to her feminist principles and blamed society for why she couldn’t be successful in both arenas. That’s what feminists do when they can’t make their lives work: blame the system.
They also blame men. Today Slaughter is arguing for “a whole new domestic order.” In a recent interview about her new book "Unfinished Business," she repeated a version of Sandberg’s claim: that gender equality “is about men owning the care side of [women’s] lives just as much as the competition side.”
And that, of course, is where the rubber meets the road.
I am not a feminist because I don’t believe feminists have an accurate understanding of human nature.
I believe men and women are equal in value but different in nature. Each want and need different things, and each is often better suited to certain tasks due to their respective biology.
Accepting this fact does not mean women can’t be doctors or engineers or men can’t be full-time dads, nor does it mean all men and all women have identical nurturing and competitive drives. It just means more men than women may like sports and more women than men may want to stay home with the kids. And that’s okay.
But it’s not okay with feminists, who insist not on equal opportunity but on equal outcomes. They also insist there aren’t more women in government or more female CEOs due to rampant discrimination. Or, as Sheryl Sandberg suggessts, because girls are called "bossy" and that scars them for life.
But there’s a logical explanation for why there aren’t more female leaders: that is not what most women choose to do.
Just several weeks ago, in a Fortune magazine article about why there are so few women at the top, senior editor Nina Easton writes, “A missing piece of this conversation is how many highly educated, top-talent women drop out, curtail their work, or (like me) choose a ‘mommy-tracker’ route in their careers—not because of discrimination or hostile work environments but because of the time they want to devote to their kids…By definition, this limits the pool of female talent at the very top.”
The wage gap is also easily explained. It is nothing more than the mathematical quotient of the difference between the average annual income of all working women compared to the average annual income of all working men.
It ignores the education and training each makes, as well as the difficulty and the danger of the job.
It ignores the number of hours and overtime people accept, or whether or not they have to travel for the job.
It ignores the amount of vacation and personal leave time each uses.
What’s more, using this same comparison, research shows women earn more than men throughout their twenties.
The Press Association found that from 2006 to 2013 women between the ages of 22 and 29 earned roughly $1,700 more than their male counterparts. However, the wage differential between the sexes flips once people move into their 30s.
Which brings as back to motherhood.
Here is the truth no one wants to say: the birth of a child — maybe not your first, but definitely your second or third — will throw every plan you had prior to having children out the window. Whatever you thought your life was going to be turns out to be something else. Children change everything, and you have to adapt.
But that is not what feminists believe, so you never hear this message.
Feminists have been complaining for decades about the negative impact of motherhood on women’s lives.
My own mother, who received an MBA from Radcliffe College in 1952—1952!—used to tell me her female professor talked of children as being an “intrusion” in women’s lives.
It’s not like women haven’t tried to adopt feminist beliefs. They have. Women believed it when they were told that to be considered a man’s equal, they should reject their feminine nature and adopt male traits. Men, for example, are notorious for wanting to delay commitment, so women pretend they feel the same way when most don’t.
Women are literally made to bond. Their bodies are steeped in oxytocin and estrogen, two chemicals that together produce an environment ripe for attachment.
Thank God for women! Without them we’d all be sleeping with each until we’re old and gray.
Men have oxytocin, too, but a much smaller amount. They’re more favored with testosterone — which controls lust, not attachment.
That’s why women, not men, wait by the phone the next day after a one-night stand. That’s why the movie "He’s Just Not That Into You" wasn’t titled "She’s Just Not That Into You."
For most women, sex is never just sex. There’s almost always more to it than that.
As an example, this past May The New York Times published the winning essay of this year’s Modern Love College Essay contest. The author, Jordana Narin, writes about “Jeremy,” a guy she knew from their online relationship and with whom she eventually had sex. Here’s a portion of that essay:
“I’m told my generation will be remembered for our callous commitments and rudimentary romances. We hook up. We sext. We swipe right. All the while, we avoid labels and try to bury our emotions…To this day, if I ever let a guy’s name slip out to my father, his response is always, ‘Are you two going steady?’”
“People don’t go steady nowadays,” I explain. “No one says that anymore. And almost no one does it. Women today have more power. We don’t crave attachment to just one man. We keep our options open. We’re in control.”
"But are we?" she adds. “I’ve brooded over the same person for the last four years. Can I honestly call myself empowered if I’m unable to share my feelings with him? Could my options be more closed? Could I be less in control?”
For years feminists have been teaching women to ignore biology, as though it’s an irritant rather than a guide. This past July the dissident feminist Camille Paglia spoke with Salon magazine about this very thing. Here is a portion of what she said in that interview:
“Feminists lack sympathy and compassion for men…The heterosexual professional woman, emerging with her shiny Ivy League degree, wants to communicate with her husband exactly the way she communicates with her friends–as in “Sex and the City’…But that’s not a style straight men can do! Gay men can do it, sure–but not straight men! Guess what–women are different than men! When will feminism wake up to this basic reality?”
Suzanne Venker is an author, a cultural critic. She tackles a range of subjects surrounding marriage and the family, including the infamous gender wars. Her most recent book is "The Two-Income Trap: Why Parents Are Choosing to Stay Home." To learn more about Suzanne, visit her website. Follow her on Twitter@SuzanneVenker.com.