Who's trying to pull the wool over our eyes today?

Why, it’s The Man again, this time in the guise of Jonah Goldberg. Goldberg’s review in The Washington Examiner includes such observations as the following:

[…] some brands of feminism aren’t really about women at all. They’re about using the “feminist perspective” to smash the “socially constructed reality” or the “patriarchy” or “bourgeois capitalism” in order to sneak various Marxist and postmodern nostrums into the mainstream debate which would never survive without the guilt trips that victim politics provide.

Goldberg’s pomo feminists are out of line because, he writes,

Feminists honestly believe they are speaking for all women: I think this way, I am a woman, therefore I must represent all women. This is, of course, nonsense. For example, you wouldn’t know from the conventional public debate over abortion that roughly half of American women are generally opposed to abortion.

I’ve been trying to figure out whether to dignify Goldberg’s piece (which I originally read through Broadsheet, which heard about it from Pandagon) with a blog rebuttal, since apparently he’s not terribly well respected even in conservative circles. However, Marisa’s comment strengthened my commitment to stamping out the crimes of woolly thinking and debate-hijacking, so I’m going to issue him a public Rhetoric Citation. Here’s the text of the RC, originally posted as a letter to Broadsheet:

Goldberg’s idea of feminism hardly exists anymore: women who spend their time challenging “bourgeois capitalism” are essentially nonexistent outside academia. Actually, his argument contains a disturbing ideological shift; he takes feminists to task for assuming all women are against “patriarchy,” then counters with the unrelated info that a majority of women have doubts about abortion. Being pro-choice isn’t the same as “smashing the ‘socially constructed reality.'” By conflating the two, Goldberg is sneakily trying to make pro-choice people look like the most discredited fringe elements of the 70s and 80s cultural criticism wars. He wants to make activists for a very concrete issue look like vague, out-of-touch demagogues, and anybody who believes in honest debate should call him out for it.


3 Responses to “Who's trying to pull the wool over our eyes today?”

  1. Cory Says:

    First of all, I can’t stand Goldberg in general. But I think there’s some misunderstanding of this piece. The point he was making was simply that feminism as it was constructed in the 60s and 70s is not relevant to today’s society. His point about abortion was that the 60s and 70s feminists were strongly pro choice, yet many women today have reservations about it, so they clearly have no place in the feminism of that era. I think it’s a fair point.

  2. Anna Says:

    Maybe — but Goldberg talks about “postmodern nostrums” and Marxism in the present tense, as though they still dominate feminism, and claims feminists use a “vestigial Marxist argument called ‘false consciousness.'” Perhaps a concrete example of such an argument (ie direct quote from a feminist) would be more convincing here, but it still seems to me that Goldberg’s got postmodern theory confused with contemporary reproductive politics. And reproductive politics today are not about theory. They’re about morals.

    The larger problem is that not only is 60s and 70s era feminism not relevant to today’s society — it doesn’t exist in today’s society. No one is burning her bra; no one is reading Betty Friedan or even Gloria Steinem. Where are the feminists Goldberg is talking about?

  3. Cory Says:

    I still think he’s speaking out against 60’s and 70’s feminism (because the very term “feminism” started there and has NOT been reinvented since). While I think there are likely a few of those types of feminists around (and wouldn’t actually be surprised to hear that they’re the ones who run organizations like NOW) I’ll agree that they aren’t all that relevant. But then again, to me that’s the point. Feminism, like a lot of the liberal movements started in the 60s and 70s, has failed to reinvent itself in a modern world. Many of my friends think that the “Sex And The City” ladies are the ideal feminists, and those women sit around talking about men and handbags all day, as far as I can tell. Sexual freedom is great, but I hardly think it’s the end-all in gender equality.

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