Editor’s note: the following article about recognizes leaders of feminism is the first of several dealing with the nature of secular feminism.  Subsequent parts will examine the feminist influence in Canada and among Canadian religious communities.

The controversy over feminism which has agitated so many over the last three decades – spreading also into Christian circles with the issue of women’s ordination – should have at least one beneficial effect.  Eventually it should lead to a deeper exploration and understanding of the role of women.  This would be a most positive way to counter the current thinking on sexuality which makes woman into a mere object of lust and pleasure.

Unfortunately, at the moment, much of the search for this understanding is being conducted on false premises.  Instead of rejecting philosophic materialism which is the source for the current collapse of intellectual and moral thought, feminism has adopted it.  Consequently, feminism sees itself as a struggle for power.  It seeks equality based not in the complementarity of male and female, but in their uniformity, leading to the conscious denial of differences between men and women.  This has its effects where it counts most, in marriage and the family.  Both institutions are under full-scale attack by feminists.

It may come as a surprise that the right to abortion is of central importance to many feminists.  As one ignorant of feminist literature, I thought for a long time that the expression “pro-choice” was a ploy on the part of the pro-abortionists to cover up the real intent.  Only after reading up on some of the leading feminists did it become clear that this slogan is not a disguise.  Just as opposition to induced abortion – that is, the killing of the unborn for utilitarian reasons, – is, and must continue to be, a keystone within an orthodox Judeo-Christian tradition, so its acceptance and promotion is a foundation stone for secular feminism.  Indeed, so are other poems of sexual behaviour which undermine traditional family values.  This is clearly illustrated in the views of leading feminists.

Gloria Steinem

In 1984 Jackie Smith, a feminist reporter of the Toronto Star, described Gloria Steinem, on a visit to Toronto, as follows:

When Gloria Steinem slipped through Toronto International Airport last week, bags in hand, there were no banners, no drums, no welcoming mat.

Society does not extend its best welcomes to female revolutionaries.

…indeed, 50-year-old Steinem is a revolutionary, fighting for what one political scientist has said would be the greatest revolution the world has ever known – the equality of women.

It’s 14 years since Steinem, a founder of Ms. Magazine – and, before that of New York magazine – became a feminist.

She has produced one book in that time Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, a collection of her writing during the last 20 years…

Steinem says she’s encouraged by the inroads women have made.  “I’m very heartened when I look at ordinary people,” she says, “but depressed when I look up” at the male power elite…

Steinem became a feminist because of the abortion issue.

Pregnant at 22, she considered suicide before she managed to get an abortion.

The article continued by noting that Steinem

…has won many standing ovations, including one last November for a speech she gave free of charge to 950 people attending a fund-raising reception in Toronto for the defence of Dr. Henry Morgentaler on abortion charges…

But while Steinem has preached change and rebellion in the cause of equality, she can’t tell other women how to rebel because “the point of feminism is to make our own decisions.”  Feminism is about choice, she says, about giving women the power to make choices.

(Star, August 24, 1984)

As Steinem points, feminism is about choice.  As someone else put it, feminism is about “not wanting to have our lives summed up in the reproductive act.”

This – and more – is made clear by other leading feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Kate Millett and Germaine Greer.  A useful article appeared seven years ago in the now defunct Globe magazine (September 30, 1978) entitled “First Ladies.”  The article celebrated ten years of “women’s liberation” and is my source of the following information.

de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir, the French Marxist author, wrote the first “comprehensive analysis of the subjugation of women” in The Second Sex, the article tells us.  The book appeared in Paris in 1949 and has become a bible for the feminists.

de Beauvoir demonstrated, according to the article, that in western culture woman is always considered in relation to man, always seen as “the other,” which forces her into an inferior position and distorts her character.  “One is not born a woman,” de Beauvoir announced, “one becomes one.”

The book did not sell too well at the time of publication because “it was a victim of its time.”  By this is meant that its outspoken Marxist bias did not sit well with people in the post-1945, cold war, climate.

“In spite of this,” the authors continue, “women have read The Second Sex avidly.”  For 30 years, de Beauvoir has been getting letters every day from women all over the world.  Many of the women who read the book underwent transformations similar to the one that de Beauvoir herself underwent while writing it: she realized that, as the intellectual comrade of Sartre, making her way in a man’s world, she had abdicated her womanhood.  In her own words, “I had become a class collaborationist.”

We are told that, at age 70 (in 1978), de Beauvoir lived in an elegantly-bohemian apartment in Paris and maintained her close relationship with Sartre – “the one sure success in my life.”  She wished she had written more explicitly about her sexuality.  “It is not an individual but a political question,” she said.

She believed women are no better off today, if only because men have become ruthless.  “The general attitude of males now is that, ‘Well, since you’re liberated, let’s go to bed.’  There’s much more rape now,” she observed.  “In general, male aggressiveness and hostility have become so common that no woman feels at ease in this town, and from what I hear, no town in America.”  She has also come to believe that a socialist revolution does not necessarily establish sexual equality either, “just look at Soviet Russia or Czechoslovakia,” she said.

One realizes that de Beauvoir’s life-long companionship with Sartre, a homosexual, illustrates her contempt of traditional family life, a contempt made clear I her book which includes a caricature and falsification of church teaching on family morality.  This points to another feature of radical feminism: its tolerance of – and sometimes preference for – homosexuality.

Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan is known as the mother of women’s liberation, largely because of the immense success of her first book, The Feminine Mystique, but also “because no writer has devoted her life to the movement the way that she had.  As an older and more conventional woman, she enjoys more authority than the movement’s militants.

The Feminine Mystique has sold three million copies since it was published in 1963.  The book argued that, since the Second World War, girls had been persuaded that the only desirable role for a woman was that of housewife and mother.  The perpetuators of this deception, Friedan wrote, were the advertising agencies, the universities and the women’s magazines (in Canada, excerpts from the book were published not in Chatelaine but in the old Star Weekly.)

As an example of such “deception,” she listed the contents of the July 1960 issue of McCall’s magazine and concluded:

“The image of woman that emerges from this big, pretty magazine is young and frivolous, almost childlike; fluffy and feminine; passive; gaily content in a world of bedroom and kitchen, sex, babies and home…It is crammed full of food, clothing, cosmetics, furniture and the physical bodies of young women, but where is the world of thought and ideas, the life of the mind and spirit?”

The message of The Feminine Mystique seemed to be aimed above the heads of factory women or cleaning women, according to the Globe article, and the book came under attack as the women’s movement gathered strength in the late 1960s.  “Before there was a feminist movement,” says Gloria Steinem, “there was a reformist movement that was addressing itself only to well-educated women who were standing by their kitchen sinks in Scarsdale and getting them back into the work force.”

Friedan moved ton to found NOW (the National Organization for Women), which is leading the fight for abortion, for lesbian rights, for an equal rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and for getting married women into the work force and out of the home.

Friedan seems to have retreated somewhat from her earlier views and now suggests that the feminist movement has ignored the rights of the “traditional” woman.  In her second book, The Second Stage, Friedan criticized Simone de Beauvoir for calling for the abolition of the family and attacked Kate Millett and other radicals for their “down-with-men rhetoric.”

In 1978, Friedan lived alone in a Manhattan apartment.  She and her husband were divorced in 1969, after two sons and a daughter.

Kate Millett

Kate Millett wrote Sexual Politics as an expansion of her PhD thesis.  It instantly eclipsed Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique when it appeared in 1970.  It is, we are told, a ‘rigorous examination of the power relationships between male and female in history and literature.”  “The primary social and political distinctions are not those based on wealth or on rank,” she says, “but on those based on sex.”

Millett’s book was no sooner out, we are informed, than she admitted to a Time magazine reporter that she slept with women as well as with her husband, a sculptor, to whom she had dedicated her book.  It confirmed the belief of some people that the women’s movement was made up of man-hating lesbians.

Betty Friedan speculated that Kate Millett was somehow blackmailed into an admission about something she was entitled to keep private.  Millett herself, in a second book, Flying, described a rally at Columbia University, swarming with radical lesbians who made her confess she was a lesbian.  “Five hundred people looking at me.  Are you a lesbian?  Everything pauses, faces look up in terrible silence.  I hear them not breathe.  That word in public, the word I waited half a lifetime to hear.  Finally, I am accused.  ‘Say it!  Say you are a lesbian.’  Yes, I said.  Yes.”

Millett says that accommodating lesbianism was one of the triumphs of the women’s movement.  “That was the hardest, most traumatic thing for the movement or the society in which it exists to cope with – and we didn’t blow it.”

Germaine Greer

Germaine Greer published The Female Eunuch right after Millett’s Sexual Politics. It proved again, we are told, that women could think.  A “glittering, trenchant examination of sexual relations between male and female, the book argues that woman’s role as sex object requires a sexual passivity that makes her a sort of female eunuch.”

The same argument already had been put forth in Sexual Politics, and Greer at first was described as an English equivalent of Kate Millett.  This was incorrect for several reasons.  Greer, though a lecturer at Warwick University, is really Australian.  More important, the Globe article tells us, The Female Eunuch is a hit-and-run book, possessing little of the rigor of Sexual Politics. And Greer herself, unlike Millett, is fiercely heterosexual.  “I’m turned on by men, and that’s all there is to it.”

In The Female Eunuch, she describes how she bought, together with some like-minded women, a farmhouse in Italy where they would bear children and leave them in the care of a local couple who would care for the children, the house and the garden.

In 1978, Greer said her chances of becoming pregnant were 1 in 10.  She has had two abortions and several miscarriages.  “One of the saddest things about wanting a baby now and knowing just how I want to bring it up is…when mothers say to me, “Why do you want to do that?  It’s so boring.”

Greer, like Friedan, also appears to have modified her thinking in some ways.  Her latest book, Sex and Destiny, chillingly describes the ill-effects on women of the sexual revolution (ironically, a revolution in which she herself was a leading figure).  The book is a fierce condemnation of multi-national drug companies and their continuing contraception experiments on Third World women.  However, she had not changed her belief that abortion is a woman’s right.

Basic points

The above examples, almost too vulgar to discuss, illustrate some basic points, above all the shallowness of thought of these “leaders” of feminism.

Radical feminism is anti-family and not only anti-man, but anti-woman.  Its philosophy is secular in the full sense of that word, that is, opposed root and branch to the Christian concepts of male and female, their eternal destiny, their personal dignity and their equality.  It harks back to the materialist philosophy of the 19th century which proposed the emancipation of women through the destruction of marriage as an anachronistic institution, the promotion of free love, and the removal of all sexual restraints.

That this approach actually degrades women, rather than emancipating them does not yet seem to have dawned on its authors.  Meanwhile, in their thinking, abortion and homosexuality are not merely accidental; they belong to the highest achievements of feminism.

Next: Secular feminism in Canada.