“Freedom Feminism”

3 Feb

To the extent that “freedom feminism” does not deny the metaphysical distinction in gender roles/functions rooted in the creational order (rather than mere personal preferences), there is much in it that I can affirm.  From Christina Hoff Sommers:

Readers of Reason who happened to see a review of my book Freedom Feminism by Sharon Presley might conclude that I am a hidebound reactionary—someone with views antithetical to liberty. As Presley tells it, I believe most women are homebodies who would be far happier staying out of the workplace altogether. She confidently concludes that my views have “nothing to offer feminism, let alone libertarian feminism.” I wish Presley had engaged with my arguments instead of caricaturing them. Freedom feminism is libertarian feminism.

Freedom feminism stands for the moral, social, and legal equality of the sexes—and the freedom of women (and men) to employ their equal status to pursue happiness as they choose. Freedom feminism is not at war with femininity or masculinity and it does not view men and women as opposing tribes. Theories of universal patriarchal oppression or the inherent evils of capitalism are not in its founding tablets. Nor are partisan litmus tests: It welcomes women and men from across the political spectrum. Put simply, freedom feminism affirms for women what it affirms for everyone: dignity, opportunity, and personal liberty.

I developed this freedom-centered alternative by studying the history of the women’s movement. Since its beginning in the 18th century, reformers have taken distinct positions on gender roles. Egalitarians stressed the metaphysical equality and essential sameness of the sexes and sought to liberate women from conventional roles. By contrast, “maternal feminists” were not opposed to gender roles. They fought for an empowered femininity and looked for ways to enlarge and strengthen the roles of wives and mothers.

Contra Presley, I don’t endorse maternal feminism. I praise both schools for advancing the cause of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. Women appear to have made their greatest progress when the two movements worked together. But, as I make crystal clear: the world has moved on and neither theory quite works for 21st century men and women. That is why I proffer “freedom feminism.”

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