It is broadly alleged that the Western feminist movement is now a very broad church. It is actually true that diversity of thought among its worshippers is heresy. Still. Let’s all pretend that a bunch of ladies who are often white, unanimously fond of wealth accumulation and wont to appear on TV panel shows once or twice a week truly know the Pain of All Women. Let’s make believe that Western feminism is not only uncritical of concentrated individual power, but not at all enamoured of power itself.
Let’s say, as Western feminists are wont to, that there is one universal question feminism asks: by what means and to what extent can all persons liberate themselves from the yoke of gender?
It’s not a bad question. The broad church, however, provides us with vanishingly narrow answers. The extent to which all persons can be liberated rarely goes beyond present order: we can have more lady bankers, inspiring lady politicians and Strong Female Leads in Netflix productions; then, things will be just as they are now, but with more women in important positions. The means by which we achieve this unambitious dream is simple: give our support to already powerful ladies and make them more powerful.
This is fine, of course. But only in the sense that a sustained belief in the tenets of liberalism is fine. If you happen to believe that the Western nation-state provides us with a near-perfect model for social organisation — and that its only true problems are (a) its lack of leading ladies, and (b) people who think bad thoughts, especially about ladies — then fine. If, on the other hand, you believe that the moral and economic tenets of liberalism might need a bit of a rethink, the broad church is not for you.
The broad church is, however, for Sarah Hanson-Young. This is a politician whose faith in liberalism is openly declared. Her fondness for the World Economic Forum at Davos, for example, was moderated only when Donald Trump attended. We do not despise the WEF for its annual habit of reasserting the right of capital accumulation to a few. We despise it only when a sexist man attends.
Hanson-Young is a suitably unremarkable figure for those who wish to retain their belief in the goodness of liberalism — a way of thinking that, despite its prevalence in the West for some centuries, has only enjoyed very brief periods of success in wealth redistribution and continues to produce people who think bad thoughts. SHY believes, as do many, that the solution to the failures of liberalism is more liberalism. Which, if you missed it the first time ‘round, is now a thing indistinguishable from the broad church. Western feminism is liberalism, pure and simple, but with a reinvigorating lady twist.
In mentioning SHY, I wish no further injury to the reader already harmed by the demonstration wrestling match she’s had with David Leyonhjelm. It’s simply my wish to protect you in the future. This purported battle for the heart of feminism has been going two straight weeks now and if this populist liberal and her populist “libertarian” opponent actually make it out of a media-enabled bun-fight and into a crowdfunded action, you may be in need of assistance.
If you are the sort of person who (sensibly) concedes that gender is a hulking yoke, but also a little concerned that its disposal is not best assigned to the shoulders of Hanson-Young — or any other person who sees no problem with an elite gathering of the world’s wealthiest individuals other than their admission of Donald Trump — I’m here to help.
First, do not fear that your aversion to SHY’s action, or to any action by any cleric appointed by the broad church, is an affirmation of Leyonhjelm. You can denounce both of them at once!
Second, do not continue to believe that the “factory floor” to whose female workers SHY says she is committed continues to meaningfully exist. Manufacturing jobs — especially traditionally female ones — have long since been moved to the Global South and SHY’s Norma Rae fantasy is as unlikely to unfold in Australia as it is in Bangladesh, where female textile workers labour as slaves.
Third, do not feel obliged to accept that a legal victory for a powerful lady will trickle down to her powerless sister.
This is a bedtime story told to the liberal daughters of feminism. This story, like those in the many “rebel” girl picture books now available to falsely woke mummies of the West, will not transform everyday life. It simply serves to maintain the everyday delusion of liberalism that we are all equal.
We are not, of course, all equal in reality and the liberal bromide that we are or should be does not make it so. And the belief that any of us could be edified by the success or failure of an already powerful “white man” like Leyonhjelm or a counterfeit-resistance broad churcher like Hanson-Young does nothing but maintain the status of power as it is — maybe, just maybe, with a few more Davos-attending ladies at the helm.
This decaffeinated inspirational feminism is widely popular. To critique it is heresy. To permit it to flourish, however, is to permit the concealment of all liberalism’s failures.