A friend recently took his kids (three girls and a boy) to see the new Lego movie, and then dropped me a text linking this Slate article. The article, which he affirmed as accurate, discusses how the movie portrays an alternative to the boundaries set by traditional gender roles, as asserted in the title’s …”the Latest Kids’ Movie to Make a Villain of Toxic Masculinity.”

There are valid criticisms to be found in some of the old-school “machismo” (for want of a better word) that subordinated women to mens’ wills and whims, but I fear that current society has gone way too far in its effort to totally eradicate the very real, biologically-induced differences between boys and girls and men and women. Yes, even writing this sentence dooms me to un-woke purgatory for eternity, but this blog has long established that reality, so, nothing new.

In reading this bit, I flashed back to a half-finished essay I wrote back in the spring of 2017, because the phrase “toxic masculinity” echoed a similar phrase, uttered, or perhaps coined, by conservative gadfly Milo Yiannopoulos, and what I had written then merits a revisit in light of this focus on “toxic masculinity” by the social justice community.

Never averse to sharing his views, Yiannopoulos had a fun exchange in late 2016 with ABC News reporter Terry Moran. Nestled in among Milo’s trademark bluntness and take-downs of politically correct themes was a very astute observation on the state of modern feminism:

I would rather a healthier equitable arrangement that existed between the sexes rather than the sort of vindictive feminism that seems to exist now. And by the way, most people agree with me. Fewer than one in five women in America describe themselves as a feminist, because they see what I see.

I’ve written in the past about how, as a movement achieves its initial goals, the moderates in the movement tend to lose their fervor and either go back to their regular lives or move on to other issues. This gives greater power and a louder voice to the fringes. Popular movements spawn substantial organizations, and those organizations tend to persist past the point of achieving their initial goals. In time, the once-fringe voices end up running those organizations. In the case of feminism, tendentious or ignorant arguments about wage gaps aside, most of the movement’s original goals have generally been realized (if not wholly, then mostly).

The feminist movement today bears little resemblance to the original pursuit of liberation and equal rights that the movement focused on in the early part of the 20th century, and again in the 1960s and 1970s. These eras, commonly referred to as “first-wave” and “second-wave” feminism, are ably demarcated by writer Camille Paglia:

Second-wave feminism went off the track when it started to demonize men and blame them for all the evils in human history. It’s a neurotic world-view that was formulated in too many cases by women (including Gloria Steinem and Kate Millett) with troubled childhoods in unstable homes. First-wave feminism, in contrast, focused on systemic social problems that kept women in secondary or dependent status.

Then there’s third-wave feminism, which emerged in the 1990s and turned its focus to race and sexuality. This “mission-drift” suggests that feminism’s initial goals must have been sufficiently achieved. Why else move the goalposts in a way that might introduce divisiveness and internecine fights for supremacy? Why introduce second-tier discriminators, unless the first tier (women as a whole) have achieved close-enough equality?

Now, some assert that a fourth-wave is emerging, which brings into the fray the concept of “intersectionality,” i.e. the idea that oppression is multi-layered and must be considered in toto:

They speak in terms of intersectionality whereby women’s suppression can only fully be understood in a context of the marginalization of other groups and genders—feminism is part of a larger consciousness of oppression along with racism, ageism, classism, abelism, and sexual orientation (no “ism” to go with that).

These new waves, beyond their divergence from “women’s rights” to the rights of some women, are presented as zero-sum, as if women’s rights can only be advanced by subordinating men and using government to forcibly impose new rule sets that advance one group by suppressing another.

Today’s feminism mirrors the mutation of many other social movements, movements that achieved sufficient success over previous decades to satisfy the reasonable. This is a shame, because the original missions and intents were worthy and should continue to have champions, defenders, and monitors. No rational person will argue that sexism or racism no longer exist, but it is rational to take issue with the militance and the divisive, zero-sum we can only get ahead by stepping on others mindset of the current incarnations of social movements.

Today’s National Organization for Women has devolved into a single-issue entity: unrestricted abortion on demand, paid for by others (especially those others who oppose abortion). Today’s feminism seems more interested in venting anger at “oppressors” and portraying women as perpetual victims than in championing a level, gender-blind playing field.

When things aren’t nearly as bad as fanatics claim, normal people are more likely to be deterred than persuaded by extreme positions, assertions and demands. That doesn’t, unfortunately, bother fanatics. For them, the effort is the thing, and the divisiveness and agitation is more important than achieving the original goals.

Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim. — George Santayana

While a few kooks can be dismissed (there will always be kooks), there lies much peril in the corruption of the once-noble feminist movement. The good name will draw young people, but the lessons will warp their lives and, ironically, lead them away from equality and liberation. As Paglia observed:

What I am saying throughout my work is that girls who are indoctrinated to see men not as equals but as oppressors and rapists are condemned to remain in a permanently juvenile condition for life.

It strikes me that the concept of “toxic masculinity,” expanded as it has been to include all behaviors to which men and boys have natural inclinations instead of being more properly defined as those against which first-wave feminism fought (Paglia: “systemic social problems that kept women in secondary or dependent status”), appears in significant part a product of Yiannopoulos’ “vindictive feminism.” It fits well within the nature of today’s social justice and progressive politics, which are founded on punishing and taking from others more than on opening doors that the oppressed have traditionally found closed. Whether it’s driven by envy or hate, it’s not a healthy world view, and it may very well be the reason that so many progressives seem so unhappy with everything, even though by any rational measure there have been enormous gains made by and for traditionally oppressed groups.

There’s an additional tell-tale when it comes to the current state of feminism. During the era of the first and second waves, putting or witnessing women in positions of power was the goal, and it didn’t much matter what those womens’ politics or beliefs were. Today, however, that’s no longer the case, and a woman whose beliefs stray from progressive orthodoxy is usually ignored or vilified, no matter her level of achievement. I imagine that, were the first woman to win the Presidency be a Republican, many feminists would sky-scream in anger or frustration. And, as I’ve blogged previously, many feminists are rejecting from their ranks trans women who seek to join “the cause.”

A political philosophy that considers success only when a counterbalancing diminishment is inflicted runs against both the realities of a free society and against human nature itself. Feminism that marks its victories by cutting men (or non-progressive women) down is a feminism that will lose adherents and allies. It will distill down to the radicals and the fanatics, proving Santayana’s observation.

Any -ism should be about removing barriers that create inequities, and allowing the individuals associated with that -ism to live on a a level, obstacle-free, and “blind” playing field, where all that matters is merit. -Isms that focus on hamstringing their presumed or traditional oppressors, for retribution, out of vindictiveness, or based on a belief that leveling the playing field requires knocking others down and taking their freedom to be as they would be, instead of removing walls and obstacles, are bad for everyone. Even the winners come away unhappy.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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