Monday, February 09, 2009

A truly new kind of politics, the most personal and thus potentially the most total ever devised: the politics of private life and sexual relations

For sexual activists, sex itself is not a private but a political act
warns Stephen Baskerville in The Family in America. “Feminism today, in its erasure of the boundaries between public and private, is writing a new chapter in the dystopian tradition of surveillance and unfreedom,” he quotes Daphne Patai as observing, “...whereby one’s every gesture, every thought, is exposed to the judgement of one’s fellow citizens.”
Recalling Henry Adams’ definition of politics as the “systematic organization of hatreds,” it requires little imagination to see that this rebellion against sexual “tyranny” has politicized and transformed sex, an act associated at its most sublime with love, into what may yet prove history’s purest distillation of hate.

No sexual ideology has ever appeared before, and its unprecedented power is at once obvious and disguised. Obvious, because it is not difficult to see that politicizing sex and sexual relations potentially penetrates far deeper into the human psyche, unleashes energies and emotions, and disrupts relationships and institutions far more fundamental than those attacked by radical ideologies of the past. The capacity for intrusion into the private sphere of life is unrivalled since the bureaucratic dictatorships of the last century and potentially surpasses even them. “Radical feminism is the most destructive and fanatical movement to come down to us from the Sixties,” writes Robert Bork. “This is a revolutionary, not a reformist, movement, and it is meeting with considerable success. Totalitarian in spirit, it is deeply antagonistic to traditional Western culture and proposes the complete restructuring of society, morality, and human nature.”

…Sexual politics is the most complex and subtle political ideology today. On the one hand, the excesses of organized feminism’s formal agenda no longer command serious respect. Many assume it is spent as a political force, that “feminism is dead” and we live in a “post-feminist” age. At the same time, unspoken feminist assumptions no longer hover in the political margins; they have permeated the mainstream and thrive unchallenged and unchallengeable on the Left, the Center, and even the Right. The danger is not the absurdities of its extremists, whom few now regard, but the steady erosion of social cohesion, civic freedom, and above all privacy, as well as the politicization of personal life by a sexual ideology that has so mesmerized us all that we are largely immune from realizing it. Perhaps the greatest danger is the absence of coherent opposition. For more than any other political movement, feminism neuters, literally emasculates its opposition.

Many have discerned a similarity between feminism and Marxism, but few appreciate how feminism extends the socialist logic and may actually exceed its intrusive potential. “Women’s liberation, if not the most extreme then certainly the most influential neo-Marxist movement in America, has done to the American home what communism did to the Russian economy, and most of the ruin is irreversible,” writes Ruth Wisse of Harvard. “By defining relations between men and women in terms of power and competition instead of reciprocity and cooperation, the movement tore apart the most basic and fragile contract in human society, the unit from which all other social institutions draw their strength.”

Politicizing sex takes the logic of class conflict a great leap forward. The charge of “oppression” is leveled not at broad, impersonal social classes but at the most intimate personal relationships. The oppressor is not the entrepreneurial class or entrepreneur but the husband (or “intimate partner”), the father, even the son. To relieve the oppressed, the all-powerful state nationalizes not only the private firm but the private family. Human intimacy — the individual’s last refuge from state power — is not only a collateral casualty but a targeted enemy.

The danger therefore comes not so much from the assault on freedom generally (which traditional tyrannies also threaten) but specifically from the attack on private life, especially family life (which traditional dictatorships usually left alone). “Radical feminism is totalitarian because it denies the individual a private space; every private thought and action is public and, therefore, political,” writes Bork. “The party or the movement claims the right to control every aspect of life.” …

Sexual Politics and the Welfare State

Though child abuse officials now target middle-class families, bureaucratic child protection originated in welfare. And indeed, the earliest institution of sexual politics was the welfare state.

The welfare state has traditionally been regarded as the landmark triumph of class politics within the liberal democracies — the one successful achievement of “social democracy” that has grown and survived even in countries, like the United States, which avoided such terms. Yet from today’s perspective, the welfare state stands as the first salvo of gender politics, the first social experiment of government growth following the enfranchisement of feminists.

…Originally justified to provide for the families of men who had been laid off during economic downturns or killed in war, the welfare state quickly became a subsidy of single-mother homes and fatherless children. It had immediately set in, that is, to expand precisely the problem it claimed to be alleviating. To justify this sleight-of-hand, the architects of welfare state expansion needed a rationale, and they found it in one of the most potent and destructive falsehoods ever foisted on a well-meaning but gullible public, a falsehood that has served, directly or indirectly, to justify the exponential expansion of not only the welfare state but the scope and power of government in many other spheres. This is the falsehood that government must provide for massive numbers of women and children whose men have abandoned them.

…Single mothers were not being thrown into poverty by absconding men; they were choosing it because it offered precisely the “sexual freedom” that was feminism’s seminal urge, regardless of the consequences for their children. Single motherhood is feminism’s most potent and most destructive accomplishment, and before the right audience feminists not only concede but boast about it. Single Mothers By Choice expresses this boast organizationally, and when pressed, most single mothers will insist that that is precisely what they are. While feminists readily pose as the champions of children when it comes to perpetuating welfare dependency, it is clear that, beneath the rhetorical fluff, the exhilarating power accruing to single mothers is more than adequate compensation for pulling their children into poverty.

…Divorce demonstrates how the hoax of paternal abandonment is an optical illusion, for today it is not fathers who are abandoning both their marriages and their children en masse. A glance at our social infrastructure reveals that, under feminist influence, it is mothers. We have created a panoply of mechanisms and institutions allowing divorcing mothers to rid themselves, temporarily or permanently, of inconvenient children: “safe havens” have legalized child abandonment by mothers; daycare is tailored to the needs of mothers, not children; foster care relieves single mothers who cannot provide basic care and protection; “CHINS” petitions allow single mothers to turn over unruly adolescents to the care and custody of social workers; “SIDS” and in some countries infanticide laws have even made the murder of children semi-legal. And then of course there is abortion.

When one adds the extension and proliferation of institutions not normally associated with divorce but whose purpose is to relieve parents in general and mothers in particular of childrearing duties — public schools, organized after-school activities, convenience and fast food, psychotropic drugs to control unruly boys — we can begin to see how massively our society and economy have been gearing up for decades to cater to divorce, facilitate single motherhood, marginalize fathers, and generally render parents and families redundant.

The Personal and the Political

The divorce machinery intertwines the personal and the political as nothing before, and its personal dimension is precisely what disguises the intrusiveness of its political power. Divorce injects state power — including the penal apparatus with its police and prisons — directly into private households and private lives. “The personal is political” is no longer a theoretical slogan but a codified reality institutionally enforced by new and correspondingly feminist tribunals: the “family” courts. These bureaucratic pseudo-courts permit politicized wives to subject their husbands to criminal penalties for their personal conduct, without having to charge the men with any actionable offense for which they can be tried in a criminal court. To enforce this, divorce vastly expanded the cadres of feminist police — child protective services plus domestic violence and child support enforcement agents — that target men almost exclusively and operate outside due process protections.

To justify its growth and funding, this government machinery in turn generated a series of hysterias against men and fathers so inflammatory and hideous that no one, left or right, dared question them or defend those accused: pedophilia, wife-beating, and nonpayment of “child support.”

…By including middle-class divorcees, the welfare machinery became a means not of distributing money but of collecting it, and governments began raising revenue — which they can add to their general funds and use to expand their overall operations — by promoting single motherhood among the affluent.

This marked a new stage in the expansion and redefinition of the welfare state: from distributing largesse to collecting it. The result is a self-financing machine, generating government profits through expanded police actions by proliferating single-parent homes and fatherless children. The welfare state has become a self-financing perpetual growth machine for destroying families, bribing mothers, rendering children fatherless, plundering family wealth, eroding due process, and criminalizing fathers.

…Feminism may be driving not only the criminalization of the innocent but also the criminality of the guilty.

We are thus fighting a losing battle against crime, incarceration, and expanding state power generally until we confront the role of sexual ideology in family breakdown and the social anomie that ensues. While increased police and penal measures are usually associated with right-wing politics, it is becoming clear that the long-term force is sexual radicalism. Marie Gottschalk describes how “women’s organizations played a central role” in the dramatic rise of the “carceral” state. Gottschalk laments that her fellow feminists who demand more incarceration of men have “entered into some unsavory coalitions” with conservative “law-and-order groups.” But conservatives might ask if their own legitimate concern about crime has led them to serve inadvertently as the unwitting instruments of a repressive ideology. For ever-more-draconian police measures will only create a fortress state. No free or civilized society can survive the mass criminalization of its male population.

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