Has Modern Feminism Failed Us?
Discussing her 2018 book "Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense," author and political commentator Mona Charen takes aim at liberal assumptions around feminism and progress. She believes the feminist movement has taken several wrong turns that have ultimately made women less happy in their professional and personal lives. Marshaling copious social science research as well as her own experience as a professional, a wife, and a mother, she asks, is it time for a sexual ceasefire? She speaks with Inez Feltscher Stepman, a senior contributor to The Federalist.
Author Mona Charen says women are less happy today than they were before the second and third waves of feminism. She points to three ways the feminist movement made mistakes: endorsing the sexual revolution, denigrating family life, and insisting there are no differences between men and women. What were widely seen as steps forward for women came with a trade-off, says Charen — less security and greater vulnerability.
Big IdeaWomen are less secure [today]. I think that accounts for why they’re less happy.Mona Charen
Not only are women less happy, men are falling behind. Because many men have left their families, Charen says, men are trapped in a vicious cycle. "They didn’t grow up with a male role model, they didn’t grow up with the unique things that fathers bring to the picture." This lack of a father figure in men's early lives prevents them from stepping up to be the pillars of their own families and communities, she thinks.
With the proliferation of dating apps and casual sexual encounters, Charen says the world of modern love and relationships causes women to lose dignity and miss out on finding a fulfilling romance. She believes that the dance of flirtation, chase, and courtship has been severely diminished. This loss of such a 'dance' is preventing us from tapping into our natural desire for romance.
Big IdeaI think the enemy of love is casual sex and the hookup culture.Mona Charen
Sure, differences between genders are socially constructed, says Charen, but there are also fundamental differences between men and women. These differences, she adds, must be acknowledged and honored. She thinks terms like "toxic masculinity" are ultimately unhelpful and do more harm to gender dynamics than good.
Inez Feltscher Stepman: Do you think that feminism encourages dark instincts in women of resentment or dissatisfaction, and do you think that there's maybe a parallel there with the worst instincts of men?
Mona Charen: I do think that feminists, in their hostility to men and in their willingness to tar all men is a problem. So, for example, on most college campuses you will hear the phrase "toxic masculinity"... that we have to bleach this out of men's natures ... What does that say to men? It says that there's something toxic about being a male. Instead of saying, most of you are great people, and we know that, but a few are bad and here are the things that we consider bad, but to call it toxic masculinity just embitters relations between the sexes.
Feminists need to shift their efforts, says Charen, and turn their energy towards re-prioritizing family life and strengthening bonds between the sexes. "The idea that men have always oppressed women, and that feminism had to come along and free us — I just think it’s overly simplistic," she says.
Big IdeaOne of the best things about us is when we care for each other. The family is the first network of mutual aid and the best one that’s ever been devised, and maintaining its strength is, I think, a real challenge of our time, and if feminists would get on board with that, then I would happily call myself one.Mona Charen
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