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December 18 2017

Peter Beinart's Unfortunate Take on Feminism

by Charlotte Hays

Former New Republic editor Peter Beinart has an article headlined "The Growing Partisan Divide over Feminism" in the Atlantic.

It seems disingenuously calculated to cancel in advance the arguments of women who stand up for women who have experienced sexual abuse but who fail to adhere to the down the line political agenda of the left.

The Beinart article defines feminism as being mostly about gender discrimination and oppression. Discrimination exists, and where it does, we oppose it.

But there is another view of feminism--it calls for women to be independent-minded and take advantage of unprecedented opportunities that now exist for women--and to move towards creating more opportunities for women.

Beinart cites a paper on the effects of feminism on politics by Leonie Huddy and Johanna Willmann of Stony Brook University. He writes:

Holding other factors constant, [Huddy and Williamson] found that between 2004 and 2016, support for feminism—belief in the existence of “societal discrimination against women, and the need for greater female political power”—grew increasingly correlated with support for the Democratic Party.

The correlation rose earlier among feminist women, but by 2016, it had also risen among feminist men. A key factor, the authors speculated, was Hillary Clinton. A liberal woman’s emergence as a serious presidential contender in 2008, and then as her party’s nominee eight years later, drove feminists of both genders toward the Democratic Party and anti-feminists of both genders toward the GOP.

In other words, Clinton, along with Donald Trump, has done for gender what Barack Obama did for race.

First off, if the last sentence is true, we should be sad. President Obama left race relations in the U.S. in tatters. There is now more hatred than at any time in my memory. There has been a lot of racial injustice in our country. Race relations are the darkest part of our history. 

All decent people (and I believe most Americans are decent) regret this deeply. In the Obama years, we as a nation were led to focus more on the wrongs to the exclusion of healing and prosperity for all citizens. Is more vitriol and hatred where the feminist movement  is going to take us?

Second, Beinart seems to believe that people become Republicans because they are, as he puts it, "anti-feminists." That one could be a Republican because one believes that that party's policies would promote more prosperity for women (and men) never crosses his mind. It is all about being anti-woman, which forestalls argument over issues (is this the real purpose of this view?).

Beinart continues:

But when it comes to the political reaction to sexual harassment, gender identity matters less and gender attitudes matter more. “A sizable minority of American women,” note Huddy and Willmann, “do not believe in the existence of gender discrimination, think that women who charge men with gender discrimination are trouble makers, and are inclined to side with a man accused of discriminatory behavior.” And Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy seems to have made these women more staunchly Republican.

I don't know any women who don't believe that gender discrimination exists. I tend to believe it is not a key factor in the work place nowadays, but where sexual discrimination exists, it must be rectified. But we also want to make sure the legal system is just and that women and men are treated fairly when accusations are made.

I would also disagree with Beinart that women became more "staunchly Republican" because on an inclination to disbelieve women who come forward and say they are sexually abused. How about an alternate rationale: women who voted Republican found that Mrs. Clinton was a weak candidate, whose honesty was in question, and who was an enabler of her husband's sexual misconduct? How about this: women who voted Republican did not want the stagnant economy of the Obama years to become permanent?

Peter Beinart's headline refers to a "growing divide."

It should really be headlined "How to Grow the Partisan Divide" because that is the real purpose.

What Beinart is saying is this: arguments need not be made. The left will call women who do not buy its agenda "anti-feminists. What Beinart's article does herald is a vicious period when any woman who disagrees with the left will be called a name: anti-feminist. It is telling that Beinart labels Kellyanne Conway, the first woman to lead a winning presidential campaign, as an anti-feminist.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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