2020 Resolution: Get Out of Media Echo Chambers

Suffragettes

Feminism Portrayed as a War With Nature

Tucker Carlson is currently enjoying his 15 minutes of fame in our hyperbolic, fact-challenged media world. Thus, his recent proclamation on feminism made headlines:  “I don’t think anything has changed our society more for the worse … What we are describing is a war with nature.”

Carlson issued his invective during an interview with Suzanne Venker, and in response to Ms. Venker’s declaration that “we had that study several years ago that came out and showed that women are decidedly less happy than men after of course this last 40 years of supposed so-called liberation.”

First, let’s hope that Ms. Venker is happy, in spite of the fact that she can vote and is free to compete in the market place as a successful author and relationship counselor.

Secondly, let’s note that the echo chamber ran with Carlson’s declaration. The Washington Examiner published an opinion piece, sequel to Carlson’s interview with Ms. Venker, listing ills of feminism such as ideas that women don’t need men and children don’t need fathers. Those ills, Ms. Venker said have led to complete breakdown of marriage, relentless gender war, an explosion of kids in day care and home alone, and a full-scale war on men.

Thirdly, these dire proclamations sell well in conservative circles, just like grim predictions of climate change advocates sell in left-leaning spheres. Climate change alarm acts as a successful method of exercising control over populations. Attacks on the undefined principle of “feminism” serve the same purpose. Promoters of both issues are not shy about spurious claims, like climate change is the cause of deadly wildfires or feminism is the cause of today’s overflowing jails.

The Just Vote No Blog has discussed the view of climate change as method of control. Now, here are a few thoughts on the alleged evils of feminism.

That Study Several Years Ago

The study to which Ms. Venker refers is titled The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, written by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, and published in May 2009 (a decade ago).

The study is really quite interesting. It documents changes over time in women’s responses as to how happy they are. Indeed, the responses allude to a decline in happiness that coincides with the period in which women’s participation in the workplace increased. However, as expected of any bona-fide scholarly paper, the study does not take political or social sides. It only provides possible explanations for the apparent decline in women’s happiness during 1972 – 2006. Here are some of the principal explanations in the study.

* Women experienced increased participation in the market, but no decrease in responsibilities at home. This is the “Second Shift” syndrome discussed by Arlie Hochschild and Anne Machung in their best-selling 2003 book.

* Men were no longer solely responsible for providing for their family’s financial support. Women acquired some of that responsibility, along with the accompanying worries previously suffered mostly by men.

* Contraceptives decreased the incidence of shotgun marriages, and increased the pressure for out of wedlock sex.

* Women’s competitive arena grew, and so did inevitable comparisons of abilities and performance.

* The period under study was a time of economic and wage volatility – stagflation in the 1970s, inflation and the savings and loan institutional crisis in the 1980s, recession as well as great prosperity in the 1990s, and the dot-com bust in the early 2000s.

None of these findings in the study in question appear to have anything to do with women suddenly feeling they did not need men or fathers for their children. Even more damning for the blame-it-all-on-feminism crowd is one of the study’s conclusions:

If the burdens of entering the workforce are playing a role in declining female happiness then perhaps the decline in happiness will be concentrated among women who are employed. [But] both women who are employed and those who are not have experienced roughly similar declines in subjective well-being …

Once again, we see similar trends in happiness across these groups, casting doubt on the hypothesis that trends in marriage and divorce, single parenthood, or work-family balance are at the root of the happiness declines among women.

So much for the study as proof women choosing other lifestyles than full-time homemakers is the cause of much societal evil.

More Economic Reasons for Unhappiness

The study discussed above offers several economic reasons that could result in women’s unhappiness. One more economic event could be added, globalization and the migration of manufacturing jobs out of the U.S.

Jobs in manufacturing, mostly held by men, were the backbone of America’s middle class. Those jobs started to migrate out of the U.S. around the 1970s. Contrary to the prediction of the hopeful manufacturing workers did not easily flow into emerging technology industries. Not only did manufacturing workers lose well-paying jobs, but they also lost benefits such as health insurance.

Households affected by globalization need to regroup, which might mean two working parents and children in day care or home alone. This is hardly a problem with feminism.

Two Reasons Other Than Economic

Besides the economic events mentioned above, there were two legislative decisions that forever transformed our society.

Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty

The War on Poverty, a cluster of legislation implemented during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, could easily be described as the war on the poor. It decreased the tragedy that concerned President John F. Kennedy, children going to bed hungry, but it unleashed the welfare state – the curse behind much of the societal dysfunction that Tucker Carlson attributed to feminism.  The following quote is from a Forbes article published May 2014, The War on Poverty Wasn’t a Failure – It Was A Catastrophe.

… the War on Poverty has not just been a failure, it has been a catastrophe. It was supposed to help America’s poor become self-sufficient, and it has made them dependent and dysfunctional.

What turned the War on Poverty into a social and human catastrophe was that the enhanced welfare state created a perverse system of incentives, and people adapted to their new environment.

The adaptation of the working-age poor to the War on Poverty’s expanded welfare state was immediately evident in the growth of various social pathologies, especially unwed childbearing.

Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs

President Richard Nixon established the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. In 1971 he declared drug abuse “public enemy number one.” In 1973 he established the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a special police force that targets illegal drug use and drug smuggling. Thus the War on Drugs was born. It popularized swat teams, filled up prisons, and removed Dads from homes.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 45.3% of inmates are incarcerated for drug offenses. For comparison, that percentage is followed by 19.2% of inmates in prison for offenses involving weapons, explosives and arson.

Understanding the Word “Feminism”

The word “feminism” should not be used without specific context, since it describes several distinct events. To say that feminism is a “war with nature” is to say that women should not be allowed to own property, vote, go to college, or make decisions on behalf of their family. This is control in the name of saving children and the family.

Controlling any group means preventing members of the group from effectively obtaining rights and privileges enjoyed by individuals outside the group.

Feminist events, often called “waves,” gradually afforded to women rights and privileges enjoyed by men.

The First Wave:

The middle 1800s brought women basic individual rights such as owning property and filing patents under their own name. During the 1800s universities started allowing women to attend. Prior to that few women attained higher education, and those who did attended female institutions.

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1920 granted women the right to vote, previously enjoyed only by men.

The Second Wave:

Historians usually view the Second Wave of Feminism as a movement that started in the early 1960s and ended in the early 1980’s. Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique and President John F. Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women are considered the movement’s first salvos.

In her book, Friedan reported anxiety and discontent experienced by suburban homemakers. As a result of her research, Friedan helped found the National Organization for Women (NOW), which lobbied for and achieved several landmark pieces of legislation, such as the Women’s Educational Equity Act of 1972, and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974.

Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women, enacted in 1963, recommended legislative action to correct inequities experienced by women. Among the most notable recommendations was expanded adult education, public childcare, equal opportunity employment practices, expansion of widows’ benefits under Social Security, and paid maternity leave.

The Third Wave:

This latest wave is said to have started with the Anita Hill incident during Clarence Thomas’ Senate confirmation hearings. A journalist by the name of Rebecca Walker wrote in Ms. Magazine,

So I write this as a plea to all women, especially women of my generation: Let Thomas’ confirmation serve to remind you, as it did me, that the fight is far from over. Let this dismissal of a woman’s experience move you to anger. Turn that outrage into political power … I am not a post-feminism feminist. I am the Third Wave.

Unlike the First and Second Waves, the Third Wave deals with numerous micro-issues affecting micro-populations.  The First Wave won the major Constitutional battle — women’s right to vote.  The Second Wave won major legal battles of equal protection under the law.  Therefore, the Third Wave is left to fight a myriad of disparate social issues that go far beyond the early objectives of the First and Second Waves.

From the day of its publication, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was criticized by more radical feminists for being elitist. The charge arose out of the fact that the book dealt with suburban homemakers who were mostly white, well educated and relatively well-off economically.

The Third Wave moved beyond those constraints and became open ended. Today battles for transgender rights, for fluidity of gender identification, against perceived male social aggression, and numerous other issues dominate what was once a movement for equal Constitutional and legal rights.

Suggested Resolution for 2020

Being informed of latest events is a good thing. However, today’s purveyors of news appear to reside in compartmentalized echo chambers that encourage their audiences to become equally compartmentalized.  Tucker Carlson’s recent attack on “feminism” is an example of a sound-bite pretending to stand for a wide and complex subject.

A good New Year’s resolution might be to acquire more of a 2020 vision, and think of alternative reasons for events described by your favorite news sources.