The Feminist War on Science

“In This House, We Believe: Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights Are Human Rights, No Human Is Illegal, Science Is Real, Love is Love, Kindness Is Everything.” These are the words plastered on many signs that dot the landscape of lawns across America, but especially in and around liberal enclaves. It is interesting to note that Truth, of all things, is left off of the sign.

The statement that “Science is Real” is the most puzzling when you think about it, given the political message that the sign, as a whole, entails. The obvious intent of that statement concerns itself with global warming and nothing other than that. Fine. Except that many of these people who state that they believe science is real don’t really believe science is real.

If science is real then why don’t liberals embrace what any high school student learns in Biology 101: human chromosomes come in binaries, XX or XY? The answer is obvious—because they don’t really believe science is real unless it furthers a particular liberal battle cry. When science conflicts with the liberal agenda it is disregarded as “fake.” After all, Yale just had a lecture series entitled “Bye-Bye Binary: Rewriting Histories of Non-Normative Gender.”

When studying feminist “philosophy” one can identify two particular strands (among others) that stand out. The earliest strand is so-called “first wave feminism” which centered upon increasing women’s opportunity for employment, the right to vote, and increased or equal pay for women. The second strand, beginning with “second wave feminism” and spawning a myriad of other waves, took a far different approach to the cause of women’s rights.

Simone de Beauvoir is among the early progenitors of second wave feminism. Her collection of short stories and monologues, The Woman Destroyed, were important for setting the stage of second wave feminist thought: marriage, love, courtship, etc., were all human constructs made by men to give men’s lives meaning in this cold, dark, and unforgiving universe. Women who submitted to these male-oriented and male-dominated social constructs subjected themselves to destruction.

Beauvoir’s influence was picked up by the real godmother of the radical feminist movement—Shulamith Firestone. Her influential and hauntingly terrifying magnum opus, The Dialectic of Sex, was even dedicated to Beauvoir and outlined positions that are commonplace to the feminist movement nowadays. First was her synthesis of the Marxist dialectical struggle between capitalist and proletariat over the means of economic production with the feminist struggle between men and women over the “means of sexual reproduction.” Until women gain control of their bodies, which entailed control over sexual reproduction, women could not be truly free. Second was her synthesis of Marx’s theory of labor with what she called the “sexual division of labor.” Women, like the proletariat who labor for the capitalists, work for men through sexual reproduction because women have to answer the beck and call of men’s sexual desires and then carry the child in their womb up through birth. In other words, the entire burden of sexual labor falls onto the shoulders of women. Third was her reevaluation of Beauvoir’s ideas of love, romance, marriage, and courtship as primarily to the benefit of men rather than women which created the mechanisms by which men “own” women moreover than such constructs meant to give meaning to the lives of men rather than women.

In this reevaluation Firestone concluded that the nuclear family was oppressive to women and had to be dissolved in order for women to be free. The biological family unit, she wrote, is constructed for the reproduction of the human species, which serves to solidify male dominance since women suffer the brunt of this reproductive burden. Again, only through women rising up—like the proletariat—and seizing control of their bodies (e.g. the means of sexual reproduction) can the oppression of women finally come to an end.

While Firestone assailed “bourgeois feminists” whose feminism was not revolutionary enough because it only sough careerism and economic advancement, the more important legacy of her work was her ruminations about human biology and the tyranny that human biology plays in her understanding of the oppression of women. Firestone wrote, “In the case of feminism the problem is a moral one: the biological family unit has always oppressed women and children, but now, for the first time in history, technology has created real preconditions for overthrowing these oppressive ‘natural’ conditions, along with their cultural reinforcements.  In the case of the new ecology, we find that independent of any moral stance, for pragmatic—survival—reasons alone, it has become necessary to free humanity from the tyranny of its biology.” The tyranny of biology; let that sink in for a moment. She also stated, “Unlike economic class, sex class sprang directly from biological reality: men and women were created different, and not equal.”

At first glance it is refreshing to see a feminist philosopher admit that human nature and biology does, in fact, entail a binary and that men and women are different. But Firestone’s commentary over this reality leads her to conclude that human biology must be transcended in order for women to be free. It is not good enough that some women start becoming CEOs of big corporations and earn millions in salary. It is not good enough for women to invert the biological hierarchy by embracing their feminine mystique and power—to weaponize sexual femininity and turn it against men—as someone like Camille Paglia suggests. Instead, there needs to be a wholesale revolution against biology and human nature itself if women are ever to be free in Firestone’s account.

Firestone sees this revolution as having two roads before it. First, she hopes for the day when the power of capital, technology, and health services will come together and finally bring forth the liberation of women from the tyranny of their biology. As she stated, “[T]echnology has created real preconditions for overthrowing these oppressive ‘natural’ conditions, along with their cultural reinforcements.” This is the next “major evolutionary jump” according to Firestone. Long before Yuval Harari wrote Homo Deus, Firestone was already anticipating the day when humans—specifically women—could shed their creaturely nature. As many conservative writers have long recognized, from Peter Lawler to Roger Scruton to, more recently, Patrick Deneen, the final end of the dream of the Enlightenment is the abolition of human nature.

However, until that day comes Firestone articulated the second road that had to be travelled—for this road was the temporary hold until that “major evolutionary jump” could occur—the destruction of the importance of gender difference in culture. She recognizes that science will be the fallback to those who seek to defend the biological that men and women are different. In this culture war, which is part of the larger science wars, the goal is to create a cultural consciousness in which “differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally” until women finally possessed the technological power to transcend their biology.

Since women do not have control over their biological composition, because women are born into social constructs which limit their choices and free movement, and since women do not have control over their own bodies, they are oppressed in a more significant way than men are. Human nature is the final frontier to overcome. And human nature is the ultimate constriction upon the idol of “freedom.” “We believe science is real.” Hardly. But this phenomenon of embracing falsity to the point of absurdity is hardly new. As St. Augustine wrote concerning the Fall of Man in City of God, “So when man lives by the standard of truth he lives not by his own standard, but by God’s. For it is God who has said, ‘I am the truth.’ By contrast, when he lives by his own standard, that is by man’s and not by God’s standard, then inevitably he lives by the standard of falsehood… Falsehood consists in not living in the way for which he was created.”

(Photo credit: Lorie Shaull / Wikimedia)

Paul Krause

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Paul Krause is an M.A. student in theology at Yale University's Divinity School. He holds a B.A. in economics, history, and philosophy from Baldwin Wallace University.

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