The Roots Of Feminism In America
This is the first installment of a multi-part series about the evolution, or devolution, of the American woman throughout the arc of American history.
Women’s Contributions To The Revolutionary War Effort
As you are probably already aware – at this stage of American history – traditional gender roles reigned supreme in America. However, women did make significant contributions to the war effort, but also showed how much privilege is afforded to women in any society.
In the lead up to the war, they had played a key role in helping boycott British goods, as they went out of their way to make many consumer products themselves such as clothing, hurting the British market for American goods. Further, they helped start organizations to bolster the Patriot cause. Understand that most sources vastly overrate this point (historical revisionism is going on here). Most women did what was needed to care for their family, but were not politically active on any level. Also, note the fact that women have always been relevant to any war effort; it was just that American women showed signs of wanting more than their traditional roles.
Once the war started, women took on many roles related to their gender. They often worked in camps, serving not just their husbands, but other soldiers. They often cooked, cleaned and served as nurses. Some feared impoverishment in the absence of their soldier husband, so she would follow him through his deployments. Some women tried to serve as soldiers, and only a few (like Deborah Sampson) served in the military. Do note that Sampson impersonated a man in order to serve. Women did serve sometimes as spies and other noncombat roles.
The First American Feminist: Mary Wollstonecraft
The rhetoric around equality caused quite the buzz amongst the Patriots – particularly amongst blacks and women. (Black people are beyond the scope of this article, but understand racial equality and sexual equality are two different issues.) It was one woman, Mary Wollstonecraft, who laid the groundwork for American feminism.
Consider Mary Wollstonecraft’s essay “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman.” It is considered the first piece about a form of equality between men and women in America. American women got a taste of role equality in the war, as they served as more than wives and mothers. This was little more than a necessity – the idea that societies limit men’s or women’s role simply because of their sex is ridiculous. Women in rural America to this day perform all sorts of tasks on farms that urban feminists can’t understand – they don’t need false visions of empowerment that feminism seeks to promote.
Looking at Wollstonecraft’s piece, she was convinced that women’s deficiencies centered around their lack of education. She was certain that if women became companions, rather than wives, marriages would improve. She thinks the social superficiality of women would be cured by appropriate socialization. As we shall see in this series, she would be proved wrong again and again. At any rate, she also advocated for a level of equality between men and women in their socialization. Do note that she was interested in promoting the domestic sphere as just as important as the men’s sphere of politics and leadership. While the domestic sphere certainly is vital and important to any society, note that it isn’t as important as running a nation.
Wollstonecraft left an unfinished piece called “Maria: Or The Wrongs Of Woman,” which really shed light on her views of men, women and society. She weaved a tale of a woman who was totally wronged by her husband – who had her committed to an insane asylum – which is where the story takes place. She highlights allegations of gambling, whoring and bankruptcy as reasons for the implosion of their relationship.
After her death in 1797, her husband released a memoir of her unpublished writings. It was highly controversial, as she confessed to adultery and having an illegitimate child. She talked about female relationships bordering on lesbianism and recurring thoughts of suicide. She also talked, in detail, about the lead-up to her death.
Analysis Of Proto-Feminism
Despite how admired Wollstonecraft’s work may have been, her views on women are necessarily limited by biology.
Let’s consider her work “Maria.” She intimated that society should worship female sexuality – many feminists have subsequently reiterated this point. The problem is hypergamy – there is no way a cogent society can worship female sexuality without suffering grave consequences. The issue, here, is that women have a false sense of their sexuality in a patriarchy. They sense their need to be motherly, but their hypergamic impulses are repressed. In America, this repression has forced some women to regress into indulgent self-worship. Hypergamy has some use from an evolutionary perspective, as women’s desire only for the highest of quality of men greatly aided humanity. However, it is antithetical to the maintenance of a stable society.
In “Maria” the protagonist falls in love with a “disinterested” and confident man who turns out to be a bad person. Instead of understanding that not all women experience that sort of life, she ports her poor relationship onto all women, claiming that all women are victims of constant and brutal oppression. She cultivates a relationship with a nurse at the mental institution and that nurse relays a similar story of a poor life. She sees economic and sexual independence as the keys to free women from the problems in their life. What she doesn’t consider is that the reason women pick men like that is because they are attractive to women. As we have seen with the Sexual Revolution, women are still picking all manners of jerks and douchebags to have sex and fall in love with. Unable to come to grips with the biological dimensions of their sexuality, they just blame patriarchy.
One other main point of “Maria” is that she pushes marriage as an oppressive construct that enslaves women. What is most amusing – and sad – is that she doesn’t identify men as being oppressed in these relationships like women. She notes that men have limited roles, but she really doesn’t talk about emotional or sexual limitations on these men. What she emphasizes is the lack of autonomy for women. She emphasizes women need well-paid work so they don’t have to lean on men fiscally.
Her inability to understand the economic independence will only provide economic independence is telling. It will do nothing to cure hypergamy, in fact, it makes it worse. Men in romance novels have gotten more dominant, taller, handsomer and rich since the Sexual Revolution. Her so-called “solutions” are really pouring fuel on the fire of female unhappiness. Women like her are betting their entire life on the slimmest of hopes – finding and keeping a stable & sexy male. That rarely happens because those men are rare.
However, in the end, consider the work American women did during the Revolutionary War. A handful of women kvetched to serve as soldiers, but as we have seen with modern women in the military, they simply want the accolades and honor, not any of the violent and fatal downsides. Also, understand how Mary Wollstonecraft’s own incredible personal disillusionment lead her to lay the groundwork for feminism. That is why American feminism is so psychologically sick – it’s roots are in a psychologically ill and suicidal female infatuated with her own hypergamy.