Jewish World Review June 18, 2003 / 18 Sivan 5763

Wendy McElroy

Wendy McElroy
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A Conscientious Objector to the Gender War | Future feminists will look back in disbelief at the false notion of a built-in Gender War between men and women in the much the same way we regard past theories of a flat earth. Only, flat-earthers were generally harmless people. Politically correct feminists can be vicious.

To understand the Gender War it is necessary to examine each word separately.

What is Gender?

PC feminists consider "sex" to be a matter of biology; that is, you are physically male or female. By contrast, "gender" is a social construct; that is, your sexuality is defined by society, not biology. (There are currently about twenty different categories of gender, from heterosexual to lesbian, from transvestite to transgendered.)

"Socially constructed" means that everything about your sexuality -- short of the brute biology -- can be transformed by changing your environment. PC feminists claim that everything from the urge to procreate to male-female attraction is created by society. This is different from merely claiming that your environment influences you.

Transformation the environment is a political matter. The institutions of society -- such as the legal system, churches, and the family -- must be deconstructed and rebuilt according to "correct" principles.

What is the War About?

The current principles are said to be incorrect and anti-woman because men, acting as a class constructed them. Men define "woman" by her biology -- e.g. as a sex partner or mother -- and they force a male definition of gender upon her through their institutions.

In short, the Gender War is a tugging contest between two classes, men and women, for control of "woman." The political interest of men is called "patriarchy," or white male culture. The political interest of women is PC or gender feminism.

Many assumptions of the Gender War are absurdly false, beginning with the rejection of biology's crucial role in human nature. Perhaps the most destructive assumption is that men and women are separate and antagonistic political classes.

There can be valid reasons for dividing women and men into separate classes. For example, doctors often medically separate the sexes to apply different treatments. Women are examined for breast cancer; men for prostrate problems. But medicine does not claim that the basic health interests of men and women as human beings are separate and in conflict. Indeed, the interests of both do not widely diverge. Because of a common biology, the sexes share the same basic approach to nutrition, exercise and common sense lifestyle choices. Health for men and women is roughly defined and pursued in the same manner.

By contrast, PC feminism separates men and women into political classes and claims that their common humanity is less important than their genders. Men and women not only have no shared political interests; their interests directly conflict.

Consider freedom of speech. You might assume that all human beings benefit from the uninhibited flow of words and ideas, even offensive ones. But that would be a "male" assumption, coming from male institutions. Freedom of speech is simply a guise by which men "control the dialogue" to oppress women. Thus, PC feminists often dismiss the U.S. Constitution -- including the First Amendment -- as a document written by dead white men and of no importance.

To counter male control of the dialogue, such feminists seek to suppress politically incorrect words and ideas. In the workplace, laws such as those against verbal sexual harassment control words. In academia, ideas are regulated by language codes which categorize criticism or "attacks" on categories of human being -- other than white males -- as hate speech. Even children's textbooks are edited to remove un-PC references.

To PC feminists such censorship is not a violation of freedom of speech. In essence, they claim there is no such freedom; there is only social control through social construction. The real question is whose hands will be on the helm: men's or women's.

This is the key to understanding the cult of victimhood surrounding PC feminism. As long as "male institutions" remain, women are -- by definition and everywhere -- oppressed. In their worldview, the only way to cease being victims is for feminists to grab the helm.

Whenever they do so, men cry out, we have become second-class citizens! We are legally disadvantaged in the workplace by affirmative action, ignored as victims of domestic violence in the home, discriminated against in funding for health care, oppressed by family courts that favor a mother's claim to custody...the list scrolls on.

But protesting men miss the point. Until the "utopian" day when the institutions of society have been reconstructed, gender feminists claim no equality is possible. It is men against us; men win only if women lose, and vice versa. That's the class conflict known as the Gender War.

The only way out of the quagmire is to abandon convoluted social theory and return to common sense. Men and women are first and foremost human beings. Biology is a controlling factor of human nature, albeit not the only one. Men and women act as individuals, not as cogs in some vast class struggle. And, as individuals, we all share the same political interest: freedom.

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JWR contributor Wendy McElroy is the editor of She also edited Freedom, Feminism, and the State (Independent Institute, 1999) and Sexual Correctness: The Gender Feminist Attack on Women (McFarland, 1996). She lives with her husband in Canada. Comment by clicking here.


06/04/03: Gender issues impacted by masculinists
05/28/03: The value of error
05/21/03: U.S. to Fund Gender Feminism in Africa?
05/14/03: Cut men: Do they not bleed?
05/07/03: Women with guns fight back
04/30/03: No oil for food
04/28/03: The Great Lie
04/16/03: War may redefine gun control
04/09/03: Why we must discuss a post-war U.S.
04/02/03: Leftist feminists using war as podium
03/26/03: Laying down 'the white woman's burden'
03/19/03: Iraq War may kill feminism as we know it
03/13/03: A woman to replace Saddam
02/19/03: Elder abuse demands family solutions
02/13/03: Iraqi women brutalized by Saddam
01/29/03: There ought not to be a law
01/22/03: Gambling with race and gender cards
01/02/03: The future of fatherhood
12/26/02: U.N. complicit in forced sterilizations
12/20/02: Compassion, kindness killed by fear, paranoia
12/11/02: Affirmative action insults immigrant contributions
12/04/02: Stand up for yourself
11/27/02: Feminist fighting: Aren't we all women?
11/20/02: Rights & responsibilities
11/14/02: Feminist "urban legends"
11/06/02: Equal access does not guarantee equal outcome
10/24/02: Battered Women's Syndrome: Science or sham?
10/17/02: I demand a civil society that respects the individual and acknowledges the existence of honest disagreement between human beings of good will
10/09/02: Abortion debate is about to be ratcheted up yet again
10/02/02: 'Restorative justice' offers battered women more options
09/25/02: Why is prez promising to embrace UN radical social engineering programs?
09/18/02: Dirty dealings kill men's panel
09/11/02: Taking back your power
09/05/02: Calm down, Hootie!
08/21/02: Will Congress empower a group of radical feminists to oversee money slated for Afghan women?
08/14/02: Empower the U.N. with power to sculpt American laws and institutions into the image of gender feminism!?
08/01/02: Practicing 'intellectual virtue'
07/24/02: All male, bad. All female, good: Your tax dollars at work
07/11/02: Put Up or Shut Up
07/03/02: NOW they've done it, again!
06/19/02: A dark cloud shades U.N. Women's Treaty
06/10/02: This Father's Day, send justice
05/31/02: When good women do nothing
05/28/02: Feminists claiming motherhood as liberal cause
05/20/02: Wounds in health care system are self-inflicted: Or, why "my son the lawyer" makes more sense
05/10/02: Are parents boycotting public schools?
05/03/02: Women can't be gun-shy about defense
04/25/02: The Bill of Intellectual Rights
04/19/02: World Bank or World Government?: The World Bank is blackmailing impoverished nations
04/12/02: Victims From Birth: Engineering Defects in Helpless Children Crosses the Line
04/05/02: The professor made me cry, now I will make him pay!
03/31/02: Doctors and teens --- parents be on guard
03/22/02: I was born, now I'm suing you!
03/15/02: The 21st Century is knocking at the barricaded door of feminism
03/08/02: Fun and games at the Ms mag Bulletin Board
03/01/02: Andrea Yates, NOW, and Feminist Jurisprudence
02/22/02: Lady, Your Slip is Showing
02/14/02: 'Abusing' Valentine's Day
02/11/02: Is NOW Pro-Choice or Pro-Abortion?
02/01/02: Are 'fathers' rights' a factor in male suicide?
01/25/02: Is the U.N. Running Brothels in Bosnia?
01/18/02: 'Freedom' at another's (moral) expense
01/11/02: Feminists hit Ground Zero with WTC funds grab
01/04/02: Males winning "diversity discrimination" cases is good?
12/21/01: Good will toward men
12/14/01: "Boss Tweed" feminism
12/07/01: Call me 'anti-woman'

© 2001, Wendy McElroy