Since then I feel that perceptions of women and their relationships and value has degraded much further. I never really wondered why, I just accepted that there are serious problems in modern society that needed to be fixed. The treatment and perception of women by some men was, and is, definitely one of these problems. But now another mystery arose, despite the concerted efforts of many people, and much press about these problems, the problems not only persist – but in fact are getting worse. They are getting worse despite the massive social changes that have come about in the decades that have passed since I reached puberty. Feminism is one of the movements that has led to these social changes, but why are so many of the things feminism claims to prevent getting worse? I believe it is because feminism suffers from at least one serious error; in particular its limited scope. All in all feminism is too narrow in its focus and seeks to achieve too little. Because of this its success is not just limited, it is self-defeating.
My claim is that in certain matters feminists are not asking for enough, and that they are not seeing the full problem. Feminists see that women have often been treated badly throughout history, and that in the 20th Century women’s bodies were being increasingly exploited and commoditised. This is all true, and these are evils that definitely need to be addressed. In seeking to correct this feminists have fought for equality. Equality includes a number of things. One type of equality is equality of opportunity. I am all for this as far it is feasible. I don’t think, for instance that it is necessary to go quite so far as enabling men to give birth, but as a principle to be applied as broadly as possible, it is certainly an admirable one.
Another thing feminists seek is liberty. Liberty from oppression, liberty to dress as they like and liberty from sexual harassment. Any Christian would agree with all these things. That is not to say that Christians would necessary choose or approve of all forms of dress, but a true Christian would not deny any adult woman her right to exercise her freewill.
But none of the attempts to address these problems to date go far enough. And the context of looking only at women is too small. Oppression is a much bigger problem, and it applies far more broadly than just to women. It is deeply rooted in our society, in fact in our human nature. Our nature – which so clearly reveals itself because of the particular freedoms allowed in modern society – is one of the strong taking advantage of the weak, of people being exploited by others where some short-term advantage can be gained. For example, Indigenous nations across the world have been more than just oppressed, they have been almost obliterated, certainly in relation to their living culture. Since the start of the industrial revolution - no, even earlier – the poor as a class have been oppressed. Oppression is not limited to women, nor is the instinct to oppress applied only to women. Women are not even immune to it themselves.
The problem of oppression in the West is not so new, and it is not just the feminist movement that has sought to redress this by seeking an equal distribution of power. Oppression and unfairness has been the driving force behind modern democracy movements. In the light of current affairs (e.g political donations, growing income inequality), we can see that the effort at attaining equality has not worked for democracy, nor will it work for feminism. Both movements fail for the same reason.
The trouble with both democracy and feminism is that regardless of their aims, they overlook the real problem. That problem is the lack of goodness in people. Even the best democracy can be corrupted by bad people, and feminism will also not conquer such corruption, not as it is. The problem of treating women as sexual objects is as bad today, in fact it is far worse, than it was in the 70’s. Just consider the prevalence of violent pornography in our society.
The truth is that liberty and equality cannot be achieved without the third element: goodness. The French at the time of the French revolution understood this. Thus they had three aims: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Fraternity means looking after each other. It is goodness. It may not be possible to get perfect liberty, nor perfect equality, but the truth is you will unlikely get even close to these things without working on goodness.
I do not mean that everyone needs to be good (in the sense that they do not seek their advantage at the expense of others) but you do need many such people to address the problem of oppression and corruption (spiritual and ethical).
So how can we achieve goodness? This requires raising our children to abhor oppression. Teaching them to stand up against it when it appears. It requires teaching them to share and care for each other. Now who can do this? Certainly not our schools, which are more a training for living with oppression rather than fighting against it. Bullying is rife, and in a sense protected by the same institutional framework that allows it to continue in society more generally.
So it comes down to families teaching their own children. But who today has time to demonstrate caring? Who has time to teach resistance to evil when both parents are working madly to pay bills and simply cope with the demands of modern society? A society which now requires two incomes to provide a basic standard of living. But onto families, and local communities, this job must fall. It has been the traditional domain of mothers to raise the children, develop their character and instil such morals, but as result of the narrow focus of feminism on only a part of the problem, the problem as a whole is now indeed harder to address, and we are further from a solution to it after 3 decades of intense feminist reform than we were before. But at least from this, we can now all hopefully recognise the true problem: it is in our very selves. I do hope we can recover the sacredness and sanctity of life, love and fairness.