~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I O 93 93/93 I O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Photo
Location: LaGrange, Kentucky, United States

The opinions and interests of a husband, analyst and Iraq war veteran.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Quick post on the "nationalizing of morality"

... and how stupifyingly damaging to our country I consider it to be.

This week Jeff Goldstein has been holding a fascinating discussion on the nature of identity politics, particularly radical feminism. (Note: Much of the discussion has been over the very terms of the debate, which hasn't actually begun yet. That's the level of detail he addresses. He's like a jeweler, constantly hammering out new, evermore minute facets. If you're into that level of hair-splitting [though he's the one who teaches English, even I know that I'm mixing metaphors] start here.)

In his latest he quotes Cathy Young:

[...] The concept of sexual harassment was around before Anita Hill. It was coined in the mid-1970s, most likely by feminist legal theorist Catharine MacKinnon, and soon gained recognition in the courts. In 1986, the Supreme Court gave its unanimous blessing to sexual harassment law in Meritor v. Vinson, a case in which a bank teller alleged that her supervisor pressured her into a sexual relationship. But the issue remained on the cultural periphery until the “national consciousness raising” of October 1991, when the country was riveted by Hill’s claim that as her boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Thomas had occasionally asked her out, talked about X-rated movies, and once joked about a pubic hair on a Coke can. Maybe, as journalist Christopher Hitchens suggested in his review of Hill’s dreary recent memoir, Speaking Truth to Power, “Everyone was slightly out of their skull that week.”

The “teach-in” succeeded: The Thomas-Hill episode established a dominant paradigm of sexual harassment. In this paradigm, any manifestation of sexuality in the workplace, from romantic pursuit to racy humor, is abusive if someone decides—perhaps long after the fact—that it was “unwelcome.”

[Emphasis mine]

Spot on. I'd like to note the crossover relevance of this:

There never was a time when working-class Americans voted for liberals whose values they rejected but whose economic programmes enticed them. Before the federal judiciary nationalised issues like abortion, gay rights and censorship, beginning in the 1960s, these controversies were part of state and local politics, not national politics. Conservative Catholics in the midwest or southern populists could vote for social conservatism in state and local elections, while voting for New Deal economic policies at the federal level. Thanks to federalism, New Deal liberals like Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson took positions on the economy and foreign policy; they did not have to take stands on abortion or gay rights. The very success of liberals in nationalising these issues has worked against them in a country in which self-described liberals are a minority, outnumbered by self-described moderates and conservatives.

[Emphasis mine again]

Which caught Paul and me by surprise in it's succinctness. However, it's an intuitive agreement we have with this statement. There's no argument to back it up, unlike what Jeff is attempting to do in his discussion of feminism.

Here's my challenge. I believe that in making the pursuit of equality on all fronts into a never ending pursuit, liberals have done themselves a disservice. At this point they can't acknowledge that any progress has been made, or else they'll lose their image as champion of the little guy. Especially when their stated idealogical goal of legal, theoretical, and practical equality has largely been achieved because, I believe, that's the same goal of their arch rivals the evil conservatives! Jeff suggests that "[...] we are dealing moreso with competing strategies for feminism here than we are some enormous divide between “anti-feminists” and “feminists” about the ostensible goals of feminism: equality of the sexes. How we get there, however, is another matter entirely."

Indeed. I've been mulling over a long post on the subject of why we disagree on method, while essentially agreeing on the goal, but the subject is so vast that it challenges my rhetorical abilities, I'm afraid. Which is of course why I want to do it. Challenge!

Let me ask my readers. Both of you ;) What tiny facet of which issue would you enjoy commenting on?

(Let's exempt national security and the war in Iraq. I think that debate is already well represented here.)

<< Home |