The Global Family and “Big Sister”

Patrícia Lança Primavera de 1998
Gordon L. Anderson (ed.). The Family in Global Transition, PWPA, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1997.1 Dale O’Leary. The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality, Vital Issues Press, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1997.2

“…so long as societal members worry over the decline of the family, we may be fairly well assured that the family is in reasonably good shape. And conversely, when members of Western societies stop feeling concerned about the quality of their family life, then decline will probably already have begun in earnest.” This is the comforting conclusion reached by the author of Chapter 13 of the collection edited by Gordon Anderson. William Garrett, a sociology professor examines the “Decline-of-the-WesternFamily” thesis and remains optimistic despite the numerous facts and figures regarding divorce, out-of-wedlock births and other indicators marshalled by so many observers. His fellow-contributors to this volume do not all share his views. The Family in Global Transition assembles twenty papers originally developed for an international congress on the family held in Seoul in 1995. The result is wide-ranging and eclectic and covers three areas: The Family in History; Family Transition in the World’s Cultures; and Family Change, Family Stability and Public Policy. The contributors are as varied in their approaches as are the subjects covered, from the family in the ancient world to its problems in post-communist societies. The majority see the family—father, mother and their offspring—and its health as essential for society’s well-being. Two of the twenty dissent: one shares the views of “gender-feminists”; the other discusses same-sex unions as a positive innovation. Mitchell B. Pearlstein’s “Fatherlessness in the United States” is perhaps the most comprehensive contribution of all in its catalogue of frightening statistics and its examination of differing contemporary opinions and the remedies proffered by policy-makers. Jean Bethke Elshtein provides a welcome relief from statistics with her “Philosophic Reflections on the Family at Century’s End”. She writes with indignation at the panorama of present-day America and concludes with a number of questions needing to be answered if democratic life is to be preserved.

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$19.95, obtainable from Washington Institute Press, 2700 University Avenue West, Suite 47 St. Paul, Mn. 55114-1016 USA. 2 $11.95, obtainable from Vital Issues Press, P.O. Box 53788, Lafayette, Louisiana, 70505 USA. 1

“If we are not up to the task,” she concludes, “the twenty-first century will be a tale of further coarsening of social life and deepening pressure on democratic society to enhance its coercive powers in order to save us from ourselves. If we hope to forestall this unhappy prospect, we must tend to our social ecology before it is too late. The family belongs on the list of endangered species.” For an overview of what is at issue in the “culture wars” (not only in the USA) and the differing positions of their protagonists this book is an invaluable manual.

The intention of Dale O’Leary’s volume is more specific. It deals in lively detail with what constitutes, at least in academia and international forums, that most aggressive frontal attack on the family yet witnessed: the ideology and practice of the “gender feminists”. The author is a well-known activist in pro-family campaigns and attended the United Nations World Conference on Women, held in the Chinese capital in 1995. This is a personal account of what the author saw and heard and provides an antidote to the very poor coverage of this event given in the world Press. She describes, with a wealth of quotation from speeches and documents, how a small and unrepresentative group of women who have taken over Women’s Studies departments in American universities have also succeeded in penetrating international organisations. What Christina Hoff Summers calls “gender feminists” certainly do have an agenda. O’Leary shows how their main concern was to divert the Beijing conference from pro-family issues and the genuine problems of women throughout the world. They wanted UN consecration of their own relativist view of sexual identity and the programme implicit in it. In other words, they wanted world recognition of homosexuality and, especially, lesbianism on equal terms with heterosexuality while the traditional family and religion were to be decried. As though such questions were foremost in the minds of millions of ordinary women! Ignoring the moral convictions of representatives of millions of women from Catholic Latin America or the Moslem world, they openly attacked religion and wanted to see abortion-on-demand, adolescent sex and quotas to receive the blessing of the United Nations. (These are already blessed by the European Parliament!). When these intentions became clear the pro-family delegates in Beijing discovered that the use of the word “gender” by English-speakers was by no means innocent. It was not, after all, a strange euphemism used by bashful Anglo-Americans to mean “sex”. Dale O’Leary provides a variety of quotations from leading “gender feminists” and describes how she and her friends made these available in Beijing to less well-informed women. These returned to their countries with a clearer idea about “gender feminist” aberrations but they had been ill-prepared and badly funded in comparison with the adversary. Accordingly, although the final Beijing documents were somewhat toned down, the “gender feminists” had their way and the loaded word continued to
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appear—at least in English-language documents. For the very odd thing about the new use of “gender” is that it is untranslatable except as a category of grammar. Dale O’Leary’s book deserves to be widely read. The quotations it contains come from such “gender” gurus as Shulamith Firestone, Judith Butler, Adrienne Rich and others. Elucidative in themselves, they might even encourage readers not to buy (money can be better-spent!) but at least to browse through the original works in libraries and book-shops. One or two such disagreeable sessions should make it blindingly obvious how much more dangerous is feminist “gender” theory than its fraternal counterpart, “queer” theory. Male homosexuals by definition cannot, after all, hope to lead mass men’s movements did such exist. And they must necessarily compete for public office with members of that vast majority of their own sex: heterosexual men. Lesbian women, on the other hand, possess an immense advantage and because of it have already won leading positions in some powerful women’s movements, in the universities and in government. This, of course, is that they are able to make the most of a fact which they dislike and try to deny about the essential nature of female identity: the vocation for motherhood. Most women, whether they have successful careers outside the home or not, usually have little time or inclination for political activity and activism. Most lesbians, however, are childless and free of family commitment. It looks very much as if their insistent demands for quotas and affirmative action (which, if put into effect can only discredit competent women) are intended mainly to benefit their own kind. In the United States “gender feminists” now want amendment to the Constitution to provide for four senators from each State: an obligatory two men and two women. It is not difficult to foresee where many such lady senators would stand on some key political issues. For “gender feminism” is a potent brew of neo-marxism and fashionable deconstructionism, with the main enemy seen as the “white European male” who imposes the bourgeois order on society. Part of that order is “compulsory heterosexuality”, the nuclear family and religion. “Gender feminists” want to see all these replaced. By what? Some frankly favour State intervention to replace family functions in a system where there would not be the old-fashioned dictatorship of the proletariat but the dictatorship of women, the “real under-class”. Just as middle-class Bolshevik intellectuals came to power on the backs of the Russian proletariat, their female epigones want power on the backs of ordinary women. So it looks as though Orwell was not as prescient as we believed. The real enemy today is Big Sister. By comparison Big Brother is a benevolent figure. But Orwell was quite right about Newspeak, and the word “gender” needs to be added to its lexicon. Even the innocent use of this word, currently so fashionable, is evidence of having been brainwashed. “Gender” like other members of the same set, “partner” and “Ms”, require to be banished from decent vocabulary. Dale O’Leary concludes her book with a clarion call: “…it will take calculated rudeness. The feminists have relied on the politeness of men. They have demanded that dangerous nonsense and utter stupidity be treated with respect. The Gender Agenda cannot be defeated until people are
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willing to stand up and say, ‘No more inclusive language, no more politically correct speech.’ We must refuse to say ‘gender’ when we mean ‘sex’. Those who are offended by reality and human nature will just have to live with it.” (Originalmente publicado na Salisbury Review, Londres, na primavera de 1998.)

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