Americans have always been marked in a particular way by the ideal of “equality,” as the famous French traveler to our young nation, Alexis de Tocqueville, noted in his extensive travel log, Democracy in America. And no matter how much the ideal has been put into practice, the pursuit of equality never ceases to abate. On the contrary it is stoked to a point of missionary fervor in the face of territories apparently still untouched by the civilizing ideal. This is especially true now where the relation between men and women is in question.
At first glance, there couldn’t be anything more obvious than men and women being thought of and treated as equals, in the sense of equally human, even if this has not always been evident to everyone, as for example in the famous medieval querelle des femmes—though we would need a sense of humor to understand some of this. And there couldn’t be anything more desirable, especially since the equality of the sexes would be the reason for bringing them together for life, in marriage. (“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother…”). Indeed when Christine de Pisan—the “first feminist”—weighed in on the old quarrel, her arguments against misogyny were coincident with arguments against misogamy (anti-marriage sentiment).
But when we realize that the “equality” of today’s “gender equity” means suppressing a girl’s menstrual cycle (with the pill), burying a co-ed’s desire for a guy who will love her forever (with hook-up surrogates), and convincing a young graduate to put her ideal fertility window on hold (with corporate egg-freezing programs) in exchange for the often love-less, solitary, and always more complicated deferred motherhood (via IVF, surrogate motherhood, etc.), so that she can “lean in” and get all her ducks in a row, we begin to ask, “What kind of equality is this?” We have come a long way from an equality which is the reason why “the two shall become one flesh.”
“Equality” now refers to a state of mutual indifference between the sexes, achieved through a willed ignorance of all of the natural differences that turn a man and a woman toward each other. But to be more precise, it is a state of indifference to the woman’s difference. Simone de Beauvoir, for all of her insistence that gender was a social construct, said this unequivocally at the beginning of her famous tome, The Second Sex, when she insisted that the problem of inequality lay ultimately in the woman’s body, so that for her to be man’s “equal” she and she alone (unequally, that is) had to struggle against her nature (her body).The tragic irony of this “equality” was not lost on the younger French feminist, Luce Iregaray, who once asked her foresister and all the Americans in her thrall, “Equal to whom?” (Read more.)Share