Every human life is an aspiration to happiness and fulfilment. Our society, almost universally, offers a variety of paths to the achievement of these things, including physical beauty, material wellbeing, wealth, status, pleasure and what it describes as rights.
One of the clearest examples of the ideology of fulfilment acocording to the conventional orthodoxy of modern, affluent societies is to be found in the figure of woman and of the girl child.
Today, woman finds herself torn between two expectations of who she is and what she is to do with her life.
On the one hand, feminist ideology of the early and mid-twentieth century which has decisively shaped modern life proved to be so powerful precisely because it sought real justice for woman with regard to real issues of equality and to address real abuses such as the relative powerlessness of woman in the face of experiences such as poverty, domestic violence and the lack of access to advancement through experiences such as education.
However, the fatal flaw in twentieth century feminism was its embrace of the general idea – more of an informing spirit – that to achieve equality woman had to become more like man.
Paradoxically, feminism celebrated femininity but insisted the path to equality was to be able to do what man does via the path of sameness – a renunciation, in many important respects, of femininity.
The tension between these two contradictory things resulted in another paradox which might be described as material advancement at the expense of a subordination of femininity’s unique reality and identity to the primacy of a masculine social framework and order, especially in areas such as employment.
Feminism, in a very real sense, therefore achieved important material gains but also inflicted enormous spiritual losses.
The paradox continues and is not yet resolved. Twenty-first century society in developed First World nations is the best time and place in history to be a woman – in some ways.
There is nothing that women and girls can want for at any level – educational opportunities, social status, health and so on. On the other hand, women and girls are torn between their entirely natural desires and their own aspirations.
Today, woman both desires the experience of unconditional love and family life to be found in marriage but fears that this will eventually result in the extinction of her own deepest aspirations in many other areas of her life.
Our society relentlessly offers this schizophrenic message to woman and the girl child – that her fulfilment is not to be found in her identity as woman but effectively as a pseudo-male who achieves everything that man achieves in the workforce and on the career ladder.
The construction of an entire economic and financial system on this mirage is one reason why so many women suffer today and must sacrifice most of the experience of motherhood to the necessity of fulltime employment in order to achieve the normal goal of any couple, ownership of a family home.
It is the perpetration of this mirage that is behind a situation never seen in societies before – parents by the millions giving up the care of their children, often for most of the day, to strangers and believing that this is normality. Where there is supposed to be choice there is, in fact, none.
Twentieth century feminism succeeded because of real issues, but its solutions so often failed because of false logic – that the path to equality depended on sameness.
Ironically, feminism embraced the extinguishment of feminity in many important senses precisely because it held as revealed doctrine that adult life cannot be fulfilling apart from continuous, paid employment away from home in a field that one selects and enjoys.
The problem with this is that it rejects the idea that both men and women have what our society would call different skill-sets which both, ideally, need to bring to bear in the raising of children. This is the complementarity of the sexes.
True feminism can only succeed by accepting the living reality of femininity – that woman has a unique role to play in society and in human life and is not interchangeable with man.
Our society needs to recognise the true value and contribution of of femininity rather than perpetrating the ideology of feminism of the 1950s and 1960s.
This requires a completely different approach to the way in which our entire financial and economic systems function and the way we organise our society.
When massive numbers of women feel obligated to separate themselves from their children on a more or less permanent basis, something has gone very badly wrong.
When massive numbers of young women feel drawn to the human intimacy of marriage or its imitators but now actively fear the experience of motherhood because they see it as a real and present danger of extinction of their aspirations for their own lives, something has gone very badly wrong.
Allowing for the fact that for both men and women, family life depends on the sacrifice of each, the recognition of the true value of the contribution of woman to society depends on enabling women to experience no conflict between these things.
The path to men becoming fathers is facilitated everywhere but the path for women to become mothers has been burdened by the imperative that mothers must become fulltime employees largely absent from their families. The solution to this is what we might call the recovery of domesticity.