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Topic: Eikon

Mugged by Reality

June 8, 2021
By Sharon James

Editor’s note: The following essay appears in the Spring 2021 issue of Eikon.

Mugged by Reality[1]

They continually try to escape

From the darkness outside and within,

By dreaming of systems so perfect that no-one

will need to be good. (T S Eliot)[2]

In the Spring of 2020, as fear of COVID-19 gripped whole populations, Sophie Lewis, author of Full Surrogacy Now, argued that the crisis posed an opportunity to get rid of the family:

. . .  the private family qua mode of social reproduction still, frankly, sucks. It genders, nationalizes and races us. It norms us for productive work. It makes us believe we are ‘individuals.’ It minimizes costs for capital while maximizing human beings’ life-making labor (across billions of tiny boxes, each kitted out – absurdly – with its own kitchen, micro-crèche and laundry) . . . We deserve better than the family. And the time of corona is an excellent time to practice abolishing it.[3]

Lewis thinks the world would be a better place when the family is “unthinkable.”[4] Babies need to be “universally thought of as anybody and everybody’s responsibility, ‘belonging’ to nobody.’”[5] She stands in a long line of thinkers who have set out to attack the natural family. Plato’s Republic recorded the thoughts of Socrates about the collectivisation of childrearing.[6] After the revolutions in both France (1789)[7] and Russia (1917), there were attempts to abolish the traditional married family. Both social experiments ended in disaster. The “reforms” were hastily reversed.[8]  

Some intellectuals continue to attack God’s design for family. By the second half of the twentieth century, many universities taught psychologists, social workers, health workers, and educationalists to regard the nuclear family as the source of psychiatric dysfunction, the likely location of abuse, the place where children were victims of either over-controlling or over-indulgent parenting, and where women were kept in economic dependence on their overbearing husbands. Radical feminists attacked the “heterosexist” norm of family life. Susan Moller Okin argued in 1989 that social justice was impossible to achieve while traditional family life was the norm, as it was based on gender (i.e., “the deeply entrenched institutionalisation of sexual difference”).[9] “A just future would be one without gender.”[10]

But how have these ideologies worked out in the lives of those who promoted them?

In this article, we’ll look at some of the pioneers of liberation: eight who challenged biblical morality (including God’s design for family), and eight who challenged sexual complementarity. How were they impacted by the effects of their own ideology?

The Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). Nor should we. But the Bible is clear that bad ideas result in bitter fruit:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15–20)

When we see people suffering the disastrous effects of sin, we should grieve. We are thankful that God’s mercy is extended to those who defy him, and sometimes to those who teach others to defy him too. Maybe some of those we will look in this article repented at the last. If so, they will have found grace. But their lives show that defiance of God’s moral law has consequences (Jer. 2:13).

1. Rejecting Divine Authority

We look first at some of those whose lives were driven by a mission to deliver humanity from the constraints of Christian morality. They believed that real freedom would come, and humans would flourish, once God’s commandments had been relegated to history.

1.1 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) has been described as thefirst of the modern intellectuals.”[11] Rejecting the old order, he claimed the right to redefine educational and social norms according to his own thinking. He convinced himself that he had a genuine and deep love for humanity and that his wisdom could be of benefit to all — especially the young. Emile (1762) is regarded as a seminal work in the formation of progressive educational thinking. But how did he treat his own children?

Rousseau’s mistress for 33 years was Therese Levasseur. He never married her, and treated her abominably. When he had dinner guests, she was expected to serve them, but not sit down with them.[12] Their first child was born during the winter of 1746–1747. Rousseau persuaded Therese, against her will, that the infant should be deposited at a Foundling Hospital (where two-thirds of babies died in their first year). The same happened to the next four children. None of them were given names. So much for the champion of children and the friend of humanity![13]

Rousseau achieved celebrity status, but fell out with most of his “friends.” That was unsurprising, given his self-absorption. His Confessions opens with these lines:

I have entered upon a performance which is without example, whose accomplishment will have no imitator. I mean to present my fellow-mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man shall be myself. I know my heart, and have studied mankind; I am not made like any one I have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence . . . Whenever the last trumpet shall sound, I will present myself before the sovereign judge with this book in my hand, and loudly proclaim, thus have I acted; these were my thoughts; such was I.[14]

There could be few more terrifying expressions of human arrogance before the Almighty God.

1.2 Karl Marx (1818–1883) claimed that the theory of the Communists could be summed up in the single sentence: “Abolition of private property.”[15] That, of course, would mean an attack also on the private family.

Abolition [Aufhebung] of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists. On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form, this family exists only among the bourgeoisie.[16]

The only way to eliminate noxious inequality would be to:

. . . transform the relations between the sexes into a purely private matter which concerns only the persons involved and into which society has no occasion to intervene. It[Communism]can do this since it does away with private property and educates  children on a  communal basis, and in this way removes the two bases of traditional marriage – the dependence rooted in private property, of the women on the man, and of the children on the parents.[17]

Marx was passionate about justice for “The People” in general, but individuals were dispensable in light of his grand vision of the future. He exploited the one worker he had first-hand contact with. Helen Demuth, known to the family as “Lenchen,” entered service at the age of just eight in his wife’s family. When Marx married Jenny in 1845, Jenny’s mother “gave her” Helen, (by then aged 22), as a servant/housekeeper. Helen worked for the Marx family until her death in 1890. She was only given board and lodging, never a wage. She gave birth to Marx’s son in 1851, but was forced to foster him out to a poor family.[18] 

Famously, Marx spent most of his time in the British Library; he didn’t bother to visit mills, factories, mines, or other industrial workplaces.[19] Profligate in spending money, terrible at managing it, and incapable of earning very much of it — Marx’s mother apparently said bitterly that she wished her son would spend less time writing about capital, and more time trying to earn some. He lived beyond his means: his income never fell below £200 a year (three times that of an average skilled workman), but he refused to live in a “proletarian” way.[20] The main victims were his wife and children. Two of his daughters ended up committing suicide. When he died, only eleven people attended his funeral in Highgate Cemetery, London. He had fallen out with most of his colleagues.

1.3 Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906), the celebrated Norwegian playwright, is remembered as “the father of realism.” He could, equally, be remembered as a “father of permissiveness”:

He taught men, and especially women, that their individual consciences and their personal notions of freedom have moral precedence over the requirements of society . . . he precipitated a revolution in attitudes and behaviour [and] long before Freud, he laid the foundations of the permissive society.[21]

Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (1879) was still the world’s most performed play in 2006. It depicts the plight of Nora, a wife trapped in a conventional marriage to Torvald Helmer. She ultimately realizes that to be true to herself will necessitate leaving her family:

Helmer: Can you neglect your most sacred duties?
Nora: What do you call my most sacred duties?
Helmer: Do I have to tell you? Your duties to your husband, and your children.

Nora: I have another duty which is equally sacred.
Helmer: . . . What on earth could that be?
Nora: My duty to myself . . . I don’t want to see the children. . . . As I am now I can be nothing to them.[22]

Dr. Theodore Dalrymple (b. 1949) comments:

. . . with these chilling words, she severs all connection with her three children, forever. Her duty to herself leaves no room for a moment’s thought for them. They are as dust in the balance. When, as I have, you have met hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people abandoned in their childhood by one or both of their parents, on essentially the same grounds (“I need my own space”), and you have seen the lasting despair and damage that such abandonment causes, you cannot read or see ‘A Doll’s House’ without anger and revulsion.[23]

Ibsen’s own life was troubled. At age 18, he had an affair with a housemaid, who bore his son, Hans Jacob. He was legally compelled to pay maintenance until the boy was 14, but he had no other contact with mother or son. Eventually the mother went blind, and died in destitution. When Hans Jacob, penniless, appealed to his father for money, Ibsen gave him a desultory sum and shut the door in his face. Hans Jacob would die, destitute, in 1916.[24]

Ibsen’s marriage was unhappy. He cultivated numerous emotionally intense relationships with very young women, which one could regard as a shocking abuse of trust.[25]

1.4 Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was born near Leipzig, Germany (then Prussia). His father, a Lutheran minister, died when he was four.  He was brought up by his mother, grandmother, sister, and two aunts. Nietzsche had the grand vision of cleansing Western civilisation of any idea of the transcendent. He rejected any idea of God or an externally defined morality:

What defines me, what sets me apart from all the rest of mankind, is that I have unmasked Christian morality.[26]

He set out to prove that morality is a human construct, created in response to particular social contexts and events. Reason and conscience should be subject to the human will alone. He despised the Christian virtues of compassion and kindness:

What is more harmful than any vice? [It is] Active sympathy for the ill-constituted and weak — Christianity.[27]

Nietzsche suffered constant ill-health. By the age of 45 he was failing physically and mentally (possibly due to syphilis). He had always disparaged women, but his illness forced him to rely on care from female relatives. Tragically, he died aged 56, having lost touch with reality.

His proud independence did not serve him well in his hour of need, and his repudiation of care and compassion had been “mugged by reality.”

1.5 Margaret Sanger (1879–1966) was the pioneer of contraceptive provision and the founder of Planned Parenthood. She viewed sexual freedom as salvation. In her grandly-titled book, The Pivot of Civilization,[28] she argued that the “magic bullet” to tip humanity towards a better future was not Marxist revolution but contraception (and the sexual freedom it would facilitate). Sex had to be liberated from the restraint of lifelong faithful monogamy (Christian morality) and the burden of having children. Sanger used Planned Parenthood to promote her racist vision of a superior society.[29] In 2020 Planned Parenthood removed Sanger’s name from their Lower Manhattan clinic, because of her connections to the eugenics movement.[30]

Sanger devoted her life to the abolition of Christian morality and the promotion of sexual liberation. Her own life was a mess: failed marriages, neglected children, numerous affairs, attempts to cover up her complicity with the Nazi regime, and desperate attempts to find meaning via occult activities.[31]

1.6 Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957) is regarded by many as the father of the sexual revolution. An Austrian doctor, he believed that a free society would only be possible when all could enjoy sexual “rights.” He wanted “self regulation” to replace Christian morality (everyone should choose their own morality and fulfil their own desires). He called this “sexual hygiene,” or “natural morality,” and argued that infants and children would be freed from inhibitions if they were used to seeing adults naked and making love.[32] His thinking has contributed to the industrial scale of child sexual abuse today, fuelled by online pornography.

In common with other architects of the sexual revolution, Reich’s personal life was troubled. He married three times (and divorced three times as well). He spent years making and selling “orgone accumulators,” machines supposed to collect “life energy.” He also constructed “cloud buster machines” purporting to harness “life energy” to manipulate weather. He was convicted of fraud and died in prison in the USA in 1957.

1.7 Michel Foucault (1926–1984), a French philosopher and author, celebrated “transgressiveness,” and regarded Christian morality as toxic and repressive. Liberation was to be achieved by discrediting all truth claims. He (and other deconstructionists) claimed that knowledge is a cultural construct, used to keep the privileged in positions of power. Foucault:

. . . devoted his work to unmasking the bourgeoisie, and showing that all the given ways of shaping civil society are reducible in the last analysis to forms of domination . . . The unifying thread in Foucault’s earlier and most influential work is the search for the secret structures of power. Behind every practice, every institution, and behind language itself lies power, and Foucault’s goal is to unmask that power and thereby to liberate its victims.[33]

Famously, Foucault argued that authorities exert domination through the “gaze,” whether of the warder in the prison, or the medics in a hospital or mental asylum. He condemned such institutions as authoritarian.[34]

But, when he was dying of AIDS, Foucault was admitted to La Salpetriere, a hospital he had condemned. He received there “the compassion that he needed and which he had dismissed twenty years earlier as one of the masks of bourgeois power.”[35] Theory had been “mugged by reality.”[36]

1.8 David G. Cooper (1931–1986), a British psychiatrist, was a radical who demanded the abolition of the traditional family, sexual freedom, legalisation of drugs, and communal child rearing. His book The Death of the Family was published in 1971, wherein he presents the nuclear family as the enemy of sexual and social independence.

Before he had finished writing the book, Cooper suffered a mental and physical breakdown. His regular abuse of drugs, no doubt, contributed to his illness. He testified in the Dedication:

During the end of the writing of this book against the family, I went through a profound spiritual and bodily crisis . . . The people who sat with me and tended to me with immense kindliness and concern during the worst of this crisis were my brother Peter and sister-in-law Carol and their small daughters. Just as a true family should.[37]

At that point he should have trashed his book. But he went ahead and published a demand for the deconstruction of the very institution to which he had turned in his hour of need.

2. Rejecting Divine Design

We turn now to eight trailblazers in the feminist movement.

2.1 Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797), author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), is celebrated as a founding thinker of feminism. This book, in her words, distilled “thirty years of rage,”[38] and became a best-seller.

Wollstonecraft set out to defy conventional moral codes. But unrestrained liberty didn’t work out well in her life. She had two miserable and short-lived affairs (and had one child), before she married William Godwin, a promoter of radical ideas. She died at the age of 38, shortly after giving birth to her second child, Mary, who, as Mary Shelley, would become famous as the author of Frankenstein.

Modern feminists celebrate Wollstonecraft, who argued that women should be educated. They fail to mention that she did nothing to help poor girls access education. By contrast, the evangelical writer Hannah More (1745–1833) not only wrote a best-selling apologetic for female education  (Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, 1799), but also put words into action. More gave sacrificially of her own time and resources to establish schools for poor girls as well as boys. Her life and writings resulted in great social good.

2.2 Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) wrote A Room of One’s Own (1928), regarded as a landmark feminist text. Her novels are studied worldwide. She was part of the “Bloomsbury group” in London in the early twentieth century. This elite group of intellectuals and artists despised convention, religion, and traditional morality. They lived a bohemian existence of unbridled sexual profligacy.[39] One member of this group, the economist John Maynard Keynes, wrote:

We repudiated entirely customary morals, conventions, and traditional wisdom. We were, that is to say, in the strict sense of the term, immoralists. The consequences of being found out had, of course, to be considered for what they were worth. But we recognized no moral obligation on us, no inner sanction, to conform or to obey. Before heaven we claimed to be our own judge in our own case.[40]

Woolf was viciously snobbish, anti-Semitic, and cruel, notably to her servants.[41] Possessed of huge privilege, she was continually dissatisfied. Theodore Dalrymple describes her “classic” work, Three Guineas, as:

. . . a locus classicus of self-pity and victimhood as a genre in itself. In this, it was certainly ahead of its time, and it deserves to be on the syllabus of every department of women’s studies at every third-rate establishment of higher education . . . The book might be better titled: ‘How to Be Privileged and Yet Feel Extremely Aggrieved’.[42]

Virginia Woolf suffered intermittent mental illness. In March 1941, she filled her coat pockets with stones and walked into the River Ouse near her house in Sussex, England. A tragic end to a tragic life.

2.3 Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986), a French philosopher, wrote the landmark feminist text, The Second Sex, in 1949. It appeared in English in 1953. Women are the second sex, she argued, because they are always defined in relation to men (taking the name of their husband in marriage), and exist for their good (caring for their husbands and children). For women, marriage is no better than slavery. De Beauvoir was equally hostile to motherhood:

The female organism is wholly adapted for and subservient to maternity, while sexual initiative is the prerogative of the male. The female is the victim of the species.[43]

She believed there can only be genuine relationships between men and women when the woman is self-sufficient economically. To be trapped at home is degrading. If women say that they are happy at home, it means that they have been brainwashed. They should be liberated, forcibly if necessary, from the family. The Second Sex portrayed women throughout history as sad, misled, victimized, and stupid. The author seemed to imagine that if only they listened to her, they could find liberation and enlightenment.

De Beauvoir’s own life was hardly an advertisement for her grandiose claims. She referred to herself as “an obedient Arab wife” in a letter to an American lover, and promised, “I will do the washing up, I will sweep the floor, I will buy the eggs and rum cakes myself . . .”[44] She spent much of her life in a humiliating relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre. They could be brutally cruel to each other and to others. De Beauvoir callously procured young female students for Sartre in an effort to cement their own relationship. For her, he was the centre of the universe but, as they were both committed to free love, he never married her, and she never had children. Sartre overlooked her in his will, leaving everything he owned to a younger mistress.

2.4 Betty Friedan (1921–2006), an American journalist, published The Feminine Mystique in 1963. She painted a sensationally shocking picture of American suburban women. The book began with a description of the “problem that has no name”:

The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries . . . she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — “Is this all?”[45]

The problem, Betty concluded, was that they were not out at work. Home was a comfortable concentration camp: “forbidden to join men in the world, can women be people?”[46] To be a housewife was unspeakably demeaning. Friedan co-founded the National Organisation of Women (NOW) in America in 1966. They campaigned for affirmative action to get equal numbers of women in the work place, universal (twenty-four hour) childcare, and free access to abortion.

Like de Beauvoir, Friedan regarded herself as the one who would liberate women from unhappiness. And, like de Beauvoir, her own life was a poor advertisement for her ideas. In 1947 she married Carl, a theatre producer, and they had three children. They divorced in 1969. He later claimed that she “tottered on a thin line just this side of insanity” and that she was the most violent person he had ever known.[47] Fellow feminist Germaine Greer found Friedan to be egoistical and selfish, observing that she would become “breathless with outrage if she didn’t get the deference she thought she deserved.”[48] This was the woman who believed that her ideas would change the world for the better.

In 1963 Friedan had hurled The Feminine Mystique like a grenade into suburban American homes, telling wives what a raw deal they had. A subsequent book, The Second Stage (1981) complained, with total lack of self-awareness, that feminism had done a lot of damage by attacking the family.

2.5 Adrienne Rich (1929–2012) wrote Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution in1976. She argued that all women are naturally lesbian and that heterosexuality is conditioned into women by a patriarchal society. They need to be liberated from that conditioning. Heteronormativity (the idea that heterosexuality is normal), she claimed, is an oppressive aspect of patriarchy, and must be abolished. All women should separate themselves from men.

Adrienne did so literally. Having married Alfred Conrad in 1953, she left him in 1970. Shortly afterwards he shot himself aged only 45.[49] His tragic death left their three children fatherless.

2.6 Kate Millet (1934–2017) was a brilliant, but deeply troubled young American graduate student who decided in 1970 that she had discovered the real problem for women through the ages. It was patriarchy (a word derived from the Greek words pater for father, and arche for rule).

In Sexual Politics, Millet used this term to describe societies where men rule over women. She argued that the means by which men rule is the traditional heterosexual married family. Her own background helps to explain her hostility to “father rule.” Born in America in 1934, her father was an alcoholic who beat her; he abandoned the family when she was 14. Kate was fiercely intelligent and would be the first American woman to get a first class degree from St. Hilda’s College, Oxford University.

She was also mentally ill, violent, and abusive. Her older sister Mallory witnessed the beginnings of the radical feminist movement, and described Kate’s destructive energy:

It was 1969. Kate invited me to join her for . . . a “consciousness-raising-group,” a typical communist exercise, something practised in Maoist China. We gathered at a large table as the chairperson opened the meeting with a back-and-forth recitation:

“Why are we here today?” she asked.

“To make revolution,” they answered.

“What kind of revolution?” she replied.

“The Cultural Revolution,” they chanted.

“And how do we make Cultural Revolution?” she demanded.

“By destroying the American family!” they answered.

“How do we destroy the family?” she came back.

“By destroying the American Patriarch,” they cried exuberantly.

“And how do we destroy the American Patriarch?” she replied.

“By taking away his power!”

“How do we do that?”

“By destroying monogamy!” they shouted.

“How can we destroy monogamy?” . . .

“By promoting promiscuity, eroticism, prostitution and homosexuality!” they resounded.

They proceeded with a long discussion on how to advance these goals by establishing The National Organization of Women. It was clear they desired nothing less than the utter deconstruction of Western society.[50]

The revolution they wanted was the end of “men-rule,” Women’s Studies courses sprung up all over America, using Millett’s books as the texts. Those joining these courses were to be persuaded that the family oppresses women. Stay-at-home mothers are economically dependent on their husbands, which put them (it was claimed) in a similar position to prostitutes. If women were to take control of their own lives, they had to separate themselves from the interests of men.[51]  They would only be liberated with the end of the traditional family. “Consciousness raising” groups were formed in America, and elsewhere, to help women understand that they needed to assert their own interests. If family interfered with their fulfillment, they should leave.

What did this mean at a grass-roots level? Family breakdown. Kate’s older sister Mallory recalls that over the years she has heard over and over again:

“Your sister’s books destroyed my sister’s life! . . . She was happily married with four kids and after she read those books, walked out on a bewildered man and didn’t look back.”  The man fell into despairing rack and ruin. The children were stunted, set off their tracks, deeply harmed . . .[52]

Another family smashed. Another brick knocked out of the structure of “patriarchy.” A triumph for Kate. A disaster for that family. A weakening of those social bonds which make for strong, stable, and happy communities. Mallory reflects on the tragic life of her sister; a life blighted by mental illness and family conflict. She hesitated to speak out openly, but she needed to expose the price paid by innocent families for the false ideology pedalled by Kate:

If you see something traitorous in this, a betrayal of my sister, I have come to identify with such people as Svetlana Stalin or Juanita Castro; coming out to speak plainly about a particularly harmful member of my family . . . I am [sick to my soul] over the mass destruction . . .  So much grace, femininity and beauty lost. So many ruined lives.[53]

2.7 Germaine Greer (b. 1939), an icon of modern feminism, also had a troubled childhood. Her father was absent for her earliest years. Once home from the army, he failed to protect his daughter from her mother’s abuse. He never gave her the love she yearned for.

Raised as a Catholic, Greer lost her faith during her first year at university, and later wrote:

One of the sources of conflict . . . was the collapse of my Catholic faith and my unwilling arrival at the conclusion that there was no god. Once that had been decided, there were no rules about anything else either.[54]

In 1969, Greer launched a pornographic magazine entitled Suck. It was so graphic that she had it published in Amsterdam to evade censorship. The following year, her book The Female Eunuch became an international best-seller, and quickly translated into eight languages. It has never been out of print, and it had sold over one million copies in the United Kingdom alone by 1988.

The cover of the first edition was sensational: an image of a female torso as meat hanging from a rail. The title alluded to Greer’s conviction that women had been “made eunuchs” (emasculated) by societal expectation. The central theme was unmistakable: sexual liberation. Greer invited women everywhere to join her in throwing out the rules. “I would prefer to be called a whore than a human being” she declared.[55]

Marriage, Greer asserted, is the central way in which men kept women suppressed:

If women are to effect a significant amelioration in their condition, it seems obvious that they must refuse to marry. No worker can be required to sign on for life.[56]

Despite this dogmatic claim, she got married. The marriage lasted only three weeks.[57] Later, fed up of “being an individual without any real ties” she decided she wanted a baby. Years of promiscuity and two abortions had made this impossible.[58]

By 1984, Greer had seen a bit more of the world, and come to accept that many women love their families. She complained in Sex and Destiny that the West was imposing anti-children birth control and sterilization onto traditional societies. She would eventually even admit:

The biological family of mother and child is vulnerable; it needs protection and support. Mothers need sustenance, physical, mental and spiritual.[59]

In 1997, she raged that young women now “have a duty to say yes to whatever their partners may desire,” they are “enslaved by the penetration culture.”[60] But she failed to take any responsibility for her own part in the promotion of unlimited sexual freedom — which has offered women an almost infinite variety of ways in which to get hurt, an ever-increasing risk of disease, and, for many, ongoing feelings of guilt and regret. Total individualism in relationships leads to total insecurity. With a breathtaking disregard for her own promotion of sexual liberation (and broken relationships), Greer lamented in 1999 that women were even worse off than they had been when she wrote The Female Eunuch:

On every side we see women troubled, exhausted, mutilated, lonely, guilty, mocked by the headline success of the few.[61]

As more and more women work outside the home, as more and more women walk out of oppressive marriages, we might expect the quantum of female malaise to diminish. The evidence seems to be that it is getting worse. Thirty years ago we heard nothing of panic attacks, or anorexia, or self-mutilation. Now the icons of female suffering are all around us . . . [62]

Revolutionary movements tend to implode. Greer, the High Priestess of radical feminism, has now been no-platformed and vilified as transphobic. In 2016 a trans-feminist activist insisted that:

If you believe that trans women are women, as you should because they are, then what Germaine Greer is espousing in her campaign against them is misogyny and surely no feminism should include any form of misogyny.  The safety of trans people outweighs the right of cis women to question the validity of their gender expression.[63]

Greer has relentlessly promoted sexual “liberation,” which has led to countless lives being wrecked. Has she ever encountered living Christianity, which alone brings true liberation? Jesus Christ came “that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, ESV). We can pray that she would encounter the living Lord before it is too late. Greer, sadly, didn’t receive love from her own father. But the finished work of Christ offers free access to forgiveness, and the never-failing Father love of God.

2.8 Shulamith Firestone (1945–2012) decided in 1970, with all the wisdom of her twenty-five years, that pregnancy was barbaric. Nature had made men and women unequal, so that women throughout history had been forced to bear and rear children. Scientific advances now meant that the tyranny of the biological family could be broken.

The Dialectic of Sex (1970) argued that women as a class would be liberated by means of contraception, abortion, artificial reproductive technologies, and collective child-care:

. . . to assure the elimination of sexual classes requires the revolt of the underclass (women) and the seizure of control of reproduction: not only the full restoration to women of ownership of their own bodies, but also their (temporary) seizure of control of human fertility . . . the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but [the elimination] of the sex distinction itself . . . [64]

Firestone believed that children should be raised collectively; that it was wrong to think that children “belonged” to their own parents. Women should be freed from the burden of bearing babies, and having their children depend on them. Many women would testify that having a baby was the most significant event in their life. Firestone believed they would be happier if the embryo were placed in a cow or a machine.

In 2012, after years of mental illness and increasing isolation, Shulamith died alone in her New York apartment. Firefighters eventually broke in, only to find her badly decomposed body.[65] A tragic and wretched outworking of her radical ideal of “complete independence.” Susan Brownmiller remembers the last time she saw Shulamith:

I remember the last time I saw Shulie. I was working on “Against Our Will,” and I had gone across the street to this health food bar, and there was this little waif standing there. “Shulie?” I said. “Is that you?” She recognized me. “Look what you’ve turned me into,” she said. “Look what I’ve become.” She blamed feminism for what had happened to her.[66]

3. God Is Not Mocked

Freedom without boundaries ends up in dystopia, not utopia.  In 1949, novelist and journalist George Orwell (1903–1950) commented:

For two hundred years we had sawed and sawed and sawed at the branch we were sitting on. And in the end, much more suddenly than anyone had foreseen, our efforts were rewarded, and down we came. But . . . The thing at the bottom was not a bed of roses after all; it was a cess pit full of barbed wire.[67]

Sexual complementarity, and marriage and family, are part of the Creator’s good design. When that design is defied, ideology hits up against nature and against biology. The results are disastrous. God’s design for his creation works for human flourishing. Defying God’s design is as futile as trying to kick a mountain down; as stupid as trying to stop the tide coming in. The great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas insisted:

Because the Faith was the one truth, nothing discovered in nature could ultimately contradict the Faith. Because the Faith was the one truth, nothing really deduced from the Faith could ultimately contradict the facts.[68]

At a time when there is a high degree of awareness about the environment, there is a collective denial of the devastation to the social ecology of family life and gender complementarity. Women have been betrayed by the denial that there is anything special about being female. That betrayal is captured in a haunting artistic survey of “500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art.”[69] For around four hundred years there was respect for the mystery and beauty of femininity and modesty. Then a collapse into ugliness and brutality reflected a shift in worldview. If we have just evolved, humans are no different than animals; and sex is merely a physical function. Why respect women? They are just pieces of meat.

The Roman lyric poet, Horace (BC 65–8) observed that, “You may drive out Nature with a pitchfork, yet she still will hurry back.” Those who defy God’s design don’t always see the consequences of their folly in this life (cf. Ps. 73). Sometimes, however, we do see, even in this life, the disastrous results of defying our Maker and leading others into wilful defiance as well (Prov. 28:10). The intellectuals and feminists we have considered claimed to be wise; their own lives revealed their folly (Rom. 1:22, 28).[70] We are to live within our Creator’s boundaries, and in fellowship with him, if we want to know real happiness.

Sharon James studied history at Cambridge University, has an M.Div from Toronto Baptist Seminary, and a doctorate from the University of Wales. She works for The Christian Institute, UK, and her books include Gender Ideology: What do Christians Need to Know? and God’s Design for Women in an Age of Gender Confusion.

[1]    This phrase taken from Roger Scruton,  Fools, Frauds and Firebrands (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2019), 113. Sections of this article appear in my book God’s Design for Women in an Age of Gender Confusion (Evangelical Press, 2019), chapters 2 and 4. Other sections are taken from chapters 2, 3 and 4 of my forthcoming book, The Lies we are Told: The Truth we Must Hold (Christian Focus Publications), to be released March 2022.

[2]    T. S. Eliot, Choruses from The Rock, 1934.

[3]    Sophie Lewis, “The Coronavirus Crisis Shows It’s Time to Abolish the Family,” Open Democracy (March 24, 2020), accessed online September 9, 2020:

[4]    Sophie Lewis, Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family (Verso, 2019), 167.

[5]    Sophie Lewis, Full Surrogacy Now, 168.

[6]    Plato, The Republic, Book V, 449a–472, c. 375 BC.

[7]    M. C. Henrie, “Divorce, Communitarian Style,” First Things (January 1993), accessed online March 21, 2021:

[8]    “No-fault divorce,” The Christian Institute (March 2020), accessed online March 22, 2021:,

[9]    S. M. Okin, Justice, Gender and the Family (BasicBooks, 1989), 6.

[10]   S. M. Okin, Justice, Gender and the Family, 171.

[11]   Paul Johnson,  Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky (Harper, 1988), 2.

[12]   Johnson,  Intellectuals, 20.

[13]   Johnson,  Intellectuals, 21.

[14]   Rousseau, Confessions (completed in 1769, published in 1782), accessed online March 24, 2021:

[15]   Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party 1848, accessed online March 24, 2021:, 22.

[16]   Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 25.

[17]   Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 52, emphasis mine.

[18]   Johnson,  Intellectuals, 79–81.

[19]   Johnson, Intellectuals, 60.

[20]   Johnson,  Intellectuals, 73–77.

[21]   Johnson,  Intellectuals, 82–83.

[22]   Helen Ibsen, A Doll’s House (1879), accessed online March 24, 2021:, emphasis mine.

[23]   Theodore Dalrymple, “Ibsen and His Discontents,” City Journal (Summer 2005), accessed online September 11, 2020: Theodore Dalrymple is a pseudonym for Dr. Anthony Daniels, a physician who spent many years as a prison doctor in a deprived area of Birmingham, UK.

[24]   Johnson, Intellectuals, 92–93.

[25]   Johnson, Intellectuals, 100–101.

[26]   Friedrich Nietzsche, Why I am So Wise (1889), translated by R. J. Hollingdale (Penguin Books, Great Ideas, 2004), 66, emphasis original.

[27]   Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, translated by R. J. Hollingdale (Penguin Classics, 1990), 128. Note that the German title might more accurately be understood as The Anti-Christian.

[28]   Margaret Sanger, The Pivot of Civilization (published 1922, reprinted Pergamon Press, 1950), accessed online July 2, 2020:

[29]   G. Grant, Grand Illusions: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood (Adiot Press, 1988/1992), 96.

[30]   Samantha Schmidt, “Planned Parenthood to Remove Margaret Sanger’s Name from N.Y. Clinic over Views on Eugenics” Washington Post (July 2020), accessed online July 23, 2020:

[31]   G. Grant, Killer Angel: A Biography of Planned Parenthood’s Founder Margaret Sanger (Ars Vitae Press, 1995), 10.

[32]   W. Reich, The Sexual Revolution (1936), accessed online July 14, 2020:

[33]   Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, 99.

[34]   Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, 105.

[35]   Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, 105–6.

[36]   Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, 113.

[37]   David Cooper, The Death of the Family (Penguin, 1974), 157.

[38]   Quoted in M. Phillips, The Ascent of Woman: A History of the Suffragette Movement and the Ideas Behind It, (Abacus, 2004), 8.

[39]   G. Himmelfarb, “From Clapham to Bloomsbury,” accessed online March 4, 2021:

[40]   Quoted in Himmelfarb, “From Clapham to Bloomsbury.”

[41]   Himmelfarb, “From Clapham to Bloomsbury.”

[42]   Dalrymple, Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses (Ivan R. Dee, 2005), 63.

[43]   Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, translated and edited by H. M. Parshley (Picador, 1988), 52.

[44]   Simone de Beauvoir, Letter to Nelson Algren. Original letters preserved at Ohio State University. Report by Ben Macintyre, The Times, February 21, 1997. Now published as A Transatlantic Love Affair: Letters to Nelson Algren, New Press, 1999.

[45]   Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, (Penguin Books, 1992) 13.

[46]   Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, 44.

[47] J. Langton, “Feminist Writer Betty Friedan ‘Brought Terror to Marriage,” Daily Telegraph (July, 6, 2000), accessed online July 31, 2018:

[48] G. Greer, “The Betty I Knew,” The Guardian (February 7, 2006), accessed online July 31, 2018:

[49]   Michelle Dean, “The Wreck: Adrienne Rich’s Feminist Awakening,” The New Republic, accessed online July 31, 2018:

[50] Mallory Millet, “Marxist Feminism’s Ruined Lives,” Frontpage Magazine (September 1, 2014), accessed online September 13, 2018:

[51]   J. Magezis, Teach yourself Women’s Studies (Hodder, 1996), 14–15.

[52]   Millet, “Marxist Feminism’s Ruined Lives.”

[53]   Millet, “Marxist Feminism’s Ruined Lives.”

[54]   C. Wallace, Germaine Greer: Untamed Shrew (Richard Cohen Books, 1999) 148.

[55]   Wallace, Germaine Greer, 208.

[56]   Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch (Paladin, 1971), 319.

[57]   Greer and Paul du Feu married in 1968, separated after three weeks, and divorced in 1973.

[58]   Greer interview with Hilary Roots, “Why I want a baby,” accessed online July 31, 2018:

[59]   Greer,  The Whole Woman (Anchor Books, 1999), 204.

[60]  Germaine Greer, “On Sex, Angst and the Millennium,” Special Event, Melbourne Festival 1997. Reported in The Times,October 17, 1997.

[61]   Greer,  The Whole Woman, 14.

[62]   Greer, The Whole Woman, 174.

[63]   P. Quinn, “Why I Believe No-Platforming Germaine Greer Is the Only Option,” Huffington Post (October 23, 2016), accessed online March 24, 2021:

[64]   Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (William Morrow and Company, 1970), 11. First chapter available online:

[65]   L. Anderson, ‘Obituary of Shulamith Firestone,’ (August 30, 2012), accessed online September 13, 2018:

[66]   R. Cooke,  “US Feminist Susan Brownmiller on Why Her Groundbreaking Book on Rape is Still Relevant,” The Guardian (February 18, 2018), accessed online August 1, 2018:

[67]   George Orwell, Notes on the Way (1940), quoted in V. Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World (Thomas Nelson, 2012), 3.

[68] G. K. Chesterton, St Thomas Aquinas (1933), accessed online:, 39.

[69]   P. S. Johnson, 500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art, accessed online March 23, 2021:

[70]   In biblical terms, “fool” has reference to moral blindness rather than intellectual incapacity.

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