Feminism's War on Objectivity
By Peter Schwartz (December 28, 1991)
While feminists claim to be pursuing justice for women, it is becoming ever more apparent that their actual goal is the obliteration of justice. More precisely, their aim is to eliminate that which makes justice possible: objective standards.
Instead of urging employers, for example, to adopt objective standards of merit in hiring and to apply them consistently to all candidates, irrespective of the (irrelevant) fact of gender, feminists call for the very opposite. They demand the lowering or the suspension of standards, in order to accommodate certain women. They no longer argue that women who meet objective qualifications ought not to be rejected solely on account of their sex (an argument which would merit moral, though not legislative, backing); rather, they declare that females who fail to qualify should be accepted solely on account of their sex.
When faced with the fact that most female applicants were unable to meet the New York City Fire Department's strength requirements, feminists successfully sued to have the standards changed so that a "sufficient" number of women could pass. They did not care that there is an objective need for stringent physical standards for firefighters. To feminists, gender transcends everything, including reality and logic.
This attitude is evident in the response of women's groups to two recent news events.
Feminists championed the just-enacted Civil Rights Act of 1991. This law creates a legal presumption of wrongdoing whenever a company's practices--such as employment tests--have a "disparate impact" by sex (or race or other collectivist criteria). Thus, if proportionately fewer women than men pass a truck-driving test (or if fewer Eskimos than non-Eskimos meet a high school diploma requirement), the employer can be charged with "discrimination." And while the legislation nominally exempts practices that are "job-related," this amounts to mere lip-service. For how many employers would risk the time and money to mount a defense, when the legal burden is on them to prove "non-discrimination"--to prove it, that is, to the satisfaction of the same mentality that considers it unjust discrimination to test a prospective firefighter's ability to lift heavy weights?
A similar disregard for objective standards was manifested during the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas confrontation. There, feminists instantly flocked to Hill's side, accepting her testimony as undeniably true and condemning those who subjected her to cross-examination in a quest for facts. The feminist complaint was not that Hill was being judged by different stndards than men are--but that she wasn't, i.e., that because she was a woman accusing a man of an archetypically "male-chauvinist" crime, her veracity should have been indisputable.
These feminists are indifferent to the principle that a process of justice requires objective judicial standards; positive evidence supporting the charges must exist even before the convening of any hearing or trial; the burden of proof must lie with the accuser, since a negative cannot be proved; the accused must be considered inocent unless proven guilty; and the accuser must consequently be intensely scrutinized, doubted and challenged. But feminists maintain that objective standards are immaterial, and objective facts non-existent. To them, the respective genders of accuser and accused in this case reveal who is the victimizer and who is the victim.
This approach represents not a search for "better" standards, but a jettisoning of standards as such--and of objectivity. According to Marxist ideology, there is no objectivity in human reasoning, but only "proletarian logic" and "bourgeois logic," with one's economic class determining the contents of one's mind. Feminism likewise contends that objectivity is impossible. Feminists believe that standards--in jurisprudence, in employment, in any sphere--are the products of a "male power structure." They maintain that the "class interests" of men compel them to perceive reality from a distorted, prejudiced perspective--that men, by biological necessity, "just don't get it."
If there is no objectivity, then the basis for deciding who is entitled to what is not the standards of justice, but the whims of any collective (enforced by the politics of pressure-group warfare). This is why feminists do not insist that one hire a female worker who deserves the job, or believe a female witness because she has earned credibility, or include in a university's curriculum a female author whose works merit study. Feminism's essential message--a message demeaning to all rational, conscientious women -- is that the female gender needs to be granted the unearned.
Justice is the objective evaluation of individuals. By embracing the non-objective, feminism can pursue nothing but the unjust.
Peter Schwartz, author of The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest, is a distinguished fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
For more articles by Peter Schwartz, and his bio, click here.