Feminism is a social and political movement. It is not an academic discipline on par with, say, mathematics, economics, business administration, engineering or physics. Gender studies, feminism’s academic wing, does not constitute an appropriate subject for an academic degree. At best it is a subset of a complex of ideas, issues, and events properly canvassed by the History Department, along with a myriad other themes and developments in the study of Western civilization.
Moreover, such programs have no business infesting legitimate areas of study to the extent that an astronomer must sign an affidavit attesting to his involvement in social justice projects or an engineer proclaim his fealty to the feminist manifesto if he is to be considered for promotion. The same proviso applies to any applicant for a university position. It should be obvious that gender programs and initiatives have nothing to do with mapping the universe, finding a cure for cancer, investigating quantum entanglement or stochastic electrodynamics, studying the economic effects of the Protestant Reformation, assessing the impact of political theories from Plato and Aristotle to the present, resolving truss and anchorage problems in suspension bridge engineering, tracing the history of epic poetry from Homer to Michael Lind’s The Alamo, or any canonical field of authentic endeavor. The fact that a bogus discipline, which has no reason for existing sui generis, can spread outward to influence and dilute genuine subjects is beyond comprehension.
Enter Hungary. In an effort to restore curricular and administrative sanity to university education, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz Party have passed legislation to abolish Gender Studies as an area of official study. Hungary’s Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen has stated that such programs “ha[ve] no business in universities” as they represent “an ideology, not a science,” with a market profile “close to zero.” Similarly, Orban’s Chief of staff Gergely Gulyas said, “The Hungarian government is of the clear view that people are born either men or women. They lead their lives the way they think best [and] the Hungarian state does not wish to spend public funds on education in this area.”
According to reports, Fidesz spokesman Istvan Hollik, echoing Semjen, brought in the economic argument, pointing to the obvious fact that “You don’t have to be an expert to see there’s not much demand in the labour market for gender studies.” But the core of the issue goes deeper. “It is also no secret that our goal is to make Hungary a truly Christian-democratic country, which defends its normality and life and values…And now there’s this situation with gender studies, which is not a science but an ideology and one which is closely linked to liberal ideology, and I don’t think it fits in here.”
Of course, such efforts to abolish clearly non-academic programs from the university will be considered an authoritarian and anti-democratic putsch by such bastions of liberal/left propaganda as the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender. The policy is naturally opposed by the Hungary-based Soros-funded CEU (Central European University), which sees the move as an “attempt at censoring academic curricula.” The University, after all, is sacred ground. By these lights the German universities of the 1930s were well within their mandate to espouse and promote the doctrines of Nazi ideology, adopted in the name of progress, justice, and freedom from oppression.
Orban’s surgical strike against the CEU is better understood as a reasonable effort to limit Soros’ totalitarian meddling in the education and conduct of an independent democratic nation. Orban realizes that what he calls the “Soros Plan” entails “transforming Europe and moving it towards a post-Christian and post-national era.” The CEU has now relocated its Budapest campus to Vienna where it can persist unmolested in its aim to undermine Western civilization.
Criticism continues to pour in from all the predictable quarters. “Every undemocratic government wants to control the knowledge production and sexuality, which explains why gender studies become the target in the first place,” said Andrea Peto, a professor of gender studies at Central European University. But Peto’s critique is clearly applicable to liberal/democratic governments across the West, which allow for no counter-proposals and are busy suppressing legitimate resistance or debate. Some democracy! As Ryszard Legutko points out in his brilliant The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies, “there is some interplay between liberal democracy and communism…a stifling atmosphere typical of a political monopoly…imposing uniformity of views, behavior and language.” His lengthy exegesis of our current “liberal-democratic system,” as distinguished from traditional liberal democracy, seems irrefutable.
Writing in the progressivist journal Inside Higher Ed, Premilla Nadasen, a history professor at Barnard College, sees the attack on women and gender studies scholars as part of a rightwing push to “return to a heteronormative patriarchal society.” More of the usual gibberish beloved by gender academics. In the same venue, Middlebury College professor Kevin Moss notes, with the vacuity of the pedestrian mind, “Gender studies and gender equality and equality for LGBT people are threatening for authoritarian regimes because authoritarian regimes require for somebody to have more power than somebody else.” In the inimitable expression of Bart Simpson, “D’oh!”
A reading of the Norwegian feminist journal Kilden tells us all we need to know. Filled with the pietistic conviction that they are cutting-edge “scholars” and “researchers,” as they like to call themselves, these self-proclaimed experts in the field of gender studies rely on flawed surveys and pseudo-statistical “studies” masking as science in order to bolster what is nothing less than ideological ravings. Such disciplinary malfeasance has been abundantly demonstrated in many different places, for example, Christina Hoff Sommers’ Who Stole Feminism?, A House Built of Sand edited by Noretta Koertge, and Janice Fiamengo’s ongoing video series The Fiamengo File.
Feminist ideologues protest that they are the target of “unfounded criticism” while apprehensive about their career prospects—a primary concern, obviously, for those who may inwardly suspect they are entirely dispensable. Thus, the clamor of remonstrations. The ladies doth protest too much, methinks. Their critics are routinely dismissed as belonging to “the extreme right-wing” and as using something called “right-wing logic,” a most convenient calumny that also makes no sense. “Patriarchal knowledge” is at fault, claims Polish feminist Agnieszka Graff, “where men know everything and women aren’t allowed to get a word in.” Seriously? Any unbiased examination of YouTube and University panel discussions on the subject will give the lie to her deposition. Men are generally silenced, rendered apologetic or cowed into submission—unless you’re Jordan Peterson.
Kilden director Linda Marie Rustad is correct in acknowledging “that the attacks on gender are part of a bigger picture”—namely, the upsurge of “right-wing populism.” But what she does not and cannot recognize is that the real problem is not right-wing populism but left-wing progressivism. Two things should be briefly mentioned here. National populism is the result of, the reaction to, hegemonic progressivism and, as such, a necessary corrective to a political culture gone awry. And what is derisively called “populism” or “right-wing” designates a movement that seeks to restore the traditional values of the West: individual autonomy, property rights, equality before the law, the integrity of the nation, the sanctity of the institution of marriage and, in many nations, the Christian communion. The term “right-wing” is actually an honorific.
Left-wing—or liberal—progressivism strives instead to dismantle the nation state, to denounce the history of the West as a colonial monstrosity, to accumulate debt in order to finance various ideological projects du jour, to dumb-down education, to emasculate individual initiative and regulate entrepreneurship to death, and to redefine marriage as a fluid institution and thus destabilize the family. It is sad to note that liberalism is now synonymous with socialist orthodoxy, that is, state control, censorship, political correctness, distributive economics, funded abortion and non-binary gender relations. In Orban’s words, “The situation in the West is that there is liberalism, but there is no democracy.
Orban has understood the nature of the threat and has taken a strong stand against the debilitating sickness represented by the left. In a July 29, 2018 major address delivered at an Open University summer camp, he said: “An era is a special and characteristic cultural reality…a spiritual order, a kind of prevailing mood, perhaps even taste—a form of attitude… determined by cultural trends, collective beliefs and social customs. This is now the task we are faced with…[to] embed a political system in a cultural era,” that is, an evolving cultural era. The task is to defend Christian culture, to reject multiculturalism and monitor immigration, to protect the nation’s economy and garrison its borders, and to preserve the traditional gender and family model.
Orban has a welcome ally in Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who has introduced a bill “aiming at the principle of the integral protection of children,” to prohibit the inclusion of gender issues in elementary schools. The bill is intended to respect the beliefs of parents and students, “privileging family values in their school education related to moral, sexual and religious education.” The Brazilian Studies Association is up in arms, duly evoking a terror scenario in which “educators will be dismissed and bullied as a form of persecution” and “marginalized communities” will suffer something like epistemic oppression. Professor Marlene de Faveri of the State University of Santa Catarina claims that “the introduction of such a concept…is…meant to propagate hatred towards feminists [and to] minimize the scientific character of gender studies.” This is typical feminist nonsense. The bill is intended to reduce the malign influence of hard-core feminists instilling hatred and false knowledge in their charges and to expose the blatantly non-scientific character of gender studies.
Orban has an even more powerful ally in Donald Trump, who is drafting legislation that defines sex as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” But it remains for the Justice Department to decide on the legality of the new legislation, which would seriously modify Title IX statutes and reverse the gender loosening rules of the previous administration. While events hang fire, little Hungary is leading the charge.
Liberal despots pickled in the brine of their progressivist ideology, feminist academics raking in lavish salaries for steeping their students in the euphoria of manufactured fury and lying about professional under-representation, and revolutionary zealots sheltering behind the walls of non-productive quasi-professions cannot tolerate conservative proponents of moral decency, civil order, common sense, and historical truth. Feminists and gender mavens believe that feminist politics and its academic vanguard of gender studies form the linchpin that holds the internal campaign against Western culture together. If it is weakened or expunged, the entire structure will begin to totter and the hated patriarchal forces they oppose will reassert themselves.
Hence the self-righteous indignation of the gender fanatics cloaking themselves in the rhetoric of academic freedom, scientific cogency, moral innocence, welfare economics, identity politics, and gender fluidity. And hence the fear and loathing of sensible and courageous leaders like Viktor Orban who insist that “there is a life beyond globalism,” that a constitutional order is essential to the survival and prosperity of the nation, that there are two sexes, not seventy-three and counting, that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, and that “every child has a right to a mother and father.”
A caveat should be introduced here. Abolishing gender studies as an academic discipline will not by itself repair the damage inflicted by feminism on what John Milton memorably called “beholding the bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies.” This is only a first step toward restoring integrity to the university. For, as noted, the feminist bacillus has now permeated almost every office and faculty in the modern university, from hiring protocols to admissions policy to proctorial oversight of sexual conduct to student organizations to practically all licit departments and curricula. How to go about fumigating the parietal environment is a highly problematic enterprise, but the issue needs to be addressed.
Meanwhile, feminists may be livid and progressivists may virulently denounce populist figures like Orban—and his allies Bolsonaro and Trump—as political tyrants and cultural troglodytes. In the words of John Dale Dunn, this is what we can expect in “the current environment of academic and media shills for the left who specialize in vilification and character assassination of anyone who proposes a conservative answer for a serious political question.” Orban’s conservative answer is simple and honest. Our duty, he concludes, is to “defend human dignity, the family and the nation.”
Makes sense to me.
David Solway’s latest book is Notes from a Derelict Culture, Black House Publishing, 2019, London. A CD of his original songs, Partial to Cain, appeared in 2019.