Joan Kennedy Taylor: “We shouldn’t try to have it both ways.”

Posted on January 30, 2011 by


From Joan Kennedy Taylor’s Reclaiming the Mainstream: Individualist Feminism Rediscovered (1992):

“Feminists know that similarities among people can be an important bond—should we let our desire not to be excluded from the larger world of work and achievement turn into an insistence that people can’t choose to be with their own group? Suppose a feminist company wants to hire only women—shouldn’t it be able to do so? Should a battered women’s center or a rape counseling service have to employ men in proportion to their representation in the population?

We shouldn’t try to do it both ways. We can’t use the power of the law to force our way into the bastions of male prerogative and then hope to have our own groups respected as a private choice. Of course the government shouldn’t have required all the herding in the first place. But since government is power, power is all the bureaucrats know. Those feminists and libertarians who want to reduce government power know we have a double fight on our hands over every issue. First, to get the government to stop exerting influence in one direction, and second, to keep it from turning around and exerting it in the other.

Perhaps, like Sarah Grimké, in her nineteenth-century Letter on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women, we should say instead, “I ask no favors for my sex. . . . All I ask of our brethren is, that they will take their feet off our necks, and permit us to stand upright.” [p. 162]