Recently, I attended a seminar at George Mason University where Tyler Cowen interviewed Camille Paglia. Paglia always packs a punch. She is a professor of humanities and media studies at The University of the Arts. She is also a self-described libertarian Democrat. This is what makes her so interesting.
Paglia’s talk ranged from the musical genius of Bob Dylan to the different gender roles involved in raising children. She ended her talk in response to an audience question regarding whether feminism in America has achieved its goals.
Paglia answered, “Capitalism made women’s emancipation possible.”
This is both humble and accurate. Paglia is acutely aware there is no way that she could hold a professorial position in media studies at a university without the massive value creation that is unleashed under capitalist systems.
What Modern Feminism Misses When It Comes to Calling
I have previously written on my views of modern feminism. If God has created us with gifts and asks us, as stewards, to use every breath that we have and every hour of the day to serve others with our gifts, then we must be free to do that. Aside from Paglia, few modern feminists would have us understand that for women to be free to unleash their creative gifts, we need a free society.
The goal then is not to elevate women to a status that is always elevated above their male counterparts. That is cronyism disguised as gender equality.
Women and men are different. We know this because we understand the story of how and why God created us. We are here to serve him and his creation. If we are allowed to use our gifts to serve others and we have the proper economic incentives to do so, we contribute to and benefit from greater human flourishing.
Paglia rightly claims that to have strong women we need strong men. I couldn’t agree more. Strong women are those that know their calling and work to accomplish it. This requires strong men, not male doormats. She goes so far to say that second-wave feminism requires authoritarianism:
The problem with too much current feminism, in my opinion, is that even when it strikes progressive poses, it emanates from an entitled, upper-middle-class point of view. It demands the intrusion and protection of paternalistic authority figures to project a hypothetical utopia that will be magically free from offence and hurt.
Many in the modern feminist movement would degrade men to female lip-servants and destroy anything masculine about them. This runs directly counter to how and why God created us male and female.
When we begin to unpack the problems of modern feminism, we realize it is incompatible with a free and flourishing society. Authoritarian rules and regulations oriented towards some unrealizable goal of “equality” only serve to make us weak and lessen our abilities to use our gifts in creative ways to serve others.
Capitalism Makes Pursuing Your Calling Possible
Capitalism continues to free women in amazing ways. Most importantly it frees our time. We would be remiss to ignore that it was not just legalizing the equal status of women to accept jobs as CEO’s and entrepreneurs which mattered, but it was freeing their time to leave the home to go do those things. Sarah Skwire writes this in her timely essay “Capitalism will Abolish Laundry Day“:
In the 1920s, the average housewife spent about 11.5 hours per week on laundry and ironing. By 1965, that had dropped to just under 7 hours. In 2014, that average housewife (and her spouse) spent about 20 minutes a day on the task, or just over 1.5 hours per week.
If you are called to leave the home for hours a day to be a doctor, secretary, or UPS driver, you not only require legal protections to do so, you need time. When laundry takes up 11.5 hours per week, you are in trouble. You either do laundry at night, stringing the clothes in the darkness in your backyard, or you just don’t work as much. Because you can’t.
Capitalism helps us overcome these problems by giving women opportunities to abandon their washing boards in favor of a washing machine. This allows you to do more regardless of what you are called to do: you can spend more time with children, more time engaged in volunteer work, or more time working in the corporate world.
Capitalism begets greater human creativity because it frees our time to create, innovate, and explore. Capitalism invites women to be a part of this process. As a result, we achieve even greater societal value creation.
Capitalism and feminism rightly understood go hand-in-hand. Societies that discourage women from being all they are created to be suffer, as do societies that hinder the creative powers that are unleashed under capitalism. When we do both of these things well, we flourish.