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Volume 7, Issue 5: Non Est

El Mundo Zordo

Douglas Jones

A single "feminism" doesn't exist. Talk about "feminism" in the singular is much like talking about "all religious people" as a monolithic group. What passes for academic women's studies (note the plural) or feminist theory is a sophisticated host of competing and often strongly conflicting views. Contemporary feminist theory includes a developing literature and living, breathing advocates for all of the following: liberal feminism, marxist feminism, existentialist feminism, psychoanalytic feminism, cultural feminism, radical feminism, ecofeminism, postmodernist "feminism," each with its own methods and goalssome trying to subvert others, others trying to make allies.

Feminist scholar Josephine Donovan explains that in recent decades, "the fundamental divergence within feminist theory continues to be between those who assert that women form a separate cultural group with its own values and practices and, on the other hand, those who resist this assumption."[1] Cultural feminists, along with radical and socialist feminists, have taken the lead in defending "feminine virtues" that are distinct from the linear rationality, atomism, and abstractionism that supposedly make up the masculine worldview.
In contrast to this gynocentric perspective, liberal feministsoften depicted as the compromising old guardalong with postmodernist critics of feminism often depicted as the dangerous, flash-in-the-pan, nasties on the blockboth ardently oppose the notion of a distinctively feminine worldview. Liberal feminists oppose it because of their egalitarianism, and the postmodernists oppose it because they oppose anything distinctive at all (except, of course, for their own rather well-padded metaphysic which they pretend not to see).
The gynocentric or cultural feminist side in this debate certainly appears to have gained the upper hand. Gynocentric feminists find the origins of their vision in features which have almost universally structured women's experiencepolitical oppression, housekeeping, child rearing, and production for use.[2] Unlike the liberal feminists who often view domesticity negatively, the gynocentric feminists glory in the superior, nonmasculine values that domesticity and child rearing produce.
Donovan sketches how gynocentric feminists have linked the above four features of women's experience to a unique feminine epistemology. Political oppression has forced women to be very aware of their environment in order to survive. This produces not only environmental awareness but awareness of the more concrete details of life and their context, unlike the more masculine devotion to domination and abstraction.
Similarly, housekeeping and child rearing are couched in "interruptability," bodily risk, waiting, and repetition which foster values of flexibility, contingency, relativity, passivity, and humility. All of which stand in sharp contrast to the masculine traits of absolutism, assertiveness, and aggression. Tied to this is women's production for use, a production of goods for her family which fit into a personal, "sacred" context unlike the more masculine production for exchange which rips goods out of a personal context for their abstract value. All of this, according to the gynocentric feminists, produces a superior feminine ethic which is life-affirming, holistic, humble, concrete, tolerant, and personal.
To some, this feminine epistemology/ethic is reminiscent of typically right-brain characteristics. These feminists often talk of creating a "left-handed world"or el mundo zordo in its more diverse, multicultural form. But as the Christian philosopher Cornelius Van Til taught us, every form of non-Christian worldview is caught on a pendulum between objectivity and subjectivity, between absolute and relative standards of knowledge and value. If you push on one side, it will easily swing to the other.
For example, gynocentrists openly embrace the subjective values of relativity, diversity, and contingency, supposedly in opposition to the more masculine values of rationalism, absolutism, and universalism. But notice how gynocentric values function in absolutistic ways. One can't condemn "patriarchal tyranny" or argue conclusively for the superiority of a feminine morality without objective standards. Such negative judgments assume universal standards, and so gynocentrists function as absolutists when they criticize masculine values. Their subjectivism swings over into objectivism.
But once on the objective, absolutist side of things, we find that the gynocentrists do not hold to a worldview in which such things can be sustained. They reject any universe where objective standards make sense. Their materialist or sometimes pantheistic cosmos allows no place for independently existing, universal standards. Everything, even gynocentricism, becomes a mere human construct. Their objectivism swings over into subjectivism. This same pendulum swing occurs in different ways in every non-Christian worldview, and so even the failure of gynocentric feminism serves to confirm a biblical view of reality.
Even though gynocentrism is self-defeating in some important ways, it might still make some keen observations. How do its observations, say, of the differences between men and women hold up? Above, for example, gynocentric judgments appear just as rationalistic and abstract as those of their masculine opponents. On such points, bold claims for radical differences between male and female thinking will not hold up. More importantly, in a biblical context, both males and females are called to "have the mind of Christ"a "masculine" mind as their primary ethical model. So, instead of a "left-handed world," el mundo zordo, God calls men and women to Him who sits at His right hand.

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