Volume 7, Issue 5: Non Est
El Mundo Zordo
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." 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. Unlike the
liberal feminists who often view domesticity negatively, the gynocentric feminists
glory in the superior, nonmasculine values that domesticity and child rearing
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
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.