Mischief Makers

July 26, 1994|By SEAN de HORA

STATE COLLEGE, PENNSYLVANIA — The current myth surrounding the feminist mystique is that until now men had all the fun, men made all the decisions and all the money, and all women got to do was stay home, have babies and wash men's dirty laundry. Therefore it follows that some sort of aggressive affirmative action is necessary to correct this perceived historical injustice. Thus the financial spigots must open to create jobs, finance research and proslytize young women who might otherwise become victims themselves.

Now it is time to let the defense speak.

In the first place, there always was gender equity among the working class. Jewish women got to work alongside Jewish men in New York's sweatshops. When Irish boys got to quit school and go to work as bricklayers and stevedores, their sisters got to quit school and work in the homes of middle-class people, scrubbing floors and washing dishes. And African-American women were always free to pick turnips and cotton along with their men.

It is of the American middle class that I speak.

Contrary to feminist propaganda, when middle-class men went to work managing meat-packing plants and coal mines, their wives did not stay home to cook and clean and watch kids. They hired Irish and black women to do that, while they went about doing what most people with idle time on their hands do: cause mischief.

First there was abolition. By 1860 every sane man in America, North and South, knew that slavery was on the way out. The only question was how to dismantle the institution with as little pain, suffering and economic displacement as possible.

But women would hear none of it. Slavery was evil, an abomination in the eyes of their God, and it had to be eliminated with the pig-headed intolerance and savagery of a Jihad. Women organized the rallies, women fanned the fires of political agitation, women encouraged crackpot incendiary preachers like John Brown.

Julia Ward Howe wrote the ''Battle Hymn of the Republic'' which includes the words ''As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.''

Let who die? After middle-class women got done agitating for war, young men from Virginia and Pennsylvania had to die on the battlefields at Gettysburg and Antietam, while middle-class women like Julia Ward Howe sat in church pews feeling righteous. Where was gender equity then?

Then there were organizations like the Anti-Saloon League, the National Temperance Society and the Prohibition Party, none of which would have gotten anywhere without the support of women. Through them, women harassed saloon owners and patrons, often destroying property with axes and sledgehammers and then hiding from prosecution behind the fact that they were women.

Other women ran through museums with ballpeen hammers, knocking the genitalia off Greek and Roman statuary.

Throughout American history, women supported a multitude of crackpot, one-issue, fanatical and mischievous political movements. And they contributed to the rise of a class of obnoxious male noisemakers, men like T. DeWitt Talmadge, Wayne Bidwell Wheeler and Andrew J. Volstead who would have amounted to nothing in a man's world, but who, thanks to women, managed to become national nuisances in the name of chastity and sobriety.

Has this changed in the past hundred years, or do women still predominate in the crackpot, one-issue, fanatical and mischievous causes?

That women should dominate the militant faction of the abortion-rights movement is entirely understandable, but women also seem to dominate the militant faction of the anti-abortion movement. And every other movement on the religious right and goofy left seems to enjoy a disproportionate amount of female support. Music censorship, school prayer, anti-drinking and anti-smoking, politically correct speech codes, all seem to attract more women than men.

Nor is this phenomenon limited to America. Without the women's vote an impetuous young political agitator named Adolf Hitler would have been sent back to Austria in early retirement. Women also Christianized and thus ultimately destroyed the Roman Empire.

Political democracy is a form of government concocted by men, for men. It demands moderation, restraint and respect for other people's liberty. The question is, will it survive the enfranchisement of women and their attendant social crusades?

Sean de Hora is a free-lance writer.

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