In her book, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, Catharine MacKinnon explains the nascence of this idea: "...since a woman's problems are not hers individually but those of women as a whole, they cannot be addressed except as a whole. In this analysis of gender as a nonnatural characteristic of a division of power in society, the personal becomes the political."
Collectivism has substantiated feminism even before its radical second wave: "The call was universal. All women were appealed to. Class barriers were broken down; political distinctions swept away; religious differences forgotten. All women were as one," (Annie Kenney, "Memories of a Militant," 1924). Arranging the marriage between the personal and political was the logical next step, suggesting that every woman's personal, individual experience -- whether she was happy with her situation or not -- was a self-perpetuating expression of male power. What used to be private aspects of the human experience, including the act of heterosexual sex between consenting adults or the simple division of household labor, were now thrust into the political realm as both sources and vehicles of oppression to be addressed by governmental policy and legislation.
The fact that each woman's situation is unique is of no real consequence when attempting to encapsulate womankind. In fact, MacKinnon asserts that uniqueness of experience only further cements the female union: "The particularities become facets of the collective understanding within which differences constitute rather than undermine collectivity."
And so, once personal experience is successfully elevated to a political level, individuals slide effortlessly from a mere alliance with the movement to an adoption of what Simone de Beauvoir called the "eternal feminine." The process is called consciousness raising -- an act that promotes an awareness of "women's consciousness, not as individual or subjective ideas, but as collective social being," (MacKinnon). After all, feminists are women first, individuals second: "Woman must learn to call whatever she is or does female. For whatever she is or does is female," (Carolyn Heilbrun, Reinventing Womanhood). In fact, according to de Beauvoir, to not categorize members of society by their sex, race or religion (she used as her example the eternal feminine, the black soul, the Jewish character) constitutes "a flight from reality."
"Then from woman's point of view I shall describe the world in which women must live; and thus we shall be able to envisage the difficulties in their way as... they aspire to full membership in the human race." In one of her more condescending generalizations, Simone de Beauvoir here deems herself worthy of speaking for the whole of her gender, assuming that such a task can be logistically accomplished. But just what is the woman's point of view she describes?
Mary Evans, discussing de Beauvoir in "Dilemmas of a Feminist Radical" attempts to explain it: "Feminism is premised on the assumption that there are some concerns -- particularly to do with the control of reproduction and the definition of female sexuality -- which unite all women. But... once other areas of human behaviour are examined, it becomes apparent, at least to some feminists, that women are divided in certain ways -- not the least of which is in terms of their race or class interests and identification. From the different importance and emphases that diverse groups of feminists attach to the material divisions between women (and of course many feminists deny that any material interests divide women) develop the different political groupings within feminism." And yet, these variant feminist groupings in turn defy de Beauvoir's original assertion of a universal "woman's point of view."
A point of view shared by half of the human population could only be possible in a collectivist environment where individual differences are subverted. To assert that because all women possess a similar reproductive apparatus they are somehow united in a point of view regarding even the narrow concept of female sexuality is extremely absurd. Some women live monogamously; some choose several partners; some are unable to achieve orgasm; some earn money performing sex and some choose female partners rather than males. The diversity of female sexuality and subsequent points of view are practically infinite.
The radical proponents of a woman's point of view are not content, however with simply addressing female sexuality or control of reproduction as Evans described. Instead, they attempt to apply it to all aspects of a woman's life -- including definitive points of view regarding morality, economics, even artistic values. Novelist Dorothy Sayers was amused by such attempts 50 years ago: "I am occasionally desired by congenital imbeciles and the editors of magazines to say something about the writing of detective fiction 'from the woman's point of view. 'To such demands, one can only say, 'Go away and don't be silly. You might as well ask what is the female angle on an equilateral triangle.'"
Steve Martin, in his play Picasso at the Lapin Agile, makes the same point, as Einstein is explaining that space is curved and that light has mass:
GERMAINE: You want to hear a woman's opinion on this? EINSTEIN: There is no woman's opinion. This is science. GERMAINE: Are you saying women can't be scientists? EINSTEIN: No! I'm saying there are no gender-related opinions on this matter. Madam Curie didn't say, "I think I've discovered radium; I better check with a man." No man's opinion, no woman's opinion. It's sexless.
Mainstream feminism is particularly known for making the false claim that women who allow themselves to be exploited by pornography not only degrade themselves -- they degrade all women. With this claim, feminism negates the autonomy of the individual, insisting instead that an individual's separate and unique character, accomplishments, and passions are reduced to irrelevancy when perceived in context with the disparate acts of other separate, unique individuals. It is ironic that feminism, which originally set about to abolish female stereotypes, is now so eager to perpetuate them.Abortion and the Ignored Individual
Catharine MacKinnon, speaking of pornographic exploitation, argues that, "Reputational harm to those who are allowed to be individuals -- mostly white men -- is legal harm. Those who are defined by, and most often falsely maligned through, their membership in groupsnamely almost everyone else -- have no legal claim." Her implication, of course, is that women aren't allowed to be individuals. Yet, as MacKinnon well knows, feminists have again and again chosen to be defined collectively. What's more, true individuality would imply the ability of one adult woman to choose to participate in pornographic expression without repercussion from others who disapprove. MacKinnon and her sisters aren't denied individual status -- they refuse it.
Degradation by gender association is frighteningly similar to the supposition that because one man rapes a woman, all men are guilty. Not surprisingly, collectivist feminism makes that claim, as well. Marilyn French put it most succinctly when she declared: "All men are rapists, and that's all they are," though she anticlimactically qualified her declaration in The War Against Women: "As long as some men use physical force to subjugate females, all men need not."
In her book Who Stole Feminism?, Christina Hoff Sommers illustrates how feminists arrive at such an overgeneralized and exaggerated "rape culture": "Having demarcated a victimized 'us' with whom I now feel solidarity, I can point to one victim and say... 'Anyone who harms a woman harms us all'... The next step is to regard the individual who wronged 'us' as himself representative of a group, giving our animus a larger target." When this reasoning is applied to an individual's race, it's called racism; when applied to gender, it is apparently elevated to liberation.