Without a guiding principle of common humanity, all of the “minority studies” prosecuted on campuses around the nation can only substitute one kind of bigotry for another. Unless we have a coherent, transcending, and immutable value—a moral idea—from which to moor our conviction that disparaging certain classes of people is wrong, the oppressed can only rise up to become the oppressors in a closed circle of insane activity.
This is my conclusion after wading through a semester’s worth of papers infected by feminist ideology. Have women been largely deprived of a voice in the past? They, among others, have tended to be silenced: yes. Should we therefore not study the literature of the past? How much of the tree should we cut away—because any well-trained feminist will tell you that the muted only began to raise their shouts volubly in the Seventies and Eighties of the last century. So no texts should be studied, then, which precede those decades? Or do we study eighteenth- and nineteenth-century texts composed only by women? The pickings will be slim, if the feminist claim is correct that few women in the past were allowed to publish, or even to write. We could dig up personal artifacts like diaries and private letters; should we replace Racine, Swift, Goethe, Balzac, Hawthorne, and all the other males with volumes of retrieved billets doux and missives from sister to sister?
Or maybe we should rewrite the male classics so that they no longer offend our newly developed sensibilities… or maybe we should teach them with constant whistle-blowing and lecturing about infractions during lengthy time-outs. Of course, we must not assume that there is anything other than “the gender issue” in these or any other texts that is worth discussing. All the other “values” claptrap”… mere propaganda designed to dull young minds to the subjugation being worked upon the under-class: mere spin to secure the “patriarchy” in its position on top of the socio-political dog-pile.
But if it is wrong for human beings to behave like scavenging jackals, nipping and scratching for first bite at the carcass, then why is it wrong? Why shouldn’t the strong overpower the weak? Why should we be outraged that men have oppressed women, or the majority the minority? Isn’t that nature’s law? And when feminists try to make us trash our male authors and recreate a canon full of female authors, aren’t they just trumping with the guilt card to get what they want—aren’t they just playing the fox’s part rather than the wolf’s in the fable?
The only possible protest against such cynicism is that, no, human beings are not mere animals—that right and wrong do exist independently of cultural conditioning, and that using raw physical power to seal up a soul silently inside a frail body is culpable brutality. The acquisition and appreciation of such higher values would be excellent reasons for reading literature. But if three are no such values—if all literature is only propaganda—then there can also be no cause for any man to feel obligated to extend equal rights to women, or for any tyrant to care about the feelings of his miserable subjects.
The more college literature programs draw us away from seeking basic human values in time-honored texts, the more they condition us to a decadent world where might makes right. The more teachers of literature insist that combing through the pages of the past in search only of “gender relevancy” is what literary specialists do, the more they ensure that gender inequality will come roaring back with a vengeance—inequality, and every other kind of barbarism. To shout above the shouters is to promote a degenerate culture of mindless screaming.