Feminism Was Never About Equality

By Bettina Arndt
Bettina Arndt
Bettina Arndt
Bettina Arndt is an Australian writer and social commentator on gender issues. She was the country’s first sex therapist and feminist, before focusing on men’s rights. Arndt has authored several books and has written for major newspaper titles, magazines, and has featured regularly on television. She received the Order of Australia in 2020 for her work in promoting gender equity through advocacy for men. Find her online at her blog, BettinaArndt.substack.com.
February 1, 2023Updated: February 13, 2023


We were once told feminism was about equality, creating a level playing field where women could take their rightful place in the world.

I happily called myself a “feminist” after reading Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch,” ironically whilst working a university vacation job as a Hertz Rent-a-car girl, dressed in my bright yellow mini skirt and flirting with American tourists.

But then the current male-bashing culture took hold, with men as the punching bag and women shamelessly promoted, infantilized, and idealized.

Feminism had gone off the rails, I concluded.

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Protesters attend the Women’s March 4 Justice Rally in Canberra, Australia, on March 15, 2021. (Jamila Toderas/Getty Images)

It turned out that was wrong. The truth about feminist history is now being revealed by the formidable Janice Fiamengo, using videos based on a powerful body of scholarship that shows feminism was never about equality.

Fiamengo’s deep dive into feminist history leaves this normally calm, measured scholar seething with indignation.

In a passionate serve, Fiamengo’s said in a recent video interview that: “Feminism was never sane. It was never without deep rancour and bitterness against men, never free from the claim that women were absolute victims of male predation, never uninterested in destroying the family, never accurate in its claims about women’s social situation …. It was always a deeply misandrist, man-hating, man-blaming kind of movement.”

Strong words from this rather reserved former professor of English from the University of Ottawa, a solid academic with a slew of books and scholarly journal articles in her name.

Fiamengo’s feminist education started when she found herself on university promotions committees, witnessing increasing discrimination against male scholars. She bravely started to go public about bias against men, attracting outrage from student audiences.

Revealing the True Origins of Feminism

Last year, she started a new video series, “Fiamengo File 2.0,” which traces the history of feminism from its origins in the late 18th century to the present—exposing how effectively feminists have whitewashed their early history to inflate their achievements and demonize men.

The exciting news is that Jordan Peterson has asked Fiamengo to teach a course on the true history of feminism in Peterson Academy, his new online education platform, which aims to teach students how to think, not what to think.

The Peterson initiative will offer renowned teachers from around the world teaching about topics that matter. Like the truth about feminism.

It matters that our society has been indoctrinated to believe in a version of our social history that is totally wrong.

For example, the notion that the women’s movement rescued women from the tyranny of a patriarchal society where men denied women the vote, were free to rape their wives, seize their property and earnings, and assert their privilege to keep women firmly under their thumb.

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A couple and their daughter at their home in Youngstown, Ohio, in Oct. 1950. Since the 1960s, a variety of anti-traditional movements, including modern feminism, sexual liberation, and gay rights, have risen to prominence in the West. The institution of the family has been hit the hardest. (Doreen Spooner/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

The reality was very different, as Fiamengo explained in recent correspondence with me: “Men and women in earlier centuries lived interdependent lives in which the fragility of life and the presence of disease, the high infant mortality rate, the lack of a social safety net, and the complexities of housekeeping and childrearing meant that most women and men divided their prodigious labours into separate spheres of domestic and public.”

Yet we find, in the most famous and revealing document of the early 19th Century American women’s movement (pdf), “Declaration of Sentiments,” the claim that the “history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation on the part of man towards woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.”

This declaration, written mainly by feminist leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was full of fire-breathing allegations about the brutality of male treatment of women and blatant misrepresentation of women’s situation.

Mistruths such as men denied women’s right to vote. “This is simply not true,” Fiamengo explains.

Refuting Falsehoods in the Feminist Narrative

The reality is, at that time, most men also could not vote in national elections—only rich men with property.

Poll taxes, literacy requirements, and property qualifications restricted male rights to vote, and enfranchised men acquired voting rights in return for the obligation of risking their lives to defend their country in war.

The declaration also wrongly stated that men could seize a wife’s property and wages, but a Married Women’s Property Act had already been passed, a fact the feminists conveniently ignored.

But what about Britain’s brave suffragettes? Fiamengo reveals Emmeline Pankhurst and her woman’s suffragette movement have a very dark history, having used militant tactics that included firebombing the homes of members of parliament.

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A statue of the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, entitled ‘Our Emmeline,’ is unveiled in St Peter’s Square, Manchester, northern England, on Dec. 14, 2018. (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

As for their much-lauded achievements, Fiamengo points out that throughout the 19th century, subjects on which women agitated for reform—like women’s higher education, changes to divorce law and child custody, women’s property rights, age of consent—saw an all-male parliament quick to act.

The vast majority of British men lacked the right to vote. In fact, it was World War I that decided the matter of suffrage, with women’s service on the home front—their work in munitions factories and farms—which changed public attitudes towards women.

Then, in 1917, a vote sailed through British Parliament to extend the franchise to servicemen who had previously been voteless and to women aged 30 and above.

“Feminist activists like Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, now considered the great heroines of the noble suffrage struggle, contributed little or nothing to the victory,” concludes Fiamengo.

Could men rape their wives in the 19th century? Well, a man could not be criminally prosecuted for this act, but it certainly wasn’t true that marital rape was accepted or that its harms were ignored, says Fiamengo.

She details the legal history, whereby a wife at that time was understood to give consent to sexual relations just as men had contractual obligations, including being responsible for all his wife’s debts, even if that landed him in prison. The moral harm of marital rape was, in fact, widely acknowledged.

It’s a real step forward that this impressive scholar will have the opportunity to enlighten a larger audience about what she has discovered. Janice Fiamengo, through her videos and Substack blogs, is doing her best to end the whitewashing of feminist history.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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