How feminism’s lies caused ‘The End of Woman’

Published February 28, 2024

Blaze Media

Align: It seems that from every corner, people are desperately confused and unable to talk about the reality of womanhood — be it physical or spiritual — without mentally short-circuiting. In your recent book, “The End of Woman,” you made the bold choice of attempting to define womanhood. What does it mean to be a good woman?

Carrie Gress: This has been an issue that has a lot of people talking, but in my book, I wanted to go deeper than just to say “a woman is an adult female human.” Part of that discussion has to include the notion of motherhood. Motherhood has had very little positive press for the last fifty years, but most people have the sense of what a good mother looks like, even if they didn’t have a good mother. Motherhood is also not limited to biological birth or even adopting children, but is a general attitude that women used to understand implicitly — it involves psychological and spiritual aspects as well, for example, in nuns. Motherhood as a general concept applicable to all women isn’t exclusive to the home but has elastic enough principles that can be applied to any workplace. The beauty of using the notion of motherhood to define womanhood is that implicit in it is what we can think of as a good woman — serving others, wise, thoughtful, anticipating others’ needs, nurishing and nurturing — basically the general concepts that have been drained from our understanding of woman because we have replaced woman as mother with woman as worker under feminism.

Align: How do you define human flourishing? Can you separate your flourishing as a human from your flourishing as a female? What is, to you, the proper notion of equality, and what does it have to do with human flourishing?

CG: Human flourishing is one of those fantastic and ancient concepts that go back to the Greeks. Our happiness is found when we use our gifts and faculties in accord with our nature and in the expression of the virtues, having conquered our vices. The basic concept of flourishing has to be built upon an understanding of what human nature is. One of the main things feminism has done is tried to rewire or reinvent the idea of human nature into something plastic and changeable. And this is why we are seeing so many women who are not flourishing, who are not happy, because they have spent their energies chasing something that isn’t in accord with their human nature — an isolated, independent, successful woman. This is what feminism and the culture have held up as the ideal: a woman unencumbered by children or a husband. But women are made for rich relationships; we are made to live in community; and we are made to bear life. Getting back to an understanding of womanhood that is in accord with who we are, and not just mimicking the lives of not very good men, is the only way to return to true flourishing for woman once again.

Align: It seems to me that the most common critique of the book is that you argue that feminism has been a philosophical monolith, united in its sometimes articulated, sometimes unarticulated purpose to eliminate hierarchy, as well as its emotional motivation being female envy of men, all of this from its earliest instantiation, including of course the first wave. Are your critics misunderstanding your thesis, and if so, how? If not misunderstood, why do you think this claim is upsetting to people?

CG: I’ve heard various versions of this, and frankly, if this is the best criticism of the book, that’s great. I have a doctorate in philosophy, and what I tried to do with “The End of Woman” was write it in a format that is readable but also explains how many of feminism’s problems didn’t show up in the 1960s but were there from the beginning. Now, of course, feminism has changed and evolved as society and political elements have shifted. My goal was not to chronicle all these shifts but to explain that there were real issues with feminism from the beginning.

I think for years, conservatives have been led to believe that the first wave of feminism was good but that it was later hijacked, and it was the second wave and beyond that were the problem. I expected to find exactly this when I went back to look at the first wave. I found that the elements that animate the second wave — specifically the occult, the restructuring of society, and free love, or the end of monogamy — were already in the first wave as early as 1820s. Of course, not every woman who called herself a feminist believed these things. History is complicated. But the known leaders of the movement, women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, were involved in these elements in one degree or another. My goal wasn’t to read what every first-wave feminist wrote but to look at the leadership of the movement and to see what was really motivating them and what ideas “stuck” and were passed along to the next generations.

Align: Clearly for you, women’s rationality is assumed, which is really a shorthand for their humanity if we take Aristotle’s definition of human as “rational animal.” I think many people are under the impression that female rationality, in other words, their humanity, was not taken for granted before first-wave feminism. Was it? If so, by whom?

CG: Christianity has been the greatest champion of the dignity of women in all of history. The rationality of women wasn’t somehow discovered by the first wave. The way that Jesus treated women was the starting point, with the understanding of women’s distinct but equal dignity populating Christian theology and philosophy for millennia. Perhaps more important has been the example of the women who have been declared by the Catholic Church to be saints, women like St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, or more recently, St. Edith Stein, a Jewish convert and philosopher who became a Carmelite nun martyred at Auschwitz. And of course, the significant devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary has played a role, with even National Geographic calling her the world’s most powerful woman.

Align: What do you think has been the most damaging message about womanhood popularized by mainstream culture in the past century? How has it affected the way that women live?

CG: I think the most damaging message — and there are many, so it is hard to land on just one — is that women are inherently victims or oppressed and that men are inherently oppressors. This status, which has been stirred up by socialists who saw an opportunity to get women to come to their side of the issue since at least 1897, has been reiterated for decades. Women viewing themselves as victims has been the wedge between men and women and driven women to believe that they must live independently from men and pour themselves into (or lean into) their careers. Under this lie of victimhood, men and children are not just a distraction or an obstacle to our happiness but further ways in which women are victimized. Tragically, women have bought into it deeply, driving us deeper into the myth that our work will be our salvation. Meanwhile, abortion has become the greatest cause of death worldwide, outnumbering all the other causes of death combined. That most tender and fundamental relationship between mother and child has been severed by this lie. As psych analyst Erica Komisar says that women have lost the instinct to feel empathy toward their children, now viewing children as just another competing element for their time and attention. Our instincts are turned toward our own sense of self-preservation as victims instead of to a mature and healthy regard for those around us.

Align: What are some concrete ways that women can reject that philosophy in their real life?

CG: I think the first thing we have to do is be aware of the ways in which we are being manipulated. Neo-Marxism has been very insidious and now permeates the bulk of Western culture: politics, academia, Hollywood, the fashion industry, magazines, pop music, and so on.

It is really important for us to figure out our blind spots and those ways in which we have adopted a victimhood mentality and stop using this as a weapon in our work and in our relationships with men. We need to start prioritizing our relationships again and figuring out what that deepest call is, whatever it may be, in our own lives. Finding ways in which we can mentor, shelter, instruct, nourish, and love those around us can also happen in any sphere of life and be incredible preparation (or instruction) for becoming a better woman.

Align: In your book, you essentially define feminism as a philosophy of total fungibility. In other words, the thing that unites sexual liberators and the girlbosses is the notion that male and female are interchangeable. This philosophy is a lie, as you rightly explain. But I tend to think that the most effective lies in our world are wrapped around a kernel of truth. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be plausible. So what is, if any, the kernel of truth in the philosophy of total fungibility that you identify as feminism?

CG: I think there are two things motivating this. The first is that fundamental desire we have to make things equal that are not the same. By this, I mean, women and men are not the same, but both should be treated with equal dignity. It is easier to try to make men and women the same than it is to try to navigate around our inherent differences. It is easier to tinker with fertility and tell women to be like men than it is to tell women how to be better mothers and provide the resources needed to mother many children. It also requires less in terms of relationships for a woman not to be dependent upon a man. It is important to accept that relationships and people are not something we can control. It is much easier to focus on things we can control, like our education, our resume, even where we live, than to concern ourselves with elements that are out of our control, but it is precisely these elements we can’t control that are vital to our flourishing.

Align: How does the work that you do at Theology of Home help women be better women?

CG: Theology of Home is a project I work on with my colleague and co-author Noelle Mering, who is also a prolific writer and author of the book “Awake, Not Woke.” We have published four books, we have a daily blog and an online store, and we are both fellows at the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. The idea for these efforts really came from the realization that our culture and women in particular have been co-opted through the use of liberal media. Fashion magazines, for example, are an everyday way in which women absorb content, but nearly every magazine leans left. Leftist ideas are suffused into the content that women regularly absorb. Our idea has been to make beautiful products and content but have it filled with our ideas; we use the tools that have been used against us. We aren’t trying to go back to the 1950s, but we are trying to articulate a contemporary vision of womanhood that feels fresh, interesting, and resonates with the way in which women live today. Very few projects like this exist among conservatives. Ours is a humble effort but growing every day, and we are seeing and hearing almost daily about how it is touching women’s lives.

Align: What do you make of Andrew Tate and the ascendance of certain meninist movements that are becoming increasingly vocal about the desire to sexually dominate and politically disenfranchise women? How did that movement come about, and how do sensible conservative voices like you distinguish themselves from it, especially as the left is so intent on grouping conservatives together with these other elements — and these other elements are happy to fly under the cover of the false grouping?

CG: This has been an odd thing for me to consider because, of course, I have nothing in common with Andrew Tate. Even if we both say, “Feminism is bad,” we mean very different things by it. Connecting us feels like just another effort to undermine my work, instead of actually having to do the work of reading it and taking it seriously.

But I do find it interesting that men are drawn to him as an influencer. I don’t think women who call themselves feminists really understand the amount of frustration men feel about it as an ideology. Feminism has effectively silenced men. They have a sense that even if they make well-argued points against it, they can easily be trumped by being called “sexist.” Connecting me with Tate is a similar effort, because they can’t call me sexist, but they can associate me with someone who is. Understandably, this has created a lot of resentment for women by men. One of the things I have seen my books do is to help men understand why women think the way they do, to help them see that this has been foisted upon us instead of freely chosen. It has led many men to a kind of compassion instead of resentment toward women. Feminists of any stripe could be well served by actually engaging in discussions about what they believe rather than just stifling dissent. But this is what ideologies have to do, because they don’t have the fullness of truth on their side.

Align: As the gender wars rage on, do you think harmony is possible between men and women? If so, what does it look like?

CG: I think ultimately the problems between men and women have been deeply exacerbated by feminism. While I don’t think any kind of utopian perfection is possible, there are a lot of things we could do to improve and heal the current rift between men and women. The major piece is to get back to truly understanding our human nature and working with it instead of against it, both ideologically and through technology. Men and women are made to be complementary. So much could be healed if we could recover that basic truth instead of erasing it.

Carrie Gress, Ph.D., is a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where she co-directs EPPC’s Theology of Home Project. She earned her doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America and is the co-editor at the online women’s magazine Theology of Home.

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