How to be a woman

I find myself in the somewhat uncomfortable position of actually agreeing with Germaine Greer.

Greer, for the uninitiated, is a "second wave" liberation feminist who rose to prominence in the 1960s. She is the author of The Female Eunuch, a book that argues the nuclear family represses and devitalizes women, and that women should give up celibacy and monogamy. Politically, Greer identifies as either a Marxist or an anarchist. Hardly causes I have ever found myself embracing.

So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that Greer and I are in some agreement when it comes to the subject of the-athlete-formerly-known-as-Bruce-Jenner.

Jenner, as you may have heard, recently was named one of Glamour magazine's "Women of the Year." (As one pundit noted "Before you're named 'Woman of the Year,' shouldn't you at least be a woman for a year?") Speaking up against Jenner's awards - or even failing to show adequate enthusiasm for Jenner's awards - can prove to be dangerous business, as Brett Favre discovered earlier this year when he was widely chastised after his applause for Jenner at the ESPN Arthur Ashe Courage Awards ceremony was deemed to be insufficiently energetic.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I ran across an interview with the aging Greer, who apparently doesn't care what anybody thinks of her at this point. She denounced Glamour's decision in no uncertain terms, saying that "I think misogyny plays a really big part in all of this, that a man who goes to these lengths to become a woman will be a better woman than someone who is just born a woman."

Funny. That has occurred to me as well.

For years, I have been saying that my problem with the women's movement has nothing to do with equal rights for women, which I enthusiastically support. It has to do with the underlying premise. Feminists from the "second wave" and afterward have placed a heavy emphasis on the necessity of career - traditionally the domain of males - for female fulfillment. They insist that women must have unfettered access to birth control and abortion - bodies that don't get pregnant or stay pregnant - in order to "compete" in the workplace and find that career-related fulfillment. Women must fight in the military. We must serve as police officers and firefighters. We must be equally represented in any avocation that has traditionally been populated by men.

Do you see a pattern here? Men are the standard. The male, can't-get-pregnant body is the standard that we must medicate our bodies to reach. We prove our "equality" by breaking into traditionally male domains. I've had the impression for years that modern feminists have taken the primary lie of the pre-feminist era - that it is better to be a man - and baked it right into their philosophy. If maleness is somehow superior, then we become equal to the extent that we become like men.

And now, here is the culmination. We name as "Woman of the Year" a "woman" who was born a male - who has not only never had a uterus or ovaries or any other female organs, but who actually possesses, at this very moment, male genitalia.

As Germaine Greer put it, "The insistence that man-made women be accepted as women is the institutional expression of the mistaken conviction that women are defective men."

I really think she's on to something there.

Of course, I need to clarify that I am not opposed to women having careers. I've had several of them myself. Women are absolutely, completely, without a doubt, equal in dignity to men, and capable of doing many, many things that we were not allowed to do in the pre-feminist era. And hence my gratitude to the early feminists for breaking that ground - for winning the right to vote, to attend college, to work in fields that were closed to us, etc.

What I object to is the idea that maleness is somehow that standard, and that women are equal to men to the extent that we conform to the male standard. We do not. Our bodies are different. Our brains are different. Every cell in our entire physiological makeup is different. And hence, we experience the world differently. We experience relationships differently. Our fulfillment oftentimes can and does look different.

As for Jenner? Frankly I have far more compassion for him than my new friend Greer, who has accused him of going through all of this to steal some limelight from his Kardashian daughters. I don't believe that. I think he's confused. I think he has lived his life in a great deal of pain. But I don't think that these various forms of surgery will take away that pain. And I don't believe that they have made him a woman. His brain structure, his chromosomes, his voice and the very male genitalia he has retained all testify to the fact that he was - and remains - a man.

I do believe he and his pain are being exploited by a society and a feminist movement that have gone "off the rails." But when they fawn all over him, when they give him "courage" awards and name him "Woman of the Year," they unwittingly tip their hands. They reveal the fatal flaw in their philosophy.

They tell us that we need a man to show us how to be women.

Bonacci is a syndicated columnist based in Denver and the author of We're On a Mission from God and Real Love.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015