What happens when the material conditions that enabled feminism to emerge hit the buffers, forcing a radical re-negotiation of everything we thought we believed about women and men? My forthcoming book, Feminism Against Progress sets out what those material conditions were, why they’re changing now, and what I think comes next.
I’ll look at the emergence of the women’s rights movement out of the radical economic transition that took place with the Industrial Revolution, with its cascading effects throughout social life in industrialising nations. Feminism was necessary and important under those circumstances, but not without tradeoffs: I’ll unpack some of the uncounted costs of that feminist movement, especially in its twentieth-century variant, including family breakdown, collapsing birth rates, loneliness and an ever more unequal distribution of freedom.
Then I’ll look at the emerging contours of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – AI and biotech – as they mesh with the stated aims of the feminist movement. I’ll show how the twentieth-century aims of feminism, chiefly focused on individual freedom and a belief in neverending progress, interact with AI and biotech in ways that are potentially disastrous for women.
And I’ll argue that if we’re to address the interests of women now rather than in an industrial-era framework that’s rapidly dissolving beneath our feet, we need a radical re-think of some fundamental beliefs about what feminism is and what it’s for – and that we need to do this not in angry opposition to something abstract called The Patriarchy, but in dialogue with our fathers, brothers and sons.
Feminism Against Progress will be published by Polity Books in 2022