Remember the Neanderthals
by Margret Kopala

Published in the Ottawa Citizen, February 2, 2007

No one knows exactly why Neanderthals became extinct 30,000 years ago, but a new theory recently reported in the Boston Globe suggests that once able-bodied women, the “reproductive core” of their small population, began hunting with the men, it was game over.

Already in survival mode, their combined forces were no match for the perils of climate change, ferocious beasts and interloper Homo sapiens, according to the theory. Worse, while a few Neanderthal men might be expendable, reproductive women were not.

In this light, last week's decision from a Manitoba High Court confirming the right of two high school girls to try out for the boys' hockey team, while advancing women's rights, may also be retrogressive.

Barred in 2004 from playing with the boys' hockey team at West Kildonan Collegiate, Amy and Jesse Pasternak appealed to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, which, in 2006, ruled in their favour. The Manitoba High School Athletic Association then appealed that decision, but the Manitoba High Court also ruled in favour.

Having won their human rights case, the girls tried out but were nonetheless cut from the team. Today they are in university but the precedent allowing other girls to try out for boys’ hockey is established.

So, was it worth it?

Kenneth Minogue, emeritus professor of political science at the London School of Economics, addresses that question in his essay, "How Civilizations Fall." Published in The New Criterion in 2001, it argues convincingly that radical feminism has undermined modern civilization, even as liberal feminism could be its salvation. In a manner similar to other barbarian invaders, or like Homo sapiens that replaced the Neanderthals, the radicals have sniffed out the weaknesses in the host civilization, Minogue says.

In the 1960s, radical feminists led by Simone de Beauvoir, Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan and Kate Millet held that women should transcend the social roles constructed for them by society, the most confining being wives and mothers. It was music to the ears of women newly graduated from the universities. Liberated by technology from crushing housework and unwanted pregnancy, they made one innovation, Minogue argues, that has been crucial to the destiny of the West over the last half century. "They suppressed almost completely the idea that their project involved a transfer of power and operated entirely on the moralistic principle that their demands corresponded to justice."

This new tribe entrenched identity politics, which Minogue characterizes as "an emerging form of fundamentalism." Women gained much confidence from this but they also saw the collapse of the feminine and the creation of "an androgynous and manipulable world." The modus operandi of feminization was the replacement of achievement by quotas. Its essential tools were moral rhetoric demanding (highly fluid notions of) justice and fertility control (it’s ‘my body’!) Its citadel was the universities and its vehicles were equal opportunity officers and the media, Minogue writes. The coup de grace? The Achilles heel of democracy assured that a small opportunistic group would prevail against a majority only marginally affected by its actions.

But even if women are the same as men, which they aren’t, they still aren't picking up the torch of innovation that made western civilization largely the achievement of white males. Truly accomplished and determined women have in any case always made their mark, but they had the values of the western heritage backstopping them. "Liberal feminism," says Minogue, "emerged from the western tradition," which has always been open to talent, wherever it might be found. But while liberal feminists attempted separate institutions for women, and believed in the family and moral conduct, the radicals sought to pull down "tradition" and so-called socially imposed roles.

In 2008, the chilling conclusion of Minogue’s analysis of the radical feminist agenda is made even more apparent when you consider its sociobiological consequences: the mass infantilization of women no longer exercising any discretion over their bodies, and the creation of new fundamentalist identity groups awaiting the opportunity to finish a job made easier by declining fertility rates.

Now, in Canada, it’s boys’ hockey, arguably the country's premier institution for channeling young male energies, for developing their moral and physical courage, and for helping them to begin defining themselves as men.

MARGRET KOPALA’s column on western perspectives appears every other week.

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