The longer I watch it at work, the more it seems to me that feminism, as we know it, is into the business of destinies. Destiny is an awesome and enigmatic notion, open to bottomless speculations. Before the recent feminist upsurge, a woman had to fulfill her destiny as a woman, an often utterly ungrateful task. It meant a lot of misery and sorrow among rosy promises of happiness. It meant brutal and stupid men who had been once perceived as lovable and decent; it meant humbling daily chores, desperate boredom, and all the uncounted squalors and petty violence. It meant everlasting feelings of being wronged and fantasizing about how others have it better. But somewhere, amidst this unending burden of being, it also meant unique, inimitable satisfaction of being a woman, an inebriating pride in female otherness, in motherhood, in furtive, exclusively feminine pleasures that are incomprehensible and inexplicable to anyone who is not a woman.

Enters feminism   and   says: Woman, you’re not welded to destiny, for nothing like destiny exists. History crushed obsolete beliefs of that kind, made away with lies that a serf and a squire have had separate and intransgressible fates.  By now, we know we have talents and abilities which have nothing to do with gender, but which it is our destiny—our only destiny—to fulfill.”

The conclusion may be correct, but the premise of the argument seems wobbly. Class destiny, as it was once conceived and believed in, and gender destiny are not the same. In fact, they are two quite different things, not at all comparable. The destiny of gender is the successful ownership of the member of another gender—not for the sake of exploitation (though there may be some dispute about that), but for the sake of fulfillment, of self-realization as a complete human being. To possess a man, a woman, or a child is the main part of some scheme that has been given to us, by some power that did not bother to consult us. No quarreling about it, no deviation from it, or no mutiny against it will help; regardless of individual apostasies or violations, the large, all-encompassing design will remain forever unchanged, oblivious to our rages and rebellions. The attempt to possess “the significant other” is what the destiny of gender is about, and—as millennia of human experience and literature have taught us—a pursuit of such property is far from being easy, and often verges on tragedy. It’s here, again, where   feminism comes with a facile message and announces: “Throughout millennia, you tried to be a woman, and this effort made you wretched. Now, you’re perfectly entitled to, and endowed with all that’s necessary, to try the destiny of man.”

This proposition has gained, in two decades, some currency, and it is why, I guess, there are so many middle-aged women with frightfully empty eyes in today’s America. Many of them, I presume, voted against the recommendations of the National Organization of Women, the feminist storm troop, in the last presidential election.