Feminism against Progress

“The Pill is a bad metaphysic”: Mary Harrington says the pill has changed everything – and not really for the better.

“Is there something to be said for all of these things which I’ve been busy trying to dismantle? Because I’d taken it at face value that they were all just bad by definition.”

As Mary Harrington writes in her book Feminism Against Progress, she’s someone who has “liberalled about as hard as it’s possible to liberal”. In her 20s, she pursued maximum sexual freedom, non-hierarchical relationships, and communal forms of living. By the end of that decade, she experienced a “personal crash” that coincided with the global financial crisis. And she found she no longer believed in “progress”.

These days, Mary calls herself a reactionary feminist, one who is against “progress”. She disbelieves that we are steadily moving into a better and brighter future of freedom and human perfection. Neither does she believe that self-determination and liberation from every constraint is the path to that utopian goal.

This doesn’t mean that Mary wants to wind back the clock to a time when women were permanently pregnant and lacked rights as well as the vote. But she argues that “progress” has meant a series of trade-offs in the name of freedom, and she’s sceptical that these have delivered unmitigated gains, overall, for women.

In this interview with Life & Faith, Mary Harrington explores how the technological shocks of industrialisation and the contraceptive pill have deeply shaped feminism and male-female relationships, and changed everyone’s lives – not really for the better.


Mary’s book Feminism Against Progress

An article in First Things where Mary explains “reactionary feminism” and tells a bit about her own story

An essay in The UK Spectator – and edited extract from Feminism Against Progress – where Mary makes the pro-sex case against the pill.

column in UnHerd on the place of faith in the “newly-ascendant post-Christian moral regime”

Mary Harrington on Twitter