As we bid Lessing farewell, the blight she spoke of—“political correctness” and, in particular, its toxic feminist strain—is on the move again
Cathy Young writes: The tributes to Doris Lessing, the novelist and Nobel Prize laureate who died on November 17 at 94, have given scant attention to one aspect of her remarkable career: this daughter of the left, an ex-communist and onetime feminist icon, emerged as a harsh critic of left-wing cultural ideology and of feminism in its current incarnation.
Over 20 years ago, I heard Lessing speak at a conference on intellectuals and social change in Eastern Europe at New Jersey’s Rutgers University. It was 1992, the dust still settling from the collapse of the Soviet empire. Lessing opened her memorable talk with a warning: “While we have seen the apparent death of Communism, ways of thinking that were born under Communism or strengthened by Communism still govern our lives.” She was not talking about the East but the West, where coercive “social justice” had reinvented itself as “antiracism,” feminism, and so forth. “Political correctness” had become, Lessing said, “a kind of mildew blighting the whole world,” particularly academic and intellectual circles—a “self-perpetuating machine for dulling thought.”