Perhaps feminists’ favorite moral admonishment to women and girls is Be True to Yourself. Solomon II touched on this in his post Drive Thru Boyfriends:
She does the same thing when she’s sad, lonely, happy, up, down, in, out, excited, needy, afraid, strong, weak, depressed, moody, joyful, exhilarated, stressed, etc. Any and every reason is valid because she’s being “true to herself”.
In the right context, the slogan has mildly positive value. Someone who already has strong morals and great capability can benefit from the self assurance embedded in this piece of folk wisdom.
However as a primary philosophy the slogan is merely the codification of childishness. They may as well come out and tell women and girls: don’t let anyone tell you what to do. For some reason, feminists are eternally fretting that women and girls won’t be sufficiently self centered. They are constantly reminding us how selfless women are, and that they really need to “take some time for themselves”, or “follow their hearts”.
They appear to presuppose that women lack the capacity to be selfish, or that they are innately less selfish than men. Reality stubbornly refuses to agree. So if I may offer some words of comfort to any feminists reading this blog; don’t worry, women (as a group) are now being immensely selfish!
While self-centeredness is unfortunately on the rise across our society, we do still teach selflessness to men and boys. While women and girls are in one room being drilled in “being true to themselves”, girl power!, and it’s all about you!, boys and men are in another room being taught “your word is your bond”, “there is no I in team”, “duty, honor, country”, and “man up”. Churches fortunately still tell men they have a duty to God and their families. For example, organizations like Promise Keepers have been created to reinforce men’s sense of duty in response to women’s increasing failure to keep their promises. Some day churches may even create a group focused on telling women they need to keep their promises too. Or not.
It is worth noting that Shakespeare himself wasn’t being serious when he wrote his famous line for Polonius in Hamlet, and even then he had a very different meaning than feminists have twisted it into today:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
As the study guide enotes explains:
“To thine own self be true” is Polonius’s last piece of advice to his son Laertes, who is in a hurry to get on the next boat to Paris, where he’ll be safe from his father’s long-winded speeches [see NEITHER A BORROWER NOR A LENDER BE].
Polonius has in mind something much more Elizabethan than the New Age self-knowledge that the phrase now suggests. As Polonius sees it, borrowing money, loaning money, carousing with women of dubious character, and other intemperate pursuits are “false” to the self. By “false” Polonius seems to mean “disadvantageous” or “detrimental to your image”; by “true” he means “loyal to your own best interests.” Take care of yourself first, he counsels, and that way you’ll be in a position to take care of others. There is wisdom in the old man’s warnings, of course; but he repeats orthodox platitudes with unwonted self-satisfaction. Polonius, who is deeply impressed with his wordliness, has perfected the arts of protecting his interests and of projecting seeming virtues, his method of being “true” to others. Never mind that this includes spying on Hamlet for King Claudius. Never mind, as well, that many of Polonius’s haughty, if not trite, kernels of wisdom are now taken as Shakespeare’s own wise pronouncements on living a proper life.