In 1994, a feminist by the name of Christina Hoff Sommers published a book entitled “Who Stole Feminism?” in which she argues “contemporary feminism is too radical and disconnected from the lives of typical American women.”
I don’t follow feminist literature and have no particular interest in Ms. Sommers’ writing or career, but I picked up a copy of this book at a library sale a long time ago, and it makes for some fascinating reading.
Ms. Sommers appears to be one of those rare feminists who is willing to look critically at the feminist movement and isn’t afraid to point out its flaws. She notes, “American women owe an incalculable debt to the classically liberal feminists who came before us and fought long and hard, and ultimately with spectacular success, to gain for women the rights that the men of this country had taken for granted for over two hundred years.”
According to her Wikipedia entry, “Sommers has contrasted equity feminism with what she terms victim feminism and gender feminism, arguing that modern feminist thought often contains an ‘irrational hostility to men’ and possesses an ‘inability to take seriously the possibility that the sexes are equal but different.”
For this heresy, über feminists have branded Ms. Sommers an “anti-feminist.” Right away this makes me more inclined to like her.
Anyway, her book opens with the passage “A surprising number of clever and powerful feminists share the conviction that American women still live in a patriarchy where men collectively keep women down. It is customary for these feminists to assemble to exchange stories and to talk about the ‘anger issues’ that vex them.”
She describes attending an academic conference with overflow crowds at which critical feminist subjects were supposed to be discussed in a serious setting. Instead, the conference descended into a nonstop gripefest in which speakers unanimously claimed they were victims of mass persecution. They flayed society in general – and men in particular – for everything from their weight gain to dust bunnies under their beds.
“The women at the … conference,” wrote Sommers, “are the New Feminists: articulate, prone to self-dramatization, and chronically offended. Many of the women on the ‘Anger’ panel were tenured professors at prestigious universities. All had fine and expensive educations Yet, listening to them one would never guess that they live in a country whose women are legally as free as the men and whose institutions of higher learning now have more female than male students.”
To make things more amusing, at another conference (this one the National Women’s Studies Association Conference), the keynote speaker described the “narratives of pain” the participants experienced – not from society or men, but from within their own organization. Yes, the women were turning on each other. The lesbians complained they weren’t being heard, the Disability caucus threatened to quit, the Women of Color walked out, the women in the Jewish caucus wept at their “invisibility.” And on and on it went.
The fractures within the conference were amazing: Jewish women, Jewish lesbians, Asian-American women, African-American women, old women, disabled women, fat women, women whose sexuality was in transition …
“None of the groups proved stable,” wrote Sommers. “The fat group polarized into gay and straight factions, and the Jewish women discovered they were deeply divided: some accepted being Jewish; others were seeking to recover from it. This year, concern extended to marginalized ‘allergy’ groups. Participants were sent advanced notice not to bring perfumes, dry-cleaned clothing, hairspray, or other irritants to the conference out of concern for allergic sisters.”
She goes on, but you get the drift. And let me remind you, this book was written in 1994. Have things improved among the feminists?
All this is to point out something very intriguing: Far from making women strong and independent, New Feminism – the radical feminism that grabs headlines and is taught in universities – weakens women. It appears to turn them into quivering bowls of jelly, unable to handle the slightest criticism, completely opposed to any expressions of humor that touches on them, and prone to attack other women who don’t believe precisely the way they do.
Humor, art, literature, history, science … anything and everything is fraught with peril. No one is safe against taking a misstep and causing yet another feminist to have an absolute meltdown.
In his latest column, Dennis Prager captures the modern rendition of this weakness by relating a brouhaha at the Washington Post in which a feminist was offended by a male colleague who retweeted a joke about women (“Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual”). He didn’t make the joke, or even post the joke; he simply retweeted it. Then, of course, he instantly apologized for his lapse in judgment.
But the women ganged up on him mercilessly for the “toxic work environment” he had somehow created single-handedly. When another (male) colleague came to the first man’s defense and pointed out he had already deleted the joke, disabled his Twitter account and groveled for mercy, the second man was instantly attacked in a similarly vitriolic manner.
How can anyone get work done under this cloud of petty meanness and hypersensitive emotions? Right now the Washington Post is in complete disarray; and it’s all because, as Dennis Prager concluded, feminism has made women weak, not strong.
Ironically, the strongest women I know – those who have weathered the storms of life, overcome brutality or childhood abuse, conquered addiction, beaten cancer or other debilitating diseases, or otherwise prevailed over whatever the world threw at them – are the ones least likely to consider themselves victims if a man retweets a ridiculous joke. They know they’re stronger than that.
Is it any wonder that feminists are, as a group, hugely prone to depression? Even in the early 1990s, this was the case. It’s worse now. So tell me again how New Feminism has made women stronger?
The sad part is, these angry, depressed feminists are teaching yet another generation of young women to be just as aggrieved … and so the cycle continues. Ironically, it will be the strongest women who will be able to break this cycle of abuse, raise their heads above the clouds and realize they’ve been lied to all this time. And these, dear readers, will become strong women – when they can leave this New Feminism behind them.
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