17 January 2006
The Machinations of a ‘Minority’
It is incorrect to use the singular ‘feminism’ when one really wishes to address the plural ‘feminisms,’ as there are quite literally over a dozen different brands of women’s movements. Ranging from the traditional (termed “equity feminists” by some, like Christina Hoff Sommers) who uphold equality among the genders (an oft repeated slogan for this brand goes “level playing field with no favors”) to the radical who promote misandry and divisiveness, talking about ‘feminism’ in general doesn’t make much sense. Feminism (or feminisms, that is) is a concept that is taken for granted in today’s society, however. Most of its basic tenants (or what is promoted by certain groups as basic tenants) get taken for granted. For example, it is widely assumed that women are, to some extent, oppressed, and perhaps even deserving of the same protection from the law that minority groups receive. “Feminism–together with political correctness–has been the most influential ideology in western societies for the past three decades. There are no other ideologies that even come [close] to it in terms of the extent to which it has penetrated western societies” (Glasson). Another men’s rights activist, R.F. Doyle, asserts “This bias is so institutionalized, it is taken for granted.” Few question the basic assumptions that certain feminist luminaries propagate. Who would – especially when one runs the risk of being branded a sexist and a bigot for speaking out?
The sad truth of the matter is that a radical minority form of feminism, staunch in their belief that society is a ‘patriarchy’ designed to oppress women, has stolen the mantle of feminism and is hiding behind its basic principles of equality to promote ideas that serve only to divide our society further. Sommers, in page 18 of her book, calls them ‘gender feminists,’ and states bluntly: “the gender feminists have stolen ‘feminism’ from a mainstream that had never acknowledged their leadership.” Yet, what is the good of exposing a radical group and slighting their radical views? After all, there are many crazy people in this world, and many more with even more extreme views; this much is true. The scary thing about these gender feminists isn’t necessarily the views they hold but the power they wield. The gender feminists wield tremendous political power through a variety of outlets. For starters, the gender feminists have a lot of money at their disposal – ranging from multimillion dollar budgets in some places of the country to a ‘meager’ half a million in others (Sommers 127). Furthermore, Sommers asserts “Sex/gender feminism (“gender feminism” for short) is the prevailing ideology among contemporary feminist philosophers and leaders. But it lacks a grass roots constituency” (22), or put simply, very few people believe what gender feminist leaders are spouting, yet they are still the leaders and are the ones driving the movement.
But before we jump too far ahead, let’s first take a quick examination of what, exactly, these gender feminists believe. Iris Young sums up a key element of their beliefs succinctly: “Gynocentric feminism defines women’s oppression as the devaluation of women’s experience by a masculinist culture that exalts violence and individualism” (qtd. in Sommers 24). The terms used are a bit different (substitute gynocentric with gender and masculinist with patriarchy) than the ones Sommer uses, but the idea is still the same. Gender feminists have convinced themselves that our very culture exists to oppress women, and further, oppression of women is encouraged by our society and culture. Diana Scully gives a voice to these radical views: “Given the prevalence of rape and given the socio-cultural supports for sexual aggression and violence against women in this society, perhaps we should be asking men who don’t rape, why not! In other words, we should be asking what factors prevent men from abusing women in rape-supportive societies” (qtd. in Sommers 44). Implicitly, we therefore should not ask men who are raping women why they are raping women – according to gender feminists like Scully, it should be obvious! Society supports it! Unfortunately, the oppression doesn’t end there. The very construct of knowledge – of schools, of math, of science – is a male construct, designed to oppress women! Elizabeth Fee articulates this belief: “Knowledge was created as an act of aggression—a passive nature had to be interrogated, unclothed, penetrated, and compelled by man to reveal her secrets” (qtd. in Sommers 66) while Catharine MacKinnon claims that, for men, “to know has meant to fuck” (qtd. in Sommers 66). “In a similar mood, Sandra Harding suggests that Newton’s Principles of Mechanics could just as aptly be called “Newton’s Rape Manual”” (Sommers 66). It doesn’t take much to debunk these ideas. For one, what is a rapist ‘rewarded’ with in our society? A felony charge with a strong likelihood of spending the rest of his life behind bars. With such enticing awards, it really is a wonder that rapes aren’t more commonplace! And if knowledge is a construct designed to oppress women, why did these prominent feminist leaders study at the academies for many years to then become a teacher, further entrenching themselves in patriarchal oppression?
Maybe it’s because they have a political agenda, like say, transforming the entire academy and construct of knowledge into a woman’s epistemology? (Note that this is a huge issue, one that could very well be the subject of an entire essay or book of it’s own right, and therefore difficult to distill down to one paragraph.) Essentially, gender feminist leaders believe that there is a man’s way of knowing, and a woman’s way of knowing. The man’s way can be thought of a narrow and vertical, while the woman’s way can be thought of as horizontal and inclusive. Often, this woman’s way of knowing is referred to as “connected knowing.” The emphasis is on subjectivity and emotions (Sommers 67). This enterprise, as stated before, is very well funded. “The transformation projects receive generous funding from major foundations and from federal agencies…” (Sommers 53) and more specifically, transformation projects receive from half a million to $4 million to multimillion-dollar budgets…money largely provided by public funds (Sommers 127)! Furthermore, feminist teachers justify indoctrinating their students by arguing that because all teaching is political to some degree, all teachers indoctrinate—therefore, the degree of indoctrination is irrelevant (Sommers 95). The absurdity of such logic is self-evident. This logic would justify a law where any kind of violence was punishable by death, for example. If you punch someone, it is the same as murdering someone, because both are acts of violence! “Thomas Sowell notes that the statement “All teaching is political” is trivially true in just the way the statement “Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler were both imperfect human beings” is true” (Sommers 98). Gender feminists are enable to affect change because they understand the political power necessary for such change. They don’t just work as teachers – they work as administrators, as officials in organizations that provide money, as researchers in research centers that research women, and so forth. Where they can’t be such people, they work to influence them. Many administrators and politicians are keenly sensitive to the fact that women have been oppressed in the past – this sensitivity is often abused in order to convince the officials to support gender feminist projects (Sommers 52). Remember that speaking out against gender feminists is a difficult thing to do. One political scientist describes American academies as “islands of intolerance in a sea of freedom”, while one professor describes his own school’s atmosphere as “McCarthyist” (Sommers 107). “To criticize the new Feminist scholarship without having tenure is reckless in the extreme: it is now virtually impossible to find public fault with academic feminism without paying for it in the drastically diminished prospects for jobs or advancement in the Amercian academy” (Sommers 134). Furthermore, “…male faculty quickly became aware that resistance to feminist proposals would automatically be condemned as sexist and reactionary” (Sommers 135). Again, the parallels with the McCarthy era are obvious – fear has been and always will be an effective political tool to wield to promote your own agenda. Conversely, knowledge and education have traditionally been the most effective means of combating fear, as demonstrated during the McCarthy era.
The effects of controlling the academies are rather self apparent: from the academies, one can control research efforts as well as the education of children all the way from grade school up. “What began as a reasonable attempt to redress the neglect of women in the curriculum has quietly become a potent force affecting the American classroom at every level, from the primary grades to graduate school” (Sommer 53). Textbooks, now widely in use in high schools around the country, have been altered to be filled with “filler feminism” to meet new requirements that history should have 50% men and 50% women, regardless of the truth of history. (Remember, truth is a male construct designed to oppress women.) This has had measurably deficient effects on our nation’s already culture-starved teenagers (Sommers 60-62).
Even more deplorable is the way that gender feminists have been able to control the statistics that have become commonly accepted and taken for granted. Of particular interest is their terror rhetoric – they try to instill fear by claiming that the world is a male patriarchy that promotes violence, rape, domestic abuse, and so forth. They then proceed to back up these assertions with “studies” and “surveys,” but as already outlined earlier, many gender feminists have inserted themselves into the institutions that these studies come out of. Unsurprisingly, the legitimacy of these studies is questionable at best. Let’s take the issue of rape as an example. While rape is a horrible and deplorable crime, isn’t it equally deplorable to lie about the extent to which it pervades our society solely as a means to garner support for your own agenda? One study found an infamous statistic – that “one in four female respondents had an experience that met the legal definition of rape or attempt rape” (qtd. in Sommers 211). However, 73% of women that had been classified as having been raped (or victims of attempted rape) did not agree with this conclusion (Sommers 213). In an example that hits closer to home, a study found that 683,000 women had been the victim of completed, forcible rapes in our country (Sommers 215-216). This works out to 77.96 rapes an hour, rounded up to 78 rapes an hour, as seen on a giant sign on the main stairwell here at BHS. There are two fatal flaws with this survey, however – one is that no respondent was directly asked whether or not they were raped. Why not? The person conducting the survey had conducted an earlier one where he had asked precisely that question and found significantly lower numbers. With this new survey, he now has one of the most widely quoted studies regarding rape (Sommers 216-217). Secondly, the fourth question in the survey expands the interpretation of rape to include young teenager who may have gotten friskier than they should have but certainly did nothing that would pass for legal rape (Sommers 215-216). When the director of the UCLA Center for Women and Men was confronted on the inaccuracy of the one-in-four statistic, she said “The statistics don’t really matter that much in the big picture. We’re just trying to focus on the real issue here, to debate about civil rights, not bicker about numbers” (qtd. in Kammer 213). Perhaps she didn’t realize that the numbers ARE the real issue. “’It makes a big difference if it’s one in three or one in fifty,’ said April Groff of the University of Michigan, who says she is ‘very scared.’ ‘I’d have to say, honestly, I’d think about rape a lot less if I knew the number was one in fifty’” (qtd. in Sommers 217). Even more disturbingly, such studies distract from the apparent biases against men in the legal system. Take for example this case of false rape reports: “In [1990 and 1991] women in [seven Washington DC-area jurisdictions] filed 1,842 rape reports, and police concluded that 439 were unfounded… [One] woman said she lied because she needed an excuse for having been late to work” (Kammer 176). Jack Kammer sums up his view nicely: “A false allegation of rape can have consequences as severe as – or even worse than – an actual rape. Why is it punished so lightly, if at all?” (176).
“These feminist ideologues are helping no one; on the contrary, their divisive and resentful philosophy adds to the woes of our society and hurts legitimate feminism” (Sommers 17). There are many more examples of gender feminism gone awry, of the power they wield and shouldn’t, and of the unspoken struggle for men’s rights in a society that looks at such ideas as absolutely ridiculous, but the scope of this document is such that there isn’t enough space to detail them all here. Therefore, I implore you to read the books I have read, and to read others. Such is the first step to solving this problem – raising awareness about it. Once awareness has been raised, perhaps people will come to realize that the answer lies not with “men’s rights” or “women’s rights,” but with policies that treat the genders as true equals. Cathy Young advocates “an equal rights movement—not a National Organization for Women, but a National Organization for Gender Equality” (266). Ultimately, as a society, we need to “get over our obsession with gender differences and recognize that the sexes are neither fundamentally different nor exactly the same” (Young, 267) to ensure that the abuses of gender feminists stop and never happen again, and likewise, so that we don’t regress into a time not unlike that which created the need for a feminist movement in the first place. But it all starts with you, the reader, and with changing your perception of the “gender wars.”
Doyle, R.F. “Society Is Biased Against Men.” 2000. Opposing Viewpoints. Bellingham High School Library. 6 Dec 2005 .
Glasson, Karl. “Feminism Has Harmed Men.” 2005. Opposing Viewpoints. Bellingham High School Library. 6 Dec 2005 .
Kammer, Jack. If Men Have All The Power How Come Women Make All The Rules?. 2nd ed. http://www.rulymob.com.
Sommers, Christina Hoff. Who Stole Feminism?. New York: Touchstone, 1995.
Young, Cathy. Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve Equality. New York: The Free Press, 1999.