Reactionary Feminism

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Author: Tama Starr
Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Date: 2005
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,978 words

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[(review date October 1994) In the following review, Starr notes that Who Stole Feminism? is an entertaining, informative, and well-researched book, but comments that Sommers fails to place her subject matter in a broader political context.]

Ten years late, but we're nearly there. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. "Objective reality" is an invidious myth employed by evil oppressors (men) to maintain their phallohegemonic dominance. Big Sister Is Watching for instances of heteropatriarchal discourse, and punishment is swift and severe. A futuristic nightmare? No, the all-too-real world of your high school, university, newsroom, and administrative agency--and coming soon to a workplace near you.

In Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women, Christina Hoff Sommers, associate professor of philosophy at Clark University, describes the appropriation of the movement once known as feminism by a cadre of party-line bureaucrats promoting an agenda of victimism and victimology-based revolution, with serious implications for the wider world.

Sommers draws a clear distinction between "equity feminism," the classical-liberal position characterized by the unobjectionable slogan, "Equal pay for equal work," and "gender feminism," the aggressive self-pitying whine of an army of professional victims that has come to dominate discussions of women's issues. Ideological correctness, the suppression of dissent, and salvation through thought control and governmental fiat are the new orders of the day.

Sommers traces classical-liberal equity feminism to the Seneca Falls convention of 1848. The organizers of Seneca Falls recognized their privileged position as educated members of a middle-class elite, and they placed their prestige and experience in the abolitionist movement at the service of the genuinely disadvantaged. It may be hard to remember today that throughout most of history women were essentially the property of their fathers and husbands, and in many places in the world today, still are. Too many of the world's women remain oppressed--except in the places where feminists are doing the most complaining.

American women outlive their male counterparts by nearly 10 years, control more than half the national wealth, and make up the majority of undergraduate students, law students, and voters. Skeptics are starting to question whether this is a group genuinely entitled to victim status. Never has such a privileged circle been represented by such an array of pedants claiming that a war is being waged against them, or has so cowed the media and the government into abandoning all standards of objectivity. It is an irony almost too delicious to contemplate: How did one of the most privileged sets of people in the history of the world, in terms of wealth, education, and political power, come to be represented by its self-appointed spokespersons and their media minions as a passel of cringing victims in need of special protection by an all-wise government?

Sommers analyzes the philosophical underpinnings of the victimology-feminist movement, first visiting the universities, where lockstep conformity is enforced in the name of "diversity" and "inclusiveness." She discusses the ideological litmus tests that determine career advancement, chronicles the "redefinition...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100061418