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Oh No -- a Feminist!

Stanley Kurtz (National Review Online's The Corner) writes:

Although I would have chosen differently, I've tried to give the president the benefit of the doubt on the Miers nomination. Having said that, I note a worrisome report in today's Chronicle of Higher Education. It seems that Miers was a key figure behind the establishment of a lecture series in women's studies at SMU. Here is the critical excerpt from today's Chronicle story:

In the late 1990s, as a member of the advisory board for Southern Methodist University's law school, Ms. Miers pushed for the creation of an endowed lecture series in women's studies named for Louise B. Raggio, one of the first women to rise to prominence in the Texas legal community. A strong advocate for women, Ms. Raggio helped persuade state lawmakers to revise Texas laws to give women new rights over property and in the event of divorce.

1. Ms. Miers, whom President Bush announced on Monday as his choice to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, not only advocated for the lecture series, but also gave money and solicited donations to help get it off the ground.

A feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, delivered the series's first lecture, in 1998. In the following two years, the speakers were Patricia S. Schroeder, the former Democratic congresswoman widely associated with women's causes, and Susan Faludi, the author of Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (1991). Ann W. Richards, the Democrat whom George W. Bush unseated as governor of Texas in 1994, delivered the lecture in 2003.

Now I don't think this necessarily establishes Miers as a closet feminist. Unfortunately, the pattern here is repeated continually by conservatives everywhere. Wealthy conservative donors to universities typically seek to share in the prestige of these institutions--or as in this case, to honor their friends and loved ones and encourage young students in the paths they have trod. In doing so, they give money to a school who's own purposes may be very different from their own. . . .

I would think that it would be hard to establish Harriet Miers as a closet feminist, because it seems to me that she's an out-of-the-closet feminist, in the traditional sense (though I realize that it's not the only possible sense) of one who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. I don't know how much she's talked about it, but she's lived it — her career is that of a woman who believes that women should have the same opportunities that men do. My guesses as to other feminists: Condoleezza Rice; Sandra Day O'Connor; Clarence Thomas's wife Virginia Thomas; perhaps Clarence Thomas himself, judging by his choice of wife, and assuming that he likely admires and respects her career choices; Chief Justice Rehnquist's daughter Janet; the list could go on much further. In fact, the striking feature of this traditional "equity feminism" is how much it has prevailed in the lived experience of the conservative elites, as well as liberal elites. If it hadn't prevailed, it would be hard to find any women judges, since equity feminism was in large measure a repudiation of the view that women shouldn't become judges.

Now this is something of an aside in Stanley Kurtz's post, and later he goes on to disapprove of "left-leaning feminists." Perhaps that's what he meant to write in the material I quote as well, and didn't mean to disparage feminism of the yes-I'll-be-a-lawyer-or-even-Secretary-of-State variety. But if that's so, then why even mention "feminist" at all in the negative reference, rather than just expressing concern about the "left-leaning"?

I'm proud to be a feminist in the traditional equal-opportunity sense, and I'm glad Ms. Miers seems to be a feminist, too. No need for her to be in the closet about that. And I think it would be a serious mistake, conceptual, moral, and political, for the conservative movement to reject feminism (as opposed to affirming a sound conception of feminism).

UPDATE: Here's Stanley Kurtz's response, which I much appreciate his posting:

In response to Eugene Volokh, who argues that conservatives should not reject feminism per se, have no problem affirming the "equity feminism" backed by folks like Christina Hoff Sommers. It's the left-leaning feminism sponsored by folks like Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi (what Sommers calls "gender feminism") that I have a problem with. The difficulty is that when academics and liberals talk about feminism, they don't mean the equity feminism affirmed by Christina Hoff Sommers. I agree that we need to do more to take the word back. Having said that, in common parlance on today's campus, the word feminist means the sort of left-feminism that considers someone like Sommers to be a non-feminist apostate. So it's a complicated word that gets used in different ways by different folks in different contexts.

Goober (mail):
A thoughtful post making an utterly non-controversial post.

Which I gather means it will inspire 80+ angry comments shortly.
10.6.2005 6:23pm
Goober (mail):
Grr... second "post" in the first line should be "point."

I suppose you could substitute "I, the doofus who can't proofread," for "I" in the second line as well.
10.6.2005 6:24pm
Been There, Done That:
The word "feminist" long ago ceased to describe people who believe women should be able to vote and wear bikinis.

But that's not the point.

The point is that Miers gave a platform to Gloria Steinem, Pat Schroeder, etc.

What did she know about this lecture series, and when did she know it?
10.6.2005 6:26pm
bittern:
C'mon, BTDT, don't stop now. Look, it was a lecture series in "women's studies," she was promoting, and if that doesn't represent "feminism", what does? Gloria Steinem. Pat Schroeder. Gloria Steinem. Pat Schroeder. Keep kicking this! Thanks!
10.6.2005 6:41pm
Guest99:
Creating a lectureship in women's studies at a college that has more female undergraduates than males is about as necessary as creating a white-people's studies lectureship at a predominantly-white university.

Equality has nothing to do with it, anymore than the affirmative-action minority preferences engaged in by Miers' old law firm involve equality.

This shows that Miers is an affirmative-action-obsessed, politically correct lawyer, rather than the moderate or conservative judge Bush ought to be appointing to the Supreme Court.
10.6.2005 6:48pm
anonymous coward:
"Creating a lectureship in women's studies at a college that has more female undergraduates than males is about as necessary as..."

...as an American Studies program at a university attended mostly by Americans? I don't follow.
10.6.2005 7:05pm
JayJ:
I think what makes this an issue even for Stanley Kurtz to write about is, at least in part, that Harriet Miers's primary reason for being nominated over others is her close connection to President Bush. As a result, scraps of information are being pored over exegetically to determine if Miers is the next David Souter.
10.6.2005 7:12pm
DJB:
The classic meaning of "feminist" describes almost the entire population of the United States at this point, and has thus lost its usefulness as a descriptive label. To most people, the term has come to be identified with the perpetual-grievance/activist crowd more than anything else. That's why most women hesitate to identify themselves as feminists, even though almost all of them enjoy the equal treatment they receive in modern society.
10.6.2005 7:25pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
I don't think the thrust among conservatives is, or ever has been, to reject equitable or fair treatment for women. Somehow, modern paradigms, even in supposed 'traditional' religious denominations, law schools, and the PC circuit have twisted the traditional male/female roles view of the world as being unenlightened, intolerable, sexist, and/or male chauvinist domination at its worst. What they forget is that there was considerable respect paid women, in some regards, even more than today, during those pre-sensitivity training periods. Respect. Not politically correct fawning to make others feel better about themselves, avoid lawsuits, or self-aggrandize as more socially aware.

Were there abuses. Absolutely. Have they been eliminated with the supposedly more sensitive generation we now have. Absolutely not.

I think what is being rejected is the activist agenda of 'feminists' such as Steinem, Schroeder, et al. - i.e., that the books must somehow be 'balanced' for past ills by giving women MORE rights than males who are only necessary for breeding purposes and are otherwise to be tolerated as if they were all prepubescent, emotional immature, and intellectually unenlightened individuals, only some of which are capable of serving as eunuchs in their envisioned matriarchal society.

What is being rejected is the perceived distortions made by these individuals. Perhaps the most visible being that abortion is solely about an individual woman's right to choose what happens with their own body to the complete exclusion (presumably irrelevant) of issues such as father's rights, rights of the unborn (including partial birth abortion), demonstrable health issues regarding use of abortion as birth control, and the effects to the cultural "institutions" of society (e.g., marriage, parental relations, inconsistent definitions of what is considered to be a 'minor child,' et al.). Distortion that marriage is somehow a negative or antithetical for all women who wish to grow, mature, and become an individual. Distortion that men, by their very nature, are emotionally, morally, and intellectually inferior to women. And the list goes on.

The problem is the same as with virtually any discussion of race. If one disagrees with a stance taken seemingly in concert with the "correct" attitude, that individual is castigated for being racist, insensitive, or criminal. They are counseled to be more sensitive, to express themselves more clearly (as if their intended audience, in fact, didn't understand precisely what they were saying), and that they should go sit in the corner and consider their existence. Meanwhile, the "counselor(s)" fall all over themselves to try and appear as if they are occupying the moral high ground; being enlightened for their "by this definition" membership in society while not embracing the "radical view." In the end, all that happens is that the discussion is sidetracked, highjacked, or so obfuscated that it is lost entirely.

My perception is that Kurtz was pointing to a PATTERN of behavior or philosophy exhibited by Miers. To wit:

1.) Miers is well known for her proactive efforts to include more minorities and women in the Texas Bar.
2.) Miers is well known for her extensive, "volunteer work" on behalf of minorities.
3.) One of the attributes being pointed to is Miers' accomplishments as a woman and on behalf of women.
4.) Miers supported Al Gore - a self-proclaimed supporter of people such as Steinem, Schroeder, etc. and their agenda.
5.) Miers advocated and solicited donations for a lecture series which has emphasized the contributions of the "feminist agenda" and spotlighted them by garnering the participation of superstars in that agenda.

I think that is what Kurtz is attempting to do. Lacking virtually any evidence of substance in terms of Miers' judicial philosophy, one is left to infer through past causes, activities, behavior patterns where she stands. Does this pattern of support for and participation in what many would consider to be traditional, DEMOCRATIC or LIBERAL agenda provide any evidence for Bush's assurance that she is the CONSERVATIVE'S choice? Does it jibe with what people perceive to be her potential stance as an Evangelical? Miers' active involvement with individuals such as Gore, Steinem, Schroeder, et al., and her 'activist' history related to women and minorities might bring to many Conservatives' minds a different perception of her "feminism" than your definition of feminism as a traditional one of equal-opportunity.

Is Kurtz right? In pointing to a potential 'pattern,' he is absolutely right to point to its possible presence. Is he right in his analysis? That's precisely the problem. We have no way of knowing and that is what troubles many conservatives. Is he trying to slam/bash Miers for being a feminist? Not the way I read it. What he was ultimately pointing to is the trouble one can become embroiled in by attempting to present themselves as a card-carrying member of, actively participate in, or show support for a specific cause when their agenda is decidedly different than those very individuals they become associated with. Conversely, the same PC landmines can be detrimental for those who attempt to criticize for exactly the same reasons.
10.6.2005 7:49pm
chaoticgoodnik (www):
I don't have statistics, but my gut says most feminists already think the Republican Party has rejected them. (See some of the comments above for why a feminist might get that idea.)
10.6.2005 8:12pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Getting back to what Professor Volokh posted, I think he doesn't realize (or at least doesn't choose to explicitly recognize) the extent to which the Republican Party and conservative movement cater to anti-feminist prejudices.

Of course Professor Volokh is correct that most conservative women in public life, like most liberal women in public life, embody many feminist principles in the way they have chosen to have careers, to stand on an equal footing with men, etc. And this is actually something that sometimes liberals fail to recognize (remember, for instance, Teresa Heinz Kerry's smear of Laura Bush as never having worked outside the home, when in fact Mrs. Bush was a librarian).

Nonetheless, you don't have to spend too much time at conservative websites to find lots of anti-feminist sentiment. For instance, when John Roberts was first picked for the Supreme Court (at that time to replace Sandra Day O'Connor), there was plenty of praise for Bush picking a white male, which they characterized as not "caving in to the diversity lobby" or in similar terms. But think about that for a second-- that is classic anti-feminist rhetoric, i.e., if he picks a woman, she must have been picked because she is a woman and not because she is qualified for the position.

Another example of this is that many conservatives trumpet every study that says that children might benefit from stay-at-home mothers, or that women and men have innate biological differences, or that more women might desire to quit their jobs to take care of their children, while disregarding studies that go the other way. There is nothing wrong, of course, with arguing about disputed sociological questions, but there seems to be this great desire to show that the changes that brought women into the workforce since the 1950's have been a big failure. At least the motivation seems anti-feminist.

And of course, there is the very example that Professor Volokh pointed out-- resistance to women's studies departments and feminist scholars on college campuses. There is, again, nothing wrong with disputing their scholarship, but when you come out against the very idea that colleges ought to seek out feminist speakers or study gender roles in their social context, the motivations again look pretty suspect.

The point is, the idea that "feminism" is a dirty word for conservatives did not start with Stanley Kurtz. This has been true for a long, long time, and I would suggest that it is true in part because those conservatives and Republicans who are feminists don't challenge this kind of thing more often.
10.6.2005 8:24pm
brett (mail):
Feminism is one thing. Women's studies is another.
10.6.2005 8:54pm
Redheaded3L:
Have any of the people on this board who criticize women's studies classes, ever sat in on a class or taken a class?

For the most part these classes talk about how gender roles and ideas about gender have shaped society and how they continue to impact our lives.

How is this not an area worthy of study?
10.6.2005 9:38pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
It is precisely the direction of this thread which illustrates what I was saying above. Somehow, we've digressed from recognizing WHAT it was Kurtz was trying to say to a referendum on how "conservatives" should be more sensitive to "feminism." We've lost sight of a potential pattern of behavior which may or may not be indicative of a Supreme Court nominee's judicial philosophy in favor of yet another endless discussion of the cursedly evil ways of conservatives insensitive enough to even suggest that deliberate or unintentional association with radicals of the left MIGHT perceptually be as nefariously foreboding as a liberal's deliberate or unintentional association with the right-wing fringe would be to those very radicals of the left.

The Republican Party has never rejected women or their "equal" treatment. Conservatives do, however, define "equality" differently than do radicals such as Steinem and Schroeder. This is one of the greatest disservices which the radical agenda, be it extreme left or extreme right, does to any discourse on emotionally charged issues; they tend to create a perception of 'insensitivity,' 'inappropriateness,' 'rejection,' or 'bias' if THEIR definitions are not ensconced as the accepted norm. In the meantime, those who would be and are committed to what the public-at-large would consider to be equitable, decent, or fair treatment/relations are stigmitized so as to be more easily marginalized in any attempted discussion of the issue. The ultimate goal being the creation of a generalized perception that the radical agenda is the supposed 'mainstream.' Thus any challenge from a true mainstream perspective is immediately impugned as insensitive, inappropriate, biased, divisive, 'ant-,' and hostile.

So, what was the point?
10.6.2005 10:14pm
lucia (mail) (www):
That's why most women hesitate to identify themselves as feminists, even though almost all of them enjoy the equal treatment they receive in modern society.
I don't have any idea who you mean by "most women".

I am a woman. I have a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. I use the word "feminist" the way Eugene used it. So do most of my friends -- both male and female.
10.6.2005 10:24pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
Why do we need to identify ourselves as "feminist" to demonstrate we believe in equal opportunity, equal treatment, or fair-play? Why MUST conservatives 'affirm' a sound concept of 'feminism,' supposedly or inferentially different than the agenda set forth by pundits such as Steinem or Schroeder, just to "prove" they are socially concious or politically sensitive?

This is much like the rash of hyperbole leveled at the Bush Administration regarding race relations. Bush, love him or loathe him, has potentially the most diverse staff, cabinet, and advisors of any administration, Republican or Democrat, in this country's history. Yet, what do we hear? "Bush hates blacks!" What's the retort? Bush has a black this, an Hispanic that, a woman in this post, an Asian in this position... Why defend and espouse the obvious? It ain't gonna 'prove' anything to those who are screaming "Bush hates black people!"

Why not? Because, as Al Sharp, Jesse Jackson, and others have repeatedly pointed out - just because a person is black doesn't mean they are pursuing the "black agenda." So, they're interest lies in achieving something other than equality, balanced representation, and fair treatment; not to mention making major contributions to society as a whole.

The same problem exists with 'feminism.' Why should conservatives be forced to affirm some nebulous, vague, and potentially untenable concept which might stand as differentiated from one constructed by radical, agenda driven idealists that have goals other than equality, equal opportunity, fair treatment, and balanced representation? Why do women need to be identified separately when we espouse the ideals of equality, justice, and fairness for "everyone?" Wouldn't that suggest or couldn't it be inferred by such segregation that we DON'T mean "everyone" because we 'especially mean...?'

Wouldn't that meet the definitional standards of "disingenuous?"
10.6.2005 11:25pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
Sorry... Al Sharpton.
10.6.2005 11:27pm
hey (mail):
there's "feminism" believing that the sexes are equal and should have equal opportunities, and then there's "feminism" that believes that the sexes are equivalent and that gender is a social construct, a belief which trends into leftist positions on economics, restructuring society in all sorts of ways, etc.

conservatives and libertarians very frequently disparage the 2nd type of feminism, and we do tend to highlight studies that contradict the gender equivalence/cultural creation school of thought. so yes, in that sense we are "anti-feminist". So are almost all of the women that I know (left, right, whatever) who want to stay home with their children for as long as possible, look for husbands of superior status, and who tend to want careers for intellectual fulfillment but place them secondary to their families. This applies to even the most insanely hardworking women I know, who definitely do take a step back for at least a few years, if not permanently, in terms of the hours and travelling that they do (unless they are able to afford lavish help, as a colleague in Shanghai can). Of course anecdotes aren't data, but I believe that you are smearing conservatives by saying that they are "anti-feminist" and implying that they are against recognizing both sexes as full actors in society who can choose whatever roles that they would like to play. Simply saying that there are roles that the sexes tend to prefer and that may result in better outcomes is not being angainst equality of opportunity. It is against equality of result, especially some of the more egregiously controlling aspects of the left wing (or strong form) feminist argument.
10.6.2005 11:48pm
lucia (mail) (www):
so yes, in that sense we are "anti-feminist". So are almost all of the women that I know (left, right, whatever) who want to stay home with their children for as long as possible, look for husbands of superior status, and who tend to want careers for intellectual fulfillment but place them secondary to their families. This applies to even the most insanely hardworking women I know, who definitely do take a step back for at least a few years, if not permanently, in terms of the hours and travelling that they do

Many of my female neighbors fall in the second category you describe. None call themselves "anti-feminist" nor do they use the term feminist any differently than I do. As I said before, I use it the way Eugene uses it-- to mean standing for equal opportunity for women.

For the record, I live in Du Page county Illinois. The local venacular is not dominated any non-conservative agenda.
10.6.2005 11:56pm
Bezuhov (mail):
Lucia,

What age are you, if you don't mind my asking? It's been my experience, as a 35-year-old, that, especially on college campuses, the purge of moderates from the Movement Formerly Known as Women's Lib has led most moderate women who nearly invariably accept equal-rights feminism to avoid using the label "Feminist" to refer to themselves. If put to the question, they might answer "yes" to avoid offense to the asker, but they rarely use the term on their own volition.
10.7.2005 1:11am
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
This thread has me noticing something I'd missed before. Bush's choices for the court might be even savvier than I'd thought. Miers has a lot in common with O'Connor. And she's a stealth candidate. And she's prolife, which might or might not equal a vote to overturn Roe. So that's fairly impressive. But more than that, Roberts and Miers could be described as progressive. If Rehnquist or Scalia votes against Roe, it's because he's an old fogey. Thomas is a young fogey. What Bush didn't do was appoint some redneck, a Roy Moore type. With Roberts or Miers, if they were to vote to overturn Roe, they would be doing so from a moral high ground, enlightened and defensible. Neither could fairly be described as anti-feminist or bigots. I think Bush genuinely believes he has the moral high ground over the Clinton-Schroeder types. I think he squanders that with the war, the out of control spending, the attacks on civil liberties. But he's always looking for being seen as the guy who unexpectedly did the right thing, the smart thing, the brave thing. Now and then he pulls it off. I don't like the guy, and he doesn't like me. But I think too many people underestimate him.
10.7.2005 2:20am
kobayashimaru:
To answer the question of "who has taken a women's studies class"--I have. I'm female and would describe myself as a traditional feminist (along Eugene's lines). And the Women's Studies class was an intellectual joke--it had no value whatsoever. It discussed some of the political movements and defined the various types of feminism, and talked frequently about rape and how women were still facing glass ceilings (in 1998, no less). Women's Studies departments are not valuable in Universities, and serve primarily to promote a liberal agenda and give feminists a degree of respectability.
So in that regard, Kurtz's argument against Miers for having supported a Women's Studies program is not a poor criticism. That he criticizes feminism in general is more questionable, depending on his connotation for the word.
10.7.2005 12:37pm
Brian24 (mail):
A Guest,

Speaking as a generally left-leaning guy who lives in New York, I have an awful lot of contact with some pretty far-left people, and I have to say that I have only two or three times in my life met anyone who espouses anything like the opinions you are ascribing to "feminists." Ironically, you are getting all worked up over the idea that people are caricaturing the conservative position, but you are doing exactly the same for the liberal side. I think you're beating a straw man.

Also, just for argument's sake, pretty much all the men AND women I know (left, right, whatever) want to stay home with their children as long as possible, look for spouses of superior status, and tend to want careers for intellectual fulfillment but place them second to their families. This applies to even the most insanely hardworking women AND men I know, who definitely do take a step back for at least a few years, if not permanently, in terms of the hours and travelling that they do.

Frankly, I'm not sure who you're fighting against here, or why any man or woman would not want those things.
10.7.2005 12:43pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Lucia,

What age are you, if you don't mind my asking?


Yes, I can see your point. I am aware that often older people, like Rush Limbaugh use the term the way Stanley Kurtz is using it.

I'm 46. So, likely I am too young to remember the days when "feminist" was used that way. :-)

I believe Eugene Volokh, is younger than I am. He seems to ue the term the way I do. My neighbors who stay home with infants,toddlers and grade school children also use the word the way I do. Some are older than I, some younger.

I do not, by the way, go around asking people "Are you a feminist". So, the idea that they say "yes" to avoid offending me is just silly.
10.7.2005 3:41pm
eddie (mail):
Feminism is another buzzword for prochoice. Let's all at least be honest here. The cognitive dissonance displayed here by trying to give nuance to what feminism is or isnt (especially by men) (or worse whether conservatives are falling into their own PC trap) is breathtaking.

I thought that this was about putting someone in the highest court of the land on the basis of their ability to be a good judge (and not simply a Gomer Pyle common sense justice of the peace kind of judge, but a judge that decides what the law means, especially what the supreme law of the land, the Constitution, means. It's simply amazing that after all of criticism by conservatives of liberal litmus tests and not wanting to judge a nominee by his/her ideology that this discussion does not even attempt to discern such qualifications, unless the real point is that qualifications means that the judge is going to decide case with results that are compatible with conservative ideology. I'm tired of hearing all of this talk about judicial restraint and respect for the letter of the law, etc., etc. when even a few innocent acts by a person become examples of an original sin whose red stain can never be washed away in the waters of conservative ideology. This discussion is merely the flip side of christian conservative claiming she's qualified precisely because she is born again.

Pandora's box has been opened by those who so stolidly proclaim there intent to maintain objectivity.

Is anyone even remotely concerned that the only real pattern and history discernible from this candidate is that she has been a staunch ally of GWB and of corporate interests.

Was the Constitution written to protect corporation from the evils of concentrated governmental power?

I am sorry to have gone so far afield; but this whole discussion reeks of bad faith: Is anyone here really making the case that whatever else is found out about Miers, her apparent feminism makes her unsuited for the Supreme Court?
10.7.2005 3:46pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
Brian24: Might I suggest you actually read the stuff put out by people like Steinem and Schroeder before you defend their definition of feminism, the image they have projected, and the actual merits of their arguments? Just because the people you come into contact with may be considered by you and/or themselves as "leaning left or pretty far left," it doesn't mean they are representative of the actual left-wingers.

Caricatures are when you represent something in a ridiculous and exaggerated fashion. If that's what you want to term my representation of the radical feminists, then you must realize that I did not create this image - they did that to themselves. Which, if you read closely enough, was my point.

Gloria Steinem...

When asked about marriage, her response was: "I don't breed well in captivity."

About women in society she says: "...women can never relax efforts to overthrow the structures of patriarchal power."

According to Mark Satin, Editor of 'Radical Middle Newsletter,' - "Gloria Steinem called CBS to try to pressure it into not airing a show on Christina Hoff Sommers, author of a book praising "equity" feminism." This antecdote is actually parroted or corroborated, depending on your predilictions, by a plethora of others. If you aren't aware of the history, Sommers took many of the more radical feminists, including Steinem, to task for wildly exaggerated, false, or unproven statistics used in support of their agenda and accusations. Sommers holds that most American women are equity feminists in that their definition of 'feminism' is simple legal and civil equality with men; a sentiment which seems to be rather prevailing throughout this thread.

Referring to housewives, Steinem has written: "[Housewives] are dependent creatures who are still children...parasites."

A famous Steinem quote about a woman's 'need' for men: "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle."

Steinem on religion - "By the year 2000 we will, I hope, raise our children to believe in human potential, not God."

Steinem on the economy - "Overthrowing capitalism is too small for us. We must overthrow the whole... patriarchy"

The list goes on. If you wish to argue that Steinem felt it necessary to exaggerate to garner attention, well I would suggest there are meaningful rather than 'angry,' 'misleading,' 'male-bashing' ways to do so. Unfortunately, Steinem's devotion to her perception of 'gender feminism' virtually requires that she take a decidedly 'anti-' or 'extreme' stance. If you're going to argue that she doesn't sound that way now, then at least recognize that all firebrands tend to reinvent themselves lest they become marginalized or forgotten once the emotions surrounding the issues cool; or, even more significantly, the issues themselves evolve to a point where cooler heads MUST prevail over the extremist caricatures to maintain constructive momentum.

Thus, your accusation of my creating a "straw man" (how very sexist, chauvanistic, and gender stereotypical of you - tsk, tsk!!!) does not bear scrutiny. By definition, a 'straw man' is a sham or weak argument, sometimes taking the form of a fictional personage, established to frame said argument and the issues it encapsulates in such a way that it can then be easily refuted. Once again, I didn't need to "create" anything. I had REAL people and their REAL arguments to work with.

In short, your knee-jerk, PC defensive reaction is precisely the reason why I commented above: "What he [Kurtz] was ultimately pointing to is the trouble one can become embroiled in by attempting to present themselves as a card-carrying member of, actively participate in, or show support for a specific cause when their agenda is decidedly different than those very individuals they become associated with. Conversely, the same PC landmines can be detrimental for those who attempt to criticize for exactly the same reasons."

Not to mention when I stated: "This is one of the greatest disservices which the radical agenda, be it extreme left or extreme right, does to any discourse on emotionally charged issues; they tend to create a perception of 'insensitivity,' 'inappropriateness,' 'rejection,' or 'bias' if THEIR definitions are not ensconced as the accepted norm. In the meantime, those who would be and are committed to what the public-at-large would consider to be equitable, decent, or fair treatment/relations are stigmitized so as to be more easily marginalized in any attempted discussion of the issue. The ultimate goal being the creation of a generalized perception that the radical agenda is the supposed 'mainstream.' Thus any challenge from a true mainstream perspective is immediately impugned as insensitive, inappropriate, biased, divisive, 'ant-,' and hostile."

Again, if you still do not understand the descriptions, arguments, and theses above, I would strongly suggest you do some reading BEYOND the paradigmatic biases of a college "Women's Studies" course. Without this additional insight, recognition of reality, and awareness of history you may find that YOURS is actually a weak argument, easily refuted.
10.8.2005 3:45am
Aaron Swartz (mail) (www):
In response to Kurtz's response, while Faludi may be "left-leaning", it strikes me as unfair to call her a gender feminist. Her book on the subject, Backlash, is pretty strictly on equity feminism and the attempts (by people like Kurtz, perhaps even through comments like these) to fight it. Citing Christina Hoff Sommers, author of The War Against Boys, seems especially funny in this instance, since Faludi's second book is about "the betrayal of the American man" (to quote the subtitle).

For a sense of Faludi's perspective, you can read the introduction to her book Backlash -- an absolutely brilliant piece of work in itself but it also gives a pretty good sense of what the book is about. It's pretty obvious that the book is about giving women an equal opportunity (I count 43 instances of "equal"), not about denying the existence of possible differences between the genders.

In fairness to Kurtz, Sommers does call Faludi a gender feminist once in her book, but her only evidence for this claim is the fact that Faludi once noted that our society has one of the highest incidences of rape (Who Stole Feminism?, 223).

What we are left with is Kurtz's absurd claim that Susan Faludi is a left-wing radical gender feminist, because she goes around talking about her book which makes such extremist statements as "Nearly 70 percent of women polled by the New York Times in 1989 said the movement for women's rights had only just begun."
10.9.2005 2:16pm
Aaron Swartz (mail) (www):
Indeed, Faludi even defines feminism: "Feminism asks the world to recognize at long last that women ... are half (in fact, now more than half) of the national population, and just as deserving of rights and opportunities, just as capable of participating in the world's events, as the other half." (Backlash, introduction)
10.9.2005 2:18pm
A Guest Who Enjoys This Site:
Aaron Swartz: I think since Sommers is the one who created the categories "equity" and "gender" feminism, it might be instructive to look at why she might consider Faludi as falling into that category.

First, let's look at the definitions.

equity feminism = "an ideology of civil and legal equality" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equity_feminism]

gender feminism = "a phrase coined...to critique the mainstream of the contemporary feminist movement" which Sommers felt was too 'gynocentric' or "Ideologically focused on females, and issues affecting them, possibly to the detriment of males." [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_feminism; http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Gynocentric]

Based on these definitions, I agree that it would appear unfair to lump a Gloria Steinem and a Susan Faludi as 'equal in the same category' from the standpoint of being a "left-wing radical gender feminist." Obviously, Steinem and others have been far more vocal, strident, and denigrating in their emphasis on that portion of the definition which states: "...possibly to the detriment of males."

However, less stridence or softer invective does not exclude or obviate her categorization as a "gender feminist." Remember, for Sommers, the essential and critical difference in categorizing an individual's "feminism" is what aspect, albeit, point of view, is emphasized. Is "equality" the emphasis or is it "females and the issues that effect them?" Certainly, gender feminism incorporates "equity feminism" as 'equity' is "an issue that effects females;" but, it is only ONE of the issues which a priori form the ascertions of gender feminists.

In Faludi's case, we see that she meets the definitional criterion of gender feminism in that while she addresses equality, she emphasizes myriad aspects of culture as impacting a woman's identity; equality only being one of these aspects effecting a female's ability to develop an appropriate, presumably 'appropriate' as Faludi defines it, identity. Examples include:

"[Feminism] asks that women be free to define themselves -- instead of having their identity defined for them, time and again, by their culture and their men."

"Feminism has shown us that what we think of as feminine is actually defined by cultural messages and political agendas."

"The demand that women "return to femininity" is a demand that the cultural gears shift into reverse, that we back up to a fabled time when everyone was richer, younger, more powerful."

"Just because someone wears a push-up bra does not mean she's not a feminist. It doesn't mean she is a feminist, either. It's not about what you wear, or if you use makeup or not. I put on lipstick at times, and at other times I don't. I wear various undergarments. But people who focus on that are missing the whole point, which is what you do in the world. Still, I am reluctant to condemn women who engage in this new brand of feminism -- and it probably is a brand by now, with its own trademark -- because it's not their fault. They are trapped in a world where the whole mechanism for social change has gone by the boards."

"...feminists have indeed blamed men for many things, and often deservedly so, but generally the charge of man-hating is just another attempt to demonize feminism."

[Revisionist feminists] "focus on condemning traditional feminism, instead of critiquing the world around them."

"The internal qualities once said to embody manhood - sure footedness, inner strength, confidence of purpose -- are merchandised to men to enhance their manliness."

Let's see. To summarize, using her own words, according to Faludi...


Feminism asks that women be free to define themselves; bearing in mind that what we think of as feminine is actually defined by cultural messages and political agendas. Thus, any thought of a 'return to femininity' is a retrograde movement of society. This is particularly true since modern 'feminists' don't understand that it is what you do in the world, not how you package yourself or your message. And, while traditional forms of feminism have deservedly criticized men, critics should be more focused on analyzing the world around them than on feminism's 'man-hating' past. This is especially important since those culturally accepted internal qualities which provide men with THEIR identity - sure footedness, inner strength, confidence of purpose - are no more than commercially packaged and merchandised trappings intended to enhance 'manliness.'


Doesn't this encapsulate the very definition of 'gender feminism?' It would seem to be an emphasis, not on equality, but on a 'gynocentric' focus on females, and issues affecting them, possibly to the detriment of males."

Granted, it may not be the "in your face" rhetoric which characterized the likes of Andrea Dworkin ("Heterosexual intercourse is the pure, formalized expression of contempt for women's bodies") or Gloria Steinem ("...women can never relax efforts to overthrow the structures of patriarchal power"); but, in essence, it is still the same message with the same emphasis. Could it be that Faludi is the 'heir apparent' of the 'gender feminist' cause; simply, and somewhat disingenuously given her own arguments, repackaging the older, firebrand ideological rhetoric into a more contemperaneously merchandisable form? Perhaps there was a message being sent when Faludi and Steinem shared the 9 March 1992 cover of Time?

Unfair and misleading?

I guess it depends on your point of view.
10.9.2005 11:51pm