Slouching Towards Gomorrah -- Modern Liberalism and American Decline is a book by Robert H. Bork, who served as Solicitor General and as Acting Attorney General of the United States and served as a United States Court of Appeal judge. He has been a partner in a major law firm and during the '60s taught constitutional law at Yale Law School. He is the John M. Olin Scholar in Legal Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
The book was originally published as a hardcover edition in 1996. The first paperback edition (ISBN 0-06-098719-7, 382 pages, $20 Can ) was published in 1997.
In tracing the evolution of modern liberalism, which, as Robert Bork said, had its roots in the radical student activism of the '60s, he illustrates how society becomes accustomed to each new instant of our increasing deterioration of our culture:
We hear one day of the latest rap song calling for killing policemen or the sexual mutilation of women; the next, of coercive left-wing political indoctrination at a prestigious university; then of the latest homicide figures for New York City, Los Angeles, or the District of Columbia; of the collapse of the criminal justice system, which displays an inability to punish adequately and, often enough, an inability even to convict the clearly guilty; of the rising rate of illegitimate births; the uninhibited display of sexuality and the popularization of violence in our entertainment; worsening racial tensions; the angry activists of feminism, homosexuality, environmentalism, animal rights the list could could be extended almost indefinitely.
He explains how the radical student extremism of the '60s evolved into radical activism for minority rights, feminism, homosexuality, environmentalism and animal rights, thereby correcting the view by many that the New Left of the Sixties collapsed and disappeared. He illustrates that although the New Left may be said to have collapsed "on account of its internal incoherence and amorphous program, and because its revolutionary rhetoric and proclivity for violence repelled most Americans," that it's legacy and agents are nevertheless very much alive today and that modern liberalism may be the ultimate triumph of the New Left.
The reality of it is absolutely frightening:
SLOUCHING TOWARDS GOMORRAH 53
Its [the New Left's] adherents did not go away or change their minds; the New Left shattered into a multitude of single-issue groups. We now have, to name but a few, radical feminists, black extremists, animal rights groups, radical environmentalists, activist homosexual organizations, multiculturalists, and new or freshly radicalized organizations such as People for the American Way, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), the National Organization for Women (NOW), and Planned Parenthood.
Each of these pursues a piece of the agenda of the cultural and political Left, but they do not announce publicly an overarching program, as the New Left did, that would enable people to see that the separate groups and causes add up to a general radical philosophy. Yet these groups are in touch with one another and often come together in a coalition on specific issues. The splintering of the New Left proved to be an advantage because the movement became less visible and therefore more powerful, its goals more attainable, than was the case in the Sixties.
As the rioting and riotousness died down in the early 1970s and seemingly disappeared altogether in the last half of that decade and in the 1980s, it seemed, at last, that the Sixties were over. They were not. It was a malignant decade that, after a fifteen-year remission, returned in the 1980s to metastasize more devastatingly throughout our culture than it had in the Sixties, not with tumult but quietly, in the moral and political assumptions of those who now control and guide our major cultural institutions. The Sixties radicals are still with us, but now they do not paralyze the universities; they run the universities.
If the problem were only the universities and the chattering classes, there might be reason to be more optimistic. The Sixties have gone further than that, however. "The New Left's anti-institutional outlook and anti-bourgeois value scheme has fed into the 'new liberalism' increasingly held by the upper middle class.
Indeed, the 'radical' values and orientations expressed by SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Comittee] and SDS workers in the early sixties have become the conventional wisdom of college-educated urban professionals, especially those under thirty-five.... Whatever their other successes and failures, the youthful radicals of that decade propelled a new set of values from
54 ROBERT H. BORK
the fringes to the very midst of contemporary social conflict." That was written in 1982. It seems even more true today.
Thus, the themes and traits of the New Left have become prominent in today's culture. As will be seen throughout this book, the Sixties generation's fixation on equality has permeated our society and its institutions, much to our disadvantage. Their idea of liberty has now become license in language, popular culture, and sexuality.
The idea that everything is ultimately political has taken hold. We know its current form as "political correctness," a distemper that afflicts the universities in their departments of humanities, social sciences, and law. Works of literature are read for their sub-texts, usually existing only in the mind of the politically correct reader, about the oppression of women, Western imperialism, colonialism, and racism. Political correctness is not confined to the enclaves of the academy. It is now to be found in museums, art galleries, seminaries, foundations-all the institutions relating to opinion and attitude formation.
A corollary to the politicization of the culture is the tactic of assaulting one's opponents as not merely wrong but morally evil. That was, of course, a key stratagem of the New Left, and it remains a crucial weapon in modern liberalism's armory. The rioters in the streets did not criticize the universities as in need of reform but as institutions rotten with immorality from top to bottom. Critics of Hillary Clinton's health care plan were not said to be mistaken but were denounced as greedy pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and insurance companies out to protect their illicit profits.
The student radicals' habitual lying is easily enough explained. They were antinomians, just as those Christian heretics thought themselves freed by God's grace from anv obligation to the moral law, so the student radicals, imbued with the political grace of the Left, were freed of the restraints of law and morality. It could not be immoral to lie in a noble cause. For the same reason, it could not be wrong to break laws or heads.
Modern liberals, being in charge of the institutions they once attacked, have no need to break heads and only an occasional need to break laws. They do, however, have a need to lie, and do so abundantly, since many Americans would not like their actual agenda.
18. Stanley Rothman and S. Robert Lichter, "Roots of Radicalism: Jews, Christians and the New Left" (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982) pp. 392-4.
The Politics of Sex
Radical Feminism's Assault on American Culture
From: Robert H. Bork (1996): Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, Regan Books/HarperCollins NY (pp.193-225)
Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica is a "rape manual" because "science is a male rape of female nature"; Beethoven's Ninth Symphony expresses the "throttling murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release." (1) These and other ludicrous pronouncements may incline sensible people to dismiss today's feminism as a mildly amusing but utterly inconsequential fit of hysterics. That would be a mistake.
Radical feminism is the most destructive and fanatical movement to come down to us from the Sixties. This is a revolutionary, not a reformist, movement, and it is meeting with considerable success. Totalitarian in spirit, it is deeply antagonistic to traditional Western culture and proposes the complete restructuring of society, morality, and human nature. Radical feminism is today's female counterpart of Sixties radicalism. The feminist program is in its main features the same as that of the disastrous Port Huron Statement, (2) modified to accommodate the belief that the oppressors, the source of all evil, are men, the "patriarchy" rather than the "Establishment." All else remains the same. "Feminism rode into our cultural life on the coattails of the New Left but by now it certainly deserves its own place in the halls of intellectual barbarisms." (3)
America has seen women's movements before, reform movements seeking for women the political and cultural privileges held by men. They represented what best-selling author and professor of philosophy Christina Hoff Sommers calls "equity feminism" to distinguish them from "gender feminism", the radical variety. She identifies herself as an equity feminist. (4) It would be better, I think, to drop the word "feminism" altogether since the movement no longer has a constructive role to play; its work is done. There are no artificial barriers left to women's achievement. That fact does not mollify the radicals in the slightest. Revolutions, it is commonly observed, often break out not when circumstances are next to intolerable but when conditions begin rapidly to improve. There are now more female than male students in universities, and women are entering business, the professions, and the academy in large numbers. Yet this seems only to fuel the rage of the feminists.
Indeed, Midge Decter thinks improvement is precisely the problem. She asks "why there should have been an explosion of angry demand on the part of women who as a group were the freest, healthiest, wealthiest, longest-lived, and most comfortably situated people the world had yet laid eyes on." (5) She answers that "It is a freedom that frightens her [today's woman] and disorients her and burdens her terribly ... The appeal to her of the women's movement is that in her fear and disorientation, the movement offers her the momentary escape contained in the idea that she is not free at all; that she is, on the contrary, the victim of an age-old conspiracy that everything troubling to her has been imposed on her by others." Decter has a profound point. A woman who formerly had a constricted range of choices "must now decide everything essential to her." Whether to be serious about a career, whether to marry, whether to divorce, whether to bear children. Everything is in her hands "to a degree possibly unprecedented in the history of mankind, a degree experienced by her as bordering on the intolerable." The responsibility is too much, the choices too many.
The radical feminist movement not only explains that any dissatisfaction she may experience is the fault of others, namely men, but also comforts her with a sense of solidarity and common purpose in the way that some men find the battalion a welcome relief from the freedom of civilian life. There is probably more to it than that, however. Radical feminism is not merely a way of discovering that a woman is not free. It is also a cause that creates an orientation and a meaning in her life that unstructured freedom destroys. Radical feminism is thus similar to causes such as the identity politics of the racial and ethnic programs on campuses.
[My note: Interestingly, the one single most common complaint of individuals who fled the German Democratic Republic and of those who leave Hutterite Colonies, to experience freedom of choices in the "free world," is exactly that they find the new-found freedom is oppressing them. They found that the need to make all of the decisions in their lives without having any guiding principles that will give them a sense of direction is enormously taxing and most difficult to adjust to. That thought was also reflected in an item published about twenty years ago in Telephony. The problem was labelled "The Paradox of Management" in that item and was expressed as follows: "People in a well-structured organization are generally happier and more productive than those in a permissive one." --WHS]
FEMINISMS PAST AND PRESENT
Some of today's feminist dissatisfaction is due to the lack of adequate recognition of the immense contribution women have made to Western culture. That is changing, but, oddly enough, it is the feminists who continue to denigrate the role women played in the past.
There was a time, of course, when feminism had real tasks to accomplish, real inequities to overcome. Feminism achieved major victories in the last century and the first part of this one. Though they take the credit, feminists, radical or otherwise, actually had little to do with the progress of women in the latter half of this century. The trends that would of themselves produce today's results were in place at least by the early 1960s. Once such things as the right to vote and the right of wives to hold property in their own names had been won, the difference in the opportunities open to women has been largely due to technology. I am old enough to remember my grandmother washing work clothes on a scrub board, mashing potatoes by hand, and emptying the water tray from the bottom of the ice box. There was simply no possibility that she could have had both a family and a career. Were she young today, she would find that shopping, food preparation, laundering and much else have been made dramatically easier so that she could, if she wished, become a lawyer or a doctor or virtually anything that appealed to her.
Many people suppose that feminism today is a continuation of the reform movement of the past. They occasionally notice a ranting Bella Abzug or an icy Gloria Steinem but imagine them to be merely the froth of extremism on an otherwise sensible movement. That is not the case; the extremists are the movement. What the moderate academic feminists Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge write about radical feminism in the universities is true of the movement as a whole. Today's radical feminism is
not merely about equal rights for women.... Feminism aspires to be much more than this. It bids to be a totalizing scheme resting on a grand theory, one that is as all-inclusive as Marxism, as assured of its ability to unmask hidden meanings as Freudian psychology, and as fervent in its condemnation of apostates as evangelical fundamentalism. Feminist theory provides a doctrine of original sin: The world's evils originate in male supremacy. (6)
Carol Iannone was drawn into feminism in graduate school in the mid-Seventies. "I enjoyed, reveled in the utterly systematic property feminism takes on when used as a tool of analysis, especially when to the exclusion of all others. Like Marxism, feminism can explain everything from advertising to religion by following its single thread, the oppression of women." (7)
Feminists call their grand theory the "gender perspective." "Gender" is a code word in the feminist lexicon. The enormous importance the radicals place on that term became apparent during the preparation for and conduct of the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in September, 1995. (The Beijing conference will be mentioned frequently because it demonstrated most of feminism's least attractive features and its worldwide aspirations.) The object was to debate and adopt a set of proposals relating to women (the Platform for Action), which the various nations would, presumably, be under a moral duty to implement. Each nation sent an official delegation, and many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), accredited by the United Nations to lobby the delegates, were present. The Beijing conference revealed the political and cultural agenda of the movement as a whole. At a preparatory session in New York, Bella Abzug, the head of a major NGO, denounced "retrogressive" developments:
The current attempt by several Member States to expunge the word "gender" from the Platform for Action and to replace it with the word "sex" is an insulting and demeaning attempt to reverse the gains made by women, to intimidate us and to block further progress.
We will not be forced back into the "biology is destiny" concept that seeks to define, confine and reduce women and girls to their physical sexual characteristics. (8)
This heated oratory may seem puzzling - referring to men and women as sexes, would not seem to "reduce" either to their "physical sexual characteristics. "What seemed to be nitpicking, however, is part of a larger feminist strategy. In feminist jargon, "sex" is merely biological while "gender" refers to roles and is claimed to be "socially constructed," which means that everything about men and women, other than their reproductive organs, can be altered by changes in the social and cultural environment. One of the major implications of this view is that human sexuality has no natural form but is culturally conditioned. Radical feminists concede that there are two sexes, but they usually claim there are five genders. Though the list varies somewhat, a common classification is men, women, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. Thus, heterosexuality, being socially constructed, is no more "natural" or desirable than homosexuality. It is not surprising, then, that one of the most active groups preparing for Beijing was the Lesbian Caucus.
Changes in the social and cultural environment to make the roles of men and women identical are what the feminists intend. This explains the Platform's incessant harping on "gender." While I am not sure of the final count, at one point there were 216 references to it. Unfortunately, many people who would dislike the radical feminists' project assume that "gender" and "sex" have the same meaning. They do not. Their attempt at Beijing was to incorporate the "gender perspective" into an internationally accepted document that would impose at least moral obligations on the governments of the world.
The gender perspective of radical feminism is easy to ridicule but it must be taken seriously. It attacks not only men but the institution of the family, it is hostile to traditional religion, it demands quotas in every field for women, and it engages in serious misrepresentations of facts. Worst of all, it inflicts great damage on persons and essential institutions in a reckless attempt to remake human beings and create a world that can never exist. As we will see, among the institutions being severely damaged by radical feminism are the American educational system and the American military.
THE INTELLECTUAL COLLAPSE OF RADICAL FEMINISM
Perhaps the first thing to point out, however, is that radical feminism in its largest aspirations is doomed to failure. That makes the harms it inflicts on people and institutions in pursuit of its unattainable ends all the more inexcusable. Radical feminism shares the most destructive idea in the original draft of the Port Huron Statement: human nature is infinitely malleable and hence infinitely perfectible. This idea, encrypted in the substitution of "gender" for "sex," is essential to the feminist enterprise of removing all differences between men and women in the roles they play in society. If certain talents are predominantly male and others predominantly female by nature, that enterprise is defeated. Hence, feminists insist that the differing roles of the sexes have nothing to do with biology. What a society's culture can construct, it can deconstruct. Culture is everything and Culture can be changed so that all male-female differences, other than in their reproductive organs, will disappear. Women will then appear in every profession and occupation in proportion to their representation in the population at large. The statistical imbalances we see today are merely the results of conditioning and discrimination.
Even if this feminist contention were correct, its totalitarian implications are obvious. Culture is a stubborn opponent. To defeat it requires the coercion of humans. The Soviet Union attempted to create the New Soviet Man with gulags, psychiatric hospitals, and firing squads for seventy years and succeeded only in producing a more corrupt culture. The feminists are having a similarly corrupting effect on our culture with only the weapon of moral intimidation. The contention that underneath their cultural conditioning men and women are identical is absurd to anyone not blinded by ideological fantasy.
Males are almost always larger, stronger, and faster. Females are almost always the primary carers for the young. It must be counted as curious that, starting, as feminists suppose, from a condition of complete equality in all matters, males always became the oppressors in every human society. What is true of human societies is almost always true in non-human species, from animals to insects. The feminist case for female physical equality or dominance would have to rest, rather uncomfortably one would think, upon such examples as the black widow spider, the praying mantis, and the hyena pack.
The ineradicable differences between the sexes are not merely physical. "Men are more aggressive than women," James Q. Wilson writes. "Though child-rearing practices may intensify or moderate this difference, the difference will persist and almost surely rests on biological factors. In every known society, men are more likely than women to play roughly, drive recklessly, fight physically, and assault ruthlessly, and these differences appear early in life.... As they grow up, men are much more likely than women to cause trouble in school, to be alcoholics or drug addicts, and to commit crimes." (9)
The early kibbutz movement in Israel had the same ideology as today's radical feminists: sexual equality meant sexual identity, and sexual differentiation was inequality. For a brief period, the ideologues attempted to raise children apart from their families and to raise boys and girls in ways that would destroy sex roles. The program was as extreme as the most radical feminist could want. But it collapsed within a very few years. Boys and girls returned to different sex roles. The American sociologist Melford Spiro, who studied the kibbutz, wrote that he had wanted to "observe the influence of culture on human nature or, more accurately, to discover how a new culture produces a new human nature." He "found (against my own intentions) that I was observing the influence of human nature on culture." (10)
It should be unnecessary to say (but with feminists at large one cannot be too careful) that male-female differences do not suggest positions of superiority and inferiority. Occupations such as professional football aside, women compete successfully with men almost everywhere. But the evidence does mean that equality must not be confused with identity: there will continue to be statistical disparities in men's and women's presence in various activities and endeavors. Those disparities will come about through the free choices of men and women about the kinds of work they want to do.
The evidence also means that the enterprise of remaking humans in the preferred feminist image is doomed. (So disheartening is that message that some feminists have actually said that research on sexual differences should not be done.) That does not mean that the feminists' attempt to recreate real humans in their image and likeness has not caused, and will not continue to cause, a great deal of institutional damage and human suffering.
THE POLITICS AND MOOD OF RADICAL FEMINISM
The political complexion of feminism ranges from very liberal to hard left. Some of it, though vicious, is mildly amusing, at least if you are not the target. Feminists will not, for instance, recognize the accomplishments of conservative women. They frequently even refuse to accept them as women. Jeane Kirkpatrick has repeatedly been denied status as a woman because of her political views. One critic wrote that she is "without a uterus," an odd remark about a woman married for thirty-nine years with three children. But sex is now a matter of politics, not biology. Although, as our Ambassador to the United Nations in the Reagan administration, she was the highest-ranking woman in the history of American foreign policy at the time, Kirkpatrick was dismissed by a female professor, in the keynote speech at a conference on the history of women, as "not someone I want to represent feminine accomplishment." (11) One wonders why not. At the United Nations, Ms. Kirkpatrick was a forceful defender of United States interests and ideals. That is probably why not.
During the battle over my confirmation, the Brinkley Sunday morning television show scheduled a discussion of the subject. The program's scheduler called a prominent feminist to ask if she might be available. She said yes, but when she heard nothing further, she called and asked why. Told that the panel was filled, she said, "But you have to have a woman." Brinkley's scheduler replied, "We do. Carla Hills." The feminist shot back, "She's not a woman." Ms. Hills was Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Ford administration and United States Trade Representative in the Reagan administration. In addition to five genders, radical feminists apparently recognize three sexes: men, women, and people who might otherwise have qualified as women but have chosen to be Republicans instead.
In keeping with its progenitor, the New Left of the Sixties, feminism is fiercely anti-capitalist and pro-socialist. That, too, was on display at Beijing. It was not merely that capitalism was routinely denounced in the meetings. The Platform claims that every economic and social ill falls most heavily on women and demands that governments act to alleviate their difficulties. Government control over human activity would then be nearly limitless. The document complains of governments' inadequate control of economic development, which is said especially to harm women. The same claim was made of environmental policies, education, health care, poverty, unemployment, and so on and on. Even war is said to be especially harmful to women. Governments are to rectify all of these asserted special problems of women. The prescription, then, is for an enormous increase in the size of government, its powers, and its centralization.
Given its aspiration to remake humanity, radical feminism could not be anything but totalitarian in spirit. Patai and Koertge note "feminism's explicit assault not only on hierarchies generally but also on the boundaries between the public and private, the emotional and the intellectual." (12) Radical egalitarians necessarily hate hierarchies. They attack institutions that are hierarchical by nature. That is why feminists are, as we will see, anti-bourgeois, anti-capitalist, anti-family, anti-religion, and anti-intellectual.
Erasing the line between the public and private is essential to politicizing the culture. Radical feminism is totalitarian because it denies the individual a private space; every private thought and action is public and, therefore, political. The party or the movement claims the right to control every aspect of life. Radical feminists must regard it as unfortunate that they lack the power and mechanisms of the state to enforce their control over thoughts as well as behavior. As we will see, however, the movement is gradually gaining that coercive power in both private and public institutions.
The reason for insisting that the boundary between the emotional and the intellectual be obliterated is, as it was with the New Left and the European fascists, the realization that intellectual analysis would reveal that radical feminism is false. The convert must not be brought to doubt by logical argument. When the evidence and the logic are both against you, it is necessary to claim that evidence and logic are counterrevolutionary props of the status quo. In the feminist case, facts and rationality, when inconvenient, as they usually are, may be dismissed as "patriarchal constructions of knowledge." (A college student rejected criticisms of her paper on the ground that the criteria applied were "masculinist.") Intellect imposes hierarchies. The way out "is to feel and think everything all at once, without any hierarchical ordering. This mulligan stew approach to life is seen as the Answer To It All." (13) Emotion must be allowed to trump intellect if the whole enterprise is not to be revealed as the hoax it is.
Even the language of the movement mirrors the mood of fascism. The apocalyptic and hate-filled rhetoric of radical feminists expresses their eagerness to inflict harm. A radical magazine, using the acronym for the National Organization for Women (NOW) declared on its cover:
NOW is the time to take back control of our lives. NOW is the time to make reproductive freedom for wimmin of all classes, cultures, ages and sexual orientations a reality. NOW is not the time to assimilate to bureaucratic puppeteers who want to control, degrade, torture, kill and rape our bodies. NOW is the time to drop a boot heel in the groin of patriarchy. NOW IS THE TIME TO FIGHT BACK. NO GOD, NO MASTER, NO LAWS. (14)
That short paragraph expresses the rage, the nihilism, and the incoherence of feminism today. "Wimmin" (a word ending in "men" must be avoided) have lost control of their lives, though it is not stated when they had control and how they lost it. "Reproductive freedom" means abortion on demand for heterosexuals and artificial insemination for lesbians who want to bear and raise children. Then comes the standard feminist tactic of raising up male straw monsters. Nobody has ever come across the "bureaucratic puppeteers" of this fantasy, for the very good reason that such men simply do not exist. Nor does anybody know, and most of us would prefer not to find out, what it means to drop a boot heel in the groin of the patriarchy. The exclamation "no God" presumably refers to the feminist illusion that religion was invented by men to control women. The message is utterly disconnected from any recognizable reality. The rage is a ritual, an institutionalized version of a child's tantrum.
Christina Hoff Sommers tells of attending a feminist conference at which the speakers, female professors tenured at good universities, were each introduced as "enraged". Nothing in their professional situations would seem to explain why women so fortunately placed are furious, but that is a requirement for membership in the radical sisterhood. It is precisely the disconnection between reality and feminist claims that requires constant rage and hatred to keep the movement viable. And rage must be stoked with falsehoods and irrationality. Try to imagine writing a reasoned statement about bureaucrats who want to torture, kill, and rape women's bodies. It cannot be done. Attempting to construct such a statement would reveal the sentiments for the childish shams they are.
Sometimes feminist rage is served with a large dollop of self-pity. Thus, Anne Wilson Schaef writes of the "Original Sin of Being Born Female": "To be born female in this culture means that you are born 'tainted,' that there is something intrinsically wrong with you that you can never change, that your birthright is one of innate inferiority." (15) This is a literary version of Karen Finley's "performance art." Before an audience, she would strip to the waist, smear her body with chocolate (to represent excrement) and sprouts (sperm), and wail about what men have done to women. The fact that this was supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts illustrates the corruption feminism, and political correctness generally, have introduced in our cultural institutions.
Finley's self-pity is common among feminists. It is, indeed, common among humans, but the feminist version is particularly destructive because it comes as part of an ideology and a program. It is inane to attribute victimhood and low self-esteem to all women and it is vicious to preach it to young, impressionable women. That may prevent them from maturing into the strong, self-confident women we see in business, the professions, and the academy. Page and self-pity are much easier than accomplishment, of course, but they can hardly be satisfactory as a career.
FEMINISM vs. FAMILY AND RELIGION
Many feminists are particularly host to the traditional family. Martha Nussbaum, a much-touted classical scholar, writes:
It is in families..... that the cruelest discrimination against women takes place.... [T]he patterns of family life limit their opportunities in many ways: by assigning them to unpaid work with low prestige; by denying them equal opportunities to outside jobs and education; by insisting they do most or all of the housework and child care even when they are also earning wages. Especially troubling are ways that women may suffer from the altruism of marriage itself... [A] woman who accepts the traditional tasks of housekeeping and provides support for her husband's work is not likely to be well prepared to look after herself and her family in the event (which is increasingly likely) of a divorce or an accident that leaves her alone. (16)
It would be foolish to deny that there is some truth in Nussbaum's argument, though it is inaccurate to depict the family as denying women equal opportunities to outside work and education. The question is what to do about the problems she describes, particularly those arising from the altruism of marriage. Feminists have cooperated in creating the problem by establishing no-fault divorce, and, in their celebration of female autonomy, can hardly agree to make divorce difficult once more. This is one instance of many where feminists have done damage to women. There is no apparent solution to the problems of divorce and widowhood other than denying women the right to choose a traditional family role. The feminist solution is: All women must work.
That was the position taken by the ur-feminist Simone de Beauvoir in her interview with Betty Friedan: "No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one." (17) Feminism is not about giving women freedom to choose; it is about taking away choices of which feminists disapprove. And one choice they disapprove is participation in a conventional family.
In The Hite Report on the Family, Shere Hite calls for a "democratic revolution in the family." (18) That involves, among other things, "[c]hildren brought up with choice about whether to accept their parents' power." The extreme aggression in society is brought about, she says, by a family structure in which "in order to receive love, most children have to humiliate themselves, over and over again, before power." Most social scientists seem to have overlooked this cause of our crime wave. Giving children the choice of whether to accept their parents' power will move the crime wave off the streets and into the family. Hite claims that since the personal and political go together, political democracy cannot flourish without a democratic personal life. The family is a political institution created so that a man could "own" a woman and thus be sure that the children were "his."
Before the patriarchy took over about 3,000 years ago, Hite contends in a burst of bogus history, mother-child societies existed. (Feminists find it useful to fictionalize the past; for example, that pre-historic Europe was a peaceful, egalitarian, matriarchal society that worshipped the goddess, but patriarchy was forced upon these societies by conquering horsemen from the east.) She seems pleased that there are a large number of fatherless families today because, contradicting all the social science evidence, she thinks males raised without fathers will treat women better. The family is not a religious institution and there is no need to "show respect and reverence for a 'religious' tradition which has as its basic principle, at its heart, the political will of men to dominate women[.] This is not religion, this is politics." She continues with the basic feminist fallacy: "There is no such thing as fixed 'human nature.' Rather, it is a psychological structure that is carefully implanted in our minds as we learn the love and power equations of the family - for life. Fortunately the family is a human institution: humans made it and humans can change it."
These attitudes are not merely the personal idiosyncrasies of these writers. At the Beijing conference, for instance, the word "family" was not to appear in the Platform. Instead, the word "household" was used. The significance of this is to be found in the feminist insistence upon use of the word "gender." There being five genders, unions or marriages involving any gender or genders are legitimate. These unions can be called households. The traditional family is then presented as a household, just one form of living arrangement, not superior to any other. Indeed, since feminists view the family as a system of oppression, and since feminism contains a large lesbian component, the marriages of men and women are often seen as morally inferior to unions involving the other three genders.
The hostility towards the traditional family goes hand in hand with the feminists' hostility towards traditional religion. They see religion as a male invention designed to control women. The final version of the Platform for Action ran to 180 pages. Earlier drafts mentioned religion only when warning against "religious extremism." Due to pressure from traditional believers, a paragraph was finally added in Beijing defending freedom of religion and acknowledging that religion can contribute to women's lives. The feminists in Beijing opposed even that. Diane Knippers, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, reports that in Beijing feminists built a shrine to the Goddesses out of red ribbons in the shape of a Christmas tree decorated with paper dolls representing the goddesses. (19) Women were invited to make and add their own goddesses. The organization headed by Bella Abzug (a former member of the United States House of Representatives) held daily programs, each one dedicated to a different goddess- Songi, Athena, Tara, Pasowee, Ishtar, Ixmuncane, Aditi, and Nashe.
FEMINISM vs. FACTS
There is a great deal of reckless disregard for the truth in radical feminism. Some of it is so blatant that it certainly deserves to be called lying, but some of it appears to reflect the delusions of paranoia. What is worrisome is that so much serious misrepresentation passes into the realm of "truth." One might think that misrepresentations about checkable facts could not survive long in an open society, but they can and do, probably because the press and the academy are very pro-feminist. When a sensational report about the amount of domestic violence against women appears, newspapers, magazines, and even textbooks relay the news, and it quickly becomes established folklore. The attitudes formed as a result are embedded in the culture. Yet the facts, for those who care about them, indicate that these reports are wild exaggerations or flat misrepresentations.
Many people believe and repeat that there are 150,000 female deaths annually from anorexia nervosa because women starve themselves to be attractive to men. The real number turns out to be less than one hundred and the imputed motivation is to be doubted. Domestic violence against pregnant women was, falsely, alleged to be responsible for more birth defects than all other causes. The major news media trumpeted the fact that more women were the subject of domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year. The theory was that the violence of the game incited men to attack their wives. The story was without any foundation. Ken Ringle of the Washington Post and one or two others checked and prevented the wife-beating of Super Bowl Sunday from passing into the vast realm of myths that everybody knows to be true.
Journalist Susan Faludi, whose book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (20) was an enormous best-seller, provides an example of the sort of misrepresentations that are largely accepted in our culture. She argued that the culture of the 1980s attempted to take back all the gains women had made in the 1970s. The counterattack, she said, was especially insidious because it was not organized but diffuse, was invisible to almost all people, and operated most effectively by influencing women's minds so that they enforced the backlash on themselves. "Taken as a whole, however, these codes and cajolings, these whispers and threats and myths, move overwhelmingly in one direction: they try to push women back into their 'acceptable' roles - whether as Daddy's girl or fluttery romantic, active nester or passive love object." (21)
How anyone could believe such nonsense is difficult to explain. No one who had any experience with women in the '70s, '80s, or '90s could recognize this picture. The 1980s were a time of rapidly increasing female earnings, participation in the economy and in the academy. If there was an attempt, apparently largely subconscious, to push women back into being Daddy's girl, etc., it was a dismal failure, the most pathetic excuse for a counterattack ever mounted. Perhaps recognizing the implausibility of her thesis, Faludi takes care to say that the conspiracy or counterattack was so subtle that few people were even aware of it. That takes care of all the inconvenient facts that contradict her argument. (22) For some people, there can be no surer evidence of a conspiracy than the fact that no conspiracy is apparent. After all, a really effective conspiracy would be invisible. Feminists' ideology is a fantasy of persecution. It is breathtaking that so dishonest and intellectually vacuous a book as Backlash could receive book awards, achieve a mass readership, and receive favorable reviews. That alone tells a very sad story about the politics of sex and the decline of rationality in our culture.Carolyn Heilbrun, recently retired professor at Columbia and author of an admiring biography of Gloria Steinem, remarks that "In life, as in fiction, women who speak out usually end up punished or dead." (23) Susan Cheever, reviewing a book by Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff "Roe" in Roe v. Wade, concludes, Faludi-like, with the matter-of-fact assertion that this is a "country where the rights of women and children are still under attack." (24) Cheever must have been disappointed when McCorvey subsequently announced that she had experienced a conversion and is now pro-life, unless, of course, that can be rationalized as a successful attack on McCorvey's rights.
These were certainly the views of most of the western women in Beijing. The official delegations and most of the non-governmental organizations from the United States, Canada, and the European Union were firmly in the feminist camp. The U.S. delegation was, of course, appointed by the Clinton administration. These Western radicals were opposed by representatives from Islamic countries, from many Catholic countries, and from the Vatican. This constellation of forces prompts the somber thought that radical feminism and the movement of which it is a part, modern liberalism, may be the wave of the future as countries develop economically.
RADICAL FEMINISM vs. EDUCATION
There are now more than 600 undergraduate and several dozen graduate programs in Women's Studies in American colleges and universities. At first sight that might seem odd since so much of feminism is utterly inconsistent with intellectual seriousness. In many universities today, however, intellectual integrity comes in a distant second to political correctness. It is thus only an apparent paradox that institutions which, because of their professed devotion to reason and knowledge, should be feminism's sworn enemies are instead the centers of its power.
There are also, of course, programs in African-American Studies, Hispanic Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, and more. Nothing could make clearer the politicization of higher education. These so-called disciplines vie with one another in claiming victimhood, but feminism is by far the strongest and most imperialistic, its influence suffusing the most traditional academic departments and university administrations. Feminists are revising and radicalizing textbooks and curricula in the humanities and the social sciences. They have a major say in faculty recruitment. Feminists increasingly control what is taught in high schools and elementary schools as well. Speech codes and "sensitivity" training severely limit what can be said on campus. The feminists have not only done harm to the intellectual function of universities and schools, they have made campuses extremely unpleasant, especially for white males, who are subject to harassment and demands that they toe the feminist cultural and political line.
The incongruity of feminism as an academic subject is heightened by another development. Though most feminists reject the idea of difference between men and women, more recently a coterie has appeared that insists upon, and celebrates just such difference. These women claim that rationality, sometimes called "linear thinking," is a coercive tool of the oppressive patriarchy. That may be because they have noticed that evidence and logic are running heavily against the no-difference position. It is necessary, therefore, to identify evidence and logic with the enemy and to exalt intuitive and emotional "women's ways of knowing." These "difference feminists" claim to perceive all of reality through the "sex/gender lens." Judging from their reports of what they see, that must be like peering at the world through the thick glass of a bottle bottom.
Thus, we now have what Patai and Koertge call "TOTAL REJ (total rejection) feminists" whose creed is that "Our culture, including all that we are taught in schools and universities, is so infused with patriarchal thinking that it must be torn up root and branch if genuine change is to occur. Everything must go - even the allegedly universal disciplines of logic, mathematics, and science, and the intellectual values of objectivity, clarity, and precision on which the former depend." (25) If acceptance of logic and standards of evidentiary proof are causing radical feminists to lose arguments, it is clear that they must be discarded if the feminist enterprise is not to be abandoned. But if logic and evidence are jettisoned, it follows that all of the disciplines built up on logic and evidence cannot remain intact. In the place of these oppressive disciplines and values there are to be constructed feminist alternative versions. Nobody seems to have the faintest idea, for example, what a feminist physics would look like, but the total rejectionists are sure one is out there somewhere. It seems to be assumed that a feminist physics, though different, would work as well as the version we now have. Feminist rocket scientists, apparently, could place satellites in orbit without using any of the laws of motion that are now employed.
Needless to say, there is so far not a single axiom or proposition of feminist science that explains or predicts anything or is capable of being tested empirically. When that unhappy fact is brought to a feminist's attention, the reply is often that the patriarchy has had over 3,000 years to build its mathematics, logic, and science whereas women have just started. Thus, the absence of anything but oratory about the wrong-headedness of science as it is must not be viewed as an embarrassment. But there is no shortage of oratory.
Anne Wilson Schaef, for example, denounces what she calls the "White Male System" (WMS) of rationality. Schaef says this system consists of four myths. First, the WMS is the only system that exists. Second, the WMS is innately superior. Third, the WMS knows and understands everything. Fourth, the WMS believes that it is possible to be totally logical, rational, and objective. To be sure, no one with any sense has ever claimed anything like all this. The virtue of the scientific method is precisely that mistakes made are corrected by others and that one investigator's results must be replicable by others in order to be accepted. The people involved do not think they are totally logical, rational, and objective. They know that no human is.
Radical feminist inanities about science, rationality, linear thinking, etc., rest on the allegation that knowledge and modes of reasoning are socially constructed; that is, that there are no objective truths and no single valid method of reasoning. That is a very convenient position for someone making irrational assertions. It would be rather difficult to hold an intelligent, or even an intelligible, discussion with someone holding that position, and it would be impossible to win an argument with her. That, of course, is the point of the exercise.
Take women's studies themselves. On the evidence proffered by Sommers, Patai and Koertge, and others, women's studies programs and courses are abysmal swamps of irrational dogma and hatred. The feminist classroom is an arena for emotions rather than intellect or analysis. Agreement with the ideology is mandatory.
A feminist professor can have enormous influence with immature young women in a forum where there are no intellectual constraints. In such a classroom emotion and opinion rule. The students are expected to recount personal experiences of suffering and oppression. Since feminists insist that the oppression of women by men is universal and unrelenting, a failure to have instances ready at hand for recitation is taken as insufficient understanding of the subject. The students are at an age when, male or female, they are uncertain about life, susceptible to absolutisms, and easy to persuade that they are being treated badly. The result is that young women pour out their emotions in uncontrolled fashion. It is dangerous to inflame young women's capacities for anger and self-pity; severe emotional harm can be done. In some classes, the woman may state in advance that she does not want any of her testimony repeated outside the classroom and the others agree to honor that request. No respectable academic discipline would keep classroom discussions secret.
Feminist bias in scholarship seems indomitable. The sociologist Steven Goldberg states that on numerous occasions Margaret Mead denied in writing that her research disproved the existence of sex differences. (26) Indeed, in reviewing Goldberg's book, The Inevitability of Patriarchy, Mead wrote: "It is true, as Professor Goldberg points out, that all the claims so glibly made about societies ruled by women are nonsense. We have no reason to believe that they ever existed.... Men have always been the leaders in public affairs and the final authorities at home." (27) But when Goldberg examined introductory sociology books, he found that thirty-six of thirty-eight began their sex-roles chapters with a discussion of Mead's work as demonstrating the environmental nature of male and female behavior. These books misrepresented Mead because "[t]hey, like the discipline whose work they represent, have an ideological commitment to denying that masculine and feminine behaviors and emotions are rooted in male and female physiologies and that all social systems conform to the limits imposed by this reality."
Feminists are transforming mainstream college curricula, they claim, in order to "make knowledge broader," but also to fight against prejudice. (28) "There is," said a professor attending a National Women's Studies Association conference, "a correlation between groups excluded from the curriculum and hate violence aimed at groups." She said most "inclusion" work has focused on blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and American Indians. But in order to "fight the hatreds and 'isms' in the world, we have to include education about more groups than those four." Other groups whose achievements should be taught, she said, include lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals, and issues of social class and disability should be included. "Some argue that there are different cultures of disability, like deaf culture."
Students subjected to propaganda in the name of history will graduate with no clear comprehension of what took place and what was important. Students whose instruction is in fighting "isms" and giving recognition to different sexual groups and cultures of disability are unlikely to graduate with any knowledge that would qualify them for positions other than as sensitivity counselors. As part of their campaign to convert higher education into a propaganda tool, feminists are deforming literary studies by seeking to discover classical allusions to feminism. George Will recorded a few of the choicer items:
Shakespeare's "Tempest" reflects the imperialistic rape of the Third World. Emily Dickinson's poetic references to peas and flower buds are encoded messages of feminist rage, exulting clitoral masturbation to protest the prison of patriarchal sex roles. Jane Austen's supposed serenity masks boiling fury about male domination, expressed in the nastiness of minor characters who are "really" not minor. In "Wuthering Heights," Emily Bronte, a subtle subversive, has Catherine bitten by a male bull-dog. Melville's white whale? Probably a penis. Grab a harpoon. (29)
Radical feminists, then, are contributing more than their share to the dumbing of America. And not just America. Oxford University Press has announced Ideologies of Desire, "a startling new series in the cultural study of sex, gender, sexuality and power: redefining the meaning of erotics and politics!" The Press informs us that sex is not a matter of physiology but of culture. "The aim of the series is to illuminate both the play of desire in the workings of ideology and the play of ideological forces in the formation of sexual experiences - and, ultimately, to map more precisely the available avenues of cultural resistance to the contemporary institutional and discursive regulation of sex."
That the object of these courses is to indoctrinate students with an all-inclusive condemnation of American or Western culture is shown by the frequent expansion of the feminist accusation from the victimization of females to a charge of general oppression. One feminist professor argues, "All students suffer when the more volatile issues central to feminist analysis ... [such as] racism, poverty, incest and rape, battering, lesbianism, and reproductive freedom ... are dropped from a woman's studies course." (30) It seems odd at first glance, given this wide-ranging list of complaints, that the programs are not changed from women's studies to oppression studies. Perhaps it is not so odd, however. If faculty representing all of the oppressed were brought in, feminists might lose control of the curriculum and the funds. Yet it is in keeping with feminism's revolutionary neo-Marxism that the movement attacks bourgeois culture on many fronts.
As one might suspect from their hostility to men, marriage, and family, radical feminists are very much in favor of lesbianism. This involves more than the demand that lesbianism be accepted by society as just another "lifestyle." They want not only lawful lesbian marriages but "reproductive rights" for lesbians. That means the right to bear children through artificial insemination and the right to adopt one's lesbian partner's child. Since sperm is sold freely in the United States, much more freely than in other nations, there are lesbian couples raising children. It takes little imagination to know how the children will be indoctrinated.
In its effort to transform the curriculum, a National Women's Studies Association conference, attended by about 700 administrators, teachers, and students, gave major consideration to including lesbian issues in feminist programs. (31) The Lesbian Caucus was one of the largest contingents at the conference. Among the Presentations were "Teaching Queer: Incorporating Gay and Lesbian Perspectives Into Introductory Courses"; "War on Lesbians"; "Lesbian Perspectives on/in Literature"; "Lesbian Theory in Poetry"; and "Dykeotomy." Not surprisingly, there is in women's studies programs a good deal of proselytizing for lesbianism. At the University of Washington, a women's studies instructor showed the class how to masturbate, stating that "the preferable tool is a tongue, a woman's tongue." (32)
The objectives of radical feminists are not confined to the recruitment of converts through women's studies programs alone. Their aims are imperialistic. The feminist influence has spread to other departments and graduate schools. It is most visible to outsiders in the process of faculty recruitment, where preference is given to women and minorities. A young man I know went to the American Association of Law Schools convention in Washington, the traditional market for those desiring teaching jobs. He entered the hotel and passed a room marked "Women's Hospitality Room." Through the open door he saw young women having Danishes and coffee and chatting amicably with one another. Next he came to the "Minorities Hospitality Room," and observed the same activities. He walked on and discovered that there was no hospitality room he could enter. He and the other white males stood around the lobby until the interviewing began.
The same young man, possessed of splendid records at both Harvard College and Law School, and a clerk to a court of appeals judge and to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the sort of credentials law schools used to hunger for in their teaching applicants, applied for a position at the law school of the University of Texas. He was, however, in competition with a Mexican-American lesbian who had graduated well below the middle of her law school class. She got the job. A memorandum from a member of the appointments committee explained to the faculty that she should be hired because "She does appeal to three constituent groups." (33)
The point is not merely that white males are being subjected to sexual and racial discrimination in higher education, though that is certainly an outrage. The point is also that faculties are lowering their standards in hiring in order to be politically correct. That necessarily lowers the quality of education they offer their students and the standards of scholarly publication. A friend of mine, a law school professor, resigned from his schools appointments committee because the conversations he had with applicants likely to be hired were inferior in intellectual content to the conversations he had with his students.
Radical feminist insistence upon seeing slights, harassment, and male victimization of women everywhere has made campuses, workplaces, and society less comfortable places. The eagerness of radical feminists to see insult in every male action, coupled (if one dare use that word) with the spinelessness of the supposedly oppressive patriarchy, has led to so much discomfort and loss of freedom. Some of women's complaints are merely funny, though they do reveal a mindset: A young woman at the University of Pennsylvania who wore a short skirt complained of a "mini-rape" because a young man walked past her and said, "Nice legs." (34) At the University of Maryland, some female students posted the names of male students selected at random, young men about whom they knew nothing, under the heading "Potential Rapists." The message was that all men are potential rapists, though the men actually named probably did not find much comfort in that.
Far more serious are the accusations of actual rape when nothing of the sort occurred. A female student came to a male student's quarters with her toothbrush, planning to stay the night. The next morning she was seen having a peaceable breakfast with the man. Later she charged him with rape and he was briefly held in jail. (35) Accusations of date rape are flung freely by women who consented and later changed their minds about what they did. Universities have capitulated by creating rape-prevention and sexual harassment workshops that offer virulently anti-male propaganda. It is little wonder that young men are uncertain about themselves and their relationship with women and, perhaps for self-protection, perhaps because they have been brainwashed, tend usually to take the women's side of issues.
Male faculty also feel the lash of feminist anger. The use of "insensitive" language in the classroom often results in formal complaints being filed, followed by a hearing notable for its lack of the rudiments of due process, and then suspension or a requirement of submitting to sensitivity training. Required sensitivity training is a humiliating experience, whether it is imposed by a university or, as is increasingly frequent, by a corporation. (Corporations are heavily into diversity training, apparently in part because federal regulators pressure them.) Nor is it usually possible for the professor or employee to retain his dignity by refusing to accept such coercion. That would bring dismissal, after which no other employment is likely to be available other universities or businesses will be reluctant to hire someone found guilty of insensitivity to women. The feminists at the new organization will be alerted and will object to the man's employment. Who would want to hire the possibility, indeed the certainty, of more trouble with feminists?
Sensitivity training is often required even of people who have not displayed "insensitivity." Cornell's training session for resident advisers featured an X-rated homosexual movie. Pictures were taken of the advisers' reactions to detect homophobic squeamishness. (36) Thus, entering freshmen in colleges are increasingly subjected to sessions indoctrinating them in the correct attitudes not only to women but to homosexuals and members of minority groups. The object is thought control. As a reader of Measure (a publication of the University Center for Rational Alternatives, an organization dedicated to preserving the traditional virtues of scholarship and teaching in universities) said of compulsory training dictated by the Department of Education: "[It] is not enough for citizens to obey the law, they must be reeducated to love Big Brother." (37)
Often feminist complaints seem to reflect less a feeling of real outrage than a desire to provoke a confrontation and to intimidate. Radical feminists today, like the radical students of the Sixties, have discovered that they have the power to make the Establishment cringe and back down, and so their demands escalate. At Penn State University, a female English professor had to move her class into the arts building because of lack of space elsewhere. Hanging in the classroom were five museum reproductions: Goya's "The Naked Maja" a depiction of the crucifixion, a Madonna and child, the portrait of a youth, and a pastoral scene. Some male students snickered at the nude. Instead of ignoring them, telling them to grow up, or taking the picture down, the professor formally demanded that the administration remove it, thus forcing the school to take an official position. After lengthy negotiations which included considering the suggestion of a "diversity expert" to hang a painting of a nude male, the administration removed the picture. A spokeswoman for the Womyn's Concerns Committee said that "these older paintings served as a type of pornography - Playboy wasn't around back then." She added: "I don't think our society is capable of dealing with paintings such as these." (38) Society had dealt comfortably with Goya's masterpiece for well over a century, until a feminist chose to make a major issue of it.
Not the least of the feminists' sins is their mangling of the language. "Womyn" or "wimmin" for "women," just to avoid the hated letters M-E-N, is an atrocity. But it is not much better to go to a restaurant and be informed that your "waitperson" will be with you shortly. So ideologically crazed are some feminist academics that their seminars are now called "ovulars."
So alienating are the messages of the women's studies programs that Professor Sommers writes that she would like to see some of the more extreme institutions (e.g., Wellesley College, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Mills, and the University of Minnesota) put warning labels on the first page of their bulletins:
We will help your daughter discover the extent to which she has been in complicity with the patriarchy. We will encourage her to reconstruct herself through dialogue with us. She may become enraged and chronically offended. She will very likely reject the religious and moral codes you raised her with. She may well distance herself from family and friends. She may change her appearance, and even her sexual orientation. She may end up hating you (her father) and pitying you (her mother). After she has completed her reeducation with us, you will certainly be out tens of thousands of dollars and very possibly be out one daughter as well. (39)
To that warning label Sommers might have added "You are also likely to have a badly educated daughter." The young women who are lured into women's studies should be spared what they obtain there: total immersion in a false world view coupled to a fourth-rate education. While other students are studying history, mathematics, science, languages, and similarly useful disciplines, those in women's studies programs are working on acquiring belligerent attitudes and misinformation. Instead of preparing students for the world, the programs impose severe handicaps upon them. Robert Nisbet offers the "affecting story" of a young woman who majored at her university in eco-feminism, and graduated with honors. She went to Washington, D.C., a city richly endowed with lobbies for ecology and feminism. Because of her dual degree, she assumed that a well-paying job would be waiting. "But even ecological and feminist lobbies require people who can read, write, count, and in general ratiocinate; she thus became one of the large number of genteel unemployables." (40)
When later in life the products of radical feminist education fail to achieve as they had hoped, they will undoubtedly blame the patriarchal system by which, they have been taught, they and all other women are oppressed. In compensation for providing poor educations, then, the women's studies programs offer their victims a ready-made, all-purpose alibi. They, and we, will be paying the price for years to come.
FEMINISM CONQUERS AMERICA'S ARMED FORCES
What has happened to education at all levels is paralleled by the ongoing feminization of the military. Because of the political strength of the feminist movement, women are assigned jobs close to combat and, in some cases, placed in combat roles. The result is certain to be additional lost lives - of men as well as women and perhaps lost battles. Feminists advance two arguments for this disastrous policy. One is that putting women in combat is crucial to women's self-esteem and to men's respect for women. That has never been true in the past and it is impossible to see why it should be true now. The other, more effective argument in today's egalitarian culture is that combat roles are important to military advancement. With that observation feminists have framed the terms of the debate as one about fairness and the equality of women.
The question of whether equality in the military is worth the loss of additional lives and the decrease in our armed forces' fighting capability has virtually been ruled out of bounds as sexist. It has been entirely ruled out of bounds within the military. The military is to be used as a means for reforming society and not exclusively as the means of defending our country and our interests around the world.
The inevitable result is that training standards are lowered, and that fact is then ferociously denied. That has apparently already cost one woman her life. Navy Lieutenant Kara Hultgreen, one of the first female fighter pilots, was killed in October of 1994 on an approach landing to a carrier ship off the coast of San Diego. As she approached the landing deck, she over-corrected a mistake and plunged into the ocean. The episode triggered another debate concerning women's roles in the military. Congresswoman Pat Schroeder and columnist Ellen Goodman seized on reports that engine failure caused the Lieutenant's death. Goodman said: "So it was the engine after all. Not the pilot. Lieut. Kara Hultgreen did not die on the altar of political correctness or reverse discrimination (41) But that is apparently precisely what did happen. Two formal investigations and a confidential Mishap Investigation Report cited "multiple instances of pilot error. The reports faulted Hultgreen's badly overshot landing approach, her excessive over-correction and then her failure to follow the standard, designated procedures for recovering from a single-engine landing emergency," which resulted in her ejecting directly into the ocean. (42) The press, by and large, refused to investigate, and almost everything reported on the case was untrue. "[W]hile the Navy was saying publicly that Hultgreen was blameless, privately it had reached a different conclusion: Pilot error, not engine failure, was the principal cause of the crash. Political expedience, however, made it unwise to say so. And the real media story ... was that so few reporters wanted to know." (43)
Lieutenant Hultgreen had failed the carrier landing phase of her training in April. Just after her failure, an admiral announced that he wanted to open combat positions to women, and it needed to be done quickly. Hultgreen took the training again, and passed. The Navy distributed a four-second video to the networks but had a twelve-second version that was passed around among present and former naval aviators, who were said to be appalled by what they saw.
Ironically, Hultgreen herself felt the pressures of militant feminism and gender quotas and wanted no part of it. On behalf of female naval aviators, she had earlier appealed to Rear Admiral Robert Hickey, saying, "Guys like you have to make sure there's only one standard. If people let me slide through on a lower standard, it's my life on the line. I could get killed." (44) Yet Hultgreen was permitted to continue although she had recorded seven crashes in combat conditions during training. That record would have grounded a male pilot. (45)
Unfortunately, those in the best position to testify on this subject, our career officers, would destroy their careers if they spoke objectively, so they are forced into silence or to repeating the feminist line. An official committee on Women's Issues headed by an admiral has recommended that "disagreement with the women-in-combat policy disqualifies officers from positions of leadership." (46)
The extent to which the armed forces have been intimidated by feminists and their allies in Congress is made clear by the case of Lt. Commander Kenneth Carkhuff. On July 26, 1994, Carkhuff's superior officer recommended him for early promotion ahead of his peers because he was an "extraordinary department head," a "superior officer in charge" with "unlimited potential ... destined for command and beyond."
Six weeks later that same superior revised Carkhuff's fitness report to downgrade him in every category and to rate his "overall performance as unsatisfactory," so that he could not recommend him for promotion or even retention in the Navy. The intervening event that caused this drastic reevaluation was that Carkhuff, in a private conversation with his commanding officer, had said that his religious views made him doubtful about putting women in combat, though those views also required him to lead women into combat if ordered by his superiors. That remark led to the revised report, which criticized him for "His inability to fully employ and impartially judge the female members of his [helicopter] unit." The superior summed matters up quite succinctly: "A bright future has been lost and otherwise superb performance completely overshadowed by this glaring, irreconcilable conflict with Navy policy-" (47) Even if you are willing to lead women in combat, your thought that that might not be suitable is sufficient to end your career. The Navy's Separation Board voted to discharge the Lieutenant Commander. The Navy threw away a man of great ability and gained peace with the feminists.
With such threats hanging over their heads, it is not surprising that career officers do not speak out about the performance of women in combat positions. It is not just the Navy that has been cowed. Though it is not discussed publicly, training in the other services has been made less arduous in order to accommodate women, and problems experienced in the field go unreported. David Horowitz offers specifics: (48)
# "Gender norming" is now the rule at all three service academies, so that women are measured against other women, rather than against men who outperform them. # The official position at West Point is that there have been no negative effects from the admission of women. But a Heritage Foundation study by Robert Knight draws on the sworn courtroom testimony of a West Point official that women cannot perform nearly as well as men and that the men's training program has, for that reason, been downgraded. For example, men are no longer required to run carrying heavy weapons because women are unable to do that. # William S. Lind, former defense adviser to Gary Hart, testified to the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces that the Army has not released detailed information on problems with female troops during the battle with the Iraqis. Pregnancies due to sex during the preceding phase, Desert Shield, was the primary reason the non-deployability rate of women was many times higher than that of men when the troops were called to battle in Desert Storm. # Three "top gun" flight commanders had their careers destroyed because they were present at or performed in the Tom Cat Follies, which included a rhyme denigrating Pat Schroeder. President Bush and Vice President Quayle were also lampooned, but only parodying a fiercely feminist congresswoman was considered a grave offense. (49)
In physical fitness tests, very few women could do even one pull-up, so the Air Force Academy gave credit for the amount of time they could hang on the bar. Female cadets averaged almost four times as many visits to the medical clinic as male cadets. At West Point, the female cadets' injury rate in field training was fourteen times that of the men, and 61 percent of women failed the complete physical test, compared to 4.8 percent of men. During Army basic training, women broke down in tears, particularly on the rifle range. (50)
Since Desert Storm's pregnancy problems, it has been reported that Navy ships have had to be recalled from missions because of the pregnancy of female sailors. A male and a female sailor on the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, both married to others, videotaped themselves having sex in a remote part of the ship. There had been thirty-eight pregnancies since the crew went aboard the Eisenhower, fourteen of them after the ship was deployed. The Navy said there was no indication that any of the pregnancies resulted from sex on board the ship. (51) Those who wish to may believe that. Only someone who has never been with troops could not anticipate this result or fail to realize that it will be a major problem forever. The troops in question are very young, at an age when their hormones are, to put it mildly, fiercely insistent.
Effects on morale can be particularly adverse. The presence of women among male troops weakens combat readiness. All-male units in the field experience bonding that enhances unit cohesion and effectiveness. When women are introduced, men stop relating to each other and begin trying to attract the women. Nor can morale be improved when accusations of harassment are always a threat. Male officers leave the office door open or have a third person in the room when dealing with a female subordinate. An accusation of sexual harassment by the woman, even if unproven, would severely damage the man's service career, and both the man and the woman are acutely aware of that fact. They could hardly not be sensitive to the issue when, for example, Representative Pat Schroeder demanded and got sexual harassment training for all personnel in order to rid the Navy of bad attitudes.
The Israelis, Soviets, and Germans, when in desperate need of front-line troops, placed women in combat, but later barred them. Male troops forgot their tactical objectives in order to protect the women from harm or capture, knowing what the enemy would do to female prisoners of war. This made combat units less effective and exposed the men to even greater risks. In the Gulf War a female American pilot was captured, raped, and sodomized by Iraqi troops. She declared that this was just part of combat risk. But can anyone suppose that male pilots will not now divert their efforts to protecting female pilots whenever possible?
Our military seems quite aware of such dangers, but, because of the feminists, it would be politically dangerous to respond as the Israelis did by taking women out of harm's way. Instead, the American solution is to try to stifle the natural reactions of men. The Air Force, for example, established a mock prisoner of war camp to desensitize male recruits so they won't react like men when women prisoners scream under torture. (52) There is a very considerable anomaly here. The military is training men to be more sensitive to women in order to prevent sexual harassment and also training men to be insensitive to women being raped and sodomized or screaming under torture. It is impossible to believe that both efforts can succeed simultaneously.
It is clear that mindless feminist ideology is inflicting enormous damage on the readiness and fighting capability of the armed forces of the United States. Every other career is open to women. There is no reason why access to combat roles, for which they are not suited, has to be open as well. But political intimidation by radical feminists is so powerful that there seems little prospect that the continuing feminization of the U.S. military can be reversed. At least not until some engagements are lost, or won at unacceptably high costs, and women and the men who tried to protect them begin coming back in great numbers in body bags. * * * Perhaps the most vicious aspect of radical feminism is that it necessarily criticizes and demeans women who choose to work primarily as mothers and homemakers. They are made to feel guilty and told that their lives are essentially worthless. But feminists are not concerned with the human suffering they inflict. As Maggie Gallagher put it: "America today is a nation full of ironies.... [including a] female elite more fiercely committed to the good name of feminism than to the welfare of women." (53)
After watching human nature undo the culture that had been forced upon the young women of the Israeli kibbutz, the sociologist Melford Spiro reached very sensible conclusions. No social role should be denied anyone on the ground that it is inconsistent with the current system of sex-role differentiation. But to attempt to impose sex-role identity is an insult to basic human dignity. If the political or media influence of a group seeking to impose sex-role identity results in a measure of success, "the ensuing social and psychological dislocations for the larger society can be expected to be as serious as those attendant upon the reverse kind of strait-jacketing.... [A]ttempts to convince women that sexual equality ... is worthwhile only in the 'identity' meaning of equality, and that 'feminine' careers - even if they achieve equality in its 'equivalence' meaning - are unseemly pursuits imposed on them by a sexist society, may (if successful) deprive them of important sources of human gratification." (54) If women are persuaded by this ideology but continue to feel powerful countervailing emotions, Spiro notes, that may cause "painful feelings of guilt and depression .... That individuals and groups must be identical in order to be equal is surely one of the more pernicious dogmas of our time, and the fact that, ironically enough, it has become a liberal dogma does not make it any the less so." (55)
It should be a source of great pride to bear the next generation and to train that generation's minds and morals. That is certainly a greater accomplishment than churning out tracts raging at men and families. It is fine that women are taking up careers, but the price for that need not be the demoralization of women who do not choose that path.
Gallagher put the point succinctly: "Liberal feminism triumphed by telling a lie about nearly all women - and men. The work women do in families may not perhaps, seem great compared to oh, inventing a new morality, or discovering the cure to cancer. But it compares quite favorably, in value, meaning, and social productiveness with being a vice-president for public affairs of General Motors, say, or a partner in an advertising firm. And it is necessary that we start saying so." (56)
Saying so can be a problem. Radical feminism has a truly impressive capacity for moral intimidation. It is very difficult for men to counter its progress or point out its untruths and its manifold harms. To do so is to be exposed to heated accusations of being hostile to women and their rights, wanting to take away the gains women have made, and wishing to reduce them to subordinate positions. Most men, afraid of such allegations, choose circumspection. That is why Kate O'Beirne, Washington editor of National Review, said, "In the end, our girls are going to have to fight their girls." True, but after that, some males in the academic world, in the military, and in Congress are going to have to summon up the courage to begin to repair the damage feminism has done.
1. Sandra Harding of University of Delaware and Susan McClary, "who applies feminist theories to music," respectively. Quoted in John Leo, "PC: Almost dead. Still funny," US. News & World Report, December 5, 1994, p. 24.
2. See discussion in chapter 1.
3. Carol Iannone, "The Feminist Confusion," Second Thoughts: Former Radicals Look Back at the Sixties (Lanham, MD, Madison Books, 1989), p. 153.
4. Christina Hoff Sommers, Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women (NewYork, Simon & Schuster, 1994).
5. Midge Decter, "You're On Your Own, Baby," The Women's Quarterly, Winter 1996, p.4.
6. Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge, Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women's Studies (New York, Basic Books, 1994), P. 183. Other excellent works include Sommers, Who Stole Feminism? and a monograph by Dale O'Leary, "Gender Feminism: The Deconstruction of Women," Free Congress Foundation, August 1995.
7. Carol Iannone, "The Feminist Confusion," Second Thoughts: Former Radicals Look Back at the Sixties, eds. Peter Collier and David Horowitz (Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 1989), P. 149.
8. Bella Abzug, "A message from NGO women to UN member states, the Secretariat and the Commission on the Status of Women," NewYork, April 3,1995.
9. James Q. Wilson, 7he Moral Sense (New York: The Free Press, 1993), pp. 165-6.
10. Melford E. Spiro, Gender and Culture: kibbutz women revisited (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1979), P. 106.
11. Barbara Crossette, "A Warrior, A Mother, A Scholar, A Mystery," New York Times, August 17, 1994, p.C1. Why the headline writer would call her "a mystery" is itself a mystery. Presumably it is because Dr. Kirkpatrick is a neo-conservative rather than a leftist.
12. Patai and Koertge, p.112
13. Rene Denfeld, "Old Messages: Ecofeminism and the Alienation of Young People from Environmental Activism" p.3. Paper presented at "The Flight from Science and Reason:" New York, May 31-June 2, 1995.
14. Profane Existence, May/June 1992, p.1.
15. Anne Wilson Schaef, Women's Reality: An Emerging Female System in the White Male Society (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1981), p.27.
16. Martha Nussbaum, "Justice for Women" The New York Review of Books, October 8,1992, p.43.
17. Interview with Simone de Beauvoir, "Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma" Saturday Review, June 14, 1975, p.18.
18. Shere Hite, The Hite Report on the Family: Growing Up Under Patriarchy (New York: Grove Press, 1994), pp. 352-60.
19. Dianne Knippers, "Building a Shrine in Beijing" Heterodoxy, October 1995, p.7.
20. Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (New York: Crown, 1991).
21. ibid p. xxii.
22. Faludi's arguments have been exposed as false many times over. See, among others, Sommers, Who Stole Feminism especially pp. 234-44; Mary Eberstadt, "Wake Up Little Susie" American Spectator, October 1992, p.30; Gretchen Morgenson, "A Whiner's Bible," Forbes, March 16, 1992, P. 152; Maggie Gallagher, "Exit Stage Back," National Review, March 30, 1992, p.41; and Charlotte Allen, "New Wave Feminism," Commentary, February 1992, p.62.
23. As cited by Christina Hoff Sommers, "Feminist fatale," The New Criterion, October 1995, p.64.
24. Susan Cheever, "An Accidental Symbol," (review of I Am Roe by Norma McCorvey with Andy Meisler), New York Times Book Review July 3, 1994, p.7
25. Patai and Koertge, p.116
26. "Feminism Against Science," National Review, November 18,1991, p.30.
28. Carol Innerst, "Feminists remake college curriculums," Washington Times, June 21, 1993, p.Al.
29. George F Will, "Literary Politics," Newsweek, April 22, 1991, p.72.
30. "Blackboard jungle," The NEA Higher Education Journal, Spring 1991, p.15.
31. Joyce Price, "Lesbians get place at the table at women's studies conference," Washgton Times, June 21, 1993, p.A8.
32. Michael Pack, "Campus Culture Wars," video distributed by Direct Cinema Limited, Santa Monica, CA, 1993.
33. Edmund Daniels and Michael David Weiss, "'Equality' over Quality," Reason, July 1991, p.44.
34. Camille Paglia and Christine Hoff Sommers, "Has Feminism Gone Too Far?" Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg, Produced by New River Media, Washington, DC, November 4, 1994.
35. John Leo, "De-escalating the gender war" U.S. News and World Report, April 18,1994, p.24.
36. George Will, "A Kind of Compulsory Chapel," Newsweek, November14, 1994, p.84.
37. Letter from Robert Weissberg to Measure, August/September 1995, p.4.
38. Pack, "Campus Culture Wars."
39. Sommers, Who Stole Feminism?, p.91.
40. Robert Nisbet, Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982), p.245.
41. John Corry, "The Death of Kara Hultgreen," The American Spectator, June 1995, p.40.
42. Robert J. Caldwell, "Navy files cast doubt on gender neutral," San Diego Union-Tribune, May 14,1995, p.Gl.
43. Corry, p. 40.
44. K. L. Billingsley, "Dancing with the Elephant," Heterodoxy, March/April 1995, p.12
45. Much of this material is taken from Billingsley, "Dancing with the Elephant" and K.L. Billingsley, "Feminist Forced March," Heterodoxy, June 1995, pp. 1, 13.
46. Cal Thomas, "Navy's thought police," World, June 17/24,1995, p.17.
48. David Horowitz, The Feminist Assault on the Military, Center for the Study of Popular Culture, Studio City, CA, 1992, pp. 21-3.
49. Ibid., p.16.
50. Billingsley, "Feminist Forced March," pp.9-10.
51. Dana Priest, "Navy Punishes Two for Sex Aboard Ship," Washington Post, February 19, 1995, p.Al3.
52. Horowitz, The Feminist Assault on the Military. Testimony before the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces also claimed that the military is desensitizing male soldiers to screams of women prisoners being tortured. "Major Mom," World, September 26,1992, p.7.
53. Maggie Gallagher, Enemies of Eros: How the Sexual Revolution Is Killing Family, Marriage, and Sex and What We Can Do About It (Chicago: Bonus Books, 1989), p. 270.
54. Spiro, p.109.
55. Spiro, pp.109-10.
56. Gallagher, p.148.
The "Fix" That's Destroying Education In America
Have no illusions that the problems with America's education system are national ones. Once you read Tom DeWeese's article and know who's behind "The Fix", you'll come to the conclusion that you know also why "The Fix" is destroying education in all developed nations. Furthermore, you'll know why the current push for sex-education is such a large part of it. In addition, you'll have an apreciation of why radical feminism rose to power and why it is now firmly in control of the education curriculum.
However, don't just take my word for that.
Make sure that you see also the related Heritage Foundation's Backgrounder:
No. 1407 February 5, 2001
HOW U.N. CONVENTIONS ON WOMEN'S AND CHILDREN'S RIGHTS UNDERMINE FAMILY, RELIGION, AND SOVEREIGNTY
PATRICK F. FAGAN
- The blame for the sexual revolution cannot be laid entirely at the feet of feminism. Check:
Perverts, Pornographers And Liberals: Playboy And The (Homo) Sexual Revolution, by Henry Makow, Ph.D., an article in Toogood Reports
2001 01 29 (format changes)
2001 02 20 (added reference to The "Fix" That's Destroying Education In America)
2001 07 30 (corrected typos)
2001 11 10 (added link to Perverts, Pornographers And Liberals)
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