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In this wonderfully harsh polemic against modern feminism, Christina Hoff Sommers essentially sets out to hunt a mouse with an elephant gun.  In a successful effort to demonstrate that radical feminists have betrayed the concerns of the vast majority of women, she does a great job of reporting horror stories from the gender wars, but she is not as good at analyzing the ideology that is causing them.  When she's done, her target has certainly been destroyed, but there's not much meat left for us to chew on.

Her basic thesis is inarguable: the "First Wave" of feminism was based on the idea of equity, that women should have equal opportunity to succeed in society; but the "Second Wave" of feminism is based on a fight against men and an imaginary patriarchy bent on subjugating women.   Unfortunately, the book consists almost exclusively of presenting anecdotes to demonstrate that the second half of this thesis is accurate.  Whereas, if only Ms Hoff Sommers had taken the time to examine her own argument and place it in a broader historical and philosophical context, she could have both obviated the need for presenting quite so much detailed proof and taken advantage of the powerful preexisting critiques of this same tendency in other groups.

The transition she identifies is after all nothing more than the common historical movement by disadvantaged interest groups from a demand for equality of opportunity to a demand for equality of results.  The Second Wave feminists, or gender feminists as she refers to them, are simply your garden variety radical egalitarians.  Their ideas are nothing new--they are borrowed from Marxists and Black activists and others--all that has changed is who gets grouped in the victim class (in this case it's women rather than proletarians or people of color) and who gets grouped in the oppressor class (men instead of the bourgeoisie or whites).  The solution offered by the gender feminists is nothing new either; when equality of opportunity fails to produce equal results, egalitarians only have one recourse and that is to place restrictions on those who are succeeding in the existing system.

Egalitarians are always coercive utopians.  Having determined an ideal set of outcomes, but unable to produce them in the rough and tumble of the free market, they resort to limitations on certain individuals and classes, and to privileges for others, as the only means to reach their cherished goal.  It is hardly surprising that some 100 years into the era of women's rights, the most radical fringe element of the women's movement should have reached this stage.

This book offers an important portrait of the real life effects that these feminists and their authoritarian tactics are having, particularly in American schools.  The litany of abuses which these activists have perpetrated should serve as a wake up call to anyone who is concerned about the decline of the educational system and who believes in freedom of expression, in basic civil rights, in equality of opportunity and, ultimately, in the future of women specifically and society in general.  One can only wish that the author had drawn back a little from her passionate but parochial concern with gender feminism and integrated her argument into the much wider ongoing struggle against coercive egalitarians everywhere.

For a fuller discussion of some of these ideas, see:

Hayek, Frederick
    -The Road to Serfdom

Henry, William A.  III  (1950-1994)
    -In Defense of Elitism (1994)  (read Orrin's review, Grade: B-)

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B-)

  

Websites:

Christina Sommers Links:

    -ESSAY: Men-It's in Their Nature (Christina Hoff Sommers, September 2003, The American Enterprise)

Book-related and General Links:
    -C.V.: Christina Hoff Sommers W. H. Brady Fellow (American Enterprise Institute)
    -ESSAY : HillaryĆ­s Radical Feminism (Christina Hoff Sommers, The American Enterprise)
    -ESSAY: The war against Boys: This we think we know: American schools favor boys and grind down girls. The truth is the very opposite. By virtually every measure, girls are thriving in school; it is boys who are the second sex (Christina Hoff Sommers, the Atlantic)
    -ESSAY: Feminist fatale (Christina Hoff Sommers, New Criterion)
    -ESSAY: Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong:  We need a "great relearning," to restore our moral environment (Christina Hoff Sommers, Hudson Institute)
    -ESSAY: Researching the "Rape Culture" of America:  An Investigation of Feminist Claims about Rape (Christina Hoff Sommers, The Real Issue)
    -ESSAY: Are we living in a moral Stone Age? (CHRISTINA HOFF SOMMERS, Ph.D, Philosopheye)
    -ESSAY: Fleeing Science and Reason (Christina Hoff Sommers, AEI)
    -REVIEW : of The Education of a Woman: The Life of Gloria Steinem by Carolyn G. Heilbrun (Christina Hoff Sommers, New Criterion)
    -LECTURE: Where the Boys Are  (Christina Hoff Sommers,  A Bradley Lecture delivered at the American Enterprise Institute,  November 9, 1998)
    -LECTURE: THE 'FRAGILE AMERICAN GIRL' MYTH (Christina Hoff Sommers, AEI)
    -EXCHANGE: Barbara Dafoe Whitehead vs. Christina Hoff Sommers  (AEI)
    -INTERVIEW: Sommers on Deconstruction, Feminism (Benjamin Wallace-Wells, Dartmouth Review)
    -INTERVIEW : The War Against Boys : A conversation with Christina Hoff Sommers (Michael Cromartie, Christianity Online)
    -ESSAY : Silencing Sommers : Clinton holdovers have their way with HHS (Stanley Kurtz, December 5, 2001, National Review)
    -PROFILE: A FEMINIST ON THE OUTS Christina Hoff Sommers' book irks her ideological kin by attacking their excesses and downplaying the downtrodden fate of women (BARBARA EHRENREICH, TIME)
    -EquityFeminism.Com: Christina Hoff Sommers
    -ARCHIVE: Christina Hoff Sommers (Upstream)
    -RESPONSE: American Association of University Women Memorandum To: Branch and State Presidents, Communication Chairs, and Initiative Chairs  Re: Responding to Who Stole Feminism? by Christina Hoff Sommers
    -RESPONSE: The "Stolen Feminism" Hoax: Anti-Feminist Attack Based on Error-Filled Anecdotes (Laura Flanders, FAIR)
    -LETTER: Defense of Christina Hoff Sommers published in The Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association (Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D.)
    -ESSAY: WARNING: Feminism is hazardous to your health (RUTH CONNIFF, The Progressive)
    -REVIEW: of WHO STOLE FEMINISM? How Women Have Betrayed Women. By Christina Hoff Sommers (Nina Auerbach, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women (Mary Lefkowitz, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women (Sanford Pinsker, Shadek Professor of Humanities at Franklin and Marshall College,  Academic Questions)
    -REVIEW: of Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women, by Christina Hoff Sommers (Steve Roby)
    -REVIEW: of Who Stole Feminism? By Christina Hoff Sommers (John K. Wilson, Zmag)
    -REVIEW: of Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women, by Christina Hoff Sommers Reactionary Feminism (Tama Starr, Reason)
    -REVIEW: of The War Against Boys How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men. By Christina Hoff Sommers (Robert Coles, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of  The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men, by Christina Hoff Sommers The Male Eunuch (Richard Lowry, National Review)
    -REVIEW: It's payback time:  In "The War Against Boys," author Christina Hoff Sommers claims that unfair programs to empower girls have taken a toll on boys. (Cathy Young, Salon)
    -REVIEW: of The War Against Boys : How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men By Christina Hoff Sommers (Isabel Lyman, Enter Stage Right)
    -REVIEW : of The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men  by Christina Hoff Sommers (Chester E. Finn, Jr., Commentary)

GENERAL:
    -The Dissident Feminist
    -REVIEW: of PROFESSING FEMINISM Cautionary Tales From Inside the Strange World of Women's Studies By Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge (MICHIKO KAKUTANI, NY times)
    -ESSAY: Feminists Must Begin to Fulfill Their Noble, Animating Ideal (CAMILLE PAGLIA, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -DOCUMENT: BEYOND TITLE IX: GENDER EQUITY ISSUES IN SCHOOLS
    -Feminists for Free Expression
    -EquityFeminism.Com:  Critiques of Feminism page. This site is home to numerous essays debunking feminist authors and oft-repeated feminist myths as well as links and other resources for anyone interested in looking into the claims made by feminists or their opponents
    -Friesian School: non-peer-reviewed electronic journal and archive of philosophy  (Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D.)
    -Independent Women's Forum
    -Upstream: a home for the intellectually heterodox, the politically incorrect and other independent thinkers
    -DEBATE : Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? (Susan Moller Okin, Boston Review)
    -GREAT: Gender Relations in Educational Applications of  Technology
    -Women's Freedom Network
    -Expect the Best from a Girl, That's What You'll Get (WOMEN'S COLLEGE COALITION)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview with the Vamp:  Why Camille Paglia hates affirmative action, defends Rush Limbaugh, and respects Ayn Rand  (Virginia I. Postrel, Reason)
    -INTERVIEW: The corruption of feminism  An interview with Jean Curthoys (Philosopher Magazine)
    -ESSAY: Team players or tools of the patriarchy?:  Women often are supplying the muscle behind the fathers' rights movement. (Cathy Young, Salon)
    -ESSAY: When Fairness Is Unjust:  In an attempt to "level the playing field," education bureaucrats are lowering standards for minority students. The result? The bureaucrats are dooming minority students to lives of missed opportunities. (Thomas Sowell, Hoover Digest)
    -ESSAY: In the Land of Conservative Women: A diverse group of woman activists, including many young people  and small-business owners, are bringing  new energy to the Republican Party (Elinor Burkett, The Atlantic)
    -ESSAY:  The return of the housewife : The full-time mother (FTM) is now a career aspiration for many working women (Lowri Turner, Times of London)

Comments:

Orrin, Christina Hoff Sommers is exactly right! I was strong about female rights since way before feminism was thought of. Most of the femininists that came about after the revolution of the 60s weren't very feminine . I was so delighted when I heard Christina Hoff Sommers speak. Somebody has to speak up against those grotesque armlock amazons who kill babies and castrate men. Where are the rights of the baby? Why should women have more rights than the baby--or the man either. Men should support Christina all day long. I'm sick of the feminists and lesbians running the world. The don't truly have the natural motherly and wifely feelings. They are somehow damaged goods. We need to listen to Christina to know how to best fight the femininists of today. Please get on the right team! Patricia

- Patricia Hammond

- Jul-28-2004, 18:54

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