How Women Have Betrayed Women by Christina Hoff Sommers
(Touchstone/Simon & Shuster, 1994) 320 pages.
"Christina Hoff Sommers has done something lethally deflating to the pretensions of the shriller sort of feminists: she looked at their evidence and found it lacking."
-Linda Seebach, Los Angeles Daily News
People sometimes ask me why I am sceptical of scientific explanations of certain things such as Darwin's evolution and 'diversity of the species'. The answer is, "because I was a science student; I know too much. I know the faults, the limitations of the arguments used to bewilder the less-informed". It is from a similar perspective that Christina Hoff Sommers attacks, not feminism, but modern so-called feminists who have used the name of feminism, and all the many benefits that entitles them, to push their own barrow. In doing so, Sommers argues, they have undermined the very gains of other feminists.
When I first became interested in gender issues, to my surprise some so-called feminists scoffed. Yet, feminism refers to "the pursuit of political, social and economic equality for women." One does not have to be a woman to support what is, in essence, gender equality. What I understand now is that though misogyny or women-hating is politically incorrect, misandry or men-hating is socially very acceptable. Sommers reveals from her perspective within the American higher education system, how misandrists occupy all levels of influence within the modern feminist movement. They use that influence to mislead, provide disinformation, to portray men in as bad a light as possible, and to portray women as victims where-ever possible.
When victim-feminists complain that men haven't allowed them the opportunity to, say, develop in business, or whatever, they are denying themselves the opportunity to empower themselves to achieve what it is they want. Men are not generally born with a golden tray with a key to success in business on it. Men don't wait for women to allow them to attempt to succeed, and some women don't seem to realise this. If there are more men in politics, it probably has more to do with the fact that women choose not to enter such an environment, than anything else. And so on.
When victim-feminists blame men, or blame the patriarchy, etc., they disempower themselves, which is the antithesis of what feminism is all about. Feminism is about gender equality, about choice, the choice to do anything regardless of gender. As soon as one blames someone for one's condition, one removes one's ability to do something for that condition. As soon as one accepts responsibility for one's condition, one is then empowered to act to do something about that condition. That's the difference between feminism and pseudo-feminism or victim-feminism.
Christina Hoff Sommers goes on to describe in a multitude of ways how women of dubious motives have gone on to perpetuate all sorts of myths, espousing all sorts of philosophies in the name of feminism. She points out that the dubious tactics of many feminists has alienated virtually all men from the feminist movement, despite most men supporting the concept of gender equality.
Some pretty wild, but much-publicised claims by various feminists were researched and clearly debunked by Ms. Sommers. For example: "Domestic violence is the leading cause of birth defects, more than all other medical causes combined" as well as other rape and sexual harassment myths.
This book has much in common with Warren Farrell's The Myth of Male Power, but from a different perspective. For a start, most of her examples are about the culture that exists within the the US university environment, and lacks the wider appeal of Farrell's book. Whereas Farrell points out that a man's power is a myth, Sommers points out the devious means feminists have used to achieve their own power. Like Farrell's book, it sometimes uses more examples than necessary. This book interested me at the time of it's publication, but I don't think it has the appeal for someone other than those who are pretty serious about gender issues.
Also recommended reading: Rene Denfeld's, The New Victorians, which compares the new wave of 'fundamentalist' feminisists with the 'puritanism' of last century.
Christina Hoff Sommers is an associate professor of philosophy at Clark University who specialises in contemporary moral theory. She has written articles for The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and The New England Journal of Medicine, among other publications. She lives in the Boston area.