by Kate O’Berne
There is no doubt that we have been subject to many Women Who Make the World Worse in recent years, and Kate O'Beirne explains why with sharp wit and cutting terms. While clearly making her case against women in combat, the author herself takes a machine gun to the work of feminists, and in chapter after chapter demolishes the integrity and mission of angry activists who have attacked western culture as a patriarchal plot to oppress women. Using a parade of statistics, anecdotes, and strategies gone amuck, she has ample intellectual ammunition to shred the sisterhood which has worked so hard for decades to shred society.
Most of the ironies she points out are lost on these women, who want men to suppress any chivalrous instincts or protectiveness towards their fellow female soldiers in the field but to undergo sensitivity training about women's feelings in all other realms of life. They have proclaimed "choice" a sacred right, and yet do a constant end run around women's choice if is not used to further the feminists' own cause. In a humorous vein, women want to be taken seriously in the quest for equality and intellectual competitiveness, and yet they swoon, pout, or rage like adolescent school girls at any comments they find offensive or untenable. Less funny is the constant provocation of men, through male-bashing and reverse discrimination, which combine to create resentment and bitterness between the sexes in nearly every arena of daily life.
Women in the first half of the 20th century spent a great deal of energy working to enhance the moral fiber of their men, through prohibition, by encouraging all women to remain virtuous and chaste as a brake for promiscuity, to dedicated themselves to strong families, and by raising their sons to aspire to be gentlemen. What frustration there was at a double-standard for chastity was evidently thrown out the window when these women discovered that motherhood was their ball and chain, and they decided that, with ample access to birth control and abortion, they could be as naughty as the worst of the men and abandon the children to drift with the popular culture.
She quotes Mary Ann Glendon's comments of the difference between the early feminists, who knew that "the ready availability of abortion would facilitate the sexual exploitation of women," and those who followed in the 1970's, who were, she says, "a puzzling combination of two things that do not ordinarily go together: anger against men and promiscuity; man-hating and man-chasing" (p. 161).
After years of feminists battles in politics, the military, and the academy, women can now claim great strides "forward," including promiscuity in record levels, burgeoning STD's, fully one-third of children being raised without the guidance of their fathers, increased combat-related casualties for women, 40 million abortions, vulgarity at all hours on the airwaves, and rampant depression and psychoses. And yet, they insist, there is much more to be done. God help us!
Kate is to be commended for making her case so clearly. Categorically, she explains how women in combat, women's studies programs, no-fault divorce laws, Title IX, and demands for parity in the workplace are coercive, damaging, and based on lies. The enemy is clearly outlined in terms of strategy and end games, but I had a sense that two things were missing. First, the bizarre motivation was not investigated, and secondly, the effects of the negatively transformed culture to which we are heirs is not adequately considered.
There is brief mention in the introduction of the dysfunctional backgrounds of a few feminists, such as Jane Fonda, Germaine Greer, and Betty Freidan, but the topic is not pursued. While parodying these women is simple, I think a better (more motherly) approach would have been to explain the pain that drives these women. Without giving in to their agenda, showing how the "personal" details of a group of women became the "political" for the masses would have been more fruitful.
The second reservation is more important, because Kate makes her case about the choices of the next generation - who are rejecting the full-monty of the feminist dream. Instead, she points out that they are choosing education without the help of government programs, motherhood despite the difficulty of finding men who will commit, and balance in order to keep their lives from fraying at the edges. "See," the author seems to say, "women don't need feminism; they're doing just fine." I don't buy it.
Whereas the feminist agenda is wrong on almost every point, these women were reacting against something that was oppressive, stifling, and defective itself. We rejoice in many of the choices we have in education, work, and family decisions, but we have to admit that these were not available in 1955. The angry spark lit by the few certainly grew out of control through a positive response on a popular level - which was effectively studied in Caroline Graglia's Domestic Tranquility. (Only by reading these books together will the feminist movement be understood.)
Finally, in commending the new generation for choosing to have more balanced lives, she seems to ignore her own statistic revealing rampant fatherlessness, politicized school curricula, and a depraved and intrusive youth culture. Do these matter or don't they? How did common sense prevail when feminists stacked the deck against it in the next generation. Perhaps the human soul is hardier than we think, or the prayers of many stalwart souls have won out over dangerous social experiments. Regardless, it was a question which hung in this reviewer's mind as she pored over so much triumphalist data, proving that feminists are out-dated, mixed-up, and un-hinged. Would that Kate is right, but I don't think the bulk of the healing is even close to being done.