Who Stole Feminism? is a call to arms that will enrage or inspire, but cannot be ignored.
©1994 Christina Hoff Sommers; (P)1996 Blackstone Audio Inc.
When I hear women my age proudly claim they are defiantly NOT feminists, I am taken aback. Ms. Sommers does an excellent job of showing just why so many young women are running away from the feminist label. They don't want to be associated with man-haters: women who view every man as a potential rapist and every woman a potential survivor. She highlights many of the events from the late eighties and early nineties that ended up giving feminism a very bad name. Rather than trying to promote equal rights for all humanity (the so-called equity feminists), some feminists (gender feminists) are trying to supplant the patriarchy with a matriarchy. To do so, they overblow poorly done studies and try to silence maleness wherever it rears its ugly head (pun, unfortunately, intended). She does such a good job of pointing out the hysteria and rancor of this sect of feminists, I had to remind myself constantly that I agree with her thesis-those kinds of feminists are bad for feminism. They take away from the social justice that generations of women have fought for; they stray from the goals of the Seneca Falls Convention and forget that many sisters around the world really are being suppressed; they devalue the terms sexual harassment and rape by having them apply to everything. I'm grateful she kept repeating the goals of equality through her book or I would have completely forgotten I wasn't reading the transcripts of a Rush Limbaugh show (a mistake none of us ever wants to make!).
This book was written in 1995, so I was still in junior high and high school when most of these events were unfolding. I wonder how much of her arguments are simply overblown to give evidence to her thesis, how much was relegated only to certain university campuses, and how much has mercifully blown over in the past decade. I would love to see an updated version of this book. In the meantime, I'll read books like The Mommy Myth and Selling Anxiety.
This is one of those books that someone had to write, and I'm glad to know it's out there. Sommers carefully documents all of the craziness in the feminist movement in the 1990s, and there sure was a lot of it! Claims that sexual assaults increase massively Superbowl weekend (they don't) or that the leading cause of miscarriage is domestic abuse (not even close) were bandied about wildly without regard for truth. What's more fun is the portrayal of academic conferences and the crazy one-upswomanship: when some of the attendees gathered in a drum circle, others declared that this was an appropriation of their cultural traditions and demanded they stop, which they did reluctantly. It's a delightful image of what happens when claims of marginalization become badges of honor.
Yes, the book is very dated. This of course makes you wonder whether things have gotten better. I have no idea.
Ultimately, this is one of those books that needed to be written but that isn't worth reading. Feel comfortable knowing that someone has done the work of collating all the craziness. And yes, Sommers has some affiliation with conservative hacks. That's unfortunate, but to my reading, this doesn't really affect the book.
Christina Hoff Sommers does an excellent job of presenting her point - that the modern, North American view of "feminism" is being swayed by people that are more interested in political agendas than equality between the genders. By citing specific cases where statistics have been interpreted with bias, where feminist groups promoting a "better way of interacting" have failed to successfully work together, and where the media has been more interested in sensational stories than proper fact verification, "Who Stole Feminism?" is successful at showing the reader that there may be more behind the current feminist movement than the surface suggests.
While presenting a strong argument for the "equity feminist" view point, I feel the novel still suggests that the reader make their own decision and come to their own conclusion. Christina Hoff Sommers strongly encourages people to review claims made by any feminist group, and to verify results of studies before coming to a conclusion.
The book makes it clear that, while there is still perhaps a great deal of work left to achieving equality between the genders, headway has already been made and the future is not as dismal as others may make it appear to be.
As a male that supports equality, this was one of the first books I have read on the subject that has not made me feel like my gender was being stereotyped and attacked for the transgressions of people I have never met.
I was disappointed that I spent a credit on this book. I would urge those who steer clear from Fox news, Ann Coulter and other quasi-informative political quacks, to treat this material similarly.
Facts are no doubt important, however, belief frequently overrides the function of truth. By this, I mean that while the fact may be A (say, perhaps that the earth is round), the working rule could be B (the average person long ago BELIEVED that the earth was flat). In the preface, when she determines that "feminists", or "gender feminists" as she later "specifies", she attributes false information as male-bashing and lack of "fact-checking".
Though the FACTS do not support the information, and the likes of Naomi Wolff, etc., quickly admitted that they were mistaken, editors did not question their "facts". This is because their "facts" were not outrageous, ie, it is plausible for average people (from publishers to readers) to think that spousal abuse is the number one cause for birth defects or that thousands of women die every year from anorexia.
She probably found it so difficult to find funding for her research because it was taking place a century too late.
"Still Essential Reading"
Hoff Sommers seminal 1994 book, although written from within feminism, still remains essential reading for anyone interested in properly understanding the ideology. As a philosophy professor she brings logical argument and evidence to her critique of feminism, and she has the integrity to expose many of its hypocrisies. Her exposure of the dishonesty of feminist research methods was particularly courageous and enlightening for someone writing in the 1990s. This book would be a very useful introduction to the critique of feminism for any reader who has only read pro-feminist books in their life thus far because Hoff Sommers is attempting to revise feminism rather than oppose it outright and so her critique may be more acceptable to a reader who is conventionally feminist but nonetheless willing to listen to criticism of it. Any pro-equality/anti-feminist readers may find her persistent loyalty to feminism a little irksome but the book is a landmark in equality literature and it is still a valuable and rewarding read/listen.
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