- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006


By Kate O’Beirne, Sentinel, $24.95, 230 pages

Feminism is the “ism” behind the curve, up there with Marxism, fascism and certain other discarded “isms.” There’s no further need for breaking up the furniture.

Feminism raised our consciousness for better and for worse. It articulated the importance of equal rights for women and yielded opportunities that had been denied women in both professions and trades. We have benefited from the second wave of feminism that followed the suffragettes, drawing attention to discrimination and powerlessness that shaped personal and public attitudes for decades.

But as in most revolutions, lots of babies were thrown out with the bathwater. This was true, literally, for many women. The sexual revolution — which can’t be disconnected from feminism — left large numbers of women without men, without marriage, without the families they yearned to establish.

We have documentation in both anecdote and statistics describing millions of women who like their careers, like the bonuses of “sexual liberation,” but who suffer deeply from their inability to find men to commit themselves to marriage. These women become painfully aware of what they missed when, in their late 30s and early 40s, the biological clock tolls with neither mercy nor ambiguity.

Without knowing it or even wanting to, many women were pulled into the Playboy revolution and the “philosophy” of Hugh Hefner that marriage is psychologically and economically confining.

Kate O’Beirne, Washington editor of National Review, draws up a roster of those second-wave feminist leaders who, along with their enablers in the media, contributed to making the world worse — in schools, families, the military and sports.

She rounds up the usual suspects — Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Sen. Hillary Clinton — who espouse a feminism they watered down for their own lives, admonishing, like that spinster schoolmarm: “Do as I say, not as I did.”

These women are familiar enough to most of us, but Kate O’Beirne compiles a brief against them with the workmanlike skill of the lawyer she is, reflecting her work on the ramparts of the culture, challenging the false notions of feminism over three decades.

Her book should be required reading in every women’s study course as something to clear the minds of those who are tempted to buy into the radical feminist claptrap lingering there. Reading it might save them considerable pain later.

Women’s studies, intended to clear a path for ambitious young women, instead paves the way into a cultural cul-de-sac. The rhetoric they consume on campus only dulls young and impressionable minds. A woman’s mind, after all, is a terrible thing to waste.

One of the latest “third wave” feminist heroines, for example, is Rebecca Walker, the “biracial, bicultural and bisexual” daughter of Pulitzer Prize novelist Alice Walker, author of “The Color Purple.” Gloria Steinem was her godmother, and Rebecca Walker served on the national steering committee of Youth for Clinton-Gore ‘96 along with Sarah Jessica Parker of “Sex and the City.”

Hers is the lineage of feminist aristocracy. In a collection of essays she recounts her first sexual experience at age 11, and offers this advice for the younger sisterhood: “It is obvious that the suppression of sexual agency and exploration, from within or from without, is often used as a method of social control and domination.”

Such social control and domination obviously didn’t apply to her; she tells how she had an abortion at 14. She’s raising a son now with another woman. Her books are standard fare in women’s studies, emphasizing the need “to liberate men” from our “oppressive” culture.

Feminist influence in public policy, in the O’Beirne analysis, can be tragic as it draws on the increasing numbers of women who join the military forces — often young black and white women trying to climb out of the small towns and inner cities — and whose lives are sacrificed on battlefields where by law they are forbidden to be.

“Feminists recognize the vulnerability of women when they are concerned with the plight of women who are victims of domestic abuse,” she writes. “Their position on integrating combat ranks puts them in the position of saying that violence against women is a terrible thing unless it is at the hands of the enemy, in which it’s a welcome tribute to women’s equality.”

Kate O’Beirne has identified many of those women who make the world worse. Her book is a challenge to readers to contribute to a sequel: “Women Who Make the World Better.” Let’s hope we’re up to it.

Suzanne Fields, a columnist for The Washington Times, is nationally syndicated.

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