Thoughtful women are fighting back against gender feminism's "war on men." One indication that they are succeeding is the malicious backlash they encounter. A few years ago, women opposing gender feminism would have been ignored.
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The latest target of the backlash gender feminists are unleashing against their critics is the renowned gender-feminist critic, Christina Hoff Sommers. Sommers was recently silenced by government officials who told her to cease her presentation at a tax-funded conference to which she had been invited. Sommers' transgression? She called for scientific studies to evaluate the effectiveness of government programs. During a Q&A session, professor Jay Wade, an expert on "listening skills" at Fordham University, shouted for Sommers to "shut the f— up, b—ch!" The audience laughed. The organizers made no objection.
Women who object to gender feminism are accustomed to such abuse. Trudy Schuett, publisher of The DesertLight Journal, crusades for fathers' rights in custody suits. As a result, Schuett states, "I've been called a 'fathers' rights whore,' and I've had the obligatory death threat — goes with the territory."
A recent book by former National Organization for Women insider Tammy Bruce — The New Thought Police: Inside the Left's Assault on Free Speech and Free Minds — documents the witch hunt against dissenters that has been standard operating procedure for years. But the openness of their attacks is new.
For example, after I lectured at a recent seminar, an anonymous poster on the NOW Web site's bulletin board announced that I'd had an "affair" with a student — an accusation not only false but also damaging to my career. My husband protested this libel in an e-mail to the webmaster but he was ignored. When I sent a similar objection suggesting I may be moved to take legal action, the posts were deleted.
The NOW bulletin board became a moderated forum monitored by the NOW staff supposedly to control the excesses of members who posted inappropriately. The bulletin board shut down about a month ago after a poster called for members to harass a family. The family's personal data, including their address, was posted on the board, and the family consulted a lawyer. As of now, NOW has no active bulletin board on their site.
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For victims of feminist malice to successfully fight back is another new development. For example, in response to a public outcry on behalf of Sommers, an official in the Bush administration issued a letter that amounted to an apology. If Sommers had been male, however, it is not clear whether the gesture would have occurred.
Men have been so maligned by our society that they are not taken seriously when they protest. The process began in the mid-70s. In her 1976 book Our Blood, gender feminist Andrea Dworkin wrote, "Under patriarchy [white male culture], every woman's son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman." This is what the politically aware mother was supposed to see when she looked down into the face of her newly born son.
Bias against men has become rampant. Even critics of gender feminism often embrace a subtle anti-male message: For example, the belief that women are the victims of domestic violence even though Department of Justice statistics indicate that each sex attacks equally.
The bias is absorbed almost by osmosis ... gender feminists dominate the university system and have done so for over two decades. Government agencies — especially under Bill Clinton — offer them mega-tax dollars for gender studies and research. An uncritical media broadcasts the studies. And so, an anti-male bias in ideology and methodology trickles downward to those in the "helping professions," such as the social worker who now suspects every father to be a potential child abuser.
Warren Farrell — author of The Myth of Male Power, among other books — has been a strong voice in calling for fairness to men. Elected three times to the board of NOW in New York City, Farrell was a feminist hero in the '70s because he epitomized "the enlightened man," a man who argued for their goals. Farrell is still enlightened, but NOW no longer deigns to notice, because he disagrees.
In a recent book challenging men to speak up — "Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say" — Farrell distinguishes two forms of feminism: adolescent and adult. Adolescent feminists focus on rights while ignoring responsibilities; adult feminists assume responsibility.
In addition to emphasizing the need for men to speak up, Farrell urges women to defend the men in their lives against a campaign of slander. Just as society would protest statements such as "blacks are violent," so too should people object to messages such as "men oppress women." In today's political environment, the voices of women are the only ones that will be heard. They can create what Farrell calls "a tear" because dissenting women reveal a damning truth about gender feminism: The ideology is also anti-woman ... if the woman has a mind of her own.
As a Christmas present to the men in your life, make a commitment to stand up for them. Do not tolerate slander directed toward those you love. The infant son you hold in your arms is not an inevitable rapist or exploiter of women. The father who worked every day to make you safe and comfortable is not an enemy. The husband with whom you are planning a future is not a part of "the rape culture." They are family, friends and good neighbors.
To all my readers: Happy Holidays, and good will toward men.
McElroy is the editor of Ifeminists.com. She also edited Freedom, Feminism, and the State (Independent Institute, 1999) and Sexual Correctness: The Gender Feminist Attack on Women(McFarland, 1996). She lives with her husband in Canada.
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