By Lydia Sargent
I have been writing in this column for the last 10 months about the experience
of reading current “feminist” sociobiology and evolutionary psychology
where the hot topic is the differences that have been discovered (in dubious
studies) in men’s and women’s chromosomes and brains, differences that
make the sexes equal but separate. These differences are supposedly rooted
in the gender division of labor that began in deep history on the African
grasslands of our ancestors millions of years ago. That’s why we are the
way we are, gender-wise. But this does not mean a return to the pre-feminist
era of breadwinning men and barefoot, pregnant women. Women’s special talents/brains,
we are told, are suited for the high-tech information superhighway.
Amazing as these popular science books are in their lack of significant
evidence and in the use of fiction, movies, and “I have a friend who…”
to make their case, the book Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Should Join Forces
to Achieve True Equality by Cathy Young (of the Cato Institute) really
takes the cake.
Under the guise of pushing a “common sense” view of gender, Young manages
to paint a picture of a feminism and a women’s movement run amok, using
fabrication and exaggeration in its war against men. (She references Dworkin,
Gilligan, and pop feminists, as well as articles in women’s magazines and
even the New York Times as examples throughout.) This war, according to
Young, is/was never necessary because her statistics/surveys indicate that
women are/were doing fine. It is men now who suffer, if not more than women,
at least equally.
Young grew up in Russia until she was 17. She believed that she was a human
being, not defined by her sex. When she came to America with its culture
of female independence she never saw any backlash, rather she was bothered
by what had happened to feminism: a feminist thought police on campus;
the notion that sexuality demeaned women; and the rejection of autonomy,
logic, and objectivity as male values. Particularly frightening to her
was the way this “extremist” feminism had moved from the fringe to the
mainstream. Her example of this: the day after the Los Angeles riots following
the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King, Peter Jennings compared
(on TV) the violence done to women as being as divisive an issue as racial
strife. At that moment, Young realized that feminism was not making things
better between the sexes.
She describes feminism as follows: Feminism for some is a belief in the
oppression of women, for others it’s the belief that women have a different
voice of female values and a repudiation of the male notions of logic and
the pursuit of knowledge and excellence. For still others, feminism means
applying a double standard: women can now mistreat men in order to redress
the longstanding imbalance of power. Finally, there is a feminism that
measures everything by one yardstick, “is it good for women?”
All of the above, says Young, divide humanity along gender lines, all reject
equal treatment because equal standards are inherently male, and one can’t
treat the oppressor as an equal. She then asks why the movement (which
she gives no description of) shifted from a belief in individual rights
to female superiority.
Young asserts that there was no backlash, that the reverse happened in
the “battle for equality,” that is, the movement outlived itself and had
to justify its existence. Also, perhaps with external barriers gone, women
were still held back by more subtle obstacles. Or, maybe many feminists
realized that equality wasn’t what they wanted.
Young says we must undo the harm done by extremists since feminist claims
do not stand up to scrutiny.
Girls are not silenced or ignored in the classroom
- Medicine has not neglected women’s health issues
Abuse by men is not the leading cause of injury to women
The courts do not treat violence to women more leniently
Gender disparity in pay and job discrimination are not merely a consequence
of sex discrimination
The 1980s were not a backlash decade but a time of steady progress.
The climate is not one of cultural misogyny
The biggest impediment to a pro-fairness philosophy that stresses flexibility,
more options for all, that treats all people as human beings is what passes
for feminism today.
Myth 1: men are competitive, women are cooperative. None of the studies
show broad enough differences along this axis to be considered a worldview.
Myth 2: men are autonomous, women relational. Young says that a 1971 study
showed a tremendous gap but by 1980 the difference had all but vanished.
Besides, the studies were interpreted incorrectly.
Myth 3: girls are more docile. Young refers to a study in which 60 percent
of the kids in the most difficult quartile were boys, but this is not enough
to suggest a fundamental difference. Another study showed 1 in 18 boys
and 1 in 45 girls where classified as angry and defiant and socially withdrawn.
But on average most investigations show surprisingly few sex differences
Myth 4: men don’t share their feelings (especially not with other men).
Young, using mostly surveys in popular magazines, asserts that there are
stereotypical differences here but not as vast as one might think: 45 percent
of men and 55 percent of women would disclose the same information.
Myth 5: men deal with stress by problem solving, women by brooding and
seeking emotional support. Here she cites a study (we don’t know what or
where) showing that 56 percent of men and 44 percent of women use problem
solving techniques. Her evidence is mostly her male friends who do not
follow the stereotype.
Myth 6: Sex is fine with someone you love (women); sex is fine, period
(men). She cites several studies to show some difference but debunks them
by asserting that both sexes most often linked sex with emotional intimacy.
Only men can be drafted
Men are 81 percent of the elderly suicides
Boys kill themselves five times more often
Female defendants are treated more liberally
Men die young from pressures of male roles and medical neglect
Men’s lives are treated as diposable
In Chapter 1 she goes after “the myths of difference, and the myths of
oppression.” She refers to conservative Danielle Crittendon (a conservative)
and her claim that men’s genetic wiring makes them immune to the mental
strain of walking out the door that is suffered by working mothers. Young
points out that the evidence for this is underwhelming. She refers to Carol
Gilligan, named Ms. Magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1984 and Time’s 25
people who changed the way we think about ourselves and others. As to Gilligan’s
claims that male moral reasoning is based on rights, justice, and abstract
principle while women’s ethic is care-based on human needs and connections,
Young says there is no factual basis for this.
She turns to Deborah Tannen whose 1990 book You Just Don’t Understand was
a runaway best seller. Tannen claims that it’s all just a misunderstanding,
innocent error, that differences between men and women are cultural. Young
finds Tannen biased toward women, and therefore not credible. (Calling
sexism and patriarchal behavior just a misunderstanding would be biased
toward men, wouldn’t it?)
Young’s position is that the research is conflicting and while there is
something in both biology and culture, all these theories make sweeping
statements based on modest evidence. Therefore the claims of difference
feminism, mainstream and otherwise, are myths.
Young then says that the extremist difference feminists don’t just focus
on fighting for equal opportunity or special programs for girls. They see
sexism where there is none and they want 50-50 numerical equality across
the board. She uses Title IX as an example of the difference between equity
and numerical equality. Under Title IX she writes, to comply with a vision
of equality (similar proportions even if fewer women are interested), excellent
men’s sports programs are being eliminated and as a result male students
have less opportunity than female counterparts.
Her conclusion here is that we ought to be able to recognize that men are
more likely to think and act in one way and women in another and still
hold that every man or women should be treated as an individual. Doing
this means avoiding the thinking that boys are more hyperactive or girls
more docile. It also means not crying bias when women make up 51 percent
of university students but only 38 percent of varsity athletes. “It means
accepting that in a nonsexist society most corporate executives may be
men and most primary caregivers may be women.”
Chapter 2 is titled Mommy Wars, Daddy Track. For every statistic showing
that women are doing most caregiving and household work, Young finds an
individual man who is staying home, doing his fair share and then some.
For Young, an individual opinion has as much weight as a study of thousands
Where men aren’t pulling their weight, as demanded by women’s movement
mavens (all women’s movement/feminist references are negative in this book),
she points out that it is probably women’s fault for not letting them in.
“I work. So does he. So I suppose I should want him to share equally in
everything involving the children. But I don’t. Frankly, I’m fiercely possessive
of my title as Mom. My children love their father and he loves them…. But
deep down I do not want him to be as important as I am, even if that means
more of the work will fall on my shoulders.”
She refers to Pepper Schwartz’s book Peer Marriage as evidence that many
women start “hogging the baby,” settling for traditional roles and shutting
out fathers. Young says that only a few feminist writers have acknowledged
the dirty little secret of “maternal chauvinism.”
Another way that women’s attitudes subvert equality is in their marriage
choices. Women, Young says, are marrying career oriented men who will not
be likely to do the caretaking and, what’s more, women don’t want them
to since they are proud of competitive, status hungry men, and ashamed
of men who have menial jobs.
In Chapter 3 she takes on the claim that women are oppressed. She challenges
the statistics in Susan Faludi’s Backlash, citing refuting material from
mostly magazines. She says polls show that there was a liberalization of
attitudes about gender throughout the so-called backlash decade. If individual
women haven’t achieved equality, it’s because they themselves backed out
or walked away. Feminists also alienated women and men with their glorification
of the career woman, while making homemakers invisible. Sound familiar?
Regarding the claim (made in reports from the American Association of University
women and in the book Reviving Ophelia, among others) that girls need single
sex schools because they are short changed, Young says that in fact girls
get better grades and are more involved in school activities than boys.
Girls make up close to half of the students in math and science magnet
schools and are excelling at science fairs and competitions, according
to the latest tests. Girls are behind boys by five points in science but
boys are behind girls in reading and writing by 15 to 17 points.In higher
education, women earn 55 percent of the bachelors and masters degrees.
So the shortchanging of girls is a myth, concludes Young, and adds that
the bulk of the research was done by Myra and David Sadker whose data was
challenged by Christina Hoff Sommers (a conservative) and because it was
found to have significant errors, which the Sadkers had to retract, particularly
the claim that boys call out answers in classrooms eight times more often
than girls. Young then finds a few studies to support her view that bias
in school is not one of the problems that teen girls suffer from; it is
actually boys who are slighted.
Regarding feminist claims of a health bias against women, Young points
out that Congress appropriated $39 million for prostate cancer that kills
34,000 men yearly and over $400 million for breast cancer that kills 42,000
She also points out that the Cancer Institute spend $658 million on breast
cancer from 1981 to 1991 and $113 million on prostate cancer, and that
this was before feminist activism became a political force, so there were
hardly wrongs to be redressed in this area.
She says the claim that women were left out of heart disease studies was
a gross exaggeration. She quotes statistics to back this up, interpreting
women making up 20 percent of subjects in clinical trials as positive because
it wasn’t as bad as one might think. She quotes one person who agrees that
not enough was done to include women in research but that was due to other
factors besides sexism (but she doesn’t say what they are). She admits
doctors and patients should be educated that heart disease isn’t just a
man’s problem but that that can be accomplished without cries that medical
research has been done “largely to the benefit of men only.”
She quotes surveys in which women overwhelming report that they are happy
with their regular physicians, as if that proves there is no health bias.
She agrees that there are chauvinist doctors but three-fourths of the women
in a survey never felt talked down to.
Young then asks if women are the beleaguered sex? “On many measures women
in the U.S. are at a disadvantage compared to men.” An awareness of this
has led to important efforts to promote equity (what efforts, by whom?).
But male disadvantages are ignored while biases (real or claimed) are magnified
so that sexism is seen everywhere.
Young then refers to law professor Deborah Rhode’s book Speaking of Sex,
in which Rhode acknowledges that feminists have a stake in pointing out
that women in our culture still suffer intolerable inequities. The more
people believe that women’s problems have been solved, the less they will
support feminist political causes. To show that women are in an accelerated
state of emergency (she quotes Andrea Dworkin here) one must declare that
there is a war against women.
Here she takes on the “men are beasts” claim. Sure she says, men are capable
of horrible crimes, and they commit them more often than women, but there
are plenty of brutal acts by women. Young even refutes that women are the
primary victims of violence against women.
Young asserts that men are more likely to be victims of every violent crime
except rape (that being the crime most feminists are talking about). Of
course, women are raped because they are women, says Young, but does that
make it a bias crime—the sexual equivalent of lynching? Young’s answer
would be no, it doesn’t. Gay men, she says, are as likely to be raped by
their dates as heterosexual women (where is the statistic?). Studies show
that 6 to 10 percent of sexual assaults involve male victims (apparently
a high enough percentage to be significant).
Research, says Young, does not support the notion that rape is usually
motivated by misogyny. Many (how many!?) are often for sexual gratification,
others driven by anger at the whole world. “Indeed rapists as a group seem
no more hostile to women than other criminals.” (Where does she get this?)
Although women account for no more than 15 percent of violent crime arrests,
still Young finds no clear line separating the sexes on this issue, as
women have served as concentration camp guards, terrorists, and guerrilla
fighters. More important than the low statistics to Young is the fact that
“women in the United States are more homicidal than men in Japan (how does
she know this?)” According to federal statistics (which she fails to reference
adequately), more American women are attacked by other women than by their
husbands or ex-husbands. Yikes.
Regarding feminist theories of rampant domestic violence, she refutes the
statistics that claim that two million women are battered per year. She
refers to a major study of domestic violence, the 1975 National Family
Violence Survey, which concluded that women hit their mates as often as
men did and that half the violence in families was reciprocal, the rest
evenly split between male-only and female- only. Similar surveys, she writes,
in 1985 and 1992, found just as many men as women were assaulted by wives
and girlfriends. Feminists tried to discredit these findings, says Young,
but studies still found that one in four battered spouses are men, others
found women were three to one. Even so, there is no rampant violence against
women as depicted by feminists.
Why hasn’t there been more research and popularizing of studies and “facts”
about female violence? Because, Young says, sociologists and others are
afraid of the repercussions. A researcher, Janet Johnston, says she doesn’t
discuss female aggression in her study of divorcing couples because “it
would be divisive,” pitting her against the women’s movement and “I don’t
Young asks “just how great is the danger to women in domestic warfare?”
The answer: not great. Young feels that the statistics about violence—that
women are 6 times more likely than men to seek medical care from a marital
fight, and that 200,000 women and 40,000 men are treated for injuries—are
tainted. Why? Because often men believe they shouldn’t hit a woman so they
don’t own up to it, but if they did the ratio would be more even.
She also says that the claim that women live in fear of men but men don’t
live in fear of women doesn’t hold up. She points to one study (not named)
based on a sample in which all the husbands were violent and only half
the wives were. Over 40 percent of the spouses with elevated fear levels
were men. She tells the story of Dan who was intimidated by his tiny wife
as proof that a woman who is no physical match can still abuse a man. Surely,
she speculates, there are ways women can torment mates verbally (but she
offers no evidence).
She says that 1,300 women a year are killed by husbands or boyfriends (battered
women advocates inflate it to 4,000, according to Young), while 600 men
are killed by wives and girlfriends.
The notion of male violence against women as an instrument of patriarchal
oppression has infiltrated the mainstream to a remarkable degree, says
Young. Her references of this are an article in the Seattle Times and Shakespeare’s
Young says it is not true that one in four pregnant women are beaten. It’s
closer to one in twenty. (That’s a relief.) It’s not true, she says, that
25 to 35 percent of women in emergency rooms are there due to battering
or that domestic violence is a leading cause on injury to women. Only one
percent of women’s injuries are inflicted by male partners, the rest are
from falls and auto accidents.
Why, if men are so violent, she asks, do lesbians have the highest violence
rate of all?—according to statistics, which she never cites. So what causes
family violence? Well, poverty, psychological disorders, fear of abandonment,
and proneness to rage are far more likely to cause male battering of women
than patriarchal control.
In Chapter 5, on the politics of domestic abuse, she admits that the campaign
against “family violence” is a noble cause. Unfortunately, “a combination
of gender politics and the zeal common to crusades against social evils
has led to a new extreme.” All too often the relationship conflict is treated
as a crime. Here she writes about Renee Ward who says “There’s nothing
like working in a battered women’s shelter to feel truly abused.” Renee
served as director of the Minneapolis shelter for battered women from 1982
to 1984. She was an outsider to the women’s movement, but had a background
in social and public health. Renee found the shelter environment unhealthy,
with staff animosities and the pressure of ideology. “Racism, patriarchy,
homophobia, oppression of the masses were talked about endlessly, as part
of the indoctrination that had to go on for everyone at the shelter, including
clients…. There was a lot of hostility to men.”
Besides this women’s movement dogma that was shoved down everyone’s throat,
according to Young, feminists were not above watering down their politics
to get funding. At other times, their main job qualification was that the
applicant be a feminist (how scandalous), or there was “a relentless obsession
Beyond that, veterans of the movement are now working within the criminal
justice system as prosecutors (cites one example of this), others are in
victim services, still others are writing police protocols and setting
policy. It’s gotten so bad, says Young, that men accused of violence to
women are presumed guilty.
She takes up sex crimes in Chapter 6. While there have been some well publicized
cases of rapists getting off lightly, the larger injustice has become men
being falsely accused, and the legitimate rights of the accused have been
“sacrificed on the altar of women’s liberation.”
Then she talks about the confusion in defining rape. No means no, she says,
but that can depend on the tone of voice. No means no, unless you change
your mind. Regarding date rape, she feels that it’s often a matter of bad
sex, not rape. She says that no means no absolutism can act against women.
When nonviolent sexual coercion is redefined as rape, then many men qualify
as victims of rape by women. Yikes.
No means no absolutism has made inroads into the criminal justice system
such that men can now get convicted in some states for sexual assault “without
force.” Young then says that according to FBI reports 9 percent of rape
reports are unfounded. Yet, she says feminists refuse to believe that women
lie or claim that the 9 percent includes cases that were wrongly dismissed
for insufficient proof.
Then she talks about the concept of sexual McCarthyism made popular during
the Anita Hill vs. Clarence Thomas hearings, then furthered during the
The result has been a crusade against sexual harassment which has led to
practices of invaded private lives, interrogations, etc. “Today the leaders
of this crusade have often framed the issue as one of a patriarchal plot
rather than individual bad acts.” This has discouraged resolution of male-female
conflicts and placed a taboo on discussions of female responsibility and
resulted in a zero tolerance policy.
Young finds feminist claims of rampant harassment exaggerated. She cites
a 1994 survey of federal employees where nearly one-third of those experiencing
unwanted sexual attention were men. In a 1993 survey, 85 percent of girls
but 3 of 4 boys reported sexual harassment. Women, says Young, are also
using their power by flirting with men, yet taking no responsibility. Says
one woman: “At my office, I have half the guys walking around with hard-ons
because of my long legs, short skirts, and swishy walk.” This prompts Young
to remark, “If men leering is sexual harassment, why isn’t a mini-skirt?”
In Chapter 8 Young challenges feminist claims that when fathers ask for
custody, they have the edge. Young cites studies that show the courts aren’t
slanted in favor of fathers, quite the opposite, and she says that few
groups have as bad an image as the divorced dad. “For all the laments about
the demonization of poor mothers in the debate over welfare, no conservative
has ever bashed welfare moms as viciously as conservatives and liberals
bash ‘deadbeat’ dads.” So in the divorce-custody “war” it is men who are
the losers, according to Young. Further, it is men who are the real victims
in society, the ones most discriminated against in the following ways:
She supports these claims by examining a burgeoning men’s movement, where
(a few) men have challenged the deep-seated assumption that gender equity
is synonymous with female disadvantage. Sure there are those men who call
for the restoration of patriarchy, but they aren’t extremists, they mean
well—their cause is simply the neglected half of the gender roles. Some
“masculists,” writes Young, not only challenge the notion that women are
oppressed today but argue that women were never oppressed any more than
men (even that women were less oppressed).
She writes of Warren Farrell who in The Myth of Male Power says that both
sexes are equally enslaved by their historical roles. Men provided and
protected women, so that they could bear and nurse children. Men were disposable
since the species required more females to survive (what?). Says Farrell,
a self described liberal masculist/feminist, “I’d say that in this culture
in this century, men and women have been pretty equal. I would say that
this is true historically and at all times.” Why is this so? Because women
received some compensation for their subordinate state. They got protection
from perils (but not from their protectors). Men’s dominant role carried
a high price, such as having to risk their lives to provide protection.
Since, for Young, gender issues are about personal relationships, in this
area women and men have equally good reason to complain. As for feminism,
most feminists, in Young-speak, view women as a “class whose presumed interests
are to be given priority and see equality as a matter of convenience; women
are tough and aggressive as men when it comes to fighting wars or fires
[?} but frail and helpless when it comes to domestic violence; as carnal
as men when it comes to sexual freedom, but innocent and victimized in
any sexual conflict. To some extent this has also been the party line in
the mainstream media.”
Speaking of party lines, much of this book is a rehash of the conservative
(although she criticizes conservatives) party line. On the other hand,
sadly, it is the views and attitudes expressed here that dominate the mainstream,
not a feminist “thought police/war against men” dogma, much less an intelligent
and reasoned femniist viewpoint. The view that the women’s movement did
some good things, but went too far (i.e., actually challenged male domnance)
has been a constant litany after every feminist wave of the past century.
Once the more radical systemic analysis is “disappeared,” feminism becomes
a lifestyle choice one day, dogma the next; a real but modest contribution
one week, silliness the next; with no end in sight. Next time, I’ll look
at more of the Ceasefire nonsense, as well as the prospects for gender