Gains by Women May Make Orthodox Feminism Irrelevant

Article excerpt

Years ago, when I was an editor at National Review, a prominent legal scholar called up to find out the fate of an article he had submitted some time before. "It's running next issue," we told him, but he continued at some length to vent his pent-up frustration.

"Professor," my boss finally remarked cheerfully, "your problem is you don't know how to take `yes' for an answer."

The same might be said of feminists, whose strange reluctance to declare victory was evident at a debate that took place in Manhattan between orthodox feminists and a few of their most prominent women critics. Rhetoric flew fast as fur, and some of it was just as hard to swallow. "Forty percent of male partners in law firms have stay-at-home wives," charged Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, feminist scholar. "Those women are single mothers; the men are just sperm donors and ATM machines!" Appreciative laughter burst through half the room, proving that nasty male bashing still retains its cachet in certain feminist circles. "What about the women law partners who work 60-hour weeks," Christina Hoff Summers shot back. "Would you refer to them as egg donors?" The room's other half burst into applause. I came to the debate to get a handle on one of the most interesting conversations in the country: between orthodox feminists and a feisty new brand of - what shall we call them? Independent women? Free-market feminists? The occasion for this particular debate was a new survey, "Women's Figures: The Economic Progress of Women in America," commissioned by the D.C.-based Independent Women's Forum to answer the question: Have women made it in America or do we still need affirmative action handouts from Uncle Sam? Consider the facts, as the study's author, Diana Furchgott-Roth, laid them out in the ballroom of the National Republican Women's Club that night in New York City: Since 1982, women are more likely than men to earn college degrees and master's degrees. …