Who Stole Feminism: How Women Have Betrayed Women

Article excerpt


Sommers' main claim is that "gender feminists" (those who "believe that all our institutions...perpetuate male dominance," such as Naomi Wolf, Susan Faludi, Catherine MacKinnon, Marilyn French and Gloria Steinem) have stolen feminism from "equity feminists" (those who want "fair treatment, without discrimination," such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, and Germaine Greer).

I find Sommers' labels a little confusing: equity feminists, like gender feminists, look at the world through a sex/gender lens - it is precisely that view, because it reveals inequities based on sex and gender, that motivates them to become feminists. I prefer the term "anti-sexist" to "feminist" (the equity kind of feminist), though "humanist feminist" has also been suggested. And "gynocentric feminism" may be a more accurate label for Sommers' "gender feminism:" a view that represents the centrality (not just the equality) of the female.

The book opens by challenging statistics on the number of deaths by anorexia and the number of birth defects caused by domestic violence. Sommers goes on to pull apart research done on biases against girls in school, violence against women, and wage differentials. Sommers is careful to say that it's not that there are no problems with any of these issues; but that the extent of the problem is not that great. However, it is one thing to say that the research was flawed. It is another to say that the research was misunderstood and/or misquoted. And it is still another to say that either of these is because of "gender feminists."

Especially interesting is the chapter "The Self-Esteem Study." One interpretation, put forty by Wendy Wood, intrigued me: "What may look like a self esteem gender gap may be merely due to a gap in expressiveness ... girls and women are more aware of their feelings and more articulate in expressing them, and so they are more candid about their negative emotions in self-reports than males are." Also, some interesting omissions are suggested: the statistics which indicate a gender gap, according to Woods, are based on "always true" responses to the statement "I'm happy the way I am. …