IPT Book Reviews

Title: Who Stole Feminism?  How Women Have Betrayed Women  Positive Review Positive Review
Author: Christina Hoff Sommers
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 1994

Simon & Schuster
Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
(800) 223-2348
$23.00 (c)
 

Description:

In this 320-page book, Christina Sommers, a philosophy professor at Clark University, alerts us to the beliefs, behavior, and influence of radical feminists, whom she calls "gender feminists."  She distinguishes gender feminists from mainstream "equity" feminists and asserts that gender feminists do not represent the views of most American women.  Nevertheless, gender feminists are having significant success, especially in the academic world.

According to Sommers, gender feminists believe that America's "sex/gender system" produces patriarchal domination of women.  Rather than wanting equality between men and women, they push for gynocentric philosophies that emphasize female characteristics that they see as superior.  They manufacture issues, such as date rape and self-esteem, and offer erroneous and misleading statistics to support their claims.  They sponsor research that is biased and filled with errors.  They believe women are under siege and that we are in a gender war and they seek recruits and support to wage this war.

Sommers states that she wrote this book because she is a feminist who doesn't like what feminism has become and she believes that the new gender feminism is badly in need of scrutiny.  She gives detailed descriptions of feminist conferences she has attended, examines women's studies programs, critically analyzes feminist sponsored research, investigates the origins of and support for claims about issues such as date rape, domestic violence, self-esteem, and eating disorders.

References are in footnotes at the end of each chapter and there is an index at the end of the book.
 

Discussion:

Sommers is blunt in her criticisms of gender feminism but her assertions are backed up with data, concrete examples, and references.  The book is certain to provoke anger and controversy and Sommers will make more enemies than she already has in the new feminist community.

Despite having familiarity with the philosophies and beliefs of gender feminists, I had no idea they had achieved such astonishing successes in the academic world.  Sommers provides dismaying and frightening examples of not only women's studies programs, but of the way gender feminists have affected higher education in general.

Sommers' discussion of distorted, exaggerated, and false statistics bandied about by the gender feminists and the erroneous conclusions drawn from shoddy research is particularly compelling.  Three examples are:

The claim that 150,000 American women die of anorexia nervosa each year, published by Naomi Wolf and Gloria Steinem as well as others.  Sommers discovered that this applies to people who have the disorder of anorexia nervosa the figure for yearly deaths is more like 100.

The claim that the March of Dimes found that domestic violence against pregnant women is now responsible for more birth defects than all other causes combined.  This erroneous "fact" was reproduced in both government publications and the media.  Sommers found that there is absolutely no truth to it.  The original statement, which was completely misquoted, was that more women are screened for birth defects than are screened for domestic violence.

The claim in 1993 that domestic violence rises by 40% on Super Bowl Sunday.  When a skeptical reporter talked to battered women expert Lenore Walker, who asserted this on "Good Morning America," Walker said that her data supporting her assertion was not available for "public consumption."  Further investigation indicated that the claim has no basis in fact.

Although nowhere is child sexual abuse mentioned, my response to Sommers' description of the gender feminists was, "I know these people."  We have observed the attitudes and beliefs of the gender feminists in many recovered memory proponents and child advocates.  The description of their assumptions and philosophies helps make sense out of the behavior we have observed in the sexual abuse survivors' network.

This book is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Hollida Wakefield, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.

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