||Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed
||Christina Hoff Sommers
||Simon & Schuster, © 1994
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
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.
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.