221 of 248 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2000
A well written and researched book. The author identifies two basic types of feminists: equity and gender. She seems to believe that the great majority of historical feminist figures prior to the 1960's based their arguments upon equality of economic opportunity, full political liberty, fair and equal treatment under the law, etc. It's difficult for most reasonable people to not support such admirable goals.
However, she sees gender feminists as being of a more radical variety that seem to equate maleness with innate evil. She is very effective at pointing out outright lies, misrepresentations, and simply incredibly sloppy research on the part of some gender feminist writers. She additionally argues that any school of thought based upon demonizing an entire group of people because of a certain physical characteristic must be held to be highly suspect. The holders of these views too often find themselves in close company with racists, xenophobes, etc. Understandably, true believers of this sort do not enjoy their errors pointed out to them--witness the malicious ad hominen attacks of some of the prior reviewers.
Ms. Sommers wrote a very good, thoughtful book. I think society needs feminism, but not of an insanely ideological sexist kind.
61 of 68 people found the following review helpful
I first read Ms. Hoff-Sommers book with some skepticism, after all I had never met the kinds of feminists she was accusing of hijacking feminism. But my opinion of the book changed when I went to Duke University and took a class on Feminism and Ecology and was attacked by the instructors because I am apparently a sell-out to patriarchy, simply because I happened to marry someone who works for an organization they were against.This is the play-book for gender difference feminists.
Ms. Hoff-Sommers points out in her book that gender difference feminists claim their "special natures," a reflection back to 19th century ideals of womanhood, as a reason for their determiniation to set up an us v. men world.
But the truth of the matter is that all people must learn to live cooperatively and equally in order to move toward a society where men and women can fully appreciate their differences, similarities and their collective strengths. Ultimately, equality does not mean everyone feels exactly the same on every issue, as gender difference feminists try to enforce. Rather, feminism is about educating women, allowing them to make their own decisions, even when we don't always agree with them. No one wins in an us v. them game, and that is what this book tries to point out.
You will have to deal with someangry rants in this book, but they are the passionate frustration of a woman trying desperately to remind women that our strength comes through unity, not through selling out groups of people who don't agree with everything we have to say.
93 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 1999
Besides using facts, and debunking the high status of gender feminists like Faludi, Mackinnon, and Wolf with their own words, Sommers shows us how the lies used to disseminate their brand of feminism hurts our society. How can a problem be sufficiently answered if gender feminists, or any group for that matter, muddles the truth with exaggerations. The March of Dimes study that falsely attributes the majority of birth defects to battery is symbolic of the problem. The true problem is that not enough pregnant women are screened for battery. Like Sommers said, the false but sensational claim that battery is the number one cause of birth defects works great for gender feminists. But the true problem--that not enough women are screened for defects--will be unanswered because the truth often does not make headlines. In the few but vicious poor reviews of this book, I have yet to see one that found any errors that undercut Sommers' larger argument--that gender feminists are liars, and use the stigma of the label of "anti-feminist" for political gain and ultimately hurt a mainstream feminism that "never recognized their leadership" Instead of saying that Sommers' book is poor, I would like to have one person show that it is so, rather than just making the assertion. Until then, this reader will continue to regard Sommers as the genius she appears to be.
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2007
For proof of Mrs Hoff-Sommers assertions in this informative and very readable book one need look no further than the authors of all the previous 1 star reviews. They are the perfect reason why we ought to listen closely to people like Mrs Hoff-Sommers, if only in the hope of saving future generations from being similarly affected. It is clear that few of them have turned a page of this book. True, Equity Feminism is an oxymoron in the class of Marxist Capitalism. But her demonstration that its aims were noble, and vastly different from later Gender Feminism are convincing, as are her reasons why a once noble but long since misguided movement has resulted in our society producing the kind of people it is. Buy and read this interesting book, and don't be put off by the so-called reviewers below who condemn without reading.
44 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2001
Feminism is a word that means different things to different people, which is why some people support equal rights for women but criticize feminism, but why on the other hand some feminists take criticisms of feminism as attacks on women.
Sommers tries to give us new terms. On the one hand, there are "gender" feminists who fabricate data, blame men for almost every ill, and have an uncanny ability to interpret almost anything as oppression of women. She differentiates them from "equity" feminism, a feminism that respects and likes men, deplores portrayals of women as helpless victims of patriarchy, and seeks sane equity between the sexes, recognizing that there are issues on all sides of questions involving gender.
In lucid, carefully researched and documented prose, Sommers als lays out how the former group of extremists have damaged the cause of gender equity, created a wholly unnecessary war against the sexes, and often debased academic standards and made for some genuinely terrible laws.
The worst part about criticism of Sommers is claims that she's a "right winger" (she isn't), that she trashes the idea of equality for women (she doesn't), or that she's polemical and mean(she isn't). What she is is a fair-minded and thorough researcher who tells the truth and documents her research in ways that can be verified. And in doing so demonstrates just how logical, competent, and capable women can be.
This is a must-read for anyone who cares about sexual politics, or just the relationships between men and women.
37 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2001
Having worked in academia for 13 years, I have had far too many opportunities to witness the shrillness and vapidity of seething anti-male feminists. In fact, I was one of the intended victims of a scurrilous, ugly campaign by two power-crazed feminists at a large state university in New York. I thought I understood the motivations of this crowd fairly well, but Sommers' book provides more proof, if any were needed, that academic feminists are monstrous totalitarians whose goal is to take over the academy and turn it into an ideological bastion for fellow travelers. From this perch they would sweep aside all who disagree and utterly squelch dissent within their own ranks. Ms. Sommers does not just analyze the idiocy of the leaders of gender feminism; she also provides data detailing their corruption and lies, and uses their own words to discredit a movement which has already become far too powerful. This is must reading, especially if you are thinking of sending your child to a prestigious college such as Yale or Wellesley, where your hard-earned tuition money will be spent indoctrinating your youngster into group-think and intolerance.
32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2010
I'm 44 now, but as early as around age 18, I've been bewildered at what is called 'feminism' today.
I always had a great admiration for women working to bring 'equality of opportunity' since the suffragette days, and currently. Women have made amazing strides in our culture. I feel that further work needs done, but, this is something that men should be as much involved with as women at this point.
And yet, the modern women claiming that feminist label always seemed irrational, paranoid, hyperbolic, often with a pre-set overwhelming paradigm that everything logical, or traditional, was 'masculine', and everything male was 'bad'. As if that wasn't bad enough, a huge anti-democracy socialism politic always seemed to wend through it.
Particularly in some colleges, there is a clear quasi- religious/political cult indoctrination; an insidious fifth-column style pervasive brainwashing of college youth and a women's-mafia-without-the-guns-style "pressure and leverage" put on anybody else who does not buy their victimization-as-salvation obsession. I've heard about this from others for years but hadn't believed it could be that bad. After reading ths book I'd say apparently in some schools it is.
The 'infiltration' from people for whom this is an entire worldview and evangelistic drive, into positions of administration and authority, creates a fairly massive lock on money (funding) and power to rewrite history, revise education, and repress any view that is not thier party line (and do real damage to any person not just not agreeing, but not actively supporting them). It's pretty successful, enough to make scientology's most uncharming points of infamy look downright wimpy and unaccomplished by comparison.
As a woman with a daughter who will be entering college in a few years, I think I want to find the school rated 'worst for women' by modern feminism standards and make sure she attends that one. That way nobody will be indoctrinating her with socialism and whiney-ism in the name of intro english classes. Nobody will be rationalizing why women 'think differently', or considering traditional subjects like math and science just part of that "logical" way of thinking that is so bad and much of how da-man keeps us women down. That's precisely the anti-female crap that DID keep women down for centuries, doing needlework instead of science for the most part because women weren't supposed to worry their little heads about things like real education.
Modern feminism comes off not like an informed opinion, but a pathology out of control.
It seems to me a relatively small group of women have managed to pass off to the media their own opinion as somehow representative of women. Unless a perspective represents nuns and housewives and catholic moms and retired 50-years-married women, just as much as it represents unmarried mothers and lesbians and businesswomen, it does not represent enough women in our culture to deserve any voice 'on behalf of' anybody.
And why it isn't obvious that making men 'bad' is just as retarded as making women 'bad' is beyond me. The species is designed for these two to survive together, and anything that injustly treats either of them is not healthy. There are several points in our culture in which men are in a position of real injustice too and these things on both sides should be corrected.
Every time I hear or read some feminist speech/writing, I'm seized with the urge to yell, "Would you grow up!" It's like a bunch of little rich kids with a huge sense of entitlement and nothing but griping about how nothing is fair to them and it's always someone else's fault. A woman doesn't give any inspiration to being considered an equal when she acts irrational and manipulative. People like that are poison to any society, from a family to a church group to a whole culture.
It's amazing any man who survives one of the heavily feminist-controlled colleges doesn't come out of it vastly more against women than he could possibly have gone in. If these people had been the representatives of 'women's rights' historically we would still be fighting for the right to vote and own property. Thank goodness the original suffragettes were nothing like the modern day claimants.
Sommers does in this book what needed doing: taking several of the most 'famous statistics' allegedly proving just how horrifying females have it, and makes it clear that they are pretty much the same unfactual hyperbole that most of the so-called 'feminist' movement is infamous for. (Note the tags suggested for this book here on amazon, like 'delusional' and 'hateful'. Nothing that might lead to or relate to facts mind you; just name calling, which is about the mental age level we're dealing with from that side. As if it's perfectly ok for them to relegate half the population (men) to everything-bad imaginable, even without their doing anything at all; but should anyone merely disagree with a woman in that group, they're "hateful.")
The author differentiates between what she calls "Equity Feminism" -- that is apparently what I've always innately been in line with -- and "Gender Feminism" -- which is the man-bashing women-as-whiney-victims socialist and manipulative BS that "stole feminism" as their own label in the media... forever making it something more people sneer at and don't take seriously, than the term of respect the women of prior days earned for it.
She also listed several other women who are "Equity" feminists who I will make a point to learn more about. Ironically I have read a lot more from the 'gender feminist' side and I actually thought this represented feminism, and all my life wanted nothing to do with it as a result. (I don't think these women need more equality, I think they need more therapy.) I'm a bit cheered up to think there may be more women who are not irrational, hysterical and anti-men, but who recognize what's come before for women and what still needs to come and are interested in the subject. I guess I thought the dark side was all there was. I kinda wish I'd been aware of this equity vs. gender difference a long time ago.
I don't know enough about the 'equity' side of this equation (I mean officially) to know how the book rates in that regard, but I found it very interesting and somewhat educational, and leading to doorways of further exploration.
114 of 147 people found the following review helpful
Sommers has a gift for exposing hypocrisy, misinformation, propaganda and outright lies in a readable and often delightful manner that has made her the bête noire of gender feminists. In this carefully and exhaustively argued and generally convincing critique of the post modern movement she employs a STARTLING TECHNIQUE to embarrass the feminist fringe: SHE QUOTES THEM. Wow. She begins in the Preface with the now infamous claim by Gloria Steinem (from her Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem) and Naomi Wolf (The Beauty Myth) that in the United States "about 150,000 females die of anorexia each year." Hmm. Sounds scary. But it turns out that the number is less than one hundred.
This sort of distortion and falsification and just plain stupidity is typical of the totalitarian-minded feminist fringe (see Warren Farrell's The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex (1993) for more documentation). Where this is particularly egregious and harmful is in academia where gender feminists hold sway over not only their cowed and impressionable students but over a bullied and complacent faculty and administration. Sommers devotes a substantial portion of this book to detailing just how gender feminists have employed Stalinist techniques in order to twist the curriculum their way, to rewrite and distort history, and to secure greater employment for those of a similar stripe. Very revealing and sadly amusing is her report from some of the feminist conferences she has attended. The way they shout out against the truth and shout down anyone who expresses a contrary view really is something out of a storm trooper rally. Shame on a lot of people who should know better.
But feminism hasn't really been stolen. The substantial gains toward a complete social, economic and political equality are very real and very much with us. For this we can thank the real feminists, whom Sommers calls "equity feminists" for their courage, strength, hard work and level-headed intelligence. For the fringe elements, the privileged and pampered janie-come-latelies like Susan Faludi, Andrea Dworkin and the particularly obscene Catharine MacKinnon, all I can say is they couldn't even caddy for women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and later, Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer, women who really cared about women's rights and were effective in helping to secure them. What the fringe feminists have succeeded in doing with their pathological hatred of men is embarrass themselves and give comfort to the misogynists among us. Sad indeed. That whirring sound you hear is the women of the nineteenth century suffragette movement rolling over in their graves; and the sorrowful laments in the background are the cries of the really disadvantaged and victimized women world-wide in places like India and Iraq, Bangladesh and the former Soviet Union who would dearly love to deal with the discriminations American fringe feminists are whining about (even the real ones). I wonder if the likes of Faludi, Dworkin and MacKinnon would be willing to work for women's rights and against patriarchy in, say, Afghanistan or Iran...
Sommers herself is a sharp-eyed feminist of the old school, a woman who knows that distortions and brown-shirt tactics cannot do women or humans any good. Her book is an attempt to set the ship aright, a loud and somewhat stringent call for better leadership and a more diversified (and sophisticated, I might add) crew of people willing to work hard and effectively for gender equality. The spoiled little rich girl bully feminism exemplified by those targeted in this book doesn't speak for the vast majority of women struggling to find themselves as human beings, and to free themselves from the shackles and the delusions of sexism.
59 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2001
The author, Christina Hoff Sommers, is a feminist. However, she is an equity feminist who believes, in the great tradition of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Erica Jong, Betty Friedan etc. that women should enjoy equal oppoertunity and equal treatment under the law. This is quite different from the gender feminists, such as Patricia Ireland, Gloria Steinem etc. who believe that men are the enemy, that they are all potential abusers and rapists. Sommers gives a chilling account of how this type of feminism has taken over much of acedemia and views contray to the gender feminist views are not expressed for fear of reprisals. Dissent is not tolerated. Censorship and intimidation rather than refutation are the ways to deal with contrary opinions.
Sommers demonstrates that the radical feminists have demeaned the very women whose cause the supposedly champion. By viewing women who do not agree with their agenda as somehow inferior in their states of conciousness than are the radical feminists, they in effect relegate the majority of women to the staus of naive fools who do not know what's best for them. The gender feminists are elitists who know better than , eg, religious women who live a traditional religious lifestyle, or women who, out of their concern for the children they are raising, choose to stay at home. Quite frankly, it's scary. These feminists would almost subject dissenters to the "cause" to re-education camps famous for their employment by the Chinese during the cultural revolution.
Radical feminists do research with the results a forgone conclusion. For example a poll comissioned by the American Association of University Women showed women to have much lower self esteem than do men. However, Sommers, despite much resistance from the AAUW, reviewed the raw data and discovered that the results summerized for press releases were doctored and the survey did not yield a result such as that claimed by the AAUW. Sommers cites several other examples of gender feminist "scholarship" in which the conclusions are preordained and the data twisted to fit the goals of the organizations commissioning the study.
This book makes a lot of sense. I had read Sommers' later book "The War Against Boys" and the well reasoned scholarship of that book is the backbone of this one too.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2009
Having recently finished Prof. Hoff-Sommers' masterpiece 'The War Against Boys' I regressed backwards and read this, her first notable publication. It is wonderful to see how she had developed her literary style and grown academically; the gulf between these two works is substantial. Although she does briefly touch upon and allude to topics and themes she will later address in 'Boys', this work is almost entirely independent in thesis. However, like 'Boys', this text also shares an obvious attention to detail, a meticulous researching and reference and a passion and zest for the Truth.
What the author did in this text, when it was first published a decade ago, was to light the first match that broke the darkness that had since the late '60s been slowly enveloping a number of sociological disciplines which have become known colloquially as 'feminism'. This is in itself, no small feat, especially when one considers that up until this point, legitimate topics such as those raised and scrutinised in the book, have been off-limits to close examination and serious academic inspection. Anyone who 'dares' to question the authenticity or authority of anything put out by the female-supremacist machine, is immediately publicly tarred and feathered and labelled 'misogynistic', 'sexist' or 'scared of change'. This is of course merely smoke and mirrors, a primitive, anti-intellectual ploy used to silence critics and divert the nation's attention away from the real Truths. One of which is the massive funding that paranoia and guilt receives in the name of supposed academic research under the 'equality' or 'gender studies' umbrella. Another of which is the disproportionate percentage of public funds which are being pointlessly squandered by white middle-class, educated women in positions of privilege. Funds that could and should be used to help poor, under-educated white and non-white woman, who are in dire need of services such as shelters, community centres, training facilities and such like. It is an utter sham and a total injustice how the white female elite have diverted funds away from their more needy sisters. Those cited in this book and being responsible for such waste should feel utterly ashamed at further contributing to the plight of the genuinely needy.
Hoff-Sommers' other notable achievement is that as a serious academic, she has the mental faculty to question not only the Empress' clothes, but her very existence too. Instead of a single Empress, what Dr. Hoff-Sommers reveals instead, is a horde of embittered new-age, touchy-feely, inner-child seeking, anti-intellectual impostors all eager for funding and thirsty for personal publicity. And a docile and unquestioning media that either is simply not doing their job, or that has been taken in and wishes to avoid being tarred as 'un P.C.'
Although this text is a decade old, it it certainly worth reading and should form part of the wider readings for any enquiring mind, any citizen who wishes to better understand the world around them, especially the failing of the media and the gullibility of trusting humans in the face of organisations who knowingly pervert the Truth and the facts.
The only really negative aspects to this otherwise creditable text are:
i) It was written in 1994, which in any academic field is just too long ago. Certainly any data-based conjecture she presented or any conclusions she drew are really no more than supposition in today's world.
ii) Hoff-Sommers' writing does tend to be rather myopic and somewhat repetitive, and this makes the book lose pace somewhat. Although to be fair, what she has done is to take a dry Academic discipline and turn it into a best-seller; she has taken Academia and made it palatable for the average person. In aspiring to and reaching such a noble goal, it is understandable that she has to alter her style somewhat.
N.B. This 'adaptation for the masses' is not apparent in her subsequent offering 'The War Against Boys'.
Finally, it is somewhat sadly ironic that the female-supremacist hold up every word Dr. Hoff-Sommers puts down on paper, to such rigourous examination. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they subjected their own biased, anti-intellectual half-truths and blatant falsehoods to such scrutiny. if they did, it might ultimately strengthen their cause.