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Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality Hardcover – February 22, 1999
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Equally so, Cathy Young, a regular columnist for the Detroit News and contributor to Reason Magazine, is not likely to hit the recommended reading lists of those with a partisan interest in the exploitation male female differences. As the title Ceasfire! suggests, the gender war has gone too far and, as Young exhaustively documents within its covers, damaged too many innocents.
Says Young, "Things were simpler a decade ago, when there were just feminists and anti-feminists." But today there are two feminisms. One is 'equity' feminism; that is simply the commonsense call for equal rights and opportunities. Young is solidly in this camp. No problem there, but its radical counterpart, dubbed 'gender' feminism, defines itself in warlike terms against male oppression. Proclaiming victim status for women leads to a hoard of injustices, not only against men, but nearly as often against women.
Young doesn't suggest men and women are androgynous, but unlike suggestions of Mars and Venus, she places them both solidly on planet earth. They share substantially the same ability to wrong each other - and that they do. Chapter by chapter, myths which are promoted by feminism's fringe, but nonetheless widely accepted in today's political climate, are systematically exploded.
Among these are the tenets of (I dare not say, but Young does) the battered women's movement. Young doesn't deny the existence of domestic violence, only that it can be a two-way street. As she points out, respected University of New Hampshire researchers consistently report women as often as men initiate aggressive physical contact - the so-called 'first punch.' This is a human problem, not part of the feminist declared "epidemic of male violence against women." Mainstream media, as Young repeatedly reveals, either submerges, misreports or misunderstands these complicated dynamics. From there, legislation is enacted on false assumptions.
By and large, gender feminism denies the inherent capacity for violence by women. Women's transgression are dismissed as reactions to an oppressive patriarchal world. Men are presumed guilty, both in feminist theory and in practical application of the law. But recent studies reveal that lesbians (presumably they are feminists) have high rates of violence toward their own partners.
However, Ceasfire! is not an anti-women polemic. A chapter headed "The Conservative Mistake" points at the confusions attached to this issue. A paradox exists. Radical feminism posits that women are moral superiors to males, i.e., they would never file a false claim of rape, they have an inherent capacity civilize and nurture which brutish oaf men lack. Old fashioned Victorian morality agrees - so do some traditionalist conservatives. Women are the fragile guardians of good - a civilizing force - who must be placed on pedestals and protected.
Young notes this "strange convergence of radical feminism and patriarchal conservatism - and the alienation of both ideologies from real life." She points us to the confrontation between the Christian fundamentalist Promise Keepers and the National Organization of Women. Despite initial appearances as polar opposites, they both campaign on a platform of male irresponsibility. Unwittingly, they are working from the same premises.
Another strand of conservatism, agreeable with equity feminism, points to the progress women have made in recent years. Here the belief is "how ridiculous it is to talk about American women as an oppressed group." Indeed, there are statistics the National Organization of Women prefers to avoid.
Young's conclusions are pragmatic. Her twelve proposals are directed toward balance, not vindication of any particular viewpoint. The theme is the de-politicization of gender issues, but one does not ask for balance unless the status quo is skewed, and Young is clear about that. We need to get along. Women have sons and husbands; daughters have fathers and brothers - our issues are family ones. We are the same species.
But radical feminism cannot maintain its cohesion without an enemy. That is why Young's friend and colleague Christina Hoff Sommers once warned, "When feminists quote statistics, reach for your common sense." The "its always his fault attitude" is the mantra of a movement that doesn't want peace. That is the balloon Young seeks to puncture.
Popular media seldom probes for deeper truth. Whether that is due to political ideology, a lemming-like like tendency to follow the herd, or the rushed atmosphere of daily production, false and misleading examples of advocacy research are too often presented as authoritative. Its is a straight line from an interest group press release to the front page - once there, falsehood is elevated to truth. Young has produced a comprehensive counterpoint to the standard wisdom. She wants us to "Get the facts straight." Ceasfire! is directed toward those who prefer truth and insight over perjury and manipulation.
While the person who recommended the book to me is one whom I trust, I had some reservations about it as Young is affiliated with the Cato Institute, a conservative libertarian think tank. I was relieved to find that, while the book seems aimed at a conservative readership--there is a chapter dedicated to the mistakes of conservatives--by and large the book is a pretty safe analysis of contemporary feminists who are so dedicated to their status as victims that they've endorsed a veritable "paleo-sexism" as Young calls it. And this victimhood is, to me, the opposite of what feminism is supposed to be about! The feminists I've admired have insisted on claiming their own turf, on demanding their rights as citizens, not insisting that their rights are contingent upon their subservience to the omnipotent men.
Oh, and Young had the audacity to acknowledge that women too abuse their kids--and their spouses--much more than many a feminist or court is willing to acknowledge. Thank you, Ms. Young. If a man were to say the same thing, he'd be accused of bitter cynicism. You've at least opened the door to that dimension of honesty.
While I am a strong advocate of women's equality (and racial equality, and...) to the degree that most people from Cato would probably despise me, the present wave of feminists have infantilized themselves. That I do not advocate. Between some women claiming they've been "sexually harassed" on claims that are so abstract that if a man were to claim the same he'd be laughed out of court, and redefinitions of rape to ensure the place of comfortable women in the realm of the rape victim, there seems to be something wrong with the claims. (A Democratic congressman of my acquaintance was recently accused of abuse by his ex-wife. Her attorney implied that the charge itself, despite evidence, should be enough to convict him, or at least seriously challenge his reelection prospects. If I were in a position to do so, I'd have her disbarred!)
Then there are the emotive statements, "if such-and-such were a men's disease, its research would be funded," and the dubious studies by those catering to the latest feminist fads (many of which have been refuted by Christina Hoff Sommers, and others). Young does a pretty commendable job of exposing these fallacies. For instance, the amount spent on breast cancer has surpassed that of prostate cancer by a factor of 50, relative to the number of victims of each! And if I hear one more reference to Faludi's screed "Backlash," I may get into book burning.
Young is wise in covering some dimensions of the "men's movement." And I agree with her approach. It seems that Warren Farrell, in "The Myth of Male Power," may have a good point or two. But he seemed to want to make men into victims too. How about both sexes help each other out and not claim that "other" is subjecting "us" to unspeakable horrors. Then there is the bizarre and dangerous misconception that the "us" are our allies and the "other" our enemies. (Do such claims sell that many newspapers, or that much air time?)
I suspect that a little of Young's speculation meets the needs of her ideology too; there is a little of "it seems to me," or "probably..." But her closing recommendations as to "get a life" (my phrase, not hers) are sound. And I don't see anything wrong with women and men (blacks and whites; gays and straights...) working together. I have this wild fantasy that we'll be able to get something done if we learn to do so!
What's more, I don't see the book as a cheap shot at feminism. (That's one of those flames, of course, aimed at Young). Rather, she exposes fallacies that need to be exposed if we are to work together, instead of against each other. While reading it, you might consider other victimologies, e.g., recovered memory, satanic abuse and other travesties, and ask where they correlate with victim feminism.
Ms. Young's book merely serves to illustrate the price we are paying for the excesses of gender feminism, and provides some well reasoned thoughts on how to put things into better balance. If we do not do so, our sons are destined to become second class citizens in a world where they will be blamed for all that is evil and ignored for all that is good.
Ceasefire argues that a world like that is one none of us will be happy with...
Even those people who seem to want it so badly.
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