Who Stole Feminism? by Christina Hoff Sommers

Synopsis:
Hoff Sommers debunks “gender feminism” and the scare tactics its proponents use to promote their radical agenda.

Review:
Susan Faludi’s Backlash came out when I was in college, and had a tremendous impact on me. Today, I consider myself a feminist with reservations. I’ll speak out wherever I can against injustice against women, but where feminism aligns itself with the culture of death in our society I stop being a supporter. My feminism has grown into a hatred of injustice against all who are oppressed and dehumanized, in particular the elderly and the disabled.

At times, reading Who Stole Feminism? was a boisterous romp down memory lane into the ubër-PC 1990s. Hoff Sommers gives some hilarious accounts of seminars and lectures that might feel like satire for the younger generation who didn’t experience the absurdity firsthand. I was reminded of PCU, an underrated comedy classic that I always watch when it’s on TV, with its outsized depictions of overly sensitive college students clumping in agenda-defined groups. (“Hey hey, ho ho, this penis party’s go to go!”)

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last 5 years, as tales of female genital mutilation emerged from Africa and stories of rape used as punishment on women emerged from Muslim countries, it’s that there’s oppression, and there’s oppression. It’s easy to manufacture a personal history filled with victimization, but once you come face to face with real horror, the correct response should be compassion and validation. Comparing a leer from a stranger on the street to an instance of rape is to deny the rape victim the truth of what she (or he) has experienced.

Who Stole Feminism? is a reactionary work. I think I’ll file it on the shelf next to Katie Roiphe’s The Morning After keep it away from Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, because I have an unhealthy fear of conflict.

2 thoughts on “Who Stole Feminism? by Christina Hoff Sommers”

  1. I’m going to lift my thoughts on that book from an old entry of mine —

    I didn’t get very far into it.

    Basically, I was put off by all the radfem bashing. The author calls them “gender feminists” who see women as being under siege, living under oppressive male rule in a male-dominated patriarchy, etc. I gather … that she doesn’t believe in the patriarchy? At least, not in the patriarchy that privileges men simply for having been born male. She makes fun of women for being “angry” about their experiences of discrimination.

    I don’t know. It seemed like it had some good points to make (there was something in the very beginning about how the “battering is the number one cause of birth defects” thing was a huge blowout resulting from a misquote), especially with regards to how feminism does/could/should treat men … but maybe I just haven’t read around enough to really relate to her, because after all, I don’t consider myself a radical feminist and, while I do think that current gender hegemonies need restructuring, I don’t see the point in beating the crap out of other feminists for holding dissenting views.

  2. Hey Sara:

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree with you–she’s overstating her case. At the beginning of the book, she tries to thwart this argument by saying, “people warned me that the right would use my book against feminists, but that’s not why I wrote this book.”

    There are some good points buried in the rhetoric, but extremism sells books, not good points…

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