Feminism for Foxes?
By Rod Van Mechelen
Was feminist author Naomi Wolf ever credible? When I wrote this, we were hopeful that she would fulfill the promise of her words to become the first major feminist voice to embrace the gender egalitarianism of the men's rights movement. Alas, she proved false.
Putting a pretty face on feminist sexism
1994 Bellevue, Wash. - The more I listen to Naomi Wolf, the more I feel that she does not represent a change of heart. That the supremacist feminists are mistaken to accuse her of betraying the party line. That she is nothing more than a sugar-coated, giggly-voiced version of Andrea MacSteinemiller peddling the same old "men bad/women good" gab dolled up as feminism for foxes.
Wolf's neener-neener moment
On October 12, 1994, I attended her lecture at the University of Washington, where she was promoting the paperback versions of Fire with Fire: The New Female Power and How to Use It and The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. Near the end of her discussion, after taking questions and comments from several women, she called on James Smethurst, of Seattle MEN (Seattle's MythoPoetic men's Organization). But first she said, "I'm so glad to see so many men in the audience, but do you men feel invisible, like your concerns and issues are being ignored? I offer that experience to you as consciousness raising."
Until that point, I was feeling pretty open to what she had been saying. But I felt her remark was a gratuitously gleeful jab on a par with, say, Isaac Stevens (first governor of what later became Washington state) chanting, "neener neener," at my American Indian ancestors immediately after representatives of other, different tribes "signed" away their territories at the Treaty of Medicine Creek in 1854.
Most men have to earn attention
Now, please excuse me if I become a little presumptuous at this point, but I expect at least some "feminists" reading this are thinking, "Ha! Now you know how women feel." To that, my response is, "Now?" Hell, I, and the vast majority of men I know or know about, past and present, knew how it felt long before puberty. It was part of our indoctrination into American masculinity -- to be a man means to work for recognition.
The vast majority of men, as George Gilder observes in Men and Marriage, must struggle to be heard where most women can command attention with a whimper (or a flash of cleavage). In the best patriarchal tradition, doors are held open for women where men must labor just to get a foot in. Difference is, most men don't complain while most pop-feminists do.
Be that as it may, to her credit she did wrap things up on a positive note, saying that she sincerely believed now was the time for men and women to join together to work for a more egalitarian society. (In Fire with Fire, she seems to make the same mistake most people do about eGalitarianism, confusing it with eQUalitarianism, and I'd reckon that's what she was talking about.)
Watching for proof of sincerity (that never came)
But actions speak louder than words, as they say, and like the Women's Action Coalition, we are watching.
Despite that many contributors to The Backlash! have wanted to tear apart Wolf's feminism for foxes, I have thus far refused because she shows promise. Now would be good time for her to prove her sincerity, to prove that despite her arrogant lapses into elitism, she really is ready to promote equal Rights and Repsonsibilities, because so far she has only had to contend with criticisms from the professional pundits, the whining of a few extremists who feel she has betrayed the feminist cause, and the relatively moderate spotlight of Christina Hoff Sommers' analysis in Who Stole Feminism?. But only by proving her sincerity will she escape the unrelenting glare of The Backlash!
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.