The Backlash! - November 1994

Book Review: Fire with Fire

by Naomi Wolf; Random House

I want to like this book, I really do, but I find it very irritating. Ms Wolf is about halfway toward being male positive, but in some ways she is as clueless as Andrea Dworkin.

First the good news. The author knows the difference between sixties type feminism and the garbage we live with nowadays. She calls these "power feminism" and "victim feminism." The names are self explanatory, but it's nice to see a woman pointing out something I've said for years about the change in the major feminist agenda since then. Another positive point is that she takes pains to state the obvious fact that women control the political process in this country. This is also something that I have said for years, but nobody believed me, so it's nice to see this finally acknowledged.

Now for the bad stuff. Ms Wolf has no concept of the difference between the sexual power of women and men. She seems to be a woman with a strong sex drive, and unlike most men in that same situation, she can act it out simply by wanting to do so. She talks about the fact that women objectify men just as much as men objectify women, and she even admits her own culpability in doing so by talking about how she sometimes wishes she had a group of "nubile 17 year old soccer players" to keep her happy. What she misses is that the only thing stopping her and millions of other women from doing so is their own power of choice. It's rather hard to successfully exploit someone sexually (while obeying the law) if they have no interest in you at all.

By the last part of the book, I had the bad feeling I usually get when I read a book that assumes that a woman and a man who are politically and financially equal will ever be equal in the ways that really matter. After all, equality in the bedroom is ultimately more important than, and a prerequisite to, equality in the boardroom.

One of the other problems I have with this book is that its definition of feminism is so broad (no pun intended) that even ideas and behavior that are, in fact, quite traditional can sleep under the same semantic tent as the crap spewed forth in the editorials of Ms Magazine. Feminism is anything that any woman wants it to be, rather than being defined in such a way that there are things that are clearly not feminist.

I know that this is going to make me sound sexist (as if I haven't been called that enough already), but I've met Naomi Wolf, and she is in a quite fortunate personal and financial situation relative to most men and many women (she's kind of cute), and I think that this has colored her outlook on these issues. This is true of all of us, but the reader should know where an author is coming from. Ms Wolf seems to be promoting a "feminism for foxes" that, while not as angry as the bulldyke ravings of Ms. Dworkin, it is every bit as limited.

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