In Ms. Christina Hoff Sommers new book Freedom Feminism, she shares her concern that most American women do not identify with the label feminist. Why? Because according to Ms. Hoff Sommers, the establishment feminist movement is overtly careerist, male adverse, and requires women to be unfeminine in order to be free.
Cathy Reisenwitz has already done a slam-dunk job critiquing Ms. Hoff Sommers’ latest opus, but I would like to add a couple of bitcoins of my own.
Ms. Hoff Sommers’ current fixation on notions of femininity remind me of unsolicited fashion advice given to me about whether a piece of clothing is truly “vintage” and worth keeping, or whether it should be given to charity. These antiquated concerns about straight female femininity are valid, but it’s painful for me to see how much they are placed out of context with what is happening now to men, women, and humanity at this point in the 21st century.
We live in a place and time where anime robot Japanese girls entertain millions around the world simultaneously and in real time, not to mention other technological and ontological wonders that once were the stuff of science fiction novels just a few short years ago. These changes have altered the landscape of gender differences in ways that are far too numerous to describe in one blog post. Given that current reality, is an extended discussion about limited notions of femininity and woman’s true nature really relevant now?
I used to be a huge fan of Ms. Hoff Sommers’ work and to some extent I still am. I thought her book, Who Stole Feminism, was brave, very brave.
Granted, Ms. Hoff Sommers was not the first or only person to point out that radical collectivist feminism had outlived its usefulness for most American women, but unlike other critics of the movement at the time (early 1990s), she had been a true insider, and back then, she was considered to be a Whittaker Chambers of sorts of the Second Wave.
I’m not so sure that the nostalgic return to the strategies of the First Wave of feminism that Ms. Hoff Sommers calls for will truly correct the errors, much less reverse the excesses of the various “Waves” of feminism that followed.
Still, Ms. Hoff Sommers’ exhortation for all emancipated women to be concerned for those women who live in places where they are truly abused and oppressed is important.
These women don’t live in our century, but in a state that defies our pretentious Western notions of backlash (Afghanistan, is but one example).
In fact, this topic of discourse about women and freedom that still lends Ms. Hoff Sommers some contemporary relevance. Indeed, it is one area of work Ms. Hoff Sommers makes her true contribution, and, in my view, a philosophical “keeper” still worthy of my time and attention.