For Feminist Writers: Distinguish Between Feminism and Feminists!

Updated February 26, 2015

By Jerry A. Boggs

Countless feminist writers wonder, often in seeming exasperation, why many women and men still reject feminism or feel threatened by it.

Source: ForbesWomanAllison Casey, in Society stereotypes feminists,” says, “There go those crazy feminists again, speaking against violence and demanding equality. Why is feminism so threatening? I still have no idea.”

In “A New Day at Harvard,” columnist Ellen Goodman observes, “On college campuses where women take rights for granted, many shy away from the F-word as if it were a dangerous brand.”

“When,” asks sophomore sociology major Elaena Stanitsas in “Women Should Embrace Feminism,” “did feminism get such a negative association? Feminism is a beautiful and powerful ideology and it is depressing to think that all the hard work of our foremothers has been in vain.”

What such feminist writers fail to understand is that for probably most of the men and women “who reject or are threatened by feminism,” the problem isn’t feminism. It is feminist leaders.

There’s a difference, just as there is a difference between religion and religious leaders.

The Islamic religion and extremist Islamic leaders illustrate the point. Islam, I’m sure, is a fine religion, but some of its extremist leaders promote it by denouncing as evil — and often calling for violence against — all those who refuse to accept Islam.

Like Islam, Christianity provides excellent tools for living a life of goodness and faith. Yet consider Christian leader Pat Robertson. Supposedly in his 1992 book The Secret Kingdom, he writes about enforcement measuresnot only for criminals but also for dissenters from the “soon to be re-established” Christian culture. Religious leaders in this category no doubt prompt many people to throw the baby out with the bath water, to spurn not just the religious leaders but their religion along with them, to see both as one and the same.

| Any “ism” is only as good — or bad — as its leaders and the media portray it. |

    A similar conundrum exists for feminism vs. feminist leaders. While increasingly fewer people oppose feminism — when it’s defined as the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines it: the “theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes” — a huge number continue to oppose feminist leaders whose views they often regard as sexist and divisive. “Too many prominent feminist leaders,” says Christina Hoff Sommers, author of Who Stole Feminism? “are role models of intolerance and anti-male prejudice. Too many play fast and loose with the truth.”

Doing exactly that on the issue of violence, renowned feminist leader Phyllis Chesler says without citing sources, “According to contemporary studies, 90 percent of all violent crimes are still committed by men. … When those women who commit 10 percent of all violent crimes do kill, nearly half kill male intimates who have abused them or their children, and they invariably do so in self-defense.” In other words, Chesler divides the sexes into two chief categories: men as violent victimizers and women as peaceful innocents. (For a more balanced perception on gender violence, go here.)

Feminist and former U.S. Representative Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) tries to divide the sexes over the issue of health. Providing an example of how women are supposedly short-changed, she maintains that “mostly male researchers are more worried about prostate cancer than breast cancer.” Male researchers may indeed worry more about prostate cancer, for the same reason female researchers probably worry more about breast cancer. But regardless of who worries about what, according to Cathy Young, author of Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality: “From 1966 to 1986, there were over 400 clinical trials on breast cancer and 121 on prostate cancer; and in 1990, the National Cancer Institute spent $81 million on breast cancer research and $13.2 million on prostate cancer, which causes nearly as many deaths.” (Prostate cancer would cause as many deaths if men as a group were lucky enough to live as long as women.)

Addressing the world of work, Director of the Center for Gender Studies and Chair of Psychology, Dr. Hilary Lips, at a conference in New Zealand, proffered views held by virtually all feminist leaders: “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics women make up two-thirds of all minimum wage-earners, and during 1998, women in the United States earned 76 cents for every dollar earned by men. Why is it so difficult to overcome this wage gap? One of the reasons is our long habits of thinking of women and the work they do as less important and impressive than that of men.”

To insure that women earn a dollar for every dollar men earn, Lips urges what she admits is the “not-simple pay equity,” sometimes called “comparable worth.” A question for Lips: If, as you suggest, the simple equal-pay-for-equal-work law has for the last 40 years been successfully resisted by employers, what makes you think employers will roll over and accept a “not simple” pay equity law? (For the non-feminist take on pay equity, see “An In-depth Look at Women’s Pay Equity.”)

Her pay-equity concept is supported by the Paycheck Fairness Act proposed by feminist leader extraordinaire, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Said Clinton (at her now-defunct, “But here we are at the beginning of the 21st Century, and women are still earning significantly less than men for doing the same work.” [Emphasis by Male Matters] Does Clinton think she is paid significantly less than her male counterparts and the reason is that the U.S., in particular President Obama, regards her work as less important and impressive than that of the men’s?

Clinton and Lips ignore the findings of such gender experts as Warren Farrell, who told me in an email, “What’s frustrating is Hillary Clinton not following through after expressing to me her willingness to dialogue with me on this issue [the gender wage gap] before the Business and Professional Women.”

Without Farrell’s balanced insights, Clinton’s and Lips’ explanation of the sexes’ earnings gap does little more, I suspect, than spark turmoil and tension between men and women in the workplace. That’s because it doubtless causes many women to believe employers pay women less solely in order to pay men more, that male workers benefit at female workers’ expense. It seems natural that such a belief could lead some working women to focus less on buckling down and developing skills to move ahead, and more on protesting “wage discrimination against women”* and demanding employers’ proof of equal remuneration. Worse, it can sometimes trigger a class-action lawsuit such as the one Wal-Mart is embroiled in. (To see how misguided and counterproductive I think a pay equity law would be, see my commentary, “A Two-Part Special On ‘Pay Equity’ For Women.” See also Taking Apart the Sex-Bias Class-Action Lawsuit Against Wal-Mart.”)

So much for the world of work. As for the world of children**, Kim Gandy, former president of the National Organization for Women, supports Roe v. Wade for women but says about Roe v. Wade For Men:

According to the National Center for Men Web site, as a result of Roe v. Wade, “[w]omen now have control of their lives after an unplanned conception. But men are routinely forced to give up control, forced to be financially responsible for choices only women are permitted to make, forced to relinquish reproductive choice as the price of intimacy.” That’s a whole lot of talk that, when you get right down to it, means “have an abortion or I get to walk away.” Either way it means zero consequences and zero responsibility, and they want the courts to call it “reproductive choice for men.”

Gandy blatantly lies when she asserts that Roe v. Wade For Men tells women “have an abortion.” Her lie, of course, serves a purpose: it permits her to then justify rejecting for men the very reproductive choice she demands for women. To her, apparently, women should be legally allowed to escape the responsibility of parenthood, but men shouldn’t be — this from a prominent feminist leader who claims the feminism she represents is about equality and individual choice! (For the record, Gandy has on at least one occasion acknowledged “societal” bias against fathers, though she failed to admit that at least an equal part of the bias comes from women.)

Fabled feminist leader Gloria Steinem built a career on, among other things, fleshing out sexism. Yet according to, she can dish it out fairly well herself: “If women are supposed to be less rational and more emotional at the beginning of our menstrual cycle when the female hormone is at its lowest level, then why isn’t it logical to say that, in those few days, women behave the most like the way men behave all month long?” And there’s this: “Pornography is the instruction. Rape is the practice.” Might I remind Steinem that since this venomous outpouring about male sexuality, porn has proliferated like mold in a dank cellar, yet rape has dramatically dropped?

Then there are the less-prominent feminists who don’t even consider pulling punches with their invectives against men.

Feminist attorney and frequent cable TV pundit Gloria Allred reportedly said, “The more I know about men, the more I like dogs.”

Not to be outdone, feminist Marilyn French, author of the vilely antimale Women’s Room, has this gem attributed to her: “All men are rapists, and that’s all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes.”

Attorney Wendy J. Murphy is called upon frequently on cable TV to proffer feminist interpretations of sex crimes. She teaches a seminar on sexual violence at the New England School of Law in Boston. Showing how she apparently regards male sexuality, she reacted with particularly vitriolic misandry after male students at Harvard built a 9-foot-tall snow sculpture of a penis in reaction to the widespread campus celebration of female sexuality and anatomy, an on-going celebration that is inspired by “The Vagina Monologues.” “What if students,” Murphy said, “had built a snow sculpture of a Nazi swastika or the confederate flag? As a sculpture, a snow penis can’t cause much direct harm, but it clearly serves as a powerful symbol of sexual dominance and gendered violence. Would Harvard’s administration have been so deafeningly silent if students built a sculpture that symbolized race dominance or ethnic cleansing?”

Murphy’s misandry is appropriately dealt with by Cathy Young:

“Let me get this (no pun intended) straight. An erect penis is a symbol of sexual dominance and violence, comparable to the swastika and the confederate flag. Does this mean that sexual intercourse is comparable to the Holocaust, slavery, and ethnic cleansing? A more shocking statement of hatred for maleness and male sexuality is hard to imagine. Unfortunately, these silly and hateful comments are typical of the state of academic feminism today. And then, feminists act surprised and outraged when feminism is perceived as silly and anti-male.”

Young writes in the LA Times: “Despite occasional lip service to the idea that feminism can liberate men too from patriarchal confines, most feminist discourse spends far more time bashing men for trivial transgressions.” 

Can you imagine what kind of sexual-violence seminar Murphy must teach at Boston’s New England School of Law?

When asked, “Are you a feminist?” most American women say no. Feminist activists blame the media for feminism’s poor image, but I believe the activists themselves have turned the women’s movement into a caricature. –Christina Hoff Sommers, March 9, 2010

With such feminist “leaders” driving the dialog on feminism and shaping our view of it, many men and the women who care about men interpret feminism as a repudiation of men, their sexuality, and their views, especially those on gender issues. They see feminism as attempting to structure not equality but a society wherein men are to be denigrated and kicked to the curb. Can we blame these men and women for becoming so turned off by these feminist “leaders” — just as some people of faith become turned off by religious leaders — that they throw the baby out with the bath water, rejecting both the feminists and feminism?

I believe feminist writers can do more than write commentary asking why so many men and women resist feminism. They can challenge feminist “leaders,” feminism’s dominant voices, to jettison their antimale ideology and become more sensible and understanding of men. (He who feels understood by a person feels more willing to listen to that person. But this is a whole new topic, one for a future commentary!)

They might also demand that the mainstream media stop letting these feminist “leaders” dominate the discussion on gender. “Regrettably,” says Daniel Potter, a senior journalism major, “as in the case of many other well-intentioned movements lacking broad support, generally political radicals receive the preponderance of attention.”

My sentiments exactly. If over the years feminist radicals had not received the preponderance of attention on gender — if there all along had been fair-and-balanced reporting that included the male side — we might not have seen such tragedies as that committed by Canada’s Marc Lepine, the disturbed man who, before killing himself, killed 14 Dawson College women, mostly because, I suspect, he had formed his view of feminism from the vilely antimale views of radical feminists. (Watch this jarring video to get an idea of how “fair-minded, nurturing, cooperative, and peaceful” some Canadian feminists are. Indeed, little wonder that many people throw the feminism baby out with the feminist bath water.)


*Clinton’s Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 766) would “impose stiff penalties for violation of the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for investigating the wages of women doing similar jobs for other employers.” I hope this doesn’t mean any female employee at any time can ask her employer to prove wage equality!

See also “Alienated by sisters who simply won’t listen,” about Jackie Hayden, who embraces feminism but criticizes the antimale bias among many feminists, especially those engaged in combatting the “rape culture.”

** I divide society into two “worlds”: the world of work (the productive world) and the world of children (the reproductive world). Each needs the other for its survival. Both are necessary to civilization’s survival. Thus, the two worlds are equally important. So what have many of the feminists mentioned above been seeking for the last three decades? This: Ending men’s dominance in the world of work and preserving women’s dominance in the world of children. This apparent goal of prominent feminists may be the overarching reason that many people, especially men, throw the baby out with the bath water when wrestling with idea of “feminism.”


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4 Responses to For Feminist Writers: Distinguish Between Feminism and Feminists!

  1. Very well researched—I’ll be keeping this as a reference. Thanks for flagging it for me. The feminist leaders to whom you refer are the ones I view as being afflicted with gender narcissism. There is a rational explanation for their irrational behaviour.


  2. John Allman says:

    I think any woman, however much or little she might consider herself or be considered feminine, should be ashamed of calling herself a “feminist”, for exactly the same reason that I (a man, and devotedly masculine – vive la difference!) would be ashamed to call myself a “masculist”. Thank God some women are great deal cleverer than the spell check software that thinks that “feminist” is a proper word, whilst “masculist” isn’t.

    “Feminism” is a neologism which has meant different things in different ages. About fifty years before I was born, “feminism” was a word used in the context of a campaign for votes for women. When I was ten years old or thereabouts, I wondered why votes for women mattered at all, given that (I figured) democracy – in the form of manhood suffrage – was the BIG achievement, because it enabled the working class to outvote the ruling class. I couldn’t imagine a mummy casting her vote so as to cancel out daddy’s vote, and I’d have berated my own mum if she had confided in me she had voted thus. So, if people voted wisely, votes for women had simply doubled the number of votes that needed to be counted, at every election, without affecting the outcome, I calculated. (That’s children for you. They can be awfully naive.)

    I am a bit more sophisticated now in my thinking, fifty years on. But I still don’t see to this day how the invention of “gender politics” as we nowadays know it, during my lifetime, represents an improvement upon the old class-based politics.

    For children, the constant working up of emotions, that create between the dad gender and the mum gender the sort of sheer *warfare* that used to exist between capitalists and the working class, seems to me to be a wicked folly. When the working up of emotions is so asymmetric that the repulsive F word (feminism) is in the dictionary, whilst the equally repulsive, corresponding M word (masculism) isn’t, I would worry about the effect of this upon boys, even if I hadn’t got a son whose entire life had already, even before his fourth birthday, been adversely affected by the modern manifestation of feminism.

    The replacement of manhood suffrage by adulthood suffrage was the goal of the benign movement cameoed in Mary Poppins, retrospectively re-branded (I gather) as “first wave feminism”. If I am lucky, at best we’ll still be combating the destructive influences of so-called “third wave feminism”, as different as this from the movement that included the “Suffragette” light-relief diversion from the horrors of World War I as chalk is from cheese, by the time I die. I dread to think how horrible the world shall have become for lads, by the time my poor little boy, who never sees his dad, has been brought up as a bastard. I hope he doesn’t murder anybody, because society did what it did to him, and prevented me from teaching him how to be a man. If he does go on the rampage when I’m dead and gone, I won’t be to blame at all, and feminists will be to blame to some extent.

    I am heartened to learn that there are still women who spit upon so-called “feminism” as I do, who won’t accept this “mark of the beast”, even by paying the merest lip service, succumbing to the peer pressure to say that they, as wimmin, are feminists too, in one sense or the other.

    No I haven’t published any papers in peer-reviewed learned journals about feminism. You don’t need to have “studied” feminism’s gobbledegook in academia to know its spirit, any more than you have to have read Marx and Engels, to know that one is a victim of something evil, when one is languishing in a soviet gulag.


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