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Bad Girls of America: Women Who Make the World Worse, and
How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports
Author, Kate O'Beirne

Book review by Christina Hoff Sommers:

Friday, January 27, 2006

Swedish newspapers recently ran an unusual story about the misdeeds of feminist professor Eva Lundgren. Lundgren, a gender scholar who holds a chair in sociology at the prestigious Uppsala University, had been investigated by a university committee for maligning Swedish men. She had publicly claimed to have proof that bands of male Satanists had ritually murdered hundreds of the nation's infants. She also "found" that fully half of Swedish women were victims of male violence. Members of the committee investigating the professor's sensational assertions found them baseless, but they absolved her of deliberate fabrication. Still, they said there were "serious problems in Lundgren's research," and they faulted her for failing to be "critical and reflective." What is extraordinary about this episode, from an American perspective, is that a reality-challenged women's studies professor who made outrageous, bizarre, and wholly unsubstantiated claims was censured at all. In the United States, she would get a grant--and a raise--to help her pursue her "courageous" and important research.

Kate O'Beirne's acute, funny, and irreverent new book introduces us to the armies of Eva Lundgrens who have been marching unopposed in sisterly solidarity through America's major institutions for more than three decades. O'Beirne cites such leading feminists as Gloria Steinem, Eleanor Smeal, and Kate Michelman, along with celebrated political figures, including Hillary Clinton and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She also introduces readers to a large network of gender-equity apparatchiks who work tirelessly behind the scenes to transform American institutions according to strict feminist specifications. These women fervently believe they are improving the world--but, as O'Beirne clearly shows, they are adding to its miseries.

O'Beirne deploys a tactic that orthodox feminists consider grossly unfair: She quotes them and highlights their claims. Then she responds. Here is feminist author Anne Wilson Schaef lamenting the ravages of the American patriarchy: "To be born female in this culture means that you are born 'tainted,' that there is something intrinsically wrong with you that you can never change, that your birthright is one of innate inferiority." Oh really? says O'Beirne. "She should have been on Knickerbocker Road in Manhasset, New York. In our conventional, 1960s middle-class culture, we girls ran the neighborhood. We'd jump rope by the hour, with one end of the rope anchored to the bumper of a Rambler and some hapless little boy turning the other end until we released him from his duties."

O'Beirne brings wit and common sense to bear on the weird and rancorous world of orthodox feminism. She is a veteran editor at National Review and was a longtime member of the now (sadly) defunct Capital Gang debate program on CNN. Her new book explains to readers exactly what it is these impassioned women believe and how they have changed and will continue to change American society as long as they remain unchallenged.

In O'Beirne's book, readers will meet American women who make Sweden's Eva Lundgren appear restrained. Profs. Dee Graham and Edna Rawlings, for example, are University of Cincinnati psychologists who report that "all male-female relationships [are] more or less abusive" and that "women's bonding to men, as well as women's femininity and heterosexuality, are paradoxical responses to men's violence against women." Both Graham and Rawlings, notes O'Beirne, received large grants from the Justice Department and are featured speakers at training workshops for police, prosecutors, and judges. They and their like-minded sisters even managed to get an expensive federal program of their very own: the Violence Against Women Act.

This $1.6 billion initiative has been aptly described by Rutgers University anthropologist Lionel Tiger as a "civic celebration of antipathy to men." As O'Beirne explains, domestic violence is a serious problem and we need good policies and good law enforcement to deal with it; what we do not need is an expensive federal bureaucracy that rewards and employs fanatics like Graham and Rawlings. Yet that is what we got. Why? Because no member of Congress dared oppose Big Sister. No one mentioned the fact that the bill was based on feminist propaganda, as opposed to reputable research.

O'Beirne reminds us of such truths, and more. She shows us a modern women's movement that has contempt for the women it claims to represent. Rather than find out what women want and help them achieve it, professional feminists take it upon themselves to decide what women's goals should be. "NOW Knows Best," says O'Beirne. Most women want children and the time to take care of them, but the major women's organizations--such as the National Organization for Women, the Ms. Foundation, and Planned Parenthood--are focused on instructing women how not to conceive a child, how to abort it once conceived, and how to place it in full-time daycare should it actually materialize.

Women Who Make the World Worse documents a 30-year war against the idea that the mother/child bond is unique. O'Beirne quotes the public comments of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a committed feminist, on the topic of maternal love: "Motherly love ain't everything it has been cracked up to be. To some extent it's a myth that men have created to make women think that they do this job to perfection." In a similar mood, Yeshiva University professor Louise Silverstein called motherhood an "idealized myth" invented by men "in an attempt to encourage white, middle-class women to have more children." Prof. Gretchen Ritter, director of women's studies at the University of Texas, goes so far as to condemn full-time mothers as harmful to children: "It teaches them that the world is divided by gender."

The good news is that women don't seem to be paying attention to the self-appointed feminist mentors. Nor is Mother Nature cooperating. O'Beirne notes that mothers continue to fall madly in love with their babies in ways even the most devoted fathers do not. Despite two generations of "wage warrior" feminism, only 10 percent of mothers with young children want to work full-time. Hardliners are exasperated by such "stereotypical" behavior: Until a majority of mothers work full-time, or men stay at home in equal numbers--as orthodox feminists insist is only fair--the sisterhood will not be able to realize its dream of a unigender society. Until women become like men (or better yet, men like women), the pay gap, caused mostly by women's "excessive" preoccupations with their children, will remain significantly wide and the glass ceiling won't shatter.

Ignoring the spurious scholarship of the gender experts, O'Beirne cites a large body of empirical research that documents the advantages of marriage for women. The standard feminist view of traditional marriage was stated with dramatic succinctness by women's-studies pioneer Jessie Bernard in 1972: "Being a housewife makes women sick . . . To be happy in a relationship which imposes so many impediments on her as traditional marriage does, women must be slightly ill mentally." For these and other such insights the Center for Women's Policy Studies now awards the Jessie Bernard "Wise Women Award."

Full-time mothers and traditional wives are not the only targets of feminist disapproval. O'Beirne exposes a relentless campaign against boys and young men: "We parents of boys have meekly allowed gender warriors to treat our sons like unindicted co-conspirators in history's gender crimes." When her son was in third grade, the teacher had the children perform a newly written, politically correct, nonsexist fairytale. The kingdom's empowered girls slayed the dragon and defended the castle while the boys stood by passively and absorbed the lesson. O'Beirne tells readers that that was the day she resolved to "move him to a friendlier kingdom."

Today, says O'Beirne, "Women make up 57 percent of undergraduates and earn a majority of all master's degrees. But feminists aren't content with this remarkable educational success, because female students aren't playing sports to the same extent as men." They become furious if anyone brings up the possibility that boys are by nature more interested in watching and playing sports than girls. The fact that millions of men--and relatively few women--subscribe to sports magazines or watch athletic events on television (including women's basketball!) signifies nothing to the feminists, except the power of sexist conditioning under the patriarchy.

These gender feminists have succeeded in enforcing their point of view in the nation's high schools and institutions of higher learning. Most coaches find they cannot attract men and women in equal numbers. To avoid lawsuits, many have had to eliminate men's teams. "The result," says O'Beirne, "is that men's participation in sports is capped at the level of women's interest." Such policies please the radicals, but no fair-minded person can believe they are improving our society.

O'Beirne also introduces readers to a noisy pack of lobbyists and legislators who rail against the military's "warrior culture" and demand that women be fully integrated into all combat positions. Reasonable people can disagree about suitable roles for women in the modern military; unfortunately, the feminist ideologues make reasonable discussion impossible. They want full parity. Police and fire departments face similar pressures from equal-outcome feminists. But the fact is, only the top 5 percent of women can perform at the male median. According to one study of ROTC cadets, cited by O'Beirne, the typical woman in her twenties or thirties has the aerobic capacity of a 50-year-old man. Our world is not improved when women are forced into roles they cannot properly perform.

For O'Beirne, much of the mischief that modern feminists have wrought in our schools, workplaces, and social institutions is traceable to their success in convincing educators and political figures that gender is a social construction. To counter this idea, O'Beirne points to a vast and growing literature that suggests that many gender preferences have a biological basis. But it is clear that nothing will persuade the hardliners to change their position; their angry march continues apace.

Meanwhile, how has the so-called patriarchy responded to the feminist onslaught? "The fearsome male patriarchy," says O'Beirne, "folded like a cheap Kate Spade knockoff . . . The shrill feminists who made men the enemy took shrewd advantage of the fact that men hate arguing with women." It is therefore fortunate for us that O'Beirne loves to argue and does it with style, logic, and humor. Unlike the gentle Swedish academic committee that delivered a mere slap on the wrist to their outrageous feminist colleague, O'Beirne does not hesitate to deliver harsh verdicts. She won't be winning the Jessie Bernard "Wise Women Award" any time soon. But she has written a rousing, scintillating, and badly needed book.

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at AEI.