Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cathy Young and the Gender War

Cathy Young (Moscow 1963), an author, a public speaker, and a regular columnist for The Boston Globe and Reason, her articles have also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, The American Spectator, Salon.Com, National Review, and The New Republic. She published in 1999 the book Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality.

In her book, Young states that there is no war against women, and rebuts a series of controversial issues, from the incidence of domestic violence (it is not as frequent as the feminist media wants us to believe), the nature of domestic violence (she states that domestic violence is a two-way street: University of New Hampshire researchers consistently report women as often as men initiate physical violence. Furthermore, recent studies reveal that lesbians have also high rates of violence toward their own partners) Mainstream media hides or misreports these facts, fomenting this way legislation constructed on false assumptions), that male violence is directed primarily against women, or that girls are ignored in classrooms.

She offers evidence that these and other basic feminist credos are mistaken, mainly due to a feminist propensity for exaggeration, stereotyping, and over-generalization based on little or no evidence.

Young argues that the battle for equal rights is not an excuse for portraying men as fundamentally malevolent. She explains that in the '80s, a radical sector of feminism became mainstream, and equality for women began to mean inequities for men; is at this moment when she and many others became part of a new brand of feminism that looks for true equality.

One good example of this attitude towards an unequal equality, and the one that for our cause matters the most, is these feminists’ attitude toward joint custody. While they condemn men for not contributing enough in raising the kids, at the same time they demand that women should automatically have child custody following a divorce, because they have an inherent capacity to nurture children, while men do not. Young make an interesting point here: as Victorian morality believed, these feminists believe that women are the fragile guardians of good who must be placed on pedestals and protected. Young cleverly points out this "strange convergence of radical feminism and patriarchal conservatism - and the alienation of both ideologies from real life." Weirdly enough, the arguments of the Christian fundamentalist Promise Keepers and the National Organization of Women are based on the same premises.

Young believes that women and men need to learn to get along. Women have sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers. Because we have families, we cannot battle each other, we have to work together, and we have to look for each other’s wellbeing. In the final chapter of Ceasefire, Young proposes a twelve steps program for de-escalating the gender wars. These steps include:

-Do not assume sexism is the root cause of all women's problems.

-Rewrite sexual harassment law.

-Demand that husbands and wives serve as equal parents.

-Take gender politics out of the war on domestic violence.

-Stop acting as if women’s claims were more legitimate than men’s were.

In summary, the book is well written, well argued, and carefully reasoned, a book that should be read by anyone interested in real gender equality.

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