Whatever Happened to Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice?

by Carey Roberts    –show me more like this

Last week’s column, A Rash of Feminist Hate Speech, triggered a spirited debate. [www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/1396094/posts]

One wag quipped, “What do you suppose would be the reaction if a group of men got together on a college campus and started talking this way about women?” Another opined that Catherine MacKinnon and her crew sound “exactly like the KKK.”

Of course, feminists flamed the article, trying to make the case that female bigotry is a justifiable, even courageous act of self-empowerment.


A few years ago Dale O’Leary wrote an article with the provocative title, “Radical Feminism as a Psychological Disorder.” Ms. O’Leary concluded that women who are deeply committed to feminist ideology “are seriously psychologically troubled.” [www.dvmen.org/dv-108.htm]

O’Leary viewed the culprit as a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship. “The Radicalized Feminist is filled with rage against ‘patriarchy’ which is Fatherhood writ large, because she is filled with rage against her own father,” O’Leary explained.

But a look at the childhood stories of several feminist icons paints a different picture.

Take Betty Friedan, who grew up amidst upper-class privilege in Peoria, Illinois. But her well-coifed mother turned out to be a compulsive gambler whose spendthrift ways left the family mired in debt. Worse, mom constantly ridiculed Betty, belittling her long nose and unkempt manner of dress. Betty eventually came to identify with her hen-pecked father, who had always expressed pride in his daughter.

Gloria Steinem’s father worked as an iterant antique dealer, and her childhood years were spent traveling around the countryside in a dome-shaped trailer. Steinem’s mother suffered from a severe depression that sometimes turned into violence. After her parents divorced at age eight, Gloria became her mother’s primary caregiver. Steinem would later reminisce that her happiest childhood memories were when her father took the family on summer vacations to Clark Lake, Michigan. [www.theglassceiling.com/biographies/bio32.htm]

Then there’s Andrea Dworkin, the woman whose name is almost synonymous with loathing for men. (In my previous column, I incorrectly stated that Dworkin wrote The SCUM Manifesto. In fact, Valerie Solanas was the author.) Throughout her childhood, Andrea was locked in an internecine conflict with her mother, a hypochondriac who forced her husband to work three jobs in order to pay the medical bills. Dworkin also had a positive relationship with her father, a man she credited as introducing her to “the world of ideas.”

Two common themes emerge from the childhood accounts of these feminist leaders. Friedan, Steinem, and Dworkin all suffered at the hands of mothers who were abusive and pathological. And they had supportive, involved fathers.

Yet all ended up directing their anger at dad. Why? Probably because they wanted more patriarchal protection from their dysfunctional moms. (I can see the flames coming now.)

That would appear to be an unlikely genesis for a movement that set out to crush Patriarchy. But I never said logic was the Gender Guerillas’ strong suit.

The Sisterhood exploits women’s vulnerabilities by playing on an easy sense of me-mania. Psychologists call this narcissism, the personality trait that was inspired by Narcissus, the Greek god who saw his reflection in a pool and fell in love with himself.

Open up any woman’s magazine, and you’ll see advertisements that unabashedly appeal to self-entitlement. Everything from hand soap to resort vacations is peddled with tag lines such as, “Take time for yourself,” “You deserve it,” and “It’s all about you.”

Myrna Blyth, former editor of The Ladies Home Journal, knows this all too well. In her book Spin Sisters, Blyth remarks pointedly, “narcissism is an advanced evolutionary stage of female liberation. Me, me, me, means you’re finally free, free, free.”

Not all ladies read the women’s magazines, of course, or believe everything they read in them if they do.

But left unchecked, narcissism can turn into a serious character flaw. Psychologist Julie Exline explains how narcissists lose the ability to forgive: “they will often hold grudges on principle. Over time, such unforgiving tendencies may prevent the healing of wounded relationships.” [www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=20723]

Exline concludes, “As part of that self-admiration, narcissists typically have a sense of entitlement in which they feel superior to others and expect special, preferential treatment.”

Expecting special, preferential treatment — that description fits most feminists I’ve met to a “T.”

Four decades after Friedan’s Feminine Mystique swept the nation, the feminist movement has turned out to be a Trojan Horse that caters to women’s sense of privilege, preference, and power. This ideology has now ended up reinforcing the worst stereotypes about vindictive women who can’t rein in their own emotions.

That’s hardly my definition of liberation.