A book review of Wendy McElroy's Sexual Correctness: The Gender-Feminist Attack on Women
By Don L. Tiggre
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Several years ago, when I was finding myself generally annoyed with what I saw as a negative editorial attitude in Liberty magazine, I came upon an article that electrified me. This article was clear, concise, logical and utterly devastating of some alarming idiocies I perceived as having taken over the feminist movement. The article was written by someone I'd never heard of, but someone for whom I instantly felt a flood of love and kindred feelings: Wendy McElroy.
This was important to me because, even though I am male, I had considered myself a feminist when I was a teenager. By this I mean that I considered the historical and contemporary treatment of women to be unethical, undignified, and unbearable with disheartening frequency, and I thought the situation should be rectified. I used the word "feminist" on myself.
A movement which started out saying "I am a Woman and I don't need a Man to make my life a great thing" seemed to be saying something new: "We Women have a new boyfriend and you'd better watch out Man, because his name is Uncle Sam and he's bigger than you are!" This new position seemed to prefer any submission to the state -- no matter how vile -- to submission to individual men or to freedom, which was what I had always thought women's liberation was about.
After years of vain searching for anyone who could understand the threat to women posed by this new feminism, Wendy McElroy's Liberty article was more than a breath of fresh air; it was a strong jolt of invigorating tonic. Finally! Someone who understands! Not only that, but someone who understands better than I do and has read the works of these destroyers of women's rights. Someone who has documented the ways in which the very laws drafted by these elitist "helpers of misguided women" have hurt women.
I tell you, this got me on my feet!
I went out and found some feminists at the local college and showed them McElroy's article. I asked them what they thought. I asked them to show me where and how McElroy might be wrong. I asked them why submission to the state was better than submission to individual men. I asked them why women should not be free individuals. I pleaded with them to just talk to me about these issues.
The only answer was a deafening silence.
So I stopped paying attention to feminists. They weren't going to listen to me -- a man -- anyway...
And then Wendy McElroy burst back onto my intellectual scene with the publication of XXX: A Woman's Right to Pornography. (reviewed in The Libertarian Enterprise, Issue 1) Perhaps because I'd tuned feminism out, I missed the publication of Freedom, Feminism, and The State and it was XXX that made me aware that there may be hope for feminism after all.
If XXX gave me a reason to hope that feminism might once again become a force for good, Sexual Correctness has given me ten reasons, maybe a hundred. XXX was like a hairline crack in a dark prison cell, now the light comes pouring in all around as the walls come tumbling down.
Do I wax hyperbolic? Read Sexual Correctness yourself and tell me if I'm not right. Sexual Correctness is classic McElroy: clear, concise, and devastatingly logical. It is detailed and precise without being lengthy or boring. It is spirited and quite pointed without ever descending into ad-homenim attacks (or would that be ad-feminim?). It is painstakingly researched without becoming pedantic and without loosing its focus. All of this makes Sexual Correctness a pleasure to read, but its greatest value is a thorough and merciless exposition of the black cancer that has been seeking power over all people through the vehicle of feminism.
Sexual Correctness describes three kinds of feminism: Liberal, Gender, and Individualist. Individualist feminism has a long history replete with clearly individualist writings that go back as far as the 1830's. Liberal feminism characterized the movement in the sixties and the struggle to secure legal and safe reproductive choice. Gender feminism began to take over the modern feminist movement in the 70's, though it also harkens back to older writings: those of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
This last kind of feminism, now aggressively dominant among the leadership of the movement, has established an almost religious dogmatism that brooks no criticism and refuses to even hear alternative view points. This ideological calcification of thought is what McElroy calls "Sexual Correctness." Like the broader "Political Correctness" it is an intolerant hostility that not only runs rampant over individual rights in general, but hurts the very people it is alleged to be in benefit of: women.
McElroy takes the "Sexual Correctness" paradigm of gender feminists and shows how it is applied to various feminist issues, including rape, pornography, sexual harassment, preferential treatment, affirmative action, comparable worth, marriage and the family, prostitution, abortion and reproductive technology. The liberal feminist perspective is contrasted with that of the gender feminists and questions are asked as to how either of these can be believed to actually liberate and benefit women more than individualist feminism.
Sexual Correctness is a small book, only 190 pages long, including numerous end-notes, a bibliographical essay, and a bibliography. And yet the work is exhaustive. McElroy's observations and questions are kept to a bare minimum while the gender feminists are given miles of word-ropes with which they deftly hang themselves. This is an important point because if a conscientious reader draws a conclusion, such as that gender feminists are more interested in fomenting class warfare to vent their hatred of the free market system (and men, incidentally), then the reader wants to know that the views of gender feminists have not been misrepresented. Rather than quoting a few words out of context, McElroy quotes entire paragraphs of gender feminist rhetoric and then draws attention to some of their implications.
Something I learned from Sexual Correctness is how closely tied to Marxism the ideology of gender feminists is. Not only do some quote Marxist doctrine directly and predicate all of their analysis on a class struggle model, but many use the same tactics in dismissing the arguments of their opponents without answering them. Marxists dismissed the statistics and evidence of market economists by asserting that they were based on "bourgeois logic," which was flawed by definition. Gender feminists seem to think that they need not hear conflicting views or examine disproving evidence because it is based on "patriarchal-capitalist science" which does not apply to feminist analysis, by definition.
There are many more ideas of value in SC, but I think McElroy expresses them better than I can.
I wholeheartedly encourage all to read Sexual Correctness. Individualist feminists will be able to make great use of its arguments, evidence, and questions. Liberal feminists are going to need to read the book if they are to have a hope of understanding why they are loosing their grip on feminism. Even gender feminists will need to read it if they hope to stand understand the backlash from women who want nothing to do with the gender feminist headlong rush toward a new dependency upon the state.
I especially think men need to read this book; it will help them to escape the bewilderment so many of them feel when they try to respect women and receive only scorn in return. This will tell you why, guys!
Wendy McElroy has exposed for all to view the dark sickness that has seeped into the heart of feminism. For those that want to see the movement restored to health, for it to become a force for the liberation of women and the furtherance of human dignity, Sexual Correctness may well turn out to be a pivotal work. The advocates of freedom owe it to themselves and to their posterity to do everything they can to see to it that McElroy is heard.
Exposure is not enough. Action must follow. McElroy's questions demand answers. The price in human misery from ignoring those demands is beyond calculating but certainly staggering.
Read this book!!!
Buy a copy for every woman you know who calls herself a feminist. Buy more for those who don't. If you can't afford that, post copies of this review wherever you think it will do the most good. Or just tell people about the publication of this important work. Or come up with some other way to use its power...be creative.
But do take action!
Notes on Sexual Correctness: The Gender-Feminist Attack on Women:
Copyright by Wendy McElroy, 1996
Published by McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina.
$45.95 (Ouch -- academic press! But worth every penny!!!)
"Don L. Tiggre is a grant-writer and a would-be author of fiction. He lives with his three sons, who teach him daily lessons in effective ways to resist tyranny. Having just barely survived 16 years of 'education', Mr. Tiggre is doing his best to study the human animal in it's natural habitats."
A JUROR'S CREED: As an American juror, I will exercise my 1000 year old duty to arrive at a verdict, not just on the basis of the facts of a particular case or instructions I am given, but through my ability to reason, my knowledge of the Bill of Rights, and my individual conscience.
-- L. Neil Smith
Next to advance to the next article, or Previous to return to the previous article, or Index to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 16, October 15, 1996.