The Gender Battlefield: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Jan 5, 2014
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Reason‘s Cathy Young argues that in 2013, the state of feminism may have reached a new low

2013 was something of an anniversary year for the modern women’s movement, marking fifty years since Betty Friedan’s best-seller “The Feminine Mystique”—which, while hardly without flaws, offered a bracingly positive vision of embracing female achievement and strength without demonizing men or sacrificing family. Some of this year’s events reflect the remarkable progress women have made in those decades. Women claimed leadership at General Motors and Lloyd’s of London, the world’s top insurance market; Angela Merkel was reelected to a third term as German chancellor while widely recognized as Europe’s leader. The Pew Research Center reported that women made up 40 percent of America’s breadwinners in families with children—and nearly 40 percent of those were married mothers with median household incomes of about $80,000 a year.

Unfortunately, the state of feminism in 2013 may have hit a new low, with much of its energy spent on battles that are either trivial or destructive. Between gender-war feminism on the left and old-fashioned sexism on the right, picking the year’s worst in relations between the sexes in easy; picking the best is much harder, but worth the effort.  Here’s my personal list, by no means intended to be complete.

Overzealous crusade of the year: The “War on Rape.” Who could be against efforts to combat this despicable crime? At the start of the year, anti-rape activists garnered widespread sympathy as they demanded justice for Steubenville, Ohio’s “Jane Doe,” a teenage girl sexually assaulted by two football players after heavy drinking at a high school party. The Steubenville case drew attention to genuinely troubling attitudes, including a tendency to excuse misbehavior by popular athletes and judge young women’s reckless behavior (such as drinking too much) more harshly. Unfortunately, the noble cause quickly succumbed to over-the-top zealotry—with lurid rumors and harassment of innocent people in Steubenville itself, and a general indictment of America as a misogynistic “rape culture” whose men needed to be “taught” not to rape women.

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Cathy Young

Cathy Young

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