Friday, April 8, 2011

Gender 101: Incompatible -- Feminism and Civil Liberties

by Connie Chastain*

A very odd thing happened today. I ran across an article by a feminist that didn't get my back up or ruffle a single feather. I don't think that's ever happened before.

Written by Wendy Kaminer and appearing in the April 6 issue of The Atlantic, the article deals with civil libertarianism and feminism. Specifically, it's about the Yale Title IX complaint that Archivist recently blogged about here.

Frankly, I was floored to find that there could be such a thing as a civil libertarian feminist. The two concepts seem diametrically opposed. But that's what Kaminer claims to be, although she acknowledges that civil libertarian feminists are a minority.

Kaminer says that the Yale women's Title IX complaint is reported to include some information about sexual assaults, but "the hostile-environment charge against the university rests as well on a litany of complaints about offensive exercises of First Amendment freedoms."

Part of the problem, Kaminer says, is "feminine timidity" that precludes taunting or talking back without the protection of government or university bureaucrats. But in my opinion, there's more to it than that. It's a desire to silence what women don't like, i.e., men. She quotes one coed's complaint: "I just want to be able to walk back to my dorm at night without hearing all this crazy stuff from these guys."

There's a lot of crazy stuff out in the world I'd prefer not to hear, too -- but as Kaminer notes, that's life. Everybody has to put up with crazy stuff sometimes.

Which lead me to wonder -- how often is the crazy stuff from fraternity guys heard at Yale? Kaminer cites a letter obtained by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that identifies four incidents over seven years. If that's the totality of it, I'm sorry, but as disagreeable as these incidents might have been, that's not enough to create a hostile environment. That's not even enough to be a litany, if you ask me.

I also can't help but wonder what these prima donnas would do if faced with the hostile environment so many men live with day after day. Say, the hostile environment on the job, where 93% of workplace deaths are men. I dunno, but dying on the job sounds pretty hostile to me. If these college gals want to see a hostile environment from a safe distance, all they need to do is turn on The Deadliest Catch.

How long could these dainty female souls hold up, I wonder, under the tongue lashings that professional and college male athletes routinely receive from their coaches? And how many of them could show the poise and restraint exhibited by Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron in the face of Coach Nick Saban's screaming reprimand, complete with a whack on the backside, in front of a stadium full of people? Talk about a hostile environment...

And if they really want to experience a hostile environment, they should sit next to a man in family court who is having his children and income removed from him for no good reason.

Women who get cat-called on campus don't know what a hostile environment is.

But back to Kaminer's article. I was genuinely surprised to see her acknowledge a point in the case that parallels one brought up so often in this blog, but hardly anywhere else -- that official responses routinely show more concern for the "sensitivities" of the accusers than the rights of the accused, and thereby reflect a presumption of guilt.

Kaminer acknowledges that feminism "helped lead the assault on civil liberty and now seems practically subsumed by it." She cites feminists who led the assault two decades ago by "equating pornography with rape.(literally) and calling it a civil rights violation..." I don't like pornography, either; I think it's detrimental to people who make and use it, and society in general, and ought to be discouraged. But it ain't rape, folks.

She wraps up by touching on the larger consequences of the assault on civil liberties, the "...indefinite detention or show trials of people suspected of terrorism, sometimes on the basis of un-reviewed or un-reviewable evidence. But underlying trivial and tragic deprivations of liberty, the authoritarian impulse is the same."

Although it's about a subject that should be obvious -- the incompatibility of feminism and civil liberty -- Kaminer's brief, cogent essay was nevertheless a breath of fresh air compared to most of the misandric feminist claptrap that pervades our culture. Alas, I cannot say the same thing for so many of the comments following it.

Kaminer's article, Sexual Harassment and the Loneliness of the Civil Libertarian Feminist, can be found here:

*Connie is an FRS contributor. Her principal blog is