Sex Matters How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense

Review :

Almost all reviews of this book will be heavily skewed by politics, so I'm going to steer clear of that as much as possible.

Mona Charen is a conservative columnist, but her professional focus is on personal and family life, rather than sweeping public policy proposals. This is a refreshing break from most political writing, where authors seem intent on forcing human nature to conform to their ideal theories. Charen's approach is much more individual--she writes about her own experiences with the feminist revolution and the change in perspective that came from becoming a mother of three boys. The strongest chapters in the book are also the most personal.

Charen's major thesis is not that feminism is bad, but that it is too narrow-minded. Second-wave feminism began with the argument that women should be free to shape their own lives (an argument Charen endorses wholeheartedly) but then rapidly progressed into a fanatical effort to control the lives of everyone else, both male and female. She provides numerous examples of the way prominent feminists have clung to arcane theories of human behavior, even as it has become ever more obvious that many people don't fit those theories and don't particularly want to.

The author insists that a code of acceptable male behavior is needed, but then makes the further leap most liberal critics will not: if there are going to be rules for men, there must be rules for women, also. Blaming men for everything is a guaranteed way to foster distrust and backlash, and feminists have paid too little attention to the fact that men have standards, too.

For the mathematically-minded, there are lots of statistics, and the endnotes do a nice job of citing her sources. This is not an academic text (thank God), but a work of popular social commentary, so don't expect a lot of peer-reviewed material.

Charen is an excellent writer and the prose flows smoothly throughout, with a few spots that are seriously amusing. There are places where I felt some of the data was missing the point of the argument, but these are minor. Her fundamental prescription--that women need to take responsibility for their own choices and stop claiming victimhood at every turn--will not sit well with all readers, but she makes her point clearly and backs it up with lots of evidence.


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