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Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality

by Cathy Young
Review © 1999 by J. Steven Svoboda


Cathy Young, Ceasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality (New York, NY: Free Press, 1999). Order on-line

Cathy Young
Cathy Young

Ceasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality
by Cathy Young
A "dissident feminist" links feminist advocacy to the growing gender antagonism in politics, society, and culture--and proposes in its place a new focus on equality for both sexes.

Order on-line

rom time to time, a book may be published which by rights should be recognized as a flawed yet creative, courageous, well-documented contribution to an issue of profound social importance. And yet the book may be underestimated and overlooked due to a paradoxical combination of its contrarian perspective and the natural-seeming nature of its arguments and conclusions.

Cathy Young's contribution to ending the gender wars, Ceasefire!, is such a book. The Russian-born journalist painstakingly documents and then demolishes shibboleth after feminist shibboleth. It is violence against MEN which is treated more callously by society. Often, "even if it's the woman's fault, it's the man's fault" somehow. The author skewers the current "moratorium on female responsibility."

One favorite pastime of Young's is calling the feminists on their propensity for trying to have it both ways: women are weak analogs to children when that is strategically advantageous, morphing at a moment's notice into amazons as physically strong as the toughest man when that claim will result in further advantages to women. Women claim they are equal to men, often denying even obvious biological differences, and yet they simultaneously imply or even state openly that their sex is the morally superior one. Women claim to be physical equals of men, except in the sphere of domestic violence. Mothers complain that they want their husbands to be more involved in child care, but they do not want them too much more involved.

Young reminds us that feminist tendencies harm women as well as men. Placing nearly all blame for all societal problems on men encourages women to avoid taking responsibility and becoming truly equal partners of men. A man can be railroaded in a domestic violence case even where the woman implores the authorities to drop all charges.

Young is not a lawyer but she devotes significant space to the disastrous effects feminist dogma have wrought on our legal system. She demolishes the so-called thinking behind modern court interpretations of Title 9, the federal law whose recent interpretations have forced the dismantling of men's university sports programs in pursuit of a false equality. She documents how grotesquely feminist concepts--rape shield laws, sexual harassment law--have distorted our laws nearly beyond the breaking point, thereby obscuring the genuinely grievous cases.

Without any particular justification other than political pressure, special exceptions in certain areas of feminist interest have been grafted onto time-honored legal principles. Meaningful distinctions with real implications for the lives of thousands of men and women have been eroded or eradicated. And the placement of the sexual harassment standard in the eye of the beholder has created an utterly unprecedented, subjective legal standard. So it is that hugging your secretary after her mother's death becomes a "crime" which can destroy a career. If traffic laws were modeled on sexual harassment laws, she writes, "there would be no stop signs or speed limits; you could be fined for failing to stop when someone expected you to, or going at a speed that made another driver uncomfortable."

Young is not afraid to cry from the mountaintops that of course there is a difference between violent stranger rape and date rape. Some rapes ARE worse than others, and some "rapes" aren't rape at all. She supplies several dreadful stories documenting the harm caused to innocent men, under the rape shield law, by utterly frivolous or even vengefully false rape allegations. Our approach to domestic violence, which refuses to consider relationship dynamics and joint responsibility as contributing to domestic violence, is of course exactly wrong.

Though not without her own blind spots in this regard, Young skewers society's lack of compassion for men. Why does outrage over rape trials typically only run in one direction, and fail to encompass the false accusee whose life may be ruined despite complete innocence? Why do we make it so difficult for men to obtain adjustments in their child support after a job is lost or wages are cut? We often define "primary caretaker" without even thinking that this very concept excludes the provider role from the definition of "care."

But Ceasefire! has some grave flaws too. Young is least compelling when she talks about the men's movement which strives to correct many of these wrongs. Unfortunately, she analogizes masculism to radical feminism, and she dismisses the mythopoetic movement without serious evaluation. Even more regrettably, she minimizes the harm to males caused by such phenomena as circumcision, football, and even reduced lifespan. In a generally well- researched book she attempts to discount Warren Farrell's excellent work documenting women's power in the home based on one possible, relatively trivial error. Such an approach seems more akin to that of the feminists whom the author, elsewhere in this book, so rightly calls on their selective use of data.

In sum, I highly--if less than wholeheartedly--recommend Ceasefire! The book contains much of value, and may offer more documented, referenced information on masculist issues than any work this side of Warren Farrell. Cathy Young does care about men, and those of us who care about men have much we can learn from her.

Review by Bert H. Hoff


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