What Are Feminists
By Stephanie Herman
Published in the Greeley Tribune
If you watched John Stossel's report on the gender gap: Men, Women, and
the Sex Difference, which aired Wednesday night on ABC, you were left to
wonder, "Are feminists afraid of the truth?"
The hour-long investigative report revealed scientific evidence that men
and women think differently, that women are better at noticing and
recalling details and men are better at directional navigation; that
women posses higher verbal and language skills, while men are generally
better at math; that women are concerned with relationships and
communication, men with competition and brute force. What's more, the
research named a cause: physiology.
The scientific evidence came from studies done at UCLA, York University
in Toronto, and the University of Rochester. So what was Bella Abzug's
reaction to the conclusions of this research? "Poppycock." After all,
feminists have faithfully contended that gender differences, when
visible, are the result of sexist parenting, sexist toy manufacturing
and educational gender bias.
In fact, feminist matriarch Gloria Steinem scolded Stosser for reporting
on them, stating flatly that these areas of research are "really the
remnants of anti-American crazy thinking." Perhaps we should ask
Steinem, What's so crazy and anti-American about science?
Of course, in the past women have suffered for the widely-held beliefs
that they existed as the weaker sex in every sense. Jobs in business,
politics, medicine or law, previously seen as typically "male," were
off-limits to women who could, it turned out, perform them as well as
men. But saying women are equal to men does not define the genders as
the same--a fact lucidly illustrated by Stosser's report.
To the liberation movement, admitting gender difference is considered a
stroll on thin ice; feminists believe any suggestion of difference will
cripple their argument for "equality" -- especially in the area of
compensation. In fact, the end of more pay for women justifies the
means, as society has been witness to much feminist finagling:
affirmative action, a willful dissemination of inaccurate rape and
anorexia statistics; "gender norming" and "reach down" policies forcing
such institutions as the military, police and firefighting forces to
lower their strength test standards to allow women access to the field.
When male soldiers, police officers and firefighters must compensate for
less-able female co-workers, what we witness is the transformation of
the feminist slogan, "Equal pay for equal work!" into "Equal pay for
Ironically, while feminists like Steinem indignantly insist women can
perform in combat just as effectively as men, it is woman's superiority
over man due to her nurturing capabilities that is time and again the
argument feminists fall back on. Stosser's report even suggested that
perhaps women, possessing superior arbitration and peace-making skills,
would be better suited than men to hold positions as heads of state.
Fully in agreement, Abzug described the world to Stosser as being in a
state of chaos -- experiencing a world-wide nervous breakdown--and
placed the blame squarely upon the warring shoulders of the men in
charge. Alright, but which is it? Is combat a skill to be aspired to by
women, or a social ill to be criticized and eradicated by women?
If it is to survive and break any new ground in equality for women,
feminism will have to face scientific realities. There is no reason why
gender differences must result in gender inequality. Rather than fearing
the fact that women have higher language skills, why not exploit those
skills? Rather than deny an inability in math, why not offer more help
and attention to young girls studying math? And yet, for a feminist
investment in the truth, the societal return must be the understanding
that basic gender differences do not occur at a rate of 100 percent --
that every able-bodied female firefighter recruit should have the
opportunity to show her stuff, just as every soft-spoken, nurturing
mother of five shouldn't be hassled by female executives for wanting to
stay home to raise her kids.
The fact -- a proven one -- that the majority of women share
biologically female characteristics should not be ignored or denied by
feminism. Instead, it should be recognized that the proverbial truth
shall set women free.
This article copyright © 1995 by Stephanie Herman and may
not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its
author. All rights reserved.