A fruitful 6 years for this 'dissident feminist'
By Cathy Young
January 22, 2007
AFTER MORE than six years, this is my final column as a regular in this space, though I look forward to contributing to the op-ed page from time to time. These past six years have been eventful. The American and global political scene changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001, and we got into a war in Iraq whose ultimate consequences may not be known for years. These topics will no doubt continue to dominate the op-ed pages. But there have been other issues of special concern to me that will remain relevant in the years to come.
Gender issues from a "dissident feminist" perspective -- pro-fairness and equal treatment, anti-gender warfare -- have long been one of my areas of interest. The "Mommy Wars" of full-time motherhood versus career are likely to remain intractable, with some feminists accusing stay-at-home mothers of letting down the sisterhood, some conservatives accusing working mothers of letting down their children, and people in the middle calling for freedom of choice. If we can even begin to resolve this often acrimonious debate, it is by moving toward more genuine choice for men as well as women to scale down careers for family.
While feminists have called for more male involvement in child-rearing, the women's movement has also championed blatant favoritism toward mothers in child custody disputes, often to the point of vilifying fathers. This seems to be a clear case of putting solidarity with women over equity. While the fathers' rights movement has often been depicted as a patriarchal backlash, it is in many ways more faithful to the true feminist legacy than are the women's groups which endorse maternal chauvinism.
I am very proud of the support I have been able to give to equality for fathers, and particularly of my work in exposing the inaccuracies and bias in the 2005 PBS documentary "Breaking the Silence: The Children's Stories," which painted fathers who seek custody of their children as presumptive abusers.
The issue of mothers losing custody to alleged abusers has received more media coverage since then -- much of it sensationalistic and slanted -- and seems to be the next big battlefield for feminists and fathers' rights activists. Sadly, the fact that children's lives are at stake, not just the interests of men and women, often gets lost.
Another issue on which feminist concern with equity has devolved into knee-jerk female solidarity is the rights of accuser and accused in sexual assault cases. The apparent collapse of the rape charges against the lacrosse players at Duke University clearly illustrates the dangers of the "women don't lie about rape" stance adopted by victim-advocacy groups, whose credibility is likely to sustain serious damage.
While the gender wars have become somewhat less prominent on our cultural landscape, the "faith wars" have come to the fore. Though a secular agnostic myself, I have often been sympathetic to complaints about efforts to expunge religion from public life. In my view, separation of church and state requires neutrality toward religious and secular viewpoints, not discrimination against religion or suppression of religious expression in the public sphere (such as banning mentions of God in speeches by high school valedictorians).
More recently, however, complaints of "religious persecution" from the right
have turned into a new culture of victimhood. Many conservatives are demanding not simply neutrality but special treatment for some religious beliefs. We now hear that to criticize a judicial nominee's faith-based opposition to abortion is "religious bigotry," that a "Happy Holidays" sign at Macy's during the Christmas season is an assault on Christians, and that "people of faith" are oppressed if they are prevented from coercive proselytizing. In these matters, the religious right has become as
hypersensitive and shrill as the cultural left has been on issues of race and gender. Like political correctness, religious correctness is not a pretty sight, and it's likely to continue to cause more rancor in public discourse.
As I say goodbye, I'd like to conclude with an issue that has become a subject of overriding concern for me : a tendency toward polarization and mutual demonization in American public life. I have often been embroiled in debates on whether the right or the left is more responsible for the politics of hate. This is fruitless. Things will not get better until people on both sides forget about the blame game and start ostracizing the hate-mongers in their own camp.
What I'd like to add in this space is that the end of my regular column in The Globe, while not my decision, is not the result of any political bias against my opinions on any topic, or of objections to any aspect of my work. While I differ with my Globe editors on more issues than we agree, working with them has been a pleasure and an honor, and I have never had cause to complain of insufficient supportiveness on their part. While I leave this job with some sadness, I am very grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the Globe's op-ed page for six years. I will be contributing to the page occasionally.
I will also be looking into options for continuing a weekly column. Stay tuned for more updates; regular blogging is also resuming this week.
Cathy, I never actually read you in the Globe, just your posts here - which I hope you will continue. This was a great final wrap up of your time there, though.
Please continue to write about being a dissident feminist, I like to see my thoughts cleverly articulated by someone else.
Something’s Fishy About Political Correctness
If one allometrically scales the taxon mammals for encephalization quotient the results indicate that man and the porpoise are most equal. This affinity, (i.e. similar brain weight) alone could explain why porpoises and humans interact so well.
Also, whales, followed by elephants, rank highest in brain size surpassing the three-pound brain weight of man and porpoise.
These facts once led me to a complete teleological construct for the animal kingdom, plants included, and the universe.
Simply stated, plants and man, each of carbon and water, seek similar corporal and spiritual nourishment and the “big brains” speak or sing their love of God (generic).
It was a beautiful theory. All existence, all spirituality, gloriously, harmoniously, and ever so upliftingly encapsulated. Man and plants together turn to the same spiritual sun and the hauntingly beautiful whale songs were psalms to God, hymns to the infinite.
Then I found out that female whales can’t or don’t or aren’t allowed to sing.
What a God damn bummer that was.
ps I enjoy your work.
Thank you so much. I am a regular reader and think you are a wonderful, insightful and rare voice in a wildreness that checks below the belt before it even listens to the first utterance
I must admit that when I first begin reading you at the Globe, I disagreed with you far more often than I agreed with you. However, over the years I have been increasingly persuaded by your reasoned arguments. My own disenchantment with the cultural left, which had been my spiritual and intellectual home for much of my adult life, has largely coincided with the six years that you wrote for the Globe. Sure many other factors have contributed, both on the global scale and in my own life, but I’ve enjoyed having your words as a consistent reminder to examine my principles and rethink my assumptions. I still find myself disagreeing with you now and then, but you always make me think, and you never make me angry.
There is no doubt we are in the midst of a political realignment. I hope that those of us who are actively seeking to build the center and engage in a rational discussion of otherwise divisive political issues will continue to have your work as a moral and intellectual guide.
Cathy, your columns are always a pleasure to read. I'll be coming here regularly to see what happens for you next.
You've long been one of my heroes, Cathy. I hope you are moving on to much greener pastures.
I'll miss you, Cathy -
Your reasonableness, balance, and writing style have been models for me in my own writing. I'll soon post a more extensive good-bye at www.menletter.org.
Best wishes in all future endeavors.
Cathy, I'm terribly sorry to hear this. Thank you for 6 years of sanity in a sea of discontent.
I hope the Herald is calling.
Wow, I'm stunned. Stunned because I usually do not read such nuanced perspectives in the media. Cathy, you are calling it as it is, versus camping yourself with one particular ideology which so many seem to do. I wish there were more jouranlists like you.
Cathy, you are a voice of reason in an unreasonable and overly-vocal landscape. If more feminists were like you (honest, intelligent, and - most notably - beautifully lacking in hatred) it would be a far better world for both sexes.
I hope to keep reading you here, and in new other places, not only for my own benefit but because I truly believe that sanity just might be contagious.
Bummer, dude. You're still writing for Reason, I hope.
Cathy, as a longtime globe subscriber, I was quite disappointed to hear this news about your last Globe. I grew up reading the Globe, and even though I've now come to understand that its lists to the port (I didn't notice so much until I stopped listing, I'm a centrist now) it's still a welcome part of every day for me.
Your column has consistently been the best one in the paper, truly a calm voice of reason in a sea of, well, BS. Your presence will be greatly missed. I'm sure I'll be discouraged by the continued presence at the Globe of several columnists who I seldom bother even trying to read because my expectation of insight is so very low.
I am sure much of the blame for this decision rests with the changing times and the Globe's plummeting ad revenue, which all newspapers suffer from. They have little choice but to do their best to stomach this and stay afloat for as long as possible by preaching to their diminishing choir.
Since they're going to focus on such preaching, you don't belong, and maybe after all this is a good thing. I myself am in the process of adapting to changes in the information landscape, and there may come a time soon when I no longer find that my $30 per month is best spent on the physical delivery of liberal (not that there's anything wrong with that) hard copy.
The money to pay people to cover and report the news and help us digest it has to come from somewhere. The opportunity exists for some clever enterprise to come up with a lean blend of news and non-partisan, low-hype, high-reason critical thinking about the same. When someone does this, they'll get my money. Nothing would please me more than to find that you are on the menu.
Whatever might be happening in your life, I am pretty sure I'll keep reading as long as you keep writing.
They kept Jeff Jacoby. That's gotta hurt.
Thank goodness the misrepresentations and outright lies will be less frequent from one of the women on the anti-feminist money train. The abused children who told their stories about being placed with abusers in breaking the silence (the actual content of the film that you and other anti-feminist activists ignored)are surely glad not to be attacked by at least one of those who denied their reports of abuse.
what a load. cathy has always been on the side where the cash was. too bad all of the "great dads" whose children don't want anything to do with them didn't get the same financial support from father's rights groups.
A victory for reason indeed.
Truly a nice blog! Thanks for your great work! Wish you a nice day!
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