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What Feminism Wrought
Our culture is profoundly confused about what to expect from men.


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Kathryn Jean Lopez

EDITOR’S NOTEThis column is available exclusively through United Media. For permission to reprint or excerpt this copyrighted material, please contact Carmen Puello at [email protected].

According to an article in the Boston Globe, an informal poll taken among 200 teenagers has revealed that almost half of them blame the pop star Rihanna for her recent beating, allegedly by her boyfriend, Chris Brown.

It’s just one survey. But it’s very bad news. And feminists are to blame.

I don’t say that to bash Gloria Steinem, or whoever the most easily blamed feminist would be at this point. I say that so we can collectively get our heads out of the feminist fog in which we’ve been lost.

I appreciate the kids’ wanting Rihanna to take some responsibility for her situation. She’s an adult, after all, as is Brown. And if she gets beaten, she should get the heck away from the person responsible. And as a best-selling artist, she has the financial freedom to extricate herself from her trouble. But where’s the outrage over what Brown is accused of doing? There’s something off when so many people blame the victim, not the aggressor.

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As one male reader e-mailed me: “The only time I can remember my father hitting me was for fighting with my sisters. I resented it as a child, but I told my father, shortly before he died at age 90, that it was the best life lesson he taught me of many.”

He added: “I am stunned by the number of women, young and old, abused by men. There isn’t a hell hot enough for men responsible for the injustice of abusing women.” Now there’s an appropriate reaction!

What has happened — and what Rihanna and Chris have to do with Gloria and us — is that by inventing oppression where there is none and remaking woman in man’s image, as the sexual and feminist revolutions have done, we’ve confused everyone. The reaction those kids had was unnatural. It’s natural for us to expect men to protect women, and for women to expect some level of physical protection. But in post-modern America, those natural gender roles have been beaten by academics and political rhetoric and the occasional modern woman being offended by having a door opened for her. The result is confusion.

And perhaps, too, a neo-feminist backlash.

The need for some return to sanity is presented pretty clearly in an article in the April issue of O, the Oprah Magazine. The article details how some women find themselves leaving men in favor of relationships with partners of their own gender.

One recently divorced academic describes what attracted her to a future female lover. “She got up and gave me the better seat, as if she wanted to take care of me. I was struck by that,” she said. “I felt attracted to her energy, her charisma. I was enticed. And she paid the bill. Just the gesture was sexy. She took initiative and was the most take-charge person I’d ever met.”

This article isn’t about closeted homosexuality. It’s not making the case that there is a vast population of women who were born to be with women, who are instead trapped in unfulfilling heterosexual arrangements. No, this article, despite its celebration of unconventional lifestyles, boils down to something much more orthodox: Femininity and masculinity mix well together. And women are taking masculinity where they can get it, even if that’s in the arms of another woman.

The women interviewed in the article appear to want someone to take charge a bit — there is an attraction to, if not a need for, some hierarchy. And in a culture in which masculinity — well, at least in men — is so often suspect, some women seem to be looking to reinvent the masculine themselves.



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