Dear Naomi Wolf: A few words on the latest feminist tome from America
Friday 12 November 1993
But enough about your incredible eyes and lustrous hair. The book's the thing, right? Shame the title, Fire With Fire, isn't as sexy and high-concept as your first bestseller. You know how Americans love buzz words: look how Date Rape has taken off. Did you think about The Sheba Principle: your idea that feminists must learn to love money and power?
Trouble is, you don't really have a Big Idea this time round, do you? Your central thesis is that feminism can be divided into two halves. There are the 'victim feminists' - which 'casts women as sexually pure and mystically nurturing, and stresses the evil done to these 'good' women as a way to petition for their rights' and 'power feminists' which sees women as 'human beings - sexual, individual, no better or worse than their male counterparts - and lays claim to equality simply because women are entitled to it'.
But, as you finally get round to saying, this division is as old as the movement. We used to describe the tendencies as radical and liberal feminism. (We also had socialist feminism but I know you Americans aren't big on that.)
Then you say that victim feminists should become power feminists. They already have] Those Seventies die-hards Andrea Dworkin (all men are rapists) and Mary Daly (all women are caring and sharing witches) are the lunatic fringe. Didn't you realise the new feminist orthodoxy is all about how great it was to see Sharon Stone as an icepick-wielding bisexual in Basic Instinct? It's got a bit boring: sometimes I yearn to hear someone talk about whether shaving your armpits is ideologically unsound, rather than where she gets her body piercing done.
Your other buzz word is the 'genderquake': Western women are, apparently, on the verge of taking power. Your evidence for Britain includes Opportunity 2000 and the Citizen's Charter. Wow] We are being held back, you say, only by our fear of power. All we need is a little power-sharing - sorry, 'cross-targeting'. 'Do women nurses at a given hospital need child care?' you ask. 'Women patients' groups can agitate on their behalf.' Sounds great] But - and maybe it's that darn British socialist in me - isn't power a bit more complex than that? Why, for example, did Thatcher not include any British women in the Cabinet?
Finally, Naomi, what exactly is your form of feminism? You conclude that we must 'resist the notion that there are any fixed truths or right answers about feminism, or that any one woman's way of sticking up for women is divinely better than any other woman's'. The 'Sheba Principle' seems to be all about getting rich and successful. I thought that was called capitalism.
Anyway, good luck with the UK promotional tour. I know you won't be upset about these tiny criticisms: like you say, sisterhood - sorry, Victim Feminism - is dead]
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