Column

Popular Women’s Studies 101 Textbook: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

By Glenn Sacks

Women are under siege and oppressed, while men have it easy. This is the unmistakable message of Margaret L. Andersen’s Thinking About Women: Sociological Perspectives on Sex and Gender, one of America’s most popular Women’s Studies 101 textbooks.

The mischaracterizations and distortions begin in Chapter One on page one, where Andersen speaks briefly of the progress which women have made, but soon cautions the reader that "there’s still a long way to go" for women to achieve equality. To support her point, she tells us:

  1. "In the 1990s, women college graduates who worked full-time earned, on average, 70 percent of what men college graduates earned working full time";
  2. "Each year five million women experience some form of violence, two-thirds of it committed by someone they know";
  3. "Employed women" work 13 hours a week more than "employed men" on "household tasks."

All three of these statements are extremely misleading. Yes, full-time employed women do earn less money, on average, than full-time employed men do, but they also: work 400+ hours a year less than men do; work only a tenth as many overtime hours; have 25% less overall work experience; comprise only 5% of workplace fatalities (because they do not do the hazardous jobs which necessarily pay better); and are far less likely than men to work nights, weekends, have long commutes, or to travel for their jobs. Surveys which take these factors into consideration have shown that, for the same job, women earn within 2% of what men do.

The "five million women experience some form of violence" statistic is misleading because it is driven sharply upward by domestic violence studies which lump trivial acts which women do as often as men (such as swearing at or insulting your partner, slamming doors or stomping out of rooms, etc.) with serious violence. Whenever two-sex surveys of domestic violence are taken, women are shown to be just as likely to initiate and engage in spousal abuse as men, and roughly 75% of all violent crime victims are male.

Women may do an extra 13 hours a week of "household duties" but the average full-time employed man works eight hours a week more than the average full-time employed woman. Andersen’s survey allows for the inclusion of people who are "employed" but who don’t work full-time, and since most part-time workers are female, this pushes the disparity in hours worked between men and women in the survey even higher. Together with the fact that men spend more time commuting and work more physically strenuous jobs than women do, what the survey really tells us is that the overall labor of a household is, in fact, being divided evenly between men and women, a finding consistent with most research on the subject.

The book also spins myths about "deadbeat dads" (actually, over 80% of the men who have jobs and can see their children pay their child support in full), women’s supposedly ignored health care needs (the government at every level spends more on women’s health than men’s, even though it is men who dominate in most diseases and it is women who live longer), and numerous others.

Andersen urges readers to notice women’s role both in society and in everyday life—good advice, except that she instructs women to look only for female suffering and male privilege. For example, she counsels readers to look at the "bright lights shining in the night skyline" and see that they "represent thousands of women…who clean the corporate suites."

Fair enough, but what about the thousands of men who risked their safety and even their lives (including yours truly) to build those same skyscrapers? What about the men who pick up the trash, crawl through the sewers to make repairs, or who work on power lines 50 feet up in the air? In Andersen’s book such men are as invisible as she imagines women to be.

Like most Women’s Studies textbooks, materials, and lectures, Andersen’s text ignores the growing number of strong, articulate female scholars, researchers, writers, activists, and leaders who call themselves "equity feminists" and support feminism’s basic goals but oppose the rampant distortions and out and out man-hating of the established feminist movement. These include: Canadian Senator Anne Cools, a former shelter director and a pioneer of the battered women’s movement who is now a fathers’ rights advocate; author/activist Erin Pizzey, who set up the first battered women’s shelter ever in England in 1971 and now advocates for abused men; Camille Paglia, the legendary author and cultural observer; author and ‘60s feminist icon Doris Lessing, who says that in modern culture men are "continually demeaned and insulted by women without a whimper of protest"; Cathy Young, co-founder of the Women’s Freedom Network and author of Ceasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve Equality, author and columnist Wendy McElroy, founder of Independent Feminists (ifeminists.com); Christina Hoff Sommers, author of Who Stole Feminism?, former Women’s Studies professor Daphne Patai, author of Professing Feminism; crime journalist Patricia Pearson, author of When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence; and countless others.

Instead, Andersen chooses to trot out the standard collection of cranks and hate-mongers such as Catherine MacKinnon (who wrote that under the conditions of our society, "all heterosexual sex is rape"), and Andrea Dworkin (who wrote "marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice").

Andersen also cites numerous discredited feminist researchers such as Diane Russell, who arrives at high numbers of female victims in her surveys by classifying consensual sex as rape and hugs and horseplay from male relatives as incest, and Carol Gilligan, whose baseless and unscientific research led in part to the myth that girls are silenced and oppressed in the classroom. Ms. Gilligan’s scholarly reputation was permanently laid to rest by Christina Hoff Sommers, in her chapter "Gilligan’s Island" from her book The War Against Boys.

American college students (male and female) need a balanced textbook which includes dissident feminist voices and which looks honestly at the many challenges women face as well as the many advantages they enjoy. Instead, they are saddled with factually-challenged propaganda tracts, which are allowed to exist because of PC intimidation mixed with an unspoken, condescending university atmosphere which says, "don’t argue with the little ladies—you can’t expect those gals who teach Women’s Studies to keep their facts straight."

 

 

 

  • Cybercast News Service
    Nov. 7, 2001