Nicholas Davidson’s “Lace Curtain” Policy Address
Behind the Lace Curtain: How Feminists Control What America Reads
In 1984, the veteran novelist Kingsley Amis came out with a new book, Stanley and the Women, which was uncharacteristically rejected by several New York City publishers. At length it was accepted by Ileene Smith, a young editor at Summit Books. To Ileene Smith’s astonishment, she received a series of phone calls from irate feminist editors, denouncing Amis’s book and criticizing her for bringing it into print. It was, she says, “as if there were some kind of tacit understanding that one should never endorse something that didn’t conform to standard feminist principles.”
The treatment was repeated at social gatherings, as other feminists went out of their way to criticize her role in publishing the book. Ileene Smith’s sin? To have published Kingsley Amis (despite his considerable critical reputation and commercial success). Kingsley Amis’s sin? To have allowed his characters to criticize feminism. Ileene Smith thought she had just been exercising her profession. She had reckoned without the Lace Curtain.
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In 1969, an iconoclastic anthropologist named Lionel Tiger came out with a book called Men in Groups. Tiger’s thesis: that the driving force in human evolution, and by extension in modern society, is the male hunting band. Male bonding, Tiger argued, is at the root, not simply of civilization, but of human society itself.
Almost overnight, Tiger became a pet villain of the nascent feminist movement, known at the time as the “Women’s Liberation Front,” in imitation of the Vietnamese Communists’ “National Liberation Front.” Appearing for a scheduled TV interview with David Frost, Tiger was told he wouldn’t sit in a chair opposite the host, as was customary. Instead, he was to sit on the lip of the stage, where the feminists in the audience could confront him throughout the show. When he asked why he should be singled out for such treatment, he was told that the feminists in the audience had demanded it. Faced with being held responsible for stopping the show, Tiger allowed the producer to lead him onto the set. He found himself eyeballing a crowd of feminist leaders, such as Betty Friedan, Ti-Grace Atkinson, Naomi Gittelson, Florence Kennedy, and Shulamith Firestone, who hissed and hooted every time he opened his mouth.
As Tiger recalls, “Frost began to ask me questions and I began to answer. People were meanwhile shouting and cursing, and at one point the thing erupted. I recall a whole lot of people screaming, ‘F- - - you, David Frost!’ Somebody had a copy of my book and it came whizzing at me.”
For Tiger, this was just the beginning. “A number of times, I had bomb threats before lectures,” he says. “There was a lot of heckling and so on at that time.” On one occasion in Vancouver, he found the hall packed with Mounties in reaction to a death threat. On another occasion, at the New School for Social Research, he was threatened with physical violence if he spoke. “They assigned a huge guard to me the moment I walked in the building,” he recalls. At another lecture, students protested his appearance with a petition written under a giant picture of a tiger.
As this case may begin to suggest, modern feminism has from the beginning done its utmost to freeze out contrary ideas, rather than to trust that the principles of free inquiry will enable the truth to emerge.
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Perhaps the most widely admired of antifeminist books is Steven Goldberg’s The Inevitability of Patriarchy, first published in 1973. Yet as recently as 1988, The Guinness Book of World Records reported that “The record for rejections before publication (and wide acclaim) is 69 from 55 publishers in the case of Prof. Steven Goldberg’s The Inevitability of Patriarchy.” Says Goldberg: “By and large, publishing at that time—and to a great extent today—ran the gamut from the New York Review of Books to the Village Voice.”
Indeed, Patriarchy almost didn’t get published after it was accepted for publication by James Landis, an editor at William Morrow & Co., when feminist staffers at Morrow demanded that the book be withdrawn from publication. A man bred in an earlier era, Landis took the position that, having already accepted the book, he was going to publish it; and if anyone wanted to stop him, they were welcome to try. Such courage would soon be merely foolhardy.
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The American publishing industry is dominated by a few large houses, most of which are headquartered within a few blocks of each other in downtown Manhattan. These houses can make an enormous difference to whether a book sells or not: first, because they alone have the sort of advertising budgets that can bring a book to instant public attention, and second, because they alone have the “pull” with the handful of major bookstore chains needed to actually place copies of a book on the shelves nationwide. Previously dominated by male editors of a self-consciously macho cast, the book trade began to change around 1970 into a “women’s field.”
This trend was heavily influenced by the careerist message that feminism spread in the late 60s. The editorial profession offered an ideal outlet for the young woman who wanted a career, not just a job; it met countercultural norms of “creativity”; and, while fulfilling every apparent requirement of an independent occupation, it allowed women to continue to specialize in feminine abilities—in this case, verbal skills, along with a large element of service to the initiatives of others. The editorial profession was perfect, and, not needing high salaries to found a family, the young, single, female college graduates of the time were in a powerful position with regard to male competitors. As a result of these factors, the publishing industry was rapidly flooded in the early 70s with young women from the center of the feminist generational cohort. These women now occupy the majority of the mid-level positions at which most publishing decisions are actually made. Their influence on American culture is enormous.
After the phenomenal success of his book Wealth and Poverty in 1981, George Gilder decided to republish his 1973 book, Sexual Suicide, a critique of feminism and “sexual liberalism.” For several years, he asked around among his contacts, seeking a new publisher for the book. Invariably, he was politely brushed off. At least six publishers, five of whom had previously published Gilder, formally declined to publish the book, and “The book was turned down all over New York in one way or another,” says Gilder. Such treatment is, to put it mildly, exceptional for an established author who has just produced a major bestseller. In at least three cases, a major publisher agreed to bring out the book, only to back out later on. Such a move is highly unusual; for it to happen three times in the case of a single book is virtually unheard-of.
The pattern, says Gilder, is that a senior male editor would enthusiastically accept the book, only to be stymied by his female staff; in effect, a replay of the Goldberg affair of 1972—with the difference that now, feminist staffers were quickly able to suppress the book in-house.
When it became clear that the book, now retitled Men and Marriage, was unpublishable in New York, Gilder and his agent settled for a small publisher in Gretna, Louisiana—with the result that few bookstores carry the work. Men and Marriage has nevertheless sold a respectable 23,000 copies since its publication at the end of 1986. One can only speculate how great its influence would have been if it had been widely promoted and distributed.
It can be objected that Men and Marriage was rejected by major publishers because it is a second edition of a previously published work. This doesn’t explain why, knowing perfectly well it was a second edition, several major publishers accepted it in the first place.
If a writer of George Gilder’s stature can’t get into print in New York on feminism, the situation, as can be surmised, is even worse for unknown authors. In 1985 and ’86, when a young writer named Linda Burton tried to find a publisher for a pro-motherhood work called What’s A Smart Woman Like You Doing At Home?, she acquired a collection of openly scornful letters from New York agents and editors.
“There is no market for the book, because smart women are not at home,” one editor wrote back. “Women who are at home with their children don’t read books,” asserted a second. “People in New York don’t believe that women should be at home,” explained a third. “Women don’t do that anymore,” declared a fourth.
“There are all these ideas and feelings that people are experiencing all over the country,” says Linda Burton, “but if they aren’t what people are experiencing during lunch in the publishing industry in Manhattan, those ideas are not heard.”
Eventually, like Men and Marriage, What’s A Smart Woman Like You Doing At Home? was accepted by a modest non-New York publisher, and experienced subsequent distribution problems.
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Along with the publishing houses goes a complement of New York City literary agents. There can be significant advantages to an author in having an agent: notably, the best agents have a greater ability to get books noticed by editors than would an author who submits his own work out of the blue.
Most literary agents won’t touch an antifeminist book today—in many cases, because they are feminists themselves. As one high-powered agent recently wrote to the author of a book critical of feminism, “Unfortunately, while I am sure there is a market for your work, I am just not enthusiastic enough about the material to take it on for representation. I feel you would do much better with an agent who is 100% behind the project.” The only problem is that, in the present climate, such an agent doesn’t exist. Ideology rules the literary market; Mammon is only its grand vizier.
To understand better what this means for prospective authors, I talked to James L. Markham [pseudonym pending publication],a New York agent with years of experience in placing every conceivable kind of book. “I myself have been conditioned to feminist thinking because I’ve had to be,” he says. “I deal every day with some very important women in business, and if I were to express hostility to current feminist thinking, it probably would be very difficult for me to do business with a lot of these people. So a lot of men in publishing have been sensitized to the feminist viewpoint, and when they read a manuscript that may be antithetical to feminist thinking, our inclination probably is to send it back and say, ‘I don’t think I can sell this book.’”
Most of the books affected, he observes, are not political or sociological essays, but works of fiction, where “you’re dealing with something a lot subtler than actual non-fiction that is critical of feminist viewpoints.”
“For instance: If we handle a Western novel where women are portrayed as history would seem to indicate they actually were dealt with—namely, they were exploited, and there were only two kinds of women, the saint that was married, and the whore, who ran the dance hall and took men upstairs—if we actually try to sell such a book to a publisher, we may run into some serious editorial problems, because the editors will say that ‘This is an unfair portrayal of women.’”
As a result of the dominance of New York in the publishing industry, the majority of works published today must pass muster with feminist editors. This is as much the case for popular genres like Western and romance novels as for “serious” writing. Feminists today are thus literally in a position to control popular tastes and fantasies. As James L. Markham says, “Feminist attitudes are a fact of life that every author and agent must deal with in approaching New York publishers.”
“Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that,” he emphasizes. He points out that “I sympathize with feminist viewpoints—nor,” he adds, “could I do business in publishing if I didn’t sympathize with feminist viewpoints.”
The feminist dominance of the publishing industry has had its single greatest impact on school texts. Beginning in the early 70s, authors at all the major textbook publishers were issued detailed guidelines written by feminist editors. McGraw-Hill, for example, issued a 16-page booklet called “Guidelines For Equal Treatment of the Sexes in McGraw-Hill Company Publications.” Macmillan published “Guidelines for Creating Positive Sexual and Racial Images in Educational Materials,” which runs to 96 pages (in fairness, about half of the chapters address “Treatment of Races and Minorities”). Identical attitudes inform the guidelines put out by other major publishers, such as “The Positive Portrayal of All People in The Good English Program” from Laidlaw Brothers, a division of Doubleday.
Although some of the publishers proclaim that their guidelines are “not rigid or mandatory” (McGraw-Hill), rigid and mandatory sex quotas are, in fact, exactly what they require. McGraw-Hill tells its editors that “Women and girls should be portrayed as active participants in the same proportion as men and boys in stories, examples, problems, illustrations, discussion questions, test items, and exercises, regardless of subject matter.” (Emphasis added.) Macmillan is equally explicit: “Sexual and racial balance must be maintained in every item we publish.”
Any shreds of gender identity are to be overwhelmed. “Authors, editors, and illustrators” are directed to avoid material that “reinforces any sense that girls and boys may have of being categorized as a sex group.” (Macmillan)
Women are not to be characterized as “guardians of morality... peace-loving... above material concerns... compassionate... nurturers... self-sacrificing... modest... pure. . . innocent. . . self-effacing.” The guidelines warn that “Binding young women with such demands can cripple them as severely as did binding their feet in old China.” (Macmillan)
The goal is not to allow individuals to be themselves, but to actively “condition” children away from “stereotypes.” Thus, girls “should be encouraged to show an interest in mathematics, mechanical skills, and active sports.” Boys, on the other hand, should be encouraged to develop “an interest in poetry, art, or music, or an aptitude for cooking, sewing, or child care.” (McGraw-Hill)
In this Orwellian setting, the ludicrous and the bizarre flourish on every page. Under the category of “Music,” for instance, Macmillan instructs its “authors, editors, and illustrators” to “bear in mind” that “there are no justifications for dividing singing groups into boys and girls.... After boys’ voices change, divisions are justified for reasons of vocal range only, not for stereotyping active and passive roles.” The authors of the guidelines apparently believe that basses sing lead and sopranos sing backup.
The changed creatures produced in the unisex laboratory are not to be known by the old names. The list of forbidden terms includes the following, conveniently listed under the heading “NO”:
“the fair sex; the distaff side; the girls or the ladies; lady; the better half; female-gender word forms, such as authoress, poetess, or Jewess; female-gender or diminutive word forms, such as suffragette [!]; co-ed; housewife; career woman”; and many other common expressions that have incurred feminist disapproval. (McGraw-Hill )
The guidelines also provide numerous examples of “approved” sentences for authors to imitate. Typical are the following “sample sentences” from Laidlaw: “She took tuba lessons,” “Those girls learned karate,” and “The astronaut had a physical before she returned to the base.” For boys, Laidlaw suggests “Gary will bake today,” “Chuck hung the curtains,” and “The boys are in the sewing class.”
Similar protocols apply to family members: “Dad cooked the turkey,” “Her aunt scored a touchdown,” and “Dad mixed the ingredients” (not for a dry martini, presumably).
Thus, in the course of the 1970s, a quiet revolution took place in children’s and textbook publishing. Feminist tenets, novel when they were introduced in the 70s, are now the norm. The feminist publishing elite has never consulted American parents for their views on the indoctrination of their children.
A systematic study of the resulting texts has been conducted by Paul Vitz, a professor of psychology at New York University (Censorship, Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1986). Vitz analyzed the contents of ninety leading textbooks—books that are used to teach, by various estimates, between 60 and 88 percent of the nation’s students. The publishers of the books included our friends Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, and Laidlaw Brothers, as well as Allyn & Bacon, D. C. Heath, Holt Rinehart & Winston, Riverside, Scott Foresman, Silver Burdett, and Steck-Vaughn.
Vitz reports that “the words marriage, wedding, husband, wife do not occur once in these books.” In addition, “The words housewife and homemaker never occur in these books.” This absence is not simply a matter of semantics: “Not one of the many families described in these books features a homemaker… as a model .” Furthermore, “there is not one portrayal of a contemporary American family that clearly features traditional sex roles.” “Are public school textbooks biased?” asks Vitz. “Are they censored? The answer to both is yes.”
Eleanor Rosenthal [pseudonym pending publication], the highly acclaimed author of over forty art books for children, recalls writing an article on paintings for a sixth grade reader published in 1972. “At the time,” she says of her editors, “they were very careful to include blacks in the pictures, and to show them in a nice way. And then, five or six years later, I had to revise the article and put in women artists.”
“And this is the part I thought was pretty rotten,” she says, “I had to take out Paul Gauguin and put in Vigee Le Brun.”
Quotas applied not just to the artists but also to the subjects of the paintings. “The reason I took out Paul Gauguin,” Miss Rosenthal explains, “is that that particular painting represented a man, and there were too many men. I had to have more women represented.”
The situation is still essentially the same today: “I wrote another textbook article last year, about looking at paintings. I chose five artists, like Monet and Paul Klee—very well-known people, fairly modern—and I went into abstract art. The publisher was thrilled. The editor looked at it, and everything was just perfect. Then a couple of months later she came back to me and said, ‘You know, I never thought of this, but we don’t have a woman artist.’
“So I wanted to put in Helen Frankenthaler, and she wanted me to put in Mary Cassatt. She said Helen Frankenthaler wasn’t accessible, and I think Mary Cassatt’s overdone, so I put in Georgia O’Keeffe—whom I like; she’s fine. I’ve used women on the covers of my books, but not because they were women.”
As the use of the word “overdone” for Mary Cassatt suggests, the works of this secondary Impressionist today fill countless art books and wall calendars. Mary Cassatt is particularly good because she painted almost only women, so she fills both the artist and the subject quotas at one go. Artistic affirmative action is in full swing at present.
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Let us, then, visualize the plight of the nonfeminist author in America today. He has given up his original book idea as unpublishable. He writes a different book instead. The manuscript is vetted for antifeminist content by an agent, who returns it, perhaps for revision, if it might offend feminists. Once an agent is satisfied that the book is acceptable to feminists, and that he therefore has a chance of placing it, he presents the manuscript to an editor, who, again, vets it for antifeminist content. If the initial editor fails to do so, the book will probably be stopped later on in the publishing process by a different editor. Once accepted, the book is subjected to the publisher’s author guidelines, and edited to remove “exploitation” or to inflate female accomplishment in fields where, historically, fewer women than men have been active, such as politics, art, and science. Finally, the book is ready for the public: a work conceived so as not to offend feminists, developed so as to be acceptable to feminists, and polished in accordance with feminist tenets. It has, however, a further hurdle to clear: the review media.
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There is a tiny handful of publications that can actually boost a book’s sales with any degree of predictability. The most influential of these publications by far is the New York Times Book Review, followed by Time, Newsweek, and the New York Review of Books. The chances of a work critical of feminism being reviewed in any of these publications is slight. The New York Times Book Review, for example, has failed to review virtually every significant critique of feminism over the years, including Steven Goldberg’s The Inevitability of Patriarchy (1973), Daniel Amneus’s Back to Patriarchy (1979), George Gilder’s Men and Marriage (1986), Michael Levin’s Feminism and Freedom (1987), and Betty Steele’s The Feminist Takeover (1989). Absent from its pages—and from those of Time, Newsweek, and the New York Review of Books—are the definitive critiques of the Equal Rights Amendment, Phyllis Schlafly’s The Power of the Positive Woman, and of day care, William and Wendy Dreskin’s The Day Care Decision. Readers who depend on these publications for information are, in fact, receiving a relentlessly slanted view of gender issues.
The rare works that break this streak, such as Brian Mitchell’s Weak Link: The Feminization of the American Military (1989), only confirm the rule, by the systematic hostility with which they are greeted. Thus, when Lionel Tiger and Joseph Shepher’s Women in the Kibbutz was published in 1975, the Times assigned it for review to Juliet Mitchell. So far as I have been able to determine after talking to most of the nation’s leading critics of feminism, no work openly critical of feminism has received a favorable review in any of these publications for at least the past decade and a half.
In contrast, the most extreme feminist works commonly receive a favorable reception in these publications. Frequently, these publications see themselves as the conduit of radical ideas to a hesitant public. Thus, in 1970, the daily New York Times accorded an unprecedented two-part rave review to Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics. The reviewer praised Millett’s book, a dry-as-dust reiteration of Engels, as “Supremely entertaining to read, brilliantly conceived, overwhelming in its arguments, breathtaking in its command of history and literature!”
Another characteristic piece, this one from the New York Times Book Review, is a review by Susan Schnur, a rabbi who teaches religion at Colgate University, of Women-Church: Theology and Practice of Feminist Liturgical Communities, by Rosemary Radford Ruether, a prolific feminist writer and self-styled “Catholic theologian.”
Deploring over-enthusiasm in the cause of idealism, Miss Schnur lightly chides Miss Ruether for her separatist rage. She describes as “unfortunate” a few parts of Ruether’s proposed liturgy, such as the assertion that “Rapists are the shock troops of patriarchy, while wife batterers are the army of occupation.” She maintains that feminism no longer needs such vehemence “in this era of assimilation.” But she is careful to point out that, since the Church is “an institution now renowned, as far as feminists are concerned, for its inability either to hear or to see,” it is understandable that Miss Ruether “has lost a measure of moderation.”
The disagreement, then, is mostly over style rather than substance. Miss Schnur opines that “there are some wonderful ceremonies among these selections,” such as a ceremony for abortion and a “Coming-Out Rite for a Lesbian.” Miss Schnur, therefore, ends her review with an accolade: “Over this next decade, the writing and re-writing of texts will be the homework for feminists in religion. Rosemary Radford Ruether, as usual, is leading the effort.”
In the major review media, as such examples may begin to suggest, the most extreme manifestations of feminism are considered respectable; the most respectable criticisms of feminism, extreme. Since reviews frequently determine the commercial fate of a book, the fate of a book critical of feminism is to a great extent sealed before publication.
But surely there are exceptions: mainstream editors who, inspired by the life-threatening risks run by their counterparts under repressive regimes, demonstrate a resolute independence in the cause of truth. Such exceptions are few and far between.
George Gilder, who has published scores of articles on a wide variety of topics, finds that a peculiar reaction sets in when he submits a piece on feminism. In one such case, his agent submitted an article of his to Penthouse. (The article appears in Gilder’s Men and Marriage as “The Jobs Front.”) Penthouse paid Gilder for the article, to the tune of seventy-five hundred dollars—and then declined to publish it! Says Gilder, “It was too racy for Penthouse.” After a year, the rights to the article reverted to the author. His agent then approached The Atlantic magazine. According to Gilder, The Atlantic’s chief editor was “exultant” about the piece, which he accepted as a cover story, for another seventy-five hundred dollars.
At this point, however, says Gilder, “all the editors balked. There was just a general rebellion at The Atlantic.” The editors pressured Gilder to withdraw the piece. When he refused to do so, it was cut from five thousand words to twelve hundred words, with all the controversial passages removed. After further haggling by his agent, Gilder was paid half the originally cited fee.
Thus in effect, the article had still not been published. Gilder reworked the piece and submitted it to the editors of Success magazine, where he writes a regular column. “They paid me for the full article,” says Gilder. “But they wouldn’t let it run as an article. It’s been reduced from three pages to one page. The stuff about the differences between the sexes intellectually was eliminated. It’s sort of a bland thing now.”
“The pattern,” Gilder says, “is the male editor, who doesn’t understand that you can’t say these things, finds these arguments quite remarkable. They’re novel; nobody’s seen them before.” But the price of opposing feminism turns out to be too high. As a result, “Anything that says that women are never going to be equal to men in the work force, women are different from men in their appetite for careers, women and men have different kinds of minds—anything that really says it—gets cut out.”
Should an editor have the temerity to defy feminist norms, he is apt to suffer the fate of E. Christian Kopff, former books editor of The Classical Journal. At the end of 1986, The Classical Journal published a review article by Chronicles editor Thomas Fleming, a trained classical scholar, on feminist works about women in antiquity. Some authors, like Mary Lefkowitz, come off rather well in Fleming’s account. While criticizing Lefkowitz for “an uncharacteristic indulgence in feminist cant,” Fleming acknowledges her generally “sound scholarship and lucid reasoning.” He praises the work of another feminist in classics, Sally Humphreys, as “a sterling example of the anthropological method.”
Fleming, though, is equally interested in the reductivist aspects of recent classical scholarship. He criticizes several feminist scholars for their androphobic bias, which leads them to conclusions that are “bizarre,” “silly,” or “pure ideology.” Fleming concludes that, although feminism in classics can encourage the investigation of “unexplored corners” of ancient life, “literary criticism undertaken in the spirit of feminist ideology will only succeed in reducing masterpieces to the level of pamphlets.”
This is, on the face of it, a nuanced argument. Fleming’s tone, moreover, is well within the established bounds of academic discourse, and specifically within those of the classics tradition. Compared to the savage character assassinations that A. E. Housman routinely launched against his colleagues, Fleming’s article is mild stuff indeed.
Yet the principal classics organization in the United States, the American Philological Association, shortly received a letter that began, “The Committee on the Status of Women and of Minority Groups wishes to convey to the Board of Directors its outrage at the lack of professionalism in the selection of Thomas Fleming to write a review article in The Classical Journal.” Equating criticism of feminism with misogyny, the letter asserted that Fleming had “a well-established record of hostility to and misrepresentation of women.” The letter concluded with a demand: “The Committee requests that the APA Board of Directors express its displeasure to the book review editor for commissioning this article and to The Classical Journal for allowing it to be published.”
Harsh letters then flooded the offices of W. W. de Grummond, The Classical Journal’s editor-in-chief, denouncing The Classical Journal for its “very poor judgment” and “editorial blindness” in publishing the article. In future, only like-minded scholars should review feminist books: “Is it so difficult to find progressive classicists to review progressive books?”
The feminists’ next move was to attack the editor who had accepted Fleming’s article for publication. The Classical Journal’s book review editor was E. Christian Kopff, an associate professor of classics at the University of Colorado with a lengthy record of publications, honors, and appointments. But such accomplishments were of no concern to the feminists. They packed the next meeting of The Classical Journal’s parent organization, the Classical Association of the Midwest and South, and forced through a measure expelling Kopff from The Classical Journal, a publication that he had, over the course of several years, helped to revive from relative obscurity. They replaced Kopff with a professor chosen for the reliability of her commitment to feminism.
Having obtained control of The Classical Journal’s review pages, the feminists proceeded to publish a virulent denunciation of Fleming by one of their number, Marilyn Skinner. “Fleming’s ultraconservative political stance,” she writes, “renders anything he has to say about feminist research automatically suspect, and rightly so.” She denounces Fleming for “gross violations of feminist decorum.”
Miss Skinner gives some intriguing examples of what, presumably, she means by “feminist decorum.” Within a single paragraph, she accuses Fleming of “sour banality” and of “rhetoric with all the aesthetic finesse of a snuff film.” (No examples are provided to support these contentions.) “Fleming’s invective,” she concludes “is tasteless.” It seems the feminists fired the wrong editor.
Customarily, academic journals invite an author to reply in print to a rebuttal article. It is perhaps needless to add that Fleming was not so invited.
Not content with attacking Kopff’s career and Fleming’s reputation, the feminists’ next step was to send a detailed questionnaire, a virtual loyalty oath, to “all candidates for President-Elect, Vice President, and Board of Directors” of the American Philological Association. Most troubling of all in this document was a question designed to preclude further criticism of feminism in classics journals. Transparently referring to the Classical Journal affair, it ran: “In the event that a book review editor publishes a review of disputed fairness and accuracy, what redress… might the APA recommend? “
Soon afterwards, the Women’s Classical Caucus was able to report that the APA’s new president-elect had endorsed its positions. Henceforth, a stimulating unity of thought could be expected to prevail in the classics profession.
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Let us assume that a book antithetical to feminists has made it through this entire incredible obstacle course into print and, in addition, has been widely and on the whole favorably reviewed . At this point, as the experiences of George Gilder and Linda Burton have already suggested, it encounters the crucial problem of distribution. Persistent evidence suggests that bookstores and libraries stock antifeminist books in, at most, token quantities. For example, Brian Mitchell, author of Weak Link, has received over twenty letters from people around the country who can’t understand why a book so widely reviewed is unavailable in most bookstores. Many antifeminist authors report similar experiences.
The type specimen of such incidents involves Carol Felsenthal’s The Sweetheart of the Silent Majority (1981), a biography of Phyllis Schlafly that was widely praised for its objectivity. Though written by a feminist journalist, published by Doubleday, a major New York house, and reviewed in most of the right places, copies of the book proved to be surprisingly hard to find. According to one newspaper account, “Salesmen from Doubleday and Company… complained that they were screamed at by feminist bookbuyers, and that in some cities, major book chains refused to carry the book” (Phoenix Gazette, June 9, 1982).
Libraries present a similar set of problems. The leftist slant of university libraries has been documented by James A. Lee in a recent article in Academic Questions, “Ideology in the Library.” The leadership of the American Library Association has a long history of support for feminist causes. For example, the ALA actually cancelled its scheduled annual convention in Chicago when Illinois failed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. In the case of The Sweetheart of the Silent Majority, the public library in one major city bought two copies for its fifty branches, while ordering two hundred copies of a book by Gloria Steinem (Phyllis Schlafly Report, October 1985).
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The marginalization of works critical of feminism can be charted by the changes in their places of publication over the years. The antifeminist works of the early 70s (The New Chastity, The Inevitability of Patriarchy, Sexual Suicide, and The Female Woman) were all published in New York City. In contrast, the antifeminist works of the late 80s (Men and Marriage, Feminism and Freedom, The Failure of Feminism, and The Feminist Takeover) were published in, respectively, Gretna, Louisiana; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Buffalo, New York; and Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Indeed, many leading critics of feminism now find that they are forced to publish their works themselves, such as New York City Tribune columnist Max Freedman, author of Manhood Redux: Standing up to Feminism (1985). An even more clear-cut case is that of Daniel Amneus, the author of one of the classic critiques of feminism, Back to Patriarchy, which appeared in 1979 from Arlington House. For his most recent—and better—book, The Garbage Generation (1990), Amneus has been completely unable to find a publisher after dozens of editorial rejections and has been obliged to print the book at his own expense. More striking still, Phyllis Schlafly now finds that she is forced to publish her works herself, although she is a national personality with constant media visibility whose books, such as Child Abuse in the Classroom, often sell hundreds of thousands of copies. There could be no clearer demonstration of the supremacy of ideological concerns over economic ones in the publishing industry.
As a result of this situation, you will not find either The Garbage Generation or Child Abuse in the Classroom in your local bookstore. You will, however, almost certainly find Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto, The Joy of Sex, More Joy of Sex, The Joy of Gay Sex, and Fat is a Feminist Issue.
Such is the state of free speech on Sixth Avenue.
© 1990 by Nicholas Davidson