This assortment of essays (1986 to 1994) assesses sexual inequality in America and demands deep structural changes for the...


PATRIARCHY: Notes of an Expert Witness

This assortment of essays (1986 to 1994) assesses sexual inequality in America and demands deep structural changes for the future survival of all women and men. Chesler (Sacred Bond: The Legacy of Baby M, 1988, etc.) is on track in challenging women at a time when the feminist movement seems to have stalled. But backlash and conspiracy theories don't hold water if in fact women haven't achieved the long-sought-after gains. The essays are full of names, facts, and figures used to support her claims about overall sexual inequality, yet her extremist ravings tend to essentialize women, especially since she offers only occasional lip service to cultural differences. Throughout the essays she sharply challenges the liberal thinking of gender neutrality, but her radical perspective doesn't provide solutions to the problems she addresses, such as custody battles, domestic violence, and rape. Chesler's strongest piece examines the case of Aileen Wuornos, the female serial killer in Florida convicted and sentenced to death in 1992. According to Chesler, women are held to higher standards than men within the legal system and there consequently exists a double standard of punishment for criminal acts. In the final essay, an example of women at work for justice, Chesler visits a group of mostly lesbian feminists outside Ovett, Miss. Describing her trek to Camp Sister Spirit, Chesler tangentially critiques the overurbanization of America. Claiming there is nothing indigenous left, she carelessly uses as proof the fact that ""the Indians...are all dead and gone."" Apparently Chesler has never traveled to any reservations or chatted with any urban Indians. This and other sloppy remarks about the state of the world diminish the points she tries desperately to make. Unfortunately, Chesler's expert testimony against patriarchy is full of rhetorical generalizations. But even those who might dismiss Chesler on grounds of political ideologuing cannot ignore the ardent analysis of critical issues buried in her radical jargon.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994


Page Count: 150

Publisher: Common Courage

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994