A too-sweeping polemic arguing that young women feel alienated from a feminist movement overtaken by its male-hating,...


THE NEW VICTORIANS: A Young Woman's Challenge to the Old Feminist Order

A too-sweeping polemic arguing that young women feel alienated from a feminist movement overtaken by its male-hating, sexually repressive fringe. In her first book, 28-year-old Denfeld covers some of the same ground as Naomi Wolf, and though she has done far more research, she shows a similar tendency to overstatement: She characterizes the movement as dominated by ""male-bashing,"" antiheterosexuality, goddess worship, and prudishness. Still, some sections of the book are solidly argued. She presents the feminist anti-porn crusade as morally repressive and irrelevant to the majority of women, and she offers a persuasive portrait of feminist theories of ""difference"" (e.g., women are by nature compassionate, cooperative, etc., while men are uncommunicative and competitive) as neo-Victorian stereotypes that put women back on a pedestal. Unfortunately, she presents ""difference"" theory as feminist gospel and never mentions that it is among the most hotly debated topics in academic feminism. Similarly, Denfeld's argument that feminists are out of touch with the everyday needs of most women is only partially convincing. She astutely points out that lack of adequate, affordable child care gets a woeful lack of attention from mainstream feminist organizations. However, she virtually ignores the legions of grassroots feminist groups that are working on other concrete problems like domestic violence, rape, and breast cancer. Denfeld's young interviewees -- students, career women, and mothers in their 20s -- supposedly represent widespread disaffection with the feminist movement, but they are selected randomly, she admits. What they primarily share is their agreement with Denfeld's own views. More inexplicably, she invariably notes the physical beauty of her subjects (""she is fine-boned, with tapering twists and translucent skin""), which hardly seems relevant to her discussion. A selective portrait of the feminist movement today.

Pub Date: March 14, 1995


Page Count: 256

Publisher: Warner

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1995