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A FEMINIST CRITIQUE by Cassandra L. Langer


Identity, Gender, Culture, Meaning

by Cassandra L. Langer

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1996
ISBN: 0-06-435025-8

Failing to deliver on the title's ambitious promise, this is a scattershot look at feminism, sexism, movies, music, art, homophobia, violence, legislation, Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, and whatever else crops up along the way. Feminist historian and critic Langer begins with a brief, superficial look at the history of women's rights activism, the origins of various groups of feminists and pseudofeminists, and some theories about the nature of sexism. With that out of the way, she commences a topic-hopping discussion of matters having to do with female socialization, sexuality, and reproduction; the influence of the media (especially cinema) on society's attitudes toward women; and the stands (sometimes completely opposing) that various women's groups take on feminist issues. Marring the book's arguments are questionable leaps of logic that at times seem more intended to annoy than persuade. For instance, Langer asserts that, were welfare suddenly ended, a large number of women ``would become prostitutes.'' Langer is also given to delivering sweeping generalizations, telling us what ``most'' or ``many'' members of various groups think (``Most ultraconservatives assume that teenage boys are `loose cannons' ''). At times, even her credible statements lack supporting data, as when she comments that female voters were the ones who in 1992 sent three new women and returned one female incumbent to the US Senate. This work does feminists few favors, although, by its very shortcomings, it suggests just how valuable a cogent, unbiased, popular history of the last half century of feminism would be.