I can't agree with Jacob Sullum's assumption that economic reform and the easing of restrictions in the West Bank would encourage Arabs and Jews to reach a new understanding of each other ("Unsettling," Jan.). The Arab-Israeli conflict is not about economics; rather, it is a dispute over a piece of territory that one side sits on and the other side wants. The intifada broke out not because the Palestinians were economically frustrated but because they saw themselves as politically powerless.
It isn't possible, as Sullum seems to suggest it is, for Israelis and Palestinians to "think of sovereignty in liberal terms." The concept of individual and economic freedom is alien to both societies. Arab leaders consider anything less than a completely sovereign state an insult to their honor. Unlike a decade ago, today the majority of Israelis see the territories as part and parcel of their own country, in very "absolute" terms.
There are some problems that economic reform and a good dose of liberalism can't solve. The Palestinian-Israeli dispute is one of them.
Beit Shemesh, Israel
Jacob Sullum adds a rare and needed dose of lucidity to the Middle East debate by pointing out that collectivism seems to underlie key goals of the parties. Nonetheless, except for noting the denial of individual liberties by Israel to the West Bank Palestinians, Mr. Sullum fails to appreciate the extent of Israeli collectivist attitudes and unfairly misrepresents Palestinian positions regarding Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
Mr. Sullum uses the Nazi German term Judenrein to describe Palestinian demands for Jewish settlement dismantling. This is a gross and all too common mischaracterization in both style and substance. There is no suggestion (even in the extreme language of the PLO Charter) that Jews may not live in the West Bank. The narrow issue is the redressing of the particular Israeli policy of negating Palestinian property rights in creating the settlements.
Palestinian grievances go back to the confiscation of much of the territory of pre-1967 Israel; absorbed Arab-refugee land and assets have never been compensated for or opened to repatriation. The key factor in Israel's denying repatriation/compensation has been the ethnoreligious identity of the refugees.
Both sides of the Middle East are obsessed with tribalistic rather than individualistic aims. Still, it is not fair to describe a demand for redress of improper property acquisition as a Nazi-like denial of Jews' right to exist and own property.
Matthew C. Hogan
Jacob Sullum's editorial was right on target. Having lived more than half of my 36 years in Israel, I concur that this is far from being a libertarian paradise. All Israeli governments have consistently carried out interventionist policies, and a large portion of the population is abjectly dependent on quasi-governmental institutions. But it must be borne in mind that Israel's neighbors do not even put up a semblance of liberal institutions. In most Arab countries, dissidence is crushed, with no recourse to legal niceties.
A preponderant number of Israelis, and of Jews around the world, feel a profound attachment to the disputed territories—this is the very heart of the biblical and traditional homeland of the Jewish people. They want to ensure that Jews will be able to dwell in and frequent these sites unhampered. This necessarily involves coexistence with Arab and other non-Jewish inhabitants. The Arabs, as Sullum points out, have very different aspirations: exclusive Arab rule in the territories, with the denial of access to Jews.
It should be noted that the rigors of military rule have been set down as a reaction to a popularly supported, violent insurrection on the part of the Arabs. Jews are considered legitimate targets by dint of being Jewish, be they schoolchildren or grandmothers. We are not dealing with criminal actions perpetrated by assorted outlaws, but with a very real security threat.
Experience has shown that when hostilities subside, military rule is curbed, and Arab residents of the territories are free to manage their internal affairs. It is to be hoped that the Arabs will realize that peaceful coexistence is a guarantee of their rights. I for one support changes in the Israeli political system that would enable any individual to pursue his interests in all parts of the country, to the benefit of all.
Marc Aaron Landes
Some day we might discuss the issues raised by Michael Weiss's article on feminist legal theory ("Crimes of the Head," Jan.). Unfortunately, this letter must be confined to addressing his screaming factual errors.
The concept of "female thinking," centered on "caring" and "connectedness," has no role in my work, except for my passing critique of it. I refer Mr. Weiss to the writings of Carol Gilligan, who created this analysis.
I have never questioned the notion of "rights," only their deprivation, and have been working to develop a new theory of equal protection, not to "discard…the idea."
I have never said "that almost all of what passes for consensual heterosexual sex is actually rape" or anything like it. I do say that sex takes place under conditions of gender inequality, which makes the concept "consent" problematic. Mr. Weiss's misconstruction is so common that I am beginning to think that—aside from sharing an apparent inability to read—a good many men must have a guilty conscience over this.
I emphatically disagree that "only a woman can be a victim of sexual harassment in the form of a hostile environment" and have never said anything that suggests such a conclusion.
The civil rights law against pornography created by Andrea Dworkin and me for the city of Minneapolis, under contract with the city attorney's office, would not have "banned any 'pornography' that degrades women." Our approach defines pornography as the graphic, sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures or words that also includes specific violent and objectifying contents. Nor are Andrea Dworkin and I now "working on a new law that explicitly defines pornography as a form of sexual harassment." Consequently, we do not "plan to offer the model ordinance to the city of Minneapolis and to any other interested municipalities." This is fabricated out of whole cloth.
The work of Andrea Dworkin does not assume or imply, anywhere, that "the only solution" to the inequality of women and men "is sexual segregation."
It must be possible to get our work right and still disagree with it.
Catharine A. MacKinnon
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
Michael Weiss's attack on "feminist jurisprudes" misses the point. In law and sex, the pendulum swings widely both ways.
Western law is filled with evidence of male domination: "know all men by these presents," the "reasonable man test," and "all men are created equal," to name just a few examples.
Sex was and still is consensual rape in too many bedrooms in America and around the world. Women know it but only discuss it with their friends, only recently with their mothers, and pass on negative sexual attitudes to their daughters. They don't discuss sex with their sons. Males learn that women are here for them to "use" rather than as equal partners in bed and life. Women will stop feeling "used" in bed when they begin teaching rational sex education at home to their daughters, husbands, and sons.
Sex has only been widely discussed since the advent of television and the women's consciousness-raising movement. Many lives, male and female, have been enhanced by this trend. Sure, radical feminists showed us the way, but today's women still wear bras, and lesbianism is not running rampant.
Have no fear, Mr. Weiss. Rights, ethics, reason, proofs, and objectivity are not on their way out. The expression of pent-up female rage at male domination in law and bed will lead to the integration of male and female points of view in our lifetime. The cycle is easily broken by education.
Michael Weiss seems to dismiss the ideas of feminist legalists because of their radical and often illogical thought processes. I would agree that feminist arguments are often invalid and almost always overstated. However, in their shrill cries there is a note of truth.
The Western system of laws traditionally has been patriarchal in protecting (or hindering) women in the areas of suffrage, married women's property rights, divorce laws, etc. The trade-off for women was a special place in society, where they were cherished, revered, and viewed by the male population as rightfully controlling morality because of their delicate and finer sensibilities.
In the 20th century, women have given up this special place in society to move into the mainstream of the work force. They no longer have the special protection of their fathers, brothers, or husbands (who are now their competitors). Some women have turned to the state to redress their grievances.
It seems obvious that because of female biology and psychology, women should be afforded special treatment under the law, for if a society will not protect those who renew it and nurture it, what will society protect? At the same time, men and women should receive equal justice under the law. This is the conundrum of our age.
Feminist law and its underlying premises involve a conception of femininity which (disturbingly enough) caves in to patriarchal assumptions. MacKinnon rejects reason, logic, the notion of natural law, and the concept of justice as "male" patterns of thinking. Women are "caring, relational.…they reject the separation of personal from political."
In other words, men fix cars, while women fix dinner. I take it her arguments are coming from male-chauvinist literature? If this new "feminist psychology" doesn't relegate women to the kitchen, I don't know what does.
Diane Joy Baker
In order to explain why women supposedly think differently than men, the feminist jurisprudes claim that women have "another reality" than men. This "alternative reality" theory is nothing more than a twist on the century-old Kantian subjectivism. In this regard, feminist legal theory is not just a further erosion of the legitimate meaning of "rights"; it is an extremely dangerous philosophical weapon to unleash on the men and women of this country.
Kant, the father of modern collectivism, revised Plato's idea that the consciousness of each man creates his own reality, and said the "consciousness of mankind" creates reality. Latter philosophers carried this a step further and proclaimed that mankind was made up of competing groups, each defined by its own distinctive type of consciousness, each vying with the others to capture and control reality. This led to racial subjectivism, the basis for the Nazi belief in Aryan superiority.
There seem to be many similarities between the philosophy of the feminist jurisprudes and that of the Nazis. The Nazis held that each race had its own reality and that it was useless for men of "different kind" to turn to logic to resolve their disagreements, because there is not only a different reality for each race but also a different logic.
Like the feminist jurisprudes, the Nazis disdained reason, and worshiped feeling and instinct. Likewise, the "new paradigm" female values of responsibility and caring could be just another way of presenting the values of self-sacrifice and duty as espoused by the Nazis.
James Wm. Clement
When feminist legal scholar Andrea Dworkin declares that sexual intercourse is inherently oppressive of women, similar to a military occupation, and that it is even more degrading if the woman likes it, it is clear that her quarrel is with biology and personal happiness, not injustice.
Just as the religious right's crusade against abortion has nothing to do with the right to life, so the feminist crusade against sexual harassment has little to do with rape or with men's oppression of women. Both groups seek to make sexuality and sexual fulfillment a crime. They seek to create a system of laws that negate a person's right to and responsibility for their own happiness and self-esteem.
As the Clarence Thomas affair was unfolding it was clear to me that we were witnessing the first big story that gave the new emotive journalism free rein. But it wasn't until I read Michael Weiss's piece that I knew whence the cult of subjectivity sprang. If "objective reality is a myth," no wonder "men just don't get it."
Although I wish it were otherwise, I see little reason for optimism on this front. In search of readers and viewers unwilling or unable to think, the mainstream media are baiting their hook with feelings instead of facts. The Gannett Co.'s News 2000 guidebook advises editors to look for stories which "evoke emotion" at the expense of "dull" stuff like the proceedings of local government hearings. From here it is but a short hop to a public discourse in which up is down, black is white, and facts go out the window.
Jeff A. Taylor
"Women's sexuality largely defines women as women in this society.…men's sexuality does not define men as men in this society.…" So says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Such illogic, such doubletalk is worthy of Lewis Carroll. Truly, we are living in Wonderland. I suppose, in the eyes of the judiciary and in the view of feminism, men's sexuality defines men as horse's asses in this society.
Millard H. Perstein
Mr. Weiss replies: Ms. Sharon's letter embodies the legal and logical implications of feminist theory. There is no such thing as "consensual rape"; this is an oxymoron. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines rape as "sexual intercourse with a woman by a man without her consent." I am not exactly sure what "rational sex education" means, but I hope it is not taught by the "consensual rape" crowd.
I thank Professor MacKinnon for pointing out the difference between her and Carol Gilligan. She is correct in noting that she has attacked the "ethic of care." But Professor MacKinnon does state that logic, science, etc., are male and that women have a notion of "connectedness" that makes them different from men. In fact, feminist legal scholar Christine A. Littleton has called Professor MacKinnon's notion of a separate rationality and distinct set of values for women "the most important contribution she has made to feminism."
Professor MacKinnon does indeed call rights a sham. Her self-proclaimed "post-Marxist" methodology starts from that assumption. In a 1983 article in Signs, for example, she writes that "[a]bstract rights will authorize the male experience of the world." Other feminists, including Martha Nussbaum and Women Against Censorship, have criticized Professor MacKinnon for attacking traditional civil liberties.
Professor MacKinnon denies saying "anything like" my gloss of her view that "almost all of what passes for consensual heterosexual sex is actually rape." Judge for yourself. On page 174 of Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, she writes: "…where the legal system has seen the intercourse in rape, victims see the rape in intercourse. The uncoerced context for sexual expression becomes as elusive as the physical acts come to feel indistinguishable. Instead of asking what is the violation of rape, their experience suggests that the more relevant question is, what is the nonviolation of intercourse? To know what is wrong with rape, know what is rape about sex." On page 198 she writes: "What in the liberal view looks like love and romance looks a lot like hatred and torture to the feminist."
I apologize if I incorrectly reported that Professor MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin were working on a revised version of the Minneapolis ordinance. I inferred this from an October 1991 speech at Yale in which Professor MacKinnon advocated using sexual-harassment law to combat pornography and an interview with Gannett News Service the same month in which she called for renewing the campaign against pornography.
In a February interview with The New York Times, Professor MacKinnon praised national legislation modeled in part on the Minneapolis ordinance, "recognizing that both the making of pornography and its use do harm to women."
In Intercourse and Pornography: Men Possessing Women, Andrea Dworkin makes it clear that men and women can never live as equals in one society. She makes this argument more recently in her semi-autobiographical novel Mercy, of which Wendy Steiner wrote in The New York Times Book Review, "[the protagonist] Andrea's experience is meant to stand as that of all women and to constitute an unassailable argument against the attempt to coexist peacefully with men."
Martin Morse Wooster ("The Red Tide Ebbs," Jan.) says I wrote in The American Spectator that "the defense buildup of the Reagan Administration…was the primary reason that communism collapsed.…"
I don't believe it, and I didn't say so in the article he cites. In the paragraph he refers to, I berated one of Reagan's critics for ignoring the role of "the great democratic revolution of the recent past" in bringing about the fall of the Soviet empire.
The central theme of my article was that there is a tremendous effort underway to pretend that the end of communism and the collapse of the Soviet empire had nothing to do with Reagan's policies. Apparently Mr. Wooster is joining the chorus. While I am the last to deprive the Soviets themselves of their fair share of the credit for wrecking their world, I do insist that Reagan, with his revival of the democratic spirit, his support for democratic movements around the world, his campaign to deprive the Soviets of advanced technology and, yes, his strengthening of Western defenses, is entitled to a good deal of the credit.
Michael A. Ledeen
Mr. Wooster replies: Future generations will determine the causes of the fall of the Soviet Union more accurately than we can. But surely even Mr. Ledeen will admit that falling oil prices (an event for which the Reagan administration does deserve some credit), by depriving the Soviets of billions of dollars of hard currency, helped check the KGB's ability to steal secrets and cause trouble. By ignoring the economic causes of the Soviet Union's demise, Mr. Ledeen provides as incomplete an analysis of the event as the "zealots of disinformation" he criticizes.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".