Reclaiming feminism


"No, Feminists Don't All Think Alike," a recent cover of Ms. magazine announced. Yet the cover story–a roundtable discussion with Naomi Wolf, Gloria Steinem, and others–belied the headline. While the participants disagreed over some fine points of radical feminist theory, their talk was uniformly leftist, and partisan references–to the "racist right wing," to Republican Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson as a "female impersonator"–popped up in conversation.

So if all feminists really don't think alike, where are the ones that disagree with Ms.? They've formed a new group called The Women's Freedom Network. Founded in 1993, the network publishes a quarterly newsletter and plans to hold media briefings, issue press releases, and sponsor a national conference.

Based in Washington, D.C., the WFN is dedicated to "empowering individual women rather than the state and its bureaucracies," according to the organization's statement of purpose. The WFN argues that the portrayal of women as victims is "creeping paternalism" in the guise of feminism. REASON Contributing Editor Cathy Young, one of the group's founders, and her colleagues say they "view women's issues in light of a philosophy that defines women and men as individuals and not in terms of gender."

Accordingly, the WFN does not expect uniformity of opinion among women in general or among its members–as the diversity of the group's national governing board makes clear. Members range in their political beliefs from conservative to contemporary liberal to libertarian, and in their occupations from journalism (syndicated columnist Joanne Jacobs, REASON Editor Virginia Postrel) to academia (historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and philosophy professor Christina Sommers) to business (Barbara Lydick, president of an aerospace consulting firm).