The Insularity of Contemporary Feminism

Toward a Humanist Justice: The Political Philosophy of Susan Moller Okin Edited by Deborah Satz and Rob ReichOxford University Press, 2009; 260 pages, $85.00 In that attractive but rather closed community known as American higher education, feminists own a lot of real estate. The small number of courses in “women’s studies” in the 1960s and 1970s has given way to programs and departments with full-time faculty and even endowed professorships. During this time, feminism has gained considerable influence in American law and politics. Its influence derives from its secure position in the academy, because almost every student now attending a top-notch college, university, or law school will be exposed to the feminist worldview. Comparing feminism with social conservatism is instructive. The latter, of course, is poorly represented among faculty members in higher education. To identify oneself as a social conservative at most colleges and universities—at least before earning tenure—is professional folly, if not suicide. Yet no one can deny the influence of social conservatism in American politics. It remains a potent electoral force because so many voters identify themselves as socially or morally conservative. Feminism’s influence is significant, but disproportionate to the relatively small number of Americans who identify with feminism in theory or practice. The main disagreements between feminists and social conservatives are well known. With few exceptions, feminists endorse abortion rights, universal access to contraceptives (even for minors and at public expense), gender-based affirmative action, and the aims of the “gay-rights” movement. American feminists also show deep suspicion of, if not outright hostility towards, Christianity, which provides religious support for social conservatism. Nonetheless, feminists and social conservatives share a few policy goals. Both have tried to establish a constitutionally valid framework for regulat
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