Orlando Sentinel

Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war

By Kathleen Parker
of The Sentinel Staff
Published in The Orlando Sentinel on June 13, 1999.

The gender war is over. I've said that dozens of times in the past few years, usually to the applause of men and the hisses of women.

My argument has been that women and men today have equal opportunities, if not always equal outcomes, which often is more a function of will than way. My motivation has come from my wish for a level playing field for the boys, as well as the girls, in my life. My reasoning has been that in a gender war, no one wins.

The evidence for a cease-fire is explicit and pervasive. Yet, despite my selfless and, I daresay, noble attempts to convince readers, a 600-word essay doesn't permit space to define such evidence adequately. I can only offer a few random facts and anecdotes to suggest a worthy thought or two.

A book is what we need, I've always thought. A once-and-for-all volume to explain how we got here; why feminism has splintered into factions that antagonize even its own constituents; why our culture, pulled in so many directions, has evolved into a Chilean landscape of lopsided opportunity and hostile gender relations.

Alas, I didn't write it, but Cathy Young -- fellow columnist, Cato Institute research associate and co-founder and vice president of the Women's Freedom Network -- did. Pithily titled Ceasefire! (Simon & Schuster, $25), Young's book is so good and so important that I'm temporarily shelving my writer's instinct -- defined by author Anne Lamott as the urgent wish that all other writers "stink" -- in order to provide this public service.

The book that we, the war-weary, have been waiting for has arrived.

Young's work is scrupulously researched, smoothly written and bears the imprimatur of truth. A self-proclaimed "dissident feminist" born in Russia, Young has no agenda nor ax to grind. Honesty underscores her evolution from a fledgling feminist - -- who came to this country at 17, delighted by a culture that celebrated female independence and men pushing strollers -- to a mature adult driven by human rather than gender interests.

Young traces her faded idealism from her college years through the '80s, when fringe feminism became mainstream and equality for women began to mean inequities for men. Like the many women and men for whom she speaks, Young became part of a new brand of feminism that stresses true equality. No more victims; no more demons.

We're just people, she writes, as she neatly disproves the myths that have defined feminism in the '90s. In fact, she states:

Girls are not ignored in classrooms.

Medicine has not neglected women's health.

Abuse by men is not the leading cause of injury to women.

The need for a cease-fire is all too clear to women who, in addition to having an instinct for fairness, like their husbands and love their sons. Young's formula for a fair future is a simple blend of Golden Rule and common sense: "Get over our obsession with gender differences," for instance, and "Stop applying a presumption of sexism to every conflict involving a woman."

I couldn't have stated it better, though, I confess, I wish I had. And, yes, I further confess that I would be happier if Young had stayed in Russia, giving me a little more time to write this book myself. I am not, however, at all bothered that in writing an entire book about the gender wars, about which I've written extensively for, oh, about 10 years, Young managed to avoid mentioning me even once.

Cease-fires, after all, are about surrendering selfish interests to the greater good. In the spirit of which, I'm hauling out my white flag and plan to hoist it just as soon as my husband finishes ironing it.

Copyright 1999 Orlando Sentinel Online.