Women’s Liberation: The Real Issues

Women’s Liberation: The Real Issues

The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women’s Liberation, by Midge Decter. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan. 188 pp.

The American Woman: Her Changing Social, Economic and Political Roles, 1920-1970, by William H. Chafe. New York: Oxford University Press. 351 pp.

If I choose to review Midge Decter’s polemic together with William Henry Chafe’s history, it is not because they have anything in common with regard to style or scholarship. Rather, it is because the latter clarifies and explains the issues that the first angrily sweeps under the rug. There is no better way of conveying the flavor of Decter’s book than to start out in her own manner:

Last year, a woman named Midge Decter (or a Miss Midge Decter)—a journalist, housewife, and mother of four—published a book called The New Chastity. The object of her book is to justify her aversion to the feminist movement. The target of her hostility is the whole movement, but she selects as evidence for her case mostly statements by extremists whose fanaticism parallels her own. Just as for some extremists among the feminists all men are exploiters and oppressors, so for Decter all women liberationists are immature and irresponsible. Just as some extremists among the liberationists relish categorical statements about all men or all of humankind that leave no room for exceptions or ambiguities, so Decter speaks of the movement of women’s liberation as if it were all of one cloth, as if there were not many kinds of feminists, from those who would destroy “the establishment” to those who demand more equality within it.