According to Marilyn French (The Women’s Room), the backlash against women began more than 5,000 years ago, when men gave up hunting and found another source of ego gratification: machismo. We don’t have to accept French’s version of patriarchal origins to be shocked by her survey of man’s inhumanity to woman: Worldwide, women do two-thirds of the work and receive 10 percent of the income. In Asia and Africa, sex-selective abortion and neglect of female infants has created a population deficit of 100 million women. Twenty million women in Africa and the Middle East have suffered genital mutilation. In Southeast Asia, the World Bank helped launch the sex-tourism industry of brothels created for foreign men. In the U.S., three-quarters of fathers owing child support pay none, or only a fraction.
It’s too bad French’s research is undercut by her glib and doctrinaire generalizations. Men bad, women good just doesn’t account for all of recorded human history. She’s best when most specific, describing grass-roots womens’ groups that have fought inequities in Brazil, Peru, and Uganda. We need to hear more about such successes. The War Against Women, for all its good intentions, is not one of them.