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An interview with post-feminist author Carrie Lukas
Carrie Lukas is not your typical feminist. For one thing, she believes that the original goals of feminism—equal rights and equal pay—have already been realized. And now, as evidenced by her most recent book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism, Lukas is departing even further from feminist orthodoxy, arguing that feminism itself is often a woman's worst enemy when it comes to achieving autonomy. Here we talk briefly with the author and Vice President of Policy at the Independent Women's Forum about what true female empowerment really entails.
Your book is a volume within Regnery's Politically Incorrect Guide collection. First off, what would you say to those who dispute that such a thing as political correctness even exists?
I would tell them that they haven't been on a college campus in a very long time! Anyone familiar with academia knows that within it some things simply aren't considered appropriate topics of discussion. Think about what happened to Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard: He merely mentioned the possibility that innate differences could partially explain why there are fewer women than men in the hard sciences. He was censured by Harvard's faculty and eventually lost his job. Political correctness is definitely no myth.
Early in your book you make the argument that women were the losers of the sexual revolution. How so?
During the sexual revolution, many feminists pushed the idea that women and men are the same when it comes to sexuality. Basically, they argued that the social conventions that had made women's chastity more prized than men's were tools of the patriarchy meant to keep women from having fun. But the truth is that women are very different from men when it comes to sex. First of all, women are more vulnerable physically to the consequences of sex: Not only do we get pregnant, but women are more likely to contract STDs, and many STDs have more serious consequences for women. Women are also more vulnerable emotionally. Women release different hormones than men during sex, which makes it harder for women to keep it casual.
We find out in the "Fertility Facts” chapter that many women are quite confused about their own biology. Is this due to their being misled by the media?
I don't think the media has purposefully set out to confuse women about their biology, but I definitely think that women often get the wrong impression from what they hear and read. For example, you sometimes read stories about a 50-year-old woman giving birth or about celebrities having babies late in life. What these stories don't mention is the extreme measures needed to help these women get pregnant. There are fertility treatments that can certainly address some problems, but it's important for women to know that they are often costly and not foolproof.
In the chapter "The Myth of Having It All,” you examine why it is that some women have been deceived—or have deceived themselves—into thinking they can have both a career and a strong family. Are these expectations the result of our culture actively promoting female supremacy?
Certainly much of the culture creates unrealistic expectations and a sense of entitlement. But the problem women face is that we often have conflicting desires. I talked to a lot of college women in the course of writing my book, and it was very common for these intelligent and ambitious young people to tell me that they expected to be both full-time moms and CEOs of major companies. Now, I'm not saying that no woman can accomplish both of these goals, but she's going to have a tough time doing so. Often, "women's studies” classes and groups like NOW [National Organization for Women] make it seem as though the problem women face in balancing work and family is caused by bad public policy or men who won't do their share of the housework. But the real problem is simply a consequence of being human: We can't be two places at once, and there are only 24 hours in a day. This means that we are going to face tough decisions and real tradeoffs when allocating our time.
You are a strong proponent of marriage; however, in light of what your book says about the prejudice against men during divorce and custody proceedings, why should the average male even consider entering into the state of matrimony? What is the upside?
Men get big benefits from marriage. Just like women, men are healthier, happier, and better off financially when they are married. And most men know this. Many people are surprised by the fact that women are more likely to initiate divorce than men. This may be due in part to the likelihood that men will lose more when getting divorced—in particular, considerable access to their children. Both men and women need to hear more about the costs and consequences of divorce. Until I started researching this book, I didn't realize just how often people regret getting divorced. Divorce may seem like a solution to an unhappy marriage, but when people divorce, they often trade one set of problems for another.
You point out in your book that women who don't marry men sometimes end up marrying the government. Why is this the case?
This is one of the primary ways that groups like NOW have really abandoned the concept of true independence for women. They want to free women from having to depend on voluntary relationships—families and husbands—but want Uncle Sam to take care of them. Think about it: NOW wants government-run healthcare, government funding for childcare, more government workplace regulations, and expanded welfare benefits; NOW opposes economic reforms that return control to individuals; they oppose personal accounts in Social Security and school choice; they want higher taxes. Simply put, they want the government to control more and individuals to control less. That's really not independence. •
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