Gender Wars

Everyone agrees that the Thomas hearings were a disgrace. But at least, people say, they accomplished something good: They made us aware of the problem of sexual harassment.   I beg to differ. The hearings may have brought public attention to the issue. But they unleashed such hostility between men and women that the cause may have been hurt more than helped.   Just read the papers. Women are quoted as saying, I'll never vote for a man again; they don't represent my concerns. And men are quoted as saying, I'll never hire a woman again; I can't risk being smeared 10 years later if I do something that offends her.   It's vicious, it's acrimonious, it's threatening to spark an all-out gender war.   The root of the conflict is that men and women really are different in their sexual responses. Several recent surveys have found a wide gap in what men and women find offensive. One poll asked people how they would respond to sexual advances at work. 75 percent of women said they'd be offended; 75 percent of men said they'd be flattered.   We're not talking here about clear-cut sexual harassment, where someone brings pornography to the work place or trades career advancement for sexual favors. These things are obviously wrong. What's tough are the gray areas: a compliment, a hug, a request for a date.   When does a look become a leer?   In the sexual harassment literature, that's up to the woman. Harassment is defined by the victim. A man's behavior is judged by the standards of the woman he happens to be with.   Now, this is a drastic departure from the normal concept of law. The traditional ideal of justice is that the law is neutral--that it applies regardless of class, race, or gender. But in the case of harassment, the gender-neutral perspective is being rejected for a feminist tilt. Already one Court of Appeals has ruled that what defines harassment is the woman's perspective.   It used to be that the woman's movement fought for equal treatment under the law. But now, that's not enough: The movement wants preferential treatment. In matters of sexuality, feminists are demanding that men adapt unilaterally to women's sensibilities.   Feminists paint an image of women as frail, timid creatures frightened by men's more restless and aggressive sexuality. The male sex drive must be tamed, they say, by subordinating it to the female drive. In the words of feminist leader Andrea Dworkin, women have a "natural right" to be "the controlling and dominating partner."   In short, the goal of sexual harassment laws is to subordinate the character of the male to the character of the female.   So don't be fooled: equality between the sexes is not the goal here. The goal is sexual power. Feminists are angry about what they perceive to be centuries of male domination. They don't want to be equal, they want to get even. They want to turn the tables and have their turn at domination.   That's what the Clarence Thomas hearings have brought to light.   I say, if we want to avoid all-out gender warfare, it's time to give equal respect to the different sexual character of both men and women as reflections of the image of God.   Third of three more commentaries on Clarence Thomas.


Chuck Colson



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