The Paula Gordon Show
Liberating Women from Feminism

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese

ELIZABETH FOX-GENOVESE‚s Ph.D. is from Harvard University. She is the Eleonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History at Emory University, in Atlanta, where she is also a member of the English, Comparative Literature and Women‚s Studies faculties. The Economist magazine places Dr. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese among the emerging group of American feminists who are "fundamentally sympathetic to capitalism and American institutions, (who) believe in individual rights, personal responsibility and equality before the law." Her latest book, Feminism is Not the Story of My Life, is published by Doubleday/Anchor.

Excerpts3:47 secs

Our survival as a species is rooted in women and men acknowledging each other‚s equal worth, according to Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, who believes „official feminismš does not promote that end. She is, to be polite, at odds with what she calls today‚s „feminist elite.š The Economist magazine places Dr. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese among the emerging group of American feminists who are "fundamentally sympathetic to capitalism and American institutions, (who) believe in individual rights, personal responsibility and equality before the law."

An historian first and last, Dr. Fox-Genovese believes the historical bonds that held men to their children and the women who bore them („civilizationš) were shattered after World War Two by two revolutions -- the economic/technological one and the sexual one. While there is certainly still work to be done, women‚s gains in the past 30 years are without precedent for any other group in the history of the world. It‚s been a sea change.

Dr. Fox-Genovese is worried about our kids. They don‚t get enough time from their parents (especially their mothers) and they‚re learn from sources that diminish their potential. (Yes, television is the cure for intelligence.)  Fox-Genovese sees official feminism focused on being free of children and in a revolt against the moral work of society. And our future depends on someone doing that work.

Reproducing your level of culture and moral sensibility is part of the reproductive act and the intimate relations between men and women are the most fundamental paradigm for acknowledging other people‚s reality, Fox-Genovese contends. She also thinks the more ideological feminist vision which increasingly is removed from a world which men also inhabit is problematic at best.

Dr. Fox-Genovese acknowledges there‚s an important role for legislation but thinks official feminism goes too far, favoring legislative micro-management. She puts her bets on individual women and men, doing the ordinary work of building human relationships.

niversities, not surprisingly, are the testing grounds of these warring ideas. Dr. Fox-Genovese is heartened by the pragmatism she is beginning to see in students. She believes the Academy‚s job is to continue to provide the opportunity for young people to build a foundation, to learn to think and write clearly, not to sanction or promote orthodoxy.

Moving beyond „freedom fromš to a more engaged „freedom forš may set Elizabeth Fox-Genovese at odds with the feminist elite but she also opens up a range of possibilities not found in USA Today. Official feminism may in fact not be the story of women‚s lives any more. But insuring the freedom and equality of both women and men is a more urgent need than ever. Liberating people to be whole -- by whatever name -- is a work in progress.

Conversation 1

Dr. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese talks in personal terms about the 30 years since „second wave feminismš unleashed monumental changes in lives of American women and men. She gives examples of the dimensions of the changes which allow young women to consider as their birthright, gains for which their mothers‚ struggled.

Conversation 2

While there is certainly work yet to be done, Dr. Fox-Genovese describes women‚s gains, without precedent for any other group, including mixed or male working groups, in the history of the world.  

If the history of human civilization is an attempt to bind men to the children they father and the women who bear the children, that‚s over, Dr. Fox-Genovese contends. She champions the importance of „reproducing your level of culture and moral sensibilityš as part of the „reproductive act.š

Having parted ways with „the official feminist movement,š Dr. Fox-Genovese describes how the „feminist eliteš has lost the sense of „freedom for.š She sees them as striving to liberate isolated individuals who have no special connection to reproduction and no need for or responsibility to binding obligations to other people. She resents it‚s become difficult to call oneself a „feministš if one does not buy every tenet of the established feminist faith and suggests a range of ideas of what „feminismš means. She tells how the media have given a handful of official feminists a hammerlock on policy positions.

Conversation 3

Dr. Fox-Genovese describes the sea change in the world and in technology since World War Two -- a sexual and economic dual revolution and feminism's role interpreting the consequences of both.

Citing gains in bread and butter issues, she sees two fundamental challenges remaining: 1.) the role legislation should or should not take in addressing sensitive issues between women and men and women‚s relation to children and 2.) the impact of what has become an established bureaucracy of official feminists.

She sees the more ideological feminist vision as removed from a world which men also inhabit and excluding women who choose to share the larger world with men.

Conversation 4

There is still tremendous confusion around gender issues, exacerbated by our litigious society. Important issues must certainly be corrected by force of law, but Dr. Fox-Genovese says official feminists favor over-legislating. She argues for giving individuals greater flexibility in finding good answers.

How are men and women different and how are they the same? Dr. Fox-Genovese describes the ideological position of official feminism and offers some alternatives. She poses basic questions about living lives in our own bodies and acknowledges the role of language in shaping these ongoing debates.

Conversation 5

Dr. Fox-Genovese talks about the challenges of people getting along in the world, regardless of their differences. She suggests ideas about compromise and „struggling productivelyš and elevates the importance of „ordinary timeš that goes into good human relations. She applauds increasing pragmatism among University students. She questions the wars now being waged within Academia when its central role is to give students the opportunity to learn to think and write clearly so that they might have the foundation for whatever theory they choose.

Conversation 6

Dr. Fox-Genovese is deeply concerned about children: they require more time than they‚re getting and they‚re learning from sources which reduce their potential. She believes official feminism focuses on being free of children and is a revolt against the moral work of society. While there‚s no question women should no longer be exploited in doing the moral work, the work itself is our future and we can ill afford to dispense with it. Our very survival depends on acknowledging the equal worth of other human beings.


On a dark, raining evening, we enjoyed the gracious hospitality of The Commerce Club in downtown Atlanta and were joined by: Lolly Hand, Bill Kessler, Stephen Lutz, Linda Muir, Benno Pattison, Duane Rumbaugh and Sue Savage-Rumbaugh. It was a remarkable evening.

Our original taping date was postponed amid medical emergencies. We appreciate the flexibility of all concerned in making this Show come to pass.

Additional Links:
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese‚s latest book is Feminism is Not the Story of My Life, published in hard cover by Doubleday and paperback by Anchor books.

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