It is the 30th anniversary of the American’s earth-moving announcement in The Hite Report that she had discovered what women liked in the bedroom. Her message was that women didn’t need men to find sexual satisfaction. Hite’s book, containing frank interviews with scores of ordinary people, sold more than 20m copies. The reaction of men was not ecstatic; some felt redundant. Playboy, for whom this least conventional of feminists had modelled, dubbed her book the Hate Report.
(They would have to, wouldn’t they. Hah!)
Hite became a famous feminist, propelled into a galaxy inhabited by Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Andrea Dworkin and, later, Naomi Wolf.
Still, haven’t heard of ‘er. But that’s not why I linked to this (“Hey, look who I’ve never heard of!”).
Hite reserves her harshest criticism for what has been called “raunch culture”, the overt sexuality displayed by many young women. Marching under the loose banner of feminism, it features American students wearing T-shirts bearing slogans such as “Does date rape mean I get dinner?” She feels responsible for unleashing a sexual freedom she finds increasingly difficult to comprehend. “That is why I didn’t give any interviews for over 10 years,” she said. “Every time I spoke it was distorted to put pressure on women to conform to some very harmful stereotypes.”
Now she finds herself a fellow traveller with Bush for exporting secular values: “Democracies are meant to stand for civil rights. And we should show we believe in women’s rights by promoting women, by having women like Condi Rice in important jobs. And then we should push our democratic values. We should continue to make the religious sphere separate. Women are trying to integrate themselves in secular society: that is after 2,000 years; of course it’s going to be bumpy.”
She does not accept the feminist apology for burka-chic, the argument that its wearers are refusing to be sex objects. It is a preposterous claim. “I like the French approach. France is clear: it says if people want to come there it expects them to fit into its culture, and that includes respecting equal rights.”
The veil is, Hite suggests, based on a mistaken distinction — made in the West, too — between “good and “bad” women. But where Hite is moved to agree with the mullahs is over pornography, a “vulgar” manifestation of the permissive society that she cannot defend. “When people refer to sexual freedom, this was not what feminism was about,” she insists. “Feminism is still about things like equal pay, which we still haven’t got.”
Well for crying out loud, you don’t need to go as far as the mullahs for someone to tell you porn is a vulgar manifestation of the permissive society.
And while she detests the Christian right’s attempt to shuffle women out of their hipsters and back into aprons, she does seem to regard all this young rutting as distasteful: “Where we are going in the end could be more significant for everybody.” Despite her attempts to get to grips with modern woman, perhaps beneath lurks the heart of an old-fashioned, prim suffragette.
Another prime example of taking a quote and following it immediately with a handy conclusion that has nothing to do with what was just said but makes a swell-sounding way to end a piece of writing, conveniently opening a chance for anyone who might uncomfortably have had no good arguments against what she said to sigh with relief and say “Oh, right, she’s probably just an inner prim suffragette.” because it would be unfortunate for the writer of the piece to come off as making any moral judgements. But anyway, it reminded me of what (natch) RC2 was saying the other day:
A friend old enough to know recalls that not so long ago that was the stereotype for all birth control types: schoolmarmy, prudish folks who seemed to have distaste not only for children, but for the act that engenders them. I guess the relation between radical feminism and priggishness goes back further than I’d dreamed.