On February 10, 2001, eighteen thousand women filled Madison Square Garden for one of the more notable feminist gatherings of our time. The event--"Take Back the Garden"--centered on a performance of Eve Ensler's raunchy play, The Vagina Monologues. The "Vulva Choir" sang; self-described "Vagina Warriors"--including Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Donna Hanover (Rudolph Giuliani's ex-wife)--recited pet names for vaginas: Mimi, Monkey-box, and Tamale. Glenn Close led the crowd in spelling out an obscene word for women's intimate anatomy: "Give me a C . . . !!!" A huge banner declared the Garden to be a "RAPE FREE ZONE."
The evening was a near-perfect distillation of contemporary feminism. Pick up a women's studies textbook, visit a college women's center, or look at the websites of leading feminist organizations, and you will likely find the same fixation on intimate anatomy combined with left-wing politics and hostility to men. (Campus feminists were among the most vocal and zealous accusers of the young men on the Duke University lacrosse team who were falsely indicted for rape in 2006.) Contemporary feminism routinely depicts American society as a dangerous patriarchy in which women are under siege--that is the message of the "RAPE FREE ZONE" banner in the Garden.
Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at AEI.
This chapter appears in Culture and Civilization, volume 1, edited by Irving Horowitz (Transaction Publishers, 2009).