Wendy Kaminer

Wendy Kaminer is a former senior correspondent for The American Prospect and a contributing editor at The Atlantic Monthly. She also serves on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union.

A lawyer, social critic, and former Guggenheim Fellow, she writes about law, liberty, feminism, religion, and popular culture. Her latest book is Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today. Other books she has written include Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety; True Love Waits: Essays and Criticism; It's All the Rage: Crime and Culture; I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional: The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help Fashions; and A Fearful Freedom: Women's Flight from Equality. Kaminer's articles and reviews have appeared in many other publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and Newsweek, and her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio.

Before embarking on her writing career, Kaminer practiced law as a staff attorney in the New York Legal Aid Society and the New York City Mayor's Office.

Wendy Kaminer retains copyrights to all her articles.

Recent Articles

American Gothic

I t has long been clear to feminists that crusades against witchcraft reflect a primal fear of feminine power and aim to punish women, most brutally, for transgressing gender roles. But if accusations of witchcraft are useful as instruments of social control, they're not necessarily cynical; often, they're entirely sincere. As a casual perusal of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) Web site and assorted right-wing Christian literature shows, some people believe in Satan, witches, and various evil spirits as fervently as they believe in God. (Why shouldn't they, after all; one belief in the supernatural is no stranger than another.) "The Bible makes it clear that there are demons, or evil spirits, in the world that interfere in people's lives," a CBN posting titled "Freedom from Demon Bondage" asserts. The symptoms of "demonic oppression" or "possession" include "involvement in occult practices (fortune-telling, Satanism, etc.)" and "seeking spiritual knowledge...

Sex and Sensibility

Having attended a women's college and spent half of my professional life affiliated with a female institution, I know better than to believe that women are naturally more sharing, caring, and cooperative than men, although in general, they may be more polite. I'm not denying the existence of distinct masculine and feminine cultural styles or different male and female perspectives based largely on experience. I'm simply asserting what was once recognized as a basic tenet of liberal feminism: sex is no predictor of character or moral sensibility. Sex is a poor predictor of ideology as well. The female solidarity sometimes forged by women's common experiences doesn't always overcome demo graphic differences among women, not to mention their differences in talent and temperament. Considering the chasm between members of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the women of the Christian Coalition, I never trust popular pronouncements about a gender gap between women and men. So while...

Let's Talk about Gender, Baby

F eminists have long been ridiculed for their efforts to purge sexism from language by using words like chairperson and avoiding the use of male pronouns as universal signifiers of both sexes. The results have not always been pretty: "He knows what's good for him" is a far more felicitous phrase than "He/she knows what's good for him/her." And we can probably achieve equality without ever using the word herstory . Still, I'm grateful that common usage no longer completely ignores the existence of women with words like mankind . Besides, I grew up in a predigital age, when concern about grammar and usage was not dismissed as pedantry. So in my view, while feminist language police are sometimes hypervigilant, sometimes they're not vigilant enough. Why do they tolerate, and even promote, use of the word woman (or the plural women ) as an adjective? It's a noun. We have "women doctors" and "women senators" but no "men doctors" or "men senators." We do, however, have "manservants." It's...

Equal Rights Postponement

A sk state and federal legislators if they believe that legal rights should be extended or withheld on the basis of sex. Most would probably say no, and many of them would be lying. Adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution remains a feminist fantasy. Its simple declaration of fairness--"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex"--cannot win congressional support. The ERA has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1985, only to be buried in committee. This year's sponsors are Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York and Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts; but don't expect passage anytime soon. Sometimes it's hard to believe that in the early 1970s the ERA was actually approved by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. (A constitutional amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states.) Feminists famously failed to win ratification--they...

Politics of Identity

G eorge W. Bush opposes affirmative action, at least in theory; in practice he has an affirmative-action record that might have made Bill Clinton proud. According to Time magazine, Bush "has appointed more women to positions of power and influence than any president in history." He even has a diversity policy that requires 30 percent of administration jobs to be filled by women. He seems to have sought racial diversity as well: According to his personnel director, Clay Johnson, minorities constitute 20-25 percent of people selected for top government jobs. Conservative opponents of affirmative action who once derided President Clinton for bean counting have generally exercised their right to remain silent about Bush's efforts to diversify. Their reticence is not surprising. They also have declined to criticize his dad's affirmative-action appointment of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. (I imagine that even people who did not believe that Justice Thomas harassed Anita Hill did...

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