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

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...

Mama's Delicate Condition

F emale politicians have not fared particularly well in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We have sent no women to Congress in recent years and have never elected a female senator, governor, or attorney general; the state legislature has never been led by a female senate president or speaker of the house. So as Republican Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift prepares to take over the office of governor from Paul Cellucci (who's resigning and awaiting confirmation as ambassador to Canada), she enjoys some cautious bipartisan support--either because of or despite the fact that she's pregnant. Swift, the mother of a three-year-old girl, is carrying twins. Is her pregnancy a matter of public concern? It's been the subject of discussion in the local press (and has gained a little national attention), but commentators generally seem loath to suggest that the impending birth of her twins makes Swift unfit to undertake the job of governor. It's not hard to imagine people suppressing their doubts...

Sexual Congress

Feminists have long regarded rape as a hate crime, like lynching. The view of sexual violence as a particularly vicious form of bigotry and social control may oversimplify the dynamics of any given sex crime (and overlook the historic use of rape allegations to justify lynching), but it resonates with many women. Both self-identified and closeted feminists, who differ wildly about the nature of equality and the means of achieving it, often agree that rape is an act of misogyny. So there is widespread feminist support for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which essentially adopts this view of sexual violence as discriminatory. Enacted in 1994 as part of an omnibus federal crime bill (in the immediate aftermath of Nicole Simpson's murder), VAWA is a comprehensive law that includes provisions expanding federal criminal jurisdiction over domestic violence involving interstate travel, amending federal rules of evidence in rape cases, and allocating federal funds...

Virtual Offensiveness

M ore than 15 years have passed since antilibertarian feminists declared "pornography" a violation of women's civil rights, alleging that it demeaned and objectified women. In the 1980s, the antiporn movement enjoyed a lot of publicity and a little local legislative success. But federal courts quickly struck down antiporn ordinances that classified some sexually explicit speech as discriminatory and offered women private rights of action against the producers or distributors of non-obscene pornographic material. In American Booksellers Association v. Hudnut, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit stressed that government officials cannot prohibit speech because they disapprove of its perspective: In America people have a right to suggest that the sexual subordination of women is preferable to sexual equality. This was an important but limited victory for civil liberty. The model antiporn law once promoted by feminists did not survive legal challenges, but its underlying...