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

Bad Vibes in Alabama

A dvocates of censoring the Internet often argue that sexually explicit material today is "worse"--more graphic, more violent, more deviant, and more available--than it was 25 or 30 years ago. If only we could return to the innocent days of the 1950s and 1960s, when Playboy was considered risqué, they imply. Then we wouldn't be confronted with a compelling need for censorship. This sense of urgency is probably sincere, just as it was 25, 50, and 150 years ago. Would-be censors and other authoritarians always exclaim that the "bad" speech or conduct they're targeting is badder than any speech or conduct ever targeted before. But obscenity and indecency laws are sometimes quaintly directed against the tamest, most familiar forms of sexual expression, like erotic dancing. In 1991 the Supreme Court upheld a prohibition on nude dancing; to be precise, it held that a law against public nudity could be applied, constitutionally, to erotic dancing. The general ban of nudity was...

Law and Marriage

These days I settle for small and subtle signs of progress. Take the story in the February 15 Washington Post on the demise of a proposal in the Virginia legislature that would have required public-school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. State Senator Warren E. Barry--the outraged sponsor of the legislation, which was amended by his senate colleagues--blamed "libertarians and liberals" on the education committee of Virginia's house of representatives for softening his bill by exempting students who had a religious or philosophical objection to reciting the pledge. Withdrawing the defanged bill in protest, Barry called the 23 members of the committee "spineless pinkos," which, the Post felt compelled to explain, is "a Cold War reference to Communist sympathizers." Surely we've progressed a little if a phrase like "spineless pinkos" has passed out of the vernacular. Still, the culture of the 1950s remains appealing to some. "It may be the twenty-first century out there, but...

Election Blues

A t first, voting was a pleasure. I got to vote for George McGovern. Since then, I've voted with genuine enthusiasm for several senators and congressmen (I don't think I've ever had the chance to vote for a congresswoman), and a few statewide and local officials. Sometimes my candidates actually win. But today, while I'm generally content with the senators and congressmen representing my state (Massachusetts), voting for president has become an awful chore. I know that I'm supposed to vote for Al Gore because, as Democratic friends and fundraisers constantly remind me, "the other guys are worse." I'm supposed to support Gore for the sake of the Supreme Court and the drive for reproductive choice, gay rights, environmental protection, and improved health care, among other liberal causes. I'm not supposed to consider the abysmal Clinton/Gore/Lieberman record on criminal justice or civil liberty. Some neoliberals simply disagree with my assessment of that record; they celebrate the...

Trial Heat:

Wendy Kaminer Choice : Senator Bob Kerrey, Senator John Kerry, Senator Tom Daschle, or Senator John Edwards Present a group of lawyers with a political question and they will approach it strategically, focusing on finding the most feasible, acceptable answer, a professional facilitator once told me. Present a group of clergy with the same question and they'll approach it without regard for strategy, focusing on finding the moral answer. I'm a lawyer, so I'll limit myself to identifying good enough, feasible candidates for 2004, leaving speculation about ideal nominees to the clergy, as well as third party enthusiasts. Who are the best potential candidates who appear to enjoy the best chances of beating George Bush? Retired Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry probably head my list, in either order (assuming that the latter votes against attorney general nominee John Ashcroft.) Both are quite smart, experienced, and principled and have the intelligence and...

Pictures at an Execution

Timothy McVeigh is scheduled to be killed on May 16, on closed-circuit TV (for the benefit of his victims) and with luminaries like Bryant Gumbel presiding over what networks presume will be a national death watch. We won't actually see McVeigh being poisoned, unless a pirated tape of the execution is disseminated. But we're sure to be regaled with numbing reports about his last moments and discussions of execution protocols. We're likely to hear from at least a few of the people who witness his death, as well as numerous commentators for and against capital punishment. Downtime will probably be filled with stories about the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, discussions of domestic terrorism, and arguments about televising executions. When they get desperate, they'll tell us about Terre Haute, home of the federal death chamber, where hotels and motels for the week of May 13 have long been sold out. McVeigh's impending execution has reinvigorated debates about public executions. (...