the morning after

I recently read The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism by Katie Roiphe, the hot new book of about twelve years ago which I just got around to reading. Her general purpose is valuable; feminists, like any other -ists, have to be able to criticize themselves and question their ideologies to maintain relevance. Roiphe asks some really provocative questions, especially when she questions the statistics feminists often cite and language they use when talking about campus date rape, the focus of her book. I really enjoyed the book up to a certain point, but then it kind of went south for me in the chapter entitled “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party,” in which Roiphe basically breaks down several campus feminist stereotypes and pokes fun at them, which seemed more mean spirited and unneccessary than funny.

However, I was left with an overwhelmingly positive impression of the book, which freaks me out a little considering the blurb by George Will on the inside cover. I can’t ignore the fact that Roiphe draws compelling comparisons between the date-rape awareness/sexual fear language of today’s college campuses and Victorian era admonitions against sexuality for young women, asks young women to hold themselves accountable for their own behavior, and asks all of us to save the term “rape” for those who have experienced legitimate sexual violence. I can’t judge another woman’s experience, and I would hesitate to really go as far as Roiphe does in skewering the young women she cites as being false date rape “victims.” But I can agree with Roiphe that it is not a good idea to use feminism, which should celebrate women’s strengths (and sexual choices), to paint women as hapless, vulnerable victims of men’s sexual advances. And as much as I identify with so much feminist writing that I come across, strident ideology always makes me nervous, so reading a critique like this was really valuable.

-angie kritenbrink
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