241CHBONICLESnlater. (In Feminism and Freedom Inexamine Hrdy’s theory of the supposednevolution of female competitivenessnand promiscuity, especially its implicitntreatment of the two sexes as competingngroups.) The moral of Davidson’snchivalrous lapse: where science is concerned,nassume feminists are wrongnabout everything.nTo be sure, feminists have now begunnto assert, indeed insist, that womennare less belligerent, less competitive —nin a word, better—than men. Thisnnew emphasis is puzzling not onlynwhen used to support the same demandsn(comparable worth, affirmativenaction, curricular revolution) oncenmade in the name of cultural determinism,nbut because it is allowed toncoexist with the older denial of sexndifferences. Such inconsistency has itsnuses; since an inconsistent theory impliesnanything, as all logicians know,nthe inconsistent feminist theorist cannhelp herself to any claim she needs atnany point in any debate. That is whyndebating feminists is so like wrestlingnwith Jell-O. Most people, of course,nshun self-contradictions; what impelsnfeminists to theirs, as Davidson sees it,nis their inveterate, ungovernable hatrednof men. They will say anything againstnmen, whether or not it makes sense.nWhen accusing men of oppressingnwomen, feminists maintain the samenessnof the sexes; when blaming mennfor war, pollution, and the rest of thenhuman condition, they ridicule malenbrutality. Vagina you win, penis I lose.nThis “poisonous negativity” is fornDavidson the second major failure ofnfeminism and why, for all its claims, itnhas done nothing for the average womannbut make her uneasy about hernnatural impulses.nTo my mind, the deepest feature ofnFailure is precisely this capacity ofnDavidson’s to cut through feministn(il)logic to the sensibility that producesnit and the rhetorical devices that sustainnit. One marvelous passage begins withna seemingly objective description of hisnapartment, with its dark wood moldingsnand its swinging kitchen door, andnends abruptly with “this apartmentnreflects an oppressive culture that subordinatesnwomen. Perhaps I shouldnmove out of it.” Why? “The darknwood is intended to suggest the menonlynatmosphere of turn-of-thecenturynclubs.” As for that kitchenndoor, “Women must be vulnerable tonmasculine penetration.” Anyone familiarnwith feminist prose will recognizenthe accuracy of this replica. Parodynit is not, for parodies exaggerate. AsnDavidson summarizes the feministnperspective:nFind something that bothersnyou, explore how it is caused,ndirectly or indirectly, by traditionnand by men, and you will havenreproduced the structurencommon to all feminist analyses.nIf the cause is indirect, so muchnthe better: you will win pointsnfor subtlety and thrill yournreaders with horror as you revealnto them the perversity ofnconcealed influence.nDavidson is also very good on sex asnpracticed (“attempted” might be thenbetter word) according to feminist imperatives.nEqually masterfiil is his analysis ofnthe language of Kate Millett’s SexualnPolitics, a tour de force of textualndissection to prompt envy in the mostnsensitive literary critic.nThe evidence of Millett’s hatrednof men seethes just beneath thensurface of Sexual Politics. . . .nRegardless of one’s views onnFreud’s theory of penis envy, itnis evident that some such desireninflicts itself on Millett. Therenis a curious gingerish quality innher reference to the malengenitals which seems to reflectnnot some remnant of pruderynbut rather an odd mixture ofnadmiration, disgust, and fear, ofnfascination and repulsion. Shenis infinitely more concernednwith the male genitals than anynman I have ever known. Rathernthan using the many availablenmatter-of-fact terms to refer tonthe male genitals, Millett givesnthem elaborate, sneeringncharacterizations like “the malenindicator” and “the penis,nbadge of the male’s superiornstatus.”nMillett claims that menndistance themselves fromnwomen by depersonalizingnthem, by objectifyingnthem. … It therefore comes asna shock to realize that suchnnndehumanizing objectification isnprecisely what Millett does tonmen. This pervasive tendencynis most strikingly seen in thenhabitual use of the generalizednterm “male” when a specificnterm like “husband” would benmore appropriate, as in “Allnthat the wife acquired by hernlabor, service or act duringncoverture became the legalnproperty of the male.” Theneffect of this repetitive misusenof the word “male” is, first, tonremove the immediacy of thenreader’s perception of thenhuman actor in question byndepicting him primarily as anmember of the impersonalncategory “males,” second, by anprocess of guilt throughnassociation, to make the categorynof maleness suspect, andnthus finally to make the wordn”male” into a term of abuse.nTo take another example:nMillett states — and here onenmust emphatically agree withnher—that “women entertain,nplease, gratify, satisfy and flatternmen with their sexuality.” It isna symptom of the web ofnnegativity into which she isntrying to draw her reader thatnby the end of her secondnchapter Millett expects thisnstatement—which onlyndescribes what is natural,nnormal and good—to be metnwith shock. How outrageous,nthe reader is supposed to think,nthat women entertain, please,ngratify and so forth, men!nWhat an unjust culture it isnthat would make them want tondo such a thing! Rationalitynrecedes; rage builds.n(I suspect Davidson will be attacked forncriticizing an “early” feminist likenMillett, but he is right to do so; Millett’snrancorous lesbianism may embarrassntoday’s more urbane feminists, but theynhave never categorically rejected it.)nMuch else in Failure is equally knowing,npithy and memorable; I wish Incould quote it all.nDavidson is unafraid to push beyondnanalysis to advocacy. He wants to dispersenthe cloud currentiy shadowingnmanhood. And when he urges a “re-n