OPINIONSnIn Praise of Toughness by Michael Levinn”A system-grinder hates the truth.”n—Ralph Waldo EmersonnThe Failure of Feminism bynNicholas Davidson, New York:nPrometheus; 329 pp.; $24.95.nDuring the 25 years of its existence,ncontemporary feminism has receivedna measure of gentle chiding fornits excesses. Not even the most indulgentneye can completely overtook feministncomparisons of marriage to prostitution,nchildbirth to defecation, or the usenof the pronoun “he” to Jim Crow. Yetnfew cultural critics have been willing toncall feminism nonsense from top tonbottom, misanthropic utopianism at itsncore as well as its periphery. To thatnsmall group add Nicholas Davidson.nDavidson gauges the “failure” ofnfeminism along several dimensions,nfaulting it first as an explanatory theory.nAs he lucidly and accurately explains,nfeminism takes all of society to be thenproduct of women’s oppression. (Thenpopular label for feminism was initiallyn”women’s lib,” a clear expression of thendemand for relief from male dominance.)nThis theory in turn obligesnfeminists to deny, as they do, any basicnbiological difference between the inclinationsnand aptitudes of the two sexes.nThis tenet is crucial. If the sexes occupyndifferent social “roles” because, on thenwhole, they want to, these “roles” reflectnthe cumulative authentic choicesnof both men and women, not deceptionnand coercion. Indeed, if sex differencesnare real, maintenance of a society withoutnsex roles would require intrusivenmanipulation on a scale, in Davidson’snwords, “to make such totalitarian nightmaresnas Brave New World and J 984nMichael Levin is author of Feminismnand Freedom (Transaction Books)nand professor of philosophy at CitynCollege, New York.nlook tolerant and humane by comparison.”nDavidson’s synopsis of the scientificnliterature, although derivative fromnprevious surveys, suffices to refutenwhat he aptly terms “cultural determinism.”nPrenatal exposure of thenmale brain to androgens is what producesnthe characteristic behavior ofnhuman males; genetic females accidentallynexposed to androgens in uteronalso come to display “male” behavior.n(Davidson does not mention complementarynstudies by Karow andnReinisch of androgen-insensitive fetalnmales who go on to display characteristicallynfeminine behavior.) Also, asnDavidson notes, ethology has disman­nnntled the jalse dichotomy betweennlearned behavior and innate reflexes;nthe innateness of general patterns ofnmotivation and cognition is now ancommonplace among evolutionary biologists.nDavidson blunts his argument a bitnby straining to credit “feminist scientists”nlike Sarah Hrdy and CarolnGilligan with a degree of insight intonmale biases in science. Prof Hrdy, forninstance, accuses classical Darwinismnof one-sidedly taking male adaptationnalone as the engine of human evolution.nThis silly accusation, whichnDavidson accepts, simply illustrates thenalertness of feminists to nonexistentnslights.’ Darwin himself emphasizednthe interplay between male and femalenpreferences for traits in the opposite sexnas a determinant of evolution, an ideancentral to Fisher’s work a generationnJULY 1988/23n