The ideal feminist: An interview with Carrie Lukas
By Bernard Chapin
Carrie Lukas is the author of an outstanding book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism and it was released earlier this year. I found the work to be clever, concise, and authoritative. Mrs. Lukas also has a multitude of other publications to her credit such as Dependency Divas: How the Feminist Big Government Agenda Betrays Women and Recess from Reality: The Feminist Failure to Embrace School Choice which were authored in her role as Vice President of Policy at the Independent Woman's Forum. Mrs. Lukas is an increasingly well-known personality who expresses her views on media outlets like National Public Radio, Janet Parshall's America, the Glenn Sacks Show, CNBC's The Dennis Miller Show, C-SPAN's Washington Journal, and MSNBC's Scarborough Country. The interviewer knows her best from the pieces she posts at the National Review website. She is a holder of degrees from both Princeton and Harvard.
BC: Mrs. Lukas, let me express my gratitude up front for writing this invaluable book. For readers who aren't familiar with the series, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism is a volume within Regnery's Politically Incorrect Guide collection. Other editions include works by Dr. Thomas Woods on American history and Tom Bethell on science. First off, let me ask what you would say to those who dispute that such a thing as political correctness even exists?
CL: I would tell them that they haven't been on a college campus in a very long time! Anyone familiar with your average college campus knows that some things simply aren't considered appropriate topics of discussion. Think about what happened to former president of Harvard, Larry Summers: he merely mentioned the possibility that innate differences could partially explain why there are fewer women at the tops of science than men. He was censured by Harvard's faculty and eventually lost his job. Political correctness is definitely no myth.
BC: Now with your ideological orientation, am I correct in saying that, just like the interviewer, you are an equity feminist? I know that many men don't like any association with the F-word, but, according to the distinction made by Christina Hoff Sommers, most of us fall in that category as we believe in equal rights and equal pay for all. Do you like and make use of Sommers' equity/gender delineation?
CL: Absolutely. The original goals of feminism were noble, and they have been realized in America. Just about everyone in this country agrees that women absolutely need to have the opportunity to pursue any career or education that they wish and deserve equal treatment under the law. The problem is that the traditional women's groups have abandoned this vision of feminism and instead push big government and a women-as-victim mentality.
BC: You are the Vice President for Policy at the Independent Woman's Forum, can this organization be described as an equity feminist group? What exactly does it do?
CL: IWF is definitely an equity feminist group – we are the voice for mainstream women who believe in personal responsibility and who know that big government isn't the solution to every problem. We try to educate women—particularly young women on college campuses—about how free markets and less government can improve all of our lives.
One really important part of IWF's mission is to advance women's rights overseas. Anyone truly concerned about women should focus their attention on the women around the world who are truly suffering. It's ridiculous, in my mind, that groups like the National Organization for Women (NOW) waste their time on issues like whether ABC is going to cut a television show starring Geena Davis's Commander in Chief (they seriously did launch a campaign to try to save this show). IWF is working with women in Iraq—educating them about the principles of democracy, limited government, and private property—so that they are prepared to help build and sustain a democratic Iraq. The real battle ground for women's rights isn't in the U.S., it's around the world.
BC: Early in your book you make the argument that the sexual revolution was fought and women turned out to be its losers. How so?
CL: During the sexual revolution, many feminists pushed the idea that women and men are the same when it comes to sexuality. Basically they argued that the social conventions that had made women's chastity more prized than men's was a tool of the patriarchy meant to keep women from having fun. But the truth is that women are very different than men when it comes to sex. First of all, women are more physical vulnerable to the consequences of sex: not only do we get pregnant, women are more likely to contract STDs and many STDs have more serious consequences for women. Women are also more emotionally vulnerable. Women release different hormones than men do during sex which makes it harder for women to keep it casual.
BC: We find out in the "Fertility Facts" chapter that many women are quite confused about their own biology. Is this primarily due to their being misled by the media or due to a disinterest in finding out the truth for themselves?
CL: I don't think the media has purposefully set out to confuse women about their biology, but I definitely think that women often get the wrong impression from what they hear and read. For example, you often read stories about a 50 year old giving birth or celebrities having babies late in life. What those stories don't mention is the extreme measures needed to help these women get pregnant. There are fertility treatments that can certainly address some problems, but it's important for women to know that they are often costly and not fool proof.
BC: In the chapter, "The Myth of Having it All," you examine why it is that some women have been deceived, or deceived themselves, into thinking they can have it all as if a great family, a great career, a great sex life, eternal romantic love, and presumably free shoes on Tuesdays come as a birthright. Are these fantastic expectations a direct result of our culture actively promoting female superiority and supremacy? When a woman fails at something does she not have discrimination, a glass ceiling, or misogyny to blame?
CL: Certainly much of the media creates unrealistic expectations and a sense of entitlement. But the problem women face is that we often having conflicting desires. I talked to a lot of college women in the course of writing my book, and it was very common for these intelligent, ambitious, young women to tell me that they expected to both be full-time stay-at-home moms and CEOs of major companies. Now, I'm not saying that no woman can accomplished both of these goals, but she's going to have a tough time doing both of them at the same time. Often times, women's studies classes and groups like NOW make it seem as though the problem women face in balancing work and family is caused by bad public policy or men who won't do their share of the housework. But the real problem is simply a consequence of being human: we can't be two places at once and there are only 24 hours in a day. That means we are going to face tough decisions and real tradeoffs about how to allocate our time.
BC: You are a strong proponent of marriage, and present a well-developed case for it in your book; however, in light of the way government has interjected itself into our personal relationships (and effectively chosen sides by punishing men habitually during divorce and custody proceedings) why should the average man even consider entering into the state of matrimony? What is the upside? Why should we buy the milk when we can have the cow for free?
CL: Men get big benefits from marriage. Just like women, men are healthier, happier, and better off financially when they are married. And most men know this. Many people are surprised by the fact that women are more likely to initiate divorce than men. This may in part be due to the fact that men often lose more when getting divorce—in particularly because divorce can mean they lose considerable access to their children. Both men and women need to hear more about the costs and consequences of divorce. Until I started researching for this book, I didn't realize just how often people regret getting divorced. Divorce may seem like a solution to an unhappy marriage, but oftentimes when people divorce they just trade one set of problems for another.
BC: I have to say that my favorite part of your book is the final chapter entitled, "Divorcing Uncle Sam." It outlines a seldom cited cause behind our ever-expanding Nanny State. You point out that women who don't marry men sometimes end up marrying the government. For those unfamiliar with your work, why is that the case?
CL: This is one of the primary ways that groups like NOW have really walked away from the concept of true independence for women. They want to free women from having to depend on voluntary relationships – families and husbands – but want Uncle Sam to take care of them. Think about it: NOW wants government-run healthcare, government funding for childcare, more government workplace regulations, and expanded welfare benefits; NOW opposes economic reforms that return control to individuals – they oppose personal accounts in Social Security and school choice; they want higher taxes. Simply put, they want government to control more, and individuals to control less. That's really not independence.
BC: Along these lines, what do you think of the idea that women naturally gravitate towards socialism due to its "claim" of taking care of everyone. Despite both of us understanding that socialism is about as useful as owning a timeshare in downtown Bagdad, why might women be more naturally fooled by this fallacious claim than men?
CL: Women tend to be more concerned with making sure that everyone has basic necessities, and can be persuaded that government is the best safety net. Also, free market supporters often don't do a very good job explaining how their policies translate into better lives for individuals. We tend to focus more on the big picture—we talk about economic growth and principles like individual freedom—but fail to highlight the experience of individual people. I think that we are making improvements though and better showing the costs and consequences of government actions. Consider the case of welfare. One might assume that the welfare system would appeal to women because it served as a safety net for individuals in need. But of course, the welfare system was really a poor safety net and instead trapped individuals in poverty. Women came to understand this and the system was reformed. I think that many women are increasingly skeptical of government's ability to solve our problems.
BC: Also, do you think that women tend to be more conformist than men? Personally, I think this is the case. Possible reasons for this could be due to a greater need for social connection, along with higher levels of sociability and extroversion. I understand though if you disagree (as you're obviously no conformist).
CL: I don't think that women are more conformist necessarily…. Women are empathetic and more risk adverse. Anytime we hear stories about a family in trouble, we immediately consider how it could be our family and wonder what we would do, how we would react. Big government can sound tempting. That's why supporters of limited government have to make the case that we are better off—not just richer, but safer—when civil society is more robust and individuals have more freedom.
BC: What are your plans for the future? Do you have another book in the works?
CL: No book in the works right now. I'm enjoying writing columns and papers for IWF, and am also busy chasing around my one-year-old! I feel like I have my hands full!
BC: Thank you very much for your time, Mrs. Lukas.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!