True Love Waits: Essays and Criticismby Wendy Kaminer
True Love Waits brings together fifteen years of Kaminer's best writings from publications including The Village Voice, The New York Times, Mirabella, and The Atlantic - thoughtful, acerbic, and prescient essays that have helped us understand ourselves. Though her topics range from popular culture to politics and law, and her thinking has evolved over the years, her… See more details below
True Love Waits brings together fifteen years of Kaminer's best writings from publications including The Village Voice, The New York Times, Mirabella, and The Atlantic - thoughtful, acerbic, and prescient essays that have helped us understand ourselves. Though her topics range from popular culture to politics and law, and her thinking has evolved over the years, her concerns have remained constant. This is no accidental collection but a cohesive set of reflections on fundamental themes - self-reliance, justice, sex, and civil liberty. First and foremost, Wendy Kaminer is concerned with feminism, a diverse and conflictual movement that includes among its adherents women who oppose pornography and women who consume it, women who want to integrate the military and women who'd like to dismantle it. A longtime proponent of equality feminism, Kaminer has been surveying the feminist landscape for over a decade, mapping its contradictory ideologies. She was also a critic of popular celebrations of victimhood long before criticism of victimism became fashionable, and Kaminer turns from questions of personal responsibility raised by the feminist movement to questions of accountability in the criminal courts. A onetime practicing attorney, her early writing on our confusion about crime, punishment, and retribution and the balancing of social injustice with the demands of criminal justice seems practically clairvoyant today. She examines the equation of the personal and the political, in the courts, the feminist movement, and the culture at large and finds a tendency to trivialize the political and inflate the personal to sometimes ridiculous proportions. And, of course, she trains her eye on the personal development tradition, the subject of her celebrated I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional, offering trenchant analyses of self-help literature, popular therapeutic culture, and politics.
Because she has never been tentative about disagreeing with other feminists, whether in the Atlantic or the Village Voice, Kaminer (It's All the Rage, 1995) sometimes endears herself to those least likely to share her concerns. This collection opens with an amusingly confused conversation between Kaminer and an editor at the National Review in which Kaminer tries to explain that she isn't a suitable writer for his publication: Despite her writing on individual responsibility, she is a liberal. She tells him that for what he proposes to pay her ($225) she could write for the Nation, but she knows that isn't "quite true. The Nation hasn't called. They probably think I'm too conservative." Indeed, reading these pieces, one is struck by how oddly fresh traditional liberalism soundsindicative of how rare it is in today's political context. Kaminer is smart and judicious. In her discussions of gun control, self-help, violence against women, the death penalty, and religious freedom she consistently tries hard to understand and do justice to those with whom she disagrees. Even ideas she finds ridiculous or vacantcommunitarians' notion that feminism's emphasis on rights is selfish, Michael Lerner's "politics of meaning"are given a reasoned hearing. Kaminer can be predictable; the answer to most political problems is, in the end, that people should have more rights and take more responsibility. Sometimes she oversimplifies and perpetuates unfortunate myths, stating, for instance, that a belief in the possibility of benign heterosexual relationships is what distinguishes liberal from radical feminists. Actually, many radical feminists are happily heterosexual; the disagreement is about the existing system's potential to bring about social change.
Despite such rhetorical excesses, Kaminer adds balance, intellectual integrity, and pragmatism to some debates that badly need it.
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