Saints and Sinners: Fragile Feminists

Thanks to Shannon Faulkner, we now know just how much influence liberal feminists exert over the media. As soon as Faulkner dropped out of the Citadel, the debate quietly shifted from whether Faulkner should have been allowed to attend to feminist disapproval of the cadets’ celebration of her departure.

Rather than focus on the issue — on what, in the long run, was best for Faulkner, for the Citadel, and for our country — liberal feminists ignored any messy facts that might interfere with their wishing-makes-it-so approach to sexual difference. The contest for the Citadel was never about “empowering” Shannon, but was, rather, about increasing feminist power by destroying yet one more of the few remaining all- male institutions.

The liberal feminists are expert at subjective double-thinking, at asserting simultaneously two contradictory opinions. Compare, for example, their contrasting responses to Faulkner’s and the cadets’ victory celebrations. In the sort of collective warm moment beloved by the Sisterhood, Faulkner and her lawyer drank champagne toasts to her subversion of Citadel tradition. During a staged photo op, with camera crews and reporters watching, Shannon giggled and gloated over her victory. Later, during a 20/20 television interview, the fallen ex-cadette sat, snug in an American flag-print sweater, while her mommy chastised the mean, nasty boys for not being “gentlemen” — that is, for spontaneously exhibiting pleasure upon learning that their all-male tradition remained, for the moment, intact.

Columnist Angela Figueroa whimpered that had Faulkner stayed, the male cadets would’ve deliberately made her life miserable, an objection that presupposes that the cadets, as gentlemen, are supposed to try to make Faulkner happy, even while she is doing her utmost to make them unhappy by destroying their tradition.

When, however, the Citadel’s cadets spontaneously burst into hoots, cheers, and a frenzy of push-ups — traditional Citadel forms of celebration — liberal feminists compared them to gibbering simians, Nazis, and bullies. Elizabeth Schuett portrayed them as fascists, their “arms raised over shaven heads in a symbol of victory,” laughing evilly “in celebration of the failure of one of the own classmates.” Schuett disdains the desire for single-sex education — for men, anyway.

The liberal press did not criticize Faulkner’s calculated, Kodak-moment celebration. But they found plenty to attack in the spontaneous, cameras-not-invited happiness of cadets. Rather, the press played the brief response of the cadets over and over, suggesting, contrary to the facts, that their rejoicing went on for hours. Every time the feminization of the Citadel is discussed, the media will, undoubtedly, replay that footage.

Like the feminists who used her as a puppet, Faulkner attributes her poor performance to her having been the only woman at the Citadel, a situation that ought not have come entirely as a surprise. Faulkner speculates that “maybe it would have been different if other women had gone in with me.” One wonders why, if this young woman is so dependent for her self-esteem upon the nurturing of other women, she wanted to attend an all-male institution in the first place.

Reinforcing the stereotype of women’s emotional fragility and inability to engage in independent thought, some feminists argue that at least 200 women, rather than just one, should be admitted to the Citadel en masse. This, they feel, would mitigate the “hostility” of the all-male environment by providing a ready-made support group for the fragile freshman lady warriors.

The media’s bias in favor of radical feminism is abundant. When the focus is on single-sex education for men, it’s a bad thing. But when the focus is on single-sex education for women, it’s a good thing. Consider the media treatment of the desire to preserve single- sex education at Mills College, a Bay Area women’s college. In 1990, when the administration of Mills proposed admitting men, students protested vigorously, symbolically taping their mouths shut, sporting yellow armbands that proclaimed “Better Dead Than Coed,” and blockading campus buildings. When the Mills administration capitulated, students publicly responded with frenzied rejoicing. They shrieked. They hooted. They waved their arms. They chanted in unison, like the most frenzied crowd that ever filled Nuremburg Stadium or Moscow’s Red Square.

During the Faulkner furor, however, Citadel cadets exhibited considerably more restraint than the women of Mills. They organized no extortionary protests. They did not boycott classes, nor blockade buildings. When they learned that the all-male character of their school had not yet been destroyed, the cadets expressed their pleasure in the traditional way they would celebrate victory against an opponent on the athletic field. Unlike the male students at the Citadel, whose unplanned pleasure was, at the mildest, labeled “ungentlemanly,” the carefully calculated celebration at Mills was presented as an exhibition of women empowering themselves. The idea of calling Mills students’ behavior “unladylike” never flitted through any liberal media skull — all in all, a perfect demonstration of feminist double- thinking and double standards.


  • Laura Morrow

    At the time this article was published, Laura Morrow was a professor of English at Louisiana State University, Shreveport.

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