Élisabeth Badinter

Wrong Road Publication date : January 4, 2017

Badinter’s new book is a candid review of 15 years of feminist discussion and polemics. It addresses the following questions:
- From women’s point of view, what real progress has been accomplished in the last 15 years?
- Do the feminist voices that are most often heard today express the concerns of the majority of women?
- What image of women and men are these feminist voices trying to promote?
- What model of sexuality do they wish to impose?
- Are we witnessing the return of the old male and female stereotypes, at women’s expense?

According to today’s dominant feminist position on sex crimes, the issue at stake is no longer simply to punish sex maniacs and perverts: the evil lies deeper, for it lurks in the heart of half of humankind. As a result, the very principle of virility is under attack. On one side stands the powerless and oppressed Female; on the other stands the violent, domineering, exploiting Male. Locked in opposition, they seem frozen in their clichéd roles. The increasingly strict constraints on male sexuality that are now being advocated have had a serious backlash effect on women. The gradual extension of the definition of sexual crimes, which has resulted in increased repression in recent years, has promoted the notion of legal, moral and consecrated sex — in radical opposition to the sexual freedom that is part of the lifestyle of the younger generations. Today’s self-righteous feminists, writes Badinter, in their struggle to extend the definition of sex crimes to include prostitution and pornography, have not hesitated to make alliances with the most puritanical elements of society. Although she believes it is essential to combat male dominance and violence, it is a mistake, if not a serious fault, to force the male gender to comply with the strictures of traditional femaleness. As she stated in an earlier book, One is the Other, but only if One and the Other can coexist.

Badinter goes on to examine the current emphasis on the biological difference between the genders, and questions the role this will play in women’s emancipation. She argues that by making biology the crucial, differentiating criterion of women, one justifies in advance the specialised gender roles against which feminists have been fighting for more than thirty years. And she fears that men have much to gain from this state of affairs — and women much to lose.