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     MindNet Journal - Vol. 1, No. 22
     V E R I C O M M / MindNet         "Quid veritas est?"


The following is reproduced here with the express permission of
the publisher, The San Francisco Examiner.

Permission is given to reproduce and redistribute, for
non-commercial purposes only, provided this information and the
copy remain intact and unedited.

The views and opinions expressed below are not necessarily the
views and opinions of VERICOMM, MindNet, or the editors unless
otherwise noted.

Editor: Mike Coyle 

Contributing Editors: Walter Bowart
                      Alex Constantine

Assistant Editor: Rick Lawler

Research: Darrell Bross



by Stephanie Salter

From the San Francisco Examiner, April 7, 1993.

(C) 1993 San Francisco Examiner.

  I fear that the current sad and destructive impulse to see
abuse in every home, and to manufacture memories where none
existed, is creating a dangerous new set of problems. To raise
this concern does not make me anti-feminist anymore than
criticizing some policies of my government makes me
                                    - Carol Tavris

  More than three months since social psychologist Carol Tavris
criticized the dangerously sloppy thinking that has become
common in popular incest survivor literature, the letters are
still coming in to the New York Times from outraged feminists and
angry mental health professionals.
  A lifelong feminist author, whose works include the
illuminating, "The Mismeasure of Woman," Tavris is no longer a
"good" feminist. In an essay, she criticized an element of the
women's movement that she believes has gone way off track.
  To some feminists, that is a capital crime.
  Last December, about a month into my full-time research for The
Examiner's six-part series on recovered memory therapy, I began
to dread the same fate.
  I saw Gloria Steinem's glowing praise on the front of a
disturbingly simplistic and misleading self-help book for incest
survivors, and I knew that I was about to break rank and become a
"bad" feminist. I was about to question.
  Before I began work on this series -- about adults who have
remembered alleged childhood incest or abuse for the first time
while in therapy -- I believed a lot of things I no longer do.
Among them: women and children never make up false accusations of
incest; most scientific studies "prove" whatever they say they
prove, and you can't be a good feminist if you criticize your own
  In believing these things -- or in never even questioning them
-- I and people like me have helped create an intellectual
fascism. We have let our legitimate anger and concern blind us to
a couple of basic facts.
  There are no absolutes, no 100 percent pure, utterly infallible
anythings in this life -- not in patriarchal oppression, not in
accusations of child sexual abuse, not in "the word of women."
  Victimhood is like a powerful mind-altering drug -- a little
of it can go a long way toward providing you with insight and
enlightenment; a lot of it can warp your reason, poison your
heart and ultimately crush your spirit.
  Something is wrong when it is feminist treason to even suggest
that all accusations of incest or ritual abuse might not be true.
Or to acknowledge that mothers and fathers are being brutalized
by false accusations of incest. Or to wonder aloud whether any
woman or man can become truly "empowered" by hate.
  And yet, people like Tavris who have questioned and wondered
have been dismissed as part of the "backlash" against feminism
and the incest survivor movement, or they have been labeled
anti-woman, anti-child, even anti-Christ.
  But, as troubling as these last months have been for me as a
feminist, they also have been encouraging. In interviews and
through reading, I have encountered some of the most prodigious
minds and noble hearts of our time -- and they belong to women
who walk, talk and think a kind of big-picture feminism that I
hope will survive well into the 21st century.
  Professor and psychoanalytic therapist Janice Haaken at
Portland State University. Psychology and law professor Elizabeth
Loftus at the University of Washington. Journalists Wendy Kaminer
in Massachusetts, Debbie Nathan in Texas and my own colleague and
co-author of this series, Examiner reporter Carol Ness.
  Carol Tavris is one of those women, too.
  A week before she was to be ripped to shreds in the Times'
letters section, she told me something that has served as a kind
of beacon throughout the months of doubt and dismay.
  "How can you be a good feminist and attack a sister?" I asked.
  "You don't attack a sister, you attack her ideas," said
Tavris. "I have to believe that our movement is mature enough to
see the difference. Ideas have consequences, and, as feminists,
we have to look at the consequences. We have to ask of each and
every one, 'Does this serve women or harm women?'"
  I am no longer certain of many things, but I do know this:
Intellectual fascism does not serve women. And any movement that
cannot survive questions and criticism is already dead.

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