10/23/2006 10:23 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Liberated Women? Think Again

Call it liberation, emancipation, sexual equality -- we are living
under a grand delusion.

Women (and some men) believe we have made tremendous strides in the
past 60 years. Rosie the Riveter returned home at war's end, raised a
family, went on the Pill, joined a Women's Lib group, returned to school,
got a divorce, got a job, took a lover, retired to Boca, and is now a
happy grandma.

Not quite.

Her grown daughter has been the victim of domestic violence, and her
20-something granddaughter is getting breast implants. Welcome to the
Brave New World of post-feminism.

Because we have broken through a few glass ceilings, because men are
helping a bit with the housework, because in a few places we can get an
abortion, we tend to think everything is improving. But take a hard look
at what is happening around us: in films, on television, in magazines, on
the internet, and in real life. Have we ever been immersed in so much
nudity, so much violence, so much mysogyny? Have we ever been swilled so
much pornography? Have females ever been so extensively used for sheer
titillation and commercial gain?

We look in revulsion at Muslim women wrapped in scarves and veils.
We pity them, and we despise the male chauvinism that imposes that on
them. But here's the catch: they are not caught up in our Western cult of
exhibitionism and vanity. They are not openly competing with each other
for men and men's favors. They are even, to a large degree, protected
from assault and rape because they are virtually invisible. Home is their
domain, husbands are their guardians.

Somewhere, between that repressive culture and our own permissive
one, there must be a middle way. We must understand that an internet
hooker, a porn star, a naked fashion model, is not a liberated woman but a
subjugated one. She is being exploited, or knowingly exploiting herself,
for the sleaziest motives, and whatever she earns for that is shameful
money. Prostitutes have more integrity.

Let's be honest -- we have taken women out of the factory, out of the
kitchen, out of the maternity ward only to turn them, again, into sex
objects. Sixty years ago, they were pin-ups or calendar girls; today,
they're advertising gismos and media bimbos. This isn't progress -- it's
promiscuity parading as freedom. And the biggest danger is that this
shallow, cynical view of women ends up making them thoroughly
interchangeable, dispensable and, ultimately, vulnerable.

This is not simply a feminist issue; this is a question of where we
place our values. As long as we encourage and reward women solely for
their entertainment value, we are turning them into dolls and puppets. We
are denying their human-ness, and our own. We are creating a seraglio