Ms. -- apprehension

WELL, that does it.

Not only have some members of my placid sex become shrieking demagogues -- telling me what I really want, feel, object to, and . . . gulp . . . think, but now we have a group of snazzies in upstate New York who take off their tops in a park (they're called the Topfree 10), and the action is approved by Patricia the Judge, who says their right to equal protection is being violated if they are prevented from gamboling on the green in the buff.


Wait a minute! Is this some neo-feminist fringelette out to shock the already-reeling establishment, or have we come to a point in this society where character assassins have taken on the neutering of womanhood?

Whatever is happening, I would like to call a moment's halt to such shenanigans. I think a group of radical women, calling themselves feminists, have come to unreasonable conclusions based upon very unsound assumptions. I feel like the man in George Eliot's novel "Adam Bede," who said, "I'm not denyin' the women are foolish; God Almighty made 'em to match the men."


Now feminism is a doctrine, says the American Heritage Dictionary, that advocates or demands for women (as does the United States Constitution, oddly enough) the same rights granted men with respect to political and economic status. This same volume says a doctrinaire person is someone inflexibly attached to a theory or practice without regard to its practicality. Well, I guess that takes care of the 10 women who haven't a thing to wear! But to their less absurd colleagues, I would say: Come, let us Reason Together.

This country was fed quite a dose of feminist vitriol some few weeks ago, and even though the sad destructiveness of the Thomas hearings is over, I think many of us are still dazed by the sheer hatred, the ruthless crudity, of what we heard and saw.

It is, however, the coercive, steely female Richelieus of academic and political activism who foist on the people an exaggerated sense of indignation. This causes great harm.

For example, a feminist law professor intones that women are socially trained to think of love in terms that actually deprive them of status, and that marriage is not too different from prostitution -- thus undermining young people's trust in their judgment at a time when dedicated educators should be nourishing it.

Oh, and did you realize that female subjugation is natural in relations with men, given the fact that males are overbearing in any relationship? (Several million men who -- for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, laugh, cry, help clean house, work two jobs, grow older and wiser, all with the same woman -- would smile.)

The key to the difference between such huff-puff and the serenity of reason is called "womanhood." But to let the seriousness of this idea descend to the same plane as all this sociological babble, and then slither on down to women's studies courses imbued with resentment toward the Evil Empire of Men, just goes to make the feminine mystique even mystiquer.

Womanhood involves the greatest of great strengths -- the quiet authority of intuition, the stamina of patience, the peace of refinement. And the responsibility that comes with this is far more demanding than that of maintaining the petulant luxury of feeling offended. Again Eliot: "Opposition may become sweet to a man (or a woman) when he has christened it persecution."

I wish I could tell some of the bright lights of the feminist movement -- some of them brilliant, I realize -- that there are not two separate, intransigent camps, one a group of smart, wary competitors and the other a flock of mooing, "yes dear" doormats.


No thanks, ladies, I shall think for myself if it's all the same to you. These days that might be radical enough. And I'll continue to enjoy Mr. Wordsworth's description of womanhood that ought to sound just fine to every man and woman in the whole world: "a perfect woman nobly planned, to warn, to comfort and command."

Eleanor Lee Wells is a Baltimore writer. She also cooks, drives, thinks, works, votes . . .