The Arrogance Of Feminist Leaders


“an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes
from believing that you are better, smarter,
or more important than other people”

Since the late 1980s, I have become more and more dissatisfied with the words and actions of feminist leaders. Recently, I was going through old files and found a paper I had written in grad school about the differences between pro-choice leaders and pro-life leaders. I wrote this paper at the encouragement of a male professor who considered himself a feminist. While the male feminist professor found some faults in my paper, he also found good points.

I showed my paper to a female feminist professor, who wrote her own comments. I had forgotten how shocking her comments were. Her comments reveal feminist leader arrogance. Below are two excerpts from my paper, the comments from both professors, and my responses to the female feminist professor’s comments. Also below is the female feminist professor’s final overall comment with my responses to each revealing statement in her final comment.

I gave one copy of my paper to both professors. The female feminist professor read the male feminist professor’s comments as she read my paper.

In my paper I cited research from a PhD dissertation by Marsha Vanderford Doyle, now Marsha Vanderford. Vanderford compared the words and actions of pro-life organizations and pro-choice organizations. It is one of the most revealing works I have ever read. I still have the copy I bought for my grad course. I also included excerpts from fundraising letters sent by Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women (NOW).

My paper is not dated, but I must have written it in the early 1990s because that’s when I was in grad school.


First Excerpt From My Paper
(Based on Vanderford’s Research)

“It is easily apparent that activists in the pro-choice movement are still the organizations and their officers. Individual pro-choice supporters are not encouraged to take any initiative, to perform any action on their own, or to give their own opinion of what could be done to keep abortion legal.”

Male Feminist Professor’s Comment


Female Feminist Professor’s Comment

“Did anyone prevent you from writing them a letter?”

My Response

I did write Ms. Magazine three times in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I have written the National Organization for Women several times in recent years. I emailed a question to a Minnesota NOW chapter. When the Minnesota chapter’s response proved that I had not written my question clearly, I sent another email. I did not receive another response. Then I sent emails to every single NOW chapter in the country. Despite the use of “National” in it’s title, NOW does not have chapters in every state. I exchanged two or three emails with the president of one state chapter. She decided that since she was satisfied with her experience in NOW, nothing I wrote about my experience could be true.


Second Excerpt From My Paper

“In reading Vanderford’s dissertation and the mailings from Planned Parenthood and NOW, I was struck by some ironies — each group encourages behavior in its supporters that is the opposite of its approach to reproductive rights.

The pro-life side wants to severely restrict women’s reproductive choices, but in terms of pro-life activism, pro-life leaders encourage individual choice of action. The pro-choice side wants to guarantee a full range of reproductive choices for women, but the pro-choice leaders gave supporters few choices of action.”

Male Feminist Professor’s Comment


Female Feminist Professor’s Comment

“Might those choices be the crucial ones?”

My Response

If the choices feminist leaders gave pro-choice supporters for activism were indeed the “crucial ones”, then abortion services would be available around the country. Instead, abortion services were available in 13% of all counties in the country the last time I saw a statistic. Plus, where abortion services are available, restrictions make getting an abortion extremely difficult. It does not matter that abortion is legal to women who cannot get an abortion.

On December 12, 2013, I received a mass email from NOW President Terry O’Neill asking for an end of the year donation. This was her first paragraph:

2013 was a hard year on reproductive rights; states passed nearly
100 restrictions on abortion and 11 states enacted outright abortion
bans that directly violate Roe v. Wade.

If the choices feminist leaders make are the “crucial ones”, why did those choices fail to stop nearly 100 new restrictions in several states and new bans in 11 states?

NOW President Terry O’Neill sent another email on December 16, 2013 to provide even more evidence of how ineffective NOW’s “crucial” choices are:

Conservative extremists spent most of 2013 attacking access to
abortion all over the country. And it’s only going to get worse in 2014.

All year we’ve seen Tea Party ideologues systematically undermine our
constitutionally protected right to abortion. This means that:

•  States passed nearly 100 anti-choice laws in 2013, on top of
hundreds more passed in 2012 and 2011.

•  23 states have passed restrictions on private insurance coverage
for abortion.

•  55% of women of reproductive age live in one of the 26 states that
are hostile to abortion rights.

•  87% of counties don’t have an abortion provider.

•  9 out of 10 abortion clinics experience harassment.

The pro-life side keeps winning because feminist leaders do not know how to make the crucial choices and do not learn from their failures.

This would be a good time for NOW President Terry O’Neill to pause and consider this saying from Albert Einstein:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again
and expecting different results.”

Female Feminist Professor’s Final Comments

“You don’t make your case at all. You seem unfamiliar with such publications as Conscience or even Ms.

You ignore the fact that it takes a certain intellectual sophistication to be pro-choice whereas the anti’s have that vast wasteland of obedient women with time on their hands who are given something to do — however ineffectual it is. The anti-abortionists haven’t won because they’ve won the support of vast numbers of people. They’ve won because Reagan and Bush packed the Supreme Court — and Reagan and Bush won because they’ve vast sums of money from the super rich whose empires they serve — and which they’ve spent on racist appeals. They are anti-abortion only because that brings them vast sums from the Catholic Bishops Conference and about 10% of the vote. If the terrorists in the hierarchy abandoned their position that 10% would be gone in a minute.

How the fundamentalists vote has nothing to do with all the busy work they’re given to do and their leaders know it. It’s the keys of the kingdom notion that bullies them into being anti-abortion. The pro-choice leaders don’t insult us with the busy-work encouragement. Their request is honest and straightforward. I’ve lived through the history of the movement and know the organizations grew and were formed by women’s views that are always in process of reshaping themselves through a whole raft of publications. There’s been no repression at all. There is none now — you can correspond with any of them. You can join NOW and create local “actions”. NOW has encouraged its members to do so at every level. The problem is that the Vanderford study is far too narrow to have said anything meaningful about either side. The rhetoric of the pro-choice side should not be defined by letters requesting money. We don’t have access to the fortunes that Reagan and Bush have had.”

My Responses

Female feminist professor’s comment:

“…that vast wasteland of obedient women with time on their hands who are given something to do — however ineffectual it is.”

My Response

If what pro-life women do is so ineffectual, how did they succeed at imposing nearly 100 new restrictions on abortions in several states and new abortion bans in 11 states?

Note that the feminist professor ignores the pro-life men who take action. Vanderford wrote about men and in my paper I quoted one of her references to male pro-life activists.

Plus, feminist organizations like NOW are not reshaping. Older, white feminist leaders are refusing to include or pass power to younger women and women of color.

Female Feminist Professor’s Comment

“You seem unfamiliar with…Ms.

My Responses

I subscribed to Ms. Magazine for more than 10 years. I wrote my first letter to Ms. with coworkers at a women’s resource center to protest an ad for Absolut vodka. The ad showed a woman who was obviously wearing only a tee shirt. The label of an Absolut bottle was reproduced on the tee shirt. The woman stood with her feet wide apart and her mouth open as she pulled the shirt down to just barely cover her crotch. It was a woman-as-sex-object full-page ad in the leading feminist magazine. I made a copy of the ad and still have it.

I wrote my second letter to Ms. Magazine to protest a 1988 article, “The Women (and Men) Who Made Us Laugh, Cheer, Cry, and Cringe in 1988”. Under the heading “Women We’ve Seen Quite Enough Of”, feminist writers Nina Combs and Mary Suh insulted the following women:

Brigitte Nielsen (insinuated she was a dog)

Tammy Faye Bakker (made fun of her makeup)

Jessica Hahn (rehashed the incident with Jim Bakker)

Robin Givens, who divorced boxer Mike Tyson after he physically
abused her (asked if she married Tyson for his money)

Elvira (for showing cleavage)

Other insultees included Ivana Trump, Imelda Marcos, Leona Helmsley,
and Nancy Reagan.

Combs and Suh could write this article only because Ms. editors gave the two feminist writers permission to insult other women.

I wrote my third letter to Ms. Magazine after reading an article which quoted Gloria Steinem as saying. “The only alternative to feminism is masochism.” I later heard her repeat that statement in a television interview. I thought feminism was about giving women choices, but Gloria Steinem repeatedly tells women that their only choice is to accept her definition of the world. I stopped my subscription to Ms. and stopped calling myself a feminist. Now I define myself as an equality advocate. I advocate for equality between women, between men, and between men and women.

I never received any response from anyone at Ms. Magazine.

Female Feminist Professor’s Comment

“You ignore the fact that it takes a certain intellectual sophistication to be pro-choice…”

My Response

Apparently, feminist leaders did not condescend to respond to my letters and emails because I was too intellectually unsophisticated to recognize their intellectual sophistication.

Female Feminist Professor’s Comment

“…that vast wasteland of obedient women with time on their hands…”

My Response

I hope I do not have to explain how incredibly insulting this statement is. A good friend of mine is pro-life. She has never had time on her hands. Her “wasteland” is the same university where the female feminist professor taught until her retirement. She was raised Lutheran, not Catholic.

Female Feminist Professor’s Comment

“How the fundamentalists vote has nothing to do with all the busy work they’re given to do…”

My Response

The female feminist professor shows her arrogance in assuming she knows why pro-life women (and the pro-life men she refuses to recognize) vote pro-life. As for “busy work”, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) told its supporters to take action in their daily lives. Supporters chose what to do. In her dissertation, Marsha Vanderford wrote that pro-life leaders encouraged supporters to use:

“…the best of their abilities in their own special circumstances for the cause. Art teachers were reported designing Christmas cards to be sold for the benefit of the cause. Individuals wrote pro-life poetry and songs which were published in local newspapers and played on local radio stations. Housewives crocheted “for life” and contributed their products to craft sales benefiting the state office… From baking cookies to advising the governor, pro-lifers were working on many fronts to defeat the enemy.”

“The variety of acts described as connected to success for the cause allowed a wide range of individuals with many interests and abilities to weave pro-life action into their daily lives.”

These quotes were in my paper. Do you see the “busy work” the female feminist professor saw?

Vanderford pointed out that pro-choice leaders limited actions to courts and legislatures. It’s much easier to define supporters as intellectually inferior when you take action where they have little or no experience. It’s also easier to define anything other than courtroom or legislative tactics as “busy work”. For pro-choice leaders, it’s all about controlling what supporters say and do so leaders can satisfy their own desires. Pro-life leaders obviously have no need to control their supporters. They encourage true grassroots action: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Pro-life supporters did what they could, with what they had, where they were. Their small actions added up to big limitations on abortion access around the country. Pro-life supporters are still doing what they can, with what they have, where they are. Their small actions will continue adding up to big limitations on abortion access around the country.

Female Feminist Professor’s Comment

“I’ve lived through the history of the movement and know the organizations grew and were formed by women’s views that are always in process of reshaping themselves through a whole raft of publications.”

My Response

I’ve lived through verbal and emotional abuse from a different feminist professor as well as from two directors and two co-directors at a women’s resource center. I have talked to other women who endured abuse from directors of women’s resource centers. I hope that not all directors of such centers are abusive. However, my experience tells me that women who want power for themselves see the director position as a way to get power. Since their concern is their own personal power rather than equality for all women, they verbally and emotionally abuse women who threaten their power by expecting equality. I endured the worst abuse from a women’s resource center director when another staffer and I tried to create equality within the resource center.

And who is writing for the “raft of publications”? Feminists like Nina Combs and Mary Suh?

Female Feminist Professor’s Comment

“You can join NOW and create local “actions. NOW has encouraged its members to do so at every level.”

My Response

I was a member of NOW for one year when I still considered myself a feminist. Monthly meetings were dictated by the national office. I remember being bored.

I started regularly visiting NOW’s website in 2003. I signed up for emails from NOW in 2008. The emails have never encouraged me to take action. They have never defined me as an activist. After receiving an email asking for money to train “up and coming activists”, I sent an email asking how someone became an activist. I received no response. I could find nothing on their website about becoming an activist. NOW has a secret means of choosing activists to be part of their “dedicated network of grassroots activists”.

Almost every email I receive from NOW asks for money. I receive more fundraising emails from NOW than from any other nonprofit that has my email address. It seems that a high percentage of the money NOW raises goes to training activists, who travel around the country for their training. When they spend training weekends together they socialize with each other. NOW denies that training and socializing to the women who pay the bills.

In contrast, MCCL organizes a “Fall Tour” that “delivers pro-life education in abortion, health care, legislation and other issues throughout Minnesota.” MCCl also describes their Fall Tour as “pro-life education direct to you”. Anyone can attend. And during the 2012 presidential campaign, the conservative group Smart Girl Politics offered several levels of free online activist training for anyone who wanted to take it.

Female Feminist Professor’s Comment

“The problem is that the Vanderford study is far too narrow to have said anything meaningful about either side.”

My Response

Time proves that the female feminist professor also insulted Marsha Vanderford. The Quarterly Journal of Speech published an article Vanderford wrote based on her dissertation. Also, the magazine Psychology Today hosts a Birth of Wisdom blog. In 2011, the blog published a post that cited Vanderford’s article.

Women who lead feminist organizations (the Women’s Resource Center of my experience, Ms., NOW) and women who believe in the leaders of feminist organizations (the female feminist professor) tend to see themselves as intellectually superior to other women. They see their perspective as the only valid perspective. They use insults and emotional abuse to prove their superiority and protect their superior positions.

Feminist leaders also use exclusion. Do the female feminist professor’s comments indicate that she wants equality for the “vast wasteland of obedient” pro-life women? Do the insults in Ms. Magazine indicate that Ms. editors and writers want equality for the women they insulted? Does NOW’s practice of excluding ordinary NOW members from the training and socializing they pay for suggest that NOW wants equality for ordinary NOW members?

Camille Paglia has a different perspective on feminism than Gloria Steinem has. Steinem said about Paglia, “We don’t give a shit what she thinks!” Does Steinem’s comment suggest that she wants equality for Paglia?

I don’t agree with everything feminist leaders say and do, but I know that all of them deserve equality with other women as women and that other women deserve equality with them as women.

Feminist leaders reveal their arrogance with their feelings of intellectual sophistication. Their arrogance creates inequality for every woman they consider their intellectual inferior. Arrogant feminist leaders create inequality between women while they claim to be creating equality between men and women. Gloria Steinem arrogantly claims that “The only alternative to feminism is masochism.” I see another alternative — freedom from the insults and abuse arrogant feminist leaders use to create and maintain inequality between women.

Fundraising emails from feminist leaders also reveal their arrogance by letting supporters know they are too intellectually inferior to do much more than send money. NOW President Terry O’Neill is fond of writing things like:

“With your support, the NOW Foundation can mobilize our vast
network of allies and activists…”
December 31, 2012

“With your generous support, we can ramp up our state-by-state
August 27, 2013

“Your donation today will help us…”
October 29, 2013

“In just the past two years, you have helped us defeat anti-abortion
ballot measures…”
November 14, 2013

“With your support, the NOW Foundation can mobilize our network
of allies and activists…”
December 29, 2013

NOW is so suspicious of its supporters’ intellectual capacity, that it decided it had to make sure supporters could remember where they were on the Internet when they visited NOW’s website. The website has fewer identifiers since I wrote the blog post counting the number of identifiers at NOW also apparently thinks supporters are too intellectually inferior to remember who the current president of NOW is. NOW President Terry O’Neill does not like to be caught without her title, even at the NOW website. When Kim Gandy was president of NOW, she made sure “NOW President Kim Gandy” appeared frequently on NOW’s home page. I once counted “NOW President Kim Gandy” eight times on the home page. Since I started writing about this title glorification, “NOW President Terry O’Neill” appears less often on NOW’s home page and I have seen just “Terry O’Neill” once, but now I don’t remember where.

Other feminist leaders are just as arrogant. In a fundraising letter from about 1990, Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) founder Eleanor Smeal went so far as to underline the intellectual inferiority of pro-choice supporters:

at least four times a year we’ll notify you of pending actions nationally
and locally and let you know what action steps you can take.

Equality between men and women will follow equality between women. Either those intellectually sophisticated feminist leaders keep missing that, or they are seeking equality only for intellectually sophisticated women like themselves.

To say it another way, either feminist leaders are not as intellectually sophisticated as they think they are, or they consider large numbers of women too intellectually unsophisticated to deserve equality.

The only way feminist leaders can prove they are not arrogant is to create equality between themselves and every other woman on the planet. Nina Combs, Mary Suh, and the editors of Ms. Magazine could begin by making both personal and public apologies to the women they insulted. NOW President Terry O’Neill could begin by asking ordinary women who have been successfully active in their own communities to set up free online training courses through NOW for any woman who wants to take them. Eleanor Smeal could begin by asking women to do what they can, with what they’ve got, where they are. Gloria Steinem could begin by acknowledging that feminists have been abusing other women since the 1960s. Note that abuse between feminists even has its own word — “trashing”. Steinem could also demonstrate what equality between women means by looking for areas of agreement with Camille Paglia and engaging in a respectful discussion. If Paglia is not respectful to Steinem, she will only reveal that she creates inequality between women.

What justification do any of these feminists leaders have for not taking these steps? Maybe they’ll make excuses the way the female feminist professor did when she wrote that the pro-choice side doesn’t “have access” to “fortunes”. Writing poems for newspapers or songs for the radio requires fortunes? The pro-life side had more money because pro-life leaders encouraged their members to take their own actions (designing Christmas cards, making crafts, baking cookies) to raise money for the cause.

Marsha Vanderford found that when pro-choice tactics did not succeed, pro-choice leaders blamed the supporters they kept silent and passive until the leaders wanted support.  Pro-choice leaders blamed failures on ordinary pro-choice supporters who did not send enough money, who failed to be persistent (which mostly meant failing to write the letters pro-choice leaders told them to write), or who stopped believing in success. Watch for those excuses in any response from the feminist leaders I wrote about here.

I sent emails to FMF, Ms., and NOW to let them know the title and publication date of this post. Only the national NOW office responded to me. It was the first time they responded after years of my attempts to contact them. Their response gave me more evidence to use against them, and they don’t even know what they gave me.

So much for that intellectual sophistication.

Cliquish, tunnel-vision intolerance afflicts too many feminists”
Deborah Coughlin
Teri’s Hearstrongs
July 14, 2014

“The complexities of abortion”
Bertha Alvarez Manninen
Psychology Today” The Birth of Wisdom Blog
June 9, 2011

*In-House Rhetoric of Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Special Interest Group
in Minnesota: Motivation and Alienation
Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1982
Marsha Vanderford Doyle, Ph.D.
Quotes on 208-209 and 244
Leaders blaming pro-choice supporters on 327

“Feminist “OMG!!” Moment: Meeting Gloria Steinem”
Williams Women’s Center: Bringing Feminism to the Purple Bubble
October 24, 2010

“Let’s Get Real about Feminism: The Backlash, the Myths, the Movement.”
hooks, bell, Gloria Steinem, Urvashi Vaid, and Naomi Wolf.
Ms. Magazine.
Vol 4(2) September/October 1993: pages 34-43.

“TRASHING: The Dark Side of Sisterhood”
Ms. Magazine
April 1976: pages 49-51 and 92-98

“Vilification and social movements: A case study of pro-life and pro-choice rhetoric”
Marsha L. Vanderford
Quarterly Journal of Speech
Volume 75, Issue 2, 1989


As an American, I have freedom of speech.

As a woman, I have the right to express my opinion about anything the National Organization for Women claims to do for women.

In 2016, I started adding the section below to all of my new Feminist Leader blog posts. I also added it to all posts published before 2016.

The National Organization For Women
Silences Women

National NOW has blocked me on its Facebook page. I wrote comments based on my blog posts. All of my blog posts are based on a wide variety of evidence. Much of the evidence comes from National NOW’s website, emails and posts from NOW presidents, and emails from NOW staff members. I use no hostile language, no slurs, no profanity. I do use the phrase “glory addicts” in reference to NOW leaders. I also use “glory addiction”, “glory fixes”, and “a dedicated network of glory addicts”. Dr. Marsha Vanderford (Doyle) identified the glory needs of pro-choice leaders in her 1982 dissertation.

Feminist leaders have been silencing women for decades. bell hooks, Gloria Steinem, Urvashi Vaid, and Naomi Wolf got together for a conversation that was published in Ms. Magazine in 1993. The discussion included why women choose not to call themselves feminists. Did these four feminist leaders working for women’s equality ask women who choose not to call themselves feminist to speak for themselves? Of course not! The four feminist leaders silenced millions of women by speaking for them without first requesting permission to speak for them.

Imagine a group of women who choose not to call themselves feminists getting together for a conversation to be published in a magazine about why some women call themselves feminists. Would hooks, Steinem, Vaid, Wolf, or Ms. Magazine agree with nonfeminist women denying them the opportunity to speak for themselves? Of course not! Would hooks, Steinem, Vaid, Wolf, or Ms. Magazine agree that nonfeminist women had the right to speak for feminist women without their permission? Of course not!

hooks, Steinem Vaid, and Wolf could have created equality between women. They could have provided a platform for women who choose not to call themselves feminist to explain their choice in their own words.

My feminist leader blog posts provide evidence that feminist leaders still create glory for themselves while relegating supporters to “secondary importance”. Dr. Vanderford used the words “relegated” and “secondary importance” in her dissertation. Eoin Harnett of University College Cork in Ireland used the same “secondary importance” phrase:

“Throughout the ages, women were frequently characterised
and treated as inferior and of secondary importance to men.”

NOW leaders even relegated two of their supporters to secondary importance. The supporters responded to my last two comments on National NOW’s Facebook page with comments supporting NOW. NOW leaders silenced those supporters by removing their comments along with my comments. Instead of creating equality, NOW leaders treat other women the same way patriarchal men treat women, as inferior and of secondary importance.

In-House Rhetoric of Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Special Interest Groups in Minnesota: Motivation and Alienation
Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1982
Marsha Vanderford Doyle, Ph.D.
(Now Marsha Vanderford)
Quoted words on page 350.

“Let’s Get Real about Feminism: The Backlash, the Myths, the Movement.”
hooks, bell, Gloria Steinem, Urvashi Vaid, and Naomi Wolf.
Ms. Magazine.
Vol 4(2) September/October 1993: pages 34-43.

“Multitext Project in Irish History: Movements for Political & Social Reform, 1870-1914”
Eoin Hartnett
University College Cork, Ireland
No date
This project is no longer available online.


Paula M. Kramer
© 2015 to the present.
All rights reserved.

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