To the editors:

In the Reader’s February 5 cover story, “Against the Law,” we read that a “reasonable woman” not knowing when she might be offensively touched by a man “must regard every encounter as potentially dangerous.” Now we know that a disproportionate amount of violent crime is committed by black males, but would we describe as reasonable a person who regarded every encounter with a black man as potentially dangerous? Would we not consider such a response as prejudicial rather than reasonable and those who encouraged such attitudes to be inflammatory?

Inflammatory and unreasonable statements do not automatically become reasonably acceptable on condition that they are uttered by women. The fact that an individual or a class of individuals has been oppressed does not immunize their statements against scrutiny or criticism as many who sympathize with their plight seem now to believe.

Cynthia Bowman, now an associate professor of law, might reasonably have feared being assaulted, mugged, or raped if she walked around Columbia University at night. But it is not reasonable to say that the “fact that the campus was surrounded by police much of the time only made matters worse” for the reason that they made sexual remarks when she went by. Vulgar remarks are a far cry from being raped, and no one can reasonably expect to be worse off with respect to street rape when surrounded by police?

Ms. Bowman seeks laws that would prosecute men for making offensive sexual remarks so as to “make the streets safer for all citizens”? I presume again, since we’re speaking of safety and sexual matters, that we imply safety from rape? But if we had laws prohibiting men from calling out, “Hey, prick, I’m gonna rob you,” would that cut down on robberies? Robbers, rapists, muggers, if they are to be successful, don’t verbally warn their potential victims beforehand. They approach their victims silently. If we seek to make the streets safer it would make more sense to mandate that all men in public places should speak in a continuously loud voice so as to warn women of the approach of what has come to be regarded by some as the greatest threat to the well-being of females: the heterosexual male.

Thus do these women declare that “heterosexual intercourse [does not] denote equality” and “is not freedom,” and that “pornography is one of the most vicious practices of woman-hating.” And if we buy that we must now believe that all those couples who have thrilled to heterosexual intercourse have furthered the cause of inequality and slavery, and those women and men who responded with pleasure to explicit sexual depictions are vicious woman haters. What then do we make of homoerotic pornography? That gay men are man haters or that a lesbian who is excited by a picture of a naked woman hates women? That seems only reasonable given what we have been told by these women about the nature and purpose of pornography.

Mary Becker is ready to attack the whole Bill of Rights because it lacks a “sex-equality provision,” ignoring the fact that when the Equal Rights Amendment was last proposed nationwide a greater percentage of men than women supported it. But let’s remember, a law that prohibits running a red light is even more deficient in that respect. Is that reason to dismiss traffic laws or suggest that women drivers need not be bound by them?

And so many other so-called feminist lawyers would dismiss the First Amendment because it does not protect women against “psychic assaults.” But let me suggest that in the last two decades some of the most vicious and painful psychic assaults have come from the kind of women the article reviews: categorical assaults on men, heterosexuality, and the intelligence and decency of women who do not find men loathsome or feel they must fear every encounter with them.

There are many decent, fair, and reasonable individuals who believe the cause of feminism can be served without demonizing men or dismissing basic liberties. If they do not speak out against the unreasonable doctrines that the Reader article reviewed, there are plenty of Pat Robertsons and Phyllis Schlaflys organized and ready to cite such statements as characteristic examples of the evils of feminism itself in order to stop the progress of women’s rights dead in its tracks.

Harry White

W. Elmdale