Sisters: Lynne Cheney's Feminism

Heather Love and Mara Mills

"E is for the EDUCATORS, the women who taught us well."
—Lynne Cheney, A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women

[1] One of the most disconcerting aspects of the Right's attack on the "liberal bias" in higher education is its consistent use of terms and frameworks borrowed from the Left. Organizations such as Campus Watch and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) have taken up the concepts of diversity, empowerment, collectivity, and even affirmative action in order to shut down liberal professors and promote conservative agendas in universities. Surveying "The Geopolitical War on U.S. Higher Education," Sophie McClennan discusses this reversal: "In a rhetorical sleight of hand that reverses the meaning behind the language of leftist pedagogy, right-wing leaders of these attacks argue that they want to defend the students' right to critical thinking and to protect them from indoctrination, while they actively strive to legislate an agenda under which critical thinking would become impossible." [1] Such organizations have characterized the academy as an oppressive institution, and have pitched their attacks as rescue missions organized on behalf of students victimized by dogmatic professors. Henry Giroux writes, "Ironically, by adopting the vocabulary of individual rights, academic freedom, balance, and tolerance, right-wing forces are waging a campaign to slander, even vilify, liberal and left-oriented professors, cut already meager federal funding for higher education, eliminate tenure, and place control of what is taught and said in classrooms under legislative oversight." [2] Such uses of the rhetoric of multiculturalism, "reverse racism," and student rights have made the defense of intellectual freedom and Affirmative Action increasingly difficult. [3]

[2] Although this rhetoric has been stepped up in recent years, Stanley Fish argues that the trend began much earlier. In an article on "Intellectual Diversity," he writes that in the culture wars, "The left may have won the curricular battle, but the right won the public relations war." [4] Programs from Chicano to transgender studies have multiplied, but Fish insists that for most Americans the culture wars were resolved in the 1980s. He explains:

The master stroke, of course, was the appropriation from the left (where it had been used with a certain self-directed irony) of the phrase 'political correctness,' which in fairly short order became capitalized and transformed from an accusation to the name of a program supposedly being carried out by the very persons who were the accusation's object...this was genius. [5]

Such conservative strategies of refunctioning have been remarkably successful. As the right has encroached on the lexicon of the left, it has been increasingly difficult for the latter to maintain its key positions.

[3] To say, as Fish and others do, that right education reformers are brilliant strategists does not adequately account for the profound intimacy between right and left in the contemporary moment. Critics tend to underestimate how deeply the right has absorbed the lessons of the last century of left pedagogy, instead casting their use of liberal rhetoric as disingenuous and empty. Regarding Ann D. Neal, President of ACTA, McClellan contends that she "reverses the language of the left. Posing as an advocate of a plurality of discourses, she strives to silence them." [6] It is not enough to say, though, that right-wing critics of higher education are posing as the champions of academic freedom; they are not simply playing at being good students of diversity or tolerance. In fact, the right has learned what the left has taught it. From John Dewey to Paulo Freire, the "student-centered" and "participatory" ethos of democratic pedagogy has required that knowledge be used in unintended ways; the Campus Watch website specifically cites Dewey's argument that the relationship of faculty to students should be "to train them to think for themselves." [7] If we are to resist the attacks on the academy, it is important to recognize the deep links between right and left; it is not enough to dismiss the former's positions as posturing or mere stratagems.

[4] Perhaps the best exemplar of the uncanny intimacy between right and left is Lynne Cheney. English Ph.D., education reformer, feminist historian, and novelist, Cheney is deeply implicated in the liberal academic pedagogy that has been her main target as head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, as founder of ACTA and the Independent Women's Forum, as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and as a board member of the National Alumni Forum and the Madison Center for Academic Affairs. Journalist Betty Cuniberti sums up the ironies of Cheney's career: "Lynne Cheney became one of the early founders of a highly educated, conservative women's movement that lauded women's expanded opportunities for education and careers, but opposed virtually all proposals or reforms that many women would say helped get them there: Title IX, the Violence Against Women Act, the Equal Rights Amendment, reproductive freedoms and efforts to close the wage gap." [8]

[5] Many have tried—and failed—to resolve the contradictions of Cheney's career. Blake Allmendinger theorizes that there are "two Mrs. Cheneys," the more familiar one being the highly constrained wife of the Vice President.[9] In Bushwomen, Laura Flanders casts Cheney as a chameleon, an extremely adaptable woman who turned against her original interest in feminism and profited immensely from the conservative backlash in the 1980s. [10] That backlash, for Cheney, often took the form of a neat reversal of feminist arguments. Flanders writes, "Even as she berated women's rights advocates for embracing 'victim status' for women, Cheney made her mark by claiming that classicists like herself, and 'western values,' were being victimized in the academy." [11]

[6] Elaine Showalter ties Cheney more securely to feminism in "Lynne Cheney, Feminist Intellectual." Showalter sets out to complicate the culture wars through a reading of Cheney's early fiction; she compares Cheney's biography, which blends a professional career with more traditional domestic roles, to her own. [12] Responding to this article in an interview in The Women's Quarterly, Cheney distances herself from many feminists, but offers a definition of the term that is surprisingly similar to Showalter's own:

I don't mind being labeled a "feminist intellectual" as long as I get a chance to define what I mean by feminism, which has to do with recovering the story of what women have accomplished and lived through, not just in our society but around the world. If it means being convinced that women should have equal opportunities to achieve in their lives, if it means believing firmly that women should be able to make choices about family and career, if that is what it means, then I am happy to be called a feminist. [13]

In the end, however, Showalter stops short of calling Cheney a sister, a term she defines alternately as implying a relationship of identity or of empathy.

[7] This essay considers Cheney's career and in particular her 1981 novel Sisters in order to explore her significance as one of feminism's others. We take the "sisterhood" of feminism to include the runaways and the sororicides; this genealogy includes feminism's variant and even unwanted offspring. We understand Cheney's kinship not simply as a matter of self-interested reversal or backlash; neither do we see her as a fellow-traveler or as a double-agent, learning left and feminist pedagogy in order to destroy it. Instead, we understand Cheney's work as a conservative crusader as deeply informed by her training as a feminist and as a literary scholar. Cheney's politics are a product of the last thirty years of feminist teaching: she is a top student, and her turn against leftist academia is not so much a disavowal of her earlier beliefs as it is a melding of those teachings with a commitment to power and a love of masculine authority.

[8] Cheney's feminism and her profound conservatism come together in Sisters. Cheney published this book in 1981; it was her second novel, after Executive Privilege. Unlike her other writings, it has been dropped from Cheney's official resume: it does not appear on any of her profiles on the White House site or at the American Enterprise Institute. This long out-of-print novel of romance and violence set on the Wyoming frontier has gotten a lot of press over the past several years; the increasing visibility of the Cheneys' lesbian daughter Mary has prompted journalists and bloggers to highlight the book's subplot of female romantic friendship. In the wake of public controversy over Mary's "privacy" and Dick's abysmal voting record on gay issues, Sisters looked to be a particularly intriguing skeleton in Lynne's closet.

[9] Anyone looking for scenes of "steamy lesbian romance" in Sisters will be disappointed: although a bodice or two gets ripped along the way, it's not love between women that is responsible for the book's lurid glare. (Cheney's liberated heroine Sophie Diamond works for a living and has an equally forward-looking attitude toward sex: she packs birth control for the trip to Cheyenne, and then gets to use it.) The careworn women who form the novel's supporting cast moon and mourn and support each other, but little more. Their tender friendships recall the lives of the Ladies of Langollen and Margaret Fuller (to whom they are compared); as one character reminds us, "These are women. The flame they nurture has no heat or smoke. It's a sublime kind of ardor." [14]

[10] While the novel is short on lesbian sex, it is a goldmine for those interested in Cheney's early feminism. In the acknowledgements, she offers warm thanks to pioneering feminist author Linda Gordon for Women's Body, Women's Right (a history of birth control), and also describes the impact Carroll Smith-Rosenberg's famous 1975 article "The Female World of Love and Ritual" (first printed in Signs) had on her thinking. [15] This acknowledgement, as well as the attention to issues of domestic abuse, suffrage, and female community in the novel, places Cheney in a nexus of feminist issues and epistemologies. Sisters traces the cycle of violence in families as well as in the U.S. nation-state. While in some measure critical of systemic brutality against women, people of color, children, the poor, and social outsiders more generally, the novel ultimately sides with the "winners" in these battles rather than the "losers"—with magnate ranchers and willing wives rather than with dead Indians and spinsters. Cheney's Sisters describes relations of intimacy and dependence between Empire-building heterosexual couples on the one hand and feminist teachers, social workers, and friends on the other. The novel makes it clear which side Cheney is on; at the same time, it offers a powerful diagnosis of the relations between right and left in the present moment.

The Coming Woman

[11] It's tempting to cast Lynne Cheney wholly as "Big Sister." [16] Dick's perfect domestic complement, Lynne has fostered jingoism at school and at home for the past two decades. While overseeing the National Endowment for the Humanities (from 1986 to 1993), she was infamous for "flagging" scholarly proposals that mentioned topics such as sexuality or race. [17] In 1994, she applied her close reading skills to the National History Standards—which the NEH had funded—and decided that the Ku Klux Klan was overrepresented, and moreover that Rockefeller had been unfairly reproached for his wealth, as compared to the medieval African ruler Mansa Musa. Denouncing the standards as "The End of History," Cheney insisted, "We are a better people than the National Standards indicate, and our children deserve to know it." [18] Cheney's tenure as head of the NEH was cut sixteen months short by her abrupt resignation following Clinton's election, after which she asked the nation, via the Wall Street Journal, to "Kill my old agency, please." [19] During the 1996 election, Cheney had been the Republican hopeful for Secretary of Education; her agenda would have been to "abolish" the Department itself. [20]

[12] In the current decade, Cheney has gained notoriety—and more accusations of "Mind Control"— for "encouraging" the Department of Education to destroy 300,000 copies of the booklet Helping Your Child Learn History, which referenced the revised National History Standards. [21] (In a new version of the booklet, the standards have been eliminated, while references to Lynne Cheney herself have increased. [22]) In her recent pedagogical interventions, Cheney has gone straight for the living room: she co-hosted Cross-Fire, served on the board of directors of Reader's Digest, and added to the swell of celebrity children's-book authors.

[13] Styling herself after Matthew Arnold, the subject of her University of Wisconsin dissertation, Cheney often repeats his injunction "to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world." [23] Arnold was Inspector of Schools under Queen Victoria, and his especial mission was bringing "total perfection" to the "lower classes" in the form of great literature, which was meant to "interpret life" for them. Walt Whitman once reportedly appraised Arnold, in terms that can be helpfully applied to Lynne Cheney, "Arnold always gives you the notion that he hates to touch the dirt—the dirt is so dirty! But everything comes out of the dirt—everything! Everything comes out of the people, the everyday people..." [24]

[14] Literary training notwithstanding, Cheney has always placed history at the center of her clean-up project. Her NEH publications (i.e. American Memory of 1987 and Tyrannical Machines of 1990) focused on the representation of the past to students; these pamphlets have been roundly critiqued by Cornel West (in a 1993 interview with Bill Brown) for their "monumentalist conception of culture." [25] With regards to Cheney's rhetoric, Marjorie Garber testified in "Greatness: Philology and the Politics of Mimesis":

It seems clear that anxieties about greatness in literature are closely tied to anxieties about national, political, and cultural greatness, and that the more anxious the government, the more pressure is placed on the humanities to textualize and naturalize the category of the 'great.' [26]

However, Cheney's historiography is as much critical as monumental (according to Friedrich Nietzsche's now-canonical definitions, one method judges while the other inspires). [27] These forms are both pedagogical; Cheney uses history for discipline and change rather than for sheer conservation.

[15] In 1995, Cheney published Telling the Truth: Why Our Culture and Our Country Have Stopped Making Sense—and What We Can Do About It, a book that declared war on relativism, politically correct professors, the National History Standards (again) and a strange assortment of other "left-wing" pastimes (such as the noncompetitive game of jump-rope and the "feminist interest in witches"). Cheney opens each chapter of Telling the Truth with an epigraph from George Orwell's 1984; what follows is inevitably a campaign of misinformation, redefinition and other rhetorical maneuverings. She states in her acknowledgments, "The challenge is hereby issued: Try to show I am mistaken if you wish, but do so with sound evidence and sound reasoning. Invective and accusation will merely serve as evidence of the low status into which the truth has fallen in our time." [28] In response, Donald Lazere, Cary Nelson, and Michael Bérubé have denounced Telling the Truth for everything from hypocrisy to erroneous footnotes to actual falsehoods. Nelson has perhaps more interestingly diagnosed that "unbeknownst to herself, a true postmodernist, [Cheney] appears to believe there are no truths, that all representation is misrepresentation." [29]

[16] In addition to the "culture of lying," Telling the Truth embroils itself in the "culture of victimization." In anecdote after anecdote, Cheney attempts to debunk the victimization of minorities, always wrapping up with a kindred morality tale—the victims themselves are the true oppressors. For instance, regarding the work of Catherine MacKinnon, Cheney argues that "establishing the victimhood of women and keeping it in the forefront is crucial in order to justify giving the cause of women precedence over the causes of other groups." [30] With regards to anti-discrimination and harassment law, she explains, "in trying to make the workplace harassment-free, we often proceed in ways that exacerbate tensions of race and gender." [31] Michel Foucault serves as Cheney's link between lying and victimization, due to his relativism, his "fascination with violence," and his influence in the humanities. As Jodi Dean points out, I, Pierre Rivière is identified as the "patient zero" of postmodernity in this manifesto. [32] Yet Cheney is also Foucault's most breathless ventriloquiser: at the beginning of Telling the Truth she paraphrases I, Pierre Rivière over several graphic pages, and in her other writings she openly professes her faith in a version of social constructionism and evinces her own thralldom to violence.

[17] A survey of Cheney's earliest work illuminates her debts to structuralist literary theory and to feminism, and helps explain the zealotry of her later investment in education. In 1970, the year she completed her dissertation, Cheney published an article in Modern Fiction Studies comparing Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent and Graham Greene's It's a Battlefield. At the outset of this piece, she carefully analyzes the notion of structure in a novel—how it differs from symbol, character, or just plain form; and more importantly how structure communicates, develops and produces meaning. [33] Cheney manifests a predictable interest in terrorism in her choice of texts, but her readings also demonstrate a surprising belief in chaos and probabilism as "facts of existence." She attributes the structure of Conrad's story to modern social upheaval; Greene's to the fact that modern physics has made it "no longer possible to view the universe as a carefully ordered progression." [34] Cheney clearly doubts that any structure—literary or phenomenal—could be wholly "determining"; however, facts, institutions, social networks, and individual identities exert a potentially worrisome influence on one another. Cheney concludes the article with a seemingly quixotic gesture against the natural disorder of things: "The structure of Greene's novel, in mirroring these facts, is not in itself deficient. The deficiency lies in the universe when one measures it against the human desire for an harmonious and ordered cosmos." [35] Relativism seems to be an appropriate response to physical relativity, in Cheney's reading. If scientific facts are demoralizing, why not discriminate in favor of "the best" human version of world order?

[18] Other writings from this period offer similar evidence of Cheney's relativist leanings. In an article on the 1876 Exposition, she asserted, "The image of the country that our centennial ancestors projected in their celebration was not objective, or realistic, or all-inclusive. But probably because their vision was partial, their party was full of vigor and spirit and life." [36] And her debt to Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, we would argue, goes deeper than the wallpaper of female friendship in Sisters. Along with other second-wave feminists, Smith-Rosenberg helped to displace a Freudian or biological interpretation of sexual identity with a social constructionist one. She suggested, "rather than seeing a gulf between the normal and the abnormal, we view sexual and emotional impulses as part of a continuum or spectrum of affect gradations strongly affected by cultural norms and arrangements, a continuum influenced in part by observed and thus learned behavior." [37] In Smith-Rosenberg's model, formal and passive education sways identity.

[19] Sisters appeared in 1981, in the afterglow of these literary-historical affairs. An explicit fictionalization of history, the novel draws from two articles Cheney had previously published on nineteenth-century topics. One of these, "It All Began in Wyoming," staged Cheney's home state as the land where men maintained their full authority while granting women the right to vote for the first time. Cited by Donna Gerstenberger and Carolyn Allen in an American Quarterly review of women's studies publications from 1970-1975, this article is itself a massive rewriting of history. [38] Surveying the life of Esther Morris, Cheney entirely emphasizes the apologist side of the "lantern-jawed" suffragist who was the nation's first female justice of the peace. Cheney's Morris feels herself indebted to men, and as Cheney interprets, "Laws that proclaimed female inferiority were wrong in her eyes, but she didn't attribute them to an oppressive society or to male chauvinism." [39] Our sly biographer also re-routes Morris' influence on William Bright, the man who put forward the 1869 suffrage bill. In place of Morris underwriting suffrage in Wyoming, "...there was his wife, Julia. She felt women deserved the vote, and since she was pretty, twenty-one years younger than her husband, and better educated than he, it appeared to him that she had a point. If Negroes could vote, Bright reasoned, didn't women like his wife deserve the franchise?" [40]

[20] The other seed article, "Mrs. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper," chronicles the life of Miriam Follin and provides the prototype for the heroine of Sisters, Sophie Dymond. Pert, bright, and ruthless, Follin is a likely model for a book written by the woman who was once described as "the smartest girl in town, and the most flamboyant baton twirler in Wyoming—her batons were set aflame at both ends." [41] (Miriam Follin re-appears in A is for Abigail in 2003; Cheney has not outgrown her.) Follin was briefly the dancer "Minnie Montez," later the wife of archaeologist Ephraim Squier, and finally—after a lengthy menáge à trois that sent Squier to the madhouse—she became Mrs. Frank Leslie, wife of the sensationalist publishing tycoon. Thanks to a canny name change after her husband's early death, Follin herself became "Frank Leslie," taking charge of the weekly newspaper and monthly fashion magazine. Later still, she was Frank-Leslie-the-wife-of-Willie-Wilde (Oscar's brother). Follin and Lynne Vincent share a relationship to masculinity that is curiously indicated by their masculine appellations—having a man inside, and loving it:

Mrs. Leslie worried that 'the coming woman' would be a hybrid creature 'who is to perform all the man's duties, as well as her own, and so fill the sphere of both sexes, that man will become a mere unimportant detail of creation, and, in time, be eliminated altogether.' If things went as they should, however, woman 'will, to the end of the chapter, love and marry...or feel rather sorry and humiliated if no man asks her to do so; and she will never, ah, never! under whatever circumstances, lose that delight in submission of her own will and her own judgment to that of the man she has crowned her king.' [42]

I am like you

[21] We first encounter Sophie Dymond—like Follin, a female publishing tycoon—as she travels by rail to Wyoming in 1886 to see her dying grandfather. Sophie is haunted by the recent death of her sister Helen. While the two women were not close, Sophie is uneasy about the circumstances of Helen's death and, as the novel opens, she is having recurring nightmares about discovering her corpse. Sophie's sharp-eyed journalistic observations of the town of Cheyenne allow Cheney to show off her knowledge of nineteenth-century American history; the central family drama is set against a background of rapid modernization, reform movements, and a pitched battle between homesteaders and big cattlemen aiming to consolidate their holdings and develop Cheyenne. During her visit, Sophie stays with James Stevenson—Helen's husband—and their two children. While initially a neutral outsider, Sophie is increasingly drawn into the currents of life in the town. She finds herself irresistibly pulled to James, a tall handsome rancher with a jaw that is constantly working under his tanned, taut skin. At the same time, after discovering the intimate friendship between her sister and their former schoolteacher, Amy Travers, Sophie becomes fixated on understanding the women's relationship and their work together. As she begins to piece together Helen's life, Sophie becomes obsessed with the circumstances of her sister's death. The story is that Helen fell down the stairs; Sophie wonders if she was pushed.

[22] The blurb on the back of the book reads: "The American West When Men Were Men—And Women Were Property." Throughout Sisters, Cheney traces a stark contrast between the world of men—associated with the strength, violence, and vision of the cattle-barons—and the world of women—associated with the domestic sphere, poverty, racial otherness, temperance, and the virtue of sympathy. Sophie gets an early education in the swift and decisive justice meted out in the Wild West. Driving home from the station with James in his carriage, they are accosted by a drunken cowboy, Wilson, with whom James has been involved in a legal battle over cattle rights. Wilson insults Sophie, and at the same time mentions Helen's sympathy for the homesteaders; James responds by horsewhipping him in the face.

[23] James apologizes to Sophie for her rude welcome to Cheyenne. When she asks him to explain about Helen, he says,

"She had changed, Sophie," he said, looking down at the reins as he spoke. "The last few years, Helen had become totally caught up, almost obsessed by... by two projects, two endeavors, I suppose you could call them. One was trying to find your mother. You know all about that." He glanced up, and she nodded, noting the constraint in his voice. He didn't like explaining. She supposed it was something a man like him was not very often obliged to do.
"And the other," he continued, "was—ah, how shall I describe it—it was all to do with women. Temperance was part of it. She joined the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and she was determined to clean the whiskey out of Cheyenne." He shook his head. "And it went beyond that to trying to reform prostitutes and trying to help some of the women living out in those miserable shacks on the prairie. The woman living with Wilson was a big case for her, because she'd been a prostitute, still is, some say, and she's out there in a hovel with two small children. I understood why Helen pitied those people, Sophie, and I told her that. But it became useless for me to talk to her finally. She wouldn't understand. She just wouldn't see how those people were using her, how they're threatening everything we've accomplished in this country." (14)

At this early point in the novel, Sophie is caught between the perspectives of James and Helen, here mapped out with such clarity. She has just seen James exerting his authority cruelly and is moved by pity and concern for those people out on the prairie. At the same time, she is attentive to James's arguments about wasting time on impossible projects (e.g., reforming prostitutes) and about the extraordinary demands of nation-building. Rather than see Helen as part of a broad women's movement, James casts her work as a reformer as a form of victimization: by devoting herself to the cause of those who are victimized (battered women, prostitutes, the poor), Helen herself becomes an unwitting victim ("those people were using her").

[24] As Sophie begins to get closer to James—before too long, a lot closer—she also explores Helen's political and charity activities and her relationship with Amy Travers. Amy comes by the house to see the children and on the spur of the moment Sophie decides to accompany her on a visit out to the Wilson homestead to check up on Baby Wilson—the homesteader's woman, who lives out in the hovel with her two small children. Baby is up to her old tricks—wearing a red dress with "extreme décolletage" (56) and expecting company. The two women rescue one of the Wilson children from two rattlesnakes and on the way back, Sophie notices Amy's unusually soft white hands.

They crossed the creek in silence, and Sophie found herself studying Amy Travers' hands. They were amazing really, especially considering that Miss Travers had spent most of her life in this country. They didn't look like the hands of a woman who could drive a buckboard, shoot a gun, kill a rattler. Except for their size, they looked almost like a child's hands, the nails neatly trimmed ovals, pink and pliable-looking; the knuckles not protruding, but instead making a slight dimpling in the soft flesh. The skin had a marble-like smoothness, but one knew the slightest touch would make an indentation in the pillowy softness. Sophie was reminded of a statue, "The Rape of the Sabines," she thought it was called. The ravisher is lifting his victim to carry her off, and his fingers sink into the yielding flesh of her thigh. (59-60)

Sophie's moment of fixation on Amy's too soft hands in this scene encapsulates the problem with the all-female world that she represents. (Too female!) While Amy has just acted heroically, slaying these rattlers and saving the women, Sophie can't see in her hands any sign of their competence or power. The sight of a womanly hand leads Sophie to reflect on a complex and impacted image of violence against women: the vulnerable inner thigh of a woman, the overcoming of female resistance, conquest, conversion, and the founding of empire. Amy is indissolubly tied to the scene of violence against women—and in her commitment to "hopeless cases" such as Baby Wilson, she is herself figured as a victim.

[25] While Sophie is also concerned about Baby's plight, she repeatedly remarks how much she prefers the company of men to that of women. While she flirts with difference throughout the novel, in the end she does not give herself over to it. Difference in the novel takes many forms: there is the relationship between Amy and Helen, and the "women's world" to which they belong; there is the otherness of Baby Wilson, and the other working-class characters Sophie encounters. The odd status of otherness in the novel is perhaps best exemplified by its treatment of Sophie's Native ancestry. Sophie's grandmother in the book is Shoshone, and while this exerts a subtle allure, the fact of difference has to be quarantined. Consider, for instance, the following flashback of Sophie's, which occurs as she muses on her niece Esther's budding breasts:

Sophie remembered when her own flow had begun. She had felt obliged to tell her grandmother, had gone looking for her, not because she wanted to tell her but because she thought she should. Deer Woman had been sewing a pair of moccasins when Sophie found her. "The bleeding—it's begun for me," she blurted out.
Deer Woman put her work down. "My little Sophie—not so little now." She smiled a melancholy smile. "With my tribe you would go to the hunagen now."
Sophie felt herself tighten inside. Her grandmother meant well, but she was always talking about things that had nothing to do with Sophie's life. And she talked about them fondly, when to Sophie they sounded queer and awful. "I wouldn't go," she said.
"To the menstrual lodge? But—"
"They couldn't make me go. Why should I be sent away like that?"
For a moment her grandmother didn't say anything. Then gently: "It isn't punishment. It never was for me. It was something to look forward to. Often there were babies there, and always friends and talk and laughter..." Her voice trailed off as if she realized her words were useless. After a moment, she lifted her arms, waggling her fingers, and Sophie walked over to her and let herself be drawn into her grandmother's embrace. But inside she held herself rigid and aloof. The world Deer Woman spoke of seemed alien and unattractive, and she wanted no part of it. (41-42)

Slight racial difference is figured as desirable in much of the novel; Sophie tells James that when people find out she is part Shoshone, they treat it as "something rare ... and exotic" (85). But real otherness here appears as "queer and awful." In this moment of failed pedagogy, Sophie refuses her maternal inheritance—the continuity of female tradition—as an unassimilable quantum of difference. The moment offers a nice image of Cheney's feminism and her version of multiculturalism. Here, cultural difference is rejected as limiting women's freedom and agency; the strength and independence of women is valued clearly over community among women; and the spice of difference is good—provided it is not too different, and does not create drag on the twinned projects of American homogenization and progress. (With the same logic, conservative U.S. feminists now wave the veil to justify war and imperialism in the Middle East. The Independent Women's Forum, an organization Cheney formerly directed, has spent the last six years calling for "a full-scale mobilization against gender oppression in the Muslim world." [43])

[26] Women's lives become less compelling and relevant the further they drift from the scene of heterosexual nation-building. Sophie is drawn surprisingly far into these marginal worlds. At the same time that she becomes involved with James, she also takes the side of the homesteaders and ends up getting roughed up by the hired toughs of the Cattle Rancher's Association. For these cattle barons, Sophie, despite her fancy East Coast Connections, is "nuthin' but a damn squaw" (155). Sophie's capacity for sympathy acts as a solvent on her identification with social power, and often threatens her to confuse her with social outsiders. One night she visits a traveling freakshow where she watches an albino family singing "Home Sweet Home." She reads in their eyes an appeal to her, "I am like you. I am like you."

[27] While Sophie disavows the likeness, her fleeting identification with the albinos at the show is extended and deepened later than night. Immediately after the circus, Sophie breaks into Amy Travers' house and finds her collection of remembrances of Helen. Sophie reads Amy's love letters to her dead sister: "Let us go away together, away from the anger and imperatives of men. We shall find ourselves a secluded bower where they dare not venture. There will be only the two of us, and we shall linger through long afternoons of sweet retirement. In the evenings I shall read to you while you work your cross-stitch in the firelight. And then we shall go to bed, our bed, my dearest girl..." (127) Sophie first mistakes the tone of these letters, suspecting eroticism and subterfuge ("one might suppose it the plot of a French novel!" (127)) and failing to see the female solidarity and escape from male violence that emerges as the keynote of the relationship.

[28] There is, however, no mistaking the air of pathological mourning and improper attachment that hangs in the air. Amy has saved letters, samplers, and clothing, but the strangest object in the room is

a large photograph of Helen, framed by a hair wreath bigger than any Sophie had ever seen. She moved across the room, around the table, and put a hand to the wreath. Her touch set it quivering like a giant spider's web. It looked like the spider itself, she thought with a shudder, dark and bristling and venomous ... She shivered again, imagining Amy Travers leaning over her sister's body with a pair of shears. (126)

As scary as this dark bristly frame is, the worst is yet to come. Sophie notices that the frame is made up of dark and fair hair woven together, and after reading the love letters written between the two women when Helen was Amy's student (and just a child!), she realizes that the frame is made up of hair from every period of Helen's life. "A picture, startlingly clear, came into Sophie's mind: she saw Miss Travers sitting on the tufted sofa, her lap full of varying shades of Helen's hair, and the plump, babylike fingers selected and twisted, moved in and out. Sophie shook her head, refused to go as far as her thoughts wanted to carry her. But it was wrong, all of it. The wreath, the picture, the trunk of memorabilia. Unmistakably wrong" (129). Although Miss Travers' hands look too soft to kill a rattler, and seem on first impression only to invite male violence, they have their own particular quality of menace: these soft and yielding hands grasp, hold, entrap, and finally entomb Helen in a tufted (but deadly) bower, an airless and far too female room.

[29] This encounter with her sister's shadow ends with the return of the repressed likeness to the other that Sophie experienced earlier that night at the circus. After leaving Amy Travers' house, Sophie feels herself pursued by unseen attackers; panicked, she ends up falling in the park and injuring herself. Lying in fear, unsure who is coming for her, she is rescued and carried home by Honoria, the giantess from the freakshow. As the woman looms over her, she is all hands, another figure of sinister femininity:

Footsteps! This time there was no mistake about it. She jerked her head up and saw a huge figure approaching, a huge female figure, skin pale in the moonlight, an unreal color, almost blue. Looked at from the street where Sophie was lying, the woman's huge neck tapered even more oddly into the face of almost normal size. And when the hands reached down, it seemed some perverse trick of perspective that they should balloon so quickly into those monstrous oversized arms.
The hands drew nearer and nearer, and Sophie screamed, waiting for the hands, thinking they would close around her throat. Instead, there was a gentle touch on her cheek and the giantess began to speak in a soft voice. "It's all right, Miss Dymond. You don't need to worry none. I just wanted to bring you your purse." (131-132)

The giantess, it turns out, is neither a murderer nor a cutpurse, and as she carries Sophie home she comes around to the woman's not inconsiderable charms: "'Why are you here? Why? I don't understand.' Within the warm protection of the giantess's arms, it was difficult to want to understand" (132). In this moment of surrender, Sophie does not see the giantess's size as wrong, unmistakably wrong; instead, she allows herself a fleeting intimacy with the circus freak. As the woman looks down and smiles at her, Sophie sees her beauty: "For a moment the woman's size did not seem grotesque, but magical" (132).

[30] Sophie is present for the book's final act of violence, the lynching of Zack and Baby Wilson by a vigilante group employed by the Cattle Rancher's Association. The men try to kill her too, and very nearly succeed. But all's well that ends well, and Sisters—except for some minor cuts and bruises—does end well. After this attempt on her life, Sophie solves the mystery of her sister's death. Helen, it turns out, has been killed by the friend of the family Paul Bellavance, who, it turns out, is actually Sophie's father. Joe, who she thought was her grandfather, is not her grandfather at all (Deer Woman, like Sophie, got around a bit). Sophie and Helen's mother abandoned her children when they were young because she realized that her lover (Paul) was actually her half-brother, that they were involved in an incestuous union. After searching for years for her mother, Helen had finally discovered the secret, and her fall down the stairs took place during a fight with Paul about her past.

[31] Sophie decides not to pursue the mystery any further, in part out of relief that Helen was not killed by James; now that she is romantically involved with him, it would be very inconvenient if he were in fact her sister's murderer. The question of James's violence is far from settled, however. In a fight, Sophie accuses him of killing Helen; he responds by describing a scene of forced sex.

"Sophie, shut up!"
"Or what, James? Will you strike me? Is that what you'll do? Will you push me down the stairs?"
They stood glaring at each other, until finally he spoke. "So that's what you think. I humiliate to explain, and you haven't understood a thing. You think I knocked her insensible? Dragged her into a barn like some country boy would? I didn't strike her. There were no bruises on her precious body. All I did was ... ignore her refusal, pretend I hadn't heard it, just like I'd been pretending for years." He was so angry he was trembling. "Is that rape, Sophie? Is it?" (105)

In the end, Sophie decides to marry James, overcoming some hesitations. "He could be so stubborn, so fiercely stubborn in his opinions, even it was clear to her he was wrong. He'd defended lynching, rule by vigilante—she knew that was wrong. But still... would she want him if she could sway him on every point? Probably not. It sounded dreadfully dull" (214). Unlike so many other novels in the romance genre—such as Rebecca, which Cheney claimed as a source text in her 2005 interview with Terry Gross—Sisters does not end with the gentling of the male hero. [44] Nor does the heroine have any time for masochism, an indulgence she leaves to the lesbians.

[32] The countenancing of unjust violence sounds particularly chilling to us now, as Lynne is currently playing Sophie to Dick's James Stevenson. (The dedication to Executive Privilege reads "To Dick, who has shaped my life—and even one or two of my opinions.") But we want to focus on what happens to the women's world—the world of witness and righteous exception and lost causes—that Sophie leaves behind. In the end, Sophie cannot persuade herself to marry James (or to justify marrying James) on the basis of her desire alone, and she ends up seizing on the fact of Helen's orphaned children's need for her as she makes her final decision.

Sophie turned and looked up the slope at Esther and Sally. The morning sun behind them haloed their heads with gold, and suddenly she knew she had found the reason she had been looking for. The children. Esther and Sally. The mirror images extending infinitely forward as well as back. Yes, that was it, that was the reason. A sacred ceremony, an exchange of vows not just with James, but for the daughters, for the future. (214)

This golden tableau at the end of Sisters is reminiscent of the upbeat pedagogy of Cheney's children's books. America: A Patriotic Primer closes with a fare-well from Ronald Reagan, "I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead." Yes, marry James for the children and for the future. (Only by reading the endnotes to America do we find that Reagan wrote those words in his letter informing the nation of his Alzheimer's disease.) But what about Amy Travers, and her dreams for the future? Amy ends up transferring her care from James and Helen's children to some more needy and hopeless cases: Baby Wilson's newly orphaned children. In this sense she is also carried along in this move toward the future. But she does not make it into the final picture; she is not outlined, finally, by the glow of good sex and monopoly capitalism that sacrilizes the bond between James and Sophie.

[33] Amy has exempted herself from the "real" world of masculine competition, violence, and nation-building. At an important moment in the novel, Sophie guesses that Helen has been killed by the Cattle Ranchers because of her sympathy for the homesteaders. She confronts one of their thugs with this accusation, and he is baffled. "You hated her, all of you, because she helped the Wilsons." "I never heard of her." "She was Baby Wilson's friend. She tried to help her." "Help... Baby?" He struggled with a thought. "Was she ... one of them temperance ladies used to go out there?" He looked at Sophie, saw her nod. "Hell, nobody cares about that. Christ, who'd care?" Amy is absent from the scene of history except vicariously, through her empathetic and salvific relation to women who bear the marks of history on their bodies—the Sabine women.

[34] Sophie offers an image of the power-feminist in this novel: she has great insight into what it means to be a victim, and she plans to avoid it all costs. Understanding the temperance women to be the products of their environments (of one, she notes, "the way the other woman felt was not perverse, but a right response to her life"), Sophie places herself elsewhere. James offers ardor, an opera house on the frontier, and a haven from "the little noises" women make when they're together. [45] Amy Travers is the twin sister whose failure to thrive allows Sophie to engage in triage without compunction, casting off the bad past and pushing ahead. In this structural sense, Travers is not only a foil, she is a classic scapegoat, absorbing the negativity that others cannot bear themselves.

[35] In Sisters, Cheney demonstrates that making use of the victim may be the best way to insure that you come out a winner. Sophie Dymond will redeem the heterosexual family through a re-enactment, only better. She has hot, protected, (feminist) sex with James before consenting to fall in love, and brokers a deal with him where they will spend summers in Cheyenne, and winter in New York. Sophie's dead sister and her former schoolteacher actually make it possible for Sophie to move into that bright future by absorbing all of the losses that she disavows. Amy Travers witnesses and remembers the founding violence that Sophie needs to forget in order to move on. She is a monument, a living ruin, the archive of heterosexual violence.

The Victim's Revolution

[36] While Cheney may have appreciated Woman's Body, Woman's Right, Linda Gordon's subsequent history of domestic violence, Heroes of Their Own Lives, features precisely the attention to gender discrimination, institutionalized accommodations and traumatic national memory that Cheney lambasted in Clinton's Violence Against Women Act. The "Joan Scott-Linda Gordon Debate" that accompanied Heroes triggered a widespread scholarly investigation into the limits of the "social construction" of violence, gender and individual agency. Cheney's contemporary political writings poached on and escalated these internal debates; they also took part in the general climate of injury-defining. [46]

[37] "Victim politics" has been, like "political correctness," one of the key terms of contention in the culture wars. Right pundits claim that all left politics are the politics of victimhood: affirmative action attempts to gain special rights for people of color; welfare provides handouts to those unwilling to provide for themselves; and the departure from the approved canon in academia aims to replace the serious study of western culture with special pleading for women, gays and lesbians, minorities, and disabled people. Dinesh D'Souza crystallized this position with the publication of his 1991 book Illiberal Education. D'Souza's book drew on his "fieldwork" observing the politics of race and gender in elite university classrooms. He diagnosed a revolution that was taking place on college campuses "on behalf of minority victims." [47]

[38] According to D'Souza, this revolution threatens to undermine the traditional meaning of liberal education by brainwashing students into an unquestioning adherence to left orthodoxy. Illiberal Education was prescient in its depiction of hapless college students as the unwitting victims of the victim-revolutionaries. Striking a note of urgency, he writes,

Many students are unable to recognize the scope of the revolution, because it is a force larger than themselves, acting upon them. Thus they are like twigs carried by a fast current. They are well aware that something is going on around them, and they might even squirm and complain, but for the most part students do not shape the rules that govern their academic and social lives in the university. Rather, those rules are intended to shape them. There are, on virtually every college campus, organized alliances of minority, feminist, and homosexual students, who generally form the youth corps of the revolution. But they are not its prime movers: their numbers are too small, and they have no power to make the fundamental decisions that change the basic structure and function of the university. (19)

Although some students are fomenting revolution on campus, it is largely the administrators and activist professors who are to blame, according to D'Souza. This top-down account of university politics better accords with the image he is peddling of innocent students as mere twigs swept away by the flood. The students who complain are presumably neither feminist, minority, nor homosexual; they are being squeezed by left culture warriors who clearly do not know their own strength.

[39] D'Souza's alarmist portrait of white heterosexual students squirming in the grasp of militant homosexual leftists of color is at odds with several of his examples. The phrase "victim's revolution" puts the emphasis on revolution and on the left's drive to victimize its opponents. Still, many of the revolutionaries he describes actually seem even in his own account more like victims than victimizers. The agents of campus radicalism featured in D'Souza's ethnography manage to appear both threatening and pitiable.

[40] One of the classes D'Souza discusses is Alice Jardine's "French Feminist Literary Criticism," a course she taught in the Romance Languages Department at Harvard in the fall of 1989. [48] D'Souza's description of the class hardly evokes fears of militant youth brigades or rushing floodwaters.

The atmosphere in Jardine's class resembled a political rally. The seminar group was almost entirely female: twenty-five women versus three men. Headbands and turquoise jewelry, loose long shirts, and pins advertising various causes filled the room. There were no blacks in the class; a couple of the women were Asian. The mood in Jardine's class, while not exactly festive, was bustling, energetic. A student went to the board and put up a poster of a "Fifty Foot Woman"; everybody smiled at this emblem of female power.
Jardine peppered the students with the names of the usual post-structuralist authorities: Foucault, Derrida, Julia Kristeva, Lacan. Her language alternated between French and English; the especially titillating and radical quips were all in French. I was struck by the frequency of her appeals to authority, "Most feminist theorists think...", "It is widely agreed by feminists that...", and so on.
Talking with students after class, I found that they took all of this with extreme seriousness. There was not a hint of irony in anything they said. Comfortable, well-fed, and obviously intelligent, their conspicuous embitterment with and alienation from American society were hard to comprehend. Besides, whatever the malady, it was hard to imagine it being remedied by this sort of intellectual fare, so esoteric and yet so vulgar, so free-wheeling and yet so dogmatic, so full of political energy and yet ultimately so futile.

D'Souza makes a half-hearted effort to describe this atmosphere as dangerous, but it would be much more aptly described as pathetic. Although D'Souza compares the class to a political rally, it is no hotbed of radical dissent—it actually resembles a support group. Whatever energies are transferred in this wholly feminized space, the point is that it cannot matter to anyone. Students do not catch fire. Instead, they bustle—in and out of class, up to the board and back—but to no effect. This rally will make nothing happen. What D'Souza describes is not a scene of revolution; rather, we'd suggest that this is a moment of lesbianization. These young women are being prepared for careers in social work, massage therapy, and teaching—while in other classrooms on campus, the future leaders of the IWF are being empowered to choose "strong families," "free markets," and "equality under the law." The poster of the fifty-foot woman is even less frightening than Sophie's friendly giantess. This mascot is just a picture on a poster; she is in reality less than a foot tall and poses no threat.

[41] D'Souza claims that his book is about illiberal education—about the kind of closed-minded and authoritarian teaching that the left has supposedly instituted over the past decades. I think we can read it as a more straightforward account of liberal education—one need not demystify the dangerous hidden subtext to this form of teaching—it wears its agenda, alongside its bleeding heart, on its sleeve. The classroom activity that D'Souza describes does not look much like indoctrination. Jardine does not tell students what the Truth is. Instead, she presents a minority position that is acknowledged as minor—the rest is up to the students. While D'Souza casts liberal professors and students as the vanguard of the minority/victim revolution, in this account they are much more obviously victims of his cold eye and hard prose: they do not know they are being watched as they go about their puny activities; like Amy Travers, they unwittingly expose soft, pillowy parts—they do not even know that they are asking for it.

[42] Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick offers another account of teaching's unintended consequences in her essay, "Pedagogy of Buddhism."Sedgwick reflects on her own inability to gauge her students' response, noting the frequency with which they try to become what she is not:

Teaching privileged undergraduates, I sometimes had a chilling intimation that while I relied on their wish to mirror me and my skills and knowledge, they were motivated instead by seeing me as a cautionary figure: what might become of them if they weren't cool enough, sleek enough, adaptable enough to escape from the thicket of academia into the corporate world ... It's so often too late when we finally recognize the 'resistance' ... of a student/patient as a form of pedagogy aimed at us and inviting our mimesis ... Perhaps their implication has been: Try it my way—if you're going to teach me. Or even: I have something more important to teach you than you have to teach me. [49]

Sedgwick's intuition that many of her students see her only as a negative example gives us a better sense of what happens in liberal classrooms across the U.S. While some students are radicalized, others are unmoved, and still others—like D'Souza—exercise their pedagogical freedom by turning these teachings inside out. [50]

[43] Lynne Cheney clearly learned a great deal from her feminist teachers: she has a deep understanding of the dynamics of marginalization and oppression, but her response has been to make sure that she is never marginalized or oppressed herself. Cheney "gets" power, in both senses. She sees how it works and she identifies with it. She knows as well as anyone that it requires other people to play the victim on her behalf—even as she undercuts their right to that claim (and their access to assistance) through her crusade against the very idea of victimization. In the classroom, which remains the basic cell of Cheney's vision for constructing the future, students can be empowered on the condition that they can learn to like power.

[44] Acknowledging Cheney as a feminist is crucial in thinking about the limits of our own pedagogy. We on the left tend to argue that better education is the key to changing the nation: all we need to do is to prove that there were no WMDs, demonstrate the historical contributions of African-Americans, or show that gay people can be good parents too. Sisters offers a stark warning about how little return we can expect on such investments. We must be prepared not only for indifference—Christ, who'd care?—but also for the reckless enthusiasms of a pupil like Cheney. It's our best students who know how to take up our lessons and use them against us. The role we choose of outraged and empathetic witness may not result in the dissemination of this attitude, but rather in a reaction that approves that role for us, and gets on with the business at hand.


[1] Sophia McClennen, "The Geopolitical War on U.S. Higher Education" College Literature 33, 4 (2006): 43-75, 49.

[2] Henry A. Giroux, "Academic Freedom Under Fire: The Case for Critical Pedagogy" College Literature 33, 4 (2006): 1-42, 2.

[3] For an example of the appropriation of multiculturalism, see Lynne V. Cheney, "Multiculturalism Done Right," Change 25, 1 (Jan/Feb 1993): 8-10.

[4] Stanley Fish, "Intellectual Diversity': the Trojan Horse of a Dark Design," The Chronicle of Higher Education (2/13/04): 13.

[5] Ibid.

[6] McClellan, op. cit., 52.

[7] «»

[8] Betty Cuniberti. "Is Lynne Cheney's Mission Impossible?" St. Louis Post-Dispatch (9/01/2004): E01.

[9] Blake Allmendinger, "The Two Mrs. Cheneys," Pacific Historical Review 75, 1 (2006): 141-147.

[10] Laura Flanders, Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species (London: Verso, 2004), 255-256.

[11] Ibid., 261. Writing in the Lambda Book Report, Jim Marks strikes a similar note, observing that Lynne Cheney "plays a skillful rhetorical game, appropriating feminist values, but discrediting their original authors as 'politically correct.' How does one respond to this dishonesty while not sounding stuck, linguistically, in the past?" Jim Marks, "editor's corner" Lamda Book Report 12, 1/2 (Aug/Sept. 2003): 4.

[12] Elaine Showalter, "Lynne Cheney, Feminist Intellectual," The Chronicle of Higher Education 47, 5 (Sept. 29, 2000): B11.

[13] Charlotte Hays, "The TWQ Interview" (3/14/2003) «»

[14] Lynne Cheney, Sisters (New York: Signet, 1981), 144.

[15] Cheney also acknowledges G. Barker Benfield's The Horrors of the Half-Known Life—as do her contemporaries, Mary Daly and Adrienne Rich (in Gyn/Ecology and Of Woman Born).

[16] An appellation given to her by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo. See "Big Sister," Education Week 24, 8 (10/20/2004): 28. We might also point out that in this role, Cheney has been the butt of countless anti-feminist insults (i.e. "strident" and "hard to muzzle") from the right and the left.

[17] Anne Marie Borrego, "Humanities Endowment Returns to 'Flagging' Nontraditional Projects," Chronicle of Higher Education 50, 19 (1/16/2004): A1

[18] Lynne V. Cheney, "The End of History," Wall Street Journal 224, 78 (10/20/1994): A22.

[19] Lynne V. Cheney, "Kill my Old Agency Please," Wall Street Journal 225, 16 (1/24/1995): A22.

[20] "What's Ahead for Black Parents if Lynne V. Cheney Becomes the Next Secretary of Education?" (News and Views) The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 13 (Autumn 1996): 24.

[21] "Mind Control," New Republic 17, 231 (10/25/2004): 10.

[22] See the article by Steven J. Ross (chair of the UCLA history department), "21st Century Book-Burning; Mrs. Cheney, there's more to US History than Heroes," LA Times (10/13/04).

[23] Lynne Cheney, Matthew Arnold's Possible Perfection: A Study of the Kantian Strain in Arnold's Poetry, University of Wisconsin (dissertation) 1970, 160.

[24] Walt Whitman to Horace L. Traubel. In With Walt Whitman in Camden Vol I. 1906. «»

[25] Bill Brown and Cornel West, "Beyond Eurocentrism and Multiculturalism" Modern Philology 90, supplement (May 1993): s152.

[26] Marjorie Garber, "Greatness": Philology and the Politics of Mimesis. boundary 2, 19, 2 (Summer 1992): 259.

[27] Friedrich Nietzsche, "On The Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life," In: Untimely Meditations, ed. Daniel Breazeale. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997 (1873): 57-124.

[28] Lynne V. Cheney, Telling the Truth. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995, 6.

[29] Donald Lazere, "Ground rules for Polemicists: The case of Lynne Cheney's truths." College English 59, 6 (October 1997): 661-686; Cary Nelson, Manifesto of a Tenured Radical, New York: NYU Press, 1997; Michael Bérubé, "That's Not What I Said!" Chronicle of Higher Education 45, 37 (5/21/99); Nelson, op. cit., 140.

[30] Cheney, Telling, 121

[31] Ibid., 127.

[32] Jodi Dean, Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1998: 172.

[33] Lynne Cheney, "Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent and Graham Greene's It's a Battlefield: A Study in Structural Meaning," Modern Fiction Studies 16, 2 (1970): 117-132.

[34] Ibid.,131.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Lynne Vincent Cheney, "1876: The Eagle Screams," American Heritage 25, 3 (April 1974), 99.

[37] Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, "The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relations Between Women in Nineteenth-Century America" in: Disorderly conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1985, 75.

[38] Donna Gerstenberger and Carolyn Allen, "Women's Studies/American Studies, 1970-1975," American Quarterly (1977): 274.

[39] Lynne Cheney, "It All Began in Wyoming," American Heritage 24, 3 (April 1973): 65.

[40]Ibid., 64

[41] Mike Weiss, "Landing the lineman. Lynne Cheney knew what it took to get her man—from Wyoming to Washington," San Francisco Chronicle (10/3/04).

[42] Lynne Vincent Cheney, "Mrs. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper," American Heritage 26, 6 (October 1975): 90.

[43] This quote comes from one of the more recent articles, by Christina Hoff Sommers, "The Subjection of Islamic Women and the Fecklessness of American Feminism," Independent Women's Forum: Issues 12, 34 (5/15/2007). «»

[44] For more detail on common formulas of the romance genre, such as "the reformed rake," see Tania Modleski, Loving with a Vengeance: Mass-Produced Fantasies for Women. Connecticut: Archon Books, 1982. See also Janice A. Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984.

[45] Early on, James exclaims, "Do you think they ever point out what we've accomplished? Look up ahead. That's an opera house,..That's what we've done. Made a civilization here on this land no one wanted," 10.

[46] Cheney announces, at the outset of Telling the Truth, "I want to show how we have come to live in a world where offenses are constantly being redefined." P. 20

[47] Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus (New York: The Free Press, 1991).

[48] D'Souza sat in on this seminar all semester without mentioning that he was writing a book about it. Heather Love was, at the time, an undergraduate taking this course for major credit. For Jardine's response to D'Souza's chapter about her class, see Alice Jardine, "Illiberal Reporting" in After Political Correctness: The Humanities and Society in the 1990s, ed. Christopher Newfield and Ronald Strickland (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995), 128-137.

[49] Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 154.

[50] Still others, of course, stay away altogether. The 2007 closing of Antioch College has been widely understood as a sign that liberal indoctrination of the kind associated with that institution is no longer sustainable. See for instance Michael Goldfarb's editorial in the New York Times, "Where the Arts Were Too Liberal," NYT, June 17, 2007, section 4, page 13.