Moral Panic: Biopolitics Rising


383 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-895854-09-1
DDC 320'.01'9





Reviewed by Peter Babiak

Peter Babiak teaches English at the University of British Columbia.


Criticism of political correctness is commonplace among those who think
that democratic freedoms are being eroded by the crusades of powerful
special-interest groups. This is the

position offered in Moral Panic, wherein the author condemns
“biopolitical feminism” for demonizing all men by claiming that
violence against women is “omnipresent, malign, and genetically coded
into male testosterone.”

In the first part of the book, Fekete debunks the statistics
(“guesstimates”) that have incited panic in gender relations in the
last decade: for example, 60 percent of women in Canada are afraid to
walk after dark (whittled down to 6 percent in his reassessment of
frequency distributions); 87 percent of Native women experience violence
(a study unfairly conducted by “feminists” and “women who were
already abused and seeking social services”); 83 percent of women with
disabilities will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime (a “bold
and frightening” figure erroneously based on a survey of 28 retarded
women in a California institution); and 56 percent of women will suffer
rape or attempted rape (which erroneously includes “the commonplace
experience of most young women, of feeling a downward pressure on her
head when in the vicinity of his genitals”). Fekete’s rather
audacious point is that the “violence-against-women industry” has
unfairly acclaimed women as the “most important group for social
attention when it comes to compassion.”

As he rightly points out in the section “Professors on Trial,”
serious problems occur when biased opinions are enshrined in policies or
laws involving zero-tolerance, employment equity, sexual harassment,
human rights, and pornography and censorship. Apart from formalizing
interpersonal relations, codified resolution procedures replace
“looser networks of private remedies, tacit communal sentiments, and
collegial relationships” with “panic engineering.” In an academic
environment they foster an atmosphere of panic instead of academic
freedom; they also lead to “emotional incapacitation” and
infantilize female students by rendering them “in constant need of
special protection.”

Some readers will decide that Fekete’s seemingly rational commitment
to “stop the panic” over gender relations is a welcome contribution
to the sometimes overheated cerebralism of contemporary feminist
discourse. The problem is that some of his more hysterical claims (i.e.,
that feminism has abducted “the last third of this century” or that
“biopolitical advocacy is becoming official policy in the Canadian
government”) make it seem as though feminism is the hegemonic default
position of legislators and policy makers everywhere, which is clearly
not the case.


Fekete, John., “Moral Panic: Biopolitics Rising,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 22, 2024,