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NOMAS Says ‘Happy Birthday’ to Dr. Phyllis Chesler

I have always admired Phyllis Chesler as one of the earliest founding mothers of second-wave feminism.   She has also been the embodiment of a special role which I admire, and have always aspired to: a feminist social scientist.  Her work over the past forty years has deeply influenced me, both in general ways as a role model and professional inspiration, and on very quite specific, cutting-edge issues, in which she led the way.

After hearing her speak at APA in 1971 of evidence that many male psychotherapists were sexually exploiting young female patients, I spoke of this abuse to my college women’s studies class, and soon was approached by a student, who had been a victim of exactly such therapist-sexual-exploitation.   I was able to help her obtain a financial settlement, and I later myself presented an APA “conversation hour” on this issue.

The next year I was deeply moved, along with the rest of the world, by her explosive best-seller Women And Madness, which exposed the patriarchal world of psycho-therapy, and the profound contempt for women which then pervaded clinical practice.

Dr. Chesler’s research for Mothers On Trial in 1996 first clearly revealed to me how remarkably often abusive ex-husbands do seek and obtain child custody, by exploiting male privilege.   I and others in NOMAS (www/Nomas.org) have fully embraced this analysis, in fashioning our strong, on-going opposition to the “men’s rights” lobby.

Phyllis Chesler was among the first early feminists to examine in print the harmful-to-relationships aspects of pornography, an unresolved issue that Russell, MacKinnon, Dworkin, Dines, I and others have since discussed more extensively.

My work with NOMAS has also led me to look closely at the complex, many-layered harmfulness of women’s use in prostitution.   Phyllis Chesler’s powerful written advocacy for the prostituted woman Eileen Wuornos, and Chesler’s real-life efforts to assist that unfortunate woman, are one more honorable chapter in her decades of feminist activism.

As a leftist academic myself, who is firmly pro-Israel but moves in circles where it is often fashionable to be anti-Israel, I am deeply grateful to Phyllis Chesler, for her courageous, on-going confrontation of the not-so-covert anti-Semitism that is enduring in parts of our culture.

So I am proud to be an unabashed admirer of Phyllis Chesler’s long and dazzling career.  I wrote elsewhere that I view Phyllis Chesler as: “the most independent, productive, multi-issue, feminist thinker and writer since Elizabeth Cady Stanton.”   She has epitomized for me, and for others, the proud meaning of being an activist feminist social scientist.

Dr. Robert Brannon

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