Children: three adopted children.
Journalist, writer. Teacher of writing in low-income schools; amateur boxer. Volunteer associated with adoption education and outreach.
Winner of Tacoma, WA, Golden Gloves title (boxing), 1995.
The New Victorians: A Young Woman's Challenge to the Old Feminist Order, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Kill the Body, the Head Will Fall: A Closer Look at Women, Violence, and Aggression, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1997.
All God's Children: Inside the Dark and Violent World of Street Families, PublicAffairs (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times Magazine and Philadelphia Inquirer.
Rene Denfeld's first book, The New Victorians: A Young Woman's Challenge to the Old Feminist Order, is a critique of the "estsablishment" generation of feminists and includes the opinions of a number of twenty-something women to reinforce her claims. They include a bartender, welder, salesperson, and two bellydancers. Denfeld contends that more emphasis in being placed on lesbian rights than on women's rights in general, and that groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW), and women's publications like Ms. further exacerbate the problem. She writes that activists spend an inordinate amount of effort opposing pornography, dismissing the views of many women who are against censorship in any form. She also charges this wing of feminism with concentrating on statistics that can be used to show that most women are being victimized by men. Denfeld writes that "today's feminists have instituted a new set of confining rules for women, many of which smell suspiciously like the same repressive sexual mores that our mothers fought to escape." Booklist reviewer Alice Joyce called Denfeld's observations "clear-sighted appraisals of how the movement alienates the great majority of women."
Denfeld, an amateur boxer, won a Golden Gloves championship in Tacoma, Washington, two years into her boxing career. Her Kill the Body, the Head Will Fall: A Closer Look at Women, Violence, and Aggression is a study of female violence against adults and children, as well as in the military and sports. Denfeld includes accounts of her experiences training in an all-male gym with male sparring partners. She views aggression as a "human condition, not confined to one sex." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "Fight fans will find her views on the sport of interest." Booklist reviewer George Eberhart described the book is being "calmly reasoned yet engrossing."
All God's Children: Inside the Dark and Violent World of Street Families is Denfeld's study of the Thantos Family of Portland, Oregon. Begun by James Nelson, who committed murder at the age of sixteen and was paroled ten years later, he then attracted the teens who made up his family. Denfeld documents the cultish behavior and violence, including murder, committed by these teens and young adults who are primarily from white, middle-class families. "The author does a remarkable job of humanizing the youth who joined the Thantos Family," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. Jessica Williams, a young woman developmentally disabled by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, was a victim of her street family's violence. She failed to demonstrate loyalty by going home to see her adoptive parents. She was charged with infractions, suffered an extended beating, was knifed, then set on fire after being doused with lighter fluid. Denfeld projects that the family members imprisoned for this crime will emerge as leaders of new families.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 1995, Alice Joyce, review of The New Victorians: A Young Woman's Challenge to the Old Feminist Order, p. 1163; January 1, 1997, George Eberhart, review of Kill the Body, the Head Will Fall: A Closer Look at Women, Violence, and Aggression, p. 790.
Entertainment Weekly, March 17, 1995, Margot Mifflin, review of The New Victorians, p. 82.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2006, review of All God's Children: Inside the Dark and Violent World of Street Families, p. 1109.
New York Times Book Review, April 16, 1995, review of The New Victorians; March 25, 2007, review of All God's Children, p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, January 9, 1995, review of The New Victorians, p. 50; November 18, 1996, review of Kill the Body, the Head Will Fall, p. 52; November 27, 2006, review of All God's Children, p. 42.
Women's Review of Books, June 1, 1995, Leora Tanenbaum, review of The New Victorians, p. 5.
Feminists for Free Expression,http://www.ffeusa.org/ (June 10, 2007), brief biography.
Rene Denfeld Home Page,http://www.renedenfeld.com (June 10, 2007).
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (February 12, 2007), Helaine Olen, "Taking It to the Streets," interview with author.