GENDER DIFFERENCES will emerge in any human social organization. the only way to stifle, or try to stifle, their manifestation in children's perceptions of each other is through a rigid program of exhorting them to disregard their senses. The only way to stifle, or try to stifle, their manifestation in people's working lives is through a rigid program of job quotas. These programs can never be relaxed, for if they are, society will gravitate back to "sex stereotyping."

That is why today's feminism, for all its talk of "liberation" and for all its reputation as a liberal movement, is, and must be, profoundly illiberal and must inevitably lead to ever greater degrees of coercion.

Thus in employment -- to begin with that area -- the maintaining of androgynously "equitable" outcomes has already become a governmental prerogative. In certain cases the government forbids an employer to hire a man over a woman even if the employer believes that a man is better for the task at hand. American courts routinely overturn ostensibly reasonable employment requirements of size and weight because of their "discriminatory impact" -- that is, because women cannot meet them. These rulings represent far more than the confusion of an intent to discriminate with unintended differential consequences: they result from taking the identical treatment of the sexes to be an end in itself which overrides utility or workability.

This disregard for common sense has sanctioned limitless foolishness. Ordered by a federal court to hire female state troopers, the New Jersey Highway Patrol undertook an arduous recruiting and training program that produced two female troopers. This wasn't enough.

The NJHP then made yet more strenuous efforts, offering females more attractive pensions than their male counterparts, and letting female recruits train only with each other, even in hand-to-hand combat -- on the apparent assumption that they would only catch female criminals. With all this, only 30 out of 120 trainees graduated. Even so ardent a champion of "affirmative action" as The New York Times admitted that this was "expensive" (while quickly adding that the cost was worth it).

Asserting the sameness of men and women while taking steps to make up for the differences is the perfection of Orwellian double-think. The Post Office employs male and female letter-carriers, but quietly issues smaller bags to females. The Bell system agrees under pressure to hire women as repairmen, but must equip them with special carts with which to carry their heavy tool boxes.

This may not be outrageous in and of itself, but consider what it does to the slogan of "equal pay for equal work." In fact, the slogan has had to be changed. Since on the whole women do not do the work of men, it has quickly become "equal pay for work of equal value," no hint being given as to how the value of work is to gauged. Now even this has yielded to "equal pay for work of comparable (i.e. possibly-not-quite-equal) value," and very recent government guidelines speak of "work of substantially equal value."

Massive interference with hiring decisions, however, is as nothing before the next inevitable step. Without changes in the actual numbers of women in "nontraditional" jobs, equality would be a hollow victory; therefore hiring quotas must be imposed.

It hardly needs to be argued that quotas war with liberty, since even their advocates no longer pretend they are other than coercive. They also way with liberty in subtler ways, by imposing recognizably irrational courses of action. The "repairperson" handcarts mention above, for example, have no marginal utility; their cost to the telephone company and ultimately to the consumer is a dead loss which no productive organization would voluntarily incur.

A further related problem will become more pressing as the system of quotas metastasizes through the whole economy. What will happen when there are too few young women to fill the quotas? The Labor Department has ordered that 25 percent of all apprenticeships in skilled trades be given to females. If not enough girls want to be plumbers, will the government then demand the dismissal of male apprentices to maintain the ratio?

Signs of the coming crunch between reality and feminist ideology have already appeared. Forty-two percent of the female volunteers in the Army fail to finish their first stint. There are barely enough female applicants to fill the service-academy quotas. Says the admissions director of West Point: "This doesn't allow us to be as selective as we otherwise would, and that adds to our drop-out problem."

The demand for greater participation by women in the "occupational system" obviously applies to elected office as well, and an irresistable extension of feminist equity will be electoral quotas. Such a reform has indeed already been proposed, and in some ways adopted. A few years ago the French minister for women's affairs called for a law requiring that 25 percent of all candidates in any election be female. In this country, the Democratic Party has imposed a quite strict 50-50 quota system on most of its internal workings.

An ultimate disruption of the right to seek elected office seems unavoidable. If men and women are by nature equally likely to want positions of high prestige, then the persistence of more men than women who want such positions can in the eyes of present-day feminists only mean that some sort of discrimination is at work, discrimination that cannot be allowed to run its course.

The second major front on which the contemporary feminist must keep a coercive watch is education. Simply showing children the world and letting them draw their own conclusions from it is unacceptable. Thus Alice Rossi advocates doing away with "class excursions into the community . . . to introduce American children to building, construction, airports, or zoos," because "going out into the community in this way, youngsters would observe men and women in their present occupational roles." A major point of education must be the conscious inculcation of the androgynous ideal through "having children see and hear a woman scientist or doctor; a man dancer or artist; both women and men who are business executives, writers, and architects."

Today's feminist seems to view educational reform as nothing but a competition between two kinds of brainwashing. Conventional education is indoctrination of one sort, feminist reeducation indoctrination of another sort -- the only question is, who gets to do the indoctrinating? This, of course, requires a redefinition of indoctrination, at least of the bad old kind, to include any transmission of the basic values of society, however objectively or even unintentionally they may be conveyed.

Any material, presented in whatever good faith, from which children can infer that boys and girls differ is therefore indoctrination. This is how a feminist comes to view the preponderance of men in history books -- not as an inevitable reflection of the fact that men have shaped military, political, scientific, and intellectual history, but as another obnoxious example of "sex stereotyping."

Does it need to be established that indoctrination is the conscious and intentional inculcation of specific beliefs by the selective manipulation of evidence? Naturally, any viable culture will transmit its basic values through its pedagogy. But those values tend to be inseparable from the subjects studied, not lessons anyone makes a point of giving. Yet perhaps it is not surprising that the new feminist approach to education implicitly repudiates any idea of objectivity, since it is itself the very essence of indoctrination.

Propaganda in education is harmful enough when it works; what is especially disturbing about feminist propaganda is that it won't work. You can teach girls to change a fuse, and boys to cook, and you can force them to play baseball together, but you can't make them think they are the same, or that mommy and daddy are "substitutable." The ominous implication is that reforms officially designed to wither away after the first androgynous generation will have to be retained as "stereotyping" persists. Vigilance will have to be enhanced, supervision of children made closer. Even more female scientists and male dancers will have to be trotted out. and what shall be done when children notice that even though there are females in police uniforms, it is always the policemen who subdue violent criminals?

A "pilot-project" course recently introduced in a New York City public school may offer a glimpse of the future. The course material follows scrupulously neuter-named teenagers ("Jan," "Toni") as they visit airports, observatories, and other standard sites, its point of stress being that some of the girls are "assertive" and some of the boys "sensitive." This is achieved by making it very difficult for the reader to tell who is male and who is female. Now all of this is very distracting, and no class is likely to learn very much about airports or observatories from it. But that is all right, since the course is not intended to communicate knowledge or critical skill. The group's advertures are, and meant to be, only pegs on which to hang the message that "male" and "female" is an unimportant distinction.

It is tempting to think that feminism in its latest version will collide with human nature once too often and then just go away. A collective cry of "enough" will arise and, magically, girls will no longer be made to feel foolish about wanting children, men will no longer have to worry about "offending" their dates, and freedom and rationality will return to the occupational marketplace.

This hope might seem to be bolstered by the failure of egalitarian zealotry in Sweden, Israel, and Russia to alter the basic structure of society. Unfortunately, such hope is underminded by the extent to which feminist ideology has already won the day in the United States. No teacher or public speaker dares use "he." Critics must apologize before praising books, movies, or ideas that deviate from the party line. Feminist doctrine now shapes to an unprecedented degree the rights and duties that govern institutional and social life. Once in place, hiring quotas, textbook censorship, court jurisdiction over private association, and all the other travesties of liberalism to which Americans have become numb are likely to stay in place, long after they will clearly be seen to have failed to achieve the unachievable.