Late last night, as I was lying in bed, pondering which of the day’s many issues could possibly be relevant and serious enough to merit coverage in my column at Global Comment, I heard the sound of space lasers.
I know! I wasn’t quite clear on what “space lasers” sounded like, either! But then I assure you, the noise was distinctive. Like the space-time continuum bending, or a large, blue British police box appearing on my lawn. Actually, I’m pretty certain it was that last one, because when I went out to check, there was a large, blue British police box there. Also, an alarmed-looking, thin, British-seeming man, holding an envelope.
“What’s all this, then?” I asked, having always wanted to say that to a British person.
“No time for outdated regional witticisms!” He gasped. “I come to you from a future so dark that mere words alone cannot describe it. I know you won’t believe me, but in all the moments of all the worlds in all the universe, there is only one person who can possibly keep this future from coming to pass. And that person is you.”
“Oh, I believe you,” I said. “I am very important. But what can I do?”
The man pressed the envelope into my hand.
“This article,” he told me. “The world needs to see it. Do you understand? You must take this article — this ‘comment,’ if you will — and you must publish it, in the most global way imaginable. Can you manage that?”
I told him I could. And so I have. Even all these hours later, I am still haunted by his urgent, British cry, as he climbed into his police box and faded away.
“You’ve got to tell her!” He shouted. “You’ve got! To tell! ROIPHEEEEEEE!!!!!”
Women don’t mind being sexually harassed. Not if they’re smart: “Show me a smart, competent young professional woman who is utterly derailed by a verbal unwanted sexual advance or an inappropriate comment about her appearance, and I will show you a rare spotted owl,” wrote Katie Roiphe. I remember reading this sentence in late 2032, in the textbook for my Anti-Women Studies class at Princeton, highlighting it in purple. It didn’t seem right. If I were living in an oppressive matriarchy — a world dominated by a feminist “herd mentality,” a world where women were reduced to drab, numb “anodyne drones” — wouldn’t I know it?
The essays in my Anti-Women anthology were not presenting facts. (Indeed, they were scarcely researched at all.) They were advertising a mood. Preoccupied with the idea of a grim, oppressive feminist establishment, campus Roipheists have produced endless images of women as victims. Women cruelly deprived of hot sex scenes in male-written novels, women pressured to write “House of Mirth” instead of loving their darling babies, women getting mean posts written about them on Gawker.
Granted, all of these women were Katie Roiphe. But still: This problem was not confined to her. Naomi Wolf was cruelly silenced by “feminist bloggers,” who didn’t get the Swiftian irony of writing that women who pressed rape charges were just whiny, clingy would-be girlfriends. Camille Paglia was victimized by the “feminist establishment,” which wouldn’t give her a job in women’s studies departments, just because her feminist points included the now-standard lines that “relationships where women get beat up have hot sex,” and that if rape “is a totally devastating psychological experience for a woman, then she doesn’t have a proper attitude toward sex.” For Caitlin Flanagan, the devastating cruelty came from within, when her mother got a job rather than staying home to raise her.
In the early 2000s, my own mother lived with the consequences of feminist matriarchy. “It was terrible,” she says. “At work, only one man ever cornered me in an elevator and started talking about my ‘beautiful mouth.’ Didn’t anyone care about the playfulness of my work environment? Sometimes, when I walked down the street, no-one would make a kissy noise from his car window, or ask me to smile. I actually went through my entire twenties without getting married, or having children, because I thought I could be some kind of ‘writer’ and focus on my ‘career.’ As if creating serious, substantive work that I loved could ever be more joyful and rewarding than breast-feeding a newborn at four o’clock in the morning.”
“I was lied to,” she said. “I was made to believe that there was something more important than being a hot, sexy, fun-loving woman, who loved to have hot, sexy fun with her male co-workers, but also was a devoted mother and wife who stayed home instead of working. My instincts for hotness, sexiness, and pleasing men — but also small infants — were completely trampled. I even called myself a ‘feminist.’ It’s just what we did back then. It’s how we got by.”
It is from experiences like my mother’s that the anti-woman resistance has arisen. Workplaces now offer mandatory Laugh It Off Training, about how to deal with sexual remarks from co-workers. We know, for example, to be especially flattered by comments from bosses, as they mean that we are getting noticed by our superiors. At Princeton, my orientation week included a Stop Whining seminar, about how to differentiate rape from a bad date: The key was to know that rape never happened, and that a woman who claimed it had was (a) whining, and (b) should stop.
The movement has cultivated an appalling over-sensitivity. The fact is, “sexiness” and “fun-loving” have never been clearly defined. Of course, one can be found guilty of “wrecking the social environment” for not laughing at a genuinely funny joke, or responding warmly to a co-worker’s flirtation. But what if the man in question simply isn’t funny? Or attractive? Our carefully coddled male students, raised with an understanding that they may be oppressed by feminism at any moment, have become so sensitive that many of them cry “humorless” if they get a mere chuckle, rather than a guffaw. Histrionic Christopher Hitchens quotes adorn their dorms; men have tearful support groups to share tales about everything from getting worse grades than their girlfriends (“it makes me feel so unimportant,” one man said, “like she doesn’t even care enough about me to make me look good in class, or turn in her homework late for my sake”) to having been turned down when they groped a stranger’s ass at a party.
Whither personal responsibility? The anti-woman rebellion began out of a necessary cultural embrace of rudeness, insensitivity, and making life more unpleasant for everyone. The matriarchy had drilled it into our heads that we ought to exercise empathy — which, young women of my generation are told, is an oppressive false consciousness, designed to keep us all from being fun at parties. This movement was supposed to be about strong, abrasive men, and the women who appreciated them. But, rather than instilling strength in our young people, this movement has created an endless fixation on personal grievance, and a censorious, histrionic vigilance in regard to “mean feminists.”
I myself support the anti-woman rebellion’s emphasis on insensitivity. Hurting people’s feelings is a necessary and vital part of life. Which is exactly why I’ve created an anti-anti-woman club on campus. We engage in acts of rebellion such as turning men down for dates, making fun of men who tell bad jokes, and applying for jobs that don’t have the words “assistant to” in their title. In the true anti-woman spirit of offending as many people as possible, the anti-anti-women movement is reclaiming the right to be spoilsports, and bruise the delicate sensibilities of others. We may even start calling ourselves “feminists,” in a little while. That ought to really piss people off.
— Sady Doyle, Jr.
November 21, 2038