She is unable to speak

Katie Roiphe is enlightening us again on How Feminism Has Gone Off the Rails™.

I have a long history with this feeling of not being able to speak. In the early Nineties, death threats were phoned into Shakespeare and Company, an Upper West Side bookstore where I was scheduled to give a reading from my book The Morning After.That night, in front of a jittery crowd and a sprinkling of police, I read a passage comparing the language in the date-rape pamphlets given out on college campuses to Victorian guides to conduct for young ladies. When I read at universities, students who considered themselves feminists shouted me down. It was an early lesson in the chilling effect of feminist orthodoxy.

This, incidentally, is why it’s so annoying that people keep calling her “second wave.” She was an undergraduate then, and her book was her introduction to the world. “Second wave” was not the early 90s. Katie Roiphe was part of the backlash against the feminist renaissance that started in the late 60s, which some people call the second wave. I know I’ve said that before but people do keep mixing up their decades.

Substantively, Roiphe says feminism is too angry, way too angry.

The widely revered feminist Rebecca Solnit made a related argument in a 2014 interview, speaking in the immediate wake of California’s Isla Vista mass shooting. “I think it’s important that we look at all this stuff together,” she said. “It begins with these microaggressions; it ends with rape and murder.” Solnit is not arguing literally that all arrogant men will go on to sexual assault. But by connecting condescending men and rapists as part of the same wellspring of male contempt for women, she renders the idea of proportion irrelevant, and lends an alluring drama to the fight against mansplaining. She gives a gloss of mainstream respectability and intellectual cachet to the dangerous idea that distinctions between Weinstein and a man who looks down someone’s shirt don’t ultimately matter.

Bollocks. Looking at them together and connecting them is not saying they are the same thing; Solnit was not saying that distinctions among them don’t matter. Hatred of and contempt for women is a large field, and we can talk about that without saying that the smaller insults are the same thing as physical violence.

I am not trying to suggest that the list makers don’t understand the difference in scale between leering and assault, but rather that the blurring of common (if a little sleazy) behavior and serious sexual harassment reveals a lot about how they think.

But again, it’s not a blurring. Saying they are related is not saying they are the same thing. She’s not making a real argument here, she’s just echoing the usual conservative “calm down, dear, it’s not that bad” riposte.

Then there’s the “what about the men” section and then that’s all I can stomach for now.

5 Responses to “She is unable to speak”

Leave a Comment

Subscribe without commenting