Wrong wave

Jezebel posts a laughably wrong bad inaccurate headline:

The Backlash to #MeToo Is Second-Wave Feminism

You what? The hell it is. #MeToo is second wave feminism, and the backlash is third wave. Mind you I think all the waves are stupid because none of it is that simple – the resurgence of feminism starting in the late 60s was hardly monolithic. However if you’re going to talk about waves at all you should at least get them right, and second wave was a lot more radical than its predecessors; that was the whole point. Noticing and pushing back against sexual harassment was part of that. (Lately I’ve seen claims that no one had even heard of it until the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Nonsense. I went to a workplace training session on it in the early 80s.)

The Jezebel piece is about Harpers and Katie Roiphe and all that.

Though specifics of the story’s content remain unclear, it’s possible that Harper’s will publish an already familiar critique of this particular momentPerhaps I’m wrong, and Roiphe will offer a nuanced critique of the reckoning, free from the now stock phrases and lazy rhetoric of the contrarian essay (“hysteria” “sex panic” “victimhood” and “witch hunts”). Yet, given Roiphe’s long career as a self-styled feminist provocateur, her consistent rhetorical performance as the rare rational female voice is a sea of feminist hysteria, it seems unlikely. “I address the kind of Twitter hysteria that we are seeing here,” Roiphe told the Times.

Rophie’s record on this issue is abundantly clear and follows the narrative that women and other marginalized genders are uninjured by the fiction of harassment: “The majority of women in the workplace are not tender creatures and are largely adept at dealing with all varieties of uncomfortable or hostile situations,” Roiphe wrote in the New York Times in 2011. “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.”

Very Spiked – Ella Whelan – Brendan O’Neill sort of bullshit, in short. It’s what she got famous for as an undergraduate in the 90s.

If Roiphe’s arguments, laid out in service to long-forgotten sexual harassment allegations leveled against the equally long-forgotten Herman Cain, sound familiar, it’s because they are. The New York Times published almost identical arguments last week in the form of a critique of the #MeToo movement, written by Daphne Merkin. Similar sentiments were expressed by 100 French women, including actress Catherine Deneuve and writer Catherine Millet, in an open letter in Le Monde, who said: “we do not recognise ourselves in this feminism” that holds male predators accountable for a spectrum of abuse.

The backlash to #MeToo is indeed here and it’s liberal second-wave feminism.

Nooooooo. Completely wrong. It’s third-wave feminism that is liberal-libertarian; second wave is more radical, not less. Katie Roiphe was part of the backlash against “second wave” feminism. To repeat: that’s what made her famous.

As the #MeToo conversations have escalated, prompting critical reconsideration of what constitutes a violation in the workplace and beyond, liberal second-wave feminists have been a prominent voice in bringing the reckoning to a premature conclusion, suffocating this deeply-needed cultural moment. Armed with a self-identified feminist conviction, they are often quick to deem the criminality of brutal physical attacks as the barometer for abuse—dismissing the precariousness of women rendered by institutional discrimination as self-imposed victimhood. Their use of feminist principals to justify their hesitancy in this space has become the new “I’m a feminist but…”—an empty gesture at best, a need to claim allegiance to old power structures while also asserting feminist credentials.

No, no, no, no, no. Stassa Edwards is making a fool of herself. She seems to be thinking “second wave: old: therefore conservative: therefore shutting down MeToo.” But no. It’s anti-feminists and conservatives who are trying to shut down MeToo: women like Christina Hoff Sommers. Sommers is not a second wave feminist. I don’t consider her a feminist at all, but the right adjective would be libertarian.

But one of the most powerful facets of #MeToo has been the beginning of a full-fledged dismantling of those exact power structures—be they work, institutions, legacy companies, prominent and highly-esteemed figures, and the biggest manifestation of power of all: every single time one of us looked away to protect one of the aforementioned reputations.

Fark. That’s why we’re part of it. It’s not our fault that it took the enormity of Harvey Weinstein to get people to pay attention at last.

What this moment exposes very cleanly about liberal second-wave feminists—and their shortcomings on the reckoning— is that they are still preoccupied with maintaining an established social order that—for both better and worse—has been profoundly ruptured by this moment. Donegan’s account was radical; anonymity insured by solidarity, and risk reduced. But the response, especially those that labored over form, imperfect method, and chastized recklessness of the list, smacked of this kind of limited liberal feminism, indebted as it is to the preservation of institutions and empowerment through them.

The ignorance of her.

The people at Jezebel should be embarrassed.

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