Jessica Valenti Confirms Feminism Is Now Just About Whining

Jessica Valenti Confirms Feminism Is Now Just About Whining

Nasty online comments and street catcalls are rude, yes. But is it really necessary to spend limited time and public attention obsessing over them? Jessica Valenti thinks so.
Nicole Russell
By

Modern feminism encourages women to complain about men, the wage gap, and just about everything else as an attempt to somehow be taken seriously. In other words, modern feminism creates a complex relationship with men. Feminists love to hate men—and to hate when men respond with scorn.

Both are addressed in this essay, published Sunday in the New York Times, an excerpt from Jessica Valenti’s new memoir, “Sex Object,” which is out today. It reveals why the modern feminist movement has reached its peak and will soon plummet.

Valenti, The Guardian’s self-described feminist columnist, is so whiny she’s difficult to take seriously. It’s even more difficult to understand how an entire book on this topic is being published. In the excerpt, “What Does a Lifetime of Leers Do To Us?” the 37-year-old author says she has spent her whole “lifetime” being treated like a sex object and now, as a grown woman and a feminist, she wonders how women cope.

Valenti relates how she saw a play of “Little Red Riding Hood” as a child in which a man played the wolf, and afterward was long terrified with nightmares about wolves. Then she says, “What about all the other moments? The other scary men who aren’t fictional characters, but real-life terrors in girls’ and women’s lives? The looks that start when we’ve barely begun puberty, the harassment on the street and online, the violence we survive or are constantly on guard for: What does it do to us?” Yes, she’s talking about men looking at women, and other minor aggressions.

She describes men groping or flashing her on the subway in Queens, and it’s clear she hasn’t always had positive experiences with them. In a perhaps partially related development, she’s evolved into a major voice in the feminist movement, decrying inequality and scolding men for acting improperly. Her relationship with them, at least mentally now, is somewhat complex.

Why Aren’t You Catcalling Me, Because I Hate It

Remember Valenti’s 2014 piece originally titled “Men hardly catcall me anymore. I hate that our culture makes me miss it.” (It was later changed to “One perk of older age? Fewer catcalls.”) This is a microcosm of the confusion the feminist movement as a whole holds regarding men. They want men to respect them for their minds, but when they still act and dress like women—which naturally can attract men’s interest—view them with contempt while still begging for men to approve their ardent feminist beliefs (wherein they still hate men).

One of the great things about being a feminist is that you get to whine-brag about how dead sexy you are that men just can’t stop ogling you in the streets. Then blame men that it happens and culture that you miss it. Imagine if a man said, “Ugh, could women just stop treating me like an irresistible sex object because of my intellect or muscles for like, five minutes? It’s really annoying, you know?”

Valenti attempts to claim feminists are full of positivism while rejecting the notion she’s a victim — all while penning an entire column about her own victimhood. She further whines she is a victim of men who tell her she should kill herself, whilst ignoring she has built an entire career telling women (and men) that men are oppressive, terrible creatures who victimize, belittle, and disrespect women. So it’s okay for her to verbally flog and delegitimize men, but not for them to respond in kind, apparently.

The most flawed part of this excerpt and one of the most damaging tenets of the modern feminist movement is the belief that women in the United States are wronged by minor slights that every human being must endure. It’s almost as if, in order for their lives to have meaning at all, they must perceive themselves to be oppressed.

Valenti says, “When we talk about gendered trauma, we tend to point to moments of physical danger, harassment or assault. Those are critical to discuss, of course. But we can’t leave aside the snowball effect of all types of sexism over a lifetime.” She points out that even if a woman hasn’t been raped “there is still the unexamined cumulative impact of living with sexism. Walking on the street, tweeting, working — just living — while female shapes who we are and who we think we can be.”

Let’s Get Some Perspective Here

She at once declares herself to be a raging feminist, worrying and opining about the “scary” men in our lives we have yet to encounter, yet wants to know how she can combat not any kind of actual sexual assault, trauma, or violence, but innuendo, rudeness, and general boorish behavior most people learn to chalk up to immaturity or lewdness and move on with life.

Never mind that Valenti admits she’s never been a recipient of assault or in any actual physical danger. She has received hateful e-mails, harassing tweets, rude comments online, and mean glances and this boosts the case for sexism. “For me, it’s not one particular message or adolescent incident that bothers me; it’s the weight of years of multiple messages and multiple incidents. It’s the knowledge that this will never be just one day, just one message, just one hateful person. It’s a chipping away of my sense of safety and my sense of self.”

While certainly the existence of a greater evil doesn’t make the existence of another lesser evil disappear, there is something to be said for a wider perspective: To recognize the hurdles American women have overcome to reach a point of relative equality of opportunity and access. Yet we should also realize that children are subject to mean teachers; men are subject to demeaning bosses; women are subject to catcalls—this is part of the human experience and neither means people are victims or that there’s an epidemic of victimization rampant in America. It means people can be dark and evil and make poor choices. It doesn’t excuse offensive cat-calling or the sexual objectification of women, but neither does it make calling it out an act of heroism, or Valenti the heroine of her own drama.

I don’t know what Valenti will do with her “lifetime of leers,” but I know there are scores of women living in the Middle East who would love to have a chance to walk the streets of New York instead. There are countless reported stories of women enduring rape, genital mutilation, being sold into sex slavery, and death. It’s recently reported an Egyptian woman died after illegal genital mutilation surgery and ISIS just burned 19 women alive for refusing sex. Does that make online threats of death or crude comments to women okay? Of course not. But does provide some much-needed perspective into issues with which other women around the world are dealing.

Why Do You See Value In Being a Victim?

In this excerpt, Valenti is really at her best here, which is to say at her worst: With anecdotes so inconsequential yet with a thesis so full of her own virtue she cannot see the irony in claiming victim status over words on the Internet while an entire Eastern culture of women fights to vote, drive cars, and survive sexual assault, genital mutilation, and stoning. She has so steeped herself in the lies of feminism rooted in blaming men as a whole for the actions of a few rude dudes that she cannot see how her own movement might contribute to the fact that men don’t treat her well after she’s called them pigs.

In the end she proves only to contradict herself and her own movement, which supposedly has fought for the right to be equal on grounds of merit, not sex appeal. Instead of owning the reality that this has occurred — the feminist movement long ago reached that goal — she whines and complains that men don’t treat her like the princess she claims she never wanted to be treated like.

Because of how avidly feminists have embraced these and other similarly flawed, illogical, and even hypocritical arguments, the movement is reaching its peak. If this is the public face of feminism, less self-absorbed women (which is to say most of them) will want little part in it.  Feminism’s failures today concern the one thing feminists said they wanted to do in the first place: ensure women are recognized, appreciated, and valued equally for their minds, hearts, and passion.

Nicole Russell is a senior contributor to The Federalist. She lives in northern Virginia with her four kids. Follow her on Twitter @russell_nm.

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