Many in the media are celebrating 2017 as the Year of Women, or to be more precise, the Year of Women’s Anger, a backlash to 2016, also dubbed a year of anger—mainly that of populist, deplorable white men.
“Anger seeks an object,” writer Sam Leith said in 2016. “It’s very Newtonian. There’s action and reaction, a divisive process which continues to accelerate division.” The only way to reset culture and stop this cycle, he says, is “some sort of slow-motion catastrophe.”
We didn’t get that reset in 2017. We got more reaction, more anger, a backlash to the backlash, women pushing back against men, anger escalating into rage. While 2016 was seen as a great defeat to feminism—the “year the feminist bubble burst,” as Michelle Goldberg of Slate put it—2017 was the year liberal women blew a bigger, darker bubble.
They came out in force with the Women’s March, protesting the election of Donald Trump and women’s so-called inequalities. Donning p-ssy hats, they took to the streets of America and across the globe to stand up for taxpayer-sponsored birth control, untaxed tampons, and the golden idol of feminism: abortion. They threw in pay equality for good measure, even though women already have it. What women really have is a wage gap, and that’s the result of their own free choices, not the oppression of the “patriarchy.”
During the Women’s March, feminists said it was not an event, it was a movement, a movement of change. Feminism would regain its credibility and legitimacy. It would wrest moral authority from the “p-ssy-grabbing” scoundrels who stole it and gain dominance once more in American culture. They yelled, screamed, and cried to reclaim their control of a wayward culture.
But it didn’t work. In the weeks following the Women’s March, all the tears of celebrities flooding social media and hysterical warnings of Trump rolling back abortion rights dried up and fizzled into a mere whine.
Then Harvey Weinstein’s Dirty Laundry Was Finally Aired
Then came Harvey Weinstein. His brutal attacks on women in the entertainment industry breathed new life into the feminist cause, and the #MeToo movement was born. Feminists finally had something with real potency to rally around—a clear, tangible oppression to place women alongside blacks with their history of slavery. Feminists always compared their plight to that of blacks, but accusations and labels of sexism never had the same power as those of racism.
While American women had suffered inequalities in the past, they were never brutally enslaved like black people. The horrors of literal chains never attached themselves to the feminist movement, because they simply didn’t exist, not in America. So the guilt of sexism never weighed as heavily on the hearts of Americans as that of slavery. As a result, women could never claim the kind of oppression blacks could, and their perpetual call for victimhood fell flat.
For women to be a marginalized group, to be empowered by delegitimizing men and “the patriarchy,” to gain the kind of moral authority needed to wield power over men, they have to be truly oppressed. They have to be victims. But they haven’t been.
Concerns about pay inequality and “reproductive rights” just don’t have the oomph needed to really propel women to supreme power—the ultimate goal of modern feminism. Even women in their own ranks scoff at the contrived nature of feminist fear.
When men look out and see more women graduating from college than men, women having more rights in family courts, more men dying in jobs than women, women gaining ground in every field from politics to entrepreneurialism, they don’t feel intimidated by a woman’s claim of victimhood. They feel no guilt that moves them to give up their rights for special privileges for women.
This is why the feminist movement has fallen short. Women have failed to mobilize in a monolithic victimized group, as the black community has done so effectively. Men don’t have the guilt whites typically have with blacks, so the feminist movement has struggled with an inherent weakness. This is why the Women’s March didn’t reignite the fire that cooled in 2016. It lacked oppressive heat.
Sex, the New Slavery
That changed with the #MeToo movement. Sexual abuse of all women became the rally cry. A woman’s vulnerability at the hands of a man became a source of strength, as, ironically, a woman’s sexuality often is. The transgressions and criminalities of individual men became representative of all men, and all women became victims of the horrors of rape and abuse. Women became the new black, and sexual abuse became the new slavery.
Pressure on women to stick together, to stand by their sisters against the patriarchy, increased. If they didn’t, they were deemed traitors—Aunt Tomistas who have betrayed the holy cause.The anger this has generated among women would make Margaret Atwood proud. Now we have women reveling in rage as they light their own fires at the stakes of judgment and threaten to drag any man suspect of abuse into the flames.
“Yes, this is a witch hunt,” wrote Lindy West, author of “Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman.” “The witches are coming, but not for your life. We’re coming for your legacy. The cost of being Harvey Weinstein is not getting to be Harvey Weinstein anymore. We don’t have the justice system on our side; we don’t have institutional power; we don’t have millions of dollars or the presidency; but we have our stories, and we’re going to keep telling them.”
Constance Grady writes at Vox:
The witch fantasy is about identifying both with women who were unjustly persecuted — the historical women who were killed in the Salem witch trials — and with women who are immensely powerful, like the witches of fairy tales. The witch fantasy allows women to half-jokingly lay claim to all of that anger, all of that pain, and all of that power at once. It says, ‘You have hurt us, and that makes us powerful.’ It says, ‘The thing that made you persecute us is the thing that’s going to make us stronger.’ It says, “You should be afraid of us.’
The #MeToo movement is a “reckoning,” she writes, justifying angry women “who are burning sh-t down.”
Even Getting Rid Of Weinsteins Isn’t Enough
Trump was seen as a reckoning for feminists as populists sought to burn things down. We’ve heard from many sources that this was an unwise approach in the culture war—but a war it is, and it will continue because we are driven by passion, not reason.
This is why Susan Faludi’s attempt to rein in the feminist rampage will be ineffective. In her column at The New York Times, she chides fellow feminists who think 2017 is the end of patriarchy because the “patriarchs are falling.” While individual men are certainly being brought low, she says, this doesn’t mean institutional sexism is being toppled. Women still have inequality, and the anger of women over sexual abuse will mean nothing if they don’t address these underlying problems.
Surely the results of the #MeToo phenomenon are worthy. It’s a seriously good thing Harvey Weinstein is gone and that the potential Harvey Weinsteins will think twice or thrice or a thousand times before harassing women whose fortunes they control. But ‘the end of patriarchy’? Look around.
Last week, President Trump signed into law a tax bill that throws a bomb at women. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act systematically guts benefits that support women who need support the most..Not to mention that Republican congressmen plan to pay down the enormous federal deficit the bill will incur by slashing entitlements that, again, are critical to women: Medicaid (covering nearly half the births in the nation and 75 percent of family planning), Medicare (more than half of beneficiaries 65 and older — and two-thirds of those 85 and older — are women) and so on.
And that’s on top of all the other Trump administration insults: reviving the global gag rule on abortion, suspending tracking of the gender wage gap, deep-sixing the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order and much more.
This leads Faludi to wonder: even if we get rid of all the Weinsteins, are feminists really winning if these “inequalities” remain? She then explains that there are two parts to the women’s movement. One is anger at individual men and the other is addressing institutionalized sexism against women. The two must go hand-in-hand to win.
Because This Anger Is Fake, It Won’t Go Anywhere
Faludi’s warning will fizzle just as the Women’s March did, because it is out of step with the culture and how things work in it today. Feminists have abandoned reason for pathos; they fight for moral authority, not actual rights.
Additionally, the “inequalities” she lists aren’t inequalities at all. They’re the same old list of faux fears feminists have had for years. It makes me yawn just reading them. They’re ineffective to bring about “change” because the “change” feminists want has already occurred. They have their rights, their birth control, their abortion, yadda yadda yadda.
What they haven’t had is actual oppression and cruelty. This perpetual wound, this ongoing perceived wrong, is the driving force for power, and now they have it. Feminists want power, not equality, and it has been beyond their reach because they haven’t had this one essential ingredient to legitimize women’s victimhood and beat men into submission with male guilt. They’ve tried. They’ve had moments of victory, but nothing like they want, nothing like they dream.
This is why anger over sexual abuse at the hands of brutal, toxic masculinity will not only continue, it will increase and become even more irrational. It won’t highlight underlying causes and inequalities, because these don’t really matter in the quest for power and moral authority. Women as victims of brutal sexual assault by all men—or at least the threat of it—is the key to victory.
This anger, this Atwoodian oppression that all women suffer will create more divisions and fuel more hostilities in our society. Individual guilt and individual rights will be lost in the march toward feminist dominance in all areas of society because men will be silenced, not by the weak label of sexist, but by the devastating stigma of sexual abuser.
This will be the future of feminism and our society. At least until another backlash, another wave of violence and anger rises, and the cycle continues—until that “catastrophe” Leith spoke of, that great horror that makes all of us mutual victims against a common oppressor, ends it.