The confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh has spurred a fresh round of conspiracy-mongering about the oppressive American patriarchy. That’s to be expected.
Perhaps the most frustrating feature of contemporary feminism is its persistent negativity. Everything is cast as proof women face significant, inescapable daily oppression in this country. Bafflingly, the freedoms we enjoy were actually hard-earned by earlier iterations of the women’s movement. In other words, they can’t bring themselves to celebrate their own successes.
Me Too, by contrast, was initially focused on exposing a problem that was more pervasive than people understood. But that was back when it was divorced from the partisan feminist movement, which regularly blows problems out of proportion as a political strategy.
Now, the confluence of Kavanaugh’s confirmation and the one-year anniversary of Me Too is inspiring a markedly, if expectedly, intense wave of negativity about women’s stature in America. To be clear, there’s good reason to be concerned about sexual harassment in the workplace, and powerful men abusing their power to abuse women. But there’s also good reason to be joyful about the incredible privilege of being a woman in this country, especially with the perspective of history, and the oppression women still face in other parts of the world.
Of course, every cause built on the mission of advancing a community will necessarily dwell where there’s room for improvement. But the feminist movement’s overwhelming negativity lacks perspective, and risks infecting younger generations with the same dark outlook, persuading them their lives are far worse than they truly are.
A song that went ultra-viral on Twitter in light of the Kavanaugh controversy illustrates this well. The lyrics were clearly written in response to President Trump’s assertion that it’s “a scary time for young men.”
“I can’t walk to my car late at night while on the phone, I can’t open up my windows when I’m home alone, I can’t go to the bar without a chaperone, I can’t wear a miniskirt if it’s the only one I own. I can’t use public transportation after 7:00 p.m., I can’t be brutally honest when you slide into my DMs, I can’t go to the club just to dance with my friends, and I can’t ever leave my drink unattended,” the singer laments.
This is the self-fulfilling prophecy of contemporary feminism. Women can safely do almost everything the song claims they can’t, with rare (albeit still unacceptable) exceptions. And these sentiments only make us take for granted the freedoms we have, like wearing miniskirts or going to clubs or taking issue with dudes who say creepy things on social media.
Those are freedoms the women’s movement fought for and won. It may not be wise to leave drinks unattended or walk to your car late at night on the phone (for men or for women). But when feminists project the message that women are unsafe to clap back at social media creeps or wear miniskirts, they help make that perception reality.
There’s a line in the song that actually goes, “I can’t be taken seriously if I’m holding back tears, I can’t ever speak earnestly about these fears.”
It’s a sad irony. Even in penning a song entirely devoted to “speaking earnestly” about those fears, the singer does not feel like society permits her candor. To the contrary, less than two days after the video was uploaded, it got tens of thousands of retweets, and was boosted by celebrities like Mark Ruffalo, Alyssa Milano, and Patricia Arquette.
Not only can you speak earnestly about sexism in America, it’s often incentivized and rewarded. That hasn’t been true for women in many other moments in history, and isn’t currently true for many women around the world who don’t enjoy the freedom of speech we have in this country.
Christina Hoff Sommers often uses a line that has stuck with me: “American women, especially college-educated women, are the freest and most self-determining in human history.”
“By any reasonable measure, American women are among the safest, freest, healthiest, best educated, and opportunity-rich women in the world,” Sommers said in August. Contemporary feminism’s fatal flaw is a dogged refusal to acknowledge that.
There’s nothing wrong with focusing energy on correcting lingering elements of sexism in society. But let’s not allow ourselves to persuade girls out of enjoying the incredible freedoms earlier generations secured for women through so much sacrifice in this country. Only by recognizing our many freedoms will we enable ourselves to close those remaining gaps.