How many times have you heard the line that feminism is simply “the radical notion that women are people”? And when was the last time you thought that sentiment even remotely expressed whatever the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is going on in feminism these days?
In the last week alone, we saw the social media outrage machine (with assists from friendly journalists, of course) force Time to apologize for including “feminist” in a cheeky poll of which words should be “banned” from overuse or misuse. (It had won the poll by a wide margin before the thought police cracked down and forced its removal.) Bloggers and writers at The Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the New York Review of Books all called on Time to renounce the inclusion of “feminist” in the poll.
We witnessed a mob of online feminists harass a male scientist to the point of tears because of his sartorial choices. Dr. Matt Taylor helped land a spaceship on a comet hurtling through space at the clip of 135,000 kilometers an hour, the first time humans had come even close to accomplishing such a tremendous feat. He is a great man who has accomplished great things for all of humanity. But when he discussed his team’s accomplishments on television, you see, he was wearing a shirt made by a female friend out of fabric depicting cartoons of scantily clad women. Quelle horreur!
The outrage couldn’t have been more over-the-top. “I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing,” read a real headline that humans with no sense of reality actually wrote and published. Shrill outrage site Jezebel claimed that Atlantic reporter Rose Eveleth, who started the “#shirtstorm,” had been subject to death threats. Their headline “Woman Gets Death Threats for Tweeting About Disliking A Dude’s Shirt” led to a story of a few people being mean to her and saying stuff like “jump off a cliff.” As one Jezebel commenter noted, “they’re death threats in the same way that saying ‘go f— yourself’ is a rape threat.” Trigger warning: A review of Eveleth’s outrage-tweets over a shirt someone wore might make you embarrassed to be human.
When University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds simply wrote an op-ed for USA Today criticizing the feminist bullying, he was accused by feminists of egregious behavior, including “doxxing” — the practice of revealing a person’s private information for the purpose of intimidation. When people pointed out that there was literally not one shred of evidence to support the claim that Reynolds had done any such thing, claims were revised to (falsely) say he’d encouraged “his flying monkeys” to misbehave. Feminists tried to suggest that Reynolds’ employer should be upset about what he wrote.
And when Nancy Pelosi was asked by Nancy Cordes of CBS News if she’d given any thought to stepping down on account of how she’d just overseen yet another drubbing of Democrats in the House, she accused the assembled press corps of misogyny, claiming they’d never asked male leaders such questions. Even the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank — I repeat, even Dana Milbank — couldn’t take the idiocy, since of course male leaders are asked such questions all the time.
That’s it. Enough already. Enough. Enough. Enough. Whether we want to or not, we have to deal with our feminist bullying problem.
It’s time to stand up to the bullying
A relatively small percentage of the population identifies as feminist — only about 20 percent of Americans, according to this 2013 poll. And whatever you think of feminism, its bullies are an even smaller subset of that group. Feminists — and feminist bullies — can seem more populous than they are for two important reasons. One is that much of our media lacks diversity of thought. Many reflexively identify as feminist and promote feminism, unaware, perhaps, of how outside the mainstream much feminist discourse has become.
Another reason is that social media amplifies outrage machines, which are easily manipulated by feminist bullies demanding some kind of action.
Social media outrage mobs by definition do not reflect general views. The vast majority of people don’t want our best and brightest scientists put through “like something from the show trials of Stalin,” as London mayor Boris Johnson said of this past week’s shameful incidents. Most of us responded normally to the spaceship landing on a comet. We freaked out with excitement. We would never in a million years think something like this:
Thanks for ruining the cool comet landing for me asshole.
Rose Eveleth (@roseveleth) November 12, 2014
But if we don’t want the social media mobs to dominate, we simply must stand up and be counted. Johnson wrote that “For all those who monstered him and convicted him in the kangaroo court of the web – they should be ashamed.” They should. They should be absolutely ashamed. And people who don’t want a world where feminist outrage mobs make our best scientists weep on national television to show their guilt for wearing the wrong clothes, well we need to speak up. Next time we see people behaving like bullies, we should call it out.
There are many ways to respond to a bully but one important way is to defend those they pick on. I myself thought the shirt Taylor wore was inappropriate for the workplace. But any mild judgment I might have made was completely obliterated by the insanity of those making his accomplishments all about their supposed victimization. Enough.
OK, this is an important one. I know when bullies are picking on you, you might want to just get them to go away. You might think that cowering to their demands and offering a weepy testament of their superiority is a good way to go about this. You give them your lunch, they go away. You know the drill. And it may well be a good idea in the short-term. But if you care about how such acquiescing enables further bullying, you can’t do it. Time’s managing editor and Dr. Taylor made a mistake by apologizing. So has everyone else who has ever been forced to apologize for things that were either no big deal or not in any way wrong.
What both should have done was tell people to grow up and gain some perspective. To stop obsessively whining about imagined slights and to cease being in a constant state of offense.
Apologizing for offense used to be a great idea when people didn’t get offended by every single thing happening on the planet. I mean, it’s still a good idea to be considerate and apologize if you offend someone. But lest we institute government-mandated apology breaks every 15 minutes, we simply must require some semblance of sanity and relationship on the part of the person claiming to be aggrieved. Matt Taylor did not owe journalists who stole his legit thunder an apology. These forced apology tours also demean the value of an apology, which hurts civil society and human relationships.
Standing up to feminist bullies helps women
Some of the people most worried about feminist bullies are women. That’s because we suffer from the image they project of women being perpetual victims. And not just perpetual victims but frail little things unable to handle cartoon images of scantily clad women. In my list of things in life that have been tough, I’d rank roughly everything before “seeing a really cool guy wearing a shirt.”
Feminist bullies are so invested in the false idea that women are oppressed that they’re giving all women a bad reputation. Women, contrary to the image perpetuated by feminist bullies, are not weak. We are strong. We can handle all sorts of things and do so every day. We live full lives with complex and meaningful relationships and we have many professional and personal accomplishments. Women and girls are able to navigate life quite well, thank you very much, and it’s actually easier when women aren’t constantly talking about how supposedly oppressed we are. We’re not. I mean, sure, everyone in life has troubles. None of those troubles, for the vast majority of women, include “seeing a dude wear a shirt while discussing how he just landed a spaceship on a literal freaking comet.”
The yahoos at Verge (did I mention it’s a Vox site?) said, “This is the sort of casual misogyny that stops women from entering certain scientific fields. They see a guy like that on TV and they don’t feel welcome.” That’s a lie. I mean, many women actually are less interested in STEM careers than many men for perfectly valid reasons. They don’t avoid them because of a guy wearing a shirt. Girls and young women passionate about space science didn’t notice his shirt. Or, if they did, they didn’t care. Particularly relative to the excitement of the scientific accomplishments Dr. Taylor and his team — which includes women scientists, of course — achieved.
Bullies are bad for everyone, actually
It’s not just women who are hurt by feminist bullies. Everyone is. That’s because human relationships are harmed in the toxic outrage culture. The very perpetuation of humanity relies on men and women getting along well. People who stoke resentment and anger between the sexes, or create false claims about women’s oppression, are making it more difficult for happy, healthy, human relationships to flourish.
And just the waste of time we’ve all had to expend on this is also bad for society. No offense (or be offended, I don’t care) but people with gender studies degrees don’t land spacecraft on flying comets. They frequently detract from same with endless pointless conversations about imagined grievances.
We need to say no to double standards
Last week we saw Kim Kardashian slather her body with oil and put everything on display. Much joviality ensued. I mean, if anyone suggested that she wore something inappropriate to work, I missed it.
But we live in a culture where third-wave feminists engage in “slut walks” to send the message that nobody should be judged by what they wear. And yet if you make cartoons of the very same things these women wear on slut walks and put them on a shirt, that’s “ruining the comet landing”? That doesn’t even make sense.
I suppose there are people who can say “Matt Taylor was asking for harassment because of what he wore,” but those people sure as heck aren’t feminists, who claim that such views are sexist. And feminist extremists are the same ones pushing all sorts of gender identity and trans activism, arguing that men wearing women’s clothes to work is no big deal. If that’s no big deal, how much less of a big deal is a shirt with representations of women on it?
It honestly may have always been this way, but there’s no disputing that right now American feminism is a tangled mess of double standards, Puritanical policing of men’s behavior, fascist speech codes, and petty grievances. It’s in a state of constant outrage.
In a Q&A with the Wall Street Journal last week — before #ShirtStorm broke — Taylor was asked if his sleeves of tattoos had hurt his success. He said, “The people I work with don’t judge me by my looks but the work that I have done and can do. Simple.” Taylor is lucky he works with scientists who judge him by his work and not his appearance. Let’s all aspire to such behavior and finally help feminist bullies learn to do the same.
There are many reasons why the vast majority of Americans do not identify as feminist. Feminism has its own problems. But the one thing most of us should be able to agree on is that feminist bullies are damaging civil society. We must stand up to them if we don’t want them to harm it any further. We shouldn’t be bossed around by people who constantly whine, manufacture outrage and offense, and cull the internet for things to be upset about.