America

Revenge of the Feminists


- June 15th, 2018

So it’s come to this. “Why can’t we hate men?” asks Suzanna Danuta Walters, a professor of sociology and director of the awkwardly named Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Northwestern University. Her question isn’t especially novel—radical feminists have been asking and answering in the affirmative for decades now. What makes Walters’ query worthy of attention is her choice of venue: the op-ed page of the Washington Post. Misandry is mainstream.

Walters predictably answers as so many of her sisters have before her. According to her argument, men are guilty simply for being men. Because of this, women don’t need a #MeToo movement to tell them to hate men, although the focus on characters like Harvey Weinstein does help to encourage what we should already feel by personifying it.

Pointing out various real world examples of patriarchal domination is important to Walters’ cause, and some instances she mentions are legitimate. In many countries all over the world, women are treated horribly, not even like second-class citizens, more like slaves. But like so many feminists in the United States, Walters takes examples of extreme and real oppression of women from around the world and imagines they have application in America. According to this thinking, it’s completely logical to hate men because, as Walters writes, we are surrounded by “legislatively legitimated toxic masculinity.” She means the whole structure of American society is built upon male domination and superiority. She lets us know that she is all for destroying it.

What America needs, Walters explains, is more “feminist anger.” She doesn’t trust men or their intentions. At this point, if any man claims to be supportive of women who were abused or harassed, she insists he is doing so out of a phony pretense of care. Not even the men who attain the supposed enlightened state of being that leads them to recognize their own “toxic masculinity” and even call themselves feminists are good enough for Walters. No number of words or prostrations will change the way things are.

This is where Walters’ rambling thoughts reach such a level of absurdity that I wondered whether the entire article was an elaborate joke. Walters writes:

So men, if you really are #WithUs and would like us to not hate you for all the millennia of woe you have produced and benefited from, start with this: Lean out so we can actually just stand up without being beaten down. Pledge to vote for feminist women only. Don’t run for office. Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from the power. We got this. And please know that your crocodile tears won’t be wiped away by us anymore. We have every right to hate you. You have done us wrong. #BecausePatriarchy. It is long past time to play hard for Team Feminism. And win.

So in order for men truly to be supportive of women, they need to disappear. They need to step aside and not be involved in any aspect of society. That is the gist of Walters’ argument.

The obvious problem is that Walters is arguing for a complete re-creation of society. It’s unclear whether she wants her new world order to be matriarchal or feminist. It’s also not really clear whether there is a difference between the two terms, because she doesn’t make that distinction. We shouldn’t be surprised at the emptiness of Walters’ so-called arguments because her intent here is to do little more than shock and provoke, and the best way for her to do this is to repeat short declarative slogans peppered with some hashtag intellectualism.

Walters is only interested in gaining power for her team, whatever that is. But who will have it at the end of Walters’ revolution? What is this Sapphic utopia of which she speaks?

Ultimately, Walters’ perfect world is composed of feminist women and fueled by hatred. Her fantastical place leaves most of the population out of the participation in the public square. Certainly, men won’t have any power to make decisions—perhaps the intent is to slap aprons on them and put them in the kitchen. But women who don’t consider themselves feminists, and even those who just dare to love men, will also be pushed aside. Walters’ intolerance is astounding. Whether or not she realizes it, her proposal would result in the creation of an oligarchy. There are no citizens in this Amazonian island but only voiceless subjects who are expected to bow before her brand of feminism.

Beside the implied political consequences of this dystopia, there is another problem that emerges in Walters’ article. Even if her anger may be justified on the basis of some of her examples, her words are those of a petulant child having a temper tantrum. Anger can be used as a force and outlet for many creative actions. In the case of sexual abuse or rape, it can help many women emerge from the darkness of pain into a place where they find their own voices and understand that they are not to blame for their situation. But if that anger takes a path that leads toward a more generalized hatred, the woman will have a slim chance of actually recovering from the trauma. Hate breeds more hate and it will drastically change the character of women—or men—who indulge in it.

Walters wants revenge, not justice. Justice, for any crime, should be meted out and one hopes in securing justice, the victims will have some peace in seeing their tormentor rightly punished. But even in justice, there is no erasing the imprint a sexual abuser or a rapist leaves or the trail of sadness that comes in its wake. For all the talk of women, Walters is completely uninterested in the actual pain of women who have survived rape or abuse. Men like Harvey Weinstein who clearly have objectified women in such a vile way will not be touched by Walters’ vile nonsense. She is not doing women any favors by writing it. Indeed, she is treating women as political constructs that are to be used to her benefit and for the promotion of a particular feminist ideology that she imagines will empower her. No woman should get behind a cause that denies her individuality, or one that denies the same to men.

Photo credit:  Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

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