Stephanie West Allen sent a video my way, responding to an op-ed at WaPo about how feminist writers are considering retirement rather than suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Michelle Goldberg writes:
This is a strange, contradictory moment for feminism. On one hand, there’s never been so much demand for feminist voices…
On the other hand, while digital media has amplified feminist voices, it has also extracted a steep psychic price. Women, urged to tell their stories, are being ferociously punished when they do…
By “ferociously punished,” Goldberg means two things. First, that they receive crude, violent or flagrantly offensive responses, devoid of substance and vicious in their threats or rhetoric. Second, they endure criticism of their positions, arguments and “facts.”
Some — particularly women who have the audacity to criticize sexism in the video-game world — have been driven from their homes or forced to cancel public appearances. Fake ads soliciting rough sex have been placed in their names. And, of course, the Twitter harassment never stops. “Being insulted and threatened online is part of my job,” Lindy West, formerly of Jezebel, recently said on “This American Life.” Adds Jamia Wilson, executive director of the feminist advocacy group Women, Action and the Media, “It really can affect the way that people feel about themselves.”
While “the way that people feel about themselves” is peculiarly irrelevant, the appeal to emotion has become a mainstay of this concern. That it plays into every prejudice about women being overly emotional doesn’t disturb those who proffer it, as they play mainly to their choir who shares their over-emotionalism.
So stories today about Internet abuse inevitably elicit cliches about heat and kitchens — demands that women toughen up and grow thicker skin. Punditry and activism, after all, are relatively cushy gigs. Reading “nasty virtual tweets” is far better than being “an undocumented immigrant trying to feed your family in America, or somebody who is wrongfully incarcerated, or any of the issues I used to work on,” acknowledges Sally Kohn, a Daily Beast columnist who was previously the only left-wing lesbian feminist contributor at Fox News, making her an especial target for trolls.
Perhaps it is cliché, but that doesn’t make it untrue. But the claim suffers from being absurdly disingenuous, that anyone promoting feminist ideology is on the side of truth and justice, and anyone disputing it is a troll. That their nastiness, threats and hostility is warranted, and everyone else’s is evil. That they are entitled to speak. You are . . . not.
And so, the video from Steph responds, at some length, to the self-serving pronouncement of victimhood offered by Goldberg.
Hooray? No, not really. This video struck me as sadly ungracious and needlessly antagonistic. This epiphany, then, made me wonder how many of my posts that are critical of cries for new criminal laws, critical of over-emotionalism as the dividing line when rights clash with feelings, are similarly ungracious.
The fact is that as much as I think that progressive ideology has turned flagrantly illiberal, has dangerously rejected fundamental rights in favor of transitory feelings and, at its core, elevates emotion over principles that would lead to societal disaster, the level of discourse has gone needlessly and disgustingly sour.
Sure, there are plenty of threats and vulgar language to go around. I get it here all the time, and shrug it off. But that’s me. What purpose is served by overt sexual and violent threats? Is it for the lulz, or some warped catharsis? It changes no minds, while feeding into the complaints of feminists that men are animals. Why give them the ammo?
When one presumes to offer one’s opinion in a public forum, criticism and disagreement come with the territory. Sometimes, it comes in a manner that’s thoughtful. Most time it’s just idiotic crap offered by drooling morons. Big fucking deal. Here, I can deal with it according to my rules. When people post their disagreement elsewhere, it’s up to the vicissitudes of the internet gods.
That’s the territory. If so moved, maybe I’ll deal with it. Since you wouldn’t know its frequency, you wouldn’t be aware that I let 99% of it go. It comes with the territory. And that’s true of the poor feminist martyrs as well.
Their self-characterization of themselves as righteous victims and those who disagree as vicious misogynists brings much of this on them. They won’t debate. They won’t discuss. They can be every bit as nasty and vicious as their antagonists, but they excuse themselves because they’re right and their opponents are wrong and evil. We get that. Denying it doesn’t change the obvious.
I concede that I have not been accommodating of their feelings. Frankly, I couldn’t care less that anything less than adoration makes them feel badly about themselves. Heat and kitchens, ladies, cliché or not. Nobody promised you the ability to spew your dogma. As the video says, sometimes you’re called an idiot because the things you say are idiotic. Either tough it out or stop being an idiot.
But then, watching the video, reading some of the more malignant twits, and I start to ponder that somebody has to be better than the worst, nastiest, most vicious voice around. If the views opposing neo-feminists and their self-infantilizing demands are correct, then why can’t I be more gracious about it, more accommodating of their feelings, with the implicit understanding that the arguments will prevail because they are valid?
And then I realized the problem. The emotional appeal of victimhood, of logical fallacies and abusive anecdotes, seems to carry inordinate sway with people because reason and logic have fallen out of favor in this Age of Emotionalism. Or is that just the way it looks from here?
I have no plans to stop presenting argument to address the cries for laws criminalizing conduct on the basis of post hoc hurt feelings, violations of constitutional rights or collateral damage to the innocent. These are important problems that should not be ignored in the sea of feminist tears. But I would like to be more gracious about it.
Whether I can pull this off has yet to be seen, particularly since I tend to be direct, if not terse, in my criticism. That type of speech tends to hurt feelings, whether that’s my intention or not. And if I fail to live up to this aspiration, no doubt some of you will fry me for it. That’s fair, as it comes with the territory.