Friday, July 19, 2013

Hooking Up and the Feminist Dystopia

As I and many others have duly noted, Kate Taylor’s article about the hookup culture at Penn is old news. Yet, it has still provoked cries of anguish from the fever swamps of feminist thought.

Surely, it shows the power of the New York Times. It’s one thing to say, as Katie Roiphe does, that young women have always dabbled in casual sex. It’s quite another, as Roiphe does not say, for the practice to become customary.

The fact that hooking up seems to have supplanted dating must count as a symptom of something. I suspect that feminists are upset because it suggests that their grand theories seem to have produced a dystopia.

For her part, Anna North has had enough. She has had it up to you know where. She is seriously tired of all of these newspaper and magazine stories about women.

I am tired of women’s stories.

Let me clarify: I am not tired of stories about women’s lives, stories that tell me something real about how a particular woman thinks or works or loves. But I am tired of “women’s stories,” stories that are supposed to be about a problem that afflicts “women.”

These stories, in mainstream American media, tend to fall into certain categories. There are the ones about when women should get married. There are the ones about how women balance work and their children, told with no discussion of these women’s race or class, and with a strange disregard for the possibility that said children might also have fathers. And then there are the ones about hookup culture.

Sorry to say it, but one does not feel her pain. For my part I am not tired of stories that reflect the state of the culture. I am tired of whiners like Anna North.

One suspects that North is concerned about the way liberated women will henceforth be seen by the culture. It is probably politically incorrect to say so, but she is worried about reputation.

Obviously, newspapers and magazines publish these articles because women want to read them. They want to read them because the articles speak to them. It’s part of the marketplace of ideas.

I suspect that North does not respect the free market. She is probably thinking that the media is creating problems where there need be none.

North is most upset at the fact that the stories seem to be suggesting that women’s lives are not as good as feminists would want them to be. Four decades of the feminism have produced as many if not more problems than they have solved.

The promised feminist utopia is looking more and more like a dystopia.

Anna North is upset with stories that show what feminism has done to women: clearly she is not happy about it. She believes that the stories are designed to provoke anxiety by presenting a negative picture of women’s lives:

This is the emotion of the women’s story. It does not move. It does not satiate. It does not provoke tears or laughter, or even good clean fear. Maybe it titillates, but ultimately, it is intended to worry. The women’s story sidles up to you at a party and asks in the honeyed voice of a false friend whether you or other women like you might be doing sex or love or motherhood (the top tasks of the woman) slightly wrong.

North might think that it’s all a bit of a bore, but, truth be told, the media has been aflame with articles about Kate Taylor’s story. To say that the story of the hookup culture does not move people, or as North suggests that it only moves people because it’s pornographic, is to miss the point entirely, and willfully.

After all, these young women are simply following the instructions that their feminist foremothers have been giving them. Slate’s own Hanna Rosin extolled the advantages of the hookup culture in a book on The End of Men. Tufts philosophy professor Nancy Bauer described young women who are living their liberation in exactly the way that some Penn women are. Sex-positive feminists like Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti, to say nothing of their many enablers, have been telling young women, from the beginning of contemporary feminism, that anything a man can do a woman can and should do, too.

When young women take these thoughts and use them to construct a feministically correct life, they look like they have sold their souls for career success. They give the impression that sexual liberation consists of occasional drunken hookup.s

It was not a pretty picture. It is not at all what feminists had in mind. They did not intend to produce a hookup culture. For that, they will continue to evade responsibility for what their ideas have produced. Yet, that is what is at stake in Taylor’s article and that is why so many feminists are so agitated about it.

That will be cold comfort to the young women who are dazed and confused about the new custom of hooking up, but intentions don’t matter here. If you best intentions produce a situation that you consider to be unacceptable, you are still responsible for the outcome.

Then there are the two Amandas, Hess and Marcotte. Together they are profoundly upset that Kate Taylor did not balance her article by adding the views of a few men.

Hess writes:

Taylor fails to quote any college men in her story, an omission typical to the hookup culture genre. But it takes two (or in the case of some campus dalliances, more!) to hook up

Marcotte follows up:

This is no more evident than in the way that women's trend stories deal with men, who are but shadows on the wall: the voice at the other end of a booty call in college, the husband who we're assured helps out on the weekends, the cardboard groom that must be inserted into a tuxedo at exactly the right moment in your life when you're old enough to know what you're doing but young enough to get the cardboard groom to want to marry you. No doubt these men are real people who matter to the women in the story, but on the page, they are hardly characters at all—the reader walks away feeling men have little to no real impact on what kind of choices women are facing and making. 

Apparently, both Amandas missed the first principle in the feminist credo: a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Admittedly, it’s a moronic analogy, but many women have taken it for truth. Inspired by it they have insisted on defining themselves as fiercely independent and autonomous, refusing to compromise with male desire or the male gaze. The last thing they would do is to take any man’s advice.

I am surprised that the two Amandas don’t know that in the new feminist dystopia men have no say over the choices a woman makes about her sexuality. She and only she owns her body. She and only she owns her sexuality. Choices about such intimate matters are entirely hers. It's called the right to privacy.

The rage for autonomy does contain a problem. If a perfectly independent and autonomous woman makes a choice that is hers and hers alone, then she and only she is responsible for the consequences.

When the Amandas cry out for a male voice, they are saying that they want someone to blame, they need someone to blame, they would love to have someone to blame. Where are the men when you need them. 

Regardless of whether they are feminists, many women at Penn were seriously unhappy to see their campus portrayed as a place where the hookup culture was alive and well. Even if, as Taylor pointed out, the majority of Penn women do not hook up, the article has damaged the reputations of all Penn women. Or, at least, those who belong to the privileged elite that is most involved in the hookup culture.

Reputation is not established by majority vote. Once hooking up becomes customary, young women’s reputations will suffer by belonging to a group that considers hooking up an acceptable substitute for dating and relationships.



Anonymous said...

Stuart your blog is full of lacanism without Lacan. It is very impressive to see the core but described in completely different language. And quite funny.. Good job :-)

Lastango said...

Insightful piece, Stuart! Indeed, feminist writers have every reason to want to move beyond the campus (by talking to women who are having real lives outside the college bubble), to move beyond narrow "women's stories" about lifestyle problems, and to broaden the discussion to include men (so they can beat them up, and draw them into discussions about male privilege).

That last point, about broadening the discussion, is an extension of the current feminist initiative to engage with men so that their gender identity can be deconstructed and reconstructed in ways useful to women (i.e. get them to want to stay home with the kids so her career can soar). The aspects of that campaign are many and devious. It includes the artifice of removing feminist-linked terminology from the discussion -- up to and including the word "feminism" -- in order to position the discussion as being somehow about men, and about men's own best interests. For instance, some feminists want to stop talking about "patriarchy" because it embodies polarizing blame that drives men away. Feminists will keep the concept, but change the lingo.

The campus is getting to be a real problem for feminists. Not only is it approaching 60% female (a situation professional feminists find thrilling, but women students don't), but it is also, relatedly, a hotbed of anti-male ideology and structures such as speech codes and conduct codes. Because feminists have been at the forefront of creating this environment, they are taking heat for the negative outcomes. As you say, that requires that the blame be shifted to men. And they've got to get the focus off the campus ASAP. It simply will not do to have the driving engine of gender feminist supremacy be so visible. They much prefer to be the gray power behind the scenes, especially since men have finally figured out that men are under attack. Feminists need subsidies from men to get what they want for themselves, so it's time to employ more subtle forms of anti-male warfare to lure them into the trap.

Dennis said...

Feminists, and women by extension, tend to "suck up all the air in the room." What I mean by this is that every thing becomes about them. No one out side of feminism and their gender has a right to any consideration on any issue. Case in point. Georgia State University feminists were all up in arms because there were few women in the Philosophy courses. That was some how sexists. When it was pointed out that 60 plus percent of the student body was female they returned to their studies classes to find away to justify and gain some advantage from this situation.
I find it interesting that Black women now have all this concern for Black males when they have been the beneficiary of affirmative action at the expense of Black males. The government, the military and businesses all got a "twofer" for hiring them instead of men. These feminists women of color cared not a whit for Black men.
A Black compatriot of mine sued a military service for discrimination because the Black woman who collected the resumes tossed those that belonged to males. Not only were veterans at a disadvantage in the civilian economy they were at a significant disadvantage from military services who should have known the most about them.
The same is true of feminists of all stripes. They took advantage of the fact that men had to do military service and fight wars to fill positions and then did everything possible to keep these men from getting jobs.
Ask yourself how many young males, no matter their race, have been marginalized in the education system run for and by women? Even to the point of drugging them or trying to make 6 year olds sexual deviants. It is instructive that young men do well on the tests administered by the state, but do poorly in the classroom. Why is this. Did males all of a sudden become difficult to teach of lose their ability to prosper in the education system.
I find is interesting for young women to complain there are not enough young men in college and they actually sat through K through 12 and had to see why was happening to their brothers and other male students.
When feminists and women have "sucked all the air out of the room" I find it difficult to believe their sincerity about caring about young black men not even considering men as a whole. If feminist cannot respect the men around them then how do they really respect themselves. All of this is part of the same problem we face in this country.