Thursday, November 16, 2017

Is Feminism the Solution or the Problem?

Nearly five decades of intense feminism and we get: Harvey Weinstein.

After nearly five decades of intense feminist consciousness raising about sexual harassment and we discover that, if anything, the problem has gotten worse.

Feminists happily revolutionized the culture. They threw out dating and courtship rituals. They rejected the role of housewife. They refused to play along with the sexual division of labor. They discarded feminine modesty and asserted their independence and autonomy.

Feminists declared that strong, empowered women did not need to be protected by men. They did not need to receive overt gestures that signified relative weakness. They threw out the rules and accepted only one kind of protection: a condom.

Women have learned to lean in against men, to fight against the patriarchy, to rebel against white male privilege. How did it happen that the war on men has not made things any better. Are relationships better? Have marriages improved? Do men and women get along any better now than they did in the past?

If you read through the anguished accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault, you will conclude that men and women are now in a state of semi-permanent conflict.

You’ve come a long way, baby!

In the absence of rules and customs for male/female interaction, men and women sometimes go bump in the night but their sex lives often resemble an alcohol fueled free-for-all. The notion of having sex with someone you know seems to have been discarded with the rest of patriarchal customs.

Naturally, feminists think that feminism will solve all of these problems. But, perhaps feminism is the problem, perhaps the feminist attacks on men are producing a hostile environment. 

The therapy culture thrills to the fact that so many women have now overcome their sense of shame and have come forth to denounce male sexual predators. But, haven’t we been fighting against shame for decades now. Don’t we all believe that we should just let it all hang out? What if the absence of a sense of shame has produced the problem, not solved it. Not to be excessively vulgar, but the men who are harassing and assaulting and exposing themselves to unwilling women have also overcome their sense of shame. Is anything more shameless than whipping it out in front of an unwilling woman? 

And besides, feminists want women to enlist in the feminist cause. They want every incident of apparent harassment and impropriety to be treated as a crime. They do not understand that women might have good reason not to come forth. They do not understand that the moral issue is ambiguous at least, because women also know that, in coming forth, they will be inviting people to imagine them in undignified postures. In some cases the sacrifice is worth making. In other cases women think long and hard before they want to engage in such a public display. The world would be a better place if we accepted that women are free to come forth or not.

Author Vanessa Grigoriadis offers her views of the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. Naturally, she believes that the problem can be solved by instituting a police state through Obama administration policies that allow colleges to deprive those accused of assault of due process of law. She does not understand that this level of unchecked empowerment will produce a hostile response.

Grigoriadis was unhappy when the Trump administration suspended the requirement:

But in September, pundits across the political spectrum approved when the Education Department rolled back some Obama-era rules that had broadened protections for college sexual assault victims, ostensibly because they robbed accused students of their right to due process in campus courts. Obama’s rules were already pro forma at some colleges before his 2011 federal guidance, so I believe the backlash isn’t truly about government policy, but discomfort about the change in how students approach the problem of sexual assault today.

Note the word “ostensibly.” Many law professors and lawyers rejected the policy because it did deprive the accused of the right to confront his accuser, the right to cross examine, the right to be judged by a jury of his peers in a court of law, the right to an attorney.

Of course, Grigoriadis cheers the women who have overcome their shame and have told their stories:

It reflects a much more positive trend: Like today’s actresses, college students are casting off the shame of victimhood to tell their stories.

Does anyone dare say that we live in a culture that reeks of shamelessness, of exhibitionist behaviors where women where enticing and alluring outfits, where they send pictures of their genitals to boys and men, where far too many women participate in hookups with random men and where we spend an inordinate amount of time discussing sexual matters.

She continues that women are becoming more comfortable asserting their bodily autonomy. She does not understand that being autonomous means being unprotected, thus more vulnerable. And yet, where has Grigoriadis been: the insistence that women have bodily autonomy has been accepted dogma for decades now:

Young women are becoming more comfortable with asserting their bodily autonomy. Their growing refusal to submit to nonconsensual encounters should count as progress. How this plays out on campus is different from the Weinstein effect in key ways, but the point is, students have been at the forefront of what it means to be more outspoken about misconduct. They also offer us a preview of where the country might be going next.

True progress would be: having sex with someone you know. True progress would be a return to dating and courtship. The better you know the person the less likely you are to miscommunicate.

Since America has been flooded with conversations about sex for decades now, one is surprised that Grigoriadis thinks that it’s a good thing to talk more about sex. In fact, flooding the culture with explicit descriptions of sexual harassment puts ideas in peoples’ minds. It’s not as though we have not tried. We recall the Anita Hill testimony about Clarence Thomas. We recall the endless discussion of Bill Clinton and the cigar and the semen stained dress. Did these tamp down the incidence of sexual harassment in the workplace? By all accounts the enhanced consciousness made things worse:

In the meantime, we should be reassured that there is very much a positive side to this cultural upheaval: Kids in college are starting to talk about sex in a more personal and open way than ever before, and not just as a matter of politics but as a matter of pleasure. They’ve learned, as one female student put it, that “sex is about me too. I’m supposed to be enjoying this. It’s not all about you.”


James said...

The "Obvious" is "Banal"? Well, someone has a sense of humor.

James said...

Wrong place, see above.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Are relationships better? Have marriages improved? Do men and women get along any better now than they did in the past?

The divorce rate has dropped at least, if you're looking for a counter-indicator of your fears.

If we're going to measure progress based on the end of all abuses of power, that perfectionism will always look like failure. Progress to me looks like men admitting their own bad behavior when called out, and it looks like we're getting closer.

But if the solution is to silence women, and keep them out of the public sphere, killing feminism definitely is the way to go.

Sam L. said...

It's certainly PART of the problem. How much, I know not.

n.n said...

The problem. While female chauvinism addressed real, perceived, and created male chauvinism, it has meant a progressive setback for male-female relationships, human rights (e.g. abortion rites that deny human lives), women's agency (e.g. placing conception before choice), and due process (implying presumption of innocence and equality before the law). With social progress, civilized society has taken one step forward and two steps backward.

That said, we should instead acknowledge that men and women are equal and complementary, and proceed to recognize and act upon a conservation of principles (e.g. individual dignity, intrinsic value, equality before the law), not succumb to the ideological pursuit of progress (i.e. monotonic change).