The misogyny of #MeToo
The rage against Katie Roiphe exposes feminism’s hatred of women.
If you want to see misogyny – real, visceral, woman-shaming misogyny, the kind that views women as incapable of thinking for themselves, or as possessors of such foul thoughts that they shouldn’t think for themselves – look no further than #MeToo. Forget those tragic internet threads inhabited by men whose fury with women is one part concern about feminism and nine parts because they’ve never had sex; look, instead, at the thoroughly mainstream, celebrity-endorsed #MeToo movement whose fear of men is easily matched – outdone now, in fact – by its seething contempt for women who think for themselves.
Consider what has happened to Katie Roiphe over the past 48 hours. Roiphe is one of America’s most interesting essayists and authors, having come to public prominence with her precocious 1994 book The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism and going on to write everything from cultural criticism to a book on famous writers’ dying hours. She is currently the target of a most extraordinary Twitterstorm – a furious, censorious rage not over something she has said, but over something people think she is going to say in a future issue of Harper’s. We’ve had precrime; this is precensorship, the violent-minded punishment of an author for what she might at some point utter.
The Twitterati heard whispers that Roiphe, in a March feature for Harper’s, will name the woman responsible for the Shitty Media Men list, a kind of informal blacklist of journalists and editors who allegedly behave badly towards women, and they went berserk. They said this would endanger the creator of the Shitty Media Men list.
Let’s leave to one side that it is entirely legitimate and in the public interest to reveal who created this frankly chilling list, to which anyone can anonymously add the name of a media man who they claim, or think, has engaged in sexual misconduct. For the supporters of a naming-and-shaming, rumour-riddled list of names of the like a Witchfinder General might have drawn up in the past to rage against someone who dared to name the creator of that list is of course hilarious, and speaks brilliantly to the double standards, deep sense of entitlement and ugly disregard for due process of #MeToo’s chief public shamers.
The more pertinent thing is that Roiphe has been so publicly shamed, and ideally silenced, by women who claim they want women’s voices to be heard. But not Roiphe’s voice, it seems; not that bitch; shut her down. The outpouring of hatred for Roiphe has been astonishing, even by the low standards of Twitter debate and 21st-century virtual intolerance. Guardian feminist Jessica Valenti swiftly did to Roiphe what she accuses men of doing to female journalists: tried to silence her. She described Roiphe’s rumoured piece as ‘profoundly shitty’ and ‘incredibly dangerous’ and tweeted out the Harper’s phone number so that people could harass the magazine into not publishing this witch’s work. Sady Doyle, a writer for Elle, branded Roiphe ‘pro-rape’, which really just means evil, witch-like. A writer for feminist mag Bustle wondered if ‘Katie Roiphe’ is a ‘pseudonym shared by a group of 65-year-old men’, because any woman who disagrees with us correct feminists must be a man really, right? Just as any black person who votes Republican or Conservative is a ‘coconut’.
Elsewhere Roiphe was branded an ‘Uncle Tom’ of gender, ‘trash’, a ‘bitch’ of course, a ‘demon’, and a ‘danger’ to good feminists who simply want to keep criminalising men without the benefit of such archaic things as due process or legal investigation. And all of this came from women, from women who pose as pro-women. Writer Nicole Cliff even encouraged writers to pull their pieces from Harper’s and offered to pay them to do so – an explicit attempt to heap editorial pressure on Harper’s to pull Roiphe’s piece / silence the evil witch. Five writers pulled pieces from Harper’s. Self-censorship to the end of censoring a woman who disagrees with mainstream feminists – what a degraded spectacle.
After all this, following all the kangaroo-trying of Roiphe, it was revealed that her piece won’t actually name the creator of the Shitty Media Men list! The rage against her, the entire witch-hunt, was built on a rumour, on fear, revealing the febrile, positively pre-modern nature of so many of today’s outbursts of fury against holders of outré opinions. Thank God it isn’t the 1500s – Roiphe would be dead already, before we discovered that she hadn’t actually uttered the sinful words the mob believed she had.
But even uglier than the fact-lite nature of the anti-Roiphe fanaticism has been its misogyny, its weirdly feminist-cum-anti-women outlook. Roiphe, you see – like any other woman who criticises the new victim feminism – suffers from ‘internalised misogyny’. This deeply patronising idea holds that women do not really know their own minds and are easy prey to the allegedly misogynistic culture that surrounds them. It is feared that their dainty brains will be made self-hating through too much exposure to ‘the culture’, just as Victorian men worried that Victorian women would faint or die upon reading an outrageous letter or hearing a labourer say ‘fuck’. The same was said of women who voted for Trump, whom one feminist columnist likened to ‘slaves fluffing the pillows of their master’s rocking chair’. That is one of the most misogynistic things I’ve read in the mainstream press in years.
Any woman who criticises #MeToo can expect to be metaphorically attached to the stake. This week the wonderful Catherine Deneuve and other French cultural figures slammed #MeToo for being anti-men and demeaning to women’s agency. Deneuve was raged against, with Asia Argento, the actress who started the accusations against Harvey Weinstein, saying she has clearly been ‘lobotomised’ by ‘interiorised misogyny’. Shorter: the old witch has been morally corrupted. Women like Ann Leslie and Anne Robinson have also been demonised, by other women, for raising criticisms. This week the B-movie actress Blanca Blanco got in trouble for daring to wear a red dress to the all-black fashion and virtue-signalling shitshow that was the Golden Globes. How dare women wear what they want? Or express their opinions? Seriously, can these feminists who are raging against ‘bad women’, outspoken women, difficult women, hear themselves?
We are now starting to see that #MeToo is not a pro-woman movement at all. It is a highly politicised campaign driven by, and benefiting, well-connected women in culture and the media, who must maintain their alleged victim status at all costs because it is leverage for them in terms both of their career and their moral authority in public discussion. This is why they respond with such unforgiving, misogynistic fury to any woman who questions them – because these women, these upstarts, these difficult creatures, threaten to unravel the victim politics that is so beneficial to a narrow but influential strata of society today. And so these women must be silenced, cast out, written off as ‘damaged’ and not worth listening to; let’s just be grateful that the asylums such free-thinking women would once have been dumped in no longer exist.
Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked. Follow him on Instagram: @burntoakboy.
Picture by: Getty Images.