It's completely feminist to "silence" Katie Roiphe or anyone else

14 January 2018
Fear not, women. If you've been worried whether you're doing feminism right, there's plenty of men willing to evaluate your performance. 

Why, here's Brendan O'Neill, editor of the British libertarian site Spiked, here to generously offer a critique of modern feminism in the guise of the #MeToo movement:

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.

That's not what misogyny means, dude. In fact, a lot of what the #MeToo movement is fighting against is the ingrained notion that women are not capable of thinking for themselves about their bodies and sexuality; that said bodies and sexualities should be available to men at all times.

But O'Neill's primary concern here is the attacks on writer Katie Roiphe, after Roiphe wrote an article, due for publication in the March issue of Harper's, that was potentially going to publicly identify the author of the Shitty Media Men's List, a spreadsheet originally intended for private consumption that named men in the entertainment industry accused of predatory behaviour. There's a good background on the List here, including the ethics of the list itself and whether Roiphe was going to name the list's originator (a claim Roiphe herself now denies).

If Roiphe was intending to name the creator of the list, that would be pretty indefensible; even so, drawing from Ms Roiphe's history as a critic of feminism and bemoaning the fate of the modern man, the article would surely not have been laudatory of the #MeToo movement.

Brendan O'Neill, however, is furious that Roiphe is being attacked, for, as he sees it, thinking for herself, and has decided that feminists have called Roiphe pro-rape merely to indicate that she is "evil, witch-like". No, I've a feeling that Roiphe is being called pro-rape because she's made a career out of explaining away, minimising, and excusing rape, as in this excerpt from her 1993 career launcher, The Morning After:

We all agree that rape is a terrible thing, but we no longer agree on what rape is. Today's definition has stretched beyond bruises and knives, threats of death or violence to include emotional pressure and the influence of alcohol. The lines between rape and sex begin to blur. The one-in-four statistic on those purple posters is measuring something elusive. It is measuring her word against his in a realm where words barely exist. There is a gray area in which one person's rape may be another's bad night. Definitions become entangled in passionate ideological battles. There hasn't been a remarkable change in the number of women being raped; just a change in how receptive the political climate is to those numbers.

[ . . . ]

Feminist prophets of the rape crisis are talking about something more than forced penetration. They are talking about what they define as a "rape culture." Rape is a natural trump card for feminism.

[ . . . ]

The idea of "consent" has been redefined beyond the simple assertion that "no means no." Politically correct sex involves a yes, and a specific yes at that.

Italics mine.

I could, of course, be accused of cherry picking quotes out of context, so please feel free to read the full extract at the link above; but it's clear that Roiphe distinguishes between what she sees as real rape - guns, knives, victims of war crimes - and date rape, which Roiphe sees as a concept conjured up by modern feminists to give the movement moral authority.

I'm sometimes asked what I mean when I call myself a moderate radical feminist. I do it to distinguish myself from liberal feminism, the notion that women can and should do exactly what they want, and that feminism is obliged to support her. I mean, women can do exactly what they want, but that does not make every choice a woman makes a feminist choice.

Radical feminism sees feminism as a movement not of individual choice, but of collective liberation from the patriarchy and misogyny which still oppress all women. And if another women is siding with the patriarchy, is harming our liberation through her choices, then we aren't obliged to support those choices.

In the case of Kate Roiphe, it's not about the double standards of a movement that claims it wants women's voices to be heard but then silencing a woman. Roiphe is tone deaf to the realities of sexual assault, starting with the fact that a list such as Shitty Men might be anonymous because women are afraid of coming forward. Roiphe sees sexual harassment and assaults that don't fit her definition of real rape as a product of feminist hysteria, a group think to give individual women victim status and the feminist movement legitimacy and authority. Her intended outing of the author of the list was meant to strip legitimacy from the #MeToo movement and tell women there's no safe place to hide.
There will always be those who want to discredit and derail feminism as a movement; Roiphe is happy in this case to do so, ably abetted by the usual faux outrage from the right demanding to know why feminism doesn't support this woman. The backlash against #MeToo and speaking out against sexual harassment is well underway, and there will be many women taking part in the backlash, and many, many men eager to use their arguments to justify their own sexism. And as feminists, we are allowed to "silence" them, or tell them to shut up anyway.

Feminism isn't a feel good lifestyle movement of selfies and squad goals and affirmations and empowering every woman. It's a political movement, a revolutionary movement even, to dismantle the systems of oppression women still face. We owe no support to Katie Roiphe or any other woman who has made a career out of shitting on rape victims to get ahead.


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