On Feminism & Femininity
My fundamental position is that women are human beings, with the full range of saintly and demonic behaviours this entails, including criminal ones. They're not angels, incapable of wrongdoing. If they were, we wouldn't need a legal system.
Nor do I believe that women are children, incapable of agency or of making moral decisions. If they were, we're back to the 19th century, and women should not own property, have credit cards, have access to higher education, control their own reproduction or vote. There are powerful groups in North America pushing this agenda, but they are not usually considered feminists. […]
The #MeToo moment is a symptom of a broken legal system. All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn't get a fair hearing through institutions—including corporate structures—so they used a new tool: the internet. Stars fell from the skies. This has been very effective, and has been seen as a massive wake-up call. But what next? The legal system can be fixed, or our society could dispose of it. Institutions, corporations and workplaces can houseclean, or they can expect more stars to fall, and also a lot of asteroids.
If the legal system is bypassed because it is seen as ineffectual, what will take its place? Who will be the new power brokers? It won't be the Bad Feminists like me. We are acceptable neither to Right nor to Left. In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn't puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated. Fiction writers are particularly suspect because they write about human beings, and people are morally ambiguous. The aim of ideology is to eliminate ambiguity. —Margaret Atwood [#]
We need to talk about how men will draw a different line for every different occasion. They have a line for the locker room; a line for when their wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters are watching; another line for when they’re drunk and fratting; another line for nondisclosure; a line for friends; and a line for foes. [...]
Everybody believes they are fundamentally good, and we all need to believe we are fundamentally good because believing you are fundamentally good is part of the human condition. But if you have to believe someone else is bad in order to believe you are good, you are drawing a very dangerous line. —Hannah Gadsby [#]
The huntresses’ war cry—“believe all women”—has felt like a bracing corrective to a historic injustice. It has felt like a justifiable response to a system in which the crimes perpetrated against women—so intimate, so humiliating and so unlike any other—are so very difficult to prove.
But I also can’t shake the feeling that this mantra creates terrible new problems in addition to solving old ones.
In less than two months we’ve moved from uncovering accusations of criminal behavior (Harvey Weinstein) to criminalizing behavior that we previously regarded as presumptuous and boorish (Glenn Thrush). In a climate in which sexual mores are transforming so rapidly, many men are asking: If I were wrongly accused, who would believe me?
I know the answer that many women would give—are giving—is: Good. Be scared. We have been scared for forever. It’s your turn for some sleepless nights. They’ll say: If some innocent men go down in the effort to tear down the patriarchy, so be it. […]
I believe that the “believe all women” vision of feminism unintentionally fetishizes women. Women are no longer human and flawed. They are Truth personified. They are above reproach.
I believe that it’s condescending to think that women and their claims can’t stand up to interrogation and can’t handle skepticism. I believe that facts serve feminists far better than faith. That due process is better than mob rule.
Maybe it will happen tomorrow or maybe next week or maybe next month. But the Duke lacrosse moment, the Rolling Stone moment, will come. A woman’s accusation will turn out to be grossly exaggerated or flatly untrue. And if the governing principle of this movement is still an article of faith, many people will lose their religion. They will tear down all accusers as false prophets. And we will go back to a status quo in which the word of the Angelos is more sacred than the word of the Isabellas.
What we owe all people, including women, is to listen to them and to respect them and to take them seriously. But we don’t owe anyone our unthinking belief.
“Trust but verify” may not have the same ring as “believe all women.” But it’s a far better policy. —Bari Weiss [#]
Aziz Ansari sounds as if he were aggressive and selfish and obnoxious that night. Isn’t it heartbreaking and depressing that men—especially ones who present themselves publicly as feminists—so often act this way in private? Shouldn’t we try to change our broken sexual culture? And isn’t it enraging that women are socialized to be docile and accommodating and to put men’s desires before their own? Yes. Yes. Yes.
But the solution to these problems does not begin with women torching men for failing to understand their “nonverbal cues.” It is for women to be more verbal. It’s to say, “This is what turns me on.” It’s to say, “I don’t want to do that.” And, yes, sometimes it means saying goodbye.
The single most distressing thing to me about this story is that the only person with any agency in the story seems to be Aziz Ansari. The woman is merely acted upon. —Bari Weiss [#]
What’s really at play is that feminism has come to contain two distinct understandings of sexism, and two wildly different, often incompatible ideas of how that problem should be solved. One approach is individualist, hard-headed, grounded in ideals of pragmatism, realism and self-sufficiency. The other is expansive, communal, idealistic and premised on the ideals of mutual interest and solidarity. [...]
Call it, then, a conflict between “individualist” and “social” feminisms. In part, the rift is between visions of how to undertake the feminist project, of which tactics are best: whether through individual empowerment, or through collective liberation. But there is a greater moral divide between these two strands of thought, because #MeToo and its critics also disagree over where to locate responsibility for sexual abuse: whether it is a woman’s responsibility to navigate, withstand and overcome the misogyny that she encounters, or whether it is the shared responsibility of all of us to eliminate sexism, so that she never encounters it in the first place. —Moira Donegan [#]
I regret thinking, when I first started, that I had to show sexy women on the cover, and I just felt increasingly uncomfortable about it. I look back in particular at a Michelle Williams cover. It sat badly with me because I could see it plainly that she wasn’t perfectly comfortable at it. She’s an amazing actress, and we diminished her by showing her in that way.
Almost immediately after I published it. I just kept staring at the cover and saying, “Why don’t I love this cover? I don’t love this cover because she doesn’t love this cover.” —Jim Nelson [#]
Look, I never wanted to be part of bro culture. I was always embarrassed. If I ever found myself, and I mean going way back, with a group of guys and they started leering at women or making, “Hey, look at her. Nice rack,” I was always, I was so uncomfortable. It just felt, it wasn’t an ethical thing; it was that I felt uncomfortable and ashamed to be a man and I felt that everybody involved in this equation was demeaned by the experience. I was demeaned by standing there next to things like this. They were demeaned for behaving like this. It’s like sitting at a table with somebody who’s rude to a waiter. I don’t want to be with someone like that.
But, look, I accepted when the book [Kitchen Confidential] came out, that I was the bad boy. There I was in the leather jacket and the cigarette and I also happily played that role or went along with it. Shit was good. People said a lot of silly things about me. People actually used the word macho around me. And this was such a mortifying accusation that I didn’t even understand it.
You know, to the extent that I was that guy, however fast and however hard I tried to get away [from] it, the fact is that’s what my persona was. I am a guy on TV who sexualizes food. Who uses bad language. Who thinks our discomfort, our squeamishness, fear and discomfort around matters sexual is funny. I have done stupid offensive shit. And because I was a guy in a guy’s world who had celebrated a system—I was very proud of the fact that I had endured that, that I found myself in this very old, very, frankly, phallocentric, very oppressive system and I was proud of myself for surviving it. And I celebrated that rather enthusiastically." —Anthony Bourdain [#]