Who You Calling A Bad Feminist?


Sigh. As many know, today a Slate writer offered that someone assaulted at the age of 17 who didn’t report it should never be taken seriously or, really, allowed to write about the subject. What?

Yup, Linda Hirshman’s argument, which comes as part of a strange, somewhat chaotic anti-Jezebel screed, boils down to this.

  • By acting or appearing sexy or sexual, women are simply providing spank-bank material for men, some of whom will eventually rape them.
  • Rape results when women don’t protect themselves enough.
  • Sexual abuse victims should always submit to the vagaries of the criminal justice system regardless of circumstance.
  • Those that do not are not real feminists.
  • Having thus made that anti-feminist choice not to report a rape, they are then responsible for any rapes committed in the future by their rapist.
  • Thus guilty of committing rapes by proxy, anything they write, speak or advocate for in terms of sexual assault is thus intellectually incoherent.

To wit:

As last summer’s video revealed, the Jezebel editors have pretty vivid lives to share. Moe Tkacik was apparently date-raped and says she has had unprotected sex, and Tracie Egan, in her words, “decided to go home with someone I never would have, had my vision not been impaired by 14 hours of drinking.” Jezebel editor Megan Carpentier was raped and did not report it to the police.

“Apparently”? I guess by that measure I got off easy.

Hirshman then, among other things, says the “risks of [sexual] liberation” include rape, as if rape is neither an act of random act of violence nor an existing problem prior to sexual liberation, adding:

Women can pretend they’re female chauvinist pigs, but it’s still women who are more sexually vulnerable to stronger men, due to the possibilities of physical abuse and pregnancy. These Jezebel writers are a symptom of the weaknesses in the model of perfect egalitarian sexual freedom; in fact, it’s the supposed concern with feminism that makes the site so problematic.

The problem with egalitarian sexual freedom is not that women are raped because — and I can’t believe I have to type this out — rape is not about sex. Rape is not equivalent to sex: it’s about power and degradation and control. The responsibility for sexual assault resides utterly in the man (or woman) committing it.

More: By Hirshman’s logic I’m incoherent for decrying rape, since not reporting my own assault at 17 means that I condone the actions of the man that committed it, and thus all rapes forever more.

How can writers who justify not reporting rape criticize the military for not controlling…rape? It’s incoherent.

Thing is, it’s only incoherent if one makes the rather large leap that choosing not to commit one’s mind, body and soul to the razor teeth of the criminal “justice” system is tantamount to condoning sexual assault. That’s the leap that Hirshman is making about me and every other woman who did not or does not wish to face that system, the vagaries of which I know all too well.

But let’s be clear about one thing. This entire slut- and victim-shaming diatribe which Hirshman created (and her editor at XX Factor happily published) was sparked by a few specific things.

Given the high level of risk the Jezebel life involves, it is surprising that the offense that arouses the liberated Jezebels to real political fury is the suggestion that women like them might be made responsible for the consequences of their own acts, or that there might be general standards that define basic feminist behavior. Suggest that women report the men who rape them for the sake of future victims, say, or that women should be asked why they stay with the men who abuse them, or urged to leave them, and the Jezebels go ballistic. Judgmental, judgmental!

Leaving aside the irony that Hirshman spent the entire piece calling me judgmental, this is the crux of the issue. Namely, that disagreement with her demands a counterattack. In fact, this isn’t the first time Hirshman has been willing to stir up shit and enact “revenge” on those who dare disagree.

Just ask author Michelle Goldberg, who Hirshman called “disgraceful”, for daring to suggest that women who supported Obama over Clinton in the primaries might have legitimate reasons for doing so. Or ask Courtney E. Martin, who Hirshman called out for “effrontery.” Hell, I’m sure Hirshman felt Moe had it coming for her Washington Post Op-Ed about how many Hirshman’s brand of feminism didn’t speak to some young feminists because many of them care about things other than themselves.

I assume that Hirshman’s attack — based solely on my experience with sexual assault and my audacity to suggest that haranguing victims of violence to leave their abusive partners might not be helpful — isn’t meant to show the Jezebel audience that I’m not to be trusted to speak about sexual assault in the military or anything else. I assume it is an attempt to shut me up. And as much as she throws the occasional firebomb at Ross Douthat or Chris Matthews, she seems to save her real rhetorical ire for women with opinions different than her. And, let’s be clear what Hirshman’s “feminist” philosophy entails:

the suggestion that women like them might be made responsible for the consequences of their own acts, or that there might be general standards that define basic feminist behavior.

In other words, if a woman is raped, she should accept that as a consequence of her “Jezebel” lifestyle. If she gets involved in an abusive relationship that, given the well-documented psychological effects of long-term abuse, she has difficulty leaving, any further abuse can be laid at her doorstep because she signed up for it. And if she fails to Do Her Feminist Duty by reporting a sexual assault, she’s an accessory to all future assaults.

Does that sound like an older ideology to you? You know, one actual feminism was designed to combat? I have seen misogyny and, most of the time, it looks a lot like the ideology Hirshman has the audacity to call “feminism.” If that’s the case, she can have it.

Related: Hell Hath No Fury [The Guardian]
An Indefensible Attack (Ironic, no?) [The Guardian]
The Emotional Voter [Glamocracy]
Yo Mamma [Slate]
Looking to the Future, Feminism Has to Focus [Washington Post]
The Feminine Mistake [Washington Post]
Why Do They Stay? [Obsidian Wings]
Linda Hirshman [Huffington Post]

Earlier: My Sexual Assault Is Not Your Political Issue
What You Get When You Pick On “Old School” Feminists’ “Bedside Manner”
Writer Implies We Can Collectively Guilt Rihanna Into Leaving Chris
Former Victim Counselor Takes On Assumptions That Leaving Abusers Is Easy
Linda Hirshman Won’t Let Domestic Abuse Victims Off The Hook

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