Regina George agonistes
Near the end of 2014, MIT professor and self-proclaimed avowed feminist Scott Aaronson commented on a lengthier blog post about sexual harassment at MIT explaining his discomfort with what he saw as oversimplified notions of male privilege among feminists. As anyone can see from the excerpt below, Aaronson’s response was a risky thing to write indeed, mostly because it opened up about something truly painful and showed a real source of vulnerability on Aaronson’s part, despite his still professing to be a “97 percent feminist.” Quote:
Here’s the thing: I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not “entitled,” not “privileged,” but terrified. I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison. You can call that my personal psychological problem if you want, but it was strongly reinforced by everything I picked up from my environment. […]
Of course, I was smart enough to realize that maybe this was silly, maybe I was overanalyzing things. So I scoured the feminist literature for any statement to the effect that my fears were as silly as I hoped they were. But I didn’t find any. On the contrary: I found reams of text about how even the most ordinary male/female interactions are filled with “microaggressions,” and how even the most “enlightened” males—especially the most “enlightened” males, in fact—are filled with hidden entitlement and privilege and a propensity to sexual violence that could burst forth at any moment.[…]
At one point, I actually begged a psychiatrist to prescribe drugs that would chemically castrate me (I had researched which ones), because a life of mathematical asceticism was the only future that I could imagine for myself. The psychiatrist refused to prescribe them, but he also couldn’t suggest any alternative: my case genuinely stumped him. As well it might—for in some sense, there was nothing “wrong” with me.
Some feminists, to their credit, responded with (relative) empathy. You don’t need to be told that Marcotte was not among them. In a screed so cruel it reads like the unfiltered contents of Mean Girls’ “Burn Book,” Marcotte decided to “translate” Aaronson’s entire painful and soul-baring blog post into the narcissistic straw-man that it “really” was, lest any feminist be fooled into feeling sympathy with the nerdy, gross freak. For instance, Marcotte scoffed that Aaronson seemed to believe that only men suffered fear of rejection. Never mind that his comment engendered sympathy not just from fellow men, but also from lesbians who felt similar embarrassment over their attraction to women.
As for Aaronson’s desire to be chemically castrated in order to avoid seeing women as sex objects? That was just Aaronson being lazy and “blaming his testicles, feminism, women generally, or the world for his mental health problems.” Oh, and to add insult to injury, when Aaronson remarked in a self-deprecating manner that some people might take his post as nothing but privileged “mansplaning,” Marcotte could only snarl:
“He really has a problem with women reacting normally to objective facts about the world, doesn’t he?”
Now, as already established by her Duke Lacrosse case writings, Marcotte is in no position to lecture anyone on objective facts. It seems unnecessarily cruel to say anything more, except perhaps that an educational grandee like Aaronson really shouldn’t trouble himself about the opinions of an English Literature major from St. Edward’s University, a school so painfully inadequate that it can’t even crack the national rankings of U.S. News and World Report.
Fortunately, Marcotte inadvertently hoist herself by her own petard in this exercise in adolescent bitchery. Remember that “this is a game to them” line about potential rapists in her Cosby article? Well, it came back to bite her. With a vengeance. Here are her responses to Aaronson’s anxiety over feminist theory about “microaggressions”:
“Translation: Unwilling to actually do the work required to address my social anxiety—much less actually improve my game—I decided that it would be easier to indulge a conspiracy theory where all the women in the world, led by evil feminists, are teaching each other not to fuck me. Because bitches, yo. […]
I have no doubt that men who spend their dates flirting with women instead of demanding that the answer for something Andrea Dworkin wrote 35 years ago do, in fact, get laid more.”
Yes, you heard right. Amanda Marcotte literally just got angry at someone for reading feminist theory instead of improving their “game.” In any other context, this would sound like something off of a pick-up artist’s blog. Yet for Marcotte, even scrupulous adherence to her own ideology is a casualty the instant it conflicts with her ability to dehumanize men into monstrous rape machines. Ironic, really, considering that her overwhelming thesis is that Aaronson doesn’t see women as people, despite the fact that, as Marcotte laughs without a hint of irony, all his difficulties were caused by reading feminist theory instead of talking to real women. Yet if real women provide such contrary data to feminist theory, then the inescapable internal logic of this is that feminist theory has no idea how real women act. And considering one blogger’s description of Marcotte as a “Vogon spy in a skin suit,” this should surprise no one.
Let us not lose sight of the point: Marcotte is willing to throw any ideology – even her own – under the bus the instant following it conflicts with her capacity to spew bile into the air. To call her a feminist is a disgrace to feminism. She is only a feminist to the extent that she believes the suffering of men is an implicit gift to women.
Yet even that belief is not entirely well-established, for while it is easy to write Marcotte off as a woman who, in any other circumstances, would be seen as a hate group leader, even this may mistake her motivation for principle (albeit a loathsome principle), when its true source is nothing but undirected spite. A massive, unanswered question looms over Marcotte’s writing: does she actually hate men, or merely anyone who happens to be better educated, more accomplished or more intelligent than she is?
If the former, one would have great trouble explaining her attacks on fellow women – women like Christina Hoff Sommers, Kathleen Parker and Cathy Young – or her willingness to work for a white male philanderer like John Edwards, especially given the fact that at the time, he was in competition with Hillary Clinton, who will likely become the first woman nominated for president by a major party in 2016. And that’s not even touching on her affection for Ted Kennedy. These are not the actions or sentiments of a committed man-hater.
Yet perhaps our answer can be found if we look to Marcotte’s writing on herself. In a rare introspective post regarding her former employer, Senator Edwards, Marcotte writes:
“Edwards’s fall from grace represents more than the tabloidisation of modern American politics, but also the dashed hopes of the left of the Democratic party for a populist leader who could lean on the leadership to take more progressive positions on economics. It was this enthusiasm for economic reform that led me to join Edwards’s 2008 campaign, and to continue to support it after resigning. And it’s this hope that made the evaporation of his leadership bid in a sex-and-finance scandal all the more devastating.”
And who does Marcotte wish Edwards had been around to target? Not men, contra what one might expect. Not even anti-feminists, but Wall Street, Tea Partiers and the “selfish” people who ignore the interests of “ordinary Americans.” Presumably, Marcotte means people like her, even though she probably wouldn’t know an “ordinary American” if they danced naked through Park Slope. But she does know that Wall Streeters have more money than her, that Tea Partiers have more political power than radical feminists, that alumni of the Duke Lacrosse team will always have more opportunities available to them than Brooklyn hipsters from fourth-rate schools, that Bill Cosby will always be more famous than she is, and that MIT professors will always be smarter and more accomplished than she could dream of being. What’s more, most of these people are men, and though there are exceptions, they can be written off as traitors to their sex. In other words, the answer to the question of whether Marcotte hates men or just her betters may be “all of the above, ideally at the same time.”
In 2008, this author met Phyllis Schlafly at CPAC. Despite having many disagreements with Ms. Schlafly, then and now, she said something very memorable and wise. When told by the author that she was accomplished in ways that many feminists only dream of, Schlafly replied, “Only because they believe they don’t believe they can accomplish it.”
It is this precisely this defeatism that motivates Amanda Marcotte, and which has transformed this woman, like so many envious and opportunistic bottom feeders before her, into a pathological bigot: Ultimately, while she may hide in the soothing embrace of radical, man-hating feminism, it is not the fact of being masculine, but the fact of being superior to her that Amanda Marcotte will never forgive.