I don’t want to write a standard review of The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things. It’s the new book by the editors of the feminist website Jezebel, and simply saying that it’s a very angry book — as well as being very funny in parts — isn’t enough. Because when you say feminists are angry, they respond that you are a “Frat Bro” or a right-winger, and the conversation stops. And a deeper analysis of feminist apoplexy is important because the rage of the Jezebels is indicative of a serious cultural problem that is potentially fatal for the United States, which has become a very, very angry country.
Deep down, America is a very angry country because of missing, absent, and lousy fathers. The social science is clear and unambiguous about the devastation the loss of fathers causes in terms of drug abuse, promiscuity and loss of self-esteem among young people. The psychological and emotional wounds go very deep. More than twenty years ago the poet Robert Bly argued in his bestseller Iron John than the loss of fathers has caused a tremendously debilitating and long-lasting psychic wound in America, and that a lot of what passed for political activism was often an attack on absent fathers. According to Bly, the 60s students who stormed the dean’s office were lashing out at fathers whose wimpiness, stoicism, or distant jobs made them strangers. (Of course, there are awful mothers out there, but in general over the last few decades it has been men who have failed the children that they have brought into the world.) Bly, no conservative — in fact he’s a champion of genuine feminism — indicted not only male irresponsibility but the Industrial Revolution, which separated fathers from their families. He also criticized warmongering and the punishing demands of consumer capitalism.
I bring up Bly because when reading The Book of Jezebel you are confronted not just with humor and a high level of intelligence, but deep, deep rage. Not anger — rage. It goes much deeper than politics, although in modern America politics is where this rage find its expression. Thus the malevolence towards “dead white males” and the liberal obsession with feelings and personal grievance. The bogus “war on women” is really nothing but liberal women acting out against bad fathers. The frightening thing about this rage is that it is insatiable even as it demands resolution through politics. Before the 1960s and the disintegration of the family, a political revolutionary would map out his plan for correcting the flaws he saw in the political system. Today’s radicals speak in tones that are more personal. Their opponents are not just wrong, or obstacles to get past to attain better living conditions — they are evil, they are guilty, and they are personally culpable for screwing our lives up. Politics can’t cure this wound.
Anyone who raises this idea is instantly denounced, usually by an attacker who is a liberal, convulsed with rage at the mere mention of the importance of fathers. I can see the headline now: DAILY CALLER SAYS WE’RE ANGRY BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, IRON JOHN. Feminism and liberalism used to be worldviews that could accept some core truths about human nature and politics; one recalls Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 report “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” which detailed the social hell caused by the loss of fathers in the black community, or how the brilliant social historian Christopher Lasch defended feminism while charting the devastation of the collapse of the American family. Or the infamous 1979 town hall debate between Norman Mailer and Germain Greer and other feminists. Here were feminists faced with Norman Mailer, a Cro-Magnon brawler who had stabbed his own wife, and they (mostly) debated with humor and intelligence, delving deeply into complex psychological and cultural ideas. As the writer James Reich recently put it, in the town hall “the conflicts or navigations of the sexes are articulated with élan, wit, and through both good- and bad-natured mauling.”
More than thirty years later, and judging by The Book of Jezebel, feminists are so angry that debate with them is no longer possible. To them the only solution to their rage is through politics. There is a steady undercurrent of animus towards conservatives and Republicans in The Book of Jezebel, which is to be expected. But what is revealing is the intensity of the antipathy and its obsessive-compulsive quality (there’s also the heavy juvenile snark which is Jezebel’s calling card).
The Book of Jezebel is an encyclopedia. Under A there is Madeleine Albright and Christiane Amanpour, Allure magazine and Isabel Allende. There’s also Biblical Adam, who represents “male supremacy based on primordial male precedence.” And Adoption, which would be OK – maybe – except “antichoicers would have you believe this is a relatively easy process and a morally superior alternative to abortion.” And as for Antifeminists here’s the entry for them:
People who object to feminism’s goals, i.e. people who often (willfully) misunderstand feminism and/or huge assholes. Notable examples include Phyllis Schlafly, Camille Paglia, Caitlin Flanagan, the entire “men’s rights” movement, proponents of wifey “surrender,” hard-core religious fundamentalists, teenagers who just discovered Andrea Dworkin, Bart Stupak, Mike Pence, and the pope. Not to be confused with thoughtful people who believe in women’s equality but object to the mainstream feminist movement’s tendency to focus on middle-class, white, heterosexual women to the exclusion of everyone else.
A couple items later we have an entry for Antichoice. Antichoice is the term that leftists have for pro-lifers, but to the ladies at Jezebel, the word doesn’t even scratch the surface of conservative iniquity: “antichoice does fail to reflect the breadth and depth of the fear and loathing expressed by antichoice activists when it comes to the subject of women having sex without paying a terrible price, either at the end of a coat hanger or in being forced to march down the aisle to marry a guy who sole husbandly qualification is that he turned you on after a few rounds on a Saturday night.”
If that’s not enough, see the entry for misogynists, where you’ll find Rush Limbaugh, the Republican Party, and God. Or skip to Homosexuals: “What right-wing religious fundamentalists say through gritted teeth when referring to gay people, because these days you never know who might frown disapprovingly at you if you say ‘faggot’ or ‘dyke.’” Or this one, for Mother: “female parent expected to bear the majority of child-rearing duties, from birth to emotional support to professional sacrifice to cooking to cleaning until the identification of a ‘mom’ subsumes a woman’s entire personal identity, all pants she wears become ‘mom jeans,’ her sexual attractiveness is rated on a MILF scale, and her life is converted into a punch line of ‘your mom’ jokes.”
A legislature is “the branch of government that decides what women can do with their bodies.” A liberal: “Person with dangerous left-wing political opinions, such as ‘women are human.’” And so on.
The writers at Jezebel are angry women. Their pain is beyond the reach of politics to solve. To be fair, there are many funny entries in The Book of Jezebel, like the one for Hipster: “Identifier claimed by no one but freely subjected on any person more Navajo-printed, leather-jacketed, asymmetrically-hairstyled, unshowered, ironically racist, Pitchfork-reading, warehouse-dwelling, amateur-mandolin-playing, or neon than you.” But the jokes can’t mask the rage. This is why that even as America has progressed and the treatment of women has vastly improved, the anger of the feminists has grown more acute. Nothing short of a matriarchal utopia will suffice. It’s easier than admitting what really ails you.