The defeat of Hillary, and the elevation of the vulgar Mr. Trump, loosed a fury of women against men in America that now verges on a kind of all-consuming chaos, like those western wildfires turning every product of human endeavor in the burn-path to smoke and ash. All the sorrows of our national life are assigned lately to the wicked white male patriarchy that must be defeated to usher in a satori of female sharing-and-caring.
A case in point is Sam Harris’s dialogue on his “Waking Up”(#141) podcast with Rebecca Traister of New York Magazine, author of the new book Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. (Click here for the Harris-Traister chat.) There is no better interlocutor of the current right-think about men and women than Ms. Traister. She puts it across as though her brain was shot out of a cannon from a graduate seminar on “Engendering the Intellectual Space” as if there are no other points at issue in our national life than the power valences between the two sexes — and, of course, even suggesting that the human mammal comprises two sexes is a punishable offense these days.
To get a sense of the true chaos behind her argument, just have a look at the cover of Good and Mad. Notice that the blood-red title stands against a gray field of the word “F*UK” (asterisk hers) repeated 120 times on a 5 X 24 grid. Deconstruct that. Is it the generative act of copulation itself that she is inveighing against? Should it be gotten rid of? Will that solve the problems of a foundering hyper-complex industrial society?
Ms. Traister might have used the word “power” five hundred times in her conversation with the excessively gallant Sam Harris. The choo-choo train of “poststructuralist” ideology that pulled into the college scene in the 1990s, when she was a student, is based on the idea that all relations between men and women — and all human endeavor, for that matter — comes down to questions of who has power over whom. The result, naturally enough, has been an escalating power struggle between men and women that has the potential to tear this society apart.
It has already damaged our understanding of what men and women are supposed to be, and the outcome so far is that men are not sufficiently female and vice-versa. Thus the consecration of “transgender, intersex, non-binary, gender-nonconforming” states of being as heroic, and the demonizing cries of “toxic masculinity” ringing through the ivory towers, the halls of congress, and the corporate C-suites.
Much of this stems from the fact that only in the past half century have men and women tired to occupy the same work-spaces, especially in political bureaucracies. Until fairly recently, men and women existed in rather separate work-and-social worlds, with behaviors that seem weird and quaint today - for instance, the practice of men and women retiring to different rooms for conversation after a dinner party, based on the idea, possibly true, that they had categorically different interests (as suggested by James Damore in his notorious Google memo).
Now, to suggest that there was anything to these divisions of sexual space amounts to another punishable offense, but that is probably the least of the dreary consequences in this contest. The worst part is that we’re burning all our political capital in this foolishly contrived war at the expense of all the other actual tasks we face. If the US Senate put one-tenth of its attention to rebuilding the passenger rail system as it put into the furor raised by Christine Blasey Ford, we might have addressed the awful problem of our soon-to-be obsolete mass-motoring matrix. But then trains are such a male concern. They have so little to do with… feelings!
Apropos of the war between men and women itself, something really bugs me: the deliberate and convenient overlooking of women’s sexual power over men. That is what has been absent in the #MeToo movement, and quite dishonestly so. It’s really something to see the various indignant women of cable news coming onto the flatscreen every night to inveigh against men while dressed, coiffed, and made up like thousand-dollar Las Vegas call girls - except for Rachel Maddow, of course, who opts to present as the nation’s guidance counselor.
In fact, women have tremendous sexual power over men, and it is exactly that which provokes so much of the idiotic behavior that has come to be categorized as “abuse” where men and women intersect and the mists of pheromones perplex the air. It is at least as potent as the power that men supposedly exert in politics and the workplace. And it incorporates a range of behaviors that are subtle and insidious. (Classic literature certainly understands this, but it’s being removed from the curriculum for doing that.)
The failure to even acknowledge female sexual power or to dismiss it as inconsequential is just plain dirty fighting - though it’s proclaimed unselfconsciously on the cover of Rebecca Traister’s book: “F*CK, F*CK, F*CK, F*CK, F*CK. See for yourself.