[TW: Trivializing rape, marginalizing oppressed groups]
So if you missed it, a week ago Hanna Rosin (of the book The End of Men), wrote a piece in Slate, titled The Patriarchy is Dead. It is, without a doubt, the worst piece I have read in months (not counting various wingnut screeds, of course, but even then, this piece beats some of them). It’s insulting, marginalizing, at times rambling or incoherent, and outright rage-inducingly offensive. So let’s tear it apart, shall we?
Her basic premise is that patriarchy (or, as she calls it, The Patriarchy) is either dead or disappearing, and feminists have grown so accustomed to fighting it that they can’t let it go. She says that feminists “want to vent about their frustrations, not hear how they’ve prevailed” and that they have “some irrational attachment to the concept of unfair.”
For instance, she says this:
The women who seemed to be reveling in [sociologist Stephanie] Coontz’s insistence that reports of the end of men (and the rise of women) have been greatly exaggerated were by and large young and ambitious, and as far as I could tell hadn’t been held back all that much in their careers by “the patriarchy.” Many of them are in positions of influence, widely published and widely read; if they sniff out misogyny, I have no doubt they will gleefully skewer the responsible sexist in one of many available online outlets, and get results. These are exactly the types of woman I portray in the book as benefiting from the new age of female dominance. Why should they feel reassured to be told that men are still on top, that the old order had not been shaken?
She then goes on to say that the reason that women still cling to the patriarchy is that they “pay such close attention to words like ‘strident’ because they are all [they] have, the only way to access the outrage of darker days.” Apparently the injustices and oppressions that women fight against are pitifully mild, and we should just embrace them. No really, she says that:
Maybe now we pay such close attention to words like “strident” because they are all we have, the only way to access the outrage of darker days. If so, we should treasure them as tokens of how far we’ve come.
Yeah. That just happened.
It’s abundantly clear from her article that firstly, Rosin has no idea what she’s talking about, and that secondly, as others have pointed out, when Rosin says ‘women’, what she means is ‘rich, white, college-educated cisgender women’ like herself. In fact, the only actual problems or issues she mentions in her article are “our appalling lack of paid maternity leave” and “the tiny percentage of female CEOs”. Yes, because I’m sure most women are actually concerning themselves with how many female CEOs there are.
There are so many things that can affect someone who’s not white, or wealthy, or cisgender, or college-educated. There are a wide range of concerns of people who aren’t neurotypical, or conventionally attractive, or able-bodied, or healthy. Rosin completely ignores those women. She completely ignores the very real effects of patriarchy on their lives, and she completely ignores how feminism is a powerful force for fighting those effects.
Even more than that, she completely ignores those women as people. When Rosin published that piece, nearly every single feminist I followed on twitter spent the entire evening detailing all their objections to it. Many of these women are people of color, many of them are working-class, and almost all fell into one or more of the groups I just highlighted. And yet, when Rosin bothered to respond to her critics, she says this:
I am a rich white lady. So are the people responding to me.
Yeah no. Not only is she not representing the concerns of People Not Like Her, she isn’t even listening to them. Either she’s profoundly unaware that People Not Like Her even exist, or she’s actively ignoring them. She also seems to believe that the entirety of feminism consists of People Like Her (“Rich white ladies are generally the ones who bother with feminist showdowns”), which is profoundly far from the truth. Seriously, she needs to step outside her bubble once in a while.
Now, you probably agree that her article (and its subsequent response) is generally atrocious, but surely it doesn’t warrant the “Fuck You, Hanna Rosin” in the title, right? And initially, I was going to let it go as just another terrible article written by some clueless jackass, but then I read this:
This strain of feminism assumes an exquisite vulnerability, an image of women as “creatures too ‘tender’ for the abrasiveness of daily life,” as Joan Didion put it in her 1972 essay “The Women’s Movement.” (Is this why we now put “trigger warnings” on stories that mention rape or sexual harassment?)
There are no words. I quite literally cannot describe the rage I felt at reading that. For her to so callously dismiss the very real suffering of rape survivors like that is absolutely unforgivable. For her to trivialize the lengths that people who are suffering from PTSD, depression, anxiety, and a dozen other illnesses and disorders, have to go in order to stay healthy and functional is appalling. Everything else she wrote pales in comparison to these two sentences. How fucking dare you use those people’s raw suffering to make a pithy point about modern feminism.
So, I say to Hanna fucking Rosin: Fuck you. Fuck you for writing a shitty piece about feminism. Fuck you for ignoring and marginalizing People Not Like You. Fuck you for assuming that “rich white lady” is the default brand of female. Fuck you for not even listening when other people tell you you’re wrong. And, most of all: Fuck you for writing a piece that trivializes the suffering of rape victims, appropriates it for your own purposes, and then reframes the basic fucking decency that other people show to make a stupid offhand point about feminism, that, by the way, isn’t even fucking true. Fuck You, Hanna Rosin.