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Where Feminism's Neoprudery Has Taken Us
Feature|Feb 5, 2020

Where Feminism's Neoprudery Has Taken Us

How feminism now disempowers women and criminalises being male
Amy Alkon

These days, it can take surprisingly little for a good man to lose everything. 

Bora Zivkovic is a slight Eastern-European-born man – 5’11,” but so slight that he often appears dwarfed by his poofy greying hair, big lumpy Slavic nose, and oversized round wire-rim glasses. Photographed at an unfortunate angle, he bears a resemblance to a cartoon owl.

Nicknamed the ‘Blogfather’, Zivkovic was the editor of the Scientific American blogs network and was responsible for bringing countless writers into science blogging, and especially for encouraging women to become science bloggers. 

Image: Bora ZIvkovic, Kathleen Raven (left) and other colleagues back in 2013

Image: Bora ZIvkovic, Kathleen Raven (left) and other colleagues back in 2013

Zivkovic was having a smoke outside a Manhattan bar with science writer Hannah Waters when he bought a rose from a vendor for his wife, who was waiting for them inside. The vendor handed him two. “What’s that, one for the wife, one for the concubine?” Zivkovic joked. 

I find that funny. It made Waters uncomfortable. She said nothing at the time, but later deemed this and other similarly innocuous behaviour from Zivkovic sexual harassment in a 2013 blog post on Medium. The subhead: “There wasn’t any touching or overt sex talk. But it was still harassment.”

Two other women, Monica Byrne and Kathleen Raven, also put up blog posts in 2013 accusing Zivkovic of sexual harassment for behaviour from years previous that they, too, said made them uncomfortable. None of this behaviour came close to meeting legal standards for sexual harassment: neither coercive, quid pro quo “have sex with me or you’re fired!” nor “severe and pervasive” behaviour (meaning repeated intimidating, threatening, abusive behaviour) that causes a “hostile work environment.” 

In the incident Monica Byrne blogged about, she’d known Zivkovic for about a month. She invited him to coffee in September of 2012, looking to interest him in her writing. Seated at the cafe with him, she mentioned visiting a strip club. She writes that Zivkovic then “began describing his own experience of going to a strip club”. Then he got a little icky-personal about sex. Byrne later emailed Zivkovic to tell him she was uncomfortable.  He emailed her an apology, and that was that. Or so he thought.

Never taken into account by these accusers was that Zivkovic exhibits various symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome, which involves difficulty reading and decoding social cues and understanding the appropriate response. Though Zivkovic was never formally diagnosed, his wife, a psychiatrist who knows him, and many in the science writing community have expressed the opinion that he has it. 

Zivkovic has the ‘aspie’s’ tendency to laugh at the wrong moments and natter on endlessly about whatever’s on his mind. He likewise seems a bit of a hanger-on, not clear on when his presence is no longer wanted. 

In one example of this, he and Kathleen Raven were attendees at a science journalism conference in Helsinki. He had arrived at the hotel late in the evening and texted, “Can I come by and see you now?” Raven texted, “No, I’m afraid we have to wait until tomorrow morning. My husband is already in bed, sorry.” 

Shortly afterwards, a knock on their door. Bora said, “Hi!” and marched into their room. Her husband “sat shocked” in their hotel bed, Raven wrote. “Bora grabbed me in an embrace, picked me up, swirled me around, and kissed me on the cheek. After a few minutes of small talk, he left.”

Weird, pesty, annoying behaviour? Sure. But sexual harassment? At any other time and in any other zeitgeist, no. 

But countless respected ‘sceptical thinkers’ – noted science writers who knew Zivkovic – read his accusers’ blog posts and credulously and compassionlessly accepted that Zivkovic was guilty of sexual harassment. 

Zivkovic was pushed out at Sci-Am and ostracised by the science-blogging community he loved. In his terms, he lost everything. 

Of course, he’s just one of many men recently deemed guilty without the slightest bit of legal or social due process. What his accusers have in common, like so many women today, is festering passivity turned poisonous. 

Bizarrely, their behaviour is a gift from what feminism has become. Feminists have gone from fighting for equal rights to demanding that women be treated like eggshells, not equals. Feminism has become a movement that disables women, ruins men’s lives, and destroys professional and romantic relationships between men and women.  

Understanding how it goes about that is the single best way for a man to avoid social and professional ruin.


HOW FEMINISM BECAME A “SPECIAL RIGHTS” MOVEMENT

American women had some seriously legit grievances back in the 19th Century and the early part of the 20th. They were denied voting rights, and once married, had all the legal and financial autonomy of their husband’s hat or his goat.

‘First Wave’ feminists rose up in the mid-1800s and started the battle that led to women getting the vote in 1920 and increasingly becoming full people under the law.

“Second Wave” feminism – “women’s lib”– took off in the 1960s and hung on through the late ‘80s. Women no longer had a single unifying goal, like getting the vote, so feminism splintered.

There was wealthy white lady feminism, rung in in 1963 with Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique,’ a socio-ballad of the cocktails and tranquillizers set – middle-class and upper-middle-class white housewives, bored and dissatisfied by marriage, homemaking, and child-rearing. 

Black women, already busy being ignored for leadership positions in the civil rights movement, were not happy that Friedan spoke of a singular feminism yet excluded their experiences and interests. This led to black women, Latinas, and other “minority” women forming their own feminist factions in the 60s and 70s.

The 60s and 70s were also home to that mass uncrossing of legs, the sexual revolution, and in the 70s, up popped the tiny little authoritarians, with their sex panic feminism. The most famous was radical feminist Andrea Dworkin, a morbidly obese, venomously man-hating neo-prude who insisted that men lived to oppress, degrade, and dehumanise women. 

Image: Andrea Dworkin

Image: Andrea Dworkin

Dworkin saw heterosexual sex as an act of violent aggression perpetrated by a man on a woman. (“Penetration is Violation,” a Dworkin-inspired slogan goes.) The purpose of porn, per Dworkin, was not getting off but making women ‘inferior, subhuman.’ (How porn for gay men might do that she never got around to explaining.) 

Dworkin characterised women who did not share her views as dumb bunnies – basically idiots “colluding in their own oppression” – foreshadowing the infantilisation of women by feminists today.

The 1990s were the launchpad of Third Wave feminism (the movement still with us). Once again, there were various splinters. However, the most powerful Third Wave form – driving how women are now relating – is what I call women as weaklings feminism.

This line of feminism comes out of feminist academia – women’s studies and gender studies departments. Its foundation is the bullshitosophy known as “postmodernism,” a philosophy about as easy to grasp as a greased goldfish in a bathtub. 

In short, there wasn’t all that much to accomplish after the Enlightenment philosophers did their thing, so, in the 1970s, French philosophers tossed science and reason in la poubelle (the trash can) and announced that there’s no real knowable truth. This, charmingly, means that whatever someone says is true is true – though it’s truer if they come from an oppressed class.

In line with this, Brit lit scholar and retired feminist Helen Pluckrose explains that in postmodernism, the intention of the speaker – what the speaker means to say – “is irrelevant. What matters is the impact of speech,” how the listener feels.

Yes... welcome to the origins of “Sexual harassment is whatever we say it is!” Under postmodernism, there’s no crime you can’t pin on somebody. You just claim you feel harmed or “unsafe” from something they’ve said or done – basically, take offence and run with it. 

Postmodernism has a black sister, ‘intersectionality’. American law professor and social theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw pointed out in a 1989 legal journal article that black women get extra scoops of discrimination. Like white women, they’re discriminated against because they are women. But they’re also discriminated against on the basis of race, being black. As Crenshaw explains it, the intersection of these two “marginalised” identities compounds the discrimination black women experience. 

This is a noteworthy point. In discrimination suits, taking both sex and race into account could increase the redress received by black female plaintiffs. But Crenshaw additionally called for “expanding feminist theory and anti-racist politics” by “embracing the intersection” of forms of discrimination. 

Women’s studies and gender studies faculties jumped at this. They turned intersectionality into an identity politics cudgel – a way to shame and neuter white people (and especially white men).

In a total reverse of Martin Luther King’s call to judge people “by the content of their character,” intersectionality became a pissing contest of victimhood and oppression. Under intersectionality, high status is not earned; it’s granted through one’s group membership – how many boxes one can check on the “marginalised” groups ledger: Lesbian? Black? Missing a limb? You get to talk. White women, shut up and “check your privilege”. 

Of course, this is social original sin. You can’t control your colour or whether you’re born with all the usual limbs; you can only control what you do. 

For feminist academics, victimhood has become the new hustle, a way to have unearned power over others. Ironically, this has required feminism to don the hat of paternalism, effectively telling the world that women cannot make it without the coddling and special treatment that feminist activists will force men, government, and businesses to provide for them. 

For this argument to fly, women must be viewed as weak, fragile, and easily victimised. So, like a rehab facility maintaining its patient base by giving away bags of heroin at a table in its parking lot, academic feminism has become a force for female disempowerment. It pushes women to identify as victims – an identity formed not by what they’ve done but what’s been done to them – and to demand not equal rights but special rights, perks, and protections. (Notice us coming full circle, anyone?)

JIHADI FEMINISM AND ITS ENABLERS

The jihadi feminists of academia had help spreading their dogma: the overparenting epidemic, the decline of religion, and the rise of the internet and social media. Feminist academia’s militant rejection of science has also played a major role.

Mommy ’n’ Me Forever

‘Helicopter parenting’, the perpetual parental hover, took off in the early 90s, galvanised by TV news-driven paranoia that every stranger who said hello in the mall was plotting to kidnap their kid. It’s given way to ‘snowplow parenting’: parents clearing every possible obstacle in their child’s path – in school, at work and beyond. 

Young adults who’ve grown up having any conflict in their lives magically removed by an authority figure are, not surprisingly, less independent and self-sufficient than previous generations. Yes, in 75 years, we’ve gone from the Greatest Generation, storming the beach at Normandy, to the Gripey-est Generation, with Mommy calling their boss to complain on their behalf. They’re ripe for feminism acting in loco parentis.

Replacing Religion With The Cult Of ‘Woke’

Today’s victim feminism is basically a fundamentalist religion without the god stuff. Women’s attraction to it is understandable, given the sharp decline in organised religion in America. 

Like traditional religions, it offers comfy, pre-chewed black and white beliefs: us and them, right and wrong, good and evil. 

It also seems to fill a major psychological hole in us. We appear to have an adaptation pushing us to join groups, probably coming out of how there were distinct survival advantages to living cooperatively in ancestral times. 

Evolutionary scientist Clay Routledge theorises that secular movements now function as a substitute for religion, noting that studies find “it is people who score low on commitment to a religious faith” who are more likely to turn to “extreme political tribalism”. 

As for how they’ll wave the flag of their allegiance, in lieu of mass and church socials there’s social media.

The Global Village, Complete With Virtual Salem Witch Trials

The internet and social media are today’s stage for flaunting one’s belief system. This can be done quietly by complying with group dress codes, like by posting a picture of oneself in a pink pussy hat on Instagram.

It can also be done aggressively by attacking a common enemy. In minutes on Twitter, hundreds – or hundreds of thousands – of fellow travellers can be mobilised against a perpetrator of wrongthink. 

As a bonus, this is ‘virtue signalling’, conspicuously displaying your moral righteousness – your commitment to the cause – in a way that requires little actual effort. (Why get all sweaty marching when you can just tweet?) 

Screw you, Science! 

Welcome to the Endarkenment.

Like other religions, victim feminism rejects science – specifically, science that finds general differences between male and female psychology and behaviour. Basically, their view is “We don’t like the findings (or rather, they get in the way of our massive power-grab) so we’ll just call it ‘bro science’ and shove it aside.”

Feminists insist, sans evidence, that differences between men and women are largely (or even entirely) socially constructed. They claim that ‘toxic’ ‘patriarchal’ culture causes sex differences in outcomes, like how women tend to be kindergarten teachers and not oil rig workers.

In fact, research shows men are far likelier to take physical risks, such as working on an offshore oil platform. Findings on sex differences like this are some of the most robust in behavioural science. The fact that they show up across cultures and even in apes and other non-human primates demolishes feminists’ arguments.

Though overall, men and women are more alike than different, the sex differences we do see align with men’s and women’s differing physiologies. The late psychologist Anne Campbell explained that women seem to have evolved to avoid physical confrontation, which could damage their reproductive parts and leave them unable to fill their role as an infant’s primary caregiver.

She believed that female self-protectiveness led to women’s tendency to be indirect – using hints and manipulation instead of assertive speech to achieve their goals. She likewise believed it was why women are much higher than men in ‘agreeableness’, a personality trait manifesting in being kind, generous, warm and motivated to have positive interactions with others.

This is vital information for women. But thanks to feminist academia’s dissing of evolutionary research, women who might recognise the need to override their natural inclinations are instead flying blind – hinting and hoping men will suss out what they want and comply. Combined with women’s internalizing of feminist notions about their supposed powerlessness, this makes for a toxic stew – leading, for example, to morning-after sexual regret-turned-“rape.” 


WE’VE GONE FROM “WOMEN BELONG IN THE KITCHEN” TO “MEN BELONG IN THE GULAG”

We’re now living under two new norms – new expectations for thinking and behaviour dictated by our intersectional feminist overlords.

Perniciously, these new standards are secret. Yet those who don’t adhere to them put themselves at risk – of losing their job and being exiled from their social world, as Bora Zivkovic was, or being bullied by hundreds or even thousands of people on social media. 

The first secret standard: Women Are Children

Women must now be treated like children. They cannot be expected to assert themselves or tend to their own needs, including their personal safety.

We don’t let toddlers be autonomous: “I’ll just ride my Big Wheel up to the deli to buy ice cream.” Instead, adults decide what children need and even what they want, if they were grown up enough to know what’s best for them. 

Men are now expected to do this for women. On a date or over business drinks, men must guess what a woman will be comfortable with but has either not figured out for herself or not mentioned. 

And just as we don’t use adult language around children, it’s no longer appropriate around grown women. A college professor, Nick Wolfinger, discovered this after committing this speech crime of telling female colleagues over drinks that he’d proposed to his wife at a strip club. Mere mention of an adult entertainment venue led to a complaint filed against him with his university. It cost him five months and $14,000 in attorney’s fees to clear himself.

Finally, women, like children, cannot be expected to be personally responsible for their safety. Simply suggesting a woman take steps to prevent sexual assault (like not getting blackout drunk) is now a thought crime. This is angrily countered by how men “should” behave, which changes how some do behave (rape-ishly) not in the slightest.

The second secret standard: Men Are Sex Predators – Even In Their Sleep

A male Amherst College student, drunk off his ass, was accompanied to his room by his girlfriend’s female roommate. He passed out. While he was passed out, this female student gave him a blowjob. After her roommate discovered what she’d done and she found herself ostracised, she accused the male student of sexual assault, claiming that she withdrew consent at some point during the sexual act – yes, that’s right, consent for a sex act she was performing on an unconscious man. As he had been blacked out the whole time, he couldn’t contest that and Amherst expelled him.

Among the conscious, male sexuality is more variety-seeking while female sexuality is generally more commitment-seeking. One is not better than the other. They’re just different. Because women can get pregnant from sex, they evolved to prefer men who are willing and able to ‘invest’ in any children. But under the new ‘men are sex predators’ standard, classic male pursuit – which is not the same as rape – has been demonised. 

Men are horny mofos in a way most women are not. They evolved to ‘spread their seed’, not, ‘save it for that special someone’. Truth be told, I suspect Zivkovic would’ve catapulted himself into bed with any of his three accusers, had they given him the thumbs up.

Ultimately, I think Zivkovic was a lonely guy hungry for human connection, willing to take whatever these women were willing to give. It’s like my dog. If you’re offering bacon, she’ll eat bacon. If you’re offering a dental chew bone, she’ll eat that. Whatever you’re serving, she’s eating.


A THREESOME SHOULDN’T BE TWO SEX PARTNERS AND A NOTARY

A cloud of suspicion now hangs over male-female romantic interactions. Men are would-be perps and women are would-be accusers.

This led to ‘affirmative consent’ policies on campuses across America (and talk of states making it law). These require that people ask for and receive verbal consent each time they move on to some new form of sexual activity: “May I kiss you? May I rapidly lick your clitoris?” 

This flies in the face of how sexual activity works in the real world – with adults sensing what move to make next. Personally, my boyfriend is my boyfriend because, three hours after we met, he walked me to my car, grabbed me, and kissed me. 

In eliminating this spontaneity, we lose a good bit of the sexiness of sex, and for women, the feeling of being wildly desired. That’s gone when a guy brings in a notary with consent documents for you to sign. That sounds absurd, but it’s on the mind of many men, worried that they’re one unwise choice of sex partner away from life in prison on a rape charge.


WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

For men, the best defence is a good offence.

Take precautions. Don’t be alone in an office with a woman with the door closed. Think twice about drinks with female co-workers. And finally, seek women as friends, colleagues, and romantic partners who don’t seem to go for the women-as-eggshells feminism.

Real change has to come from women.

There are women – like me – who refuse to buy into the victimthink. We speak out, despite the potential social and career costs. In time, I hope we can persuade other women that academic feminism’s denial of the innate differences between the sexes is doing substantial harm to women. As anthropologist Jerome Barkow puts it, “Biology is only destiny if we ignore it.”

Imagine if women were told that they might have an evolved propensity to be ‘pleasers’ and that this is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s simply a function of what worked for the females of our species in ancestral times. 

If a woman knows she might have a tendency to say yes when she means “hell, no!” she’s prepared to stand up for herself in a way she isn’t by empty girlpower-talk like “the future is female!” (interspersed with complaints about how ‘the patriarchy’ is keeping women down). 

Unfortunately, feminist activists keep focusing on the wrong people – telling men “You can’t say this,” “You can’t do this.” We can’t control others’ behaviour; we can only control our own. Until feminism, from the academy on down, stops being blame-oriented and starts being truly empowerment-oriented, the future will not be female. The future will be feminism’s – at the expense of all the women it claims to be advocating for and all the men it criminalises in its wake.