The Manipulative Feminism of Megyn Kelly

It is incomprehensible,” Bill O’Reilly says of Megyn Kelly’s attack on him this week. No, it is entirely comprehensible, given that her show, aimed largely at liberal women, is tanking. By playing the feminist card again and pandering to her audience, she hopes to revive her flagging show. But it won’t work. Her tremulously delivered, overly dramatic monologue about O’Reilly — “his suggestion that no one complained about his behavior is false; I know, because I complained” — was typically manipulative, misleading, and narcissistic.

The “behavior” to which she so darkly referred didn’t include sexual harassment at all. It referred to his appearance on a television show during which he declined to answer any questions about her memoirs. He begged off, saying that he had no “interest” in badmouthing his employer. That didn’t sit well with Kelly, who felt that he should have praised her book and its trashing of Roger Ailes. Seeing a chance to throw her weight around during contract renegotiations, she then fired off a letter of complaint to Fox News executives.

Kelly recounted all of this self-centered back-and-forth with deep sighs, as if she had suffered an enormous, traumatizing wrong. Of course, she had to present what amounts to nothing more than trivial personal pique in grand feminist terms, with all the usual blather about the “message” O’Reilly’s “behavior” sent.

In response to Kelly’s monologue, O’Reilly’s lawyer released a fawning note Kelly once wrote O’Reilly after he promoted her husband’s book on his show. The note captures what a two-faced phony Kelly can be: “Thanks for the play on Doug’s book. I realize you didn’t have to do that, especially after mentioning it already. I appreciate how supportive you have been over the years here @FNC. You are a true friend + mentor.”

Kelly’s attempt to put herself in the middle of the “discussion about sexual harassment” only undercuts its seriousness, reducing it to bickering among overpaid, egotistical celebrities. Lost in all the ponderous talk about the need for “systemic change” is the glaring irony that figures such as Megyn Kelly gained, not lost, jobs from that system. Were that system abolished, Megyn Kelly wouldn’t have a career.

Even the title of Kelly’s book, “Settle for More,” which sounds like a rallying cry for a feminist era of opportunistic litigation, tends to minimize the seriousness of sexual assault/harassment. Shouldn’t the mistreated seek to call the cops, not settle for more? That these episodes result in settlements, not trials, makes it impossible to assess the gravity of the misbehavior and it does nothing to protect future victims. “Settle for more” is the kind of cheap advice one would expect from an anchor who waited a decade before taking on the “mentors” who made her.

Kelly likes to keep the discussion nebulous, so that she can at once heighten her status as a victim while avoiding any awkward questions about the cynicism of her climb. Keeping the discussion vague also allows her to lump together subjects of wildly varying importance and credibility. Hence, one moment she and her guests are discussing undeniably serious assault charges, then in the next complaining about wage “inequality” — as if it is all on the same level of outrage and provable impropriety. One of her guests went from talking about Harvey Weinstein’s crimes to recalling a TV producer who asked her to apply more makeup, as if they belonged on the same continuum and as if it had just dawned on her that she worked in an industry based on looks.

How long would Megyn Kelly and her guests survive if the “systemic change” involved allowing unattractive women to sue for losing jobs to attractive ones? Would Megyn Kelly, who used to trade bawdy remarks with Howard Stern and pose in risqué Esquire shoots, really want the culture to return to rigorous wholesomeness? One doubts it. Indeed, the moment anyone suggests the restoration of protective modesty, she pounces on them as “victim shamers.” She is more interested in advancing feminist ideology than giving practical counsel to women that might actually help them in a dangerous world. Wear whatever you want, Kelly insisted on a recent show, since “sexual harassment has nothing to do with wardrobe; it has to do with power and control and sexual proclivities that a superior chooses not to rein in.”

Feminism’s simultaneous insistence upon puritanism and promiscuity is a formula for exposing more women to harm. By fostering the fantasy that the two can coexist, feminists reveal the entitled and manipulative character of their agenda. It aims not at goodness but power and produces a culture that accuses too much and accuses too little, spreading “victimhood” out so broadly the worst victims are ignored while the Megyn Kellys “settle for more.”

George Neumayr
George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.
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