He is the offspring of the unhappy marriage between feminism and the sexual revolution.
The winds of what the New York Post calls Pervnado continue to gather strength, carving a hole through the beta male worlds of NPR, PBS, Hollywood, the New Republic, Vox, the New York Times, and MSNBC, among others. What emerges from this storm of scandal is a clearer picture of a culture that trained men not to respect women but to respect feminism. In many ways, the Beta Male sexual harasser is the squalid offspring of the unhappy marriage between feminism and the sexual revolution, from whose chaotic household he learned virtue-signaling without virtue.
The growing pile of confession notes — which combine ostensible empathy and promises of sensitivity and submission with strategically placed, lawyerly denials — testifies to the grimly comic dishonesty of the Beta Male sexual harasser. He thought that he could continue to indulge his appetites as long as he adjusted his attitudes, a view that all of the prattle about “systemic change” confirms him in, insofar as it treats his misbehavior as an ideological problem rather than a moral one. Implied in many of the confession notes from the harassers is the ludicrous suggestion that with a little more “education,” with a few more training seminars, with a little more consciousness-raising, they would have behaved virtuously. This pose allows them to escape moral responsibility and painlessly join the “solution.” The sexual revolution’s massive crisis of unchastity is thus turned into a “problem of power” that can be remedied by the hiring of more female executives, the expansion of HR departments, and “better” education.
For sheer pomposity, perhaps nothing beats Richard Dreyfuss’s non-apology apology, chalking up his misbehavior to the “performative masculine man my father had modeled for me to be.” But, no worries, he is enlightened now: “I have had to redefine what it means to be a man, and an ethical man. I think every man on Earth has or will have to grapple with this question. But I am not an assaulter.”
Al Franken, trading in the therapeutic, I-stand-ready-to-listen babble of his SNL character Stuart Smalley, says he is going to commit himself anew to believing “women’s experiences.” Never mind that he denied his accuser’s experience. He doesn’t “remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leann does,” but women “deserve to be heard, and believed.” For this act of blatantly dishonest and contradictory atonement, he is receiving praise for his “honesty” and now — in a reminder that feminism will always put politics ahead of the protection of women — a concerted effort is underway to save his career. Thirty-six women from Saturday Night Live have penned a letter saying that his behavior “was stupid and foolish” but that shouldn’t detract from his status as “an honorable public servant.” Michelle Goldberg, writing in the New York Times, says that she is hedging on her call for the ouster of Franken, offering this look into the quality of her reasoning: “It’s easy to condemn morally worthless men like Trump; it’s much harder to figure out what should happen to men who make valuable political and cultural contributions, and whose alleged misdeeds fall far short of criminal.”
Other figures who see themselves as male feminists, such as Charlie Rose and Glenn Thrush, have adopted a similar stance to Franken’s: apologize for making women feel “uncomfortable” while treating the underlying charge as a subjective difference of opinion. Michelle Goldberg treats these phony apologies as a sign of progress:
It’s not a coincidence that the post-Harvey Weinstein purge of sexual harassers has been largely confined to liberal-leaning fields like Hollywood, media, and the Democratic party. This isn’t because progressive institutions are more sexist than others — I’m confident there’s at least as much sexual abuse in finance as in publishing. Rather, organizations with liberal values have suddenly become extremely responsive to claims of sexism.
One can see in such deluded musings why the feminists prefer Beta Male sexual harassers to the Mike Pences. Whether one is “responsive to claims of sexism” is determined in their eyes not by the person’s virtue but by his politics. They will take a goatish Al Franken over a chivalrous Mike Pence. Or take Al Gore, one of the leading Beta Male pols of his generation, who has completely escaped notice during this frenzy, despite credible reports of his having lunged at a masseuse. You won’t see his face in any of the mainstream media’s montages of sexual harassers, lest that set back the cause of climate-change activism. For all the talk of a Clintonian “reckoning,” the feminists still agree with Nina Burleigh that the advance of liberal politics, or as she put it “keeping theocracy off our backs,” is worth “kneepads.”
In the coarseness of that remark, in its shameless admission that feminism seeks power not decency, one could hear the rumblings of today’s scandal. In a culture that rejects chivalry, chastity, and the countless prudent safeguards previous generations adopted in light of real differences between the sexes — in a culture that in effect reduces “goodness” to a set of political attitudes — the rise of the Beta Male sexual harasser was inevitable. From the sordid bed of the sexual revolution and crass feminism has come a new creature — the male feminist pig.
Al Gore in 2006 (Steve Jurvetson/Creative Commons)