If the fourth wave of American feminism rose, as we had confidently come to believe, on the same day that we elected Donald Trump, then how do we explain its sudden crash upon the soggy, slimy, spore-spotted stones bunched together by the Biden campaign? This was no common interpolation, no ordinary link in the chain, but the anticlimactic coda of a movement that once offered legitimate hope of revolution, only to succumb to the suffocating grip of the establishment. This slow snuffing out of the victim likely started fifty or sixty years ago, when academia claimed (in the absence of cause) feminism as its intellectual domain. That, of course, was the beginning of the ill-fated flight known as third-wave feminism; it was also the cue for feminists to abandon economic justice and to pursue an abstract “social” enemy. The lifeless beast slumbered until the dynastic Clintons were dethroned, an unparalleled political tragedy that proved sufficiently arousing to inspire aggression. This marked animation, in contrast to the tedium of the past several decades, was thought to be the dawn of a new era, but it was only the furious epilogue to the penny dreadful that our history will write.
Cheap, sloppy literature and party propaganda printed in garish, nauseating pink: such was the one product of American feminism’s fourth and final wave. The directed resurgence of feminist ire in the last several years, ubiquitous in the most powerful tiers of the corporate media, was always an elaborate marketing gimmick developed by the Democrats. Banal and superfluous for most of the 2000s, the Democrats received much-needed cultural relevance when Obama came upon the scene, only to be threatened with popular insignificance when Trump made his political debut. Lacking a compelling spectacle of their own, the Democrats seized a weathered, polarizing trend officially known as feminism and sold it to Trump’s dizzy critics. They advertised it as the sophisticated, high-minded, and grown-up alternative to Trump’s titillating sideshow, but its moral insincerity, in substance as well as in form, failed to escape the eye of discriminating customers.
No one could explain why fourth-wave feminists plumbed the murky details of Brett Kavanaugh’s college yearbook, but could not be stirred to investigate the extralegal business of Jeffrey Epstein. None of these self-proclaimed activists defended Tulsi Gabbard when she was lampooned as the goddess of 4chan, but to them, rugged sexism was the one conceivable cause of Elizabeth Warren’s disastrous performance. Under no circumstances could these moral philosophers understand why a civilized human adult would vote for Trump when he has been plausibly accused of committing rape—just as we cannot comprehend why they have agreed to vote for Biden, not only when he is plausibly accused of committing rape, but when these so-called feminists acknowledge the claim.
What’s more, they admit their own hypocrisy. Last week, the New York Times published perhaps the most shocking editorial I have ever read, in which Linda Hirshman, who describes herself as a battler and an agitator against sexual abuse, argues that Biden is a rapist, but we must vote for him anyway. She dismisses Biden’s act of sexual violence (we needn’t say “alleged”, for she writes on the assumption that he did, in fact, rape a woman named Tara Reade) and declares explicitly that “weakening the voice of future survivors—is worth it.” What is it worth? “The good Mr. Biden can do.” Noticeably, Ms. Hirshman never explains what “good” Mr. Biden can be expected to do for women, nor does she conclude with a description of Trump’s political threat to women, writing about the coronavirus instead. In fact, for a writer of such astounding moral rigidity, who compares Trump unfavorably to a (fellow) rapist, Hirshman provides surprisingly few details of the former’s supposedly peerless misogyny and the latter’s presumedly redemptive virtue.
She does, however, furnish some provocative analogies for her confessed endorsement of a rapist. “Don’t a few extra cents for each worker matter more than the marginal dollar for the boss?” she asks. “Won’t the good for all the Americans who will benefit from replacing [Trump] with [Biden], including the masses of women who will get some crumbs, count for more than the harm done to the victims of abuse?” It is impossible to make such a calculation when we have no idea what this elusive “good” entails. We can, however, infer that Biden’s act of rape, and Reade’s active anguish, amount to less than “a few extra cents”, to say nothing of “the marginal dollar”, and that it all adds up to less than “some crumbs”. Hirshman denies her own accusations of amoral realism, preferring to cloak her cynical argument in the vainglorious veil of “utilitarian morality”. Cementing one’s feminist bona fides in cavalier Victorianism is an impressive feat, one which proves the failure of third-wave feminism to accomplish anything academic.
Might it have been wiser to forsake the frippery and embrace the brutality that cynicism compels? Bill Maher, who seems to have been granted unconditional immunity by the establishment, leered in fatigue as he slandered Reade, falsely alleging that she resigned from Biden’s senatorial office because she “wrote a love letter to the murderer trying to keep Biden from the White House”. This “murderer”, as you would be unable to discern from the isolated quote, is Vladimir Putin, who did not serve as Prime Minister of Russia until 1999, more than six years after Reade stopped working for Biden. Of course, this is hardly the most disingenuous statement Maher has made since pinning his complete credibility on the Russiagate conspiracy theory, but it does speak to a larger political prejudice, one that has been exhibited elsewhere, including in a repulsive article appearing in USA Today: if Reade does not condemn an adversary of the American government, then her unrelated claim of sexual violence cannot be credited by mainstream media organizations. Only the proudest partisan would fail to take notice of the non sequitur, yet this weaponization returns us to the point from which we began this essay: the Democrats’ feigned interest in women’s liberation has never been more than a commercial campaign.
However inadvertently, Maher alludes to this cynical revelation when he states that “Republicans don’t care about this stuff, so it’s just a unilateral weapon that is used only against Democrats”. It is disquietingly easy to imagine Sean Hannity alleging the reverse, and it is equally uncomfortable for me to admit that, in this instance, Hannity would be right: fourth-wave American feminism has always been a promotional tool patented by the Democrats in the same way that the politicization of evangelicalism has been controlled by the Republican Party. Perhaps the Democrats’ indiscreet efforts to proselytize women proved to be necessary when the aforementioned evangelicals refused to abandon Trump in 2016? If those voters had been shepherded into the ranks of the Democrats, would feminism be a noteworthy topic in 2020?
Regardless, the Democrats have no excuse for their inexplicable inability to foresee that the fourth wave of American feminism would eventually turn against their own tide. When the Democratic Party decided to pretend that they had the support of every last American woman, they raised the expectations of their own political power to an unfathomable degree. When the Democrats decided to assume the right of representation for every accuser of sexual violence (an assumption reaching its apex in Kavanaugh’s infamous circus trial), they never seemed to consider the possibility that, one day, someone might accuse one of their own, even after Al Franken heeded the incantations of the mob. Nevertheless, they persisted, and when Joe Biden, the heir apparent to the increasingly shapeless Democratic Party, stands accused of slamming his fingers inside Reade’s vagina without her approval, they prove to be utterly incapable of forming a coherent response.
Based on the Democrats’ unilateral response to every accusation of sexual abuse directed against Republicans in the last three years, the only coherent, consistent, and credible response to Reade’s allegations would be a spirited, unequivocal, and palpably bloodthirsty censure of Biden, coupled with an indignant demand that he withdraw from the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nod. If the Democrats wish to maintain their moral monopoly on the issue of sexual violence, then jettisoning Biden would seem to be an awfully small price to pay, especially in the absence of any organic enthusiasm in his current campaign. Alas, “the transaction costs of replacing him would be suicidal”, or so Hirshman believes. We observe the insisted inevitability of Biden’s nomination, as if it were a weather event, or something. Yet, even pragmatically, there is little evidence behind this supposition: Biden’s campaign lacked the faintest scintilla of organic enthusiasm, and though the aforementioned Maher insists that Biden is the only option, it wasn’t too terribly long ago that he was calling on Biden to relinquish the presumptive nomination to Andrew Cuomo, who never even launched a presidential bid.
Maher is not unique in his unprincipled opportunism, any more than Hirshman is distinct from the millions upon millions of feminists who complained of Trump’s “pussy-grabber” comment while simultaneously ignoring Bill Clinton’s own unsettling history. What distinguishes this story from the several similar scandals of the last few years is that Reade’s accusation, and the establishment Left’s contempt for it, have exposed the lurid exploitation at the center of the #MeToo movement. We have always suspected that it was a lucrative slogan disseminated by a disinterested corporate apparatus, but now we have the proof, for only the psychopathy of politicians would permit such visible disdain among people who never tire of reminding us of their inexhaustible compassion. It is stunning to witness Maher, who once led the charge against Kavanaugh, claim that winning the next election is “a little more important than Tara Reade achieving closure”. The same man who once highlighted a woman’s confrontation of a sitting senator now says, when asked if Biden raped Reade: “Don’t know, never will, don’t care.”
We aren’t so foolish as to expect the corporate media to acknowledge this hypocrisy, but we are troubled by the memory of the feminists’ fury when Elizabeth Warren claimed, quite improbably, that Bernie Sanders said a woman could not win the presidential race. We knew Warren was lying, just as we knew Julie Swetnick was lying when she said Kavanaugh and his buddies hosted a gang-rape orgy for a hundred weeks straight. The feminists knew this to be nonsense, too, but they stood with the accusers because it was the only politically practical choice. We might pity them for their incessant need to lie even to themselves; the distress of such perpetual deceit must be taxing, and it might also explain the sadistic joy with which they have trampled Reade. Perhaps this license to demean, disparage, and disrespect a woman with all of the animalistic vitriol of a mob is their much-deserved reward for swallowing so many lies in defense of the Democratic Party? We see a similar phenomenon when the time comes for the Left, supposedly the vanguards of racial equality, to attack a prominent black conservative, a function that my associate D. Pearce SSC refers to as the “progressive release-valve”.
Whatever the function of this sordid episode, the hideous procession will proceed into the summer and the fall, coming to a halt long after the Democrats have shed whatever superficial features may have formerly separated them from the Republicans. Hirshman, Maher, and so many other people running propaganda for the Biden campaign speak of the moral chasm between America’s major political parties, yet they have never seemed so monochromatic. Perhaps this speaks to the progress we have made in liberating ourselves of their propaganda, though I suspect we still have very far to go. Lest we flatter ourselves for our own independence, we should recall the words of Hirshman, who defended Clinton during his impeachment because “the other side … seemed to pose much more of a threat to women’s interests”. If there is one thing we have learned in our adventures hitherto, it’s this: in politics, nothing is quite what it seems.