Please allow me to explain the progressive rules of modern discourse. A feminist — often seated in a powerful perch in academe, the government, or pop culture — spits out disdain for men as a whole, reserving particular venom for the worst of people, the dreaded “white male.” Never mind that white males include everyone from Bill Gates to a recovering junkie living in a trailer park, this courageous action is called “punching up.” It’s “speaking truth to power.”
If the white male responds — especially if that response either is angry or includes any sort of sweeping generalization about women — then that man is “punching down.” He’s spewing hate and perpetuating the patriarchy. Thus, a white male student can oppress his professor merely be responding to her arguments, and Hillary Clinton is victimized by sexism merely because Bernie Sanders accused her of “shouting.”
When inhabiting the comfortable confines of progressive cocoons, this style of argument is a no-lose proposition. The angry leftists’ position on the moral high ground is so unassailable that the very act of resistance is seen as proof of their argument. “Look at the angry white male. He can’t stand seeing a mere woman question his power and privilege.” Either the man acquiesces, or he’s a misogynist. But when the feminist leaves the cocoon, the argument is far less persuasive, and men are more difficult to browbeat.
I was reminded of this reality by Camille Paglia’s fascinating recent essay in Salon, where she traces Clinton’s roots in “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” second-wave feminism. Paglia observes:
Hillary has unfortunately adopted the [Gloria] Steinem brand of blame-men-first feminism, which defines women as perpetual victims requiring government protections. Hillary’s sometimes impatient or patronizing tone about men, which can perhaps be traced to key aspects of her personal history, may prove costly to her current campaign.
Indeed, the gender gap hurt Clinton in 2008, Bernie Sanders is riding a massive gender gap to contention in Iowa, and early numbers indicate that Clinton could face the widest gender gap in modern political history in the general election.
#share#To her hard-core supporters, however, this is all proof of pervasive misogyny. The solution is more identity politics, more accusations of sexism, and more public shaming. But Clinton lost in 2008 when the race devolved into competing claims of racism and sexism, and the non-progressive public is growing increasingly inoculated against political correctness.
RELATED: Hillary Clinton Is Not a Feminist
Clinton forgets that there are very good reasons why the public embraces fairness and equal treatment for women while shunning “feminism.” Indeed, a recent Vox survey found that only 18 percent of Americans call themselves feminists. Increasingly, the public experiences feminism more as an anti-male ideology than a pro-female movement. It’s about tearing down more than building up, and that kind of messaging is deeply repugnant to the millions of women who actually like men — especially their husbands, fathers, and sons.
#related#Indeed, as modern feminists often view even the effort to be likeable as a capitulation to patriarchal norms, look for leftists to grow only more strident. And why not? It keeps working in universities, Hollywood, and government. Surely it will work in November.
Despite the Democrats’ demographic triumphalism, Clinton looks to be a weaker general-election candidate than Barack Obama. As the race progresses, it will be interesting to see how her progressive allies deal with the gender gap. I’m expecting more hectoring, more public shaming, and claims of sexism at every turn. Expecting to rally women in a grand crusade, they may find out that gender solidarity isn’t as easy to manufacture as racial solidarity, and that the “coalition of the ascendant” is more fragile than they thought.