In the 2011 comedy Bridesmaids, Kristin Wiig stars as Annie, a down-on-her-luck single Milwaukee woman who regularly hooks up with Ted, a handsome Porsche-driving quasi-sociopathic cad delightfully played by Mad Men’s Jon Hamm. After Annie sleeps over for the first time, a skittish Ted reminds her that their night together meant nothing, relationship-wise.
Annie gamely pretends to agree. “We’re on the same page!” she insists, meandering a bit.
I mean, I’m not looking for a relationship right now either, let’s just say that. I just . . . whatever you want to . . . I can do, you know, I’d rather just . . . I like simple, not like other girls, where I’m, like, “Be my boyfriend!” Unless you were like, “Yeah!” Then I’d be, like, “Maybe!”
With a withering chortle, Ted crushes the idea into a sad pile of dust. “Wow, this is so awkward,” he finally says, a few excruciating pretend-romantic kisses later. “I really want you to leave.”
Bridesmaids is just a movie, of course: Scenes like this never happen in real life! Women enjoy casual, meaningless hookups as much as guys like Ted do, am I right? Any emotional baggage or regret or confusion or trauma is a clearly a symptom of our society’s unfair gender-based power dynamics and a result of the restrictive social script imposed by the ever-present patriarchy, which I imagine is engaged in cackling and drinking ludicrously expensive whiskey as we speak!
Well, that’s the narrative of today’s leading contemporary feminists, anyway — and I regret to inform you that they’re running with it.
Witness the latest #MeToo accusation gone awry, starring actor and comedian Aziz Ansari. You’ve probably already heard the sordid tale, which involves a young woman’s bad date with Ansari. From the get-go, he seems clearly interested in only one thing, acting alternatively awkward and aggressive when they go back to his apartment. The woman, to put it kindly, gives off mixed signals; weirdly, she seems to lack the agency to simply get up and leave. The next day, Ansari texts, oblivious. When he gets a lecture from her, he promptly apologizes. The woman returns the favor by releasing an anonymous, excruciatingly detailed Internet tell-all to the world, labeling their encounter as sexual assault.
If you think this sounds like a petty and vindictive thing to do, and wonder why “Grace” — as the anonymous Ansari accuser is now known — couldn’t take responsibility for her own actions, as empowered women are supposed to do, congratulations: In a time of nuttiness, you have retained your common sense. Today, in certain circles, that is a rare achievement indeed.
Some have painted the Ansari story as an aberration in a healthy movement, or a glitch in a stable system. I would argue the contrary. It is the fruit of contemporary feminism, a movement seemingly dedicated to making women’s lives worse one overheated op-ed at a time.
Take the feminist reaction to the Ansari saga, which showers blame on everything under the sun — everything, that is, except the skewed sexual ethic cooked up by contemporary feminism itself. According to Jill Filipovic in the Guardian, what we’re really dealing with is a plague of “unequal power dynamics” and “sexist sexual experiences” and “the weight of centuries of misogyny that have shaped our most intimate moments.” According to an essay at Vox, the real dilemma is “gendered patterns of behavior that are both incredibly common and deeply in need of change.”
Practical questions about how “Grace” could have solved her own problem are beside the point, argues a piece by Sarah Jones in The New Republic, entitled — surprise! — “The Patriarchy Strikes Back.” No, that would be too obvious, too easy. “Any productive conversation about sexual violence must extend to sexual ethics, including how men respond to verbal and nonverbal cues, as Grace’s story showed,” Jones writes. “Urging women to flee or call a cab or to punch their attackers prevents that conversation from taking place.”
Calling a cab seems like a far more effective means of communication than sending ‘nonverbal cues’ and hemming and hawing about some vague impending ‘cultural change.’
Now, I’m not big fan of punching people, especially on dates, but calling a cab seems like a far more effective means of communication than sending “nonverbal cues” and hemming and hawing about some vague impending “cultural change.” But here’s where we get to the heart of the matter: Contemporary feminism isn’t really about getting results. It’s not about treating men and women as human beings with equal rights, equal agency, and equal worth. It’s a blind pursuit of a goofy ideology, no matter the cost to women.
Men and women are different, and despite the best efforts of our friends at Vox, that’s probably not going to change. But that’s only because we’re “socialized” that way, today’s feminists tell us. To rectify the situation, among other things, young women should act like the most boorish of men, hooking up early and often and without a second thought. “I don’t wander into casual sex expecting it to yield a relationship,” wrote one woman recently in the New York Times “Modern Love” column, after spending hundreds of words describing herself doing exactly that.
Clearly, our “sexual ethic” is a train wreck mixed with a dumpster fire mixed with a five-hour toddler birthday party with unlimited cookies and soda at your local Chuck E. Cheese. Today’s feminists are right about one thing: Our culture is in desperate need of repair. The first step, however, involves ignoring a large chunk of their advice. No offense, but I suspect their “help” will only make things worse.
— Heather Wilhelm is a National Review Online columnist.