Culture

Making Sense of Eric Schneiderman

New York AG Eric Schneiderman announces a lawsuit concerning DACA recipients in Manhattan, September 6, 2017. (Joe Penney/Reuters)
Politics and morality are not one and the same.

The former attorney general of the state of New York had a pattern of slapping and choking women with whom he was intimate. He also spat at them, demanded threesomes, insulted them, threatened them, and called one (who had dark skin) his “brown slave.” Without warning, he slammed a girlfriend so hard that he broke her eardrum. In another case, his palm left a red welt on a woman’s face that remained visible the following day.

These and other details about Eric Schneiderman were disclosed by Ronan Farrow and Jane Meyer in The New Yorker. Keep that in mind the next time someone suggests that the liberal media are untethered to reality and serve only partisan purposes. Schneiderman is not only a Democrat, he was a key Trump antagonist, and a champion of the MeToo movement.

This has left a number of feminists both furious and bewildered. It’s disorienting to see people you admired and assumed to be moral betray everything they supposedly believed in—something conservative women (and men) have experienced too. Samantha Bee, who had often lionized Schneiderman on her show, fumed “This is especially infuriating given his supposed woke bae-ness,” she said. “Schneiderman positioned himself as a feminist crusader, he championed the #MeToo Movement … he helped craft an anti-choking law even though he’s now accused of choking his girlfriends.”

The Huffington Post consulted a psychologist to help explain how it was possible that “male allies” can become “abusers.” Katha Pollitt, who once flippantly warned “never trust a male feminist,” is almost to the point of condemning all men now. “How simple life would be if only conservatives, or liberals . . . were abusers,” she wrote. “In fact, though, the only thing one can say with assurance is that they’re men. Yes, I know women can be abusers, and I know some men are great, but at the moment #NotAllMen is looking more like a wish than a declarative statement.”

Samantha Bee’s defiant conclusion is “You know who’s a better advocate for women? Women. The future is female, or at least it better be, because I am done with this.” Katha Pollitt’s resolve is similar: “I have no answers. But here’s what I’m going to do: Vote for women. Support women. Protect women. Believe women.”

In my forthcoming book, (June 26) Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense, I push back against this feminist tendency to deride men as a class and to disparage masculinity itself as somehow pathological. In the 1970s, some second wave feminists like Ti-Grace Atkinson, president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, were so possessed by hatred for men in general that they lost sight of basic morality. Atkinson urged NOW to take up the cause of Valerie Solanas, founder of SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men). Solanas shot and attempted to kill Andy Warhol.

The counterculture of the 1960s and 70s broke down social norms, and then regretted what was unleashed. Today, feminists are grappling with the long roster of supposedly “enlightened” i.e. feminist men who’ve turned out to be serial abusers or worse. Samantha Bee mentioned “powerful weasels” Harvey Weinstein, Garrison Keillor, and Charlie Rose. The roster also includes Louis C.K., Al Franken, John Conyers, Matt Lauer, Mark Halperin, Leon Wieseltier, Bill Clinton, and many more.

Why are feminists more despairing about these revelations concerning liberal men than conservative women are about equally ugly stories concerning conservative men?

The answer, I’d suggest, is that liberals tend to believe that one’s politics and one’s morality are the same thing. If you hold the correct views about abortion, the minimum wage, women’s equality, gay marriage, and guns, it means not just that you agree with me, but that you are a good person. A man who champions the MeToo movement would never hurt a woman, right?

There is some mirror imaging on the right. Some conservative women are stunned to discover that men they thought were adherents of traditional morality turn out to be louts and even rapists.

A key conservative insight is that character is a matter of behavior, not professed beliefs. Judge people by their conduct, not their branding. How do you mold decent conduct? Conscientious parents who teach right from wrong and a culture that reinforces those lessons. The feminists helped to weaken some of the mores and institutions that tended to control male lust and abuse. At the time, they thought they were fighting an unjust “double standard,” but the sexual revolution damaged all standards, and we continue to sift through the fallout.

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