#MeToo – decoding misandry

By Eugène E.

It is sometimes said that a revolution is a self-cannibalizing event; it typically devours itself. Almost a year has passed since the #MeToo movement burst into the annals of history. While to call it a revolution is rather flattering – a revolution sweeps away the old order and imposes a new one, and #MeToo is not quite there – the zeal with which it erupted was revolutionary in nature, and its effects could be sufficiently far-reaching yet. But some might wonder whether #MeToo hasn’t started to devour itself. The movement was certainly dealt a blow recently, when it emerged that the actress Asia Argento, one of its doyennes, had paid a tidy sum (just under $400,000) to a man young enough to be her son, following a complaint made by the young man that the actress had engaged in just the kind of behavior that made #MeToo a movement and Asia Argento one of its faces.

Argento has denied the allegations, but she’s admitted that monies did change hands. According to the actress, the payment was not an admission of guilt; rather, she was pushed into paying off the accuser by her then-companion, the late Anthony Bourdain, to avoid negative publicity. Color me unconvinced.

I am not sure what to make of the accuser, who claims to have been traumatized by the experience. If the accusations are true, Argento might have violated the laws dealing with statutory rape in the jurisdiction in question, but the man was 17 at the time the incident is alleged to have happened, an age at which one can operate a vehicle where I live (and probably where the accuser lives, too). The modern young male can drive on a highway, but is traumatized by receiving oral sex from a not unattractive woman. There was a time when, in wealthier families, the paterfamilias would hire a young maid in order to initiate an adolescent son into the mysteries of manhood (writing about fin-de-siècle Vienna, Zweig mentioned that in his memoirs, if memory serves). Now young men complain about it and say this sort of thing is traumatic, although it seems to be the kind of trauma that can heal with the help of a little bit of cash – on the order of $400,000, to be exact.

It’s worth remembering that young women who have yet to reach the age of majority are in greater need of protection than young men. Since claiming that there are differences between men and women qualifies as apostasy these days, this is denied; but the experience of being seduced by an older female will have a different effect on an underage boy than it will on an underage girl seduced by an older man. A photo apparently showing Argento and the accuser in bed together posing for a selfie has just been released; the photo is said to have been taken at the time of the incident, and the victim does not look in the least bit traumatized.

One can say that the modern young male necessarily corresponds to the watermark of his time – as does the woman currently facing the accusations. Whatever the truth of the matter, the allegations don’t make Asia Argento look very good. By extension, they don’t make the #MeToo movement look very good.

We ought not to be surprised by all this. Long-term readers are aware of where the Axis of Reaction stands with respect to the #MeToo movement. I’ve felt skeptical about #MeToo since the early days of the Weinstein saga; in fact, the first Axis of Reaction blog post (https://axisofreaction.com/2017/10/26/misandry/) was dedicated to this topic. Everything that has happened since then only reinforced the view familiar to readers of this blog, which is that #MeToo is an ideologically based power grab that masquerades itself as an agent of social justice.

There are a number of considerations that support this view.

1. While I have no intention of expressing any kind of solidarity with Harvey Weinstein or of defending him – he does have a lawyer, after all – there was something odd about the suddenness of the accusations against the man. For years Weinstein had appeared to be a much respected Hollywood linchpin and a man everyone wanted to be friends with. All of a sudden, we were asked to believe he was Satan’s emissary. Could it have been true? Certainly. Not to mention that social movements can take shape rapidly in the age of social media. Yet it is hard to imagine that a phenomenon such as #MeToo can emerge out of a void. The pressure must have been building up for a long time; all that was needed was a scapegoat. Weinstein was that scapegoat. My personal inclination is to distrust all movements that require scapegoats for validation, and history bears out that view.

2. The extent and scope of the accusations made it clear that many people had known about Weinstein’s proclivities for some time – people who had enough clout to come forward. But they hadn’t come forward, not until the turn of events compelled them to do so. That turn of events was the #MeToo movement, and the sight of all these indignant faces who were now all too eager to add their names to the #MeToo manifesto suggested that the movement was rife with opportunists.

3. The #MeToo movement was presented as a “mainstream” problem. Actually, it was more of a Hollywood problem. Without questioning the authenticity of some of the complaints against Weinstein and other men who have been served up to the #MeToo guillotine, it’s worth asking whether, in a number of instances, it wasn’t a case of some wildly successful women who had paid a certain price for their success, on their own volition, and who now regretted having paid it.

Do the voices of the #MeToo movement care about gnawing problems in wider society involving abuse of, and violence against, women? I doubt it. Like Hollywood itself, the #MeToo world is an insular one. The stories of the #MeToo women represent a world that is not overly interested in new entrants, who will only increase competition and supplant those who are already in.

Violence against women should be dealt with by reintroducing a system of values, by instilling discipline in our youth, and by reforming our justice system to make it a system that will uphold our values and ensure that the importance of discipline is never forgotten. Presently, our values are fluid and rickety, with a heavy ultraliberal bias; discipline is given short shrift; and the justice system in many Western countries, insofar as punishment and retribution are concerned, is frankly a bit of a joke. Without values and discipline, men will not respect other men; equally, they will fail to respect women. To respect others, people need to be inculcated with the right values at an age when such inculcation can be expected to be effective. I note that it has become socially acceptable, at work and in public places, for men to cuss freely in the presence of women and even children; this is now the norm. There are no barriers and no moral restraints. How could there be? In a world where one’s comfort supersedes one’s sense of duty, no one is accountable to anyone. Board a streetcar or a bus in my city, and you are bound to see a young man (i.e., under forty) who will sooner let hell freeze over than give up his seat to a woman old enough to be his mother – I see it all the time.

On the other hand, women are no longer encouraged to be women in the traditional sense. Being feminine is passé. Women are advised to avoid cultivating their femininity, to engage in all sorts of adventures with their bodies, to swear at their leisure – emancipation, baby! But how can a man respect a foul-mouthed woman covered with piercings and tattoos from head to toe? When it’s not unkemptness, it’s often indecency. Teenage girls believe that exposing as much as flesh as the law will allow them, with things literally hanging out, makes them look sexy; actually, it just makes them look vulgar. The problem with vulgarity is that it commands little respect.

If we want to create an environment that is safe for women, then, we need values, discipline, better policing, and a justice system that will reinforce all those other things. If these proposed solutions might not work as well as I think they will, they will still outperform the #MeToo movement, which relies on hollow sloganeering and rancid histrionics.

4. It is unusual for people preaching tolerance and acceptance to attempt to throttle those who disagree with their sermons, but this is something of a specialty for ultraliberals and their ideology, of which, as mentioned earlier, the #MeToo movement is an offshoot. Those who have dared to question the #MeToo movement found themselves in a very uncomfortable situation. When Catherine Deneuve expressed her doubts, she was subjected to something of a virtual lynching and was eventually forced to recant. The vehemence with which the #MeToo movement persecutes opposition suggests it is not on sure footing; more to the point, it is unsure of, or does not quite believe in, its own truth.

5. #MeToo bills itself as a movement against sexual harassment. If that were all there was to it, there would be no movement. Most decent people – men as well as women – want to stamp out sexual violence. Decent men don’t grope women or grab them by their body parts, certainly not against their will. We don’t need the #MeToo movement to tell us that. So why did the movement come about?

Let’s be clear. The goal of the #MeToo movement is not to represent oppressed women. The goal is to build a society in which there are fewer men – not fewer men in general, but fewer men at the top of all power structures. To achieve this objective and confer upon it the necessary legitimacy, it is necessary to construct a narrative that casts men as the enemy. According to that narrative, society is hostile, unfair, and oppressive to women; women do not enjoy the same opportunities that men do; priapic ogres lie in ambush everywhere to pounce on their female victims – in short, the narrative shows that the world is tyrannized by a patriarchy that needs to be done away with, once and for all. Men are demonized; ultimately, the movement that purports to fight against sexism ends up promoting misandry.

All the recent talk about the chronic underrepresentation of women in certain jobs, about the immutable existence of sinister old-boy networks, and about ubiquitous sexual harassment at the top of hierarchies – all of that is not accidental. Some of these complaints are legitimate. The problem, to go back to the original thesis, is that there is a big difference between social justice and power struggles. Gender warriors talk about the lack of women in governments and on the boards of Fortune 500 companies, but they’re not too concerned about the paucity of women on construction sites or about the near-total absence of women manning garbage trucks. They certainly don’t bemoan the fact that the overwhelming majority of US soldiers who have fallen in combat in the last century were men – gender equality does not apply to private eschatology. Gender warriors huff and puff about male networks, yet they have no problems promoting “safe spaces” for women, which are essentially men-free zones – hypocrisy galore. Ambitious women should not be thwarted. Elbowing one’s way into the couloirs of power is a natural enough desire, after all. I only insist that we call things by their proper names and avoid conflating private ambitions with social justice.

But such conflation cannot be avoided, because it might deprive the ultraliberal movement of its thrust. Oprah Winfrey made it clear earlier this year, when she delivered her “your time’s up” speech. Few asked Winfrey to identify the intended recipients of her message. We were made to believe that she was referring to powerful men who abused their power to satisfy their carnal cravings. Actually, what she really said was that men’s time was up. White men especially. We’ve had enough of you; we want less of you now. Some might roll their eyes: it’s such a cliché for a white male to complain that white males are now the only group it is acceptable to bash. Perhaps, but then clichés can be valid, too. Nor should clichés be mistaken for exaggerations.

Crazy Rich Asians was released last weekend in North America. The movie has an all-Asian cast; as one newspaper gushed, it is not so much a movie as it is a “moment”. At last, Asian-Americans, heretofore severely underrepresented on the big screen, were given the opportunity that had been so long in coming.

It can be conceded that Asian-Americans have been underrepresented in Hollywood, although perhaps not for the reasons that are commonly mentioned. Values might be at work here: Asian-American parents would probably react differently to a child who announces he wants to be a novelist than the parents of a white American child who wants to do the same. There is a greater probability that artistic ambitions might be viewed as frivolous by an Asian-American family than by a Caucasian one, which might be more accepting of such aspirations. This could partially explain why relatively few Asian-Americans drift into Hollywood in the first place: instead of being repelled by racial barriers, they may be guided by the more materialistic values of the milieus from which they originate.

Regardless of the genesis of their underrepresentation, if more Asian-Americans want to be on the screen, so much the better. If the intention of the people behind Crazy Rich Asians is to create a world where folks have a fair and decent chance of realizing their full potential, whatever their race, that world will not be a bad place to live in. But it’s rather strange that the film promises this new color-blind world, free of racially inspired atavism, and yet freely drags race right into it. It claims it doesn’t want race to be a factor, yet it makes race a factor. Note that no one is talking about the quality of the film – which seems to be a typical made-in-Hollywood crowd-pleaser – but everyone is talking about the fact that, finally, the cast is all Asian (which also implies that there are no white faces for a change, though this is tactfully omitted). Without race, there would be no film; race appears to underwrite the movie’s plot. In fact, it is the plot; everything else seems to be secondary. The bright tomorrow, then, is formulated along the drab lines of today. This is akin to affirmative action: we need to have more minority groups represented in such and such institutions, so we therefore introduce quotas to have less whites in these institutions. The idea that to be fair to some, we need to be unfair to others, strikes me as fairly ignoble. True fairness, the color-blind kind of fairness, should never rely on unfairness to promote itself.

It should be noted that the actress who plays the main character in Crazy Rich Asians is a big supporter of both the #MeToo movement and the whole Time’s Up enterprise. Nothing astonishing here. It should also be noted that there have already been complaints about the movie from Asian quarters. Some have remarked that the movie fails to show the entire spectrum of the many Asian ethnic groups in existence; others seem to resent the fact that the movie, though it uses Singapore as its setting, does not portray its smaller Malay and Indian communities as much as they deserve. On and on it goes. Keeping in mind what was said earlier about revolutions devouring themselves, this kind of hubbub is fairly predictable.

But I would not want to steal anyone’s “moment”. The laws of history have their own logic. In the meantime, it appears that Asia Argento needs to answer a few uncomfortable questions. One of them is quite simple: you too? If the accusations made against Argento are true, she can still say, “me too”; but the meaning would be quite different this time.

Of Beards and Feminists

By Eugène E.

As many a fashionista will tell you, fashion is about more than just catwalks, anorexic models, and aesthetics. There’s a social dimension to it as well: what we wear and how we look reflects, to a certain extent, the times in which we live. On some subconscious level, we project the prevailing zeitgeist, the spirit of our times, and its very pulse to the world around us to show that we’re “in it”, that we are au courant. As being fashionable – being trendy – entails being in the vanguard of things, fashion is also an effort to capture the dawning future; and, as such, it is an intimation of things to come. In a word, if you want to get an idea of where we might be going, take a good look around you.

One interesting trend has been what I call the juvenilization of society. Prophetically, José Ortega y Gasset wrote about the celebration of youth culture as a way of evading responsibility, and this is possibly more relevant today than ever. What is the primary difference between children and adults? It lies in their notions of rights and responsibilities. Children are only cognizant of their rights; as they mature into adulthood, the sense of what they are entitled to cedes ground to a sense of the obligations underpinning those rights (although, it must be said, the extent to which that ground is ceded varies widely among people).

It is curious, then, that there has been a noticeable trend among many adults to emulate youths. This is seen in popular culture, which caters to adolescents; it is observable in language, as more and more adults began to talk like their children; and it is evident in fashion, where it is quite common nowadays to see white-collar workers wearing suits along with, quite incongruously, sneakers, knapsacks or backpacks. Adults look up to children, whereas things should be exactly the other way around. Napoleon was commanding troops before his eighteenth birthday; today many men defer their coming-of-age as much as they can. An objection might be made that people lived longer in Napoleon’s time; but that still makes mockery of the word “progress”. The juvenalization of our society suggests that society is becoming more immature and less cognizant of its responsibilities. It is being dumbed down.

Another interesting fashion trend is the rise of the Taliban beard. We’re not talking about trimmed beards – beards à la French PM Édouard Philippe or Canadian leftist leader Tom Mulcair. We’re talking about the kind of beard that will easily pass muster on the plains of Kandahar or in the tangled streets of Cairo – an unappealingly lush beard that is all the rage among younger men in Western cities. More Ayatollah Khomeini than George Clooney on a day the actor’s cultivating a ragged look.

This is no accident. As the number of Muslims in the West (especially in Western Europe) has grown, receiving a further boost from Angela Merkel’s spectacularly misguided decision to let in more than a million migrants from the Middle East in 2015, and as the demographics favor the Islamic polity in Europe over its native population, Muslim customs become more influential. Heavy facial foliage, a rather typical attribute of Muslim men, is therefore finding adherents among non-Muslim men as well. The question is whether these bearded young men think sporting an Islamic-style beard is simply the “in thing”, or whether they are unconsciously adjusting to a future in which such beards will be de rigueur amongand perhaps even a requirement for, the male citizens of many Western cities.

On a side note, I notice that the beard of Omar Khadr is quite trim and, despite the man’s past, decidedly non-Islamic. Omar Khadr, of course, is the Canadian citizen who dabbled in heavy-duty terrorism while still a teenager and has recently received a taxpayer-funded payout to the tune of more than $10 million for having suffered abuse at the hands of a government that – hard to believe – was not the Canadian government. Nevertheless, the Canadian government still decided to reward him handsomely for his agony. Canada’s prime minister – the textbook definition of a lightweight prime minister and a complete nonentity in every aspect except for, possibly, that of looks – has justified the settlement by arguing that not settling would have been more expensive and that Canadian citizens should never be subjected to torture, however unlikeable they might be.

The first argument is contentious, the second certainly valid – but there’s something very disturbing about a million-dollar settlement for a citizen who has engaged in terrorist activity against either the country of which he is a citizen or against an ally of the said country. Has a Canadian citizen who fought for Canada ever received anything approaching this sum? This reminds me of a decision by a EU court a few years ago to compensate Somali pirates on account of some minor judicial infractions that had been committed against them. Criminals have – and should have – their rights, but these rights should never supersede either the rights of their victims or the prerogatives of common sense. A society in which they do is a society run by nimble lawyers and no one else.

But I digress – we were talking fashion, not justice. What about women’s fashion? The Islamization of Western society seems to be bypassing Western women – for now, that is. There are certainly no overt signs of a lurch towards exaggerated modesty or a sartorial conservatism that conceals so much it offers nothing to the febrile imagination of a lustful male. Women dress no less provocatively than before and perhaps even more so; if it’s not provocative, it’s careless and unattractive, which is also a statement of sorts, calculated to announce to the world that the woman attaches no importance to what the world thinks of her, certainly the male part of it anyway – she will not let herself be objectified. Down with the oppressive patriarchy! To be fair, when it comes to drab attire, a lot of men are just as guilty: when Svetlana Alexievich wrote her Secondhand Time, she might have as well been writing about contemporary fashion in the West.

This is meant to be neither flippant nor frivolous. The fabled female intuition seems to have failed many members of the fairer sex in the West, where the fumes of raging feminism have obscured the view. Thanks to feminist propaganda, women see nothing but an endless advancement of their rights stretching into an indefinite future, whereas they should be seeing quite the opposite. The lot of women in Islamic societies is an unenviable one. Both Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran have a mandatory dress code for women. Women in Saudi Arabia weren’t able to drive cars until only a few months ago. In Iran a sign of progress is when a woman convicted of adultery doesn’t get stoned to death. Under Islamic law, men are free to engage in polygamy and can dispense of a wife who has overstayed the husband’s uxorial hospitality by merely saying “I divorce thee” three times. In short, the nightmare of a Western woman, not to mention a Western feminist. Of course, the Koran is an old text and, as any old text, lends itself to interpretations. The problem is that there’s no shortage of people who insist on a literal interpretation of the Koran – both in the Islamic world and, where Muslim immigration has been strong, in the Western world – and those who insist on a literal interpretation often seem to carry the day. The number of these people can only be expected to grow in the years to come.

We now reach a striking paradox that does not cease to amaze me: the ability of ultraliberalism to at once champion the rights of women and promote tolerance of those who want to destroy these very rights. Ultraliberal indoctrination has been so powerful that many ultraliberals remain blind to this glaring contradiction. Many feminists, in fact, believe that wearing a hijab empowers women, since it is a form of self-expression. Just ask Linda Sarsour, an activist who is able to attend a women’s march wearing a hijab alongside many other women who have donned pink “pussy hats” for the occasion. We see two parallel trends in Western societies: an aggressive, boisterous feminism that legitimizes the hatred of men (especially, it seems, white ones); and a more subtle, but far more dangerous Islamization that is quietly amassing influence and that can be expected to give short shrift to “pussy hats”. #MeToo-ing miniskirts and Taliban beards – ultraliberalism makes this sort of thing possible. Of course, it’s a temporary aberration – many women should shudder at the thought of what jihadists will do to their “pussy hats” when there’re enough of them around.

As far as women’s rights are concerned, two high-profile women dominated the news this week, from different sides of the barricades. One was Oprah Winfrey, who, ever the opportunist, distinguished herself at the Golden Globes ceremony by delivering a maudlin, mawkish, and banal hodgepodge of a speech, unoriginal and unimaginative – just the kind of oratory that makes a good ultraliberal’s eyes get all lachrymose. Padded with all the right names and allusions, it was nearly ten minutes of cliché-ridden schwarmerei, which was enough, however, to give rise to murmurs about a possible bid for the White House. Oh, Hollywood! It is noteworthy that Winfrey, while talking about the vicious crime against an African-American woman, felt compelled to mention that the attackers were “five white men”. There’s nothing wrong with that description (they were white, after all, and probably very racist too); but, given the context of the speech, it is remarkable, since Oprah swiftly proceeded to say that “their time is up”, which was repeated several times, in case anyone missed the point. Whose time is up? She wasn’t talking about the racists. As the billionaire doyenne of the media world, the conscience and cradle of hope of ultraliberals and bien-pensants everywhere, moved from racism to – surprise! – the #MeToo campaign, it could not have been more obvious whom exactly she had in mind – the white man, naturally. White man, your time is up. The standing ovation at the end of the speech was predictable, but the sight of white males, who had just been told that they were being willed out of existence, clapping energetically was a peculiar one. Did they realize what they were applauding?

What’s troublesome is the corrupting, toxic influence that the #MeToo campaign will have on ordinary women. The #MeToo campaign is not a societal issue. It’s a Hollywood issue. It is the story of a number of female celebrities who owe their status not to their talents (since they often hardly have any) or their intelligence (which they often have none at all), but to the fact that they offered their loins for use at the right time and to the right man. Along come feminists to tell them that they are, in fact, highly talented and intelligent, and that they had been forced to offer their loins by powerful ghouls and ogres, and that an atrocity of the worst kind had been perpetrated against them. The origin of the #MeToo campaign is nothing more than a settling of scores. It started in Hollywood and it would have been better if it had stayed there; instead, it went mainstream, poisoning our society. For months, it has been ruining reputations, often gratuitously; creating a climate that could rival the worst excesses of McCarthyism; making misandry an official policy; and further weakening the foundations of an already fragile society. What does it say about our society if a man’s reputation can be ruined before a single criminal charge has even been filed, before the man has had an opportunity to defend or explain himself? What does it say about our society if the entire edifice of a man’s life can be destroyed on the say-so of a woman spuriously claiming to have been left traumatized by a vague indiscretion that took place decades ago?

But these are dangerous questions to ask. Feminism – and ultraliberalism in general – is to be accepted, never questioned. One doesn’t cast aspersions on the #MeToo campaign with impunity, as Catherine Deneuve found out earlier this week. Her crime? Along with 99 other signatories, the French movie icon dared to express criticism of the #MeToo campaign in an open letter – for the most part, a judicious missive with a soupçon of Gallic insouciance – published by the French Le Monde; and, predictably, the guns quickly turned in her direction. Deneuve was pilloried and excoriated on social networks for nothing more sinister than having expressed her viewpoint; but in the free, democratic, tolerant world of ultraliberalism, there is no place for dissent.

There is plenty of space for absurdity, however, which is doled out with no regard for economy. A Japanese professor of sociology with an interest in gender theory (you know you’re in trouble whenever the word “gender” floats in the academe) has recently opined that the princes in the fairy tales in which they kiss sleeping princesses are, in a way, guilty of sexual assault – the princesses haven’t given their consent, after all; and then a kiss is such a traumatizing experience! Japan, it should be noted, is undergoing gradual depopulation, and the prognoses for its demographic situation are bleak. With professors such as this one shaping national culture, it will only get bleaker.

It shouldn’t astonish anyone, then, that many men are taking measures to prepare themselves for the new reality, however unconscious these preparations may be. Responding to the nervous twitches of the society around them, they try to stay current, anticipating the advent of tomorrow, alert to new dangers and challenges. Just look at all those beards.