On Friday, The Washington Post ran what could easily rank as the single looniest op-d they’ve ever run: a piece from Victoria Bissell Brown, retired history professor at Grinnell College, arguing that men are incapable of being good, even if they oppose sexism. Men are, by nature, vile and terrible, and can’t fix anything by listening to women – instead, they must change from within. Sadly, though, they’re not capable of such change, which begs the question: what the hell are men supposed to do, aside from die?
Brown begins by talking about screaming at her husband. Really.
I yelled at my husband last night. Not pick-up-your-socks yell. Not how-could-you-ignore-that-red-light yell. This was real yelling. This was 30 minutes of from-the-gut yelling. Triggered by a small, thoughtless, dismissive, annoyed, patronizing comment. Really small. A micro-wave that triggered a hurricane. I blew. Hard and fast. And it terrified me. I’m still terrified by what I felt and what I said. I am almost 70 years old. I am a grandmother. Yet in that roiling moment, screaming at my husband as if he represented every clueless male on the planet (and I every angry woman of 2018), I announced that I hate all men and wish all men were dead. If one of my grandchildren yelled something that ridiculous, I’d have to stifle a laugh.
But she didn’t stifle a laugh. Instead, she doubles down in the pages of The Washington Post. It turns out that her bats*** loonyness isn’t actually bats*** loonyness: screaming at her husband is well-founded. Why? Because he’s a male. Even a male who will sit there letting her scream at him.
My husband of 50 years did not have to stifle a laugh. He took it dead seriously. He did not defend his remark, he did not defend men. He sat, hunched and hurt, and he listened. For a moment, it occurred to me to be grateful that I’m married to a man who will listen to a woman. The winds calmed ever so slightly in that moment. And then the storm surge welled up in me as I realized the pathetic impotence of nice men’s plan to rebuild the wreckage by listening to women. As my rage rushed through the streets of my mind, toppling every memory of every good thing my husband has ever done (and there are scores of memories), I said the meanest thing I’ve ever said to him: Don’t you dare sit there and sympathetically promise to change. Don’t say you will stop yourself before you blurt out some impatient, annoyed, controlling remark. No, I said, you can’t change. You are unable to change. You don’t have the skills and you won’t do it. You, I said, are one of the good men. You respect women, you believe in women, you like women, you don’t hit women or rape women or in any way abuse women. You have applauded and funded feminism for a half-century. You are one of the good men. And you cannot change. You can listen all you want, but that will not create one iota of change.
So, he’s listening to her. He’s sympathizing. He’s asking what he can do. And her answer is: nothing. And shut up. But listen. But, actually, don’t listen, because your listening means nothing. But do something. But you can’t.
All righty, then.
Here’s her recommendation for men:
In the centuries of feminist movements that have washed up and away, good men have not once organized their own mass movement to change themselves and their sons or to attack the mean-spirited, teasing, punching thing that passes for male culture. Not once. Bastards. Don’t listen to me. Listen to each other. Talk to each other. Earn your power for once.
Really? Not once have men organized a movement to curb male aggression? What does she think Western civilization is? What does she think religious education is? What does she think law enforcement is? What does she think marriage is? What does she think institutions devoted to the inculcation of virtue are? If men haven’t restricted men, and women can’t restrict men, why are women safer, freer and more prosperous in the West than anywhere, anytime in world history? She’s a history professor – shouldn’t she know this?
But apparently she doesn’t. Because women are all victims:
The gender war that has broken out in this country is flooding all our houses. It’s rising on the torrent of memories that every woman has. Those memories have come loose from the attic and the basement where we’ve stashed them. They are floating all around us and there is no place left to store them out of sight…No man right now understands the flood that is rushing through women’s brains, and only women in the deepest denial have evacuated their minds before the flood could reach them.
This is pure sexual identity politics. Men can’t understand women, because men aren’t women. Which means they can’t do anything, because they can’t understand. PRIMAL RAGE SCREAM!!!!!
In fact, she argues that even saying you’ll listen to women is an insult:
When good men like Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) give heartfelt, sincere speeches about how we must listen to women, I don’t know whether to coo or laugh or cry or yell. Think about “listen to women” as a program for change. It says to women: You will continue to suffer these abuses, men will continue to do disgusting things to you, the storms will keep coming, the tide will continue to rise, but now, we will listen and help you rebuild. Pay attention people: If we do not raise boys to walk humbly and care deeply, if we do not demand that men do more than just listen, we will all drown in the flood. And there is no patriarchal Noah to save us.
There is not one shred of reason in this op-ed. But reason isn’t the point. Rage is. And rage at good men isn’t a solution. It’s a huge part of the problem.