We live in a world in which the practice of dousing your wife in kerosene and setting her alight to punish her family for an inadequate dowry is so common that it has a name. We live in a world where people mutilate the genitals of little girls for the explicit purpose of trying to prevent them ever wanting or enjoying sex. We live in a world where hundreds of millions of women have as little control over their own adult lives as women in Victorian England did at the breaking of the first wave of feminism, a world in which countless women are trapped in relationships with men who rape, beat, and may one day murder them. We live in this world.
And in this world, people who claim to be committed to the project of feminism thought it was a laudable and productive use of their time to write thousands of words lambasting an academic who dared to admit that his commitment to feminism, still profoundly held, had made him deeply, personally miserable as a young man.
There is plenty to criticise in Aaronson’s comment. If you were set on this task, you could not unfairly call it blinkered, naïve, and neurotic. But the reaction to it, the public evisceration of some poor bastard for being those things in this world, is sick. Most people have been guilty of these sins, and most people have suffered less for it even before being publicly pilloried. I wish to God men like Scott Aaronson made it into the top 100 threats to the welfare or agency of women in 2014, I honestly do. What a world that would be, where the fight was so nearly won that all we had left to do was help reform a few socially paralysed nerds. My God.
And let’s imagine we lived in that world. Let’s imagine that we’d worked our way so far down the list that young men like twenty-something Scott Aaronson were our most pressing issue, since they’d made the critical mistake of reading Andrea Dworkin and becoming so consumed with self-hatred that they couldn’t so much as speak to a woman. Is this what we’d do to them? Parade their hurt and shame across the internet so that all righteous people could participate in ridiculing them? Which is the world in which this is a constructive response to somebody who identifies themselves as a committed feminist baring their soul, however flawed that soul might be?
This is sick. This outrage factory feminism that turns any imperfect ally into grist for the mill is sick. It produces nothing but division, resentment, and a rightful distrust of modern feminism. It helps nobody. It educates nobody. It improves nobody. Consuming it is like drinking salt water. It provides no sustenance, and is ultimately toxic.