Monday, October 12, 2015

Grerp Reviews "The Morning After"

Readers, after having some fun with Grerp and I both reviewing some horrendous and funny feminists documentaries. I met up with her and asked if she would write a little something like that once a month on some gender topic. Today she reviews an old but prescient book, "The Morning After" by Katie Roiphe. I will do so as well tomorrow from a different point of view and not as concise.

When I was asked if I would read this book and review it for 28Sherman, I didn’t realize that reading it would be a form of time travel. I dutifully put a hold on it at my library and waited until it came in.

This book was published the same year I graduated from the University of Michigan - 1993 - and in it Roiphe, the daughter of feminist Anne Roiphe, discusses the same feminist drive for power on campus that has since been translated into endless PowerPoint presentations, annual sexual harassment seminars, “rape culture” memes, and Slutwalks, etc., etc.

I remember thinking in college, as Roiphe does in this book, that the world must have somehow turned upside down or else I’d fallen through the rabbit hole. It didn’t make sense to me to encourage young, inexperienced people to engage in risky behavior and then be outraged when there were unhappy consequences. I didn’t understand why suddenly our heroes were all supposed to be victims. I didn’t come from a culture that hated white men, despised Christians, or held up people as moral authorities just because they’d been abused. It seemed crazy. I couldn’t wait to get out of this environment, frankly. I was so tired of people telling what I had to think to be a good person.

And now, 22 years later, all of us have to stew in this same cauldron of garbage, only now it’s mainstream and you can’t avoid it by shunning academia. It’s like a cult you can only escape by working at home, filtering all of your content and making up pseudonyms and false personas because otherwise, if you dissent, these crazy evangelical soviet nutjobs will track you down and destroy your life.

How did this happen? Two words: regime change. It was slow but brutal, and if you look at the road behind us, it’s filled with bodies, victims who weren’t victims because they were oppressors. Even if they weren’t. Even if all they were doing was living by the rules of their own cultures until the new one took power.

So, The Morning After. Roiphe was writing this after the battle was over but before the news reached the capitol and the new king started the ritual beheadings and estate confiscations. There isn’t much panic, there is only confusion at the new rules. So date rape was suddenly a thing even though people had been getting drunk and high and having crappy sex with strangers for at least two decades with relative abandon. And people were “taking back the night,” marching en masse to proclaim their victimhood to anyone who would listen, even lying to fit into the new in crowd. Also the definition of sexual harassment had been extended to encompass any behavior that made women uncomfortable anywhere anytime, so that former oppressors could more easily be rounded up and shot.

Roiphe, daughter of a First Wave feminist, essentially approved of the regime change, but did not approve of who is getting the biggest estates and the largest titles. Roiphe was a logical thinker who believed or wanted to believe that women are equal to men (at least in intellectual capacity, which is probably the only capacity she truly values) and should be allowed to compete. She also believed that they should compete with men.

She believed that women can’t have agency and claim helplessness, and she absolutely, at least at this period in her life, wanted that agency. Extrapolating from her own descriptions of herself and how she views other feminists and their writings, Roiphe was promiscuous, had enjoyed watching porn, feared sexual repression, and did not want women infantilized so disliked any sort of social control. This put her at odds with other feminists who appealed to a broader audience of women who only had to be angry, embrace victim mentality, and demand more from society.

Roiphe was never going to come out the winner in this contest because when the options you put before the masses are either 1) work for it and prove yourself or 2) throw a tantrum and demand better, most people are going to pick the latter. And they did. There were so many channels for  victimhood and hardly anyone is going to bypass the opportunity to spit on a good “oppressor” when those soldiers are marched through the town on the way to the dungeon.

I will say this about the book - and it’s something I never expected to come out of my keyboard - The Morning After made me nostalgic for the days of print porn. There is a whole chapter on Catharine MacKinnon and her religious crusade (and collusion with the Religious Right) against porn. It sounds so quaint in retrospect, having to buy magazines in person at the store, kind of like having to milk your own cow and churn the milk to get butter to put on your bread. I’d say MacKinnon must have been having a decades long aneurysm over the explosion of online porn, its deleterious effect on society, and women’s willing participation in it, except that she’s a preacher and more sin is good for business.

I remember when porn wasn’t everywhere, when I didn’t have to remove farm sex from public internet terminals at the library (and you know, I believe in agency, but that was just gross and rude and I really resented having to be exposed to it, you disgusting library pervs). I remember when I thought young people were inherently pretty wholesome. I remember when computer engineering was a brand new field of study and when we learned you could play CDs on your PC by inserting them into this cup-holder thingee that opened and closed on the tower.

I remember when I thought I could move away from the crazy by graduating from college. Those were good times.


grerp said...

Was this too concise? I felt like the whole book was written in annoyance that other women would not give Roiphe the respect her ideas were due. Like here she was, showing up, clearly right (!) and they didn't all give her the standing ovation she deserved. But that's not how women's groups work, and Roiphe did not want to do the fawning and the kissing up, the promoting of other women's ideas as truth! that she would have had to to be embraced by 1980s/90s feminists.

She talks about Take Back the Night rallies, date rape, sexual harassment, and porn, and it's interesting. She makes some good points about how you can't be strong and claim victimhood, but she wrote the book to thumb her nose at women she felt didn't appreciate how generous she'd been when she tried to correct them. You get the feeling she feels isolated and rejected, but she's too proud to back down from her assertions. The Morning After is essentially a doubling down effort on her part, meant to chronicle her rightness.

Son of Brock Landers said...

Oh no, it was not. It's just, wait until tomorrow. I'm playing the rambler role when we do these.

NZT said...

Very interesting. It almost makes me feel a shred of respect for Roiphe if she recognizes you can have respect or be a helpless victim but not both, but it sounds like at the end of the day she's still very clueless about women's real natures and how to satisfy them.

Looking forward to a regular grerp feature!

Suburban_elk said...

I remember when I thought I could move away from the crazy by graduating from college. Those were good times.

That is a somewhat sad and evocative line. I graduated from the University of College during those years as well, and have not been able to escape. There is a larger theme, which is difficult to grasp, but worth hashing around.

Jeez i guess the theme is (quite simply) that there is no there, there. Or rather, there is no here, here. Our secondary education is not about transforming impressionable young people into men, it is about making sure that they don’t get off the reservation. In the old days when that guy in Montana (Anthony Hopkins) sent his son out East, his son learned Latin and Greek and history and apparently some science and math (did they have science and math back then, maybe not), but they learned about their history and their heritage, and they were to receive that bequest and parlay it into the future. And it was understood intuitively and explicitly that that was the role of the institution.

Two words: regime change.

It is hard to argue with that conclusion. How else to explain what has become of the institution.

The point about there being no there there, remains unmade though. It may be impossible to make that point, because of some catch-22. How can something be elucidated upon, that does not exist in the first place. What i am talking about not existing, though, is simply healthy and viable folkways. Folkways is the catch-all to describe the customs and rituals that people (that a people) use to navigate life and get along. So college was not able to prepare its charges, its student body, for the rigors of existential crisis, … and because it failed in doing so, the situation remains unresolved. And not just unresolved, but un-approached and almost even un-apprehended. So not only was the crisis not dealt with, it was not even described, not even acknowledged, and there is no escape.

You can’t run, from your trouble
You will only, make them double

Suburban_elk said...

At the risk of repeating, the review suggests the theme, What Happened? (Or, How it all went wrong).

But what exactly are we talking about it here? What happened to whom? We are talking about what went wrong with the world, particularly in these parts in the USA, and what went wrong with the people who inhabit these parts, and how does one’s experience reflect what went wrong.

Those questions are the Great Unanswered, the theme for our times. We are the lost generations, it is our experience that remains to be told.

But as far as this particular nexus of souls and its experience of these times; is there really anything different about the “existential problem” of the people alive here and now than that experienced by those at other times and places? In all cases people are up against the impossible problem (the predicament) of transcendence: we cannot transcend this life on Earth (this Life in Hell). But the question put more specifically, is how unusual is it for the young people to be cast about with no guidance. The purposeless-ness of it. People from Southwest Asia and Africa don’t experience that purposeless-ness: their purpose is to get here and get some. So in practical terms of what to do with one’s time they don’t have that problem.

In those same practical terms it might seem that the white sons and daughters might find their purpose in asserting themselves, but somehow they are not. And that somehow (of how they are not) is what is suggested by the theme of the original post, where when we went to college - presumably the best and brightest - we were not met with a harness for the future but rather with something more like the meat grinder in The Wall. (Apologies for the Floyd reference, but on the other hand, no apologies bitches!)

I attribute the purposeless-ness and the anomie and the ennui to excess easy energy, and call it circumstantial, because that makes sense. And those “intellectual feelings” are our conscious experience of larger more timely patterns - in other words, all that pointless-ness will be resolved with time, because that’s how it works.

But to repeat, everyone’s experience is part and parcel of a larger pattern, but what is that larger pattern. What is the relevant larger context of history that has left us unprepared. I read something recently at another blog about some French racialist who killed himself in Notre Dame as an example of how Europeans are as babes in the woods, whereas racial others are hellbent on retribution.

I am still struggling to make my point, but it is about My Generation and how when we became adults in the 90s we didn’t have tradition or religion, but we believed in Equality and other such crap. That shit was what we were to believe in. All this has been put into intellectual context, i guess, but that all is at a remove. The people who are really experiencing it now are having trouble making their case, in my opinion. It does come down to questions of identity. Do we exist as a people or not. Perhaps that question is not asked often enough.

PA said...

I like Elk's meat grinder image from The Wall. Having gone to college arounf the same time Elk and Grerp did, I can relate to lots that was written here.

And good questiin, Elk. What us a young White student's purpose, as he understands it as a college freshman? There is the obvious one: develop marketable skills and credentials to be able to start a family and secure a future for his children.

What else is there, that you didn't already get from your tradition and faith? Easy to say that now, at the age of 45. Generation X was cut off from tradition and faith through the disintegration of the extended family, obliviousness or complacence of their Boomer parents, and didn't have Heartiste comment threads to make up for that Identitarian handicap.

T.A.WILSON said...

Formatting on the post is horribly broken, rendering the middle portion of the text largely unreadable.

Son of Brock Landers said...

TA Wilson - Hey, I checked this. It is something with Internet Explorer. Chrome reads it just fine.