Scott Alexander:

Go back to the original Amanda Marcotte article. Check the title. “MIT Professor Explains The Real Oppression Is Having To Talk To Women”. That phrasing, “the real oppression is…”, carries a pretty loaded assumption. I’d say “hides a pretty loaded assumption”, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much work to hide it.

If you look through Marcotte’s work, you find this same phrasing quite often. “Some antifeminist guy is ranting at me about how men are the ones who are really oppressed because of the draft” (source). And she’s not the only one. If you Google the term “are the ones who are really oppressed”, you can find an nice collection of people using this exact phraseology, including a few examples from a charming site called “Nerds Fucking Suck”.

But Aaronson is admitting about a hundred times that he recognizes the importance of the ways women are oppressed. The “is really oppressed” isn’t taken from him, it’s assumed by Marcotte. Her obvious worldview is – since privilege and oppression are a completely one dimensional axis, for Aaronson to claim that there is anything whatsoever that has ever been bad for men must be interpreted as a claim that they are the ones who are really oppressed and therefore women are not the ones who are really oppressed and therefore nothing whatsoever has ever been bad for women. By Insane Moon Logic, it sort of makes sense.

As a result, Marcotte is incapable of acknowledging that Aaronson feels pain or has feelings more complicated than “all women exist solely to be my slaves”. She has to be a jerk to him, otherwise it would be a tacit admission that he has problems, which means only he has problems, which means no woman has ever had problems, which means all women are oppressors. Or whatever.

I read the comment by Aaronson which has inspired such a web-wide hullaballoo, and though I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that it offended the perpetually ‘n’ predictably offended, even I was taken aback by the callous, willful misreading of it by the ever-execrable Marcotte. I swear, if she didn’t exist, Rush Limbaugh would have to invent her.

Anyway, it’s a very long post, so I’ve excerpted what I think is the main takeaway from it. As other people have basically said before, the Venn diagram of “Ass-slapping, catcalling, wolf-whistling dudebros” and “Guys who are willing to read and take to heart angry screeds by social media feminists” doesn’t really have any overlap. In practice, then, feminist vitriol is often aimed not at the right targets, but at the “right here, right now” targets — the guys who take these issues seriously enough to actually show up and talk about them, while the real sexists would only laugh at the thought of sitting through an impromptu women’s studies lecture. You read Aaronson’s comment and you see a guy who has put himself through immense emotional turmoil in trying to measure up to what he imagines is the male feminist ideal, a guy who, as Alexander says, “is now 97% on board with feminism, but wants people to understand that when done wrong it can be really scary”, and yet Marcotte and her Tumblr epigones are treating him with the same exact scorn and hostility they would use for an official enemy.

This is the inevitable result of the zero-sum logic people like her employ. Like a dragon jealously guarding its hoard, she can’t tolerate anyone else getting a piece of her oppression narrative, and she’s either incapable or unwilling to see how it makes her look in the eyes of anyone who’s not already in total, unquestioning agreement. I submit to you that most people who read what Aaronson has to say will come away feeling very sympathetic to him, and seeing a reaction like Marcotte’s will only reinforce the suspicion that nothing less than groveling submission will ever be good enough for the likes of her. I leave it to your understanding of basic human psychology to judge whether the average guy will find that acceptable.

I’ve noticed a few year-end retrospectives around the web with titles like “2014: The year women won” (or, if you prefer a more honest look at the toxic resentment underlying so much of this kind of feminism, “2014: The year women got even”). If this episode is any indication, I’m looking forward to seeing 2015 being designated the year of feminists scoring own goals.