The Tuvel affair is, as far as I am concerned the most welcome and wonderful episode in the unraveling of the feminist project. It has done something that seemed virtually impossible. It has shown the acolytes the force and ultimate reach of their own commitments. It has also helped to disabuse the moralization of femininity. If the accusation of masculine frontal aggression is to stand, it can now be plainly accompanied by the anecdotarium of female social aggression, which also goes by other technical names.
Oliver’s piece is reminiscent of Nancy Fraser’s crocodrilian dirge in which she produced a rather contorted mea culpa for the manner in which feminism (particularly the American export) had been the handmaiden (may I paraphrase Thomas?) of the neolibertarian capital market political culture of the heartland. Fraser’s little piece was dripped on us readers in 2013, I believe and merited only one response: “Don’t say!”
Oliver”s piece is just as wonderful. The first jewell in the compositional mud is an admission of what most of us sitting across the isle looking at the debacle and the emergence of an hyper represive sexual morality used to castigate and destroy critics have known for years. Academic American Feminist accounts of privacy belong first and foremost to the game book of totalitarianism. “For decades, feminists have argued the personal is political, and explored the politics of our private lives.” Really!
All that is private should be transparent to the power that be. What happens in your bedroom is the business of the state. This is the warmer version of the way we get anti-sodomy laws. Your bedroom is our business. It is understandable that in this guise, the emergence of the all-powerful mob justice and scarlet letter proof has become the main mechanism of adjudication where moral feminism rules. It used to be that the main objects of these abominations of justice by which the mere accusation of violence (sexual of course and almost exclusively against men) amounted to sufficient proof to expel, castigate or destroy someone’s career.
But in the heady days when Christina Hoff Sommers was pushed out of the women studies, little could one imagine that the machine would eventually turned on itself with such zeal and systematicity. Yet the Hoff Sommers story is heraldic because it shows the true force of the movement. Much as in the tale of the slave”s revolt, the moralization of the victim has been used to build the case against not just abuse but any perceived offense. And predictably, the main offense would eventually become the offense of a certain type of thought and its adjacent ideas.
Now, Tuvel’s work can be read in one of two ways. As a bonafide piece of scholarship, it proposes a form of radical voluntarism that is capable of quite handily defeating biology. The claim could only be the product of someone who is happy to use biological categories as mouthwash–philosophy is soaked in it–and then spit out incongruences of the kind that should make anyone with a sense of intellectual decency cringe. Do feminists really think that I can wish myself into becoming an hedgehog?
Well… sort of and precisely there hides the more interesting point. Tuvel’s paper can also be read as the unwitting reductio ad absurdum of an entire field. Caution and scientific literacy to the wind, be what you wanna be. Tuvel is in this sense entirely right, one cannot make absurd claims about gender, without also admitting other absurd claims about other regions of biology.
My suspicion is that the mean girls who wrote anonymously saw that in its full and brutal glory. Sensing the ridicule,they panicked and took the way that they had paved for years. Suppress inconvenient ideas. Of course, for the operation to be successful it was already too late. 30 years had elapsed.