Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Flashback: Ellen Goodman's Catherine Comins Moment

Celebrated columnist Ellen Goodman, Radcliffe grad and Pulitzer Prize winner, one of the darlings of progressive feminism whose column appeared in hundreds of newspapers across the nation until she mercifully retired last year, might be aptly called a "payback feminist." 

A "payback feminist," as opposed to radicals who might be called "revenge feminists," is one of those progressives who get away with saying things about how women have suffered for so long, darn it, it's time that men got a little taste of it. They usually couch their "payback" talk in mild language and make sure to gussy it up in the mantle of reasonableness so that anyone who dares take offense would be deemed to be overreacting. Read her take on men's fears about false sex allegations:

The Michael Kennedy Column: In April 1997, the late Michael Kennedy (he was one of innumerable Kennedys who met an untimely death -- in his case, a skiing accident), was visited by scandal.  Michael's 16-year marriage publicly collapsed amid accusations that he had had an affair with the family baby sitter, allegedly beginning when she was just 14.  It was never proven he had sex with her before she was 16, the age of consent in his jurisdiction, and criminal charges were not pressed for statutory rape.

Female features writers then, just as today, must find signifcance in every such lurid tale where a male has gone wrong. Here was Ellen Goodman's take: "So far the most widespread fallout of the so-called Baby Sitter Affair has been a nervousness on the part of perfectly respectable men. With lechery all across the media, they don't even want to get in the car with the sitter.

"Assorted fathers in my sample have concluded (1) that every 15-year-old regards him as a potential predator or (2) that if his hand lingers too long while passing out the money, he'll be accused of making a pass."

Pay attention. It's what Goodman slips in next that deserves attention: "I don't mind men getting a little nervous," she bubbles. "It kind of balances things out."

Read it again: "I don't mind men getting a little nervous. It kind of balances things out."

Notice how the payback sentiment is disguised in the cloak of reasonableness?  She's OK with men getting just "a little" nervous -- not too nervous now, men -- just a "little." After all, it's only fair, since women have always had things so bad. It's perfectly just that men get a "little" taste of it.

When you examine what she really said, it is, of course, despicable beyond defense. She's taking comfort in the fact that "perfectly respectable men" -- not men looking to have their way with the baby sitter -- must worry about false sex allegations because (and she didn't say this, but should have) we live in a false rape culture.

And the headline of my post about Catherine Comins isn't exactly accurate. Goodman's comment predates Comins' famous remarks about false rape victims by more than four years. Always the pioneer, that Goodman.

Even more interesting, after lending her imprimatur to the fear that too many men who read this blog know first-hand, Goodman then bemoans the fact "there is an edginess, bordering on paranoia, that is going around these days."  She cites the fact that male Army officers won't be in the same room with a female soldier; teachers won't hug students; businessmen refuse to be mentors.

You see, men have taken it too far. They should only be "a little nervous" and they've gone overboard with it. Ellen Goodman is the judge of what level of nervousness over false rape claims men should experience. Goodman is OK with some, but does not want that nervousness to be so excessive that it interferes with the benefits that male interaction affords women and children. So she tells men to "snap out of it." 

Then, the coup de grâce: After all, she writes, "how many false accusations are there in this world?" 

Gee, Ms. Goodman, if that's your criteria, then men have every reason to afraid. You've just destroyed your case.  I have an entire blog to prove it.

Another interesting Goodman column related to these issues is her John and Lorena Bobbitt column. We've written extensively about that awful moment in gender relations -- see Lorena Bobbitt and the Politics of Hate -- and won't rehash it here.  Suffice it to say that on the entitlement and privilege scale, Goodman was a "ten" to John Bobbitt's "one." That didn't stop Goodman from taking time out from polishing the awards on her mantle to make this working class nobody, a man who found it difficult to hold down a job, her personal piñata.

In typical "payback feminist" style, Goodman, of course, refused to come out and condone Mr. Bobbitt's penile mutilation. But she certainly could "explain," in a decidedly feminist way, both the mutilation and women's celebratory reaction to it.

Goodman concluded that this story became a national sensation only because a woman finally fought back. "Last year," she declared without bothering to support her pronouncement with silly things like evidence, "the police blotter was full of abused and battered wives -- an almost unilateral massacre." Because, you see, in 1993, women did not commit domestic violence.  Just as today, few progressive female features writers accept the indisputable fact, proven beyond question, that women commit domestic violence in significant numbers -- against men, and other women.

In the aftermath of the Bobbitt affair, Ms. Goodman gushed, men "see a dangerous enemy where there was once a victim." And the men squirming at the thought of being Bobbittized? "If women smile at men who squirm, maybe it's at that recognition of power." She also wrote: "I know, I know. Female retaliation and female violence are still the unusual stories, the news. When a 5-foot-2-inch, 95-pound manicurist cuts the penis off a 200-pound former Marine it's news indeed. But when the urban legend arises simultaneously in a dozen cities about the man who wakes up with a red ribbon tied neatly around his penis and a note saying how easy it would be-well, that's battleground fantasy."

Goodman makes sure that everyone knows how "reasonable" she is by insisting that men and women usually peacefully coexist and that lopping off dicks is not the answer. "A few years ago, in Olivia Smith's 'First Wives Club' three women plotted retaliation against powerful and abusive ex-husbands. They are not exactly looking for revenge, one said, but for 'something more sophisticated. . . . Like justice.' I'm never keen on taking justice into your own hands. Abuse may mitigate a woman's guilt and make her act more understandable. It rarely makes her an innocent."

For my money, Goodman was far too understanding of this atrocity. It sure reads like she's OK with men "squirming" at what their female partners could do to them.  As in, "I don't mind men getting a little nervous. It kind of balances things out."

It all proves just one thing: even misandrists who pretend to be reasonable can win a Pulitzer Prize.