opinion

NO EXCUSE

The Left-Wing Heroes Who Treat Women Like Garbage

From hard-lefties like Black Panthers and the ‘Dirtbag Left’ to liberals named Clinton and Kennedy and Weinstein, the long line of men who talk one way but behave another.

Thankfully, Harvey Weinstein’s political allies aren’t falling for his shtick of promising to repent and to “channel [his] anger” toward Wayne LaPierre and the NRA. Over the past two weeks, he has been ritually denounced by practically every entertainment industry collaborator and political beneficiary he collected over a remarkable three-decade career in pictures and politics.

Yet Weinstein is just the latest in a long line of men whose left-wing politics coexisted harmoniously with retrograde attitudes about women. In his statement, Weinstein said that he “came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different.” Many people scoffed at this explanation, as this was precisely the time when women’s liberation brought workplace sexism to the societal forefront. But Weinstein was right in a way he didn’t comprehend. Ever since second-wave feminism became part of the political left, there have been men who, ostensibly enlightened in the realm of gender relations, are in fact deeply misogynist and believe that their progressive street cred somehow obviates their attitudes about women, attitudes as regressive as those held by the Mad Men-era males who ruled the earth just before the sexual revolution.

Revolutionary movements, often preaching violence and imbued with machismo, lend themselves easily to chauvinism. Andreas Baader, who formed an eponymous West German terrorist organization in 1970 with feminist journalist Ulrike Meinhof, spoke of all women as “cunts.” Like Baader, who would be remembered solely as a criminal had he not adopted a revolutionary political agenda to justify his gang’s murder and bombing spree, the leaders of the Black Panther Party preached a more equitable world while subjugating the women in their midst. The party newspaper railed against abortion as “a victory for the oppressive ruling class who will use [abortion] to kill off Black and other oppressed people before they are born,” and the birth control pill as “another type of genocide that the power structure has poured into the Black community.” It once expelled a member for terminating a pregnancy, and according to historian Kate Coleman, the group “punished rank-and-file females for even minor ‘infractions’ by turning them out as prostitutes.”

In his memoir Soul on Ice, Panther “Minister of Information” Eldridge Cleaver wrote of how he viewed rape as an “insurrectionary act.” After he “practiced” on black women, he moved onto white ones, as “it delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man's law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women.” Panther Party co-founder and “Minister of Defense” Huey Newton talked a good game when it came to female equality, publishing a letter in the party newspaper reproving sexism (and homophobia) and declaring “we recognize the women’s right to be free.” Yet Newton authorized the beating of the woman who managed the Panther Liberation School after she reprimanded a male colleague. Oh, and he murdered a 17-year-old prostitute because she referred to him as “baby.”

“Radical Chic,” the romanticizing of violent revolutionary leftists by genteel bourgeois liberals, was coined by Tom Wolfe in 1970 to describe the party Leonard Bernstein hosted at his Park Avenue Penthouse for the Panthers. The phenomenon has long since been a feature of progressive politics. Gerry Healy was a Stalinist who led Britain’s Workers Revolutionary Party, an “anti-imperialist” groupuscule partly funded by Muammar Qadafi and Saddam Hussein, whose more presentable patrons included Vanessa and Corin Redgrave. According to his former secretary, this man of the people used apartments owned by the party in a “completely opportunist way for sexual liaisons” to “degrade women and girl comrades and destroy their self-respect.” Ultimately, some 26 women accused Healy of “gross sexual abuse.” According to Vanessa Redgrave, however, “these allegations are all lies and the women who are supposed to have made them are all liars. I don't care whether it's 26, 36 or 236. They are all liars.” Believe All Women, in other words, except those who accuse our Dear Leader.

A similarly paranoid, conspiratorial defense in response to allegations of sexual abuse is registered by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Upon hearing that two Swedish women had accused him of rape and sexual assault in 2010, Assange issued a vague threat, captured by filmmaker (and erstwhile collaborator) Laura Poitras in her recent documentary Risk: “They will be reviled forever by a large segment of the global population, so I don’t think it’s in their interest to proceed that way.” Two years later, evading extradition to Sweden, Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has remained ever since. (Both investigations have since been dropped, one because the statute of limitations expired, the second because the prosecutor figured it fruitless to continue pursuing a fugitive so hell-bent on avoiding justice that he would coop himself up in a tiny building for five years). Citing no evidence whatsoever, Assange and his supporters claim that he is the victim of a “honey-trap” sprung by the American security state. In interviews from his self-imposed captivity and on his Twitter feed, Assange frequently emits sexist drivel, claiming that the only reason he fell into legal trouble is that “Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism,” tweeting that “feminism=sterility,” and gloating that a male Australian politician “just got rolled . . . by a woman.”

Former British parliamentarian George Galloway, a slavish devotee of the Syrian mass-murderer Bashar al-Assad and a one-time comrade of the rapist Healy, rose to defend Assange by claiming that it is not necessarily rape if a man penetrates a woman while she is sleeping. (Galloway speaks with such conviction on this matter that one can only assume he is experienced in the field of having one’s sexual partners fall into slumber mid-coitus). “I mean, not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion,” Galloway assured, speaking on behalf of no woman, ever.

As long as there has been misogyny on the left, women feminists have fought it. In 1970 -- the same year Andreas Baader founded his revolutionary cell and Leonard Bernstein was introducing Upper East Side society matrons to the Black Panthers – the feminist writer Robin Morgan wrote a groundbreaking essay entitled, “Goodbye to All That.” Taking on “the good guys who think they know what ‘Women’s Lib,’ as they so chummily call it, is all about – and who then proceed to degrade and destroy women by almost everything they say and do,” Morgan wrote that, “it hurts to understand that at Woodstock or Altamont a woman could be declared uptight or a poor sport if she didn’t want to be raped.” She attacked the Weathermen, the American analogue to Baader-Meinhof, “with the Stanley Kowalski image and theory of free sexuality but practice of sex on demand for males,” and the patriarchal attitudes prevalent among New Left organizations more broadly, waving “goodbye to the dream that being in the leadership collective will get you anything but gonorrhea.” 47 years later, her critique could be applied to Harvey Weinstein, who earnestly seemed to believe, at least in his initial apology, that a series of random liberal bromides condemning Donald Trump and the NRA immunized him from the charge of sexism.  

Moving beyond the sexism of the revolutionary left -- a symptom of the machismo that its adherents ape from their ideological adversaries on the far right -- is the more prosaic, carnal sort practiced by mainstream liberal politicians. Ted Kennedy should have spent a long time in prison after he drunkenly drove an Oldsmobile Delmont off a bridge at Chappaquiddick island in 1969, leaving the young Mary Jo Kopechne, an idealistic aide to his murdered brother Bobby, to die. Instead, thanks to Kennedy family fixers and the absolution Massachusetts voters will grant to any member of the Kennedy clan, for any transgression, he served a two-month suspended sentence and 40 more years in the United States Senate.

Chappaquiddick did little to inhibit Kennedy’s lascivious comportment. Michael Kelly’s classic 1990 GQ profile, “Ted Kennedy on the Rocks,” recounts a sozzled and priapic 57-year-old man hitting on 16-year-old congressional pages, gulping down seemingly all the alcohol along the Eastern seaboard, and sexually assaulting a waitress at a DC restaurant with fellow solon Chris Dodd. A former staffer told Kelly that one of his erstwhile colleagues on the Senator’s staff acted as “a pimp…whose real position was to procure women for Kennedy,” not unlike the role that Italian fixer Fabrizio Lombardo played for Harvey Weinstein. Kennedy, Kelly concluded, had been raised “to take what he wants, to treat women as score-markers in the game of sport-fucking.” But thanks to the diligence and professionalism of his staff, Kennedy became a hero to liberals, referred to ubiquitously as “the lion of the Senate.”  

Bill Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky should never have been grounds for impeachment. Still, it was nonetheless the epitome of the inappropriate workplace sexual relationship that feminists typically decry. Indeed, the power dynamic between these two consenting adults may have been the most disparate in modern American history, what with the most powerful man in the world deploying his clout – and then, when scandal erupted, that of his entire political operation – against a hapless intern. Like every single one of Bill Clinton’s many female accusers, Lewinsky was viciously attacked by liberals and ostensible feminists. “Drag a hundred dollars through a trailer park and there's no telling what you'll find,” Clinton adviser James Carville infamously said of Paula Jones. Yet for many purported feminists, Clinton’s atrocious behavior toward individual women was irrelevant. “I would be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal,” Time’s then-White House correspondent Nina Burleigh declared, offering precisely the sort of (gendered) indulgence that liberal cads like Clinton, Kennedy and Weinstein hope to gain in exchange for promoting left-wing causes. “I think American women should be lining up with their Presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.”

The third incarnation of the left-wing misogynist is the “woke” male feminist “ally.” Jamie Kilstein, a comedian and former host of the podcast Citizen Radio (guests of which have included Noam Chomsky, Rachel Maddow, and Ralph Nader), is a particularly egregious case. Kilstein’s act was that of a foul-mouthed funnyman who could be lewd and rude in excoriating right-wingers but sensitive and enlightened when it came to women. On the podcast, he spoke passionately about “rape culture,” the importance of abortion rights and frequently acknowledged his “male privilege.” In a 2013 video, he instructed men to “listen to women. Don’t be a dick to women.” When domestic violence allegations were raised against Johnny Depp, he implored his male listeners to “be a good person and believe women.”

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If this relentless renunciation of male boorishness sounds like the behavior of a man desperate to take sexual advantage of his groupies, that’s because it was. After multiple women accused Kilstein of making unwanted sexual advances or being emotionally abusive, he was dropped from the podcast.

Hugo Schwyzer was another self-described “male feminist.” A professor of gender studies and an organizer of the Los Angeles Slutwalk, an event aimed at ending the shame directed toward rape victims, Schwyzer was a prolific writer of online essays peppered with third-wave feminist buzz-phrases. Yet his career as an “ally” came to a crashing end when it was revealed that he had deceived his followers about a murder attempt he made years ago on an ex-girlfriend. That led to a Twitter meltdown in which he admitted, “I f****ed porn stars I met through my class,” “I cheated on my wife and pretended to be reformed,” and “I wrote an article in The Atlantic condemning age-disparate relationships the same week that I was sleeping with a 32-year-old. And sexting a 27-year-old.” Schwyzer also admitted, “My expertise is British medieval church history. I had no business teaching feminism, however well I may have taught it. I then built a career as a well-known online male feminist on fraudulent pretenses.” That he was able to get away with it for so long shows how easy it is for even the most unqualified and loutish of men to assume the mantle “male feminist” provided they spout the correct jargon.

Finally, there is the misogyny of the contemporary hard left, which often mocks feminism as a bourgeois concern standing in the way of revolution. Mark Ames makes no pretense of being a feminist, though he does reside somewhere on the far left of the political spectrum. He made a name for himself in the late 1990s as the less talented member of the duo (the other being Matt Taibbi) that founded the eXile, a rollicking biweekly newspaper that covered, and cheerfully exploited, the burgeoning drug and prostitution scene in post-Soviet Moscow. Alongside mordant critiques of the Western press corps and a series in which Ames traveled the former Soviet Union sampling the services of various “whores,” the paper was rife with crass observations about women, like the “fat-ankled” expats and the “gorilla ass” of a former colleague. In a book about the paper’s early exploits, Ames recounted his threat to kill a woman he had impregnated if she refused to get an abortion as well as his exploits with a 15-year-old girl whom he had also impregnated. In a 2000 interview, Ames discussed the finer points of dating Russian women, who “expect you to rape them.”

The gonzo, acerbic style practiced by the eXile lives on today in the “Dirtbag left,” a loose assortment of thirtysomethings grouped around the popular “Chapo Trap House” podcast and sympathetic toward the newly resurgent Democratic Socialists of America. As is usually the case with the far left, the Dirtbags’ main enemies are not conservatives but mainstream liberals, whom they view as too moderate and civil for the coming revolution. On Twitter, two of the podcast’s mostly male cast recently posed around Bill Cosby’s Hollywood Walk of Fame Star under the caption, “Hey libs try taking THIS statue down,” while another host mocked a rape victim. Frequent Chapo guest Sam Kriss, a British communist and prominent supporter of hard left Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, was recently suspended from the party and fired from his job as a columnist at Vice following accusations of sexual harassment. As reported by the object of his unwanted attentions, Kriss’s seduction skills combine the artlessness of a conventional chauvinist with the inimitable entitlement of a Mercedes Marxist:

Sam said, “so do you want to come back to mine to see my massive house?” “Don’t you mean your parents massive house?”

“Yeah, but when they die I’ll inherit it”

Kriss’s stock-in-trade as a writer is that of a tough guy unafraid to hurl playground insults at his ideological adversaries, to, in his own words, “make unpleasant comments about the way they look or talk,” “place them in gruesome sexual scenarios,” and “indulge in strange fantasies in which they get kidnapped and beaten to a pulp.” Given this modus operandi, it should not come as a surprise that Kriss’s attitude towards women could be summarized as, “Trump is a fascist, Corbyn is our savior, now surrender yourself to my sexual advances.” As embodied by Dirtbags like Chapo Trap House and Kriss, so much of contemporary hard left political commentary – distinguished by its sarcasm, profanity and ad hominem attack – is unacknowledged mimicry of Hunter S. Thompson, the hard-drinking, drug-abusing, Nixon-hating bard of the counter culture, and Norman Mailer, who moaned about “the womanization of America,” condemned contraception as an “abomination,” and stabbed his second wife in the neck.

What unites 60’s-era revolutionaries with Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Julian Assange, earnest “male feminists” and vulgar Brooklyn podcasters is not political ideology per se (Assange and Clinton have little in common politically, never mind the former’s contempt for the latter’s wife), but rather the belief that commitment to particular progressive causes — whether economic redistribution, abortion rights, an “anti-imperialist” foreign policy, or exposing governmental surveillance — insulates then from being misogynist pigs. In this view, anything – beginning with basic propriety and respect for women and ending with fundamental individual rights like freedom of speech and private property — can be excused if one has the “right” politics.

This attitude is the reverse image of, and just as ethically objectionable as, evangelical Christians excusing away Donald Trump’s moral depravity on the reasoning that he will roughly adhere to a socially conservative policy agenda. Both are contemptuous of women. And both betray a conviction that the ends justify the means, that the revolution requires a few broken eggs, that the cause is more important than the individual victims crushed in its path.