Antifeminism: Why Do Women Take Everything So Personally?

I don't care if Dan Rottenberg thinks I'm capable of rape

Apparently, Dan Rottenberg owes me an apology, merely because I am a man. I’m not particularly interested in an apology from him. But there are women who believe he owes me one. A few weeks ago, in a column for the Broad Street Review, which he edits, Rottenberg wrote that women should be careful when they’re out and about in the world, because the world is dangerous. He cited the ordeal of Lara Logan, the CBS News reporter who was gang-raped by a mob while covering the political demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square; in googling Logan, Rottenberg had landed on a publicity shot of her in a low-cut dress. He questioned her comportment, given that she wanted to be taken seriously as a journalist.

Rottenberg got hammered for that in a nasty viral attack. And so he apologized, to women in general he might have offended. I wrote that I was sick of our stinking public apologies, to anyone who might be annoyed by something written or said.

What a dunderhead I am, several commenters pointed out, not to understand how offensive Rottenberg was, to women everywhere. And, in fact, he owed me an apology, two female readers said, because Rottenberg wrote that “conquering an unwilling sex partner” is right up a man’s alley. One woman railed to me that he “called all men rapists. Or did that just go over your head? He believes that you are a potential and future (if not past) rapist simply because of your gender. He should apologize to women AND men.”

Well, I’m sorry to be so crass, but of course I’m a potential rapist. Going down into the darkest side of rage and power lust and alcohol abuse—who knows? But even that is missing the point. If I thought that Rottenberg was wrong—in other words, if I lived in a fantasy world in which I actually believed I wasn’t capable of the most godawful things—I would still react to what he wrote with a shrug. Even if I believed he was saying something nasty about men instead of what is more or less obviously true, why should I care? Why would his opinion about men matter to me personally?

I would think Lara Logan, if she happened to read Rottenberg’s column, might have been flabbergasted or hurt or enraged by what he wrote. There she was, a journalist doing her job in Egypt who was gang-raped, and Rottenberg trots out this glam shot of her breasts. But for women to use that as the on-ramp for the idea of their oppression generally, I don’t get.

More than not getting it, I think the generalized outrage at Rottenberg was really flimsy, backwards, anti-feminist thinking.

A woman would only feel that—that Rottenberg was attacking her too, because he was attacking all women—if she had ceded power to men. If she believed she were somehow under the thumb of men, in some far-reaching, definitive, oppressed way.

Most women I know well—American women—are not oppressed by men. They might think Rottenberg’s essay was idiotic or nasty, but it was not about all women, and it was certainly not about them. They wouldn’t have taken it in, in other words. It wouldn’t be personal.

Dan Rottenberg was mean to Lara Logan. He may have owed her an apology. But he made a mistake, apologizing to women generally. Just as women demanding that apology are making a mistake, because it screams loud and clear that they believe they are still victims, under the sway of men. Which is a pretty retrograde, unsophisticated place to be.

As for me, I don’t give a rat’s ass what Dan Rottenberg thinks men are capable of. I have my own ideas about that.