In an essay on Slate published last week, journalist and author Hanna Rosin declared that the patriarchy is dead and exhorted feminists to just accept it already. Rosin says a lot in her essay but my heart landed on one part early on where Rosin describes a “petty,” finger pointing strain of feminism that
“assumes an exquisite vulnerability, an image of women as “creatures too ‘tender’ for the abrasiveness of daily life,” as Joan Didion put it in her 1972 essay “The Women’s Movement.” (Is this why we now put “trigger warnings” on stories that mention rape or sexual harassment?)”
Here is what Rosin just said: the “abrasiveness of daily life” includes frequent references to rape and sexual harassment. We encounter these references so often, daily!, because they continue to occur in large numbers, despite the death knell tolling for the patriarchy.
The abrasiveness of daily life includes references to rape and sexual harassment. Rosin doesn’t take issue with that. She accepts it, and uses it as an example of how women are just too fragile for daily life in our postpatriarchal girl club.
How am I to respond to respond to Ms. Rosin choosing “rape and sexual harassment” as her casual parenthetical aside to rhetorically embellish a broader point about how PATRIARCHY IS DEAD AND FEMINISTS SHOULD JUST ACCEPT IT ALREADY?!
What does it say about our culture that we are expected to endure constant references to horrifically violent acts, that we are expected to endure the existence of those horrifically violent acts, as part of the abrasiveness of daily life?
Are we expected to endure, no matter what? Construct armor so thick and invulnerable that daily references to sexual violence cannot touch us? Accept that we must not be so tender in the face of a seemingly endless cycle of objectification and violence?
Has Hannah Rosin ever sat through the night with someone trembling and vomiting, triggered not even by a reference to sexual violence, but just because it lives on in their body after so many years?
If it is not a patriarchal system giving us these casual parenthetical references to rape and the exhortations to stop being so damn tender, I want Ms. Rosin to tell me what is.