On the Saturday following Trump’s inauguration the capital was clogged with another mass rally—the Women’s March on Washington. At first described as “spontaneous” by the media, it gradually leaked out that the whole thing had been planned—by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, CAIR, Move-On, and approximately fifty left-wing groups infused with cash from rich Uncle Soros. Reliance on the deep pockets of the rad left’s Daddy Warbucks to fund their spree is an irony seemingly lost on the ladies of “Fourth Wave” feminism.
Fourth Wave feminism? I, too, was ignorant of the term until an uncanny sameness of language and gesture from speaker after speaker prompted an excursus into the Web—and into the mind of Martha Rampton, director of Pacific University’s Center for Gender Equality. “Forth Wave Feminism” grew out of the failure of the first three “waves” to confront novel oppressions—such as “homo and trans phobias,” “heteronormativity,” “body-type conformity,” and “slut-shaming.” In her oft quoted Pacific Magazine essay entitled “The Four Waves of Feminism,” Ms. Rampton looks to social media and the internet to deliver the final blow to resisters of “gender bending and leveling hierarchies.”
Absent Ms. Rampton’s insights, one might think that the obscene gestures and vulgar rantings on display at the Women’s March were the mundane bad manners of girls never taught how to behave in public. Not so. The celebrities who addressed the sisters and their smattering of male groupies hadn’t ‘lost it’; they were making a point. These exhibitions were a premeditated Fourth Wave salvo against hierarchical “slut-shaming” and the like. The third-finger salute, the genital gestures, the F-bombs employed by the orators were meant to amplify the verbal message to the Trumpers: Your usurper in the Oval Office has called us “nasty” and “pig”; well, we’ll show you just how nasty, porcine—and proud of it!—we really are. He apologized; we won’t!
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Thus, one of the stars began her monologue, convincingly, with “I’m a naaasty woman”; another spoke of being a very private person, before confiding to thousands—millions if you count the TV viewers—that “we must now make it our mission to get really, really personal”: “So yes, at fifteen, I had been to a gynecologist.” A fan near the podium, inspired by the speaker to overcome her own maidenly shyness, echoed: “They (Planned Parenthood) saved my a**—and some other parts, too.”
Madonna, the “surprise-speaker” at the event, delivered a truly bizarre peroration, burdened somewhat, with conflicting signals. “Welcome to the revolution of love,” said the performer, before divulging her recurrent dream of blowing up the White House. “It took this horrific moment of darkness to wake us the f*** up.” To those who believed the protest would fizzle after Saturday’s outburst, the fading star had but one thing to say: “F***you, f***you”—and, once more with feeling—“F*** you.” The fans sang along. Gloria Steinmen, spectral, in dark clothes and glasses, peeped out from behind the podium—like the ghost of Second Wave feminism.
In print, these sputterings might seem tasteless and obscene, but lively. In actual performance they were peculiarly deadening. Was it the uniformity of the dark clothing, the repetitive gestures, or the shrillness of tone relying on forced volume to make up for want of something worth saying? Actually, hoarse, rather than shrill, would be a more accurate tonal description. The words on paper would look shrill. But something seemed to happen to these potty-mouthed, voice-coached actresses. Perhaps their air passages were constricted by a sense of the historical moment. When reciting scripts, as their profession requires, they can sound feminine. But at the podium they called to mind grackles cawing from a distant landfill.
It is hardly surprising that Gloria Steinem and Cecile Richards and the “stars” disinvited pro-life feminists. Even the silent presence of these modest, predominately Christian women would have been felt as a rejection of their in-your-face exhibitionism. And, to be fair, the organizers were not off the mark in recognizing the incompatibility of those who view abortion as a fundamental right of the liberated woman and those who regard it with horror. Can those who applaud Madonna, and those who revere the madonna, really show a united front? Despite the “Revolution of Love,” some things are, in the nature of things, irreconcilable.
The celebs and those who follow them will remind anyone who has taught for some years of ill-behaved and book-averse students who, in the absence of simple information, fall back on emotive posturing. If they’ve watched enough movies or documentaries to have heard of the Taliban, the Nazis, the Brown or Black Shirts, the fascists, you may be certain, these words like weapons will be fired at Fuhrer Trump.
In the classroom or at the Women’s March, the emotively practiced can always count on an aggrieved chorus to second faux outrage on cue. Their antennae are constantly attuned to slights and micro-aggressions. The narration of an historical anecdote, a reference to the civilizing influence of the Church, the use of a word on their index expurgatorius, a request for explanation of an emotive reflex, or any similar breach unaccompanied by a trigger warning can light the fuse. They needn’t make a case or engage in debate; such eurocentric modes of expression give unfair advantage to the privileged class—the lucid and articulate. Reams of patient argument are thus defeated by a facial or bodily gesture, an eye roll—indeed, a hiss.
Given the mass audience that can gather almost immediately in the age of social media, the progressive’s conundrum is not so much the difficult job of summoning logic and reference to build a case or an argument. That sort of exertion requires habits of concentration and familiarity with information acquired through extensive reading and the weighing of evidence. The spokespersons at the Women’s March might sense that such an approach would simply mystify their audience. The potential threat to the leaders of the Women’s March, and the planned sequels, is not a crack-down by a dictator in the White House. The real barrier—“wall” may be too threatening a word—to their influence is the inherent ugliness of their “ideas,” and the bottomless tedium of those who promote them. Will they succeed despite these impediments? They have already, as of this writing, massed at the airports in the wake of the Muslim “ban” and Chuck Schumer’s tears. My guess is that the Women’s March will continue to spawn many more mass demonstrations. After all, girls just want to have fun.
(Photo credit: Cal Sports Media / AP)