Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Daphne Merkin finds her soul mate

I rarely have a reason to talk about Daphne Merkin since she left a typically whiny comment on this blog many years ago, but I can't help remarking on her latest adventures, which I discovered via this week's New Yorker - she's palling around with feminism-hater supreme Katie Roiphe, to whom Katha Pollitt delivered an exquisite smack-down twenty years ago, "Not Just Bad Sex."

I actually thought better of Merkin than that, believe it or not. Sure Merkin wrote a defense of Bernie Madoff, and wrote bullshit about the Brontes, and promotes evolutionary psychology theories about gender mating behaviors, but even I didn't think she would stoop so low as Katie fucking Roiphe. As Pollitt noted about Roiphe's grotesque views on date rape:
ONE in five, one in eight- what if it's "only" one in ten or twelve? Social science isn't physics. Exact numbers are important, and elusive, but surely what is significant here is that lots of different studies, with different agendas, sample populations, and methods, tend in the same direction. Rather than grapple with these inconvenient data, Roiphe retreats to her own impressions:
"If I was really standing in the middle of an epidemic, a crisis, if 25 per cent of my female friends were really being raped, wouldn't I know about it?" (Roiphe forgets that the one-in-four figure includes attempts, but let that pass.) As an experiment, I applied Roiphe's anecdotal method myself, and wrote down that I know about my own circle of acquaintance: eight rapes by strangers, (including one on a college campus), two sexual assaults (one Central Park, one Prospect Park), one abduction (woman walking down street forced into car full of men), one date rape involving a Mickey Finn, which resulted n pregnancy and abortion, and two stalking (one ex-lover, one deranged fan); plus one brutal beating by a boyfriend, three incidents of childhood incest (none involving therapist-aided "recovered memories"), and one bizarre incident in which a friend went to a man's apartment after meeting him at a part and was forced by him to spend the night under the shower, naked, which he debated whether to kill her, rape her, or let her go. The most interesting think about this tally, however, is that when I mentioned it to a friend he
was astonished,- he himself know of only one rape victim in his circle, he said- but he knows several of the women on my list.
It may be that Roiphe's friends have nothing to tell her. Or it may be that they have nothing to tell her. With her adolescent certainty that bad things don't happen, or that they happen only to weaklings, she is not likely to be on the receiving end of many painful, intimate confessions. The one time a fellow student tells her about being raped (at knifepoint, so it counts), Roiphe cringes like a high-school vegetarian dissecting her first frog:
"I was startled... I felt terrible for her, I felt like there was nothing I could say."
Confronted with someone whose testimony she can't dismiss or satirize, Roiphe goes blank.
Sure Roiphe was an asshole twenty years ago, but surely she's gotten a clue since then, right? Well, no.

This is from 2011:

Roiphe has a long history of spouting anti-feminist rhetoric, as Rebecca Traister captures well in a book review for Salon.com:
The 38-year-old author first made her name as the baby bĂȘte noire of feminism with her 1993 screed against campus date-rape activism, “The Morning After.” The book made Roiphe, then a 25-year-old Harvard grad and the daughter of feminist writer Anne Roiphe, a child star of sorts, a symbol of the generational rupture in the women’s movement and of a post-Reagan conservative backlash among young people. Her I’m-too-sexy-for-this-movement provocation partially inspired Tad Friend to coin the term “Do-Me Feminism” in 1994. 
In her latest anti-woman contrarian triumph, Roiphe makes a lot of misguided arguments, including that sexual harassment is too much of an “umbrellalike” charge, thus mistakenly grouping together ostensibly serious claims like “demanding sex in exchange for a job” with those that are more agreeable to Roiphe, such as a comment about someone’s dress.
Similarly, the spectacular decline and fall of notorious skeezeball and celebrated mediocre philosopher Colin McGinn, recently let go (ahem, “retired”) from his position at the University of Miami, is, according to Roiphe, the story of a man who “lost everything because of a 26-year-old woman.” Because, 100%, of the woman—not, in fact, because Colin McGinn is a well-known student-schtupper whose shenanigans got him in trouble at every previous job he ever had, including Rutgers, where he had an actual “plum” position, as opposed to the definitely-not-plum position (despite Roiphe’s ludicrous characterization) at Miami, which is a poorly-ranked program at a poorly-ranked institution, hardly befitting a Philosopher of Mind of his mind’s stature. 
Any time you see a senior professor with long and distinguished publication record teaching somewhere not-that-prestigious, but who used to teach somewhere more prestigious, that is almost 100% because that person fucked someone he wasn’t supposed to. Usually a grad student. Usually his own grad student. It happens all—and I mean all—the time. And it is deplorable, despite what Roiphe says about she, herself, preferring a “powerful, arrogant man” and resenting the fact that apparently in our society, that is a punishable offense, which makes perfect sense when you think about the relative power, arrogance and maleness of nearly every single Fortune 500 CEO in existence.
Why McGinn had to take the fall for what hundreds of senior professors just like him do every day will remain a mystery—perhaps he just did it so much that eventually something had to give. Perhaps he has so many enemies in Philosophy of Mind that he was under extra scrutiny. Perhaps he just got unlucky and the victim of this particular bit of skeeviness was unusually brave–and if you look at the hundreds of disparaging comments on Roiphe’s article (which I am not linking to because it is an odious hagiography that doesn’t even deserve this mention, much less a link), you’ll see why that kind of bravery is rare.
For most of the comments agree with Roiphe. This 26-year-old woman isn’t a “victim” of anything. If anything, she is the perpetrator: a scorned lover who manipulated the rules of an institution to get back at the scorner. Because, as Roiphe describes emails Colin McGinn sent her when he wasn’t busy having Skype-sex with her, erm, I mean, being “interviewed,” this woman welcomed the advances. She advanced back. She flirted. She called him “dearest.” She is just as guilty as he is. The “only” thing he did wrong was not report their relationship to authorities and remove himself as her mentor and employer.
All right, first of all—that’s not “only,” that is a major and fireable offense. And second of all, here is the main reason for this rant: It does not matter at all that she seemed into it at the beginning. It falls under the school’s sexual harassment statute because of the power imbalance inherent in the situation.
But let's face it, Roiphe has such a sweet niche going on. She makes her living defending the white male establishment that still runs everything. She is never going to lose money on that proposition.

And only an idiot like Daphne Merkin would stoop so low as to pal around with her. They so deserve each other.