But once the debate has been joined and carried on for a while, it seems insufficient to say, “well, this guy was just crazy” in a case where it’s very, very easy to pick out the thick cultural veins that his madness battened on. And when those veins carry a toxic flow of, well, woman-hatred, it seems important for conservatives to acknowledge as much without worrying that they’re somehow surrendering crucial territory to left-wing scolds.
Especially when that territory actually supplies a modest amount of what could be moral common ground. That is, it should be possible, in these debates, for the right to offer a nuanced analysis of cultural liberalism’s contradictions — pointing out, for instance, that certain expressions of the male grotesque are just what the left’s longed-for liberation actually looks like — without denying that when it passes judgment on particular grotesqueries, a “strident” and “scolding” feminism is often straightforwardly correct. And it should be possible, too, for cultural conservatives to qualify and critique certain left-wing conceits without denying their partial validity. I’m thinking, for instance, of a phrase like “rape culture,” which when applied to the entirety of American society does, indeed, risk, becoming an impossibly broad indictment that minimizes the evil of actual rapists … but which if applied more narrowly, to particular institutions and atmospheres, starts to look like an idea that conservatives should actively embrace.