In all three books, the 2016 election looms large as an odious testament to the enduring power of patriarchy and misogyny. Yet you can loathe Trump and still question the assumption that Hillary Clinton’s loss was the result of sexism. Some anti-Clinton sentiment certainly had to do with her gender; then again, so did what enthusiasm her campaign managed to generate. Traister, Chemaly, and Manne lament the stereotypes and double standards faced by ambitious and powerful women. Yet they never mention recent research by scholars such as Deborah Jordan Brooks of Dartmouth College or Jennifer Lawless of American University, who looked at actual political campaigns in the last decade and concluded that female candidates were not held back by voter biases.
The central theme of the call to feminist rage is sexual victimhood: #MeToo and the crusade against American “rape culture” that began a few years earlier. Few would doubt the worthiness of the cause. The scandals that followed Weinstein’s exposure included story after story in which powerful men seemed to regard the women in their professional orbit as a personal harem and in which women’s attempts to complain were deep-sixed; many of these stories, backed by contemporaneous reports to colleagues, friends, or family, involved allegations of criminal conduct ranging from sexual assault to indecent exposure. Even critics of feminist sex panic, such as Sommers and Northwestern University film studies professor Laura Kipnis, were mostly on board with #MeToo.