I wouldn’t normally quote so much Twitter, but the extremes of vitriol unloosed in this conversation find their purest expression there. Some of these seemingly fringe figures are actually writers and editors who publish in places like The New Republic and n+1, who are involved in setting the tone of the conversation; one can very easily connect the dots between their views and those of more mainstream feminists. I have a feeling that if one met @yoloethics or the rest of her Twitter cohort in person, they would seem normal, funny, smart, well read. But the vicious energy and ugliness is there beneath the fervor of our new reckoning, adeptly disguised as exhilarating social change. It feels as if the feminist moment is, at times, providing cover for vindictiveness and personal vendettas and office politics and garden-variety disappointment, that what we think of as purely positive social change is also, for some, blood sport. The grammar is better in these feminist tweets, but they are nonetheless recognizably Trumpian.
In some ways, if we take the imaginative leap, the world Twitter feminists are envisioning—scrubbed clean of anyone hitting on anyone, asking for phone numbers, leaning over to kiss someone without seeking verbal permission—seems not that substantively far away from the world of Mike Pence saying he will never eat alone with a woman who is not his wife. This odd convergence reveals something critical about the moment: the complicated ways in which we may be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Part of what bothers many of the people I talked to is the tone of moral purity.