Something called J. Bryan Lowder, one of the army of young striving types that David Plotz keeps in a closet, has written a straightforwardly Slate-y piece defending Katie Roiphe. Now, I’m willing to do the dance again; given her slut-shaming, rape-denying ways, I don’t mind. And Lowder’s piece isn’t much of a defense. So here goes: supposedly, the critique of Roiphe in Gawker “amounts to a temper tantrum.” But Hamilton Nolan’s piece isn’t a tantrum. It has a very basic and essential point: Roiphe makes a lot of grand claims about what is popular and widespread and doesn’t adequately support those claims with evidence. She refers to feminists as a broad class without referencing specific feminists and specific arguments. Nolan demonstrates that quantitatively. To ask for a professional writer to do her homework and show basic diligence in researching isn’t anything like throwing a tantrum. Lowder goes on to accuse Virginia Heffernan of being the real sexist for criticizing Roiphe, which is the most well-worn trope in the category “Defending Katie Roiphe’s Contrarian Bullshit.”
Referring to some entity known as “feminism” or “many feminists” or whatever is a constant in Roiphe’s career, just as references to “many women” or “most young women” pop up whenever she’s asserting that women secretly endorse retrograde sexual politics. Some people thought that Ayelet Waldman embarrassed herself when she went after Roiphe. I actually found it refreshing, given the contrast with Roiphe’s constant references to the vague and ill-defined: Waldman had a beef with one specific person and made that plain. In response, Roiphe referred to her only as “Mrs. C,” thus reducing a very successful lawyer and author into nothing but a wife. But, you know, Roiphe’s critics are the real sexists.
But, on another level, I recognize the feebleness of actually responding to Roiphe. As some at the Atlantic have pointed out, Roiphe is trolling, and her troll hand is strong, and by feeding the beast her critics only make her stronger.
Roiphe got her career the old fashioned way, through nepotism. But she’s kept it with a durable formula: write essays trolling feminists; send those essays to publications for self-hating yuppies like Slate; defend self by claiming to be the true feminist; repeat. She’s gone through so many cycles I’m inclined to start referring to Roiphe Units in homage to Atrios. Cyclical publishing is nothing new. One of the little secrets of our failed media experiment is that our “content generator geniuses” really only have a couple dozen stories that they print over and over again. (I dig Salon, but Joan Walsh blows dust off essentially the same “is monogamy antiquated?!?” story literally every three or four months.) And for the type of people who go to Slate for cutting social commentary (read: boring, vapid people), gender trouble is endlessly amusing. So she’ll have a long, profitable career. And people like me, who think date rape actually happens and that the best thing for every woman isn’t necessarily a strong man and that Norman Mailer’s ultramasculinity was a sad affect– we’ll just get worked up, again and again. So it goes.