This is a feminist manifesto for the Kavanaugh era. It calls for a reevaluation of the hysterical woman, an old archetype haunting our national conversation on gender relations. Both the right and the liberal establishment are uncomfortable with the hysterical woman, which is to say that they are uncomfortable with the messy ways that pain and anger get expressed and worked through. They use accusations of hysteria, a debunked nervous disorder connected to femininity, to disqualify women from civilized discourse. But for leftists and feminists, “hysteria” can still be of use. The hysterical woman represents a commitment to respecting and staying with the emotional aftereffects of trauma—a commitment to not only believing survivors, but also turning our shared experiences into a force for change.
I often find myself in the company of utopians. The most common on campus are the social-justice types: history’s on our side, folks, and it’s coming to an end… It’s progressive Stanford, proud home of the pseudo-Hegelian, and while Hegel has no place in the histories they’ll write, they will follow him, misinterpreted, to the end of time. Naturally, this being Silicon Valley, you also meet the transhumanists—true believers not just in our world’s perfectibility, but in the perfectibility of the body, mind, and soul (in a purely scientific sense, of course). Then, near and dear to my heart, we have our communists and communistically-inclined, pinning their hopes on the distant Revolution and a new world order. There are many more such groups at Stanford, but you get the main idea: I’m surrounded by lovely, well-meaning Teleologists. And they’re from all over the ideological map.
The historical annals are replete with narratives of student heroism. The global uprising of 1968 which challenged capitalism, American imperialism, and contemporary gender and sexual norms was foremost a revolt of students. In France the memory of May 1968 endures as a moment when university students almost created a revolution while, in the States, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) flourished, mobilizing hundreds of thousands at the height of anti-Vietnam protests. But tales of student activist prowess are not limited to the New Left of 1968. The two most prominent revolts against Soviet authority – the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and Prague Spring – very prominently featured students. Even Stanford has an illustrious history of student protest, having played an important role in the movement to divest from Apartheid South Africa in the late 1970s. At their most valiant, students have articulated nuanced and insightful politics, and have led national, and even global, insurrectionary movements.
Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to empowering women and achieving gender equality. International Women’s Day, like everything else, is not timeless – it has a history. And throughout this history, which began in 1909, International Women’s Day has been intertwined with socialist and anti-war movements. Indeed, it was celebrated almost solely by socialists and communists before finally reaching the capitalist world in 1975. Even today, the roots of leftism remain strong in International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to uplifting women of all races and classes. And yet, even if International Women’s Day has become more widespread and thereby commodified, it has never – and must never – become divorced from its radical roots.
‘What did Mahatma Gandhi think of black people?’ ‘The Gandhi None of us knew’ ‘The Real Karl Marx.’ ‘What did MLK think about gay people?’ A recent spate of articles has emerged across the liberal media – from the Washington post to the Huffington Post to the New York Times – tearing down the great saints of the historical left on the basis of their racist, sexist, and homophobic views. And it is indeed true that Gandhi et al. held troubling beliefs.