Katie Roiphe Rebukes the Trivialization of Due Process by Feminists but Is Scarcely Less Guilty of It Herself

Posted on May 12, 2018


A recent post on this blog commended NYU Journalism Prof. Katie Roiphe’s essay, “The Other Whisper Network: How Twitter feminism is bad for women,” published a few months ago in Harper’s. Certainly its observations about feminism’s “vicious energy and ugliness” are unimpeachable—and for their confrontational candor, remarkable.

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.

Prof. Roiphe’s reportage and commentary on America’s due process crisis, though, be they ever so laudable, are limited by classism. What Prof. Roiphe considers a “new” witch hunt has only newly spread into her social set, which includes prominent media figures like those who’ve recently been run out on a rail.

Who are the female members of the “other whisper network” who Prof. Roiphe says “fear varieties of retribution (Twitter rage, damage to their reputations, professional repercussions, and vitriol from friends) for speaking out” about “the weird energy behind [the #MeToo] movement”?

They’re her peers.

Whose due process rights, similarly, does her essay defend?

Those of her peers.

Her appreciation of the due process crisis is motivated by attacks on those who occupy high political posts, particularly in media, and who formerly enjoyed the immunity that only money and titles can confer. Her curiosity, furthermore, seems to extend little further than that.

Observations like this one are trenchant:

The need to differentiate between smaller offenses and assault is not interesting to a certain breed of Twitter feminist; it makes them impatient, suspicious. The deeper attitude toward due process is: don’t bother me with trifles!

Further symptomatic of the crisis, though, is that Prof. Roiphe’s own “deeper attitude” toward complaints by people of lesser pedigree and influence—for example, those who toil for a living and who have been the butt of outrageous “abuse” laws and their unscrupulous administration for decades and in the tens of millions—seems no different from Twitter feminists’. The path of her essay meanders some but nevertheless skirts the murky underbrush.

The social media “dialogue,” even if it were amended to meet Prof. Roiphe’s standards of decency and qualified judgment, would still be sophomoric chatter.

No less so is the one carried on among writers in the likes of The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, New York Magazine—and Harper’s.

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