Though rich and powerful males have been treating women as sex-objects for millennia and, it soon transpired, good old Harvey’s nasty habits had always been common knowledge among the glitterati – especially those who, thanks to their Hollywood connections, have raked in huge sums of money by selling titillation to the prurient masses – on this occasion people said they were shocked by what they were hearing. To Weinstein’s evident surprise, he was made a social outcast and all his influential friends, among them Hillary Clinton, who until then had fawned upon him, abandoned him to his fate.
In the days and weeks that followed the publication by the New York Times of an article deploring the disgusting things he had been doing for decades, hundreds of women took their cue from the celebrities who had already come forward to say that they too had been groped, patted, mauled, raped or obliged to watch an obscene performance either by Weinstein or by other public figures, among them senior politicians of both major parties and television journalists, most of whom were either sacked by the organisations they worked for or tried to stay afloat by begging forgiveness in a suitably contrite manner, shedding a tear or two while they were about it. Much the same happened in the UK.
What we are seeing here is the result of a tectonic cultural shift. Not that long ago, the well-known film-maker Roman Polanski was given a free pass after fleeing the US where he had been charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl; after all, his many admirers told us, boys will be boys and this one is a fine artist and therefore deserves to be given some leeway. Last week the US politician Nancy Pelosi tried to use a version of the same argument to defend a fellow Democrat, John Conyers, saying he was “an icon” who in the course of a long life had done sterling work on behalf of human rights and women. Her effort fell flat; Conyers, the iconic black politician, had to resign his post on the House judiciary committee. Luckily for John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and others, their frolics in the Oval Office took place long before the new morality started showing its teeth.
What feminists call “the patriarchy” is getting demolished not just in the US but also in many countries that are within its sphere of influence. It is a question of asking men to show more respect for women. Nobody seems to want a return to the old days when gentlemen always opened doors for them or stood up so they could occupy seats available on buses. In the gender-fluid age the West has entered, such vestiges of chivalry, a code of conduct based on the outdated notion that the “stronger sex” should be protective towards the allegedly “weaker one” and assume responsibility for its well-being, are frowned upon.
From now on ambitious men will be far more careful that they used to be when they find themselves in the company of an attractive woman. They had better be: touching one, leering at one or complimenting one on her looks, could see them transformed into pariahs overnight. They may even end up in jail.
What is more, for some unlucky individuals, being on their best behaviour in future will not be enough to save them. Many have been put in the stocks for what they allegedly did 30 or 40 years ago when the social climate was very different. Intransigent feminists insist that all accusations of inappropriate behaviour made against men, no matter how improbable they may seem, have to be believed and that there is no statute of limitations, so denying ever having done anything wrong is worse than useless. As far as they concerned, payback time has well and truly arrived. They are determined to make the most of it. To make things gratifyingly easy for the more zealous members of the sisterhood, their menfolk are too cowed to put up much of a resistance. They evidently sense that their age-old reign has already reached its end.
Has it? Though feminism is currently making headway even in such unlikely places as Saudi Arabia, where to the dismay of conservatives women may soon be allowed to drive cars unaccompanied by a male relative, there is little chance that the Muslim world will experience the sexual revolution that is shaking up Western societies. Unless it does, birthrates in most Muslim communities – not in all, in Iran they have nose-dived – will remain far higher than in Europe, North America or, for that matter, Japan. This being the case, the Muslim enclaves in the West will continue to expand. If history is any guide, within a couple of decades they will be large enough to play a very significant role in the political and social development of all “advanced” countries; Muslims of all stripes are disinclined on principle to play secondfiddle to unbelievers, so when there are enough of them, they will say it is their turn to take over.
As Auguste Conte famously decreed, “demography is destiny.” Numbers count. By doing much to help keep Western birthrates down, militant feminism is empowering creeds that may have many merits but which are also, from a feminist point of view, decidedly misogynistic, as well as wreaking havoc on the pension arrangements that were made when Europeans and their kin had plenty of children. For some strange reason, many fierce campaigners for women’s rights take it for granted that Muslims are on their side in the war against the patriarchy; disquieting as they should find the thought, male supremacy is one of the few things about the West that, were it to be re-established, would meet with the approval of Islamists.
(*) Former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald (1979-1986).