We must distinguish between ‘sentimental’ and ‘sensitive’. A sentimentalist may be a perfect brute in his free time. A sensitive person is never a cruel person. Sentimental Rousseau, who could weep over a progressive idea, distributed his many natural children through various poorhouses and workhouses and never gave a hoot for them. A sentimental old maid may pamper her parrot and poison her niece. The sentimental politician may remember Mother’s Day and ruthlessly destroy a rival. Stalin loved babies. Lenin sobbed at the opera, especially at the Traviata.
Another relevant cultural trend is the neo-liberal propensity to equate power and freedom, in their political senses, with personal freedom of choice. Across the political spectrum, it has become commonplace to argue that what really ‘empowers’ people is being able to choose: the more choices we have, and the freer we are to make them, the more powerful we will be. Applied to gender, what this produces is ‘post-feminism’, an ideology which dispenses with the idea of collective politics and instead equates the liberation of women with the exercise of individual agency. The headline in which this argument was once satirized by The Onion—‘women now empowered by anything a woman does’—is not even a parody: this is the attitude which underpins all those statements to the effect that if women choose to be housewives or prostitutes, then who is anyone (read: feminists) to criticize them?
"Alas," said the mouse, "the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into."
"You only need to change your direction," said the cat, and ate it up.
Hisses. Women shouting at me: slut, bisexual, she fucks men. And before I had spoken, I had been trembling, more afraid to speak than I had ever been. And, in a room of 200 sister lesbians, as angry as I have ever been. “Are you a bisexual?” some woman screamed over the pandemonium, the hisses and shouts merging into a raging noise. “I’m a Jew,” I answered; then, a pause, “and a lesbian, and a woman.” And a coward. Jew was enough. In that room, Jew was what mattered. In that room, to answer the question “Do you still fuck men?” with a No, as I did, was to betray my deepest convictions. All of my life, I have hated the proscribers, those who enforce sexual conformity. In answering, I had given in to the inquisitors, and I felt ashamed. It humiliated me to see myself then: one who resists the enforcers out there with militancy, but gives in without resistance to the enforcers among us.
—Andrea Dworkin “Letters from a War Zone”
The biggest lie of our contemporary liberation movements is that who you fuck radicalizes you.
On our radio [show] here we make a list of fathers who don’t pay for their kids, and it is really a big success. We broadcast their name, their age, and the place where they work. Five times in one day, and no woman has to pay for that. And it is very interesting because it is not only for those whose name is read, but it is a message to the whole society.