The Lonely, Delusional World of Feminist Literature

A few years ago, as the country entered into all-out post-election warfare, I decided to distract myself with non-political interests.  I loved literature and longed to encounter wonderful writers exploring the complex terrain of love, life, and art.  Instead, as I perused literary magazines online, I fell down another rabbit hole: the gender politics–obsessed world of mostly female MFA graduates who edit and publish on these sites. 

Their essays are so bad that they are good.  The writings emanate from young women inspired by a movement sporting vagina-shaped hats and vulva costumes.  The authors themselves often sound lonely, miserable, and endlessly fixated on unhealed childhood wounds.  But no worries: They have a scapegoat.  Trump and the patriarchy are all to blame.  

Here is a sampling of a classic tour-de-force by a creative writing professor from a liberal university.  A year after Trump's inauguration, she moaned about how even left-wing men could not take her or her friends anymore: 

"To a certain extent," she writes, "we expected it from the men who wear lobster-printed pants, the men from Connecticut, the Young Republicans of America with their gelled and parted hair, their summers in Nantucket, their LL Bean slippers worn on the porches of fraternities, 2pm on a Monday.  But when my friend pulls me aside in a hotel bar and tells me it's happening to her husband — a man who donates annually to NPR and voted twice for Barack Obama, who has a degree in Art History and works for a non-profit — neither one of us knows what to say." 

When she and her friends all went nuts post-Trump, her boyfriend dumped her.  "All of you women with your labia hats, he said.  All of you with your clitoris signs."  This feminist writer concludes that the problem is the men.  She never wonders if her sisterhood has become insufferable.  She never asks how she would feel if her boyfriend walked around in public wearing a giant penis costume and then berated his beloved for being an insufficient ally. But modern feminists lack the self-awareness to see the comedy of their actions. 

"Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny?" Christopher Hitchens once famously asked.  Hitchens was not around to the see a day when morbidly obese women would hold signs that read, "No, you make me a sandwich."  Hitchens could never have imagined how unintentionally hilarious an entire women's movement could become. 

Much of the sisterhood's most comical laments are now coming from feminist writers forever trapped mentally in a freshman writing workshop or debt-addled MFA cluster, churning out their purple prose to fellow writers too afraid to tell them it is terrible. 

How else could "literary" feminist magazines publish pieces entitled "Having a Female Orgasm During the Trump Administration," filled with gems like what follows?  "I had needed a gesture, something to feel in control after campaigns which had felt so out of control.  This had to do with power, and me taking what I could, me wielding what I had, which was a dozen pussy cupcakes in a pink box." 

These feminist "literary" writers do not care about the lives of working-class women.  They "write what they know," and they never question whether or not the world they know is too narrow, insular, and narcissistic to be worth writing about. 

"I've often described this trend in contemporary fiction as 'psychologically damaged characters psychologically damaging other characters before the whole lot of them are tossed into the abyss,'" Andrew Graff wrote years ago in a Catholic literary magazine that is trying to recover a sense of the transcendent in literature.  "I've seen this gloom in published work.  And I've seen this gloom in writing workshops.  And truly, Woe betide the budding writer who brings a cheery story to an MFA program."  (Alas, all this psychological damage in modern times leads more to stories like "Cat Person" than, say, a classic like "The Yellow Wallpaper.") 

Lester Berg (a pseudonym for an author who does not want to destroy his career) describes in Quillette his own experience in a prestigious New York MFA program.  At one point, a professor who teaches the role of history in narrative fiction asks Berg who E.L. Doctorow is.  Berg wonders how this particular professor could never have even heard of the author of Ragtime, one of the most important writers of historical fiction in the 20th century.  Berg quit his MFA program when he realized that "I had been burying myself in student debt to gain the feedback of people whose opinions didn't matter."  Berg focuses on the dysfunction of men in these programs.  He watched as one writer friend blamed his problems with women on everything but his own behavior and another writer friend blamed his poor book sales on Donald Trump.  The American literary scene had been pretentious and navel-gazing for decades. In the Trump era, it turned downright delusional. 

In the past few years, I have noticed that whenever I come across a piece that shows some spark of beauty or knowledge of a world outside the writer's own ego, it invariably comes from either an author or a literary magazine that acknowledges God.  And so a Christian writer dwells on the joys and struggles of his early years of marriage through his memories of a Chagall painting.  A Greek Orthodox essayist contemplates coming to terms with loneliness while perusing a classic children's book he is purchasing for his niece.  Another writer in a magazine with a Mother Teresa quote in its profile briefly reflects on the passage of time while contemplating the neighbors on her street, human in their flaws and strengths.  It is as if only the "God-haunted" can write about personal experience anymore without it devolving into emotional diarrhea. 

How did this happen?  Plenty of atheist or agnostic writers in the past were at least cognizant of healthy boundaries within which to dive deep into the emotional and psychological messiness of personal lives.  Now writers, presumably approved by editors, know no personal boundaries or discipline in their prose.  They do not know or care enough about a Chagall or a sweet literary classic to tie their own presumed struggles into a larger artistic or narrative tradition.  Doing so would require modern left-wing MFAs to think beyond the two main subject areas that obsess their lives: misandry and genitalia. 

Social media feed their egos with words like "courageous," "brave," and "relatable" to describe their emotionally immature thoughts.  It is a literary world that has confused affirming with enabling. 

The signs for all of this go back many decades, at least since Foucault and French Marxist ideas began their long march through the humanities. But the problem goes even deeper than that with the new generation of writers.  

The problem is encapsulated in a sentence I came across two decades ago in a Washington magazine.  It sent chills up my spine when I read it then, and I never forgot the warning.  A psychiatrist wrote an article about a disturbing phenomenon she was noticing in her adolescent clients.  The next generation, she warned, has a problem: "They're bored and they're boring."  

The United States can survive Foucault, but can it survive bored grown women and their male allies wearing clitoral costumes while being indoctrinated by silly French Marxists?  Up until 2016, that is a question nobody in the United States ever thought he had to ask.

A few years ago, as the country entered into all-out post-election warfare, I decided to distract myself with non-political interests.  I loved literature and longed to encounter wonderful writers exploring the complex terrain of love, life, and art.  Instead, as I perused literary magazines online, I fell down another rabbit hole: the gender politics–obsessed world of mostly female MFA graduates who edit and publish on these sites. 

Their essays are so bad that they are good.  The writings emanate from young women inspired by a movement sporting vagina-shaped hats and vulva costumes.  The authors themselves often sound lonely, miserable, and endlessly fixated on unhealed childhood wounds.  But no worries: They have a scapegoat.  Trump and the patriarchy are all to blame.  

Here is a sampling of a classic tour-de-force by a creative writing professor from a liberal university.  A year after Trump's inauguration, she moaned about how even left-wing men could not take her or her friends anymore: 

"To a certain extent," she writes, "we expected it from the men who wear lobster-printed pants, the men from Connecticut, the Young Republicans of America with their gelled and parted hair, their summers in Nantucket, their LL Bean slippers worn on the porches of fraternities, 2pm on a Monday.  But when my friend pulls me aside in a hotel bar and tells me it's happening to her husband — a man who donates annually to NPR and voted twice for Barack Obama, who has a degree in Art History and works for a non-profit — neither one of us knows what to say." 

When she and her friends all went nuts post-Trump, her boyfriend dumped her.  "All of you women with your labia hats, he said.  All of you with your clitoris signs."  This feminist writer concludes that the problem is the men.  She never wonders if her sisterhood has become insufferable.  She never asks how she would feel if her boyfriend walked around in public wearing a giant penis costume and then berated his beloved for being an insufficient ally. But modern feminists lack the self-awareness to see the comedy of their actions. 

"Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny?" Christopher Hitchens once famously asked.  Hitchens was not around to the see a day when morbidly obese women would hold signs that read, "No, you make me a sandwich."  Hitchens could never have imagined how unintentionally hilarious an entire women's movement could become. 

Much of the sisterhood's most comical laments are now coming from feminist writers forever trapped mentally in a freshman writing workshop or debt-addled MFA cluster, churning out their purple prose to fellow writers too afraid to tell them it is terrible. 

How else could "literary" feminist magazines publish pieces entitled "Having a Female Orgasm During the Trump Administration," filled with gems like what follows?  "I had needed a gesture, something to feel in control after campaigns which had felt so out of control.  This had to do with power, and me taking what I could, me wielding what I had, which was a dozen pussy cupcakes in a pink box." 

These feminist "literary" writers do not care about the lives of working-class women.  They "write what they know," and they never question whether or not the world they know is too narrow, insular, and narcissistic to be worth writing about. 

"I've often described this trend in contemporary fiction as 'psychologically damaged characters psychologically damaging other characters before the whole lot of them are tossed into the abyss,'" Andrew Graff wrote years ago in a Catholic literary magazine that is trying to recover a sense of the transcendent in literature.  "I've seen this gloom in published work.  And I've seen this gloom in writing workshops.  And truly, Woe betide the budding writer who brings a cheery story to an MFA program."  (Alas, all this psychological damage in modern times leads more to stories like "Cat Person" than, say, a classic like "The Yellow Wallpaper.") 

Lester Berg (a pseudonym for an author who does not want to destroy his career) describes in Quillette his own experience in a prestigious New York MFA program.  At one point, a professor who teaches the role of history in narrative fiction asks Berg who E.L. Doctorow is.  Berg wonders how this particular professor could never have even heard of the author of Ragtime, one of the most important writers of historical fiction in the 20th century.  Berg quit his MFA program when he realized that "I had been burying myself in student debt to gain the feedback of people whose opinions didn't matter."  Berg focuses on the dysfunction of men in these programs.  He watched as one writer friend blamed his problems with women on everything but his own behavior and another writer friend blamed his poor book sales on Donald Trump.  The American literary scene had been pretentious and navel-gazing for decades. In the Trump era, it turned downright delusional. 

In the past few years, I have noticed that whenever I come across a piece that shows some spark of beauty or knowledge of a world outside the writer's own ego, it invariably comes from either an author or a literary magazine that acknowledges God.  And so a Christian writer dwells on the joys and struggles of his early years of marriage through his memories of a Chagall painting.  A Greek Orthodox essayist contemplates coming to terms with loneliness while perusing a classic children's book he is purchasing for his niece.  Another writer in a magazine with a Mother Teresa quote in its profile briefly reflects on the passage of time while contemplating the neighbors on her street, human in their flaws and strengths.  It is as if only the "God-haunted" can write about personal experience anymore without it devolving into emotional diarrhea. 

How did this happen?  Plenty of atheist or agnostic writers in the past were at least cognizant of healthy boundaries within which to dive deep into the emotional and psychological messiness of personal lives.  Now writers, presumably approved by editors, know no personal boundaries or discipline in their prose.  They do not know or care enough about a Chagall or a sweet literary classic to tie their own presumed struggles into a larger artistic or narrative tradition.  Doing so would require modern left-wing MFAs to think beyond the two main subject areas that obsess their lives: misandry and genitalia. 

Social media feed their egos with words like "courageous," "brave," and "relatable" to describe their emotionally immature thoughts.  It is a literary world that has confused affirming with enabling. 

The signs for all of this go back many decades, at least since Foucault and French Marxist ideas began their long march through the humanities. But the problem goes even deeper than that with the new generation of writers.  

The problem is encapsulated in a sentence I came across two decades ago in a Washington magazine.  It sent chills up my spine when I read it then, and I never forgot the warning.  A psychiatrist wrote an article about a disturbing phenomenon she was noticing in her adolescent clients.  The next generation, she warned, has a problem: "They're bored and they're boring."  

The United States can survive Foucault, but can it survive bored grown women and their male allies wearing clitoral costumes while being indoctrinated by silly French Marxists?  Up until 2016, that is a question nobody in the United States ever thought he had to ask.