November 16, 2017

The New Yorker's David Remnick writes "Brownmiller’s treatment of the Emmett Till case reads today as morally oblivious...."

That's in "The Weinstein Moment and the Trump Presidency/The producer and other powerful men are facing repercussions for their alleged abusive behavior. Will the President?," a short essay that begins with a section on Susan Brownmiller's extremely influential 1975 book "Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape." Brownmiller's memorable thesis is summed up by Remnick:
“Man’s discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear,” she wrote, “must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe.” Sexual coercion, and the threat of its possibility, in the street, in the workplace, and in the home, she found, is less a matter of frenzied lust than a deliberate exercise of physical power, a declaration of superiority “designed to intimidate and inspire fear.”
Remnick has great respect for Brownmiller's thinking, which he finds useful in attacking Trump, even though Trump used words to entice us into voting for him not genitalia as a weapon.

But Remnick needs to lodge one complaint against Brownmiller, because attacking Trump is one thing and seeming oblivious about race is another. Remnick has to put this distance between himself and Susan Brownmiller:
Some of her arguments, particularly those pertaining to race, met with strong and convincing resistance from such critics as Angela Davis—Brownmiller’s treatment of the Emmett Till case reads today as morally oblivious—yet “Against Our Will” remains an important prod to our understanding of the social order.
Man, if I were editor of The New Yorker, I'd be frantically looking for some word other than "prod." It's too soon after the talk of "genitalia... as a weapon" to be aiming anything phallic at the reader.
But here's why I'm writing this post.
I subscribe to the paper and online New Yorker, but I also pay an additional $70 a year to get the audio version, and it has recently changed narrators. Before, there were 2 readers, one male and one female, and both were fabulous — so clear and subtly expressive. I used to marvel at the musicality of their rendition of the text. But the new person, Jamie Rendell, not only lacks the warmth and style of the old readers, he makes mistakes. I don't know how many mistakes, but I catch him mispronouncing names all the time (such as "Des Moines," with the final "s" not silent).

Mistakes like that make the product I paid for seem like a sloppy afterthought, and I feel ripped off for the $70, yet grudgingly willing, because I'm used to an hour or so of walking around outdoors with The New Yorker every week. But there are other mistakes that can really change the meaning and easily escape the listener, that make the audio version an actively defective product. I happened to notice one this week. You see the quote I put in the post title. The audio version says, "Brownmiller’s treatment of the Emmett Till case reads today as morally obvious...."! That still sounds like a criticism, but only because it's suggesting Brownmiller lacks depth and only says what all of us today easily know.

What did Brownmiller say about Emmett Till? She resisted the conventional wisdom and said something that today's feminists should have to confront (because it harshly clashes with the received wisdom on racial injustice):
A murder for a wolf whistle and a jury that refused to convict. The Till case became a lesson of instruction to an entire generation of appalled Americans. I know how I reacted. At age twenty and for a period of fifteen years after the murder of Emmett Till whenever a black teen-ager whistled at me on a New York City street or uttered in passing one of several variations on an invitation to congress, I smiled my nicest smile of comradely equality— no supersensitive flower of white womanhood, I— a largess I extended with equal sincerity to white construction workers, truck drivers, street-corner cowboys, indeed, to any and all who let me know from a safe distance their theoretical intent. After all, were not women for flirting? Wasn’t a whistle or a murmured “May I fuck you?” an innocent compliment? And did not white women in particular have to bear the white man’s burden of making amends for Southern racism? It took fifteen years for me to resolve these questions in my own mind, and to understand the insult implicit in Emmett Till’s whistle, the depersonalized challenge of “I can have you” with or without the racial aspect. Today a sexual remark on the street causes within me a fleeting but murderous rage.

And we know from the record how another person, Eldridge Cleaver, reacted to the murder of Till. In Soul on Ice Cleaver writes that he was nineteen years old when he “saw in a magazine a picture of the white woman with whom Emmett Till was said to have flirted.” Cleaver spelled out his reactions in full, for the Till case was a critical event in his life, one that turned him “inside out.”
While looking at the picture, I felt that little tension in the center of my chest I experience when a woman appeals to me. I was disgusted and angry with myself. Here was a woman who had caused the death of a black, possibly because, when he looked at her, he also felt the same tensions of lust and desire in his chest— and probably for the same general reasons that I felt them…. I looked at the picture again and again, and in spite of everything and against my will and the hate I felt for the woman and all that she represented, she appealed to me. I flew into a rage at myself, at America, at white women, at the history that had placed those tensions of lust and desire in my chest.
Cleaver had a small breakdown two days later during which he says he “ranted and raved … against white women in particular,” and then, “Somehow I arrived at the conclusion that, as a matter of principle, it was of paramount importance for me to have an antagonistic, ruthless attitude toward white women. The term outlaw appealed to me …” His solution: “I became a rapist.”

Cleaver’s thought pattern and the ideological construct he used to justify his career as a rapist, a career cut short by imprisonment, is interesting on several levels. Besides being a rare glimpse into the mind of an actual rapist, it reflects a strain of thinking among black male intellectuals and writers that became quite fashionable in the late nineteen sixties and was taken up with astonishing enthusiasm by white male radicals and parts of the white intellectual establishment as a perfectly acceptable excuse for rape committed by black men. The key to the ready acceptability of Cleaver’s thesis is obvious. The blame, as he saw it, belonged on white women.
That's certainly not shallow and obvious. Perhaps David Remnick can explain why it is oblivious. David Remnick did not (I assume) spend 15 years of his life smiling his "nicest smile of comradely equality" to strangers on the street who murmured things like "May I fuck you?"

46 comments:

Phil 3:14 said...

Was Emmitt Till, like many southern blacks, a Republican?

That would help the narrative and resolve these conflicts.

Why, of course he was. Its so obvious.

jaydub said...

After encountering psycho babbel like that article I have to remind myself that not all American women are fucked up, just the feminists. But, it's hard. Which is why I live in Spain.

tim in vermont said...

“Somehow I arrived at the conclusion that, as a matter of principle, it was of paramount importance for me to have an antagonistic, ruthless attitude toward white women. The term outlaw appealed to me …” His solution: “I became a rapist.”

This is a reaction to the rage against what happened to Emmitt Till due to white racism, not a deep animus to women somehow passed down from father to son from pre-history.

David said...

"Was Emmitt Till, like many southern blacks, a Republican?"

Till was from Chicago. That was part of the problem.

He was also 14 years old and not a voter.

David said...

"This is a reaction to the rage against what happened to Emmitt Till due to white racism, not a deep animus to women somehow passed down from father to son from pre-history."

How could you possibly know one way or another? The radicals of the 1960's were well known for their dismissive attitude towards women and they sense of sexual entitlement.

Ann Althouse said...

What I disagree with is calling rape an "important discovery" like "the use of fire and the first crude stone axe," because I see squirrels raping squirrels right in my backyard and I think this is just what animals do. The human part is developing the mind to the point where we can analyze what people are doing and figure out elaborate ways to band together to protect ourselves from other members of our species.

Kevin said...

What I disagree with is calling rape an "important discovery" like "the use of fire and the first crude stone axe," because I see squirrels raping squirrels right in my backyard and I think this is just what animals do.

Exactly. We like to elevate everything humans do in our self-important little minds.

It was an important discovery for humans. Probably the last animal to discover it, but they eventually discovered it nonetheless.

Kevin said...

This is a reaction to the rage against what happened to Emmitt Till due to white racism, not a deep animus to women somehow passed down from father to son from pre-history.

I would go a step farther. It was a reaction to learning these people had an innate power over him. A power he purposely tried to deny them, and yet realized he was powerless to do so. In response, he sought to rectify that by becoming the powerful person in the relationship. And his way of doing that was through rape.

I don't think Cleaver is unique in this regard. I think it's the central dynamic in every rapist's mind, and that race has nothing to do with it.

Laslo Spatula said...

People need to learn to rape out of Love, not out of Hate.

I am Laslo.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

What I disagree with is calling rape an "important discovery" like "the use of fire and the first crude stone axe," because I see squirrels raping squirrels right in my backyard and I think this is just what animals do.

I think you are entirely missing her point ( a point with which I entirely disagree. )

She is not talking about rape for the sake of rape. She is talking about rape, and the threat of rape, as a weapon by which all men control and subjugate all women. The use as a weapon is what she claims as an important discovery.

She is batshit crazy. ( And yes, I know that psychoanalysis has also been used to control and subjugate people. But sometimes the shoe fits. )

Mike Sylwester said...

Liberals like to communicate that other people are racists.

In this case, Remnick writes that Brownmiller treatment is morally oblivious in regard to a racial incident, insinuating that Brownmiller is a racist.

Liberals continually spend much of their mental energy thinking up ways to make racism accusations against other people.

Hagar said...

Emmett Till was a smartass 14 year old from Chicago. Take him home to his aunt and have her spank him perhaps, but there was no justificationn for murder, then or now.

Roger Sweeny said...

As far as I am concerned, you are one of today's most important feminist thinkers.

Partly because you aren't constantly worrying, "How can I help my team?"

Rob said...

David Remnick eschews complexity when core principles are involved: Republicans bad; Trump very very bad; People of Color good. To blame him for this is akin to blaming a reflexive knee jerk for lack of subtlety. They’re automatic responses, operating deep within his lizard brain.

Sebastian said...

"figure out elaborate ways to band together to protect ourselves from other members of our species." Agreed.

But: the old order gave women protection.Then feminists said: we don't need no protection, we are equal. Except they still wanted protection against the mean men. Have it both ways.

And of course protection can itself go wrong: Till's killers were "protectors."

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

The left hive mind collective are saying, in unison, that Weinstein and Trump are the same.


how?

Feranindianide said...

black male intellectuals ...intellectual establishment

An excellent example of "some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them".


Ann Althouse said...
I see squirrels raping squirrels right in my backyard and I think this is just what animals do.


No, you don't see squirrels raping each other because squirrels don't rape each other.

Rape is fairly rare among animals, so go ahead and think, er, I mean "imagine", otherwise; it seems to go along with seeing scary penises where normal people see amusement park rides.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Again this whole adventure is interesting: going back over past episodes, revising interpretations and conclusions, etc. Men are pigs to women in ways that are unlikely to be reciprocated. Is it a matter of manners, responding to or addressing women who are complete strangers? Is it a matter of equality, including workplace equality? The left used to teach us that what really matters is socio-economic class: the poor are always abused, etc., and this might lead to rationalizing rapes or other crimes committed by people from the ghetto. See Tom Wolfe, "Radical Chic" and "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers" (a title that probably wouldn't fly today).
Robert F. Hall was a journalist, born and raised in the Deep South, who went to college and had a career mostly in the North. He was a long-time Communist who left the Party in 1956 when "surprising" truths about Stalin were revealed, ho ho ho. He covered the trial of Bryant and Milam, Emmett Till's murderers, for a Communist paper. He stood out for his defence of people at the trial who were genuinely trying to see justice done, including the prosecutor. He tried to convince his northern friends that the Till episode, including the trial, was not the same old South, but a new South in which the murderers were actually tried--a thing that would have been unthinkable a short time earlier.
Even in the Reconstruction days the white authorities in the South had trouble with blacks who had spent time in the North: they weren't submissive. It's safe to say no black from the South would have whistled at a white woman. I would think black men lived in a higher level of daily fear than most white women; but then many white women were no doubt treated badly behind closed doors.

rhhardin said...

Brownmiller's extremely influential 1975 book

I don't think it influenced men much. It was a sort of Psychology Today event.

However today the "What the hell are they on about now?" attitude is dangerous to show unless you're already retired. Actually it's an interesting gender difference.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

OK, this is funny. Or have we reached the point where nothing's funny?

Ann Coulter Retweeted

Ben Shapiro‏Verified account
@benshapiro
21h21 hours ago
More
BREAKING: Democrats finally condemn Grover Cleveland for fathering a child out of wedlock.

rhhardin said...

Animals don't rape each other. The males though persist. It's been a minute, maybe she's in the mood now.

rhhardin said...

You can buy bitch-in-heat scent, more useful for practical jokes when dogs were allowed to roam free; intended though for training male dogs to ignore it when tracking and stay on the track they were started on.

Bob Boyd said...

Most squirrels won't even go into Althouse' neighborhood.

Otto said...

"..on the street who murmured things like "May I fuck you?" Watch out boys Ann wants to castrate you. In typical fashion Ann does a good job of deconstructing a wolf whistle. But as usual with deconstuctivism ,according to C.S. Elliot, you get "men without chests" . And what is the purpose of deconstuctivism: Insight, justice, freedom or liberty. No ,just power.

William said...

I wonder if Kathleen Cleaver has even been asked a hostile question about her years of love and support for Eldridge. Does she have any second thoughts about the governments of Algeria and North Korea where she sought asylum and where her children were born?

FullMoon said...

“Somehow I arrived at the conclusion that, as a matter of principle, it was of paramount importance for me to have an antagonistic, ruthless attitude toward white women. The term outlaw appealed to me …” His solution: “I became a rapist.”

What a load of shit. Anyone who believes that is naive. .

Michael K said...

These feminist writers have no knowledge of historical cultures in which females were controlling of sexual relations. The Greeks before the Doric invasion may well have been one such society. Agricultural societies may have been similar in which men had no idea how women because pregnant. The legends of Persephone and Demeter, her mother, were part of the Eleusinian mysteries.

In the Near eastern myth of the primitive agricultural societies, every year the fertility goddess bore the "god of the new year", who then became her lover, and died immediately in order to be reborn and face the same destiny. Some findings from Catal Huyuk since the Neolithic age, indicate the worship of the Great Goddess accompanied by a boyish consort, who symbolizes the annual decay and return of vegetation.[39] Similar cults of resurrected gods appear in the Near East and Egypt in the cults of Attis, Adonis and Osiris.

The cult of the Mother is unknown to ahistorical feminist/leftist writers as they know no history.

Caligula said...

Well, yes, Brownmiller transgressed. In a minor political sense she transgresses by implying that being female made her more a victim than being black, which violates the accepted order of progressive stacking. But mostly because of the absurdity of comparing the insult of a wolf-whistle to the "insult" of having one's life taken.

Which is to say, Brownmiller may get away with telling white men that the world would be better if they just ceased to exist (or at least cut off those could-be-used-as-a-weapon genitals), but she'd better not say anything like that about black men (let alone about a boy who was denied even the right to reach adulthood).


But in any case, PC is a minefield through which there can be no safe path. For if there were, people might use it and then what would be left for the Outrage Machine to rage against?

William said...

Napoleon's armies had an unsavory reputation among the civilian populations, even French populations, where they were billeted. Napoleon had a boys will be boys attitude towards crimes of sexual misconduct. The old guard rapes but never surrenders. Wellington's troops and even the Russian soldiers who occupied Paris were comparatively well behaved........Wellington used flogging as a method of disciplining his troops. He didn't believe in promoting enlisted men to the officer class because he felt enlisted men did not know how to hold their liquor. Napoleon never flogged his troops, and some of his most distinguished field marshals started their careers as enlisted men. Napoleon treated those enlisted men whom he did not send to pointless deaths with respect and courtesy, especially after they had committed a harmless rape or two.......The Remnicks of the 19th century had nothing but kind words for Napoleon. He was the avatar of social change, and Wellington was represented the forces of repression. Rape wasn't such a big deal back then, at least not if it was committed by agents of social liberation.........I wonder if the Black Panther Party will ever be held to account for their sexual crimes. Napoleon's armies weren't.

Ken B said...

Ignorance is Bliss is right. Brown Miller’s claim is that all men collude to oppress all women with their cocks all the time, and that rape is never about sex it is only about enforcing the male power cartel on behalf of all men.

Char Char Binks said...

Cleaver found an excuse to do what he wanted. He hated white men, and he lusted after white women, so he raped them. Emmet Till was probably a rapist already, or soon to be one, just like his father.

Even back in the day when Blacks were supposedly oppressed, they were never more oppressed by anything other than their own depraved nature.

n.n said...

Friendship with benefits (e.g. "casting couch" relationships) and shaming girls and women who did not have sex before marriage, or on the second date, was the hallmark of social progress before it wasn't.

Char Char Binks said...

“Somehow I arrived at the conclusion that, as a matter of principle, it was of paramount importance for me to have an antagonistic, ruthless attitude toward white women."

He enjoyed it. Some people love being angry, and some people love raping.

Bruce Gee said...

Althouse: "but I catch him mispronouncing names all the time (such as "Des Moines," with the final "s" not silent).”

I don’t suppose you’ve heard the locals’ way of pronouncing Lake Butte des Morts”?

Beautamort. Americans have been anglicizing French names since forever.

Bruce Gee said...

Oops. Lines in between statements! That’s breaking a rule, right?

My bad!

Bill said...

I see squirrels raping squirrels right in my backyard and I think this is just what animals do.

Oh, yes. And ducks are among the rapiest.

Bad Lieutenant said...


I see squirrels raping squirrels right in my backyard and I think this is just what animals do.

Oh, yes. And ducks are among the rapiest.

Whaaat?!? Videos, both of you, or it didn't happen.

Char Char Binks said...

Unless the female gives express, affirmative consent, verbal or written, the drake is a rapist.

Jupiter said...

If I recall correctly, after Cleaver had his little epiphany, he set out to rape as many white women as he could. But he found that, given his situation, what you might call his Southern Negritude, raping white women was not easy. White women were not inclined to go places where he could get at them. So he practiced first, on black women. That was easier. Black girls, actually.

I started to read that book in my teens, because it was recommended to me by an educated idiot and I didn't know any better. But I am not going to submerge myself in the self-serving rantings of that semi-literate subhuman again just to check my recollection. I'm glad he's dead, but sorry it took so long.

Jupiter said...

Char Char Binks said...
"Unless the female gives express, affirmative consent, verbal or written, the drake is a rapist."

I was out at the lake one day, messing with my boat, and right there off the dock, a mallard drake was raping a female. He climbed on her back and battered her with his wings and beak until she hid her head under her wing, and then he got about his business. They were only a few feet away, and I felt very strongly that I ought to intervene, but I didn't. Not my species, not my affair. I mean, who knows, maybe that's the only reason there are any ducks.

Jonathan Graehl said...

Susan Brownmiller's point of view on being an object of rapists' desire reads as forthright and correct. Thanks for sharing, Althouse.

Anonymous said...

Jebus, squirrels raping squirrels?!? I have squirrels in my backyard, and I watch them whenever I get the chance, but I've never seen *that*.

How is that even possible? How does the male squirrel immobilize the female squirrel? Why can't she just squidge out from under him?

Dolphins rape dolphins, but I believe it's gang rape -- the male dolphins help each other. Please, don't tell me those cute, fluffy squirrels commit gang rape!

Anonymous said...

Bad Lieutenant said...

"Whaaat?!? Videos, both of you, or it didn't happen."

Just search for "duck rape" on YouTube. You'll find, among many other videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crUWbxY-UGk

A lot of gang rape -- see my discussion of dolphins, above. However, there are some videos purporting to show one-on-one duck rape. The male appears to immobilize the female with his weight and by "biting" her neck with his bill. However, it's very hard for a human viewer to tell whether it's really rape or just rough sex with consent. Sometimes, the female manages to get out from under, yet she makes no attempt to fly away.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Oh, I've heard of coercive techniques used by horses and tortoises. I chiefly wanted Althouse to post her squirrel porn. The amateur stuff is always hottest.

Bad Lieutenant said...


Char Char Binks said...
Cleaver found an excuse to do what he wanted. He hated white men, and he lusted after white women, so he raped them. Emmet Till was probably a rapist already, or soon to be one, just like his father.


Wait, wut?

Jupiter said...

openidname said...

"Sometimes, the female manages to get out from under, yet she makes no attempt to fly away."

Come to think of it, it did seem like she could have gotten away fairly easily if she'd wanted to.