It was in the late 1990s, during then-President Bill Clinton’s scandal, when I first concluded that neither major political party actually cared about women. I watched — in horror — as the Democrats downplayed the allegations and defended Clinton’s actions rather than fully supporting Monica Lewinsky. Republicans exploited her testimony in order to discredit and weaken the president. Both parties used her to advance their own agendas at the expense of Lewinsky’s dignity and well-being.
While the adults around me were concerned with the political fanfare, I only saw a young woman caught in the crossfire, enduring public scrutiny, humiliation and personal trauma while the media feasted on the spectacle. I was nineteen at the time, only five years younger than Lewinsky, and couldn’t believe no one was protecting her. She was a pawn in a political game. Chum in shark infested waters.
After that, I gave up on politics for the most part, but leaned into my factory settings as a reliable Democratic voter, believing the Democrats cared more about women than Republicans who wanted to police what I could and couldn’t do with my body. At the time, I was a single-issue voter on the matter of abortion — this made things easy for me. I didn’t have to think critically or pay attention to boring things like whether or not policies benefiting single moms were creating more of them.
The years passed and things started getting weirder. Trump became president and, as repulsive as I found him, the way women on the left spoke about Melania and Ivanka wasn’t much better than the conservatives mocking Hillary’s pantsuit. Then come the Kavanaugh hearings which reminded me, once again, just how shameless the parties were when it came to using a woman — only this time the Democrats took it up a notch by weaponizing sexual assault.
Reacting to Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations, many men on the right defaulted to rape apologism, presuming she was lying. It didn’t help that now-disgraced and imprisoned lawyer Michael Avenatti trotted out ridiculous allegations of a gangbang from another accuser. The entire fanfare made a mockery of due process with infantilizing mantras such as #BelieveAllWomen, and forever undermined sexual assault victims. Again I was disgusted with the way Democrats deployed women and Republicans dismissed them.
While everyone was distracted during the Trump years, the left fully embraced gender ideology. At first it was just a cultural acceptance of the idea that sex differences don’t exist, popularized by angsty queer-theory students on Tumblr. But those kids graduated and got jobs in HR and pretty soon everyone was putting pronouns in their work email signatures. Suddenly destructive ideas like gender self-identification (the idea that you can simply choose a sex or gender) are being enshrined in policy. What it means for women and children is that males are demanding (and receiving) access to female-only spaces. Our sports. Our rape shelters. Our prisons. Our locker rooms.
In the span of four years the left went from pussy hats and patriarchy to putting the needs of a small minority of men before the safety of women. Draw attention to the whiplash and online leftists call you a TERF and a fascist. Dare to worry that children aren’t old enough to get sex reassignment surgeries and be put on hormone-blockers that will essentially render them sterile… and a vocal minority will call you a bigot. In some states, healthcare providers fear losing their licenses if they don’t validate these delusions. Trans-rights activists, often men, will organize and harass you — online and off.
There was a moment post-Covid and post-Trump when the right seemed to have the upper hand in the culture wars. More and more people, fleeing the excesses of “wokeism,” were looking to Republicans to step up and push back. Governor Ron DeSantis won his reelection by the largest margin of any Florida governor in forty years, by positioning himself as a commonsense crusader, standing athwart the kookiest excesses of the progressive left yelling “stop!”
And then almost as soon as it felt like they had some momentum, as soon as I thought perhaps there was a safe harbor and maybe the right had evolved, the vibe shifted. Roe v. Wade was overturned, leading to maternal care deserts and worsening health outcomes for women who live in states with restrictions or bans on abortion.
But it’s more than just the abortion debate — suddenly the pundits on the right are engaging in retrogressive discussions about “body count” (the number of people a woman has slept with) that until recently primarily existed in far-right circles of the manosphere. This rhetoric alienates independents and squanders whatever cultural power the right had established on purity tests and that familiar obsession with women’s sex lives.
Hello, darkness, my old friend.
On the left us womenfolk have gone from being used as weapons to being erased. As for the right… well, they’re back to being the right I remember from my youth: the moral majority, only this time with no God. It’s only recently that I realized how much all of this relates to my intense feelings of political homelessness, with which, no doubt, longtime followers of this column are familiar.
Both sides have been co-opted by extremists who also happen to be misogynists. Trans-rights activists on the left; men’s rights activists on the right. And again I have the familiar sensation that I could perceive but not articulate when I was a young woman observing Monica Lewinsky — neither party is protecting women. No one is coming.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s November 2023 World edition.