Published May 8, 2018
Michelle Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last week has been slammed as embarrassing, divisive, and cruel, an example of our polarized politics and the enmity between the White House and the mainstream media. That’s all true, but there’s more to the story.
Michelle Wolf was chosen for the role because she is a woman and a self-proclaimed feminist. Her tirade, however, exposes the foul rot of progressive feminism.
A rising star, Wolf “exudes a degree of urbane hipness” linked to “progressive politics,” says The New Yorker. When Margaret Talev, the President of the White House Correspondents’ Association, first announced that Wolf would be the “featured entertainer” for the dinner, she pointed to Wolf’s “truth-to-power style” and her “self-made feminist edge” as signs that Wolf was “the right voice.” As the negative returns from Wolf’s WHCA dinner speech rolled in, Talev still defended Wolf: “She had a message to deliver and she did.” The New York Timeschief television critic, James Poniewozik, also defended Wolf saying, “She did her job, and did it brutally well.” Wolf’s “routine,” he continued, “was ultimately about defending the mission of the White House press: sticking up for the truth.” Progressives’ version of “truth,” that is.
As criticisms of Wolf’s presentation escalated, Talev later released a tepid sort-of-not-really-apology suggesting the comedian was guilty of…being off-message. Wolf’s “monologue was not in the spirit of [the WHCA] mission” for the evening.
Even so, Wolf’s monologue was predictable. As Greta Van Susteren tweeted, the WHCA “knew this would happen with the comedian they hired – this is not humor.”
But it is today’s feminism, and that’s why Michelle Wolf was chosen.
Michelle Wolf is the hip face of ugly, pink-hat feminism. She’s also a sad cultural meme embodying feminists’ self-loathing, degradation, and cruelty. The meme came to life in Saturday’s monologue.
Cruelty first. Abortion—the violent killing of a preborn human infant—is the cold, cruel sacrament of feminist power. It’s almost a rite of passage, a ruthless point of pride. (As Lena Dunham infamously said, “I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.”) Even so, it takes a seriously calloused heart to mock the horror of abortion, as Michelle Wolf did. At the WHCA dinner, she gleefully scoffed at Mike Pence: “He thinks abortion is murder, which, first of all, don’t knock it till you try it. And when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you’ve got to get that baby out of there.” In a speech with every word in place, her reference to “that baby” was an ironic moment of truth telling, a grim testimony to the fact that feminists champion abortion while fully aware that it destroys a living, vulnerable child. They are really okay with that.
It’s another level of depravity to delight in it, however, and play it for laughs. Just imagine the shocked outcry if Wolf had been so glib about racial lynching or child rape. (“Don’t knock it til you try it”?) Abortion is no less heinous. What could ever be the punchline to a ‘joke’ about abortion?
Wolf regularly laughs about killing babies, however, and she needs others to laugh along with her. Abortion is part of her shtick. She’s a feminist with “ideological commitments,” wrote Vinson Cunningham in a fawning piece for The New Yorker earlier this year, “commitments” like being a relentless cheerleader for abortion—and it didn’t start with the WHCA dinner.
In June 2016, during Wolf’s tenure as a staff writer, The Daily Show caught flack for giving a fist pump to the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down Texas abortion restrictions. The Daily Show tweeted, “Celebrate the #SCOTUS ruling! Go knock someone up in Texas!” The backlash forced The Daily Show to tweet out that it wasn’t “promoting” abortion, just “excited” because the Supreme Court affirmed the “right to choose.” Months later, Wolf appeared on The Daily Show to blast Ohio’s “heartbeat” legislation, which was vetoed by Gov. Kasich. She called the measure—designed to protect unborn children from abortion, from the first heartbeat — “crazy.” Wolf’s enthusiasm for abortion is extreme. The U.S. is only one of seven countries, out of 128, that even allows abortion after 20 weeks, and yet Wolf compared Ohio’s abortion restrictions, including a 20-week limit, to “a penis…the closer you look at it the worse it gets.” Who thinks like that?
Beyond abortion, Wolf’s feminist-inspired cruelty locks onto the vulnerabilities of other women. Not for her the pretense of “sisterhood.” Media figures quickly chose sides over Wolf’s jabs at Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump. Were they mere pokes, made all in fun? Or verbal skewers, intended to impale their targets? A Washington Post “lifestyle” piece published shortly before the dinner foreshadowed the answer: Wolf’s “caustic” humor should be celebrated, says former colleague Seth Myers, because Wolf “enjoys her meanness” and is “so charismatic” that she “convinces you to also enjoy the meanness.” (He meant that as a compliment.) That the dignified demeanor of Sarah Huckabee Sanders blunted the impact of Wolf’s nastiness doesn’t lessen its “vicious” intent — viciousness the The New York Times defended, on grounds that it wasn’t “gratuitous.” Translation: the women in President Trump’s administration deserved it for “covering for a sexist president.”
The women on ABC’s The View defended Wolf’s “vulgarity” in similar fashion, with Ana Navarro blaming President Trump, saying, “I can’t bring myself to hold a comedian for one night to a higher standard than we hold the President of the United States for his entire term!”
It’s a variation on the lame feminist fallback of “men did it first.” That’s been feminism’s problem since the 60s—after rightly decrying the injustice of the sexual double standard, they clamored for the “right” to be sexual libertines too. Feminism climbed into the pit with the worst of men, boasting of the ‘freedom’ of emotionally detached relationships, of sex partners used and discarded with little care. Lefty feminists seem to measure their “power” and “agency” by their success in aping the worst of male behavior, even as they treat men (and the unborn) with contempt. And Wolf is good at that. Strangely enough, feminist-identified men lap it up. Perhaps they interpret being belittled as a sign that “maybe she likes me.” The New Yorker’s Vinson Cunningham, for example, finds “joy” in watching Wolf lay down her feminist marker (her bold statement, “I am a feminist”) and then “indulg[e] in extended roasts of the male anatomy, such as the ‘goblin’s coin-purse’ one finds between a man’s legs.”
Feminism’s relentless drive to mimic the destructive patterns of some men speaks to the self-loathing of many progressive feminists — they do not value being women. (And those who embrace biological men as transgender “women,” based on the male say-so, clearly don’t know what it means to be a woman.) Instead, they define themselves by what they reject, and alienate themselves from traditional aspects of womanhood: motherhood, femininity, sensitivity, and self-giving love, especially towards the most vulnerable.
A truly sad aspect of Wolf’s performance is the obscene, degrading language she directs towards herself and other women. Women rightfully protested Donald Trump’s revolting behavior towards women, symbolized by the Access Hollywood tape. Now feminists like Wolf claim it is empowering for women to reduce women to a vulgar description of their genitals. During the WHCA dinner, Wolf degraded women while taunting President Trump, saying, “He grabs p**sies because he thinks there might be loose change in them.” She mocked her own body using slang favored by middle-school boys, and emphatically dropped the f-bomb (lest we forget women can be obscene too). Her television appearances are equally vile.
Fellow comedian Kathy Griffin defended Wolf in her own obscenity-laced Nightline interview and on Twitter. Calling Wolf’s jokes “fantastic,” Griffin told conservatives to “F** off.” The New Yorker’s TV critic, Emily Nussbaum, had her own feminist moment as she doubled down on Twitter, justifying the obscenities of female comedians by…blaming men.
If men talk dirty about women, Nussbaum says, then women have to be even dirtier, because, “when you’re a woman, the trap is being a prude.” Who gave Nussbaum that script?
Feminists, apparently. As Nussbaum puts it, “sex jokes” are the way to strike a blow against the patriarchal “Madonna/whore crap” that oppresses women, especially under President Trump and “his smirking evangelical wingman.” (No religious animus there, eh? Not among mainstream media, no way!)
It’s not surprising that the progressive media closed ranks behind Michelle Wolf. After all, they’ve long supported her appalling brand of feminism. Last year, The New York Times even gave her an admiring headline, a shout out proclaiming, “Michelle Wolf is not afraid to joke about vaginas.” High praise, apparently, in the feminist world (even though feminists “don’t believe that all women need to possess a vagina to be a woman”).
And that’s why most ordinary American women are not.
Mary Rice Hasson, J.D., is the Kate O’Beirne Fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.