Human history is full of unintended consequences. Much like the importation of invasive kudzu vines to America, the entire tragic catalogue of Communist central planning, and Barbra Streisand’s ill-fated 2003 attempts to squash publication of photos of her Malibu beach house, the much-ballyhooed #MeToo movement has delivered more than a few accompanying — and unfortunate — surprises.
Well, let me amend that: If you’ve been watching feminism’s sometimes-impressive downward spiral over the past few years, you’re probably not surprised at all. This does not make the latest headlines any less weird.
“U.S. companies are trying to keep romantic relationships from spiraling into a risk factor,” the Journal reports. “The national conversation on sexual harassment and abuse of power has galvanized a wider discussion about whether consensual office relationships are OK.”
As a reminder, we are talking about consensual relationships between grown adults in a free country — people who can brush their own teeth, floss if they’re feeling ambitious, legally operate large motorized vehicles, and maybe even decide whom they are going to date. But, unfortunately, we are also talking about the awkward consequences of a feminist movement that seems increasingly based on fear, loathing, and spurts of wild-eyed all-caps Twitter yelling.
But . . . what if you really are busy? What if you actually can’t that night, but would like to do it another time, but you forgot to add that part, or simply wanted to be asked again? What if you are a rare devotee of the slightly crazed 1990s dating handbook The Rules, and you refuse to accept a Saturday-night date after a Wednesday? What if you would like to present a sense of mystery or are slightly undecided? What if your impressions of the asker change over time? What if you date people only after they’ve proved their persistence by standing outside your window passionately lofting an old-school boom box playing “In Your Eyes” like John Cusack did in Say Anything? (It is 2018, so do not try this in real life. You will probably get arrested.)
Everything must be spelled out, contract-like, businesslike, and brisk. There is no room for error or nuance — the stakes are far too dangerous and high!
Let’s face it: This is all kind of weird. In this worldview, which developed long before #MeToo, everything must be spelled out, contract-like, businesslike, and brisk. There is no room for error or nuance — the stakes are far too dangerous and high! Moreover, for those most deeply entrenched in the current movement, the previous paragraph might sound wildly problematic. How dare one presume that a woman might be on the fence, or that she might actually be a normal, well-functioning adult who can somehow avoid spiraling into mute terror over a second date request? How can we possibly expect an adult to personally judge when behavior crosses a line?
Companies such as Facebook and Google, of course, are free to do what they want — according to Google, the company has had a dating policy since 2004. But the cultural assumptions behind the “only ask once” rules, paired with the rise of similar #MeToo-inspired policies, should bother anyone concerned with equal opportunity. After all, why would you need such stringent rules unless you view women as essentially weak creatures who can’t stand up for themselves? Women, the assumption seems to be — and let’s be real, these rules are largely centered on “protecting” women, not men — can’t handle even the most minor uncomfortable situations, so HR must stop them before they start.
It’s strangely Victorian. It’s also pretty darn anti-feminist, as far as I can see. Strangely, modern feminism seems to have shifted our cultural focus from supposed “empowerment” and “choice” to treating people like not-so-resourceful children. Well, never mind. We’re rolling, and the consequences aren’t pretty.
As National Review’s Kyle Smith recently noted in the New York Post, major companies are now cutting back on men and women traveling together for business. Many state legislators in Florida will no longer meet in private with female lobbyists and staffers, with some requesting chaperones, those sober adult guides formerly reserved for school dances and field trips. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal tells us, corporations across the U.S. are “drawing a hard line in the sand” when it comes to employee relationships. The assumption is that grown adults can’t do it themselves.
Perhaps, in the mess of today’s confused feminist-assisted culture, that assumption is correct. Oh, dear.
— Heather Wilhelm is a National Review Online columnist.