It's not enough, apparently, to condemn Harvey Weinstein as a priapic creep. You have to condemn him in the approved feminist way. An absolute no-no, if you're male, is to say that you hate the idea of your daughter being harassed in the way that Weinstein's victims were.
Social media offer a sometimes disturbing insight into the misanthropy and aggression that roils inside many outwardly civilized people. More common, and often more vehement, than the straightforward denunciations of Harvey's behavior were the denunciations of those who had denounced him inappropriately. Here, to pluck an example more or less at random, is a Tweet by someone called Abigail Shirley which, as I write, has been liked by 78,000 people.
"Dear Men, Please remove the phrase ‘as a husband and/or a father of daughters' from your vocabulary. Women exist outside your bubble."
Let's leave aside the question of whether such sentiments place her inside or outside of the bubble. Consider, instead, the implications of what she is saying. The way most people learn empathy is by placing themselves, mentally, in someone else's shoes. As Adam Smith wrote in his "Theory of Moral Sentiments," we extrapolate outwards: Our imaginative sympathy starts with someone we know and expands into a general sympathy with strangers.
Few men will have been asked to massage a fat, hairy, Hollywood Leftie. Few, I think I'm safe in saying, will ever have fretted about finding themselves in such a situation. So, when they read of what Weinstein did, their reaction is to imagine the encounter from the perspective of a woman they know. It would be odd, almost unnatural, if they didn't immediately think of their wives or daughters.
That doesn't mean that they're indifferent to women they haven't met. On the contrary, it's how they step out of their own perspective. In much the same way, lots of women will discuss, say, education policy by saying "As a mom, I want X." Motherhood doesn't add to their moral authority, but neither does it detract from their objectivity. The point they are making is that motherhood has given them an immediate stake in the school system, which makes them want it to work for everyone's kids, including their own.
Most new parents find that they are more emotionally affected by stories about children than they used to be. In the same way, most fathers of daughters will take a keener interest in the welfare of women. It is oddly dehumanizing, as well as futile, to demand that men see femininity in abstract terms, rather than through the prism of the women closest to them.
The curse of our age is that it elevates the moralistic (holding the right opinions) over the moral (doing the right thing). Several Democrats were slow to condemn Weinstein, who had raised a more than $2.2 million for them. Some Hollywood liberals were guilty of stunning hypocrisy, fulminating against Donald Trump while attending Weinstein fundraisers, even while the movie director's behavior was an open secret. It's reminiscent of Gloria Steinem's defense of Bill Clinton on grounds that his theoretical feminism canceled out his personal debauchery.
Yet, there has been an equivalent hypocrisy on the Right. If you now rail against Weinstein, but said nothing about some of the sexual shenanigans at Fox, you might want to ask yourself what the difference is. If you turned away criticism of Trump with a "Yeah, well, Bill Clinton…," I'm not sure you're in a position to lecture anyone. If you called his disgusting banter "locker-room talk," then you're hanging out in the wrong locker-rooms.
In fairness, quite a few Republicans complained vociferously about Donald Trump when his lewd remarks emerged — and, sure enough, many of them were condemned at the time for phrasing their criticism as fathers and husbands. But being fathers and husbands is what connects them, in the most immediate and intimate way, to the rest of society. All human civilization rests on taking such relationships and building upon them.
I appreciate that some Leftists don't much care for the human family. I understand that they see the preference for your own children as a sort of regrettable evolutionary overhang that militates against social justice. I get all that. How odd, though, that they should simultaneously accuse conservatives of favoring a selfish, atomized society, shorn of empathy.
If you see Weinstein's lechery as primarily a lesson in gender relations rather than as a trauma for the individuals involved, your empathy issue lies a little closer to home.
Dan Hannan is a British Conservative MEP.