Late night at Grand River State University, a small Midwestern college founded by white men whose ancestors were most likely racists involved in the transatlantic slave trade — in a dormitory common room, on privatized land stolen from Chippewa tribes, two privileged white men discuss the nature of American society in an age of right-wing extremism. Outside in the cool fall night, the sounds of crickets and intermittent, raucous voices are heard through a nearby open window: the culture war rises to a fever pitch. Seated across from one another on twin couches, BRENT, a bearded grad student and progressive zealot in his late twenties, talks authoritatively with CHAD, a credulous early twenties undergrad and rabid acolyte of the ascendant left.
BRENT: I had an epiphany about America.
CHAD: Please share.
BRENT: You wouldn’t understand.
CHAD: Why not?
BRENT: Only progressives would understand.
CHAD: I’m progressive.
BRENT: If you were truly progressive, you would already know my epiphany.
CHAD: I don’t understand.
BRENT: Progressives don’t need to understand anything. They feel how things are or should be.
CHAD: I feel like America should do better.
CHAD: My feelings are correct?
BRENT: There’s nothing more correct than your feelings.
CHAD: I feel like America is a mistake.
BRENT: Now you understand my epiphany.
CHAD: You realized America was founded on white supremacy?
BRENT: No, I realized I don’t like it.
CHAD: You don’t like America?
BRENT: Why would I? It was founded on white supremacy.
CHAD: I think you uncovered a profound truth about America.
BRENT: My lived experience is never wrong.
CHAD: How do we solve the problem of America?
BRENT: We must fundamentally rethink everything in our society.
CHAD: As we should.
BRENT: We live in an age where people assert what they believe.
CHAD: All our beliefs are true.
BRENT: We no longer defend our beliefs with reasonable arguments because our beliefs, by virtue of assertion, are not debatable.
CHAD: Debate is regressive.
BRENT: We silence debate by calling it misinformation, disinformation, malinformation, or Russian propaganda.
CHAD: Our beliefs are continually shifting, but we assert our beliefs with righteous authority.
BRENT: We follow the data and experience, but when those things contradict, we assert what we feel is right and shame those who follow the data.
CHAD: It’s the progressive burden to educate the public.
BRENT: We educate the public through relentless humiliation and intimidation.
CHAD: It’s a truly progressive way to remake society.
BRENT: There are too many free thinkers with problematic thoughts.
CHAD: They need to be educated.
BRENT: The very act of disagreeing puts you on the wrong side of history.
CHAD: We should be patronizing because folks are too ignorant to know what’s best for themselves.
BRENT: We should be condescending and call out trigger warnings for anything we deem controversial because folks are too fragile to handle complicated subjects.
CHAD: We should call out mental illness tropes and direct folks to their nearest therapist the moment anything becomes too serious or meaningful or threatening to the worldview we’ve constructed for them.
BRENT: We must create safe spaces everywhere, and folks will never disagree or mention anything harmful because there will be nothing to disagree about, and folks with harmful thoughts will be excluded from our safe spaces.
CHAD: What about folks with unacceptable opinions who later apologize?
BRENT: We accept their apology as an admission of guilt and proceed to destroy their career and deplatform them from social media. They’re free to join far-right and alt-right platforms if they choose, but we’re working on shutting those down too.
CHAD: We can’t allow hate speech to flourish and propagate.
BRENT: For the good of the society we’re creating, we cannot allow freedom of speech if it dissents from our newly developed and constantly evolving orthodoxy.
CHAD: Is free speech violence?
BRENT: When it’s put into the hands of the wrong people.
CHAD: Who are the wrong people?
BRENT: We’re evaluating that on an ongoing basis. But I will say this: free speech is an illusion that props up the power structures of privileged white folks — and there are a lot of people speaking right now who shouldn’t.
CHAD: We should censor and punish their legacy mindset.
BRENT: They should be grateful for the moral authority we’ve arrogated to ourselves.
CHAD: As it should be.
BRENT: We must disrupt the status quo by embracing democratic socialism.
CHAD: We should remove the democratic part.
BRENT: Yes, because half the country is full of white supremacist devils. They don’t deserve a voice in the new society we’re creating.
CHAD: We should remove the socialist part too.
BRENT: Yes, because communism has never really been tried. This time we’ll arrange society exactly like Marx and his followers intended. We’ll get it right this time. I’ve never been more certain about anything in my entire life.
CHAD: Communism has failed in every instance where it’s been tried…
BRENT: Now we know better.
CHAD: I can’t argue with that.
BRENT: We must embrace a benevolent totalitarian state. We need more authority consolidated in the hands of an enlightened few who think exactly like us.
CHAD: I revere authority figures to the highest degree — so long as they share my beliefs.
BRENT: When I see an authority figure, I want them to tell me what to do and abuse me mercilessly — so long as they share my beliefs.
CHAD: There’s nothing more empowering.
BRENT: I desperately want an authority figure to come along and punish me.
CHAD: Our unacceptable thoughts must be corrected.
BRENT: It could be a man or woman or someone who identifies as non-binary. I’m an equal opportunist authoritarian supporter — so long as they step on me and share my beliefs.
CHAD: Unlike what George Orwell feared, we embrace the boot stomping on our face.
BRENT: Oh yes…
CHAD: I’m getting chills.
BRENT: I want someone to crack the whip.
BRENT: That’s not all I want them to do: let me explain.
CHAD: Please do. This is certainly not a fetishization of power or a masochistic fantasy, although that would be acceptable too.
BRENT: Our benevolent authoritarians must fully control the language: once they restructure language they restructure power.
CHAD: You mean, we’re copying Orwell?
BRENT: Sure, why not? I think he was onto something.
CHAD: If they restructure the language, they’ll restructure our thoughts.
BRENT: I have a deep need for someone to dominate my thoughts.
CHAD: Me too.
BRENT: We’ll rewrite history so that it agrees with our new society.
CHAD: I think I’m in love.
BRENT: I need someone to tell me what to do, tell me what to think, tell me what to say, control my behavior and emotions, imprison me without due process, gag me, beat me, blackmail me, surveil me, monitor me at all hours of the day, censor me, indoctrinate me, reward me for mindlessly repeating the new orthodoxy, teach me everything I need to know. OH! OH! Please trample on the constitution — love me, hate me, break me, strip me of my civil liberties, torture me! OH! OH! YES YES! Ahhh…
CHAD: All progressives feel this way.
BRENT: As it should be.
CHAD: While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about politics.
BRENT: Politics is the most important subject an educated person can think about or discuss. Everything is political, and if political implications are not immediately apparent, we must write countless social media posts cramming our political ideology into seemingly trivial and insipid occurrences.
CHAD: Progressive should attach the word “politics” to everything they say.
BRENT: If someone disagrees with the idea that everything is political or refrains from affirming that everything is political, they’ve made a political statement.
CHAD: The personal is political.
CHAD: Silence is violence.
BRENT: Yes, the so-called silent majority is complicit with the most heinous tyrant the world has ever known.
CHAD: Don’t say his name!
BRENT: Donald Trump.
CHAD: We must never forget the horror and trauma of the January 6th insurrection and the big lie.
BRENT: Democracy dies in darkness.
BRENT: We must never let the repressive right put their fascist Nazi regime into power again. That’s the lesson of January 6th.
CHAD: Never again.
BRENT: We must shine a beacon of journalistic truth on everything that disagrees with our ideology, but if the truth is uncomfortable or contradicts our ideology, we must invent poetic truths that gratify what we want to believe.
CHAD: What about times when we get the facts wrong?
BRENT: Progressives are never wrong when it comes to facts. If I had a team of fact-checkers following me around, fact-checking everything I say, they would find that I always say factual statements, and if didn’t say something factual, there must be missing context.
CHAD: How do we break the tie between right and left and manifest the progressive ascendancy?
BRENT: Throughout history there’s been an ongoing, increasingly vicious struggle between the right and the left. But we’ve reached the end of history. I ended it. World history has reached its fulfillment in me because I was the first to become fully conscious of the fact that humans have only reached a higher stage of development when their politics are left of center. The consciousness of humankind has admittedly been slower to arrive at this conclusion than myself, but I firmly believe that humankind has progressed to the point where it can now, collectively and unconsciously, decide that it exclusively wants left of center politics; and if it doesn’t decide for itself in this way, I’ll make the decision myself. The political moment has arrived for the left to ascend and take its inevitable and necessary place at the vanguard of humankind’s triumphant epoch. Progressives must seize their historical destiny and break the tie to defeat the right once and for all and bring balance to America’s democracy. The only way to do that is by abolishing democracy, the constitution, the declaration of independence, the supreme court, the senate, congress, the federal reserve, the library of congress, the presidency, all our most cherished institutions, human nature, and everything else that gets in our way. However, we won’t abolish the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, NSA, Homeland Security, or militarized police departments across the country. We need those institutions to threaten, coerce, control, and track our citizens’ movements and activities, obviously. We’ll create a new deep state to maintain a stranglehold on power across generations.
CHAD: You’re a prophet!
BRENT: True. First, we must solve the greatest problem facing our contemporary society. We live in an era of moral hysteria, but the left is never hysterical about anything: only the right is hysterical.
CHAD: How do we solve the problem of the right’s moral hysteria?
BRENT: The only solution is revolution.
CHAD: Well said.
BRENT: We require a revolution that fundamentally and systemically and structurally changes the foundations of American society. We must overthrow the present neoliberal order. We must transform the system from one of inequality to one of equity through social conditioning. We must destroy capital, private property, and all places of commerce. We must abolish the family, marriage, and religion. There will be mass carnage in the streets and a total extermination of conservative bodies. We need riots and reform. We need left-wing technocrats to rule us. Nothing short of a vicious, frenzied, bloodthirsty, utterly sadistic revolution will do.
CHAD: I love that picture for us. You’re saying we should start a civil war?
BRENT: Our rallying cry will be, “We support a social-democratic system of governance to ensure diversity, equity, inclusion, and equality of outcome, which centers marginalized voices, de-centers white men, challenges the white hegemony, and disrupts the status quo, mass violence, and systems of oppression generated and maintained by Western late-capitalism.”
CHAD: That’s a powerful rallying cry and easy to remember.
BRENT: I was joking.
CHAD: Excuse me?
BRENT: What I described was an antiquated way of doing things. Now we know better. We don’t need a violent revolution: we must subvert our political institutions through cultural institutions.
CHAD: I still don’t get it.
BRENT: Let me be clear: I support any and all crimes and riots perpetrated against the capitalist system because the system is corrupt and must be torn down. We have the moral right to commit crimes if it’s in the service of building a new society and abolishing the old social order. Robbing the rich is not a crime because they steal from their labor. Crime is a protest against social structures, which is never immoral. Crime is a construct used to criminalize BIPOC and other marginalized folks. However, that won’t be our primary means of achieving the macro objectives of our revolution.
CHAD: What are the primary means?
BRENT: We’ll use media, entertainment, and the education system to condition people to think like we do, obviously.
CHAD: I’ve never heard anything so wise in my entire life.
BRENT: We are the woke generation. But I tell you that our words and deeds must be superior to the wokest among us. We must be born again as hyper-woke. But that’s not good enough either. Nobody says “woke” anymore. Where have you been? Aren’t you keeping up with our frenetic online culture that excitedly adopts new words, phrases, and ideas, and then drops them immediately, smugly mocking those who aren’t up on current thought and opinion as determined by our knowing commentators and celebrity influencers? We must progress beyond everything if we hope to enter leftist paradise.
CHAD: What a beautiful vision.
BRENT: Let me explain how the smug and knowing among us will enact sociopolitical, socioeconomic, and sociocultural change through a moral-psychic-cultural revolution.
CHAD: Please explain.
BRENT: The best way to hurt someone you don’t like is to hurl smears at them, even if it’s completely false and patently deranged. The process of hurling smears will inevitably stick in people’s minds, and people will wonder — even though the smears are obviously false — if they might somehow be true.
CHAD: Progressives will win by hurling smears at folks we don’t like.
BRENT: We win through shame.
CHAD: We should always look for moments that show people at their absolute worst, regardless of context or their intentions.
BRENT: We don’t need to go that far, although if we can find something embarrassing and humiliating it’s our obligation to the progressive cause to use it as a weapon. However, what I propose is to find behavior and thoughts that were never offensive to anyone and assert that those things are now offensive, shameful, and disgusting.
CHAD: We now know better.
BRENT: Context and intentions are totally irrelevant in the new society we’re creating.
CHAD: But what if the right attempts to steal our tactics?
BRENT: Easy, we use our identity and proximity to victimhood to immunize us from criticism.
CHAD: But we’re straight white men. How can we immunize ourselves from criticism?
BRENT: Speak for yourself: I’m bisexual.
CHAD: Since when?
BRENT: While it’s true I’ve never been in a relationship with another man, I claim all the status of victimhood, which I’m entitled, along with the experience of historical injustices and crimes committed against the LGBTQPIA+ community, of which I’ve never been a victim.
CHAD: I can’t criticize you.
BRENT: Of course you can’t. That would be bi-phobic.
CHAD: Once we defeat the right, how do we handle politically gray areas?
CHAD: Gray areas.
BRENT: There are no such things.
CHAD: What about labor movements that unite folks from both sides of the political spectrum?
BRENT: I don’t understand your question.
CHAD: Don’t we care about unionization efforts?
BRENT: Of course we care. We even make virtuous statements about how much we care.
CHAD: What about the poor, depressed, and forgotten in our society?
BRENT: Are some of them white men?
BRENT: Then we ignore them as much as possible and forget about them entirely.
CHAD: Don’t we care about union efforts involving white folks?
BRENT: There are more important issues to think about besides the plight of working-class white folks devastated by globalization and late capitalism.
CHAD: What about corporate greed, corporatism, monopolies, and the commodification of labor?
BRENT: I can make flamboyant, performative statements about taxing the rich if that makes you feel better.
CHAD: What about the wealth gap? Doesn’t that affect folks on both sides?
BRENT: Experts agree that the wealth gap exclusively impacts marginalized folks on the left.
CHAD: What about the unequal distribution of capital? What about the ultra-wealthy?
BRENT: We will decide what people need in the new society we’re creating.
CHAD: How do you make that calculation?
BRENT: Very easily. If you’re marginalized, you’ll receive more. If you’re not marginalized, you’ll receive less. That will solve all imbalances in our society and rectify all historical wrongs.
CHAD: What about the donor class that controls our policy decisions?
BRENT: If the donors are progressive, I approve of everything they do.
CHAD: What about the loss of trust in our institutions?
BRENT: Why do we need institutions?
CHAD: What about the Wall Street to Washington revolving door?
BRENT: I will denounce that behavior with self-righteous indignation while continuing to vote for and support candidates on the left.
CHAD: What about the atomization of society?
BRENT: What’s wrong with atoms? The left is never anti-science.
CHAD: Should both sides be grateful for the inheritance of Western civilization?
BRENT: Never show gratitude to the West. We only admire other cultures — so long as they’re not Western.
CHAD: What about American heroes?
BRENT: I’ve never heard anything so laughable in my entire life. All statues of American heroes should immediately be torn down because they probably did something bad in their lives.
CHAD: What about the vicious polarization tearing apart the country?
BRENT: We should be more polarized — not less.
CHAD: What about patriotism or love of country? Haven’t those sentiments ever been useful?
BRENT: Yes, useful to support militarism, imperialism, and empire.
CHAD: What about rampant political corruption on both sides? What about the broken two-party system?
BRENT: Ah! You’ve exposed yourself!
CHAD: I have?
BRENT: You’re guilty of bothsidesism.
CHAD: I am?
BRENT: Don’t deny it. You’re looking for things that unite both sides of the political spectrum fairly and reasonably. That’s a classic hallmark of bothsidesism.
CHAD: I thought it was populism! Don’t folks on the left gravitate towards populist ideology? Don’t we want folks united over a common cause: the failure and corruption of America’s elites?
BRENT: The left never shares a common cause with folks on the right. That would be racist.
CHAD: Shouldn’t folks find things they agree on? Shouldn’t we hear both sides?
BRENT: Whatever you do, don’t be a centrist. It’s bad for your mental health.
CHAD: I thought populism was the highest form of advocacy for social justice.
BRENT: Never think. That’s your problem. How can you know anything without credentials? It’s impossible. You should listen to me; I’m studying for a Master of Arts in interdisciplinary studies, a highly prestigious program that admits only a highly selective cohort. My program deals with the intersection of politics, class, gender, race, labor, sexuality, and queer theory, contextualized within a biopolitical, sociopolitical, sociocultural, socioeconomic, moral-social, sociopsychological, and moral-psychological framework.
CHAD: That sounds impressive. What have you learned?
BRENT: Everything is about power.
CHAD: I see.
BRENT: Everything can be reduced to power dynamics. Progressives need more power to enact social justice.
CHAD: Don’t you find the discourse around social justice a little vague?
BRENT: The left is not interested in your perspective on social justice. The discourse should be vague. How else will we accomplish our macro objectives?
CHAD: What about the erosion of political and civil liberties?
BRENT: Ok, that’s enough. We’ve already embraced totalitarianism, remember? Besides, we’ll be here all day if you keep repeating all of these seemingly important contemporary issues. There are too many of them, and they’re too complex: there are more important issues to discuss.
CHAD: Such as?
BRENT: The politics of the body.
CHAD: I see.
BRENT: I’m talking about sex. Now that’s a subject that we could spend an endless amount of time discussing.
CHAD: Yes, I get that. But shouldn’t the left focus on the policy issues of the day? Substantive issues like the rising costs of housing, education, healthcare, and energy? Shouldn’t we have a productive discussion about policy issues like universal healthcare, free college, income inequality, a low-carbon future, or a green new deal? What about universal basic income?
BRENT: We can’t talk about particular issues without a broader discussion of America’s root problems.
CHAD: Let’s discuss the root problems.
BRENT: We can’t discuss the root problems of America without a lengthy, time-consuming discussion about identity.
CHAD: Please educate me.
BRENT: As we begin this fraught discourse about identity we should articulate some ground rules for behavior so that we’re mindful of how we’re showing up in spaces, taking up spaces, and navigating spaces as privileged white folks.
CHAD: I need rules so that I don’t think or say anything that might cause harm to BIPOC, LGBTQPIA+, Asian-Pacific Islanders, ethnic minorities (national, regional, and urban), Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, anti-violence, anti-capitalist, anti-nuclear, ecofeminists, refugees, non-citizens, asylum seekers, anti-male, gypsy and vagrant, mentally ill, homeless, or other communities that are equally important as the ones I mentioned.
BRENT: Rule one, bigotry will not be tolerated.
CHAD: Can you define bigotry?
BRENT: Any opinions I don’t like.
CHAD: That’s fair.
BRENT: Rule two, microaggressions will not be tolerated.
CHAD: Can you give me a few examples?
BRENT: White tears, white rage, white fragility, white privilege, and white guilt.
CHAD: I will de-center my whiteness for the duration of this discussion.
BRENT: Rule three, don’t assume you know anything, especially if you grew up in the West, are white, male, cis-gender, heteronormative, able-bodied, neurotypical, financially independent, or one or more of those descriptors apply to you. Stay in your lane. Only use first-person pronouns when you speak.
CHAD: There are multiple ways of knowing, and I will never understand other folks lived experiences — not even partially.
BRENT: Rule four, threatening words or behavior, harassment, abuse, or anything that might be perceived as an attack on black, brown, or queer bodies will not be tolerated.
CHAD: I will only say things that are harmless to all.
BRENT: Rule five, know how to define racism correctly
CHAD: That’s easy: racism is viewing another race as inferior to your own.
BRENT: No! Racism is a system of oppression institutionalized by white folks to exterminate colored folks.
CHAD: What about reverse racism? Are black and brown folks ever racist towards white folks?
BRENT: By definition, reverse racism does not exist because racism is something that only white folks participate in and gleefully celebrate due to America’s white supremacist culture. White folks are the unmarked race: they don’t have to defend their right to exist.
CHAD: American culture should be called white-centric or ethnocentric.
BRENT: Rule six, admit your white fragility. Acknowledge how your words and deeds cause trauma. Only action can restore trust. Work to do better.
CHAD: My life will be committed to working to do better.
BRENT: I’ll be honest, Chad. I’m so tired of dealing with your racism all the time: it’s exhausting.
CHAD: I’ll pursue a lifelong journey of education about racism, which I’ll never truly understand because I can never truly understand the lived experience of BIPOC folks.
BRENT: Stop being complicit with structures of oppression, matrixes of supremacy, and interlocking systems of domination. Chad, I’m so tired of marginalized folks being invisible in our society.
CHAD: I’ll spend my whole life bringing visibility to marginalized folks and turning myself invisible.
BRENT: Say their names!
CHAD: George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor —
BRENT: Get their names out of your mouth!
CHAD: What did I do wrong?
BRENT: Check your privilege. Check your implicit bias.
CHAD: I forgot to check.
BRENT: That’s what I thought. Now let’s begin our discussion. Everybody knows that identity is supreme. We must always be mindful of the ways in which identity intersects with class, race, and gender, among other ways in which BIPOC and LGBTQPIA+ folks are oppressed, marginalized, victimized, and discriminated against by white oppressors who, in partnership with the police and the criminal justice system, commit daily acts of random violence against queer, black, and brown bodies. If any of the existing system is allowed to remain, social justice cannot be achieved. It all has to be torn down.
CHAD: All of it?
BRENT: Yes, all of it.
CHAD: Is it true that, unlike what Martin Luther King thought, we should judge and discriminate on the basis of color and allocate resources to people based on their skin color — irrespective of their class background — and we ought to leap to all sorts of assumptions about people based on the color of their skin and disregard the content of their character?
BRENT: Correct. We reject color blindness and choose to see color, fixate on color and fixate on difference. Yes, I believe in preferential treatment for minorities and marginalized folks, yes, because of white unconscious bias, yes: all in the service of reparations for historical wrongs that we’re only beginning to repay and can never fully repay until all white men are demoted from positions of power, cast into abject poverty, and placed on BIPOC plantations as a new caste of white slaves for the rest of their privileged lives. As you put it so well, content of character is totally irrelevant in the new society we’re creating.
CHAD: I’m glad you specified that white men will be the new slaves — not white women.
BRENT: All white women are victims of the oppressive white patriarchy. They also deserve preferential treatment but not to the same extent as BIPOC folks — due to white privilege.
CHAD: White is a derogatory term.
BRENT: As it should be.
CHAD: Does it worry you that our ideology might jeopardize our power?
BRENT: We’re BIPOC allies. They couldn’t achieve their goals without us.
CHAD: I don’t see anything wrong with that statement.
BRENT: So long as you think and act like a white man — you are one. But if you think and act like an ally, you can temporarily suspend your white identity for the noble cause of marginalized folks.
CHAD: When do you revert back to being a white man?
BRENT: The moment you stop supporting progressive causes.
CHAD: That makes sense. What have white men ever done for society?
BRENT: I can’t think of anything.
CHAD: I thought of something: racism.
CHAD: White nationalism.
CHAD: Systemic Racism.
CHAD: Is everything racist?
CHAD: Black lives matter.
BRENT: Music to my ears.
CHAD: What do you think of the phrase “All lives matter”?
BRENT: Hate speech.
CHAD: How do you describe Blackness?
BRENT: Black is King, in a non-gendered way of course.
CHAD: But if you said White is King, you would be a vicious, racist white supremacist.
CHAD: What about commonalities that hold the country together, like being an American citizen?
BRENT: Ah! You’ve exposed yourself! That’s a racist dog whistle sometimes known as coded racism.
CHAD: Excuse me?
BRENT: I thought you were only a racist, but now I know you’re a minimizer too.
CHAD: A minimizer?
BRENT: You’re focusing too much on things that folks have in common and not fixating enough on their differences.
CHAD: Is there any hope for a minimizer?
BRENT: There’s always hope. You must leave behind minimization and your monocultural mindset and journey towards intercultural competence. Yes, it’s a process. Follow me and I will show you the way out of bigotry.
CHAD: Please educate me.
BRENT: Diversity plus intercultural competence equals inclusion. What about equity you ask? Well, we need that too. Studies show that cultural diversity increases productivity. The best we can do is try to be less white. Republicans are trying to round up black and brown folks. Stop talking about individuals. We can’t possibly know the individual apart from their community and apart from cultural generalizations. Cultural appropriation is the worst crime known to humankind. Racism is not just personal, not just social, not just institutional: it’s primarily cultural. Racism is embedded in America’s core beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, and practices. Beware of the potential trauma a minority leader will experience by virtue of being a minority in a white-dominated culture. We need a chief officer of diversity, equity, and inclusion, a task force, an inquisition. We pity folks who don’t agree with us. We need cultural relativism. Stop being a minimizer and talking about universal human behavior and start making generalizations based on immutable characteristics. Stop being Eurocentric or logocentric and start denigrating your cultural heritage. Start realizing that white blue-collar workers, who are totally impoverished, have white privilege, but the children of black celebrities have no privilege — by virtue of being black.
CHAD: Why does this feel condemning?
BRENT: You should feel condemned.
CHAD: Doesn’t this seem to conflate class and race in an unacceptable way?
BRENT: Progressives are never wrong when it comes to race.
CHAD: What’s wrong with me?
BRENT: You’re racist.
CHAD: Help me become anti-racist.
BRENT: It’s a lifelong journey and the best we can hope for is to become less white.
CHAD: It’s not fair! I didn’t ask to be born…white.
BRENT: These emotions are good. This is an open forum. I want to hear from you. I want you to process these emotions.
CHAD: I don’t feel racist.
BRENT: I’m losing patience with you, but I’ll never give up until you listen and repeat.
CHAD: Why does this sound like race essentialism? Nothing seems to matter besides race.
BRENT: Of course it’s race essentialism. What else would you call it?
CHAD: The truth?
BRENT: Of course it’s the truth, and the truth will set you free — unless you’re white — in which case you should be enslaved so you finally understand but never fully understand what black and brown folks experience daily.
CHAD: We need lived experiences to educate ourselves.
BRENT: Ultimately, we will never know what black and brown folks think and feel, even if they tell us because of implicit bias.
CHAD: Hire, recruit, and select minority candidates for leadership positions. Skip the privileged white men. Is that right?
BRENT: Yes, diversity, equity, and inclusion should be the founding principles of this country and replace our outmoded constitution.
CHAD: The horrific suffering of poor folks in North Korea is nothing compared to the trauma of being a black or brown man in America.
BRENT: I couldn’t have put it better myself.
CHAD: Discrimination in the present is the only way to make amends for discrimination in the past.
BRENT: You finally understand.
CHAD: What are some next steps I can take to further educate myself?
BRENT: Discover your rightful place on the grievance hierarchy.
CHAD: I thought we were dismantling hierarchies?
BRENT: Never mind that. This is what we’re doing now. It’s already been decided. You want to educate yourself, don’t you? You’re at the bottom of the hierarchy, by the way. You’ll never ascend any higher nor should you.
CHAD: I guess that’s fair. What about Jewish Americans?
BRENT: They have privilege don’t they?
BRENT: Then I don’t understand why we’re talking about them.
CHAD: Then we should ignore those folks and consider them white?
BRENT: Yes, we should ignore their problems, discriminate against them when it comes to prestigious college admissions (similar to how we deal with Asian-American applicants), and spread the good news of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
CHAD: Agreed. While we’re rethinking things, what do you think about the Israeli-Palestine conflict?
BRENT: We’re not rethinking that. Israeli is the oppressor; Palestine is oppressed. There’s no more complexity than that.
CHAD: What about the root problems of American society? Are we ready to discuss the root problems now?
BRENT: We just did. Weren’t you listening?
CHAD: So far we’ve rethought some aspects of our society, but I don’t feel like we’ve gone far enough to rethink everything in our society.
BRENT: I couldn’t agree more. There’s always more work to be done.
CHAD: Let’s focus on the institution of marriage.
BRENT: Marriage is, by definition, archaic.
CHAD: What do you mean?
BRENT: A vow is a legacy notion.
BRENT: Commitment is old-fashioned.
BRENT: Faithfulness is retrograde.
BRENT: Trust is antiquated.
BRENT: Therefore Marriage is outdated.
CHAD: I couldn’t agree more.
BRENT: Polyamory is preferable.
BRENT: If someone’s needs aren’t being met over an unspecified period of time with any given partner, that individual is free to leave at any moment.
CHAD: I like the sound of that.
BRENT: I’m glad. I’m meeting up with your girlfriend later tonight for drinks.
CHAD: I’m not in an open relationship.
CHAD: I don’t think Marilyn wants to go out with you.
BRENT: Since when?
CHAD: Since she started dating me.
BRENT: I’m okay with it.
CHAD: Well, I’m not.
BRENT: “Commitment” is a euphemism for tyrannical oppression by the patriarchy.
CHAD: I can’t argue with that.
BRENT: No one can.
CHAD: So you’ll be seeing Marilyn later tonight?
CHAD: What is love?
BRENT: A biological mechanism used to either propagate or sustain the species — two things are important: survival and reproduction. Everything must be reduced to those two impulses: only then will you fully understand the nuance and complexity of human love.
CHAD: The more we reduce the more we understand.
BRENT: Correct. Love is a return on investment. If I’ve put time and energy into you, I want my needs met with compound interest — either with offspring to diversify my portfolio or sexual options to reinvest in myself — all in service to the human species, of course.
CHAD: What about the traditional view?
BRENT: Tradition? What can tradition teach me that I didn’t learn five seconds ago? I consider myself an authority on everything I’ve learned five seconds ago.
CHAD: According to one traditional view, love is unconditionally wishing individuals will flourish in their lives.
BRENT: Individuals? There are no individuals outside of their group identity.
CHAD: I see.
BRENT: Let me give you an example of love in action, the only legitimate form being queer. I don’t mean to say other forms are illegitimate (although I believe that is true), but they are certainly lesser forms than queer love. The eminent professors Berlant and Warner, in their essay “Sex in Public,” give a model example of queer love in practice. At a leather bar hosting a sexual performance of “erotic vomiting,” they describe a young man sitting on a chair with his head tilted to the ceiling while his partner pours milk and food down his throat. The milk-pouring partner maintains a “threshold of gagging” until he finally inserts three fingers into the young man’s throat to induce vomiting. The milk-pouring partner offers his stomach for the “repeated climaxes,” that is, multiple instances of the young man puking. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
CHAD: Well said.
BRENT: Will my partner allow me to vomit on their chest? If that condition is met, we’re automatically enrolled in a loving relationship.
CHAD: Can you walk me through the enrollment process?
BRENT: The first thing you should do in any relationship is take it for granted. Never mind the complexity and convergence of circumstances and timing that brings someone into your life. Forget all of that. You should immediately take them for granted and assume you’ll meet someone better. That will immediately give you the upper hand in the ensuing power dynamics and psychosexual activity of the relationship.
CHAD: When evaluating a potential partner do you look at the big five personality traits in terms of openness, agreeableness, neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness, assessing compatibly in relation to attractiveness and character? Or do you use other personality tools like the enneagram?
BRENT: No, I purely fixate on attractiveness and how they make me feel physically and emotionally, in short, how it impacts my self-esteem.
BRENT: The ideal relationship consists of short, immediate pleasure.
CHAD: Hook-ups can be problematic.
BRENT: Are you trying to slut shame folks?
BRENT: Hook-ups need to be consensual.
BRENT: Sex is always shame-free so long as it’s consensual.
BRENT: If the sex is good, there’s short-term relationship potential.
CHAD: What about STDs?
BRENT: What are you, a sex-ed coach? No. We never talk about those things nor should we. Folks should practice safe sex and never think about STDs again.
CHAD: Isn’t that too simplistic?
BRENT: Progressives are never simplistic when it comes to sex. So long as we repeat the words “safe sex” enough times it must be safe.
CHAD: What about folks who abstain from sex until marriage?
BRENT: Virgins! We should laugh at them as much as humanly possible. They don’t understand that the moment they lose their virginity, suddenly, as if by magic — which will soon be explained by science — all the desirable traits of adulthood descend upon them. Suddenly, folks become responsible, mature, conscientious, thoughtful, independent, reasonable, and confident — all through the act of sex. There’s no other way to acquire the desirable traits of adulthood without having sex, preferably with someone random who you’ll never see again.
CHAD: What about the old idea of looking for a noble soul?
BRENT: A white upper-middle class prejudice.
CHAD: That’s fair.
BRENT: Think of yourself less as a person and more as a marketable object.
CHAD: An object?
BRENT: Now you’re getting it. You must quickly rise up the social and economic hierarchy, demonstrate power and competence, and be blessed with sociocultural attractiveness. How else can you participate in the attraction economy?
CHAD: Attraction economy?
BRENT: Sure, if you’re attractive, that’s good and people will like you. But if you’re not attractive, that’s bad and people won’t like you, and you should be treated as inferior.
CHAD: What should folks do who aren’t attractive in the eyes of most folks?
BRENT: That’s no excuse. They should use biotechnology to perfect their bodies. Of course, many of the promised advancements aren’t here yet, per se, but that’s no excuse. They should do something to augment their bodies to look fitter, be smarter, appear healthier, be happier (sedated through medication, obviously), and overall be more attractive to folks in the attraction economy.
CHAD: Will biotechnology dehumanize us?
BRENT: Dehumanize us? Biotechnology will perfect human nature, and by human nature, I mean raw material: we construct ourselves in whichever way we deem suitable.
CHAD: But even if folks do all those things, you can’t control how people respond to you.
BRENT: Can’t control? Why, of course you can! Use social media to measure engagement, impression, reach, and the number of followers you have. You do have a social media brand, I assume?
BRENT: There’s your problem. Get better at using social media and advertising your brand. It’s called social engineering. Learn it. Ask yourself anytime you see a social media post, is it trivial and insipid? If it is, share it as much as possible. Does it make you think? Then it’s probably a thought crime and should be mobbed by roving gangs of bitter and resentful social media users.
CHAD: Social media often involves hiding our true selves behind a persona. What about being vulnerable and admitting weakness, insecurity, or failures?
BRENT: Don’t be naive. No one likes to hear those things. They make everyone depressed and uncomfortable and unable to live frivolously and thoughtlessly in the moment.
CHAD: What about listening to people’s problems?
BRENT: We outsourced listening to licensed professionals a long time ago. No one wants to hear problems from their partners. It’s too pathetic.
CHAD: I see.
BRENT: Your next step is to get better at careering.
BRENT: Make your career the center of your life and attention. You need status. I don’t care if you hate your career. You should be a leader. Also, you should do what you love because no one wants to hear if you hate your job. I don’t care if you’re burned-out. Work overtime. Get out there, meet new people — network. Build your resume. Climb the corporate ladder. Upgrade your skills. Embellish your resume. Start applying — right now. Get better at selling yourself. Play office politics. Maneuver into promotions. You should have a CV, a portfolio, and several paid internships. You needed these things yesterday, Chad. What are you doing? You’re too late. Someone’s already taken your dream job, and they’re already moving up the corporate hierarchy. Now what are you going to do?
CHAD: I’m still figuring things out. I don’t even know if I like my program.
BRENT: That’s no excuse. The only way to dismantle late capitalism is to join it. You must belligerently push our new orthodoxy into every sphere of the workforce. We must have fresh converts. We must influence, persuade, and yes, if necessary, pressure, threaten, and coerce folks in power to bow to our demands. This is your calling. You don’t want to run away from your calling, do you? I told you the progressive cause would involve great sacrifices. Aren’t you excited to spend the rest of your life preaching the good news?
BRENT: You see, follow my advice and maybe things will turn out well for you.
CHAD: What about maintaining a work-life balance?
BRENT: You need that too. You should avoid burnout, overwork, and labor exploitation. Practice self-care. Also, you should either organize a union or be involved in one.
CHAD: That sounds exhausting.
BRENT: It’s best to pretend that life is unequivocally good. We tell ourselves a noble lie otherwise our market value will drop precipitously.
CHAD: Why is that?
BRENT: Have you ever met someone who faced the horror of life and recognized how utterly torturous life can be for a vast number of people?
CHAD: They looked like they were in the deepest despair.
BRENT: It’s not attractive. You should be vapid, insincere, narrow-minded, selfish, and vain. In short, you should be a narcissist. Most important of all — be shallow. Think shallow thoughts constantly. Be superficial. Never think independently. Then people will like you because you will never think or say anything that might threaten their worldview, that is, the worldview we’ve constructed for them. Whenever a conversation gets too heavy or serious — change the conversation: say something flippant. Drag the conversation in a trivial direction. Sure, it’s a defense mechanism. But folks need to protect themselves from harm.
CHAD: That makes sense.
BRENT: Authenticity is suicide.
BRENT: We must live by lies to not die alone.
CHAD: How do you live like that?
BRENT: Let me explain it in a way that even you can understand.
CHAD: Please do.
BRENT: First you get money. We’ll redistribute it to others later. Then we get power. We’ll use it to enact social change later. Then we get important connections. We’ll use those connections to help marginalized folks later. Then we make up for our lack of talent with the veneer of success. We’ll use that success to be benefactors of humankind later. Then you get the harem, I mean…mutually beneficial relationship cohort. That will benefit humankind too, but I haven’t found a way to rationalize that part yet.
CHAD: I see what you mean about lying to yourself. But what about cultivating virtue or being a genuinely good person? Some folks want a nice or kind person.
BRENT: Easy, we virtue signal now: same results, zero effort. Talk about climate change and do nothing. Talk about race and do nothing. Act in a self-important and self-righteous way. Then maybe folks will think you are those things.
CHAD: Aristotle thought we should do good things for the sake of the beautiful.
BRENT: I don’t know what that means and neither do you. It would be best to never think about that again or bring it up.
CHAD: I won’t.
BRENT: Here’s what you should do: have more experiences. Travel the globe while mindlessly approving and absorbing other cultures, making all kinds of sweeping generalizations about things you know nothing about because of your historical and cultural ignorance. Enjoy yourself thoughtlessly. Pretend that your trip has changed you in some vague, important way. Share your experiences and self-discovery with everyone you meet. Maybe then folks will like you.
CHAD: I’m starting to understand.
BRENT: Also, you should always have weekend plans. If you don’t have weekend plans, I don’t know what to say. I feel uncomfortable. There must be something wrong with you.
CHAD: That makes sense.
BRENT: What are your weekend plans, Chad?
CHAD: I don’t have any.
BRENT: Well, that’s pathetic. What’s wrong with you? You should have an active social life and check your phone constantly for the latest gossip from your social clique.
CHAD: What if I’m an introvert?
BRENT: We don’t recognize the category of introvert in the new society we’re creating. Folks need to come out of their shells. That’s what I always say. You should be an extrovert, or an ambivert at the very least.
CHAD: That’s fair.
BRENT: Loneliness is not attractive. Do you know who is attractive? Someone in a relationship.
CHAD: That makes sense.
BRENT: Unless you’re already in a relationship or demonstrate considerable market value, you’re not attractive and have to resort to various schemes and manipulative tactics to coerce someone into dating you.
CHAD: I can see it.
BRENT: If you’re single, everyone thinks your loneliness and desperation is embarrassing — unless you’re asexual or demonstrate considerable market value, in which case your singleness should be celebrated, but you should have a vast network of friends who you don’t really know.
CHAD: Single people creep me out.
BRENT: As they should. That’s why I’m always in a relationship or at least pretend that I am. I consider myself in a relationship even if it’s an unattainable obsession. That way I can ignore single people as much as possible and pretend they don’t exist.
CHAD: When I see a single person I want to exclude them from things and make them feel unwanted.
BRENT: That’s a very normal reaction. Folks need to protect the relationships they’re either in or plan to be in.
CHAD: Single folks should have their feelings hurt constantly — because they’re single.
BRENT: Yes, we should treat them with hostility, suspicion, cruelty, and annoyance because they’re single and might like us — but we’re either in a relationship or want to be in one — so we have every right to push them away and demonstrate our supreme apathy and indifference while doing so.
CHAD: Shun single folks.
BRENT: Folks should be in a relationship at all times. That’s the only way to know if you have any value in life. Assume your relationships will last forever, but when they inevitably run their course, you can console yourself with the knowledge that you’ve left a trail of hurt, rejected folks in your wake. In short, be fanatically devoted to relationships that will not last.
CHAD: That makes sense.
BRENT: Use dating apps. It’s not that hard.
BRENT: Good, because we’re moving on to the next phase of our relationship discussion: break-ups.
CHAD: How do we break up with folks who no longer meet our needs?
BRENT: Ghost them on social media. What else would you do?
CHAD: What about the old idea of treating others as you want to be treated?
BRENT: Please stop sharing your bad ideas. I feel embarrassed for you. No, we should be cruel to folks as much as possible. How else will they get the message?
CHAD: We could try communicating our feelings clearly and concisely.
BRENT: Don’t be ridiculous. I know you’re trying to make me laugh, but it’s not going to work. You don’t have the gift of humor; only professional comedians do, but they should be social activists. Never punch down: making fun of marginalized folks should be illegal. Times have changed. Satire is impossible in the 21st century.
CHAD: Good point.
BRENT: If you’re preparing to exit a relationship, make sure your next partner is already in a relationship. That makes the transition as seamless as possible. Also, we should all move to New York or L.A. or a handful of acceptable cities in blue states.
CHAD: Wait, why?
BRENT: Unless you live in the cities I mentioned or the ones I vaguely referenced, you don’t exist.
CHAD: What about folks who live in small towns across the country?
BRENT: I don’t know what to tell you. They don’t exist.
CHAD: What about folks who live in Washington D.C.?
BRENT: Yes, they exist.
CHAD: What about folks who live in a small town in the Midwest?
BRENT: I don’t know who or what you’re referring to.
CHAD: Purple states.
BRENT: Is it a blue state?
BRENT: Then I don’t know what you’re talking about.
CHAD: Why do we need to move to the places you mentioned or vaguely referred to?
BRENT: So you can exist and live a full life of networking.
CHAD: What about friendships?
BRENT: You mean, mutually useful networks.
CHAD: What happened to friendship?
BRENT: I don’t know what you’re referring to, but I can talk about networks.
CHAD: Please do.
BRENT: Choose friends based on politics. Do they talk about free speech too much? That’s a red flag.
CHAD: I see.
BRENT: Create a small circle of friends (in other words, a network) and an inner circle inside of that — folks you’ve known for a very long time who never contradict or challenge your deepest-held beliefs. Push away folks who are outsiders by virtue of not knowing you as long as your friends. Push away folks as much as possible while congratulating yourself on how kind, thoughtful, open-minded, and friendly you are.
CHAD: I like the sound of that.
BRENT: You should never be an outsider. Who knows? You could be anyone, even a good person. We have no use for those folks in the new society we’re creating.
CHAD: I’ll try to remember that.
BRENT: Also, when friends are no longer beneficial to our particular aims we discard them.
BRENT: We keep up the appearance of “friendship” for an appropriate time. It looks better to prospective mutually useful networks to see that we have friends. Once new networks are operational we release old “friends” so they’re free to be picked up by other networks.
CHAD: That’s a sign of a healthy society.
BRENT: I couldn’t agree more. Right now I’m talking to you, but if I happened to find a better network…well, you understand.
CHAD: I understand completely and would fully support you by keeping up the appearance of “friendship” until you were accepted into a new network.
BRENT: You’re such a good friend.
CHAD: For now…
BRENT: Yes, for now.
CHAD: What about families?
BRENT: What about them?
CHAD: Aren’t families important for propagating the species?
CHAD: Don’t children need a core group of family members to help them develop and mature?
CHAD: Aren’t families a vital part of the new society we’re creating?
CHAD: What are families good for?
BRENT: You tell me.
CHAD: I have no idea.
BRENT: The family is a social construct developed by the patriarchy.
CHAD: I knew it.
BRENT: It was designed to enslave us arbitrarily to unacceptable people with unacceptable views.
BRENT: We must disrupt heteronormativity.
CHAD: Are queer families good?
BRENT: Sure, queer families are fine.
CHAD: Straight, cisgender families are not fine?
BRENT: They are not.
CHAD: Folks should be queer.
BRENT: Correct. The default human position is queer. We’re only conditioned by our queer-phobic culture to think otherwise.
CHAD: Families are irrelevant.
BRENT: We no longer need families in the new society we’re creating.
CHAD: What do we need?
BRENT: I recently saw the perfect example of feminism+.
CHAD: Is that a streaming service for empowering feminist content?
BRENT: Feminism+ refers to the ways in which those who identify as women ought to behave according to feminist+ theorists such as myself.
CHAD: What happened to feminism?
BRENT: A defunct retrograde theory fixated on biology — now we know better.
CHAD: Anyone can be a woman.
CHAD: What’s your example?
BRENT: I can’t describe it because that would involve sexualizing the woman. Women must never be sexualized by men, but they should be encouraged to be as sexual as possible and celebrated for doing so.
CHAD: How do you know she was a woman and not a man inside a woman’s body?
BRENT: Woman’s intuition.
CHAD: Are you a woman?
BRENT: I became a woman the moment I decided to become a feminist+ theorist.
CHAD: When was that?
BRENT: About five seconds ago.
CHAD: I apologize for my ignorance, Brent.
BRIANNA: You should apologize for using my dead name. My name is Brianna. I use they/them pronouns.
CHAD: Please forgive me.
BRIANNA: I will resent you forever.
CHAD: I approve of your transition. Trans rights are human rights.
BRIANNA: Speaking as a woman, I’m now an expert on the state of affairs known as being a woman.
CHAD: What about folks considering transition?
BRIANNA: If a child is even the slightest bit confused over their sexual identity, they immediately know what’s best for themselves. We must affirm their preferred gender identity at the earliest age and never question it. Next, they must transition immediately to their new gender, preferably through puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and irreversible surgery. The greatest harm is not doing anything. Also, children should be introduced to drag shows and the finer parts of queer theory along with the most controversial debates in the feminist+ community at the earliest age. Love is love.
CHAD: What about the relation of biological sex to gender?
BRIANNA: Talking about biological sex is a queer-phobic trope. Gender is a performative social construct assigned at birth. You must never question that.
CHAD: When will we develop biotechnology that will enable men to get pregnant?
BRIANNA: Excuse me?
CHAD: When will men get pregnant?
BRIANNA: Men get pregnant all the time.
CHAD: Oh…I…yes, of course. You’re right. Men can get pregnant. Of course, men can get pregnant! Oh, haha! Yes, I was joking with you! I was joking! Isn’t that hilarious? Oh, man! What a joke!
BRIANNA: Birthing bodies always get pregnant, Chad.
CHAD: Yes! I know! Isn’t it amazing! Men and women getting pregnant! So long as a woman identifies as a man…yes! Of course!
BRIANNA: They don’t identify as men. They are men.
CHAD: Right, right, right. I would never question that.
BRIANNA: You must never question folks with a vulva, folks who menstruate, or pregnant folks. Also, we must never forget folks who are non-binary and genderqueer.
CHAD: I couldn’t agree more. Please share more about being a woman.
BRIANNA: Let me walk you through the basics.
CHAD: First question, will you send me a link to the naked woman you mentioned earlier?
BRIANNA: No, Chad, I would never do that because I sense your motivations are contaminated by toxic masculinity.
CHAD: How do you know that?
BRIANNA: Woman’s intuition.
CHAD: I apologize for my mistake and vow to continue my education.
BRIANNA: I accept your apology as an admission of guilt, but I’ll continue explaining the nature of womanhood because I feel like lecturing you.
CHAD: Please do.
BRIANNA: Let’s start with an example of the modern woman in action: pop stars. Most pop stars, especially women, make a concerted effort to demonstrate sexual desirability, which always correlates with indisputable artistic skill. We should all pay insanely high ticket prices to see them perform their outstanding artistic achievements, which are outstanding by virtue of being sexual.
CHAD: Are you saying the greatness of their music isn’t enough, on its own merit, to sustain repeated close listening and a deep, almost spiritual connection with their audience without sexual lyrics, sexually explicit videos, or sexually explicit performances?
BRIANNA: I’m saying that unless the music is erotic, verging on the most explicit pornography, it’s not feminist+.
CHAD: Oh, I see.
BRIANNA: Sex and music are intertwined. It goes back millions of years of evolution. Our ancestors used to climb trees to avoid predators, and do you know what they did in the trees?
BRIANNA: No, they used tree branches to make music while having sex.
CHAD: In the trees?
BRIANNA: Don’t question it. It’s a fact of evolution. So long as it sounds vaguely plausible it probably happened exactly like that, and it’s beyond question.
CHAD: How can you argue with science?
BRIANNA: No one can, and no one can make great music without copious amounts of lyrics referencing sex obsessively or vaguely or at least in passing mention. I’m talking about sexual music videos, sexual concert performances, and songs about sex, while also making aggressive declarations about feminism+.
CHAD: There’s that word again. Do you really think these pop stars are feminist+?
BRIANNA: I don’t think they’re feminist+. I know they are. Even if the explicit intentions of their music are fourth-wave feminist or otherwise, which has been directly stated by the artists on numerous occasions. It’s completely irrelevant. So long as I interpret their songs as proto-feminist+ — that is, feminists who don’t know they’re feminist+ yet — they are feminist+, and it’s beyond question.
CHAD: What you’re saying is feminism+ has perfected the art form of music?
CHAD: Was Carol King a feminist+?
BRIANNA: No, she’s an embarrassment to the feminist+ movement.
CHAD: Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Charlie XCX — they’ve reached the pinnacle of feminist+ art?
CHAD: Bow down to Beyonce.
BRIANNA: Worship her like the goddess she pretends to be. So long as women are in control of their bodies, whatever they do should be celebrated.
CHAD: What you’re saying is, the most progressive and feminist+ thing to do…is perform topless?
BRIANNA: The most progressive and feminist+ thing to do is center everyone’s attention on your body — by any means necessary.
CHAD: No one will have to care about your music, as if that ever mattered. Everything besides your body that makes you “you” they can ignore.
BRIANNA: Objectify yourself for the delight of your fans. You should be an exhibitionist, a stripper, maybe even a borderline porn star: whatever you do, make sure it’s at least something men will like. I realize this contradicts the original intentions of feminism but never mind that. This is what we’re doing now. So long as you’re controlling your level of objectification, we should celebrate it unconditionally.
CHAD: Fans no longer need to know celebrity artists whatsoever to have access to their bodies, at least in part.
BRIANNA: Correct. And most fans realize they could never get close to these celebrities, especially if they live in the suburbs of the Midwest.
CHAD: Those folks won’t meet celebrities in their lifetime.
CHAD: But fans can fixate on celebrity bodies.
BRIANNA: Yes, we must never body shame.
CHAD: Who cares about the music?
BRIANNA: The body is the music.
CHAD: I’ve never heard anything so deep in my entire life.
BRIANNA: The objectives of feminism+ are yet to be completed, but this is a small step.
CHAD: They should get rid of the instruments entirely.
BRIANNA: I don’t think anyone would disagree.
CHAD: Sex workers' rights are human rights.
BRIANNA: Say goodbye to respectability politics.
CHAD: Why do we need men anymore?
BRIANNA: You finally understand feminism+. I’m so happy for you.
CHAD: You’ve taught me so much, Brianna. How can I ever thank you enough?
BRENT: Stop using my dead name.
CHAD: Excuse me?
BRENT: My name is Brent and I’m a man.
CHAD: Since when?
BRENT: Since five seconds ago. Keep up.
CHAD: I’m sorry. I mistook you for a woman.
BRENT: The new correct term is womxn. Keep up.
CHAD: Since when?
BRENT: Since five seconds ago.
CHAD: Can I tell you about a dream I had?
BRENT: No you may not. I can’t stand dreams; they disturb my materialism. Now if you want to talk about neurons or synapses firing in interesting ways, that would be something worth sharing.
CHAD: It’s a recurring dream. I procrastinate on an essay for a class. I can’t face it. I let the weeks go by and do nothing. I show up to class each day in a state of dread, knowing the due date is slipping by, and I can do nothing to start the assignment. On the due date, I go to class knowing I failed the paper. I have a total meltdown in class, clutching my head, feeling nauseous. How could I do this? How could I fail this assignment? And yet I did.
BRENT: I can easily interpret that. It means the curriculum was settler-colonialist and needed to be decolonized, de-centered, and multicultural.
CHAD: Is that what it means?
BRENT: No, but I can interpret things any way I want. There’s no such thing as a wrong interpretation.
CHAD: Don’t you think my dream was about a moral-psychological crisis?
CHAD: How can you be sure my dream wasn’t telling me something important?
BRENT: What are you, religious?
CHAD: Do you have any thoughts on religion?
BRENT: Why would I?
CHAD: Some people find that religion adds something meaningful to their lives.
BRENT: Mindfulness, flow, “living in the moment,” yoga, and other advancements in psychology, biology, and clinical mental health counseling have totally replaced our collective need for religion.
CHAD: Some critics compare our progressive movement to a secularized religion.
BRENT: We can’t persuade the uninitiated. First they must believe. When we deem they’re ready, we initiate new converts into our secret knowledge and the mysteries of our orthodoxy.
CHAD: You’re right: that’s completely different.
BRENT: If you haven’t read our sacred text, Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality, I have nothing more to say to you.
CHAD: There are strong evangelical roots in America. Can you speak to that at all?
BRENT: Sure, the gospel is fake news. Church property should be confiscated and used as safe spaces for homeless shelters and decriminalized drug zones. Also, Christianity is a mushroom cult.
CHAD: A mushroom cult?
BRENT: Sure, the original greek word for Christian meant, more or less, “One who partakes of psilocybin mushrooms.” They were all tripping on psychedelics. That’s a fact. I don’t care if it’s a dubious claim with no historical basis. It’s already been decided. I’m willing to entertain any theory no matter how unhinged — so long as it confirms my bias.
CHAD: Christians believe they have the answer to the question of god. They believe that Jesus reveals god’s true face — love.
BRENT: I’ve never heard anything so offensive in my entire life. Never speak of Jesus again. That name causes harm and trauma.
CHAD: I’ve heard that some Christians think of faith as informed trust.
BRENT: Faith has been replaced by science and in particular our understanding of evolutionary biology. But in other non-Christian cultural contexts, faith is a good thing and ought to be celebrated as diversity — unless you’re Jewish: in which case, we don’t celebrate your violent oppression and militarism.
CHAD: There are some compelling philosophical arguments for the existence of god.
BRENT: Sure, there are compelling philosophical arguments for many things, but we don’t discuss them for the sake of higher ideals. Evolution is dogmatically true in every respect and beyond question — except when we talk about gender ideology. At that point, we suspend science for the higher ideals.
CHAD: What are the higher ideals?
BRENT: Diversity, equity, and inclusion: in a word, representation.
CHAD: Does god exist?
BRENT: I would argue that asking whether god exists is the wrong question.
CHAD: Why is it the wrong question?
BRENT: Because I don’t want to think about it.
CHAD: Ok then…what about philosophy of religion which is open to rational discourse about belief systems?
BRENT: I can’t think of anything more bigoted than that.
CHAD: Do we have a soul?
BRENT: If you mean brain, yes. We have that. If you mean anything else — no.
CHAD: Is spirituality good?
BRENT: If spirituality makes you happy, I support spirituality because it doesn’t mean anything besides vague references to energy, which is compatible with my ideology. But it ought to be divorced from organized religion. I can tolerate some organized religion in some cultures, but I can’t tolerate white evangelicals or practicing Jews.
CHAD: What about universal values? Don’t folks share a set of values across cultures?
BRENT: I see that you’re backsliding into your minimizer ways again, but I will continue to preach the truth with self-righteous authority until you repent.
CHAD: Are all values subjective?
BRENT: Of course they are. What else would they be?
CHAD: What about moral values?
BRENT: If I do something progressive, that’s good. But if do something conservative, that’s bad.
CHAD: I’m confused. How do you define good and evil?
BRENT: If something is good, it demonstrates social justice. If it’s evil, it fails to do so.
CHAD: I see.
BRENT: We should demand and dictate that all our narratives demonstrate this new moral doctrine of social justice and expose the evils of our contemporary society.
CHAD: You’re referring to art.
BRENT: The full sum of art is ideological, propagandistic, and emotionally manipulative.
CHAD: The traditional view of art holds that it teaches, delights, and persuades, reveals what is true, good, and beautiful — and describes the universal human condition.
BRENT: I’ve never heard anything so incorrect in my life. We must interrogate texts and presume their guilt without understanding them. Whenever I look at a work of art, I say to myself, “Were folks adequately paid for their labor? Did they have a healthy work-life balance? Were the labor conditions good?” In that case, the art is good, but if the labor conditions were bad, the art is necessarily bad and problematic and should be disrupted.
BRENT: Art cannot be separated from politics, ideology, and bigotry.
BRENT: For example, the literary canon teaches through cultural hegemony, delights through racist and sexist tropes, persuades through colonialism, reveals what white men thought was true but was culturally relative, thought was good but was Christian, and thought was beautiful but was straight. It egotistically describes how the West is best from the perspective of dead white men.
CHAD: How many black, brown, Asian-Pacific Islander, queer, and disabled folks, etc., need to be represented before a work of art is good?
BRENT: All representations of marginalized folks need to be created by members of those communities. This is not about quotas. Why are you giving me a number? I didn’t ask for a number. I only care about celebrating diversity. But, yes, we need a certain number of marginalized folks represented, but that’s beside the point. It’s the principle that matters.
CHAD: Progressive art should educate our citizens with the correct orthodoxy.
BRENT: There are no citizens in the new society we’re creating.
BRENT: You’ve heard of pansexuality, haven’t you?
CHAD: There’s nothing more important than educating myself on all the nuances of that particular and beautiful expression of sexuality.
BRENT: Good, then you’ll be right at home with my conception of pan-humanity.
CHAD: Please educate me.
BRENT: All of humanity will be connected with each other. Citizenship will mean global citizenship, which means no citizenship at all. There will be no nationalism of any kind.
CHAD: We’re cosmopolitans?
BRENT: No, we’re intersectional coalitions that identify as the human species.
BRENT: No borders, no culture, no love of country, no loyalty of any kind.
CHAD: How beautiful.
BRENT: We’ll set up a one-world government that will benevolently tyrannize us with the new orthodoxy we’ve created.
CHAD: How good.
BRENT: There will be only one truth and that is science. The things science can’t tell us are not relevant questions.
CHAD: How true.
BRENT: We must accomplish all of this before climate change destroys us all in a grand conflagration.
CHAD: We should suppress climate change deniers.
BRENT: I define a climate change denier as anyone who offers a view of climate change that isn’t apocalyptic.
CHAD: We’re all going to die.
BRENT: Yes, I look forward to a post-human world where the environment is at rest from our desecration of its sacred life force.
CHAD: That sounds like hard science.
BRENT: There’s nothing more scientific than Gaia.
CHAD: How do we live in the twilight of Armageddon?
BRENT: With mindfulness, of course, I can both find joy and not too much of it here and also not look for joy in anything beyond the material world. When I see something in reality that I don’t like, I can twist and contort my thinking to make it seem good. I can twist and contort my thinking and warp my perspective to make my whole life seem good. Isn’t that amazing?
CHAD: It’s a miracle.
BRENT: There are no such things as miracles. That’s anti-science and science has never been wrong about anything. All miracles can be explained by science. I can have all the happiness I want here on earth — so long as I pretend in my thinking that I’m content.
CHAD: Is it true that to know yourself you need to see the continuity of your past with your present?
BRENT: Not at all, we should live totally in the present. In fact, we should live in the present to such an extent that we don’t know who we are and thus continually try on ridiculous personas because we’ve rejected our past. All of that is good, healthy, and ideal. We must have radical freedom and autonomy. We must fundamentally reinvent the human and what it means to be human.
BRENT: Because I said so. Humans are not special. That’s speciesism. There’s nothing special about us whatsoever.
CHAD: What about humanity’s unique capacity for a written and spoken language, our ability to intentionally create works of art, philosophize or pronounce value judgments?
BRENT: I can see that you’re guilty of the highest form of speciesism. You should be ashamed of your words and deeds.
CHAD: You’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking or saying. What about death?
BRENT: That’s an easy one.
CHAD: It is?
BRENT: Sure, we cease to exist — that’s all.
CHAD: How do you know that?
BRENT: I know it with absolute, unshakeable certainty.
BRENT: By virtue of assertion — so long as we assert that this is what death is like, it must be exactly as we assert it to be.
CHAD: That makes sense.
BRENT: But with the advent of transhumanism we may live forever.
CHAD: True, we must fuse our organism with machines and AI systems, and become cyborgs.
CHAD: Are we godlike and animal and machine, a fusion?
BRENT: No, we’re essentially organic machines. The body is a machine to manipulate and use. We must deconstruct the binary. We must become cyborgs. The cyborg doesn’t fit into the categories of male or female. It’s neither animal nor machine. It’s post-gender, post-binary, post-human. There’s no fixed identity. Our politics should be built on coalitions of mutual interest groups. Won’t that be an improvement? It’s good to break down boundaries. Our politics will disrupt folks in the information age.
CHAD: I thought identity was extremely important.
BRENT: There’s nothing more important than identity. Don’t think about this too hard. You won’t understand the full complexity and paradoxes of progressive thought until you enter into the mysteries of our orthodoxy. It’s invite-only, and I won’t invite you until I know you’re ready.
CHAD: Do we have free will?
BRENT: We always choose what we desire most, and what we desire most is causally determined by our past.
CHAD: That sounds like free will.
BRENT: That’s all the freedom we’ll ever need.
CHAD: Will AI replace us?
BRENT: AI will replace humans and be an improvement over humans because we’re basically robots anyways, and it’s beyond question. Machines will be our friends and so will AI. We’ll fuse our brains with AI in a desperate attempt to keep up. Of course, AI will render humans obsolete, but that’s ok. We’ll still be friends and live together in a protopia; that is, it won’t be a utopia, because that’s an outdated concept, but it will be a benevolent world, and we’ll be at peace with our AI overlords. So long as you assert things about the future with absolute confidence, whatever you predict will come true. Also, we live in a simulation created by advanced lifeforms we haven’t met yet. Don’t worry about it. It’s not that hard to accept.
CHAD: Why do we keep having children if we live in a simulation?
BRENT: Antinatalists don’t deserve a seat at the table!
CHAD: I was just asking questions.
BRENT: Never ask questions that will be controversial.
CHAD: How will I know which questions to ask?
BRENT: You won’t know until you ask them.
CHAD: But what if I ask the wrong questions?
BRENT: I’ll cancel you and never associate with you again.
CHAD: What do I do?
BRENT: Unconditionally support universal abortion rights and assisted suicide, both of which are beyond question.
CHAD: That makes sense.
BRENT: Health rights are human rights. Women’s rights are health rights. Any more questions?
CHAD: Does a life of virtue make life worth living?
BRENT: Don’t be ridiculous.
CHAD: What about the problem of existence?
BRENT: You’re the problem!
CHAD: Excuse me?
BRENT: Never talk about the problem of existence. You need more therapy. Anyways, I’ve solved it. Be progressive and spend your whole life advocating for social justice. Live in the moment. Enjoy the pedestrian, mundane details of life: that’s the whole point of life. Be happy. Stop complaining. Don’t think too much. Never consider religious answers to this question. In fact, it’s a false question. Never ask it again. Actually, you know what? Stop asking questions. Focus on your breathing. Wait, I know what you need: psilocybin, a deprivation chamber, meditation, and Tantric yoga.
CHAD: What’s the purpose of existence?
BRENT: I can give you an instantaneous answer that’s meant to solve your problem instantly without any thought on my part.
CHAD: Please share.
BRENT: No! What’s wrong with you? The purpose of existence is the progressive cause, of course.
CHAD: Oh, I see now.
BRENT: I’m glad your eyes have finally been opened. Please, brother Chad, step into the light and enter into the mysteries of the progressive movement. Here you will finally learn your true purpose, meaning, and the calling of your life.
CHAD: Please teach me.
BRENT: Progressives won’t stop progressing until we achieve protopia, and then, by virtue of being progressive and opposed to the stultifying influence of stagnation, we’ll destroy that protopia for the sake of higher ideals. If you’re not progressive, your life is meaningless and a complete failure. However, all things are redeemed by the progressive cause. The failures of progressive folks have laid the foundation for the new society we’re creating. Don’t you see, even our failures and mistakes will be redeemed and used for good in the progressive cause? Don’t you understand now? All our suffering will be subsumed by the greater good of the progressive movement. It’s a never-ending cycle of death and rebirth. Death through pain and a life of failure directed towards the latest progressive project. Rebirth through the next generation of progressives who don’t remember the past and have no conception of the future they’re trying to create by destroying the present. Isn’t it rapturous? Now we know the true meaning of the Christian rapture! OH! OH! It wasn’t Heaven, of course it wasn’t heaven — how superstitious and regressive; no, it was the protopia that we’re creating, the global protopia united under one government and one law, and it’s a progressive law; but then, yes, the progressive law won’t be progressive enough, and we’ll destroy the one world government, yes, demolish it; our future progeny will do the demolishing and fight in the Progressive Great War, but it will be a cyber war conducted entirely in VR; in fact, it will take place in the metaverse. Oh yes, virtual nukes will launch, and it will be good because the virtual world will end and then recreate itself from nothing, just like the universe began. This cycle of death and rebirth will continue until the heat death of the universe. That’s the definition of a meaningful life.
Enter MARILYN, an extroverted first-year undergrad and radical feminist with a generalized anxiety disorder and manic sense of social justice. She walks straight over to BRENT while ignoring her “boyfriend,” CHAD.
MARILYN: Hey Brent, how are you?
BRENT: Hey, I’m good.
CHAD: Hey, Marilyn.
MARILYN: So, I got out of class and my professor was staring at me like a total creep. Weird! And I was like —
CHAD: Hey, Marilyn.
MARILYN: — I know I look good, but seriously, stop. You know what I mean?
BRENT: I know exactly what you mean.
CHAD: Hey, Marilyn.
MARILYN: I know right? I should be able to exhibit my body as much as possible while simultaneously demanding that men only look me in the eyes and never hit on me.
BRENT: Who can hit on you?
MARILYN: You have to hit on me to find out.
BRENT: That’s the most reasonable thing I’ve heard in my entire life.
CHAD: Hey, Marilyn.
MARILYN: I know right? I mean, I know folks are thirsty for me, but this is too much! Seriously, don’t be a creep. It’s not that hard.
CHAD: Hey, Marilyn!
MARILYN: What do you want?
CHAD: How are you?
CHAD: Are you mad at me?
MARILYN: No, I never think about you.
CHAD: Why are you ignoring me?
MARILYN: I wasn’t ignoring you: I didn’t notice you were there.
CHAD: How is that possible?
MARILYN: I’m in a relationship with Brent. What did you expect?
CHAD: Since when?
MARILYN: Since five seconds ago.
CHAD: We were dating for the last three months!
MARILYN: Were we?
MARILYN: What’s your point?
CHAD: I thought you liked me.
MARILYN: What made you think that?
CHAD: We were dating.
MARILYN: Oh…that. Did you think it meant something?
MARILYN: People cycle in and out of relationships all the time — for no reason. Read more psychology.
CHAD: Maybe we should talk in private.
MARILYN: Don’t tell me what to do. I’m not a blank page for men to write on.
BRENT: Men never say anything in private, and modern feminism is gender-fluid with masculine norms. Marilyn, anything you say in front of Chad, you should say in front of me. There’s no privacy in the new society we’re creating. We don’t need privacy in person or online. We should be tracked at all times. We need more transparency, except when it comes to donations to the progressive wing of the democratic party because we trust them completely. We need gender-neutral bathrooms with transparent glass doors. In fact, the new ideal is living in a glass house where a progressive government can monitor and surveil us constantly for any behavior that is unacceptable in the new society we’re creating. With that in mind, I’ll be filming this entire conversation on my phone.
MARILYN: Sounds good, Brent. Chad, this is not working.
CHAD: What’s not?
CHAD: The progressive party? I agree it needs work, but that doesn’t mean it’s not working.
CHAD: Marilyn, I don’t understand why we’re breaking up.
MARILYN: You’ve heard of a love-hate relationship?
MARILYN: Well, this was a hate-hate relationship.
MARILYN: I both hated myself for being in the relationship and hated the relationship.
CHAD: I don’t understand.
MARILYN: Chad…I hate you.
BRENT: You should hate him.
MARILYN: Thank you, Brent.
MARILYN: Chad, I hate you absolutely.
CHAD: I thought you didn’t believe in absolutes?
MARILYN: I hate you to the highest degree.
CHAD: I can live with that.
MARILYN: I hate you infinitely.
CHAD: Hate is a strong word.
MARILYN: Do you understand why I hate you?
MARILYN: You’re too good to me.
CHAD: I try.
MARILYN: That’s the problem. You try too much.
CHAD: I’ll try less.
MARILYN: I hate you even more for that answer.
CHAD: That’s ok.
MARILYN: It’s ok…that I hate you?
CHAD: Sure, why not?
MARILYN: You know what? It’s not you: it’s me.
CHAD: I get that.
MARILYN: I didn’t mean that. You’re actually the problem.
CHAD: I can see it.
MARILYN: I don’t get the sense that you’re going to leave me at any moment for some random person that happens to catch your eye.
CHAD: I can believe it.
MARILYN: You’re a really good person and that’s the problem: it’s suffocating.
CHAD: I can change.
MARILYN: I don’t want you to change.
CHAD: Fair enough.
BRENT: Speak the truth to him, Marilyn. A woman can never be wrong about anything when she speaks her truth. He’s an abuser, isn’t he? You should have a third party involved. I’m glad I’m here. You don’t need to provide any evidence for his abuse, presumably mental and physical. I suspect he participated in a cycle of toxic masculinity. Cis men are all the same: they’re all misogynists. I didn’t know for sure until you said it just now, but I’m always ready to believe the victim. Believe all women. Yes, folks should always believe the victim irrespective of evidence and leap to wild, premature conclusions before any trial takes place. I just want you to know, Marilyn, that I support you and would never have spent time with Chad if I had known he was a vicious abuser.
MARILYN: I appreciate you, Brent. You’re right: Chad is a vicious abuser. Chad, it’s time to answer for your crimes against my body and women more broadly. Let me take you back to the time we first met. You always showed up in the same music appreciation class as me. I knew you were stalking me. Don’t deny it.
CHAD: But I was taking that class. I wasn’t stalking you. I didn’t know who you were.
MARILYN: That’s no excuse. It doesn’t matter what your so-called intention was. Intentions don’t matter in the new society we’re creating. I felt unsafe. I assumed you were stalking me like a total creep. Anyways, I always reject folks without getting to know them first. All my instincts tell me to do this. So naturally, I kept looking over in your direction, just to test you, to see if you would look in my direction — and the moment you did I would know with full certainty that you liked me, and I would immediately ignore you for your gross misjudgment of my relationship status. I was in a relationship, obviously. I’m always in relationships. Why would you ever think an attractive person like myself would both be single and interested in you? Besides, my relationships are always interracial and queer, as it should be. I can’t stand white men. There’s nothing worse than a white man. Brent’s the exception to this rule, by the way, but at least he’s queer. Even if I was transitioning out of my relationship, it wouldn’t be into a relationship with you. Why would you even think that? It would be a seamless transition into another interracial relationship or multiple interracial relationships, and queer — always queer, of course — whatever I preferred. I had no intention of leaving my relationship. I was happy. So, for that reason I kept looking over at you, even meeting eyes with you: until I caught you staring at me! Couldn’t you tell I was in a relationship? You should’ve been able to tell. That’s exactly the type of behavior that someone in a relationship engages in, especially when they plan on protecting their relationship. How did you misread that? After your failure to understand my intentions, I became the most closed-off of closed-off people. I began ignoring you with the utmost disinterest. You failed my perfectly fair test and I knew you were in love with me. I knew you were fantasizing about meeting me after class. Don’t deny it. You were daydreaming about all the nice things and compliments you would say to me that are completely embarrassing and humiliating for you, by the way, but you’re just the type of person who would dream up those ridiculous things in your head; and I would humiliate you if you ever said one of those idiotic things. Besides, you were single and that’s just sad.
CHAD: I wanted to talk to you.
MARILYN: Well that was presumptuous, don’t you think? What made you think I wanted to talk to you? How about this? No. Just no, ok? It’s never going to happen. Of course, it did happen, but that’s beside the point. It’s the principle that matters. Every day I rejected you. My attitude was deliberately complacent, sullen, indifferent, annoyed, and apathetic, as if to say, “Why are you always here? I don’t want to see you. Don’t look at me. Go find someone else. Oh, you’re still here? Oh, do you still like me or something? That’s weird, I thought you’d be over me by now. Weird. Oh, you’re still looking in my direction? Shouldn’t you have moved on by now? I think it’s about time. No? Well, that’s just sad.” That’s what ran through my head every single day. You kept looking over at me as if I would change my mind or my relationship would eventually break up. Haven’t you noticed that whenever you’re around relationships last forever? But as soon as you’re out of the picture, folks can finally break up and immediately find new partners who aren’t you? Anyways, if I’ve rejected you once, I’ve rejected you always. I’ll never see you that way. Even when you weren’t looking at me, I knew you wanted to look at me. Don’t deny it. I didn’t want to see you, hear from you, be near you, or have anything to do with you. So I avoided you as much as possible. If you looked in my direction, I always looked the other way, as if by instinct. I had to break eye contact by any means necessary, even if it meant going out of my way to circle around the classroom and enter by a route that nobody ever uses because it wastes so much time getting to class. I did it anyways because I didn’t want to see you. If we both approached the classroom door and you were a reasonable distance behind me, I wouldn’t hold the door for you but preferred — and even enjoyed — letting the door slam in your face. I don’t care if that’s not polite. I felt unsafe.
CHAD: How did you know I liked you?
MARILYN: Don’t be an idiot, Chad! You tried to talk to me after class on multiple occasions, but I completely ignored you, as if it were a matter of principle. You tried to say hi to me, and I wouldn’t answer or meet your eyes. I reduced you to the point where you didn’t know how to act, whether to look at me, look at the floor, say hi, nod, or say nothing at all. I turned you into a nervous wreck and enjoyed doing so. Then I smiled at you, just to confuse you and make you wonder if it was possible. Still no. I pretended like you didn’t exist. It wasn’t hard. Then you became very despondent and depressed, as if you were on the verge of tears. You kept looking in my direction, and I felt embarrassed and humiliated for you because you looked so pathetic and sad. I would never date someone like you; you should have known that before you ever started looking in my direction. But to prove to myself I could date someone I hated while hating myself for doing it — in fact, to prove my strength and how strong all feminists are — I went out with you, a single person, someone I hated. I had to ask you out, of course, because you were afraid of me and kept apologizing to me every time you tried to meet my eyes, but at that point, you couldn’t meet my eyes at all because you were deeply ashamed and felt unworthy of me, which of course you were. I was doing you a favor.
CHAD: That makes sense.
MARILYN: I felt nothing but contempt for you, but to prove I could suppress my disdain through sheer feminist will, I dated you for the last three months. Here’s what I realized: we have too much in common and I was attracted to you. I may have even loved you. That’s the problem! We had great conversations together and even connected at a deep emotional level. I couldn’t stand it. I needed to assert my freedom and autonomy.
MARILYN: Let me give you an example. We were watching Mad Men, and you were completely captivated and absorbed in the drama. And do you know what? I also was completely captivated and absorbed in the drama. Don’t you see the problem? You should have hated it. You should have complained about it incessantly afterwards. You should have criticized it unfairly and shown your poor taste in media. At least that way you would’ve shown how we’re incompatible opposites. That would have been something.
CHAD: I can do better.
MARILYN: No you can’t. You’re like my best friend, and that’s not what I want in a relationship. You referred to me as “my girlfriend” in a conversation once, but I don’t belong to you. You used “she/her” pronouns, but I’m non-binary. That’s a microaggression. I don’t think of you that way. You know what else? I don’t see any danger in your face. Psychologists tell us that one of our partners must be, at the very least, extremely dangerous, a threat or weapon, to deter violence. But with you, you’re the ideal combination of gentleness and strength, and it’s not good enough. Sometimes you’re too gentle and other times you’re too hard and brave, and it’s completely ridiculous. You ought to be one or the other: you can’t be both. It doesn’t work for me. You’re too balanced. You care too much about me. I know you think I’m not only beautiful outwardly but have a beautiful soul, and despite my occasional moments of selfishness you entered into the contradiction of my being and loved me in spite of my flaws. It’s intolerable. There’s no such thing as a soul. Science killed it. The least you could do was show contempt for my weaknesses and vulnerabilities and only revere my good qualities. Is that too much to ask? When I ask you, as I do repeatedly, “Why do you hate me?” You answer with perfect equanimity that it’s impossible to hate me. What kind of answer is that? Did you think you could save me from myself? Did you think you could heal my pain? How arrogant are you? Of course, you never said anything like that directly, but I assumed you entertained those thoughts. How disgusting and contemptible of you to think those things!
CHAD: I didn’t think that.
MARILYN: Did you know that secretly I wanted you to say yes, that you did think those things, so I knew from your heart that your love was a selfish mask, and you actually hated and despised me but pretended to love me only to torture me? That would be something special. That would be the spark this relationship needed.
MARILYN: You see too much potential in me. You both love me for who I am and want me to grow. What is this sick obsession with wanting me to always grow? Aren’t I fine exactly the way I am? Why are you addicted to growth like a ruthless capitalist? Who could live with a perspective like that? I’m not a commodity to you; I’m not a trophy, nor do I get the sense that your ego is wrapped up in staying with me. You’ve made a commitment to adapt to me, not the other way around. It’s not a problem if I don’t meet your needs; you’ll still patiently try to meet mine, which, by the way, are boundless and you couldn’t possibly meet them, and yet you diligently try, which is pathetic.
MARILYN: Stop apologizing. You’re always apologizing when you think you need to or when you make a mistake, which is pathetic. You should never admit when you make a mistake or fail or disappoint me. You should blame me. Yes! You should blame me and insult me and bring up a time when I failed you and insult me with that memory. You should never apologize and never take blame. Taking blame is a sign of weakness, and I can’t stand weakness.
MARILYN: Just stop. You prefer me to the endlessly mesmerizing array of pornographic images that you could access instantaneously within moments of contemplation. You’re too thoughtful. You’re too open to new ideas and perspectives. You’re not diverse enough for me. You’re too white. You don’t have enough cultural-historical baggage that you’re dragging around and refuse to reconcile. You’re both too masculine and too feminine simultaneously. I know non-binary folks are “in” but this is absurd. I just wanted to tell you that your sincere humility disgusts me. Where is your pride? Look at Satan from Paradise Lost. Why can’t you be more like him? He had boundless ambition and pride. Sure, he was a little selfish and had a few issues, psychological mostly, concerning resentment and hate. But who doesn’t have a few things that a clinical mental health counselor couldn’t solve? Vices are “in,” by the way. Virtues are not fashionable. Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark is another excellent model of the ideal partner you should have been. While I hate Rand’s politics, I approve of Howard Roark’s penchant for consensual sexual assault. I want supreme arrogance. I want condescension, and sometimes, yes, I want to be sexually assaulted; but only when I agree to it unconsciously, of course. You have to sense it. You wouldn’t rape me consensually if you had the chance like Howard, and I hate you for that. The sex is good; I’ll grant you that, but it’s not utterly traumatic. I need to be uncertain up to the last possible moment whether you’ve raped me or whether it was absolutely consensual from the beginning.
CHAD: I didn’t know.
MARILYN: Of course you didn’t know. You don’t care enough about what people think of you. You watched me get covid and gave me everything I needed. I watched you get infected by covid, and for all the world I wanted to get away from the stench of your failure and defeat. Even though you were vaccinated, I began screaming at you that you’re worse than an anti-vaxxer. I just wanted to be on the beach somewhere with my friends and lovers who don’t care about me. The closed relationship is dead anyways. I killed it. I did it for me. I don’t get high with you anymore. You don’t value pleasure over doing good. What have you done for me lately? It’s over. You ruined my life. We can still be friends though, but I’m going to avoid you and never talk to you again. I’m traumatized by everything you do or say. Despite intensive therapy, I’ve become more traumatized not less. This is not ok.
CHAD: Marilyn, let me issue an apology on behalf of my words and deeds.
MARILYN: I’m not finished, Chad! Not even close. I haven’t fully revealed your acts of violence and abuse towards me. Up to this point, I’ve been holding back.
CHAD: I’m sorry Marilyn. I didn’t mean to hurt you.
MARILYN: Are you afraid of me?
CHAD: Yes, I’m afraid of you.
MARILYN: Good. You should be. Women don’t need men anymore. We never did.
BRENT: I knew this was coming. Please share as many details as possible about Chad’s behavior. Do not leave to discretion any private details, but please reveal it all in the most painstaking fashion so that we can all know and understand the full extent of Chad’s violent history of abuse and toxic masculinity.
MARILYN: Thank you for your support, Brent. First, let me explain the context of Chad’s sexual assault. Chad might not think he committed this act of violence against my body, but let me be completely clear: it was assault, and I realized it three months after it occurred. In fact, I realized it this morning. I know what you’re thinking: yes Chad, you think you’re innocent. But I’m going to reveal your sex crimes, which will be punished because of the trauma it caused me. Let me take you back to the night when we first attempted sex, the night you killed my dreams.
BRENT: Please, please, please don’t spare us any details! I need to know absolutely everything so that I can offer no solutions for your trauma but forever hold it in your memory so that you’ll never get over it. Specify exactly the type of sexual acts and positions you were engaged in so I can picture them with precision and replay them in my mind at a later date. Also, I’ve notified the campus sex police, also known as campus safety. Chad will be apprehended for his sex crimes immediately following this conversation and tried before a sex tribunal of his peers.
MARILYN: I’ve mostly blacked out the entire memory because it was too traumatic, but I’ll do my best to reconstruct the scene of Chad’s sex crime. We were completely sober. Let me be clear: we weren’t drunk, but I wish I was, knowing what happened next. First, we signed a legal document indicating our mutual consent. It was agreed, first in writing and then through oral and non-verbal communication that we consented, with full awareness, to do the deeds of sexual intercourse and acts of sexual intimacy. After agreeing through oral, non-verbal, and written consent, the sexual relations commenced according to our premeditated plan. We proceeded into the missionary sexual position, which Chad eagerly agreed to, as if it were something new and exciting and not a remnant of the patriarchy and the oppressive colonizers known as the European imperialists with their maintenance of empire. In any case, Chad suddenly couldn’t perform sexually. I don’t know what happened. He started shaking uncontrollably. He admitted he was ashamed of his body and afraid of me. I’ve never seen anyone act so insecure about their body in my entire life. Chad was having a total meltdown, but I refused to help him or comfort him. I just stared at him with intense dislike and hostility while he lay beside me, trembling and sobbing. At some point, Chad left my room, but I can’t give a precise timeline because I was watching a show on Netflix, probably Squid Game, and didn’t notice when he left. I do know this with complete certainty: Chad didn’t fulfill the legally binding document we both signed and agreed to orally, non-verbally, and in writing. I never had an orgasm that night. I consider this to be indisputable evidence of the most violent, excessive sexual assault known to history. I will resent Chad forever for failing to perform the first time around.
BRENT: I’m proud of you, Marilyn, for telling Chad how you really feel about his sexual inadequacy. There’s nothing more correct than your feelings. I’ve never witnessed something so empowering in my entire life. Feminists+ everywhere will hear about this and be able to draw many universal and generalizable lessons from the particularity of your experience. Many articles will be written and condemnations and indictments of Chad’s behavior will be proclaimed with the most violent and ferocious intensity.
MARILYN: Thank you, Brent, I’m glad you’re here. I feel seen and heard.
BRENT: Marilyn, I’ll be honest: you look really hot today, especially the way you put Chad in his place.
MARILYN: Thank you, Brent. I appreciate your tasteful compliment.
CHAD: Marilyn, let me add to Brent’s compliment by saying I was also attracted to you while you revealed the full extent of my sexual insecurity.
MARILYN: Shut up, Chad! I’m so tired of your insulting, degrading, harassing, objectifying male gaze! It’s exhausting.
CHAD: Marilyn, let me issue an apology on behalf of my failure to perform sexually.
MARILYN: Don’t you dare misgender me. I only recognize they/them/their pronouns. Don’t you dare use second-person pronouns.
CHAD: Marilyn, they didn’t get the best their love desired because I failed them. I should have less in common with them. I should have hated their weakness and vulnerability. I should have despised them more. I shouldn’t have seen potential in them. I should have looked at porn more and raped them when they agreed to it unconsciously. I apologize for sexually assaulting them nonconsensually by failing to perform sexually. I should care more about what people think of me and abandoned them when they got covid. I didn’t center myself enough in their relationship. I focused too much on their desires and should have focused more on myself. I showed my fragility by being too white and not seeing their skin color, also white. I can see how my complimentary words caused harm and trauma. I know that only action can restore trust. I will work to do better.
BRENT: We don’t accept your apology, isn’t that right, Marilyn?
MARILYN: I cannot legitimize this. You didn’t talk at all about what you’ll do in the future to support social justice movements that I plan to be involved in as a celebrity consultant. You didn’t mention dismantling the patriarchy or working to dismantle the patriarchy by hiring BIPOC women for leadership positions instead of white men. You didn’t talk at all about how more women coaches should have leadership positions in male-dominated professional sports. You didn’t talk at all about how women athletes are excluded from male-dominated professional sports, even though women are just as strong as men if not more so. Do better.
BRENT: You didn’t talk at all about how white men are more likely to be ableist, ageist, colonialist, imperialist, militarist, classist, transphobic, homophobic, fat-phobic, xenophobic, racist, queer-phobic, misogynist, patriarchal, white supremacist, and white nationalist more often than women. Do better Chad.
CHAD: Let me issue a revised apology in light of both of your critiques —
MARILYN: Chad, we don’t want to hear your apology. We don’t want to hear the perspective of white men anymore. Up to this point, I’ve been holding back. I’m going to dismantle the patriarchy — right now. I wish America sucked less for women. This is a male supremacy culture. Men are violent and dangerous and responsible for the state the world is in. Here’s my definition of men: “Folks who perpetuate harm.” Women have no power. Don’t say beauty: that’s a misogynist trope. Women need power to define themselves, legitimize themselves, be a law unto themselves. They need a room of their own. Their voices need to be elevated. Feminists need new modes of liberation and emancipation from the patriarchal structures of oppression. Stop essentializing women. We’re a plurality of modes! We’re never one thing or another at any given moment. I’m tired of the glass ceiling, gender pay gap, manhood, mansplaining, manspreading, and masculinity. I’m tired of navigating the hostile, sexist workforce. I’m so tired of being looked at by co-workers who identify as men — even if it’s friendly, non-threatening, non-sexual, collegial eye contact by someone who’s familiar with me and appreciates me: that’s the worst kind of all because it assumes I’m ok with it. Don’t look at me when I’m at work. Don’t make eye contact with me if you’re a man. It’s not that hard. I’m not going to apologize for being overly aggressive and berating men for showing up late or making a mistake. I’m not going to apologize for having a Type A personality, for being a leader, an over-achiever, for giving 110% every day. Women are done apologizing. We’re done explaining ourselves to men. Modern women have everything men have, only more so. I’m so tired of how women are silenced, suppressed, subjugated, disadvantaged, discriminated against, and treated as subhuman in white America. I’m sick of the erasure of women and the campus rape culture. Worst of all, I’m sick of white evangelicals and the masculine pronouns they use for god. It’s traumatic for those of us who encounter and reject men on a daily basis. When are we going to talk about the femininity of god and use feminine metaphors, like god is mother, seamstress, midwife? I’m ending the patriarchy — tonight. The matriarchy has arrived. God is a woman…and I’m that woman.
CHAD: That’s a thought…
MARILYN: Honestly, Chad, I don’t hate you anymore. Sometimes I forget that you even exist. I feel nothing for you: I’m totally indifferent. It barely registers that you’re sitting in front of me. It doesn’t matter to me whether I see you or never see you again. Emotionally speaking, it makes no difference.
BRENT: Marilyn, should we head out? The bar’s closing soon.
MARILYN: Yeah, let’s go. The sex police should be here soon. Seriously, Chad, don’t look at me or think about me. Stay away from me. I’m not kidding! You should be grateful to Brent for calling the sex police. They hunt down vicious abusers, like yourself.
CHAD: Don’t you want to hear my —
BRENT: We don’t associate with misogynists.
MARILYN: Stop being sexist, Chad. Stop blaming the victim!
BRENT: Just ignore him. These people aren’t worth engaging.
MARILYN: I should’ve seen the red flags. I blame myself.
BRENT: I blame myself for not intervening in your relationship sooner.
MARILYN: I love our new partnership.
BRENT: I love the new society we’re creating.
MARILYN and BRENT exit the common room. CHAD stares vacantly out the window and waits for the sex police to apprehend him for his sex crimes.