Domestic Extremist: A Practical Guide to Winning the Culture War
by Peachy Keenan
256 pp., $29.99
Everyone not pretending otherwise for ideological reasons knows that the late Christopher Hitchens was right about the humor gap between the sexes.
Natural selection has made it so. Being funny is a way to get others—including members of the opposite sex—to pay attention to you and, perhaps, even to find you attractive. Women do not need to do the work of coming up with humorous lines to get the interested attention of men. Typically, they just need to show up. For those of us with a Y chromosome, it is not so easy. We must work every angle.
And yet, as Hitchens explained, there are the rare funny women who, when you do find them, are “formidable beyond compare.” I part company with him on the specifics of his list (it somehow includes the painfully unfunny Ellen DeGeneres), but he is right that funny women do exist and are a force to be reckoned with. And there’s no denying Peachy Keenan is among their number.
One is tempted, in a review of a book written with such wit, just to cut and paste a collection of select quotations and call it a day. Domestic Extremist is a book we desperately need, hitting all the right keys and in the breezy, entertaining tone familiar to anyone who has read its author online.
She is very funny, I repeat, but her topic decidedly is not a laughing matter. The floor of our culture threatens to give way under the ponderous weight of the malicious conspiracy theory that all human history can be summarized as men oppressing women. Now, that conspiracy theory is giving rise to still more dangerous stupidities. These include the idea that sex and gender have nothing to do with the natural world at all but are mere tools in the hands of “cis-gender men” to keep sexual minorities in subordinate positions.
Serious topics require serious analysis. It may also be true, however, that solemn criticisms of gender/sex radicalism are less adept than efforts like Keenan’s, which hilariously mocks such foolishness. A glittering example is in her evisceration of the core falsehood of the trans movement. It is a perfectly executed passage that also happens to be sidesplittingly funny:
If you are ever unsure what gender someone is, here’s an easy way to find out: carry a jar of pickles in your purse and ask them to open it for you. That should clear up any confusion right away. Unless they are hostile and vicious, in which case—run! Although that may not work—they can run a lot faster
She is equally relentless in attacking the feminist mantra to “lean in” and aggressively pursue success in the world of work outside the home, even at the expense of commitment to familial life. If you do not already know how misguided this is, just have a conversation with a sample of middle-aged women who have lived by this philosophy. With great frequency, Keenan suggests, what you find are women who realize, too late, that they have not accurately ranked the various things one can achieve in life. Material wealth and professional status do not compensate for the lack of a family unit consisting of a loving marriage, the children it naturally produces, and a spiritual practice to prepare you for the inevitability of suffering. The growing numbers of depressed women in mid-life who gullibly accepted the anti-family hierarchy provided by feminist ideologues are now facing the predictable results.
Evidence of the emptiness of the “lean in” philosophy’s claim that women can have it all through sheer effort can be found in the life of the concept’s inventor, Sheryl Sandberg, whose book of the same title, Keenan reminds us, was written by a ghostwriter whom Sandberg refused to acknowledge with author credit. Is it a success in feminist terms that feminist women end up in the same patterns of exploitation as the patriarchs they decry? Keenan does not go there, but it is not without irony that Sandberg’s equally driven husband, David Goldberg, died as a result of falling off a treadmill. Life and death running madly on a hamster wheel: This is the world your betters want for you. “It is no coincidence,” Keenan writes, “that ‘lean in’ is what the witch tells Gretel to do in front of the hot oven.”
Facebook Chief Operating
Officer Sheryl Sandberg,
photographed in 2010
(Steve Jurvetson / via
Flickr, CC BY 2.0 DEED)
Fully “leaning in” inevitably requires downgrading the value of children. It happens that many of the leaners who are also mothers write bitterly about how much they have lost in assuming that second title, and major media institutions eagerly pay them for their pedophobic screeds. Keenan elaborates on the almost unbelievable example of Merritt Tierce, author of a 2021 New York Times essay titled “The Abortion I Didn’t Have.” To refer to one’s child as the “erasure of the future I had for myself” is already an indication of a profound moral affliction, in addition to being perhaps the most hateful thing a parent can communicate about her child. Tierce also described two subsequent abortions—which she recognizes destroyed two human beings—as positive events. They prevented her from “los[ing] more of myself” and of her life’s ambitions, which did not include being a mother.
What were these personal ambitions that Tierce believes might justify the termination of a human life? Well, she is a writer, you see. Her first published piece of fiction was a short story titled “Suck It.” You might be able to guess from the title that this is the kind of abhorrent pornographic trash that people with Ph.D.s in English and facial piercings chatter enthusiastically about at their professional gatherings. The idea that the leisure to emit vomitous bile such as this is to be preferred to the lives of human children could only be entertained by those utterly without a moral compass. Keenan’s description of Tierce’s Times piece is succinct and devastating: “If you were compiling artifacts to leave in a time capsule for future visitors to Earth to explain how we caused our own extinction, you would include her essay.”
Keenan tracks the path by which women end at such a destination. College is an important part of the trajectory. She refers to a degree in a standard American university as a four-year game of “Musical Crotches.” Here, 18-year-olds are put on birth control and thrown into a perverse world in which they are encouraged to engage in frequent sexual acts with people who have no emotional investment in their well-being. Surreally, they are told by the people in charge at these institutions that this will be wonderful for their emotional development. That so many of these young women struggle with depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem, self-harming behaviors, and suicidal ideation is perhaps evidence that subconsciously they understand what is really going on here.
When they have finished their schooling, should they somehow evade feminist groupthink long enough to give birth, they will be pulled with a gravitational force approximately equal to that of the planet Jupiter to what Keenan names the “Childcare Industrial Complex.” They are constantly reminded that their success in life, the only possibility for their escape from the murderous stranglehold of the evil patriarchy, is to turn their babies over to the “care” of paid labor who too frequently cannot be counted on to care for them in the slightest.
While writing this review, the news produced the latest version of a constantly repeated and depressing tale. At a Bronx daycare center, four children were poisoned and fell dangerously ill, and a one-year-old boy died. Police discovered that the owners of the daycare were running an illegal drug lab out of the same building and that large quantities of fentanyl were being stored in the area occupied by the children. What sane person would not share Keenan’s outrage at a culture engaged in the constant effort to convince mothers that turning their infants over to such people is the responsible and liberated thing to do?
I am hopeful, in particular, that the broken young women who walk about tattooed and pierced from head to toe, showing “all their wares, all the time” in a wordless but eloquent communication concerning how little they have come to value themselves, should hear Keenan’s message. They can still be saved. Keenan’s criticisms of the psychopathologies from which they suffer are pointed and necessary. But she also rightly recognizes they are victims of a cultural apparatus foisted on them by others who despise them. However acerbic she can be, her concern for them is tender and personal. She can speak to the seas of young women ambling about with their brains in a toxic fog of feminist anger and finding its endpoint always in self-hatred because she has been there and escaped.
In this, she has the advantage over the numerically superior male writers on the traditional right, whom the women they desire to aid can easily dismiss as patriarchs eager to consolidate their power. May this book find its way into the hands of many such struggling young women, and may it play a role in bringing them out of that noxious trap of suicidal ideology and back to vibrant health and abundant life!