The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Feminism and the Cult of the True Self

Posted on | October 30, 2016 | Comments Off on Feminism and the Cult of the True Self

“The stigma around STDs normally makes people think of cheaters, liars, teenagers who don’t know any better, and other various ‘dirty’ things when they think of sexually transmitted diseases. But there’s a new name circulating in the news lately who’s trying to battle this stigma: Ella Dawson.”
Torii Johnson, April 30, 2015

Once upon a time, psychology was about helping people cope with the difficulties of life, to become “well-adjusted” to adulthood. Within my own lifetime — and I could cite my personal experience — practitioners of psychology sought to locate the “root cause” of behavioral problems in order to help people understand why they had the problems they had. This was the justification for what used to be called the “couch trip” of mid-20th century psychoanalysis. In his memoir New York in the Fifties, Dan Wakefield recounts how it seemed that everyone in his circle of young intellectuals was being treated by an analyst:

“Finding yourself” was the overall hope, the grand purpose of Freud’s method of treatment for the human condition, and those of us who entered it thought of the process as noble and ennobling, a search for the truth through painful dark passages of the past, a delving into the heart of the matter, whatever the psychic pain. The idea that the truth was buried, that the nub of our angst and disorientation was hidden like some precious stone in the tar pits of our earliest childhood memories, spoke to us in literature and art.

The Gospel of Sigmund, as we might call this attitude of reverence toward Freudian concepts (as popularly understood) gained a cult-like grip on the minds of bright young liberals like Wakefield. If you want to find the origins of the wild tumult that burst forth in the 1960s, a careful reading of Wakefield’s account of New York in the Fifties might help you understand this. The popularity of Freudianism among intellectuals in the 1950s could be seen as symptomatic of an existential crisis among secular liberals who, having abandoned Judeo-Christian belief as the roadmap by which to guide their lives, found themselves in need of a substitute religion. In a godless universe, people needed some sense of purpose in life, and “finding yourself” was it for the devotees of this Cult of the True Self.

This was really a celebration of narcissism. Ace of Spades summarized a typical latter-day result: I gotta be me, as the douchebag credo goes.”

Few people understood the danger of this in the 1950s, when America had just won the Second World War and was coping with the major geopolitical and military problems of the Cold War. It was not until the next decade — when a generation of youth went off to college with this goal of “finding yourself” planted firmly in their minds — that suddenly everything seemed to go haywire. “Finding yourself” for many of these people turned out to require disrespect for authority, a rebellion against law and morality, an attitude that in the 1950s had been foreshadowed by the bohemian decadence of the so-called “Beat” writers like Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burrows and Jack Kerouac. Somehow this hedonistic nihilism — the “if it feels good, do it” mentality — got mixed up in radical politics, so that New Left leaders of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) coined the motto, “Smash Monogamy,” engaging in orgies as a supposed means to revolutionary “liberation.”

All of this, as I say, originated with the psychoanalytic obsession, that “search for the truth through painful dark passages of the past” as Wakefield described it, which was how Freudianism was understood by the secular intellectuals who popularized the Cult of the True Self.

Because I was always skeptical toward Freud — all that “Oedipus complex” nonsense and so forth — I’ve sometimes found myself arguing with people who will assert that it was not Freud himself who was so wrong, but rather that his theories were misunderstood and that what flourished after his death was a corrupt forgery of actual Freudianism. This is partly true, and partly false. On the one hand, it is true the silly quest for “finding yourself” described by Wakefield was not what Freud himself sought to foist upon the world. On the other hand, you cannot deny that Freud planted the seed from which the massive tangled weed of “pop psychology” sprang up in 20th-century America. Attempting to exculpate Freud for the real-life consequences of his ideas is like claiming that Marx was not to blame for the evil deeds of Stalin and Mao.

During the Cold War, there were always socialists who, when confronted with the reality of totalitarian Communist regimes — in Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, etc. — would insist that this was not really Marxism, that somehow there could be “true socialism” without a repressive police state to enforce it. Likewise, the defenders of “true Freudianism” insist that the Viennese quack’s misguided ideas can never be blamed for what has observably gone wrong in the field of psychiatric therapy in the past century. Oh, if only people were so lenient in judging Christianity! Yet every time some televangelist gets caught fooling around, the god-haters exult that the scandal proves how wrong Christianity is, and how everyone who believes in the Bible is a fool or a hypocrite. But I digress . . .

When we strip away the mysticism of “theory” from Freud’s work, we realize that the business of rummaging around in the patient’s childhood (“painful dark passages of the past,” as Wakefield says) was intended not to discover the “true self,” but instead was meant to discover why the patient was so unhappy. What was the origin of the neurosis or whatever it was that had brought the patient to the doctor? The attempt to understand this, from a developmental perspective, was seen as the necessary precursor to helping the patient successfully adjust to his situation in life. And this focus on adjustment — that is to say, learning to “play well with others,” to find a useful place in society and be happy with one’s place — was what psychotherapy was really supposed to accomplish. There are always angry misfits and helpless bumblers in the world, and whatever diagnostic label you apply to people who can’t cope, they can learn to cope better if you can get them to consider why they’re such a messed-up bundle of craziness, and also get them to see the importance of getting their act together so that they stop ruining other people’s lives.

Prior to the 1970s, one commonly heard the term “maladjusted” used to describe the basic problem of people who couldn’t get along with others, or couldn’t successfully manage their own lives. The maladjusted person often has some unrealistic idea of how life should be — e.g., a childish fantasy of “fairness” — and this makes them unable to deal with how life really is. You can read Eric Hoffer’s classic The True Believer to see how these misfits are often drawn to political movements as a means of trying to close the gap of cognitive dissonance between reality and their own mistaken ideals. We have seen this in recent times, with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement,, “Black Lives Matter” and the “campus rape epidemic” hysteria serving as vehicles for the emotional tantrums of maladjusted misfits. People whose lives are a carnival of folly love nothing better than to assemble in mobs with other kooks and weirdos, spewing deranged rhetoric of “social justice,” seeking political power on the basis of their imaginary victimhood.

“The fact is the ‘respectable girl from a nice family in Connecticut’ ship has already sailed.”
Ella Dawson, July 2014

“Finding yourself” — the narcissistic mission of the Cult of the True Self — requires you to believe that the person you actually are is not authentic. If you’re a 24-year-old Gender Studies major with a bad attitude and a herpes infection, working in the non-profit sector, you do not want to believe that this is your True Self because, frankly, you’re a pathetic joke. It seems your destiny is to be lonely and unloved, binge-watching Netflix in a Brooklyn apartment with your cats and your Valtrex prescription. Once upon a time, you were so hopeful and full of potential, a popular student in high school, and when you look back to the once-promising person you were, it’s difficult to understand how far you’ve fallen in a few short years. Oh, but your True Self is innately wonderful, and so you must build mental barricades of rationalization around this concept, to cling to the belief that you are worthy of admiration, and that your own bad decisions were not actually wrong:

I’m bisexual, and everyone knows bisexual women are total sluts. We’re attracted to both genders: we are greedy and slutty. . . .
I am currently non-monogamous, because being able to date any gender is not enough for me. I also need to date everyone. One of these relationships is primarily sexual — we do weird s–t to each other and I call him “daddy” because in addition to being a slut, I am also a bad feminist. I often give my phone number to cute bartenders and flirt with YouTube celebrities on Twitter because not all of my needs can be met by one person, or even two people. I have a lot of needs as a twenty-first century career woman and slut. Everyone knows non-monogamous people are wild as f–k. Sexual exclusivity is so 2013. . . .
During college, I was the editor-in-chief of Wesleyan’s “art and sexuality magazine,” better known as Unlocked Mag. During my tenure, I did two semi-nude photo shoots and was Miss May in our 2014 calendar. I used the line “So how does it feel to f–k the editor of the sex magazine?” at least four times.
I wrote my senior thesis about the activist potential of feminist erotica, and I made a ton of jokes about what kind of research my thesis would require. I f–ked my college boyfriend in my thesis carrel at least once. . . .
I have herpes and thus I am a degenerate slut.

If you’re going to be a degenerate slut, I suppose, you might as well be as flagrant about it as possible, but one cannot build a society on the basis of such behavior. No responsible mother or father would ever want their daughter to become someone like Ella Dawson, nor would any mother or father want their son to date someone like Ella Dawson. She is utterly reprehensible, a toxic stain on humanity, her “feminism” more dangerous to society than her virus-infected genitalia.



No matter how a critic of the Cult of the True Self tries to call attention to the problem as manifested in the latest vogue of Third Wave feminism, he will be accused of bigotry, “sexism,” “harassment,” etc. What we recognize is that feminism has become a quasi-religious faith, in which males are demonized as the satanic forces of patriarchy. Any man who objects to feminism’s relentless anti-male hate propaganda is accused of being in league with the heteropatriarchal Devil. Advocates of immoral hedonism like Ella Dawson exploit this to their advantage, to make themselves exempt from criticism, since any disagreement with feminists is denounced as “online misogyny” — a hate crime.

What results from this Manichean dualism — feminism good, men bad — is that the current generation is coming of age in a cultural climate where young people are encouraged to disregard any adult who tries to warn them about the obvious dangers of trying to live out the “social justice” fantasies of feminist ideology. Sometimes I talk to parents whose teenage kids have been sucked into this vortex of insanity (e.g., the girl who suddenly decides she’s a boy, denounces her parents and goes off in pursuit of testosterone injections and surgical mutilation) and these parents are stunned by how suddenly their once-promising child veered off on this path to catastrophe. Likewise, I have talked to parents of boys who found themselves expelled from college because the boy’s ex-girlfriend decided, months after the couple broke up, that she had been a victim of sexual assault. Any effort to talk common sense about such issues, however, is delegitimized by accusations framed in a rhetoric of “social justice” jargon — transphobia, rape culture, slut-shaming, etc. — that serves to create the impression that common-sense criticism is motivated by hateful prejudice. If your Mom doesn’t want you to dye your hair green, if your Dad disapproves of the weirdos and losers you’re hanging around with, the teenager is told, then Mom and Dad are wrong. Parents who encourage kids to be normal are oppressors, their kids are victims, common sense is hate and — oh, by the way — vote Democrat!

One can scarcely miss the blatant partisan politics that have inspired the remarkable surge of feminist activism in recent years. Supporters of the Democrat Party have poured many millions of dollars into the tax-exempt non-profit organizations that employ young activists like Ella Dawson to promote the ideological agenda they studied in the academic indoctrination centers where they were trained. Ms. Dawson is an alumna of the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at elite Wesleyan University (annual tuition $50,612).


The title of Ms. Dawson’s senior honors thesis was “Girl Has Sex, World Doesn’t End: Reconceptualizing Feminist Erotica.” Now, I understand you’ve read 2,000 words into this blog post of mine. You’re thinking I’ve wandered off into a tangent, an irrelevant digression. Patient reader, pay close attention to the sequence of details that follows next:

  1. Seeking a text of Ms. Dawson’s honors thesis, I did a Google search and found an excerpt that you can read by clicking here. While I won’t quote some of the different things Ms. Dawson claims that society tells women about sex on her way to crediting “feminist erotica” with asking “the question feminists have been struggling with for years: is there a right kind of sex?”
  2. After reading that excerpt, I realized that I had found it on Ms. Dawson’s personal Tumblr blog, which dates back as far as 2010. You can see there, for example, all of Ms. Dawson’s blogging about Wesleyan University, and her blogging about virginity (which she lost six weeks into her freshman year at Wesleyan), and her blogging about sexuality, and her blogging about BDSM, and her blogging about STI “stigma” (i.e., the idea that herpes is bad).
  3. Researching further, I discovered that Ms. Dawson had been interviewed by a current Wesleyan University student enrolled in the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. Torii Johnson describes herself as an “intersectional feminist . . . bisexual, femme witch.”


Well, this information certainly caught my attention. Why would parents send their daughter to Wesleyan (tuition $50,612) so she can learn to be a bisexual feminist witch? Is there no cheaper way to learn witchcraft? Or is it bisexuality that requires this elite academic training?

Oh, yes — here are Torii Johnson’s bisexual feminist thoughts:

As a queer woman who had an eating disorder for years during her adolescence, even after recovering, I still had to deal with how I constantly compared myself to other women. I wonder how much the women I fall for have to work for whatever their physique is, I pay attention for signs of body issues and I try to be considerate about any food choices. And I compare. I am ashamed of it, but it’s true. Her stomach is so much flatter than mine, she doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her body, my body doesn’t fit with hers well.
Realizing I was bisexual was made more difficult by my body image issues. For a long time, I couldn’t tell the difference between being attracted to a woman and wanting to look like her. As a result, a whole portion of my sexuality was invalidated. . . .
Then, as I went into college and really fought — with myself, for myself — for recovery, the whole thing seemed ridiculous and shameful to me. I wasn’t doing anything but making it impossible for me to be problematically attracted to women and making myself feel worse. I would never want any of my friends or girlfriends to ever experience the type of judgment that I passed on myself, and I was ashamed that my judgments of myself were seeping onto the women I surrounded myself with. I have to admit that it was hard to actively fight the creeping thoughts that hung about my hips and arms and whatever else. But the relationships I’ve had with women since, whether they were just casual flings or dates or what have you, haven’t had the same poison of jealousy around that base attraction.

Am I the only one who sees how self-obsession leads these women to self-hatred? Feminists want to blame this on heteropatriarchy, but isn’t it obvious that the problem is feminism itself? By constantly telling young women that their unhappiness is a result of oppression, and that their personal problems — eating disorders, “body image issues,” etc. — are proof of their victimhood, feminists encourage these women to make their unhappiness the basis of their identity. Feminism leads teenage girls into a sort of narcissistic hall of mirrors, where everything is a reflection of themselves and their feelings of inadequacy, and this self-obsession traps them inside a world of learned helplessness. If it is true, as feminists say, that women are surrounded on every side by the oppressive menace of male violence, so that every man they meet is viewed as a hostile agent of the patriarchy, then the young feminist must believe that only her comrades in the feminist sisterhood can be trusted. As she looks around on her elite university campus, therefore, she sees only (a) dangerous male enemies, (b) feminist allies who share her paranoid delusion and, most curious of all (c) women who aren’t feminists, who go around smiling and happy, seemingly unaware of how oppressed they are.

Surely there must be at least a few of those at Wesleyan, right? I mean, with nearly 1,700 female students (53% of the total enrollment of 3,138) on campus, can it be possible that all of the girls at Wesleyan are bisexual feminist witches afflicted with body image issues? Did I mention Torii Johnson has a Tumblr blog where she posts lots of selfies?


When you’re paying $50,612 a year in tuition to get a Gender Studies degree, it’s important also to post pictures of yourself in lingerie, and pictures of your butt, and naked pictures of yourself on your Tumblr page, because this is what intersectional feminists do, right?

Feminism is a narcissistic celebration of the self. Because “the personal is political,” the feminist is encouraged to publicize her personal issues, to make herself a spectacle for the sake of the movement. Nothing can be private, because everything is political. Her contribution to the feminist cause requires her to advertise her problems to the world and, if she fails to anticipate the (entirely predictable) consequences of such self-disclosure, she does not blame herself. It cannot be her fault that other people disapprove of her behavior; no, somehow, the patriarchy is to blame. It’s not herpes that’s the problem, it’s “stigma.” And posting naughty pictures of yourself all over the Internet isn’t the problem; it’s “body shaming,” or maybe the “male gaze,” which must be blamed.


Inside the feminist echo chamber where Torii Johnson and Ella Dawson dwell, the voice of common sense is never heard. Advertising yourself as a herpes-infected “degenerate slut”? Brilliant idea, say the feminists.

Ella Dawson must constantly talk, talk, talk about sex, sex, sex:

I’ve identified as bisexual on Twitter and on this blog but it’s not something I’m confident in, nor is it something I talk about much. I have difficulty writing about it even now. Being bisexual is nothing to be ashamed of, but my own confusion and feelings of inadequacy make it a topic I shy away from. For years I’ve felt not queer enough to claim the label of “bi” because to do so felt like appropriating an identity I had no right to. I love men so much, I love f–king them, I love dating them, I love writing about them, I love tweeting about them. My attraction to men is so public, but beyond that, it’s so easy for me to understand. I was raised to see men as romantic partners, and every single day I’ve spent on this Earth has given me more language to process and communicate being heterosexual. Identifying as straight is easy, especially when older generations don’t even necessarily believe bisexuality is real. Being straight is the path of least resistance. I knew I liked women in high school, but after a deeply uncomfortable attempt to talk about it with loved ones, that bold little queer teen in me wilted and went quiet for a long time.

Oh, see? The problem is “older generations.” Also, her “feelings of inadequacy” keep Ella from feeling “queer enough” as a bisexual.

We return, then, to “finding yourself,” that “noble and ennobling” quest that had Dan Wakefield and his friends pouring out the secrets of their souls on the Freudian analyst’s couch back in the 1950s. The young intellectuals thought of themselves as explorers on “a search for the truth through painful dark passages of the past,” as if “finding yourself” actually mattered. Honestly, who cares about your True Self except you? And if somebody else did care about your True Self, what benefit would you derive from their caring? The logic of the mid-20th-century “couch trip” was never really apparent. If it served any purpose other than enriching psychiatrists, this is a purpose no one has ever convincingly explained.

The existential crisis of the secular mind — the search for life’s meaning and purpose in a godless universe — eventually led many of these searchers for truth to Buddhism or other Eastern religions. They were confused about many things, but the one thing of which they were absolutely certain was that the God of the Bible could not be real. Christianity cannot be true, according to the intellectual elite, because if Christianity were true this might mean that a high-school dropout in the pews of a holy-roller church in East Tennessee could be morally equal, or perhaps even superior, to a college-educated intellectual.

THIS CANNOT BE TRUE, according to the intellectual elite, who think themselves entitled to tell the rest of us how to live.

Well, how do the intellectual elite live? What are their credentials to exercise the authority of a secular priesthood? What qualifies them as experts to whom we should turn for guidance? Like the rest of this latter-day priestly caste, Ella Dawson has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, and received a letter from her favorite candidate:

Dear Ella:
Thank you for the brave and insightful piece you published on Medium this week. I am so grateful to you for not only speaking out against the stigma surrounding sexually transmitted infections, but for also taking a courageous stand against the ridiculous, but very real, barrage of hate you received online.
The erosion of civil public discourse is one of the most concerning developments in our society today. As you point out, the internet is not a friendly place for women, and you are not alone in facing the relentless onslaught of baseless, personal attacks. . . .

Yeah, “civil public discourse” — that’s what Ella Dawson is famous for.



Question: In what sense is Ella Dawson’s public discourse “civil”?

What is “brave and insightful” about her career of celebrating moral corruption, making her name a synonym for an incurable sexual disease? How low have we fallen as a society, that a leading candidate for the presidency of the United States would heap praise on Ella Dawson?

“I’m disgusting. Maybe they were all right about me. Maybe I am a big old whore.”
Ella Dawson

How strange are the ways of the Cult of the True Self.



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