Until last week, I had never seen “manworld” used as a feminist pejorative. Then I read Petula Dvorak’s May 26th column in the Washington Post, which holds “manworld” collectively responsible for, among other things, the recent terrorist attack in Manchester, England.


Here’s how the column begins:

What’s that you’re saying, manworld?

You don’t want women in combat? You don’t want high school seniors with perfect grades to march across the graduation stage because they’re pregnant or bared their shoulders? You don’t want thousands of tweens and teens dancing in an estrogen haze of girlpower at an Ariana Grande concert?

Manworld tried extra hard to tell women “no” this week.

I had to re-read that a few times, just to make sure I hadn’t missed something.

It’s rare for a 587-word article to encapsulate so much of what’s wrong with contemporary Western feminism; in that sense, Dvorak deserves some type of award.

Leave aside, for the moment, her evasive and repugnant comments on the jihadist bombing in Manchester, and consider the other items in her brief against “manworld.” Dvorak is upset that some people still aren’t comfortable with the idea of having women serve in combat. Yet many of the critics of women in combat are . . . women. After all, one need not be a sexist or a misogynist to fear that placing women on the front lines of battle will jeopardize the cohesion and strength of U.S. military units.

As journalist Amy Otto has written: “The military isn’t a place where career advancement should trump unit lethality and peak capacity to clear our wounded during battle in order to save more lives. It would be morally wrong to put female ambition and feminist caterwauling before troop safety and effectiveness.”

Indeed it would be. Unfortunately, many feminists seem to believe that a woman’s “right” to serve in combat overrides such practical concerns.

Back to Dvorak’s list: She refers to a small Christian high school in western Maryland—Heritage Academy—that has barred a senior named Maddi Runkles from walking at graduation because she is pregnant. Dvorak points out that Runkles has a 4.0 GPA and has been president of the student council. That’s impressive, but also beside the point. As Heritage Academy Principal Dave Hobbs has emphasized, the school made its decision based on a code of conduct that every student is expected to uphold. One may consider the decision shameful, hypocritical, or stupid—but whatever it is, it’s not sexist.

“The father of the child is not a student at Heritage,” reports C. J. Lovelace of Herald-Mail Media, “but Hobbs said any male student found to have violated the school’s code prohibiting premarital sex would have been subjected to the same investigation involving the parents and school officials.”

Dvorak mentions another high-school-graduation controversy, this one in a suburb of Charlotte. Like Maddi Runkles, Summer Bond is a top student who has been prohibited by her school from participating in this year’s commencement exercises. The reason? Bond wore a shirt that violated the Hickory Ridge High School dress code, and then refused to comply with the principal’s demand that she change her clothing in the school control room. According to a report by Tanya Mendis of Charlotte’s WCNC, Bond felt she had settled the matter by putting on a jacket in the cafeteria, but the principal insisted she go to the control room.

Mendis also reports that Bond and the principal—who is a woman—“have had a number of issues during her four years at the school. The tension has gotten so bad that her mother says she recently instructed the school administrators to call her before taking any sort disciplinary action against Summer.” During the dress-code incident, Bond finally went to the control room after speaking to her mom. She then received a ten-day suspension with instructions not to attend graduation.

Her punishment may well have been excessive. But what does it have to do with feminism or “manworld?” Dress codes apply to male and female students alike. While the (female) principal may have acted inappropriately and unfairly in this case—it’s impossible to say for sure without knowing more of the details—there is nothing that suggests Bond received harsher treatment because of her sex.

This gets to the larger problem with Dvorak’s column: She conflates a series of unrelated stories—in some cases, radically different stories—into a crude narrative of discrimination. Her resulting argument is not only logically absurd but also morally outrageous. Indeed, it takes a truly blinkered mind to conflate a questionable school suspension with a vicious nail-bomb attack that ripped apart children’s bodies. Yet to Dvorak, both are examples of “manworld [trying] extra hard to tell women ‘no.’”

While Dvorak does not use the word “Islam” in connection with the Manchester attack, she does praise Deering High School in Portland, Maine, for becoming “the country’s first school to buy athletic hijabs for all sports.” Apparently she views the headscarf as a symbol of female empowerment. A great many Muslim women believe it’s the exact opposite.

Back in December 2015, two of those women—journalists Asra Q. Nomani and Hala Arafa—published an article in Dvorak’s own newspaper explaining that, contrary to what the Islamists would have us think, a diverse range of theologians “have clearly established that Muslim women are not required to cover their hair.” Nomani and Arafa noted that Muslim women did not feel widespread pressure to wear the hijab until after the 1979 Iranian revolution, which dramatically accelerated the growth of both Shiite and Sunni radicalism.

Speaking directly to American women, Nomani and Arafa made a passionate plea: “Do not wear a headscarf in ‘solidarity’ with the ideology that most silences us, equating our bodies with ‘honor.’ Stand with us instead with moral courage against the ideology of Islamism that demands we cover our hair.”

In a more recent piece, they argued that Western women who don the headscarf as a misguided show of “solidarity” thereby place themselves “on the wrong side of a lethal war of ideas that sexually objectifies women as vessels for honor and temptation, absolving men of personal responsibility. This purity culture covers, segregates, subordinates, silences, jails and kills women and girls around the world.”

In other words, it’s a culture that feminists should oppose with every fiber of their being. Alas, far too many have embraced the worldview of Petula Dvorak—a worldview that increasingly lacks any real sense of history, proportion, or perspective.