The prisons we chose to live inside are based on fantasies we promote even when they hurt us

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.


The main thing that changed between 2004 and 2019 is that a lot of hidden pain became unignorable.

In What Do We Need Men For?, Carroll writes that since her encounter with Trump in 1995 or 1996, “I’ve never had sex with anybody ever again.” Mr. Right, Right Now came out in 2004, nearly a decade later.

Read in this light, Mr. Right, Right Now is not only exhausting, it is heartbreaking. All this effort, all this labor, all this single-minded focus on landing a man, and for what? What even is the point of it all?

But it’s not until What Do We Need Men For? that Carroll articulates that question out loud. And what happened in between wasn’t that she discovered new wells of pain or anguish that she hadn’t known about before, pain that made men seem optional rather than obligatory. Carroll’s Hideous Men entered the picture early and stuck around for a long time. She knew all about them and the pain they could cause when she wrote Mr. Right, Right Now.

What changed was that the #MeToo movement declared that women did not have to ignore the pain that they had experienced. They could talk about it, they could commiserate over it, they could decide that it mattered to them and did not have to be shoved to the side as unimportant. Pain does not have to be ignored because obligation to catch a man overrules everything else.

Instead, Carroll seems to have included, a woman can decide that she doesn’t need a man in her life at all. She can get by just fine with a Maine coon cat.

We should ask, why again? We went through all of this back in the 1960s and 1970s: the discovery of the pain, the rage that followed. We then had 30 years of determined amnesia: from the 1980s to maybe 2010 that original wave of discovery was erased. It’s like we are waking up and discovering something for the first time, but using all the same words that we used the last time we went through this.

The amnesia seems to be a natural part of reactionary eras. It’s not enough to disagree with progressive movements, but rather, they need to be erased from memory. I recall reading Tom Hayden’s memoir, and when he was 22 he was embarrassed and nervous to use the word “capitalism” because he and his peers associated it with struggles that had happened back in the 1930s and 1940s, his parent’s generation, he felt it was an obsolete word that didn’t belong in the 1960s. All the old struggles needed to be remembered and revived, after the brutal years of McCarthyism and the Red Scare and the blacklists and HUAC. Likewise, in the rebellion of the 1670s, when the English peasants rose up again, there were a few who tried to remind them that 30 years earlier, in the 1640s and 1650s, radical groups such as the Diggers and the Levellers had overthrown the government and executed the King. Yet by the 1670s, the memory of the Diggers and the Levellers had been almost completely erased.

Truly, as Milan Kundera said, the struggle against totalitarianism is the struggle to remember.

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