Culture Wars/Current Controversies

What Neither Side Gets Right About Jordan Neely’s Death

Many of the people who argued vehemently against giving men the benefit of the doubt during MeToo now expect women to shrug off menacing men on the subway.

ByKat Rosenfield May 16, 2023

On May 1, Jordan Neely, a mentally ill homeless man, was choked to death by subway rider and former Marine Daniel Penny. It is a tragic and controversial case that has divided the country. Many on the left are calling for Penny to be charged with murder after he put Neely into a fatal chokehold for behaving in a threatening, and possibly dangerous, manner. On the right, many are hailing Penny, who was charged with manslaughter on Friday, as a hero for protecting his fellow passengers at a time when crime in the city is on the rise. 

Kat Rosenfield, meanwhile, has written a brilliant piece for UnHerd that explores our collective hypocrisy over different types of crime, particularly in our post-MeToo era. Why, she asks, should women accept serious violence on the subway, or even the threat of it, and at the same time be expected to hold a policy of zero tolerance toward any kind of sexual harassment? As she writes: “If you argue that a woman can be traumatized by bawdy humor in the office or awkward come-ons in a bar, surely you would agree that she’s entitled to be fearful when trapped underground on a metal tube with an erratically behaving stranger twice her size.”

She raises many important points in her piece, which we are reprinting below. —BW

During the peak of the #MeToo movement, the conversation about sexual harassment came down to two related but ultimately separate questions. On the one hand, there was the question of what men shouldn’t do; on the other, there was the question of what women could be expected to tolerate.

This was where some women, usually but not always older, rolled their eyes. Did an awkward joke, a bad date, or—as one memorable entry in the infamous Shitty Media Men list alleged—a “weird lunch” really constitute a form of harassment, let alone a cancellable offense? But other women, usually but not always younger, clucked their tongues: it was only because women kept putting up with such behavior that men kept thinking they could get away with it.

At the time, the younger cohort appeared to the older like a bunch of hypersensitive harpies, retreating to the fainting couch at the slightest whiff of insult. The older, according to the younger, were cozying up to the patriarchy, in a desperate attempt to stave off their own irrelevance.

“We’re tough enough to take it,” said the Olds.

“It’s sad you think you have to,” said the Youths.’


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