Why do personally strong women refuse to challenge the outdated feminist narratives in their head?
I’ve always been disappointed when personally strong female friends, who would never take crap from a man, much less outright abuse, passively enable continued female victimhood with their outdated, unchallenged views.
This ain’t the ’80s anymore.
Second wave feminism was barely old enough to get into bars when I became a young adult and could only legally drink super-light beer. In university, I took part in my first and only feminist protest march for Take Back The Night.
Violence against women was greater, part of a crime spike that began in the 1960s and didn’t abate until the ’90s. Rapes and sexual assaults were far higher, and women weren’t much believed by the courts. The victim received the blame. Nobody talked about male privilege. It was much harder for women to get better-paying jobs, and fewer graduated from college or university than they do today. We had little political representation in Washington. In short, the same problems we have today except — back then, with far less economic, educational, and political power.
Not all women yet understand we’ve made a lot of progress in the last 35–40 years. Some still point the finger at men, which they should do, but only if they point their other finger at themselves, which they rarely do.
Disappointing women are the ones I know to be strong and personally powerful, but don’t seem to have challenged the narratives in their head as dated as the coifs from bad ’80s hair bands.
Anyone who thinks dinosaurs and humans haven’t lived together isn’t alive in the 21st century.
Lead singer of the ’80s band Def Lizard. Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash Most recently, a friend and former roommate in the year or so after I graduated university accused me of ‘blaming the victim’. I forget why, but it was probably one of my Facebook feminism critiques observing how much women allow mistreatment of themselves.
She was quite liberal back when we lived together, and still ‘progressive’ (the newer word) today. I think I’d upset her suggesting, as I often do, that women now have more control over how they’ll be treated by men than we acknowledge.
I’d expect her reaction from a garden-variety younger feminist, the kind steeped in victimhood mentality, but I knew this gal to be strong and powerful even when she was twenty. She’d dated a friend of ours who was famously controlling and ‘patriarchal’ (a word we never used back then) and she never took any of his shit. He had to accept her as a full equal. There are many other examples I can think of where she exhibited the kind of take-no-shit attitude you found among many feminists back then, before they neutered themselves in the ‘90s.
I responded, as I always do to her cliche, “Why are some women BEING the victim?” It dismays me to think that in the 35 or so years since we’d lived together, her feminism was as calcified as the outdated views of the Trumpies who are still fighting their feminism Waterloo.
She hasn’t challenged her Inner Dinosaur. She hasn’t acknowledged how too many women are aiding and enabling female victimhood by ignoring what women do to put and keep themselves in danger.
She’s never, to my knowledge, been abused by a partner and neither have I. She’s still on her first husband, thirty-plus years and counting. Any man who tried to bitch-slap either of us in the ’80s would have found himself hanging by a tree from his testicles tied around a low-hanging branch.
I want other women to be as intolerant of abuse as we were and still are. I just wish my friend would embrace it for all women.
Other friends I’d considered strong women got mad when I took a more balanced view of Toronto’s Jian Ghomeshi trial a few years back. The scandal that erupted in 2014 and culminated in a ‘sexual assault’ trial in 2015 was a personal watershed moment, when I realized just how weakened modern feminism had become.
Ghomeshi was accused by a few women, 10+ years after the fact, of ‘sexually assaulting’ them even though by my own admittedly American standards it was physical rather than sexual. Not only was it weird to see face-slapping and neck-throttling defined as ‘sexual’ under the flimsiest of pretexts, but the trial turned into a giant feminist embarrassment as emails dug up by Ghomeshi’s attorney demonstrated the women weren’t nearly as traumatized as they’d claimed.
Victim feminists twisted themselves into knots to avoid admitting these starstruck groupies deliberately put themselves back in danger trying to get into Ghomeshi’s pants after each initial physical assault.
Then the case really fell apart when the court discovered private collusion between the witnesses. Ghomeshi was acquitted. Victim feminists threw tantrums about how women are ‘never’ believed, a gross exaggeration in a case where pretty much everyone believed the women, only the hardest-core anti-feminists supported Ghomeshi, and even the judge said he thought he was guilty but there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him.
I was as disgusted by my so-called ‘feminist’ friends whining about victimization when Ghomeshi’s dizzy bimboes were anything but.
My friends’ Inner Dinosaurs ran rogue, unconsciously denying other women the agency that they themselves owned.
I expect squishy reactions from the perma-victim set but I expect better from those who know their boundaries and have never, ever, let a man assault them. For whom a ‘date’ with Jian Ghomeshi would have ended right after the first slap-’n’-throttle incident.
They’d have never emailed him ‘I love your hands’, or photos of the emailer wearing a bikini, or given him a hand job in a park later.
Worst of all: “You kicked my ass last night and that makes me want to fuck your brains out.”
Sure makes it sounds like she ‘enjoyed’ the abuse, huh?
That’s what feminists with calcified thinking won’t question, even as they would never tolerate such treatment of themselves.
Instead, they ignore female ‘agency’ and refuse to ask women to be as accountable for themselves as they do of men.
My mother taught me well: “The first time a man hits you should be his last. No second chances. He’ll do it again if you let him.”
They went back for more. But he had sex with none of them.
One wonders what might have happened if he had.
We should want for others what we claim for ourselves.
We should also be willing to revisit what we believe in periodically and see if it still remains valid today.
Back when my friend and I were twenty, ‘Don’t blame the victim,’ was pretty relevant.
Women simply had less power back then and they weren’t supported if they claimed a rape. #MeToo has changed all that. The court of ‘justice’ may still not believe an assault victim but there’s much power and support to be found on social media.
Today, women have far more power to Just Say No than we had. At least those of us who’d defined our boundaries. I don’t fault young women who don’t. They’re young and inexperienced. Not everyone had my mother growing up.
So reciting the venerable mantra, ‘Don’t blame the victim,’ is getting a little tattered around the edges.
I think of this as I better understand the dynamics of abuse for both the abuser and the victim as I finish up the book Why Does He Do That? Inside the Mind of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. It was recommended to me by a fellow Medium writer. It’s an amazing book.
He only touches upon the mistakes women make, how they keep believing the abuser’s lies and keep hoping the ‘good periods’ will eventually take over and eliminate the ‘bad periods’, and how they don’t listen to their friends and family who try to warn them this guy’s bad news.
I wish he’d have acknowledged the bad decisions women make in this regard, but the book is eighteen years old so he’s a product of his time. I don’t know if he’s revised his views since then. Maybe it’s difficult, when you work so closely with abusers.
An unwavering commitment to ‘don’t blame the victim,’ is an example of calcified feminist thinking.
Asking why a particular woman did this or that or made this or that decision is more of a ‘post-mortem’, I believe, like the corporate world engages in after a completed project. You figure out what went right, what went wrong, and resolve to the right things again and to not repeat the wrong things.
I can’t swear I’m not calcified in some of my thinking either, but I make an honest effort not to be. It’s why I’ve moved more toward the ‘Murky Middle’ politically, and try to see more sides than the blinkered view of my own ideological persuasions (still left, but closer to the center than before).
I have never been abused or seriously sexually assaulted, partly due to occasionally doing dumb shit and being fortunate nothing bad happened, but more often because of the decisions I’ve made, most of all in who I allow into my environment, social circles and dating realm.
Controllers and potential abusers get the boot pretty quickly. I make conscious decisions.
I want that for other women. I especially want to get the word out to young girls and young women who aren’t as experienced. I want them to understand that they have more control over their lives than they know, and I want to empower them to make the right decisions.
I seek my tribe of women, men and anyone else who feel empowered and want others to be as well. Who aren’t calcified in their thinking, ‘dinosaur’ lefties who haven’t had an original thought since Reagan talked about a ‘nuclear umbrella’.
They’re no more able to think critically than the Trumpies who operate from their own increasingly-shrinking political bubble.
The world evolves, and our thinking should too. Some values and beliefs never change — like that people of color are as entitled to the same rights and treatment as white people in America — and other values and beliefs may not be as applicable anymore.
It ain’t the ’80s anymore. It also ain’t the ’60s, ’70s, ’90s or the ‘oughts’. As we head into Decade Three of the 21st century, we need to remember that one day it ‘won’t be the ‘Teens or the Twenties’ anymore.
Whatever you believe today…..may not work as well tomorrow.
This post originally appeared on Medium in September 2020.