Updated: Jan 9
It's time to confront victim feminism's self-imposed disempowerment. Who's truly holding us back?
Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash
The persistent image of 'man-hating' has dogged feminism since, like, forever. It perpetually irritates some not because it's inaccurate, but because it isn't. More than ever.
Power vs. victim feminism
Naomi Wolf described two types of feminism she encountered in her 1994 book Fire with Fire: New Female Power and How It Will Change the Twenty-First Century. At the same time, feminist gadfly Christina Hoff Sommers detailed the same in her book Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women. They assigned different labels to the same descriptions:
Feminists identifying with powerlessness and a fairly traditional image of women as weak, helpless, and in constant need of protection by, ironically, a largely male, 'patriarchal' state. Wolf called this group victim feminists; Sommers called them gender feminists.
Feminists identifying with personal power and agency, who seek genuine equal rights for men and women, and who advocate women use their financial, economic and political power to achieve change for the greater good. Wolf calls them power feminists; Sommers calls them equity feminists.
The misandrists populate mostly the victim feminist camp, although it's inaccurate to paint all victim feminists as man-haters. Having come of age myself in the early 1980s, when Second Wave feminism was in full flower, I became disenchanted years later after a growing internal reactionary mindset infantilized women, and with blinding lack of self-awareness, blamed only men for women's inequity.
The problem, as I saw it, was that genuinely patriarchal institutions had clearly weakened since our great-grandmothers had fought for voting rights (the First Wave). Victim feminists seemed unwilling to acknowledge progress accomplished, which Wolf described at length in her book.
Today, cognitive scientist and popular author Steven Pinker describes what he calls 'progressophobia' on the left--the fear of acknowledging the clear historical evidence for progress.
I didn't appreciate feminism's growing misandrist mindset treating women as chronic perma-victims. It didn't jive with my own and other women's experiences that we held ourselves back as much as any systemic -ism did.
I sure as hell couldn't 'identify'.
As we march into the 21st century it's obvious we ARE making rather a lot of progress, and it's time to acknowledge what power feminists have recognized all along.
Victims are weak, not empowered
It's hard even for us power feminists not to fear our own power, let alone embrace it. Women have only begun to flex their muscles for a little over a century, after thousands of years of genuine patriarchy. Evolution takes time.
I wrote recently about my admiration for U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who has never shirked from power and embodies the best qualities of strategic power--all aligned toward getting things done. What especially impressed me about Pelosi is how she boldly stated during her second run at the House leadership, "I'm the best qualified for the job."
Men do that, not women. Why don't we?
"That glass ceiling doesn't look so thick...." Public domain photo by scottwebb on Pixabay
Nancy Pelosi does not fear men.
One can offer the usual justifications for holding ourselves back--"When women are assertive we get called bitches!" "Who am I to say I'm the best-qualified?"--but maybe it explains why we don't get promoted as much. Leaders, well--lead.
What men do right is they don't wait for anyone to hand them the power. They pursue it, and they don't care what you call them.
Sometimes they take it too far, like trying to overthrow a government over an election they lost fair 'n' square, but you have to hand it to their leader for this: He won the first election fair 'n' square because he oozed confidence, however ill-fitting, and declared he was the best candidate.
His opponent may arguably have never had a genuine chance at real power, but she was the first shot over the bow signaling women's time to lead the government is here. Now a woman is one heart attack away from the U.S. presidency, and in fact she was President for about an hour in November when the elected one underwent a minor surgical procedure.
After the 2018 elections, over 100 women now warm Congressional seats and terrorize their toxic opposition on Twitter.
It fetishizes weakness to blame 'The Patriarchy' as though it's some monolithic Illuminati. The world, and even North America, still retains many elements of patriarchy, but here at least, it's more like your wheezing elderly relation than, say, frat boy Tucker Carlson.
It gives too much power to men and denies our own personal agency. With power comes responsibility, and too many feminists pay lip service to agency while remaining deeply conflicted about it.