If I was inclined toward victimhood rather than personal power I could have made myself suffer more than ‘The Patriarchy’
Life isn’t perfect, and neither are people. If you spend enough time in some quarters you learn the most imperfect people of all are men. White men are the worst, but really, all men are, like, phallocentric devils incarnate. Or something.
As women in a world set up by men and for men, it’s inevitable we’re going to have some run-ins. How bad it is depends not only on the intention of the actor (usually a man) but how we interpret it. For all the suffering some women complain about from bad male behavior, they sure do seem to work hard to increase their own suffering by layering on some fairly narcissist narratives.
You can blow off minor incidents and forget about them, or you can detonate nuclear blasts of oppression. Why be annoyed for only three minutes when you can engineer an eyebrow lift on the street to ruin your entire weekend?
Obviously we’re not talking about serious incidents like overt sexual assault. But, to paraphrase Matt Damon, there’s a world of difference between a rape and a butt grab. After reading so many overblown victim-centered narratives of alleged bad male behavior, I considered minor incidents that had happened to me over the years. How could I have made them worse than they actually were?
Scenario 1: John Revolta
I’m out with some gal pals at a notorious pickup bar. A man asks me to dance, mostly by gesturing. He doesn’t speak English. Suspiciously from one of those countries where access to women is far more restricted, he proceeds to pull me close on the dance floor and jam one of his thighs between mine. I keep pushing him away and shaking my head No. He keeps doing it and I eventually give up, grab my purse, and head for the ladies’ room where I take like ten minutes to fix my face and comb my hair.
The victim feminist narrative: It’s disgusting how in this day and age men STILL think we are nothing more than SPERM RECEPTACLES! That we’re good for nothing more than jacking off into, forcing us to hide from sexual aggression as women have done for thousands of years! His toxic masculine male entitlement depersonalized me as he violated my body and made me feel like nothing I’ve accomplished in my life matters, I’m nothing but a TOY!!!
What I did: “Hey, did you see that bozo I was dancing with?” I laughed. “Speaks no English, fresh off the boat and hopes to bed a Canadian slut tonight. You know how those Canadian girls are!”
“He waited for you by the bathroom for several minutes before he gave up,” one of my friends giggled.
He looked like this, too, except shorter, stouter, darker, balder, and more poorly dressed, and with less smooth dance moves. Photo by Thank You on Flickr
“What’s the first thing you do when you move to a foreign country?” I said. “Do you apply for a Social Insurance Number? A bank account? A mobile phone? Learn to speak English? Get a job? No, you try to GET LAID!!”
We proceeded to laugh at him behind his back for the rest of the evening as he struck out with every woman at the bar.
Scenario 2: I’ve fallen in love with you
Shortly after I move to Canada I meet a guy in a shopping mall. He’s cute and I’ll admit his come-on line was unusual — he did a double take and claimed I looked like his dead friend.
Okay, that’s original, at least.
Takes me to lunch, love-bombs me and tells me after two hours he’s in love with me. (I wrote the full story awhile back.)
The victim feminist narrative: He was a narcissist trying to charm and groom me for future abuse, mind games and gaslighting with early false promises of romantic love. He marginalized my need for emotional safety by flat-out lying to me to get what he wants. He had no respect for me as a person, he saw me as an object to be won by any means necessary, mostly to feed his overblown ego and excessive need for validation supply.
What I did: I told him he was full of shit and that no one falls in love in two hours. “I did,” he says. His answers are so pat. I sit back, thinking to myself, This isn’t off to a good start and I tell him honesty is very important to me and that bullshit artists get nowhere.
Scenario 3: Giving ‘puppies’ the slip
Some men just don’t know when to give up.
When I was much younger I was a belly dancer in the medieval re-creation group The Society for Creative Anachronism. I was highly flirtatious at any time but during the summer, at campout events, medievalist standards slipped and many of us wore American-style ‘cabaret’ outfits.
It wasn’t uncommon for a ‘puppy’ to attach himself and follow me around, even after I gave off signals that the conversation has moved on. Puppies were harmless, and we called them that because, like baby doggos, they nagged you for attention.
The victim feminist narrative: It is NOT acceptable to stalk a woman. It illustrates just how many entitled men delegitimize women’s agency with a pre-existing societal power paradigm that prioritizes their obsessive need for attention over a woman’s right to feel safe. They think they can use their ‘natural-born’ dominance to harass a woman until she agrees to whatever he wants. The fact that we were always in a huge crowd of people with a near-zero chance of my getting murdered DOESN’T REDUCE THE OPPRESSIVE SUBORDINATION OF THE FEMALE PERSON! This is rape culture at its most reductionist!
What I did: I learned to give them the slip at events, melting into the crowd or behind a door until they found something to distract them. We laughed about them later and giggled as we warned other women that the new guy, Sir William von Wagsalot, is a ‘puppy’.
Scenario 4: Subway Casanovas
I can’t fault a guy for trying. Sometimes I think women should have their own ‘Handkerchief Code’ similar to gay men’s. One color could mean, “I’m okay with meeting strange guys,” and another could mean, “I don’t give dates to strangers.”
I probably miss a lot because I always have my nose in a book, but a few times I’ve caught Subway Casanovas staring at me in a manner that would make some women uncomfortable. And I understand that. I don’t frighten as easily as some but I also live in a relatively safe city (Toronto) and I’ve never been seriously sexually assaulted or stalked. I’m also older and less inclined to put up with male persistence.
The victim feminist narrative: This patriarchal penis monster completely objectified me, subjecting me to his male gaze, manspreading and taking up like three subway seats to show me his big ol’ entitled phallus so that I can, I guess, hop aboard as soon as I’d like, as though I was there merely for him to fantasize about
How dare you stare at my breasts, you patriarchal
and later wank off over. He had zero respect for me as a human being, thinking he had every right to just stare at me as though I was the Mona Lisa!
What I do: Look up, meet his eyes, and dismissively return to my book.
Or, in one case, just as I was about to get off the subway some guy caught my eye and lifted his eyebrows meaningfully as if to say, I like you. I shook my head a little and got off the stop. So did he. I was alert for being followed but he didn’t. That just doesn’t happen to me. Not even when I was younger.
Except at medieval events.
Scenario 5: Drive-by compliments
So I’m in the grocery store last year and this guy walks up to me and says, “I just want to tell you you are a very beautiful woman,” and walks away.
Drive-by compliment. My friend Thom said he’s done this. He tells a strange woman she looks outstanding and then turns around and walks away, making it clear he’s not hitting on her or wants anything from her. It’s perhaps the purest compliment you can get from a man. But some women, I know, are horrendously offended to be told they look beautiful, especially if they put a consummate amount of time into looking like they just stepped off the carpet at the Golden Globes.
The victim feminist narrative: This was illocutionary silencing of my right to shop the frozen foods section without confronting the encoded male worldview that a man possesses the hegemonic right to devalue a strange woman by commenting on her appearance. Did he really think it was ‘okay’ just because he walked away? He merely refused to confront the consequences of his boorish, entitled behavior. He invalidated my life and that of every woman who ever existed to remind me that we exist inauthentically as nothing more than eye candy.
What I did: I smiled under my mask, said, “Thank you, you’re very kind,” and went back to the truly important work of my life at that moment, finding the chicken burgers.
Not everything is all about making you feel like crap because you were born with a vagina. But with a little extra effort and a lot of critical gender theory crapola, you can make every interaction with a man all about you you you and your obsessive need for a steady narcissistic supply for male oppression.
Victimhood becomes you. Because otherwise, if you can’t blame The Patriarchy for every failure in life, who can you blame?
This post first appeared on Medium in Jun 2021.