Updated: Apr 24
"Why doesn't she leave him?" and "Why does she tolerate such behavior?" are no longer off the table.
Image by Chloe Lemieux from Pixabay
Call it ‘The Matriarchy of Silence’. A self-imposed hush-don't-speak by women, for women, to protect women from taking charge of their lives. A 1960s Women's Liberation 2.0 beginning with vigorous protest marches and demands for equal pay, government-subsidized childcare and education equality turned passive somewhere in the '90s and led to the rise of what Naomi Wolf called 'victim' feminism, in which some feminists identified with weakness and powerlessness while paying lip service to strength and personal power.
Next year marks the 60th anniversary of the first shot across the bow of Second Wave Feminism: The publication of The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan's seminal cri du coeur of American housewives, mothers, and others enmeshed in traditional, 'patriarchal' social institutions.
The book that shook the world might never have been written had her original article on the unhappiness of her former female college friends been accepted by a magazine. But none would publish it.
Friedan named the ennui and persistent dissatisfaction experienced by American women who were supposed to be happy after having achieved almost every American woman's dream: A husband, a house in the suburbs, children, labor-saving appliances, and time to kaffeeklatsch with the neighbors.
Followed by Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch and other 2.0 soon-to-be-feminist classics, together they launched a new wave of feminism pioneered by First Wave voting rights.
Where are women sixty years later? Are we more empowered, more equal, more autonomous, more independent?
Yes and no. To cadge and bastardize a phrase from George Orwell, "Some women are more equal than others."
At least among the privileged, i.e., those who aren't scraping and scrapping for daily survival. For those privileged enough not to subsist in poverty, one finds less equality, lack of autonomy and disempowerment is largely a choice.
It's time to ask some hard feminist questions.
"Why didn't she report him?"
As we toddle into the Twenties, held back like babies in harnesses by an ever-evolving virus, women still have much to celebrate. We're getting educated at record levels, and have surpassed men in attaining college degrees (as troubling a prospect as the lopsided reverse ratio was fifty years ago).
We're earning more money, we've got much more visibility and representation in politics just in the last five years, and men like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby have been put on official notice: We're not taking your shit anymore!
A woman is one heart attack away from the U.S. presidency today.
You'd think we have much to celebrate, so why do many feminists sound like old-school man-haters and persistently whine about how hard it is to be a woman in a man's world?
We rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic complaining of 'microaggressions' while rape convictions remain appallingly low because A) Many women never report and B) Even when they do, the accused often meets with more judicial sympathy than the victim.
We'd rather ignore how even rapists brought to trial, whether acquitted or given a light sentence, are still punished with a lot of psychological stress and bone-shaking fear about what prison might be like for a pretty young thing like himself.
Rapes change the life of a victim, but also a rapist's - if he's put on trial. It may not happen even if he's reported, but it never happens when he's not.
An unreported rape is a tacit admission by the woman that it's okay for him to rape again.
Hard to acknowledge but true. No one wants to push a traumatized woman to report, and no one should be forced, but she needs to understand she's giving him a stay-out-of-jail-free card.
Victim feminists respond, "It's not our job to stop rape; it's men's job to stop raping."
Yeah, good luck with that. Okay, back to the real world.
One hundred percent of unreported rapes result in zero convictions.
Rapists aren't going to turn themselves in to the police. So who will?
Wouldn't increased reporting instigate more real-world consequences for rapists and reduce violence against women than 'telling your [anonymous] truth on Twitter or Reddit?
Discuss. Debate. Explain.
"Why don't you leave him?”
Yeah, let's get that holy mantra out of the way.
This is a question feminists need to ask her before she's wasted and broken and curled up in a fetal position at the bottom of the stairs.
Legions of reasons abound as to why women get into, and don't leave abusive relationships, and feminists respond with their knee-jerk, "Not all women can leave!"
True. But they forget not all women can't.
Not all women are financially dependent on men. Not all women are broken yet. Not all women are afraid for their lives if they leave. Not all women have children to think of. Some women even realize having a baby with a violent husband is a really bad idea.
We need to stop tolerating abusive relationships. We need to challenge our friends and family members when they complain about bad relationships or marriages and make sure they understand that right now, to stay is a choice.
They need to understand every time he hits her and she lets him get away with it, it's tacit permission to do it again, which he will prove despite his initial protestations that it won't.
Hit me once, shame on you. Hit me twice...
'Don't blame the victim?' How many times does she have to get hit before she realizes on her own he's not going to change? Maybe she doesn't know. Maybe she was raised in an abusive household. Maybe she thinks it's okay because she's watched too much porn. The understandable reasons why she lets him do it over and over again don't matter. Someone needs to tell her this is not acceptable behavior in a man. Otherwise, she may never learn.
The hard reality about abuse victim feminists still can't acknowledge is women voluntarily enter relationships (even if they may not realize they'll eventually turn abusive), and they can voluntarily leave. The sooner the better. The best time to leave is before she has sex with him, because once a violent, misogynist man is intimate with you, something clicks inside him and he thinks he owns you.
You are his. Your body is his. And he can do with it whatever he damn well feels like, and defend his property from any male encroachment he perceives, justified or not. Men famously 'blame the property' for their own insecurity.
She has to recognize the warning signs, and get out even if she's strongly attracted to him. We need to challenge 'Don't blame the victim!' more and ask earlier and more forcefully, "Why don't you leave him?" Along with, "Are you thinking with your vagina?"
"Why do you let him treat you that way?"
This is an adjunct to 'Why doesn't she leave him?' but refers to any man anywhere, outside the realm of rape/sexual abuse.
Second Wave feminism taught women to fight back, to behave in a manner to suggest sexual harassment might not be in the man's best interest.
We were taught to walk with purpose, as though we know where we're going. As though we own ourselves and the world. We were told to be on the lookout and keep a car key, small can of pepper spray, or other weapon in one hand in case someone decided to get cute.
It's not, as victim feminists would have us believe, demanding nothing of men.
Men are still beholden unto the law, but they may ignore it, especially since they know you'll probably let him get away with it, unreported.
The world isn't appreciably different for men either, because men stalk, harass, injure, and kill other men more than they do women.
Small, vulnerable men know this and employ many of the same tactics Feminism 2.0 instructed women.
Victim feminists argue it shouldn't be women's responsibility to protect themselves and they're right; however, many of us more vigilant, empowered feminists have gone through life unraped.
What 'shouldn't be' is a philosophy; it's useless in an unjust, violent world we all have to survive in.
Victim feminists pay lip service to empowerment but quail like frightened kittens before it. They don't develop their own sense of power and they don't want other women to, either. It validates their worldview when others share their chronic sense of fear. Those who take back their own power and don't let men treat them badly are unpleasant reminders that it doesn't have to be this way.
It can be scary to deal with sexual harassment and sometimes it can turn out badly for us if we do. We have to pick our battles. When we don't, when we let men get away with it, when we freeze rather than react, it reinforces his actions lack consequences. When we whip around to confront the hand on our ass and yell, "Don't you touch me!" we challenge him, we potentially embarrass him, especially if other women turn and back her up.
It works for our cousins the bonobos. They're our common primate ancestor who, unlike chimpanzees and humans, evolved without patriarchy.
A world of men facing bonobo-style consequences as envisioned by Pat Benatar (at 3:00)
Yes, sometimes women get murdered for their resistance. What you never read about is the millions of un-newsworthy women every day who challenge sexual predators and simple jerks--who don't get hurt or die.
Here's an example from about a hundred years ago: My great-grandmother once jammed a hatpin into the hand of a stranger who dared to put it on her thigh in a movie theatre.
He counted on her freeze response, her tacit 'consent' merely out of fear.
Great-Grandma was quite the little hotcha-hotcha who knew how to handle a masher at the movies. She once humiliated another by saying loudly, "Sir, would you please remove your hand from my leg?" Shamed, he got up and hustled away.
Guess what, her last tactic worked for her great-granddaughter sixty years later. The same thing happened to me in a whisper-silent public library. The guy stuck around for a few minutes to save face and then departed, but he didn't touch me again.
I didn't get murdered. Neither did Great Grandma, and challenging The Patriarchy was much more perilous in the early decades of the twentieth century.
Time to woman up, girls!
Female fear serves The Patriarchy quite nicely, thankyouverymuch. Men have historically controlled women through fear of violence and murder. I don't suggest one should blithely walk around challenging every Patriarch who dares to treat her poorly.
But now we're in a position to control men more through fear--of consequences. Thank you, #MeToo! But first we must decide we're going to do it. Until then, we let them control us. And get away with it.
A victimhood mentality teaching women not to stand up for themselves, or to resent having to do so, encourages misogyny and enables sexual predation.
Victimhood mentality starts early with young girls who learn boys are stronger, meaner, and hate us for no good reason we can see. Parents don't crush budding misogyny like bugs in their baby boys, teachers don't stop sexual harassment nearly as much as they might, and small boys learn they're entitled to victimize girls.
It's up to us to teach them that shit don't fly no more.
The problem isn't just men, but also mental perma-victims who fear their own power and choose to live with the fear rather than challenge it. They don't look beyond the outlier news stories of women killed by men and consider most of those happen to women who stay in abusive relationships. They don't listen to the stories of women who proudly boast to their friends how they stood up for themselves against a man and, clearly, didn't get abused or murdered. It's up to us, not men, to determine how much longer this remains a man's world.
Challenging feminists who subconsciously identify with powerlessness can be as daunting as challenging men. While women won't likely physically threaten, dox, or kill us they can still destroy us. Women are masters at shaming, blaming, cutting each other off from others and friendships and now, destroying each other on social media for having the 'wrong opinions' (i.e., challenging their outdated mental narratives). Women afraid of female power are as numerous on the left as the right and they're every bit as effective at destroying challenges to The Matriarchy of Silence.
Nevertheless, those of us who believe in women and are unafraid of female power must challenge them more. They need pushback and challenge from other women to move feminism forward and get some real work done.
It's the only way they'll ever learn.