Feminism. Victims. Patriarchy. Rape Culture.
Powerful words, with powerful ideas behind them. The world we live in as westerners is, in many ways, defined and shaped by these words. Patriarchy is one of the many intersecting regions that unfortunately forms the Venn diagram of our society. While I’ve spent much time learning the intricacies of America’s economic, racial, and class issues – I haven’t afforded the same to feminism. A personal failing, I think, especially when coupled with the fact that I consider myself a feminist. So with that in mind, let me give my personal (and possibly incomplete) definition of feminism:
I see feminism as a philosophy that destroys the culture of gender division and raises members of all genders to a plane of equality by acknowledging the failings of the current system and working together to undo them.
It seems a little too neat and tidy, doesn’t it? I’m sure as I learn more about it, I will make this a bit more nuanced. But let’s move on. I think I am going to need to create some concepts as I articulate myself. First, victim, will follow a dictionary definition of the word (“Anyone who is harmed by another”). Second, Victim, is a party who, upon being harmed by another, is emotionally or physically incapacitated and is left (or decides to be) powerless to help themselves. Some victims are Victims, but not all victims are Victims – yes?
Many who wrap themselves in Victimhood, use it as an identity – often twisting the minutia of life into a Victim-fetish (see much of the tumblr community [I don't include you in this, Source]). These people are seeking attention and we need not worry about them for the sake of our discussion.
Source, when you quote me as saying, “women, by nature, are victims of the patriarchy, and in turn, of men,” I was wrong. I should have included men in this statement as well. A man who falls victim to the lies of patriarchy is very much a victim of that system as well as his female peer. By becoming a part of the lie, he is at the same disadvantage that he wastes his life projecting onto women. How many amazing people does he miss out on romantically, socially, professionally, politically because he can’t see his sisters in humanity as equals? He most likely doesn’t seek medical help unless immediately necessary. He feels the need to constantly prove his “toughness” which may be harmful or fatal. In fact, he is a victim of patriarchy in many ways. So I was wrong to use a separator to further the separation and not include men in the pool of victims.
I think the crux of our disagreement, however lies in our definitions of victim. I feel strongly enough to start this article by defining what it means for me.
“[T]he term ‘victim’ has connotations of weakness, subjugation, inability to overcome.” “Connotations” is a tricky word. It goes beyond what a word’s definition is and adds an interpretation that might not always be fair. Those connotations absolutely do exist, but do they necessarily? I would say no.
This difference in interpretation creates a divide when I say that we are all victims of this system. When you write that “the idea of being labeled a victim without my consent” bother you, I believe that it is these connotations you listed that you are actually taking issue with. Very often, if not always, it is not up to a person as to whether they become a victim, as much of our lives are beyond our personal control. But what is within your control is whether or not you become a Victim. You can choose whether your situation requires you to be unable or weak. Do we shrink from the injustice we are met with or do we destroy it? So when I call you (and by definition, myself) victims of the patriarchal system, I do not mean that we are necessarily Victims of it, that we are not weak or unable. We can rise above. For us, identifying our victimhood can be empowering because by recognizing our victimhood, we have identified that the problem exists. The next step is coming together to undo it.
Of your article, that is the sole idea I take issue with. With literally everything else you write, I am there next to you, cheering you on.
The problem here isn’t that one group is more powerful than the other. The way I see it, one group has been afforded more power and is misusing it to the detriment of everyone involved.
Beautiful. Exactly. It reinforces the idea that it is not the job of men to end feminism. It is the job of humanity. Men and women working together to form a more just society where not just women, but men as well, are treated with respect. It also brings to mind the quote by a personal hero, Eugene Debbs,
Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
While there is a patriarchy, I am a victim of it. When one of us suffers, we all do. This is the heart of my world view, and I think you have encompassed it rather well.
Yes, there are terrible crimes perpetrated against women every day. But they do not come from a place of power. They come from fear, misunderstanding, a lack of insight. Rape, itself, is about assertion of power.
Another wonderful conceptualization. Humanity has a nasty habit of fearing what it doesn’t understand. We do not often attack or destroy that which we understand or identify with. This is the heart of the divide between genders, the lack of understanding and the pervasive myths that surround that divide. Because you are a much more talented writer than myself, I will close this article with a paragraph from yours, it strikes a special place in my heart and I feel that it should be read by everyone. Readers, enjoy:
If we want to have any hope of harmony between the sexes, we must communicate, and realize that the principle of tearing someone down for one’s own benefit damages both parties. I believe openness and honesty between the sexes is the only way to abolish the guilt, fear, anger and frustration I see on both sides. I read articles blaming victims, articles rebutting victim blaming, and the scores of blurbs they spawn. We are all victims of our own ignorance and unwillingness to cross lines and inhabit someone else’s mindset. When we blame someone, we make them the other. We have drawn a line separating “us” from “them.” What hope do we have of understanding if we keep drawing lines?