So, I came across the phrase “victim feminism” recently and, after calming the fuck down, decided to write a post about that special type of fucking bullshit self-defeating demeaning sexist idiocy in a nutshell of slimy ass pie.
Oh wait, just a moment while I calm the fuck down again.
Let’s first deal with the really awful aspect of that:
“Victim” used as an insult.
Don’t do that.
I know that victim-blaming in the U.S. has gotten to be so pervasive that it’s changed the nature of the word “victim” into an insult, but you don’t need to go along with that. You can decide not to do that. You can realize that the phrase, “making yourself a victim”, although grammatically correct, doesn’t actually make any damned sense. You know, just like “lifting yourself up by your boot straps” isn’t physical possible and an attempt would probably land you on your face in a pool of your own blood. “Making yourself a victim” is likewise physically impossible.
The blame, guilt and shame of victimization should never be shared with the target of the action, but rest completely with the actor. That axiom is “Not-being-a-fucking-asshole 101”.
If you want to imply that a group does not acknowledge their own power and agency, I’m sure there is a way you can express that, but there simply aren’t other words (however more accurate) that can quite compete with the demeaning power-play of calling someone else a “victim” of their own making.
This is why victims of rape, sexual assault, and battery often avoid the term “victim”. The word “victim” is simply too tainted by connotations of being lacking in strength, dignity, and social value. The term “survivor” on the other hand, hasn’t those connotations. “Survivor” is the term I use because it is often requested, and I respect that.
The only problem with the term “survivor” is that not everyone survives. Those who have been murdered or commit suicide certainly do not deserve the shame that has been heaped on victims for so long that the term “victim” itself is filled with it. I’m not sure what term to use in those situations, because “survivor” doesn’t cut it.
So, what is a “victim feminist”?
I can only hazard a guess, but I suspect that the distinction the person is making is between the “personal responsibility” crowd and the “sociology is a thing for fuck’s sake” crowd.
This is a mirror of the accommodationist vs. combatant tension that tends to manifest in any sort of social movement. Although I’m sure not everyone would agree with this assessment, but the “personal responsibility” (PR) crew are the accomodationists and the “sociology is a thing for fuck’s sake” (StFFS) crew are the combatants.
The PR crew is going to tell you to stop “being a victim” and get out there and accomplish things! Quit wallowing in your more-oppressed-than-thou status and buck-up and do something (as long as it doesn’t involve “complaining”). Anyone who gives you support is just enabling your weakness and fostering dependence!
The StFFS crew is going to explain to you how the system is unfair, rigged against you and talk about how much that fucking sucks.
For example, let’s say you go into an exam and everyone takes the exam and it is graded. A few students begin discussing the test and their grades and a few eventually strongly suspect that the students with last names starting with M-Z were given a test that was more challenging. Some students don’t believe it. Some students don’t care. Some students complain. Some students become angry. Some students are upset but don’t say anything. Some students drop the class. Some students yell at the students that complain to shut their hole and play with the cards they are dealt.
This is what happens.
This is not new.
And the PR crew are the students (many of which have a last name beginning with M-Z) who gain a great deal of self-esteem from being able to take punishment, succeed, and “survive”. They either deny or downplay the inequities and certainly don’t want to hear the constant lamentations of “victims” “whining” instead of soldiering through.
Being part of the PR crew has its advantages. Whether out of an extraordinary capacity to be a glutton for punishment, a delusional stupor of solipsist well-being, or true grit; they do tend to get through.
I could have too, I’m sure. I could have spent my years in graduate school with iron armor and a blind fold. Other women, in a similar situation, had gotten through before. Surely it wasn’t impossible. It wasn’t that bad, was it? Certainly the indignity of being ignored and being told not to “bother the boys while they are working”; feeling the need to calm down my classmates who were appalled at the way I was treated; being asked why in the world I would need financial support over the summer when I had a husband; and constantly kicking myself that I didn’t even consider the red-flags before I relocated my family; were things I shouldn’t have let stand in my way. How could I have ever known this would happen when the scientist who recommended my advisor, bemoaned my selfishness in asking my husband to follow me, instead of me following my husband?!
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
The PR model worked for me, for a while. I took it hook-line-and-sinker and allowed myself to be socialized into the status quo to the point of misogyny and a hatred of the trappings of my own gender. I doubt I would have made it through if I hadn’t played “one of the guys” and not convinced myself that nothing stood in my way. But the PR model has a fatal flaw: You have to dance for The Man to get what you want and nothing fucking changes.
It made me refuse to see, for the longest time, what should have been obvious.
The system is unfair, rigged against you and it fucking sucks.
Yes, all of you, in varying and interesting ways.
Pointing that out is not “playing a victim” it is refusing to use denial to wish harsh realities away. Supporting others is not weakening them. Acknowledging toxic power discrepancies is not reinforcing them. Up is not down. The sky is transparent and appears blue during a sunny day.
If you don’t acknowledge the internal and external socializations that affect how you think of yourself and how others treat you, how can you even begin to find real solutions? Pretending they don’t exist doesn’t make them go away.
Pointing out privilege and other social realities is not denying personal agency or power; quite the opposite. The world we live in, IS the world we live in. We’re all playing the game with the cards we were dealt. How could you possibly NOT do that?
If trying to change the system instead of buying into it is the new definition of “victim”, I’ll wear that label any day.
Your claws are full of straw.
I suspect that “victim feminist” (just like “feminazi”) is just another label to describe some Frankenstein She-beast cobbled together from every angry outburst, every ill-chosen phrase, and every quote-mined diatribe that could ever be fashioned, in extreme lack of charity, as taking on the form of an enemy. She is shrill and meek. She is a bitch and a push-over. She hates men and worships dick. She is all sorts of complicated drama queen, ignorant, stupid, thin skinned, hysteric, locked-stepped, childish, and above all – she sees things that are not there. Burn her.
On the flip-side, in the past, I have been quote mined as a weapon against other feminists – deemed a “True Feminist”. The “True Feminist”, of course, being the feminist who asks nothing of society and blames women for absolutely everything; joining the throngs of garden variety misogynists, but paraded around under a “feminist” banner, with a sign around her neck prominently displayed with the text: “See, a woman said it! She admits her guilt!”
Honestly, if the feminist you describe actually existed, I probably would not agree with her on a variety of topics. But she doesn’t. Neither does this mythical “true feminist”.
I do not agree with all feminists. I don’t think everything a feminist has ever said or done is a good idea or based on right thinking. I can have a discussion about stuff and things. Real things. If you are not having an honest conversation with this feminist and wish to converse with a pile of straw, go ahead. Find a magical barn full of it. Just don’t throw a pile of straw in my face and bludgeon me over the head, declare victory and claim that I deserved what I got.
That’s not going to end well.
Sociology is a thing for fuck’s sake.
When discussing social inequities, whether they concern race, income, size, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, or gender, there is really no need to pull stuff out of your ass. There is a wealth of information waiting to be analyzed, discussed, and learned from. The stories of our own lived experience is one powerful source of insight, but other means of piecing together working models of the complexities of culture, economy, and community do exist.
Those who claim that sociology, or biology, or psychology is on their side sometimes have yet to seriously dig into the often uncomfortable landscape of information and ideas. Many times they fail at figuring out how that knowledge can be applied to particular issues and situations; and fail to acknowledge when that applicability is limited. There are many fruitful, enlightening, and even transformative discussions that are just waiting to happen.
It’s disingenuous to claim that you want those conversations to happen and that we are on the same side; while throwing out insults and rebrands and straw effigies at the disloyal opposition, encouraging defensiveness and contributing to a siege mentality.
It is flat out dishonesty if nothing of substance or specificity is offered among the torrent of violent clichés, naïve platitudes and introspection eschewing accusations such as self-victimization.