Any good idea can get hijacked for the sake of advancing asininity, and feminism is no exception.
Back in college, flyers tacked up on the walls of computer labs read that “feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” I agree. I’ve always felt human (except for that one year when the immortal genius of Arnold Schwarzenegger had me wishing that I was a cyborg), and believe that female friends and relatives are human as well – with the right to make reproductive choices, go to college, join the army, make a decent wage, be safe from rape and other forms of assault, wear overalls and sneakers instead of high-heels and frou-frou (thought I do like me some frou-frou), and so on.
However, I have recently been told that feminism is actually the radical notion that cheating and verbal abuse are OK, as long as it’s a woman who’s engaging in both. Apparently, because men abuse women, it’s morally defensible for a woman to abuse a man. It’s called “subverting the dominant paradigm” and any woman in a heterosexual relationship is entitled to it.
So, let’s wrap our minds around this illustrious bit of logic: abuse is a bad thing, and we will “subvert” it by actively engaging in it? Color me unimpressed.
Abusers are brilliantly manipulative. If an abuser could figure out how to use superstring theory for his or her needs, they would do it. In a similar vein, feminist theory can be a warm, safe refuge for someone looking for an excuse to stomp on the soul of a male partner, or anyone deemed not feminist enough, for that matter.
How else can feminist blogger Twisty Faster get away with condemning the “pornstitution” industry and using creepy, sexist language when describing other women (am not a fan of heart-shaped candy boxes or “pajamagrams” either, but that entire post reeks of salacious shaming and a hefty dose of class-based contempt)? Of course, if you criticize, you’ll get accused of being a “woman-hating cave-person,” as one other friend who’s been burned by wolves in feminists’ clothing recently remarked.
If, for you, feminism boils down to “woman can do no wrong because she is woman,” you are not advancing the cause of women. This is what I struggled to convey to the person who informed me that the boyfriend whom she cheats on is also “oppressing” her by daring to have emotional needs. The entire exchange left me feeling that the “oppressed” woman in question should get to know a female relative of mine who recently fled her alcoholic, emotionally sadistic husband whose idea of dinnertime conversation involved smashing a couple of plates next to her head, and stop trivializing real instances of oppression.
The “oppressed” individual is, by her own admission, a bit of a selfish brat. It is not unreasonable to infer that selfish brattery, and not nefarious patriarchal impulses, are wreaking havoc in her personal life.
Now, heterosexual relationships in general are often criticized as a recourse for deluded women who do not wish to face the fact that men hate them. Considering the sheer number of perversely sexist men currently tromping about on this good Earth of ours, I don’t always disagree wherein individual relationships are concerned. Yet, neither do I think of heterosexually involved women as passive victims who don’t know what’s good for them. When men patronize the “little ladies” (as we are so often called), I shudder in disgust. I am equally disgusted by the same behaviour when exhibited by other women.
Furthermore, all manner of non-heterosexual relationships can serve as breeding grounds for abuse. An old friend of mine used to tell me that women could never treat other women badly, and pitied me for being attracted to men. Then she met “Christy.” Christy survived an ordeal of being involved with an older woman who isolated her from her friends, usurped her finances, and repeatedly made denigrating comments about Christy’s appearance and intelligence level. When Christy decided she’d had enough, the older woman pulled a knife on her. The authorities got involved.
Women can’t abuse other women? Yeah right.
We live in a messed-up world. A world where rape of women is commonplace (and rape of men is treated with stony silence), trafficking is estimated to be a multi-billion dollar industry, and Christian males gleefully toss off the word “slut” at women who are not sufficiently virginal. But if you think that the solution is replacing Big Brother with Big Sister, “you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.”