Empowerment by Victimization
The philosophy rests on the idea that in order to be equal, you must first accept that you are unequal.
By Kayla Kibbe, Connecticut College
It would never have occurred to me that my gender was a limitation had feminism not suggested it.
Growing up, I never cowered beneath the male gaze or struggled in the grips of the patriarchy, and it never occurred to me that being female rendered me a minority in need of protection. I was not raised to be a feminist, and because of that, I was never encouraged to doubt that I was completely equal to men.
In today’s society, women are introduced to this doubt by feminism itself. The movement in its twenty-first century incarnation has become an inherently self-defeating entity. Feminism cannot survive as a movement if women truly believe themselves to be equal. Thus, feminism survives by encouraging women to see themselves as victims, thereby ensuring there remains an adversary, a source of conflict to give life to the crusade.
It is a movement that must undermine its own goals in order to sustain itself by creating victims out of its followers and calling it empowerment. Modern feminism has trapped itself in paradox and lured its followers into a losing battle. If women are truly equal, feminism itself is superfluous.
Thus, for feminism to survive, women can never win. Feminism only wins when women lose. Women can only be empowered if they are victims.
A Time for Feminism
I’m not sure when I first encountered feminism as a named entity. I imagine at some point in my elementary education, I must have had some understanding of the term as a historical movement linked to women’s suffrage, crowded into my mind under the same umbrella that housed vague notions of the Revolutionary War, the Aztecs and Martin Luther King Jr. all mixed up in casual miscellany.
By the time I was in middle school, however, I had apparently encountered enough feminist rhetoric within the media to harbor both an understanding of and an aversion to its role in modern society. Sometime in my early adolescence, I took to calling myself an “anti-feminist.”
This was, admittedly, more an attempt to ruffle feathers than anything else (and a solid one, as both feminists and critics of the movement alike generally tend to reject female “anti-feminism.”) My natural disinclination to feminism, however, did stem from legitimate concerns, although I could not, at that time, fully comprehend what they were.
By high school, I had crafted my manifesto, a speech given to my junior year English class titled “A Time for Feminism” whose first line asserted that the time “is not now.” Mostly I mocked body-positive Barbie dolls while name dropping Mary Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf as “true feminists.”
But, behind the heavy-handed jokes and largely groundless literary references (I had never read “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”), I was starting to establish an argument behind my knee-jerk opposition to modern feminism, namely, that twenty-first century feminism does women more harm than good.
Now that feminism has become a crossroads of politics and pop culture, the movement is often plagued by problematic and even paradoxical rhetoric that ultimately threatens to undermine feminism, past and present.
Women Against Feminism
This, of course, was not and is not a unique idea. In a 2016 article, the controversial neo-masculine publication “Return of Kings” traced the ways in which feminism has met with millennial backlash in recent years. The article specifically highlights the Women Against Feminism movement that gained hashtag status back in 2014.
More significant than the article’s rundown on how “feminism has lost the minds of young women,” however, is its discussion of the feminist rhetoric surrounding these counter-movements. In its critique of the reactionary “confused cats against feminism” meme that grew out of the anti-feminist trend, the article notes:
“When your ideological political movement to free all humanity from, literally, Hitler-inspired hatred and violence of the evil male patriarchy, is reduced to using cats to disparage opponents, your ‘movement’ is dead… period.”
Here, the article highlights something important about modern feminism: its tendency to dissolve into an “imbecility” that ultimately threatens to delegitimize rather than promote the movement.
In a previous article for “Study Breaks,” I discuss the danger the increasing intersection of feminism and pop culture poses for the movement.
This trend of pop-feminism tends to inadvertently cast the movement in an unflattering light, leaving it vulnerable to problematic, paradoxical and, as “Return of Kings” pointed out, downright silly rhetoric that ultimately only undermines feminism and calls its intellectual merit into question.
You can’t talk feminism in 2017 without some mention of last month’s Women’s March. An event that received extensive coverage in both news journalism and pop culture publications, the march offered itself as a perfect microcosm of twenty-first century feminism—the good, the bad, and the pussyhats.
For many, the march was a revolutionary demonstration that brought renewed attention and power to feminism. For others, it was a “confused and pointless” exercise that would ultimately only make it “harder, not easier, to fight genuine rights violations under the Trump presidency.” For many critics, opposition to the Women’s March is not chauvinistic, but stems, rather, from anxieties about the dangers that this magnitude of pop-feminism poses for the integrity of the movement itself.
Intensely promoted by lifestyle publications like “Cosmopolitan” and “Glamour,” and attracting a number of special guest stars who sparked various degrees of controversy, the Women’s March was a breeding ground for the kind of paradoxical feminist rhetoric that leaves the movement vulnerable to criticism.
Take Max Roscoe, the “Return of Kings” contributor whose observations of the march’s “glorification of women being nasty” led him to declare that “American women are proud to be failures.” While the march’s reclamation of “nastiness” was a calculated political move, it ultimately paints feminism in a bad light, hampering the movement with a kind of trivial “I know you are but what am I” rhetoric that leaves it susceptible to attack.
Similarly, paradoxical issues arise with the movement’s famous pink pussyhats. When a movement that prides itself on subverting a tradition of female sexual objectification crafts a signature uniform that reduces womanhood to a tongue-in-cheek pun on the female sex organs, it’s hard to remain convinced by modern feminism. While pink pussyhats, like declarations of nastiness, were an attempt at reclamation, the line between reclamation and self-satire is a fine one, and this kind of cheekiness isn’t doing feminism any favors.
Good Little Victims
The heart of my opposition to feminism, however, does not stem from the heavy-handed, you-go-girl sentiments currently dominating my Twitter feed. Rather, my aversion to the movement in its modern day incarnation comes from an unwillingness to see myself as a victim.
Without oppression, there can be no uprising. Thus, feminism depends on women being victims. It is a movement nourished by its own defeat. Women are indoctrinated into feminism under the belief that they have been oppressed by “the patriarchy.” In the feminist rhetoric dominating Western society, women are taught that various ambiguous foes–society, the patriarchy– pose a constant threat to their independence.
If a woman, like myself, can’t identify any signs of having suffered under this daunting omnipresence of oppression, it is because she has internalized it from a young age. She has been subconsciously infiltrated by this all-powerful villain. Thus, feminism robs women of their ability to even take authority over their own thoughts and opinions, as they have already been corrupted by the patriarchy.
Feminism leaves women entirely at the mercy of the very system it claims to subvert.
Don’t worry, your failures and insecurities aren’t your fault. How can they be, when your thoughts aren’t even your own? It’s not you, it’s the patriarchy.
In one of the many post-election healing circles that replaced ordinary class time on my campus the week after Decision 2016, a classmate of mine made a statement that epitomized exactly the empowerment-by-victimization paradox that has cemented my left swipe on feminism:
“Women who voted for Trump did it because they hate themselves, because men have conditioned them to hate themselves.”
There you have it: Feminism denies women even the ability to be the agents of their own self-loathing. You can’t even hate yourself of your own accord. As a feminist, you have already completely abandoned any right to your opinions, even about yourself, to the patriarchy.
Modern feminism operates like Munchausen by proxy; its practice demands that women be convinced that they are victims of a diseased society. Convincing women that they have unknowingly been infiltrated by the patriarchy is a barbaric psychological violation, nex tdoor to archaic traditions of Freudian psychoanalysis that sought to convince patients that they had repressed histories as sexual abuse victims.
Anti-Feminism Is the New Feminism
This is what feminism looks like in 2017. The movement has deteriorated into a self-defeating entity, whose biggest enemy is neither society, the patriarchy nor any of the other imagined forces it encourages women to cower beneath, but simply feminism itself.
In an article last year, controversial neo-masculine activist Roosh Valizadeh declared the female anti-feminist a “feminist in disguise.” This was meant as an attack and a warning: Beware the feminist in sheep’s clothing.
While his argument was meant to be disparaging, it holds a kind of perverse truth. Amidst the paradox and cyclical self-destruction that has come to define modern feminism, it seems that the only way to truly embrace female equality is to reject the 21st century wave. In 2017, feminism is in the hands of the anti-feminists.