In this country where everything has to be psychologized, and also used by sociologists, we don’t talk about oppression as a political reality. Instead we talk about people being victims. We say so-and-so was victimized. So-and-so is a victim of rape. And it’s an alright word, it’s a true word. If you were raped, you were victimized, you damn well were. You were a victim, it doesn’t mean you metaphysically in your state of being, are a victim, but it means somebody hurt you, they injured you. And if it happens to you systematically, because you’re born a woman, it means that you have a political system that uses rape to control you.
Now one of the things that has happened to us is that a whole bunch of people have said, not that we are victims, but that we feel victimized. We feel it, it’s a state of mind, it’s a state of emotional overreaction. We feel it. Not something happened to us, but we have a state of mind that’s bad. And feminists are responsible for this state of mind because we make women feel victimized. When we point out that there’s a rape every three minutes, that a woman is beaten every eighteen seconds in this country, that’s very bad for women because it makes them feel victimized. And we’re not supposed to be bad and make women feel bad. It’s the ultimate mind-fuck. It takes away all the ground that we can stand on and say, we have a political problem, we are going to find a political solution, and we are going to have to change the society we live in to find it.
Exploitation is real and identifiable and fighting it makes you strong, not weak. Sexual violation is real and it is intolerable and fighting it makes you strong, not weak. And woman hating is real and it’s systematized in pornography and in acts of sexual violence against women and fighting it makes you strong, not weak.
And the right and the left both, whether it’s Phyllis Schafly who’s lecturing on how if you had been virtuous you wouldn’t have been sexually harassed, or the left that’s explaining to you that you should celebrate your sexuality and forget about rape, forget about it, don’t have a bad attitude, don’t feel like a victim, they both want women to accept the status quo, to live in the status quo, and not to organize political resistance.”
Men who refuse to acknowledge that they are part of the oppressor class and insist on being treated like special snowflakes who don’t oppress anyone because they think they’re good guys who haven’t personally raped or beaten a woman, are a big part of the problem. Their head-in-the-sand refusal to acknowledge their own passive role in perpetuating injustice only leads to more injustice. Their friends and colleagues rape and batter women, while these “good” men do nothing. And they pat themselves on the back for it.
When men say, “Shut up about what men have done to you, or else you’re wallowing in victimhood when you should be doing something more positive”.
A few years ago now I was working in an office which had a poster on the wall saying “women are talking”. It was an inspirational message-ey one, like the “Keep Calm and Carry On” mugs. At the time, I loved it. I thought it was true. I thought we’d broken the silence and that was it. Patriarchy had just said “oh fuck, they won that one” and gone home.
More and more these days I get a chill running down my spine as I realise quite how limited the space is where we’re allowed to ‘talk’. (By ‘talk’ here I mean talk about men’s violence against us. There’s another chill there about how that’s obvious before you even specify, most of the time.)
For a start, we can’t ‘talk’ or ‘speak’ any more. We have to ‘disclose’, ‘share’, ‘confess’. Even the act of naming what men do to us…
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