Snatching oppression from the jaws of privilege, a sly inversion

There is a very common sly inversion that interprets every benefit that society confers on women as some form or other of oppression. I think what drives it is a gender script that casts women as fragile victims so that people who subscribe to that meme think that failing to identify this victimhood somehow defeminizes a woman. I think it goes this deep for two reasons. One is the vehemence of the defense of this meme that people who call “benevolent sexism” female privilege are attacked as woman-haters.

Look at the resistance and twisting and turning we see when the subject of F>M rape comes up. It simply challenges this meme too hard. The other reason is its ubiquity, as evidenced by the way it is so seldom challenged. Look for this meme and watch to see how often it is called out and challenged, as opposed to being confirmed as some kind of self-obvious moral norm. This particular sly inversion is so common that it should have a name—“snatching oppression from the jaws of privilege.”

Some examples are:

The argument that the draft is actually misogynist because it presumes women are unfit to serve (and that’s totes worse than actual death and injury in combat, and the life disruption even if you never are in combat). Another is the analysis of the dating script as misogynist because it “forces” women to wait for men’s advances because that is so much worse than being the one designated to brave rejection in every advance.

Another is the assertion, in the face of the fact that men are the overwhelming majority of victims of violence, both at the hands of men and very likely of women too, that women are “more afraid” to go out in the dark, in unfamiliar places, out of the street … and that constitutes a greater restriction on their movement than what men encounter.

Another is the recasting of prison officials’ reluctance to use female prisoners as pharmaceutical guinea pigs with the same frequency in the same scale as male prisoners as some kind of neglect on the part of the medical profession of research on women and how pharmaceuticals may affect them differently. (This is important research and it needs more attention, but one has to ask why those calling out this “neglect” are not clamoring for more clinical tests using these female prisoners. That’s the point here.)

Please nominate some more examples of this particular sly inversion!

And here’s the first one: One commenter offered:

95% of people who do the dirtiest, most dangerous (yet low-paying) jobs are men. But this isn’t men being told they must earn a living no matter what, it’s women being barred from entering these fields! Not that they ever fight to be allowed to enter them of course.

A commenter said:

Women use kids as hostages to extract resources from men who have been alienated from their kids. The threat of prison rape hangs over men who fail to pay child support. This is turned into women being left holding the baby!

And another commenter contributed two more:

There’s the one where they explain that women initiating the vast majority of divorce is because neglectful husbands are too lazy to do it themselves (as opposed to women having far more power in family court)? … and: Or the one where they say that men paying for dates is misogynistic because the men later feel entitled to sex (as opposed to women being able to get men to perform favors for nothing in return)?

EDIT: Chivalry! How could I forget chivalry? The claim is that the conventions of chivalry reinforce female dependency, that they form a Golden Cage. There is a superficial validity to this, except that women can opt out at any time nowadays yet still opt back in on a whim and whine when men fail to show the expected solicitude. The sly inversion is in portraying gestures of deference as exercises of oppression. Guess what—when a captain holds a door for a general, that captain is not oppressing that general. When that captain enters the room and the soldiers all jump to their feet, they are not oppressing him either or asserting some kind of privilege or any kind of dominance over him. There are good reasons for women to argue against this form of chivalry, and they will if they have any regard for men, but this whine about chivalry being a form of oppression against women is so ludicrous that the fact it is even countenanced at all is itself another example of chivalry! Not only are these sly inversions a smokescreen in the discussion of gender issues, but they also reinforce hypoagentive cultural norms and are dismissive of women. It’s a form of misogyny to employ them, and feminists should be ashamed of themselves.

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  • Noor

    Saw this recently too: http://siryouarebeingmocked.tumblr.com/post/104884802920/representation-of-women-in-video-games-the Just call any positive depictions of women as benevolent sexism and you’re done.

    • http://www.genderratic.com/ Ginkgo

      SYABM is a real resource. He catches all kinds of things and he slams them pretty well.

  • JP

    Competition within our species is between groups. Throughout almost the entirety of our existence, there were limited resources, and hunger or the fear of hunger drove competition. It was men who competed with other groups, and it was men who were therefore expendable. Women were always valued because it was through women that the next generation was born. However, that value can come at a price. In high conflict areas, women can be forced to remain in their homes to raise the next generation.

    I’ve often wondered why few people are willing to see that it is women who are valued in our society. If you doubt this statement is true, then read the last paragraph of any article that discusses the problems men or boys experience, In that last paragraph, you will almost always find a statement explaining why the suffering of men and boys is really a women’s issue. Or take Hillary’s statement about women being the primary victims of war. The death or crippling of men are seen only in how it relates to women. The only way to get people to notice the suffering of men is to restate their problems in terms of how women will be effected.

    So why in the face of overwhelming evidence will no one acknowledge that women are innately valued and men are expendable?

    This can’t simply be that no one has ever noticed it. People will actively resist this knowledge. Political correctness will label any statement that women are valued more than men in our society as misogynistic. This resistance tells me that we have to instinctively know women are valued.

    I’ve been wondering if we need to justify our preference for women in terms of protecting them. Is this just a rationalization of a biological impulse? In past decades, we used the “weaker sex” as justification. If we think of women as equal capable as men, do we lose this impulse?

    I’ve also come to realize that chivalry and feminism is the same basic biological impulse. Men want to protect women, and women desire the protection and resources of men. Many women define themselves by the resources their husbands can provide, and they often define themselves above women whose husbands have fewer resources. Without hunger, I don’t think there are any forces that counter the chivalry / feminism impulse. I hope I’m wrong about this because it is this impulse that is destroying families, and the destruction of the family that will lead to the western democracies to increasingly look like Detroit.

    • http://www.genderratic.com/ Ginkgo

      “I’ve often wondered why few people are willing to see that it is women who are valued in our society. ”

      Because those arguing against it have an interest in portraying women as victims – either to control them as protectors, or to wring pity and provision for them out of men.

      “Throughout almost the entirety of our existence, there were limited resources, and hunger or the fear of hunger drove competition. It was men who competed with other groups


      This is the basis of the economic dependency that has been the real force behind the disabilities women have experienced.

      • JP

        There’s something more to pretending that women are not valued by society than control. One of the greatest taboo subjects anyone could discuss is the idea that women are not oppressed today and were not oppressed in the sense that it is commonly believed in the past. It’s almost like this is a game that we play, and the game is based on pretending the rules are not what they are. Once you understand the rules, the game changes. For example, shaming language has little power once you recognize it.

        In addition to control, I think identity is part of the reason for this game. Men like to feel like they are in control, and women often pretend to be less in control than they are. This game forms one of the bases of interactions between men and women. It is through this game that many women use proxy control. In this sense, I get why women play the game. Maybe this is what you meant above. However, I’m not sure what men get out of playing the game.

  • Neptus 9

    Fine examples of females as situational adults. If they can get credit without responsibility they claim to be adults acting on their own, often against oppression, while if they can be blamed and have to take on responsibility they are helpless, weak, childlike victims and the responsibility belongs elsewhere. In either case the same ethics or morals or legal system is used because females are allowed to switch between adult and child as convenient.