When I was a little kid there was a show on daytime television called Queen For a Day. Yes, this was a very long time ago and I am that old. The premise was that several contestants, housewives and mothers, would compete for sympathy by telling their tales of woe to the audience – crippled or sick children, disabled husbands, whatever else they could garnish it with – and then after they had all finished their pitches, the audience would applaud each one and an applause meter would register which one had gotten the most sympathy, and could carry off the washing machine and new car and all the other goodies that had been droolingly detailed at the beginning of the show. It was the Miss America pageant of victimhood.
Our culture, and not just ours, fetishizes victimhood. Victimhood is the ultimate moral weapon, and weaponized victimhood has been the weapon of choice in a lot of really necessary and good social reform movements. But like nukes, it should not fall into the wrong hands. The whole of modern feminism has for the past 30 years at least been predicated on a framework of victimology and all its tropes – patriarchy theory, rape culture, gendered pay gap, the war on women, the form rhetoric around women’s reproductive rights takes – all rest on victimology rather than a simple insistence on equal rights and empowerment. In gfact this strategy dates back to the earliest forms of modern feminism. It is a very sad, very retrograde development, because it is nothing but a reversion to traditionalist gender assumptions.
And it is retrograde – Queen For A day ran on television in the late 50s and early 60s, before Second Wave Feminism got rolling. Feminism didn’t invent the weaponization of victimhood. Its disgrace is that it manipulated and exploited victimhood and called it empowerment.
An Amazon of ink has been lavished on victimhood in feminism, and then on feminism’s addiction to victimhood even in defiance of solid fact. Now Icyx on the MensRights subreddit has contributed this bit to the conversation, quotations from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick detailing feminism’s embrace of and dependence on victimhood as its identity:
“At least for relatively privileged feminists of my generation, it has been an article of faith, and a deeply educative one, that to conceive of oneself as a woman at all must mean trying to conceive oneself, over and over, as if incarnated in ever more palpably vulnerable situations and embodiments.”
She continues with an acknowledgement of the risks of this approach:
“The costs of this pressure toward mystification — the constant reconflation, as one monolithic act, of identification with/as — are, I believe, high for feminism, though it’s rewards have also been considerable.
(Its political efficacy in actually broadening the bases of feminism is still, it seems to me, very much a matter of debate.) Identification with/as has a distinctive resonance for women in the oppressively tidy dovetailing between old ideologies of women’s traditional ‘selflessness’ and a new one of feminist commitment that seems to begin with a self but is legitimated only by willfully obscuring most of its boundaries.”
The misogyny inherent as casting women as eternal victims might impose a cost, take a toll? Whoever would have guessed that something so diminishing and derogatory and insulting would come at a cost?
Here’s a cost I bet she didn’t anticipate – the backlash from black women tired of having their oppression hijacked for white feminists’ rhetorical purposes, their self-serving insistence that misogyny was the fundamental oppression and resulting subordination of racial oppression to that, and now the gathering backlash of gay men finally seeing through all the claims of solidarity in opposition to oppression blah, blah, blah to the rotten core of man-hatred at the core of this ideology.
The bills are coming due and not a decade too soon.
So are there signs of maturation in the culture, hope for the future, some end to this childish, spoiled, pampered, special pleading tide of bullshit that saturates the gender discussion from the feminist side?
“The format is currently owned by television executive Michael Worstman, who shopped the format around for a revival in 2011, but without success.”
We live in hope. Apparently women out in society are getting tired of it too.
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