Feminism and the victim complex…

This blog entry has been brewing in my head for a few days now. I’ve been desperately trying to work out how to word it succinctly and not really succeeding. So please forgive me if it’s a bit ‘stream of consciousness’ to read.

Also, I’m a relative newbie to the language of radical feminism. The concepts aren’t new to me, I’ve been living them for a while 😉 However, only recently have I started mixing in entirely feminist circles and immersing myself in the culture and the language. My apologies if I’m not down with the radfem lingo.

I’ve been thinking a great deal in the last few weeks about the victim complex that seems to be prevalent in our society, especially amongst women. To start off with, I want to point that I accept that in many ways, women ARE victims. Victims of deep set misogyny in almost every aspect of their existence. Patriarchy decides what colour/style our hair should be, what size/shape our eyes should be, the colour of our eyelashes, the shape/pout/fullness of our lips, how thin we should be, what our breasts and buttocks should look like, what clothes we wear and how we should act.

I’ve never bought into the victim thing. Despite suffering from mental health problems and often feeling like I’m a spectator of my own life, I’ve spent every waking second of the last few years trying to assert control over myself and my surroundings. I’ve refused to let things ‘be done’ to me, so I can blame things on other people. I’ve tried desperately to put myself in control of my own life, do the things that I want so I only I can be blamed for the repercussions. I’ve never wanted to accept that I’m a victim, so I’ve tried to refuse to be a victim of our male dominated and exceptionally sexist society.

I’ve cut my hair off for practicality, I’ve grown out my body hair, I’ve eaten what I wanted and exercised when I wanted, I’ve called people out on sexism whenever I have the chance. However, I’ve met a surprising amount of women calling themselves feminists who don’t do these things. I’m not saying I should have the right to dictate what people call themselves or what they do. But when feminists dress sexy, manipulate men through sex, indulge in a patriarchal defined beauty regime and let society dictate how they should look and act, how are they different from women that aren’t feminists? How are they any different to women that embrace the patriarchy?

Feminism at it’s most basic is the belief in equality of women. In my experience though, it is only radical feminists who have had the courage to assert this belief. A belief is wonderful, a belief is a good thing. In my humble opinion however, a belief is nothing without expressive actions to back it up. Sorry to fall back on an old cliche, but what I’m thinking is:

Don’t talk the talk if you can walk the walk.

Stand up and express yourself. Live your life the way you want to and SHOW society where they can go when they tell you how to dress, what to look like and how to act. If you hate how damaged your hair is because of constant chemical treatments, shave it all off. Stop straightening it and perming it and colouring it. If you want to feel the softness of your natural hair, don’t let the male dominated companies get their products anywhere near you. Brush off the advertising. Embrace your natural looks. Become a fatty, wear the same t-shirt for a week. Sweat when you dance, live life. For the sake of the Goddess, realise that cosmetics, feminine clothes and the aspiration to thinness are oppressing you.

The question that originally inspired this post is:

Why do so many women call themselves feminists and not act any differently to non feminists? Why do so many feminists embrace the patriarchal dictatorship?

My answers to this questions are divided into two schools of thought.

To call yourself a feminist is empowering. It makes you feel stronger. You feel like you are reclaiming yourself as a woman and not a doll when you call yourself a feminist. You’re saying it’s not okay for men to act the way they do and for society to be the way it is. Women want this prestigious label so they can feel somehow better. Like I said though, calling yourself a feminist is all well and good, but act it out. A label is only a descriptive term, by itself it is nothing.

The second school of thought is that when women call themselves feminist and don’t do anything to assert a feminist standpoint in their every day lives, they can continue to keep themselves as victims. This insulates them from the harsh realities of the world, it keeps them in ignorant bliss. You can get the best of both worlds, adoration and desire of men, and sometimes the respect of women. When you call yourself a feminist, there’s a possibility that you might get treated better. But when you are still immersing yourself in misogyny by slathering yourself in synthetic products created by various kinds of cruelty to animals, you are not actively being a feminist. When you do this, you might be still calling yourself a feminist but you are still allowing yourself to be a victim. You are still coming at this issue from a place of comfort. You are still a victim. And when you are still a victim, it’s okay for you to not make any effort. You can gain comfort from your oppression because it keeps life from difficult. It means you aren’t rocking the boat.

If you want to improve quality of life and respect for women, get out there and rock the damn boat as hard as you can. Kick it. Get your feminists friends to stand outside the boat and rip it to pieces. It takes an enormous amount of strength to separate yourself from every form of patriarchy and misogyny, and it’s probably not even possible. The struggle, however, is important.

Go to marches and protests. Burp and fart and itch your tits in public. Don’t be demure, don’t be polite. Don’t do any of the things that women are supposed to do, but men don’t do. Buy from female run companies, read female written literature, listen to female composed music. Dress in a way that is comfortable to you. Don’t give a fuck about your clothes being flattering or expensive, how many men do you know that make that the focal point of their lives? Instead of letting every day be overrun by unimportant mundane things like clothes and makeup, get of bed, throw a sweatsuit on and start living.

Don’t be a victim. You are woman and you are strong.

Chances are that you will be a victim of misogyny at some point in your life. It’s so deeply ingrained in our society it’s probably impossible not to be. But the struggle is important, both for yourself and for women everywhere. The women stand up and fight, the less trapped we will become. Who knows, maybe in a few decades time what I’ve written here might be old news. I hope that when it is time for me to leave this world, I’ll be leaving it as a full person, not someone pigeonholed as a dirty man hating radical feminist.

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