Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The "Women As Victims" Assumption

One big criticism I hear about feminism, especially from the men in my life, is they perceive feminism to be painting women as victims of society. To them, it looks like feminism degrades women by assuming that women as a whole are weak-minded, weak-willed individuals who cannot take care of themselves or hold their own against what society throws at them, and therefore they need to be protected and given extra support.

These men probably know strong women, and thus assume that all women are strong. The women in their lives either live up to people's expectations, seemingly taking it in stride and making it look effortless - OR they manage to stand up to society and telling it to fuck off. Perhaps these men are able to resist all the pressures and expectations society exerts on them, or are even unaware that these pressures even exist, and they can't understand why some women can't do the same, thus perceiving women who cannot hold their own against the bullshit expectations society has for them as weak, and exceptions to the rule rather than the rule itself.

Feminists don't assume women are weak. We don't assume that all women are strong either - expecting every woman to be Superwoman and "do it all" is counter productive, and only makes women who fall short of that expectation feel like crap. Unrealistic expectations for any group of people - whether the expectation is to be unerringly polite, to be stick-thin, or to get straight A's and excel academically - is unhealthy to that group. Rather, feminism believes women are human. Thus, not only do we believe women should have basic human rights at an institutional level, but that they should be treated like humans at the societal level as well. As humans, women have weaknesses, they aren't perfect or infallible.

Feminists not only acknowledge that women are human, but that the societal pressures put on them are too much for any human to be expected to bear, and that those pressures shouldn't exist in the first place - at least not to the extent to which they do exist.

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