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Victimhood feminism: whatever happened to empowering women?

26 February 2021

4:16 PM

26 February 2021

4:16 PM

As a teenage boy who saw his mother beaten and assaulted as a result of domestic violence I’m the first to agree too many women are shamefully abused and victimised by men.  At the same time I refuse to believe society is riven with misogyny, that all men are guilty and that women are always passive victims. 

As a result of sexual assault allegations and debate about the culture of Parliament House over the past 10 days, a number of commentators have trotted out the same old myths and exaggerations as the usual feminist tropes about woman always being the victim of male dominance and exploitation have been repeated again and again. 

Without providing any evidence one writer concluded “Girls are encouraged from the earliest age to feel ashamed of themselves.” This argument that all men are misogynist and violent is amplified by the fact that the popular media makes any alleged incident front-page news and on social networking sites like Twitter the offendarati (those activists always ready to enforce cultural-left ideology and groupthink) flood the web with their grievances and complaints about structural sexism and misogyny. 

But how are women empowered by this? As argued by the American feminist Camille Paglia,  the cultural-left portray women as perennial victims overwhelmed by events they cannot control.  While writing that “young women are vulnerable and defenceless” Paglia argues “Every women must take responsibility for her sexuality” and that “A women’s number one defence is herself”. 

Paglia agrees, as everyone must, that rape is a heinous crime that must be punished but, at the same time she argues feminism is guilty of creating the misconception that women have the power to go wherever they want, at whatever time of day or night and even if alone no matter the possible dangers or threats. 

Talk to most men and it’s clear that one of the first things learned when growing up is how to recognise dangerous situations and to always be alert and not to put yourself in a threatening situation. Does victimhood feminism mean girls and young women miss this message, perversely reversing the status of women back to “the weaker sex”? 

As I learned when a young boy growing up in a violent, dysfunctional household one of the most reprehensible crimes a man can commit is to bash or sexually molest a woman.  At the same time, it’s wrong to characterise all men as dangerous and misogynist and to deny women personal agency.  

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University. More of his writing can be found at kevindonnelly.com.au.

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