Do women need “victimization campaigns”?: a rebuttal

Washington, DC (TFC) – The Fifth Column published an article by Paz Gomes about “victimization campaigns,” which features a video, as she described it, of an “unborn girl who tells her father all the violence she will suffer growing up as a woman. She urges him to take another attitude toward misogyny with friends and son, before it’s too late.”

The premise of her theory is that speaking of the ways women are victimized is sexism. (“Discrimination includes the belief that women are victims of society.” Gomes) Liberal versions of feminism operate under the misconception that equality exists and we just need to maintain it. Gomes clearly stated this by saying, “It’s important that we women say it loud and clear that we can […] live our lives however we want. We don’t need other men to step in, we can demand respect when they call us whores. We have the freedom to drink as much alcohol as we want, and to sleep with all the guys we want (drunk or not).” The liberation-has-already-occurred ideology leads to conclusion that we shouldn’t try to alter legislation or social messaging and behaviors. (“Women dont need […] laws that cripple the other sex so that they can rise.”).

Although I would agree that the message of the video isn’t in every way in accordance with feminist theories, Gomes contradicts herself. At the end of her article, she states that women “need autonomy.” Autonomy is self governance, which has legislative and political implications. If someone does not have governance over their body by way of safety, health decisions, or social pressures (such as unequal pay scales which put women in the position of dependency), etc., then they are not free. How can women need “more autonomy” and also be “free and responsible individuals”?

Image Source: CHRISTOPHER DOMBRES, Flickr, Creative Commons PATRIARCHAL EDUCATION 2014 After the Pink Floyd lyrics from the album The Wall 1979, for the education thematic and actress Nancy Allen for the attitude.

Image Source: CHRISTOPHER DOMBRES, Flickr, Creative Commons
After the Pink Floyd lyrics from the album The Wall 1979, for the education thematic and actress Nancy Allen for the attitude.

By insisting women are completely free, Gomes frames talking about male abuse of women as victimization. This is why Gomes calls them “victimization campaigns.” But,  obviously, perpetrators of social coercion and violence have made them victims. Calling this what it is isn’t victimization, it’s standing up to abusive behavior.

We don’t take agency away from women when we speak openly and honestly about the abuses they face, or have faced, in society. Quite the contrary. We give them a platform to be recognized, and to have power over the circumstances which have victimized them. To have social leverage to name and shame their abusers, and to identify their social boundaries.

However, I do agree that the culture of the way we talk about victimization needs to change. First and foremost victim blaming needs to be eradicated. It’s inherently abusive to blame victims for their own abuse, and its a method of gaslighting. To say that women victimize themselves by talking about their abuse is victim blaming. Many of these so called “victimization campaigns” are platforms for women, by women. This isn’t the only video about it.

Another way our language needs to change is to broaden the scope to always name perpetrators, instead of solely speaking about the victims. When we talk about women as victims, but not men as their abusers, were obscuring the abusive event into total abstraction. Abuse doesn’t just happen, it’s perpetrated by someone. In doing this, we are allowing the perpetrators identities to de-materialize in the public psychological psyche. There’s no such thing as a victim without an abuser. You cannot address what is happening while not mentioning what causes it. As Alicen Grey wrote in her article “Not All Men? Well, actually…”,

Another problem with mainstream feminist rhetoric is that it portrays these women-victims as though they exist in a vacuum. Like they came out of nowhere. “And then suddenly this woman with bruises all over her body just kinda, materialized, from thin air! It was so weird! Whoa, look — there’s another one! And another one! Where are they coming from?”

A lot of other points were addressed in her article, regarding male violence and the impact is has on women. I’m not going to waste my time listing the statistics, that’s what google is for. Semantically, though, she’s completely wrong. And we need to be able to deconstruct this farcical theory of victimization via speaking about abuse, and the abuse other women face, once and for all.

Charles Rae is a staff writer for The Fem Column. Rae writes on women-centered news, the dynamics of power and social justice theories.