Where Feminism Failed Me

[rape, assault, abuse, gender dysphoria]

I’ve been tossing around the idea lately that I’m not actually a woman.

It’s not just “lately”, to be honest, but this latest bout of introspection on the matter has been rather more decisive.

Today, my gender crisis was triggered by a tweet asking women what they’d do if men all disappeared for a day.

Cue the regular answers of “spin around gleefully in a field of wildflowers while not getting raped” and such. I’m not going to say I don’t understand those answers. I do, sort of. I’m a survivor of multiple bouts of domestic abuse, domestic rape, many counts of sexual assault, and constant sexual harassment. I mean, I am a woman. Or, at least, I look like one, if not a very good one, according to social norms.

However, I just can’t buy into it. Not really.

I’ve always hated feminism—or, at least the brand of it that I recently discovered is called “white feminism”. Anyone who doesn’t know the distinction should really look it up. It explains so much.

White feminism is the “rah rah Sisterhood” brand of feminism. The type that separates the world into men and their victims. Yes, that is glossing over a lot of complex and valid theory, I know.

But that’s my reaction to white feminism. I hate it in the way I hate things that trigger me emotionally: that is, I hate it on a non-rational level. I have a knee-jerk reaction to it that comes before thought.

I have always been rejected by femininity and have never identified very strongly with it. I’m not sure which of those things came first. Since I was little, girls have always told me I’m not really a girl, that I don’t act like a girl, and have made that clear in every way possible: I’m not one of them.

White feminism would have me believe either that this isn’t true—that my internalized misogyny is the reason women have rejected me—or that these females only rejected me because they’ve been brainwashed by the patriarchy into believing a narrow and subservient view of femininity.

That, however, is cop-out bullshit. It’s women turning around and blaming their own victims.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The patriarchy exists, and misogyny does exist. Better folks than I have written about it. But it’s indisputable that women get paid less and are at a disadvantage in the general power dynamic. Men perpetuate almost all rape, the majority of violence, and are able to keep women systematically subservient.

But what we need to not ignore is how women are complicit in this. We need to not ignore the ways that we benefit from traditional femininity and use it to oppress other women. And we need to not ignore the ways we perpetuate other systems of oppression that intersect—or don’t—with misogyny.

I’ve been abused in a lot of different ways in my 41 years. Every single one of those times, there were women who could have stopped it, and didn’t. There were women who blamed me, who gaslighted me, who ignored my cries for help. Not because they didn’t have the power to help, but because it would have destroyed their comfort. It would have disrupted their place in the system of supremacy—a place where they’re given preferential treatment by nature of their traditional (read mostly white, cis, heterosexual, abled, neurotypical) femininity.

Women don’t get a pass from me for that by nature of their gender. They’re not just victims of their circumstances.

The only way we’re going to stop these systems of abuse and oppression is by acknowledging the ways in which we benefit and are complicit. It’s a complex and painful process to acknowledge that. I know we’d all like to think that it would suddenly get a lot easier if men just disappeared. But I think you’d find that the majority of those systems would still persist in the absence of masculinity. Because it’s WAY more complicated than men, and their victims.

We need to look at the ways in which WE perpetuate oppression if we want to have any hand in dismantling it.

Personally, I do.

I’ll be damned if my daughter will go through the shit I did, and if I’ll allow that to happen simply because I myself have been a victim or beneficiary of the same systems.

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