How do you view women who say they've been battered by their husbands, sexually harassed or otherwise victimized by a man? Do you feel a stab of skepticism at the accusation and wonder whether the man involved will be treated fairly in court? If so, you may be experiencing a consequence of PC feminism.
As a woman who has been severely battered and worse, I take issue, not with those who doubt but with feminists who have cheapened the real pain of women by attaching a political agenda to it.
The ideological opportunism of those feminists has made otherwise humane people look with suspicion on "victims." If a woman says her estranged husband molested their daughter, is she merely trying to prejudice the family court regarding custody? If she claims harassment at work, do you wonder if a hapless man merely said the word "honey?"
At this point, too many people have had husbands, sons, brothers and male friends endure false accusations and anti-male courts. Reasonable people are now automatically skeptical of victimhood. Humane people now reserve their compassion until more evidence is in. After all, it is not merely the pain of women but also the compassion of those who sympathize that have been used to promote the feminist agenda.
What is this agenda? It rests on the assumption that all women are victims of all men. That's the definition of patriarchy: white male culture, white male government that benefits every man at the expense of every woman. Women are everywhere and always oppressed by men.
Translating this agenda into practical terms ... It says that, in court proceedings on domestic violence cases and child custody disputes, men should be guilty until proven innocent. Society's institutions, such as universities, should be organized to protect women against men: For example, through sexual abuse tribunals that do not allow accused men the right to such niceties as a lawyer or questioning his accuser.
Concerned parents are withholding compassion from your daughters because they are worried about justice to their sons. PC feminism has created a gender war in which daughters and sons are pitted against each other in the courts and institutions of society.
A growing number of women are objecting. They are refusing to bow before what has become an object of political worship -- the graven image of "woman as victim." The price for heresy can be high. I know. For some feminists, any sense of decency or concern for women is suspended if the woman thinks for herself and disagrees.
Consider a recent incident. In an article last month, I expressed skepticism over the Battered Woman Syndrome -- a legal defense used to exonerate women who kill abusive men in the absence of imminent danger. The article is the last in a series that questions the prevailing domestic violence policies. How did feminists react?
The head of a feminist organization created a vicious lie about me and circulated it. The lie: I am a drug addict who supports the father's rights movement because it supplies me with drugs. Her exact accusation was that the father's rights movement is "providing you with drugs in exchange for positive publicity and a steady stream of attacks on their adversary."
(I repeat the slander verbatim because, otherwise, it is difficult to convey the depths to which such feminists will sink to silence a woman who dissents.) The slander was circulated to an employer in what I must presume was an attempt to harm my career.
This is not an isolated incident. Three weeks ago, I talked with a younger woman who wants to become an established columnist. She advocates political incorrectness, and does it well. Well enough to receive threats to her safety that make her father fret. She now has to weigh her freedom of speech against possible assault and damage to her father's health.
How many other women have been battered into silence by PC feminists? Especially in academia, where political correctness holds sway ... how many women have feminists intimidated into never speaking out at all?
At times I wonder whether the feminists who write harassing and threatening e-mails to other women ever pause and question their own decency. They claim to care passionately for women and to speak for womanhood as a category. But, to paraphrase Sojourner Truth:
"Aren't we all women?"
When I contemplate such questions, I remember an e-mail I received from another prominent feminist. She responded to an article in which I described having lost sight in my right eye due to being battered. She literally crowed with pleasure, declaring that now she understood my political blindness.
What sort of human being delights in the damage inflicted on a beaten woman? Who uses a woman's physical disability as a weapon to attack her? Whatever the answer is, it cannot be "a real feminist" or anyone who gives a tinker's damn about battered women.
Real feminism aims at genuine equality and good will between daughters and sons. It eliminates the need for parents to choose which of their children are to be privileged by the courts and other institutions of society, and which are to be oppressed.
Perhaps then women who are true victims will be able to claim what they justly deserve: the automatic compassion of decent human beings.
Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the new book, Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century (Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada.