If feminism is primarily concerned with equality, why is it that feminists are so adamant in their vilification of the masculine and the angelification of the feminine? Why are feminists so insistent that all men are potential rapists, wife beaters, and child molesters? Why is the existence of rape culture so important?
If feminism were actually what the dictionary purports it to be, most of us would consider ourselves feminists. But feminism is far more than a belief in the need to secure rights and opportunities for women equal to those of men, or a commitment to securing these rights, or even the movement committed to securing and defending rights and opportunities for women that are equal to those of men. This definition from the Encarta World English Dictionary is the surface view. It is what feminists want us to believe about feminism. It is feminism through rose colored glasses.
The truth about feminism can be found in the methods used to accomplish its rather noble ideal. It wasn’t enough for feminists to demand equal rights to men by pointing out that women did not have equal rights or opportunities which should have been sufficient. Such discrimination would have been easy to prove and eliminate. Instead, early feminists created a myth of oppression. This myth was called patriarchy and it purported that women had historically been oppressed by men throughout history. Oppression is far worse than discrimination as it implies a form of control and can be equated to slavery.
By equating the discrimination faced by women with oppression, feminists accomplished two things. First they placed their movement on a par with racism in America. Blacks had been historically oppressed. They had actually been slaves and were actively being oppressed even after the end of slavery. Second, by stating that women had been oppressed, feminists painted men as evil oppressors and women as their victims. Since no one really wants to be seen as an evil oppressor, many men immediately joined their cause, lending it legitimacy.
But it would take more than mere statements to maintain that legitimacy. While the discrimination was apparent, the oppression was not. How were men as a class oppressing women as a class? That was a question that had to be answered. That women were financially dependent upon men was an obvious beginning. By keeping women financially dependent, men were oppressing women. This explanation also proved insufficient. The situation could simply be corrected by ending the discrimination that kept women out of the workforce and therefore was a by-product of discrimination, not actual oppression. To gain acceptance of the myth, feminists would have to do better.
Marriage became the next target. Feminists claimed that marriage bound women to their husbands like slavery bound slaves to their masters. This was a bit of a leap and even most women didn’t believe it. For most, marriage was a social contract that bound man and a woman together in order to raise children. It was a cooperative endeavor that had, over time, resulted in the development of sex roles that suited each partner. Only women were able to become pregnant and nurse children so it was more natural for the woman to assume the role of raising those children while the man went off to work. The man’s responsibility was to provide for and protect his wife and children. This view would make it difficult for the feminist to equate marriage with slavery despite the development of rigid sex roles.
But there was one other aspect of marriage, sex. It was a subject rarely talked about and that few knew little about prior to the sexual revolution, kick started by the birth control pill. Therefore it could easily be turned into the primary issue for women’s liberation. Marriage bound a woman to a man for sex. It was sexual slavery according to the feminist and suddenly marriage was a horrible thing that could be painted as legalized rape and legalized rape was oppression worse than slavery. The onslaught began.
Rape became the vehicle through which all men controlled all women. All men were rapists or potential rapists, violent, controlling, and dominant. Thus marriage had to be destroyed and women had to have an easy way out. No fault divorce, alimony, child support, and guaranteed custody of their children became feminist issues, as did legalized abortion. Each of these things would help end women’s dependence upon men therefore liberating them.
Almost simultaneously, domestic violence was becoming an issue in society. The first shelters for victims were being opened and the crime was being exposed for the horror that it is. Unfortunately, early research was beginning to show that women were just as abusive as men. Suzanne Steinmetz published a journal article and subsequent book called “The Battered Husband Syndrome” that detailed the problem of women abusing their husbands. For the feminist, this would not do.
Feminists hard worked hard to maintain a focus on the evils of patriarchy. If women could be painted as violent, the notion of patriarchal oppression would disintegrate. They immediately attacked Steinmetz and other researchers who agreed with her point of view. They also set about to turn the issue of domestic violence into a gendered issue in which only one gender committed the violence and only one gender could be its victim. Men committed domestic violence and women were their victims.
Of course this could be contradicted easily. All one had to do was open their eyes to find male victims and female perpetrators. Women killed their husbands and the dead bodies were the proof. This had to be explained. It was simple. Women killed their husbands in self-defense. The husband was the real abuser and the woman who killed him was the real victim. There could be no other explanation. Even in cases where there was no evidence of abuse, it had to be true. Even in cases where the husband was asleep or the woman awaited to ambush him, it had to be true. Battered woman’s syndrome became the explanation.
This disorder proposes that abused women frequently see no way to end the abuse other than to eventually kill their abuser. But it was dependent upon a pattern of abuse that persisted over time. Many cases did not fit this pattern, so it became necessary to convince the public that women simply do not lie about being abused and that it was quite easy to hide said abuse. Abused women were afraid to tell others or seek help. They explained away their injuries as “accidents.”
They were too terrified to leave their abuser or did not want to leave their children. Even the children (who would never lie about the abuse they suffered) would lie to protect the abuser. And so it went. A lack of evidence was not proof that abuse had not occurred, in fact it might actually be evidence that it had. That such cases did exist became proof that such cases could exist and that became proof that all cases where abuse was alleged the abuse had occurred. Therefore, it was plausible that women who killed (or committed violence against) their husbands did so in self defense even when there was no evidence to support that they had been abused.
This led to another problem. If women were killing their husbands in self defense even when there was no evidence of abuse, this would mean that women were not reporting abuse when it was occurring. Therefore it became necessary to convince the public that domestic violence is a crime that not only can be easily hidden, but is vastly underreported and that because of this underreporting and hiding of the violence, women must be believed when they make such allegations.
Rape culture became the vehicle for the delivery of the message. Using the theory of rape culture and patriarchal oppression as a base, feminists set about to paint a picture of all men as potentially violent abusers of women. But they didn’t stop there. They began the campaign of painting all men as potential rapists and began to paint them as child abusers and molesters as well.
Many studies were launched focusing on men as perpetrators of violence and rape against women and children to highlight male violence. These same studies typically ignored female violence. Even studies that did study both male on female violence and female on male violence ignored the latter when reporting the results when it was discovered that women commit domestic violence at nearly the same rate as men. This disparity made it appear that female violence didn’t exist and the male violence is far more prevalent. This gender bias in research design allowed feminists to paint women as victims and men as perpetrators and to lobby for legislation to address only that side of the issue.
The passing of legislation like the VAWA lent more credibility to the feminist argument that men are the problem and that violence is a gendered issue. In fact this legislation went so far as to disallow government funding for research projects designed to study female on male domestic violence or to provide services for male victims. It also funded training for law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges that promoted a gender based view of domestic violence and led to the passage of mandatory arrest laws and primary aggressor laws that define men as the perpetrators and require their arrest even in circumstances where they have not committed an act of violence.
The promotion of rape culture is the fuel for the fire. It is the trump card in the hand of the feminist war on men. By claiming that all men are potential rapists, feminists create an argument that cannot be refuted. By virtue of having a penis, it is possible for every man to commit rape; therefore all men are potentially rapists. Rape is a crime that by many definitions could only be committed buy male against female. This of course, completely ignores the fact that the vast majority of men are not rapists and would never consider committing such an act. Thus the argument is an illusion, nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Nonetheless, it is the cornerstone of the feminist movement and therefore must be maintained.
To keep up the illusion, the definition of rape must continually be expanded. The feminist strategy has always been to propose the preposterous in order to move public opinion when taking a position on an issue, while giving as little ground as possible. So it is no surprise that early rape feminists proposed that all sex is rape and that because of their position as the oppressed, no woman is capable of giving consent for sex to her oppressor. The statement was radical and extreme and those who proposed it must have known that very few would buy into it. But they proposed it anyways, knowing that once the seed was planted, it would grow.
Proposing a more radical view of rape would make it easier to propagate a less radical expansion of the definition. That is exactly what happened. Rape grew from an act of violence to include sexual activity that many women freely engage in, but regret later. Today’s notion of rape is that many women are raped without knowing they’ve been raped and many men are rapists without knowing they are committing rape. This view was promoted by Mary Koss in the 1980’s that resulted in her proclamation that one in four women would be the victim of a rape or attempted rape by their early twenties. Such a definition also makes it easier to justify the statement that rape is a grossly underreported crime. After all, how can one report a crime when they aren’t aware they’ve been victimized? Rape culture is the result of a widespread acceptance of rape to the point where many women aren’t aware they have been raped.
This same strategy of gross exaggeration and distortion of a problem in order to move public opinion toward acceptance of the feminist viewpoint has been used successfully time and again. Patriarchal theory was a gross distortion that is now widely accepted and unchallenged. That domestic violence is a gendered crime committed by men against women is a gross distortion that is now widely accepted and unchallenged. That all men are potential rapists, child molesters, and wife beaters is a gross distortion that is now widely accepted and unchallenged. Promotion of rape culture is essential to feminists because rape is the most heinous of these crimes. It is the very foundation for the belief in the lesser distortions regarding child abuse and domestic violence. After all, if one is guilty of rape by virtue of one’s gender, then guilt by gender of any lesser crime is easier to believe.
Guilt by gender necessarily establishes the moral superiority of the non-offending gender over the offending gender; in this case it is the moral superiority of the feminine over the masculine. By definition this is not equality and through the use of this tactic by feminists, feminism cannot be said to be about equality no matter how much it purports to be so. Rape culture provides the foundation for and is the cornerstone of feminist theory and is the justification for proclaiming the moral superiority of women over men and the resultant vilification of the masculine.
Note: This article is also available in Spanish.