Features, Feminism

Are Women Really Victims? Four Women Weigh In

Helen Pluckrose

Helen Pluckrose is a writer for Areo Magazine and has research interests in late medieval/early modern religious writing for and about women. Her writing is often critical of postmodernism and cultural constructivism which she sees as currently dominating the humanities.

Women can be victims. In this world, there are violent, exploitative people willing to use and abuse their fellow human beings. Sometimes those human beings are women and sometimes they are abused and sexually exploited by powerful men because they are women. But women are not a class of victims. We cannot be victimised by actions and words that men can simply shrug off – an unwanted sexual advance, a strong criticism, an unkind comment, a tasteless joke, a call, a whistle, a wink. We are competent adults, fully equipped to deal with difficult, unpleasant, annoying or simply gauche behaviour. We are possessed of humour, empathy, reason, perspective and charity by which we can evaluate the behaviour of the men around us without developing a siege mentality or constructing a war zone.

When the recent #MeToo phenomenon included horrendous accounts of rape but also clumsy flirting and unwanted compliments, when rape and possibly unintentional knee brushing are discussed as part of the same phenomenon and when 28% of young people think winking is sexual harassment, society could be excused for doubting women’s ability to evaluate danger and cope with public life. This is a reputation we cannot afford if we want to succeed in it.

Feminists of my mother’s generation resisted furiously the claims that women were too timid, too fragile, too neurotic and too easily upset to function in the public sphere. They won this battle. Sisters began doing it for themselves. Women took their places alongside men in boardrooms and political arenas, on lecture hall podiums and in operating theatres, in courts of law and in armies.

This is currently under threat from a cultural shift within feminism which has shifted the aim from female empowerment to status-by-victimhood. It threatens to undo the progress made for women, valorise fragility, discourage resilience, weaponise victimhood and fatally undermine gender relations. It’s not good for women to be treated as fragile victims rather than competent actors in the public sphere. It’s not good for either sex for men to become afraid that talking to women, complimenting women, criticising women, flirting with women or touching women in friendly greeting could destroy their careers and reputations.

Women must oppose the ‘sexual harassment’ moral panics and witch-hunts against men if we care about the credibility of victims of sexual assault, the rights and wellbeing of men and our own social standing.

Holly Ashe

Holly Ashe is a London based fashion and culture writer. She was previously published in Vogue International as a fashion designer and a start-up business entrepreneur.

From my childhood, I was taught to be a strong woman; that women are fully capable. I grew up in a single parent family, with no male influence whatsoever. My mother did everything. She laid a carpet down at eight months pregnant, she built cabinets and bunk beds single handed, she brought up two well respected girls by herself, under an early 90s socially conservative government, living with the ‘shame’ the government had created against her while having barely any money to live on.

But my mother was never a victim. It was something she so ardently despised, and made sure that my sister and I never felt less-than capable for being girls.

This is a mantra I now practise daily, that has helped me out of years of debilitating chronic illness, a broken-down marriage and a career change before I’ve even hit 30. I’ve had every excuse to play the victim card; to sit and pity myself, to whine and moan behind my keyboard to any of the millions of martyrs online that only fuel and encourage this pitiful practice, but why on God’s earth would I want to do that? Why would anyone, especially women, (after all the sacrifice our fore sisters had made to pave the way for the stigma of being ‘just a woman’ to be shaken off, and to start being taken seriously as capable human beings) want to
go so far back in time, and request the likes of ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘fainting couches’ and ‘chaperones’?

The absurdity of this latest trend (and yes, it is a trend) would be hilarious if it were not so backward, and if it was not promoted so aggressively by the media. Western women, who are in a very privileged position compared to their sisters globally, are stereotyping themselves as damsels in distress incapable of functioning in the adult world, and in permanent need of rescuing. It’s as senseless as it is damaging.

We may get to the point where men are afraid of working with women out of fear of harassment claims and employers are afraid of hiring women out of fear of lawsuits. As one feminist on Twitter recently claimed: “I’m actually not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault/harassment allegations“.

To think that this movement helps women is simply delusional and myopic.

Amy Alkon

Amy Alkon does “applied behavioral science” translating scientific research into highly practical advice. Her upcoming book is titled Unf*ckology: A Field Guide to Living with Guts and Confidence (St. Martin’s Press, Jan. 2018). Follow her on Twitter @amyalkon.

It was New York, back in the 1990s. I was crossing Seventh Avenue when a guy going the other way called out, “Never seen a body like that on a white woman!”

Naturally, I screamed for a cop and had the man arrested and swiftly executed.

Of course, I’m completely kidding. I loved it then, and I look back fondly on it now—as a 53-year-old redhead, worried that I’ll eventually start looking like the clown from IT.

Note my failure to lap up the requisite bowl of feminist claptrap on the horrors of “objectification” and my companion failure to identify as a victim of patriarchal something-or-other.

Because I don’t identify as a victim, I can laugh, take a joke, and tell somebody who’s bothering me to cut the crap—instead of tattling to an authority figure.

Of course, it helps that I am not a feminist. I instead call myself a humanist, and yes, I know that term has some meanings hitched to it already. However, I use it to explain that I’m for individual rights—meaning the rights of all people, not just people with vaginas.

This runs contrary to what feminism has become. Though feminism claims to advocate for “equal rights,” it now busies itself demanding special rights for women—under the guise of equal rights. (By the way, there’s little that screams that women aren’t equal like calls for special treatment.)

Feminism now regularly calls for women to be treated as eggshells instead of equals. And through this, it does something pernicious to the women it claims to advocate for: Feminism has become a movement for female disempowerment, or what I call “encouraged helplessness” (from psychologist Martin Seligman’s “learned helplessness”—the feeling that there’s nothing you can do to escape your fate).

In fact, feminism, bizarrely, has morphed into paternalism—instructing women that they are fragile, passive, powerless victims who need authority figures to advocate for them.

That’s a movement I want no part of. Or, as I like to put it—because I’m neither a feminist nor much of a lady: Count me the fuck out.

If you’re a woman, I encourage you to join me—count yourself the fuck out of what feminism has become.

This doesn’t require you to be fearless. You just need to shove your fears aside and do what needs to be done—say, getting up on your hind legs and telling some co-worker, “Stop saying that thing to me” or “…treating me this way.”

Now, if they persist after you’ve told them to stop a few times, that’s harassment and you can seek support to get them to stop. But consider that it’s less likely to get to that point if you simply act like men’s equal—act as if you’re powerful—instead of acting like you’re a feminist.

Claire Lehmann

Claire Lehmann is the founder and editor-in-chief of Quillette. Follow her on Twitter @clairlemon

A person is only a victim if they feel like one—women included. People who have been on the receiving end of violence, or severe maltreatment are able to think of themselves as not being victims if they chose to, even if what they have experienced is terrible by anyone’s standards.

In fact, I would argue that it is often the people who have experienced serious adversity who refuse to think of themselves as victims. (That is not to say that they don’t agitate for justice or that they remain silent). But it is to point out that often people who have experienced adversity reject such labels and prefer to think of themselves as “survivors” or “fighters”.

I grew up in an economically disadvantaged neighbourhood in the city of Adelaide in South Australia. And I do not remember the girls I went to school with claiming victim status, although many of them came from single parent families who struggled to pay the bills. In my neighbourhood it was usually the boys who were in trouble—flunking out of school because they were smoking too much marijuana or dying in car accidents while speeding or drunk driving.

But that was a different time. Today victimhood culture is mushrooming like a poisonous cloud because people seem to think they will be granted status or special treatment for it. And maybe this is true, in the short term. But I suspect that many of the women claiming victim status for themselves will grow to regret it.

Feelings of confidence rarely come from fixating on things that are outside of our control, including events that have happened in the past. Meaning and contentment arise from doing things that create value for others—not demanding special treatment or recognition.

So for those of us who are worried about victimhood culture—what should we do to stem it? I believe we need to tell more stories of bravery and strength and practice gratitude for what we do have. Our female ancestors, for example, would have gone through childbirth sometimes five, ten, or even fifteen times in a lifetime—without the help of modern medicine. Unless we come from aristocracy our female ancestors would have toiled away on farms, or as servants in other people’s homes. Many of them would have been prevented from owning property, or leaving abusive husbands, and most would never have been able to access an education. Our foremothers would laugh at how easy we have it today.

This is not to say that life today is not difficult! Of course it is, and we need each other in times of hardship. But ultimately, none of us are victims unless we tell ourselves we are.


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  1. Carl Sageman says

    It’s so wonderful to see voices of reason, beyond someone like Christina Hoff Sommers. It’s also wonderful to know the founder of Quillette comes from the same home town I do.

    There are two things worthy of putting on the table.
    1. I don’t believe feminism has given any benefit to women. I actually attribute the change to the pill. Feminism was and always will be a blinkered ideology that only represents people with “vaginas”. When I see women protesting in the streets about the appalling attitude toward male victims of domestic violence – or equal condemnation of female aggressors of domestic violence, I know feminism may have finally developed integrity. It’s my “litmus test” of ethics 101. So far, feminism has universally failed such a basic ethics test.
    2. We need to stop using the word equality. It’s either equal opportunity & equal rights … or it’s equal outcomes. One of these is the equivalent of socialism/communism – the other is basic human decency.
    3. We need to recognise strongly that women have suffered dearly at the hands of feminism. According to “THE PARADOX OF DECLINING FEMALE HAPPINESS in the last 50 years” (ie. during the reign of feminism),

    “We will show in this paper that women’s happiness has fallen both absolutely and relative to men’s in a pervasive way among groups, such that women no longer report being happier than men and, in many instances, now report happiness that is below that of men.”

    How does that happen with a movement that empowers women? It doesn’t. You’ll notice all of these women used the term victim (or equivalent). If feminism brought something to the table, it was vicrimhood and sexism.

    • I agree with points 1 and 2, but I don’t agree that feminism hasn’t done anything for women – only that it’s current form hasn’t (and indeed, as you say, has actually done women harm).

      First and second wave feminism were, I think, worthy movements and came at a time when women had neither equal opportunity nor equal rights. As such, representing exclusively people with vaginas made sense (though that idea has fallen by the wayside recently, and not in a good way). In terms of tangible benefits, the vote and property rights are fairly major ones.

    • Happiness studies are absurd and “Happiness” Is very difficult to define.By every objective measurement, humans are better off today than our grandparents, yet we get these happiness tests claiming people are sad. Maybe such a vague term should not be framed as some deterministic factor with regard to feminism.

    • nicky says

      “Feminism was and always will be a blinkered ideology that only represents people with “vaginas”. This should read “… only represents privileged upper-middle class people with “vaginas” .”
      The first wave of feminism -despite that background- had well founded grievances, which by now are mostly solved/corrected (eg. women have the right to vote now, have same wages for same work, have their own bank accounts, etc. – it even has become hard to believe that was not always the case).
      Although the grievances have changed (and, frankly, have become not just counter-productive as the 4 OP’s point out, but have become somewhat ridiculous too), the background has not changed much. The ‘third’ wave of ‘intersectional’ feminism is mainly driven -correct me if I’m wrong – by people in academia: a ‘privileged’ bunch if anything. And ‘snowflakes’ tend to come from a ‘privileged’ background too.
      I do not know of any working class woman who’s upset by a sexually explicit remark or wolf-whistle, and they generally know pretty well how to handle unwanted sexual attention too.

  2. Rather sad that these sorts of voices are largely confined to the likes of Quillette, rather than being given equal hearing (or shown as counter-points) alongside the scenes of outrage in our daily newspapers and more regular online content.
    These four are true examples of strength and power. If more people had access to their views, got to witness their down-to-earth statements, they would realise them as far more effective role-models than victimhood. And actual feminism (equality of the sexes) would become so much easier to achieve.

  3. Forrest says

    It’s easier to stay silent about sexual harassment and sexual assault than it is to report it. The women and men who have the courage to report sexual assault and harassment should not be accused of claiming victim status or participating in victimhood culture. That looks like victim blaming and it has the potential to shame people into silence.

    • No one said anything about staying silent, especially about honest-to-god assault. Alkon, for one, specifically advises women to tell someone straightforwardly to stop their objectionable behavior and if they don’t, report it.

      More importantly, you are completely ignoring the points being made of how blurry a term “harassment” is becoming in popular use – or if you think a wink is actually harassment, then, God help you (and the rest of us who have to interact with your fuzzy mind.)

      And, apparently, the part about not thinking of one’s self as a victim went right over your head. “Victim shaming” is a label, not an argument.

      • Forrest says

        Of course, they are not explicitly saying that people should remain silent about sexual harassment or assault. I am arguing that the idea that those who report sexual assault or harassment are motivated by the desire to claim victim-status and/or that they are overly fragile is dubious. If there is evidence to suggest otherwise, I am unaware of it. Reporting sexual assault or harassment is usually quite difficult. Have you ever been questioned where you are expected to reveal intimate, often embarrassing details of a sexual nature, to strangers? Ever done a rape kit?

        Winking as sexual harassment is unlikely, but context matters. If a male 35-year-old secondary school teacher flirts with and winks at a 15-year-old girl, can that be considered sexual harassment?

        Unfortunately, victim blaming and/or victim shaming is a problem because it prevents women and men from reporting sexual harassment and assault. Perhaps if you were familiar with rape-myths and the some of the literature on this topic you would be aware of that.

        • higgsbosoff says

          “I am arguing that the idea that those who report sexual assault or harassment are motivated by the desire to claim victim-status and/or that they are overly fragile is dubious”

          The way I see it, culture informs a lot our way of responding to external stimuli. Once it was considered “normal” for men to do stuff like wolf-whistling, now it is not. Of course, it is wrong to wolf-whistle because in part that can be uncomfortable *beyond* the specific cultural context; but at the same time, knowing that in our cultural context it is considered wrong reinforces one’s impression that it in fact is.

          Now the question is, wolf-whistling is certainly a testament to a man’s rudeness and crassness, but is it also something that *harms* its target? The effective harm done is nil; the harm, if any, is all psychological. In other words, it is harm done by the awareness of having been wronged, and the feeling of impotence or frustration that spans from the knowledge of being the victim of injustice. And in a society in which wolf whistlers are largely considered to be rude, crass men, and women who are wolf whistled at are sympathised with, why would you let something like that harm you at all? There is a large swath of antisocial and obnoxious behaviour (much of it outside the specific sexual sphere) which we find in people around us and that is best dealt with, at an individual level, by simply ignoring it, or if one has to deal with the person in question on a regular basis, by telling them to their face to fucking give it a rest. If there are job environments where doing such a thing will cause you trouble, then they deserve to get the resulting stinker and be brought to court or told to fuck off altogether. But in all of this, there is a subtle difference between feeling deeply, personally hurt by this behaviour, and just thinking you’re dealing with idiots and giving them what they deserve. And in a lot of cases, these people might actually back down much faster than we’d think if not left to do their thing. And the less people take their shit, the faster they’ll learn to back down.

          That isn’t to say that people can’t feel like victims, can’t feel hurt or ashamed or something. But if anything, *that* is the legacy of patriarchal mentality – that for some reason, you should consider something like that as something that hurts you at all. Modesty and propriety and good girl behaviour and all that. Good girls faint and feel weak when their virtue is attacked, they don’t answer back with a dick joke. Of course some people have that kind of thinking because it’s been conditioned into them. The question is, the most feminist thing to do would be to help them get rid of it. To deconstruct the boogeyman of the Male Predator because frankly, as an insider to the male sex, putting aside the occasional actual rapist, the whole lot of the people who will make a joke or a sexual remark or something like that are probably much more bark than bite. We ain’t that tough, some of us just like to put up a front. Dealing with people sometimes means dealing with unpleasant people. But not all of it can be dealt with by law. Being equals in society means also having to make one’s voice heard, even when others are screaming. Women have been taught for centuries that they have to speak softly, and that has been the weapon of their submission. Modern feminism seems to suggest that *everyone* should speak softly for true equality to be achieved. But speaking softly was an artificial thing to begin with. Sometimes people scream, sometimes people HAVE to scream, and feminism started when women learned that they could do that too.

          • Forrest says

            Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment.

            The poll on sexual harassment asked “what constitutes sexual harassment” and did not ask whether winking or wolf-whistling caused psychological harm (as far as I know). It did ask women if they thought things like wolf-whistling are acceptable, flattering, or if they made women feel uncomfortable. If you think that “wolf-whistling is certainly a testament to a man’s rudeness and crassness” then you should not have a problem with the fact that some women do report that wolf-whistling makes them uncomfortable. That’s different than women are claiming victim status and/or psychological harm from “wolf-whistling.”

            To respond to someone’s reply to me, in that poll only 1% of women in their 20s agreed that a man asking a woman out for a drink thought that it would ALWAYS be sexual harassment. And only 3% of women agreed that it would USUALLY be sexual harassment. Those numbers do not suggest that women are delicate snowflakes who cannot handle unwelcome sexual advances or that we should panic about women claiming victim-status. Nor does it suggest that the political Left has watered down the definition of sexual harassment.

          • higgsbosoff says

            “you should not have a problem with the fact that some women do report that wolf-whistling makes them uncomfortable”

            I do not have a problem with that. I still think that you shouldn’t *encourage* them to feel uncomfortable. Exactly because it’s a behaviour that, seen on its own, is actually really stupid and pointless. True, if women felt less uncomfortable and gave less of a fuck about it, you’d get less people complaining. But what’s the target, to punish idiots or to make women feel better and more empowered? That’s the point that’s being made here. If getting back at the idiot makes you feel more empowered, do it, no problem. But at the same time there’s certainly something to be gained – in personal ease of mind – in learning to assign to the words and actions of idiots their true worth in the grand balance of your life, that is, mostly, none at all.

      • To Maidrya’s point, “sexual harassment” is being water down much the same way “Nazi/White Supremacist” has. The political Left has yelled those epitaphs at everyone for so long in an effort to besmirch that they have lost all meaning. That poll this past week revealed that the 20-somethings today view an attempted introduction by a stranger in a bar who doesn’t meet their standards to equal sexual harassment.

        • Sam Butler says

          People should be welcome – even encouraged – to come forward if they have allegations of actual sexual assault. Allegations of this nature should always be taken seriously. But part of taking them seriously is having fair procedures that can help us find out the truth about what happened. Serious crimes should have serious punishments; but because the punishments for serious crimes are so serious, we have to make sure people aren’t being punished without a fair investigation or a fair trial.

          What’s staggering these days is how asymmetrical things have become (at least in Western universities and cities). We’re constantly told how hard it is for women to come forward, but in the current context, what they’re met with is not only overwhelming support, but even automatic belief, something that’s never granted in other allegations of serious crime (for very good reasons). The result is that people’s careers have been destroyed just because someone said something happened 20 years ago.

          What’s really hard at the moment, actually, is for any man accused of harassment to get a fair hearing. I’m not saying the men should automatically be believed either – nobody should be automatically believed! But the idea of ‘victim-blaming’ (before it’s even been established that there’s a victim that something has actually happened to) is being used to shut men up before they can even tell their side of the story. If we were really in a state of equality of sexes, we’d be warning people that it ‘makes things harder for the men’ to stop them defending themselves.

        • Forrest says

          In that poll, only 1% of women in their 20s agreed that a man asking a woman out for a drink thought that it would ALWAYS be sexual harassment.

          And only 3% of women agreed that it would USUALLY be sexual harassment. So, that does not seem like a reason to panic, and I can’t agree that the political Left has watered anything down.

          • “And only 3% of women agreed that it would USUALLY be sexual harassment.”

            Well. Perhaps that 4% of women should help the rest of us out, maybe with a bit of aposematism or something. You know, bright, garish warning colors (perhaps blue or fire engine red or multicolored hair, or garish facial piercings or makeup or whatever) to let people know they’re THAT kind of woman, and that amorous men need to steer clear.

            I’m curious, though. What percentage of women believed it was “often” sexual harassment, or “sometimes” sexual harassment, or “occasionally” sexual harassment?

            Because that’s where the problem arises. Not with the small percentage of women who believe being asked out for a drink is ALWAYS or USUALLY sexual harassment, but with the (larger, I suspect) percentage of women who agree that it is OFTEN or SOMETIMES or OCCASIONALLY sexual harassment.

            No one plays Russian Roulette when they know all the chambers are loaded.

            Rules of courtesy, like laws, exist not just to enforce standards of conduct, but to put people on notice as to what conduct constitutes punishable behavior. The left (I would argue, the part of the left that dominates women’s studies and other activist disciplines) hasn’t “watered anything down” so much as “muddied the waters”.

            Ironically, the situation would be easier for men if the majority of women believed asking a woman out for a drink was always or usually sexual harassment. Because then men would understand the rules they are required to abide by: Never ask a woman out for a drink. It is virtually never considered okay to do that. That conduct is ALWAYS, or ALMOST ALWAYS going to be considered harassment.

            Instead, what we have is a muddy situation in which the exact same conduct might be perfectly okay, or punishable under law and policies that can seriously fuck you up, depending on the subjective feelings of the other party.

            Was the invitation *wanted* or was it *unwanted* by the recipient, in this particular case, from this particular man, on this particular occasion, in this particular setting? If it was wanted, then it’s not harassment. If it was unwanted, then it is technically harassment. If it is the second, and the woman feels harassed, then it may be reported as harassment.

            So. You tell me. How is the guy supposed to know whether it’s wanted or unwanted, and whether the woman in question sees an unwanted invitation as harassment, until he extends the invitation, at which point she will say “yes” or “no” or “maybe” or “I’ll think about it” or “I’m reporting you for sexual harassment”?

            What many universities have done within their conduct policies is deprioritize or eliminate the “reasonable person” standard. Would a reasonable person on the receiving end of the conduct view the conduct as harassing (actus reus)? Would a reasonable person engaging in the conduct understand that their conduct was both unwelcome and distressing (mens rea)?

            And in what is perhaps the perfect Catch-22, according to many university policies, consent must be actively sought at all stages of a sexual interaction. Men are required to ask for permission before attempting to hold hands or kiss or whatever, or they are in violation of sexual misconduct policies. BUT, the harassment policies describe such requests for permission, when they are unwelcome in the subjective view of the person asked, as being in violation of harassment policies.

        • Forrest says

          REPLY TO Higgsboff (there’s no reply button)

          “I still think that you shouldn’t *encourage* them to feel uncomfortable.”

          Where did I say women should be encouraged to feel uncomfortable. NOWHERE. Sorry, but some things DO make people uncomfortable. Perhaps that’s because somethings are inherently unpleasant to human beings.

          “But what’s the target, to punish idiots or to make women feel better and more empowered?”

          The “target” is to recognize and label sexual harassment and violence as such so that we can hold people accountable for boorish or violent behavior. If we ignore or minimize such thing

          “in learning to assign to the words and actions of idiots their true worth in the grand balance of your life, that is, mostly, none at all.”

          Sorry, but that’s shortsighted and almost certainly wrong, you may want to rethink that.

    • Forrest says

      This reply is for Karen Straughan (there is no reply button for her comment).

      “Instead, what we have is a muddy situation in which the exact same conduct might be perfectly okay, or punishable under law and policies that can seriously fuck you up, depending on the subjective feelings of the other party.”

      There is no law saying a man cannot ask a woman out for a drink, so the fact that some women do consider that sexual harassment is irrelevant; it is “not punishable under law.” So maybe relax a little.

      Also, I’m a woman, and I have been ‘harassed’ by a man who asked me out for the drink because he would not take a polite no for an answer and then he swore at me when I flatly refused. No ambiguity there, the guy was a jerk. Men need to pay attention.

      • “”Instead, what we have is a muddy situation in which the exact same conduct might be perfectly okay, or punishable under law and policies that can seriously fuck you up, depending on the subjective feelings of the other party.””

        “There is no law saying a man cannot ask a woman out for a drink, so the fact that some women do consider that sexual harassment is irrelevant; it is “not punishable under law.” So maybe relax a little.”

        “and policies”. Or did you not notice that?

        And did you not notice this?

        “What many universities have done within their conduct policies is deprioritize or eliminate the “reasonable person” standard. Would a reasonable person on the receiving end of the conduct view the conduct as harassing (actus reus)? Would a reasonable person engaging in the conduct understand that their conduct was both unwelcome and distressing (mens rea)?”

        Violations of university sexual conduct policies can result in suspension or expulsion of the offender. Violations of workplace sexual conduct policies can result on suspension, dismissal or other penalties.

        Not only this, the procedures and processes at many universities and workplaces are not held to standards of due process, rule of law, burden of proof or presumption of innocence.

        So is losing your job not a penalty? What about losing your ability to get an education? Is that not a penalty?

        Tell me this. What if nothing Weinstein did was technically against the law? What if that was tested in court, and he was absolved of any criminal wrongdoing? Not just acquitted, mind you. What if it happened that, like in a few rare cases, the court made a declaration of innocence of criminal liability? What if everything he was accused of that rose to the level of criminal act was completely disproven?

        Do you think he’ll get his job back? Will he be right back where he was when the allegations broke? Would anyone be willing to have business dealings with him? Just because nothing he did was actionable in a criminal court? Seriously?

      • Here’s what we were taught in workplace ‘harassment’ presentations. Making an advance, a questionable comment, a crude joke, those are not harassment. If the recipient says Please don’t do that and the person does it again – that’s harassment.

  4. theunderscoretraveler says

    How rare it is to find an article and a set of comments that I almost entirely agree with.

  5. Robert Paulson says

    Thank you for these thoughtful insights. However, I think some of the conclusions they read about how this current wave of victimization will lead to dis-empowerment and that employers will be reluctant to hire women because of the liability are both incorrect.

    First, the victimization is actually a form of power-grab, because you can now demand that institutions, the state, HR departments, etc. impose more regulations on the interactions between men and women that give the women the power to dictate the terms of interaction and discourse to men. It is women’s perception of powerlessness that gives her strength.

    Second, I don’t think employees will stop hiring women – they will stop hiring men. I work in tech and everything is about “gender diversity” now, with companies setting de-facto quotas for women hiring. It is extremely easy to get a job as a women in Silicon Valley now, and as the population of women in companies increases, this will only reinforce my first point, as their increasing numbers will give them even more power. Also, HR is mostly composed women, and HR is essentially unaccountable to anybody in the company because of state-imposed non-discrimination and hostile workplace environment laws. So you will have a group of unaccountable women who see themselves as “allies” of their fellow women coworkers against the “enemy gender”, men.

    Another problem with the “companies will stop hiring women” is that if they do, they will face gender discrimination lawsuits and EEOC investigations. Not so for companies that refuse to hire men. The EEOC and anti-discrimination laws are selectively enforced. There companies openly brag about their anti-male (aka “gender diversity”) policies, which are probably illegal, but the letter of the law does not matter if the authorities refuse to enforce it, which they don’t, again, because its only men that are being discriminated against.

  6. Fantastic as usual from Quillette, as well as from each brave, wise and empowered woman that contributed to this piece. Thank you for the much needed breath of fresh air!

  7. I am impressed by each of your stories and by the principles that you seek to uphold.

    This said, though, I’m sceptical that such an approach focused upon strong individual women speaking up can make that much of a difference. Here are a few reasons why:

    1. Each of you, in different ways, is exceptional. However, an effective response to victimhood culture has to be one that works just as well for unexceptional women. For the woman who struggles to make herself heard in a group and is easily silenced by the vocal men. For the woman who doesn’t feel confident in putting herself forward in front of others. For the woman who feels threatened by a forceful opposing position. For the woman who feels alienated by the rough male culture of her workplace.

    2. Most men and most women have a tacit sense of the relative weakness of women in many such situations and, whether they appeal to a notion of victimhood or not, they expect men to be protective and gentler when interacting with them. This fact is usually left unspoken, because saying that women are generally weaker than men is not appreciated. However, it is generally expected that men must honour it and those who don’t are stigmatized. While there are exceptions to this general pattern, it usually takes some effort to establish the exceptions and men can be wary of treating them as such.

    3. The man is generally recognized to be the ‘overdog’ in such situations and whatever he does when he challenges a woman, he can end up looking bad. If he soundly and publicly beats her in argument, for instance, he ends up looking like a bully. If he throws her softballs, he can appear patronizing. If he loses to her, he looks weak and stupid. Even convinced feminists seem to find weak male feminists unattractive, although the man who acts as the champion for the women around him, attacking the men who challenge them can seem attractive. There often seems to be a desire among feminists for men in general to be relatively weak and unassertive, so that women aren’t squeezed out in society and the workplace, but for their men to be fearless and assertive champions on their behalf, praising the strength of the feminist women in their lives, while employing a characteristically masculine strength to protect and empower them. Male strength is attractive, but also something pathological, preventing women from achieving equality.

    4. Even if you don’t identify as a victim, other people will identify you as such. Other women will characterize you as victims. Men who challenge you may be stigmatized as misogynists for doing so. Even when women explicitly deny that they are victims, they can be no shortage of men who will run to their protection when they think they are threatened.

    5. Most decent guys have internalized some form of a ‘good men don’t hit women’ principle, which is applied fairly broadly, along with the expectation that good guys protect women. Even—or often especially—feminist men who will praise the strength of the women around them and decry the benevolent sexism and double standards with which they are treated will be very protective of the women around them and will be very gentle, affirming, and non-threatening towards them. Such an instinct isn’t changed easily, especially when it is clear to most of us that the average woman wouldn’t be at all comfortable at the receiving end of the sort of rough treatment that we give other guys.

    6. This issue is seen, for instance, in the way that some women will claim to be strong and not victims, yet argue that male tendencies in discourse, for instance, are abusive and misogynist, not appreciating that they are about forms of discourse in which everyone is expected to fight their corner, push their position forward, and prove the strength of their position by sparring with others. They presume that the men who engage in ‘mansplaining’, ‘manterrupting’, or who dominate the conversation are specifically attacking them as women, not appreciating that these are dynamics of male conversation more generally and that they need to be far more playfully assertive in response. Far too many women who loudly proclaim their strength are reminiscent of the Margaret Thatcher quote: ‘Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.’

    7. When dealing with a typical guy, I can treat him fairly roughly and challenge him, while being sure that he won’t play the victim card, because he has no victim card in his hand to play. Besides, if he did play the victim, he would likely end up looking weak and unmanly in most male company. And if he was genuinely hurt, he would more likely be expected to excuse himself from the conversation, which would carry on without him. Unless I have really crossed a line, his being hurt reflects more negatively on him than on me. However, when dealing with a woman, I know that she always has the victim card in her hand. There are some women who refuse ever to play it, and I admire them greatly. If I hurt them, though, I know that I will be the one who ends up looking bad to onlookers. I also cannot be entirely sure that, when backed into a corner, they wouldn’t play the victim card rather than suffer defeat. I must take their word for it. The situation will always be a complicated one as long as there is a victim card in women’s hand.

    8. Finally, so much of this is connected with the general dynamics of female intrasexual competition. Adopting a strategy of indirect conflict, where direct conflict is minimized and discouraged, while consensus is manufactured through such things as the freezing out of dissenters or appeals to third parties to intervene on your behalf, is a classic pattern of female intrasexual competition. Such strategies can be very powerful and effective, especially for people who enjoy less direct power. The problem is that individual women disavowing victimhood status is not going to overcome the general dynamics of female society. They will just end up functioning as honorary males.

    Even while recognizing the relative strength of men in many areas of society, men can genuinely be in awe of the strength of character and resolve that the women in their lives display. That they seek to protect and be gentler with them is certainly not because they think of women as lesser or simply weak, but because they recognize real areas where they are relatively stronger than most women and where women can generally be more vulnerable. They admire the way the women they know rise above victimhood and assert their own agency and rise to their full stature, but they still are very aware of their vulnerabilities and seek to protect them from more bruising interactions because they love and respect them. I am wary that, in the worthwhile struggle against victimhood culture, we might discard this and pretend that there are no meaningful differences between the sexes on average. While it can definitely take unhealthy forms, men generally treating women more gently than they treat men and protecting them from some of the rough treatment that men are supposed to handle is not an entirely bad thing.

    • Thomas Goalman says

      Thanks for this, your response is food for thought.

      I do think some women don’t seem to appreciate the degree to which men can be forced into just staying silent instead of risking breaking the social expectations placed on them. This upper hand in arguments then leads to the feeling of falseness and resentment that helps nobody.

      I for one would just like to be able express myself more freely in substantive disagreements without them turning personal and want others to feel just as free to do the same. Obviously there is a lot of nuance to be found in why this is difficult, vis-a-vis average differences in expectations between the sexes.

  8. I too applaud Helen, Holly, Amy and Claire’s strengths and accomplishments …but these women are atypical of the vast majority of females for whom the #metoo movement resonates.


    Does this mean the vast majority of women are all weak and out to lunch? No. It just means the vast majority of women are in a different space ….and their in that different space because the vast majority of men have placed them there.

  9. you lost me at claiming there were witch hunts against men. that’s not a thing but a contradiction.

    • Eisso says

      It is not. Lots of witches burned in the 16th and 17th century were men. It may be a feminist myth the witch hunts were a ‘misogynist project’.

      • Correct, although I’d just add that most witches were hanged. It’s quicker and easier than organizing a bonfire.

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  11. It’s hard not to notice the skin tone and apparent social strata these ladies all come from. It’s very hard to judge a system that supports you, no?

    • jenna says

      They don’t all come from the same social strata. And while their skin tones might look the same, do we know the ethnicity/race/religion of any of these writers? No, because it’s not really relevant.

    • Epson Maverick says

      Yup. They appear to be working class or lower to middle class and not Ivy League, trust fund babies.

      I think that explains a lot.

  12. Paul D says

    I think the LGBTQ+ community is also playing the victim card too. As Claire Lehmann said, we are fighters, not victims. Let the nonsense go, let’s focus on being able to have comfortable lives, who cares about forcing people to try accept us. Straight people are not trying to oppress us, homophobic people are. Get. The. Difference.

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  14. V 2.0 says

    Ok Quillette, you’ve got my money now. I’ve been meaning to get around to supporting you on Patreon for a while and this article just made me whip out my credit card to finally sign up. Thank you for saying what I have been trying to point out to some of my ‘progressive’ friends during this whole harassment hysteria. Frankly unless someone is dragging me off into an alley to remove a limb or in my face with their rudeness to the point where I can’t go about my daily business I’m good. I don’t need protection from some man showing me a perfectly ordinary body part or making sad, rude noises. I’m kind of dreading the day when I need a chaperone to interact with my male coworkers (unfortunately for their protection as well). What’s next? Feminist approved coverings for our bodies to keep us safe? Maybe poke out the eyes of every man so they can’t look? I know I’m kind of making light of this but seriously I think if we don’t put a stop the silliness we are going to gradually lose all the rights and freedoms women have fought for over the last couple of hundred years. Can we get some sort of movement going? Sign me up!

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