Older feminists aren’t the only ones who ‘lose their way’

Susan Brownmiller (image/The Makers)
Susan Brownmiller (image/The Makers)

The trend of ageism in feminism, popularized in the 90s by third wave feminists, not only has continued but seems to be the order of the day. The term “second waver” has become a slur used not only by out and proud misogynists, but by today’s liberal feminists, who appear to have carried the torch, albeit a refurbished one, covered in Swarovski crystals and paraded across the stage by a drag queen dressed as Beyonce.

Ageism is a terrifying trend, addressed by many in the past, but nonetheless ignored by the kind of folks who think that so long as they can maintain a “sexy” version of feminism they will be protected from the kind of misogyny they themselves use against their potential sisters. Why anyone would want to get on that treadmill, I don’t know. It’s inevitable that you’ll be forced off at some point, and when you do, where will you fall? Not into the arms of the sexists who propped you up before, not into your ageist sisters who’ve taken on that discourse, and now will level it against you.

While many of our elders have been subjected to attempted erasure by a culture that fetishizes youth, particularly in women, it’s the dismissive attitudes perpetuated by third wave feminists that are truly baffling. I mean, what is the possible benefit of rejecting history and knowledge that should be an integral part of the movement? What is the use of rejecting sisters who strengthen our movement? Are young women unaware that, one day, they too will be over 50 and potentially subjected to the same treatment they themselves are engaging in now? Are they unaware that feminism is about the liberation of all women, not just the ones male/mainstream culture want to look at? Ageism in feminism is self-defeating in the most obvious of ways.

Beyond that, we can see how an overemphasis on “youth culture” has turned popular feminism into a rather superficial conversation that is hyperfocused on American celebrities, self-objectification, and Instaempowerment achieved through selfies and male attention. These are things that may well be worth talking about, but they are not the only things and they are not the stuff revolutions are made of. Third wavers are busily turning pop stars into untouchable icons while simultaneously and viciously tearing down the women who built this movement and continue to do the work.

The most-recent victim of third wave scorn is Susan Brownmiller who, you could say, wrote the book on rape. Well, a book… An important one. In a controversial interview for The Cut, Brownmiller took aim at current anti-rape activism on American campuses.

To be clear, I actually think she’s right about a few things, namely that many of these new anti-rape activists “think they are the first people to discover rape, and the problem of consent, and they are not,” as well as the fact that more marginalized women and girls are often ignored by the more dominant conversation about rape culture on campus (though this does not mean we should not be having a conversation about rape culture on campus). The statements of hers that are more difficult to understand and digest are the ones that argue women are, in a way, “asking for it” when they drink too much or dress like, in her words, “hookers.”

I don’t agree that dressing in what some might call “slutty” clothes or getting drunk has much to do with rape. Not because I don’t think men target women who are incapacitated or because men don’t engage in victim-blaming themselves, justifying sexual assault by saying, you know, “She was wearing next nothing, obviously she wanted it,” but because men rape regardless. And the point is that men are fully capable of controlling themselves (i.e. not raping), but choose not to.

Likewise, I found her comments on women in situations of domestic abuse rather galling:

“Well, I take a hard line with victims of domestic violence, too. I feel it is my place as a feminist to say, ‘Get out, get out, get out of this relationship.’ They feel that we should respect their opinions and beliefs because they are survivors. If they can’t get out because they don’t want to reduce their living circumstances, or they don’t want to go, or they are passive people, then I am supposed to respect that. But I don’t. My feeling is ‘Get out.'”

I mean, women who stay in abusive relationships do not stay because they are necessarily “passive people.” They stay for many reasons, which are far more complex than Brownmiller acknowledges in her comments. Financial dependence plays a huge role, as does emotional abuse, which serves to convince women they are worthless, can’t leave, or simply that there is nothing wrong with their relationship or that their partner will change. Mothers fear they will lose their children if they leave and many women justifiably fear they will be killed if they try to escape.

Now, I have no real idea how well Brownmiller’s full position was conveyed in this particular interview. I would love to hear more from her. Perhaps I will hear more and find I still disagree, but one interview in The Cut is not enough to convince me that a woman who has contributed substantially to the feminist movement should be tossed aside, as so many have done.

All that said, this interview is not, in fact, what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the way this interview is being used to engage in subtle (and not so subtle) ageism and the reinforcement of mythical tropes about the feminist movement.

In a column at The Guardian, Jessica Valenti begins to address Brownmiller’s comments by stating, “There’s a generational tension trend in social movements.” But this is not true. There is an ideological divide. Third wave feminists and liberals often paint ideological divides as generational in order to both push older feminists into irrelevancy and in order to avoid acknowledging that, most-often, what we’re talking about is not a matter of young vs. old, but liberal vs. radical. While a “generational divide” might exist for third wave feminists, it does not, in fact, exist in radical circles, where we work within extremely diverse groups and listen to women young and old and in between. I feel sorry that third wavers have chosen to reject these opportunities and even sorrier that they’ve insisted on generalizing an entire movement based on their mistakes.

For example, I attended Take Back the Night in Vancouver last Friday. The event was organized by Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter and ReSisters (a group of lesbians, working class women, and women of colour formed for the purposes of organizing TBTN) and was attended by hundreds of women of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities. It was a truly incredible sight to see, especially when held in contrast to the popular internet tropes that paint radical feminism as a movement of white, middle class, older women. Laughable, in fact. That single action, in and of itself, was enough to dissolve said accusations and tropes into a joke. If only #twitterfeminism would show up to such events, I thought. Of course, if they dared, they’d have no way of dismissing our movement so dishonestly, so they don’t.

My point is this: radical feminism is diverse. There are hundreds of young women across the globe taking up the reigns, led by second wave feminism. Our movement and the elder women who came before us are not irrelevant or “out of touch,” they are right there with us, walking beside us, mentoring us, teaching us, working alongside us. We are sisters, working together, in a cohesive movement. I’m sorry if liberal feminists are missing this, but it says more about their politics than it does ours.

So when I see third wave, liberal feminists trying to paint second wavers as out of touch fuddy duddies I just think, jeez, you need to get out more.

In her article, Valenti is careful to point out that young people don’t make “those with their heydey behind them… irrelevant,” but rather that “living in your own bubble does.” She also says that the mere fact that young women are “doing the work” is a tribute to older feminists. And I’d agree, except that I see mainstream feminism, dominated by young, privileged, liberal women, engaging enthusiastically in ageist, sexist language and condescending to their elders. If you talk about “second wave” ideas with disdain, you aren’t paying tribute to anyone but anti-feminists who are surely giddy to see their efforts embraced with such fervour. What the third wave has done is not to pay tribute to their second wave sisters, but rather bulldozed the foundation they built and used them as firewood to heat their own homes.

If we are truly concerned with Brownmiller’s comments, why not offer her an opportunity to explain? Or invite her into a discussion? Why kick her to the curb without a second thought? This overzealous willingness to dismiss our elder sisters comes from an ethos that says, “out with the old, in with the shiny and new,” and it’s rooted in a version of feminism that has nothing to do with collective organizing and everything to do with showboating and a kind of celebrity culture that values icons over ideas. If we worked together instead of placing individual women on pedestals that are so easy to fall off of, if we looked to the second wave, which built a movement on the idea of women as a class and feminism as something that worked towards collective, rather than individual, empowerment, we wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.

In her response, Kate Harding writes,

“If, 40 years from now, someone asks me what I think about young anti-rape activists, I hope my ego will allow me to profess admiration for whatever work they’re doing to better the new world they’ve grown up in. But honestly, there’s just as good a chance that I’ll respond like Brownmiller, carping about kids’ lack of historical awareness and respect for their elders, then adding a bunch of crap that sounds hopelessly outdated to anyone pre-menopausal. Either way is fine with me, really. If I get to the point where I have no idea what young activists are on about, or why they don’t seem concerned with what most concerns me, it will probably mean they’ve taken what they needed from my generation’s feminism and left the rest behind. I’m pretty sure that’s what progress looks like.”

Is it what progress looks like? Why is it that the concerns of older women are positioned as irrelevant here? Why, again, are we reinforcing this unnecessary and inaccurate “generational divide?” If something is irrelevant to us, as individuals, does that necessarily mean we should dismiss those interests?

Yeah, some older women make offensive comments about women. But you know who else does that? Third wave feminists, younger women, liberal feminists. This is not an age problem.

Because you know what else strikes me as enormously “old-school” and out of touch? Calling feminists uptight prudes. Also, arguing that men’s have sexual “needs” that must be met. Also, reinforcing old-fashioned, sexist ideas about innate femininity and masculinity. Arguing that clothing, makeup, and high heels are what makes a woman. Telling feminists who oppose objectification that they’re “just jealous.” All those things. Totally symptomatic of the fact that you aren’t keeping up with feminist discourse.

So where are all the arguments pointing out how “old-school,” out of touch, and offensive third wave and liberal feminists can be? Where are the columns arguing we must “let go” of all the liberal feminists who resort to cliches about prostitution being the “oldest profession in the world” and that therefore we simply must live with it? Or who trash older feminists the second they dare say a critical word about Beyonce or Miley Cyrus. I mean, who needs second wave feminism when we have Lady Gaga, amirite?

Valenti writes, “When we dismiss younger people’s ideas instead of engaging with them seriously, that is the moment we make ourselves a cliche — and yes, irrelevant,” but does that sentiment go both ways? Not so many years ago, Valenti argued that older women were “not very good at passing the torch” and that they prevented younger women from being “visible in the feminist movement.” But the idea that older women hold all this power in our society is false. Today, they are made invisible by popular culture and by the very same women who demanded they pass their torches. Robin Morgan’s response to young feminists who asked she “pass the torch” is as relevant as ever today, “Get your own damned torch,” she said. “I’m still using mine.”

The reason mainstream feminism is such a mess, so pro-capitalism, so superficial, so ahistorical, so willing to throw out our elders at a moment’s notice, so ready to erase history and the reality of our movement in order to quite literally whitewash feminism into obscurity, is because it has dismissed second wave feminists. It dismisses feminism that isn’t sexy, young, cool, and fun and, in doing so, ends up with a bastardized version of a movement that aspires to little more than individual, temporarily feelings of empowerment. That version of feminism might stay relevant, in terms of pop culture, but that’s only because it doesn’t actually threaten the roots of patriarchy or capitalism. In actuality, liberal feminism is only “relevant” because it is acceptable to the powers that be, and therefore is not really relevant at all, as far as effecting real change goes.

It’s not older feminists who’ve “lost their way,” it’s the third wave. They’ve thrown out the map, paved over the well-worn paths, buried their foremothers under a pile of sequined bras and feather boas, and are now walking around in circles looking for a vegan strip club.

Valenti says, “while some people’s best work comes from decades of experience, some comes from new sets of eyes,” adding that those who don’t recognize this “are only hurting themselves — because like it or not, the movement will go on without us.”

But it won’t. It absolutely won’t. The movement will go nowhere if we dismiss second wave feminists and older women. Because erasing or ignoring history and erasing and ignoring women will result in a movement without legs. And we aren’t going anywhere without those.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Cangle

    I would add that Second Wave Feminsts brought heart. It was all about love for womanhood.

  • Delilah

    Brownmiller’s comments are very unhelpful to say the least, as it plays right into the hands of the Hoff-Sommers, the Yoffes and the Tarantos who are pushing the agenda that the campus rape crisis is overblown, exaggerated and the result of hysterical feminists. In fact there is even a new-(ish) book tiltled something like “The campus rape crisis hoax.”
    I’ve seen several MRA blogs refer to Brownmiller’s “Against Our Will”, as nothing but feminist propaganda even though it is sound journalistic/scholarly work, can you imagine what they are saying now? “Well if even she is saying…….”
    isn’t Brownmiller contradicting what she was trying to contradict—the belief that provocative clothing causes rapists to rape? And that is in reference to “looking like a hooker” so…are hookers are sub-human and asking for rape? This is the implication that she probably did not intend.

    • As a poor, marginalized woman who’s a human trafficking survivor, I STRONGLY object to pejoratives like “hooker” and “prostitute” which only serve to further dehumanize an entire class of disprivileged women and girls whom society set aside and offered up as human shields to bear the brunt of poverty, economic terrorism, and male sexual self-entitlement. I was FORCED to “look like a hooker”, and I was raped by 10-20 men PER DAY for four years (I was trafficked from when I was 121/13 – 17). The most UN-feminist thing to do is to refer to me as anything other than a CRIME VICTIM, a victim of commercial rape.

  • Max Dashu

    Great column, excellent points. Not the first time Brownmiller has said controversial stuff (on a listserv populated by 2nd wave vets, a lot of women didn’t like her latest comments) but what a disservice to old feminists to make one woman stand for all, in order to dismiss us as over the hill, and admonish us to step aside. That’s not gonna happen, nor should it. Love the zinger from Robin Morgan.

  • Tobysgirl

    I’ve wondered if Brownmiller could have better expressed herself and would have chosen to do so if the interviewer had queried her more closely. Her comments about Emmett Till in her book were extremely disturbing — accepting the statements of white supremacist men and calling Till a would-be rapist shocked me.
    Feminism in the 1970s was subjected to some of these very same issues; I remember a careful distinction being made between radical feminism and equal-rights feminism (now very aptly called neoliberal feminism). But endless discussions about whether heterosexual women could be radical feminists were not constructive, nor were the demands of some women that other women accept their sadomasochistic sexual practices. We live in a society that denigrates collective awareness and action, and it’s amazing any time we can actually come together and do something constructive. Putting down older women is just typical of the alienated, hyper-individualistic (read hyper-conformist) culture that is constantly promoted in every venue. It is up to us to reject that culture’s cheap, nasty ethos.

  • mimi

    Are we really defending the woman who blamed her friend who was gang raped and had her arm broken? I almost threw up when I read that article. To quote one of posts here:
    It’s another thing to say what she said, namely that women are at fault for wanting to drink and party with men, that drunk rape victims deserve their assault (the flippant way she described her college roommate’s gang rape and grievous bodily injury was appalling), and that “hookers” and people who dress like them (who appear to offer sex through their clothing and appearance) deserve to be raped (that was the implication).

    Questions for author and everybody who reads this:
    1. How do you think rape victims feel when they read that even the woman who is supposed to be at their side is telling them that they are at fault?
    2. Don’t you all think that this exact article could be writen about any other second wave feminist, and than it would be true? You could have chosen second wave feminist who isn’t victim blamer and awful woman hater, someone who has good points(and there are lots of them) and who is constantly attacked by other liberal feminist, surely you could find lots of them.
    3.Lets be real here, what she said about rape victims is much much worse then what others said about her. She made so much damage, do you really really think that this world needs another feminist who is going to blame rape victims and in that way to fuel women haters who will going to say Seee even the feminist say that women are at fault for their rape.
    4. How do you think her friends who was gang raped and her arm broken fells after Brownmiller wrote all those disgusting words about her. Those are real people, who are beyond traumatized when they read something like this.
    5. Why didn’t anyone here wrote and article telling how this is not a stance of radical feminists and article in which they support rape victims, to tell them they are not alone, and that they are not at fault?
    All in all if just one person saw this and decided to not report her rape to the police or killed herself, that is beyond awful, Brownmiller is on pair on MRAs in this one.

    • calabasa

      Yes, in my original reply on the “What’s Current” page I said the same thing…has Susan Brownmiller been body-jacked by Paul Elam?!

  • mimi

    I agree with you, until this sentance: It does sound like the backlash was disproportionate, and unsurprisingly led by liberal feminists, who are fighting for their right to exploit themselves without being raped. (I might say “to be fully sexual, autonomous beings without being raped,” but what they are doing, IMO, is playing into the hands of misogynist males who want to use them. Being a fully sexual autonomous being is different and perhaps not achievable in a fully liberated sense within this patriarchy).

    You could hate liberal feminists, or any other group of women, but they have the right to do anything they want without being raped. No woman is fault for her rape, only rapist is. The other parts of your posts were brilliant, I even quoted you, and saved your post in my “golden feminist collection”. Cheers!

    • calabasa

      Thanks Mimi! I completely agree women have the right to do whatever they want without being raped. I think in fact that is the crux of the issue, as sexual access to women’s bodies is the fundamental basis of our oppression. Everything is designed to keep women in their place, which is serving men, whether in the household or the bed (the ultimate role of women).

      In my view, liberal feminism fails to take this into account when they tell women to “embrace their sexuality” by essentially becoming more like men (more predatory and callous in their approach to sex). It fails to take into account how many women don’t in fact want this (they want meaningful interactions, whatever their duration), or even if they do how the men they have meaningless sex with are not going to be celebrating their agency while using them. I think this leads a lot of misguided young women, who have embraced this ethos without looking any further into feminism, to exploit themselves in a way that is not only dangerous and leaves them open to sexual assault but traumatizing and damaging in and of itself. Furthermore, “liberal feminism” has neatly synced with the commodification and objectification of women’s bodies to create the kind of hook-up culture that is now common in high school and college and even later on the dating scene (I think that this callous sexual culture is part of what has led to the rise in internet dating, an earnest throwback yearning for the “good old days” of real relationships if I ever saw one).

      In fact, much of women’s sexuality, whether under liberal feminism or not (although I think liberal feminism, which embraces things like burlesque, pornography, and “sex work,” is actually an egregious example of this) is subject to the male gaze and as such is not really “women’s sexuality” but “male-oriented sexuality,” in this case of women. I think we need to take down the patriarchy before we see what true sexual freedom looks like.

      So I stand by my statement that liberal feminists are fighting for their right to exploit themselves (in its most extreme form through pornography and prostitution) without getting raped. They are playing into the male gaze and male constructions of power–the patriarchy that turns women into objects to keep them in their place–and demanding the right to be able to do it without that most patriarchal tool of control, violation. It’s a confused ideology to say the least.

      However, you’re completely right that women deserve the right to live free of rape, whether misguided or not. I was misguided and I was raped, and I didn’t deserve it. I know that now. I also know when my behavior contributed to it and when it didn’t, and I know when my contributing behavior was influenced both by previous incidents of abuse and by the messages I had absorbed telling me I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, real enough to be a person without male approval, which I could only get through sex and sexual temptation. We do need to look at why women behave in certain ways and why men respond to that behavior with violence. Both actors are acting from within the harmful framework of patriarchy, and some people due to circumstance and upbringing are more exposed to and affected by it than others.

      P.s. Thanks for the add! A “golden feminist collection” sounds amazing! 🙂

  • Meghan Murphy

    As I made very clear, I do not agree with Brownmiller’s comments about rape victims and domestic abuse survivors. I was appalled as anyone else that she said such things. The purpose of this piece was to point to the larger trend of ageism that third wavers partake in and the way that some are using Brownmiller’s comments as an excuse to say ageist things.

    • krp

      I agree with the stance on ageism, but as I and others mentioned I really think that you could wrote this about some other feminist. I can name 10 second wave feminists right know who never said anything sexist, and who are constantly attacked by other feminists. They would be much better example, because they didn’t do anything to make this world less safe place for women, especially rape victims, so to attack their opinions because they are old would be much more serious and unforgiving.

      • Meghan Murphy

        But I do write about that… Often.

  • Meghan Murphy

    You’re preaching to the choir, sis. But I take issue with your comment that it’s second wave feminists who are saying misogynistic things, considering that much of third wave ideology/discourse is abhorrently sexist. Don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch… I mean, that was the entire point of my piece, which I’m concerned you missed… Brownmiller made a shitty comment about victims, that doesn’t say anything about the second wave. And why don’t these libfems piling on to attack her EVER say anything about the enormously sexist ideas reinforced by their allies? Surely the sex industry hurts women far more than Brownmiller, yet they seem perfectly ok with pimps and johns…

  • It’s really a shame that one or two older women are held up as representational of all the older feminists, because there are asshats in every generation of women, including women who identify as feminists. Having recently listened to a podcast where Betsy Leondar-Wright, a class justice activist and feminist was being interviewed, Betsy said something that really stuck out to me. She said that the ONE thing that tended to produce the most cohesion among social justice activists across not only the age ranges, but also across racial lines and even sex lines and that was one’s socio-economic class origins (i.e. whether you grew up middle class and had middle class parents, etc.). I believe there’s a lot of truth to that.

    If Susan Brownmiller comes from the white middle/upper-middle class and was lucky in never having been raped or forced into prostitution, it’s fair to say that she may not “get it” regarding poor, marginalized sex trafficked/prostituted women’s concerns—hence her comment about “hookers” in connection with victim-blaming. I have had the honor and privilege to learn from other older feminists of Brownmiller’s age group who came from the working class and the poverty class. The language they use to describe the dynamics of male oppression is a lot different than Brownmiller’s. So I think that socio-economic class more than age has a lot to do with this issue.

    Language absolutely DOES matter. Especially to some of us who are among the poorest, most marginalized group of women there is (human sex trafficking survivors).

    Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can incite an entire society to harm or even kill me.

    I have extreme difficulty trusting and respecting a feminist regardless of her age who makes statements along lines that further dehumanize some of the most abused, raped women there are (whom feminists claim to speak for/fight for) by referring to us as “hookers” or “prostitutes” in connection with the idea that we’re not rape-able because somehow the exchange of money magically invokes consent and whatever the conseuences of this false consent is, the woman or girl in prostitution brought it on herself because that’s what she exists for. That is the very same argument that MEN say to justify their “right” to use their money and male privilege to buy rape tickets (which is exactly what “johns” are doing) to coerce unwanted, non-consensual sex in exchange for money that the poor prostituted/trafficked woman or girl whose bodies they’re renting is most likely not even allowed to keep because pimps and traffickers get ALL of the money—every single time. And let’s face it, you don’t get a more brutal, uglier shade of patriarchy than that.

    • calabasa

      Hear hear. I’m sorry for what you’ve been through and so glad you’re speaking the truth.

      Middle class isn’t absolute protection, though. That’s my only caveat. There’s always family dysfunction, sexual abuse, mental illness etc. to contend with (in addition to race and gender, which affect a person regardless of class, albeit to a lesser degree if they’re lucky). But you’re absolutely right that in the end it all comes down to money. All of these boxes we’re placed in to control us–class, gender, race, neuro-normality, social conformity–are all about keeping the rich rich and the poor poor (and the rich are mostly men and the poor mostly women. Coincidence? I don’t think so). So I think it’s more about the far reaches of the upper class, actually; they are the ones pulling the strings.

      • You’re right in that this is no coincidence at all, because capitalism is applied patriarchy.

    • mysticserpent007

      You said it best, Jacqueline. I have seen these elitist, judgmental, self-righteous attitudes in both second-wave and third-wave feminists.

      It is one of the biggest reasons why I can’t take so many feminists seriously; because they’re like exclusionary, cliquish high school girls that are unable to relate to other women who are not as sheltered, upper middle class, or “respectable” as they are.

      I’m white and middle-class myself, and even I have felt alienated and excluded by these women. I can definitely imagine what poorer women’s experiences with them must have been like.

      I am very sorry for what you went through. Please know you have all my support.

  • calabasa

    ha ha ha

  • krp

    Did you read her awful comments about her friend who was gang raped, trust me when I say that even the most sexist men would be vary of writing that what she wrote. She didn’t wrote those comments to support rape victims, just to say to them if you are drunk or you are dressing in a way that isn’t modest you are at fault. I really don’t see much female solidarity or protecting women here, she has done the same some MRA terrorist will do. That is not second wave, second wave is not full of victim blaming women haters.

  • calabasa

    I liked this article, Meghan. I agree that it’s ridiculous to try to hold one interview’s thoughtless statements up as evidence that the entire third wave needs to be dismissed. I understand the ageism (because she obviously is out of touch with the issues and even the vernacular if she’s tossing around terms like “hooker”), but the same could be said of anyone who falls out of touch with an issue for a while and then presumes to speak on it as an expert in its modern incarnation. “Isms” don’t usually help anyone (except for feminism, of course 🙂 ), and as you point out age has been used as a way to dismiss women for time immemorial and is part of what feminism is fighting against–the idea that women are only relevant as long as they have youth and sex appeal. Generalizations, generally speaking, are often incorrect. (Two self-contradicting statements in one paragraph! That last one was so paradoxical it doesn’t even make any sense. It’s saying the opposite of what I wrote I guess. Still, it’s true. Generally). That doesn’t mean we should not make broad statements, just that they need to be qualified. But the third wave has never been subtle.

    I think Susan Brownmiller could have tactfully discussed the behavior that leads women to take risks that might result in rape (in a rape culture) without dismissing those victims out of hand. They are victims of a culture that teaches girls starting at a very young age to over-sexualize themselves for the male gaze and to actively put themselves in harm’s way (by seeking constant male attention)–something which the libfems might wholeheartedly endorse as “empowered female sexuality”–as much as they are victims of the perpetrator that assaults them (who himself is a victim of a culture that teaches men that it’s okay and even cool to rape drunk women and “party girls”). She obviously could have employed a lot more tact in discussing prostituted women and domestic violence as well.

    However, what’s interesting about the whole thing is that it IS the endorsement of third-wave feminism that leads so many young women (who embrace it without thinking, as it jibes so nicely with everything else they’ve experienced growing up telling them to make themselves up all sexy for men) to take risks and hang out in places that are more likely than hanging out in the library to lead to their rape. And not all of these young women really want to be doing it, either; they want to fit in, they want to be liked. It’s not the first time knee-jerk liberalism has led to unpleasant consequences. Abusing drugs and alcohol has become the cool thing to do too, and a lot of girls do it in order to feel out of control (and not to feel their real feelings about what’s going on). I say this as someone who’s done far more than my fair share of drinking and drugging. Like sex, substances should be approached with caution (or at least with respect), neither of which is happening in these situations.

    Of course women should be able to go to parties and get drunk without being raped. Or to sell sex without being raped. But the REASON women WANT to go to these demeaning sort of frat parties (or think it’s “cool” and “empowering” to sell sex to abusive males) is directly tied to the harmful lies of liberal feminism, which aligns itself with the male gaze in the guise of empowerment. Shutting down all conversation about why rape happens in these situations and how both parties–rapist and victim–are following a cultural script is a silencing tactic that won’t get us anywhere. Often reality is uncomfortable, and any true exploration of the victim-victimizer dynamic is bound to bring us into some very uncomfortable territory.

    But what Susan Brownmiller does have a duty to do, considering her role as a feminist icon and a pioneer on the subject of rape, is to approach these controversial topics sensitively and with the nuanced understanding they deserve.

    I would say the same thing to liberal feminists, either when thinking about Brownmiller’s interview or any other complex issue. Most seem to lack an understanding of nuance and the importance of context as well. (In fact another article about how men who watch pornography are more likely to be progressive made me think of liberal feminists. Men who watch pornography are more likely to be liberal feminist allies, is the truth. They nominally champion women’s rights to equal pay and call women acquiescing to a cultural mindset of abuse “choice.” While liberal feminists might speak out about women’s rights to live free of rape during the day and dance burlesque followed by a session of light bondage and nipple torture at night, speak out against trafficking and in favor of all-but-trafficking prostitution in the same breath, men who watch pornography are the ones who are watching them dance, tying them up and torturing them, and the ones buying those exploited women for sex and abusing them, domestically and abroad. Of course they are going to espouse the same liberal egalitarian views out loud. One side self-abuses while talking about the importance of feminism and the other side abuses women while doing the same thing. Male pornography users are the flip side of liberal feminists).

    I have to admit, when I saw the interview in “What’s Current” I thought FeministCurrent was endorsing her views (which is why my comments on that “What’s Current” are so outraged). I can see from your article that you are not, but I think your outrage at her statements about rape, prostituted women and domestic violence are not coming through loud enough for people to hear. And I kind of agree. We do need to have some articulate radfems criticizing her and pointing out how criticizing her is different than criticizing the second wave. They could also criticize the third wave for its endorsement of the exploitative values that have led so many young women into risky positions, and they can show that it’s possible to do so while still maintaining that rape is *always* wrong and the fault of the rapist. But sometimes it’s the fault of the rapist and the culture too, including the culture that teaches young women that it’s okay, while surrounded by young men who have absorbed toxic messages about sexual abuse, to let themselves be rendered completely vulnerable by alcohol; the same culture that teaches the young men those toxic messages, which are later given their third wave stamp of approval (consent makes it all okay! No kink-shaming! Etc.). I can understand young men’s confusion even, faced with this: abuse is sexy, women are not people, oh wait they are, but they are people who want to be abused, abuse is sexy but only when she says so, getting drunk is a sign and dancing on the bar is a sign she says so, oh wait no it’s not, or is it, rough sex is rape without consent but what’s consent, consent isn’t real anyway, or it doesn’t matter if women aren’t human anyway…meanwhile the women in question have a similar litany of confusing contradictory messages running through their heads.

    Susan Brownmiller might have had a point if she’d expanded on it carefully, sensitively, and not simply dismissed the victims of campus rape out of hand.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Oh no! No we didn’t intend to endorse her views at all. What’s Current is intended simply to summarize current going-ons/articles that might be of interest/relevance to readers. Susan was actually wary of posting the link at all but I felt we should go ahead and post because so many people were talking about it…

  • Joe Cavanaugh

    I don’t even recognize 3rd wave feminism as a form of feminism. They’re just average women who want boyfriends, a middle-class lifestyle, and a brand.

    • calabasa

      Succinctly put!

  • S.K.Law

    I agree about abuse reducing the amount of faith you have in human nature. The affects of psychological/emotional, medical (neglect), and occasional physical abuse on me lead to a lack of trust in ‘people’ period. Even at the relatively tender age of 12 I think I was far less trusting of my peers and adults (abuse came from a parent) than were my female friends. Although I wouldn’t ever claim I was more mature than my peers, in fact I would say I was young for my age in some ways (not all). I would never choose to be that vulnerable in the presence of others mainly because I can get pretty incapacitated by my chronic illness (asthma which can lead to extreme fatigue and almost an ambulatory coma when I have a respiratory infection). Why would I choose to artificially induce that state through consumption of drugs and/or alcohol? I really don’t get why women like men, I like certain individuals, not a particular gender. Being an aromantic asexual I guess I am the ultimate sexual minority (asexuals are 1 percent of the population). I feel like I have spent my life humouring everyone and pretending to fit in. Pretending to ‘get’ romantic relationships, going to wedding showers & weddings (giving gifts).

    I have had my own run ins with potentially dangerous men. I remember being tag teamed as a 15 year old when I was doing research at the main branch of the library in my city on a Sunday. Two guys, one older, one quite young who tried to get me to go with them by complimenting me. They left and then came back. Being extraordinarily shy I tried to ‘just ignore’ them and the older one threatened to pick up the library table and throw it if I didn’t engage with them. They both had a ‘no fixed address’ feel. I remember thinking if I just left the building with them (to defuse the situation) I could walk away but could I? Or would I have ended up in a shallow grave (melodramatic I know, but the vibe in retrospect was very serial killer, use the young guy to gain kid’s trust and lure said kid to your truck) Eventually the two left … maybe someone complained when the older man got loud. No staff came over to investigate the situation. No security. I think the other patrons (there was at least one other) and the reference librarian (who sat there the whole time) were just annoyed with me. Unfortunately I was trained to be nice and deferential to men … behaviours that I think endangered my life. But if I had gotten loud who would have been kicked out of the building … me I think. What a culture. Blame the victim of harassment. If something like this happened now I would question the older man’s right to initiate a conversation (I do this all the time, I don’t respond well to interrogations) and would give short, monosyllabic responses rather than engaging in conversation but at 15 I still felt bad about being ‘rude’ towards others, even strangers.

    I think setting up previous generations of feminists for a fall is a bit pathetic. I remember attending a play about a member of the Famous Five and her reluctance to give immigrant women the vote (one explanation was that she felt these women would be unduly influenced by their husbands but that accusation could be leveled at born in Canada women during that era). The implication was that she was racist. Possibly. But this ahistorical approach to critiquing previous iterations of feminism really irritates me because the same standard isn’t applied to men of the era. They can be completely retrograde. Women were expected to supercede their own era’s prejudices, to be perfect. But not men. Why is that? This really is an era of hall monitors trying to look good on the backs of others and acting the part of informant about every little infraction.

  • Tired feminist

    “this part shocked me, really one of the most women hating sentence I
    saw: We do need to look at why women behave in certain ways and why men
    respond to that behavior with violence.”

    Hmmm…. no.

    It’s not woman-hating at all to say women’s and men’s choices must be analyzed. This is the entire point of the critique of ‘choice feminism’. Acknowledging the reasons why women make certain choices or have certain behaviors (chosen or not) within a capitalist patriarchy is not victim-blaming.

    • Lavender

      I have to agree. Look, at some point we have to ask why women objectify themselves while men do not. This is NOT the same thing as blaming women for rape. If men have been socialized to dominate women and women have been socialized to think that it’s normal for men to dominate women, then women must also work on unpacking that propaganda. It’s one thing for men, who are privileged in this system, to tell women how to think about this, but it’s quite another for women to discuss among ourselves how our behaviour might challenge or reinforce patriarchy. One of the biggest problems with liberal feminism is that it doesn’t want to entertain any of this analysis. Women need to accept responsibility for our own liberation. Men are not going to stop being sexist just because they repeat liberal talking points and participate in mainstream campaigns.

      As a movement we contradict ourselves if we speak out about rape and consent while pretending that catering to male desire and sexual entitlement does not validate the idea that we exist for them. It’s confusing AF. Looking back, I know I engaged in a lot of consensual behaviour with men that reinforced their dominance while insisting that I was doing what I wanted to do. The truth is that females are pressured to be sexy, to be that ‘cool’ girl, to ‘express their sexuality’ – and those ideas often don’t come from us. Pop feminism pushes us to appropriate these ideas as our own. Why don’t we see boys and men ‘expressing their sexuality’ through the way they dress or how much skin they show? If it’s so empowering, why don’t they do it? Because objectification is for women. Why an individual woman says she does it is beside the point. It’s how we’re dehumanized in this world. It’s critical that young women hear from older women who’ve been there and have the benefit of experience and self-reflection that only time can give us.

      No female is ever responsible for being abused. Ever. But if my 10-year-old cousin starts to dress in a provocative way (and no, we don’t have to use dated or loaded language to describe this), I will sit her down and have a long chat about self-esteem and gender roles. Just because doing X doesn’t cause Y, that doesn’t mean that X is a good idea. We need to add more nuance to this debate.

      • Meghan Murphy

        YES! Yes. Thank you, Lavender.

      • calabasa

        Thanks Lavender, for writing so succinctly what it takes me so much longer to say! 🙂 That’s what I meant when I said that liberal feminism caters to male desires within the patriarchy while still demanding to do so free of that most patriarchal tool of control, violation, and that it’s a confused ideology at best. It kind of reminds me of how the women’s movement that led us to become so “egalitarian” is really more about turning women into men, that is to say dominating, callous, violent, and disregarding the rights of others in the pursuit of wealth and power. Exploiting ourselves for men and playing up to male gaze isn’t empowering; neither is trying to be “more like men” and divorce sex from emotion or even respect for the other person (in objectifying the act of sex women become the objectified, not men, usually, as most women are not as good at the objectification of another person as most men are, whether through nature or nurture; trying to be “more like men” in this–or any–arena has backfired).

  • Joy of Resistance

    Susan Brownmiller DID “write the book on rape”, meaning that she wrote the first book that sought to seriously investigate the history of rape; that saw it as a LEGITIMATE subject for scholarship. Her book: “Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape” took on the subject culturally, historically, legally. Before it there was nothing on the subject. It is still a classic.

    Susan Brownmiller also has pissed off people in the feminist movement at various times in many stages of her life. I would guess that anyone who has known and worked with her knows that this proclivity has nothing at all to do with her age! I saw a remark of hers throw an entire conference plenary into pandemonium in 1980 and everyone in the room started to argue with her and with each other (no, I won’t repeat the remark or comment on whether she was right or wrong). The point here, being, that WE WERE ALL ‘SECOND WAVERS’ arguing over an “offensive” remark by Brownmiller 35 years ago! In other words WE WERE/ARE NOT ALL ALIKE. DUHH!!

    The “authoritative” stereotypical remarks about generations by Valenti and others simply do not take into account the wide range of points of view among ‘second wavers’, attributing all to age and generation–which reveals ignorance of actual feminist history and important debates among feminists (many still still going on). This is what happens when you flatten out history by reducing it simplistically to stereotypes such as age/generation. You lose your history and everyone loses.

    Another brilliant and important column Meghan. Thank you.


    PS: Tonight on Joy of Resistance I had on a group of feminists in their 20’s who are working with older feminists in a multi-generational group (National Women’s Liberation) talking about an exciting campaign which seeks to build on the past and not reject it–proving what you were saying about another kind of feminism going on today. The audio of the show will be up on our blog (joyofresistance.wordpress.com) by the weekend.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Glad to hear that, Fran! Thank you!

  • Meghan Murphy

    Hey mimi — I’m confused. Was there a comment of yours I didn’t post?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Figured out this mystery. “Mimi” has been trolling us under five different user names (krp, nom nom, daring k, mimi, and mklo) in order to accuse us all of being woman-hating MRAs and got confused about which user name she was using to troll us in this particular case, so I deleted another one of her comments (not realizing it was the same person, because generally I trust commenters not to attack our comment section under the guise of desiring genuine feminist discussion) thinking it was a whole separate person! Stupid me. https://www.feministcurrent.com/2015/10/07/whats-current-julie-bindel-no-platformed-from-event-about-feminism-free-speech/#comment-2299592613

      Not fucking cool.

  • Why were there more rape 50, 100, 150 years ago then, where society was more “modest”, or poor rapist monsters were victims of that time too? As long as we make any excuse for rapist and don’t hold them 100 percent accountable, this is what we will get.

    I agree with you 100%. And as far as blaming rape victims for how they were dressed, how does that explain women being raped in the Middle East in countries where they are required by law under the pain of death to veil from head to toe, and in some of those countries, they aren’t even allowed to leave the house without a male family member escort, or even drive—never mind go out and drink?

  • calabasa

    Thank you.

  • Lavender

    “it is strange that in modern time we are more then ever preoccupied with blaming the women and analyzing their behaviour then analyzing the behaviour of men and rapists and trying to stop them”

    Who’s “we”? For all the disagreements that feminists have, none of us are raping women. Men are. You’ll notice that liberal feminists talk a good game about violence against women, but they’re careful not to talk about it as male violence. They’re too busy being palatable to men and blaming radical feminists for what men do.

    Implicit in the statement above are the assumptions that (1) analyzing womens’ behaviour is inherently anti-feminist (a third wave staple); and (2) we cannot simultaneously consider how patriarchy influences both males and females AND hold men solely accountable for THEIR violence. The fact is that if we don’t do both of these things, we will never be liberated.

    If women are blamed, we should consider that this might simply be how patriarchy works, rather than being the fault of second wave feminists. While liberal feminism correctly holds that women are never responsible for the abuse carried out by men, it just tells men they shouldn’t rape. That’s not going to work because it doesn’t address why they rape in the first place. Liberalism tells us that we just need to explain to the oppressors that what they’re doing is wrong, but structures of inequality are far more pervasive than that. This is not a question of moral failure. Men have no reason to change when they already believe deep down that they have a right to not only hurt and demean women, but more fundamentally, a right to women, full stop. Even men who don’t want to beat us or kill us think we belong to them. They think that not wanting to harm us makes them good guys! And everything they see on a daily basis reinforces these beliefs.

    This is why liberal and radical feminists don’t see eye to eye on porn and prostitution. Men don’t rape because they’re uneducated or ignorant. They know what they’re doing, and they do it because they see that the entire society is structured to serve their power. Through porn and the media, they’re told over and over again that not just society, but women specifically, will submit to them because that’s what we’ve been groomed to do. It is impossible to interpret this analysis to mean that women ask to be raped if you understand that in playing out our roles, often unconsciously as an oppressed class, we are already stripped of choice. Third wave feminism views basically anything a woman does without having a gun to her head as choice. It doesn’t take into account how the social construction of gender has enslaved us from birth. In fact, it leaves the system intact.

    However, although we need to analyze the behaviour of men and women because the entitlement that breeds male violence is the product of a dynamic that both sexes are programmed to participate in, it’s important that we have that discussion at the right time and in the right context. I’m not suggesting that we ever ask what the woman was wearing, what she was doing or not doing, etc. because yes, this does suggest that rape is provoked, and yes, Brownmiller is wrong on this. What I’m saying is that as part of our feminist discourse, we do need to be willing to have a conversation among women about the true meaning of choice and the factors that influence our choices vis-à-vis patriarchy. It’s all well and good to say that men shouldn’t rape, but simply telling them so isn’t sufficient. If we want to eradicate sexism and all the violence that comes with it, what we need to do is rip it out at the root, and that root is gender. We can do this.

  • calabasa

    That’s the point; “liberal feminism” isn’t feminism at all, it’s Feminism Lite ™. Or maybe not even that. This is the real Backlash Susan Faludi wrote about; I think it’s even worse now than it was when she wrote that book. Most young people don’t want to even call themselves feminists, and radical feminism has been tainted beyond belief (although I say why not, otherwise it wouldn’t radical if everyone was doing it, right? Oh wait, that’s what we want. For radical feminism to become just feminism to become just the way people think and behave). But I think the truth about rapists lies somewhere in between. Yes, men know, almost always, when they are violating consent (and when they are likely to get away with it–in alcohol-fueled date-rape type situations so common on college campuses); they are also taught by culture that they *should* try to get away with it. It’s not about educating men about consent, which they understand–although affirmative consent, the idea of NOT wearing down a woman’s no’s and assuming she’s playing “hard to get,” could change the whole conversation–but changing an entire society that thinks men’s predatory pursuit of women and willingness to do anything in the name of sex is natural. And I think, for one, that CAN change, if we change this sexist culture. It’s just going to be really damn difficult, and likely slow.

  • calabasa

    I think I always knew something was wrong with sex-positive feminism; still, I was a part of it when I was younger because I was a part of that crowd, in college (it was popular to be “empowered” to wear make-up and little dresses and have casual sex with men). I don’t think of it as rejecting sex-positive feminism as I got older but as rejecting sex-positive feminism as I got *wiser.* I learned from painful experience that objectifying yourself is not all it’s cut out to be, and plays right into the hands of the patriarchy. Older women really are wiser, and we really do learn from experience.

  • calabasa

    Hi Mimi, from one survivor to another, I am sorry you were raped. I sincerely am.

    I think it’s strange that you insist on calling me a victim-blamer, when in fact I was appalled by Susan Brownmiller’s victim-blaming comments, but conceded that if she had handled the subject sensitively, rather than dismissing campus rape victims out of hand, she might have had a point. Please see my reply to you further down on the thread (on your reply to my original comment), below.

    I am the opposite of a victim-blamer. I blame society. Acknowledging that society is also to blame for pushing some men to rape, whether now or a hundred years ago, is not all that strange. Acknowledging that isn’t the same as excusing it. But yes, men are victims of the patriarchy too. Again, see my reply to your comment to me further down this thread. (Your comment did come through, btw).

    I am not getting upset with you, as you have been a victim too (I tend to get upset with smug men mansplaining at me instead). I have done a lot of thinking on this topic. I am a victim of rape many times over, as well as all kinds of other sexual assaults, starting from the age of 13 (6, if you count the child molester who later abused my best friend for a year when my family moved away, and who may or may not have done more than just give me kisses and have me sit on his lap when he had an erection; I don’t remember). I have thought about why this is a great deal; all of the social reasons behind it (including the fact that predators can spot a victim–someone who has a poor self-conception), including my own behavior, later, in which I put myself at risk in an unconscious attempt to reenact abuse and have some control over the outcome; or simply to feel miserable again, or who knows, to feel desired; and ended up hating myself.

    I have been assaulted while minding my own business and while engaging in risky behaviors like drinking with strange men. As I would like to have a healthy relationship with sex and one day be able to trust someone–man or woman–enough to love them, I have thought about this a lot, and realized that although it is not my fault nevertheless there is something in myself–in my approach to myself, and my approach to men and sex–that they respond to (negatively), that attracts predatory men and brings out the predator in men, and that I need to change. Being aware of that fact, and that it’s a product of my traumatic circumstances as a young person, is not the same as blaming myself. In fact I am learning to love myself.

    And acknowledging that the patriarchy is also largely responsible for men’s bad behavior, which I think would lessen greatly if we were to get rid of it once and for all, is not “rapist-excusing.” Acknowledging the existence of a problem is not excusing anything. Acknowledging that women absorb harmful messages that cause them to engage in negative cycles with men is not victim-blaming either. I really hope you get to read the piece I just wrote (which I wrote as a response to my feelings about Brownmiller’s comment) on women, rape and mental illness. I could send it to you by email if you like.

    I never said rapists couldn’t help themselves (although rape is not always for one reason; certainly it is as often about sex mixed with a healthy dose of entitlement as it is about power and rage, and I’ve seen all colors of it). I said they were also influenced by society. And I know we grow up hearing how not to get raped, but that’s only in the context of rape. We also grow up pressured to be sexy for men, to sleep with men, to go to parties and get drunk with men, with all of this painted as “empowering,” and then when we’re raped we’re shamed for it (and all the “don’t get raped” advice is trotted out again, including everything we have been pressured into doing as “empowering” and our “feminist right”: wear short skirts, go to parties and get drunk with men, etc.). Of course I am aware of that. That’s what I am saying is the problem, these mixed messages. Again, pointing out that women who are raped while drunk at parties were victimized long before their rape by a culture that told them it was a good idea to cater to men’s desires and to get drunk at parties (while telling them after that it was their fault for getting drunk at parties) is not the same as victim-blaming.

    I hope that you can heal. I don’t pretend to be fully healed; I’m not. Acknowledging this is a complex issue that is not entirely black-and-white is a part of my healing. I apologize if I offended you.

    What makes this all the more surreal and ironic is on the “What’s Current” page where I posted my original outraged comments to Brownmiller’s interview answers, a poster on there thought I was defending women’s right to get smashed and not have men rape them (rather than saying that women do that because of social pressures and are victims of a culture that encourages them to put themselves in that position), and responded with some quite mean-in-tone, victim-blamey comments about people who get shit-faced drunk at parties and how she doesn’t understand why anybody does that, etc.,–far more victim-blamey than anything I wrote here, which is indeed just the opposite; so I am defending women who get drunk at parties to her and defending myself to you for saying I think there are cultural reasons women get drunk at parties (and then men rape them) that we need to look at. I never thought I’d find myself on both sides of the argument in a matter of days.

    I am definitely not a victim-blamer, just someone who has thought a lot about this and the complexities of the issue. I really didn’t intend to offend you, and I hope you find some peace, and me too.

    Take care.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I know, right?

  • tinfoil hattie

    Jessica Valenti, Jill Fillipovic, Amanda Marcotte. Bleah. When I forst started reading them, I couldn’t believe they were what counted as “feminist.”

    Valenti, I have empathy for around her harrowing pregnancy and 3-months’ premature delivery. But her feminism, I can’t get behind.

  • tinfoil hattie

    ” … she would be most beautiful in her late thirties and early forties, the time in life when a person has gained a lot of wisdom, is generally at the peak of their productivity, and still young enough to be dynamic …”

    You DO realize this statement is ageist and sexist as fuck, right?

  • tinfoil hattie

    I don’t think the so-called “campus rape crisis” is anything new, by the way.

  • tinfoil hattie

    You don’t have patience for “101 stuff.” But most rape victims and domestic abuse victims aren’t even up to the 101 level.

    • I get that. But they can’t expect *everyone* who is a feminist to be the right person to turn to for support. There are lots of people who *are* the right people to turn to. So why chew someone out because she isn’t? You may think she’s a dinosaur who’s setting things back, but I don’t think that’s what she was saying.

      I think the ideal age difference for a mentor is about 10-15 years older. Older enough to know more, but still young enough to remember what it was like to go through what their mentees are going through. By the time you get a 25 year age gap, it can be hard to remember or relate to what the younger crowd are going through. Like, I remember that I got worked up about a lot of stuff in my 20s, but I know longer remember much about the path of logic that got me here from there. It was just too long ago for me to be of any use to anyone going through it now. That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what I learned, just that my focus is elsewhere. That’s normal for people as they get older.

      With a 25+ year age gap, it can also be really hard for the mentee to understand what the mentor is talking about. There’s just too much of a gap. Younger women probably can’t even imagine what it’s like to be fed up with always being expected to be everyone’s mom. As if that’s all older women are good for.

  • tinfoil hattie

    The question that is NEVER answered is: Why IS it “risky” to drink with men? Why is it “wrong” to wear “revealing” clothing? Why aren’t women safe? We answer it sideways: “She shouldn’t have ____.” or “She should have _______.” It amounts to: “Men are dangerous to women, and that’s just a fact we all accept, so women must alter their behavior to accommodate this fact.” And even women who don’t “contribute” to their own rapes, as some here are describing it, still get raped.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Right. Why aren’t men nervous to drink around women or wondering whether they’re sending the wrong message with their clothing choices? Unless we’re ready to argue that men are natural predators, I think it’s a sketchy slope to say that women are engaging in ‘risky’ behaviour by dressing provocatively or by drinking… We know full well that, for example, men rape girls — like, children — all the time. “Risky behaviour” isn’t what gets women/girls raped.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Hooray! Thanks for connecting 🙂

  • Meghan Murphy

    I agree we should be skeptical of male allies, but don’t agree that they all support the status quo. I mean, look at the work Chris Hedges is doing with his large platform? He just spoke in Vancouver to a packed house (approx 1200 people) and all proceeds went to VRR and AWCEP. He speaking out against the sex industry at all opportunities. I’m just not quite sure that whether or not men sign a petition in a Facebook group should decide whether or not men are or can be allies or whether or not it’s fair to say ALL of them support the status quo. Keep in mind that many people don’t like signing petitions at all or don’t want to support change.org, for example….

    All that said, again, I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with skepticism. Male ‘allies’ have let us down many times before.

  • tinfoil hattie

    I don’t think he’s even going to pick the one with revealing clothing. He’s going to choose the one whose body strikes him as being the closest to porntastic, regardless of what she’s wearing. Also, YES – he will choose one who is drunk.

  • tinfoil hattie

    “I guess it’s too hard to be an abortion clinic escort when your vulva’s sore from being waxed.”

    Ha ha ha ha ha – so good it had to be said twice!

  • tinfoil hattie

    Most of society.

  • I came back later to address your comment. I get what you’re saying. The way the article is worded it comes across that way. Most women have been raped by a man. Me too.

    However, I think that what was missing from the article, and which would have given it the context it needed is to come right flat out and say ‘the reason I have this opinion on third wave feminism is because they never get to the root of the problem: men.’

    If that one little thing was said properly and in context, this article wouldn’t read the way it does. It’s one of those fundamental assumptions I think many feminists all know but it gets so tiresome to repeat it. It’s mentally exhausting because it’s a mantra that never seems to end. Every day I come online and I learn of loads of other women who have been violated by men.

    I know I also leave out this basic fundamental context and it really does change the way my ideas are perceived. So now, with that conscious knowledge of women’s lives and the fact that almost every single woman is affected by violent men, I state it. Even if it seems redundant, I state it.

  • Vulfious

    Most radical feminists I have seen were Jewish and/or lesbians. Is there any way to deduce if that’s true?

  • Jem Leav

    Brilliantly spot on in accuracy. Well done!

  • Lilith201

    I know I should read Brownmiller’s full comments before responding…but I just want to say that many women in my generation (I’m a little bit younger than Brownmiller but basically the same generation) are puzzled by young women’s behavior. Getting falling down drunk when you are alone with men doesn’t excuse your rapist, but it is incredibly stupid and doing incredibly stupid things doesn’t seem very feminist to me or to most women my age. It seems like infantile behavior, a refusal to be an adult woman. Some sexy clothes are costumes and there’s a time and place for that, but wearing clothes that deform your body such as high heels is not feminist; it is self-abuse. Wearing clothes for the purpose of getting attention from men is ok if you then welcome the attention instead of pretending that you wore the sexy clothes for some other reason. Wearing sexy clothes to get attention from men then innocently proclaiming that no, you didnt’ want the attention is dishonest and dishonesty is contemptible. The world isn’t kind to immature people, dishonest people or people with bad judgment and that isn’t going to change.