Feminism Doesn’t Help Sexual Violence Survivors. It Just Perpetuates Victimhood
The modern woman is caught in the crossfires of a battle between radical feminism and the norms of Western society.
Radical feminism, once relegated to the dusty halls of academia, has trickled down into the masses, profoundly influencing a generation of women and men. This ideology is centered primarily on the idea that the Western patriarchy is a system designed to oppress and control women, particularly in the sexual realm.
It has given rise to #MeToo and the Women’s March, which focused heavily on giving voice and power to victims of sexual assault and abuse. The repetition of horrific stories is utilized as proof of our fundamentally male-dominated and tyrannical society. This is an oversimplified interpretation of vastly complex systems and “solutions” that seem to stem from resentment and unresolved wounds.
Feminism presents itself as a guiding hand to lead women from oppression into liberation and healing. Ironically, it’s a rigid and dogmatic ideology. Dissent is considered a confirmation of internalized misogyny, and women who reject it are labeled traitors. In fact, feminism is a deeply manipulative ideology. It constantly reminds a woman of her trauma and suffering to compel her into conformity. It elevates victimhood as a woman’s truest station and places her as a hapless martyr of her own heritage.
Yet, as a victim of rape, sexual assault, and abuse, I didn’t think the price of embracing this was worth what was offered. Instead, I turned to my heritage and found in it a source of guidance to overcome suffering wrought by trauma and to rebuild a meaningful and full life.
My Story of Abduction, Assault, Rape, and Abuse
I’m a student of the classical liberal arts. I have a deep love of our tradition, from men like Aristotle and Plato, to more modern intellectuals like Roger Scruton and Jordan Peterson. In other words, I am, to many feminists, a student of staunch gatekeepers of the patriarchy.
I’m also a survivor of sexual violence. My first experience took place when I was 21. I was kidnapped while traveling overseas. My abductor violated, beat, and strangled me for roughly 10 hours and eventually dropped me by the roadside, bruised and shocked. The professionals I spoke with expressed amazement at the fact that I was neither murdered nor trafficked.
Unfortunately, the after-effects of the event wreaked deep internal havoc on me. I lost any shred of confidence in my judgment and value as an individual. I was left vulnerable to predators, and unfortunately, I fell prey again. At 22, a man became obsessed with me. He blackmailed, threatened, and sexually abused me for months. Out of fear, I remained silent.
I lost any shred of confidence in my judgment and value. I was left vulnerable to predators.
At 23, I was invited to lunch at a home, where I was pinned down and extensively sexually assaulted.
At 24, I began graduate school. Two weeks into classes, in the grips of PTSD, I nearly threw myself off a bridge. Thankfully, I managed to stop myself, although I still suffered a complete mental breakdown. A man at the university, fully and absolutely aware of my suicidal and isolated state, offered himself as a help and protector in that vulnerable time. Instead, shortly after the near-suicide, he sexually assaulted me, and, a few days later, raped me.
Even though I left graduate school and returned to my parents, we remained “friends” for several months. I was too blind and deep in grief to recognize that he was manipulating and emotionally grooming me for future sexual access. Eventually, through therapy and healthy engagements with loved ones, I began to see that his behavior was deeply malicious. I cut him out of my life. Unfortunately, two weeks later, I was sexually assaulted by a married man.
I Had To Find a Way Through My Suffering
We all know that it’s one thing to read a litany of troubles and an entirely different thing to live through them. I can’t describe the absolute devastation of these years of my life. All hope and expectation were drained from me. I lost love, friendships, and, in many respects, I fell behind my peers. At 24, I was unemployed, living at my parents’ home, consumed with depression and deep loneliness. I spent most of my nights crying myself to sleep. I was overwhelmed by the hell I lived in and found it nearly impossible to patch my life together.
I had to turn around, face the wreckage, and grapple with its terrible presence.
Through all this, I had come face to face with the perennial human problem of suffering. Suffering is a deeply troubling thing. Every man experiences it in any of the various ways one can. It arrives, in all its horror and destruction, and demands a response that holds life and death in the balance. My brush with suicide compelled me to formulate a way forward. Obviously, my life was unsustainable. I had to turn around, face the wreckage, and grapple with its terrible presence.
Feminism Was an Empty Promise of Hope and Healing
Feminism has fashioned itself as an explanation of and response to the suffering I experienced. Yet in it, I didn’t find the solution to the task ahead of me. I recall the infamous Women’s March on Washington. People from all over the country flocked to the Capitol dressed as vaginas, wearing pussy hats, and engaging in banal displays of so-called empowerment. The March represented a mainstream embrace of feminist dogma.
The feminist message was clear: The Patriarchy, allegedly Western in origin, existed to oppress and dominate women in an age-old battle of the sexes. Any harassment, assault, or rape you experience as a woman is used as proof of that claim. This analysis of history rests on a postmodern framework, one which reduces the West’s civilizational project to a question of who maintained power over whom by the systems and language in place.
The Patriarchy, allegedly Western in origin, existed to oppress and dominate women in an age-old battle of the sexes.
By claiming this power structure as exclusively masculine, feminists reduce the sexes to enemies, vying for dominance. The natural love that arises between men and women, both generally and individually, is torn apart, alleged as nothing more than tyranny. For a man to be good, he must reject his traditional masculine tendencies and allow himself to be made effeminate and harmless, to self-flagellate as recompense for the crime of his nature. In the feminist estimation, men have been the victors for far too long, and it’s the duty of women to revolt and reclaim some long-lost mythical power status in the social fabric.
This goal is achieved by tearing down the Western world and demanding its blind submission to feminist premises. I believe many hoped this March would be a catalyst for widespread transformation, a moment to unite women in opposition to the Patriarchy. The actress Alyssa Milano gave a rousing speech, met with roars of approval, in which she claimed that "With those two words [me too], we regained our dignity and #MeToo connected us through our pain but it also connected us — and this is very important — it connected us, each one of us, to our own power, and by saying #MeToo, we formed a bond that is unbreakable.”
Feminism Makes and Keeps You a Victim
I was appalled by the implications of the statement. Essentially, what she and the movement in general does is tie a woman’s meaningful engagement with society, both currently and historically, to her status as victim. In feminism, surviving aggression, actual or perceived, is the truest feminine experience. It sets up the woman in opposition to tradition, a victim of it, prevailed upon by the unseen forces of male malice or apathy. It strips her of a history she can engage with and a heritage she can rely upon. Instead of the woven fabric of ideas, culture, religion, art, and civilizational dialogue, the West — and by logical extension all civilizations — is reduced to a bitter struggle in which women have been the perennial loser.
Feminism constantly reminds a woman of her trauma and suffering to compel her into conformity.
This vision strikes me as vastly oversimplified and destructive. Not only are the historical and philosophical claims dubious, but it also leaves the individual survivor with no hope of true healing. If I were meant to simply battle against the system, to expend my energies in demanding the exterior to conform to my trauma and rage, I would fester in resentment against a society that exists to allow men to violate me with impunity. In fact, it leaves me helpless.
How would marching to upend a system in place since time immemorial help heal my breaking heart? How could viewing the world as essentially antagonistic to my existence answer my cries for understanding? The talking points are neither realistic, objectively or reasonably, nor able to provide solutions to the crisis in the hearts, minds, and souls of aggrieved women. In essence, the “cure” offered is to internalize the chaos imposed upon you by the aggressor and project it out into the world. It encourages the individual to abdicate the responsibility of moral agency and healing, and so perpetuate a cycle of malice. It keeps us victims, chained to our pasts, mimicking the ones we purport to confront.
Feminism Deprives You of Agency
Establishing a woman as an enemy to her tradition bears the ugly consequence of denying her agency. “The personal is the political” sloganized that consequence. It claims that crime isn’t committed by one individual upon another; rather it’s abstracted as an accusation against the system in which it took place.
In other words, I was raped because society and history allowed it, through generations of patriarchy, toxic masculinity, and any of the other jargon used to build a causal chain. The man was acting out what was inculcated in him by culture as such. It strips the rapist of his own moral agency and projects his culpability onto all men who founded and maintain the systems in which we live.
It also implies that the solution for the woman’s trauma must be provided by the system, rather than the effort of her own character and the support of loved ones around her. She loses competence in the face of evil, and so is its victim until the patriarchy is destroyed. It’s the breathless longing for the relief of some utopia that can rectify all her pain. The promise is that as long as she keeps fighting the tyranny surrounding her, she will attain victory over her suffering. Except that, because the patriarchal past can never guide the current and the future is ever out of our grasp, we’re left only with the stultified now.
Feminism elevates victimhood as a woman’s truest station and places her as a hapless martyr of her own heritage.
In reality, the personal isn’t the political. It’s right to expect justice in the face of crime, but to put one’s healing in the hands of politics or the public square is to play a fool’s game. As difficult and unfair as it may be, the task of overcoming trauma falls on the shoulders of the victim. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. I was afraid that I would never make it. I often felt as though I were screaming into some void, hoping that my suffering would be heard and recognized.
I could have easily embodied Alyssa Milano’s statement and admit that my experience of sexual violence defines my life. There were times I was tempted to. But this wasn’t a future I could look forward to, nor a power I would ever concede to my aggressors. If so, I would have to judge my identity and pursuits as meaningful relative to them and their actions. To give in to this would be to perpetuate their assaults throughout the entirety of my life.
Finding My Way to Hope and Healing Through My Heritage
I chose to reject this small view of the world and myself, and in so doing, discovered the value of a heritage many women are deprived of. Suffering is universal. Individuals experience this initially as a tangible and immediate thing, and carry its implications into the future. It prompts a broader question of why suffering happens, and what one can do in the face of it. The individual finds those same questions in his interlocutor, and so begins that profoundly human venture of discovering truth through engagement with the other. The dialogue continues on through years and generations and, as with all valuable human ventures, builds upon itself, providing ever deeper insight. In the flow of tradition, the individual has recourse to a compounded wisdom of the ages that practically addresses suffering.
Dr. Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life
I began delving into this by turning to one of the most famous intellectuals of our day. My experiences took place during the rise of Dr. Jordan Peterson, a Canadian psychologist. His refusal to bow to Canada’s compelled speech law caught the world’s attention. His powerful stance emboldened and inspired people internationally. In 2018, he released the bestseller 12 Rules for Life. I’m not overstating when I say that this book gave me the first glimmer of hope I had experienced since my abduction. I had lived so long in fear and despair that I had forgotten my capability, inherent in me, to overcome and establish meaning and order in the face of my shattered existence. Essentially, he reminded me of my agency.
Peterson’s book gave me the first glimmer of hope I had experienced since my abduction.
His book is not your average self-help guide. He delves deeply into the human dialogue that revolves around the question of meaning and the appropriate response to suffering. It’s a profound analysis of realities found in millions-year-old biological systems (from which we have his famous lobster example) that have been articulated and acted out through the course of human history. Each of his rules is embedded in deep truths, and in identifying my own experiences in them, my struggles were put in a type of continuum. Where feminism threatened to sequester me from the past, Dr. Peterson’s scholarship placed me in the footsteps of those who have overcome evil and suffering. In some sense, it reintroduced me to the power of simply listening with gratitude and receiving the wisdom of my heritage.
My childhood and college education had exposed me to many of the greatest thinkers of the West, and to a certain extent, the Islamic world. However, it was not until Dr. Peterson’s book and his lectures that I began to understand these figures not only as intellectual heroes, but as guides along the path of my own life. I began to understand that my heritage was mine in every aspect of my being, that my mind, heart, and soul were the repositories of its lessons. I could engage with Western tradition as a whole person, seeking answers to the crisis in front of me.
The Crucifixion and Resurrection Story
The West laid its foundation upon the story of Christ. Regardless of your practice or belief in Christianity, one can recognize its profound implications. The Crucifixion and Resurrection are the perfect dramatization of the reality that when you accept suffering, you transcend it. It’s a story that echoes throughout history, woven into the Western conversation and iterated in individuals across time.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago
During my very dark years, unemployed and living at my parents’ home, I enjoyed a daily ritual of walking to my local coffee shop and reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. In it, he recounts his gut-wrenching experience in the Soviet gulags. It may seem strange to read such a horrifyingly dark book in the midst of a terrible period in my life. It’s filled with evil so pervasive I could hardly imagine it. And yet, in those pages, I encountered the bravery and heroism of countless men and women.
Solzhenitsyn himself became one of the clearest examples in the modern world of the power of choosing to overcome evil and suffering, to speak truth, and to stand on principles. He could have easily surrendered to resentment and victimhood. One would hardly blame him if he had. But he chose to stay that corruptive influence. He transcended his suffering, reclaimed his life as meaningful, and, in the process, transformed the world.
Feminism commits the same dehumanization of men that it claims women are victims of.
Feminism reduces men like Solzhenitsyn to faceless oppressors, utterly stripped of dignity and individuality. In fact, it commits the same dehumanization that it claims women are victims of. Yet I have had the joy of discovering them as individuals who faced suffering and doubt, and didn’t succumb to it. I aspire to imitate that response to evil, characterized by a force more powerful than any malice endured. I was privileged to delve into history as an individual seeking other individuals, to simply engage with my heritage in humility and community. It gives me the comfort of remembering that I’m not alone or without hope. The seemingly impossible obstacles I faced have already been overcome.
This isn’t to say that picking up a book will solve all your problems. When you’re flat on your back, spiraling into a flashback, haunted by the fear that you’re about to be raped or murdered, reading won’t restore you to tranquility. Learning to integrate traumatic experiences into the story of my life is possibly the greatest challenge I face. It’s a messy process. I have had countless breakdowns, fits of anger and despair, and have punched a few walls in the process. It takes grit, courage, and intention. It requires that you transcend the immediate pain you experience, and recognize that despite what you suffer, life is meaningful. This allows you not to be chained to any horrific memory, but to put it in the balance of your life as a whole.
To put it in Christological terms, you must embrace your cross and carry it to its conclusion. And like Christ, you will transform the suffering and evil you experience into one of the greatest triumphs of your life. This isn’t an easy task, but it’s not unprecedented. These virtues are acted out in our tradition, in the great giants of our civilization, and you can learn to emulate them in the present. Their example is a gift that shouldn’t be ignored. All that you have to do is listen.