The right to complain does not turn women into pathetic victims


More from Nussbaum on Christina Hoff Sommers and on “equity” v “gender” feminism more generally. It’s a very packed, dense essay.

From the end, this time. The penultimate paragraph.

In short, the feminist views attacked by recent critics are not the monopoly of a sect of radical extremists. They are commonplace in mainstream liberal, and even some libertarian, thought. These theoretical ideas have a very close relationship to the critique of existing preferences that led to the critique of rape law and to the demand for laws and policies dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace. These changes certainly seem to have enhanced demcracy rather than to have undermined it – for surely it is not better for democracy that women should suffer from violence and inimidation without the opportunity to complain. Complaint is not a solution to the problems, and women continue to face many grave problems of sexual harassment and sexual violence. But complaint is surely far better than silent intimidation, and the right to complain does not turn women into pathetic victims – any more than the right to complain when someone steals a wallet turns men into pathetic victims. [Sex and Social Justice p 153]

I’ll just repeat that for emphasis – the right to complain does not turn women into pathetic victims.

The final paragraph.

American women have much to complain of. They are far too often victims of rape, of sexual coercion of many kinds, of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Moreover, the underlying attitudes that made these problems so difficult persist, producing pain of many kinds. On the other hand, the feminist movement that began in the 1970s has made considerable progress in articulating the underlying problems and in proposing legal solutions. This has happened in large part through a criticism of the myths that underlay many men’s (and women’s) beliefs about sexual violence and its causes. Such criticism, far from treating people like victims or children, treats them like adults who are capable of reflection, and capable of deciding that they were wrong on an important matter even when their own emotions and desires are at stake. [Ibid]

Once more for emphasis. This has happened in large part through a criticism of the myths that underlay many men’s (and women’s) beliefs about sexual violence and its causes. Such criticism, far from treating people like victims or children, treats them like adults who are capable of reflection…

 

 

Comments

  1. Martha says

    Indeed. I’d even argue that the lack of a right to complain is what turns women into victims. I purposely omit the word “pathetic,” as it is the system that is pathetic, not the people adversely affected by it.

  2. says

    There does seem to be a fair bit of pressure in the culture to just suck it up and deal with it, whatever “it” is. Complaint is often labeled as whining – minimized because it doesn’t seem like a big deal to the other person hearing about it. I’ve had plenty of experience with it.

    Having someone like Greta Christina explaining so well why even seemingly small things like a nativity or ten commandments at a courthouse has a serious affect on atheists and the culture around us made, I thought, for a short jump over to understanding the feminist complaints. Besides simply the empathy of my experiences of my own complaints being brushed off.

    So I do find it hard to understand why it seems so many people are so vocally opposed to the airing of and rational discussion of complaints from feminists (and women generally). Especially since there’s quite a lot that seems blatantly egregious and some solutions, like harassment policies, aren’t even difficult to do.

  3. Maureen Brian says

    It was interesting to watch – video, this morning – the confirmation hearing for John Kerry in the US Senate.

    Time and again subjects like fair elections and, in particular, active support of women’s rights came up in the context of foreign policy and I found myself shouting more than once that they could do with paying some attention to that at home.

    It’s a good thing I had nothing heavier than the washed socks I was matching and balling up at the time to throw at the screen.

  4. smrnda says

    All progress comes from complaining, because progress has to start by recognizing what we do not like about the current state of things, whether it’s sexism or the fact that cell phones drop calls.

    I mean, it’s possible for complaining to be unproductive but that’s only when it doesn’t lead to people taking actions, but you can’t take actions without the initial complaint. And yes, there are lots of things women should complain about.

  5. says

    Ah but Maureen everything is now perfect here at home.

    [epic eye-roll]

    John-Henry –

    So I do find it hard to understand why it seems so many people are so vocally opposed to the airing of and rational discussion of complaints from feminists (and women generally).

    So do I. There’s this meme around now, that it will be great for people who ostentatiously hate everyone involved with Women in Secularism 2 to go there so that there can be productive discussion of different views. No, that’s not right – if you want productive discussion of different views, you don’t start with people who have already mocked and lied about one set of views and the people who hold them. You need people who haven’t done that. I tried to think of some such people. I couldn’t. Other than Quiverfull-type Christians and Akinesque Republicans, I can’t think of any people who “disagree with” basic feminism.

  6. says

    Seems like part of the trouble is that those antis, even with the harassing and all, don’t think they disagree with feminism either. Many are working from very different ideas and definitions as to what feminism, equality, harassment, and so forth are. Probably a shortage of empathy also.

    I certainly agree, though, that at this point it seems it would be very difficult to start any kind of rational dialogue.

    As much as I’m prone to thinking much is to be blamed on miscommunication and a little more calm, rational discussion could get more agreement, there seems to be fundamental disagreement over whether some things are harassing or sexist and whether it’s something we could or should do anything about.

  7. theoreticalgrrrl says

    I think it hilarious that these guys call Ophelia a radical feminist.
    It’s a pretty sad statement that some ‘self-proclaimed’ secular atheists’ definition of feminism sounds as distorted as Pat Robertson’s. When I was a Christian I’m embarrassed to admit I actually watched the 700 club. But for some reason, as brain-washed as I was, when I’d hear Robertson bash feminism, deep down it really pissed me off and I knew he was full of shit.

  8. Bjarte Foshaug says

    There does seem to be a fair bit of pressure in the culture to just suck it up and deal with it, whatever “it” is.

    As I have previously commented elsewhere, I used to think that charges of “social darwinism” was just something that religious people liked to hurl at atheists to poison the well. I was wrong. When the same people who went out of their way to heat the kitchen tell their victims to get out if they can’t stand the heat, what they seem to be saying is that only those who can be expected to positively thrive in a perfectly amoral world have any business existing at all. Ironically this is exactly the kind of social darwinist attitude that is often held up as one of the frightening consequences of atheism.

  9. says

    Well, yeah. It seems particularly obvious since shutting up really is the easier path – you don’t subject yourself to vociferous abuse from those who aren’t interested in hearing your complaints. Speaking up means inviting attention and criticism. Pretty much the opposite of victimhood.

    But whatever. Sexism is the logic-killer.

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