Jewish World Review April 28, 2003 / 26 Nisan 5763

Wendy McElroy

Wendy McElroy
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The Great Lie | "Woman as victim" is one of the Great Lies of our time. Those who care about women's welfare should correct the damage done by this lie because, today more than ever, women need to acknowledge their power and take control of their lives.

Nothing has felt secure since Sept. 11.

Global tensions have spun out of control, terrorism means that no civilians are safe, the news is filled with photos of Iraqi children who break your heart and leave you feeling powerless to affect anything. You can click off the TV for time-out but another uncertainty is more difficult to escape: the economy.

Everyone I know seems to be worried about job security and rising prices. A neighbor has returned to work because her retirement relied on company stock that now sells for less than 5 percent of its peak value. A friend has survived the latest round of employee cuts at a high-tech job. An acquaintance who has been laid off for two weeks — again! — is grabbing odd shifts as a cook at a local bar and grill.

Women today need to take control of their lives. But believing in their own power is made more difficult by the type of feminism that celebrates "the victim" as a symbol of womanhood. Victims of men, of the class structure, technology, government, the free market, the family, the church, Western values ... everywhere and always women are painted as victims. This Great Lie stands as a barrier to women realizing their power in at least three ways.

First, the "solutions" proposed and pursued by most feminists have made women more dependent, not less. It may be true that women now abound in arenas like academia. But such advances are firmly tied to laws and mandated policies, such as affirmative action, which impose quotas. The clear message of these laws and policies is that women cannot compete with men in the free market. Women require governmental assistance to be successful.

And, so, women's prosperity becomes dependent upon government privilege and a system of social control, which transfers power from the hands of individuals into those of politicians and government. This is a relinquishment of control on the part of every human being, including women.

Second, the Great Lie leads many women to believe in their lack of control and to blame their circumstances on everything or anyone but themselves. In reality, there are always alternatives and people constantly make choices. Sometimes all the alternatives are undesirable but that does not negate the one sure source of power every individual has: the ability to choose. That's how you gain some control over a situation and eventually improve it.

The improvement can be a long, arduous process, I know. I ran away from home at 16 and worked minimum wage jobs in order to eat. Although I felt absolutely powerless, I wasn't. And, by taking control of every opportunity I encountered, I managed slowly to expand my range of choices.

The third and, perhaps, most damaging effect of the Great Lie is that many women invest their emotions and energy in rage rather than remedy. This is true even of women who have never been homeless, hungry, or victimized by violence. Instead of attacking their problems, they attack people who have caused them no harm — men as a class, men they've never met. And, so, the women swing between celebrating victimhood and venting their rage, neither of which is likely to change circumstances for the better.

It is sometimes difficult not to feel anger. For example, when a woman is beaten by her husband, it is natural to feel rage toward him. But being angry at him doesn't mean ignoring her power. The first question to ask a battered woman is, "Why do you stay?" In many cases, the women have come to believe in their own victimhood. What they need to believe in is the power of their own choices.

Crime and violence tend to increase during times of unemployment and social turmoil. And, unfortunately, our society seems to be heading toward such turmoil. The economy will not recover quickly, the fear of terrorism will not fade, the controversy surrounding the war in Iraq will continue. Most us will see friends out of work, a reduction of real income, and an increase in the incivility with which conflicting factions address each other. These are times that require self-control and self-reliance.

Women need to abandon the Great Lie and claim responsibility for and control over their lives. Perhaps a good way to start is to study how women in less developed nations live. Without a free market and technology, they live in misery, near starvation. Without Western ideals of property rights and equality under the law, they have no protection from violence.

The Great Truth is that women in our society constitute one of the most privileged and powerful classes of human beings on earth. The challenge is to make women believe in their power. "Woman as victim" is an idea whose time has passed. The idea of woman as a survivor and a success must take its place.

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JWR contributor Wendy McElroy is the editor of She also edited Freedom, Feminism, and the State (Independent Institute, 1999) and Sexual Correctness: The Gender Feminist Attack on Women (McFarland, 1996). She lives with her husband in Canada. Comment by clicking here.


04/16/03: War may redefine gun control
04/09/03: Why we must discuss a post-war U.S.
04/02/03: Leftist feminists using war as podium
03/26/03: Laying down 'the white woman's burden'
03/19/03: Iraq War may kill feminism as we know it
03/13/03: A woman to replace Saddam
02/19/03: Elder abuse demands family solutions
02/13/03: Iraqi women brutalized by Saddam
01/29/03: There ought not to be a law
01/22/03: Gambling with race and gender cards
01/02/03: The future of fatherhood
12/26/02: U.N. complicit in forced sterilizations
12/20/02: Compassion, kindness killed by fear, paranoia
12/11/02: Affirmative action insults immigrant contributions
12/04/02: Stand up for yourself
11/27/02: Feminist fighting: Aren't we all women?
11/20/02: Rights & responsibilities
11/14/02: Feminist "urban legends"
11/06/02: Equal access does not guarantee equal outcome
10/24/02: Battered Women's Syndrome: Science or sham?
10/17/02: I demand a civil society that respects the individual and acknowledges the existence of honest disagreement between human beings of good will
10/09/02: Abortion debate is about to be ratcheted up yet again
10/02/02: 'Restorative justice' offers battered women more options
09/25/02: Why is prez promising to embrace UN radical social engineering programs?
09/18/02: Dirty dealings kill men's panel
09/11/02: Taking back your power
09/05/02: Calm down, Hootie!
08/21/02: Will Congress empower a group of radical feminists to oversee money slated for Afghan women?
08/14/02: Empower the U.N. with power to sculpt American laws and institutions into the image of gender feminism!?
08/01/02: Practicing 'intellectual virtue'
07/24/02: All male, bad. All female, good: Your tax dollars at work
07/11/02: Put Up or Shut Up
07/03/02: NOW they've done it, again!
06/19/02: A dark cloud shades U.N. Women's Treaty
06/10/02: This Father's Day, send justice
05/31/02: When good women do nothing
05/28/02: Feminists claiming motherhood as liberal cause
05/20/02: Wounds in health care system are self-inflicted: Or, why "my son the lawyer" makes more sense
05/10/02: Are parents boycotting public schools?
05/03/02: Women can't be gun-shy about defense
04/25/02: The Bill of Intellectual Rights
04/19/02: World Bank or World Government?: The World Bank is blackmailing impoverished nations
04/12/02: Victims From Birth: Engineering Defects in Helpless Children Crosses the Line
04/05/02: The professor made me cry, now I will make him pay!
03/31/02: Doctors and teens --- parents be on guard
03/22/02: I was born, now I'm suing you!
03/15/02: The 21st Century is knocking at the barricaded door of feminism
03/08/02: Fun and games at the Ms mag Bulletin Board
03/01/02: Andrea Yates, NOW, and Feminist Jurisprudence
02/22/02: Lady, Your Slip is Showing
02/14/02: 'Abusing' Valentine's Day
02/11/02: Is NOW Pro-Choice or Pro-Abortion?
02/01/02: Are 'fathers' rights' a factor in male suicide?
01/25/02: Is the U.N. Running Brothels in Bosnia?
01/18/02: 'Freedom' at another's (moral) expense
01/11/02: Feminists hit Ground Zero with WTC funds grab
01/04/02: Males winning "diversity discrimination" cases is good?
12/21/01: Good will toward men
12/14/01: "Boss Tweed" feminism
12/07/01: Call me 'anti-woman'

© 2001, Wendy McElroy