Ironically the women who were most eager to be seen as vic tims who

Ironically the women who were most eager to be seen

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Ironically, the women who were most eager to be seen as "vic- tims," who overwhelmingly stressed the role of victim, were more privileged and powerful than the vast majority of women in our society. An example of this tendency is some writing about violence against women. Women who are exploited and oppressed daily cannot afford to relinquish the belief that they exercise some measure of control, however relative, over their lives. They cannot afford to see themselves solely as "victims" because their survival depends on continued exercise of what- ever personal powers they possess. It would be psychologi- cally demoralizing for these women to bond with other women on the basis of shared victimization. They bond with other women on the basis of shared strengths and resources. This is the woman bonding feminist movement should encourage. It is this type of bonding that is the essence of Sisterhood. Bonding as "victims," white women liberationists were
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46 Feminist Theory: from margin to center not required to assume responsibility for confronting the com- plexity of their own experience. They were not challenging one another to examine their sexist attitudes towards women unlike themselves or exploring the impact of race and class privilege on their relationships to women outside their race/ class groups. Identifying as "victims," they could abdicate responsibility for their role in the maintenance and perpetua- tion of sexism, racism, and classism, which they did by insist- ing that only men were the enemy. They did not acknowledge and confront the enemy within. They were not prepared to forego privilege and do the "dirty work" (the struggle and confrontation necessary to build political awareness as well as the many tedious tasks to be accomplished in day to day organ- izing) that is necessary in the development of radical political consciousness. The first task being honest critique and evalua- tion of one's social status, values, political beliefs, etc., self- yet another shield against reality, another support system. vists were seeking to avoid self-awareness. Sisterhood became yet another shield against reality, another support system. Their version of Sisterhood was informed by racist and classist assumption about white womanhood, that the white "lady" (that is to say bourgeois woman) should be protected from all that might upset or discomfort her and shielded from negative realities that might lead to confrontation. Their version of Sisterhood dictated that sisters were to "unconditionally" love one another; that they were to avoid conflict and minimize disagreement; that they were not to criticize one other, espe- cially in public. For a time these mandates created an illusion of unity suppressing the competition, hostility, perpetual dis- agreement, and abusive criticism (trashing) that was often the norm in feminist groups. Today many splinter groups who share common identities (e.g. Wasp working class; white aca- demic faculty women; anarchist feminists, etc.) use this same
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