If I could get the ear of a modern day feminist, I would ask her (or him, or they, or shim, or zhe) two questions.
The first question would be, if I am in a heterosexual marriage, and I need to consider quitting my career due to insurmountable mental health disabilities, how do I accept that I would then need to depend on a man? My husband himself is a kind and trustworthy person. He works hard and is willing to support me if I choose not to work. But, if sexism (like racism) is systemic due to the oft-cited claim that we live in a patriarchal rape culture, am I safe in making this decision? Do my husband’s individual actions and intentions even matter if the problem is systemic? And if women’s mental anguish is merely a result of male behavior, then how do I avoid resenting my husband instead of being grateful for his support?
My second question is, even if I work out everything above and decide that I can trust my husband as a safe person to lean on, how do I live with the guilt over my privilege of being able to quit work and rely on him? After all, there are many women who have disabilities that are equivalent to mine or worse who are single mothers and poor who cannot afford to quit working and must still suffer through the physical and mental anguish of providing for a family while disabled. It is unfair that some women can quit, and some can’t. How do I live with myself?
These messages are among some of the most toxic that feminism has to offer for women with disabilities. Feminism talks at length about ableism but fails to recognize it in its own messaging. I dare say that feminism may be the source of the misogynistic and ableist ideas they attribute to the patriarchy. After all, it is from feminists that I learned I must have a high-status, well-paying career at all costs, particularly to ensure my “safety” in the world and to ensure the “safety” of women as a whole. Failure to do this, I internalized, is weak and sets women’s rights back hundreds of years. That is a big responsibility to shoulder.
Believing these things about the world – that we live in a rape culture that all men are complicit in, that one woman’s choice affects all women, and that any time some good fortune befalls you is privilege to feel guilty about – is enough to make a sane person a bit mad. For someone whose mental health is already on the fritz, it can spell suicide. It almost did for me, more times than I want to admit.
I have on many occasions suffered at the hands of feminism, stuck between an excruciatingly painful rock and hard place. The “rock” is the physical and mental toll career-climbing takes on me, frequently landing me in mental hospitals or regular hospitals from stress. The “hard place” is having to trust a man, who I’d been trained to believe is the root of all evil, despite his individual qualities of kindness and trustworthiness. And if I surmount that position, I find myself in yet another valley of misery. If I am able to trust my husband enough to quit my job, then I am overcome with guilt for having the privilege to do so. In this trap, one never has a reason to feel good. When you’re this severely depressed, finding ways to feel good can be a matter of life and death.
Support groups do not help, particularly when unmoderated and full of far left liberals who are angry about their situations. The amount of man hate, capitalism hate, and work obsession in those groups is staggering. I have never once had someone suggest to me that I should accept my husband’s help. They reinforce my desire to run away from him, to “forge my own path.” That, they say, is the real solution to my work-related anguish.
It is not just a problem with unmoderated support groups. This is also a place many therapists will not venture. They likely do not deal with clients like me. I think through the nitty gritty of every idea. I love philosophy. I work hard to make my worldview internally consistent. Most therapists I’ve worked with seem not to concern themselves with objective truth. Furthermore, many women are not so disabled that they need to quit their jobs. Many women have husbands who are silent feminists, bending to their wives’ whims for fear of being offensive or improperly masculine.
How many sessions with a therapist are really spent on deep questions about the meaning of work or the meaning of relationships or the meaning of “ability”? To therapists, I seem intelligent, but they cannot tell that I am breaking inside. They tell me to stop selling myself short, to stop giving up my independence, and that I “seem to know what I need to do.” No, I do not. They tell me I need “my own thing” to “feel like it’s my own.” They try, in vain, to help me move upward through Maslow’s Hierarchy. I get it.
The problem is that woke therapy doesn’t have answers for someone like me. If you are woke, your answers to my two questions are 1) the government should give free money to disabled people so they don’t have to work and 2) yes, you should feel guilty, and to atone for your sins, you should virtue signal with hashtags and send Venmo reparations to disadvantaged races.
The government isn’t going to figure out universal basic income or welfare reform in my lifetime, so I am stuck with having to actually solve the first question for myself. I must choose to decide that my husband is trustworthy, which is what I have done. This, of course, unravels the very idea of a systemic patriarchy that all men are complicit in. As for the second question, guilt tends to make most mental illnesses worse. Virtue signaling and hashtagging out of guilt is disingenuous, toothless, and annoying. Sending random payments to disadvantaged races is rude, patronizing, and racist. It is nothing more than the bigotry of low expectations. I reject these particular suggestions from the Hypothetical Feminist. What else have you got? I am waiting.
I am likely going to quit my career at age 40 to finally take care of my failing health in a way that is long overdue. I will not apologize for it. I will not feel guilty about the unfairness of the fact that I have a kind, caring, trustworthy husband who is willing to take care of me because his salary is sufficient for us to keep paying our bills. Other women out there in the world do not have this option. Yes, it is definitely unfair. It is also unfair that I have these disabilities when I would much rather be working and succeeding. We will never solve all inequities. I reject the black and white thinking of wokeism because it makes my mental health worse.
For therapists, it is absolutely critical that you do not teach clients these harmful ideas. When therapists let on that they agree with the patriarchy conspiracy theory (because that’s what it is), clients will pick up on it. They will leave sessions thinking that their support system is unsafe. They will be consumed with guilt over having to make decisions to take care of themselves, because “not everyone can do that.” If everything good your life is a privilege to feel guilty about, and everything bad in your life is an injustice calling for strong-armed activism, then you have an endless cycle of unfixable distortions propped up by emotional reasoning wrecking you from the inside. If you didn’t have a mental illness before, the woke left will certainly give you one.
By ‘Velma Olden’