I first heard the expression “Women are wonderful” from Typhonblue as a label for the tendency to attribute only good motives for women, or to erase, trivialize or explain away anything negative a woman does. I have since heard the expression elsewhere, but it does not seem to be very widespread.
It’s really just another form of hypoagency. There are four forms I have seen it take:
Denialism – This is the flat-out denial that women do any of the heinous things men do. This is particularly common whenever Intimate partner Violence (IPV) (=domestic violence) comes up. There is flat denial that women commit PV at anything like the same rates men do, and blank denial when you also mention women initiate the majority of IPV incidents. It is also common when the subject of rape comes up. We have seen all the forms this denialism takes: women can’t rape men because men are physically stronger; that a man is ungrateful or even misogynist for calling unwanted sex rape, or the ripe old one out of the early 90s, that since rape is a crime of patriarchy, women are categorically incapable of it.
For a particularly rancid example of this kind of rape apology here is the first comment that appeared after Ally Fogg posted this very good blog post on Chris Brown being child-raped when he was eight by a teenaged girl, and later bragging about it:
October 6, 2013 at 10:52 am (UTC 1) Link to this comment
“Chris Brown is here disclosing that he was seriously sexually abused at eight years old, by a girl in her mid-teens”
That girl did not abuse him. What he is actually disclosing is the abuse by the older boys and men and a culture that fed him the porn. He is disclosing the abuse *of the girl* by older boys and men who procured her for his premature porn-fueled fantasies about what women and girls are for, and how men are supposed to behave.
As usual though Ally your clueless rush to the “women do it too” schtick entirely misses the point. The girl in this story is a victim – most likely a repeat victim and from a younger age too – of men and their macho porn fantasies. The young Chris Brown, also a victim of those men and older boys. Ask yourself why that is not the story that we’re hearing ?
So no end of speculation and vituperation is marshaled to erase what this rapist girl – young woman, really – did to this boy. That’s denialism.
Extenuation – So when denialism fails, the first fallback is extenuation. This is minimization. Either it’s the claim that F>M just isn’t that serious, an F>M rape isn’t as serious as an M>F rape because male victims just aren’t as harmed as female victims – because you know, it’s so much worse for a woman than for a man to be demasculinized by rape – or it’s the claim of irrevocable male consent. He got hard, he willingly got drunk and put himself at risk, or just generally what kind of a wuss was he to get raped by a woman, or to call it rape. Because, you know, a real man would have just “lay back and enjoyed it.”
So no big deal, right?
A specialized form of this is false equivalence. A man commits the unpardonable crime of failing to satisfy a woman sexually, so she feels entitled to beat him up. A man cheats on his girlfriend, so she forces him to kneel in the street and starts slapping him in public. (At least this time the women did get arrested - the Chinese have fewer dehumanizing illusions about women’s powerlessness.) The general pattern is permission of disproportionate violence based on false equivalences. Notice how the corresponding anti-male sexist tripe is male invulnerability.
Impunity – When denialism and extenuation both fail, the final defensive position is to simply refuse to penalize the woman for her crime or whatever other harm she has committed. And this is what is behind the female sentencing discount.
Sometimes this is a function of the Golden Uterus. There are loads of examples of mothers but not fathers being treated leniently in the courts to the point of almost complete impunity. Here’s one in a particularly sleazy shake-down of a member of the European Parliament, where the crook will spend no time in jail in view of how hard it would be on her son. I only chose this example because it was so recent. They come up regularly.
Deflection – Finding some man to blame for a woman’s misdeeds hits two traditionalist targets with one shot – it bigs men up as all-powerful and it confirms women as weak, whimpering little victims in need of men’s – some other man’s (there’s the pay off!) – protection. So: Did a wife injure her husband when she abused him? Well, what did he do to make her do it? (“Make her do it” – how hypoagentive does it have to get?) Did a woman drive her children into the Hudson River and drown them? Let’s talk about what an inadequate husband he was! Because it’s always only ever going to be about her and her needs, right?
Because finally it all comes down to that, that a woman is just a bag of needs to be met and the measure of man is how well he meets them.
Numerous women call this out for the hateful sexism it is, feminists too. This is what they call the “golden cage” and “benevolent sexism” (yeah, it’s benevolent alright, if you’re the one on the receiving end of all this leniency) but the benefits are poisoned. This is female privilege, and it cripples women. It’s a form of foot binding, and far too many women in our society insist on it, out of adherence to a toxic gender identity.
And speaking of female privilege, I had a long exchange on a Mensrights subreddit thread with an insightful feminist where we both realized that what she calls benevolent sexism, I call female privilege. So maybe in their own way feminists really have been denouncing female privilege under one name – and demanding more of it under another. We can take that up later maybe.
These four tactics – denialism, extenuation, impunity and deflection – are all deployed to maintain a cultural norm, the belief that women are inherently sweet, caring nurturing , harmless – in a word, wonderful. And if that gets in the way of their humanity, oh well…
So many of the personal stories we hear from women who grew up in the bad old days of being forced to wear skirts really come down to being gender policed into just this role – harmless, inoffensive, prissy. That’s the golden cage, benevolent sexism, the female privilege all this lying is trying to defend.