Once again I find myself feeling mystified as to why women do what they do. A guy treats a woman badly, yet she sympathizes with him. Men come on to women in flagrantly demeaning and sexual ways, yet women are flattered by it. The culture objectifies women in every way possible, yet women think that dressing immodestly empowers them. What in the world is going on here? How is it that this kind of insance behavior has become common practice?
Well before I share with you my conclusion, let me tell you the strange but true story of a young woman named Patty Hearst. In case you have never heard of her, Patty Hearst was a millionaire heiress who was kidnapped from her California home in 1974 by an organization called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). SLA was a band of American terrorists who promoted their radical ideas through violence, murder, and bank robberies, in addition to kidnapping Hearst and holding her for ransom. What is particularly striking about this story is that several months after her kidnapping, Hearst was photographed holding an assault rifle in the midst of robbing a bank in San Francisco. It was later revealed that Hearst had come to sympathize with the goals of SLA, and was now fighting for them.
Eventually Hearst was arrested and put on trial. During the proceedings Hearst explained that her captors had locked her in a closet, blindfolded her, and sexually abused her during her imprisonment. For this reason her legal defense argued that Hearst had been brainwashed during her captivity, thus explaining the surprising shift in allegiance toward her kidnappers.
Now as strange as this story may sound, Hearst demonstrated a not uncommon phenomenon among victims of violence called Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome occurs when a person in an abusive relationship develops a kind of sympathy or love for their abuser. Rather than condemn the abuse, or flee from it, the victim feels an intimacy with her abuser, and remains in the abusive relationship, thereby enabling it to continue.
Now the story of Patty Hearst may confound our senses, for it is nonsensical at best, but there is a specific reason I bring it up here. As strange as the phenomenon may sound, a similar development has occurred within our culture. Women are not only wounded by both men and culture, but women have come to sympathize with them. Mimicking the actions of Patty Hearst, women have begun facilitating and even perpetuating unhealthy relationships with men, instead of fleeing from them. Likewise, women frequently partner with the culture in its objectification of them, actively turning themselves into objects of lust and sexual fantasy, wearing short skirts and revealing necklines in the name of feminist power. We feel as though we have control when we dress this way because we can command the attention of a room when we walk through the door. Yet these actions are no different than the crime that Patty Hearst committed against herself. In such a situation, your power is only an illusion, because you are doing nothing more than enabling the victimization, rather than freeing yourself from it.
So the reason I bring up this story is that we have got to name these unhealthy influences in our lives for what they really are–our captors. They are holding our self-worth in bondage, so we will never be free as long as we sympathize with them. For this reason, the next time a guy treats you badly, remember Patty Hearst. The next time you feel flattered when a guy comes at you with some totally sketchy line, remember Patty Hearst. And when you are tempted to embrace the lie that we are most attractive, sexy, and powerful when wearing the least amount of clothing, remember Patty Hearst. Because all of those mentalities are just as insane as Patty Hearst siding with her kidnappers. When we think and act that way, we are doing nothing more than sympathizing with our captors when we should instead be fighting for freedom.