Tuesday, January 7, 2014

VIOLENCE AND GENDER: THE MALE FEAR OF WOMEN


TOP SHELF OF MY BOOKCASE
Here's my take, not that anyone asked, on the male-female power struggle. You can’t demand that others stop victimizing you. You have to stop responding or reacting like a victim.  That’s the only kind of “power” that makes any sense; that works. In order not to respond as a victim takes years of inner work. You have to deliver yourself into the hands of God, not into the hands of your oppressor.

And what you learn is that the oppressor is yourself. Your guilt, your fear, your anger, your sense of impotence. Your self-pity.

I don’t like to see myself, feel myself, or experience myself as a victim, in the Church, or anywhere else. Which is why I have never called myself a feminist. I don't want to wait around until someone else treats me a certain way to feel good about myself. I want to be happy, joyous, and free no matter how people are thinking about or treating me. The more I feel that way, the more respect and honor I seem to get from everyone around me: men, women, children...

I think men are afraid of women and I think women rabid to "even the score" have made them more afraid. That men so often shoot women is a sign of their fear. It would stand to reason that more women, who are physically weaker, would shoot men, who are stronger, but no—it’s the men who shoot women. In fact, I wonder if our whole national fetishization of guns is not based on the underlying fear of men toward women. A desperate desire/need to appear manly, to defend themselves against their own loneliness, their own fear of appearing weak in the eyes of women and of each other.

Between 1982 and mid-2013, there, were 67 mass shootings (defined by Mother Jones as the killing of four or more people, not including the killer) in the United States. 66 of the murderers were men.

From an article by Jeffrey Nall entitled “The Perils of Patriarchy for Men as well as Women: Another Mass Shooting, another Reason to Begin Discussing Violence and Gender” in Truthout:

“Men are responsible for the majority of violence in this nation. According to the FBI's 2010 statistics on crime, men made up 90 percent of the 11,000 murder offenderswhose gender was known.[9] Men also were responsible for 77 percent of aggravated assaults, 84 percent of burglaries, 82 percent of arsons, 74 percent of offenses against the family and children, and 99 percent of rapes.[10] According to Futures without Violence, while three-quarters of those who commit family violence are men, women make up 84 percent of spousal-abuse victims and 86 percent of those abused by a romantic partner.[11] Considering that men make up just 49.2 percent of the U.S. population, these statistics should be alarming.”

That’s not to say men are monsters; it’s to say men are afraid.

From the same article:

“Violence has long been the weapon of choice to assert one's self-worth within patriarchal culture and is often motivated to overcome perceived "dignity-denial" or dehumanization - denying one's moral status. Drawing on his research and direct experience with perpetrators of violence, psychiatrist James Gilligan notes that "the basic psychological motive, or cause, of violent behavior is the wish to ward off or eliminate the feeling of shame and humiliation ... and replace it with its opposite, the feeling of pride. In addition to feelings of profound shame, triggers for violence include a variety of factors including the feeling that nonviolent alternatives to restoring one's dignity are unavailable and the failure to feel "empathy, love and concern for others"...These violence-abating feelings are linked to femininity, and men who embrace them are often chastised for weakness. And the devaluation of "feminine feelings" such as empathy increasingly marks broader social and governmental practices. As Henry Giroux has pointed out, Americans are increasingly encouraged to limit their compassion and to adopt such "masculine" hardness...This phenomenon is growing not only in terms of interpersonal relations, but also in social policy."

No accident that the Bible begins with the story of the Garden of Eden, where the split between men and women began. One tactic of frightened men is to refuse to respond. Silence as a form of control, withholding as a form of violence. This can occur in the world of Catholic publishing, in a landlord-tenant situation, in a friendship, in a marriage.

Patriarchy is not the problem.

The problem is our shame--everyone's shame--our guilt, our sense that we are unworthy, and our fear of letting our desire go to the stars.

Feminism isn’t the solution. Love, wonder, and mystery are the solution.

I don’t want to be more like a man.

I want to be more like myself.

THE SUN RISES OVER SUNSET BOULEVARD
VIEW FROM MY BED

12 comments:

  1. I love your blog Heather.....but you lost me on this one.

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  2. Interesting. I admit that I am afraid of women and I have many women friends. I just seem to be wired that way, strange ...I can go with love , mystery , wonder....and kindness.

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  3. I like your thoughtfulness on the topic, but I have a different take on the process of breaking a cycle of abuse. Prime example: Nelson Mandela never responded or reacted like a victim and yet he most certainly did demand that others stop victimizing him. I don't think it's an either or. I think it's an and.

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  4. Heather, this makes much sense to me. According to the Genesis account, If man's 'charge' is to have responsibility for the earth, then it follows that his greatest fear would be a fear of failure, lack of competence, weakness, or the appearance thereof. If woman's 'charge' is responsibility of children/ relationships, then her greatest fear would be abandonment, rejection, isolation. If makes sense to me that therefore all our sin follows to alleviate our deepest fears, as opposed to utter trust and dependence on God alone. Thank, as always, for your heartfelt and thoughtful words.
    blessings to you, Carie

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  5. A reader sent this wonderful insight as well: "

    The first part of your most recent post, the one about gender wars, summed up for me what I've learned by experience but have never been able to put (concisely) into words: that although my first five decades trained me to be a victim in every sense of the word, ultimately the responsibility for change must rest within me, and any hope of a different life must be worked out, agonizingly slowly and agonizingly painfully, between me and God.

    The reason I'm so thankful to read your words on this matter is because you verified for me the fact that it's all a matter of "inner work" and that it's slow and painful. It's this way for me because when I follow the promptings of what I perceive as my Christian conscience, I end up behind the eight-ball in one way or another, because it's an old familiar path beaten into me year after year by some very tormented, twisted people. When I am finally driven by pain, frustration, and fear to assertively (not aggressively) push a pushy person back, and away from me, I'm driven crazy by uncertainties and guilt that I've done the unthinkable and have cut myself off from God.

    I daily thank God that the Catholic faith, as laid out in the Catechism, permits me to try to step away from aggressive people, because when I first read these various statements of my rights as a human being and child of God, backed up by the Church in theory if not always in individual practice, it was the first inkling I'd had that it was OK for me to defend myself from unwarranted harm, and, following along later, that it's OK for me to present all such matters before God."

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  6. A desperate desire/need to appear manly, to defend themselves against their own loneliness, their own fear of appearing weak in the eyes of women and of each other.

    I think that's key -- it's not that men fear women, so much as they are afraid of being seen as women.

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  7. Well, I think we are all afraid of each other. Here's yet another take from an anonymous reader:

    "Amen to that Heather, when people, both male & female, accept themselves the way God created them and completely give it all to him, then they will be able to live in love. To be able to offer oneself in humble submission to God opens the door to the peace and freedom we were created for. "Perfect love casts out all fear", as St. John says, and following Christ shows us the way to that. When women accept their femininity they can be the spouses, mothers, sisters and friend that men need not fear. It takes real courage to accept the poverty of being a feminine creature; if Eve had only said "Lord, I was weak, I did not call upon the Man you gave me as a guardian, I gave in to temptation, forgive me", what a different world we may have had. Which of course brings us to Our Lady, who did give the correct answer, "Let it be done to me according to your word". She shows us how to be poor in spirit, to a pure and humble self-emptying way of life. In her weakness she was the epitome of feminine strength and power. What a blessing of our Catholic faith to have such a one as her, who along with her Son, shows us how to live in perfect love."

    I see another post on the horizon: "The Poverty of the Feminine Creature"...

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  8. I wonder if a lot of men are afraid of being mocked. Like Quixote, our high seriousness can easily be seen as (or become) ridiculousness. It's when I want to be seen as practical/unassailable that I can be the most hateful. In a way, men are ceremonial… in a good sense and a bad sense. American culture doesn't (maybe never has) put much stock in ceremony. But being a buffoon is better than being violent.

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  9. Well there you go. I say bring back knightly courtesy! What happened to a man kneeling at a woman's foot, as he should--not because we are superior, but because we are to be cherished--and would probably like to? That takes a maximum of manliness as you say. Perhaps the one thing more manly, in fact, more human, is for a man to kneel at a man's feet, and to wash them as Christ did the night before he died. Instead we have a culture where men and women are taught to be insolent, coarse, crude, manipulative and cruel to one another.

    There is something beautiful on going down on bended knee, literally, before the One you adore. Hence, in part, my love for the Mass...

    Thanks, Matthew.

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  10. Thank you for the comments....... they have helped me to understand.

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    1. Coming from place of total love--for all of us...Thanks, Phil...I have another piece next week that I didn't realize was related but I now see is...We must decrease; He must increase.
      A Blessed Baptism to all!

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  11. The last two sentences are ones I can and do say and, I'm a man.

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