Friday, 15 August 2008

Who's really emasculating men here?

I was reading an excellent blog post on the compensation for rape victims being cut if they had consumed any alcohol. I'm not going to redo Melissa McEwan's superb work here.

I read Michael White's piece at the Guraniad and Roger Graef's rant at the Daily Mail. Having reached the target heart rate for my age, I wondered if I needed to exercise today.

Now, I'm HUGE on personal responsibility, ask any of my friends - it's one of my bugbears. So, yes, you need to do as much as possible to keep yourself safe.


Being drunk may make you a more inviting target. But it doesn't make you RESPONSIBLE. If you fall over and bang your head on a lamp post when you're pissed, your responsibility. If someone picks you up and throws the inebriated you into said lamp post, THEIR responsibility.

I was chewing over the arguments of Michael White, Roger Graef, et. al., and came up with the following objections:

1. They seem to think that rape is about sex. Sex is the FORM it takes, but rape is really about violence and power. Whether it's date rape or stranger rape, you're overriding someone else's free will. That's about getting off on overpowering someone, NOT on having sex.

2. If a criminal is drunk at the time of his crime, he can plead *diminished responsibility*. Yet if a rape victim has been drinking, she is seen to have *increased responsibility* for what happened to her. You can't have it both ways. If someone has been drinking heavily, they are non compos mentis, and *therefore CANNOT GIVE LEGAL CONSENT*. So if she's drunk, the answer is already a 'no'.

3. The cut in compensation can come with the consumption of ANY amount of alcohol - one glass of wine, which leaves even a lightweight drinker like me stone cold sober, could case CICA to cut the compensation by a third.

4. Women should dress so that men aren't provoked into rape. Women should always be stone cold sober so men aren't provoked into rape. Women should walk in a way so that men aren't provoked into rape. Does someone see a pattern here? What's the underlying assumption?

The underlying assumption in all these arguments is that women are responsible adults who can control how men behave by what they do. Men, on the other hand, are creatures who have no control over their actions/passions and need to be controlled/manipulated by the behaviour of others.

Whoa. When I worked that through, my head snapped back hard enough to give me whiplash.

Always, always, men like Roger Graef and Michael White, religious fundamentalists, anti-feminists and the women who support them, have pointed the finger at feminists for making men feel insecure, for treating them like children or objects, for 'stealing from them' and not allowing them to be men.

I almost believed it. But I always thought that if that was the case, the men in question needed to take responsibility and say what they felt, rather than just 'letting women run all over them', or whatever the stock phrase is.

But the underlying feminist assumption is that men and women are *equals*: women should take responsibility for their own lives and the choices they make. So should men. Which means...feminists assume men are capable of taking responsibility for themselves, so if women are drunk, feminists assume that men will choose to either protect them or leave them alone.

Hmmm. Doesn't sound like emasculation to me. Sounds like empowerment.

Maybe it's time to treat all this the way one treats a magic trick: look at the hand they're trying to distract you from. So, what does the patriarchy really expect/believe.

1. Patriarchal societies expect women to act in ways that make them take responsibiity for men - whether it's playing games when dating so he feels 'in control'; bearing the brunt of the modesty injunction of most religions (I once had a rabbi tell me that men and women had to sit apart because "Men can't control themselves."); or pretending to be less smart/earn less so as not to damage his 'poor fwail ego, awww.'

2. Meanwhile, tell men that they're threatened on all sides by people not their own race, religion or gender and that they must defend their territory, especially against those evil temptresses - I mean, after all, look at Eve, right? It's all HER fault we're here. Remind them that they need to be told what to do, how to think (down to what they're allowed to find attractive) and protected from temptation, since they're inherently full of passions they can't control without help from the...patriarchy, also made up of men who can't... yeah, you see what I mean.

3. Tell women that despite the fact they're powerful enough to be responsible for every evil a man commits, they're NOT capable of working, voting, having the rights they give to men - you know, those same men who have to be told what to do/believe/be. Remind them that they are evil and responsible for the fall of the entire human race and need to be contained for their own good.

4. Create such an atmosphere of fear and suspicion that men and women rarely talk and are always at odds.

5. Having created such an atmosphere, slip on velvet slippers, sit back in front of the fire and remain in firm control. Rinse and repeat with other races, religions, political systems, etc.

Is it just me, or does the patriarchy have the lowest opinion of men possible? To quote an exchange between Nick and myself from the Shakesville discussion:

Finally, as a woman, I'm just sick and tired of taking responsibility for men's behaviour by how I dress, walk, glance, whatever.

And as a man, I'm insulted by the idea that I need women to "correctly" dress/walk/glance in order to manage my behaviour and urges. Not raping is easy; it's not a struggle, it's not a dilemma, and I don't need any female help to get it right. I just need a conscience, and it's interesting how it's never the feminists saying I don't have one.

THANK YOU. You know, I've always felt like the finger pointing at women - from Eve to feminists - is a distraction. Maybe it's time we treating it like a magic trick: look at the hand the patriarchy doesn't want us to see. I have a theory we might find that it's the patriarchy, not feminism, that's emasculating men by infantilizing them.

The demand that women should be responsible for the way men behave is insulting* to men - at least to me - as you put so well in the paragraph starting "THANK YOU." (and thankyou for what you said, personally and generally).
* Not that I'm going to dispute that it's an insult which pales beside the unconscionable burden it puts onto women.
But yes, it's never the feminists that paint me as an irretrievably innate sexual predator who needs female help to conquer my evil drives. Feminism puts far more faith in my, and any man's, conscience than the patriarchy does. Which is rather humbling in the light of how many women here have good reason not to.

Boys and girls, I think we've been had. From anachronistic rape laws to forcing women to cover themselves from head to toe to enforced celibacy, it has never been about anyone's good. It has been about making it easier to control someone through fear (think of the erosion of civil liberties post 9/11) or isolation (by keeping people at loggerheads), which makes people unsettled and more likely to look to external authority for rules that give them a sense of security.

That's what cults and abusers do. Women and minorities aren't the only ones getting screwed over here - men are just as wounded, if less visibly. Every time we refuse to allow someone to take responsibility for their actions - white or black, male or female - EVERYONE suffers.

We need to start asking questions, looking at the underlying assumptions, and remember that
when someone is generating fear, they most likely want control.

No, it's not that simple. No, it's not a perfect or complete analysis - I've only started thinking it through, and it's only one factor of many, I suspect. Yes, it's more complicated than what I've just written. Yes, there are members of the female gender and minorities who take advantage and play the victim, just as there are members of the male gender and majorities who take advantage. But that doesn't make it ok to live our lives by a system who maintains its raison d'etre by pitting us against one another. We have to start change somewhere.

To quote Twisted Sister and so many others through history:

We're right/yeah
we're free/yeah

we'll fight/yeah

you'll see/yeah

oh we're not gonna take it

no, we ain't gonna take it
oh we're not gonna take it anymore.

So come on, lads, put your hands in ours and let's start walking towards a brave new world.

And should you feel your balls being lopped off, look to those who won't let you grow up.


Ruth said...

Right with you there - by not making men accountable for their actions we are demeaning them as much as we demean women by saying they were asking for it.

Look after yourself and your friends if you are going out, please, but alcohol or no rape is rape.

Ariel said...

Thank you, she'enedra, for a very eloquent antidote to all those anti-feminist diatribes. While, as you say, there are almost certainly other factors at play, I think you've hit on some pretty deep truths here.

Angry as I am at the patriarchy and at the men who insist on refusing to accept adult responsibility for their behaviour and controlling women, it's the women who support them who anger me most. Do you have any immediate thoughts on them?


Ariel said...

The more I think about this, the more the whole Garden of Eden story seems like a perfect illustration of it. If you adopt a Catholic take on it, and strip all the metaphors away, you get a little dialogue like:

God: Adam, why did you do this?
Adam: She made me! She made me!
Eve: Yes, I listened to the evil in my soul...


Irim said...

Hey girls!

Ruth - spot on. I'm a big believer in trusting in God and others, but keeping your gunpowder dry.

Ari - Thank you. Yes, I'm angrier at the women than at the men, b/c they're the ones giving men permission to treat them and all other women like crap. I mean, what the hell was Condoleeza Rice, a black woman, doing by working for George Bush, who'd have happily worn a white sheet 50 yrs ago? A traitor to her race and to her gender. And with little foreign policy savvy, to boot.

"THANK YOU. You know, I've always felt like the finger pointing at women - from Eve to feminists - is a distraction."

That's exactly the point I was making when I used Eve as an example. The Garden of Eden story is really just an excuse for ignorance - why shouldn't we know about good and evil? - and misogyny.

I couldn't possibly believe in a God who punishes its creation for choosing knowledge over ignorance. Essentially, it was created by men who didn't want their followers asking 'why' and created a 'divine' reason. Blind obedience is bullshit.


Ariel said...

There's a fabulous bumper sticker on one of the cars habitually parked on my block:


I love it.


Anonymous said...

I do not know how you should or would set about it, but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE try to get this piece of writing published. It makes so many worthwhile points that people really need to listen to and consider that appearing just on your blog means it may not necessarily reach enough people. The Daily Mail/Express columnists Jean Rook and Lynda Lee Potter would have said similar, I imagine, but in a less intelligent way. There is an audience for what you are saying, even in the Tory gutter press.
So please see if you can extend this piece of writing. It is too important for it not to be read by a greater audience.
PS On a lighter side, considering the bumper sticker ariel saw, did no-one ever tell Adam about loyalty?

Ariel said...

I second Anonymous.