Tag Archives: misogyny

Men Who Hate Women. And the therapists who love them.

A few days ago, I went to the library and checked out the book Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them. Partly, I was just curious. Because it has long been considered a groundbreaking work, I figured any modern-day feminist worthy of the name should be well-versed in the relevant literature.

So, I started reading. Susan Forward, the psychologist who wrote the book, had me at the first couple of sentences, in which she described a destructive relationship dominated by a man who systematically destroys the woman’s attempts to assert her right to equal treatment. We’ve all seen relationships like that. Some of us have even been in relationships like that. Dr. Forward hit the nail right on the head.

So far, so good.

Then I come to the chapter in which she describes how men learn to be misogynistic within their families. As she describes the influence of a misogynistic father in shaping his son’s distorted perceptions of women, that too has the ring of authenticity and truth to it. We all know fathers who deliberately indoctrinate their sons in the belief that women are inferior, second-rate, worthy of contempt.

There’s where the problem sets in. After disposing in a few short paragraphs with a toxic father’s impact, she devotes the remainder of the chapter describing in great detail  the damaging effects of the mother-son relationship in response to the father. Page after page sets out the various dysfunctional models for how mothers trapped in marriage to an irredeemable jerk damage their sons. But not one further peep about what the father in all his destructive glory is doing on a daily basis. The daily snickering over the stacks of Playboy magazine hidden in the basement. The constant belittling of his wife in front of their children, relatives, friends, casual acquaintances. The overarching intolerance for anyone’s will but his own. Somehow, none of that is considered nearly as powerful as the mother’s futile attempts to cope with a situation that is completely out of her hands.

Same old same-old.

So in other words, even when the father is a complete and utter swine, it’s still somehow all on the mother’s shoulders if the son winds up damaged.

Doesn’t sound very groundbreaking to me. Sounds like the same old claptrap we’ve been hearing for generations. And the sad fact is, that’s still pretty much the presumption most family therapists are laboring under.

A not-very-modest proposal.

So for the record, bear with me while I make an outrageous, preposterous, revolutionary proposition. I’m just going to go out on a limb here, because someone’s got to do it. I realize this may be the first time anyone has ever dared to suggest such a thing, so you might want to make sure you’re sitting down.

Sometimes–often, in fact–when a man grows up hating women, it was the father who taught him that. Not the mother. And just as often, when a family’s dynamics are pathologically dysfunctional, the problems begin and end with the father. Not the mother.

Ultimately, though, when a man continues into adulthood hating women, there is one person and one person only who is responsible for that.

Him.

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Filed under Articles, change, feminism, Quick takes, Uncategorized

Curvy schmurvy. I prefer well-rounded

Tell me if you see what’s wrong with this picture that was posted on Facebook from the Women’s Rights News web site: a plus-size model clad only in her lingerie, with this blurb emblazoned in all capital letters and vivid purple ink: “There is no such thing as percect (sic). There is just me, and guess what I’m OK with that.”

Underneath that photo is the text line: “Curvy is fine.”

Click here to see the photo:

Leaving aside the poor grammar and spelling in the blurb … and leaving aside, for the moment, the irony that such an act of self-objectification appears on a web site that purports to promote feminist values … I have to wonder if anyone besides me is bothered by the use of the euphemism “curvy” to mean something it doesn’t actually mean. It implies that all women of ample proportions are curvy, and that simply is not the case. It also implies that no slender woman can possibly be curvy. Also not true.

I prefer the term “full-figured,” which is far more accurate without being pejorative. Better yet, how about “intelligent,” or “talented” or even (and I know this is a radical notion) “human”?

But what’s even more troubling to me is the fact that women feel the need to pose in their underwear to prove something. Because frankly, I don’t choose my friends on the basis of how they look in their lingerie. I’m interested in knowing what books they’ve read, or the results of their latest lab experiments, or what they’re doing to eradicate puppy mills.

And if someone is judging me on the basis of how I might theoretically look in my skivvies–especially considering that the vast majority of the population will never in fact see me in them without the proper street attire on top–it’s probably not worth trying to prove anything at all.

Except perhaps how quickly I can move on to a more engaging conversation with a more well-rounded person.

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Filed under Articles, body image, Essays, feminism, friendship, Misogyny, Quick takes, social change, Uncategorized, writing

Poem for April 10

For today’s prompt, Robert Lee Brewer at Writer’s Digest challenges readers to write a suffering poem. “A person or animal in the poem could be suffering,” Brewer writes. Or, he adds, “The poem itself could be suffering.”

Here’s my response:

Homework assignment

 
She came to class today, hat pulled low over her ears.
 
He pulled her hair out in clumps, she says.
She should never have gone out with him, she says,
When she had a paper due about global food injustice.
She should have known better.
 
This is not the first time it’s happened.
It’s been a pattern since her earliest days;
Men coming in and out of her life like so many jackals stalking their prey,
Waiting for some small unguarded moment that will allow them
To seize the opportunity.
 
She doesn’t say it, perhaps doesn’t see it,
Perhaps is hoping against hope that someone else, finally, will see it.
There is another kind of injustice playing out here;
Something else she could write a paper on,
That is much more pressing than the human-rights abuses
Committed by faceless corporations against nameless multitudes.
 
This is a tyranny that is hers alone to explore,
And I will be asking her to walk across a field of broken glass
That lies deep within her own soul,
To embark on a treacherous journey
That no one ever volunteers to undertake,
And whose destination is far from certain.
 
Write me a paper, I tell her,
In which you tell me what you already know,
But no one has been willing to hear you say.
Tell me, I say,
Because so many have said everything is all your fault,
And you know and I know that it’s not,
Tell me all the reasons why not.
I’m listening. I believe you.
 
And in her eyes, terror and hope.
Her journey begins.
 
 

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Filed under academia, compassion, crying, education, Poetry, Quick takes, Rape, student, tears, Uncategorized, writing

A modest proposal

In which we address the problem of yet another misogynistic loudmouth

In the latest instance of a male troglodyte holding forth on the finer social implications of rape, University of Rochester economics professor Steven Landsburg recently penned a brief manifesto on the rape convictions of two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, that would make any self-respecting woman-hater’s heart swell with testosterone-laden pride.

In his blog,  Landsburg  asked whether the law should rightfully discourage acts of rape in which the person is unconscious and suffers no direct physical harm.  “As long as I’m safely unconscious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault,” Landsburg reasons, “why shouldn’t the rest of the world (or more specifically my attackers) be allowed to reap the benefits?”

Groups such as Binders Full of Women and WORD (Women Organized to Resist and Defend) — as well as many students at the university — are outraged and have called for Landsburg’s ouster. The university, in true let’s-protect-the-macho-s*@theads-among-us fashion, has taken a self-righteous stand in support of its  professor and his right to academic autonomy and free speech.

So I have a another solution to propose — and it’s one of which I am certain Landsburg himself would approve, since I am literally taking him at his own word.

So the good U of R doesn’t want to fire him outright? Fine. Then how about we invite Landsburg to the next dorm party, ply him with sufficient drugs and alcohol to render him safely unconscious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault, and then surgically remove his man parts? After all, why shouldn’t the rest of the world be allowed to reap the benefits?

We won’t even need any sophisticated equipment. A magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers should do just fine.

 

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Filed under academia, machismo, Misogyny, Ohio, Quick takes, Rape, Steubenville Ohio, troglodyte, Uncategorized

Trust me. No woman loves it.

‎Legitimate rape. Part of God’s will. What will they think of next?

Let me be clear: I have, up to this point, studiously avoided joining in the hostile and rancorous public debate that has characterized the current presidential campaign.  I have listened with growing dismay to the increasingly hostile language that my good friends on either side of the issues hurtle at one another. And, to the extent that I have shared my views, I have held to neutral language, refraining from the fiery rhetoric and name-calling that I have heard issuing from both sides.

Once and for all: rape is an act of violence

But I cannot keep silent in the face of this constant barrage of bizarre declarations about rape from so many Republican candidates in recent months. Rape is never legitimate. Rape is never part of God’s plan to populate the earth.

Rape is never anything but an act of violence and power. Period. Its sole purpose is to dominate, degrade and control. It does not matter whether you knew your assailant before the attack, whether the assault resulted in pregnancy, whether in the heat of the moment it seemed best to acquiesce rather than risk being killed.

And sometimes, you can put up every form of resistance you have in your power, and still it does not stop the rape from happening, and still no one will believe you, and still you will be told that you should have done more, that it is somehow entirely your fault.

And no one is immune

I know because I was stalked, pursued and assaulted by a classmate many years ago, when I was in eighth grade.* Back then, there was no language to correctly identify his actions as acquaintance rape. That kind of awareness was still decades away in the public discourse. Indeed, no one besides me seemed to think there was anything even slightly out of the ordinary in his overtly aggressive, sexually menacing behavior.

The person they criticized, for not being able to “handle it,” was me. A naïve, bookish 13-year-old girl. The class egghead. The shy, nerdy new girl.

In fact, those closest to me blamed me for having been, of all things, “too innocent.” Ironic, isn’t it? Especially when you consider that I had asked virtually every adult in my immediate acquaintance — parents, teachers, school administrators — for help in dealing with the escalating threats from “Dirk” (not his real name).

Not one of them had taken me seriously.

Clearly, the inclination to blame the victim runs deep within our collective consciousness — so much so that we willingly accept the most outlandish theories about rape, rather than face the uncomfortable reality that there are distinct threads of misogyny interwoven throughout our social fabric.

Shocked out of my complacency
This is never an easy or pleasant story to tell. Which is why, over the years, I have grown increasingly reluctant to tell it. It’s so much easier just to keep moving forward and never speak of it.

Besides, because my own recovery was so complete — the result of many years of sifting through the painful details in a support group for women whose horror stories were similar to mine —  it had led me to believe that things had changed.

I became somewhat complacent. Life was good. My children were turning out well. I had achieved many successes in my career. And rarely, if ever, did I have to think about that long-ago event.

Best to leave well enough alone.

But then there came the day in one of my college English classes when a male student — who in many other respects seemed genuinely kind and well-mannered — casually remarked that some women love sexual violence.

“Trust me,” I shot back with some heat. “No woman loves it.”

It reminded me of a similar incident from high school, when my own assault was still painfully fresh in my mind. During a lively class discussion about some topic I have since forgotten, one male classmate who was studious and well-liked suddenly spoke up.

To this day, I can quote him verbatim.

“I hate women who scream rape,” he said. “They all ask for it, anyway.”

Back then, I had no vocabulary to describe what had happened to me, much less to respond to such a remark. I had not the presence of mind to ask him whether that observation included his mother, sisters, grandmothers and aunts. I can’t recall whether anyone else challenged him, either.

All I can remember is those words, and how they stung.

Tell, and keep telling
So while I was glad to be in a position as the professor in my own class not to allow such a remark to pass without comment, it made me realize that I must keep telling my story, however much I’d rather not.

There are so many others out there who still wear blinders.

There are so many others out there who still hold to unbelievably convoluted, logic-defying notions because accepting them is much easier than facing unpleasant truths.

And, there are so many others out there who are still unable to move forward unless someone who has already made the journey to wholeness is willing to light the way.

The good news is that healing and wholeness are possible. In fact, refusing to become permanently damaged is our best hope in triumphing over this particular evil; to rise up, reclaim our dignity, and refuse to be silent. It can be done. Women are doing it all over our country every day. That is what I wish for every woman who has been raped. That is what I hope for every woman who comes to this space and reads these words.

*You can read more details about my experience on my Essays tab here on this site. Click on “Meditations on a Sepia.”

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Filed under Faith, God, Misogyny, Quick takes, Rape