Saturday, October 27, 2018

Pernicious Misogyny

                                                                                                written 20 October 2018
                                                                                                published 27 October 2018

            Since the Kavanaugh hearings, a new fear story is spreading.  "Mobs of angry women" are making it dangerous for young men today.  Women ARE angry, and the spread of the #MeToo movement has created a shift in the social fabric of what is acceptable behavior.  For thousands of years, male dominance and misogyny was HisStory, taken as natural law.  But humanity is evolving, and the disempowerment of half the population is slowly eroding.  Since 1873, women in the United States can own and control property, drive cars since 1900, and vote since 1920.  But women still earn 20% less for the same work, and are adversely affected by the entitlement and fantasies of men.
            Gender violence researcher Dr. Jackson Katz, in a 2013 Ted Talk, points out how our culture frames these issues to focus on the woman.  A statement describing the action that "John beats Mary", becomes the passive statement "Mary is a battered woman", and John's behavior is not part of the discussion.  This passive voice gets applied to general statistics. How many women were raped last year, never how many men raped women?  How many girls are harassed, rather than how many boys harass girls?  These things "happen" to women.  Men aren't mentioned, and the dominant culture accepts the situation.
            Since it isn't an issue, men have no need to examine assumptions or change behavior, and are therefore mostly unaware of what is going on.  This is not the case for women.  Dr. Katz uses the following exercise to illuminate the disparity. He asks the men in the audience what they do on a daily basis to prevent being sexually assaulted.  The general response is dead silence or nervous laughter, as most never think about the subject. 
            When he asks the women the same question, they immediately share a multitude of specific daily practices: hold keys as a weapon, look in the back seat before entering the car, don't jog at night, always watch my drink even as it is poured, have an unlisted phone number, don't use parking garages, park in well-lit areas, don't get on an elevator with men, vary the route to work, don't have a first-floor apartment, go out in groups, own a firearm, and don't make eye contact with men on the street. The men in the audience are generally stunned.
            This ubiquitous oppression of women stunts men as well, locking us into a rigid definition that a man must be powerful, dominant, rationally controlled, unemotional, and Viagra hard at all times.  The qualities of compassion, empathy, and cooperation are belittled and projected onto women, when in reality all humans can have all these traits. Women have begun to claim their power and voice, challenging the status quo, which disturbs men.  A man speaking out is considered an assertive leader, but a woman doing the same is called a bossy bitch with an attitude.
            The male power structure is under assault, as it should be.  Girls and women have been afraid all their lives as a survival strategy, so for boys to feel afraid is actually the start of the conversation.  No one should have to carry this kind of fear in a healthy society.  Real leaders, particularly men, need to stand up and say misogyny is not a family value.  We must support women, not only to honor our mothers, sisters and daughters, but for the sake of our boys, to show them what it means to be a healthy man, allowed to feel compassion and cooperation.
            Unfortunately, leadership of this kind is totally lacking at the national level, which seems to revel in the most regressive forms of sexual oppression. This is a global issue, and all power structures suffer the same problem of gender oppression.  The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the imminent threat of dire climate impact is directly related to our cultural misogyny. Toxic patriarchy's domination of women has also been inflicted on Mother Earth, leading to possible near-term human extinction.  The effort to mature our gender relationships will also improve our relationship with the planet, allowing humanity a future.
            To view Dr. Katz's Ted Talk, go to:, and search for Jackson Katz.