Friday, December 28, 2012

The Slave of Slaves: Women

The following is a piece I wrote in August, 2009.  It continues to be relevant to me, especially after reading this article today about the rape, beating, and subsequent death of a 23 year-old Indian woman.  Sadly, not much has changed in three years.        

The Slave of Slaves: Women

A facebook friend posted this article on her page.  The author, Bob Herbert, writes about the effect misogyny has on women and girls as well as the violence associated with it.  The main source of his discussion is around George Sodini, a man in Pennsylvania who shot and killed three women while wounding nine others.

Mr. Herbert's article notes that "A girl or woman somewhere in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes or so. The number of seriously battered wives and girlfriends is far beyond the ability of any agency to count."  This particular statement raises a few questions: how can this be happening with such frequency (and if they are unable to keep accurate counts of women and girls who find themselves in such situations, the notion that the frequency increases in almost unbearable) also, what are the issues surrounding accurate reporting of such crimes and what is being done about the inaccuracy (or the inability or unwillingness on the part of the victim to make a report)?  From January to August of this year (2009), eight women in Minnesota have been murdered as a result of domestic violence.  That is one violent female death per month for the year to date; I find that disturbing, in many ways.  I find that it makes me angry as well.   Herbert alludes to the male need for demonstrable manliness as the reason for such drastic action and unfathomable violence.

This manliness issue is involved, very deep, and indubitably it has many factors.  Herbert quotes the perpetrator of the Pennsylvania shootings as offering this as part of his reasoning: "It seems many teenage girls have sex frequently. One 16 year old does it usually three times a day with her boyfriend. So, err, after a month of that, this little [expletive] has had more sex than ME in my LIFE, and I am 48. One more reason.”  Sex; it's unbelievable in so many ways.  I personally find the idea that women deserve to be punished or killed because of their own sexual liberation to be complete, utterly antiquated, unenlightened idiocy.  That is not to say that I support having copious amounts of high risk sex but we should be able to decide with whom we have sex, when, how, and how frequently.  What brings about this particular sentiment, that women should be sexually inhibited and prudish, is of interest to me though.  The thought that women owe men sex or are only around for sex is laughable, ludicrous in the actual sense of the word.  Also, the idea that it is the woman's fault if a man has a bad sexual experience is equally ridiculous (although in some instances it may be accurate).  Part of this is propagated by popular media and current social practices e.g. pornography and unrealistic body image conceptualizations.

Herbert attempts to make the connection between pornography and violence.  While there may be associations between certain types of pornography and higher instances of violence, to make causal inferences from such a connection is not possible, or useful.  Most people who know me are familiar with my ultra-liberal opinion on sexual health so my unwillingness to completely decry all pornography is not surprising.  However, I think there is something worth considering in the argument that men are socialized into believing that women should be perfect, especially physically and sexually.  Equally important to this is the perception that women want perfect men, i.e. strong men, both physically and emotionally.  Societal influences (eg. advertisements and general media) have thoroughly distorted, mainly through sexual exploitation, what men and women are really like.  Now, it is all about the fabricated "ideal" and what "real" men and women should be like, and what we should want.  When these "ideals" are not achieved or obtained, it causes serious problems.  The unsatisfactory fulfillment of deep desires must have some effect on a person's thought process (eg. "I dress good, am clean shaven, bathe, touch of cologne- yet 30 million women reject me...", "A man needs a women for confidence" - George Sodini, Pennsylvania gym killer), expectations are highly influential.  I can't, however, support that as a justification or mitigation of murder, even if it helps me understand it to a degree

The most salient point of the article is the that the violence and hate women experience simply for being women is unacceptable, and something needs to be done about it.  However, we can't do anything until people acknowledge its existence and severity.  I would add that a consequence of our failure to acknowledge violence against women adversely impacts men, and it allows violence against men to continue as well under an added level of shame at being beaten up by a girl.    

Interestingly, I found this video on Youtube last week, I think it ties in nicely with this blog.  I suggest watching it and listening to the song lyrics, thinking about what has really changed since 1972-when the song came out, and finally, gauging your own reaction to what is being said.  

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