by Elaine Charkowski
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Breaking the silence by naming an atrocity — and its perpetrators — is the first step toward ending it. Patriarchy is a 6,000 year-old, male-supremacist social system. To maintain it, “Women’s agony at the hands of men must never be revealed. If women steadfastly and courageously began to tell the truth and would not stop, would not be co-opted, would not become afraid, the truth of our enslavement would be undeniable and the jig would be up,” said Sonia Johnson in “Telling the Truth,” which is chapter 10 of her book Going Out of Our Minds-The Metaphysics of Liberation.
MALE violence against women must be named specifically in order to isolate it so it can be eradicated. Women, who outnumber men, are the single largest group of oppressed humans on the planet. Men have oppressed women nonstop for the longest length of time of any oppressed group, roughly 6,000 years (The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler).
A young woman once told me that dealing with male violence “was just part of being a woman!” However, it’s the moral responsibility of the group holding the most power to keep its members from oppressing people in groups holding less power. Thus, ALL men are responsible for stopping male violence against women. Violent men must stop assaulting women. Non-violent men must not sit by and allow male violence against women to continue. To do so is to condone it. Their inaction-or indifference-is passive male violence against women.
Silence is complicity.
Here are nine of the most popular evasions often used to avoid naming MALE violence specifically and to avoid holding ALL men responsible for ending male violence against women:
1. “Not all men are violent.”
No one said they were. Since men collectively hold more power than women, and since all men benefit from living in a sexist, male supremacist society, non-violent men are also responsible for stopping male violence against women. In the same way, whites, who collectively hold more power than people of color (in the U.S.) are responsible for ending racism, even whites who don’t commit racist acts. This is because all whites benefit from living in a racist society that gives whites unearned advantages.
2. “Women are violent too.”
Two wrongs don’t make a right. Mary Daly calls this “universalism.” Muddying the waters, it blurs the specific focus on male violence against women by blending it with violence in general (universal violence) and casting it as a gender-neutral human issue (see examples of universalism in excuse #3 below).
Also, under patriarchy, women are blamed for their own degradation (being violent, collaborating with men against women, etc.) As Mary Daly wrote in her book Pure Lust, (p.365) “Within the Virulent State of phallocracy, women have been attacked and divided against our Selves. From the earliest times of the patriarchy, countless mothers have been broken and the resulting broken daughters have carried on the chain of fragmentation. . . .
“They have been reduced to responding to the fettered/fathered urge to reproduce their altered–(that is, patriarchally identified selves)– in an endless circle of Self destruction. Such forcibly altered women have appeared to be normal within the man made milieu.”
Although it exists, female violence pales in comparison to male violence. Men commit 88 percent of violent crime (US Bureau of Justice statistics). Women don’t build rape camps to torture and molest men to death. Women don’t control the U.S. government which spends more than half a trillion dollars a year on mass murder (war). Globally, women can’t walk alone without the possibility of men assaulting them. The reverse is not true. Even though some broken token women may collaborate with patriarchal men to gain power (Condi Rice, Margaret Thatcher etc.) it doesn’t change the fact that patriarchal men are in charge and allow selected token “honorary men” into the boys club–if they identify with, and behave like, patriarchal men.
3. “Since violence is a human problem committed by both sexes, and since women also commit violence against women, MALE violence against women doesn’t have to be isolated and named specifically.”
Here are some examples of universalism (“women are violent too” etc.) The power disparity between women and men is the reason for some women’s dysfunctional behavior. It is not an excuse for it:
• “Some lesbians also better their partners”
This results from internalized dysfunctional heterosexual behavior absorbed from a patriarchal society in which the dominating partner (the man) batters the woman. Male violence against women is the blueprint for lesbian vs lesbian battering.
•“Some women also commit racist violence against women”
Racism (male violence based on race) was created and implemented by dysfunctional men to “divide and conquer.” Male violence based on the “otherness” of the oppressed is the blueprint for racist attacks inflicted by some women upon “other” women. This results when women internalize racism and identify with the dominating race (including men)-instead of bonding with oppressed women. Racism is only possible when inflicted by the race possessing the most political and economic power (racism=prejudice+power over). Thus, women of dominated races cannot commit racism against women of the dominating race-only prejudice. Male violence against women of the same race is clearly seen as sexism. However, male violence against women of different races is often obscured by being seen as just racism instead of racism and sexism.
•“Some women also exploit women sexually and economically.”
Hatred and contempt of women-including themselves-is the underlying issue. Women who exploit other women identify with and see themselves through the eyes of the oppressor (male supremacists who have contempt for women).
4. The absent referent.
The “absent referent” refers to something without naming it. Mary Daly in her book “Quintessence” wrote, “Naming the agent is required for an adequate analysis of atrocities.” As linguist Julia Penelope has shown in her book, “Speaking Freely: Unlearning the Lies of the Fathers’ Tongues,” “agent deletion is a dangerous and common mind-muddying flaw.” Agent deletion is common, concerning male violence against women. Timid terms such as “sexual violence,” “domestic violence” “gender-based violence,” and “violence” refer to men without naming them, even when describing instances when it was obviously men who raped hundreds of thousands of women in Bosnia, Darfur, Rwanda and many other nations. Even Amnesty International, which calls it “a global scourge,” uses the term “violence against women” and “sexual violence” instead of “male violence against women.”
5. “Men also rape men and boys.”
Rape is a male hate crime against women. However, the use of universalism (see #3) attempts to portray rape as a gender-neutral atrocity. The fact that men also rape men and boys doesn’t change the fact that in every nation on earth, in all levels of society, men rape women. Even when men rape males, contempt for women is the underlying issue. Men rape males to degrade them by treating them like raped women.
If white supremacist men batter or murder a black man, it’s clearly seen as a racist hate crime, even though white man also batter white men. In the same manner, rape is a hate crime against women, even though men also rape men.
6. “What we resist persists.”
Supposedly, opposing something directly “gives it more power.” If racism and sexism were not opposed directly in the U.S., black people would still be enslaved. Women would still be men’s property, unable to vote, own a business or keep their own wages. If the Nazis were not opposed directly, they would now run the world.
Opposing women’s oppression directly is only one tactic. Another is being proactive by supporting women in their efforts to gain universal human rights. This can be done by volunteering at women’s shelters, donating to groups that help women in impoverished nations and many other ways. Both tactics are necessary.
7. The “passive voice.”
In English grammar, using the passive voice (women were raped by men) instead of the active voice (men raped the women) shifts the focus from the perpetrators and their actions (men doing the raping) to their victims (the women being raped).
8. “Boys will be boys.”
Patriarchal cultures promote “nature over nurture” (biological determinism) and claim men are “naturally violent.” This legitimizes and perpetuates war and men’s abuse of women. Abnormal violent “manhood” is regarded as the norm. However, men are naturally peaceful. Archaeological evidence shows men enjoyed and maintained 1,500 years of peace in ancient Crete! It’s proven today by famous non-violent men such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and many other men who organize against warfare and who speak out against male violence against women. It takes years of traumatic conditioning (while being immersed in a violent society) to make men violent. “Military training camps, police academies and even some self-defense pros are constantly searching for more effective methods of suppressing the human revulsion to taking human life.” – See “The Science of Creating Killers”
If men were “naturally violent,” years of brutal conditioning by violent media and in boot camps would not be needed.
9. “Societies were always patriarchal and men have always dominated women.”
Thousands of years of women’s history has been nearly erased by patriarchal men. Marija Gimbutas, the world renowned archaeologist who wrote Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe unearthed many relics from around the world that proves men didn’t always dominate women and that women and men once shared power in peaceful non-patriarchal Goddess worshipping. societies. Riane Eisler’s book The Chalice and the Blade cites many more instances proving this.
“Democracy does not yet exist anywhere”
Robin Morgan wrote The Demon Lover which is a study of the link between terrorism in the home (“domestic violence” or more accurately, MALE violence against women in the home) and global terrorism. Terrorism, (MALE violence against women) both in the home and in ALL the societies of the world, supports patriarchy and is a necessary component.
Morgan said, “The majority of the population in virtually all nation states is female and is forced by patriarchy to obey, be silent, and acquiesce-which means that ‘democracy’ does not yet exist anywhere.”
The necessary foundation for the creation of democracy is universal human rights for women. This cannot be achieved unless global MALE violence against women is eradicated. The question is how can we accomplish this? Men have had more than 6,000 to stop their endless war against women, and they haven’t stopped. So it falls to women to accomplish this.
From The Ship that sailed into the Living Room by Sonia Johnson:
“My formative years were spent during men’s so-called Second World War. From that war and from reading since, I learned some of the tactics that had had to be invented to prevent the escape of prisoners.
Generally, when a group of men was captured, as soon as possible the captors got them into some sort of holding corral—some cordoned-off space—and set guards to watch them.
“Among the prisoners, leaders would soon arise, those men who might, for instance, urge others around them not to cooperate with the enemy until they were all given water. In some way, those who were less afraid, surer of themselves, and therefore most likely to organize rebellions or escapes, soon identified themselves.
“Their captors discovered through trial and error that to prevent trouble they had either to execute these leaders immediately or to put them in solitary confinement—one man to one cell with his own private guard. The analogy is obvious.
“When men dreamed of controlling women and hence the world, every woman was just such a leader—one of those who would disrupt and defeat the hell-plans. So during the war men have fought against us for thousands of years, they have had either to kill us or to put us in solitary confinement—one woman to one guard in one cell . . . .”
There has been only ONE war fought literally worldwide, affecting every living thing, and that has been men’s all-out, non-stop, millennia-long war against women, a war that not only continues to this moment without the slightest abatement but intensifies hourly.