Back in undergrad, I was at a restaurant with one of my friends (a Black woman). A bunch of deputies entered the restaurant as it was lunch time; four White male deputies and one Black male deputy. They were loud and saying fairly ignorant and sexist things; I chalked it up to typical homosocial…
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ways our society (American, mainly, other mileages may vary) is set up to allow mostly men to get away with shitty things and to punish women who try to fight against it. Harrassment and abuse by the police is actually even a step above what I was thinking of - because ignorant, idealistic people who fail to see how the world works might actually be shocked at this sort of behavior from policemen and would vaguely disapprove.
But in many cases of street harassment, it’s the woman who’s blamed when she responds. You’re allowed to shout whatever the hell you want at a woman, but she’s not allowed to say “Please leave me alone,” without you calling her a bitch?
Or even just guys hitting on women and giving them unwanted attention. I’d be a lot more chill about guys approaching women they don’t know and trying to get to know them, if it’s done in a pleasant manner, if women actually felt like they could issue a straightforward rejection and have it be respected and not be judged for it. It shouldn’t make me a bitch to say “I’m sorry, I’m not interested” to a man who has approached me out of nowhere. I don’t have to give everyone a chance. I don’t owe everyone a piece of my time. I don’t have to be interested in engaging with you.
And as is, since women are socialized to view outright, straightforward rejection as a “bitchy” or “mean” thing to do, men who approach women out of nowhere (if it’s in a bar or club and you’ve started out with positive eye contact, I’d put that in a different category) cannot be sure that the woman would feel comfortable rejecting them if she didn’t want to talk to them, so they might be forcing her into a situation where she does feel uncomfortable or feels forced to give you her time against her will. Since that’s the situation we’re in, men should NOT feel free to approach women they don’t know without invitation. When there’s no risk of violence from saying “Sorry, not interested,” no risk of anger or backlash, maybe guys can feel ok about doing this again.
I was in a weird interaction lately - I don’t know the gender of the other participant, it was an online discussion, but they definitely knew I was a woman - where the other person was being very disrespectful to me, but in a somewhat veiled manner, but as soon as I got snippy about them ignoring what I’d said, they acted all offended, as if I’d been incredibly rude in the face of their politeness. But they’d been putting words in my mouth, ignoring what I’d said, trying to diminish my contributions, and implying heavily that I didn’t know enough for anything I said on the topic to be considered. But because they used overt language that was coded as polite, they didn’t seem to recognize that the actual content of what they were saying was rude (or hoped no one else would? After they asked me a question that i’d already answered, I replied with something like “Since you’re apparently incapable of scrolling up…” and they said in their response “I’LL try not to be rude,” even though they already had been.
Anyway it just got me thinking about how we value “niceness” over actual not shitty behavior. You’re supposed to be “nice” no matter how someone treats you - women in particular. We don’t learn to respect other people’s boundaries, but if someone is upset that another person violated their boundaries, we judge them for expressing that anger, not the person who did the violating.
This is only related inasmuch as it’s about how we react to problematic behavior, especially when not experienced directly, but I was reading a bunch of excerpts and reviews of Why Does He Do That? which is a book about abusive male behaviors, and there’s some discussion of how the impact of being abused will lower women’s credibility, which is so sick. Instead of saying, “she seems traumatized, she must be telling the truth,” often people in positions of authority think “this woman doesn’t have her act together, how can we trust anything she says?” Women who have been traumatized by their husbands also often score worse on psychological testing, which can lead to children being put into the custody of the person who did the traumatizing.
There’s just no knowledge base - among society in general, but even more dangerously among police officers and judges and others who are called upon to help abused women - about types of abuse and what affect it can have on the victim, and what to expect of the abuser. We have this cartoon image of an unshaven man in an undershirt, I guess, but what about manipulative, well-respected men who are really good at seeming credible? Who have taken steps to ruin their wives reputation?
This blog post, from a woman preparing to leave her abusive husband (it stops abruptly in 2011 - hopefully because she didn’t need it anymore? :/) really gave me a lot to think about. She says when she tries to tell other people about her husband’s behavior, they try to ascribe logic to his actions. Because a normal person would never be anywhere near as angry or violent without some type of good reason, they assume something major must have set him off. They assume she did something wrong, that there’s some rational explanation for his behavior. Rather than assuming that a man is abusive and that his wife might need help, they assume that the woman is lying. All of our expectations about how people will behave are set up to make it easy for an abuser to continue to get away with it, unless they fit an extremely narrow set of assumptions, and to make it extremely difficult for the victim to get help.
I don’t think this is JUST because we’re all so socialized to believe that women are deceitful harpies. I think it’s also wishful thinking on the listener’s part. People want to pretend that they don’t live in a world where a guy they know and like might be beating his wife. They try to preserve this fantasy - sometimes for their own sense of safety: if this guy who seems really nice to me is a violent abuser, then I could end up with a violent abuser. It’s easier to go through life thinking that his wife is lying or exaggerating or misinterpreting his actions.
PS apparently Why Does He Do That also deals with same-sex relationships, but possibly only in later additions? I haven’t been able to find excerpts, and the copies in the NYPL system have a whole bunch of holds on them (BUY MORE COPIES OF THIS BOOK, NYPL). I’d really like to see that. The author of the book (Lundy Bancroft, who is a man) has experience counseling men who commit DV, hence the focus on men.
Also, most if not all of the studies that claim women commit DV at equal rates as men are based on studies that did not look at scale or motivation of violence, and did not include violence that ended a relationship (either through death or otherwise) or violence committed by an ex after a relationship ended. So yeah… DV in heterosexual couples is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women.
I’ve gotten the impression that women commit emotional abuse (and child abuse) in more significant numbers than they commit serious types of domestic violence, but most pieces I’ve seen about abuse committed by women in heterosexual relationships have been MRA-types trying to use those extremely flawed studies to show that women commit DV at the same rate as men, so as far as I can tell that sort of thing combined with taboos about speaking out mean there’s not a lot of good discussion of emotionally abusive women. But maybe there’s still only a statistically insignificant proportion of abuse being committed by women? All the information about this stuff basically relies on self-reporting so it’s pretty difficult to get a clear picture, and once again I’m left with the extremely flawed picture painted by society.
Anyway that’s why I mostly just went with gendered pronouns for abuser and abused, because I’ve been thinking about the book and that’s who the book is mainly focused on.