A Pox on the Patriarchy
I read, recently, of women being abused and threatened online for expressing feminist views. ‘Have you even got one fucking brain-cell?’ someone said. Another threatened to come round to her house and rape her. I’d like to say I’m deeply shocked – but I’m not. Abusive men will always respond with aggression, threats and violence (usually upon their own partners) when their beliefs about women -and men- are called into question.
As a childhood-survivor of domestic abuse and extreme violence, my heart goes out to anyone – woman, child or man – in this nightmare situation. The first fifteen years of my life (my formative years) were blighted by this ‘cancer’. So, wherever domestic abuse occurs, I am at war with it.
I’d like to stress that not all men in this world are abusive to women – but I’m afraid most of them are (That is, of course, why so many women end up with one and often end up moving on to another one) Abusive men are as plentiful as pebbles on a beach. They may not verbally or physically assault their female partners. However, the majority of men, walking this earth, will hold at least some – or many – abusive beliefs about women (e.g. That women are no more than the sum of their own body-parts, women are inferior, weaker, illogical, stupid, clumsy, scatterbrained, faithless, unskilled, hysterical, say ‘no’ when they really mean ‘yes’, deserve to be abused, assaulted, raped and murdered.
Abusive and violent men are not deviants. They are a product of their society and represent ‘the norm’. It is non-abusive men who deviate, since they refuse to buy into their ‘gender-identity’ of the ‘real man’. There are thousands more of these beliefs that most men share – but why? Because the whole world groans under the weight of ‘patriarchal-values’. These beliefs are stitched into the very fabric of our societies and are seen not as ‘beliefs’ but as ‘facts’. When anyone – especially women – question them, they are seen as ‘subversive’ and ‘politically-correct’ to ‘the point of madness’. Mostly, they are seen as ’nagging feminists’.
This ethos represents, in it’s entirety, an utter contempt for and hatred of the state called ‘Female’ This is borne out by the historical experience of women down the centuries (regarded as sexual-currency, bartered, sold – or given away, by the Patriarch, to ‘love’ ‘honour’ – and ‘obey’.) Abusive beliefs about women are held as ‘facts’ – not only by men – but also by many women, simply because these beliefs are all-pervasive within societies – despite evidence to the contrary, before our very eyes (e.g. women-scientists, mathematicians, university-professors, astronauts, explorers, boxers, wrestlers, karate-champions, inventors and philosophers.
Abusive beliefs about women fall upon us, like the rain (e.g. Advertising) A multi-billion pound/dollar industry devoted to making women feel fat, ugly, old and smelly at every turn. For example, there are many vaginal deodorant sprays for women) When the idea for a penile deodorant spray was put to men, what was their general response?
‘No thanks! My dick smells absolutely fine, just the way it is!’
These beliefs are found in toys, lads-mags, stories, nursery-rhymes, comics, films T.V- and just about everywhere else – including the world’s major religions (the Bible is riddled with abusive comments about women).
These beliefs are thrust upon us from the very second we draw breath – in the form of ‘gender’. The moment someone looks between our legs and cries, ‘You have a gorgeous, little girl!’ or ‘a bonny, bouncing boy!’ the indoctrination begins. Gender is not the same as sex. Gender comprises all the expectations of the world towards the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours we should ‘rightly’ exhibit, depending on which sexual-organs we bring into this life. There are more configurations of sexual organs than male or female – yet these are hidden from us. Yet – nature is trying to tell us something. If we think of gender as a ‘Little Pink’ or ‘Little Blue’ suit, knitted for us centuries before our birth, we will begin to see the widely different attitudes, beliefs and behaviours expected of each, little ‘Suit-Wearer’.
‘Little Pink Suit’ (weak, gentle, pink-loving, soft, nurturing, passive, yielding, accommodating, irrational, obsessed with getting married)
‘Little Blue Suit’ (tough, strong- willed, loud, aggressive, powerful, ambitious, rational, controlling his environment, obsessed with avoiding marriage )
By the age of three or four, these little suits have begun to sprout ‘little straps’ at the back.
By five, the little straitjackets have been fastened for good. For most of us, our own gender feels so ‘right’, so.. ‘natural’. It isn’t. Gender has nothing to do with the force that changes seasons, or moves the waves. It is a ‘social-construct ‘ a FICTION. It is no more ‘natural’ for a boy to play with a toy train than it is for a girl to play with a doll. Little girls are not born with a steam-iron grafted to their hand – anymore than a little boy is with a spanner grafted to his.
We know this from anthropological studies of other societies that do not construct gender in the same way as we do. In some cultures, women have assumed the roles we would assign to men – and vice-versa.
Abusive, violent men are unwilling to see beyond the FICTION of their own, socially-constructed gender. Should anything fall outside the tight confines of ‘the little blue suit’, it is viewed as ‘other’ ‘not’ and ‘ contemptible ‘ – invoking the insults of ‘Pussy’ ‘Queer’ – or worst of all ‘Woman!’
If ‘Little Blue’ dresses-up to play, in his sisters/mother’s clothes, ‘Big Blue’ will have sleepless nights – worried about his symbolic ‘penis-power’ being subverted and may consider a course of boxing-lessons to bring out Little Blue’s ‘inner real- man’. I once knew a man who, when his small son misbehaved, would dress him in his sister’s clothes and call him ‘pussy ‘ and ‘girly,’ as an alternative punishment to smacking him.
Another man I knew had three sons. One day, when they were very young, he decided they weren’t ‘manly’ enough. So, he bought some boxing-gloves and made them fight each other. Only when they were bloody, sobbing and hating each other, would he decide to call it a day. All three little boys went on to become violent, drug-dependent criminals and have severe, mental-breakdowns. This is a true story. I know – that man was my father.
Abusive men are deeply homophobic. This causes problems if our child wishes to ‘come out’. Many teenagers run away from home or commit suicide rather than face the wrath and taunts of ‘Big Blue’. However, if ‘Little Pink’ rejects ‘The Pink Princess’, wears jeans and climbs trees, ‘Big Blue’ will simply see her as a ‘Tomboy’, less of a worry, since she will eventually re-embrace the ‘Pink Princess’ and find her ‘Handsome Prince’ (See Doris Day, for example, in ‘Calamity Jane’). The ‘Secret Love’ she sings of, changed from her ‘buckskins’ to a demure blouse and long skirt, is the love of her inner ‘Little Pink’, her ‘Feminine-Nature’, overlaid by years of acting like a ‘man’)
The ‘Little Blue Suit’ is a fragile thing and needs constant repair (a reaffirmation that he is not, in fact, ‘Little Pink’) When ‘Little Blue’ finally encounters ‘Little Pink’ romantically, he will need to constantly reaffirm the superior ‘cut’ of his own Suit, attesting to his ‘absolute right’ to control her environment – and generally -’Little Pink’ will believe him.
When ‘Little Blue’ finally abuses, assaults, rapes or murders ‘Little Pink’, this will truly affirm, to him, that he is ‘Little Blue’ and not the ‘other’, ‘the contemptible’ ‘Penis-Less’ ‘Little Pink’.
We see this attitude in some groups of abusive men, who band together to harass the women they detest (their ex- partners) They clamour for ‘the rights of men’ to have access to their children – even when they’ve been abusive and violent – and blame women for their abuse and violence. They lobby M.P.s – who willingly listen – and climb tall buildings dressed as ‘Batman’.
They quote statistics about ‘female-abusers’ and claim no ‘gender-political-bias ‘- yet generally have ‘Man’ or ‘Father’ in their title. Some groups knowingly harbour abusive, violent men in their ranks. They use statistics to prove that women are ‘just as violent as men’ but, they argue, the statistics are ‘skewed’ in favour of women’ – because ‘Men won’t talk about it’ (this often because they fear being ridiculed and called ‘pussy-whipped’ by ‘real’ men) This, again, proves the patriarchal belief that it is perfectly understandable for abuse to happen to women, because women are ‘stupid’ ‘weak’ and ‘wind men up’. whilst men are ‘strong, ‘dignified’ ‘ brave’ and ‘stoic’ (think of Gary Cooper and John Wayne) Let’s face it, all victims of abuse and rape fear speaking out because our Society tends to blame victims for being victims engendering a sense of shame and guilt. Men are also supposed to ‘ wear the trousers’ in relationships.
Most women ‘won’t talk about it’ either. If every case were reported, we would still see that the vast majority of these abuses and crimes are committed, worldwide, by men, against women and children.
‘Women abuse too!’ cry these groups and they are absolutely right. Women live in the same society as men and receive the same patriarchal messages as men: that abuse and control works. However, men are, as a gender, infinitely more dominating, controlling, aggressive and violent. For sheer viciousness, men have no peer. I can demonstrate this without any recourse, whatsoever, to statistics – simply by asking a few, rhetorical questions:
1:Who, in the long history of the world has been responsible, in the vast majority, for the rape and murder of women, children and men?
2:Who, in the long history of the world has sought power and riches by waging war, raping and pillaging the ‘defeated’?
3:Who, in the long history of the world has been responsible, in the vast majority, for the trade in human-traffic – from the sale of African peoples, and others, to the present-day trafficking of women and children for sexual purposes?
4:Who runs Global-Crime? The Heroin-Trade? Global Terrorism?
5:Who are the major-players in Football-Hooliganism, Cruel-Sports, e.g. Badger-Baiting, Cockfighting, Dogfighting – Men fighting illegal, ‘underground’-bouts to the death?
6: Who runs the major political/financial institutions of the world?
7: Who constitutes the vast majority of sexually predatory serial killers, whose victims are mostly women?
For men to claim that women are just as violent and abusive is arrant nonsense.
Someone from ‘Families Need Fathers’ once asked me if I would write a play for them, attesting just that.
‘I don’t think they do’ I replied.
‘That’s how it’s been for thousands of years’ he said.
‘That doesn’t make it right’ I said.
Families don’t NEED fathers. Families need kind, loving adults/adult who are not abusive;
Who will love and support them and provide a safe, nurturing environment and positive role-models.
Any abusive man who is considering threatening to come and rape/murder me, for these comments, needs to know that I am in fact – a MAN – and an absolute traitor to the cause of male-supremacy, through the domination and abuse of women and girls. I propose the 21st Century Man – a man who can see further than the end of his own penis. A man who actually likes women – including his own partner- I hail the rise and rise and rise of the feminist. I demand gender-equality. I call upon all non-abusive men to challenge gender-stereotypes, domestic-abuse, in all it’s forms and the patriarchal rape-culture that engenders it.
I dedicate this writing to all the wonderful women I’ve worked with over eighteen years; for their warmth toward me, for their courage and strength and for their sense of humour – often in the face of horrific male abuse. Sadly, I also dedicate this to the alarming number of women and children who have been murdered so far this year at the hands of violent male partners.
John Woudberg is a writer, director and actor and co-founder of Certain Curtain Theatre Company.