Monday, 2 June 2014

The Patriarchy & Male Victims/Survivors

You have likely heard of the word "patriarchy" - now, before anyone jumps to conclusions and starts ranting about "feminazis", I want to tell you this: it doesn't refer to some secret male society or some "conspiracy theory that blames all men, even decent men, for all women's woes", as some would like to tell you.

However, after someone on Twitter said I was victim-blaming male victims of domestic violence because I said they were negatively affected by patriarchal systems, I thought I'd explain what people mean when they talk about "the patriarchy".

At its most basic definition, a patriarchal society is one where there are unequal power relations between men & women, with men holding the vast majority of positions of power & men being traditionally seen as the more powerful/important gender. Men are heads of countries, businesses, families, are traditionally the first in line for inheritance, etc., whilst women are seen as "unable" to lead men, often accused of being too "emotional", "not logical" or some other sexist bollocks. Men are seen as (and encouraged to be) authoritative, women are seen as (and encouraged to be) submissive.

It also means that men in this society are expected to want to be in power positions and fit in with other set definitions of masculinity (i.e. fit their gender role). Men who do not fit traditional, patriarchal gender roles are often looked down upon (e.g. homosexual men, effeminate men, men who fall into the 'submissive' role of 'victim', etc.).

With regards to problems faced by male victims/survivors of domestic violence due to patriarchy (which I was trying to point out to this person), patriarchal values mean they are not taken seriously because that society (in general) holds these types of opinions:
  • a man should stand up for himself, because that is the 'manly' thing to do
  • a man cannot be victimised by a woman, because men are stronger than women
  • women are incapable of being violent or a threat to any man because they are delicate & weak
  • a man being victimised by a woman is the ultimate 'joke' as it "can't happen"
  • a man being victimised by a woman is the ultimate sign that a man is not a "real man", as a "real man" would know how to "control his woman" or would be strong/assertive/authoritative enough to stop her, or to stop her from doing anything in the first place.
Men are supposed to be the authoritative ones in a patriarchy, so when a man does not fit that idea and instead is in the "submissive" role of a victim, people either mock him or don't believe him. Also, the male DV victims/survivors are also attacked by men (apparently more so than by women), so they also suffer thanks to men that buy into the patriarchal idea that real men are strong men who "assert" themselves and choose to be "authoritative" by use of violence, threats and anger.

Male DV victims will be told to "man up", "grow a pair", "tell him/her who's boss", when they should be told "they do NOT have the right to hurt you like that".

Excellent poster campaign highlighting that men can be victims of DV too
and points out that the perpetrator is not always male

The reason I got into this discussion at all? Because this person retweeted a picture of a great progressive advert for a domestic violence helpline from Surrey Police (which had been previously tweeted by a Surrey Police Inspector with a thoughtful caption), but instead of saying "This is brilliant, more people need to be aware of this", the original Tweeter / OP said this:

"The feminazi sisterhood will be FEWMIN at this."

Yup. The original poster didn't use this as an opportunity to bring real awareness (although his tweet makes people 'aware' of it in some fashion because of the poster, not his comments), or to say how happy he was that this was being recognised and that male victims of DV are being taken seriously and getting better help through this campaign.

It was to bitch about feminists.

Now, I know I should have left it. It's a pointless argument & I also don't want to be all "not all feminists!", as I know there ARE problematic people in feminism who I try to stay the hell away from & not associate myself with. I really don't think saying "but I'm not like that!" helps anyone. Also, pointing out that feminism is trying to derail gender roles that also negatively affect men (as is the case with male victims of DV) is just not going to get through to some people.

However, I stepped in to say something, because:
  1. this guy (the retweeter, not the OP) has actively asked me questions about feminism in the past, seems open to learning about it & I didn't want him to be someone to help turn this serious issue into an "us v them" thing, with feminists & male DV victims on either side. It is divisive and unhelpful.
  2. I wanted to point out that feminists - whether they realise it or not & whether they are directly helping male DV victims or not - are fighting the very social system that makes it hard for men to feel like they can report certain crimes against them 
  3. what I am SICK of seeing online is male victims/survivors of abuse (such as DV and rape) being used by anti-feminists to derail conversations, imply feminism is somehow evil, & try to undermine the efforts of people trying to make a real change for everyone, often those who address the very issues male victims have to deal with.
However, I didn't get a chance to get to that third argument as being accused of blaming male victims for their own abuse kinda pissed me off and made me have to 'defend' myself and ultimately step away from that conversation.

My problem is this: whenever women/feminists discuss the problems we face with regards to any kind of harassment, assault, abuse, etc., we get this:

"men get raped too!" "men can be victims of domestic violence too!"

It is extremely rare for me to come across a feminist who denies that men can be victims; as much as I try to "stay away" from extreme feminists, I do try to educate myself about them and get an overall picture of feminism. In countless discussions I have seen and been a part of online, women have always been sure to point out the problems faced by male victims and criticise those who forget male victims in these discussions; they also do this in a way that doesn't negate from the fact that women are more likely to be victims, but makes sure men are not ignored and doesn't imply women cannot be perpetrators. Feminism has overlooked male victims too much in the past, and lots of feminists I follow/know are now trying to rectify that problem; whilst sometimes feminists may focus on female victims, male victims are not ignored, at least not in the feminist circles I find myself in (i.e. the feminists who actually study what feminism is, it's implications and the vast spectrum of ideas within it, not just women/girls who don't know much about feminism & just say "girl power!!! men are stupid and smelly! lol!!").

I once found myself in a conversation online with a guy who felt like he'd been taken advantage of by a girl whilst drunk; I sympathised with him as I know the pressures put on men to automatically enjoy sex & not feel like they can say no or that they were too drunk to consent drunk & didn't want it. He reached out to me after I complained (in a discussion of a weird rape scene on TV) how a female-on-male rape scene in a TV show was not dealt with as seriously as male-on-male/male-on-female rape in most things I've seen, and I'd said that had made me feel really uncomfortable. I let him know that he was allowed to be upset at what happened to him & he appreciated my words. (This sounds like a weird humble-brag but this is honestly just me laying out the fact that I'm not ignoring male victims of violence & actively bring them up in conversations about this stuff to bring attention to their problems.)

What happens too often though, is that anti-feminists bring up male victims in a way that implies women can't be upset that this happens to them, or that because it happens to men too, it's not an issue for women, despite women still being the majority of victims and men the majority of perpetrators for crimes such as rape and DV.

Too often guys are not bringing up these victims & survivors in order to bring attention to them and get them help, but purely to undermine female victims and feminists that address these issues. They turn a serious issue into a competition of who is more 'victimised', but often do nothing to solve either genders' issues. Male victims/survivors are just an argument tactic to these guys. And you know what? That can really piss off guys who are actual victims of violence and assault.

I saw that tweet and I snapped. Well, really, I thought "oh ffs." and tried to explain to the guy that retweeted it that feminists often bring light to these issues by discussing the problems male victims face and fighting the patriarchal structures that imply men cannot be victims. He's someone I've had sensible and intriguing discussions with before, even if we haven't always agreed on things, and I thought I might add some insight & be all "please don't bitch about a movement that has been helping bring this stuff to light; that doesn't help the victims at all".

However, he saw "patriarchal values" and immediately thought I was saying "it's men's fault" (rather than the fault of the society that buys into these ideas) and therefore extrapolated from that, that I was saying the victims, being men, are to blame for their own assaults against them.

Yeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhhhh, no. No. No no no. No.

I'm sick of people not understanding what feminists mean when they talk about "patriarchy". It's not a word feminists made up. It's a word that's been around for hundreds of years, a way to describe a social system where men are more likely to be in authority positions than women and are EXPECTED to want to BE in those positions. As our society changes from a patriarchal to a more equal one, male victims will be given more and more help and less and less hate.

Anyway. Thanks to that guy for then also mentioning the original tweeter when replying to me as it meant I got some lovely messages from people telling me to "make me a sammich" and other such bollocks, encouraged by the original tweeter, as shown below.

Yeah, "McHoebag". Classy.

But yeah, those tweets didn't bother me (I've gotten much worse, believe me!), it was more that the guy I tweeted opened me up to those comments when I was just trying to talk to someone who I felt would be understanding & listen.

I thought he was better than that. Oh well.