I’ve been working on this thought for a while - trying to find the best words to say it, let me run this past you to see if this makes sense to you.
When feminists talk about the patriarchy they are talking about a social, political, institutional, legal structure that condones violence against women by men. When men beat up or rape women they are not doing it because they are mixed-up, or wounded, or they were pushed too far and couldn’t control themselves. They are doing it because they believe they are entitled to do it purely and solely because they are men, and men are entitled to treat women like that. They are acting on behalf of all men – saying, to the world of men – ‘I’m doing it the way it’s meant to be done.’
Yes - I get that not all men are like that. I know and respect that there are men out there who like and respect women and see their partners as that - not as punch-bags. I get that. I also know and understand that men are abused by women too, emotionally, physically, possibly even sexually. I get that. That’s not the point. The minute you get into that ‘Yeh, well, what about men?’ thing, or ‘Don’t tar us all with the same brush,’ you have made sure that there can be no further discussion of these issues. It just becomes competitive victim-playing. I get that if you are one of those men who respects women, understands that his woman life-partner is a companion, not just a commodity, and wants his daughters to grow up strong and believing in their rights to exist as an equal, then it must feel like shit to hear women talking about ‘All men.’ I get that your hackles rise up defensively when women publish statistics about the numbers of women killed by their male partners, or raped.
I also do know that men are abused by their female partners, and even though they are rarely in fear of their lives, the damage caused by emotional abuse is still horrendous. There is an appropriate forum and manner to discuss these issues and I’m glad that men are finding these. But not in the context of comparing it to the violence done to women by men throughout the world.
The best way to make that point is to compare it to racism. We live in a world that culturally, politically, financially, legally, institutionally gives whites a privileged position in relation to people of colour. That’s just a fact. I didn’t make it like that, I haven’t done anything to reinforce or justify white supremacy. I know I’m not a racist and I treat everyone with respect and never make assumptions about them because of their race or culture. But I am white. I live in a white world. And when I see on the news that some black guy has been shot by a white guy, just for being black, when I read the statistics of the rates of imprisonment of blacks compared to whites, when I see the results of social deprivation caused by unequal treatment – it’s not the time for me to start saying ‘Yeh, well, I’ve had my problems too, you know. I didn’t get to where I am in life because of privilege and I had to work for it,’ etc etc. It’s not the time to start whining about how blacks just assume I’m a racist because I did something that upset one individual – all that crap.
Competitive victim-playing does not change anything. That’s the purpose of it – to stop change from happening.
When you, as a man, say ‘Yer, but what about…’ when you are confronted by those statistics, then you are condoning the status quo. You are allowing the only important issue to be side-tracked, and that issue is ‘How can we change this?’
There is only one response when I as a white woman see a black person being arrested and harassed by white police, being beaten, killed in custody, any of that, just because they are black – and that is to stand up and shout ‘NOT IN MY NAME!!’
There is only one response by a man when he see the statistics about rape and violence by men against women. Stand up and shout ‘NOT IN MY NAME.’
When you do that you are saying ‘I, as a man, do not condone this.’
That is the only way things will change.