Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Self Perception and Male Violence

This post is basically in conversation with this amazing article at Feminist Current on the rhetoric around male victims of violence. All quotes unless otherwise sourced are from that article. I hope that by being in conversation with this article that I can better understand it and share some insights with you.
Women overestimate their own use of violence but underestimate their victimization. Woman normalize, discount, minimize, excuse their partners’ domestic and sexual violence against them. Women find ways to make it their fault.

To be feminine is to be a good victim, at best a willing victim. Refusal to comply with femininity is seen as violent, an abnormal act of defiance. It's a double bind: if we comply with femininity, we are submitting to male violence. If we resist femininity and male violence, men will target us for even more violence as a corrective political control. In this way women are encouraged to underestimate what we suffer through; it is our "natural" place to suffer. Of course, femininity is not our natural place. Women are not natural subjects to male violence. Men have created a system of indoctrination and conditioning young women to accept male violence as natural. The first model for domestic abuse is the abusive father.
The effect of fatherhood on females is to make [women] male -- dependent, passive, domestic, animalistic, insecure, approval and security seekers, cowardly, humble, `respectful' of authorities and men, closed, not fully responsive, half-dead, trivial, dull, conventional, flattened-out and thoroughly contemptible. Daddy's Girl, always tense and fearful, uncool, unanalytical, lacking objectivity, appraises Daddy, and thereafter, other men, against a background of fear (`respect') and is not only unable to see the empty shell behind the facade, but accepts the male definition of himself as superior. (via Solanas' SCUM Manifesto)

Masculinity is about being at the top of the gender hierarchy and maintaining this position through dominance, violence, and intimidation towards women. Males conditioning women to expect and accept male violence keeps these systems alive. Gaslighting techniques are common necrophallic techniques, especially in long term domestic abuse. 
He blames you for the impact of his behavior.
He becomes upset and accusatory when his partner exhibits the predictable effects of chronic mistreatment, and then he adds insult to injury by ridiculing her for feeling hurt by him. If his verbal assaults cause her to lose interest in sex with him, he says, “you must be getting it somewhere else.” (p. 126) (via Is it really ABUSE?)

Interacting systems normalize male violence, allowing males to describe their own violence as invisible, dismissing their cruelty as inherent and finding resistance a notable aberrant. Remember this beautiful Lierre Keith quote - "Masculinity sexualizes acts of oppression." It is because of this that we can create parallels between all systems of male violence: they rely on the same operating system of metaphors. That legal systems would exacerbate the invisibility of male violence while also displaying and sexualizing the victims becomes obvious.
In contrast, men overestimate their victimization and underestimate their own violence (Dobash et al. 1998). Men are more likely to exaggerate a women’s provocation or violence to make excuses for initiating violence and, where retaliation has occurred, in an attempt to make it appear understandable and reasonable.

Again, men are perpetuating a system in which male violence may be used to "correct" and dissuade female resistance. Refusal to conform to femininity and be available to men is considered provocation for male violence. Even if the woman is a girl; even if the man is a stranger.
Earlier this week a man in a car pulled up next to a 14-year old girl on a street in Florida and offered to pay her $200 to have sex with him. [...] The girl said no. So what does this guy do? He reaches out, drags her, by her hair, into his car, chokes her until she blacks out, tosses her out of the car and then, not done yet, he runs her over several times.  Bystanders watched the entire episode in shock. [...] This was an incident of street harassment taken to extremes. (via huff post)

I relate this example because it demonstrates the entitlement that all men feel they have to all women at any moment. The intersection of the pornification and male entitlement is the extreme violence of this case. Note, also that bystanders did not interfere - men support this violent punishment for refusal; women fear being caught in the extreme correctional violence. Women to are witness to what happens when you attempt to boycott men. Normalized male violence is a form of political control. 
Paul Keene, used the defence of provocation for his killing of Gaby Miron Buchacra. His defence claimed that he was belittled by her intellectual superiority and that he lost control after rowing with her by text over a twelve hour period. That a jury accepted his defence is a further example of how men’s violence is minimized and excused. Not only by men and the women they assault, but by the legal system.





Again, these forms of gas lighting transverse male systems of power in order to make women doubt their own perceptions of male violence. Purposefully, men blind women to the hollowness and cruelty behind the facade of normalcy. They do so with well documented attacks on women's personhood and sense of self.


  • He denies what he did.
    A non-abusive partner might argue with you about how you interpret something he did; an abuser denies his actions altogether (p. 128).

  • He justifies his hurtful actions or says you “made him do it.”
    Here the abuser is using your behavior as an excuse for his own....He says he’ll stop some form of abuse if you give up something that bothers him, which is usually something you have every right to do (p. 128). (via Is it really ABUSE?)






The right to claim abuse as a mitigating factor in domestic violence homicide cases was vitally important for women like Kiranjit Aluwahlia, Emma Humphreys and Sara Thornton, all of whom had suffered years of violence and abuse at the hands of the men they killed. That such a defence could be used in Paul Keene’s case only illustrates how differently women and men who use violence are treated.

Note again, the difficulties these women are going up against.

  • The abuse they faced is erased by the legal system

  • The abuse they faced is erased by their abuser

  • Their abuser utilizes gas lighting to prevent the movement to self defense

  • Women's self defense is seen as abnormal and excessive

  • Women's self defense faces higher penalties than the initial abuse

  • The gas lighting technique is amplified by male systems of power


A radical feminist perspective, based on an understanding of socially constructed gender roles and differences within the framework of patriarchal society does not mean that all men are violent to women, or that men are genetically pre-disposed to violence. It means the opposite. It means that women and men are socialized and that – within the limits of choice permitted by the social environment – we can choose to be different.