of course i kid - i'm not actually here to defend male-bashing in the strawfeminist boogeyman sense. you know, the one where all the hairy-legged lesbian separatists talk about how men are Teh Enemy and won't it be great when we get the means of artificial production so their entire sex will just die off? i'm not here to defend bashing men simply for being men. i think the percentage of feminists who have ever actually engaged in such sweeping denunciations have numbered in the dozens, but you wouldn't know it from the media backlash - you'd think this was our bread and butter. well, that and killin' babies. so, just to be clear, that's not what i'm talking about.
my last post raised some questions and comments about the nature of generalization, on which i've been chewing on ever since in the comment thread, emails, and subsequent conversations. what was needling me, i realized, was this statement from toast in comments:
It's not an indictment of generalization per se, it's an indictment of unfair and/or unsupportable generalization. [emphasis his]
so i got to thinking. what if we are generalizing based on experience when it comes to (admittedly inflammatory) statements like "men are pigs"? metaphorical nature aside, is there anything unsupportable about the idea that, over the millennia of human history, men have collectively treated women like crap? that we have a few solid centuries of overwhelming evidence to support such a claim, and that sadly, men not behaving like pigs in some way or another has usually been the exception and not the rule?
when you step back and look at the big picture, it's not pretty:
- the leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder.
- one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
- 73% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knew — 38% were a friend or acquaintance of the victim, 28% were an intimate and 7% were another relative.
- one in four girls is sexually abused before the age of 18.
- it took until 1900 for every state in america to repeal coverture - the legal precedent that made a wife property of a husband.
this is just a small sampling of the situation in which women have historically found themselves when it comes to relating to, and with, men. i have to ask if, in this light, it's any wonder that we regard the entire gender with something of a jaundiced eye. if it's not entirely fair - or, dare i even say, reasonable - for us to approach interactions with the male gender with no small amount of wariness or suspicion. history kinda bears us out here.
a question, in all honesty: why should i give every man i meet the benefit of the doubt? how does that serve me, in a practical sense? as i pointed out in an email conversation about this, "in my general experience, it's hard not to generalize in practice about men - i have to hold myself a certain way when i walk down the street because i have no fucking idea which ones are nice guys and which ones are going to leer and hiss at me. and, beyond that, that the world doesn't divide neatly into those two categories, either." so, while i don't advocate retreating to a hermit's life in the woods based on the odds that men are going to mistreat you, or actively mistreating any man you meet in a bizarro pre-emptive strike, i also see how a lot of women's generalized distrust and distaste about men is not based on ephemeral ideas, but on cold, hard reality.
now, in my conversations with BoyCat about this issue, he raised a very good point that may ultimately (hopefully) be a way out of this deep, dark pit of anger and acrimony. it is essentially this: once we take all this frustration about gender, race, and sexuality-based discrimination and degradation and reframe it within a class-based critique, we could actually be able to move forward. because (sociology 101 alert!!) they are all intertwined. and in this culture of go-go capitalism and consumer worship, it's not men or white people or straight people who rule with impunity: money is king. and while (as i kept agitatedly pointing out during our discussion) this doesn't mean that sexuality, race, or gender-based abuse and hate aren't real or damaging, BoyCat makes the point that the only way to move from injured howling to some type of change is by making society a more just, equitable, enjoyable place for everyone to live. you do that not only by addressing racism, sexism, and homophobia, but by then identifying how these particular systems of oppression function in the service of a broader context, which is the well-oiled functioning of the capitalist machine. i thought that was a really trenchant point. and, ok, i hoped that by ending on it, you all wouldn't end up flagellating me too badly.
again, i kid. i love being flagellated. which reminds me - up next is a post about how we are, in fact, our worst enemy. until then, feel free to pontificate/castigate/interrogate in comments. (hey, this means you - you, right there. of course toast and i could just tussle about this for a few more days, but i want to hear all you lovely readers and your opinions. this is not to say that we'll end up agreeing with each other either, but that's half the fun, right?)