Showing posts with label domestic violence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label domestic violence. Show all posts

Friday, August 15, 2014

Alpha Male (Bull) Shit

A guy once announced to me that he was "an alpha male." Ironically, I had really been attracted to him up to that point because I thought he was funny, honest, clever, kind, and bore more than a passing resemblance to Iggy Pop, and I inwardly cringed to hear this. Not only have I never been attracted to "dominant" men, he had diminished himself in my eyes by revealing his massive insecurity. Men who describe themselves as "alpha" or "dominant" are unfailingly anything but.

If I saw a man with such a claim emblazoned across his chest, I would automatically assume he was not only a moron, but completely deluded. And now I would also wonder if he were capable of beating a woman within an inch of her life.

War Machine Has Been Caught and Arrested Near Los Angeles

Saturday, November 23, 2013

On Men Hitting Women

I'm in the middle of reading Michael Kimmel's Angry White Men, which David Futrelle recently reviewed.  I'm getting a lot out of it; it's especially interesting to read about the phenomenon of domestic violence from a male, rather than a female, perspective.  For example, Kimmel points out that men use violence at home in an attempt to restore control they have already lost.  This is a slightly different angle than feminists take, who typically recognize a fairly simplistic strong male perpetrator / weak female victim dynamic, but it resonates deeply with my own experience.

Not that I've ever been in a relationship in which a man struck me.  Well, let me say that once a man I was living with slapped me across the face, hard enough to make my ear ring, but the relationship was pretty much over (I was in the process of finding my own apartment) when it happened, and I recall being quite stunned -- like, Are you fucking kidding me?   I simply turned around and walked away, and he didn't pursue until later in the evening, when he began to scream at me from the bottom of the stairwell (because I had announced I was turning off the utilities in the house, which were in my name).  In the midst of his tantrum, he suddenly fell and clutched his chest.  "I'm having a heart attack!" he cried dramatically.  

I calmly watched him writhe and moan from the top of the stairs as he lay in a fetal position.  I wondered how long I would need to wait before I called 911, in order to make sure he was really dead.  He stopped twitching, and became quiet.  After two carefully counted minutes, I decided to leave the house for a while, hoping to return a few hours later to find him cold where he lay at the bottom of the stairwell.

It didn't turn out that way, of course.  As far as I know, he's still very much alive.  The last I heard from him was when he sent me an invitation to his wedding a few months later.  He sent it to let me know he knew where I lived, to remind me that he still had some "control" in our relationship.  I just laughed and tossed it in the trash.  I wasn't afraid of him at that point.  I reckoned that if he had given in to his impulse to kill me, he would have bludgeoned me as I slept in the house we had shared.  In fact, I had always found him ridiculously, contemptibly weak, and he recognized that, which is why he hated me as much as he did. 

This is probably the worst story I can tell on myself.  Friends never fail to express shock and dismay at my cold-hearted behavior.  I'll admit I enjoy telling the story too because of others' reaction.  I suppose it's an indirect way to let them know about the darkest part of my personality.  So now you know why the pseudonym "La Strega" fits me so well; it's not just because I am "bewitching."

I didn't come from a family where men struck women.  My father never hit my mother.  Neither of my grandfathers ever hit my grandmothers.  It's impossible to imagine.  And it's not because these women couldn't be maddening, manipulative, and mean to their men.  It's because I came from a family where being a man was all about being in control, and obviously, a man who has to resort to violence is a man who has allowed his emotions to rule, and has thereby forfeited the perfect control which is his masculine responsibility.  

Neither did my father or either of my grandfathers ever strike their children, or even threaten to.  They never had to, not because we were always good, but because they had so much power in our family that no one dared to challenge their authority.  My father was, in our home, God.  He was, as Joseph Kennedy's daughter described him, "the architect of our lives."  Challenging the authority of my father would have been like dismantling the navigational system of a ship.  It would have been a terrifying, suicidal act of defiance.  And not because he would have punished us, but because, without Daddy, we had nothing.

In my family, it was the women (my mother, her mother, us girls) who were allowed free rein to express their emotions.  Emotional expression was the avenue by which women, not men, communicated.  My mother occasionally spanked us; more often, she threatened to by striking the walls with a wooden spoon, or throwing books and other objects.  Funnily, we were much less afraid of her than we were of our father.  Her lack of self-restraint simply reminded us of how relatively powerless she was.  It confirmed the contempt we already held for her because she was so dependent on our father.  We had already learned that violent displays are the desperate resort of the impotent.

I'm talking physical violence of course.  True, my father never raised a hand toward anyone in his life, and yet his words could eviscerate his opponents.  He hardly ever yelled; it was when he went quiet that the hairs on your arms would start to rise in apprehension. 

And to this day, I am extremely sensitive, and vulnerable, to sarcasm.  And also, truth be told, quite adept at being verbally cruel.

But Kimmel's position about the true power dynamic between violent men and their wives and girlfriends has helped me understand one of the problems I faced as a domestic violence advocate: my lack of true empathy for the female victims.  I just couldn't understand how a woman person could continue to "love" a partner who used violence: not because it was dangerous or painful, but because anyone who "loses it" physically puts himself in a "one down" position.  And why would anyone want to hitch her wagon to that?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

On the Lack of Domestic Violence Programs for Men

Gosh, I get tired of hearing MRAs whine about the lack of shelters for male victims of domestic violence.

Some years ago, a younger and more eager I spent a long dark winter in rural Colorado volunteering for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.  Mainly this consisted of being called in the middle of the night to drive twenty or thirty miles to meet a strange woman at a desolate McDonalds or in the back room of a police station.  It also involved accompanying women if their cases went to court.  As an advocate, I held hands, explained legal procedures, made referrals to social services, and fetched coffee (in other words, provided moral support).  The area in which I was living had an appalling rate of DV.  Unemployment was high (end of a local shale oil boom), couples were stranded in their houses for weeks on end due to the frigid temperatures, and alcoholism and drug abuse were rampant. 

It didn't take long before I burned out.  I probably imagined I was going to help pluck women like Tracey Thurman from the jaws of death, but my experience was that most of the victims were simply not very sympathetic characters, nor were they entirely "innocent" in terms of their roles in instigating violent squabbles.  Many of them had mental illness or chemical dependency issues that no amount of well-intentioned feminist theory or police intervention could address.  And most of them didn't want the kind of very limited help I could provide.  

Once they had been stitched up and sobered up, most of them made beelines back to their SOs.  There were so many things wrong with their lives (boiling down to poverty + an utter lack of imagination) that their relationships with their husbands or boyfriends were the only sources of stability and "love" that they knew, and even when that relationship was as dysfunctional as hell, it was what they could count on. 

The area I was in didn't have a shelter at the time.  Instead, we relied on a string of "safe houses" which were the modest abodes of volunteers like myself.  The unsung heroines who opened their homes as havens were periodically exposed (often by the very women they harbored), so we were always scrambling for more. It was exhausting, unrewarding effort for little payoff, and although I admired the director and her valiant team -- all unpaid volunteers BTW -- I soon conceded that I was not the right person for this particular job.

I know from personal experience that men, too, are assaulted by women.  A few years ago I dated a man who had a history of being struck by his female partners.   He recounted one prolonged argument with a girlfriend which had culminated in her "cold cocking" him in the head with a telephone, knocking him senseless.  He didn't press charges, and I was appalled to learn that this episode had hardly diminished his attraction to her -- although it was, in retrospect, a kind of red flag in terms of our own prospects.  (In fact, although I was never remotely tempted to assault him myself, he was so maddeningly passive-aggressive that I broke up with him within a few tempestuous months.)

As these anecdotes suggest, I am no saint.  I am impatient and easily frustrated by people who can't, or won't, take a strong stance for themselves.  And I recognize the line between victim and perpetrator can get mighty blurry when it comes to domestic violence: in most cases I was involved with, the woman was just as likely to have "provoked" the violent altercations that resulted in her fleeing her partner.   The problem was the size/strength differential that resulted in "him" with a scratch down the side of his face, and "her" with a broken jaw. Most of the male "perps" were not so much "evil" as really, really dumb -- too dumb to recognize how trapped they were in their own cycles of inchoate rage, dependency, helplessness, and lashing out -- despite repeated, predictable negative consequences...  200 pound toddlers, for the most part.

Of course, regardless of gender, or relative culpability, all people need refuges when they are at risk of injury in their homes.  I just don't want to be the person to create and staff these shelters. 

So why are the MRAs who demand male DV shelters pissed off that feminists like me haven't made that happen yet?  

Well, why haven't you done anything more than complain?  Paul Elam and John Hembling are paying themselves salaries with the money some of you are donating!  It's been years without any "activism" beyond harassing feminists and one very lackluster demonstration.  Why aren't any of you challenging AVfM's handling of your contributions?  Could it be that you don't really care as much about showing "compassion for men and boys" as you do "fucking up [women's] shit"?
Listen, guys, I'll be the first to donate $20, canned food, and a big box of toiletries.  You only need to get out from behind your computers, and start raising some funds.  In my neck of the woods, there are a number of thrift stores that support shelters for women, so there's a suggestion for you.  Put down your gym weights, pick up your tool boxes, and start renovating that safe house for teh menz that your community so desperately needs.  You can do it!  (And if you need advice or support, I'm sure you can find some nice feminists to help you -- you have only to ask.)

Just for God's sake quit your bloody whining before I [sarcasm alert] really give you something to whine about!