Men Deserve Real Empathy, Not Deference

Julie Gillis challenges a New York Times Op-Ed that insists that women should show deference to the men who feel they are losing privilege in a changing world.

Recently, in light of the Connecticut shootings, Christy Wampole wrote an article for the NYT Opinionator blogs about young men, guns, their feelings of disassociation and rage.

If the soldier has largely been replaced by the video game character and the drone, if the mothers have proven that they can raise the children alone, if the corporations are less able or willing to guarantee the possibility of upward mobility and some level of respect that comes with title, if someone else can bring home the bacon, what is left for young men?

She then relates how we (women) should show more empathy in the form of deference to these young men who are suffering from losing privilege in the world, who are feeling lost and useless.

Empathy could serve many of us: those who have not yet put themselves in the position of a person who is losing their power and those who can aim a gun at someone without imagining themselves on the other end of the barrel. For those of us who belong to a demographic that is doing increasingly better, a trained empathic reflex toward those we know to be losing for our gains could lead to a more deferential attitude on our part and could constitute an invitation for them to stay with us. To delight in their losses and aim at them the question, “How does it feel?” will only trigger a cycle of resentment and plant the seeds for vengeance. It is crucial to accommodate the pain of others.

Hugo Schwyzer wrote a good takedown of the piece, though I have to admit it was a little too sarcastic for my tastes, but something hit me about what he said and hard.

Wampole doesn’t recommend that women defer to men out of respect for masculine authority, but out of empathy for those suffering from Post-Patriarchal Depression. But why should empathy require deference rather than a passing acknowledgement that yeah, life can be confusing for many young men today? The answer lies in how Wampole — and most of the other peddlers of the myth of male malaise -– see men: fragile, inflexible, and dangerous. We don’t just defer to those we respect, after all. We defer to those we fear in hopes of placating them, and we defer to those whom we think will break (or at the least, opt out) if they aren’t given a steady flow of reassurance that they’re still needed.

Here’s the thing. Real empathy doesn’t mean deferring, because deferring (and then managing the emotions of others) means limiting that person’s capacity for growth while also limiting your own. Real empathy means acknowledging real pain in the other, helping and yes, challenging where truly useful, and allowing that person to grow for real, even if the growth is hard. If the result of sharing power means to these men “losing privilege” and then that means violence, we have a much bigger problem than deferring to men.

We need to work harder on the whole system that trains all of us to believe that some have power and some do not, and that there is always a scarcity of power, rather than a world wherein we all can collaborate and support each other. To that extent, women (all of us, no matter gender or race or orientation) are in that system of dominance and also need to look at ourselves and how we enable and collude with the system, disallowing others to grow, and draining ourselves in the process. The system is big, so big. I feel these things are all just symptoms of the biggest oppression.

But, then what? What of the violence as a reaction to the loss? To the shame and fear?

This remark of Wampole’s sticks in my head;

“To delight in their losses and aim at them the question, “How does it feel?” will only trigger a cycle of resentment and plant the seeds for vengeance. It is crucial to accommodate the pain of others.”

I agree with everything she is saying except the word “accommodate.”

They have pain. So do we. Pain, shame, and the violence it engenders is not limited to a race, or a sex, or an orientation. It’s something that affects us all. But why do the oppressed have to, according to Merriam Webster, make room for and adapt ourselves to their pain? So they won’t shoot us?

Seriously? ‘Cause that seems like blackmail.

We need to see their pain. We need to understand it. But they need to see and understand ours. And they (whoever they are) need to work on themselves and their own places of pain, even as we’ve (whoever we are) have been doing that all while dancing and adapting and accommodating them. This goes for race, class, sex, you name it. But deference? I think we all deserve better than that.

♦◊♦

Meanwhile, let’s really look at our culture and shame. Our culture and self violence, anger and how those things are connected. Here are ample links on shameresearch on shame and a great article on war and emotion and hypermasculine voices.

Deferring isn’t empathy. And it isn’t working, not for any of us. But neither does snark and sarcasm, no matter how good it feels. Because yeah, it does cause shame in others which only keeps the cycle going. Solving this is going to take real work, real compassion and real empathy to connect our way through the shifts that must come if we are to survive as a species on this very lonely planet.

Because power, dominance, and control aren’t working all that well for us.

 

Originally appeared on Julie Gillis’ Blog

 

Photo courtesy of Flickr/renee_mcgurk

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About Julie Gillis

Julie Gillis is a coach, writer, and producer focused on social justice, sex, and spirituality. She is dedicated to sexual freedom and education, equality for the LGBTQ community, and ending sexual violence. Julie intuitively helps people live their fullest lives, navigating terrain from relationships to sex education. She writes at The Austin Chronicle, Good Vibes Magazine, Flurtsite and JulieGillis.com. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter@JulesAboutTown

Comments

  1. I see one in three kids grows up without a father apparently, I’d say not having a male role model around would be detrimental for many people. Do those who grow up with fathers (or at least good male role models) have a better identity as a male on average than those who don’t? It must be hard for many to get an idea of what a man is if they don’t have someone close to them to teach them, I myself am fortunate I had a father until 18 and the loss of him took a great impact on me when I probably needed him the most. I didn’t really have anyone else I was so close to as a mentor so I do think it had a negative impact but I am lucky I at least had 18 years of a great role model to follow.

    Some basic googling of stats suggest boys in fatherless homes are more likely to get into all sorts of trouble, I feel that would probably add to the confusion over the changing gender roles our society has gone through especially for those with no mentors of their gender. After I was 18 I have been around far more women who are a generation older, in the mentor years, than men and I’ve definitely felt the lack of having a mentor/role model of my gender which would also help balance out those people in my life.

    Food for thought…

    • It could also be that fatherless homes are of a lower SES, or that these single mothers simply aren’t good people, making them generally inadequate parents. While a positive male role model must certainly provide benefits, any number of extraneous variables in fatherless home situations could be leading to the increased likelihood of boys acting out.

  2. It is food for thought, but how do you see that related to the idea of deference vs real empathy?

    • Disassocation, identity, etc. Along with empathy maybe parents should ensure their children get a good range of role models where possible. Probably more related to the OP, apologies if it’s offtopic. I felt partial loss of male identity when my father died which made me realize how important a good, strong, caring role model is. He was very empathic which I learned from him, that helped me avoid being more violent. I was definitely on a path to becoming extremely violent but empathy n people giving a damn stopped that.

      I originally saw the Hugo article on Jezebel, there is NO empathy there. I often see men’s issues laughed at n treated like they are not worthy of discussion, because it’s so fun to hate the “oppressors” and by that I mean the fools who are too blind to their bigotry of men where they think ALL men have power and women have none, etc. Empathy is sorely lacking online especially, so where do men go to find it? One of the very damaging aspects of manhood is keeping the shit inside, letting it boil up n stew so often many men are in pain but others don’t realize, so there’s no chance to give that empathy.

      “Deferring isn’t empathy. And it isn’t working, not for any of us. But neither does snark and sarcasm, no matter how good it feels. Because yeah, it does cause shame in others which only keeps the cycle going.”
      Very true. It’s the plague of online discussions. But until people grow up n realized that most in power = men does not equal most men have power then we’ll continue to see deference and stupidity vs empathy and intelligent discussion.

      Hi 5, you’re the first and only person to write an article I’ve seen on this issue from actually giving a damn about men n women vs being snarky n laughing at “da poor menz”.

      • Thanks Archy.

        Empathy and compassion are always pieces of practice. No one (except for maybe Jesus or Buddha!) gets them right all the time, every time.

        I don’t know what it’s like to be a boy losing his father, but I do know that when I lost my own father at 9, my life changed irrevocably.

        I think children need a wide variety of role models, multiple layers of support, community and consistency. I’m sorry you had to go through that pain.

        I wouldn’t write for GMP, or have spent so many months engaging with commenters as a community member and moderator if I didn’t care, and care deeply about men, women, our relationships, and how we get to a place of real equality and honor, respect and challenge. Snark and meanness doesn’t seem to help heal, only hurt.

        FWIW, I expect a lot from myself and from the men and women in my own life, personally. I have found that that includes pushing back, arguing, expecting honesty and being willing to give it. If I can help be a part of that for my own boys, and I certainly know my husband is doing that, then maybe some small change will have been made.

        • “I have found that that includes pushing back, arguing, expecting honesty and being willing to give it.”
          I think they call that a backbone. :P Not many want a push over and I respect those who will state their opinions even if what they say can be annoying or I disagree with completely.

          Losing a father for girls and boys would be terrible, I’d say probably a bit harder on the boys since I believe we base a lot of our identity with those who are similar to us and I know I had far more in common with my dad than my mum. Of course that’s gender normative? and there are always exceptions but I believe it’s best to have good role models in a wide variety of ages, genders, races, even sexualities. I was also fortunate to grow up with quite a few male teachers too but I hear in primary school there are very few now, this too probably causes issues since boys are getting fewer and fewer role models. Without having both women AND men to teach them right from wrong, help them find themselves, give em direction I fear it will cause a lot of issues.

    • I think empathy is table stakes in this conversation.
      As in d’uh, if we want to understand the shift in male behavior, we need to be
      calm in the face of the symptoms caused by change.

      Without some context, i don’t think this article, or nyt article have a load to add to the conversation,
      about how men are evolving or struggling to adjust as different forces shift in society.

      Phrases like ‘A culture of shame’ or ‘a culture of violence’ are ways of framing the world through a combative female lens. These are made up, over hyped phrases as women of the world unite, to suport those in worse situations, without a voice, unable to defend themselves. But using the word ‘culture’ is insanely destructive. Like saying women are not good at science. Men have natures. Men are affected by where and how they grew up. men are affected when they grew up. WHen i hear shit like: a culture of rape, i hear misplaced anger, and an unwillingness to acknowledge that somewhere like say India, is very different from the US. A culture of rape in America what the republicans are doing to this country.

      I think it is important to understand the nuance of what is happening. Which guys are evolving and why, and what a ‘toxic personality’ in the work place actually means. Also, which guys are more prone to lash out as they struggle to adjust.

      I know this is the focus of the goodmen project, but right now, it is being let down by a lack of insight, understanding and this is going to sound really sexist, but seeing the world of men through the eyes of women, is not helping if they are only trying to understand men, through a female paradigm.

      If you really want to understand men, and the change they are going though,
      I would suggest reading the 5 switches of manliness on http://www.theartofmanliness.com

  3. I like the word compassion better than empathy , maybe because I’ve studied Buddhism (though I’m not a practicing Buddhist ). In Buddhist terms, compassion comes when we become aware that we are connected to other people and other living things; that “us” and “them ” is an illusion. The young men who are struggling are part of my society, their struggles are my struggles, their pain is my pain. Empathy means the same thing more or less but it is more intellectualized. “You feel pain, therefore I feel your pain.” Compassion (at least in the Buddhist sense) has more of the idea of “This hurts both of us because we are fundamentally the same.” (I realize maybe I’m parsing words a bit too much!) Anyway, I agree that compassion, and empathy, have nothing to do with deference . A Buddhist would say that the solution is not to show more deference to angry young men but to teach them a better path. Sorry to get all spiritual …

  4. “if the mothers have proven that they can raise the children alone”

    The research on children from single parent homes show very clearly that they mostly can not. Statistically the outomes are horrible, especially for boys.

  5. “Do those who grow up with fathers (or at least good male role models) have a better identity as a male on average than those who don’t?”

    Mothers provide less of what researchers call “parental investment” to boys when they do not live with the father of the children as oposed to when they live with the father but show equal parental investment in their daughters regardless of the situation. The reality is that boys growing up without their father in the same household do not only get deprived of vital contact with their father but also get deprived of vital investment by the mother. Divorce has devastating consequences for children but far more so for boys.

  6. I’m not sure I even understand some of the language used in the NYT piece. “Accommodating others’ pain”? That sounds very patronizing. I totally don’t understand what she means by deference. “To delight in their losses”? “Those of us who belong to a demographic that is doing increasingly better”?

    What world does the writer live in? She doesn’t sound like she’s writing about human beings. I am not a demographic and neither are young men; we are individuals with our individual problems, pain, and successes. To look at another being with the compassion that Sarah writes about does not permit us to turn them into a member of a faceless mass, and this is what disturbs me when I hear women speak contemptuously of men, when I hear men speak contemptuously of feminists, when I hear white people speak contemptuously of black people.

  7. I think it is difficult to empathize with people one does not really care about. The idea that men are in panic over losing their “privilege” is laughable, but it also reveals a disdain for men in general. That attitude does not look at the situations men face and treat them with any seriousness. Instead, the attitude, shared by both Wampole and Schwyzer, is that men are useless, expendable, and dangerous. The only difference between the two is what they think we ought to do about that (and neither one has an intelligent, let alone humane, solution). How can you empathize with men if you think they really have no place in society anymore?

    Before anyone talks about empathizing, we should try understanding, because that is really the core problem. Ironically, Wampole and Schwyzer’s comments are likely the very sentiments that lead these handful of young men and boys to kill others before killing themselves. Shaming someone will never get them to ask for help.

  8. had a conversation with a feminist once. I linked her to an article that showed that businesses that have teams of people including women are more successful than businesses whose teams lack women. My comment was “Fuck yeah diversity.” Her comment was “Fuck yeah powerful women.”

    That’s about the flavor I get of feminists perspective on these things: it’s not about diversity, it’s not about equality, its about power. It’s about women getting power, men losing power, and if men have any problem, they’re *clearly* just upset that they’re losing privilege. And I don’t think that is the case.

    To be perfectly frank, I think, largely, we’re a bothered by the fact that women seem to still want to be considered the better home-makers, the better parents, the more “emotionally intelligent” sex, the more compassionate sex, the more sacred and deserving of sacrifice, the kinder and gentler sex, the neater and more organized sex. But women should also be considered equally strong, logical, reasonable, smart, capable, dedicated, and brave. Everything that outdated gender roles said men were “better” at should be areas of equality. But everything those same outdated gender roles said women were “better” at should somehow remain, and women will defend them. Try telling a room full of women that men are better parents. How do you think they would react?

    For the record, I agree that women should be considered equal in capability, dedication, bravery, logic, intelligence, etc – I just also think men should be considered equal in all those other things, too.

    • It reminds me of a bit David Cross did in one of his standups. First he said, “I truly believe that women are smarter than men.” Applause and cheers from all the women. Then he said, “I also believe that dogs are smarter than women.” That didn’t go over quite so well.

    • I’ve noticed this too Drew.

      Women are equal to men in all things…except the capacity to do bad things.

      Look at how often you see commentary that there need to be more well thought out female heroes vs how often you see commentary that there need to be more well thought out female villains.

      That’s why a few years ago I noticed that some of the very same people that rallied against shirts with phrases like, “I’m a girl, I’m too pretty to do math.” turned right around and defended shirts with phrases like, “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them.” (but the true jerks on that one were the ones that commented that that shirt was sexist against girls/women because it doesn’t take their violence seriously).

      • I’d only respond again to say that systems of oppression form and foster double standards and that when the power is to shift all of it has to shift, power and responsibilities. I”m a feminist and I don’t much like shirts that say boys are stupid. I like boys. Boys aren’t stupid.

        I’m not much a fan of those double standards and calling them out is a part of the over arching empathy that I practice whether it’s gender or race or orientation. I’m aware I’m still in those systems and as such, influenced by them. All any of us can do is try to be awake and aware of them and not collude.

        • Julie, now don’t take this the wrong way, but do you perhaps think that having 2 SONS perhaps ‘enhanced’ your perspective? I only say this because I KNOW having 3 daughters definitely improved my perspective! Now I realize I grew up before you (I graduated high school in ’72). and all my ‘training’ said Women are to be cherished and protected. Having 3 daughters however, showed me the SIMILARITIES (after all, were both human!). I learned that hopes and dreams are the same for both! Wow, what a relevation that was! Now, I have a son who’s 8, 10 and 12 years younger than his sisters, and it’s like a generational difference!(Even his sisters are confused by his social structer) He recently joined the Army as did several of his friends. A few others have moved away, and I can’t help but think that it’s not so much that they saw opportunity as that they felt they had NO opportunity here.

          • John Anderson says:

            A lot of my nephews friends (all boys) are planning to join the military after they graduate high school in 6 or so months. They currently work or have worked at fast food places. My nephew has been looking for several months and can’t find even that. That seems to be the best young men can do today. My niece on the other hand has turned down 4 job offers and finally settled on a part time job at Victoria’s Secret. She graduated high school last year. She’s currently in college.

          • I’m not sure why I’d take it the “wrong way” or what that wrong way would be, but of course all our experiences in life change our perspective.

            And the “type” of boy would alter my perspective as well, am I raising boys that want sports or art, or both; am I raising them in a rural or urban setting, etc. I suspect that if I’d had girls it would have shifted my thinking in a variety of ways as well, give that I wasn’t a very girly girl and didn’t play with dolls etc…all our life experiences add to our wealth of knowledge.

            But I wonder if you think I was some kind of strict gender based activist prior to childrearing?

    • BL Harris says:

      wait a minute….you’re assessing an entire movement based on the opinion of ONE feminist? have you done any further research about the feminist movement or discussed these issues with any other feminists? doesn’t sound like it.
      those of us who’ve been in the feminist movement for decades DO understand that it’s true diversity that progresses the human family, not one gender of the other. but that doesn’t seem to adhere to your (previously created assumptions?) “assessment.”
      deference, in this context, is simply ENABLING an abusive situation or person….nothing more. deference is completely different from compassion and a willingness to include each individual’s experiences on equal footing….it is NOT simply assuming that white male (or black male) experience should take precedence over all others.
      as for the comments about single mothers being poor parents….what bullarcky! this is from the gender that now freely (and proudly) absolves themselves from responsibility – both with the sex act itself AND the consequences (childbirth and child rearing). i’m not saying that every single mother is perfect, but i AM saying that most of those women would LOVE to have the father around….but most of those fathers shirked their own responsibility and YET condemn women for being willing to raise the child on their own – especially if the child ends up being destructive.

  9. Bay Area Guy says:

    To be perfectly frank, I think, largely, we’re a bothered by the fact that women seem to still want to be considered the better home-makers, the better parents, the more “emotionally intelligent” sex, the more compassionate sex, the more sacred and deserving of sacrifice, the kinder and gentler sex, the neater and more organized sex. But women should also be considered equally strong, logical, reasonable, smart, capable, dedicated, and brave. Everything that outdated gender roles said men were “better” at should be areas of equality. But everything those same outdated gender roles said women were “better” at should somehow remain, and women will defend them. Try telling a room full of women that men are better parents. How do you think they would react?

    Exactly. They want to have their cake and eat it too.

  10. John Anderson says:

    I agree with a lot of what Sarah is saying about compassion, but I think something that people are missing is that things come down to treating people decently. Why do you need to use power? Why not collaboration and compromise? Most people will take ownership of a project if you ask them. I’ve worked for people who I’ve done the minimum amount if work for and I’ve worked for people who’s back I totally had. The judicious use of power goes a long way towards making people feel valued. Many people have forgotten manners. Saying please and thank you goes a long way.

    It might be the martial artist in me, but I’ve been in a few instances where I know I would have won the fight, but chose to walk away. When I had to spar a female classmate, she never got my best. Why should I abuse someone I was faster and stronger than? Be kind to each other. When someone behind me is holding 1 or 2 items in the grocery line and I have a full cart, I let go ahead of me.

    Some people might think the judicious use of power, collaboration, manners, and even kindness are all aspects of deference. If it is then I think everyone should have deference for each other.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      John. Did the woman sparring partner get enough so that she improved?

      • John Anderson says:

        I think they mostly did. It wasn’t like I was going to let myself get hit. The biggest question in my mind was that I promised to respect my classmates. Easing up on someone felt disrespectful and that was the quandary. If we were equal belts, to respect her was to give her my best. To give her my best would have resulted in injury.

        There were two women in the class and they usually sparred each other, but when one was absent, I would spar them. I’m 5′ 7″ and weighed between 140 and 150 at that time so was on the small side for guys. On the other hand I was weight training. I’m pretty sure they weren’t and I was juicing. I’m sure they weren’t. I may have had a 15 or so pound weight advantage, but the strength advantage was significant.

        The women actually did find out that I was holding back and when one was absent, the other took exception and when we sparred her first three kicks were front snap kicks to my groin. Sa Bam Nim must have seen my expression change after the third one because he stopped the match. I’m glad he did because my intention was to snap whatever bone my foot connected with. Needless to say the next time another guy was picked. He didn’t hold back and broke her forearm. She actually blocked the kick, but he fractured her arm. The thing to understand is that speed times strength equals power. To come at her fast is to hit her hard.

        I remember reading an interview of the fighters after a professional kick boxing match between a man mid 40s on the downside of his career and a woman mid to late 20s. She won on points, but was knocked down and almost out in the first round. They interviewed her after the fight. She gave thanks and credit to God, said how she never expected a man (on the down side of his career) to be able to move so fast and be so strong, said she would never fight a man professionally again, and recommended that no women ever do.

        • And she deserved that broken arm. You go for the crotch, you go on the attack, prepare for a severe ass kicking. It’s inexcusable behaviour. It’s a valuable lesson for her to learn, that she can’t continue to think men are invincible and thus do whatever she wants to them with no repercussions. I can’t begin to tell you how many women I’ve seen growing up with entitled princess behaviour where they feel it’s completely acceptable to hit men.

          • John Anderson says:

            She never returned to the dojang. The other woman didn’t stick around very long afterwards either and everyone felt kind of bad especially the guy who broke her arm. Eventually we chalked it up to accidents happen when participating in combat sports. To be honest I don’t know what I would have done if I had sparred her again.

            • I don’t blame you for that fear. If someone goes for my nuts, they get full grizzly bear angry Archy, all 6’6 300lb’s even if they are smaller because it is a VERY severe threat to your health, far far far far more than a punch in the arm. The testicles are extremely vulnerable, people have died I believe from being kicked there and people have had severe injury from it. It’s an extreme attack to do and should only be used in life-threatening situations. The thread needs to be neutralized somehow, because a good-solid kick to the nuts can really fuck your life up not to mention problems with reproducing.

  11. John Anderson says:

    What about everyone just treating people decently? Why do we need to use power anyway? Couldn’t collaboration and compromise accomplish most things? If people feel included in decisions, there are fewer bad feelings. If you have a project at work, ask someone to take it on. Most people will accept ownership if asked. Give people a chance. What happened to manners? Saying please, excuse me, and thank you goes a long away. Things like excuse me also show respect for people’s boundaries and we should respect a person’s boundaries.

    It might be the martial artist in me, but there were instances where I knew I would win a fight and chose to walk away. When I had to spar a female classmate, she never got my best. Why should I abuse someone I know I’m faster and stronger than? When someone behind me in the grocery store is holding one or two items and I have a full cart, I let them go ahead. Treat people with kindness.
    If collaboration, manners, the judicial use of power, and kindness are forms of deference, then we should all defer to each other.

    One thing I think is worth considering. With women moving into management positions and positions of power, should we do away with the reasonable man and reasonable woman standard? For example, I don’t like being touched. I have a boss (female) who feels the need to lightly touch me on the arm, shoulder, or back. I’ve worked there about 17 years so it’s the same with a lot of the women there. At least three women have rested their hand on my thigh. 1 time in 10 or 15 years is not worth complaining about. I’ve gotten to the point where I pretty much just give out hugs when requested. Like my friend said, they’re just hugs.

    I wonder though if it wouldn’t be wise for women to start policing their work place interactions a bit more because if I felt powerless, violating my personal space would pretty much exacerbate it.

  12. John Anderson says:

    Sorry for the double comment. My primary wireless router stopped broadcasting and I switched to my backup. Didn’t realize that the packets weren’t lost.


  13. If the result of sharing power means to these men “losing privilege” and then that means violence, we have a much bigger problem than deferring to men.

    It would also help if all the pain and suffering that men and boys go through wasn’t labeled “losing privilege” when it’s anything but.

    Male DV victim in pain because he was told he that hee needs to go abuser’s conseling? “Losing male privilege”.

    A dad in pain because the mother of his child whisked said child away to put them up for adoption? “Losing male privilege”.

    A guy in pain because he is having trouble reconciling his failures in the dating world against the image that he is not a real man if he isn’t having lots of sex? “Losing male privilege”.

    Like Jacobtk says above the core of empathy is understanding. How can empathy be shown for these men when all their problems keep getting mislabeled as crying over losing power. But I can understand the allure of doing so. It’s not even snark. It MIGHT not even be a conscious attempt at hurting men. It could be as simple as trying to make sure that one side gets all the help and inadvertently hurting another.

    At the end of the day chances are the pain that men are feeling is coming from a place that is simply not being understood by those who rush to declare that it’s loss of male power/privilege.

    • Pain is pain, Danny. Loss is loss. Feelings are real. It can be both.

      I know, as a white woman in America, that I need to not just lose white privilege but actively work to give it up if I am to be part of a world where oppression isn’t happening race over race. I am no better than someone based on my race, and that I have that “privilege” granted to me based on nothing other than skin color is wrong. And I believe it’s a real dynamic and one that should be changed.

      It doesn’t mean that I am to be punished for being white. It doesn’t mean that we reverse the dynamic of oppression and create a subordinate class of whites (though considering how much human beings seem to love their hierarchies…). It means me acknowledging and working to eliminate inequities so that the bullshit happening to people of color can stop happening.

      Nor would I ever say that the pain of men who have been abused, or lost families, or lost jobs, or lost a sense of worth is just, “Oh welp! There you go, enjoy being less powerful!!” It means that they are in pain and need support, absolutely. Men need to be believed about abuse and sexual assault and there needs to be real resources for them to be believed and supported.

      Double standards are born out of oppressive systems. Both the dominant and subordinate members are affected by those standards to the point that it becomes “law” in the minds of both. “women are better parents” “men don’t have feelings” play out. Both sides need real dialogue about what that means to shift and share power and responsibility.

      You can lose privilege and not become subordinate. I can gain it and not become dominant. Or we should be able to. If we look at power in terms of scarcity (there’s only so much and we have to fight over it), then yeah that’s the model-you lose the privilege and I gain it and then I’m in power and you aren’t.

      But I think that’s a failure of creativity and soul.

      None of us feel powerful, is what I’ve learned from reading forums, writing online and listening to people. All of us (or 99.9 %) feel nearly powerless and frustrated in a huge system that dominates us all.

      And I don’t think any of us deferring to each other and just patting each other’s pain on the head is actually helping. Real compassion means, to me, that hell yeah you are suffering AND acknowledging the system we are both in. So what do we do about it?

      You are free to disagree, but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to see change.

      • I largely agree with what you are saying actually but what I’m saying is that real compassion is going to be hard when the pain and suffering are being misdiagnosed.

        I want to see change made as well Julie so let me try to explain in a specific example.

        Let’s take a man that is abusive towards his wife. Now the popular explaination for that abuse is that he is trying to control women and assert male privilege do to being raised to think that his wife should be in a subordinate position to him. Now while that certainly does happen what good will that do when dealing with a man that is abusive towards him wife not because he thinks that women should be subordinate to him but because he was abused by his mother as a child and instead of properly healing he now lashing out against his wife?

        “He does it becuse he thinks women are beneath him.” isn’t going to do much good in the face of “He does it because he hates women due to not recieving the help he should have gotten when he was being abused by what can be considered the first and most influencial woman in his life.”


        None of us feel powerful, is what I’ve learned from reading forums, writing online and listening to people. All of us (or 99.9 %) feel nearly powerless and frustrated in a huge system that dominates us all.

        I can agree with that. Problem is a lot of us feel powerless and/or powerless and we are being told that we really aren’t powerless or that our feelings of powerlessness are coming from subscribing to the model you describe (as in we only feel that way because we actually do have power and feel like we are losing it and becoming subordinate).

        Also one more thing:

        Double standards are born out of oppressive systems. Both the dominant and subordinate members are affected by those standards to the point that it becomes “law” in the minds of both. “women are better parents” “men don’t have feelings” play out. Both sides need real dialogue about what that means to shift and share power and responsibility.

        I think a part of the misdiagnosis I’m talking about is that when talking about the double standards born out of oppressive systems there is still a very prevelant and active attempt to draw a line between men and women, where men are the oppressors and women are the oppressed. It’s not that black and white (and yes I mean that figuratively and literally as a comparison to race).

        • “Let’s take a man that is abusive towards his wife. Now the popular explaination for that abuse is that he is trying to control women and assert male privilege do to being raised to think that his wife should be in a subordinate position to him. Now while that certainly does happen what good will that do when dealing with a man that is abusive towards him wife not because he thinks that women should be subordinate to him but because he was abused by his mother as a child and instead of properly healing he now lashing out against his wife?
          “He does it becuse he thinks women are beneath him.” isn’t going to do much good in the face of “He does it because he hates women due to not recieving the help he should have gotten when he was being abused by what can be considered the first and most influencial woman in his life.”

          Danny, you’ll get no argument from me here on this. This is where I think our entire system fails because in the case of this man, a) he grew up in a system that may have trained him to think of himself as over women AND b) he may also have been raised in a system where a female in his life hurt him and did damage to him and c) those ideas are now inextricably wrapped up in each other in toxic ways. And, perhaps SHE grew up in a system that taught her to think of herself as less than and maybe her father was a total jerk to her mom (perhaps playing out their own systemic family of origin patterns), and so a perfect storm occurs.

          Or maybe there are as many combinations of this as there are people.

          Thus, should we have as part of our justice system deep and healing therapeutic dynamics and systems to look into it all? Did this person get help? Did this person act out of family of origin history? Does that affect sentencing and public support/lack of support?

          We don’t have that empathy even within the legal system, and I”m not sure if we even can. But I do think it would be an entirely different playing field if we got people real help as well as having them deal with crimes. But we know what mental health care looks like in this country.

          My entry into this particular world was activism, not policy, but I don’t make a great activist because I’m not a polemicist. I do think counseling, healing, ministry etc all are absolutely vital to getting the system changed. Thus, I’m likely to move into a point in the system around counseling because that’s what makes sense to me.


          • Or maybe there are as many combinations of this as there are people.

            Precisely. Yet somehow we are supposed to believe that all those possibilities can be traced back to two orgins (men abuse women because they think women should be beneath them and women abuse men because they were abused by men in the past and are lashing out) and treated from there? That’s how you end up with male victims being treated like abusers and female abusers being treated like victims.


            Thus, should we have as part of our justice system deep and healing therapeutic dynamics and systems to look into it all?

            I think that would help. In fact I’ve seen attempts to that effect pop up already. Problem is, once again, they are applied in a gendered manner. Guess who gets the healing and guess who gets the eternal damnation.

            To me my entry was seeing that the things that were harming me weren’t exclusive to me and instead seeing it in other people as well. Call me self centered but I mostly got into this to heal myself (a long way to go mind you) and hopefully help others heal a long the way. I’m not sure if you could call me an activist or what have you though.

            Counceling and healing are necessary indeed. But they won’t do much good when counselors and healers start with a bad diagnosis.

        • John Anderson says:

          @ Danny,

          For a while I thought what you were saying is that in cases where men are and have been legitimately oppressed (in areas where females were advantaged) sometimes male anger at being oppressed is characterized as male anger at losing privilege that they never had.

          ‘Kind of like my thought. When men show anger, people assume that the anger is over losing power, but the power that was lost is gained by someone else. Those being women. People assume male anger is over power being lost rather than the way that women use the power that was gained. That stems from the assumption in society that women are more moral and less abusive than men.

          My thought was before assuming that the man is just angry over losing power, examine how your use of this power could have contributed toward that anger. He may actually be angry over being oppressed.

          • “Anger” is often a secondary emotion. This means, especially for men, that anger presents itself first, rather than another emotion like fear or sadness.

  14. Mr Supertypo says:

    x2 I couldn agree more.

  15. Danny makes a great point with regards to the misdiagnosis of male struggles. There needs not be a victim in the progress towards greater equality and Wampole’s suggestion that women must maintain the status quo by deference to men in order to placate their anger at losing their undue privilege is a ridiculous notion. I appreciate Schwyzer’s pointing out that “the rates for most violent crimes (including homicide and rape) are declining” as it clearly discredits Wampole’s shades of grey illusory correlations between female submission and male violence.

  16. Danny, please listen to what I am going to write. I am NOT saying that women do not abuse their children; I don’t think many people know how to parent well.

    My husband voluntarily went to a group for men who abused their partners (he has been emotionally abusive, never physically abusive). Not one man described being physically abused by his mother; all of them grew up in homes where their fathers physically abused their mothers. This was not a small group.

    • Admitting that a woman, your mother, abused you is a very hard step. My mother has been verbally abusive to me, I know of others who’ve had their mothers abuse them physically, psychologically, some probably sexually. The majority of child abuse is committed by MOTHERS. Abuse is so common in both genders sadly that I dare say some of those men experienced it but society often doesn’t let people speak ill of mothers in such a manner, you can’t suggest mothers can be abusive if you’re a “loving son”. Would a group of female abusers report their mother had been abusive to their husbands? Stats show women are actually more likely to initiate violence in the domestic setting and that similar levels of men n women commit abuse so do you think mothers abusing fathers is rare, or just for the cases where the son goes on to abuse? I believe there is a study showing many male rapists were sexually abused by women, anyone know where that study is?

      • I think there are several studies with that result, here is one:

        A high percentage of male subjects abused in childhood by a female relative became perpetrators.

        http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/179/6/482.full

        It’s worth noting that not all abused boys become perpetrators:

        Many believe sexually abused boys almost inevitably become sexually abusive men. But, while a significant proportion of male abusers were victims themselves, there’s evidence that relatively few sexually abused boys actually become abusers.

        http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psychoanalysis-30/201101/talking-about-sexually-abused-boys-and-the-men-they-become

        • Greg Allan says:

          From “The Invisible Boy”…
          Finally, there is an alarmingly high rate of sexual abuse by females in the backgrounds of rapists, sex offenders and sexually aggressive men – 59% (Petrovich and Templer, 1984), 66% (Groth, 1979) and 80% (Briere and Smiljanich, 1993)…Male adolescent sex offenders abused by “females only” chose female victims almost exclusively.

          Note that these are studies of perpetrators rather than victims. Fewer than one in ten victims become perpetrators.


    • My husband voluntarily went to a group for men who abused their partners (he has been emotionally abusive, never physically abusive). Not one man described being physically abused by his mother; all of them grew up in homes where their fathers physically abused their mothers. This was not a small group.

      Which is why I’m not trying to say that that this scenario never happens. What I am saying is that the scenario you describe here cannot be applied to every abusive man in existence.

      Take a look at the links that Tamen provides below. For all the supposed care and concern about abuse don’t you find it odd that it seems like the only abuse that is talked about is male against female? And also among the group that your husband went to don’t you think it’s possible that some of them may have been abused by their mothers and just weren’t talking about it (perhaps even abused by mom and dad but since talking about abusive mothers seems to be taboo that just doesn’t come up?)?

      In short what I am saying is that if the goal is to confront all abuse in all shapes and forms in order to help all the victims doesn’t that call for acknowledging all forms of abuse, rather than just the ones that are politically correct to talk about? How must progress can we expect to make when we are still denying female against male abuse?

    • Greg Allan says:

      Victims of female perpetrators report at a rate one twentieth that of victims of male perpetrators.

      There are reasons for this.

  17. Greg Allan says:

    Great. The moderation pixies strike again.

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