Blind Rage: Not Every Man Is Evil

Once Saumya Arya Haas realized that men were not the enemy, she saw that they could be victims of abuse, too.

This is an odd time, and I am an odd person, to be writing this. I’m a woman. We just finished the Hindu Festival of Navrathri, which is a nine-night celebration of the Feminine Divine. So why am I writing about the spiritual wisdom of men?

One of my professors, David Carrasco, opened a course on Native American Religion by explaining that we cannot really study indigenous cultures, all we can do is study our encounter with them. In doing so, we still may not understand indigenous culture, but we inevitably learn a lot about our own. I’m not a man, but I have a brother, a father, a husband, many close male friends, colleagues and so on. I am surrounded by men. I may never understand them, but these relationships have taught me a lot about myself. Some of what I’ve learned is uncomfortable.

I’ve written before about Kali and the struggle for women to overcome the trauma from violence perpetrated by men. Kali is a popular manifestation of feminine rage.

She’s also loaded with symbols that caution us about the consequences of that rage. Kali is usually depicted as a fearsome, multi-limbed warrioress, her bloody tongue lolling from her mouth, her many hands gripping weapons. An army in chaos flees from her, and her foot is planted on a prone man. At first, it seems obvious what is going on: Kali is angry and her enemies have scattered and fallen; the Warrior Woman has defended herself against men. But it’s a little more complicated. One interpretation is that Kali’s tongue is not out to demonstrate bloodthirstiness : her stuck-out tongue is an expression of surprise. She is surprised to find that beneath her foot is not a fallen enemy, but her consort, Shiva. He threw himself in front of her to stop her rampage.

In her rage, Kali could not tell friend from foe, and slaughtered those she came to help.

Here’s my point: Men are not the enemy. They are just as vulnerable, nuanced and wise as women. They suffer just as much. I did not want to see this. Recently, I’ve had to admit that it’s something that I need to see. That we all do.

Men are vulnerable to abuse. They may not be vulnerable in the same way that women are: depressingly large numbers of women are murdered by their spouses, lovers and boyfriends. While men experience emotional and physical abuse, they are less likely to be hospitalized or killed because of it. This lack of serious physical injury, compounded with societal pressure for men to hide vulnerability, makes it challenging to know the real scope of this issue. But they are vulnerable.

♦◊♦

When men do speak up, they seldom find sympathetic supporters. In “Being the Man Does Not Automatically Make Everything Your Fault,” Jackie Summers relays his experience of sharing his history of being abused by his ex-wife:

“What did you do?”

Singularly, this is the question I am asked most frequently when I tell people I am divorced, as if possession of the Y chromosome automatically means the dissolution of my marriage was intrinsically and entirely my fault.

I respond with what is — in my mind — the primary reason I’m no longer married to that particular individual. “My wife was abusive, physically and emotionally. In four years of marriage, I was kicked, punched in the face, she’d fly into a rage and destroy my things.”

This is usually the part where the initial question is repeated: “Why, what did YOU do?”

This is loathsome. It’s loathsome to assume that a man is the one at fault, and it’s loathsome to ask an abuse survivor what they did to deserve it. Abuse is abuse. A survivor is a survivor. No one has any reason or right to ask a survivor what they did to contribute to the violence against them.

Elephant Journal relays a post originally found at Reddit.com, about a young man being abused during hazing:

“The poor kid was duct taped to a chair, with his mouth taped shut….various sorority girls were having fun pushing him down the hall…[looking] at his junk, and basically fucking him up with [a] dildo….[Later] he was just sobbing quietly on the ground…”

He was not released until the next day, and soon after transferred out of that school. The piece closes with: “We laughed about it all year.”

After reading that (and once I got over my anger), I wondered a few things: if and when that young man tries to tell someone what happened to him, can he expect the response that Jackie Summers received? Will he be told that he must have enjoyed it? Who are those “sorority girls”? Do they consider themselves rapists?

It’s easy to think we’ve identified the perpetrators of abuse, and that they are men. But every one of us has the potential to misuse our power over those more vulnerable. Until we — men and women — confront and overturn those tendencies, we are going to keep on feeding a cycle of violence, reaction and blame. Men are not the problem. Violence is the problem. That violence may be emotional, spiritual or physical. In the end, we all suffer.

In order to solve these issues, we need to address the people contributing to the problem. Not all people who hurt others are psychopaths. Some are ignorant and appalled when they discover that they have caused pain to someone else (I repeat: not all. Some.). In his article “The Accidental Rapist,” Hugo Schwyzer addresses his challenge, as a young man, to understand and respect subtle sexual boundaries. After his girlfriend tells him that she sometimes agrees to sex even when she does not want it, Schwyzer reacts: “My gaze fixed in the distance, my voice trembling, I asked what seemed the only possible question: ‘Are you trying to tell me I raped you?'”

This must be a terrible question to ask yourself. It’s a question that takes courage to confront. It’s unfortunate that this raw, questioning honesty is often met with judgment and anger. Sometimes I’ve been the one judging. There are comments on his piece call him a rapist. I don’t think he is, but it would be easier for me if I did. (Please read his article before commenting on my very brief excerpt!).

Men do seem to be the most common perpetrators of abuse. Until men stop crossing those boundaries, we are only reacting to the problem. We, as women, can learn to be more empowered and to defend ourselves. But In order to stop such abuse from happening in the first place, men have to ask themselves painful questions. And we have to give them the space and support to do so. We also have to confront that abuse is perpetrated and supported by women. Having conversations about these topics is complicated and painful. It means uncovering and confronting a lot of issues that we are terrible at discussing: issues we may have never discussed before. That’s one of the many reasons we need to support endeavors like The Good Men Project, where both Summers and Schwyzer are contributors. It’s a place to have these conversations.

♦◊♦

When women express their truths, it is painful to hear and accept. This will not be any easier.

When we go on a rampage about “men” being violent, insensitive and incapable, we are using the actions of the few to define the many. Our sons are listening. Our husbands, lovers, brothers, fathers, friends are listening. And we are hurting them.

One of the challenges facing men is simple acceptance that men have their own masculine wisdom. It is wisdom that we are sorely in need of.

We have to stop demeaning men. I often hear: “Men are only interested in one thing,” “Men are incapable of expressing their feelings,” “Guys don’t know how to parent” and so on. I’ve too often said the same, and worse. As long as we keep telling them they are sex-obsessed, emotionally crippled, incompetent parents, we limit men’s opportunities for self-expression and worth. Men are not cookie-cutter, testosterone-driven stereotypes. They are not all potential abusers (at least, not any more that all women are). They are a collection of individuals who are struggling to find a way to be human despite limiting social structures. They are vulnerable and in pain. They have their own wisdom. Encountering men’s’ perspectives, through my personal relationships and reading the blogs of brave, honest guys, uncovered my own prejudices and misplaced anger.

I am in no way saying men and women face the same challenges, or that women have achieved safety and equality in our country. But I am saying that we have to stop punishing all men for what a few do.

I’m trying to be a better woman: to listen to men when they speak, rather than deciding that I already know what they are going to say. I’ve been Kali — blindly enraged. Now I’m trying to open my eyes and see what, and who, is really in front of me. I think I’ll be surprised.

Originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

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About Saumya Arya Haas

Saumya Arya Haas is an ALB candidate in Religious Studies at Harvard University. She lives with some challenges due to a Traumatic Brain Injury. Prior to this life-altering injury, she engaged in Interfaith/Intergroup Dialogue and Social Justice work as Director of Headwaters/Delta Interfaith, advising organizations such as The New Orleans Healing Center and Hindu American Seva Communities; her work has taken her everywhere from West Africa to the White House. Saumya is a priestess of both Hinduism and Vodou.

Comments

  1. I have a mix of responses on reading this: gratitude that someone has stated the obvious, and cynical depression that something so obvious NEEDS to be stated!

    I’m glad to hear that you have not succumbed to the poisonous variant of man-blaming and man-hating feminism, Saumya. Good for you, and we’re glad to have you in the human race.

    • Please apologize for your slur against feminists. We will never have any peace between women and men until we stop using phrases like “man-blaming and man-hating feminism.”

      Feminism is one of the most visionary, humane worldviews on the planet. Feminism is not the enemy of men. Feminism is one of men’s best allies.

      • Try reading more closely… I specified the anti-male VARIANT of feminism, not all feminism.

        The fact that some radical/gender feminists are, indeed, anti-male is beyond dispute. Thankfully, not all feminists are similarly blind.

      • Transhuman says:

        Feminism is not concerned with the well-being of men; if it was it wouldn’t be called feminism.
        Never send a feminist to do an egalitarian’s job.

      • Then prove it by actually listening to men instead of trying to tell men what our experiences are.

      • “Feminism is not the enemy of men. Feminism is one of men’s best allies.”

        Only according to feminists, but not according to men or the majority (75%) of women who reject feminism.

  2. Great article! Thank you!

    • Disappointing article.

      • Really? Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

        Given some of the conversations that have been going on at the GMP recently I found this article to be refreshing. It portrays men as humans who experience difficulties just like everyone else rather than creepy, bad guys that women always have to be on guard against.

        Maybe patriarchy is the reason for the difficulties men face. Maybe it isn’t. Sometimes, we’ve got to get past that and just see each other as human beings.

  3. I thought this article was going to be like Allan G. Johnson’s articles, where he usually says something like “Women and men have an enemy, but it isn’t each other. The enemy is patriarchy and we need to understand how if affects each of us and do something about it.”

    However, this article didn’t even come close to saying that. It was just another “be a good little girl” article.

    A huge disappointment.

    • “we have to stop punishing all men for what a few do.”

      Exactly.

    • Stating that men can be targets of violence of women is not “be a good little girl”.

      By that reasoning all articles stating that violence against women is a big issue and men need to get involved is stating “be a good little boy” and needs to be summarily rejected.

      How ridiculous.

  4. I was just reading an article on a mens rights website that said a large percentage of repeat violent offenders currently in America’s prisons come from a segment of society where there are statistically very few fathers around, and of which many academics outside the anglo-sphere would properly call more of “a matriarchy” …then the “patriarchy”.

    • MorgainePendragon says:

      ” which many academics outside the anglo-sphere would properly call more of “a matriarchy” …then [sic] the “patriarchy”.

      Obviously, your understanding of patriarchy, your academic reading (not to mention your basic grasp of English usage) is way below par.

      • thehermit says:

        Obviously, chasers of the ghost of patriarchy don’t understand the world at all.

      • Obviously it is YOU who don’t understand the word “Patriarchy”

      • It may in fact take academics outside the anglo-sphere to correct the terms patriarchy and matriarchy for us, because it seems the terms have been hijacked.
        For instance, the segment of American society with no fathers, or responsible adults males around at all (and of which a clear majority of societal violence is coming from), is more appropriately called “a matriarchy” than “a patriarchy”.
        What are the consequences of American academics calling the matriarchy a patriarchy, and the patriarchy a matriarchy??… confusion??? chaos???

      • From Miriam Webster:
        Matriarchy:
        1: a family, group, or state governed by a matriarch
        2: a system of social organization in which descent and inheritance are traced through the female line

        Matriarch:
        : a woman who rules or dominates a family, group, or state; specifically : a mother who is head and ruler of her family and descendants

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m over 50 years old and every time in my life a woman has told me she really wants me to share feelings, tell her how I really am, and I’ve been stupid enough to fall for that, I’ve wound up being laughed at, having my secrets shared with everyone, taken advantage of, manipulated emotionally, and so forth. Some of the worst at this were feminists who claimed they just wanted to be equal with me and understand men.

    It’s like the old Peanuts comic strip, where Lucy holds the football and stupid old Charlie Brown tries to kick it, only to wind up flat on his back once again when Lucy yanks the football away. Frankly, I don’t believe you. I think you are trying to set men to open up to women, so that they can be harmed even more than before, in some new and different way.

    Kali’s toungue is not out in astonishment. It’s out in sheer pleasure at the taste of the blood of her consort, who was foolish and stupid enough to believe she cared about him, and in the expectation and hope that another will come along for her to cruelly rend and tear to bits. And that is the truth of the matter.

    • GirlGlad4theGMP says:

      Then you need to pick your women more wisely…not all women are bad, and not all women are good. Just like not all men are bad, and not all men are good. Gender alone is not a good determinant of behaviour.

      Most women I know (then maybe I only surround myself with the good ones) are loving and caring towards the men in their lives. They listen to, talk to, provide due respect to the men in their lives…and the men of course, reciprocate. It’s not a man-woman thing, it’s a basic human decency thing.

      And on the Kali thing….fail. Having lived in this particular culture/religion, ohh say all of my life, I can say that, while she can be interpreted in many ways, and is often seen as a somwhat menacing force, she is not the treacherous, man-hating twit you make her out to be.
      She is a destroyer, and the “yin” to the yang of the creationism premise upon which the religion lies (creationism in Hinduim menaing something other than it does in the west). Most Asian religions contain the idea of complimentary forces, and of course, several hold the underlying idea of destruction and creation as cyclical and necessary events.

      • I did not say that all women are bad. Perhaps you should read more carefully, and actually attempt to understand what is written, rather than hastily dash off an emotive reaction.

        And thank you for dismissing my own personal experience as irrelevant. It is that kind of arrogance and lack of empathy I have seen from women for years that leads me to write here.

        Kali is an archtype of women. Therefore, my opinion of why Kali’s tounge is out is as valid as any other, and since it is based upon women I have met over the course of decades, it is an educated one. But thank you for insulting me out of hand, and as noted above, completely dismissing my own personal experiences.

        You must be a feminist. That’s why you are here, right? To make sure that men are “good”, by your definition…

      • Potential situation – “My bf raped and abused me”
        “Then you need to pick your MEN more wisely…not all men are bad, and not all men are good. ”
        Illustrate the point well enough?

  6. TheOrangeOne says:

    I disagree on several accounts, like the title, where “Not every man is evil” is even needed to be said at all! Which should be about as obvious as “Not every woman is a whore”….

    Or your position that you can not understand a group that you are not a part of (seriously, you say you cannot understand men despite having so many around you for so long, are you so purposely ignorant of their lives?). The whole point of human knowledge is that we can understand others without personally experiencing what they feel and do. That’s a huge part of what wisdom and empathy is. Sure it can help to experience situational things you or I may not be able be in, like a father in court, or a teen girl becoming pregnant, or a blind person having walk out into the world, but it is definitely not a stone wall to overcome like you seem to think it is. I can damn well understand what being totally blind can be like, having to trust every person I’m talking to isn’t about to rob me with a knife to my throat.

    The claims you take to be true, that men hurt women way more, also comes to me as totally false, and in fact I’d think is actually the reverse, which to my experience, and many other men’s experiences, seems to be on the ratio of about 55-60% of violence is from women versus 45-40% of violence from men overall, counting all types, verbal, physical, financial, legal, emotional, etc…, nation-wide.

    However, I do like the overall message this article has, and I believe it to be right, with who is at final fault for violence. However, I do think, some of it can be partially the victims fault, regardless of gender. Sometimes, the perpetrator is mad at the victim for hurting them in the past. For example, fathers rarely get the children in divorce cases, and are often taken advantage of for being in child-support for a child they rarely ever are allowed to see, and the mother may just use the support money for herself. If the father feels threatened into a corner, legally (can’t own their own children), financially (unable to pay bills), emotionally (some even have their own child turn against them, despite doing nothing to deserve it), that they may lash out in a final desperate measure of murdering the mother, committing suicide, or both.

    However, that should never amend or lessen the sentence of those truly guilty of violence. In my example (which is terribly common), he after-all did have a child with her, and he is still at fault for putting himself in such a vulnerable position. Sex takes two and marriage takes two, so they are both responsible for it’s results. And to him I say, “You screwed up hard”. Hopefully though, violence, manipulation, and general assholishness can be curbed into it’s own fault in-itself, rather than at one group, like males or females.

  7. Just avoid women altogether – they are immature and selfish.

  8. Anonymous age 69 says:

    Not all women, Jack. Just most of them who speak English.

  9. thank you for this article.
    when we hear ‘men are incapable of sharing their feelings’, the first thing to come to mind is the fact that men are not SUPPOSED to share their feelings. One of the few peices of advice I got from my quiet father was to “suck it up”. (we have a great relationship now, but i hate that phrase). Men who share their feelings are often deemed ‘weak’, ‘too sensitive’, or called ‘faggot’.
    It all boils down to the fact that for men and women it is hard to understand what is expected of the opposite sex in our society. I think it gets overcomplicated too often. All too much women and men disrespect the other sex. I have countlessly heard groups of one sex talking about how the other is useless, lazy, stupid, etc. Media doesn’t help, have you seen how sexist programs, movies, and commercials can be?? as though we are still in the age of every woman in the kitchen, every man a beer swilling football watching moron.
    I am blessed to have married my best friend many years ago, and she is a woman who loves that I actually have emotions, feeling, thoughts, and doesn’t expect me to just suck things up and be tough.
    We are doing our best to raise two girls who respect themselves and see past all of the bullshit, such as the expectations of becoming housewives and barbie dolls, and what men or women are supposed to do or not do.
    I wish we could all learn about each other and have a little tolerance and understanding because the ideas we have about each others gender seem so old and lame.

  10. This analogy of Kali conveys the very condition of women, yet they still cannot see. Meanwhile, poor fathers sit in jails for being to poor to care for their children. They humbly cry out to Krishna, but he cannot help them; because Kali has smashed them under foot. I feel certain the author of this post has not likely yet surrendered to this revelation. Men are just as precious and special as women. Especially men who are in touch with the divine feminine, Paravthi. Those who worship Krishna are learning to be more and more surrendered to the Divine Femenine. Radha Radha!!!!

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  1. [...] consider Saumya Arya Haas’ description of the male dilemma in her recent Good Men Project article Blind Rage: Not  Every Man is Evil: “They are a collection of individuals who are struggling to find a way to be human despite [...]

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