Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Freud was right. Kind of.

Being pro-human rights and anti-discrimination puts one in positions that certain people may find contradictory.  A man can be pro-male (such as by supporting International Men's Day) and try to raise awareness of issues like violence against men by women.  At the same time, one can also try to raise awareness of violence against women (to give one example from Amnesty International) and discrimination against women.  It goes without saying (I would hope) that women all over the world face discrimination and violence.

In that line I would like to draw your attention to something that has been bugging me for a while.  In the various campaigns against governmental cuts/for greater gender equality one arouses all manner of opposition.  This opposition may be considered, or can be based on the standard prejudice against the left-wing.  Sometimes, however, its gender specific, to a disturbing degree. 

"You should have your tongue ripped out!"

Sometimes, those who are at the forefront of creative campaigns are women.  It's them who receive a barrage of abuse which goes beyond the standard anti-left-wing prejudice.  The fact is that these women become a scapegoat for all that is seen to be a threat.  A look at this article by Helen Lewis Hastely will demonstrate that.

Here's a few quotes from what people have said to her and other bloggers online:
"deserve to die at the rusty scissors of a backstreet abortionist" 

Male bloggers appear to not receive such gender-related abuse.  There the onus is more on accusations regarding the lack of intelligence or the standard anti-left-wing stuff.

When it's not abuse, it's patronising or a liberal form of victim playing that comes into play.  For example, Suzanne Moore wrote an article dealing with online sexist abuse in the Guardian.  The first comments were:
"This is a conversation..."
Really? It seems to be the latest in a stream of diatribes on this topic from female contributors to the Graun. Maybe a male viewpoint could be forthcoming ATL?
Men-hating is all over the internet – believe me, I know
Now , rather than viewing it as a one gender issue Suzanne, lets try and be really constructive and useful and try and think of ways we can all come together ( Men and Women ) and try and eradicate this problem together.
What about man haters,they are all over the internet too. Any ideas what we can do about them Suzanne?"
I very much doubt whether the comments are genuine attempts to deal openly with the subject of sexism by both sexes.  I see such comments as being an attempt to avoid talking about male sexism.  Let me be clear, such examples of online abuse of women are obviously unpleasant for the women involved.  It's more than that though, they set the tone for making such abuse acceptable, and can lead to an increase in actual violent attacks by men on women.

Why does this happen?
1. The women appear "weaker" and therefore are an easy target for bullying.
2. The abusers believe that politics is man's business (they may like Thatcher, who is however respected for her "masculine" characteristics) and therefore want to shut women up.
3. They are afraid of women.

Having a bath and looking at ones genitals in the mirror

I once attended a theology course whereby we had one session about feminist theology.  To be honest I went there assuming it was to be two hours of anti-male stuff.  The lecturer told us a story which went something like, "Years ago I did a talk on feminism at an all-women event.  At the end a woman told me that she had had a bath before the event, as she assumed that we would all be given small mirrors and asked to sit in a circle looking at our vaginas", and went onto show that feminism is about fighting domination (and "patriarchy"; I avoid this term myself though agree with what is meant).  I came out saying "Bloody right!"

In other words, feminism is seen as a threat.  Somewhere beneath all that bluster there is the fear of women doing "bad" things.  That can mean that men have less power in societies.  It can also be tied to more left-wing policies coming into being, more democracy.  This is rational.  Many feminists want these things.  (So do I!)  It can however mean a fear of losing not just political, societal and economic power, it can also mean a fear for.....well, what?  I will here speculate that "castration anxiety" plays a big part here.:
"Symbolic castration anxiety refers to the fear of being degraded, dominated or made insignificant, usually an irrational fear where the person will go to extreme lengths to save their pride and/or perceives trivial things as being degrading making their anxiety restrictive and sometimes damaging." (From wiki)

That article shows that such an anxiety (with the resulting fear of female sexuality) has been a component in literature for centuries.  (Hence women being scapegoated.)  Freud himself put the issue being resolved by passively submitting to authority (the father).  Now, that Freud based this on his Oedipus complex theory leads me to doubt this.  That however, as shown in this article by Mia Hepburn such a fear is a lot older than Freud, shows that the issue was one of a cultural male fear of having sex with "strange" women, or that the triumphant entry of the male into the vagina is followed by a diminished ending.

Whether one agrees with that or not, one would be more open to agreeing with Dr. Stephen Diamond that the way of resolving the "castration complex" is: "At the end of the day, men and women need to become more aware of the psychological source of our mutual apprehension, mistrust and animosity in order to transcend it. Angrily projecting the blame on each other for our own fears of sex, love and intimacy simply won't do.  [...]  Knowing our own complexes, fears of intimacy and defense mechanisms against it, and addressing them therapeutically, is crucial (From here).

These specific men are not victims

In discussing this issue with women I have been told twice by women that they admit to "castration" or "Delilah" desires (metaphorically!), wanting to emasculate men.  Of course, two women don't make up the billions of women who exist, but some women are sexist against men and abuse them.  These two women were self-aware enough to recognise their desires and work with them.  (Female abuse of men is a subject I shall deal with separately later this year, as I don't wish that the the issue becomes confused with the subject of this article.)

These men who write abusive messages online have no excuses for their behaviour.  I am simply speculating as to the reasons for such actions.  I believe that all people, whether male or female can have unconscious fears regarding the other sex, fears which in the examples above turn into pretty ugly threats, ugly threats that are intolerable.

A raging hatred of women is frowned upon by society, therefore it finds outlet online.  Focuses on combating sexism by men against women tend to concentrate on the decisive level, on thought patterns and conditioning.  Less work on fear is done.

In any case, people who live in Wrocław can help by attending the feminist event Manifa from the 8th till the 11th of March.  More details here.

What do you think?  Please write your opinions in the comments underneath.

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(Please excuse the slightly slanted text in the centre of this article.)