Aristoteles says: “The winds that people fear most are the ones that uncover their hidden places”.
Trying to write on male violence by considering my own life and experiences is like being subjected to that fearful wind. Claiming not to imposing violence on women, children, the weaker ones who are raised in a patriarchal society is not being aware of oneself.
But I can tell with inner peace that I haven’t imposed violence deliberately and intentionally since I’ve reached a certain age and consciousness. Digging into my past and reveal experiences that might be categorized as violence wouldn’t help anyone.
These are private things that will remain between my therapist and my conscience. What falls to my share should be to apologize for my past “faults” and express myself as a professional about male violence.
A woman is raped in every 17 seconds in the world. I don’t know if there is need to say more. One becomes speechless with the shame of the violence imposed by my fellows.
I want to start with this determination and build my article on it: “Violence of man who holds power by imposing violence on women, gays, weaker men, children and animals, is also the violence of social order, which has turned into a subject by freeing from humans that created it”.
This is the violence of a society that is hierarchical, authoritarian, sexist, militarist, racist, sick and malicious. The society imposes it on women by instrumentalising men - here women will be symbolically representing all aforementioned subjects that are subjected to violence during the rest of this article.
Violence on women is men denying their social impotence, which they feel deep down their soul, through denial.
Herbert Marcuse defines male violence as suppression of already suppressed sexual and emotional needs one more time but one should keep it mind that this prepares a patriarchal, heterosexist, authoritarian and class-based society base for male violence. Form of functionality in almost all fields of social, economic and political life constitute the relational context of male violence.
One of the most underscored subjects is whether violence has biological, genetic or hormonal roots and if it has, is it only about men. Feminist theory has been putting emphasis on the distinction between biological (sex) and social (gender) since the very beginning. Construction of sex is a highly complicated process that is not possible to grasp at first glance.
Since the relation between gender and biological gender is very problematic, one needs to be very careful while talking about biological, hormonal and genetic roots of violence.
Because such reductionism bonds our hand and foot with respect to how male violence can be presented. Since we cannot annihilate male sex and if done, it would be another form of violence, I believe we have to pursue another explanation model that will serve us.
Of course we cannot deny the existence of stereotypical gender roles but aren’t we all also passive subjects of a system operating monolithically?
Among other things, there is no scientific data suggesting that people (men in particular) are not prone to violence but people being prone to cooperation and solidarity is shows with neurobiological studies. It might indeed be alleged that men are more aggressive due to their hormones and they are more prone to violence compared with women.
But there is a very simple truth that we cannot change. The men we studied are the men who are wrapped themselves in social man roles in this social structure. What would be their behavior patterns if they weren’t inside this social structure? Because we know by means of anthropological studies that male violence, or violence in general, was little if any in hunter and collector times.
While evaluating human, which is an animal species, and his or her characteristics biologically, hormonal and genetically, we shouldn’t overlook this specific characteristic that is specific to human: different from other animal species that live as commune, human being has a constantly changing social system and the human as a member of this society has to change as well.
Yes, human is an animal species and in this regard, he or she depend on requirements of his or her genes, cells, organs and hormones. However, our knowledge concerning how this physical structure defines our behaviors is not complete.
There is still time for neuroscience to enlighten us in this regard. Even if we could know it, we have to think our behavior repertoire in a bigger context to establish the factors that play a big role in determining our needs and motivation.
Because human needs to live in continuously developing/changing social structures, they have differentiated from all animal species and are not that “natural” anymore.
While talking about male violence and men seeing their right to make weapons and kill people who are seen as enemy, we shouldn’t miss the actual question begging for answer: How does social structure shape this disposition, limit or empower?
How has violence become a normal and functional tool that is affirmed in daily life within human’s social development?
At the end of the day, the determinant question is how the societies establish relationship with violence and how they try to deal with it. Which forms of violence are approved and tolerated?
Some feminist writers (i.e., Susan Brownmüller) embracing sociobiological perspective claim that male violence is an inborn psychological feature due to men’s anatomic structure. Let’s assume that this is correct. I insistently emphasize that what matters is not whether men are prone to violence but what society does what it.
Why does male violence play such a determinant and steering role in societies? Why is violence tolerated or even promoted?
In appearance every individual violent act has a social context: This doesn’t disregard psychopathological cases but they really constitute a small percentage among those who impose violence.
The form of violence that concerns us are the acts of violence of that started to be seen “normal” instead of being punished, such as fighting, war, rape, injuring and psychological violence.
The violence being almost institutionalized as a solution method between people and groups for a long time makes male violence being approvable in the ruling social order an intelligible concept.
On the other hand, it is a fact that states use violence as an instrument, meaning war and police violence threaten our lives and future.
“Civilized” societies being civilized is based on massacres and exploitation they exercise on other societies; a civilization formed by destroying, colonizing and enslaving local people.
It is not restricted to local people. Massacre of nature under the cover of human interests causes destruction of ecological balance created within hundreds of years. Once violence is normalized, it walks all over everything coming its way.
Daily business life in industrialized class societies is also based on violence. Violence reveals itself as an economic reality. Industrialized business life is like a torture center where workers are depersonalized and broken up into pieces.
Everyone no matter employed or not are exposed to chemicals, radioactive substances, food of GMO, pollution because of the industrialization. Development of technology causes increased workload and acceleration of life at an unbearable level.
Psychological disorders caused by this increased burden of life are actually social violence but the capitalist order manages to monetize it by marketing these psychological disorders.
Majority being doomed to work for 40-50 years until they are all beat up and sent to retirement trash is a total violence. Racism, sexism, heterosexism have turned into acts of violence that are institutionalized in all societies.
Urbanization does destroy nature as well as anything humane, and has gotten people to breakaway point with nature.
Urban planner and architect Frank Lloyd Wright says, “When you look at the plan of a big city from above, you feel like looking at the section of a tumor.”
Cities, social structure, professional life, relation of humans to nature and history have turned into the domination site of violence. In fact, they are now violence themselves. Institutionalized violence has infiltrated into all social structures and socio-cultural relations.
It is not to be forgotten that one learns how to inflict violence through observation and experience. A man beats his son and his son, in turn, beats his dog. Studies have shown that a majority of those who use violence against women were themselves subjected to violence when they were children. And not only by their fathers, but by their mothers as well.
However, as indicated before, the decisive factor is that our personalities, needs and fears, strong and weak points - our self - are not solely shaped through learning, on the contrary, they are produced and imposed on the individual by the social reality experienced on a daily basis.
Social and economic conditions on a macro level - such as poverty, unemployment, lack of housing as well as the acceptance and glorification of violence - lead to an increase in crime rates and tolerance to violence, which also causes the male violence in family to increase.
While social order paves the way for violence, violence, in turn, strengthens its own social and economic structure. Development of civilization shows parallelism with the constant increase in male violence inflicted on women. Patriarchy is a form of power which causes the reality imposed by men to destroy the historical and natural reality.
Simone de Beauvoir argues that men reflect their ambivalent feelings about nature on women and view them as a materialized form of nature.
According to Beauvoir, in the eyes of men, women are just like nature, which can, all of a sudden, turn into a catastrophe taking our lives while giving us everything that we need.
“She is sometimes an ally, sometimes an enemy. Woman is a dark chaos, from which life emerges. Woman is the life itself and she is sometimes the death as well.”
The violence inflicted to dominate nature and the violence inflicted on women complete each other and, most of the time, substitute each other.
“Although man gives woman an inferior role, the object subjected to aggression is always the woman,” says Beauvoir. In the daily life of an adult, male violence directly turns towards women. There are not so many women who can manage to save themselves from some form of male violence, which can range from sexual harassment and rape to sexual abuse and watching porn.
This aggression of men towards women stems from the fragile nature of masculinity and violence should be understood as a futile effort to protect this fragile manhood, this unreal male superiority. Man feels obliged to be in a constant agency to protect his potency and maintain his social, economic and political superiority.
Because passivity symbolizes womanhood, which, in turn, symbolizes weakness. Violence against women is, in fact, nothing but an aggressive representation of this agency. Moreover, woman is also punished by man because with her existence, woman reminds man of his real situation, his fragility, weakness and impotency.
Rape is the form of action where this fragile manhood manifests itself most clearly. In the statements made in forensic psychiatry, we witness that the men who rape women almost always mention feelings of inferiority, fears of impotency in every sense of the term and a rage that they cannot make sense of.
Whom would a man feel superior to, but for a woman? Rape is not only a crime committed by men against women, but also the biologic - in gender relation, desperate and angry struggle of men.
In the late 1970s, researchers conducted a study analyzing the statements of men who raped.
Let us look at some of these statements now: “When I compare myself with other people, I always feel inferior to them. (...) I find myself disgusting. When I rape someone whom I find weaker than me, I get rid of this feeling.”
Another statement is as follows: “I feel so corrupted, vile and disgusting.”
Just another statement: “I believe that the reason behind rape is less about sexual desire than the way a person wants to see himself. My fear of having a relationship with people turns into a demand for sex. Because sex is the securest area where I can release my anger and feelings.”
Woman means an Other, where the manhood that can fall into pieces at any time thinks it can bring itself into existence by protecting itself on a phallocentric order. With his weak muscles, it is the soft, humane creature that man actually wants to be. A threat which he aspires to be in its unaggressive form, causes his fear of falling into pieces to increase because of his aspiration and therefore increases his anger all the more.
This anger of man and his fear which he cannot even notice can also take on a class characteristic.
Let us look again at the statement made by a man who raped: “When it comes to having a relationship with a woman, I cannot feel myself special at all. I believe that I am not good enough to impress women. That is why, I find a woman from the lower classes and try to lower her more than she actually is, do you understand it? Because what I really want is a woman from the upper class. But I do not believe that I am good enough for these women to find me attractive.”
Rape, harassment, psychological violence and abuse, which are the plainest manifestations of male violence, find themselves a place in family most easily. Family provides the enraged man, who cannot deal with his fragility, with an environment where he can express his feelings and needs with such an ease which he would not be allowed to in any other place. Family is the only place where the man feels himself sufficiently secure and expresses his every feeling easily.
Family is also the place where the man compensates the violence, to which he is subjected at the workplace. Man is so impotent at his workplace that in the time period which belongs to him, he tries to have the feeling that he can control his life within family. Its result is pure male violence.
Yes, it is ‘male’ violence, but violence can gain functionality in the dualisms of activity - passivity, manhood - womanhood. Without one, the other cannot exist. Of course, I am not putting the blame on women here because they get beat up. I am also not presenting the men who inflict violence as the innocent victims of society.
What I am just trying to emphasize is that male violence against women has the function of dynamically affirming the manhood that can exist only by being different than womanhood. It is not to be forgotten that manhood needs to be constantly fed and approved so as to maintain its existence.
In fact, this approval is also possible in very different ways that are not related to violence. A vast majority of men do not tend to commit violence, rape or harassment anyway. Even if a great majority of us also used our superior physical strength or any form of physical violence or threat of violence in our youth or adulthood at least for once.
When those with a weak sense of self or a seriously negative self image cannot deal with the feelings of impotence in their daily lives, they do not hesitate to use iolence against women in order to protect or reconstruct their individual power in our heterosexist social system.
In fact, violence does nothing other than strengthening the feeling of impotence and the negative self image. As a result, the fragility of manhood increases, its artificiality becomes all the more manifest and the feeling of insecurity becomes stronger and stronger.
In one of his unforgettable novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” while the non-aging dictator is wandering through the infinite corridors of his palace, scuffing his fat feet, the stench of decay is felt steadily.
He cannot find a way out of the world of terror, sorrow and exhaustion that he has created himself anymore. The tragedy that he is condemned to is the obligation to live by eternally breathing this air which suffocates him and is away from vitality.
Do not we men also live a similar curse?
But, still, is there not a way to get out of this ‘male violence’ hell which does great damage to women, homosexuals, children and, of course, to us and which condemns life to disappear; is there really not a way out of all these artificialities about manhood? (AH/ŞA/APA/TK/SD)
52 MEN 52 WEEKS
"This campaign has been produced as part of Sivil Düşün EU Programme, with the support of European Union. The contents of this campaign are the sole responsibility of IPS Communication Foundation/ bianet and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
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Prof. Dr. Betül Tanbay Released 17 November 2018