Sunday, 12 June 2016

Is Violence A Patriarchal Thing?

Hate Speech On The Internet
This post was going to be about Brock Turner, rape culture, and how social attitudes help shape the minds of people who carry out such heinous deeds, but the Orlando shootings just changed its direction. I've realised that the violence inherent in rape culture is not confined to rape culture; violence or abuse to "correct" behaviour extends to anyone or anything that challenges the norms of our patriarchal society. Let's take a closer look.

**Warning: I do NOT pull my punches. If you're particularly sensitive or easily offended, hit the back button now.**

Today's big story is the worst mass shooting in America. Needless to say, there will be talk along the lines of "NOW can we have some reasonable, proportionate limits on gun ownership, i.e. don't let nutbuckets have them" followed by "Gun sale now on. Get 'em quick before Obammy takes 'em off ya!" followed by "It never happened, it was all staged/faked/permitted to bring gun control laws in." Sandy Hook denial is already a thing, in case you're wondering. It's even got its own Cracked article.

Alleged proof of Sandy Hook shooting being fake
Click to enlarge

So, then, what has the Patriarchy got to do with this? There are three factors involved:

  1. Status quo
  2. Control
  3. Collaborators

1. The status quo

When people talk about "values" they often mean "accepted norms," by which they mean "tradition: that's the way we've always done things." I do it too since I am basically conservative. However, when people excuse, deny, or flat out cheer on violent or abusive behaviour towards [$group] they do it to maintain the status quo, and for the most part that means our patriarchal society in all its unequal unfairness.

The problem with the patriarchy

The problem with the patriarchy today is that they commodify and infantilise us, then demand that we take responsibility for their decisions and actions. They've reneged on the contract they made to provide for and protect us because we dared to ask for the right to have a say in our own lives. How did this happen?

This goes all the way back to the cave: back in the day men and women had a deal: "Me hunt mammoth, you cook mammoth, make clothes, give me lovin', care for kids." They had a deal. He did the hunting, she did the gathering, etc. and it worked. However, as society progressed from "chasing wildlife" to "agrarian village life" the role of the woman remained pretty much the same. The man was still expected to provide, this time by doing the heavy work while she turned that into food and clothes. As villages grew into towns and cities people began to specialise and the artisan class (arguably the early middle class!) arose. As society began to organise and the beginnings of bureaucracy were taking shape, the woman, who could easily throw pots or learn to read and write, was expected to remain at home with the kids, making meals and mending clothes. Why? That's how things had always been done. No one ever questioned it. That the cave was now a house made no difference; it had always been the man's job to provide for his family. The need to find a provider/protector in a world where relegation to home-making had commodified women reduced us to chattels and there we remained until some of us began to push back.


Patriarchal culture is a binary proposition that only allows for a male-dominated family. There's no room for anything that doesn't fit in with that. Feisty feminism and LGBT or anything of that ilk have no place in a patriarchal society. To understand the violence of the Orlando shootings you have to understand the callous indifference of Brock Turner. They're branches of the same tree.

2. Control

The narcissistic patriarchy we have today bears little resemblance to the traditional model. They've broken their contract with women because we demanded a say in our own lives. But why did we even do that in the first place? Because their endless destructive wars were sending our menfolk back with catastrophic injuries if they survived at all. If they didn't we were pretty much left to fend for ourselves. Women had few rights; if we suffered rape we were expected to commit suicide to protect the honour of our families — these days we risk being murdered by them. But why?

The honour angle

Being chattels means we have no rights. We are supposedly under the care of male guardians subject to their competence at guardianship. If they fail at this, they look bad, hence the honour angle. Attitudes like this explain why retaliatory rape is a thing. It also explains why the shame of rape is shoveled on to the victim: no one wants to admit to being an incompetent guardian; better to blame the victim for not doing enough to prevent the attack. This frees predators up to abuse us at will: if it's our fault, why blame them?

The power of fear

I've seen feminists get angry on social media when people suggest that women take precautions to reduce their exposure to situations where they might be at risk from predators, e.g. not getting drunk. The argument is that we shouldn't be obliged to feel the tickle of fear's fingertips brushing the hairs on the backs of our necks every day of our lives. I get that, but rapists gonna rape, so be safe, my friends.

The sexual imperative

But why are they "gonna"? I've believed since I was fourteen that it's some kind of warped hunting instinct that they indulge for the thrill of it. That doesn't adequately explain it, nor does it excuse it; most men manage to behave themselves. The ones that don't appear to be afraid of not being in a position of power or privilege. As I've mentioned before the sexual imperative is a major, under-discussed issue, and it is involved in rape whether we're willing to admit it or not. And yes, it is part of having power over someone; virgin-shaming is a thing. If Brock Turner was expected to score on the night of the party where he attacked his victim, the pressure of that expectation — his own and that of his social circle — may have contributed to his predatory attitude and behaviours that night. Or he's just a petty gimp whose dad is in denial.

"Honour" violence

Fear plays a major role in patriarchal culture; perpetrators are afraid to not commit their crimes in case they are perceived as sexually or even morally deficient and violent acts are used to make an example of victims in order to enforce conformity. How terrifying can it be when the people who ought to protect you are the ones you're most afraid of?

3. Collaborators

As I've explained before, authoritarianism is fueled by fear. People who wish to gain or maintain prestige or influence in their communities have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo — or promising to do so. This is why women — even those who, by virtue of their professions as doctors or lawyers ought to know better —are often found engaging in the kind of thinking that is detrimental to themselves and to other women. I've seen women defending the Steubenville attackers saying the victim shouldn't have got drunk. And in some darkened corners the knuckle-draggers are merrily "'tis a pity she's a whore"-ing over the Stanford assault.

Steubenville V Stanford

I have to say it's harder to find slut-shaming comments in the search results over the Stanford case than over Steubenville. I daresay people are learning the lessons of that horrible incident because the backlash and debate were intense. Even when I do see comments of the "just an angry chick" variety, the counter-speech is right in there. That really does give me hope that our society can change. The collaborators must continue to be challenged, though. That Brock sent pictures of his victim to his friends (who didn't know what he was up to) makes it seem likely that he thought he'd get support from them. However, the backlash is being sustained.

The East Bay Times reports that "at least 10 prospective jurors" refused to participate in Judge Aaron Persky's next trial in protest at the cozy 6-month sentence (out in 12 weeks) he gave Stanford rapist Brock Turner. - Prospective jurors refuse to serve under rapist-friendly judge Aaron Persky, by Rob Beschizza for Boing Boing.

We need more than jurors refusing to work with a judge, hate mail to the judge, etc. That is not the way to solve the rape culture problem. Persky is the symptom, not the cause. We each need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what we're doing to address rape culture. Are we willing to call people out for making apologist comments? Are we willing to address our own collaborative attitudes? Beating up a few token bad guys won't sort this out, we need to get right down to the roots; patriarchal attitudes, the sexual imperative and the commodification of women are the problem here. Let's deal with that.

Pride and prejudice

The United States suffered the worst mass shooting in its modern history early Sunday morning when 50 people were killed and 53 injured in Orlando, Fla., after a gunman stormed into a packed gay nightclub, officials said. - Orlando nightclub shooting: 50 killed, 53 injured; gunman identified as Omar Mateen, by

It could have been a lot worse. A similar incident has been averted.

Authorities in Santa Monica found possible explosives as well as a cache of weapons and ammunition Sunday in the car of a man who told them he planned to look for a friend at the L.A. Pride festival in West Hollywood, a law enforcement source said. - Man with weapons and explosives identified, 'wanted to harm' L.A. gay pride parade, chief says, by


Our society is changing. We've already learned the lessons of Steubenville and applied it to Stanford. We're more accepting of diversity in our populations. We are challenging attitudes and this is working. One thing is certain: the patriarchy needs to either grow up and get a job or get out of the way. As it is, it causes more problems than it solves. We must continue to challenge harmful attitudes until we see real, lasting change. And we can, it's happening now. Let's keep it up.

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