I’ve read Patricia Pearson’s When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence (the original subtitle was How and Why Women Get Away With Murder), which explores our cultural ideas about women and power and violence. Culturally, we absolutely hate to acknowledge that women are capable of horrific violence, and can mete out violence without mercy or remorse. That violates some deeply held beliefs about women and femininity – I certainly understand the depth of those feelings!
I will give feminism some credit for being willing to explore our sexist and prejudiced assumptions about women and violence, but it absolutely must be pointed out that feminism will only engage in criticism of these ideas when they stand to benefit: feminists will cling desperately to stereotypes about women and violence when it is in their interest to do so.
For example, feminists will argue that women should be firefighters on the grounds that they are just as strong and capable and brave as men (even though they’re not, and can’t pass the fitness test).
They will argue that women should be permitted to join elite fighting units and be eligible for front line combat on the grounds that women are just as capable of wielding weapons and delivering violence and death as men. Feminists reject any notion that women will be paralyzed or frightened by the horrific violence of combat simply by virtue of the fact they are women: individuals might experience paralyzing fear, but that is a feature of specific individuals, and not women on the whole. Women should be police officers, because they can quell violence or apprehend uncooperative suspects with the same ability as men. They aren’t going to quiver with fear and wait for someone to rescue them. Women should be able to take on any physical challenge than men can take on and deal with the emotional and psychological repercussions of those challenges.
According to feminists, women are capable, tough, strong, resilient and perfectly able to deliver violence from mild to extreme levels, as long as there is a paycheck involved.
But, the minute the paycheck disappears, the strong, capable, resilient, magnificently violent woman disappears. Domestic violence is the perfect example of this phenomenon: when it comes to domestic violence, women are terrified, paralyzed, frightful, insecure innocents who can’t possibly engage in violence the same way men can.
So which is it? Are women strong, capable and perfectly able to engage in violence, or are they gentle, meek souls who would never lift a finger against anyone, unless driven to it by extreme duress or threat? I imagine feminists try to have it both ways when it comes to domestic violence and military women: women can be soldiers because they can kick ass and pull triggers with the best of the men, but when that solider goes home and gets beaten up by her husband and boyfriend, somehow she magically loses all her abilities and is merely an innocent victim of male violence and entitlement?
Thanks to my delightful mother, there has never been a moment in my life that I didn’t understand the violence women are capable of – it always makes me laugh when people suggest that if women ran the world, it would be all cupcakes and rainbow glitter and hugs for everyone! I sincerely doubt you would enjoy living in a world my mother controlled. And my mother is far from alone. Going back to that Jezebel article, if you give women the power to hit men without consequence, they take it and use it, quite gleefully. I am still leaning towards a biological explanation for why men don’t hit back (protecting women and children is written into men’s DNA), but not all men are subject to biology and some of them will hit back, and hard.
If women can face down and fight back against violent criminals and male soldiers on a battlefield, why can’t they face down and fight back against domestic abusers? The only way I can see out of this dilemma is to treat both women and men as human beings, first and foremost. Specific women can train to be Navy SEALS and cut throats without compunction, and specific women are terrified of any violence, and you can’t tell which is which on the basis of gender alone. This means, inevitably, that initiatives like VAWA and the Duluth Model are wrong to use gender as an important variable in determining who was the aggressor and who was the victim. It comes down to the individual people involved. There are plenty of men who could not cut another person’s throat, no matter what the circumstances, and plenty of women who could.
There is no way to have this both ways: if women in general are incapable of real violence, then women can’t be soldiers or police officers or FBI agents or ATF agents or firefighters or any occupation that requires strenuous use of force, including violence. If women can indeed choose occupations that include varying levels of violence and use of force, then they can’t automatically be considered the victims in domestic violence situations.
My thoughts are continuing to evolve on this subject, and even though I think that men and women are not equals, especially with regards to domestic violence, I am veering strongly towards the legal presumption of absolute equality. The legal presumption that men are aggressors and women are victims means that a man challenging his DV charges has to litigate: that is expensive and time-consuming, which means a whole of men (especially poor or working class men) will accept the charges, and then get added into the ‘violent men’ database to justify more draconian laws against them.
This is exactly how women control custody of children: there is no law stating that women are to be given primary custody, but the assumption that women are the primary and better caregivers and deserve custody means that fathers who want to challenge that assumption have to litigate: again, very, very expensive and time-consuming. Feminists fight tooth and nail against the legal presumption of shared parenting, because the onus would be reversed: any woman or man wanting to challenge shared custody would have to prove that the other parent was unfit. The legal presumption of shared custody would do a great deal more to identify abusive parents than our current situation, where a mere accusation is enough to overturn any hope of shared parenting. If you are a man or woman with a truly abusive spouse, and you are facing the possibility of your children spending 50% of their time with an abuser, you will damn well make sure you have evidence to prove your allegations and you will likely move heaven and earth to keep those children safe. If you’re simply a vindictive asshole who wants to hurt your former spouse, that will come out in litigation.
So, even though I genuinely believe there is a difference between men hitting women and women hitting men, I don’t think the law should reflect anything other than the presumption of legal equality. When cases arise in which one person is clearly the aggressor, and one person is clearly the abused, let litigation sort that out on a case by case basis. The alternative is to deny the basic humanity of both men and women, and that’s not good for anyone.
Well, it’s good for feminists, cashing checks on the backs of abused women while throwing abused men under the bus.
But screw them.
Lots of love,