Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Man-hating

I have been wanting to write about male violence within activist scenes for a number of weeks. I haven't known where to start. So I thought I'd talk a little bit about my personal experience

I feel very hesitant about these snapshots. This blog is semi-anonymous, but I am not - most people in my life know about this blog. There would be few left-wing activists in the country who couldn't find out who I was if really they wanted to. If I wrote seriously about my experience of male violence against women within the activist scenes then a lot of other people would be identifiable as well.

I'm anonyminising this up as best as I can.

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New Zealand is small - travel is easy - you can have a national weekend or conference for almost anything - and we do. This weekend was one of many that I've spent in similar circumstances, speeches, workshops, and all the most interesting conversations happening in their corridors.

I was hosting a whole bunch of people in my house, because I had some space. I was working on my thesis at the time, so I didn't go out with them on the Saturday night.

I knew before I woke up that something was wrong - the house had been noisy at the wrong times and quiet at the wrong times. A man had told one of the women who was staying with me that he had no place to stay. He did have a place to stay, and he'd deliberately not been billeted with any women - but I didn't know that, and neither did the woman who invited him back. When back at my house he had tried to rape a woman who had already gone to bed.

One man heard her, got up and beat the shit out of the rapist - I've never felt more grateful to anyone in my entire life.

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A friend wanted me to come to a feminist meeting, I didn't really know the people so I didn't want to come, but I did. It was being held in a woman's house - I couldn't put a face to the woman's name, but when I met her I knew that I'd seen her around.

She had two black eyes - her boyfriend had hit her. She said that they'd been play fighting and he didn't know his own strength. She said he felt terrible.

She hadn't left the house since it happened. She wanted to spend the meeting talking about the abuse we'd suffered at the hands of men.

Whenver I think of this story, often when I think of him, I feel my failure like a weight. We did what she asked that night, we talked about male violence against women. But I didn't offer her anything more. It's a kind of arrogance, to think it would have made a difference - that something I said could changed her reality.

Still I wonder what else I could have done.

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Right at the time I met that woman, her boyfriend was busy using his position within the political scene to defend a rapist.

I wish I could say the two stories I have told are the only times I have had to deal with a male violence and abuse within activist scenes, but they're not. I have known too many men who claim to be fighting oppression, but exclude the women they're abusing from that fight.

I think it's fantastic whenever a woman can talk about the abuse she has experienced. But whenever it does happen a bit inside of my sinks, and feels a lot like a bowl of petunias. Because I've seen too much to expect anything, but to be disappointed by the reactions of men.

It's not the rapists, abusers, or men, that make you despair of men as a group. I know that violent men exist, and they're not all cops, or other unsavory types. I've learned, I guess every woman learns, that they may be people I know.

What leads me to despair, is the men who support, cover up, minimise and defend abusive and violent men. I've known so many men who have choosen an abusive man over the woman he abused.

I'm left with this deep sense of disease and distrust. Because too many men hear tales of abuse and rape and automatically put themselves in the place of the abuser. Everytime a man does that I feel a little bit less safe around him, I wonder a little more about his past.

Our standards are so ridiculously low, but men fail again and again. If a man who has been abusive acknowledged what he did was wrong (ideally before he was outted, but I'm beyond hoping for that), took action to change that, and didn't talk trash about the woman involved, then I'd be so shocked I'd probably stop being angry.

From men who have never abused a woman all I want right now is that they will choose a woman who has been abused over a man who abused her.

It doesn't seem like asking much, but it seems impossible to get, and what little we do get needs to be constantly fought for. So while hate is too strong, I do distrust men. I wish I didn't have to, but there's only so many times you can be surprised.

I am probably going to try and write more posts inspired by my recent experiences. It's difficult to do so without being too vague to be useful, but I've got some things to say.

Comment Moderating: If I doubt your sincere commitment to eliminating male violence against women and creating a free and equal society then I will delete your post and ban you from my blog.

8 comments:

  1. I know some guys who are disrespectful to women but I don’t think I know any (no guys I have been friendly with) who abuse them although I’m sure they would try to hide it if they did and I would try to avoid them if I knew it. Maybe that would be somthing you might have some skill at picking?

    Also I know that several would make terrible bf's or husbands. But not in violent sense. (some in a cheating sense and some in a 'low level of caring' sense).

    I did have a friend some time ago who was abused by a bf who was the bad type you could tell from a mile away. I'm inclined to think that some people just exude a "I can use violence and dominance to get my way"

    I think with some effort you can pick those people (not blaming anyone but them of course).

    I was in a night club once and I saw a guy walking through the crowd and I said to the girl was with "lets move away from that guy". I saw another guy in the crowd and thought.. hmm better stay away from him too...

    shortly after they moved like magnets towards each other bumped and started fighting.

    Pity anyone who was related to or lived with or near those guys.

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  2. I got a bit of a shock reading this. It surprising how time doesn't change some things much.

    Some of my other experiences are percolating in my mind too - the left wing activist group (which I wasn't involved with) that had a
    mini-tribunal about domestic abuse between two of their activists, and
    found in favour of the abuser; the woman I know who chose a manipulative and emotionally abusive man over female friends; the men who have covered up and made excuses for other men they know are "weak".

    It's hard sometimes when the secrets we know about abuse are those of other people. What can we do to show our opposition without breaking trust, without taking power from the very person who has been disempowered by the abuse?

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  3. Anonymous9:59 am

    Mates over chicks - pretty simple concept isn't it??

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  4. Men need to realise that by excusing the violence of their friends, they put themselves under suspicion. Perhaps their reasoning is that they could find themselves in the same circumstance as their abuser friends.

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  5. Anonymous8:33 am

    The immediate cause of violence (from observing women’s violence as opposed to men) seems to often be an 'understandable' escalation - from being upset about something and trying various strategies with growing frustration. Just one side (or both I guess) just doesn't stop when the next step is punching the other person or kicking them (maybe starting with not full force punches to arms and followed by accidentally hard ones). In one sense it is just a tiny step although it is obviously crossing a line.

    What that means is that an observer can be firmly on one side or the other about the argument saying 'they shouldn't have crossed the line - but the other one was both wrong and did all the escalating!" I would say the important root cause, however, is that they are the type of person who does cross that line.

    Besides that, I do remember one tale a friend told me that you might like - or possibly might find disturbing.....
    She had a bf (who I never met) who I don’t think was usually violent but he hit her once. Bad move for him because she’s not exactly weak and she hit him in the throat and broke/damaged his windpipe (requiring a trip to the hospital).

    GeniusNZ

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  6. It seems that, in our "advanced" but not so enlightened society, all patriarchs are considered inexpendable as society's pillars. So you will not get many people capable of critising an abusive man without feeling like they are lowering their own flag, denigrating the essential values of their own society, and depriving themselves of socially-based hope. Sad but true. Militant ignorance abounds because men are seen as necessary for running this society, and there is a strong dislike of censuring men for being "men".

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  7. I posted something earlier but it disappeared;

    The crimes, abuses and atrocities that men have committed against women, without being brought to justice, are truly abhorrent. I am embarrassed, outraged and sick-to-the-stomach when I read and hear about the sorts of things Maia has experienced and described in her post.

    I myself have heard blokes talk about women in the most offensive manner, and I am guilty of having sat there with my mouth shut and done absolutely nothing.

    When I was 19 I listened to a young university hostel student talk about how he loved to corrupt Christian virgins, and I did nothing. I felt like decking him but I did nothing.

    When I played in a certain Massey University rugby team in my 5th year, while in the changing sheds I had to listen to guys talk about their experiences with Asian prostitutes - and again, I sat there and did nothing.

    Recently I sat in a pub and listened to a cocky young 18 year old talk about how he was f***ing the daughter of a well-reputed professional and Christian man in our town. And again, I did nothing.

    OK, these guys weren't rapists in the eyes of the law, but in their hearts they were certainly nothing less.

    Personally, I haven't manipulated anyone into the sack, so to speak, but I have manipulated young women for other, more (apparently) innocent pleasures, which may seem simple and innocent to some but in reality are still manipulation and improper behaviour, and I repent. I often feel like I should apologise personally to those involved but conclude that they're probably well over it and it wouldn't mean anything if I did.

    I am sorry, I am guilty of being a guy who sits apathetically, pathetically, and does nothing to confront the sorts of evil Maia talks about. I am a man who in the past has manipulated women for the sake of my own pleasure. I am sorry, and I vow to act differently in future.


    It is so lame that us men have not had the balls to stand up and confront the abuse that goes on. It is totally understandable that men are hated as much as they are today. I'm glad Maia's friend beat the sh** out of that rapist, and I'm glad that she appreciated it.

    I hope that more men snap out of it and do something about the terrible standard of behaviour among Kiwi blokes today. I hope that Maia gets to meet some of those men, and is shocked into actually being able to like some of us. In the meantime, Maia, keep doing what you do and telling Kiwi blokes exactly what you think of them. We need to hear it.

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  8. cellycell7:34 pm

    I had an experience recently that makes me realise how much I love my friends, both male and female.

    My best friend came out of an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. I lived with them in a sharehouse, and it was horrible, he would yell at her, and yell at her until she was crying, and then keep going because he knew he'd made her upset.

    Almost everyone in that circle of friends knew and liked both people involved. I avoided talking to him as soon as I was able to. (i.e as soon as I wasn't living with him anymore.) though other friends at first tried to remain on good terms with both people involved in the relationship.

    There came to be a point where they realised the couldn't defend both friends. The abusive boy took any situation he was able to, and would insult her horribly. He would come to her house, or social events which they were both invited to, and he would insult her to her face, calling her fat, calling her a slut, calling her a bitch.

    Nobody could excuse his actions. Slowly but surely, all my friends have stopped talking to him, he's not welcome in many of their houses anymore.

    Almost everyone I know, when given a choice, chose to side with the woman who had been abused. Pretty much all my male friends did so as well.

    None of us are in any way activists, and I would say that only two of us (the abused woman, and myself) has ever read anything written by feminists, yet almost everyone decided that they couldn't tolerate the abusive boys actions, despite his otherwise friendly and fun seeming nature.

    Maybe, just maybe there's some hope in this world.

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