Bad Man, Funny Girl

you-mean-a-woman-can-open-it 

“Is there a Mr. Patriarchy S. Infantalizer in the waiting room?” research assistant Jamie Jayne asked. “I want to make sure I have the name right.”

“That’s me, but you can just call me Patriarchy.”

“It’s so nice of you to join us all the way from the 19th century, Patriarchy. I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”

Patriarchy adjusted his waistcoat, twirled his waxed mustache and made a quick bow.

“Mr. Patriarchy,” Jamie said. “Please follow me to the first waiting room. I’d like to show you a couple of videos about domestic problems. Then I’ll have you express your -”

“Video?” Patriarchy asked.

“I’m sorry, I’d almost forgotten how outdated you are. We have some magic moving pictures to show you.”

“Not at all,” Patriarchy said. “I look forward to it.”

Jamie Jayne and Patriarchy S. Infantalizer walked together into the windowless, nearly empty room labeled “interview room #1.” A table with a microphone stood in the center, accompanied by one chair  Patriarchy twisted the frame of his monocle and puffed his pipe while Jamie checked the feed on the old, cheap television.

“Just wait here for a second, Mr. Patriarchy,” Jamie said. “I’m going to show you the magic pictures on this box.” Jamie points to the T.V. “Then, after you’ve had a minute to think, I’d like you to speak into the microphone here.”

Jamie then left to welcome the next guest. Femnitude McModernity wore her hair in neatly kept dreadlocks over a power suit and finished her look with a set of square rimmed glasses. Jamie Jayne rushed to shake Femnitude McModernity’s hand.

“Femnitude, old friend” Jamie said. “It’s such an honor to have you here. I am so looking forward to your thoughts on these videos I’ve prepared. You see, I’ve invited Patriarchy W. Infantalizer from the 19th century, and I’m excited to listen as you show us all how far we’ve come with regard to gender relations.”

“I’m sure we can do that,” Femnitude said. “But I’m afraid we’ve not beaten misogyny in the modern world as much as we think.”

“Only one way to find out,” Jamie Jayne said. “Just take a seat here, in interview room #2. I’ll be in a third room, switching back and forth between you and Patriarchy, but you won’t be able to hear each other. Relax and have fun.”

Jamie Jayne clicked on the microphone and spoke to Patriarchy Infantalizer over the connection.

“Patriarchy, can you see the magic pictures clearly?”

“Ah yes, quite fascinating,” he said, speaking into the television. Luckily, the microphone is sensitive enough to pick him up regardless.

“All right, Patriarchy, this is a video of a man and his wife arguing outside a market. Please let me know your opinions.”

The T.V. flickered and revealed the following scene:

“What do you think of this?” Jamie asked.

“Absolutely horrific,” Patriarchy said. “The brutal way that beastly (long string of 19th racist Social Darwinism deleted) man beat his wife is demonstrative of truly low (long string of racist 19th century Social Darwinism deleted) he is!”

“What, specifically makes you think this is so wrong? Is the woman not equally adult, equally human? In other words, is this not a fight between equals?”

Patriarchy laughed so hard his pipe flew out of his mouth.

“Equal! Ha! Everyone from the 19th century knows that women are weak and infantile! Equality! My Lord, what incredible nonsense!”

Patriarchy took a moment to collect himself and then turned serious.

“The lack of equality is precisely why the beating you just showed me is so reprehensible. It’s like watching any of the varieties of cruelty where a higher species pointlessly abuses a lower species. That man, as a consequence of being a man, is stronger, intellectually higher and fully responsible for his actions. The woman, as a consequence of her femininity, is weak, childlike and incapable of responsibility. What you’ve just shown me is no more sporting or fair than a cat toying with a mouse or woman beating an infant. I’m appalled, truly repulsed by that display of savagery against a helpless woman. Pardon me, I was repetitive, helplessness is a property of womankind. Helpless woman is thus a redundancy.”

“Thank you for your thoughts, Patriarchy,” Jamie Jayne said. “I’m going to switch our connection off briefly while I speak with another of our guests.”

The switch clicked and Jamie readied to record Femnitude McModernity’s opinions.

“Are you there, Femnitude?”

“Yes,” she said. “Though I must say I’m really disturbed by what I’ve just seen.”

“Why?” Jamie asked.

“Violence against women is positively beastly. Millions of women everyday are victimized in the exact same way. That brutal man is a monster and should be locked up for a very long time. What an evil, evil man.”

Jamie checked the notes from Patriarchy’s interview. Jamie wanted to make sure Femnitude got the same questions.

“What, specifically, makes you think this is so wrong? Isn’t the woman equally adult, equally human? In other words, didn’t we just watch a fight between equals?”

“A fight between equals?” Femnitude asked. “You can’t be serious. You must know that there’s thousands of pages of research showing just how strong the abusers are and how trapped the victims are. We can never assign responsibility to the victims in these situations, NEVER! I’m actually a little offended by this question. We need to encourage women to come forward and holding them responsible for remaining in abusive situations is just going to push them back under the domination of abusive men. Like when the woman in that video tries to protect her abuser from the crowd, we shouldn’t hold that against her. The victim is, as a consequence of being a victim, never responsible. The abusive man is the only one with responsibility in these situations.”

She paused to emphasize her sense of outrage.

“Hold the abused woman equally responsible! What bullshit. Women are fundamentally helpless to make men do anything.

“Thank you for your thoughts, Femnitude. I’m going to switch back to Patriarchy for this next video.”

Patriarchy was still poking the monitor screen when Jamie addressed him.

“Mr. Infantalizer,” Jamie said.  “This is another magic picture. Just like the first time around, I’m going to ask you for your opinions when it’s finished.”

“I certainly hope it isn’t as savage as that first magic picture,” Patriarchy said. “I’m still upset about that man’s dishonorable treatment of his lessers, if I’m honest.”

The T.V. clicked onto this video:

“What good sport!” Patriarchy says. “Those minstrels sure put on a great show! Hip-hip hooray! Encore! Encore!”

“Doesn’t the violence of the woman against the man bother you?” Jamie asked.

“Of course not! Haha, what could a woman ever do to a man? Cook his food improperly? Delay the laundry? Hahaha! What sort of a fool would take violence from a woman seriously? Some of your magic moving pictures are monuments to absurdity, my friend!”

Jamie switched over to Femnitude McModernity’s feed and asked the same question.

“Well, that was pretty funny,” McModernity says. “In order to pay lip service to the ideal of equality, I have to say that the young lady was wrong, but I do admire the fighting spirit. I do wonder what the man did to make her flip out that way? He must have done something, after all. Women don’t just attack men for no reason. That’s not an excuse, but I’m sure the man had at least some responsibility. In fact, we should probably invite the attacker to explain herself in a woman’s magazine puff-piece that complements her strength so we can get the story in her own words. Actually, I think I know what it was and, frankly, if the man doesn’t want to get smacked, he needs to stop sexually tempting other women. Whatever the outcome, it was pretty funny.

Jamie flipped a third switch, allowing the research assistant to speak to both guests at the same time.

“Thank you both for participating in my study. I’ve learned a lot. Please travel safely and I hope to see you again soon.”

As the guests got up and headed for the doors, Jamie Jayne looked down at the notebook and wrote the following:

“19th century patriarchal beliefs – Women are incapable of responsibility in situations of abuse and should be protected due to their inherent powerlessness. Abusive men are solely responsible for violence. Female on male violence is a joke.

21st century feminism – see above.”

I want to emphasize that I am not a so-called masculinist – mostly because I find the notion of someone else thinking of me as a victim humiliating and repulsive and partly because I think the movement is silly. I join most of the world in shuddering at images of male on female violence and laughing at female on male violence. If you want to see why, on a philosophical level, I’m both okay with the double standard and frustrated with the current justifications for said double standard, please click here.

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15 comments

  1. Men are physically stronger than women, and the first video of the man assaulting the woman broke my heart. After the crowd that came to her rescue go to their homes, she will have to return to hers, the one she shares with her husband, I presume. There, in private, I suppose a script like this will play out: he will verbally abuse her for humiliating him in public. Then he will beat her to a pulp. With no crowd to save her, she will be lucky to still be alive. Perhaps, that’s one reason she was dissuading the crowd.

    Equal opportunity and economic empowerment of women give them options to not return to situations like these. Of course there are many other dynamics at play. But “empowered” women can work alongside others to help change the way society thinks about domestic violence and to promulgate laws that protect victims and punishes offenders.

    I do not subscribe to men beating women or vice-versa. I didn’t laugh at the second video. We would do well to settle our issues without getting physical.

    Ben, I think I see what you’re trying to do here. I’ll have to read your philosophical justifications later 🙂

    1. Thanks for swinging by. 🙂

      I’m writing stuff like this because I think the discourse on gender relations is really, really dishonest. The idea that men and women are completely equal is fine, and laudable, but that means women no longer get a pass for being weak/dependent. The idea that women are delicate, incapable of responsibility and deserving of special protection is fine, but that means they aren’t equal.

      The traditional trade off has been basically this:
      a) Men do dangerous things and die frequently but get to call the shots.
      b) Women are basically powerless but don’t have to get massacred in feudal land grabs.

      This traditional system is breaking down, as it should. I just hope what we end up building in its place makes sense.

      1. In my view, a man’s life carries as much worth as a woman’s life; both lives equally worthy. Just as all players in a heterogeneous team complement and balance each other with their strengths and weaknesses, so men and women can complement one another.

        Are we prepared to do an ‘honest’ appraisal of strength and weaknesses?

        What is equality? What does it look like? Is there an ideal? Kudos to you for pointing out the flaws or unanswered questions as we transition from traditional models to modern ones.

      2. Hmm. I’m not sure men are worth as much as women. We’ve spent an awful lot of time evolving in situations where males are easily replaceable and females aren’t.

        Thanks for your thoughts. You always provide interesting conversation. 🙂

  2. Part of the problem is all this nonsense about gender roles being socially constructed. A woman dressed provocatively and going alone to a predominantly male drinking party is therefore not responsible in any way for what follows.The contrary view that gender roles are biologically determined throws the onus on women to be careful not to get into that type of situation. It goes without saying that men are still responsible for their behavior despite their biological predispositions.

    1. I agree. I think that a woman should feel safe going to a drinking party in a bikini, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

      I hope, in the future, we find a balance were women are expected to take more responsibility and men are freer to be “feminine” if they prefer.

      The stuff about blameless victims is, I think, incredibly sexist in its assumptions.

    2. I appreciate the judicious perspective, MG. It’s a call to sense and wisdom on both sides. And Ben, I believe I understand what you meant, that she (nor should anyone) be fearful: ” I think that a woman should feel safe going to a drinking party in a bikini, but I wouldn’t recommend it.” But in the context you paint, no, this diddlehead shouldn’t feel safe.

      1. There’s a fundamental, logical problem in the ways we deal with gender, in my opinion. Until we truthfully address the problems of absolute or near absolute equality (and there are many), I don’t think we’ll have an answer that makes sense.

      2. The fundamental question feminists have gotten wrong and then springboarded off is in confusing “equal” with “same”. These are not synonyms. Men and women can be (and are) different while equal. Of course societies haven’t acknowledged this, and so I understand the need to fight for rights. S. Korea, in fact, has the lowest glass ceiling for women in all the Asian countries. My friend who knew a PhD or other when she lived out there learned the stats from his studies. Korea pays women 60% that it does the men for the same job. So there are definitely terrible indignities against women but people on the whole seem to confuse the meaning of equality.

      3. I agree, but the obvious answer to women and men being different is a separate but equal treatment. This is understandably a scary path to travel.

        Actually, about Korea, one of the things that’s changing that glass ceiling is competition with foreign firms. Ford, Tesco etc are poaching cheaper women employees and getting a big advantage in Korea.

      4. Clarify the poaching….? They’re bringing them into Korea from elsewhere?

      5. They prioritize hiring Korean women who would otherwise be blocked by sexism. It’s a great way to get high quality, cheap labor for the foreign firms.

      6. AH. Have mixed feelings on that as a KOREAN WOMAN ha ha ha, but hey, it’s as it is in dating. Outsiders gotta encroach for the Korean dudes to realize what they had all along. Ping: go for it, B!

        =)

      7. It’s a first step. The first women get hired for cheap, but then they help the foreign firms outcompete the local firms. At that point, the foreign firms have to pay more or lose those ass-kicking women to both other foreign firms and the local firms that are learning how bad a policy it is to ignore talent.

        Despite the Confucian stereotype, the modern Korean worker isn’t all that loyal to the first company to hire him/her.

        🙂

      8. Hey, ya gotta know your worth. ^ ^

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