Women, Defer to Men to End Violence

Connecticut School ShootingWhy the talk about how women can keep men from raping and killing women and first-graders? Stay home, dress modestly, defer to men…

Not long ago Christy Wampole suggested the latter in a New York Times piece.

Unclear why she thinks men, generally, need deference. Really, the problem lies with guys in need of mental health care or a good dose of respect for women. And they are a far cry from deserving deference from anyone.

Her point resonates with antifeminists like Suzanne Venker, who claim that the natural order is “man on top” and insist that women must boost men to their rightful place.

If it’s so natural, why must women twist themselves into knots trying to make men feel superior? And if violent men are superior why would they lash out so childishly when no one is bolstering their self-esteem?

Even more oddly, this particular antifeminst looks very much like an actual feminist, complete with a high-profile writing career. Of course, she makes a lot of money “saying the misogynist things that her right wing male audience wants to say but is afraid will damage their already weak sexual prospects,” says Amanda Marcotte.

But let’s say that women actually took the bait. Would it work?

In both India and Egypt rape and sexual harassment are epidemic, despite women’s deference in those patriarchal places.

In fact, high levels of violence, rape and battering accompany high levels of patriarchy.

My earliest college experience was in the patriarchal culture of Brigham Young University. There, “coed jokes” — jokes about female students – were common.

What’s the difference between a coed and the trash?

The trash gets taken out once a week.

The jokes were pervasive, and sometimes told at the start of class. They were all about women being unattractive.

I did not feel proud to be a woman when I was there. In a place where women gladly upheld patriarchy and would one day willingly obey their husbands, I wondered how much more deference these guys needed to feel ok about themselves and stop demeaning women.

So much for deferring to men to get them to treat you decently.

Meanwhile, experts on masculinity like Michael Kimmel, Jackson Katz and Hugo Schwyzer call on men to take greater responsibility to end violence. They know that men are capable of being their best selves and needn’t be coddled.

In a piece entitled “Poor Pitiful Dudes: Why You Should Defer to Men with Post-Patriarchal Depression,” Prof. Schwyzer warily points out that we too often bow down to those we fear in hopes of placating them.

Just like other terrorists.

In another piece he talks of misogynist men who are angry at women for not giving them sex when they are nice to them. He says that their rage may make them dangerous to women, and “For that reason alone, we shouldn’t make men’s pain into women’s problem to solve.”

Social Psych 101: don’t buckle to terrorists, it just encourages them.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 18, 2013, in women. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. It is baffling sometimes how wrong we can get things. Many of the things we take for granted as true are actually the opposite of right!
    Men are only on top from one perspective – and that perspective has developed into the exploitation of the majority for the greed of the powerful few. Why do we assume might, law, money and power are the right way when we continue to see so much evidence of the pain they cause?
    Equally – as you point out, where women defer more, and cover-up more, violence against women increases – yet idiots still tout the idea that immodesty is the cause of sexual violence.
    Simple thought experiment. If women were entirely in charge and men in fearful awe of them, would this make it easier for men to attack them? I think not.

  2. Thanks for another fine thought-inciting post. In my personal experience with poorly behaved and bad tempered guys back in college, the more I deferred the more abuse I got. Now that I think about it, the deferential tactic works this way with bosses and out-of-control children, too.

    I enjoy what you write. Keep it up.

  3. Damn straight! It is the sole responsibility of the violent party to stop their own violence, there is no justification for rape, or physical or psychological abuse toward women. A woman can accept an expensive dinner, agree to sex and then change her mind at the last minute, there is still zero justification for sex.

    Morons think that by taking someone out they have essentially paid for the sex in advance and are free to then indulge in the sex regardless of the protestations of the woman. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Except in the case of prostitution, where terms are agreed, sex is not a commodity. No one “owes” a man, or woman for that matter, sex. Sex occurs when two people consensually agree to engage in intimacy at the time, and for the full duration of the intercourse.

    A man, or woman can say STOP half way through the act if they wish and the other person MUST respect their decision to stop, any continuation is rape. No excuses, no justifications. How can people not understand this very simple concept?!

    Great post as usual 🙂


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