Tag Archives: misogyny

The Language of Gender Violence

Add to RSS feed
Facebook
Twitter
Follow by Email
Google+
https://laurietobyedison.com/body-impolitic-blog/tag/misogyny">
Pinterest

Laurie says:

The language that used to define and describe violence against women and children infuriates me.

I’ve been planning to post about it. I just had my attention brought Jackson Katz’s talk at Middlebury College in Vermont and it’s brilliant. He spoke on how common language is perpetuating gender violence today.

Quotes are from an excellent article in Middlebury Magazine by Robert Keren. He’s an award wining journalist.

Problems of gender violence, which include sexual violence, domestic violence, sexual abuse of children, and sexual harassment, are viewed by society as “women’s issues that some good men help out with,” rather than seen as men’s issues.

Men and masculinity “have been rendered invisible in much of the discourse” around gender violence, Katz said. This is not surprising since “dominant groups often go unchallenged in society, and their power and privilege goes unexamined.”

“[Gender violence issues] affect women at every level, but I am here to say that the very fact of just calling these issues ‘women’s issues’ is in itself part of the problem.”…

The first problem with using the term ‘women’s issues’ when talking about gender violence is it gives men an excuse to not pay attention. A lot of men hear ‘women’s issues’ and they tend to tune it out and think, ‘Hey, I’m a guy,’ and they literally don’t get past the first sentence.”

Another way that people discuss gender violence is through the use of the passive voice.

“We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women. We talk about how many girls in a school district were harassed last year, not about how many boys harassed girls. We talk about how many teenage girls in the state of Vermont got pregnant last year, rather than how many men and boys impregnated teenage girls.

“So you can see how the use of the passive voice has a political effect. [It] shifts the focus off of men and boys and onto girls and women. Even the term ‘violence against women’ is problematic. It’s a passive construction; there’s no active agent in the sentence. It’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term ‘violence against women,’ nobody is doing it to them. It just happens to them…Men aren’t even a part of it!”

Next, Katz used a whiteboard on the platform at Mead Chapel (giving credit to author Julia Penelope for the exercise that followed) and wrote:

John beat Mary
Mary was beaten by John
Mary was beaten
Mary was battered
Mary is a battered woman.

The first sentence, Katz explained, “is a good English sentence: a subject, a verb, and an object.” The second sentence is the first sentence written in the passive voice, and according to Katz “a whole lot has happened. The focus has shifted from John to Mary. John is now at the end of the sentence, which means that John is very close to dropping off the map of our psychic plane. So it’s not just bad writing to use the passive voice, it’s also political. And the political effect has been to shift the focus from John to Mary.”

In the third sentence John is gone. In the fourth, the term “battered” is substituted for “beaten,” and in the final sentence of the sequence “you can see that Mary has a new identity. She is now a battered woman and John is no longer part of the conversation.” How language holds victims accountable, rather than their perpetrators, is demonstrated by the way the word “accuser” has supplanted the term “alleged victim.”

“This,” Katz stated, “is a very big shift in the conversation about sexual violence. People who come forward to allege that they have been sexually assaulted are now referred to routinely as ‘accusers.’ There’s a lot going on here with the use of this word. The public is generally positioned to identify sympathetically with the victims of sexual assault or other forms of abuse. So when you hear about a sexual assault you think, ‘That’s horrible. That’s too bad. Or that could have been me or someone I care about.’”

But using the term ‘accuser’ reverses the process, because it turns the victim into an accuser. “So we as a public are now positioned to identify sympathetically with him as the victim of her accusation, rather than with her as the victim of his alleged perpetration. This is subtle but deep, isn’t it? It’s another instance where victims are being told to sit down, shut up, and don’t come forward because if you come forward you are going to be an accuser, and then people are going to be questioning your motives…it’s just another way that we in society keep people from coming forward.”…

And he closed with a quote from Frederick Douglass, the 19th century orator and activist, who said, “It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.”

This information has been around for at least 30 years, including Julia Penelope’s article Prescribed Passivity: The Language of Sexism.

There’s so much more to say about this, but this article is so clear and cogent it deserves to stand by itself.

Thanks to Amy Thomson and MJ Hardman

Living in Weimar 3: How Bad Can It Get?

Add to RSS feed
Facebook
Twitter
Follow by Email
Google+
https://laurietobyedison.com/body-impolitic-blog/tag/misogyny">
Pinterest

Laurie and Debbie say:

Living in Weimar 1: On the Brink

Living in Weimar 2: Creative Ferment

643499073

Donald Trump, as cataclysmically bad a president as he would be, is not Adolf Hitler. And the U.S. in 2016 is not Germany, or Weimar, in the early 1930s. However, the parallels are significant, and worth comparing.

Here’s some of how Hitler came to power in Weimar, and later in all of Germany:

… on 30 January 1933 Hindenburg accepted the new Papen-Nationalist-Hitler coalition, with the Nazis holding only three of eleven Cabinet seats: Hitler as Chancellor, Wilhelm Frick as Minister of the Interior and Hermann Göring as Minister Without Portfolio. … Hitler refused [the Catholic Centre party] leader’s demands for constitutional “concessions” (amounting to protection) and planned for dissolution of the Reichstag [Weimar parliament] .

Hindenburg, despite his misgivings about the Nazis’ goals and about Hitler as a personality, reluctantly agreed to Papen’s theory that, with Nazi popular support on the wane, Hitler could now be controlled as Chancellor. This date, dubbed by the Nazis as the Machtergreifung (seizure of power), is commonly seen as the beginning of Nazi Germany.

So, Hitler had nothing like majority support, and the power he wielded was his refusal to compromise and his single-minded plan to rule the country. That was enough.

Trump has nothing like majority support either, as evidenced by the polls. What he does have is refusal to compromise (well, he kind of compromises one day and he walks it back the next) and a single-minded plan to be in charge. He also has a very early narrative about how the election will be “rigged,” which will help fire up his supporters in the event he loses.

Last week, Trump brought in Stephen Bannon as “campaign CEO” and Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager. Conway–if you can describe a Trump supporter in these terms–is apparently a comparatively level-headed, somewhat analytical Republican pollster. Bannon is something else altogether. Bannon comes from breitbart.com, a virulently right-wing racist anti-Semitic and misogynist website, the home of the “alt-right”. “Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?” is a real Breitbart headline.  In 2015, Joshua Green at Bloomberg Politics called Bannon “the most dangerous political operative in America.”

When former Disney chief Michael Ovitz’s empire was falling to pieces, Bannon sat Ovitz down in his living room and delivered the news that he was finished. When Sarah Palin was at the height of her fame, Bannon was whispering in her ear. When Donald Trump decided to blow up the Republican presidential field, Bannon encouraged his circus-like visit to the U.S.-Mexico border. John Boehner just quit as House speaker because of the mutinous frenzy Bannon and his confederates whipped up among conservatives. Today, backed by mysterious investors and a stream of Seinfeld royalties, he sits at the nexus of what Hillary Clinton once dubbed “the vast right-wing conspiracy,” 

Bannon has a history of domestic violence, and his ex-wife says that he “objected to sending their twin daughters to an elite Los Angeles academy because he ‘didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”

So, here we are. Trump has made his bed with the alt-right, underscoring the anti-woman, anti-people of color, anti-immigrant basis of his campaign. He is proud of his hateful positions, and he is using them to gain and use power. If he loses in November, his supporters and the alt-right are still going to have more strength and more power than they did a year ago, and they are still going to try to stop President Hillary Clinton at every turn.

Although Trump is not Hitler, one of the lessons of Weimar is that we can’t afford to forget how far the politics of hate can go.