I am a staunch believer in gender equality but I have never subscribed to the blind belief that men and women are the same. In my life I have had plenty of evidence to show that men as a group share qualities and natures and tendencies with each other that are not generally shared by women.
Is it wrong to notice that different categories of people share commonalities with each other generally not shared by other groups of people? Apparently it is wrong to some people.
Yesterday I read about the brutal gang rape and murder of the young Indian girl by six men and a lead pipe. And then I had a strong emotional reaction to it as I did when I heard about the 10 year old girl who was gang raped by a bunch of men in Texas. I put my reaction on facebook.
“It is getting harder and harder to see men as mostly good. The incidence of rape around the world committed by men is testament to the violent appetites of them as a gender. Partnered with the widespread misogyny it is getting harder and harder to believe that the good men I know represent the majority. Just read about the recent brutal rape and murder of the Indian girl whose name I don’t know. Why are so many men so fucking hateful?”
And here is the conversation that followed:
Rydell Downward: I know lots of men, and only a few of them are rapists.
Richard Von Busack: Only a few of those rapists are Indians, for that matter.
Me: I feel that you and the men you know must not be representative. Rape is typically under-reported (though this is improving at least in the US) and the numbers are still horribly high. I know quite a few men and as far as I know none of them are rapists either. But men are raping. Millions and millions of men are raping women and there are billions who fantasize about it who haven’t done it. WHY DO THEY HATE WOMEN SO MUCH?!
Rydell: It’s all about power. Hunger for it, fear of losing it, feeling of not having it. (I don’t mean to make light of it. I just deal with things through humor.)
Me: There is so much rape across the world. It is not a race thing or related to how developed your country is or what religion is most prevalent. Rape rates in Portland Oregon are really high. This is a gender thing. I wonder if women were generally as physically able to overpower men would they be as prone to raping men? Or other women? There ARE women who rape – but it is so uncommon. Rydell – your humor is always welcome here! I am not laughing because I’m still in shock from reading about the Indian girl who just died from her rape injuries.
Richard: It’s a hideous thing that happened 10,000 miles away. They can’t tell you about the millions of men who did something to honor their wives and mothers today. They can tell you about this freakish, hideous abomination, and then leave you with it to deal with that story anyway way you can. (Like at the liquor store, say.) There’s a type of mentality that longs to dominate, and while there’s plenty of men who have it, there’s a few women entranced by it as well.
Rydell: I’m not really qualified to explain it. It’s nothing new, though. It’s just that through the magic of the intertubes, we get to hear about everything everywhere.
Me: I have a really hard time hearing about rapes. It never stops feeling like an assault against all women when it happens to just one. Though I get sad about murders I have to say it never hits me as hard as sexual assault which is probably why my first (and still unfinished) book is about a brutal rape. It holds a special place in my closet of night terrors. I see men and women on an equal plane as far as worth and potential goodness are concerned and the reason this has been possible in spite of hearing such awful stories as this and knowing how many of my girlfriends have been raped is that I have been very fortunate to have so many particularly good men friends in my life (such as you two) and that I have such a good man for a spouse.
Toby Pearson: I only liked your last comment because I agree. Not because I like anything to do with rape in any way shape or form… And gang rape too with a pipe… Horrifying
Me: Right – what a concentration of hateful and conscienceless men in one place? What were the chances of that? Also – what the fuck was the male friend of hers up to? What happened with him? (God, I hope he wasn’t killed too? Though we would have heard about that I suppose) I understood why you liked that comment.
Elan Schmutzie Morgan: I’m not a fan of “…testament to the violent appetites of them as a gender”. Castigating a group based on their genitalia is offensive. I know that there is a lot of rape done by men, but they’re not the only ones, believe it or not.
Me: I did acknowledge that women rape too but it’s much more rare – a statement not based on speculation. And the fact that it is so much more common in men does point to gender as a big factor. Men have a lot more testosterone than women, a biological fact, and one that is known to be linked to more aggression. That is scientific fact. I don’t think I’ve said anything that is not born out by evidence. When is the last time you heard about a gang rape committed by a band of females? If you can produce a reason why men more often commit violent crimes than women do that isn’t based on their gender – I welcome your input.
I would love to see evidence that women are committing just as much rape and killing just as many people as men.
Jessica King: I couldn’t even read the whole article about that it disgusted me so much. And the fact that it happens so often around the world. I didn’t read everything above me but that’s my 2 cents worth.
Elan’s comment really bothered me. So much so that I was still trying to shake it an hour later and drown out this horrible news story with old episodes of Saturday Night Live on Netflix while drinking too many beers when I should have gone to bed. I couldn’t go to bed. Not just because of Elan being offended at my castigation of a group of people based on their genitalia but because I couldn’t get the grime of fear and pain and torture of the Indian girl out of my head. And the millions of other girls world wide who have experienced similar brutality. To be cast in a villainous role of narrow minded asshole myself was an irritation I couldn’t let go.
So I had to ask Philip if he thinks I am wrong to say that men are generally more prone to aggression and violence than women. He said it’s not a question of being wrong – facts support this as a truth. He did feel a little offended by my original comment because he said that he feels that I have just lumped all men together and he isn’t a rapist. I pointed out that he just agreed with my statement.
In fact, he had just said “I think the reason men have historically always been the ones to go to war is because you can’t get women to do that shit.” (slightly paraphrased – I wasn’t taking notes at 1:30am).
“The incidence of rape around the world committed by men is testament to the violent appetites of them as a gender.” Right after agreeing that that statement is true he admits to being a little offended. So it’s true but offensive to notice that it’s true?
I think what is offensive in what I said isn’t the factual part. I think it’s the part where I say it’s getting harder and harder for me to see men as mostly good. It suggests I’m just giving up on all of them because there is higher proportion of their gender that commits heinous violent crimes than mine does.
So about that… that was a raw emotional reaction to hearing about an especially horrible gang rape of a young girl. I don’t think men are mostly bad and I’m never going to truly give in to that kind of thinking. But I do want to know why there are so many men who rape women and I want to know how to stop that fucking godawful evil SHIT.
I apologize for having lashed out unattractively against men as a whole.
But I’m angry about Elan’s response. I am angry when people become so myopic in their efforts to only see people as individuals that it becomes offensive to notice sameness in groups of people (whether those groups are based on gender, or race, or nationality, or socioeconomic factors). In order to look at anything intelligently and to understand anything fully you have to be able to simultaneously see the details as well as the big picture. Generalities are very important in understanding individuality. It is just as narrow minded to believe that no one fits into greater categories of humanity than it is to only allow that people are no more complex than the larger groups they can be fit into.
Is it a coincidence that studies of other animals have revealed that the males of many animal species are more prone to violence than the females? Does that offend you? Do you think you are qualified to discredit this widely observed behavior of gender difference between the males and females of other animals? Please explain to me how it is NOT a gender quality that makes bucks fight each other frequently and the does almost never fight.
My statement that started this conversation was definitely expressing a narrowing viewpoint at an emotional moment that if I really gave in to would do many men a disservice and be offensive. But I ask that you all consider that one comment does not make up a whole person’s viewpoint and consider how rarely I have ever said negative things about men as a group. How rarely have I played that gender war in my conversations. How often have I been willing to see my own shortcomings, my own narrow mindedness, my own issues? I ask that you consider how consistent I am in not letting generalities that I observe become judgements against individuals – I have never once met a person and judged them on anything other than what they present of themselves to me as an individual no matter what larger groups they can easily be lumped in. When I meet YOU I assess you based on our personal interactions and all my judgements originate from what you give me. The more I get to know you the more accurate a picture I have of who you ARE.
I have never met a man and assumed he is a rapist or a misogynist or conversely a gentle soul or wants to screw everything in sight or likes guns or likes arranging flowers – I assume nothing except that the chances are REALLY HIGH THAT HE HAS A PENIS.
And I expect the same of others.
But there’s no getting around the fact that if I see a man in a mostly deserted parking lot at night coming towards me I am immediately on my guard. And it’s a fact that if I see a woman coming towards me in a mostly deserted parking lot at night I am not nearly so worried for my safety and her intent. That is sexual profiling at its most useful and if I had a daughter I would absolutely teach her to be more wary of men in such situations as this. Maybe world wisdom is that she shouldn’t have to be – but reality remains that a woman is exponentially more likely to be assaulted by a man than by a woman and therefore – it would put her at greater physical risk to pretend that there is no difference between a man approaching her in a dark alley and a woman approaching her in a dark alley.
I ask you: does your own sense of gender equality mean that you would teach your daughter to treat men and women exactly the same in a dark alley?*
And there’s no getting around the fact that while I have never been sexually assaulted, I have been abused by a man and I have also seen men abusing people I love and have been helpless to intervene and this continues to live darkly and meanly in my spirit though I try to brush it out with sage brooms and light – and last night those feelings of fear rose up and choked me while trying to talk to Philip about why this girl’s rape felt like a personal assault on ME, on all women – but especially why it felt like I had been raped right along with her. I felt that fear of men as though I was just a kid again and I cried because it still fucking hurts even though I’m almost 43 years old.
I feel a fear of men because 50% of my friends have been molested or raped by men. An even higher percentage of them have been abused by men. I feel a fear of men because I was mugged by a man. I feel a fear of men because women all over the world are being assaulted by men and not reporting it because they are afraid of retaliation by men.
It is a fact that men are more prone to aggression and violence than women. History proves this is true. The numbers of men who rape has always been exponentially higher than the number of women who rape. The number of men in prison for violent crimes is exponentially higher than the number of women in prison for violent crimes. These are indisputable facts.
At the end of the night it no longer mattered whether Elan thinks I’m a gender profiling asshole – it hurts only because she’s a person I respect and like – but her opinion of me is not important. What’s important is that I continue to recognize, for the sake of the good men in my life including my son, that men are just as capable of loving, of nurturing those around them, and of channeling their qualities in positive directions.
I don’t know how to fix the fear that lives in my spirit. I don’t know how to heal the violated women in the world but I think the place to start is with our sons.
*Yes – we are assuming you’ve already told your kid not to walk into dark alleyways and your kid has ignored you and is now in a dark alleyway. Perhaps you could argue that it doesn’t matter at this point who else comes into that dark alleyway – that all people in dark alleyways are equally dangerous. Except that I have been that stupid-ass teen in dark alleyways a whole lot of times and I can tell you absolutely that the prostitute (male or female) is almost no threat to you but the John who just got a blow job is someone you need to be worried about. And you know what else? Maybe some women pay for sex in dirty alleyways but I have never seen any female Johns on the streets where I have hung out and witnessed so many alleyway blow jobs in progress. When women pay for sex they do it very very differently.