How to Pick a Lover

Archive for the ‘misogynist’ Category

Ways to Screen Out Violent Lovers

This is an earlier post that I felt was worth re-posting in light the current press about Ray Rice and domestic violence.

 Deeds of violence in our society are performed largely by those trying to establish their self-esteem, to defend their self-image, and to demonstrate they too are significant.
—Rollo May, Power and Innocence

 One hazard of intimate relationships is that, because of the intensity of feeling which they engender, they may provide the stimulus for violence. Occasionally, that may involve women being violent with men; but when violence occurs, it’s most often men being abusive with women. Male strength is vastly superior to that of women. Even relatively small
and frail men have a disproportionate advantage, and when that edge is fueled by fury, then it’s a clear and present danger.

Conflict is inevitable in almost all intimate relationships, and some of that conflict is potentially violent. This fact of life, less pleasant than other facts of life, is something that should be taught to all young girls. It’s a reality that a woman of experience must learn to accept and to take into account. She cannot avoid it entirely, but she can learn to minimize the odds.

In our culture, as in many other cultures, there is, for many people, an implicit association between sex and violence. It’s apparent in some pornography, which equates eroticism with dominance and brutality. This sex-violence link is apparent in much of the old folk wisdom, which endorses wife beating as legitimate and even as necessary under some circumstances. Such attitudes are not restricted to the uneducated or to the unsophisticated. The philosopher Nietzsche offers the questionable advice: “When thou goest to a woman, take thy whip.” Noel Coward quips, “Certain women should be struck regularly like gongs.” If a man is not free to beat any woman, he’s often perceived to be free to beat his own, especially if he’s provoked.

Office on Violence Against Women logo

Office on Violence Against Women logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ordinarily, it’s not feasible to ask a man directly whether or not he will hit you. Even if you were to ask, his answer would not necessarily be very informative. You can, however, find many occasions where you can ask him how he feels about corporal punishment for kids. The man who feels that it’s all right to spank, beat, or whip a child “if he deserves it” may very well feel it is also all right to spank, beat, or whip a woman “if she deserves it.” Guess who gets to decide if the deserving child will be improved by abuse? Guess who gets to decide if the deserving woman needs to be corrected?

Some potentially violent men are easy to spot. They tell you outright that they believe that might is right and that their own judgment of the appropriateness of the use of force and pain is justification enough. Don’t be surprised if an argument with such a man eventually leads to him emphasizing his point with the back of his hand.

While you’re talking about life in the abstract, you can always ask a man about his own parents. If he reports that his old man used to knock Mom around, that’s not necessarily a danger signal. Listen to how he describes it. If there’s an undertone of pride in his old man, who really knew how to handle women, then don’t be surprised if eventually he attempts to handle you the same way. If, however, he’s full of sympathy for his mom’s plight and if the story ends as such stories often do, with the boy finally challenging his father successfully thereby being able to protect the mother, then he may be more sensitive to violence against women than are other men. He may, in fact, be the kind of man with whom you will be most safe.

Some philosophers would contend that there’s a potential for violence in all of us and that it only requires sufficient provocation for it to erupt. This may well be true, but it’s difficult to prove or to disprove. If all men are potentially violent, it doesn’t follow that all men are potentially violent in terms of women.

The code of chivalry asserts that although violence is often necessary, it’s not appropriate in those circumstances involving assaults on people who are relatively powerless and defenseless as, for example, women and children. With men living by a chivalrous code, the possibility of violence is virtually negligible. When you fight with them, they will fight back; when you offend them, they make you pay one way or another, but they will not take out their rage physically.

Other men, however, are prone to violence in varying degrees. Many women, at least one in ten, perhaps more, have experienced the violent laying on of hands by a boyfriend, husband, or lover. The violent lover is trouble and is to be avoided no matter what his other attractions may be.

 Related articles

 Ray Rice Is a Reminder Why Congress Passed the Violence Against Women Act



Resisting Chauvinism In Everyday Life

The plain English of the politest address of a gentleman to a lady is, I am now, dear madam, the humblest of your servants. Be so good as to allow me to be your Lord and Master.
—Samuel Richardson

On the one hand, chauvinistic males are everywhere. On the other hand, you’re advised not to try to change a man with whom you are having an affair. How then are you to live with chauvinism? The answer is simple: change yourself, not him.

The secret to male domination, at one level or another, is that it’s domination by consent. If he says, “Be so good as to allow me to be your lord and master,” you don’t have to allow it. Women agree to being placed in a secondary role; they submit to being governed. If you don’t comply, he cannot make you obey.

To this generalization, there are two important exceptions. First, obviously, he can make you do anything he wants if you have to deal with physical domination and abuse. You can do nothing in that situation except to leave as soon as possible. Second, and less obviously, he can make you do many things if you are economically dependent upon him. If, however, you have your own resources inside or outside marriage, then most of the domination that is involved is a combination of traditional authority and psychological intimidation.

I'll take my chauvinism with a hint of barbari...

I’ll take my chauvinism with a hint of barbarism please! (Photo credit: jeremyclarke)

While each new relationship brings out in a personality something slightly different than any other relationship, the problems you encounter with one man often tend to reoccur in subsequent ones. A young woman friend of mine used to wail to me as she found herself in the midst of all-too-familiar hassles, “Why does my life keep repeating itself?” My less than sympathetic response to her, “Because, my dear friend, you keep making the same mistakes!” A new love affair gives you a chance to start over. A new love affair gives you a chance to stop making the same mistakes . . . as long as you remain self-aware of your own previous detrimental patterns.

Rule Five: Accept the Inevitability of Chauvinism

There are three choices: to be a celibate, be a lesbian, or love a chauvinist.
—Jayson VanVerten

It would be a pleasant change if one could select as lovers only men who were free of chauvinism. Alas, since it’s the culture as well as individuals who are androcentric (man centered), there are still relatively few such creatures around. Although they are becoming less rare with each passing generation.

The misogynist is a man who hates women. The chauvinist isn’t necessarily full of hate: he simply has a fundamental sense of man’s superiority to women and, therefore, a fundamental belief in the intrinsic rightness of existing traditional sex roles. He views the exchange relationship of man the provider versus woman the nurturer as a satisfactory one, perhaps even an exemplary one. If you disagree, spend some time chatting to a conservative who champions “family values.” Although he may mutter compliance when challenged about equal pay for equal work, he usually doesn’t believe that work done by women is equal to the work done by men.

Gender equality poster

Gender equality poster (Photo credit: leitza*)

What are the signs of chauvinism in everyday life? In the early days of consciousness-raising in the women’s movement, they used to talk about the click, which was a sudden aha insight into a daily event symbolic of the arrangement between the sexes. Once you start to think in these terms, the clicks are everywhere.

A chauvinist is likely to expect personal services which he doesn’t reciprocate. He tends to make unilateral decisions that should be made jointly; he controls the content of conversations by refusing to participate on topics which don’t concern him directly. He seeks emotional support without returning it, he gives unnecessary directions, he assumes that his opinion is more valid and more accurate than a woman’s regardless of his expertise or lack of it on a particular issue. Etcetera. The analogy is that a chauvinist tends to treat women in the same way as an adult treats a child: he may be affectionate and even benevolent, but he isn’t an egalitarian.

If your consciousness is sufficiently raised to be aware of the chauvinism around you, what are you to do about it? You can opt for celibacy and try as much as possible to avoid the company of men. You can opt for lesbianism and the “lavender culture.” (Alas, you will find that some lesbian women are sexist as well, but that is another story.) Or you can resign yourself to the fact that chauvinism is endemic and simply try to minimize its effects. If you decide to become an active feminist and dedicate yourself to reforming and revamping the social system, that’s a fine political decision. It is, however, frequently a precursor of disaster in one’s personal life. You can end up defining almost everything as a political issue, which isn’t only exhausting and inefficient but also chips away destructively at even the most affectionate bond.

If you decide to go with the traditional role and model yourself on “total womanhood,” you must deny a large part of your selfhood and your intelligence. Total women are the scabs of sisterhood. In the women’s movement, they are the equivalent of Uncle Toms in the black movement. We call them Doris Days. Playing this part, even if you were willing to do so, would make you feel most of the time like an actress and a rather miscast actress at that. You might do it but would resent it, and that resentment would eventually sour your love affair.

There is a third alternative. You can learn to live with chauvinism, at least mild-mannered chauvinism, without  sacrificing your independence and self-respect. You’ll not be viewed as acceptable by some chauvinistic men. But you will be increasingly acceptable to enlighten men whose own consciousness has been raised and who, if not exactly feminists themselves, are at least sympathetic to the feminist cause.

The Lover in the Mob

You can have respect without love, but you cannot have love without respect.
—Jayson VanVerten

Sooner or later, you are likely to encounter an interesting man who does not seem to fit the usual classifications of jobs and professions. He does not seem to actually work anywhere, yet he is well dressed and obviously has lots of money. He talks a lot about business, but what business and where it is located is very vague. Generally, all he will explain is that he has some business to take care of—business that keeps happening outside of business hours and ordinary offices. Exotic trips happen or carefully planned trips are called off or postponed for no apparent reason. General questions are met with a blank look; detailed questions are met with a blank wall. It should not take long for someone to figure out that what is involved here is what Grandma would have referred to as something shady.

The man who is reputed to have underworld connections or who simply has an unsavory reputation or who lives well with no visible means of support is not considered by the conventional world to be respectable and so is not socially acceptable. Even if he does not look like the stereotype of a gangster, if there seems to be a strong possibility that he actually is a gangster, then your role as his woman, or even as merely his close friend, places you in the role of gun moll.

Gun Moll Magazine

Gun Moll Magazine (Photo credit: Terry McCombs)

Some of your acquaintances may find that exotic position to be interesting or titillating, but others will assume that by associating with known criminals, you must yourself have criminal sympathies if not actual criminal inclinations. Most likely, you will find that with a lover from the mob, your social connections are restricted to others who live in the same milieu. He can take you into the demimonde much more readily than you can take him into the company of law-abiding wage earners. Once you are known to have such notorious companions, you may yourself be less welcome if you later wish to return to your more conventional friends.

The underworld is vast and nebulous and operates by quite different rules than the ordinary world. If you are going to accept the many benefits of life on the fringes of respectability, which include for a start the avoidance of routine and access to a ready supply of money, then you must come to terms with the fact that it probably is better that you do not know exactly where the money comes from or what it is for.

A woman I know who was associated with a professional gambler was quite enthusiastic when he was on a winning streak—and quite derogatory when he started to lose. If you accept what men like this have to offer you, you do not necessarily have to take part, but you have to accept the morality of what they are doing. And you do have to accept the drawbacks as well as the advantages.

You must remember that the man of respect demands just that: respect. If you believe in capital punishment for evil persons who sell soft or hard drugs to teenagers because you think that it is a sin, then you had best back off unambiguously and quickly.

It is also important to remember that men in the underworld, even those on the fringes of the underworld, are used to breaking rules and to getting what they want. Often, they will be more territorial with “their” women than will men who are upstanding citizens, and they are often more ready to turn to violence as an expression of their feelings or as a way of enforcing their demands. There is also the potential danger of “being in the wrong place at the wrong time” with him.

The lover in the mob may be exciting, but he can also be dangerous.

Witches, Bitches, and Broads

If there is no word for shrew or slut in male form, is it because there were no bad-tempered, no slovenly men? Or is it because only the male tongue might safely point out defects?
—Elizabeth Robins, Ancilla’s Share

When a man who hates women begins to talk, it soon becomes apparent that all the women he has ever encountered were villainous. Starting with his mother, they are portrayed as promiscuous, untrustworthy, or just downright evil.

The man who hates women has a well-developed lexicon to express his distain. If well educated, he will have discovered words such as “gorgon” (a repulsive woman), “virago” (a sharp-tongued woman), “termagant” (a violent woman), or “harridan” (a hateful woman). He will pepper his conversation with references to “crones” (old women), “shrews” (scolding women), “battleaxes” (aggressive women), “slatterns” (slovenly women), and “gold diggers” (greedy women). There will be a lot of references to women who are too sexual: “sluts,” “harlots,” “tramps,” “hookers,” and “tarts.” Women who are sexual and who use that sexuality for wickedness or treachery, which is what a misogynist expects, may be called, in biblical terms, Jezebel or Delilah.

Paradoxically, the man who hates women is equally scornful of women who are not sexual or are not sexual enough. He considers them frigid and includes in that category icebergs, ballbusters, castrators, teases, cock-teasers, dykes, lesbians, and nutcrackers. He describes things that are negative as being like the female genitals, usually in four-letter terms. Often in the conversation of a misogynist, there will be lots of references to women in animal terms: chicks, hens, cows, sows, porkers, pigs, broodmares, birds, biddies, foxes, bunnies, and of course, the ubiquitous bitches. The endearment “bed rabbit” is an especially nice touch.

Misogyny / Hate Speech

Misogyny / Hate Speech (Photo credit: dannyman)

All people, men and women, use some pejorative terms for women when they are saying something negative about a particular woman or a particular situation. The profile, which reveals a misogynist, is that he uses many of these terms. He uses them often, and in his conversation, the situations involving women are so consistently negative that only pejorative terms convey the appropriate connotation.

I know a man who called his former wife the Ex-Witch to distinguish her from his former mother-in-law, who was the Head Witch. Does that tell you something? Was his daughter then known as the Little Witch? And would you be surprised if you were fool enough to be involved with him that, in a short while, you would become known as the New Witch?

If women in general are witches, you can be sure that you, too, will be included and you, too, will be burned.

Women in Contemporary Relationships

I think we can all agree that romantic relationships have changed dramatically over the past 50 years.

A mere two generations ago relationships and marriage were rather vanilla. Couples were heterosexual, of the same race/ethnicity, religion, social/economic and political background – so much for diversity. Also, marital roles were fairly circumscribed – men were the breadwinners and women the homemakers. There were shared expectations about sex roles for men and women, which were primarily based on what constituted masculine and feminine behavior. Premarital sex was taboo – at least for women. There were “good” girls and “bad” girls, and I don’t think I need to tell you what made a good girl good or bad girl bad. In any given couple, the man was usually older, taller, better educated, and financially better off than the woman.  All things that defer more power to the man than the women. Few women worked outside the home. And when they did, it was to supplement her husband’s substantially larger income.

Well, so much for the good ole days. Today’s relationships run the gamut of the rainbow – heterosexual/gay, interracial/ethnic, interfaith, binational, older women and younger men, couples from widely different social, economic, political backgrounds. Women have full fledged careers and they are financially independent. For women, being a virgin – or almost a virgin – is no longer a prerequisite to marriage.  All in all, women today have a range of options and opportunities that far outstrip those of our grandmothers or even our mothers.

It all sounds wonderful.  However, as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, many of our social values that govern love, sex and marriage remain markedly different for men and women in many ways. While both men and women may openly and freely engage in the pursuit of love and sex, how they reach their quest is not always the same.

"The world turned upside down" (gend...

“The world turned upside down” (gender-role reversal) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our cultural traditions are strong and differences in the socialization and physiology of men and women remain a reality. And unfortunately, or fortunately – depending on your personal views–many traditional sex roles remain deeply embedded in modern-day relationships – straight and gay. When these traditional roles collide with the realities of modern day – which they often do – couples find themselves in conflict.

While contemporary relationships may be much more rewarding than the those of our parents and grandparents, they are also much more complex and difficult.

Through this blog, I want to explore the relatively new emotional and sexual freedoms that women have gained through their struggle  for equality and freedom of sexual expression in contemporary relationships – including a woman’s option of having a lover(s) if she so chooses.

Each week I will post some specific thoughts about women in contemporary relationships for comment and discussion. Hope you will join in on what I believe will be a fun, enlightening and rewarding blog.

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