Mars And Venus

by lizard

There has been a swirling of thoughts surrounding gender roles storming in my head the past week that I’m finally going to try and put into words. The analogy of strolling through a minefield seems applicable.

For the purpose of this post, there are two significant factors at play here.

First, the ongoing scandal surrounding the “rape-tolerant” culture at the University of Montana, and the correlation between sexual assault and the role of men in positions of institutional power (read: football players).

Second, the ongoing project of feminism, which I’ve been re-familiarizing myself with since Adrienne Rich passed a few days ago.

Before we continue, it might be helpful to define the oppressive social system that feminism was engaged with a half century ago: Patriarchy.

Patriarchy is a social system in which the male gender role acts as the primary authority figure central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property and title are inherited by the male lineage.

This system of privilege is what feminists like Adrienne Rich took on. The following quote is from a collection of selected prose titled On Lies, Secrets, and Silence ((1966-1978). The title of the essay is “Husband-Right and Father-Right”:

Much male fear of feminism is the fear that, in becoming whole human beings, women will cease to mother men, to provide the breast, the lullaby, the continuous attention associated by the infant with the mother. Much male fear of feminism is infantilism—the longing to remain the mother’s son, to possess a woman who exists purely for him. These infantile needs of adult men for women have been sentimentalized and romanticized long enough as “love”; it is time to recognize them as arrested development, and to reexamine the ideal of preservation of “the family” within which those needs are allowed free rein even to the point of violence. Because the law and the economic and social order are heavily weighted in favor of men, the infantile needs of adult males are affirmed by a machinery of power which does not affirm or validate the needs of adult women. Institutionalized marriage and mother hood perpetuate the will of male infants as law in the adult world.

The role of power for men is something feminists saw as institutionally engrained, which I agree with. But, by ascribing the role of privilege to men as a preferable social position, the imprisonment of male identity took a backseat to the need for the role of women to become more assertive.

What I mean by the imprisonment of male identity is the societal expectation that men act as the “bread-winners” of the family unit. That’s like so 1950’s, right?

The erosion of this conventional male role is not something feminism has seemed very concerned with, but it should be. As the role of women becomes more equitable and competitive, the shifting role of men in our society hasn’t garnered the same degree of attention as the changing role of women.

When it comes to sexual assault and domestic violence, for example, women are predominately seen as the victims, and men, the aggressors.

I read a post today that challenges this dynamic of women=victim/man=aggressor, which you can read here.

The author of the post (sometimes 4&20 commenter Moorcat) describes a very personal sexual experience where he was drugged and restrained against his will by someone who he had a personal relationship with.

It’s a courageous piece that complicates the expected male role of being the presumed sexual instigator of sexual assault.

*

Men need help. We’re not suppose to cry, because that kind of emotional expression is seen as weakness. There is a whole set of socially conditioned expectations that make it very difficult for men to become the self-actualized “whole” human beings that feminists like Rich sought for women to realize.

If the role of women is still being reconstituted, then there needs to be open channels for men as well as their roles get redefined in this post-industrial landscape.


  1. I recommend strong and repeated doses of Robert Bly.

  2. No can mean no, even when it can’t be spoken! I must admit that reports of men being assaulted by was non-existent in any of the cases I review for three years in the Pacific Southwest Region of the Navy, but I can accept that it can happen, and should be treated the same male on female assault.

    The real problem is when intoxicants are involved, clear communication of no is difficult or impossible. The huge majority of cases we saw involved the use of alcohol.

    I am surprised by the way that the U handled the sexual assault charges. It seems the Navy is light years ahead of our educated intellectuals in our own community. Sad.

    I must disagree that a football player is “men in positions of institutional power.” Privileged yes. But I consider coaches, and presidents, and teachers to hold positions of institutional power. I hope they get things straightened out there at the U, and policies and procedures are brought up to date.

    • Two major problems with your Reply, Rev.

      First, I doesn’t surprise me that there were no cases reported to you in your region of the Navy. Remember, I am ex-Navy. Can you even imagine a circumstance where a male member of the armed forces reported being assaulted? If you think it didn’t occur, you are less than aware of what happens with Navy guys in foreign ports. It happens all the damn time. Ask any enlisted guy that has done a WestPac. Of course it doesn’t get reported.

      For the matter, I never reported my attack. No one would have bbleived me and the public shame that comes with reporting such a thing was not somthing I was willing to deal with.

      The second problem is that NO ALWAYS MEANS NO. If you take someone’s abillity to say no awAY you have ensured a NO responce.

      • Rev. Timothy Gordish

        I don’t think we disagree Moorcat. First, point, I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, just that female on male sexual assault is just the most rare. Most of those who reported male on female, and male on male assault face stigma as well, and they reported and sought justice. Female on male assault was never reported, and I also was enlisted for years, and never heard of female sexual predators in ports. The male assaults on others where far too common.

        Second point. Yes, no means no, even when the victim is too intoxicated to say no. I thought I made that clear…

        Just don’t see a disagreement, unless you are suggesting there are a huge number of female on male assaults that go unreported. Just have never seen it, and that is all I am saying.

        • I wouldn’t say there is a HUGE number, but I would venture to say that it is a lot more than people think.

          I got the impression from your first reply that no doesn’t always mean no. If that was not your intent, I apologize.

  3. lizard19

    there’s another story in the national media about an alleged rapist; former teacher and Bengals cheerleader, Sarah Jones.

  4. Carol Ohnes

    This story has been shocking all around. I appreciate the willingness of this blog to discuss the issue more deeply than the news outlets, though Gwen Florio has, as you point out, been excellent.

    The more you learn about this, the more disturbed you become. Like the fact that Milt Datsolpolis and Cliff and John Edwards are defending the fired UM Athletic staff. Edwards is the law firm that defended Rehberg against the Billings firefighters and serve as the Jesse Laslovich for AG campaign treasurer. Datsalpolis gave Laslovich’s campaign staffer a job so that the campaign didn’t have to find him full time employment. We are known by the company we keep, as the saying goes.

  5. I happen to be in Missoula this week, so if you want to discuss this further with me, feel free to email me at moorcat12 at msn dot com. I will be checking my email.




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