A couple days ago, I was re-reading bell hooks's Feminism is for Everybody (published in 2000), and I came across a passage that struck me as particularly resonant at this point in time, with domestic violence and child abuse in people's consciousness and new militarized action brewing.
I think hooks's message is on point here, and it's something we need to remind ourselves of. It can be easy to have tunnel vision, especially when it comes to our own areas of privilege, and it's helpful to remember how these issues all play into larger kyriarchical structures (or, as hooks names it, imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, which I love).
I'm curious to know what you guys think.
Male violence against women has received much ongoing media attention . . . but awareness has not led the American public to challenge the underlying causes of this violence, to challenge patriarchy. Sexist thinking continues to support male domination and the violence that is a consequence. Since masses of unemployed and working-class men do not feel powerful on their jobs within white supremacist patriarchy they are encouraged to feel that the one place where they will have absolute authority and respect is in the home. Men are socialized by ruling-class groups of men to accept domination in the public world of work and to believe that the private world of home and intimate relationships will restore to them the sense of power they equate with masculinity. As more men have entered the ranks of the employed or receive low wages and more women have entered the world of work, some men feel that the use of violence is the only way they can establish and maintain power and dominance within the sexist sex role hierarchy. Until they unlearn the sexist thinking that tells them they have a right to rule over women by any mean, male violence against women will continue to be a norm.
Early on in feminist thinking activists often failed to liken male violence against women to imperialist militarism. The linkage was often not made because those who were against male violence were often accepting and even supportive of militarism. As long as sexist thinking socialized boys to be "killers," whether in imaginary good guy, bad guy fights or as soldiers in imperialism to maintain coercive power over nations, patriarchal violence against women and children will continue. In recent years as young males from diverse class backgrounds have committed horrendous acts of violence there has been national condemnation of these acts but few attempts to link this violence to sexist thinking.
I conclude the chapter on violence in "Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center" emphasizing that men are not the only people who accept, condone, and perpetuate violence, who create a culture of violence. I urge women to take responsibility for the role women play in condoning violence:
"By only calling attention to male violence against women, or making militarism just another expression of male violence, we fail to adequately address the problem of violence and make it difficult to develop visible resistance strategies and solutions. . . . While we need not diminish the severity of the problem of male violence against women or male violence against nations or the planet, we must acknowledge that men and women have together made the United States a culture of violence and must work together to transform and recreate that culture. Women and men must oppose the use of violence as a means of social control in all its manifestations: war, male violence against women, adult violence against children, teenage violence, racial violence, etc. Feminist efforts to end male violence against women must be expanded into a movement to end all forms of violence."
And it is especially vital that parents learn to parent in nonviolent ways. For our children will not turn away from violence if it is the only way they know how to handle difficult situations.
In our nation masses of people are concerned about violence but resolutely refuse to link the violence to patriarchal thinking or male domination. Feminist thinking offers a solution. And it is up to us to make that solution available to everyone.