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Does reading about male abuse affect how you see men?

(148 Posts)
miloben Wed 14-Mar-12 18:56:19

Hi everyone. I've been reading through almost all the topics over a number of nights and I have learned an awful lot about women's fight against abuse and disadvantage, as well as male privilege. Though I have been a feminist for several years, ever since I worked in SE Asia and saw how much work women did compared to the men, I kinda had it on the back burner, and was a half hearted feminist - one in name only if that makes sense. Then I had a baby girl, and because of my daughter really, I have become interested in the kind of lives women have and can expect to have.

I very much love learning about feminism and feel strongly about teaching my daughter (and new born son) about the world we live in and the struggles women face. However, I think I am becoming a bit resentful towards men. I HATE how hardly any of them speak out about it...I even found myself saying to my friend how great David Schwimmer was when I heard he spoke out against rape...until I thought to myself that is what ALL men should be doing, but don't, and he isn't so great.

I have a wonderful father, husband, brother...all the men in my life in fact are pretty terrific, yet because of so many other men's abuse of women and their disinterest in stopping it, I think I am starting to harbour a resentment towards men as a collective group. Hell, if I'm honest, I would say I don't like men very much right now. And as I have a little son, I know this is wrong. My husband, despite being a feminist, has just voiced his concern that I am beginning to be very critical of men in general and derogatory. He is right about that. I just feel so ANGRY!!!

I am just wondering if any of you have gone through this and what you did to change how you viewed men. The last thing I want is to be consumed by hatred like the misogynists I deplore. Thank you very much, and I hope I haven't waffled on too much!!

OP’s posts: |
PlumpDogPillionaire Wed 14-Mar-12 19:24:12

Consumed by hatred or consumed by anger, miloben?

Chocobo Wed 14-Mar-12 19:39:24

Hi Miloben - I know how you feel being angry about things. I have always been a feminist at heart but had never really thought about it too much until I started lurking on here and was interested in learning more so started reading books and taking more notice of casual every day feminism. It got to a point where I did start ranting at my DH quite a lot about it. But I was not angry with men just society in general - after all women can be just as sexist as men.

I think maybe you have to think about how sexism - especially restrictive gender roles - can be just as damaging to men and feminism is good for the whole of society, and as important for your DS as your DD in my opinion.

Of course it would be nice if more men would stand up for women's rights though but without trying to let the men of the hook, I guess men are less likely to notice mysoginy as they don't necessarily recognise that they themselves are affected by it. But suppose that is not really an excuse as I would expect white people to stand up against racism even if racism does not directly affect them.

Not sure if any of that helps but have had a very long day at work and feeling quite braindead. smile

ButterPecanMuffin Wed 14-Mar-12 19:48:13

I have never felt like that, mainly because if I did, then I think that would make me as bad as the misogynists out there. They seem to hate women, all women, although they deny they do.

I have a son and a daughter, I want to make this world a better place for BOTH of them, and I wouldn't be doing that if I had pent up anger towards all men.

I reserve my anger for the men who deserve it.

Tranquilidade Wed 14-Mar-12 19:48:51

I think it is a mistake to generalise, not all men are the same, just as all women are not.

I have recently had an experience supporting a male friend through the break up of a relationship due to DV (ex-p was violent and abusive to him, not him to her). I went to the police with him and was amazed at just how traumatic his life had been but it hasn't made me hate women.

I love the saying "Don't rage against the darkness, light a candle". If you start hating men it just adds to the hatred. If you feel strongly, try to find a positive channel for it.

miloben Wed 14-Mar-12 20:05:59

PlumpDogPillionaire, I am definitely angry - I seem to see men being abusive now - or at least disinterested in those men who are, everywhere I look now. Nothing can change the good feeling and love I have towards my father, husband etc. so I am not worried about that, but when I see men now, even innocent ones on the street, for example, the FIRST thought I have is how they are probably sexist, maybe abusive, and definitely complacent.

Chocobo - I see what you mean about them being less likely to notice misogyny. Like you I think why DON'T they notice, when it is their fellow men being abusive. I think actually men have more reason to be feminist than women sometimes. It is like being vegetarian - we notice animal cruelty despite it not affecting us, and because we are the ones with the power, it is up to us to take a stand.

Thank you so much for getting back to have both given me much food for thought!!

OP’s posts: |
miloben Wed 14-Mar-12 20:12:36

ButterPecanMuffin, I just can't seem to extinguish this anger I feel towards ALL men. It is making me a bitter kind of person I think. Yet I love my beautiful son, and my fantastic husband and my perfect dad (perfect in my eyes). I wonder if it could be because I am relatively new to feminism, and the initial anger has yet to give way.

Tranquillldade - I love that. Thank you!!

OP’s posts: |
VeniVidiVisa Wed 14-Mar-12 20:19:43

miloben - if you have been doing a lot of reading recently, it is possible that this has had an impact on your feelings towards all men. Your views sound quite extreme and not particularly healthy but I think you recognise that in your posts.

I went through a similar experience when I first started working in Social Care.
I come from a background of DV and, when I started reading case after case of abuse and neglect, I started to feel like there was an abuser on every corner.
I feared bringing any children into this world.

Thankfully, I quickly managed to put things into perspective.

Beachcomber Wed 14-Mar-12 20:24:11

I feel angry too. I feel utter rage a lot of the time - I have just been reading the We Believe You campaign thread with tears streaming down my face and with rage.

I think it is important that women allow themselves to be angry - we have A LOT to be angry about. As you say, the thing is to not let it spill over into misplaced hate.

At the same time I think women have a right to hate men who are violent, who rape, who abuse and who are cruel to the point of torture. We can feel pity for these men, at the same time, and say 'patriarchy hurts men too' but I think it is important that women don't not speak out against violence against women because we are afraid of showing hate. We should hate these things and the people who perpetuate them.

I don't know what the answer is - like you, most of the men in my life are good 'uns, certainly my DH and my father are. I still feel angry an awful lot of the time though. I think I feel particularly angry that society in general, and the individuals who make that society up, don't seem to be terribly interested in reducing levels of violence against women.

I find what helps is to hang out with feminists smile. We 'get' each other and cheer each other up and make each other laugh.

I have daughters, no sons, I suspect this makes things more straightforward for me in certain ways and less so in others.

Beachcomber Wed 14-Mar-12 20:31:16

I hope you don't get flamed on this thread miloben because I think there is an interesting discussion to be had and I think you are being very very honest.

You know there is a name for what you are feeling - it is the the raising of your consciousness and it is a painful process. It is one of the reasons why some women shy away from feminism - because it hurts to take of one's patriarchy blinkers and really look at the sorry state of affairs that is the current status quo.

I find doing something to help also eases the hurt - volunteering, writing, whatever your thing is, it helps if you are doing something.

miloben Wed 14-Mar-12 20:31:26

smile Thanks VVV. Yip I am alarmed at my feelings - until I had my daughter I didn't really think about how different men and women had it. Now I feel like a different person. I also think my husband sees me as a different person, and I hate that. sad I want to be passionate about feminism but not have it change how I see men. It seems impossible, right now, for the more I learn the more I think men just aren't doing enough.

OP’s posts: |
miloben Wed 14-Mar-12 20:44:39

Beachcomber, yes, that is exactly it!! I WANT to be angry, for I think that allows for change to occur, but I am sooo afraid will let it consume me and I will just be a bitter, hate filled person like those misogynists I see on the Daily Mail site and who actually I do feel sorry for.

My husband telling me I have become suspicious of men and hostile towards them was really the catalyst for me taking stock and asking myself what I wanted to be/do as a feminist. Ideally I want to work with men, like men, move forward with men, to try and make things better for my son and daughter, but when I read stats like 100,000 women a year are assaulted by men in the UK, it makes it very hard.

I never really hear men speak out. And when they do speak out, for example if a particularly shocking story is in the paper, they have the audacity to ask why feminists (ie. women) aren't doing enough. I just think men should be doing more, and I am very angry they aren't.

OP’s posts: |
Beachcomber Wed 14-Mar-12 20:47:19

Sorry for multiple postings but I keep thinking of things to add!

Another thing that helps me achieve some level of peace is what I call the 'oblivious to their obliviousness' phenomenon.

What that means is, that when you are a person of privilege, you are pretty blind to your privilege. You're blind to it because it is part of the status quo and you are told it is the natural order - and it benefits you, so it suits you to remain pretty oblivious to your privilege. You are socialized to accept your privilege as being normal.

This works for all sorts of privilege, not just male privilege. It exists in white privilege, class privilege, able bodied privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc.

It isn't a great excuse, I grant you, but I think it is something we are nearly all guilty of in one way or another. We are oblivious to the fact that we are oblivious to our privilege.

So we aren't very good at relinquishing it.

GurlwiththeFrothyCurl Wed 14-Mar-12 21:04:52

I too find many threads on MN shocking and it has made me realise just how sheltered I have been from the real lives of many women. I also feel very lucky that, although I have had some pretty awful relationships with men, none have been seriously abusive.

I have two grown up sons, a great DH and a brother. I try hard to help my sons to express their own feelings and emotions, to put their feelings into words. One of the things I see here a lot are threads about relationships where men don't seem to be able to talk properly to their partners about their deeper feelings. There is no real communication. Perhaps they learnt from their fathers that men don't talk, don't feel. I'm not sure. Some only seem able to express themselves physically through sex or with their fists. Some can only shout in their partners' faces. They don't seem able to speak about distress, emotions etc. So they react by having affairs rather than dealing with their underlying issues - blotting things out instead of getting things into the open and sorting them.

Maybe I'm being stupid here or ignorant, but so many problems in the Relationships board seem to come down to lack of communication.

But I know from experience that all men are certainly not like this. We can't complain about misogynists on the one hand and then lump all men into one basket on the other.

Oh, I'm just rambling - sorry. Have spent half the evening trying to help DS2 with a range of issues using FB chat as he is away from home. Talk about trying to express yourself properly!

AyeRobot Wed 14-Mar-12 21:39:40

Gurl, The Patriarchy hurts men too. And that is something that all feminists I know think. Segregating us into "women's stuff" and "men's stuff" is harmful and it starts at birth for most of us.

miloben, I'm angry too. When I was where you are I was furious. It's the red pill/blue pill thing and once you have taken it (I can never remember which one is THE one), that's it. You will never un-see what you have seen. That said, I am less angry in general now and more able to focus it into specifics, which means anything from direct activism to posting on here (which I see as a form of activism in itself, although more personal, and is not my reason for being here particularly) or just raising an eyebrow at comments that I think are dodgy. Or, like today, I persuaded my boss to hire a man in a position for which he wanted a stereotypical female, but who I thought would be great. I like being subversive smile.

Like you, I am angry at men who do nothing or who perpetuate the status quo through lazy stereotypes. And I agree with Beach that it is often as a result of privilege-blindness, or buying into the privilege of others. Flipping off those blinkers for a nano-second is sometimes all I do in a day feminism-wise. Every little helps, though.

As far as men go, I am ambivalent most of the time. I find that the majority have lots of time and endless support for women that they know personally, that have become human to then, but beyond that they are somewhat generalistic in their approach, and those generalisms are not often pretty. Some are more clued up than that and some are the other way. Like women. But the difference is that few men recognise their privilege and too many men rely on violence to maintain it. And men in general benefit from that, even if they don't realise it.

Stick with it, you'll find your way through.

VeniVidiVisa Wed 14-Mar-12 22:08:01

Gurl - I have two teenage sons also and, like you, I have raised them to not only see women as equals, to be respected and valued, but also to not be afraid of expressing their own feelings, to hug, to cry.

Feminism has a long way to go but we have come a long way since the days when I was growing up as a child. When only the daughters were expected to do housework. When only the brothers were expected to have careers.

Any effort we make with our sons and daughters to embrace equality can only benefit future generations.

GurlwiththeFrothyCurl Wed 14-Mar-12 22:16:03

VVV Yes, I must admit that I have future DILs in mind sometimes when I talk to my DSs. This evening in fact, I have been chatting to DS about his new relationship and helping him to understand how the female mind might work. Without trying to stereotype women of course!

stargirl1701 Wed 14-Mar-12 22:20:09

No because the men I know, who are part if my life, are wonderful. I can't base my thoughts/feelings on anything but what I see, hear and feel. I recognise that there are men who behave appallingly but they are not all men, or even most men. I am an optimist with regard to people. I try to believe and see the best in everyone. I think my inspiration for this comes from my job as a teacher. I see the wonderful potential in all the boys in my class and my job, along with parents, community and society, to teach them to become good citizens. Life is about perspective, I guess.

AyeRobot Wed 14-Mar-12 22:22:06

Gurl, Can you see how your "how the female mind might work" explanation might come from either stereotypes or from cultural/societal expectations about how a female mind should work?

GurlwiththeFrothyCurl Wed 14-Mar-12 22:28:34

AyeRobot Oh yes, I agree! I actually cringed a bit as I wrote that! I was actually using it as a euphemism because I was talking to him about the female body and how that works. That is a whole other thread really. Just how much advice should a mum give her son about sex? Aargh!

AyeRobot Wed 14-Mar-12 22:39:10

You could start a thread.

I was thiniing more along the lines of the Mars and Venus stuff. Great handbooks for how gender stereotyping manifests and how to negotiate around someone who is steeped in that stuff, but not really a guideline for life, particularly not a feminist one,

exoticfruits Wed 14-Mar-12 22:44:10

Not at all. Men are people and you get the good, bad and indifferent-the same as with women.
In fact as the mother of 3 lovely, kind, caring DSs I would be very annoyed if people were basing their views on them on people that had nothing whatever in common beyond being male.
Most of the men I know are lovely.

GurlwiththeFrothyCurl Wed 14-Mar-12 23:08:19

AyeRobot I'm very wary about starting a thread on that topic, think I would get flamed!

AyeRobot Wed 14-Mar-12 23:11:29

Not at all. Despite all that is said, we are as fluffy as fuck in here.

GurlwiththeFrothyCurl Wed 14-Mar-12 23:24:10

Not sure if it is a suitable topic for this board!

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