Saturday, November 29, 2014

Reframing gender politics into "the abuse of power" regardless of the gender of the perpetrator or the recipient.

Public figures must be masters of the native tongue, if they are to gather, integrate and apply the winds of both change and preservation from their communities to their shaping of events.
One of the headline-grabbing issues of our time is the relationship between men and women.
And how that issue  is "framed" ( to borrow the process from the public relations practitioners) is critical to how it plays out over time.
For the feminists, the issue is perceived from the perspective of the victim, given the supporting sociological data that by far the majority of assaults on women are perpetrated by men, some categorized as domestic violence, while others merit the charge of sexual assault. Inferentially then, men are "defined" by that characterization as the perpetrators, the agents of the violence and the assault and thereby are rendered the "blame" and the responsibility for their actions.
And at least in North America, the legal systems are defined by the empirical and witnessed evidence with a secondary position given to the motive of the person accused and the larger context of the "case evidence". Consequently, if the majority of the incidents and the complaints and the charges are made against men by women, (barely any are reported to have been committed against men by women), then the issue will continue to carry the implicit stigma of both guilt and responsibility borne by men. As is common in our media driven culture, reports of the dismissal of charges, or the moderation of both charges and punishments fall through the cracks without generating a blip on the public consciousness, and certainly not affecting a modicum of change in public perceptions. Men are the stereotypical testosterone-driven warriors, while women are the passive and wounded victims, in that model.
However, if we were to re-frame the issue, from one of gender politics to one that critically examines the "abuse of power" regardless of the gender of the offender or the recipient, then we would  broaden the scope of our public discourse and also remove the gender "bias" in our observations, while enhancing our determination to pursue and acquire the case histories of the context of the events under scrutiny, and generate a much more productive and sustainable model for future generations.
Some people, men especially, are more likely to become enraged or inflamed or provoked if they have been attempting unsuccessfully to negotiate with a female friend, family member or even spouse, who has continuously and repeatedly ostracized them, frozen them out of their confidence, gossiped about their sexual prowess (or its lack) behind their back, restricted or eliminated their sexual access or even inflicted physical and emotional abuse both directly and/or through common children or other relationships, without incurring either a legal complaint or a criminal charge or even a civil law suit.
These minor yet significant "injustices" are never even mentioned in a sexual assault or domestic violence complaint, nor are they investigated by the authorities, considered, as they are, outside the parameters of the legal case. Only the fine points of the specific moment, when a blow was inflicted, the back of a hand was struck against the side of the face of the partner, or the penetration occurred without consent are included in the report of the investigators and the deliberations of the prosecution.
And also, men, for their part, are monstrously guilty of refusing to engage when they are initially 'offended,' 'rejected,' 'dismissed,' ridiculed,' or even 'embarrassed,' preferring to keep their own counsel, even from their most intimate friends. To disclose such minor "annoyances" to anyone would be to surrender their masculinity, in their abridged and restricted definition of their own manhood. And their silence falsely preserves that "mask" of phony and fragile invulnerability. Not only do most men refuse to engage in a healthy dialogue with their female partners and/or family members when they feel hurt, abused, offended or rejected; they also, for the most part do not believe they have acquired the requisite negotiating skills equal to those of their female partners, and without attempting to begin to practice that "muscle" they withdraw to their own detriment.
Outside the privacy of their homes, men notice considerable use of the word, "misogyny" to depict women-hating men, or men who exhibit attitudes, words and actions that demean women. However, there is rarely seen or heard the comparable word, "misandry" for women who hate men. Simply volume and frequency of repetition by the female community makes the exposure of such a word, and thereby its component meaning, out of the public discourse.
So, if men are either unable or unwilling or both, to engage in an open negotiation of their 'issues' with the women in their lives, and women are biologically hard wired never to avoid an opportunity to engage with their 'sisters' especially on issues of common concern, such as how to "manage" their male partners, there is no longer term resolution of the abuse of power, regardless of its specificity, or its gender provocateur or recipient, unless and until the whole culture, including the Judeo-Christian culture as well as the Islamic culture, and also including the growing culture of people of no faith or religious affiliation, reframes the issue of gender politics into an asexual one of the abuse of power, whether the agent of that abuse is a woman or a man.
The president of Lincoln University in the United States has been publicly condemned by women like Melissa Harris Perry, host of the MSNBC weekend show that digs into political and cultural matters including race relations and gender politics, for his public comment to his undergraduate class, pointing out that some women who first engage in a relationship with a man and participate consensually in that relationship, later turn against the former partner with a vengeance that includes the filing of a public complaint of sexual abuse, after the relationship "does not go the way they wanted it to" (it ended when the woman wanted it to continue).
With a blizzard of female complaints flying around about men like the Canadian broadcaster, Gian Gomeshi, and the American comedian Bill Cosby, and two Liberal Members of Parliament in Canada, as well as a host of atrocious acts (including honor killings) against women by their fathers and their partners for actions as ridiculous as playing loud music, or refusing to accept an arranged marriage, or for appearing in public without a veil covering their face, or driving a motor vehicle, or appearing in public with a male companion, courts, the media, political parties, and religions, the whole world generally is engaged in a dialogue most of the deaf, since all sides are screaming past all other sides. There is quite literally the case for a culture war against women, as seen by the growing mountain of evidence of abuse of male power against women.
And all attempts to fully engage both genders in this discussion, debate and even the process of legislating equality have so far failed to fully engage both genders. Would that dialogue of the deaf change if we were to begin to consider the issue from the perspective of the abuse of power. In that frame, even political parties who lie and to who deliberately deceive their publics, and employers who deliberately lie and deceive their employees, and specific political leaders regardless of their political ideology, and clergy and medical practitioners who engage in willful deception
(such as that being investigated by the CBC's Marketplace, the homeopathic doctors who allegedly plant deceptive opinions about the risks of vaccinations for young babies in the minds of young mothers) would be dealt with through a common and genderless lens. The public mind and consciousness would then be required to examine the critical details of each incident, without regard for the gender of the victim or the perpetrator.
And the legal educations, as well as the ethical educations, as well as the educations in "gender relations" would of necessity be stripped of their gender bias, making it possible, for a first time in recent memory, for one to acquire a doctoral qualification in gender studies that was not, and was not permitted to be, gender biased. Ethics, morality, the law and the administration of the law has to  ascribe to and strive to attain a total freedom from gender bias if we are to deal openly with the issues of the abuse of power. For every female elementary teacher hired by a board of education, a male teacher would have to be hired; for every female secondary teacher and principal hired, a male teacher and principal would also have to be hired, and provincial education departments would have to monitor these hirings, in the public interest.
If you consider the hundreds of thousands of young male students who have been administered "Ritalin" for example in the last two decades, to curb their excessive non-compliant energy in a female-dominated culture of most elementary schools, with the silent complicity of both administrations and supervising boards of education, without a specific and effective public protest, then the problem of "gender politics" takes on a very different meaning from "domestic violence" and sexual assault.
Wherever there is a conflict, no matter the nature of the evidence, there are always two parties to the conflict. So long as one party, by definition, is considered and reputed to be the aggressor, and the other party the victim, then specific details of the whole history of the context are outside the limits of the public investigations. And so long as there is no concerted effort through the education system to prepare both male and female students to engage in formal negotiations, from the basis of stated and real equality, then we will be participants in a never-ending and unresolving tension that gobbles millions, if not billions of our public dollars without producing the changes that we all want.
Even making "female equality" a long-term goal in every country requires that men too will be engaged in that process from a perspective and a trusted base of equality in the framing of that long-term political and cultural goal. And the only that that such equality can be attained is to remove gender from the discussion.
There are so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which power is abused, by both men and women. And there are so many stories of abuse by both genders, with only those arising from the women currently fueling the fire of public debate and discussion.
Let's remember that western men live in the absolute knowledge and submission to the reality of a woman's right to say "no". And women also live in the absolute knowledge that their "no" means a great deal to all men. And, from a very early age, without formal instruction, that 'lesson' is deeply and permanently imprinted on the psyche of every western male. In some college dorms, we witness signs that read, "What part of "no" do you not understand?" For some men, a lack of both clarity and respect can be provocative in engendering attitudes and acts that emerge from both confusion and resentment, neither of which are acceptable, without a full clearing of the air, a process in which both men and women have to participate.
And, for many men in an eastern culture, the imprint of  "protecting their woman" from the encroachment of a competing man is considered normal, while in the west such over-protection is considered psychotic. Bringing dishonour to the family, no matter how such acts or attitudes are depicted, given the male 'responsibility' for that honour, is something that is punishable by various violent reprisals. And the abuse of power begins with the definition of psychosis that attends the first "responsibility" and definition of 'honour'. There is no honour in the killing of one who disavows or crosses a family's definition of their honour.
We need gender and thought leaders from both genders to be fully engaged, not so much in finding abusers on both sides, but in a process of reframing the relations between the genders, as well as those between and among all constituent bodies in any culture, without specific references to gender politics.
As one who watched my father succumb and submit to the multiple acts and statements of derision from by mother, and then watched as he attempted to lash out in rage, when he could not longer tolerate the abuse, (only to find his rib broken by a spontaneous hand from a shocked fourteen-year-old son), and who then had to listen to that same woman deride her now deceased husband of sixty-two years as "never having been any good", I am infected by a commitment to both state all of my offences, abuses and acts of disrespect regardless of the gender of the agent, while at the same time, to engage in a process of learning how and when to negotiate with both genders to work out whatever tensions might have become stuck between us, once again irrespective of the gender of the 'other'.
And I urge all men to renounce their passive aggressive approach to their partner's disrespect and to recover their honest and honourable voice to respectfully engage in a process of equality from which, and only from which, a resolution is possible, preserving the dignity and the honour and the respect of all parties.

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