Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Grow a pair. 14.04.15

I'm growing increasingly concerned about two friends of mine. Their relationships appear to be sliding further and further away from normality (my concept of it, at least, which is a cooperative democracy) and towards autocracy. 

In the early stages of their relationships, their partners were very interested in their lives. That seemed just great. As time went on, they became increasingly involved; that phase also seemed healthy, or at least innocuous. At some undefined point, though, the style of their involvement seemed to change. Instead of adding to my friends' lives, their partners started taking away from them. 

Slowly but surely, they started limiting and controlling what my friends could and couldn't do. They were not even subtle about it. They manoeuvred my friends into giving up their homes and uprooting themselves, thereby isolating them from their families and social groups. Now, they screen friendships, either openly or by being horrible to people they disapprove of (which seems to include anyone with potentially compatible plumbing). Meanwhile, their behaviour towards the opposite sex is increasingly flirtatious. They have become extremely critical of absolutely everything my friends do, say, or wear. The only “right” way is to do whatever they say, which is progressively more inconsistent. Their ability (or willingness) to control their moods seems to be slipping, resulting in uncalled-for outbursts of greater frequency and intensity. They are tightening control over the couple’s finances. I'm just waiting for the moment when my friends are conned into becoming house husbands... 

...oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that? The friends in question are both males. They are larger, stronger, and even beardier than their female partners. That's rather the problem. 

The paths their relationships are taking match the classical Power & Control(TM) strategies used by abusers in order to gain total control over their partners. If my friends were women, the lack of physical abuse would simply not be a factor. In our society, we know that emotional abuse, economic abuse, enforced isolation, violent outbursts, etc. are forms of real abuse. In theory, at least; in practice, apparently, they're only abuse if the target is a woman. 

Were I subjected to half of that sort of treatment, I would be tripping over people trying to help me. Individuals would try to explain to me that I'm heading down a dangerous slope, that life doesn't have to be like this, that I have the right to better treatment. I would have access to organisations ready to counsel, educate, and support me. I could report threatening behaviours to the authorities and, though the practical support I could get would probably be fairly limited, at least I'd get heard.

All my friends are getting, on the other hand, are insults ("grow a pair!") and public ridicule for "falling for crazy pussy." The level of support they’re getting is currently zero; in fact, the worse their situation gets, the less the people around them seem to be tolerant of the fact that they are "putting up" with it. I strongly suspect that, even if their partners started beating or sexually abusing them, the level of support would not increase by much.

We seem to treat female domestic abusers like we treat aggressive toy dogs. If a Rottweiler tried to attack us over food, controlled our furniture, tried to kill our neighbours and guests, or tried to fuck us, most of us would grow somewhat concerned. The precise same behaviours displayed by a chihuahua is considered entertaining. As someone who works with dogs, that attitude drives me entirely demented; aggression is aggression, even small dogs can do damage, and unless you want an aggressive dog steps have to be taken. Unfortunately, as countless "funniest animals ever" videos testify, the trivialising of aggression in small dogs seems to be pretty solidly ingrained in our culture. We don't appear to respond to the badness of a behaviour. Rather, we look at the possible results, and if they don't appear too serious, we just laugh the whole thing off.

The "logic" seems to be that a female domestic abuser is just not a very serious threat, weaker sex and all that. If the men involved weren't so feeble, if they just stood up for themselves, if they just stopped being so spineless and pathetic, their female abusers wouldn't stand a chance. It's their own fault for not changing their lives, really. Of course, if they did stand up for themselves we'd probably call them bullies... It's a no-win situation. 

There is no danger of that at the moment, though, because my friends don't currently have the psychological, emotional, and social resources to fight back against their abusers. And the worse they "allow" themselves to be treated, the less people seem to respect them or be willing to help them. This is in stark contrast with how we treat women victims. 

If you made this sort of statement about a woman abused by a man, you'd get lynched as a Victim Blamer. Weirdly enough, the people who are keenest on that kind of lynching are also the same people who would put "male privilege" rather than "gender privilege" in the Power & Control wheel... hmm. I wonder if that’s a coincidence.

1 comment:

Charles James said...

When I read this the thought I get to their abusers is, "Emotional Vampires." Hmmm, makes me wonder.

As to the disparity between men vs. women in abuse, you are so right on, we just assume that because they are men they have the ability to fight back in an abusive relationship. It ain't that easy partner!