October 19, 2013

Patriarchal culture encourages violence

The Perils of Patriarchy for Men as Well as Women: Another Mass Shooting, Another Reason to Begin Discussing Violence and Gender

By Jeffrey NallViolence has long been the weapon of choice to assert one's self-worth within patriarchal culture and is often motivated to overcome perceived "dignity-denial" or dehumanization--denying one's moral status. Drawing on his research and direct experience with perpetrators of violence, psychiatrist James Gilligan notes that "the basic psychological motive, or cause, of violent behavior is the wish to ward off or eliminate the feeling of shame and humiliation ... and replace it with its opposite, the feeling of pride." In addition to feelings of profound shame, triggers for violence include a variety of factors including the feeling that nonviolent alternatives to restoring one's dignity are unavailable and the failure to feel "empathy, love and concern for others." These violence-abating feelings are linked to femininity, and men who embrace them are often chastised for weakness. And the devaluation of "feminine feelings" such as empathy increasingly marks broader social and governmental practices. As Henry Giroux has pointed out, Americans are increasingly encouraged to limit their compassion and to adopt such "masculine" hardness. This phenomenon is growing not only in terms of interpersonal relations, but also in social policy.

Bell hooks contends that the patriarchy is the "most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation." Throughout its more than 4,000-year history, Western patriarchal culture has never meaningfully wavered from its advocacy of violence as the fundamental tool to resolve disputes, be it between nations or between individuals, and to establish support for claims of "manhood," a term that has historically been synonymous with "dignity" or inherent worth. As Gilligan explains: "Masculinity, in the traditional, conventional stereotypical sex-role of patriarchy, is literally defined as involving the expectation, even the requirement, of violence, under many well specified conditions: in time of war; in response to personal insult; in response to extramarital sex on the part of a female in the family; while engaging in all-male combat sports; etc."

Armed with the threat of shame and emasculation, patriarchy fosters the expectation and demand that males seek control over connection, silence their emotions or risk identification with the "inferior sex," and resolve major problems including profound internal turmoil by turning to force. They are to form identities based on the pillars of emotional detachment, stoic toughness and mental and physical exhibitions of dominance. This patriarchal model of masculinity does not encourage nonviolent emotional expression nor does it remind others that men's well-being requires such opportunities. Instead, "real" men are encouraged to act impervious and indifferent to physical and emotional pain. In practice, this means men are supposed to contain and shove down their feelings. But these feelings cannot be repressed forever. For this reason, anger is perhaps the most commonly glamorized and accepted form of manly emotional expression. Patriarchy's bargain with men deprives them of human wholeness, giving them anger--much of it socially condoned--as their defining quality and mode of expression.
Comment:  Masculine violence is what American culture is all about. We define ourselves by our macho heroes: the frontiersman, the cowboy, the soldier, the astronaut, the crimefighter, et al.

What someone said about Iraq:

Former Bush Official: We Went Into Iraq Because 'We Were Looking For Somebody's Ass To Kick': Report

applies to almost any problem or situation. From killing Indians to defending sports mascots, our goal is to prove ourselves the alpha male, the winner, the chosen one.

For more on the subject, see Zimmerman Verdict Shows America's Pathology and America's Culture Based on Violence.

No comments: