In response to our recent blog entry about men killing their pregnant wives, a reader named Jules wrote the following. It's long but very worthwhile reading.
There are many theories why men are misogynistic (women-hating). We live in a misogynistic culture. One need only watch TV, go on the Web and look at porn (but I'd rather you not), or browse a history book to see women played down as "beneath" men. Our language is derived from misogynistic beliefs. Women have not been studied in science or health, but a male model is always used. Women's bodies are different from men's, and we need women's bodies to develop the science that determines our medical practices.
If we go way back to prehistoric times we find that men needed women in order to centralize power. They needed them to work their fields and produce their offspring. They used brute force then to get women to do what they wanted and they use it today. American culture privileges men through systems of oppression. These are institutions that have the power to distribute resources and do so unfairly—have done so for years. This nation benefits from all the unpaid labor of Native Americans, slaves, and women. The "second shift" is usually the woman's job if she works outside the home.
The history of sexuality is a history of telling men that their "seed" is more important than women's. Only recently has science begun looking at the male's ejaculate as "fertilizer" and women's eggs as "seed." When women marry, they lose power by losing their name. In some cultures they lose much more. People of little power are not respected in Western culture.
Some people believe men hate women because women are usually the primary caregivers of men when they are boys. This makes men feel powerless in the face of their need for their mother's love and approval. With fathers frequently being out of the picture, all the blame is on the mother.
Gender is socially constructed and derived on a sliding scale. There is no 100 percent "male" nor 100 percent "female." We all land somewhere in the middle along the scale, with some of us more at one end than the other. Men are afraid of being penetrated. It is seen as a "woman's" position and as a negative thing that "happens" to you. This also creates a lot of homophobia in our culture. At one time, there was no word for homosexual, nor for heterosexual. Men had sex with men and women with women. It was part of acceptable society. The church/state put an end to all that by questioning whether you were really male if you had a sexual-object choice that was not female. This was to control reproduction and develop armies, workers, and people to support the church. Misogynistic ideas are nurtured through the Bible and its all-male telling of Jesus's life. Mary Magdalene, Jesus’s lover, was downplayed by men (rewriting history decades after Jesus died), making her a whore. A whore and a virgin are the Christian standards for women. No wonder men are confused—and women.
There are many reasons why men are misogynistic. The question for any one man is "Do I hate women?" For a man to truly answer this, he must look at his practices. Does he have women friends? Does he look at porn? Has he ever raped someone? Does he understand how he is privileged? Most men need to take a “difference, power, and discrimination” course of some type to understand these very deep-seated, cultural issues. Women can be misogynistic also, wanting to be on the “winning” team culturally.
None of this excuses the horrible behavior of men such as the ones who kill their pregnant wives to “dispose” of responsibility. We get nowhere when we blame, though—it doesn’t produce understanding or growth and it allows misogynistic ideas and practices to remain in place on the everyday level without questioning them.
Patriarchy doesn’t work for women, but what men don’t understand is that it doesn’t work for men either. Capitalism is at the root of patriarchy. Get rid of one and the other will also perish. Big problems. In the meantime, men and women need to learn to love, to seek refuge from a production/consumption-driven culture. Production and consumption are also at work in nature but with other natural checks and balances in place so as not to “enslave” one animal to another. Only outside of nature is the production/consumption cycle a dangerous one for all of us. We must be driven by a desire to be inside of nature, not above, removed from, or outside of nature. Women, being equated with nature and the physical world (body), are something to exploit, rape, harvest, control, subdue. Men, being equated with the world of intelligence or the Divine, are something to be in control, to be important, special, smarter, etc. As long as we denigrate nature and equate woman with nature, we uphold the denigration of women culturally. We need to stop our production/consumption cycle outside of nature. Production/consumption is a natural process with important checks and balances in place in nature. But outside of nature it enslaves some of us to others of us and makes money more important than life. Thus the hypocrisy of those belonging to patriarchal institutions such as organized religion speaking out as “right to life” advocates. This type of “right” is only about producing and controlling production, or that which women produce. It is not about the right to having life while living or being fully alive, healthy, well, provided for…
Men who kill their pregnant wives are very tied up inside all of this cultural confusion. It is important that we look at all of the cultural cues that led a man to this point and we don’t allow ourselves to just blame the man and learn nothing. Holding him responsible is good, but blame is blinding. A culture that needs us to be blinded will encourage us to blame.