Tuesday, 19 August 2008

The Punishment of Women for Men's Own Failings...

Last Saturday night I was witness to the phenomenon of men punishing women for their own failings. I had been invited round to a friend's house for a house party. There were predominantly men there, and only three women including myself. So it was to be expected (at least with my male friends) that there would be sexist 'banter' (some of the puns were cringeworthy). And to go off on a tangent for a moment, what really annoys me is when they treat the acquiring of a girlfriend (like they're searching for a new car or computer) as a way to procure sex - if they happen to like her personality as well, that's just a bonus. Shouldn't it be the other way round? You get to know someone as a person, finding out their likes and dislikes, their philosophy on life, politics, that kind of thing, and then if both parties are in agreement then sex may happen - men should not treat sex as a given. There are more ways than that to have a relationship with somebody - friendship, companionship, etc.

Anyway, back to my story. One of my friend's girlfriends arrived. He had been pretty critical of her before she arrived, mainly against her musical tastes and generally suggesting that she was a bit 'wafey'. And there was much laughter from the other men in the room. And when she arrived he ignored her. He went into the kitchen to talk to two of the other men until one of the women told him to offer her a drink. Now personally I wouldn't have waited to be offered a drink - I've never understand that 'convention'. And if I was being ignored by someone who was supposed to be my boyfriend I wouldn't have given him the time of day. Anyway, the worst is yet to come. When he finally did acknowledge that she was there, he promptly kept lunging at her, making some kind of growling noise (like a lion or maybe a tiger - either way the implication was clear: he was the predator, she was the prey), and she, whilst trying to take it in good part, was clearly trying to push him off her (she was cringing away from him for goodness-sake). All this behaviour seemed to be aimed (subconsciously or not) at letting her, and anyone else in the room who cared to be noticing, know that he was the one in charge of the relationship.

Thinking about this afterwards I considered maybe I had been mistaken. Maybe he was just being playful, afterall she was laughing (albeit a bit nervously). And anyway, I was the only one who seemed to be thinking that there was a problem. Maybe I was over-reacting. But then I realised that I was 'normalising' the behaviour. I was 'normalising' the fact that he was treating her like an object, a possession that he could treat as he wanted. I was 'normalising' the fact that he was treating this woman as if she was there for him to impose his will upon her.

To fully understand how this relates to the title of the post. Some brief background information is required. All the men in the room had at some point had their heart's broken (I don't like this sentimental term, but it's the only one I can think of). And the man in question had his heart broken quite badly - his girlfriend had left him for someone else. However, his previous girlfriend was quite strong-willed - she would never have let him maul her like that or ignore her. She would have got her own drink for a start. And her having a good time would not be dependent on him being there. But it seems to me that he, and all the other men in the room, had picked, since breaking up with their original girlfriends, women who would be a bit dependent on them and would not complain if they treated them a little roughly. They picked women who they could have a modicum of control over - they are punishing women for their own failings, as if to say 'if the relationship ends this time, it'll be me who does it'.

Ironically, in this case, it seems to be that these men (I'm including the other males who were at the party) cannot control their emotions - ironic as it's traditionally women who are accused of this. It's almost as if they think it was a fault to treat their previous girlfriends as actual people (i.e. a fault because the behaviour is not masculine enough), and now they're making up for it by being as overbearing and overwhelming as possible. They are exerting male-sexual privilege upon women because perhaps they think that their girlfriends then won't leave them in that case - the old myth that women like a man who will take charge and take all the difficult parts of life into their capable hands. It's downright sickening!

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