Spent a lot of yesterday reading At the Root of this Longing; reconciling a spiritual hunger and a feminist thirst, by Carol Lee Flinders. Horrified by being reminded of one mechanism that keeps patriarchy in place: that sociopaths kill women and girls they don’t even know. They are a kind of “police function” that keeps the rest of us women “in our place”, keeps us from feeling safe in a strange place at night. We’re seeing this more openly than usual in the Republican War on Women. Women who dare to speak out, take charge of their own sexual lives, protest the ongoing war, speak up for children… are being insulted and marginalized by presidential candidates. Furthermore, it’s the idea that women and the earth are not sacred and to be respected that allows us to destroy the natural environment.
Flinders quotes “a traditional Sanscrit teaching … That is a well-governed state where women, adorned with all dress and ornaments, unaccompanied by men, can move freely and fearlessly in its roads and lanes.” (p196) (from the Epilogue to the Great Indian Saga, the Mahabharata.) By this standard, it’s been a very long time, perhaps several millennia, since any of the countries in Europe could be called “well-governed.”
Before Flinders started writing At the Root of this Longing, a young girl in her community was kidnapped, raped and murdered. As a result, both she and her husband, who was teaching fifth grade in the same community, struggled with outrage and grief. Tim Flinders, looking at his students, suddenly had the horrifying thought that the victim could have been one of his students. Then he had the even more horrifying realization that the murderer could have been one of his own too. “As a teacher, he knew firsthand that ‘Richard Allen Davis is sitting right now in fifth-grade classrooms all across the country, alienated, abused, angry, helpless, with little sense of right and wrong, and with nothing to lose.’” (p213)
He goes on to say that Davis was not the very unusual case we would like to believe. “He is part of a male culture … that bolstered his feelings, however bent they might have been, however distorted or self-serving or even irrational. At the center of that culture, driving it, is the understanding that sex is domination and that women want it to be. And whenever any man tells a lurid joke or rents a pornographic video or brags about last night’s conquest, we’ve done our little bit to perpetuate it.” (p214)
Carol Flinders also quotes Mike Messner, a sociologist, who believes that boys and young men learn a “sexual script” that starts with “objectification of a woman,” reducing her to “a manipulated object.” “Importantly, the sexual act is most erotically salient for the young man in terms of his status vis-á-vis his male peers — not in relation to his actual sexual partner. Though she is physically present, the girl or woman, as a thinking, choosing partner, is obliterated.” Flinders p215. She gives the reference: Michael Messner and Donald Sabo, Sex Violence and Power in Sports: Rethinking Masculinity (Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1994) p67.
To me this sounds a lot like the psychological mechanism that allowed the Nazis to de-humanize the Jews, that allows all the so-called “ethnic cleansing” that has gone on, including the United States driving the Cherokee out of their ancient homeland. It also sounds like a lot of the Republican candidates for government, or already in government, have been trained in the same “sexual script.”