[When you actually agree with the feminist argument that domestic violence is political and about control]
A pernicious point of difference amongst men concerned with men’s issues is the debate over violence, and how to approach it. There are those who point out that women are as violent as men in interpersonal relationships, those who scoff at this idea, and even some who condone some degree of violence within relationships (these sorts exist on both sides, of course).
The problem with the violence debate is that the issue of violence has been so thoroughly politicized that we have lost sight of what the argument is really about. Violence is force. Human violence is the application of force to people against their will. It pervades our society, and is how we – Americans in particular – keep people in line. The obsession with violence against women – a considerably smaller problem than violence against men – on the part of feminists is all about “who? whom?” (kto? kogo?).
We can’t honestly discuss violence without acknowledging that violence is a reality that overshadows our lives. Every time we see a cop with a gun, a patrol car, a prison and even a courthouse we are reminded that we are subject to the state’s violence if we incur its wrath.
Violence is the force of the law. Without it, our rules would have no teeth. Authority without force is no authority at all; power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Anyone immune to violence would be above the law, which is why one of the founding principles of the American republic was that the use of force against the state is justified when it sets itself above the law and in opposition to The People.
If we are to follow the logic of the law, therefore, we must accept that we are all subject to violence if we behave in certain ways. Those who don’t accept this are by definition lawless. For example, if I were to steal from my neighbor, I would expect to be arrested and jailed if caught. To assume otherwise would be a sort of civic hubris.
However, there are certain classes of people for whom different rules exist. Children, for example, are subject to a different standard where force is concerned. To be sure, they are not immune to it, but in general violence against children is of a far milder variety, and usually involves little more than being shut in a room for a spell or dragged into the principal’s office. Even when the state deals with children different rules apply. A child who kills, for example, will generally not face the same sentence as an adult. Furthermore, the state delegates a certain amount of force to adults in the child’s life. Rather than have the police deal with every infraction, parents and other adult authorities are expected to use force as they deem appropriate.
The logic behind this is that children are not “equal” to adults. They have neither the faculties, judgment nor physical capability. They are therefore not deemed to be fully participating citizens, but rather “in custody,” which means that they are under the authority of adults.
Likewise, women are formally held to a different legal standard. In times past, they were legally in the custody of one man or another, and under his authority. Although emancipated women have always existed, they were rare, and I would argue that they still are, because the only serious attempt to make women equal citizens under the law failed spectacularly within a span of only about a decade (1970s).
In the old days, when women were considered to be wards of men, society expected men’s superior force to keep those in their family in line in much the same manner that the law uses superior force to keep men in line. This isn’t to say that force was always applied, but rather that it existed and could be applied, just as a bailiff exists in every courtroom. There was a chain of command that went like this:
Men are subject to the law
Women to men
Children to women
Each relationship was backed by some degree of force. As one goes down the scale, the amount of force deemed appropriate was less severe, but probably more frequent. For example, an arrest and a stint in prison is quite rare, affecting only a small fraction of the male population, but it is a severe punishment. A domestic squabble involving some use of force was also rare, probably affecting a minority of couples, but more common than incarceration (and still is if DV stats are to be believed) and inconsequential compared to prison time. Finally, children were punished relatively frequently, but mildly.
The old system was simple, but effective. It lasted up to about the 1970s, when domestic violence became politicized. We could point directly to feminism as the cause of the old system’s breakdown, but feminism was actually more of a symptom of other changes than the cause. Men’s authority in the home had been breaking down for over a century as urbanization and industrialization proliferated throughout the West. Women found themselves alone as the sole authority of the family when their husbands went to work at the factory or office. Many women also worked under an authority other than their husband or father. It no longer made sense to delegate authority over women only to one man in their lives. The private and public sector found themselves managing women as well as men, and as their authority over them increased, that of their husbands declined.
There was a reversal of this in the idealized 1950s, when a deep social conservatism, partly a result of the return of millions of citizen soldiers who were empowered by their victory, characterized society, but the relentless growth of capitalism guaranteed that this couldn’t last. The economy was growing, and more workers were needed. Women gradually returned to the workforce starting in the 1960s, and the process started again where it had left off.
Since then, husbands (and fathers) have lost essentially all of their old authority over women. However, this is not to say that nobody has any authority over them, but rather that it has passed into other hands. Today, there is still a struggle over who has claim to the women of our society, but it is between the private and public sector. Both presidential candidates understand this quite well, which is why, in pandering to women, one of them is promising state support and the other good jobs. It is almost amusing to see the public and private sector wooing America’s women like a couple of suitors singing to an undecided girl.
Both the public and private sector exert most control over women through economic incentives and punishments rather than physical force. A company keeps its females in line by threatening them with loss of income if they misbehave, which is called abuse or “contempt of court” when husbands do it. The public sector retains the option of using physical force against women – again, called abuse when husbands do it – and also provides (or withdraws) various goodies through bureaucracies.
The public and private sector have come to wield far more authority over women than the men in their lives. Men are ordered to provide for women in their lives no matter what, and never to use physical force on them, but the state follows neither mandate, and the private sector only the latter (which could be a powerful selling point for the Republicans). Given that very few single women make a living from their own businesses, most being dependent on the state or a job in the private sector, the proportion of women who could be said to be truly emancipated remains as low as ever.
However, despite the state and private sector’s current authority over women, a different standard is still applied. Not only a different standard as far as the use of force, but in terms of provision as well. Equality of men and women is widely assumed to be enshrined in law, but this is not the case. The Equal Rights Amendment did not pass back in the 1970s, largely because women didn’t want it in its unadulterated form, and considering the Hayden rider there was nothing equal about it. For some interesting background on the fight to pass the ERA, see how, according to suffragette Alice Paul, NOW (the National Organization of Women) essentially killed it by supporting the Hayden rider.
The full text of the Equal Rights Amendment, originally written by Alice Paul, is as follows:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
However, the Hayden rider was added in the 1950s:
The provisions of this article shall not be construed to impair any rights, benefits, or exemptions now or hereafter conferred by law upon persons of the female sex.
This rendered it self-contradictory and not at all different from the status quo, yet it is the version supported by feminist groups, and that is why the amendment never passed. It was too much of a sham to make it through the full process of ratification.
So, according to US law women are still a special class of citizens, like children, who are afforded protections and benefits not extended to men. They are exempt from the draft, they are given special accommodation at work and school, their activities are subsidized at men’s expense (e.g. Title IX), and far more social welfare is directed their way.
Although the myth of women’s self-sufficiency and independence is widely repeated, it is ignored in practice, and contradicted by law.
Because women are acknowledged both by the law and custom to be a special class, and not fully equal citizens, it follows that others are responsible for ensuring that they are taken care of and kept in line. Because the state has arrogated the responsibility of managing women to itself and taken family choices entirely out of the hands of fathers and husbands, male citizens’ responsibilities toward women’s provision and care should likewise be removed.
If we are to remove individual male authority over the women in his life and replace it with collective authority over women, then we should remove individual male responsibility and replace it with collective responsibility over women, and be quite honest about it.
The same would apply to children, of course. Would it be just for the state to remove a child and terminate parental custody and then present a bill for doing so? [Actually, because the overwhelming majority of CPS removals are from single mothers, the child will frequently be placed with a foster family without any input from the father, and then he will be forced to pay child support directly to the state.]
One could view abolishing male authority over women as a liberating trend, because collectively managing females would spread the burden over a greater number of taxpayers, including women themselves, freeing men from so much individual responsibility. And rather than having to control women ourselves, we could allow the police and private business to handle them. The problem with this is that the state is running into problems with expense, and the private sector is starting to face the same issues itself. Because women are a special, legally-protected class with more needs and associated expenses, we simply cannot treat them as men. This is why Barack Obama and a number of other leftist politicians desperately want to collectivize birth control: because single mothers and their needs have grown into such an enormous drain on treasuries.
And here is where the issue of force and violence is bound to come up again. So far, the state has managed to use force mainly against fathers in a bid to maintain the politically convenient facade of female equality while balancing the budget. But it has reached the point of diminishing return. The cash cow that was middle-class American men is starting to dry up for a number of reasons. Young men are marrying at much lower rates, they make less relative to their parents, and a greater proportion of them is now working class or underclass than was the case a generation ago. The marriage issue is important because public expenses for single mothers are considerably higher than for those who live with a man. Even onerous child support guidelines don’t come close to making up the difference, and at this point increasing child support collection will simply start to eat away at tax revenue.
So, eventually the state will have to begin to turn the screws on women, and when the state sees people as a “problem” the treatment they get tends to be very unpleasant. People who doubt this need only look at Communist China’s birth control policy. Single mothers were routinely sterilized or had abortions forced on them. Even married women who didn’t control their fertility were subjected to these measures. Women who had more than one child lost state support, and were forced into deep poverty, the likes of which most American women cannot comprehend. If that isn’t violence against women, what is?
Many Americans tend to think of the leftists who advocate more state involvement in people’s lives as touchy-feely types who would never support such measures. They couldn’t be any more wrong. Leftist American professors in China studies openly endorse China’s birth control measures. The honest ones will tell you that they’d support doing the same here.
I doubt we’ll need to take as drastic steps as China in the foreseeable future, but changes will be made. Control over reproduction – the feminist holy grail – may be handed over to the state in our lifetime and taken away from certain classes of women (e.g. those on welfare). We could see women being forced to take birth control, and punished when they fail to do so. Women who defy the state on these matters will be dealt with forcefully — just like men. Women could well be coerced into being economically productive, as fathers are today. Single mothers who refuse to work could face some punishment, and as men’s wages decline even farther relative to women’s, married women will likely no longer have the choice to stay home and care for their children themselves. Furthermore, because men no longer have authority over their wives, they have none over their children, either. Ultimately, the state will have the final word on children, and tough luck if mothers disagree.
The Violence Against Women dialog was born out of a desire for throwing off the authority of husbands, but it doesn’t seem the feminists considered that women would only end up with another master. And this time it is a master that sees them as only one of millions — a mere number in a database. Also, a much stronger master that will not tolerate any deviation, and will apply force impersonally without any sentimental considerations.
“Violence” against women will therefore never cease, but only be applied by a different force. In their naïvete, feminists thought they could throw off the yoke of patriarchy and be completely free. They imagined they would achieve a sort of blissful anarchy, like all utopian fantasies, and answer to none but themselves. However, they eventually find that the office manager, the case-worker, the policeman and the magistrate are less forgiving and caring than the typical husband, and far less concerned about protecting them.
True independence can only be gained in the absence of want. Women in general will always be needier than men, and therefore will always require more oversight. To be dependent is to be under another’s control, and to be under control is to be subject to some degree of force. Practically speaking, the party responsible for the subject is the one who should have legitimate authority.
The way we need to frame the debate concerning violence against women is in recognizing that the argument is centered entirely on who has authority and the right to wield it — not on the naturally repellent idea of a man brutally assaulting a woman. If we have no authority over women, then we cannot be justly held responsible for them either. Society cannot have it both ways. If the state insists on maintaining both women’s dependent status and a monopoly on authority, then individual men should have no obligations to women whatsoever. I’m not sure that will ever be feasible, but eventually we will have to make a choice along those lines.