This is why we have those patriarchal rules about behaviour

When I was attacked, it began with a demand for a cigarette. It escalated to the point where I was on my back on the pavement, being strangled. Not even a decent man who takes rejection with good grace can tell me, or any other woman, that our fear of violence is unfounded. We know what rejected men can do – we have seen what can happen. And many of us have felt it.

OPK. Well, no, not OK that it happened, but OK to the story as told.

Good progress is being made on teaching consent in schools. But ultimately it comes down to men treating women with respect and regarding them as equals with agency over their bodies. Unfortunately this sort of sea change can take generations, especially when it is undermined by the surrounding visual culture.

Maybe.

We used to laugh at this, the idea that this somewhat feckless, harmless man could be perceived as so frightening. But having suffered some of the long-term health implications of being attacked, I don’t find it funny any more. When you combine the larger male physique with rejection and a bruised ego, the situation can become frightening and violent. There are men who take rejection with good grace, of course. But not enough of them. And so women learn to smile and look down, to defuse the situation with soothing words and platitudes, to make our bodies smaller, to comply. We undertake the emotional labour of minimising men’s feelings of pain and humiliation.

That’s why we had all those old rules of the patriarchy. Never strike a woman, no matter what, for example. Societally enforced by every other man around being ready to administer a thrashing to those who erred.

Sure, you don’t have to like that solution. But it was a solution to that very problem you’re complaining about.

34 thoughts on “This is why we have those patriarchal rules about behaviour”

  1. In the early sixties, my now 72 year-old mother was walking down the street. A man approached from the opposite direction, leering at her. She slapped him, and went on her way.

    That’s another way in which patriarchy worked. And the relies on her perception that he was leering. Maybe he just had an unfortunate face.

  2. Maritime Barbarian

    Ah, the old ways! Courtesy, civility. Stand up when a lady enters the room. Hold the door for her. “Women and children first” to be rescued from a dangerous situation. “That’s no job for a woman” – when they were banned from coal mining.
    Modern life is better in all ways, is it?

  3. Why would one even expect the old rules (of patriarchy) to be still relevant?

    This is now a new, much improved, more tolerant, diverse, and culturally enriched society?

    Be it burkas, tattoos or Paola (rather than Paul) on a Wednesday; truly, freedom for all..

  4. This is off at a tangent here but the idea of anybody, male or female, having “agency over their bodies” is just that, an idea. The idea of individual agency is largely a world-philosophical, even quasi-religious, concept rather than a scientific fact. If anything there seems to be scientific evidence against the post-Enlightenment conception of humans as individuals who make choices and decisions with their conscious mind – the idea around which much of our legal system and human rights culture is constructed. As I understand it, neuroscientists generally believe decision-making generally ascribe decision-making to faster subconscious processes, and our self-perception as having consciously chosen anything derives from post-rationalisation that takes place slightly later.

    It is interesting that agency is ascribed or diminished at whatever is the convenient juncture for the argument. Are people capable of choosing a cheap, healthy lifestyle? No – they may be able to afford it and even know it would be good for them, but modern life has apparently mangled their brains so they cannot choose it anymore. Are vulnerable people to blame for choosing a path of criminality? Nah, society, innit? But other times the concept of free human agency is invoked without question, for example on issues of medical or sexual consent. Interestingly both of these views are taught in schools.

    I don’t know whether the legal system should be completely rewritten every decade as our scientific understanding of “consciousness” progresses or whether we should try finding a new paradigm of “consent” that isn’t so centred on an elusive concept of agency… or whether we need a complete rethink of the extent to which we believe in conscious agency and whether it should be taught in school as a convenient myth or as a value we all “believe” in to make Western society work even if we don’t necessarily see it as a scientific statement of fact.

    Incidentally, regardless of any weaknesses in the claims to uniqueness and truth of the Western conception of the individual and their place in society, I’d still rather live in a Western culture than not. But there remains something to he said for certain old mores (don’t hit a woman because it is wrong and socially unacceptable) even if they lack the philosophical sophistication of new ones (don’t hit a woman because it violates her human rights and bodily autonomy – in some ways a societal post-rationalisation of the original mores).

  5. “Street harassment is esp bad in Paris”.

    I wonder why that could be ?

    PS-I thought I’d leave the “you stupid leftist bitch” implied this time. Show a bit of class.

  6. ” I wonder why that could be ?”

    Must be the rise of Trump and the population of white supremacists increasing.

    Any other explanation is likely to get you in trouble.

  7. “That’s why we had all those old rules of the patriarchy. Never strike a woman, no matter what, for example. Societally enforced by every other man around being ready to administer a thrashing to those who erred.”

    The rule seemed to be that you could hit men but not women. ‘Equality’ can either mean that *both* men and women can be hit, or it can mean *neither* men nor women can be hit. Either women lose the extra protection and fall back to the situation of the men, or men gain the extra protection to catch up to the women.

    Which ‘equality’ solution do you think they intended? Which are *you* going to go for?

    “Sure, you don’t have to like that solution. But it was a solution to that very problem you’re complaining about.”

    The ‘problem’ was men being violent bastards going round hitting people when something upset them.

    The ‘problem’ was those rules about not hitting women were conditional on them doing what they were told to by men. It wasn’t the ‘no hitting’ bit that upset them.

  8. not hitting women were conditional on them doing what they were told to by men.

    Which is still strongly prevalent? For example, there are communities amongst us where that culture is still “formally” part of the code, and perhaps particularly amongst some more recent imports?

  9. “Which is still strongly prevalent? For example, there are communities amongst us where that culture is still “formally” part of the code, and perhaps particularly amongst some more recent imports?”

    Yes. Exactly. Defending the ‘Patriarchy’ is defending Islamic tradition.

  10. I think not hitting women is not so much conditional on them doing what they are told as them behaving like ladies.

  11. “I think not hitting women is not so much conditional on them doing what they are told as them behaving like ladies.”

    … and you get to tell them what that is?

    You might have thought so. A lot of men didn’t. Domestic violence has long been a feminist issue.

  12. Mr Ecks – I approve.

    Rihanna Lucy Corset says:

    When I was attacked, it began with a demand for a cigarette.

    Well, what kind of men typically get into aggressive begging street fisticuffs against women?

    Hint: the Guardian foregoed (forewent?) the opportunity to talk about white male privilege.

  13. NiV – Yes. Exactly. Defending the ‘Patriarchy’ is defending Islamic tradition.

    Our choices are:

    * Benevolent white Patriarchy
    * Woman-beating Islamic Patriarchy

    We’ve tried being politically correct for nearly 100 years, but it turns out nature abhors a vacuum, and if you give women votes they’ll invite in every scumbag on Earth with an iPhone and a sob story.

  14. Our choices are:
    * Woman-beating white Patriarchy
    * Woman-beating Islamic Patriarchy
    * Man-beating feminist Matriarchy
    * Nobody gets to beat up anybody, or tell anybody else what they can or cannot do

  15. * Man-beating feminist Matriarchy

    Lol.

    * Nobody gets to beat up anybody, or tell anybody else what they can or cannot do

    Civilised Anarchy?

  16. The last is fantasy NiV. and how would you enforce it non-violently without the very brain-washing you decry so frequently?

    Nor is it true that women only get struck if they behave like “ladies”. I have several times in my life put up with rudeness and aggression from women for the which ( no pun intended) I would have struck a male repeatedly. It goes against the grain to strike a female unless life itself is the issue eg she is loading up a gun to take a shot at you etc. A fairly rare circumstance.

  17. Societally enforced by every other man around being ready to administer a thrashing to those who erred.

    This is key. Men are no longer willing to step in, to risk physical or reputational injury to themselves when a nutter is making trouble.

    We shy away partly because said nutter is increasingly likely to be armed (knife, acid, etc); and partly because no man expects the police and/or courts to permit their intervention.

    At best you’re looking at 18 months in legal limbo until the CPS decides it hasn’t got a leg to stand on. At worst the bad guy has lawyered-up and brought the media onboard, and your name is mud before the trial even begins. In an era where we’re expected to be able to change jobs every time the wind blows, you don’t want HR’s first Google hit to return a Guardian character assassination. The process is the punishment, in effect.

  18. I’m fairly sure men are more likely to be the victim of physical assaults from other men than women are.

    Men are no longer willing to step in, to risk physical or reputational injury to themselves when a nutter is making trouble.

    Especially as you know you are likely to be the only one who does even if you do step in, which makes you less likely to do so.

  19. Wife’s friend tended to get into abusive relationships. Having known this friend for some years my urge to slap her is such that I can understand those men.
    Yes, culturally some men are taught not to be violent to women. Even when they do deserve it.

  20. ‘Male reactions can range from verbal abuse (counterintuitively, “slut” seems to be the insult of choice when a woman declines an offer of sex from a man in the street), to refusing to take no for an answer, harassment, stalking and physical violence.’

    “Oh, okay,” falls outside her range. IOW, all men are shit. If you try to go through life with the belief that all men are shit, it’s going to be a rough trip.

  21. Bloke in North Dorset

    There used to be a time when men didn’t swear in front of women. My father would bar anyone who did, except in the Tap Room after they were banned. I wouldn’t swear in front of, and definitely not at, a WRAC.

    I couldn’t believe it when I was walking round Ealing not long after I’d left the Army, women standing around effing and blinding while their kids ran around.

  22. Currently struggling with a broken ankle and had to catch a busy bus yesterday, none of the teenagers offered their seat even though they were sitting under a sign saying those seats were for people with mobility problems, it was the older people that did offer seats

  23. Looking back, my teenage years were the most fraught (physical confrontation). The epidemic of metropolitan stabbings are a sign that little has changed. Life becomes ‘dangerous’ around the time you turn 50, when a natural inclination to intercede in situations meets with the realisation you’re not up to it any more. Can’t say I’ve felt physically threatened in recent decades as most men over 40 have grown out of that sort of crap and know better. Not necessarily the same for a growing number of women when out for the night. I’ve often clocked ladettes sizing up Mrs G., intent on a bit of aggro. It’s not necessarily men that most women have to be wary of.

  24. Surreptitious Evil

    Nobody gets to beat up anybody, or tell anybody else what they can or cannot do

    Well, the former is illegal. Unfortunately, we can’t even pretend to either stop all law-breaking or even catch all law-breakers after the event without being a hideously repressive authoritarian state. And even those don’t manage it competently.

    And the latter? Great, that’s Public Health England all sacked. And all bosses everywhere. And the courts are gone – you can’t tell people what to do. Wait a minute. Isn’t there a tiny little conflict between the first and second points? Or was that not what you were meaning?

  25. “Isn’t there a tiny little conflict between the first and second points?”

    Not really. Google “non-agression principle” and negative rights.

  26. @ NiV
    Choices include Matriarchy that is not man-beating.
    My mother told me that she grew up in a matriarchy after her grandfather (who had earned all the money) died and left it to his widow who was about 15 years younger.
    My two great-uncles got one medal (it should have been two but the proposed MC was transferred to another officer in the same regiment when Stanley so badly wounded that he was invalided back to England before it was confirmed) and two “Mentioned in Despaches” in WWI. I cannot imagine my great-grandmother, my grandmother or my great-aunt beating them up, nor the noticing it if any of the them had tried.
    Further de-bunking to follow

  27. @ NiV 1/8/18 10:07
    Not hitting women was never conditional on them doing what they were told.
    Crawl back under your stone.
    When my parents got married my mother insisted on omitting the “obey” clause in the vows; when I got married I insisted on omitting it.

  28. “Choices include Matriarchy that is not man-beating.”

    Obviously there’s a choice from infinitely many possible political systems! I was simplifying.

    The point I was trying to make that there are various factions of the authoritarians (white males, Islamic beards, SJW radical feminists) all fighting for their own set of norms to take priority, but the option that had been missed out was liberty, where none of the above groups ‘won’ and therefore nobody had to ‘lose’.

    The ‘Liberty’ option also includes equal rights for men and women – if it does no unconsented harm to others, society has no business stopping women (or men) doing it. So as far as I’m concerned, your form of ‘matriarchy’ is probably already included under my option 4.

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