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Oct 15 2012

Microaggression and macroaggression

Drop everything and read this article by Soraya Chemaly on a book about the link between violence against girls and women and military conflict.

If you take one idea away from the year 2012 this should be this:

“The very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is how well its women are treated. What’s more, democracies with higher levels of violence against women are as insecure and unstable as nondemocracies.”

U.S.? Look at yourself in the mirror. 

There is a direct relationship between the treatment of women in everyday life — in homes, on streets, at schools and work — and a nation’s propensity for engaging in war.  It turns out that the security of girls and women — how safe they are in their homes, in their schools, on their streets,  is the measure of the security of the state they live in. In very few countries do we have a clear and culturally evident equality in the equal value of boys and girls and in very few states are girls secure.

Consider the simplest fact that everywhere, when you want to humiliate a boy or a “real man” you accuse him of being a “girl.” If the U.S., if he’s a rookie football player, you give him a little girl’s backpack to show him his “place”; if he’s an Iraqi prisoner, you make him wear girls’ underwear to demonstrate your complete power over his body.  In Afghanistan, cross-dressed dancing boys are “invisible victims” of rape.  It’s a shaming tool and a cheap weapon.  If you’re a boy — you understand your intrinsic superior value.  If you’re a girl or a woman it’s a slap in the face every time you see it or hear it.  Most of us brush it off and go about our business. But it wears away in your brain nonetheless. How can it not? It really is everywhere a subtle, backhanded reminder that your way of being is a way to denigrate and insult others.

The linguistic and actual subjugation of girls is a ubiquitous cultural meme that feeds a real and deadly harm. And, it turns out, has everything to do with war.

This is what I keep saying (except the war part, which I didn’t know). I also keep getting called a bitch and a cunt for saying it – which I think proves my point, but the bitchers and cunters think…what do they think? I don’t know. They pretend to think it doesn’t matter, but I don’t really believe them. I think they think it does matter and that’s why they do it. They want to do the kind of damage it does. Why? I don’t know. A multi-year bad mood maybe?

Sex and World Peace was written by Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett.  Their findings are derived from more than 10 years of study.  During this time, this group of multi-disciplinary researchers created the Womanstats Project and Database, the most comprehensive aggregation of data regarding the status of girls and women in the world. The database, which contains more than 130,000 datapoints, includes more than 375 variables for 175 countries, all of which have populations of at least 200,000 people.

What does the treatment of women have to do with a propensity for war? Soraya suggests that it has to do with how people think about difference.

I understand that there are many other intersectional factors that make up “difference” and how we define what is “other” in culture, e.g. race, class, sexual identity, religion — but, as Shirley Chisholm said, “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: It’s a girl.” The exact same thing happens to boys — only with a radically polarized set of stereotypes. The first and most profound difference, globally, remains gender.

Please think hard about what this means. Then talk about it! Then share it! Blog, Tumble, tweet, “like,” whatever. It’s a big idea with daily relevance and real and powerful consequences: Microaggression against girls and women in private, in neighborhoods, in communities is integrally connected to macroaggressive national behavior.  The greater the polarization of gender in a household, the higher tolerance there is for violence and oppression and the greater the violence experienced by women and girls in those households the greater the likelihood of militarization and national violence.

All over the world, societies are experiencing cultural and political backlash against 50 years of dissolving gender polarity.

While we are the backlash against the backlash. Keep on.

 

44 comments

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  1. 1
    Emily Isalwaysright

    “The linguistic and actual subjugation of girls . . .”

    Hmm, I’m not sure about the notion of “linguistic subjugation.” Sounds a bit like “conceptual violence” to me.

    And if “linguistic subjugation” is “not actual subjugation” as the logical structure of the proposition above implies, then what the hell is it?

  2. 2
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Emily, I think that maybe ‘verbal-’ and ‘physical-’ subjugation would have been a beter choice.

  3. 3
    brucegee1962

    the bitchers and cunters think…what do they think? I don’t know. They pretend to think it doesn’t matter, but I don’t really believe them. I think they think it does matter and that’s why they do it. They want to do the kind of damage it does. Why? I don’t know. A multi-year bad mood maybe?

    I am now happily married and a whole lot smarter about women and many other things, but back in my 20s and 30s, I think I might easily have fallen in with this whole men’s rights movement. So I might have some insight into how they think.

    “Why don’t women want me? I bathe, I dress ok, I know many things and try to be interesting in conversation. Yet they still don’t want me. I’m a nice guy — really! I have so much to offer, and they won’t even give me a chance.

    Surely their continued rejection isn’t MY fault, is it? I’ve compared myself with those guys in television and movies who always get the gorgeous girls, and I stack up pretty well.

    So if it isn’t my fault, then it must be THEIR fault. My guy friends think I’m great to be around — it must be that extra X chromosome that makes them unable to appreciate the awesomeness that is me. And if their brains are so messed up that they don’t want to date me, then they’re probably messed up in other ways as well.

    The choice is either that something about me is unattractive, or else all women are stupid? Well which of those two choices makes me feel better? Talk about a no-brainer!

    They’re OTHER, that’s what they are. Otherotherotherotherother.”

    There’s some of the way I behaved in junior high behind it too. “The other kids are picking on me, and I don’t know why. If I act more like a stereotyped nerd, at least it will make their picking on me more understandable.” Just substitute the word misogynist for nerd, and it makes sense.

    If a SINGLE ONE of these name-callers is in a real, intimate, mutually supportive relationship with a woman, I would be very surprised. Such a relationship would cure them of their poison in short order, as it did me.

  4. 4
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    They pretend to think it doesn’t matter, but I don’t really believe them. I think they think it does matter and that’s why they do it.

    Yes. Just like all the people who say prayers before council meetings and prayer banners and God on they money is “just ceremonial” and doesn’t mean much and if you don’t like it the problem is yours because you’re just too sensitive. This is belied when anyone steps in to try to get rid of it. Suddenly, it’s the most important thing in the world and it’s a Christian nation so leave if you don’t like it.

    If a SINGLE ONE of these name-callers is in a real, intimate, mutually supportive relationship with a woman, I would be very surprised. Such a relationship would cure them of their poison in short order, as it did me.

    How does this explain how women are killed by their boyfriends and partners and spouses and exes every day? Sorry, brucegee1962, many, many men just really do think that women are dirt, chattel, whores, and cunts. Even ones in relationships.

  5. 5
    Pierce R. Butler

    IANA anthropologist, but I recall reading a lay-anthro book claiming a strong link between a society’s involvement with warfare, and the tendency to raise boys as a separate living group. (Cause & effect apparently going both ways in this case.)

    How the words are understood in social terms arguably matters less than the actual living arrangements in a given subculture. I’d say that the words’ meanings are derived from the context, not the other way ’round.

    Speaking of books: has anyone here read Malcolm Potts & Thomas Hayden, Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World? Potts, who spent a gyn career in war/aftermath relief, considers rape and other violence in an admittedly evo-psych perspective (chimpanzee territoriality & intragroup competition, to oversimplify). Potts & Hayden don’t try to explain all of human behavior biosociologically, but the parallels they cite merit consideration – and I suspect most B&W’ers would support their policy conclusions.

  6. 6
    Nepenthe

    Bruce, the most openly misogynistic person I’ve known irl was* a gay man. I’m pretty sure he didn’t* think women are cunts because we collectively refused to screw him.

    *Past tense because he may have grown up by now.

  7. 7
    Emily Isalwaysright

    Acolyte, “verbal subjugation” is no more useful a concept nor “actual” than “linguistic subjugation.”

  8. 8
    Emily Isalwaysright

    On reflection, I guess what I am trying to say is that “linguistic subjugation” is a nonsense. Subjugation is effected by all the means at the disposal of those who subjugate, of which language is obviously and always a component. I say “obviously” because there are not many social activities (if any) that can be achieved without language.

    I know I probably sound pedantic, but I don’t see the point of speaking nonsense. And I also find the notion “linguistic subjugation” a little too close to opposition to free speech for comfort.

  9. 9
    Winterwind

    I believe in microaggression but there’s no evidence for macroaggression!

    Nepenthe:

    Bruce, the most openly misogynistic person I’ve known irl was* a gay man. I’m pretty sure he didn’t* think women are cunts because we collectively refused to screw him.

    Sounds like he belonged to the “I don’t want to have sex with you so I don’t have to be nice to you” school of thought, a trap I sometimes come close to falling into. But I think the majority of vocal misogynists online are heterosexual, and even use sexualisation of women as a weapon, so Bruce could still be onto something. Maybe sexual frustration combined with a feeling of resentment against all the special privileges and power they believe women to have.

  10. 10
    mildlymagnificent

    Maybe sexual frustration combined with a feeling of resentment against all the special privileges and power they believe women to have.

    But most of them would have started thinking along these lines long before sexual frustration was even a concept for them.

    Being told off for ‘throwing like a girl’ or ‘boys don’t cry’ starts long before pre-school. And shows up, with no further adult prompting, in early primary classrooms and schoolyards in various but always unpleasant ways.

  11. 11
    Armored Scrum Object

    @Winterwind #9:

    I believe in microaggression but there’s no evidence for macroaggression!

    I giggled.

    If anything, though, I’m the reverse. Not in the sense that I somehow suppose that microaggressions don’t occur, but rather that they’re — to put it in climate change terms — a feedback rather than a forcing. If women weren’t burdened with the overall force field of misogyny, I suspect that a lot of the individual microaggressions would turn into background noise. But as it is, I have no trouble believing that one pound on top of fifty is more exhausting than one pound on top of zero.

    Wait. Does that make me a radfem? Darn it.

  12. 12
    SallyStrange

    Ah, Winterwind, I am going to quote you on that. Wonderful.

  13. 13
    Natalie Reed

    Personally, I think it’s very, very important to look at that kind of misogynistic aggression not as PURELY misogyny or PURELY anti-cis-women.

    It is directly (and obviously, when you think about it) an expression of femmephobia and trans-misogyny, and directly correlates to homophobia.

    This is not simply a denigration of cis women. It is also about gender assignment and binaries, and in what “direction” the power flows along those structures. What direction is a “sacrifice” of status and which direction is a “gain”.

    Intersectionality: don’t leave home without it.

  14. 14
    yahweh

    Jeez, you guys and your hopeless, desperate, over extended rationalizations.

    “What could possibly be at the root of these findings?”

    See http://www.alice-miller.com/.

    Or else. (It’s for your own good).

  15. 15
    barrypearson

    I now have Valerie Hudson’s “Sex and World Peace” on my Kindle.

    One of the things I will be looking for is “cause and effect”. And I’ll be trying to see connections with Pinker’s “Better Angels of our Nature”.

    I have no doubt that we need to improve the global status of girls and women, simply because it is the enlightened thing to do. But would this be a cause of a more peaceful world?

    Perhaps the very effort of thinking about the concept of women’s equality (etc) would cause people to have greater empathy with people of other groups. Perhaps it is “empathy” rather than “equality for women” that is the cause?

    And then there is the “engineering” problem of actually making things happen. Beats me!

    Soraya:
    I understand that there are many other intersectional factors that make up “difference” and how we define what is “other” in culture, e.g. race, class, sexual identity, religion

    To control my own nastier instincts, I have a useful mental tool based on Rawls’ “Veil of Ignorance”:

    “Adopt the principles that you would want others to adopt if you knew you would have a 2nd life but didn’t know what your sex, orientation, race, or ability, would be”.

  16. 16
    mikeb

    Let me start of by saying that I stumbled in here after googling “women are cunts” and now I’m wasting my time typing a bunch of shit when I could be looking at doctored pics of Nancy Grace getting fisted or the like…But while I’m here a few random thoughts:

    1) I wonder has anyone researched the possibility that a nation’s warlike tendencies and general shittiness towards women may have a correlation with the “cunt factor” of that society’s female population as a whole?

    2) To brucegee1962: Holy Shit…Bruce. Where to begin with you? You’re lucky that you found any woman at all willing to marry you.

    “My guy friends think I’m great to be around — it must be that extra X chromosome that makes them unable to appreciate the awesomeness that is me.”

    If you ever really said or believed the above quote, that might be the faggiest goddamn phrase uttered in the history of humanity. Women don’t like nice guys who are great to be around. They SAY they do, but its the ” I don’t give a fuck” cocky/confident empty charm that really gets ‘em wet everytime. ESPECIALLY the so called nice girls. I’m not a misogynist out of sexual frustration, believe me. Your wife is almost certainly either actively cheating on you, or still fantasizing about the asshole who broke her heart before she decided to settle on you. Sorry to break the news to you…

    3) I’m no Rhodes Scholar or high-brow intellectual type, but I wasn’t so stoned in my 12th grade English class to neglect the advice Mrs. Wallace gave us about creative writing or just writing in general: “don’t over-use the five dollar words” Jesus Fuck, the entire section of comments is one densely worded and unreadable pile of shit. (see, I could’ve used excrement, but I refrained) As good old Mrs. Wallace would’ve said “I KNOW you’re smart, you don’t have to try to prove it with every sentence”

    Thanks for the detour.

  17. 17
    raymoscow

    @No. 3: ‘If a SINGLE ONE of these name-callers is in a real, intimate, mutually supportive relationship with a woman, I would be very surprised. Such a relationship would cure them of their poison in short order, as it did me.’

    It’s a bit of a Catch-22: to be in that sort of relationship with a woman, you can’t be a misogynist in the first place. If you are a misogynist, your relationships with women will not be very good (at least not for them).

    On the other hand, I think it’s true that healthy relationships tend to heal our messed up personality traits. But one has to be on that path voluntarily.

  18. 18
    No Light

    mikeb:

    3) I’m no Rhodes Scholar or high-brow intellectual type

    Wow, you don’t say.

  19. 19
    mikmik

    I know I probably sound pedantic, but I don’t see the point of speaking nonsense. And I also find the notion “linguistic subjugation” a little too close to opposition to free speech for comfort.

    I know women are easy targets for aggression and asserting power, but it is a sign of overall aggression, of which women bear the brunt. Around my neighborhood here, a real ‘hood, I’ve noticed that the gangsters and wanna be’s that use terms like bitches for women, and all the little put downs and jokes that pepper their communications are also the freaks that I want to stay away from myself. They are inti8midating and ignorant and very aggressive, and their talk is also littered with tales beatings and fights, and the rapid escalation in many relatively minor disagreements into intense confrontations and physical intimidation and fighting. It reminds me of primates in the wild, or many mammals and birds, that get all huffy and aggressive if any other male gets to close.

    I guess I’m thinking that there is an overall rise in primitive like behavior, of which women get it first, and most. Yeah, it shows where everyone stands when women become targets for putdowns and violent subjugation. That’s a very interesting take on the whole warmonger attitude, and it makes sense to me!

    And Emily Isalwaysright, you are not privy to the behind the scenes gossip among the boys. If a woman stands her ground or presses her opinion, or is just cranky and irritable, the very fucking first thing said when the boys get out of earshog is say, “she just needs to get laid,” or “that time of the month, eh?” There is fucking tons of the cuff remarks that tie into stereotyping women as ‘not to be taken too seriously’ even though goofballs are acting like they’re on the rag themselves [proving a point!] You see, it pervades our linguistics and talk, especially among the guys, and we/they carry their attitudes from there after feeling empowered and encouraged from these ‘pep talks.’

  20. 20
    mikmik

    Case in point: mikeb. Sort of got stuck in the pubescent phase, didn’t you.

  21. 21
    B-Lar

    mikeb, drowning in class.

  22. 22
    Joey Maloney

    I call Poe on mikeb.

  23. 23
    oursally

    @mikeb: quod erat demonstrandum

    (That’s Latin, dearie. Google it if you don’t know what it means.)

  24. 24
    mikeb

    Well, Sally sure put me in my place didn’t she? What she did there was show her intellectual superiority by throwing some latin my way, followed by the condescending “dearie”

    Tell ya what, sugar tits, why don’t you go make me a sandwich while I google it?

    I certainly will never doubt the power and accuracy of google for pointing me here in the first place!

  25. 25
    OoOoOoOo

    mikeb’s post was a nice “MRA” summary. Thanks for showing how silly they really are, mike.

  26. 26
    feedmybrain

    But how to stop society’s sterotypes? I don’t know where to begin. It’s cold season and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard someone tell one of the men to man up, grow some balls or some such phrase.
    How to hold back the tide?

  27. 27
    feedmybrain

    Oh and mikeb’s post made me laugh. I just assumed it was a parody

  28. 28
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Emily Isalwaysright says:
    October 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm
    Acolyte, “verbal subjugation” is no more useful a concept nor “actual” than “linguistic subjugation.”

    8. Emily Isalwaysright says:
    October 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm
    On reflection, I guess what I am trying to say is that “linguistic subjugation” is a nonsense. Subjugation is effected by all the means at the disposal of those who subjugate, of which language is obviously and always a component. I say “obviously” because there are not many social activities (if any) that can be achieved without language.

    I know I probably sound pedantic, but I don’t see the point of speaking nonsense. And I also find the notion “linguistic subjugation” a little too close to opposition to free speech for comfort.

    I think that you may be over-thinking this. How about seeing it in terms of physical vs. verbal abuse?

  29. 29
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    …what do they think? I don’t know.

    What they think is secondary. Any thinking on this is just post hoc rationalization for their uncontrolled, unexamined behavior. What they claim as “thinking” is just more willfully and gleefully uncontrolled but purposeful slurring and abuse, such as demonstrated by the lovely mikeb(ag).

  30. 30
    davidhart

    Pierce@5: ” I suspect most B&W’ers would support their policy conclusions.”

    I just tried to parse your collective name for readers of this blog, and now have a vision of those terrifying wheel-footed monkey things from Return to Oz contriving to keep aloft blocks of congealed milk fat on the ends of string as if they were kites:-)

    Also, mikeb@16 & 22 … is this for real? I genuinely can’t tell.

  31. 31
    Didaktylos

    @Pierce R Butler

    But that does not necessarily lead to misogyny in and of itself. Consider Lycurgan Sparta.

  32. 32
    ashleybell

    The next study is obvious. Corelation between violence toward women and religiousity. The conclusion is pretty inevitable.

    Religious fervor

    subjegation of women

    tendency toward war

    all run along the same vector…

    ordinary citizens in all countries have absolutely no say in whether or not their country goes to war. The only variables that they can change are ‘treatment of women’ and lowering what is considered acceptable from religious claims to authority. The optimist in me has seen displays of both recently

  33. 33
    alikuran

    I am not sure how strong the connection is but when I read about this convincing link between micro- and macroagression, I feel reminded of the 1975 “Body pleasure and the origins of violence” (http://www.violence.de/prescott/bulletin/article.html) which seems to identify a similar, yet even more fundamental link.

  34. 34
    Acolyte of Sagan

    In his 1980 book ‘Cosmos’ Carl Sagan references a worldwide study by neuropsychologist James W. Prescott of 400 preindustrial societies. He (Prescott) noted that in societies where infants were lavished with physical attention and adolescents were allowed to explore their sexuality, the adults showed very little tendency for aggression or violence. Conversely those societies where there was little or no fondling (in a strictly non-sexual way) of infants, or where the adolescents’ sexual exploration was repressed tended toward violence in adults. Those societies that showed no inclination toward affection for infants AND repressed adolescent sexuality invariably produced the most aggressive and warlike adults.
    If the results of this study and the conclusions arrived at in Chemaly’s book are correct then it would appear that we now have a blueprint for developing harmonious societies worldwide.

  35. 35
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Now THERE’S coincidence. I was typing my post on Prescott’s study as Alikuran was posting his.
    (Cue Twilight Zone music).

  36. 36
    Lyanna

    Bruce is onto something important. Not just female rejection, but female POWER to reject (i.e. power over oneself, over one’s body) is what gets many misogynists really riled.

    Obviously that’s not the only reason for misogyny, which is how you can have gay misogynists, but I think it’s probably the biggest reason.

    Because, well, think about it. Think about Rebecca Watson and the vitriolic reaction to “guys, don’t do that.” Think about all the sad, sweet geeks who we’re all supposed to feel oh so sorry for, who just CAN’T GET LAID if uppity bitches don’t stop making unreasonable requests like “don’t hit on strangers in enclosed spaces.”

    Think about Jen McCreight and the hostility she got for daring to complain about sexual harassment after promoting Boobquake.

    Think about the OUTRAGE over the notion that maybe you shouldn’t approach strange women in any and all contexts and demand sex from them.

    Women’s power to not be sexually available at all times if we don’t want to…that’s a HUGE motivator for misogynists, right there.

    Also, can we please ban mikeb and his tiny penis? Kthnxbai.

  37. 37
    smrnda

    Reading this, I thought about the issues about male entitlement towards women. Part of this might just be that a lot of men desperately want to be with a woman, but have been conditioned against expressing emotional needs and also worry that expressing their desire as a need tied in with vulnerability will make them appear weak. Saying “I’m depressed and single” is less manly I guess than saying “those damn stuck up bitches think they’re too good for me!”

    You also see this problem in peer groups where expressions of misogyny are a kind of male bonding ritual.

    Maybe I’m being too charitable there in making it sound like it’s men being affected by a toxic culture though… I probably am.

  38. 38
    reliwhat

    @smrdna

    “Maybe I’m being too charitable there in making it sound like it’s men being affected by a toxic culture though… I probably am.”

    Men are obviously affected by their culture. And when you take a look at how rationality and philosophy is being disregarded, how can you expect men who are racist, sexist and uneducated to be anything else? they don’t have a clue. Some dude once said “Do you know my son, with what little understanding the world is ruled?”

    now, should we excuse them because they don’t know any better. Who knows, an existentialist would say no, a determinist would say yes.

  39. 39
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Yaweh @14; your link brings up a blank, purple page.

  40. 40
    No Light

    High-five to Lyanna for a fab comment.

    I’d like to add homophobic abuse of gay/queer women to that. We’re reviled by misogynists for having a sexuality that does not involve them, for existing in a way that disregards their existence, because we “steal ” or “convert” other women. Women they think are theirs.

    As a result we experience everything from verbal abuse to “corrective” rape.

  41. 41
    smrnda

    @reliwat

    I think it’s too charitable since I meet lots of men who seem to be able to think critically about gender roles, misogyny, sexism and all sorts of other issues. A lot of these guys aren’t incredibly educated, and some of the most ignorant men I’ve run into had plenty of chances to be better informed.

  42. 42
    Lyanna

    @No Light: yup! Queer women get it particularly bad, since their sexuality has the potential to exclude men entirely. It can only be made “safe” by turning it into a performance meant to titillate men. Otherwise, it’s threatening.

    But also women who just don’t want a relationship right now, or women who don’t want to give men a “chance,” who want to be actually be attracted to the guy they’re with, or who don’t want to be bothered with sex AT ALL in certain contexts (or in any context, for some women).

    @Smrnda: I think what you’re saying is accurate, provided that it doesn’t turn into an excuse. Many men refuse to simply sit with vulnerability. I had a Nice Guy tell me once that he had to condemn women who turned him down for being “shallow” and “selfish” because otherwise he might have to feel bad about himself. Like, gosh, the horror!

  43. 43
    Lyanna

    To elaborate on the last bit of my comment: his feeling bad about himself indicates that his self-esteem is dependent on women having sex with him. That’s something he should fix. But he won’t because he can’t face up to the feeling bad–he has to rush to the aggression, the contempt, the hatred.

  44. 44
    smrnda

    @Lyanna, yeah, encountered those Nice Guys(tm) before. What I tell them is “so, am I allowed to detest men since every time I go somewhere to have a little private time because I’m feeling bad emotionally and want to be alone but out of the house, guys keep hitting on me like I’m a bitch dog in heat?”

    It seems with Nice Guys like that, the world revolves around them and their feelings and needs and nobody else has any.

    But yeah, the key is to realize that sometimes you’re going to not be with someone when you want to be, and you have to accept it. It’s unpleasant, but if you actually want to be with someone, you have to learn to accept it without nastiness and bitterness.

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