Monday, November 20, 2017

Examining social structure

I don't think I actually used the terms "patriarchy" or "kyriarchy" last week, but I was nonetheless talking about them.

Both concepts are about hierarchy, but where patriarchy primarily indicates male supremacy, kyriarchy allows a more complex understanding, where there are many intersecting points of privilege and oppression. That allows us to consider not just the intersection of sexism and racism, but also concepts like ableism and capitalism.

The important thing to remember is that much of this is not conscious, but there are so many reinforcement built into the structure of society -- coming out in the workplace and education and government - that the power structure gets absorbed and perpetuated.

There is a whole entertainment and publishing industry that has reflected and reinforced that the story of straight white cisgender men is the primary story. That sounds good for straight white cisgender men, like it should be more of a problem for everyone else. There are complications.

First of all, if you view life as essentially a contest for domination, chances are that there is always someone who you can dominate if you are willing to sink really low. You can be very marginalized and still find ways to be horrible (which I cannot view as good news, but some people clearly do).

For those who are supposed to be on top, though, there is pressure to maintain. That may be threatened by women or people of color not providing sufficient deference, but it can also come from ignoring capitalism and its non-sustainable patterns. Last week's post were essentially about how this can often erupt into violence. It in no way excuses the actions of those who inflict the violence, but it is not helpful to ignore the ways in which society is sick.

It is easy not to think about that, and even when you are trying to consciously think about it, there is still a lot that is unconscious and automatic (and therefore often uncomfortable when you do think about it).

We should all see that this contest for domination is horrible, right? We should see that it makes life "nasty, brutish, and short", and want to end it, but some people fight that really hard. They aren't necessarily the ones who abuse the system the most, which may make it easier for them to be content.

So I want to circle back to some points from Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.

First is that people do not recognize their own issues. Bancroft has had therapy groups for controlling men. Successful completion generally takes over two years, because the mindsets are so entrenched. (There is usually some sort of court mandate that gets them there.) What was really interesting is that the men are able to recognize the problems with the behaviors that they don't do.

This is not just that those who verbally abuse see the problem with those who punch or choke, but even that they might also see the problem with someone who controls via unpredictable mood swings or surveillance. Every group member will be able to identify problems with some other members, but when called on their own, it's something they need to do: how else can they keep her in line?

Beyond that, getting to the persistence of why the group members still feel a need to control their women, Lundy points out that even thinking about equality is pretty recent. At least in the United States, women have not had the vote for a full century. I was two years old when women were able to get their own credit cards. It has only been relatively recently that there has been any legal acknowledgment of spousal rape. Even now many people don't believe it should be illegal.

It is that way along all of the vectors. The Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965 and immediately started facing challenges, which finally bore a bad fruit when part was struck down in 2013, suppressing voters and influencing this election. In September, Congress weakened the Americans with Disabilities Act, only passed in 1990.

People fight hard for the kyriarchy. People who are hurt by it still fight for it.

Over the next two posts I will present two different visions of what we can have and do. It won't cover all of the details of how we got here or how we get there, but they are visions with real life manifestations.

I believe the choice is obvious. It should be obvious.

We'll see.

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