I am a feminist. This means that I recognize the fact that women are 100% complete, real-live human beings in and of themselves, and need no type of male validation, permission, etc to enable them to achieve this status. Furthermore, this means that any and all social, cultural, religious, political, economic, and military structures which fail to recognize this simple fact, and continue to treat women as inferior based solely upon their gender, are deeply flawed and must be reexamined and reformed for the betterment of human society as a whole.
Recently, I’ve been following the debate surrounding a form of feminist activism called a SlutWalk. My purpose here isn’t to join in this debate directly (the best overview of which can be found here), but to address the core issue involved, which is violence against women, and particularly sexual violence against women. Currently it is estimated that 1 in 4 women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, and that 80% of those assaults will be committed by someone the women knows. I browsed about the interwebs checking this statistic, and found it to be accepted by multiple sources. (For a quick, well documented breakdown of this and other stats, check out this PDF from the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence). This, Readers Mine, is unacceptable. Note that these statistics apply to the United States alone, not the world, and not an undeveloped, violence-wracked nation teetering on anarchy, and the numbers become an abomination.
The people committing these crimes are overwhelmingly men, so it follows that the problem must be addressed in the way men are raised and educated in our culture. Radical feminists often argue for the total abolition of patriarchal social structures, but I believe that a few very specific elements of that socialization are worth retaining. For the case in point, the traditional injunction to males from earliest childhood on that a man must never hit a woman and that such an act is unconscionable by any decent male. (I will insert a caveat here that any woman who is intent on causing grievous bodily harm to another person leaves herself open to preventative and defensive violence as defined under the social and legal codes of self-defense and defense of others, as does any other human being.) This injunction against violence towards women is deeply rooted in the patriarchal system, and in ideas of women as the lesser, weaker sex. However, it seems to me that it can be divorced from these roots and retained as a valuable tool of socialization.
This code of non-violence towards women was a part of my upbringing and was given to me largely by my father, the core being that good men, decent men, don’t hit women, and furthermore, they do not sit idly by while bad, indecent men do so. Indeed, a good man is almost always obligated to intervene in such cases. I’m not saying that women can’t take care of themselves in a physical conflict. I know better. What I am saying is that it is up to men to create a culture in which violence against women is taboo, and punished by severe sanctions, particularly cultural, extra-legal sanctions administered by the larger male culture itself. The instillation of non-violence towards women can begin at an extremely early age, and I believe, lays the groundwork for a later enlargement of the principle as the adolescent male develops sexually which defines unwanted sexual acts against women as violent and therefore taboo as well.
Note that there are two vital elements in this process: instilling the belief that physical violence directed against women is wrong, and that unwanted sexual acts of any type towards women are a form of physical violence, and therefore just as wrong.
Will teaching male children not to hit girls/women eliminate sexual violence against women? Sadly, no. In addition, there are other, non-physical forms of violence used by men against women, which can be equally as devastating as physical/sexual violence, and which are beyond the reach of this particular process of socialization. Nonetheless, will it help? Hell yes. Our social and cultural ethics are created early on. We must begin to teach male children that violence against women in all forms is just plain wrong, wholly unacceptable, and is only practiced by degenerates who may be male but will never be men. Further, we must teach them that it is the duty of all good men to stop and punish the perpetrators of violence against women and so begin to create a new masculine culture in which such violence is properly viewed as the abomination that it is.
“Remember Johnny, you must never hit a girl. Ever. Good boys never hit girls.” Small seeds, big frellin' trees.