By: Adriana Pérez-Rodríguez, SSH Correspondent
The well-known black feminist, bell hooks, argues that the first act of violence men, living in a patriarchal system, must commit is not violence against women but against themselves by emotionally crippling themselves and so, when achieving it, they can then start abusing women. By doing so, men will be fulfilling gender roles about masculinity which and will be able to socially position themselves as individuals.
Seems to be then, that patriarchy is intrinsically based on violence, defining every aspect of our everyday lives and not only affecting us as women but also affecting men and the ways they are constructed. It is important to keep this in mind because when we tend to think of violence we imagine domestic violence or rape scenes in our heads, ignoring underlying logics. Violence is more than beatings and battering, violence is also the act of thinking our bodies belong to someone else and that can be appropriated at any time by words and language. Based on this logic, an act of clear cut violence is committed against women every time they encounter sexual harassment in the streets because the underlying premise is the male and patriarchal authority over our bodies, acting as reminders that we can be accessed against our will. Beatings and rape, in this case, would only be the ending and most dreadful results of this chain of violence reproduced daily by language, looks and images –glorifying violence against women- whenever we enter the public sphere.
Hence, street harassment becomes a wider issue that involves us all as opposed to the idea of it being a women’s issue because, for women to be thought as accessible, male socialisation, as hooks said, must be filled with violent ideas of how they must behave and socialise. Boys from very early ages internalise ideas they must behave as predators and that their character is that of rapist that doesn’t have control over himself. Thus, women must protect themselves from them. By changing how we view this issue and realising it’s not just a women’s one, we will be able to analyse how our society is organized under principles of violence which also affect boys and men, obviously not with the same dimensions, but that barely go noticed as they are left in a privileged position.
This is revealing because men will have to also start confronting those principles under which our societies are organized and by which they are privileged social subjects. By becoming conscientious of their social position and why they are there, they can start politicising reality and joining women in the struggle against patriarchy. This isn’t easy, of course, it’s hard to confront our privileges and realise why we have. This, however, cannot be an excuse but an encouragement: they also make part of society, so they must also join the struggle. One last thing though: before waiving the flags against patriarchy and the abuse women encounter daily, think about how you, as a guy, reproduce these logics of violence over their bodies. It isn’t easy, it’s a hard and even painful process, also because most of the times these logics are reproduced without even directly thinking about them, but it isn’t a good start, it is the start.
Adriana is a Colombian national who’s passionate about all topics concerning social justice, especially gender-based justice.Share on Facebook