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If We Cannot Be Angels, Then We Shall Be Demons! Or "Hi, Honey. I'm Home, What's For Dinner?": A Theory of Sexism
This hub can be thought of as a quasi sequel to the one I published just yesterday called "The Government's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy of Sexual Orientation-Identification in the Military." In that hub I asked the question: What is the ultimate reason (origin) for the homophobic policy in the first place
Since our society of the United States of America and the Western world in general are still, even in "this day and age" highly patriarchal, I was very specifically concerned with American male heterosexual homophobia directed against, specifically, male homosexuals. Why is male heterosexual homophobia against male homosexuals so strong in this country, and presumably, the military?
Using three major ingredients (an idea about the collective unconscious, the idea of how history has left "traces" in each of us and how it is our task to inventory them, and the idea of structural behavior) I came to the conclusion that: the reason for the homophobic policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" comes from the fear that is embedded within the collective unconscious of American heterosexual men, that if this policy is repealed and gay men are given their full rights in this society -- that this will somehow open the floodgates and virtuous, "straight" American males will succumb to swarming hordes of vampiric, relentless homosexual men who will mass rape us; and we will be powerless to stop them.
This is the irrational fear or something like it, which I believe to be embedded within the collective unconscious of we heterosexual American men.
Question: What made me come up with such a notion?
Answer: It is my understanding that oppressors or people who commit acts of violence sometimes become afraid that they will face retribution in kind. In the previous hub I provided a link to a story from News Junkie Post, which talks about the ongoing epidemic that is the sexual victimization of women in all branches of the United States armed services by their fellow American, male soldiers. The numbers are staggering and so the use of the word "epidemic" is not at all an overstatement.
I suggested that this constitutes the irrational fear embedded in the heterosexual male unconscious that this is in store for them if "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is repealed and if and when gay males get their full rights in this society, more generally.
In this way I tried to suggest that homophobia and misogyny are related social phenomena. Dealing with sexism would help with the homophobia, in my opinion.
Now, this leaves us to deal with patriarchy and the male-based power structure which have thrived for millennia on the cultural and institutionalized oppression of women and children.
So, where does the male oppression of women come from ultimately?
There are no easy answers, of course. And I couldn't possibly hope to address the subject adequately in a hub or ten hubs. I do want to draw attention to one aspect which I think contributed to the American male sexism against American women, say, since the end of World War Two.
The second part of the title I use means something. "Hi, Honey. I'm home, what's for dinner?"
Why did the United States and nations of Europe (especially Western Europe) create societies in which "A woman's place is in the home"?
Of course "We've come a long way, baby!" And that's true in many ways. But there are many women who will tell you, if asked and even if you don't ask, that "We have a long way to go," in the United States and other places of the so-called developed world.
Now, why is it that men in general have always given women such a hard time, as they struggled to win rights that should have been theirs to start with, such as the right to vote, serve on juries, enter into contracts, testify in court, work at any kind of profession in which their individual interests, talents, and capabilities makes viable, and get equal pay for equal work (though I hear we're not quite there on the "equal pay" thing)?
The simple answer is sexism, the false belief on the part of men that this gender is innately superior to women, who tend to be illogical, overwrought, and vulnerable to "hormones," and so on and so forth; and thus they must be spared from certain kinds of tasks for which they are not suited physically and mentally. And in this way men aggregate all of the responsibility, power, authority, and privileges for themselves. And so on and so forth.
Yes, yes, but the question remains: Why did men do this?
Why did men create patriarchy and shove it down the throats of everyone else? Now, we are focusing our attention primarily on America of the post-war years, after World War Two. This is the America of Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and even Jack Kennedy in the early sixties.
I think, here, we come to the If we can't be angels, then we shall be demons part of the title of this hub. As you know, during World War Two when the men were off fighting, women came into the plants to keep up production. Some of you may remember "Rosie the Riveter," and so forth. A door had been opened for women. But when men returned home from overseas the naturally wanted their jobs back. But that door that had been opened for women was never fully closed again.
STOP EVERYTHING! The question we are concerned with is this: Why is it that after women waged a struggle for liberation in the seventies, and they began to get more equal access to education and various types of careers did men initially respond with such a vicious backlash, sometimes in a passive aggressive sense and sometimes in more overtly physically hostile ways? I'm talking about things like sexual harassment and things like Anita Hill accused Justice Clarence Thomas of during his confirmation hearings, and of course worse things. If you're under thirty you may not know what I'm talking about. Ask you parents about it.
Let us return to the America of Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Jack Kennedy. According to the sitcom "Leave it to Beaver" the man worked outside the home (and these were the days when a household could be supported by one full time salary). The wife stayed at home and managed things there, and did most of the child rearing work (and of course we know women, even if they have a job outside the home, still do the bulk of the housework as well).
When the man came home from work, he swung through the front door, took off his hat, and called "Hi, honey. I'm home, what's for dinner?" The wife came swooping in a la Edith Bunker (All in the Family), and perhaps helped him off with his coat and told him what was for dinner. And then she said, "How was your day?"
How was your day, dear?
The man then proceeded to tell her how his day was. And you know, dear reader, that we human beings, being the rationalizing, self-justifying creatures that we are, he proceeded to tell her about his day in such a way that basically made a hero out of himself and incompetent, corrupt fools out of everyone else.
What would his place of employment do without him?
Collapse, that's what. Utterly collapse!
We men made ourselves into rather heroic figures with these daily narratives. A man's wife was at least one person in this world (or at least we could tell ourselves this) who believed our version of events, of OURSELVES in a loving, doting, uncritical, almost fundamentalist way when the rest of the world seemed to regularly knock us on our collective keister (or fanny).
Therefore, to my way of thinking, men of the western world created a society in which "A woman's place is in the home," for one ultimate reason and one ultimate reason only. We wanted and felt we needed our wives to reflect back to ourselves an ideal image of ourselves to counteract our own feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. We needed at least ONE person in this world to think we were godlike.
With women at our side in the universities, law firms, science labs, the corporate office, and other venues, they see that we men are not as intelligent, courageous, honest, stalwart, (and whatever other adjective you want to add) AS WE HAVE BEEN POSING TO OUR PREVIOUSLY STAY-AT-HOME WIVES FOR DECADES! And so, I say there is something in the collective unconscious of men that cannot stand that!!!! Hence the "backlash" I alluded to.
Let me close with this....
I am reminded of a wonderful short story I read, one time, that strikes me as a perfect representation in microcosm of the process I've been describing here. The story was either in The Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine or The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.
The story is called "The Man Who Was The God Of Love." It was set in the fifties or early sixties, and it involved a man and his wife. The wife was a younger woman who had bee positively awestruck at the apparently tremendous, unearthly intelligence of her husband. With his daily narratives he made sure that his wife understood that his place of employment would go to "hell in a hand basket" without him.
He held a high position at his job of course. A man of his quality could not but help reach a station of prominence at any organization he was a part of. Still, he was being kept from even loftier heights by the powers-that-be who were jealous, jealous I say, of his vastly superior intellect.
His adoring younger wife accepted all of this uncritically, believing every single word -- even as she noted to herself some of her husband's less that positive characteristics.
At any rate, the main way he demonstrated his superior intellect -- to the delight of his worshipful younger wife -- was to do the New York Times Crossword Puzzle (really hard) in its entirety, all by himself -- apparently. He would do and leave it for his wife to find and be awestruck over, and so on.
Alas, this performance turned out not to be what it had seemed! One day she caught her husband cheating at it, as he had been doing all along. He'd be up very early to get the next day's paper which had the answers given for the previous day, and he'd just copy this.
This revelation changed everything between them. Though she still loved him, her respect for him had gone.
Now she felt free to contradict him, disagree with him, call him out on his obvious BS. Worse than that, from his perspective, she felt free to offer her own opinions -- unsolicited even. Oh no!
This was her liberation but he, the husband, experienced the same phenomenon as an assault. He had been not only "knocked off his perched" but his whole identity in her eyes had been altered. His wife suspected that the reason her husband lost his job (he had been dismissed from the job he had when he married her) was because he had not the intellectual capacity to keep it, whatever it was.
The husband was denied the angelic ("If we cannot be angels...) role. There was only one role left to play. At any rate, this continued [her liberation, her newfound confidence and assertiveness, her talkativeness, and her criticism of him] until events reached a crescendo.
One day they were relaxing at their backyard pool, when she said one thing too many, from his point of view. I think it was a remark about his increasing weight, if I remember correctly. But in any event it was "the straw the broke the camel's back," and he "just couldn't take it any more," so he bludgeoned her to death.
The last line of the story was something like: 'he went to do the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, or at least as much of it as he could ever do."
This story is, as I said, a perfect dramatization in microcosm of an aspect of American social history we have been talking about. Alright, Il'll leave it there.
Let's go out with this.