Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Positive Hypocrisy

When I was in high school, the debate team I was a part of virtually doubled as the Gay/Straight Alliance. I think every GLBT student old enough to be part of the team was part of the team. For this reason, my mom was exposed to a lot of gay students, and, as far as she would tell me, she personally like and approved of all of them. But this didn't move the needle, as it were, when it came to her personal views on gay people in general: they were pedophiles, crazy, untrustworthy, sexually promiscuous, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

She had invented a rule to which everyone she actually knew was the exception. And while I can't give her a pass on the consequences of her belief in terms of the policies and the politicians she supports, I never once heard a complaint* from any of my friends. To an extent, I trust that.

People betray their worst natures as often as they betray their best. Even people who hold ideas which I find abhorrent can falter when faced, personally, with the decision to harm another human being. We can all dehumanize another person -- totally shed our empathy toward them -- but it takes a special kind of sociopath to feel nothing at another person's suffering, or even their discomfort.

Where I work, we don't do a lot of active self-defense work; we don't have an on-staff martial arts expert. Often, martial artists will tell you to gouge eyes, break bones, kick balls, et cetera. But when it comes down to an actual violent sexual assault, most women don't do what they've been taught. Why? Some report being too frightened. But most sexual assaults are committed by people the victim knows. Would you be able to gouge out your husband's eyes? Would you be able to break your father's arm?

For most people who are not themselves abusive, the answer is clearly no. We can intentionally hurt the ones we love, and all of us do, but there are limits -- even when the ones we love are hurting us.

I received this message today, from a female member of the Reconstructionist church I mentioned in The Things We Take For Granted:

Perhaps not all information out there in V2020 land and the blog world concerning our church, our pastor, and our husbands is true. Perhaps we, women whom Keely views as "reasonable, intelligent and sincere in their faith", have a better grasp on our own situations and lives than those who don't know us. We aren't merely "willing to endure" our husbands and our theology but rather enjoy (love) them both. Why would "intelligent" women love living with domineering patriarchal peacocks? Maybe we're not actually intelligent. Maybe we don't really love them. Or, the option you haven't been willing to consider, maybe they aren't domineering at all. Longshot, I know. But it is possible.

When I hear people like Heather, who's married to the son of our local theoconfederate pastor, is happy in her marriage despite having no recourse outside it, no way to leave him if he becomes abusive, and no way to support herself if he chooses to leave, I believe her. It would be difficult for Nate -- I have no reason to believe is personally worse than anyone else -- to be cruel to her on purpose.

But insofar as he is not domineering, he is not domineering at his discretion, and can start or stop at his discretion. The rules that apply in the outside world stop at the door of his house: he is the king of his castle. All the decisions of the household, all the final say, belongs to him. He may choose to stay or he may choose to leave as he pleases. He's the source of financial stability in the household. If he is abusive and she chooses to leave, she has the Hobson's choice of leaving her children behind in a financially stable houshold or taking her children with her to face the job market with a nonexistent or spotty resume.

Insofar as he is a good husband, it isn't because of, but, rather, in spite of the unfair and anti-egalitarian privileges he has been given. It's where he rejects the fact that he can act with absolute impunity, rather than where he accepts it.

-- ACS

EDIT 5/17/06: The person whom I referenced above has sent me a rebuttal, which I'll publish with her permission, but I'd like to address specifically something she said:

"On purpose? Nice qualification. The things you are implying about my husband and the nature of our relationship both in the paragraph above and paragraph below are nothing short of ridiculous. You are not only flat out lying about two people you evidently know nothing about (read -- zippo), you are insulting my intelligence as a woman. You're not writing this about an abstract theoretical Christian woman. You are writing this about me. "

She's right. I was thinking of "abstract theoretical person who is not served by the system," but I was not writing about this person: I was writing about H. I. I owe her an apology.

No comments: